October 2012 Archives


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Chrono Trigger

JohnBHere we have it: Chrono Trigger on Android and iOS! Just the mention of the game's name will stir a lot of emotions in people, and not just those of us who were around for the original release. Almost 20 years ago, a dream team of designers and artists at Square (now Square Enix) got together to make a game with a silent protagonist who forms friendships with people throughout time in an effort to save the world from a most insidious form of evil. It had memorable locations, epic battles, emotionally charged sub-plots, and multiple endings. Chrono Trigger helped shape the RPG genre for years afterwards, and as the recent mobile ports prove, it's just as relevant and stirring as ever.

Chrono TriggerGameplay will be familiar to anyone who has played an RPG since the '90s. It all starts with Chrono sleeping in his bed, napping the day away as is the norm for role playing mega-hero-types. He eventually heads out to attend Guardia's Millennial Fair, where his friend Lucca is showing off a brand new invention guaranteed to impress. Naturally, nothing goes quite as expected, and Chrono soon finds himself traveling through time to save a girl he just met, restore the honor of a frog knight, rescue a robot from the destitute future, save a crumbling kingdom, befriend a malefic mage, and put a stop to a formidable evil destroying the world in the past, present, and future.

The mobile ports of Chrono Trigger are a reworked version of the Nintendo DS port released in 2008, itself an improved version of the PlayStation port from a few years earlier. The changes made were small but significant enough to make players familiar with the game to squint an eye or two. New content was added in the form of animated cutscenes and a few additional dungeons, so even veterans had a few excuses to hop in and play it through one more time. With the iOS and Android versions, the biggest change is the interface update for touch-based controls. A virtual analog stick appears whenever you touch the left side of the screen, allowing you to move around and navigate menus. Everything else is presented with an easy to prod box element, including battle options and equipment menu screens.

Chrono TriggerAnalysis: No matter what you say about the ports or what you feel about the re-re-releasing of an old game, you can't ignore this simple fact: it's Chrono Trigger! None of the ports of the SNES release have been pitch-perfect, but the mobile releases are perfectly serviceable for anyone with a touch screen device, tablet or otherwise. Only codgery gamers such as this reviewer will scrutinize the slight changes in text and sound effects, but if you set aside the nostalgic glasses for a few hours, it's hard to find any serious flaws to complain about.

One of the obvious downsides to Chrono Trigger on iOS/Android is the price. Square Enix charges a premium for its games, even ports of decades-old releases. While this would be justified in the console and PC markets, it doesn't fit the mobile economy very well, and as a result it's a bit shocking to see. It would be extremely difficult to sell anything at these prices if it didn't have an established franchise name to flaunt, especially when compared to indie-made games that exist for a fraction of the price. It's a hurdle, to be sure, but one of a questionable economical philosophy, not a gameplay quality issue.

Chrono TriggerSince we're down to splitting hairs, there are a few things worth noting about the mobile versions of Chrono Trigger that just don't seem to make sense. For starters: why the blurry visuals? It's sometimes painfully obvious which elements were added for iOS and Android when compared to the original content, which shouldn't have a problem being displayed with sharp edges seeing as how it's pixel artwork. It doesn't detract from the game so much, but it's noticeable, and it really shouldn't be for the price you're paying. Also, expect to spend some time learning the touch controls before you can navigate with confidence. Sliding virtual buttons are a poor replacement for a solid gamepad.

Chrono Trigger is one of the ten games every gamer should be familiar with at least on some level. It was crafted with precision and passion, and it holds up just as well today as it did in 1995. The mobile ports are good but not quite perfect, especially when analyzed with the Glasses of Nostalgia +10. But it's an absolutely epic game, and having a mobile version of Chrono Trigger to carry around everywhere you go can't be a bad thing!

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 4.6/5
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Rating: 4.6/5 (32 votes)
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SCP - Containment Breach

DoraBased on the entries of the SCP Foundation Wiki, SCP - Containment Breach from Joonas Rikkonen and a group of talented 3D modelers and musicians, is one of those games that makes you go "eeeeee" in increasing pitch and intensity as nerves take hold. This free indie horror adventure turns you into a disposable Class D grunt, essentially a human guinea pig, who along with a few other poor saps is today working with SCP-173, an animate and highly aggressive construct that can only move when not in a direct line of sight. So, you know, already not a good day for you, but it's about to get a lot worse when the facility suddenly comes under attack by an unknown enemy and the lights go out... and the locks open. Suddenly alone in the dark and pursued through the maze-like complex by SCP-173 and other creatures, escape seems hard enough, but is just staying alive going to prove a nigh-impossible task? (Spoiler: Probably.)

SCP - Containment BreachMove with the [WASD] or [arrow] keys, and look around and interact with the mouse. If you're playing with saves enabled, hit [F5] to save whenever you like. [TAB] opens your inventory, and [shift] allows you to sprint, but arguably the most important function of all? The [spacebar], which makes you blink. See, your character needs to blink every so often as indicated by the "blink bar" in the lower left corner, and since blinking breaks your line of sight with SCP-173, thus allowing it to move, you'll want to try to time and manually manage your blinks in order to survive. Certain environmental effects, like smoke or gas, will irritate your eyes and force you to blink more, so watch out for gas masks to wear or keep eyedrops on hand.

Of course, SCP-173 is hardly the only threat you'll encounter. Other unknown and deadly entities are roaming the halls, and not everybody wants to see you make it out safely. You'll need to track down keycards, clues as to what's going on, and be quick and resourceful to make it out. And, you know, avoid being drawing into a hellish pocket dimension by another relentless pursuer. Or getting gunned down. Or just giving in to the urge to hide blubbering in the women's washroom until that grinding noise becomes unbearable. Oh, and if you're thinking about memorizing the layout of the game so you can sprint through it after a few snapped necks, don't bother... the map is randomised every time, ensuring there's plenty of pulverized vertebrae for ages to come.

SCP - Containment BreachAnalysis: If there was ever a concept that was more perfect for a first-person adventure game like this, it's hard to imagine it. The SCP is packed with so many great ideas and to see even a fraction of them implemented here is a real thrill. You don't even need to be familiar with all their original origins (after all, a lowly D-Class grunt wouldn't be), since it adds considerably to the fear and sense of disorientation. Some of the creatures you'll encounter are exceptionally creepy and otherworldly. Though a lot of the textures are fairly simplistic and some of the area designs are bland, Containment Breach uses lighting and sound to create a brilliantly tense and oppressive atmosphere that will have you dreading every corner and closed door. And the voice acting? Surprisingly good across the board! Way to communicate pain and suffering, you guys!

Blinking becomes mildly annoying visually when the game is already so dark, and you're one of those people who immediately wants to know why you can't just blink one eye at a time. The bigger annoyance, however, is that SCP-173 can be almost too unpredictable, sometimes appearing immediately behind you for an insta-kill upon loading saves, or even seeming to teleport or appear in places it shouldn't have been able to access based on previous positioning. It makes planning and strategy feel less reliable than it needs to be, so luck in regards to map generation feels like it's a big factor. It is, of course, worth mentioning that this is not the game's final version, and it continues to be updated with more content, fixes, and even additional endings. It's clear the development team is investing a lot of time and talent into turning this into the game they and their fans want it to be.

Though not perfect and still a little buggy, SCP - Containment Breach has some serious moments of inarticulate, squealing terror. From frantic chases down darkened corridors to that sinking sensation you get in your stomach when you hear that grinding noise coming from somewhere close by, it's full of the stuff of nightmares, and we wouldn't have it any other way.

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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House of Shadows

DoraLike your Halloween to be a bit less "blood and guts" and a bit more "spooky fun for all ages"? Armor Games and the Electric Toy Company have you covered with the iOS action puzzler House of Shadows that will keep you on your toes as you slink around haunted houses collecting treasure and keys while you avoid ghosts, as well as resonate with anyone who has ever had to babysit a younger sibling while they Trick-or-Treat. Well, I mean, presumably you've had to endure the frustration of dragging a little kid along behind you, if not necessarily having to rush off to the rescue when they get themselves trapped within a maze-like haunted mansion. But look at the bright side! At least this isn't like the time you wished your little brother away to the Goblin King.

House of ShadowsIn each level, you'll need to grab a key that opens the door, and then find your way to it without any of the spectres that patrol the halls seeing you. Just tap or drag anywhere onscreen to move, and you'll pick things up automatically. Ghosts can't see in the dark, so you'll want to use the shadows to your advantage. As their awareness of your presence creeps up, the icon above their head will gradually fill, so stay out of their line of sight or be prepared to run... right into the nearest wardrobe to hide, if there's one available. Presumably these sullen spirits are protecting all the treasure laying around, which you'll also want to nab even though its mostly optional, since gems are spent on unlocking new houses, and coins need to be gathered to bypass certain doors. All of this is easy enough to begin with, but when timed pressure plates come into play, along with more spirits, shifting light sources, and other hazards, you'll need to be quick on your feet and figure out how to make your surroundings work for you in order to proceed. Are you sure this is all worth it? I mean, c'mon... realistically, how attached could your parents possibly be to their second-born?

With its rich cartoony presentation and slowly mounting difficulty, House of Shadows is both instantly likable and effortlessly playable. It's a simple concept to be sure, but while the basic gameplay means kids will be able to get the hang of it, the stealth elements and gradual increase of complexity means it can be both engaging and challenging for adults too. The lighting effects are a great touch and implemented surprisingly well, especially since they're easy on the eyes. Movement, however, can occasionally be a bit frustrating if you're swiping around willy-nilly, since the game's path-finding will kick in if you accidentally tap or drag to the opposite side of a wall and your character can abruptly reverse course as a result. It forces you to move more slowly than you might like, and can lead to a few annoyingly accidental spectral embraces if you've got a spirit on your tail. But if you're patient and plot your path with care, you'll find House of Shadows to be a wonderfully charming bit of Halloween fun, packed with 60 levels (and more to come), and some devilishly tricky stages hidden in this treat. Just try not to jump when something goes BUMP in the night.

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


  • Currently 3.4/5
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Rating: 3.4/5 (34 votes)
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DoraGornaxGornax, the freakish brainchild of Berzerk Studio and a 48 hour Game Jam deadline, is kind of a trip. The arena shooter has you and up to three other friends (or CPU controlled squadmates) battling the titular ginormous mutant crab beast for the amusement of a television audience. Why? Because ratings that's why, and you're already overthinking it. Aim with the mouse (you'll shoot automatically) and left-click or hit [spacebar] to dash, while using [WASD] or the [arrow] keys to move around. Do your best to take out Gornax before he takes you out, dodging all his attacks and nabbing power-ups to deal more damage.

And that's... pretty much it. It's an action-packed game filled with projectiles, roaring, and testosterone. Considering its short development period, Gornax is actually pretty fun and it looks great too, though playing solo often means your AI-controlled teammates seem determined to steal every power-up and health pack. Ultimately, however, it sort of feels more conceptual than a full game, and it's the sort of tongue-in-cheek idea you'd love to see fleshed out more. Come on, a reality show where mercs in power armor take down enormous angry mutant beasts? It's like what you'd get if you made David Wong rewrite running man. With a few upgrades and different creatures, Gornax would have gone straight from "simple but fun" into "an absolute blast", but as it stands, it's still worth checking out to get in touch with your inner plasma-torch wielding smart-alec mercenary for a while.

Play Gornax


  • Currently 4.1/5
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Rating: 4.1/5 (51 votes)
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DoraFlippin' DeadFlippin' Dead by Juicy Beast is, uh, it's somethin'. Been playin' it. Still not sure what. It's an arcade game where you play as an unflappable looking bear, who moves with [WASD] or the [arrow] keys, wearing purple shades being chased by zombies, and all you can do is smash crates for points using [X], except periodically a big pink crate will appear. Bashing that open causes the world to shift, whereupon zombies become naked (though sans-naughty bits) humans, and your teddy turns green and grows fangs, which he can use to chow down on the defenseless humans by hitting [X] until the time runs out and things turn back to normal. You know, relatively speaking. If you pass close to a zombie, it'll flash, warning you that it's about to bite, and if you take three hits, it's game over. The good news is, the game gives you various objectives like staying alive for a certain amount of time or eating a certain number of humans, and the more you complete, the more items will be unlocked in the game, which will shake things up a lot and greatly enhance your chances of getting a truly impressive high score.

And that's it. Flippin' Dead isn't a particularly hard game, or a very deep one, just intensely weird and strangely addictive. It has a great style, and there's something about that heavy weird concept that mixes with the "score as much as you can gameplay" to make it enjoyable. The downside is that unlockables are slow to come, and running around the screen avoiding all those enemies kind of makes you feel like you're playing an extremely passive-aggressive version of Minigore. But with loads of unlockables and a design as bizarre as it is funky fresh, Flippin' Dead is the perfect choice if you're looking for something to scratch that high score itch. Just... don't think too much about what's going on.

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  • Currently 4.3/5
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Rating: 4.3/5 (111 votes)
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Weekday Escape

elleTesshi-e wants to wish you a Happy Halloween, a Happy Weekday Escape, and even some Happy Hippos. There are loads of happy here to go around, in fact—it's spilling over into every imaginable place a mirthful golden token could hide in The Happy Escape 3, the 78th escape-the-room game from the designer whose characteristic whimsical style sets genre standards.

The Happy Escape 3Point-and-click your way around the room, deciphering clues and solving puzzles until you have found ten "happy coins" that spell the exit from this hexagonal room, which seems quite familiar, after all didn't we just escape into it from an entrance hall? There's no changing cursor to lead you, but as everything is interesting, you'll want to explore it all. Pick up anything you can (that isn't screwed down) and examine it closely, pondering out the many ways you can put it to good use. As you go, you'll gather up three Halloween-themed ornaments, solve the enigma of the wobbly picture, say hello to Mr. Birdy and encounter one of Tesshi-e's most esoteric hints; make sure your lateral thinking is in the game and you'll be well prepared to break the clever codes. Just like the first and second happy escapes, there is only one ending but as the title promises, it is a happy one.

So, are you happy? I'm happy! Look at me, really, I'm ecstatic. Few things make the day more happy than opening up Jay Is Games and seeing a new Tesshi-e waiting for you. So now go play. Go have a happy—a lot of it!

Play The Happy Escape 3


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Letterpress

ArtbegottiWhen you think of multiplayer word games for your mobile device, you probably get the mental image of struggling over a rack of seven letters (usually too many vowels), trying to look for a place for ALOHA to fit on the board. With Letterpress by atebits, you've got a whole board of letters to work with, but you've got to protect them from your opponent! The extra twist of territory defense-esque strategy makes Letterpress an addicting and challenging game, like marrying Othello and Boggle in the chapel of chess.

LetterpressIn each match, you're given 25 letters in a 5x5 grid. Your goal is to capture the majority of the letters by the time all of the letters have been used. When it's your turn, tap the letters to spell out a word. (Rather conveniently, you can also drag-and-drop letters into place, even into the middle of a word.) Letters that you use are changed to your color (blue by default), even if they were previously your opponent's color. The obvious strategy would be to use the Clockwords tactic of "play the longest words you can," but there's a bit of a twist that should factor into your strategy; if a letter you own is surrounded on all sides by letters you also own, that letter is marked with a darker color, and it can't be stolen by your opponent until after the defense is broken. The game ends once the last letter in the grid have been claimed.

This combination of words and tactics can lead to matches of chess-like play and counter-play where both you and your opponent could end the game at any moment, but in order to secure a victory, you dance around a bit, claiming your opponent's letters, losing some, claiming some more, losing some again, until you're in the right position to deliver a punishing final blow. Vowels are generally provided sparingly, so they switch sides often. Common consonants like R, S, and N also get volleyed back and forth a lot. However, unlike many word games out there, Vs and Zs seem to get introduced to the mix more frequently, and because of their rarity in language, they're usually claimed last, making the final attack feel like even more of an accomplishment.

On the other hand, if you're lucky, a game could pass by pretty quickly. Sometimes the combination of who your opponent is and what letters are on the board means a takedown is possible with just a few turns. It's that sort of unpredictability that makes Letterpress a habit-forming game. The free version limits you to only a couple of games running at the same time, but the full version allows more simultaneous games as well as the ability to select from a handful of color schemes (unfortunately, this effectively means you have to pay for colorblind support). It would also be nice if the game weren't restricted to matchmaking using Apple's Game Center service (say, include Facebook or Twitter match-ups), but hopefully that's an issue that could be addressed in future updates. In the meantime, prepare to have your mental dictionary wrenched open by the compelling blend of strategy and wordplay that Letterpress provides.

NOTE: This game was played and reviewed on an iPhone 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 4.2/5
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Rating: 4.2/5 (73 votes)
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elleIt Happens Escape - Intermediate CourseAs you may recall, it happens that recently Wan and Nyan were invited to participate in an escape-the-room competition, which is a most excellent thing for Cogito Ergo Sum's hapless pair who are always managing to get locked out of places. After passing the first challenge with flying colors (and earning an official certificate to prove it), now it's time for Wan and Nyan—and you—to go the next step: It Happens Escape Game: Intermediate Course.

If you haven't played it yet (or even if you have), it's best to start with the beginner course, so you can see how Wan and Nyan ended up here, and to become familiar with how to play. Like before, you get ten mission cards to serve as hints, but looking at them is optional and almost unnecessary—almost all the puzzles are very straight forward. Wan and Nyan need to re-learn jump and punch again (of course!), so be on the lookout for their skill books as well. While silly dogs and cats always forget their lessons, you probably haven't, which means this "intermediate" course is going to be quite easy, actually, for anyone with moderate amounts of experience playing escape games.

Yet that means the series is a great introduction to the genre for escape newbies—it does make you better at escaping because it points out ways to recognize and solve oft used puzzles. Moreover, you'll also have fun recognizing allusions to popular movies and anime. Wan and Nyan take the backseat in this one, though, with less interaction and very little variation between the normal and "happy" endings. Still, it brings a smile and a relaxing afternoon break; a cheery warm-up for the more challenging escapes ahead.

Play It Happens Escape Game: Intermediate Course


  • Currently 4/5
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Rating: 4/5 (82 votes)
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TrickyCity Siege 4: Alien SiegeYou've fought them in the cities! You've fought them at the resort! You've fought them in the jungle! Now, the adorable warmongery of The Podge's City Siege series of strategic action-shooters has taken a turn for the extraterrestrial in City Siege 4: Alien Siege. It's time to blast some martians, rescue your favorite hostages from the terror of brain-sucking plants, and to buy the heck out of some wicked cool upgrades.

Gameplay should be familiar to those who have played previous entries in the series, but there's nothing to prevent you from jumping right in. Move your troops safely through each mission, clicking to select one and using the [WASD] or [arrow] keys to move, and the mouse to aim and shoot at the alien kidnappers (one exception to this rule is the Mecha trooper, which is totally freakin' sweet and has a melee attack activated with [down]). You can control your troops as a group by hitting [G], teleport troops to you with [T], or toggle between your soldiers individually with [+] and [-]. Blast the enemies before they blast you to clear the level. Collecting all the civilian prisoners unharmed or completing the level without losing any troops will grant you a higher mission rating. The planet has some nice mineral wealth for you to "liberate" as well, and you can spend it in between levels to purchase new troops and upgrade their capabilities. While it retains the feel of its predecessors, City Siege 4 is no mere setting-swap. Many of the troops and their abilities have been redesigned and streamlined to fit the sci-fi theme, and while this does mean losing the Lady Spy (Boo!), it does mean a lot more jetpacks and mecha (Yay!). One negative: the designs of the alien villains are a little generic compared to the googly-eyed Baddies of previous installments. Still, through all its 30 levels, City Siege 4 has awesomeness to spare.

Play City Siege 4: Alien Siege


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The Vault

DoraHappy (early) Halloween, audience dudes, and welcome to a very special edition of the Vault, where we've been scaring up some seasonal spookiness that ranges from all-ages puzzling entertainment to more haunted houses of horrors you might want to make the kids wait outside for. After all, we know some of you want the treats, and some of you want the creeps. (But whatever you like, remember to be excellent to one another.) And so without further ado...

  • Jinx: A Dark and Stormy NightJinx: A Dark and Stormy Night - Created for Canada's YTV network, this cute (if not challenging) point-and-click adventure stars little Jinx, who picks the wrong house to trick-or-treat at and he finds himself locked inside. Naturally, this means there's a mystery to be solved, though let's be honest... this is still preferable to getting banana flavoured Laffy Taffy, which is way scarier. If you're looking for a sharply designed, engaging, and kid-friendly Halloween gaming treat, you should look no further than this adorable little gem.
  • Ghostscape 2: The CabinGhostscape 2: The Cabin - Psionic's fantastically creepy adventure is packed with all the jump scares you could ever want... especially if you believe in ghosts and think dolls are creepy enough all by themselves. Armed with your trusty camera, you set out into the woods to investigate an old legend and rumours of ghostly happenings, and things start to get weird pretty much immediately. In addition to solving the mystery you encounter, you'll use your camera to catch photos of paranormal phenomena for points... and shriek like a little girl whenever something jumps at the monitor. Despite a loosey-goosey narrative and some rambling gameplay, this is a spectacularly creepy game to play with the lights off and the sound turned up.
  • Haunt the HouseHaunt the House - The people inside your home are having a pretty good time, but if you're a restless spirit, it's actually pretty annoying when all you want is a little peace and quiet. Part arcade game and part puzzle, Super Flash Bros delivers an aggressively cute and not-so-scary game where the objective is to possess different objects around the home until you've scared all the party guests away. The design is top-notch, and there's a ton of fun to be had in being the thing that goes "bump" in the night in the most adorable of ways.
  • Phantom Mansion: Spectrum of SoulsPhantom Mansion: Spectrum of Souls - If you like sokoban puzzling with a ghostly twist, then fire up this series of challenging games about a poor sap named Hector who needs to rescue souls and collect keys to find his way out of dangerous rooms while avoiding nasties like skeletons and zombies. The series spans eight games plus a sea-faring sequel, and is perfect if you're looking for beautifully designed casual fun to engage your brain without leaving you tearing your hair out this Halloween night.
  • Project PravusProject Pravus - If you like your point-and-click horror adventures with a bit of the ol' Creepy Pasta flair (THEN WHO WAS PHONE), this is the game for you. It's a short, creepy little game where you play a real-estate agent who wants to know why a recently listed house is going for such a bargain price. Naturally, if something seems to be too good to be true it usually is, and you quickly discover there's something very dark going on inside the walls. Project Pravus suffers somewhat from an abrupt ending that will have you raise an eyebrow, but it has a great design and oppressive atmosphere that will keep you glued to the keyboard until it happens.

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 3.4/5
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Rating: 3.4/5 (64 votes)
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TrickyDark SoulYou've had this dream before. The endless hallways. The zombies, demons, and who knows what else. But tonight is different. Tonight you aren't going to wake up... unless you can make it to the red door. Dark Soul is a first-person horror rail-shooter by Vempire Tales, where the path to freedom is literally a journey through hell.

As a rail-shooter, you will move automatically through the world of Dark Soul, pointing and clicking with the mouse to fire at attacking enemies. Shoot enough enemies in a row, and Beast Mode is activated, letting you invincibly tear through enemies until the meter runs out. Shooting boxes and other obstacles will grant extra health, as well as cash that can be used to purchase new weapons and upgrades between levels. Dark Soul's gameplay relies on the solid premise that firing wildly at something with claws and jaws leaping towards you out of the darkness, is something that will never fail to get the ol' adrenaline running. True, the repetitive backgrounds and palette-swapped enemies mean that the levels start to run together by the end, but Dark Soul puts all its elements to good use. It's interesting how, with just a few changes of color and character design, a game can shift from a sense of pulsing biological horror, to sickening chemical horror, to razor-sharp technological horror, and so on. All in all, it's an intense and fun experience, and anyone looking for a bit of gory demon hunting this Halloween should be well-satisfied.

Play Dark Soul


  • Currently 3.8/5
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Rating: 3.8/5 (49 votes)
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MeaghanLittle Witch's MessGhouls and goblins may terrorize without any consideration for those around them but a girl is still a greater whirlwind force when it comes to making a giant mess. This is proven all the more in Little Witch's Mess, a cute Halloween themed hidden object game idea by Konstantin Timofeev with graphics by Yulia Zhuravlyova accompanied with music by Nikolay Statilko. You, being the eagle-eyed searcher that you are, must go through multiple scenes and find the hidden objects listed at the bottom of the screen within the time limit. There are three difficulty levels and for each increased difficulty less information is given on the objects that you need to find. Clicking on the wrong objects will result in time being taken, but otherwise there are no other negative consequences. At the end of each scene your swiftness will be tallied into points which you can post to compare with other hidden object finders.

Little Witch's Mess is a genuinely light hearted and simple game that is nice for those who have been overwhelmed by too much horror. The increasing difficulty of finding objects never becomes so arduous that you're ready to punch your computer screen, and if you do get stuck there's a hint button that can be used sparingly. It's important to keep in mind that an item may not always look the way you imagine and to stay on your toes. Ultimately this is a great treat to counterbalance any trick you may be on the tail end of.

Play Little Witch's Mess


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Mobile Monday

JohnBSlippery slopes and gyroscopes! Diary pages and dinosaurs on rages! More of our collectively beloved games from various platforms are making their way to the mobile scene, and we're as pleased as unlimited data plans (remember those?) to have them aboard!

dora_rainslick3_3.pngRain-Slick what now? - Appeasing more of our ubiquitous mobile envy, another great downloadable game has finally made its way to portable devices. Penny Arcade's On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness: Episode Three from Zeboyd Games has all the awesomeness of a retro RPG along with the sweet sweet fun the Penny Arcade games (and comics) are known for. Even sweeter is the fact that both Android and iOS versions have been released, and they play beautifully on those shiny touch screens!

gyro-p.gifGYRO gets a plus, goes iOS - We were more than happy to heap praise upon the stylish mobile arcade game GYRO when we reviewed it in late August. The only drawback was that it was only for Android devices, leaving iOS users to sit and stare longingly. That issue has been rectified with the release of GYRO+, offering the same color-based arcade/puzzle gameplay along with a few upgrades. It's a beautifully illustrated game with simple but engaging gameplay, so you owe it to yourself to give it a shot! Go ahead!

gracesdiary-p.gifGrace loves Android - Originally featured in 2010 when it was released as a browser game, the interactive narrative Grace's Diary from Coffee Dog Games has started spreading its wings to land on its first mobile platform via the Amazon Appstore for Android. If you're in the mood for a a delicately emotional and immensely moving experience, you should definitely give this one a try. It's free no matter which platform you play it 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!


  • Currently 3.9/5
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Rating: 3.9/5 (46 votes)
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IQ Mission

JohnBThe best mobile games are the ones that make us feel smart, are easy to play in short bursts of time, and look better than a Renaissance painting. IQ Mission from YUMMY Factory is one such game, taking the very recognizable set-up of a brain training game and turning it into a spy-based series of missions around the world. On a quest for pieces of a map, you'll travel from Rapa Nui to London to Monte Carlo, solving a series of themed logic games with difficulty levels ranging from "no duh" to "...HELP!!!".

IQ MissionThere are eight cities to visit in IQ Mission, meaning there are eight games to play in all. You can scroll through and choose games as you like, hopping back and forth when one gets too intense to handle. You start with a simple sliding game where you push moai statues across a grid. From there, you can play an Egyptian version of the traffic game, a tangram-style block arranging puzzle, a dice game, a wall building game similar to Slither Link, and a very unusual "copy the picture" puzzle in Paris. The games, while recognizable at their base, are actually quite unique and present a great level of challenge, even for seasoned puzzle solvers.

IQ Mission looks fantastic, with dark and moody games presented by some crazy characters from each location. It's rare to see a serious brain game go for anything beyond a minimal color palette and a crisp Helvetica font, but you'll be pleased as pallium to see the attention to detail and aesthetics here. And beyond the pretty images on your screen, the game itself is filled with 120+ stages that are genuinely challenging to complete. All in all, a fantastic mobile puzzle game you won't regret trying!

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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Twilight Phenomena: The Lodgers of House 13

DoraHey. You know what an awesome idea is? Signing a lease agreement for renting a room on a whim, without ever seeing the room or discussing the terms, after a three second discussion with the landlord, based solely on your dream of "always living in a nice mansion". And this one even comes with its own monkey fixation and murderous secrets. Hooray! In Twilight Phenomena: The Lodgers of House 13, the latest adventure game from ERS Game Studios, your whimsical change of addresses takes a turn for the bizarre, when a frantic girl pounding on your window and pleading for help is abducted by... a giant angry monkey. Because of course. It soon turns out you can't leave this strange place, and since the previous tenants have quite literally lost their heads, you'll have to solve the mystery if you want to stay alive.

Twilight Phenomena: The Lodgers of House 13Luckily for you, prison though it may be the house is full of useful items you can use to get past obstacles if you're clever. Early on, you'll even gain access to an exceptionally creepy holographic cat that can be used to help you with certain obstacles and greater increase your certainty that you're actually laid up in the hospital suffering some serious hallucinations. House 13, located at 13 Darwin Lane naturally, turns out to be hiding some weird stuff. Like, really weird. Like, giant man-monkey wearing pants weird. And that's just the tip of the iceberg. Turns out there's a fine line between genius and madness, and since you're currently trapped in a house packed full of some of the most unnecessarily elaborate puzzles known to locksmithing, it seems like you're getting a taste of both. There are sassy parrots to terrorize, champagne to be wasted, damsels in distress, and a whole lot more. Hm. Guess you should have read that lease agreement a bit more carefully, huh hero?

Twilight Phenomena: The Lodgers of House 13Analysis: The Lodgers of House 13 is one of those games where you can feel your eyebrows climbing higher and higher into your hairline the longer you play. ERS, why you ackin' so cray-cray? I mean... the sheer strangness on display here isn't necessarily a bad thing. As events begin to unfold and only add new layers of madness to the story, you want to keep playing, both to find out what's going on, and what weirdness the game will throw at you next. Since the title is a straight-up adventure game with nary a hidden-object scene to be found, that happens exceptionally quickly. Everything proceeds at a fast pace, and the puzzles fly at you thick and fast. It's a lot of fun, even if it rarely makes any sense. I mean, come on, we're talking about a game that includes the line "Every three days, a monkey comes and feeds me a strange solution". Clearly Captain Logic is not steering this tugboat. It's over-the-top in the schlocky way a direct-to-TV movie you would expect to see shown on a local cable channel at midnight is, and, in its own way, just as enjoyable. The visuals here aren't quite as crisp as we've come to expect from ERS, but the imaginative design more than makes up for it.

The downside is that the gameplay itself doesn't necessarily stand out in any way. Apart from a few frustrating puzzles, everything is sort of playing it safe. You'll find items by the bucketload, but most of them are so bizarre that they'll only ever have one clear use, so you won't be stymied for long, even when you're forced to do some backtracking. In fact, your biggest challenge might be remembering that your fancy holographic cat is often the solution to problems. The end result is a game that continually delights fans of cheesy sci-fi horror that feels somewhat encumbered by unimaginative gameplay. It's a great choice for an evening when you want a good four or more hours of sublimely strange story and don't mind not feeling particularly challenged. What would turn genius to madness? What fate befalls those stupid enough to mess with man-sized monkeys? What horror lurks in the house at 13 Darwin Lane... and where did it get those pants?!

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 4.6/5
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Rating: 4.6/5 (174 votes)
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DoraTakeoverIf you want large-scale real-time strategy, you've got to think little. At least, that's according to IriySoft, who brings us fantasy conquest with itty-bitty soldiers in Takeover. You'll command a legion of warriors as they fight back enemies across maps with limited resources and other dangers, balancing your own defenses with making a bid to destroy or conquer enemy territory. As your structures generate gold, you use that to hire various units that can then be directed around the battlefield with a click and a drag. Of course, the amount of units you can hire depends on everything from how much farmland you have to support it, and the structures under your command. Your soldiers will automatically attack any enemies they encounter, and you can help them out by dropping "banners" into their vicinity that give a variety of helpful effects... provided you have the mana to spend. Destroy and reclaim all enemy territory on the map to win the level, then spend any edicts you earn on upgrades like bonuses or new unit types.

With only a handful of upgrades you can reset at a click and simplified unit building that comes down to supply points and gold, the main word that comes to mind with Takeover is streamlined. Also, pretty. Very, very pretty. The game's vibrant style makes up for its squint-worthy visuals, and it would be easy to pick up and play even without the tutorial. It showcases that strategy games can provide a satisfying bit of depth and challenge while still remaining accessible to the casual crowd, and the unlockable campaigns add some replayability too. The only real downsides are the tiny visuals makes keeping track of individual units a pain when there are big battles going on, and real strategy fanatics might find the whole thing a bit too simplified to really sink their teeth into. It also winds up feeling a bit too much like Kingdom Rush, but not as immediately charming or addictive. Ultimately, however, Takeover's winning style and easy to grasp gameplay makes for an effortlessly playable strategy title this just the ticket for making the time fly by before you realise it.

Play Takeover


  • Currently 4.8/5
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Rating: 4.8/5 (30 votes)
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Hotline Miami

DoraViolent, visceral, and at times as profoundly uncomfortable as it can be perversely satisfying, Devolver Digital and Dennaton Games' (Jonatan Söderström, a.k.a. cactus, Best of Casual Gameplay 2012and Dennis Wedin) indie arcade action game Hotline Miami will make you cringe even as it keeps you glued to your seat. You're just your average bachelor schlub living in neon-lit 1989 Miami... but then what's with all these strange messages on your answering machine? They send you out on missions that only end (and begin) with cold-blooded violence... the sort that would keep any sane man up at night. But maybe you're not so sane after all, considering the dreams you seem to be having. Take up the mantle of a mask-wearing hitman whose life is one of bloody routine until it all starts coming apart at the seams.

Gameplay is broken up in a series of combat missions, where you'll be called to get in, eliminate the targets and anyone in your way, and get back out alive. When the mission starts, you'll be given the opportunity to choose from several masks to hide your identity... you'll only have one to start with, but you'll unlock more as you go, and each one has different benefits. Move with the [WASD] keys, aim and interact with the mouse. Right-clicking picks up the item you're standing on, and left-clicking will let you attack or fire your weapon, while right-clicking again will throw it. Hotline MiamiIf you die, just hit [R] and you'll respawn back at the start of the area. Performing brutal kills or quick combos nets you more points, which are spent towards unlocking new weapons, and high scores will net you new masks to wear, granting benefits ranging from being able to survive a single bullet to seeing farther or moving faster.

At its core, Hotline Miami is about embracing its combat like a dance. Most enemies can be taken out with a single well-placed hit, but so can you, so you'll want to give a little thought to storming the castle in any given situation. Kick open a door to knock down the guy standing behind it, grab his weapon and incapacitate him permanently before he can get back up, then turn around and throw it into the face of the next enemy rushing you before finishing him off as well. Using your environment to your advantage is key to your survival, as is figuring out the best approach for any situation... like avoiding standing in front of windows, for instance, or trying to get in a fistfight with a doberman. Guns may be perfectly lethal, for instance, but they're also loud, and you'll need to be fast and ruthless to make the most out of melee weapons. Don't spend too long skulking around, though, since moving fast will often let you take foes by surprise.

Hotline MiamiAnalysis: Hotline Miami is a very good game, but not a very nice one. For such a pixellated style, many of the game's death scenes for you and enemies can be almost uncomfortably detailed, and if you're playing the game right, every level map is going to look like a strawberry jam factory exploded all over it by the time you're done. There really is a staggering amount of violence possible, and considering that's essentially the whole point of the game on top of the trippy narrative, you might want to steer clear if that's not your thing. It's the sort of game where repeatedly replaying the first several seconds of a mission over and over can't be the sort of thing that bothers you, though the compact level designs generally mean that if you're on your game, then the whole mission should probably take under a few minutes.

Combat is, by design, fairly simple, but extremely challenging. Because the game integrates a certain amount of randomness as far as weapons go whenever you restart, you need to not only move fast but think fast, which is where those straight-forward controls really come in handy. When you pull off a combo that leaves your heart racing because it all happened in an eyeblink, you can feel like Lord High Ruler of All Things Red and Squishy. The game starts out fierce, but later levels can be incredibly demanding, requiring split-second reflexes and a certain degree of adaptability as well, especially when glass walls become more prevalent and you need a greater reliance on guns. You may also wish there were a few more "boss battles", since the few that happen are particularly insane... and I mean that both in the "why you ackin' so cray-cray" and "I'M ON FIRE, I AM LITERALLY ON FIRE" senses.

Hotline MiamiThe story isn't really told so much as it is implied. You don't interact with a whole lot of characters beyond doing unspeakable things to them, but the small changes that occur in the familiar scenes between missions, even without much dialogue, paint a picture of a changing life... not necessarily for the better. There's something feverish about the whole experience, from the relentless violence to the surreal storyline that forces you to start questioning the things you've been seeing and doing. It's surprising how routine and familiar those horrifically bloody missions become, to the point that when changes do start happening later in the game, even minor deviations to what you expect become alarming.

Hotline Miami is more than a little monstrous, but if you like a challenge and don't mind getting some red on you, it's absolutely, 100% worth checking out. It's almost a shame that the story isn't a bit more front-and-center until late in the game, but in a way it's that careful, sly, subtle way the game has of implying things and working off your own assumptions that makes it work so well. Hotline Miami gives you the important bricks and you fill in the rest yourself with mortar mixed with blood and viscera, and as a result you become surprisingly invested in the events that unfold. It may give you the violent tools of the trade, and it's playing with you all along, and fans of literal break-neck action will devour this one whole, blood, bullets, brain trauma and all.

WindowsWindows:
Get the full version (GOG.com)

Mac OS XMac OS X:
Get the full version (GOG.com)


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Botanica: Into the Unknown

elleCamping with your famous scientist father, huddled around the fire, he'd tell you of strange worlds that no one had ever seen and wild theories on unexplained phenomena as you watched the starry sky. While his peers called him the "Crazy Dr. Wright," you loved the stories and were inspired by them to study botany, to seek out new species as if each proved the stories' verity. Just before his disappearance during an expedition, he told you, "Expect the unexpected, Ellie!" but it didn't stop your surprise the day you encountered something science couldn't explain, a portal to Botanica: Into the Unknown, a botanical wonderland harboring deeply coveted secrets in this lush puzzle adventure hybrid from Boomzap.

Botanica: Into the UnknownYour adventure begins at a brief puzzle: figure out the correct sequence of buds on a strange flower and it blooms, becoming a doorway to another world. You step through, led by a desire to connect in some way to your long missing father. Now you are an "Outlander" in a new dimension that is as curious about Earth as you are about it, and you embark on an expedition through a gorgeous fantasy world, conducting experiments in your botanist's kit, getting swept up in a heated conflict, and investigating strange flora and fauna.

Your travels take you far, so it's a good thing you have a tablet computer: it acts as your journal plus has a task list and well-organized map with pictures! You'll probably rely on it to help you more than once, but you can also get extra guidance depending on which difficulty mode you pick in the beginning: "easy" gives explicit hints and guided help; "normal" has hints that are more vague; and "hard" has no hints, no guided help and no skipping. The skip timer in both "easy" and "normal" modes take approximately five minutes to fill and there are neither glints nor sparkles regardless of the mode you choose. For those who'd rather not wait to skip, or who find that even the explicit hints are not helpful enough, the collector's edition has an integrated strategy guide to walk you through when you're stuck. Finally, a "How to Play" section explains, well, how to play the game, and you can access it at any time by selecting "Menu" during regular gameplay.

Botanica: Into the UnknownDuring your expedition, you'll meet a wide cast of characters and many send you on quests—help them, then they help you. True to its title, the focus of Botanica: Into the Unknown is on exploration while including a generous assortment of mini-games and puzzles. You won't hit a hidden object search scene until you're well into the first chapter but, when you do, it's not like any you've seen before. Instead of having a prescriptive list of nouns to seek amid a heap of cluttered objects, you listen to (or read) a narrative that correlates to mementos neatly arranged upon a desk; the goal is to pin down each item being alluded to during the conversation.

That's only one example of the many ways the hidden object puzzles are refreshingly different. On another occasion you're shown images of gears and parts to gather in one setting, only to have to replace them in new location. Later, you need to find and color in particular details of a picture. You'll also come across more traditional interactive search scenes where you have to perform a number of tasks to uncover the sought after objects, yet all the search scenes are spaced well apart and never repeat.

Botanica: Into the UnknownBotanica: Into the Unknown's minigames are equally diverse and varied; while most are fairly conventional in terms of gameplay, all match thematically to the current quest. For example, the need to find truffles for a curative herbal soup leads to a clever tile maze puzzle. The level of difficulty also fluctuates as the puzzles vary in style: some are short and simple while others require more thought, strategy and experimentation. Additionally, for an added challenge, there's an optional side quest to find all the collectible ladybugs and a list of achievements to aim toward.

Analysis: If I had to use only one word to describe Botanica: Into the Unknown, it'd be puzzlediversityfantasticaladventuringquest (maybe not a real word, yet one word all the same). The production values are just as you expect from Boomzap, the developer of fantasy adventures such as the Awakening series and Otherworld: Spring of Shadows, so you can count on high quality in all areas, from an intuitive user interface to eye-pleasing aesthetics to a detail-oriented and engaging story.

While this game is immensely well-made and beautiful—the story and adventure aspects of the gameplay are alone worth the purchase—the outside-the-box presentation of the hidden object searches is very remarkable. Honestly, I'm not an actual fan of most hidden object games which jumble up unrelated items into a messy eyesore then repeat the formula over and over, so here I am doing backflips in gratitude to Boomzap for going out of their way to present uncommonly inventive minigame-like searches, lovely to look at and fun to play in. There is an occasional pixel hunt in a couple of the interactive scenes, but it's hardly enough to quibble over when the rest of the game works so very well.

Botanica: Into the UnknownAll the variety ups the entertainment but has the unfortunate side effect of feeling a bit uneven, as if Botanica: Into the Unknown can't quite decide what kind of game it wants to be. It crosses new ground yet doesn't let go of the old ways, either; instead of picking one or two styles, it tries to fit them all in so the concept of the botanist's kit is underutilized and there's a lot of breadth without enough depth. Even so, all the search scenes, puzzles and minigames are very enjoyable. They're logically designed and make sense inside the story, which starts off slowly yet continues to build in action as the game continues, over 5 hours for most players.

Looking for bright, richly layered artwork to go along with diversity in your hidden object puzzle adventuring? Test out the demo or just go for the full version to jump into the unknown yourself. As multifarious as the unusual flora and fauna of its verdant environment, Botanica: Into the Unknown is fresh and full of new fun to be discovered.

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

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

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


  • Currently 4.1/5
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Rating: 4.1/5 (53 votes)
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Kimberlykimberly_hexep_screen.pngHexagons are often seen in games. Perhaps there's something about six sides that is pleasing to the eye. Perhaps it's the fact that six times seven equals the ever popular 42. Or maybe it's just because six is the perfect number of sides to make things complicated in a game. Hexep is a hexagonal tile based maze puzzle by Daniel Cherbanich. Using just your mouse, start at a colored tile and pass over all the tiles to light them up. The catch is you can't cross your own path, so it's very easy to lock yourself into a corner. If you get trapped, simply click to reset the level. As you progress, the difficulty goes up by adding special tiles. Some you must cross onto twice, others are numbered and you have to hit them in order.

Hexep does a challenging puzzle with style. The glowing colors are nice to look at and there are different color schemes available in the options screen. I found myself wishing I could back up instead of starting over when I realized one tile too late that I'd gone the wrong way. There is a level editor available that the developer suggests using in Chrome, and indeed I could not get it to work in Firefox. The overall feel of the game is very sophisticated, which serves to make you feel that much smarter when you solve a level.

Play Hexep


  • Currently 4.6/5
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Rating: 4.6/5 (21 votes)
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About Love, Hate and the other ones

JohnBAs single player teamwork-based puzzle games go, cute is more often than not the way to go. Maybe it's a game about pandas, maybe a droplet of water and a bit of fire, or maybe some geometric shapes who are forced to get along via circumstance but eventually form a touching sort of friendship. All cute! Well, this puzzle platform game from Tobias Bilgeri isn't afraid to call it like it is. Titled About Love, Hate and the other ones, this game has you spreading both love and hate as you order around little critters to help your characters make it to the goal. Be a bully, be the nice guy, you've got to do it all in order to win!

About Love, Hate and the other onesOk, so even though it's about love and hate and stuff, this is still an adorable game. We just wanted to play pretend for a few moments. Love and Hate are two creatures whose personalities are quite easy to discern. Love simply adores everything he encounters, bubbling warm and fuzzy feelings like some sort of happiness fountain. Hate, on the other hand, has the harsh and cold whisper of abhorrence perched on his lips, and he's not afraid to spread that around. Your job is to make Love and Hate work together, navigating single-screen puzzle stages as you guide them to the big red button at the end.

A small icon on the left side of the screen lets you switch between controlling Love and Hate. Tap where you want your chosen character to go and he'll head out straight away. You don't have direct control over movement, more like a point and click, tap here and they'll go here if they can sort of situation. It seems awkward at first, but you quickly realize it's a much better way to go compared to imprecise touch screen d-pads. When you see little shadowy creatures on the ground, simply tap them to have your controlled character whisper a sweet nothing their way. If it's Hate who's talking, the creature will walk away. If it's love, it will move forward. Later, you'll encounter plenty of "other ones" who will do different things when provoked. By using these abilities you can slowly sculpt a path leading to the goal, a handy undo button ready for your use whenever you see fit.

About Love, Hate and the other onesAnalysis: Oh, you charming little game, you! About Love, Hate and the other ones will grab your happiness bone (it's near the sternum) and make you fall for it almost immediately. It's as if the game itself does what Love does so often during play, whispering "I love you" like an ambulatory flan and calling you to play more, more, and more. You won't mind, naturally, and throughout the game's set of 60 stages you'll encounter plenty of smart challenges and tricky situations to work yourself out of.

And how about those visuals, eh? The artwork in About Love and Hate carries a personality of its own, infusing a healthy amount of life into every character on the screen. Hate is more than a bundle of mean, Love is more than a gushing bucket of hugs, and it's all conveyed with a few clever animations and unusual situations. It's extraordinary how much you can bring a world alive with artwork alone.

It's a straightforward game void of crazy bonus unlockables, mini-games, in-app purchases or any of the related fluff, but it honestly doesn't need anything extra. About Love, Hate and the other ones is an extraordinary game you will both love and hate throughout your time together. But... mostly love!

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.


(5 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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8-bit HalloweenJohnBWhenever it gets close to Halloween, most of us are ready for a good scare. Zombies tunneling from below the soil, mummies leaping out from behind tombstones. Slenderman staring at us from off in the distance. Lionsoft, creator of the previously featured Sprint - King of the Jungle, knows the feeling well, not to mention a handful of retro games that fit the scary setting just as snugly. And so comes 8-bit Halloween, an arcade platform game that borrows from some of the most popular sidescrolling games of old to create a challenging, holiday appropriate release to get you in the mood.

Control your character, Jackie-Gun, with the [arrow] keys, jump with [up], and shoot with [X]. It really doesn't get much more complicated than that, apart from collecting a few coins and working your way around the branching level paths. Pummel every enemy you see with a shower of bullets if you want to survive, otherwise you'll end up pushing daisies with the rest of your foes. The difficulty is unforgiving. Just a few hits and you're down for the count, and the only way to get back up again is to start over from scratch. If you've got the guts to muster up a win, though, you'll find this simple and free game will more than satisfy your lust for holiday-related retro scariness.

WindowsWindows:
Get the free full version

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


(13 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams

JohnBInspired by a retro game? Check! Precision platforming tactics? Check! Melt-your-eyes gorgeous visuals? That's a check! It looks like we have another heavy-hitting indie game on our hands! Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams began life as a spiritual sequel to the original Commodore 64 platform game The Great Giana Sisters. What emerged from that Kickstarter project is something cleverly old school, supremely challenging, and more gorgeous than still images could possibly convey. You're going to have a great time yelling at the screen because you died at the same place for the 18th time in a row!

gianasisterstwisted.jpgGiana Sisters: Twisted Dreams begins with a mysterious crystal visiting the so-named sisters in the middle of the night, transporting both of them to a world of dreams. A giant dragon gulps Maria down and holds her prisoner, so her sister Giana sets out to rescue her. As is the case with all teenagers, her life is a co-existence of opposing extremes. As is not usually the case with teenagers, you can switch between these worlds with the press of a button, morphing between Cute and Punk personas while the landscape transforms before your eyes. Obstacles disappear, enemies change, platforms reverse direction, and many other environmental details shift around, making this switch as functional as it is fun to watch.

Standard platform controls will get you through much of Twisted Dreams, and the goal is to make it to the end of the stage while collecting as many gems as you can get your hands on. Each of Giana's personalities comes with her own special move to use as well. Cute Giana has a twirl ability that lets her gain some extra air time by floating in a small arc. Punk Giana can transform into a fireball, crunching enemies, breaking blocks, and bouncing off of walls to get you through tough areas. These abilities can be used no matter which world you're in, meaning you'll often have to swap back and forth just to push through certain parts of the stage.

gianasisterstwisted2.jpgAnalysis: Let's talk extras, shall we? Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams comes with a beefy enough main game, but unlockable with just a little effort are Time Attack and Score Attack modes, allowing you to play through stages with either speed or points as your main focus. After that, it's time to enjoy Hardcore mode, putting you through the main levels without a single checkpoint to save your bacon. Get through that and there's über hardcore mode, which forces you to start over at level one if you're clumsy enough to die. When we said this game was difficult, we meant it!

Extreme challenge is a strong focus of this punishing game, and you have to learn to master the subtle nuances of control in order to traverse these stages. Messing up usually means instant death, and while checkpoints are generously scattered around, you always lose a little bit of progress, just enough to incite a miniature rage fit. Hang in there, do some deep breathing, and keep plugging away. Eventually you'll make it on top of that platform. I promise!

It calls forth the ancient and respected platform game of old, but it presents itself with a decidedly modern veneer. Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams is the stuff of an action gamer's, well, dreams, and if the (not unfairly) challenging gameplay doesn't get you hooked, those beautifully morphing background visuals will! Oh, and the soundtrack? Yep, that's Chris Huelsbeck and Machinae Supremacy. And yes, it absolutely rocks!

WindowsWindows:
Get the full version (GOG.com)
Get the full version

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


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Rating: 4.3/5 (483 votes)
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BenFrog FractionstHere at Jay Is Games we're all about educating our readers. With that in mind, here is Frog Fractions, by Twinbeard Studios, a game in which protecting fruit from bugs will teach you all about fractions. And nothing else. Nope. (Parents and players, please take note of the game's "orange" rating.)

You play the game by pointing and clicking with your mouse to collect the bugs before they reach your fruit, and the knowledge grows within you as educational numbers fall from the sky. It's math, so you're learning! In between rounds, use the fruit to upgrade your frog, with the aim of buying the swimming pool to win the game. Retro edutainment at its finest... right?

As the game makes you smarter, you may realize there's more to it than first impressions suggest. While everyone's definition of depth is different, below the surface of Frog Fractions are some interesting surprises, and it's well worth sticking with the game past the early levels. It's not a game for the kids, but Frog Fractions is a parody game that can only be described as unique. Highly recommended if you have half an hour to spare, the game has plenty to offer, and an impressive soundtrack (available for download here) though it lacks replayability. And of course it makes you smarter.

Play Frog Fractions


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Rating: 4.3/5 (43 votes)
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Interlocked

DoraWe Create Stuff teams up with Armor Games to take their popular, stunningly simple and lovely puzzle game Interlocked mobile with Interlocked for iOS. The premise is easy, but the solutions are anything but as the game asks you to dismantle 3D structures of, well, interlocked blocks by rotating the screen so you can see exactly where you have to push, pull, or slide to take it all apart piece by piece. Tapping and dragging your finger around outside the shape will let you rotate it so you can see what you're doing, and holding down on one of the shapes will cause directional arrows to pop up that, when dragged on, will attempt to move the shape in that direction. Different directions may only be visible from certain angles, so spend some time spinning things around. If you want to undo the last move you made, just quickly double-tap outside the shape.

InterlockedInterlocked is one of those games that's really a perfect fit for touch-screens, and almost seemed made with them in mind from the beginning. It's such a simple concept but it's executed so elegantly with a clean, crisp professional design polished to a high gloss that it's easy to recommend to virtually anyone. This is exactly the sort of puzzle you want to see more of... cleverly constructed and hard to put down. Handling the shapes does take some getting used to, with certain movements only being available at the proper viewing angle leading to a bit of confusion at times. This is, however, exactly the sort of mellow little game you don't want to rush, and it's perfectly suited to lazy afternoons on the couch, or really anytime you want something tricky without being particularly demanding. Give the free browser version a try if you want to see if it's your kind of thing, and then tackle the entirely new levels that make up the experience on your iOS. Interlocked on your mobile device is just the sort of beautiful, casually engaging puzzle game we want to see more of in the future.

Play Interlocked (browser)

NOTE: This game was played and reviewed on an iPad (First 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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Rating: 3.5/5 (28 votes)
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ArtbegottiWalkabotThere's an old adage in the worlds of computer programming, art criticism, and llama wrangling, represented by the acronym GIGO: Garbage In, Garbage Out. The computer program will always follow the instructions given by the programmer; if the programmer gives bad instructions, it's not the program's fault, but the programmer's. Each Walkabot is designed to follow your instructions in this programming platformer by Nick Yonge of Krang Games. You can only give the Walkabots two instructions at any given time, so it shouldn't be too hard to guide them home, right?

Ri-i-i-ight?

Beneath the playing area, you'll find two slot machine-like reels of commands to give the Walkabots. The left reel contains commands for basic horizontal movements (walk, run, idle, etc.), and the right reel contains instructions for what happens when a Walkabot reaches the edge of a platform (run off it, jump, turn around, etc.). Click on any command as it scrolls past, and it becomes the operating command. However, all of your Walkabots will follow whatever commands you have in place, so you've got to keep an eye on their path to the goal, as well as watch out for your next command to come up on the reels. It's easy to program the Walkabots, but can you program so they do what you want them to? (If not, blame the programmer.)

Play Walkabot


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Rating: 4.5/5 (25 votes)
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Incredipede

JohnBIncredipede is here! Created by Colin Northway (Fantastic Contraption) and Sarah Northway (Rebuild) with art by Thomas Shahan, this gorgeous physics game feels like a vertebrate version of World of Goo with the building-centric gameplay of Fantastic Contraption (or maybe even Spore). Using the simple tools of legs and muscles, you must help Quozzle on her quest to find her family as she attempts to traverse terrain as twisted and diverse as you can imagine. How are you going to make it over the next hill? Maybe by attaching two dozen legs to Quozzle's eye and strapping them all together with muscles? Why not, let's give it a shot!

IncredipedeUse the mouse to click and drag bony limbs from the central core that is Quozzle. You can make them just about as long or short as you like, attaching legs to legs and making lopsided creations, realistic horse-like creatures, or functional wheel-things to your heart's content. Click on the pink nodes to attach muscles to the joints, then choose which direction you want the muscle to be activated. Using the [A] and [D] keys you control clockwise and counterclockwise movements, directing muscles to push or pull to move the legs and main body around.

Each level has a goal line marked on the far side, and the only requirement is that you make it there without falling to your doom. That's always easier said than done, of course, but when you factor in gathering a few pieces of fruit in the process, you might have a whole new challenge on your hands.

IncredipedeAnalysis: Your first attempts at fashioning a functional Quozzle will probably look like something out of QWOP. Actually, who are we kidding? You'll build wonky contraptions throughout the game. The key is to match your contraption to the terrain, thinking about levers and movement as you draw out legs and map out muscle patterns. You don't get a lot of fine control over the machine, but with some practice you can perform some amazing feats of engineering. You don't have to build a symmetrical being, nor does it have to look pretty. As long as you can get from start to finish you can call it a win!

User-created levels and creatures are a big part of the Incredipede experience, and the game gives you the tools to both craft and share just about anything you make. A simple level/creature browser lets you sift through user submissions and play as many stages as you dare. Better yet, you can get a copy/paste URL to share with your fellow humans outside of the game.

It looks and sounds beautiful, and Incredipede is extremely easy to start playing. The learning curve is a little steep, however, and even though you can make and move creatures right from the start, fashioning something that works is an entirely different story. It's an unusual and often complex thing to envision muscle movements and how they'll rock your creature around the stage, but a little time and some patience are all that's needed to turn you into Quozzle's best friend.

Sixty levels are included in Incredipede's main game, and that's plenty to keep you busy for several days at the very least. Beating the stages isn't where the long lasting fun comes from, of course. The real meat is in making your own levels, playing user-generated stages, and turning yourself into a creature-crafting master. There's a lot to love in this simple but challenging game!

Play Incredipede (browser demo)

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Link Dump Fridays

DoraSo I was putting together this week's Link Dump Friday and I couldn't help but think... games have come a long way since Joust. Not that there was anything wrong with Joust. Joust was amazing. But from such simple beginnings we've since taken the notion of video games beyond boop-beep-insert-coin entertainment. Now we have games that marry space-opera RPG drama with traditional side-scrolling shooters, games about vast, sprawling interdimensional mysteries, and Ghost Trick. So as you scroll through this list of first-person horror, robot babes, and something horrible probably being about to happen to cats, remember that this is your future, and it's as wonderful as it is strange and horrifying at times.

SCP - Containment BreachDon't Blink If you've never heard of the SCP Foundation and you're at all into horror, well, prepare to lose an afternoon. The community-driven Wikia chronicles the fictional anomalies encountered and contained by a secret organization, ranging from an ordinary toaster to the thoroughly creepy 173... which, incidentally, will be pursuing you in the upcoming free survival horror first-person adventure SCP - Containment Breach. You'll be put in the shoes of a lowly D-class worker who becomes trapped in the nightmarish facility when the lights go down and the monsters escape, and finding a way out alive, while potentially rescuing others and uncovering the truth, seems impossible. The catch? 173 moves like lightning when nothing's looking at it... which makes the game's built-in necessity to blink a challenge. Look for SCP - Containment Breach when it hits this Halloween.

Mew-GenicsProbably Gonna Need All Nine of Them Lives If you love Team Meat as much as we do, then prepare to get really excited with this announcement for their newest upcoming game. Originally conceived a while ago as part of a game jam and titled "Mew-Genics!", details are sparse right now apart from promising that it will be "randomly generated, strange, and involve cats". Edmund McMillen is already calling it the strangest project he's ever worked on, which is both intriguing and alarming, considering, and promises much more details and screenshots to come. The bad news? If you were waiting for a new Super Meat Boy for PC and iOS, well, you're going to have to wait a bit longer, since that project is now on hold until Mew-Genics is released, but will eventually still see the light of day.

Rainbow Nightmare: LibraLike Saturday Morning Cartoons in a Blender Reader Jeff thought we should all know about this intriguing but slightly baffling Kickstarter project for Rainbow Nightmare: Libra, which bills itself as an "80's cartoon inspired RPG with robots, babes, war, cat girls, zombies and more". The game is the brainchild of one man, Karl Crawford, who plans to tackle the entire game virtually single-handedly, though he would like to use at least some of the requested $9,000.00USD funding to hire a second artist and put into the soundtrack. You'll want to check out the full feature list and synopsis to get the full shakedown, but with branching storylines, card collecting, class-swapping, and more, Rainbow Nightmare: Libra looks like a trippy, ambitious project to say the least, especially for one person, but with enough dedication and passion anything can happen... especially where zombie babes are concerned. (I'm not judging. I support you and all your life choices, dear reader.)

ShakerSometimes Old-School Isn't Enough Not every Kickstarter fairy-tale has a happy ending, and fans of developer veterans Brenda Brathwaite and Tom Hal are mourning the announcement that they've decided to cancel their planned development of their proposed RPG SHAKER. Though the game still had some time left on its Kickstarter run, with only a quarter raised of the project's requested $1,000,000.00USD funding, the team has decided to pull the plug, citing a belief that their pitch wasn't strong enough to gain the traction the project needed to succeed and opting for a "mercy killing" instead... though they do mention a plan to come back with something stronger. It's a disappointment to be sure, and stands as a cautionary tale that even the most talented of people might need a bit of a perfect storm to really succeed with Kickstarter. Ultimately, we can only wish them all the best and keep our eyes peeled for more in the future from this immensely creative duo.

Story NexusBringing IF Into the Spotlight Interactive fiction is a genre full of immensely talented creators and fans, but it's by no means the most universally popular, or the easiest to make. StoryNexus, a free browser-based tool to let you create, share, and even potentially earn revenue from your own IF creations, aims to change all that... hopefully! It's undeniable that it takes a different sort of talent and dedication to create an immersive, well-written story that also functions as a game, and unless you're working with a specific sort of community, the general low-level of interest from gamers looking for flashier things can be disheartening. Games Industry International has an extensive article up about StoryNexus that may serve to spark your interest, however, and if you've always wanted to dip your toe into the IF pool, this may be just the ticket to get you started.

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 (26 votes)
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Punch Quest

JohnBNew from Rocketcat Games, creator of Mage Gauntlet, Hook Champ and Super QuickHook, Punch Quest is an endless running game built on the quest completing/loot gathering system found in games like Jetpack Joyride. Instead of flying around like a little beetle, though, you play as a well-muscled lad or lass who simply must punch everything in sight, from bats to skeletons, dinosaurs to priceless vases, all in the name of gathering coinage and upgrading your skills. There are tons of things to unlock along with bosses to defeat, forked paths to take, and secrets to find, making this an absolutely epic diversion you won't be ready to put down for quite a while!

Punch QuestIt all starts with a few simple punches: regular punches and uppercut punches, each accessible by a simple tap on either side of the screen. Your customizable character runs from left to right on his or her own, encountering enemies and obstacles in the 2D landscape much like in a platform game. By both carefully utilizing and wildly smacking the attack buttons, you can defeat foes both on the ground and in the air, knocking coins and other items loose in the process. Miss a punch or get hit by something dangerous and you'll lose a bit of health, and when your health is nil, your run will come to an end, allowing you to spend some coins to gain new abilities. Which isn't so bad, seeing as how the next time you go on a punch quest, you'll be even stronger!

Far from a straightforward jump and run game, Punch Quest liberally sprinkles variety throughout its terrain in the form of forked paths, treasure chests, and plenty of other secrets we'd love for you to uncover on your own (Laseraptor Rampage, anyone?). This, combined with the new abilities you'll unlock (new attacks, defensive maneuvers, etc.) makes for a surprisingly non-linear and strategic experience, even though you tread similar terrain each time you play. All for the sake of earning coins and completing creatively complex quests!

Punch QuestAnalysis: Punch Quest may seem like a mindless brawler, but it's actually quite far from that. You'll need to pay attention to everything on the screen as you play, watching enemy patterns, attacks, and treasures that are only visible for a few fleeting moments. You have to make quick decisions when path forks drop your way, and spotting bits of treasure means you have just a few moments to put yourself in the position to grab them. You can't just smack some buttons and expect to win (though that does get you a little ways, we'll admit), but if you watch what's going on and time your hits accordingly, you can strategically smack some buttons and get some real punch questing accomplished!

The depth of Punch Quest aside, it's actually a pretty hectic and exciting game to play. Not only is the action non-stop, it's also incredibly satisfying to see dead skeletons crumble to your hits and coins fly out of defeated enemies. Especially when you get to the shop and get to spend those coins on new abilities that enhance and deepen the gameplay strategies, making each run longer, more complex, but also more powerful.

Visually, Punch Quest is superb, resembling a more polished 16-bit-era game with toned-down color palettes and excellent pixel art work. Great fun to look at, even when things are zooming by you at barely-punchable speeds. A few optional in-app purchases let you speed up the unlockable side of things, but as we like to see, a little patience is equal to a few real world coins, so you're never forced to indulge.

Punch Quest is well-tuned, exciting, easy to get into but with enough depth to keep you coming back for more. Rocketcat Games has proven its worth by investing in several different genres of mobile games, and this latest release proves the team has the talent and skill to pull off a highly addictive game in just about any style. No go punch some dinosaurs!

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


  • Currently 3.8/5
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Rating: 3.8/5 (62 votes)
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DoraPortal 2DWix pays homage to Valve's iconic puzzle platformer Portal 2 with Portal 2D, a game about a really good sandwich. Like, really really good, if you're willing to plunge into a mysterious chasm after it. Suddenly, you find yourself in the ruins of a mysterious facility where the technology still seems to be functioning and you find one very familiar gun... one that can shoot portals you can use to traverse obstacles. Use the [WASD] or [arrow] keys to move, [F] to pick up or put down objects, and the mouse to aim and fire portals, which can only be placed on white surfaces. The goal of each stage is to get to the capsule to take you to the next level, and getting there means figuring out how to get around obstacles using your portal gun, triggering switches, manipulating momentum, and more. After playing, there will be baked comestibles.

Wix is hardly the first to take Portal to your browser, as We Create Stuff proved with Portal: The Flash Version. Portal 2D offers a clean, polished design, subtle atmosphere, and providing its own set of tightly designed levels to get your gears turning rather than just attempting to recreate every stage from the Portal 2 game itself. As the stages progress, more and more new elements add layers of complexity, but the compact areas and flat, 2D sideview that lets you see everything at once means you're rarely left wandering around in bewilderment. The game does a great job of creating puzzles that deliver that satisfying "ah-ha!" moment that makes its source material so popular, but does unfortunately lack a lot of the snarky charm. As a result, Portal 2D is a fun, clever, well-designed diversion that isn't necessarily particularly memorable, but more than satisfies that puzzle platforming itch.

Play Portal 2D


(3 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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A Wonderland Story

JohnBA Wonderland Story from Alchemy Games probably isn't what you expect from a colorful, expertly-illustrated mobile game. It may look like a platformer, it may even have the intense reflex requirements of a platformer, but really, it's a game of fast puzzles and quick planning. And it just happens to be set in the strange, strange world of Alice in Wonderland, only this time, Alice is the villain!

A Wonderland StoryIn A Wonderland Story, you play as the White Rabbit, a character who is perpetually late for every conceivable date. Hopping down the rabbit hole one day, you're followed by a meddlesome little girl who proceeds to give chase. It's your job to help the rabbit keep pace ahead of Alice, but instead of controlling him directly, you move the game world around. Slide each row of blocks up or down with a quick swipe, positioning gaps so the rabbit can continue forward unimpeded. Maneuver enemies to line up with each other to create gems you can collect. Missing a gap or hitting a foe doesn't kill you, but it does slow you down, and in this game, time is vitally important!

Because of the level design and the somewhat crude checkpoint system, A Wonderland Story can feel like participating in a marathon as opposed to a quick pick up and play diversion. Stages are large and take a while to complete, and instead of breaking each into selectable sections, you have three worlds populated with linear save spots that must be worked through in order. This discourages going back to perfect your scores, which is a shame, but at least you can stop in the middle of a level and resume at a later time without any hassle.

A Wonderland Story is an unusual and very beautiful game. It's quite a bit different from most other casual offerings out there, which should put it on your radar right away. The mechanics even perk up a bit once you start using power-ups, so get ready for a simple but marvelously entertaining retreat down the rabbit hole!

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: 3.9/5 (49 votes)
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TrickyFluffy SteelFluffy Steel may sound like a contradiction in terms, but what other way is there to describe a flying squirrel adorably dual-wielding machetes? And in this Road Blocks-style puzzler by Mibix, said squirrel faces off against the natural predator of all rodentia: zombies... Okay, maybe not the natural predator, but one can't blame woodland creatures for approaching the scourge of the undead in the best way they see fit.

Use the [arrow] keys to direct the squirrel to fly in various directions. The squirrel will continued flying until it hits a barrier, killing all zombies it crosses along the way. Once all zombies are killed in a level, the exit portal will open. Note the different types of zombies: you'll bounce off the heads of ones with helmets protecting their noggin, ones with spiked backs will kill you if you attack from that side, and so forth. Avoid flying off the edge of the screen or smashing into floating spiked balls, and be wary of teleporters and the yellow bounce pads that will send you careening in the opposite direction. Though the cartoony graphics might make it look like some kind of physics launch game, rather than Orbox Lite, overall, Fluffy Steel is a simple but challenging set of forty levels with a nice difficulty curve. At the very least, you should check it out to hear the scream the squirrel makes as he flies off the screen. Call me demented, but that clip is schadenfreudely delicious.

Play Fluffy Steel


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Rating: 3.8/5 (36 votes)
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TrickySnazzleIt's Snake! It's Snazzy! It's Snazzle! A simple idea puzzle game by Amidos, Snazzle takes its inspiration from the classic formula of slithering reptiles extending themselves by chomping on fruit, and then trying to avoid crashing into itself. However, by modifying the premise with a shiny coating of tile-based programming strategy, it creates a fresh and cleverly designed experience.

Part of the fun of Snazzle is sussing out the mechanics from the abstract symbols presented, and thus, very few instructions are spelled-out in-game. Generally though, in each level, a snake will enter at the space and direction marked by an arrow. Using the mouse, you must click on the boxes of the grid to place a limited number of arrows, so as to direct the snake into a path where it will consume all of the tasty white food squares therein. The snake must avoid crashing into walls or itself, and each time it consumes a food square, it will grow in length. If there is nothing blocking it, the snake may travel "off the board" to reappear at the opposite side. Later levels feature lettered teleporter squares, X-ed out square where arrows cannot be placed, and numbered food squares that can only be consumed after eating the given amount of other square. Snazzle starts off a little slow, and its minimalism is a little off-putting. But once it properly demonstrates its rules, Snazzle wastes no time into getting into some real meaty brainteasers. By the end of all15 levels, Snazzle becomes quite the spatial and abstract thinking challenge. In short, Snazzle has just the right amount of razzle-dazzle for those looking to be frazzled by a fun left-brainy kind of puzzle.

Play Snazzle


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Rating: 4.3/5 (454 votes)
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Weekday Escape

SonicLover(Crack-FLASH!) Arooooooo! Haha, it worked! Project Timewolf was a complete success! Now I can tell you all about Haunted Halloween Escape, an oldie escape from TeraLumina, and just in time for the Halloween season! The Union of Mad Science called me nuts (and from them that's a compliment!) when I suggested splicing temporally enhanced genes into werewolf DNA to become a time-traveling lycanthrope, but look at me now! I've successfully broken through the spatial-temporal plane to...

Haunted Halloween EscapeHaunted Halloween Escape drops you into a room full of spooky features and creatures. Navigation is nothing to write home about: click the edges of the screen to turn and look around or take a step back (look for the arrow and shaded bar), and click things to pick up or interact with them. Rather than emeralds or sapphires or what have you, this time there are a whole bunch of bats to find, thirteen to be exact, and they don't fly into view until you click on their hiding places so keep an eye out for when your cursor changes. Finding them all is optional, but makes for a good score bonus.

TeraLumina knows how to make a good game; the atmosphere is excellent, with the graphics and sound adding perfectly to it without being too distracting, and the puzzles flow just fine. Even the added challenge of making the game Halloween-themed didn't affect its quality. Plus the game autosaves, so if you need to take a break you can. My only serious gripe is one puzzle that involves counting things scattered around the room, a common pet peeve because it's too easy to miss one and then have no idea what's wrong with the combination when you try to enter it.

Nevertheless, it's an excellent escape, and if you'd like a little Halloween in your day, here it is. Now if you'll excuse me, I've got to go into hiding before my past self turns up. Who knows what sort of paradox will occur if he finds me...

Play Haunted Halloween Escape


(13 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Cryptic Kingdoms

JohnBCryptic Kingdoms is a casual point-and-click adventure game similar to The Haunt, Forever Lost, or the often cited Myst series. Featuring a semi-surreal Earth-like world packed with locked devices, mysterious locations, and a striking lack of living creatures, you'll explore scene after scene as you attempt to make sense of the puzzles and mystical contraptions.

cryptickingdoms.jpgSimply tap the touch screen when you want to take a closer look at something, pick up an item, or use an object from your inventory. Traveling is accomplished in much the same way, though a convenient "back" button serves as a movement tool in most locations. Puzzles are of the "figure out what's missing, find it, use it, get a clue for another puzzle" variety. Nothing too intricate, which makes Cryptic Kingdoms an almost relaxing point and click romp.

There's a growing selection of adventure games on mobile devices, and Cryptic Kingdoms steps in to some high expectations. It succeeds in most areas and falls just a bit short in a few others, but the net result is definitely a positive one. No haunted houses, insane puppeteers, or spooky children, which is a nice change of pace. The visuals are a bit dated and the loading screens are a little annoying, but otherwise, Cryptic Kingdoms presents a solid set of puzzles and an intriguing world to immerse yourself in!

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 4/5
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Rating: 4/5 (61 votes)
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DoraSiegius ArenaWho needs primal scream therapy when you have Sky 9 Games' over-the-top hack-and-slash action-fest Siegius Arena? As a centurion betrayed by one of his own men, you've been sentenced to death in the arena, but that's nothing a little determination and some decapitations won't fix. Use the [WASD] or [arrow] keys to move, and the [Z] and [X] keys while in battle to attack, using any items you pick up with [C] or [V]. As you stab your way through your foes, the crowd's excitement rises, and when the bar to the right side of the screen fills, hitting [spacebar] will unleash your ultimate attack... though nobody likes a punching bag, so getting hit yourself will cause the bar's level to drop. Loot coins from corpses during matches to spend on better equipment between rounds. You can even buy some spells to give yourself an edge, because let's face it, man's best friend is his unholy storm of flames. You can even replay matches to grind gold!

Siegius Arena is one of those great looking, simple little games that's both satisfying and a little frustrating to play. The action is easy to master and strangely entertaining to watch as cute cartoon limbs go flying across the screen, and the variety of items to purchase influence your stats and strengths in ways that feel like they give the game just enough depth. On the other hand, the movement like turning and controls just aren't fast and fluid enough to make combat as smooth as it needs to be, and it doesn't feel like your enemies are that smart, since most can be defeated easily by stun-locking them with that most hallowed of ancient techniques... button mashing. The end result is a game that doesn't quite get above "addictive coffee break status", but still manages to be a head-crushing good time with tons of upgrades to buy and foes to slash, earning you endless adoration in the process. Turns out the quickest way to a crowd's heart is through someone else's sternum.

Play Siegius Arena


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Rating: 3.6/5 (91 votes)
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TrickyDream SymphonyThe Maestro has been waxing lyrical for weeks, but no matter how many times he checks his notes, he can't seems to find the right sounds to finish his opus. Usually, composition is his forte, but now he's lost all measure of inspiration. But maybe a little nap will recharge his creative batteries... Dream Symphony is a vertical launch-style platform game by Igor Kulakov and George Zarkua, where the higher you bounce, the closer you scale to musical perfection.

Move the maestro using the mouse or [arrow] keys, and click or press [up] to jump from sheepy platform to sheepy platform. Jump as high as you can, getting a boost from solid notes and instruments, while avoiding the red sour ones. Various power-ups will aid your ascent, like sour note freezing Ice Cubes or the invincibility granting Muse Sunglasses. The higher you go, the more cash you'll earn, which can be used to purchase upgrades between levels. Make it to 4748 feet, and you'll end up looking pretty sharp indeed. Dream Symphony is an absolute treat for the senses. Its visual style is like Adventure Time, if it was produced by the quirksters at Amanita Design, and while this reviewer is not usually one who notices excellent sound design, uh, Dream Symphony's sound design is excellent. Whether it's how the background music gets ever more complex the higher you climb, the little happy pops of the power-ups, the discordant blares of the sour notes... heck, even the inexplicable Nyan Cat cameo isn't that bad when accompanied by a xylophone remix of his theme. Add into that some polished gameplay and you've got a game that'll be music to your ears.

Play Dream Symphony


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The Vault

ElleRight about now, perhaps you're wondering if it's too late to order your Big Bird costume or if Costco still has 20 lbs bags of spooky-themed candy in stock or if your plan to bungee jump off a space shuttle isn't such a crazy idea like your friends all think it is. Or maybe you're just wondering where you can find good games to focus all your thoughts into some exploratory fun? While all the best games find their way to JIG no matter where they originated, here are three games that began life as Casual Gameplay Design Competition entries.

  • Full MoonFull Moon - Bart Bonte participated in several of our design competitions, and it's always a great pleasure to see how he'll spin the theme into his signature Bonte style. This point-and-click puzzle game, which won second place in CGDC#6, is all things good about a Bonte game and plays well on the theme of exploring by encouraging experimentation. Full Moon's graphical minimalism is completely without textual directives; see what the little bunny wants, then click around the screen for where it may be hidden. Most the challenge is in figuring out just which string of events will elicit the desired object. Here, as usual, Bonte is great at keeping it simple while still providing an engaging and entertaining game experience.
  • HoosegowHoosegow - Graphics are cool and all, but they are often so finite when your own speculative, imaginative mind can cook up nuances, connotations and inflections from words that a brush stroke or pixel bit cannot muster. Hoosegow, Ben Collins-Sussman and Jack Welch's winning entry in the escape-themed CGDC#7, is the proof that a textual western setting is just as rich and ripe for exploration as any picturesque adventure. Playing this piece of interactive fiction leads to a lot contemplation about the cleverly written narrative and plenty of challenge in finding just the right word to move further through the story. Your brain is more high res than any graphics card so, upon finishing, there is a greater sense of accomplishment when most the gameplay is happening up in your noggin.
  • The Fabulous ExplorationslandThe Fabulous Explorationsland - Although it didn't win any prizes, StefanT's entry into CGDC#6 was a big favorite with the audience and judges alike for the sheer amount of fun it contains. Taking the exploration theme to the literal hilt, this adventure fuses cornball wit into the dungeoncrawler-esque gameplay, gratifying your love of achievement through congratulating each new discovery you make. Just use the [arrow] keys and [space] to interact with your environment to find the long lost burrito shop of the ancients! Bring light to the dark depths of the Pharaoh's latrine! Learn the answer to mystifying riddles! All while exploring a world of secrets and adventures.

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


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Rating: 4.7/5 (293 votes)
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elleMonkey GO Happy: Mini MonkeysDon't sit around feeling blue. Go get happy—Monkey GO Happy: Mini Monkeys that is. Monkey around with Robin Vencel's, of Pencil Kids, uber cute simians by finding all fifteen of the missing monkey babes, and everyone is sure to be bouncing about with ear-to-ear grins in a matter of minutes.

Turn over rocks, look behind walls, solve a few puzzles... do just anything and everything you must to locate the mini darlings. Pick them up, carry them to the basket, and keep at it until those tearful frowns are turned to gleeful dances. While your goal is simple and gameplay is easy, this point-and-click puzzle game is not short on fun. How can it not be when it begins with a choice of sad monkeys and silly hats? It's the kind of merry amusement that anyone can enjoy.

Play Monkey GO Happy: Mini Monkeys


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Rating: 4/5 (58 votes)
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BenThey Took Our CandyTrick or treat? Neither... alien invasion!! They Took Our Candy, a sidescrolling shooter from Level 1 Wizards tells the story of the day aliens stole all the Halloween candy. Only your group of hyperactive, sugar-addicted trick-or-treaters can stop them and get the candy back. After selecting four characters for your group, each with their own stats, attack, and special ability, it's on to the mean streets of your local neighborhood, where the aliens are in control. Your team moves and fires together, with firing done automatically and movement mapped to either the [arrow] keys or [WASD]. Pressing the [spacebar] unleashes all four special attacks at the same time. In between waves, the candy you've collected can be used to upgrade your team.

At first your group is slow and weak, but as you upgrade and the sugar rush takes effect, they become a dangerous force. Of course, the enemies get tougher as well, and since there are no continues, if your group is defeated, it's back to the start. To take the sting out of defeat, the candy you collected goes towards unlocking new characters and bonus attributes, giving you more power and more choices in the next round. With a cute retro pixel art style, addictive gameplay, and just the right level of challenge, They Took Our Candy is a sweet treat for anyone who just can't wait to go out trick-or-treating themselves. Just remember - eating that much candy in real life only upgrades your dentists next pay packet!

Play They Took Our Candy


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Rating: 4/5 (83 votes)
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DoraThe VisitCreated for a GameJam in just a few days, The Visit by Marius Fietzek, Benedikt Hummel, and Irina Gross is a twisted, silly platformer that doesn't go the way you'd expect. Just use the [arrow] keys to move and jump as you set out to visit your girlfriend. Naturally, there are all manner of dangerous obstacles to deal with on your way there... right? I mean, that's how this is supposed to go.

It's a very short and simple little game with a few different endings depending on the options you choose and the paths you take. It's worth tracking them all down, especially since doing so will probably only take less than ten minutes, though one particular scene at least feels like it drags on too long. It's a simple, quirky little game with a grin-inducing style. It plays on how ridiculous the actions we automatically assume we should take in games and will make you smile... or at least sit there with tumbleweeds rolling by dramatically in the background as you try to figure out what just happened.

Play The Visit


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Mobile Monday

JohnBHere's something to mull over as your workweek begins: Don't Look Back, a free mobile release from Terry Cavanagh, does exactly what its name forbids by being a port of a 2009 browser game. Granny Smith is both a granny and a member of the Smith family, whereas Star Command actually lets you command stars—wait, it's a starship commanding game? Oh. Well. Then. Nevermind!

starcommand-p.gifStar Command: such a tease - Star Command, the isometric simulation that is practically guaranteed to be your favorite game of all time once it releases later this year (we hope) recently wheeled around for another teaser, this time unleashing a 13 minute long video packed with gameplay! Narrated by Jordan and Justin Coombs, two of the game's developers (with the main programmer still chained in the basement), the video outlines the start of a game along with a few high gameplay high points. Just enough info to make you want it even more!

grannysmith-p.jpgGranny Smith goes to space - If you're still having as much fun with the racing/stunt game Granny Smith (which is available for both iOS and Android, by the way), you'll be pleased to know the game recently received an update that added new levels set in outer space. Then, another update hit that made said levels a easier to complete! It seems the majority of players thought the stages were a bit too difficult, so developer Mediocre toned them down. Either way, more apple collecting with granny on skates is a good thing.

dontlookback-p.gifDon't Look Back looks back - With the recent success of Super Hexagon, Terry Cavanagh seems to have caught the mobile bug. In lieu of porting VVVVVV to iOS (which is his next project), Terry has released a mobile version of Don't Look Back, a semi-surreal narrative game from 2009. Even better, the game is completely free, works on Android and iOS devices, and plays just as well with a touch screen as with a mouse and keyboard!

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: 4.4/5 (44 votes)
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Kairo

JohnBKairo is a first-person puzzle adventure game from Richard Perrin, creator of The White Chamber. Set in a minimalist, somewhat abstract world of temples and stones, floating pathways and mysterious mechanisms, you'll be given no clues as to what you need to do to complete the game. Instead, you'll wander through room after room, using your keen powers of observation to figure out where the puzzles are and how to solve them. It's a game design choice rarely seen since the days of Myst, and it brings with it a satisfying gaming experience that has become increasingly rare in the age of tutorials and online cheat codes.

kairo.jpgThe controls in Kairo are pretty standard for a first person game. Use [WASD] to move in the four main directions, hold [shift] to run, and press [spacebar] to jump. Use the mouse to look around, and you can also use the mouse buttons to walk or jump, just in case you want your other hand free for jotting down notes or drawing copies of the symbols you encounter (which isn't a bad idea). If you need to interact with anything, simply bumping into it will suffice. You'll be notified with visual or audio cues to confirm something happened.

Once you step into the world of Kairo, you'll feel completely lost in a world that seems to follow only the most basic rules. There are a series of unmarked temples, often constructed in mid-air, and some pathways that connect them to other structures. Doors seem like they're everywhere, and they lead to areas filled with puzzles that barely make sense. In order to get a handle on the game, your first task is to just start playing around with things. Step on tiles, push switches, and walk to new areas, all the while paying attention to see what changes when you activate something. Eventually some patterns will form, and before you know it, you'll have figured out something important!

kairo.jpgAnalysis: Kairo represents the ever-shrinking minority of games that choose to present themselves without lengthy tutorials or hand-holding hint boxes that guide you through the entire experience. For anybody who grew up with extra challenging old school games, this will probably be a welcome change of pace. For everyone else, it might be a bit disorienting, but take it from us: this method is better! Kairo manages to walk the line well, forcing itself to adhere to the minimalist side of design but not being so obtuse that you can't figure out what to do after a little observation.

The environment is as much a character in Kairo as anything, and it's amazing how much personality is communicated without text or speech. You get the sense that each of these disparate sections are connected by some unseen force, and when you start activating ancient circuits and power sources, that sense of wonder only grows. If you've ever wanted to explore an ancient temple the likes of which are only seen in movies, this is your chance.

Kairo is a carefully designed puzzle masterpiece. What it lacks in a loud visual presentation it makes up for with a dense world filled with secrets and hidden nuances. It's an experience that's quite different from most games out there, one that will become intensely personal thanks to the quiet, thoughtful creation. Your brain will thank you for playing Kairo!

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


  • Currently 4.1/5
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Rating: 4.1/5 (73 votes)
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Kyhkyh_cloudwars_title.pngIt's cloudy with a chance of victory in the new realtime strategy game, Cloud Wars, by Staal Media. You're a cutesy little cloud who, over time, accumulates cumulus matter to grow into a more dominating form. Click and drag from a cloud unit you possess to another one to send half of your fluffy, puffy units to bring a torrential downpour upon your dastardly enemies 'pink' and 'yellow'. Should you chance upon a star, send a single unit zipping over to it to earn upgrade points which you can spend on enhancing the speed, capacity or creation rate of a cloud of your choosing. But keep in mind, if your enemy takes over your little nimbus, they'll keep that upgrade for themselves.

At 15 levels, Cloud Wars is a nice 'rainy day' game for strategy fans, while the simple layout and three difficulty settings leave it accessible for people who aren't as familiar with this Risk-like genre. With the cutesy, colorful graphics and emoting cloud faces, it's easy to fall into the illusion that you're just playing with bubbles and cotton balls rather than sending microscopic water molecule soldiers into battle. To arms my dipolar friends!

Play Cloud Wars


(14 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Northern Tale

JohnBRealore Studios knows a thing or two about the road building resource management genre. The team has produced several great hits, including All My Gods and the unusually unique Adelantado Trilogy: Book One. Now, with the release of Northern Tale, we return to the world of myth and magic to save a viking kingdom from the wrath of an evil witch. And what better way to cleanse the land than by working your way through stage after stage, busting up piles of rocks and collecting hunks of meat sitting on the ground?!

northerntale.jpgRegnar has just returned victorious from a great raid. As he steps on the shores of his homeland, he learns that an evil witch named Gesta has been destroying homes left and right, spreading her malice in the form of dark roots, evil stones, and malefic beings who terrorize the countryside. She even went and kidnapped Gesta's daughters (because apparently threatening his people wasn't irritating enough!). In order to rescue his family and save the kingdom, Regnar embarks upon a lengthy quest of decidedly anti-Gesta activities, including plucking every bit of evil from the soil with his own two hands!

You'll just need a mouse to play Northern Tale, and controlling is as easy as pointing and clicking. Each stage has a few simple goals that need to be met, and in order to get the work done, you'll have to direct the vikings stationed in the hut. Clear obstacles out of the way by clicking on them and waiting for the worker to do his thing. Most activities require resources to accomplish, so keep them well-stocked by gathering items sitting in the path, collecting them from spawning stumps, or by repairing and upgrading shops that provide regular tributes. Later, you'll also need to deal with things like evil enchanted wolves by repairing the druid's hut and allowing him to do his quasi-magical thing!

northerntale2.jpgAnalysis: Northern Tale shines by taking its genre very seriously. No corners were cut in bringing a solid resource management experience to your screen, so you can expect just about every minor annoyance present in other representatives of the genre to be all but absent in this release. Sick of timers putting pressure on you? Turn them off! Want to queue tasks? Go right ahead! Need to spend your time perfecting your resource gathering abilities? Getting a high score in each of the game's 50+ levels is all a part of the experience!

The scenery in Northern Tale changes as you complete groups of levels, moving through the seasons and presenting a stunning visual package each time. The game starts out a little slow, unfortunately, and if you've played Roads of Rome or another similar game, you might crave some sort of fast forward button so you can make it to the challenging levels filled with choices and dangers. Hang in there for at least half a dozen stages and you'll hit gold!

Realore Studios manages to create compelling resource management games as if it's second nature, and we love them for it! The core formula is the same but the fun never wanes. Northern Tale is precisely the kind of game that makes you stay up late so you can play "just one more level"!

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


  • Currently 4.5/5
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Rating: 4.5/5 (100 votes)
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The Haunt

JohnBJust in time for that scary late October holiday, The Haunt 2 from Furious Apps arrives with a serious dose of point-and-click adventure-style puzzle solving! Following the same set-up as The Haunt, you take on the role of a paranormal investigator who has come to rid the town of its little ghost problem. You'll sift through houses and barns, train stations and a dark forest in search of clues, and what you end up discovering may not be as "little" as the town would have you believe.

The HauntThe town has been dealing with a ghost problem for the past 150 years, largely due to the historic battleground located in the nearby forest. Recently, the paranormal happenings have been much more frequent, so mayor Martin Townley has invited you to come and take care of things. Travel through the town by tapping on possible points of interest or the edges of the screen. A convenient "back" option often appears to make retracing your steps easier. To investigate items or objects, simply give them a tap. Your inventory stashes itself neatly at the bottom of the screen, and to use any of its items, simply tap one followed by where you want to use it.

Much of your time in The Haunt 2 will be spent locating items you'll need to advance through to different parts of the town and its surrounding land. In addition to the puzzle-specific items, you'll also need to keep an eye out for coins, moths, and jigsaw pieces, all of which are stashed around the scenes in some cunning ways. Moths give you in-game hints and are probably the most useful things to look for, coins are there just for fun, and the puzzle pieces must be found in order to complete the game.

The HauntAnalysis: Just like The Haunt, The Haunt 2 manages to fit a lot of entertainment into a single well-illustrated package. Not only is the adventure a lengthy one, but the puzzles are tricky, often involving multiple steps using clues and objects found throughout the game. All of this is tied together with a nice and easy interface that never gets in the way, allowing you to jump right in to the mystery.

The only real shortcomings in the game are minor at best, and they're issues you very quickly learn to work around. Sometimes bits of white text are obscured by particularly bright pieces of scenery, for example, but rarely is there anything vitally important hidden by the light. Also, it's not always clear which spaces you can investigate and which are just pieces of scenery. The solution is to try visiting everywhere, tapping the ends of corridors, trail heads and the edges of every screen. Missing a room will be the number one reason you get stuck in The Haunt 2, so be thorough!

Can't get enough of The Haunt 2? Try The Haunt!

Another superb point and click game from Furios Apps, one that is filled with enough content and intrigue that it would feel right at home as a casual download, but made to fit quite elegantly on your mobile device.

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: 4.6/5 (131 votes)
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elleEscape from the Entrance HallEven with eyes closed, it's hard to mistake a Tesshi-e escape for anything other than a Tesshi-e escape as even the music makes us feel welcome and included in a convivial escapers' circle. So it is the same with Escape from the Entrance Hall: we're welcomed inside only to have great fun at poking around in cupboards and drawers, stringing together witty clues and figuring out the tricks that keep the door locked.

You'll encounter familiar faces—wobbly picture frame, hippo and twirly Mr. Birdies—and find some new twists in clue presentation. Some puzzles are a bit convoluted and, near the end, you're asked to make a choice between a certain iconic token or the means to exit that will tease your decision making (so be sure to save your game before you choose). While Escape from the Entrance Room is not the most challenging, it is very clever and fresh and, most happily of all, definitively Tesshi-e. Enjoy!

Play Escape from the Entrance Hall


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

DoraPrepare to get your shriek on with the free indie horror action adventure game Erie by the University of Utah's EAE Master Games Studio Program. When a nuclear generator suffers a partial meltdown in 1966 Michigan and the locals start disappearing, your helpless unarmed kiester is dropped in alone by the Red Cross to investigate what's going on under the shores of Lake Erie. Naturally, it turns out a can of spray paint isn't going to cut it against whatever unpleasantness is lurking underground, and it's up to you to survive and track down a bunch of dead cats because of course you have to in one crazy but intense experience.

ErieUse the [WASD] or [arrow] keys to move, using the mouse to look around and holding [shift] to sprint. Which you'll want to do, since your only defense from the things after you is running away. [E] interacts with most objects, and [I] will display your inventory and everything you've found so far. [Spacebar] jumps and [C] will let you crawl, since no first-person horror adventure is complete without slogging through sewers. The spray paint you get early on can be used to tag ways to keep track of where you've been, which can be helpful the farther you go in the facility, and trust me when I say you'll want to make an effort to remember where the exists in each room and handy tunnels to escape in. I wasn't kidding about the cats, either. If you hear an ungodly caterwauling, search the area for a kitty corpse (ugh). I look forward to seeing how our hero explains to his superiors his apparent desire to haul dead animals around with him on his mission of mercy. Oh, and you can't save your game either, so be prepared to finish this one in one go, though you can hit [ESC] if you need to pause, and if you do kick the bucket, the game will respawn you at a checkpoint.

Erie is one big, hulking, menacing monster of a game, but it's also a little clunky and simplistic in its concept and overall design. Despite that, Erie is actually a lot of fun. The environments feel appropriately lonely and oppressing, and though its heavily reliance on jump scares means it never reaches the more elegant horror of, say, Amnesia: The Dark Descent and limits its audience, they're certainly effective when they happen. It takes a while to really get going, but once it does, it'll have you squealing and jumping at every noise even as you run for your life. And also, well, it's free, and pretty darn impressive for something made by a bunch of students. The biggest challenge is largely keeping track of where you've been so you know where to run when you're trying to avoid something on your way to open doors or look for keys, but fans of cheesy monster action movies looking for something fun and freaky to sink their teeth into for an evening will find a lot to like here, and makes for one wild, if not necessarily relaxing, experience.

WindowsWindows:
Download the free full version (Desura)

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


  • Currently 4.6/5
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Rating: 4.6/5 (26 votes)
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Robota: LostJohnBRobota: Lost is an in-progress adventure game that drops you in an open world with a ship that needs power to fly. Naturally, your first (and only) quest is to head out and find the hidden batteries so you can make your escape. There are no enemies, no bosses, no hazards, and no obstacles, it's just you, a few hills, a few forests, and a sunny countryside waiting to be explored.

Standard first person controls are available to navigate the bleak world, and you only need to walk up to items to pick them up. The pacing of Robota is incredibly slow, almost to the point of being excruciating, even if you're holding [shift] to run. After you spend a few minutes with the game, you'll realize that running would almost defeat the purpose. Robota needs to be slow, you have to have time for the atmosphere to sink in. If you could dash around at top speeds, you would never take in the little details, sit and wonder what's over the next hill, or stop to consider which fork in the path to take. With a gentle walking speed enabled, you can't help but take your time, which absolutely makes the experience worthwhile.

Robota: Lost isn't a game everyone will get into, but it shows a lot of style and a lot of promise. The visuals are stark but pleasing, the soundtrack is fantastic, and the overall design never strays from its main goal: to give you a beautiful little world to walk around in.

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
| Comments (6) | Views (333)

Girls Like Robots

elleLife is complicated. The art of baking a soufflé is complicated. Yet, as any bride-to-be will tell you, seating arrangements are the most complicated of all because there is a vast number of unwritten rules to consider, starting with the fact Uncle Bob had a falling out with Cousin Joe, but unless they're both seated next to the band, they're likely to cause a scene. It can be quite a mess, yet immense satisfaction comes when, through strategy and savvy, you make everyone happy. That's especially true in Adult Swim and Popcannibal's quirky tile arranging puzzle game Girls Like Robots.

Girls Like RobotsIt's true, as you have guessed by the title, girls like robots. Nerds also like robots. But, girls do not like nerds (sorry, nerds). In fact, nerds don't like other nerds, either. As much as robots also love girls, they get very very stressed out if they're surrounded by girls. Then there is pie—everybody likes pie! Dishing up pie is a great way to serve up happy at a party. Except, well, robots don't have taste buds and don't understand pie. Whew! It's a lot to keep track of as you organize each particular tile on grids of various shapes and sizes, all with the goal of making everyone as happy as possible despite their finicky quirks.

Just as you perfect your seating chart logic, though, a brand new factor saunters onto the scene. Now you're trying to help Ben get a date to Homecoming, and send bugs to June (who just adores entomology), and, for reasons not known outside the Adult Swim/Popcannibal universe, milk cows with frustration. It's better to not ask why in these situations and to save your reasoning abilities for filling up the old euphoria meter.

Girls Like RobotsWith all this variety and changeablity, this game is vast! Don't worry that, at over 100 levels, you'll grow tired of any particular puzzle scheme; Girls Like Robots has an eclectic mix of gameplay to keep it fresh. There are times when the next block isn't revealed until you've already placed the previous one or, later, times when you are given a limited number of switcheroos, have a time limit to get everyone contentedly settled or have to work against space blasts. There's even a boss battle-like ending to put all that tile arranging skill to a true test. Putting the ice cream on the pie, Girls Like Robots is tied together with humorous stories and eye pleasing graphics so your aesthetic sensibility is as satisfied as your cleverness.

Analysis: Built with the Unity game engine, Girls Like Robots looks and works beautifully on your mobile device. Every inch exudes quality production; the enjoyment and enthusiasm of the game designers shines through in the artwork, story, and inventive gameplay. The touch commands are easy to master, even as the rules of the game are continually remixed. Speaking of which, the changing rules are wonderful for those who long for variety and diversity in their puzzle games, yet may be disappointing to those who enjoy some strategies while disliking others. In such case, the use-at-any-time "skip" option, found off the menu screen, is a welcome feature.

Girls Like RobotsWhile it makes sense later in the game, when you reach a level that is all about undoing and rearranging, the lack of freedom to swap and switch tiles at any point in the process leads to frustration as much as it presents a logical challenge. Sometimes missteps aren't recognizable until you've laid several other tiles, making experimentation and restarting a necessary part of the process. Yet it's hard to not think this could be made more user friendly, perhaps if it had a tap and drag interface similar to Joining Hands. The Girls Like Robots' "make me happy" dilemmas could also be likened to Monsterz: Chainz of Friendz, an entry in Casual Gameplay Design Competition #9. What these games have in common is a rather uncommon form of puzzle that is both relaxing and mentally stimulating.

Girls Like Robots is its own game, though—it's too unique and full of personality to be easily compared to anything else. It has kitschy game design that's quite outside the box. That's reason alone to smile at and become absorbed in this cheerful puzzle which is sure to offer hours of play time as well as animated entertainment.

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 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.


  • Currently 3.9/5
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Rating: 3.9/5 (74 votes)
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TrickySalemWhat is a man? Well, if the man is Anselm, then he is an apprentice Demon Hunter, sent by the Divine Order to cleanse the city of Salem. The prophecies have foretold of terrible calamity that will condemn mankind, if not for the intervention of a good man; a man of faith; a man with an infernally snarky sidekick and a bad-ass crossbow. Good thing that's you Anselm, because you're all we have left. Salem is a horror platform adventure by Mar-Ble Team, where light and darkness clash, and it's nothing less than Armageddon.

Move Anselm with [WASD], and aim and fire your demon-slaying crossbow with the mouse. Demons are wily creatures, though, so to get a proper bead on them, you'll have to use your stun lantern. Hold the [spacebar], and all demons near your aim-cursor will be marked. This will stun most types, though different demons react in different ways. Be sure to keep track of the lantern energy you use. It can be recharged by slaying demons, or standing within a light source, but you really don't want to be caught in a dark place without it. There are creatures far worse than grues in this town... With Castlevania-styled gothic atmosphere, creative creature designs, and just the right touch of humorous dialogue with unintentionally hilarious voice-acting, Salem is an early-Halloween treat. Though the "holding down a key and move the mouse" mechanics are a little unintuitive (and not very trackpad friendly at the least), Salem's brisk pace and twisty plot make it a demon-hunt everyone should join in on.

Play Salem


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Rating: 4.2/5 (42 votes)
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Endless Escape

JohnBEndless Escape is a puzzle-oriented mobile game from Mobest Media. It follows the simple but supremely addictive layout made popular by games like 100 Lights and DOOORS, utilizing the room escape formula at its core but confining things to a single space of puzzles presented one after another. Instead of roaming around looking under rugs for four digit keypad combinations, your mission is as simple as finding a key, unlocking a door, then proceeding to the next stage. The methods you'll employ to find that key, however, are delightfully unusual!

Endless EscapeTo locate each level's key you'll need to think outside of your mobile device. Tapping on things usually does the trick, but more often than not, you'll see a few clues that hint at abnormal actions you'll need to take. Things like setting your phone down, shaking it, or even messing about with the game's menu screens are often necessary to obtain the key. You can even combine some inventory items by tapping them in succession, so don't limit your thinking when staring at that locked door.

We've grown to love this trend of distilling escape games down to a series of one room puzzles, and Endless Escape does a great job utilizing the mobile devices' extra abilities. At the time of writing there are 24 levels available to play, with another 24 marked as "coming soon". A bit short for an initial outing, and the levels aren't too challenging, but with any luck, future updates will remedy those issues. The more puzzles the better, and we can't wait to get another set of rooms to escape from!

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


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Link Dump Fridays

DoraThis week's Link Dump Friday is brought to you by Nitrome, X Gen Studios, and the letter "S" for "space pirates with guitar cannons". No, seriously.

Super MotherloadDigging and Demolition With Buddies You remember Motherload, right? TRICK QUESTION. Of course you do, because X Gen Studios' mining sim was awesome, and is still imitated to this day. Well, did you know it's going to be reborn in a major way with Super Motherload, an upcoming PC/Mac and even console version currently in development with multiplayer capabilities and some big upgrades? The game's Kickstarter earlier this year was unsuccessful, unfortunately, but it seems like development has still gone forward, which is fantastic news for fans, and though more concrete details like pricing and such have yet to be nailed down (and delivered in a tidy website format for interested parties) you can check out the newly released official trailer and start rounding up space canaries right now.

Steam Greenlight: ConceptsUse Your Imagination and Your Feedback Steam has just added a new section to their popular Greenlight service with the addition of concepts, which allows developers to post their ideas for upcoming games they haven't actually finished yet. Though your ratings won't count towards getting the game on Steam (y'know, since it doesn't actually exists), developers should look at this as a potentially valuable opportunity to test the water for their new ideas and games in a way that allows them to get feedback from would-be players and even build a community. Sounds like a good idea to me. I've been looking for a place to pitch my dance sim/tower defense/word game "My Little Pony: Iron Chef is Magic".

FlightlessGreen is a Good Colour for Ducks In case you missed it, Nitrome is taking their first crack at Steam through Greenlight with their upcoming game Flightless, a puzzle platformer about thieving ducks searching dangerous ruins for gems to pay back a debt, and you can actually check out a pretty hefty demo for it right here. As you might expect from Nitrome, it looks fantastic, and uses its core mechanic (a magical ladder, since your ducks can't fly or jump) in some seriously clever ways. It feels like the Greenlight page lacks some important basic information, like what the full game will ultimately contain and cost, but if you're a fan, you'll jump at this chance to help Nitrome succeed even more than they have and get a crack (quack?) at one way cool game in the process.

Kat Attack!Space Pirates AND Guitar Cannons? Visual novels can be pretty awesome, but it seems like most of them are about romance or slow mystery or kawaii... and there's nothing wrong with that, but it does mean the genre doesn't exactly have a reputation for being action-packed. Well, Axel Shokk's gloriously trippy upcoming adventure Kat Attack! could change all that, and it's up for funding on Kickstarter. What's it about? Well... apparently it's an "action-oriented interactive comic set in a distant dystopian future about a guitar-beam-cannon wielding space pirate named Kat who battles ruthless mercenaries and mobsters as she searches for the legendary astroturf." But you should really check out the Kickstarter page for more info, since the gorgeous trippy style and player-driven story and gameplay makes this one look like it's going to be a lot of fun.

Game it ForwardAds for Good The concept of a "free-to-play" game is one that can make a lot of gamers wince, since it tends to be synonymous with obnoxiously designed titles that seem determined to milk extra purchases and microtransactions out of its players. Well, a team of developers wants to change all that with their up-for-funding IndieGoGo project Game It Forward. The idea is that while you're enjoying your free-to-play game, any ads you see and purchases you make within the game split their revenue between funding the actual game and a charity of your choosing. Though initially only the Seattle Children's Hospital is available, they plan to add more different charities to choose from so you can pick a cause that really matters to you, as well as different games from their first planned concept "Tringo", an "approachable casual game that combines light-hearted trivia with the excitement of bingo". If the idea of goofing off in your freetime actually benefiting other people and changing lives sounds good to you, head on over to their funding page to learn more.

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: 4.3/5 (21 votes)
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Clumsy Cat

JohnBCats. Aren't they just the cutest and most sinister creatures ever smuggled into this dimension? Dingo Games, creator of Tasty Planet, knows what we're talking about, and the team's latest release Clumsy Cat illustrates it with style. Not only do you get to see the hidden world of pet life, you get to participate in it firsthand with a game that's all about doing the naughty things pets do when us sapiens are away: destroying everything they can get their paws on. Clumsy, indeed.

Clumsy CatUsing a finger and your device's touch screen, tap to either side of your chosen pet to move in that direction. Tap and flick to jump, leaping to climb on top of shelves, stairs, and the like. Your goal is to cause as much destruction as you can. You can destroy things simply by hopping on them, knocking them over, or our favorite, pushing groups of them down the stairs. Each object has a name and a value, and you'll be ranked on total damage done when your two minute round is up. Go for the priceless art, skip the tables and chairs!

Analysis: Mindless destruction hurrah! Clumsy Cat is a free download, and indeed it's free to play for as long as you like. New characters can be unlocked via an in-app purchase, and there are over 20 to gain control of, ranging from a fat cat to a raccoon, monkey, pony and koala. Characters have different stats to work with as well as a new appearance, so if you don't think the default kitty has enough pushing muscle, maybe the cow will be more to your liking?

Clumsy CatThe controls in Clumsy Cat are worth mentioning, as they will likely cause some contention. At best, your control over the animal is imprecise, and at worst, it can be frustrating. Swipes and taps only provide rudimentary control, which is fine when all is quiet and calm. The moment you start leaping around and wiggling between pianos and shelves, though, you'll realize there are limits to not having precise, button-based controls. You get used to them and will eventually acquire a level of mastery, but we can't help but think a virtual d-pad would be a logical inclusion for a future update. (Note: Our wish has been granted! After this review was published, Dingo Games released an update that features two new control schemes that offer much more precision over the default setup!)

If you're ready for a little destruction followed by a lot more destruction, Clumsy Cat is here to provide! It's a great casual time waster that might just take the place of throwing dishes when you get angry!

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 4.2/5
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Rating: 4.2/5 (71 votes)
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DoraBubble Tanks Tower Defense 2Bubble Tank, Bubble Tank, does whatever a Bubble Tank does! Which, turns out, is quite a lot where they're in the hands of Hero Interactive, and now they're back for even more tower-defending strategic gameplay with Bubble Tanks Tower Defense 2. With multiple ways and difficulties to play each level, new enemies, towers, upgrades, and a whopping 300 achievements to earn, it's packed to the gills with content and challenge for bubble enthusiasts everywhere. Now you can look back on all the time you spent directing elaborate bathtub wars between your rubber ducky and other toys as serious practice! Tell your parents, they're sure to be proud.

Like most games in the genre, your goal is to prevent enemies from reaching the right side of the screen, where presumably a pony orphanage or candy wonderland needs protecting. Unlike most games in the genre, here you'll typically get the chance to make your own paths for enemies to follow by placing your towers whenever you want to force baddies in the direction that best benefits you. Other levels go the more traditional route of having preestablished paths for you to build along. Whatever the case, you need bubbles to build! They're gained by destroying enemies, and can be spent on plopping down new towers, or upgrading existing ones. Clicking on a placed tower opens up an extensive upgrade menu, where you can change a tower's type to better deal with a certain type of enemy or boost nearby structures, or just keep upgrading the current path you're on. You can even combine blocks of four fully upgraded towers to get huge bubble behemoths! You'll earn achievements as you play, which in turn nets you experience points you can spend on everything from boosts to upgrades and even new game modes to challenge yourself with.

Bubble Tanks Tower Defense 2 is one of those games that's just compulsively playable... especially if you're a completionist. Don't let the lush, vibrant style and relaxing soundtrack fool you... there's some serious challenge to be had here, and just randomly dumping towers and upgrades is a good way to get your kiester trashed even on the first few levels. It encourages you to slow down and think about what you're doing, especially if you want to chain together tower effects or bring out the really big guns. After all, there are a lot of tower types to play with (like, a lot a lot), and it can get overwhelming if you don't spend some time familiarizing yourself with what they all do. The branching upgrade structure makes for a game that's at once both simple and surprisingly complex, and will appeal most to players who really want to feel like they have control over almost everything. Big, tricky, and most importantly bubbly, Bubble Tanks Tower Defense keeps the gameplay you love and packs even more onto it for a soapy game you won't put down until the wee hours of the morning.

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  • Currently 4.2/5
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Rating: 4.2/5 (109 votes)
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DoraShadow TagEscape from the Room With Three Keys 5 is the latest itty-bitty entry into Hottategoya's short but clever series of escape games that seem expressly designed for the busy player on the go. You've got a door with three locks, and hidden within the room's neatly designed puzzles are the three keys you'll need to get out. There are no items to collect, so all you really need is your brain and a keen eye for detail to figure out the clues to each puzzle, often hidden in plain sight. Just click around, using the sidebars to navigate around the room, and use your intellect to connect the things you see.

Though not full of any real bells or whistles, or even a whole lot of girthiness, Hottategoya's short and sweet games make for a fantastic light snack for the brain. Diehard escape aficionados will be disappointed its over so quickly, but there's a lot to appreciate here, from the itemless approach that means you rely purely on puzzle-solving, to the puzzles themselves which admittedly aren't that complex but are admirably clever in their simple concepts once you've figured out the clues. Like its predecessors, Escape from the Room With Three Keys 5 is a tidy, logical little distraction that will keep your mind in fit and fighting shape without wrapping you up for longer than it takes to drink a cup of coffee.

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Rating: 3.6/5 (55 votes)
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TrickyEscape From The Very Bad PlanetTruthfully, when astronomers give a celestial body a name like this one, you can only blame yourself for purchasing real estate on it without doing all the recommended research. No matter: you've learned your lesson after the 697th consecutive day of drudgery on this cursed rock. You've got to get out into space, if it's the last thing you ever do. So strap into your ship and prepare to Escape From The Very Bad Planet in Fried Pixel Games' new action avoidance retro side-scroller.

Control your ship by moving the mouse, collecting coins and avoiding obstacles. Purchase and equip upgrades in-between deaths, most importantly guns which can be fired by clicking the mouse. You only have a limited supply of weapon charge, so watch out for those floating green power-ups: they'll refill your ammo meter. Travel all the way across the spectrum from the Infrared to the Ultraviolet Zone, without crashing, and you'll have earned the intergalactic vacation to come. Escape From The Very Bad Planet looks a heck of a lot like a retro shoot-em-up, so it's a little befuddling when it takes a couple of upgrades before you can even think of blasting something. But if you approach it with the goal of flying as far as you can in mind, with your guns as just one aspect of your arsenal, it becomes quite the fast-paced and challenging bit of arcade fun. All in all, Escape From The Very Bad Planet makes for a very good escape from the afternoon blahs.

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GridBlock

ArtbegottiWhen I was a child, I used to play with one of those Labyrinth games where you turned the knobs to tilt a platform and roll a marble around a series of holes. I was always terrible at it, so I used to take a handful of larger marbles and strategically plug certain holes before I made my runs. However, I never would have imagined using catapults to fling the marbles, or blocks of TNT to knock pieces out of place. I'm sure my mom wouldn't have approved of the TNT. In Cat Daddy and 2K Play Games' GridBlock, you've got to use TNT, liquid nitrogen, and teleporters to slide all of the cubes into place. GridBlock is an action puzzler that takes advantage of your device's accelerometer to make a tricky tilting challenge.

GridBlockAt the start of each level, you'll find one or more loose cubes that can be slid around the screen by tilting your device. The goal of each level is to cover each of the target squares on the floor of the grid with a block with the matching color. When a valid block passes over a target, it locks into place, and can only be dislodged by explosions. Blocks are either red, green, or blue, or some combination of these colors, with one color on each side; only the color on the top of the cube is regarded when matching targets. If you want to switch the orientation of the cubes, tap the screen while sliding to make the cubes "flip" and rotate in the direction of the movement. There are also wild blocks that can fit into any colored target, but they must be wielded carefully, as there's often a limited number of ways cubes can be shuffled around to still produce a victory.

In the initial levels, you're only given a handful of cubes and asked to slide them into their proper places, but by collecting tokens, you can unlock more levels that carry new devices to help (or hinder) your progress. Blocks of TNT can dislodge extra blocks and come in handy when you're given only one or two cubes to start, but have to fill eight targets. Frozen blocks can slide with less friction, which is helpful when you need to move one cube away from a pack, but makes it trickier to maneuver that block through obstacles. Be sure to watch out for converters on the floor of the grid that can give your cubes these properties, and be sure to hit them with the right timing, since they sometimes move around!

While it's tricky enough sliding eight cubes at once so that they avoid obstacles, another challenge comes in the form of managing your cube count. Some converters require you to sacrifice a cube (such as the TNT converters and the ghost tokens), so you have to carefully plan where and when you let your blocks hit them. A level will automatically end if you run out of available cubes to slide around, or if you run out of cubes with sides of a certain color, so try to avoid such dilemmas.

Analysis: GridBlock is not a simple game by any means, but it's presented in a way that is accessible to most skill levels. In each nine-level set, in each of which at least one new concept is introduced, you're given one level that serves as your "practice run", then you're immediately thrown into much trickier territory in the subsequent levels. Most levels start by showing you a small hint as to how to proceed with the level, so you're never completely left to fend for yourself. You have plenty of time to finish each level, so slow down and evaluate all of your surroundings before you rush headlong into a trap. Even in the later stages, when several different concepts come into play all at once, you don't feel overwhelmed if you take the time to analyze the level before you start. Unfortunately, there is no colorblind mode for those who have difficulty working with those colors, so the use of a primarily red/green/blue color scheme may render this game unplayable by some.

GridBlockOne flaw in this game that can become irritating rather quickly is that the game has a hard time settling on what constitutes "flat". You may find, as a level starts, that all of the blocks quickly slide to one edge as though you were tipping your device in that direction, even if you weren't. Sometimes, the ideal "level" position is parallel to the ground, sometimes it's tipped up toward you by some degree. There are very few instances where this unpredictable slide can ruin a level right from the start, as it's easy to correct the tilt once you see how the blocks start moving, but it feels like an issue that should have been ironed out before release.

Another quirk, albeit a minor one, is how this game regards the physical nature of cubes. Even though you're playing with loosely-floating blocks, they still remain flat in relation to the edges of the screen (which is good, because otherwise it would be impossible to perfectly aim a cube in a one-cube-wide gap). However, this permanence of orientation seems to disappear when you jump the cubes in some tight areas. A cube might become lodged between a fixed block and a wall (with one edge pointing down), and it takes a bit of jimmying to get the cube out of that spot (I think my technique involved tilting and tapping at the same time). It's not a horrible bug, but in moments where you need to stick to finer movements, it can be a hassle.

These bugs shouldn't overshadow the fact that GridBlock is still a solid game, and a good challenge to boot. Even when a level seems impossible, a bit of thinking will reveal how to beat the level, or possibly even grab the tokens as well. Just take your time, slide with care, and make sure your mother doesn't walk in when you're propelling your marbles across the room with the treadmill.

NOTE: This game was played and reviewed on an iPhone 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 4.3/5
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Rating: 4.3/5 (156 votes)
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DoraShadow TagMade in just 48 hours for Newgrounds' "Cabin Jam" Game Jam, Elvidian's Shadow Tag is a fantastically creepy and well presented avoidance game, though an inherently simple one given its development constraints. Alone, at night, armed only with a flashlight and jeans that are probably one loud noise away from being several shades darker, your goal is to find your car keys in each stage using the [WASD] or [arrow] keys to move, and then make it to your car. Without anyone (or anything) catching you. The kicker is you're not really alone, since the more you play, the more the area becomes infested with strange shadow children that want you to play tag with them... and you really don't want to be "it". If they see you, they'll sprint gleefully after you, so you need to use the maze's layout to your advantage and keep your eyes open... especially since you can't run, and your flashlight's limited battery means dilly-dallying is probably a bad idea.

At just eight levels without a whole lot of variance between them apart from size and layout, Shadow Tag feels more like a concept than a full game. The inability to run like your pants are on fire is kind of silly, and since the kids themselves can run and don't really have a set route apart from heading in your general direction, it feels like success can depend on trial and error until you learn the layout of each level. That's admittedly largely due to the time constraints it was made under, which makes that "oh no oh no oh nonono" atmosphere all the more impressive, but even just some sort of opening narration or cutscene as a framing device would have gone a long way to making the whole thing feel like a complete experience... even if it was just "Dang, is this messed up or what?" Still, as a pint-sized bit of creepiness, Shadow Tag looks absolutely gorgeous and has a clever little idea behind it that is practically begging to be fleshed out even more. In the meantime, if you want a little bit of a shiver to be sent up your spine... you're it!

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  • Currently 4.4/5
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Rating: 4.4/5 (118 votes)
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Two BluesSonicLoverSky blue and ocean blue, those are the eponymous Two Blues of Tomatea's latest escape masterpiece. You know the drill if you've played this developer's work before, but for the uninitiated, everything's controlled with the mouse: click when the cursor's tip glows to zoom in on, interact with, or pick up things, and click the edges of the screen when the black bars appear to move around. Eventually you'll presumably solve all the puzzles in the room, a distinctly nautically flavored room this time, and escape from it.

Two Blues is very, very Tomatea, with intuitive puzzles, masterful graphics and sound, clues that can be hidden in plain sight and yet still baffle you just enough, and a few classic puzzles (yes, that IS a corner-controlled wobbly picture). It's clear that Tomatea values every good quality of an escape game equally; the visuals are masterfully crafted to create a perfect atmosphere without being too distracting, the soundtrack is neither bland nor disruptive, and the puzzles are just difficult enough to be entertaining. All this weaves together to produce an escape that is not to be missed. So come with us, escape the dull gray of everyday life, and put some blue in your day.

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  • Currently 4.7/5
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Rating: 4.7/5 (295 votes)
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Weekday Escape

elleImagine you're given the choice of two gifts: one is a large box wrapped with a bow and the other is a small key. Would your choice be automatic or would you be tempted to find out where that key leads? Keys are intriguing, aren't they? They promise to open doors or unlock treasures, to start engines or present answers. That's why we're excited when MyGames888 offers us a mere 3 Small Keys; we're already gearing up for the joy of exploration and discovery that makes playing an escape game so satisfying.

3 Small KeysTo begin, you're alone in a curious room, left to investigate the bare design and figure out what to do first. Point and click to navigate, following arrows on the sides of the screen to change direction. Finding a few clues helps you open a lock; finding keys and puzzling out their use will open even more. The inventory is standard—click objects to pick them up then highlight to use or doubleclick to examine in more detail. You'll encounter some clever puzzles and being very observant plays a big part in getting out.

As seen before in 3 Doors, when it comes to constructing imaginative and interesting escape games, MyGames888 has a distinct talent. Besides the lack of a changing cursor, I have little to criticize about 3 Small Keys—it was just too much of a pleasure to play. In fact, this might be a case where the additional help of cursor hints would take away from the mood and tone. No visual indicators for guidance can lead to frustration but it also gives potency to the feeling that you're here in this room, stuck, searching every inch for the means to escape!

Exploring this austere, quiet environment, free from any narrative, with little more than the echo of flowing water to fill the wide space, nothing to tell you why you're here or how you're going to leave, renders the atmosphere both peaceful and oppressive. It's an atmosphere that works extremely well in an escape game and makes the whole experience, which is disappointingly short, seem more grand. If 3 Small Keys was three times the size, we'd not hesitate to shower it in high acclaim, so let's enjoy this gift of an escape, no matter how small it is.

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Polara

JohnBPolara from Hope This Works Games is a jump and run mobile game with a little added color. Instead of simply hopping over gaps or testing your reflexes with split-second timing, you've also got to keep an eye out for an obstacle's color, switching your character's color to slip through each danger unharmed. Layered on top of that are some nice futuristic Tron-like visuals and a story that, while predictable, is actually kind of interesting in a semi-cheesy sci-fi sort of way!

PolaraIn the year 2140, a civil war rages between the classes, spawning a government-controlled military to keep the peace. In a secret laboratory, an agent named Lara is chosen to test a prototype biosuit that can protect against the defense grid. Not long after testing out the suit, Lara is contacted by a mysterious man claiming to have proof her father was killed by the very agency she works for. Naturally, he wants to get his hands on that suit as well. Lara makes a quick decision, escaping from the test laboratory and running onto the dystopian streets of the city. But she's not ready to trade allegiances just yet!

The defense grid in Polara is based on two colors: red and blue. As luck would have it (ok, as fictional scientific design would have it), your suit can change between these colors, allowing you to match oncoming dangers to pass through unharmed. Red lasers in your way? Make yourself red! Blue beam blocking your jump? Better blue yourself! Later, things like sliding floors can be activated by the appropriate color, putting you in the unenviable position of having to swap shades back and forth just to make it across a long gap.

PolaraAnalysis: It's a tough job trying to distinguish yourself in the world of endless runners, especially when you opt for a familiar left to right two dimensional point of view. But Hope This Works Games managed to do that with a little old fashioned gameplay twist along with a heaping helping of extras and some fantastic art. What sort of extras, you demand to know? Boss battles, six unlockable endless modes of play in addition to the main story, collectibles, and a surprising amount of variety in each stage. It's almost like a fusion of a platform game and an endless runner, but don't think for a minute that you'll get to slow down and take in the scenery.

The gameplay gets pretty complex after a few levels of play, and you'll quickly abandon the notion that this might be your standard jump and run game. The development team made good use of the color switching mechanic to activate or avoid all sorts of environmental objects, some of which are hazardous, but some of which are either useful or necessary for completing the stage. And just wait until you see some of these boss battles!

A surprisingly full-featured game for a genre that is traditionally very repetitive and void of content. It also doesn't hurt that the artwork looks fantastic! Plenty to experience the first time around, but even more once you start unlocking extras and trying out the new modes of play!

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


  • Currently 3.8/5
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Rating: 3.8/5 (61 votes)
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TrickyAs I Drift AwayWhat is up? What is down? What is left? What is right? What is wrong? It's been hard to tell ever since you woke up in this place. The few peeks you've had outside of these strange colored hallways make you think that you must be a long way from home. If only you could just orient yourself, you're sure you could figure out what's going on... Created by Edd for the 10th Casual Gameplay Design Competition, As I Drift Away is a Unity3D first-person physics-puzzle adventure that cryptically, yet somehow accurately, describes itself as a lesson in escaping mass, mind, memory, and me.

Using the mouse to look around, and the [WASD] keys to move, As I Drift Away drops you in a world of manipulate objects, buttons, perspective, and gravity. Early in the game you will pick up a golden ring which will allow you to change your point of view in an instant. Merely point to a flat surface, then click the mouse, and you'll be attracted to that surface so as to make the walls and ceiling your new floor. New abilities are granted by collecting yellow spheres, such as being able to pick up and drop objects with [E]. Triggering buttons with yourself or an object will open up further areas to explore. Watch out for those lasers though!

As I Drift AwayAnalysis: Eventually, a game will be made in Unity 3D that will make casual gamers world-wide go "Man! I can't believe that this game was made in Unity 3D!" As I Drift Away isn't that game, but it does showcase a number of the engine's unique features in an engaging way. Understandably, if lamentably, a game being in Unity is often deal-breaker for some, and for all it's faults, Adobe Flash is probably not quite ready to be replaced as the premiere internet gaming medium. However, works like As I Drift Away, that construct worlds that would otherwise be impossible to depict in a browser windows, and make a concerted to feel like a game, rather than a tech demo, are the engine's own best arguments. The controls and mechanics start off a little unintuitive, yes, but you'll get used to them as the game progresses and be rewarded with a rich and immersive experience.

Even as three-dimensional graphics become ever more realistic, the simple and iconic nature of As I Drift Away is hard not to like. It really does look and feel like a virtual reality simulator from a mid-90s science museum, and that gives it an undeniable charm. Of course, bouncing off the walls may also give players an undeniable motion sickness, but its heart is in the right place. This kind of setting encapsulates CGDC 10's theme of Escape perfectly: a location that while nonthreatening, still feels disorienting and artificial. It's a place that you don't mind exploring, but are happy to get out of, none-the-less. That sense sums up the appeal of Escape genre rather nicely. Though the game is peppered with philosophical asides (most with tongue firmly planted in cheek), As I Drift Away wants you to figure things out for yourself, both in relations to its puzzles and the game's larger meaning.

As I Drift AwayIn the judging, As I Drift Away had one of the highest scores in the Innovation category (deservedly so), and one of the lowest in the Technical category (probably also deservedly so). However, a smattering of bug-fixes and polish from the author went a long way to improving the game's stability, so even those who played before might want to give it another attempt. Overall, it is a gorgeously mysterious little game, and one you won't want to drift from until you've solved the final puzzle.

Author's Theme interpretation:

"The overall 'objective' of the game is to escape the bizarre maze you find yourself in, using the strange powers you collect a long the way. Yet there is a deeper meaning, symbolic, about escaping life itself and (depending on whether you find your heart) being satisfied. Furthermore, if you reach the end, you discover a surprising and unique aspect to the maze that objectifies the word ESCAPE." -Edd.

Pastel Games' feedback:

"Game! Why don't you let me skip the logos. I played this game 3 times and each time I had to sit through the menu animation. Come on."

"So at the beginning it's quite simple, there's this ability to shift gravity. But as I go along - things turn for the worse. Here's why."

"Everything looks exactly the same. After few chambers I don't know where I'm going anymore. I have a good sense of direction, but here - I'm lost. There's no indication of chambers being done, locations already visited or something like that. The simplest solution would be to add doors that close behind me, so I can't go back to the already solved parts of the game."

"Other abilities - now you've lost me. I pla on a laptop, and there's no mouse wheel, so I'm done with this game after gaining the ability to make cubes stick. Ok, playing on the PC I was able to go further than that."

"Good idea would be to just stick to one arbitrary ability. Like in Portal. You've got your portal gun and that's it. And KNOWING THAT - gives you freedom to try to solve puzzles within that frame of having just the portal gun. So let's say our only ability is to shift gravity. I've seen flash games that do that - and those were great games. This right here with the different abilities is too much in my humble opinion."

"I can save, but when I die it doesn't take me to that savepoint, but to a checkpoint that you created. Ok, but once outside - and again - I'm not sure where I should go or do - when I reach some difficult platform I wan't to save there and when I die be able to start from there, but it takes me all the way back to the beginning of the outside world."

"The puzzle with rotating cube in the middle of the chamber was the place where I almost quit playing. I couldn't get on the cube. But the I solved it and without all those fancy powers, just by careful placing of the companion cubes and changing gravity. I think I solved it, because the game sure as hell didn't inform me whether I did it or not. There was this strange sound, but who knows. And after I solved it - still lost in the maze - I don't know which pathway opened and which I came from. Again - you need to steer the player somehow to the right path, not toss him in the middle of the maze and let him be. I assumed I was moving forward, because I came to the place where I could go outside, but there I was dying almost instantly after trying to see below from the edge of my platform. Which you do when you play fpp games."

"So, dying and respawning somewhere completely else, not knowing where to go, as everything looked the same - this was the place where I quit. The last thing I managed to get was a piece of heart. And that's it."

"This game felt more like a presentation of some engine capabilities, than a real game. Too generic graphics, repetitive and confusing. The unity engine isn't a game on it's own. Just showing us a 3D environment and tossing in a feature isn't going to satisfy a player. You'd need to render that with actual graphics, some that would at least show us our progress."

"I'm not sure about the gameplay. I got lost. The game should teach me ar be easy enough for me to learn the basics by myself."

"However - the initial idea was good - I liked that. there could have been tons of levels based just on gravity shifting. Think in that direction." -Mateusz Skutnik.

"So after many, many attempts the game gets started (that's why I hate Unity!). It was awkward at first, because the game mechanics aren' t intuitive. I thought that it was just a matter of time to get used to but no it was irritating from the beginning to the end and crush the whole fun." -Karol Konwerski.


Play As I Drift Away


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DoraFlightlessThe ducks in the demo for Nitrome's upcoming puzzle platformer Flightless might be ground-bound, but armed with magical ladders to aid in their explorations of deep, dark tombs and a yen for gems, they're ready to set out on their adventure anyway. You can play with one or two people on the same keyboard, and by yourself, the controls are [arrow] or [WASD] to move and climb, and [spacebar] to activate your ladder. See, since you can't fly, or even jump, you need to use your ladder to get around. It shoots straight up when you deploy it, and can be used to get over obstacles, collect gems, or even smash enemies... which is handy since enemies will only hurt you unless you land on them when you come in contact. Take a hit and you'll be teleported back to the entrance of the room and have to collect any gems you got while in it all over again. You can even shoot your ladder down by pressing the down [arrow] or [S] while you hit [spacebar]. There are 50 gems to find hidden throughout the tomb, and some locks won't open to let you proceed deeper unless you have a certain amount of shiny rocks on you already. Now come on, little duck... let's... get... dangerous.

The browser version is ultimately just a demo for a larger project up for voting on Steam's Greenlight service, Flightless as it stands is a pretty solid and entertaining chunk of action. It looks fantastic, which is sort of par for the course wherever Nitrome is concerned, and does an excellent job of showing you what you can expect in the full game while still providing a substantial little experience in its own right. Each room you'll explore is its own self-contained little puzzle, and figuring out how to manipulate your enemies and your ladder to get through unscathed is both satisfying an entertaining, requiring a certain amount both of brains and reflexes. On the downside, the map lacks enough information about the rooms you've been in to be really useful. Also, speaking purely as an interested consumer, you might find that it doesn't set up the story Nitrome plans on delivering according to the Greenlight description, which in turn doesn't tell you how much more content you can expect in the full game, or even how much it might cost you. Still, Flightless is a great example of a demo done right... full of clever concepts and puzzles, and more than enough to whet your appetite for the full game while still feeling like it provides a great, plucky adventure on its own. Only one question remains... of the two little ducks, which one has the feather on his back?

Play Flightless


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The Vault

DoraIt's getting on that time of year again. The days are getting shorter, the nights are getting longer (and colder!) and a young gamer's fancy turns to thoughts of unspeakable terror. For some of us, we take The Nightmare Before Christmas's "This is Halloween" song to heart and life really is no fun without a good scare! With Halloween stealing up on us, it's time to pull out three spooky games, ranging from "Okay, that was kind of creepy" to "I didn't need to sleep tonight, anyway".

  • The tin SoldierThe tin Soldier - Alejandro Iglesias's point-and-click adventure isn't really scary, but it does give off the same sort of unsettling vibe you'd get while rooting through your old toys in the basement to find them all dusty and falling apart with disuse, giving you faintly accusatory stares with their soulless button eyes. The game plays like a spin on the classic tale as you direct our one-legged hero on a quest to save the toys (and get the girl) from a malicious evil, and despite some awkward puzzles, succeeds largely on the strength of its off-kilter atmosphere and clever storytelling. It won't keep you up at night, but it's just the right speed if you're looking for less terror and more "weird and surreal".
  • Dark Cute (1 & 2)Dark Cut (1 & 2) - If you like your sim games gory and "OH NO OH NO WHAT DO I DO" freaky, then Armor Games and jmtb02 have you covered and then some. You'll be playing the role of distinctly old school doctors in both games (medieval and civil war respectively) where you'll be called upon to perform gruesome procedures and surgeries on your patients with crude tools appropriate for the time period. It's bloody, it's intense, and it will make you glad you live in a time where the most you have to whine about is the antiseptic you just put on your paper cut maybe stinging a little. Wuss.
  • IntruderIntruder - Sugarqube is the mastermind behind this unbelievably tense point-and-click adventure that's packed with both jump scares and fear that hits close to home. In the game, you receive a panicked phone call from your friend Sarah one rainy night, who says the power is out and there's an armed stranger inside the house she and Scott are hiding from. You'll need to find a way to get inside and rescue them... but the catch is, you can't let the titular intruder know you're there. The game balances breath-stealing atmosphere with terrifying moments where you're forced to react quickly to hide as you furtively find a way inside the dark house, and then to where your friends are hiding. It's a cinematic, scary experience... just don't lean too close to the monitor if you're playing alone in the dark.

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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KRIZL

JohnBBilled as a crossword game with a twist, KRIZL from Rekim is a mobile puzzle game that challenges your word skills along with spatial recognition. There are no riddles to solve or questions to answer, so instead of scratching your head over obscure pop culture references, you'll spend your time rotating grid pieces so that every stream of letters spells a complete word. It's a great way to make crossword puzzles more casual!

KRIZLYou can think of each level in KRIZL (which is pronounced kri-zal, by the way) as a completed crossword puzzle sliced into sections and rotated to jumble things up. You start with a grid that contains letter tiles and blank tiles split into 3x3 sections, each of which can be rotated by either tapping or dragging. Letters remain upright as you spin, and since your moves are counted and used as your personal best scores, you'll want to keep motions down to a minimum. To complete the stage, turn all of the pieces so they line up with letter sections and spell words.

Levels are divided into three modes of varying degrees of challenge. After you puzzle through the initial pack you'll encounter things like locked blocks and entire sections of grid that must be rotated, a simple addition that goes a long way to compound the difficulty! Grid sizes range from 3x2 to 6x4, and categories are as diverse as hats to vegetables to numbers and famous authors. KRIZL is just enough of a word game to keep you hooked, and just enough of a casual puzzle game to keep you challenged!

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

JohnBCourtroom news? How dare we include something as boring as legal stuff! Don't worry, though, because it's happy law news, not sleep-inducing law jargon. And it'll make you happy, too!

badpiggies-p.jpgAngry Birds gets Bad Piggies - Ok, so we've got Angry Birds, right? And the new Rovio release Bad Piggies? So... what's missing? Oh, we know! Bad Piggies levels in Angry Birds! The original Angry Birds game has recently been updated with 15 new levels based on Bad Piggies. Kind of an odd move seeing how the game with the pigs is totally different than the game with the birds, but it's free physics fun, so we're certainly not going to complain.

tripletown-p.jpg
Spry Fox wins battle against game cloner - You've probably heard about the ongoing problem with cloned games plaguing the mobile market, swooping in and stealing artwork, designs, or even code from indie developers and making money off of blatantly copied games. Well, one recent case involved Steambirds developer Spry Fox and its game Triple Town going to court over Yeti Town, a game obviously lifted from Triple Town's assets. After a few months fighting it out in courts, Spry Fox has emerged victorious with a settlement that, among other things, includes full ownership of the Yeti Town IP. One victory down, thousands more to go. But it's a good start!

chaosrings-p.jpgChaos Rings goes 'droid - Square Enix, famous for the Final Fantasy series and inordinately high mobile game prices, has just released an Android port of the previously iOS-exclusive RPG Chaos Rings! Sporting some fine visuals and gameplay tailored for touch screen devices, Chaos Rings is one of the studio's few original mobile releases (meaning it wasn't ported from an older game) and packs a full role playing experience into a small package that will remind more than one gamer of the PlayStation era of RPGs.

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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1931: Scheherazade at the Library of Pergamum

DoraScheherazade "Sadie" Keating has a lot to live up to, considering the sterling reputation of her adventurous and worldly parents, and now she finally has time to do it after graduation... theoretically. She still has her courses at the university to consider, and maintain her friendships to boot. But when a thief inadvertently clues her in to one huge mystery that's been sitting under her nose all along and may hold the truth to her parents' disappearance, Sadie discovers that life after school is a lot more complicated, and dangerous, than she ever expected. 1931: Scheherazade at the Library of Pergamum is Black Chicken Studios' latest release, and an impressive visual novel simulation packed to the gills with daring escapes, shady characters, dashing heroes (and heroines!) and, most importantly, adventure. As you guide Sadie through her life after graduation, will you help her forge a bond with her family and uncover its mysteries? Maybe you'll help cement her reputation as a scholar and adventurer and find romance in the process. Or maybe you'll cozy up to a mummy. Packed with replay value and hours of gameplay, this is one massive game with an impressive array of content and excitement.

1931: Scheherazade at the Library of PergamumSadie's adventure covers one year in her life, and what that entails and where it takes her depends on you. She'll travel to a multitude of different locations throughout the course of the game, including some very exotic locales, and each one is packed with different plots and activities. Sadie's success depends largely on her skills, and there's a lot of them. Everything from knowledge of the occult, to fisticuffs, escape artistry, and much, much more can and will be used many times throughout the game. You can increase these by visiting different spots or as story bonuses, but unlike most visual novel simulations, you can get a leg up on most challenges using Inspirations. Inspirations are special cards you can pick up by going different places, and you can store (initially) up to ten of them. Each one can be used only once (though you can go back and get most of them over and over), but it's worth it, since they grant large bonuses to Sadie's skills that can make impossible challenges a walk in the park.

Not that Sadie does a whole lot of strolling. She's constantly on the move, and her life is full of different stories to explore. Plots you can advance are labelled on the map appropriately, and the game will let you know what skills you need in order to succeed at them. Embarking on a quest will trigger long story scenes throughout which the choices you make determine the outcome, and they can be anything from tracking down thieves in Egypt to exploring secret ruins beneath the city, or just getting to know Sadie's friends or potential romance interests better. Some stories are part of bigger arcs that will ultimately influence how the game ends, so don't be shy about pursuing them. Especially since you can save and load the game virtually whenever you want! It's not cheating, it's... making use of your connections!

1931: Scheherazade at the Library of PergamumAnalysis: You would think a game about a heroine who is almost preternaturally talented and beautiful and clever would come across as obnoxious, but Library of Pergamum's leading lady manages to avoid that pitfall by being both ridiculously charming and possessed of an infectious enthusiasm. It's true that Sadie's endless repertoire of one liners and intimidating intellect can wear from time to time, but her habit of throwing herself gleefully into danger for the sake of adventure and exploration makes her easy to get behind. Both Sadie and her cast of supporting characters are written extremely well with breezy, effortlessly snappy dialogue, and the over-the-top Indiana Jones-esque escapades you'll be pulled along on are remarkably engaging.

However, the game's heavy reliance on text hurts it at times. The action is never illustrated, and while characters staring at each other in front of a barely-changing backdrop works fine for chatty visits, it falls to deliver the impact that even a single visualized scene or background change would help make during action sequences, daring escapes, and tomb exploration. The other downside is that the game also has a tendency of offering you a lot of choices in certain circumstances that all seem to say or imply the same thing and don't really change the outcome at all, leaving you occasionally feeling like the game is sometimes only giving you the illusion of free will. It doesn't help matters when it can be hard to figure out how Sadie is going to deliver a response, changing an innocuous line of dialogue to something catty or flirty, or if it means what you think it means.

1931: Scheherazade at the Library of PergamumFortunately, there is a lot of adventure to be had, and Library of Pergamum balances the bigger, more elaborate adventures with lighter stuff like avoiding the well-meaning but ever-present family butler so Sadie can get some writing done, or reconnecting with childhood friends. In fact, there's so much to do that if you try to take on all of it you run the risk of not having enough time to complete any of it, so it's better to just bite your lip and choose a few major plots to focus on at a time. Of course, since you can choose whatever order you like to tackle certain plots, there can be occasions where it feels like things happen out of order, like Sadie being stunned to see a friend in Egypt, even though he prominently featured in another character's Egyptian adventure I had just finished. The decision to add Inspirations was incredibly smart, allowing players to prepare for and tackle challenges without grinding on skills, and having all the major stories neatly indicated on the map eliminates the mindless to-and-froing many visual novel simulations suffer from as you try to trigger events. The end result is a game that's very neary as big and complex as the developer's previous title Academagia: The Making of Mages, but much easier to get into and friendlier to players in the process.

1931: Scheherazade at the Library of Pergamum might not be for everyone, with its twee dialogue and fixed heroine, but if you're a fan of the genre it's a game you should at the very least check out the demo for. It's big, vibrant, and incredibly immersive, with a campaign that will eat up hours of your time. It effortlessly captures the adventurous feel of classic novels and movies, leaving you feeling like you're on the trail of some truly huge revelations. How much you enjoy it largely depends on how much you like Sadie herself, since it feels like she's the star and you're just Driving Miss Daisy, but like the game she stars in, Sadie is packed with personality. Library of Pergamum is an enormous, globe-trotting visual novel that can keep you busy for a long, long time, and represents a massive amount of work and dedication from its talented team. So dust off your ancient texts and brush up on your occultism, and don't forget your favourite hat, because it's time for adventure... and then some!

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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Mystery Trackers: Four Aces

DoraAnimal attacks bad enough to cause evacuation? Well, turns out invisible man-beasts, aggressive hybrid squirrels, and angry pterodactyls are a tad bit more alarming than raccoons in your garbage. It's happening in the town of Brightfield, along with unusually low temperatures and snowfall that complicates the evacuation efforts. As a Mystery Tracker Detective, you smell adventure and a more interesting evening than being yapped at by your tiny dog, so you set out to the snowbound town by private plane to discover the truth. Mystery Trackers: Four Aces is a hidden-object hybrid that's a fantastic stew of action, campy drama, and spider chipmunks that spit venom at you. So, you know. Good luck ever feeling safe in the forest ever, ever again. (Eh, there are worse things.)

Mystery Trackers: Four AcesThis time around, you've got both frog and pup to help you in your investigations, which probably means Batman won't take you seriously. Elf can be used to dig or fetch certain objects, while your amphibious companion acts as your hints when charged. The streets of Brightfield are full of freakish hybridized creatures, some of which can be nabbed to add to your bestiary, but others will need items to scare them away or placate them, and you know what that means. You get to rifle through piles of junk and creep around scary deserted streets looking for useful objects! It also seems like there's someone in Brightfield with a serious grudge against puzzles, since most of the ones you encounter are broken and missing pieces that need to be tracked down as well. As a bonus of sorts, you can even find special chips you can use to spend on not-actually-useful-whatsoever toys for Elf's house, which I might be more inclined to make fun of, but considering this is a dog who can open doors for you, merrily retrieve keys across rooftops, and more, I guess maybe he's entitled to a squeaky ball even if he is one of those obnoxious little yap-yap dogs. On top of all this, it looks like one young girl named Kelly missed the evacuation and is being pursued by a massive angry beast, and a secret society of thieves known as the Four Aces appear to have a hand in the events. Which means Umbrella Corporation is probably going to serve them a cease-and-desist for infringing on the whole "unspeakable acts against nature for personal gain" thing.

Mystery Trackers: Four AcesAnalysis: I always enjoy and thus recommend the games I review, but Mystery Trackers is one of the few hidden-object adventure I genuinely love and look forward to. Cross my heart, hope to fly, stick a cupcake in my eye. Their combination of cinematics, highly creative camp, and flair for puzzles and adventures make them some of the best games around, and Four Aces is no different. Though one of the big plot twists is probably fairly easy to see coming, the story is packed full of intense moments, attempts on your life, drama, and big hair beasts menacing screamy girls. Something about the combination monster movie/mad scientist/secret society thing just works, and makes for grand entertainment... sort of like if Sherlock Holmes, Indiana Jones, and Frankenstein were forced to coexist in the same glorious novel. The frequent noir-style narrated scenes might be a bit cheesy but keep the plot moving along at a brisk pace, and the whole design is gorgeous.

The downside? Even if you're playing on one of the harder levels of difficulty, the game isn't much of a challenge. Objects needed to get past obstacles are frequently found in the immediate vicinity when you need them, and most of the puzzles are less about brain power and deduction, and more about simply matching things or swapping things or putting things on or in other things. Most of it is actually very logical, which is nice, but players looking for a game that will truly make them feel like a detective with a big, fat brain might be a bit put off. You'll also end up doing quite a lot of backtracking, though the interactive map that lets you hop around takes some of the sting away. But with over five hours of play, not including the bonus Collector's Edition chapter that actually feels like a bonus rather than something cut off from the core game to justify the extra cost, Mystery Trackers: Four Aces is one of the most easily recommended hidden-object adventures around. Elephant Games should already be synonymous with quality for you if you've played any of their other games, and this latest is another resplendent feather in their cap. If you like action, campy adventure, strange sights and drama that doesn't take itself too seriously, do yourself a favour and check out the demo today. You're in for a treat, and one wild ride.

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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TrickyMedieval SharkHe's munched his way through Miami, Sydney, and New York, but now everyone's favorite selachii is ready to get a little medieval! It seems that Ye Olde Sharke has managed to find Ye Olde Tyme Machyne, and has transported himself to a feeding frenzy that only the middle ages could possibly provide. Mausland Entertainment presents: Medieval Shark, a fast-paced action game starring a creature hungry for much more than those turkey legs at the county Renn Faire.

Used the [arrow] keys to move your shark around, launching in and out of the water to cause massive dark age carnage. A super jump, for extra height, can be made by diving to the bottom of the waterway, then quickly swimming up to the surface. Cause extra destruction by (somehow) swinging your battle axe with [A]. Cause enough mayhem to fill your Frenzy Bar, and you'll enter a rampage of super-effective weapon damage. Various special creatures and crafts will attempt to challenge your ocean supremacy. Deplete their health bar or mash the designated button to fend them off. Treasure chests placed at the bottom of the ocean will reward you with points, power-ups, and new weapons. As always, Mausland's stylistic mesh of arcade excitement, Japanese game show-like inscrutability, and feverish-dream subject matter makes for one heck of a hyper-kinetic ride. Undeniably, Medieval Shark is a game that puts a ton of flash in front of only moderate substance. But when that flash comes from castles, viking ships, and harpies blowing up all over the dang place, it's hard not to give it a nibble

Play Medieval Shark


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Retro City Rampage

TrickyTroubleopolis! City of Action! And Adventure! And Driving! And Shooting! And, uh, Dating Sims! It's a real multi-genre kind of place in Retro City Rampage, a humorous open-world sandbox adventure game by VBlank Entertainment that sends up just about about every bit of 80s and 90s game culture you could hope to bring to your nostalgia-addled mind. It bears more than a passing resemblance to the early Grand Theft Auto releases (it actually began its decade of development under the name Grandtheftendo), but this wholly new and wholly comical experience stands on its own as a mad, mad parody with plenty of in-jokes to absorb!

Retro City RampageA mullet-topped Player could really make a name for himself in this town. And while that first heist with The Jester didn't go so well, at least you were able to beat up those two dweebs and steal their phone booth time machine thingy. And then break it. Good thing that Doc Choc guy believes you're some kind of chosen one. He says he'll fix that booth right up for you, if you can just find the right parts. And yeah, that's definitely on the to-do list. But there are cars to "borrow", weapons to fire, haircuts to unlock, and cheat codes to memorize. The only question is, are you a bad enough dude to handle it?

Retro City Rampage generally takes place in two modes: on foot, and while driving. While on foot, use the [arrow] keys to move around the city, and [spacebar] to jump over obstacles. Should you wish to cause a little chaos, you can use your current weapon to fire at the nearest enemy by hitting [shift], and cycle through your munition supply with [PgUp] and [PgDn]. Pick up and chuck various items, set-pieces, and citizenry with [ctrl]. If next to a vehicle, hit [enter] to "borrow" it. Once in the car, use the [arrow] keys to drive around, [spacebar] to break, [shift] to fire the car's weapon (if their is one), and [PgUp] and [PgDn] to change the radio station.

Locations labeled with an "M" icon will have story missions for you to accomplish. Travel there, get your instructions and complete tasks to get cash and unlock new bonuses, weapons and power-ups. Arcade-styled Rampage missions, based around causing as much havoc as possible with various weapons, are unlocked as story missions are completed. Various shops offer different products and character customization options for purchase. Moving down civilians will earn you cash, but do it in the eyes of the TCPD and your wanted meter will rise. Wreck enough stuff and the five-oh will be dogging your every move... at least until get your car to a Spray for Pay, or start a mission. Look out for collectible loot bags, invisible walls, cheat codes, and gosh knows what else.

Retro City RampageAnalysis: As a game, Retro City Rampage is packed. Packed with content. Packed with customization. Packed with parodies. Just packed to the brim. From the chiptune blarings upon start-up, to the sweeping 8-bit cityscape of the title screen, to the host of faux-monitors and retro color schemes available in the options menu, Retro City Rampage might win you over before you think of hitting the play button. Don't wait too long admiring the prettiness though, because you'll be wanting much more than just to gawk at the demo mode.

Gameplay-wise, Retro City Rampage provides a nice open-world sandbox for gamers to play around in. The top down perspective is reminiscent of the earlier Grand Theft Auto games or, more accurately, the recent Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars. The driving and combat is fast, loose and frenetic, and from time to time seems almost designed to overwhelm the senses. Despite the general portrayal in media, we all know that flashy retro games never actually turned anyone into a drooling pleasure zombies, but man, Retro City Rampage comes the closest. As in all sandbox games, it's ample fun just to ride around tossing trashcans at pedestrians, stealing hearses, and just generally causing mischief. (Personally, this reviewer always tended towards seeing how many people he could run down in a sirens-blaring ambulance. We're big on irony here at JayIsGames.) To be frank, though, if all you wanted was a city to wreak havoc in, there are a lot of games that already do that, and do it well. Most people looking to make a trip to this city are doing so because they want a game that references ''ALL'' the things. Rest assured, then, for when it comes to the funny, Retro City Rampage does not disappoint.

Retro City RampageThe parodies herein are a fun mix of clever, obvious, juvenile, and obscure. What really sets Retro City Rampage apart is the care with which the developers have crafted their set-pieces. In itself, Troubleopolis is practically Springfield-ian with all its humorous billboard, store names, and characters gadding about. However where the game really shines is in the levels. Most are pretty standard "Get Mission, Complete Mission, Receive Reward" yes, but Retro City Rampage leaves no chance for a gag on the table. You'll think to yourself "Wait, is this game really about to reference... YES! YES IT IS! AND IT'S AWESOME!" Or at least you will if you've got an encyclopedic knowledge of classic gaming. Another great aspect is how effortlessly the parodies transition from one to another. For instance, early in the game, main mission-giver Doc Choc will discover that his vehicle has been stolen by his rival, the evil Dr. Von Buttnik. You'll get it back eventually, but for now, he needs you to get him a bike as a temporary substitute. And where do we go? Well, to Louie, a googly-eyed former boxing-trainer who should be recognizable to any fan of Punch-Out as someone with the inside scoop on bike theft. He's happy to provide you with the bike, but in return, he'll want to to deliver some magazines for him. And so you start pedaling through a suburb, playing Paperboy to a neighborhood filled with break-dancers, remote-controlled cars, and construction workers just ready to block your path. And it continues at an break-neck pace. Admittedly, the plotting is a little shallow (and a few of the late game twists aren't presented with quite enough irony to avoid preaching to the choir), but no doubt this is a game for the NES generation, by NES generationeers, and it's done with much more love than venom.

Retro City RampageThere are a few downsides, though they may end up being a matter of personal opinion. For instance, unlike Retro City Rampage's brother-in-arms Abobo's Big Adventure, the central conceit is not to perfectly emulate the gameplay of cartridges past. Instead, it is to recreate the general feel of the experience within the confines of a flexible engine. Most of the time, it works out great, but when it comes to taking on certain genres, like the mid-game Graphic Adventure parody or a late-game grueling platform section, the control scheme ends up making it a bit awkward. And, let's face it, just because a game takes the mickey out of vehicle-trailing, forced stealth missions or underwater bomb-defusing levels, doesn't make them any more enjoyable to go through. Likewise, the graphical style is not the gorgeous pixel art of today, but the totally radical retro art that only a limited color pallet can provide. It makes for a lot of jagged edges and garish neon which, while accurate, can become visually tiresome, especially as you speed around the screen.

That said, Retro City Rampage was a long time coming, but well worth the wait. It has all the little touches that show how committed the parody is (like the in-universe arcades packed with de-maked versions of modern hits like Super Meat Boy and Bit Trip Runner, or the game's hilarious adherence to old-school Nintendo of America censorship, where drinking "MILK" makes you woozy or attacking civilians will make them "GO TO SLEEP"!). It unabashedly exploits any scrap of nostalgia its audience has left in them, and the results are nothing short of exhilarating.

WindowsWindows:
Get the full version
Get the full version (via GOG.com)

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


  • Currently 3.7/5
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Rating: 3.7/5 (41 votes)
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ArtbegottiFranknSplitWhat's worse than a monster shambling around a dungeon? TWO monsters shambling around a dungeon... especially when you're in charge of both of them! FranknSplit is a split-screen one-button platformer by Gameshot where you've got to wrangle two green-skinned monsters as they move, hopefully guiding them toward their exits. Each monster trudges along at constant pace, unable to yield to deadly firepits, spikes, or yetis, and turning only when they reach a wall. It's up to you to command each monster to jump by clicking on their half of the screen. The monsters jump independently, but you've still got to keep your eyes on both sides of the screen and time the jumps for both monsters to keep them from dying. I mean, you've already gone through the trouble of reanimating the corpses, why force yourself to do it again when there are so many more experiments with two-necked giraffes and cats with mermaid tails to be done? Go save your monsters!

Play FranknSplit


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The Chronicles of Emerland Solitaire

KimberlyNo big deal, but you know those magic amulets that help keep balance in the kingdom? Well Seth the evil wizard is out to destroy those. So I know you're just an apprentice wizard and all, but it's up to you to stop him in The Chronicles of Emerland Solitaire, a card game hidden object hybrid by Rainbow Games.

The Chronicles of Emerland SolitaireAs you might guess from the title, The Chronicles of Emerland is a solitaire card game. You have a deck of cards at the bottom of the screen with the top card turned over. The object is to remove as many card piles as possible The piles are arranged in different formations across the screen also with the top of each pile turned over. Using the top card of your deck as a starter, you need to make numerical runs with the cards, one number up or down in value with kings and aces rolling over to each other. You can only play cards that have no other cards on top of them, even if cards behind them are face up. Try to clear as many cards as you can before your deck runs out. If you run out of cards and have more than four cards left in your piles, Seth rejoices with an evil cackle, and you do not pass the round.

You gain gold and XP depending on how well you do. Match at least five cards in a row for a combo to raise your score multiplier. The longer your run and the higher the combo, the more points you earn and the faster you can level up. Yes, though you do start as an apprentice, you are able to raise through the ranks as you play along. Besides stardom and glory, earning levels gets you card bonuses. These appear from time to time on your piles. If you can match the card with the bonus icon before it disappears, you get the bonus which can be anything from extra gold to adding cards to your deck. The bonuses are tempting, but don't let them distract you if there is an obviously better move to be had.

The Chronicles of Emerland SolitaireAs the story progresses, you travel to four kingdoms--human, elf, dwarf, and mermaid. Seth leaves obstacles in your way, which sometimes result in a hidden object scene or two between card games. Warriors from each kingdom join you in your journey, each bringing a special ability into the card game, such as removing or changing certain cards. The special abilities charge as you match the corresponding suite.

Gold is used in the shop to purchase amulets. Clear piles to earn more coins. The amulets give you permanent bonuses and abilities that come in extremely helpful for passing levels. There are amulets to boost your gold and XP earnings, among other things, and each companion has a corresponding amulet to make their special abilities even more potent.

Analysis: Solitaire can be a great way to unwind, and The Chronicles of Emerland makes that all the easier with beautiful artwork and a relaxing soundtrack. The hidden object scenes are a great way to break up the game and add variety as well. Each level is made up of ten rounds, and you need to pass a certain number in order to progress to the next level. This is well and good except that if you want to go back to replay a round you had a hard time with, you have to replay the entire level. Along with that, sometimes you can tell your game is not going to turn out well. It would be nice to have restart game option for these cases.

With hours of gameplay and a fun story line, be warned that you could get sucked into playing longer than you intended. Rainbow Games has created a wonderful solitaire game anyone can enjoy. So come help save the world, one card at a time.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


  • Currently 3.6/5
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Rating: 3.6/5 (35 votes)
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DoraGhostedThe spirit will literally move you in yolzii's physics puzzler Ghosted, where you play a host of ghouls with a passion for possession. Your task is to get the ghosts out of each level, collecting all the stars, but since they can't interact with anything non-ghostly purple that makes up the physical world, being all non-corporeal and whatnot, you need to have them snag powers that will allow them to take control of objects to move. Different icons floating on the screen grant different powers, like being able to turn mechanical constructs on or off, or hop around, and once you've clicked on one to pick it up, click on an object to possess it and then select the appropriate action from the wheel that appears. Plus, later levels will allow you to control multiple spectres, swapping between them simply by clicking, using them together to cooperate to get past tricky challenges. Aw. Friendship is magic.

Physics puzzles are a dime a dozen, so yolzii's attempt to breathe some life (... uh, so to speak...) into the genre with a bit of creativity is particularly welcome. Ghosted is a clever game that plays with its concept in interesting ways, though it takes a while to really get going and provide some challenge. The downside is the game might almost pile on too many elements, from powers to switches and machines, and the few times it forces you to use your jumping ability to do a bit of platforming are obnoxious enough to highlight that the game is best when left to pure puzzling. Despite that, however, Ghosted is still worth checking out. You can feel the thought that went into crafting it and trying to do something different, and once the initial tutorial levels are past, the game really spreads its wings... er... sheets... whatever!... and makes for a cute, clever coffee break of a game you'd love to see polished and expanded on in the future.

Play Ghosted


  • Currently 4.1/5
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Rating: 4.1/5 (33 votes)
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TrickyEndless War 6Greetings, comrade! Welcome to the Red Army! The pay is bad, but at least the hours are long! But hey, that 50-ton tank is sure to make a few Germans quake in their jackboots, nyet? Try not to explode too many of your fellow soliders, da? Da. Endless War 6 is a campaign strategy game by Vitaly Zaborov that places you right in the middle of the pitched battles of World War II's Eastern Front.

Move with [WASD], and aim and fire by clicking the mouse. Your turrets will need time to get in place, so plan your timing accordingly. Switch between your various weapons with [F]/[G], and, if your tank has multiple turrets, switch between them with [Q]/[E]. The CPU will take care of firing your other turret, but different situations call for the personal touch. Once its meter fills over time, call in air strikes with [spacebar]. Completing missions unlocks various upgrades and new tank designs. Though it has some of the trappings of an arena shooter, it's best to approach it with real-time tactical combat in mind. The tank you're controlling is a big lumbering creature and your shots will need to be well-aimed for maximum effectiveness. Some may find it too slow for that reason, along with the heavy CPU load. However, fans of military games should appreciate its realistic strategic considerations and customization options, and be happy to give it a good Na Zdorovye!

Play Endless War 6


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Teletrooper

JohnBTeletrooper is a mission-based arcade shooting game from Adam Butcher and Ben Claxton. Crafted over the course of seven years, Teletrooper draws inspiration from the likes of Star Fox 64, creating an experience that is a far cry from a mindless test of reflexes. Instead, you'll be treated to a storyline, accept and complete a variety of missions, deal with smart enemies and tough defenses, and maybe even grab a few power-ups along the way. It's a challenging and rewarding game you'll thank yourself for downloading, even if you spend the first half hour figuring out how to not die!

TeletrooperA lengthy tutorial teaches you the basic of controlling your little ship along with running you through a few simple gameplay drills. It's highly recommended you complete the tutorial, as this isn't necessarily a game you can pick up and master right away. Your ship automatically moves forward, you control its direction along with hitting the boost or brakes, useful for escaping danger and making tight turns respectively. Use the [W] key to fire forwards and [S] to fire behind you. Both guns do the same amount of damage, so don't feel like a coward if you spend most of your time running and firing from the aft!

Teletrooper plays out across a sprawling multi-terrained map that grows into branching paths as you unlock new locations. Fly over to a spot, enter the stage, check out the mission objective, and start the battle. Each level has a different goal, ranging from the simple "destroy everything that's trying to destroy you" to "get rid of that giant worm/robot cutting machine" to "hit the switch to open the gate, activate the plates and use the bomb to destroy the generator". The mission objectives are creative and require a bit of strategy and finesse to complete, making Teletrooper something far more intriguing than a simple game of shooting at things.

It's exciting, creative and entertaining. Teletrooper is a game of both skill and tactics, and it's going to require everything you've got to make it through to the end. A lengthy and challenging game that's sure to keep you busy over the weekend!

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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Kumo Lumo

elleAhhh, yeah! It's another beautiful, cloudy day. The birds are singing, the rain is sprinkling, and you are Kumo Lumo, a fluffy cloud with a whole lot of mojo and not a care in the world. That is, until the world comes along and begs your help. Now you must save the world, quite literally, in this unique simple concept game from Blitz Games Studios and Team Lumo.

Kumo LumoPlay this "rain 'em up!" by using your cloud magic, er, rain to grow the good and douse out the bad, so the world can not worry and be happy. Of course, you know what happens when the world asks you to do it a little favor; it begins with a small request, "Let's water some trees," but soon becomes water trees, put out fires, gather clouds, avoid smoggy bits, stop volcanoes... You know, all in an honest day's work as a happy cumulus hero.

All these actions are easily carried out on your mobile device with three control modes—multitouch, joystick (which re-positions the control buttons on your screen) or tilt—so you can choose the method that best fits your cloudy style. Then, fly around the world building mountains and befriending whales, avoiding things that will evaporate you out of existence and collecting those things like wooly sheep to replenish your power. On each of the 36 levels, you'll encounter interesting new elements along with a specific objective to complete.

Kumo LumoAt first your nimble fingers and swift moves are all that's needed to accomplish these missions but you'll have to stay alert to catch flying coins, collecting enough to power-up light showers into torrential downpours and make mild sparks become electrifying jolts. If you'd rather, a few reasonable in-app purchases can fast forward you into superhero status. However you go about it, such leet skills will be pretty handy in overcoming the difficulties ahead.

Kumo Lumo feels like interactive art with its lovely design and delightful pop-up artwork but it is also surprisingly full of gameplay, more than you'd suspect when you first pick it up. Each successive mission is more challenging than the last, bringing in an eclectic array of characters and harder goals to reach; you won't be breezing through to the end without using strategy and skill. Yet while the action of the game is exceptionally compelling, perhaps the greatest joy in playing Kumo Lumo comes from beholding the whimsical animations while an upbeat melody and the world's grateful encouragement urges you onward.

How to best describe the fun? It's as addictively gratifying as bubble wrap and totally uplifting. After all, it's hard to feel gloomy when you're a cloud that's so full of sunshine!

NOTE: This game was played and reviewed on an iPad 2 and iPhone 4S. Game was available in the North American market at the time of publication, but may not be available in other territories. Please see individual app market pages for purchasing info.


  • Currently 4.7/5
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Rating: 4.7/5 (598 votes)
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DoraJacksmithFlipline Studios' Jacksmith is primo hero material, you guys. Except for, uh. The whole "might" and "talent" thing. I mean... he's a pretty good blacksmith, but there's a reason donkeys don't do a whole lot of adventuring. If he wants to put an end to his money woes and rescue the princess, however, Jack's going to have to learn... or at least be willing to shell out a whole bunch of free weapons to pay people to do his work for him. In this fantasy simulation game, you'll join Jack and his friend Scout on the trail of the dastardly wizard who nabbed the princess, learning to forge increasingly more powerful weapons for the soldiers who are willing to pick up arms for him, and gather new, more powerful blueprints and materials along the way.

Despite there being nary a fast food item in sight, gameplay is pretty similar to Flipline's Papa's series of games... only with steel and pigmen. At the start of each day, Scout will warn you about the incoming enemies, and you'll have to create the weapons your soldiers will use to fight. They'll place orders, and you'll fill them. Each one will tell you what they want, but if you have better materials, you can make the rinky-dink base weapons they'll use even better. Select your material, smelt it down, carefully pour it into the mold, and then finish it off appropriately. Swords need to be carefully hammered to create a solid edge, for instance, while bows need to be stretched tight. Don't skimp on the details, since the more accurate you are with building weapons, the stronger those weapons will be.

Oh, and don't worry about getting your hands (hooves?) dirty, since your soldiers fight automatically at the end of the day. All you need to do is move your cursor around to collect the treasure enemies drop, which can be anything from crafting resources to gems. Gems can be spent on more materials in Gander's shop. As the game wears on you'll earn different types of catapult ammunition you can launch during battle with a click to deal damage and help you turn the tide of war.

Though Jacksmith's deviation from the established Papa's magic formula won't be to everyone's taste, it manages to make a familiar concept feel new in some clever ways. The forging is given surprising depth with the many recipes and different parts, and since they actually have bearing on the outcome of battle you feel invested in making them the best you can. The animal people are the stuff of nightmares, but the vibrant design and fast paced gameplay makes this one a lot of fun even if it might not have the same breezy addictive quality of other Papa's games.

Play Jacksmith


  • Currently 4.6/5
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Rating: 4.6/5 (38 votes)
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Dark Arcana: The Carnival

elleCarnivals are usually merry, bright and endlessly fun yet they're also seeped in secrets and magic. Perhaps it's because the possibility of danger is so exotically dressed in the pretense of showmanship, we feel like motorists rubbernecking at the scene of a crash who are invited to pull over and take a closer look. Maybe we fantasize what it would be like to be part of the act, yet we never expect to get sucked into the hidden world behind the playful facade. Yet that's exactly what happened to Susan when she visited Dark Arcana: The Carnival, a visually striking and thrilling hidden object adventure from Artifex Mundi.

Dark Arcana: The CarnivalYou arrive on scene to investigate the disappearance of Susan, who was last seen inside the carnival's house of mirrors. You're given a photo of the missing woman and nothing more to begin with, your only lead being the strange behavior of the show's owner and starring act, Jim Gibbons, a knife thrower with a tragic past. Seeking more information and resolved to uncloak the mystery, you follow Jim, solving fanciful puzzles and searching through imaginative environments as he attempts to hinder your progress. He's a man on a desperate quest, to right a wrong that left him wretched and guilt ridden, but is he also terribly deceived?

Now you need to explore a wide variety of imaginative settings, putting together clues and using found objects to open pathways and reveal more insight into Jim's quest. Navigation is very smooth, as the cursor changes to clearly indicate entrances to new areas and interactive zones. The neatly-composed hidden object scenes are plentiful yet spread out evenly enough to not take away from the adventure. But if you'd rather, when you encounter a search scene, you can opt to play a card game called Monaco instead.

Dark Arcana: The CarnivalYou don't have to face all this adventure by yourself, either; early on a trained monkey joins you to help get hard-to-reach items and bring a bit of cute for comic relief where needed. Other help, such as sparkles, hints and skips, are modified according to the difficulty setting you choose: casual, advanced and expert. There is a smart map to guide your travels through other dimensions yet, even without it, the tasks are linear enough to avoid confusion.

Gameplay is driven by the need to keep up with Jim, making each task feel all the more compelling and fast-paced. There are a good number of minigames that present a mild challenge, but nothing that will pull you out of moment or slow down the urgency to succeed. Because of this, the main part of the game feels a bit shorter yet, when it ends, it unlocks an extra chapter—a nice treat for a standard edition game. All the high quality features you expect from an Artifex Mundi game are also included; there are volume controls for sound effects, music and voices plus the game supports widescreen automatically (and with a true aspect ratio) which is appreciated since the superbly rendered graphics make immersion in this horror-themed fantasy world so easy.

Dark Arcana: The CarnivalAnalysis: Dark Arcana: The Carnival is a well-balanced presentation of interactive hidden object scenes and fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants adventure all wrapped up in an extremely entertaining narrative. Venturing deeper into the story, the already fascinating carnival scenery turns dark and surreal as you enter the dark mirror world and encounter an evil presence that's longing to break free.

Although those who have grown tired of the typical lists of items to search for in the hidden object scenes will find no relief here, they are pleasant to look at and no item is unfairly disguised. That leads to what is either a disappointment or a blessing, depending on what you want from a hybrid adventure game: it rather easy all around, even on expert mode. It's disappointing if you thrive on challenge; it's a blessing because you're less likely to get stumped and held back from the fun—and Dark Arcana: The Carnival is extremely fun. There is something unique and intriguing about each scene that's never dull and the story remains interesting all the way to the climatic ending scene.

Artifex Mundi excels at making well-designed games as already proven with their previous titles such as Nightmares from the Deep: The Cursed Heart and Enigmatis: The Ghosts of Maple Creek. While Dark Arcana: The Carnival is a bit smaller in scale, that signature Artifex Mundi style shines through as big as ever. The writing never skips a beat and the principal characters are well-developed and dynamic with talented voice acting to bring them to life. The result is you're not playing a series of puzzles or search scenes that are loosely pieced together with a story; instead, you're engaged in an all out entertainment production. You came to the show expecting a thrilling spectacle, and that's exactly what you'll find in Dark Arcana: The Carnival.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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Link Dump Fridays

DoraWe're well and truly into October now, so how's it treating you? The year is ticking down, but there's still time to do something with yourself... learn something new, maybe! I've spent the last week or so trying to learn how to play Dwarf Fortress, for example, but I gave up when I was forced to admit the difficulty scale was so far over my head I could only have reached it piggy-backing on an extremely determined Cole MacGrath, so I went back to something more my speed. It's also that time of the year when the releases start flying in thick and fast, so let's take a look at what we have on our plate!

A Game of DwarvesDigging is Coming Who doesn't like dwarves? They're stout, loud, industrious, and huggable... if you don't mind taking a plated fist to the jaw. And yet they're rarely the stars, typically relegated to comic relief or perplexingly dreamy yet unattainable sidekicks. ZEAL Game Studio's upcoming fantasy simulation strategy game A Game of Dwarves aims to change all that by putting the little guys center stage. You'll lead a dwarven prince on a quest to recapture "the old country", building, expanding, training, and exploring a procedurally generated world. It looks fantastic so far, with a great cartoonish flair and all sorts of challenges and treasure to encounter, and if it sounds good to you, you can play it when it releases this October 23rd for PC.

Kingdom RushIt Needs to be About 20% Greener Do you love Kingdom Rush? What am I saying, of course you do! You voted the realtime defense strategy game 2011 Game of the Year, after all! Well, if you've always wanted more of it, now's your chance to help, because the developers are trying to get the game on Steam via Greenlight, and this won't be a simple Flash port. Instead, it's going to be a remake from the ground up, including a whole new campaign that will expand the game's original content by about 50%! If this sounds good to you (of course it does) then make sure to show your support by voting for it... and then play it again. It's good for what ails ya.

The Creativity of Indie GamesThe More You Know PBS isn't just about Sesame Street anymore! Their online series PBS Off Book deals with art and internet culture, and recently they spoke about a subject you'll probably agree is near and dear to all our hearts... indie games. The Creativity of Indie Games is a short video that talks about how indie games are made, and why they're starting to become more and more successful, as well as some of the things people love about them. The video features some familiar faces, but perhaps more importantly showcases a ton of some of the best games the community has to offer, and is well with the seven minutes it'll take you to watch it. For some people "indie games" is still synonymous with "cheap and not as good as AAA titles", so it's great to see the hard work and creativity these teams pour out getting some more widespread recognition.

Hotline MiamiComing Soon: Something Unspeakable and Weird... Yay! A lot of people are pretty excited about Hotline Miami, the upcoming surreal, hyper-violent retro action adventure from Dennaton Games and Devolver Digital. Thankfully, the wait is almost over! The game will release for PC on October 23rd, and now you can pre-order it DRM free at Good Old Games for just $8.99USD. The game follows you as you go on murderous rampages following mysterious messages left on your answering machine in an alternate 1989 Miami, and promises to balance its challenging, gory gameplay with a complex, surreal story to boot. This one could be something special, or just something spectacularly twisted, so show your support and pre-order today!

SongmastersFree-to-Play and Freebird? If you like multiplayer games, you might want to pay attention to Matthias Cr�vieaux's Songmasters, an up-for-funding and upcoming free-to-play browser strategy game where music is your weapon. The game bills itself as an epic space opera, where opposing Houses battle for influence and the imperial throne, using heroes called Songmasters who can literally use their music and voices as weapons. It looks fantastic so far, with a great stylish flair and clever concept, and since the game is free (though you can probably anticipate some form of microtransactions), all your donations are even more important if you want to see it happen. Frankly, good luck ever defeating me, since my favourite songs are Crazy Train and Don't Stop Believin', and I think we can all agree those are the two greatest songs ever written, so there's no contest after that. I can also scream/garble the approximate lyrics to Gangnam Style. Do I win?

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: 4.4/5 (26 votes)
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Devil's Attorney

JohnBIf you want all the drama, passion, suspense and intricacies of the courtroom, the best way to get it is to go to school, study really hard for several years, then bribe—Nah, just kidding! You can easily get your fix by watching TV, reading a bunch of fiction books, and playing games like Devil's Attorney, a new simulation from 1337 Game Design that's one part comedy, one part 1980s culture, and maybe two parts lawyering, all carried out via a snazzy touch interface that's much more entertaining than studying case files and figuring out what habeas corpus means.

Devil's AttorneyDevil's Attorney is all about Max McMann, attorney and all around man with a plan. He's suave, he's hip, he's got a great suit, and he apparently wears a perfume called Success, which in our minds means he smells like a cross between rubbing alcohol and Brylcreem. Max works out of a small office and takes on cases one by one, going against some of the toughest/craziest lawyers in the city. Winning cases earns Max money, and you can spend that money to upgrade the apartment which unlocks new abilities to use in the courtroom. It's very much like a light RPG in that nature, though it's thoroughly casual in design and form.

Courtroom battles play out like a law-infused game of touch combat, presenting Max and his moves on the left and the opposing council on the right. Each "enemy" is armed with a damage score, health points, and possibly a special ability or two, all spelled out beside their picture. Scrolling through your list of talents, you can unleash attacks that directly damage witnesses, lawyers or evidence, reduce their attack power, render them inert, or recover your own "health". Each ability consumes action points, and when you run out of action points, your turn ends and the other side gets to take their turn. Survive through to the end and you just might live to lawyer another day!

Devil's AttorneyAnalysis: Initially described as a game that drew inspiration from Phoenix Wright, Devil's Attorney isn't your typical investigation-based mystery solving experience. Instead, it's almost like a hybrid game of Puzzle Quest with enemies and skills to earn and use in combat, all played out in a strategic sort of way. You even get to trace your way up a skill tree by adding new furniture to Max's apartment, which is probably the snazziest way to gain abilities in casual gaming history!

Gameplay alternates between courtroom battle and the between rounds skill optimization, but most of your time will be spent facing off against opponents. Unfortunately, this can lead to a bit of repetition later in the game, as the basic formula presented early on remains true to the end. In true casual form, though, it's expected you're not here to play through the game in a single sitting, so kick back and take a leisurely approach to winning the world over with your smile.

If you're an 80s guy or gal, you'll certainly get a kick out of Devil's Attorney. Even if you're not, this is a stylish and casual simulation game with a great sense of humor, some lovely voice acting, and a nice sense of progression that will keep you tampering with evidence all afternoon long.

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 (80 votes)
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DoraDeath vs. Monstars 2GameReclaim's bullet-filled arcade shooter makes a comeback in the chaotic, addictive Death vs. Monsters 2, where you play a skull with a passion for shooting things a lot while they try to shoot you. Hey, I ain't judging. Everyone needs a hobby. Some people juggle geese. The game controls almost entirely with the mouse, which is used for movement, and you'll automatically fire in the opposite direction you're moving... which takes some getting used to, so you can also hold down the left mouse button to lock your fire in the current direction. Baddies will appear all over the screen in waves, and your job is to take 'em out and survive 'til the end. Avoid enemies and bullets, but nab coins whenever possible, since you'll need them to spend on upgrades and new abilities at the shop between levels. If you feel up to it, the Challenge Levels also provide a creative but brutal addition by forcing you to meet specific requirements on those stages with only specific equipment, or without getting hit.

It's rare to find a sequel that makes the original game look like a prototype, but Death vs. Monstars 2 manages to do just that by being much more polished and piling on the challenge. The new abilities like the laser, bullet time, and shield add a new layer of strategy, since you really need to master their use to progress, and as a result, despite its chaotic appearance, the game actually punishes mindless, erratic play by killing you over and over. Certain upgrades that would be helpful are still missing, like a coin magnet, and a box of tissues for you to cry into when you come this close to beating the boss over and over, but on the whole, this is a fantastic and smartly designed arcade experience for the bullet enthusiast in your family.

Play Death vs. Monstars 2


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Rebuild Mobile

DoraWho would have thought having a zombie apocalypse in your pocket would bring you so much joy? It's been a year since Sarah Northway's immensely popular survival strategy sim shambled out of your browser and onto your mobile device, and what better way to celebrate than with an update that allows you to inflict even more misery and mystery on your hapless band of struggling survivors? Now updates with the challenge of winter, new endings, and secret events, Rebuild for your iOS, Android, and Kindle Fire is better than ever... and now on sale for just $0.99USD!

Rebuild MobileIf you're not familiar with the series, there's no time like the present to get acquainted. The game tasks you with handling the survival and growth of an initially small, struggling colony of people after a zombie outbreak effectively brings an end to the world as we know it. You'll need to ensure you have enough food for them by capturing and cultivating farms, but also enough housing, and though sending them out on missions to build, recruit other survivors, scavenge, and more may be dangerous, it's the only way to proceed. The simplest way to victory is to reclaim a certain amount of buildings from the city you find yourself in, fortifying them against further infestation after you clear out the undead, and eventually reestablishing a government. But that's not the only way, and the game is packed with endings to discover that depend on the choices you make during certain events, and how you choose to spend your time. The game lacks any real "hands-on" action, consisting mostly of decision-making and resource management, but manages to strike a perfect balance between approachable depth and customiseable challenge so that both longtime fans of the genre and newcomers alike will find a lot to enjoy.

There's no denying that all developers put a lot of heart and soul into their work, but Sarah Northway's dedication to her popular series is particularly impressive. She continues to work on and expand it, and the result is a robust and addicting experience about people getting their faces eaten... or, uh, in the case of this update, potentially eating each other's faces. You can still play Rebuild and its sequel for free in your browser, though only the mobile versions have received this latest update and have considerably more content and customisation. Who can say what else the future may hold for the series? In the meantime, it's the perfect time to get your hands bloody rebuilding the world (or maybe just settling down into your own Cabin in the Woods... ?) however you can. Just... don't ask me for help. Apparently I'm not so good at managing colonies. Or negotiating with traders. Or recruiting survivors. Or not eating corpses. Maybe, uh. Maybe I should just sit here quietly and let you handle everything...

Play Rebuild

Play Rebuild 2

NOTE: This game was played and reviewed on an HTC One X. 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: 3.6/5 (37 votes)
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TrickyOne BubbleOne thought! One dream! One Bubble! One Mercado! Yes, Ozzie Mercado is certainly a one and only, and his string of quality simple idea puzzle games is quickly getting into the Ultra Combo range. His latest is One Bubble, a soothing peg-solitaire variant with some cool naturalistic visuals and challenging puzzles.

Select a bubble by clicking it with the mouse. A bubble can only be selected if it has a neighbor. Once clicked, you must select the free space that will allow it to "jump" over a line of adjacent bubbles, eliminating all of them from the board. Each level is solved once only one bubble remains. There are 30 levels in all, each with a par score representing the least number of moves is a little reminiscent of Mercado's earlier Jump Me, but modifies both its mechanics and style just enough to come into its own. There's a nice balance of puzzles that will require a bit of experimentation to suss out, and ones where a little observation will lead to a perfect moment of "AHA!". Another nice touch are the photo-manipulations used as backgrounds. They're never distracting, but really contribute to giving One Bubble that zen office-toy feel, making it perfect for an afternoon de-stressing.

Play One Bubble


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Rating: 4.7/5 (189 votes)
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Weekday Escape

elleA piano melody sets the mood, a welcoming armchair beckons you to browse through Shakespeare's classics, and it is so tempting to just sink in, forgetting the cares of the day to lose oneself in the lovely subtle magic of Robamimi's world. This is quintessential Robamimi, an escape game that is as much about escaping into serenity as it is about finding clues and solving puzzles all in pursuit of getting out: Kumakinoko.

KumakinokoThose of you who are familiar with Robamimi's style of escape already know the treat you're in for (in fact, you're already playing, not reading this review). For the rest of you, welcome to a place of seamless navigation, an intuitive inventory, changing cursors and a kindly hint function to assuage frustration and increase immersion.

In being so nice and friendly, Kumakinoko does tend toward being "too easy" for the practiced escaper, but it's only a fault because we don't want to leave so soon from this peaceful room of bears (kuma) and mushrooms (kinoko). Still, the puzzles are creative and do take some thought and nimble observation to solve. As always, Robamimi is a respite from all that is dull and inane, always charming and affable, and the only disappointment is saying goodbye.

Play Kumakinoko

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Rating: 4.2/5 (75 votes)
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Weekday Escape

elleWe at Weekday Escape do love our escape-the-room games. But, what is it, exactly, about being trapped in a room, desperately searching for clues to inexplicably situated puzzles, scrounging about for items to construct makeshift tools, all while an assertively jaunty tune juxtaposes our dire predicament, that has us coming back for more time and time again? It may be hard to describe but it does have so much appeal that there's even a Japanese game show based on the concept. Until you land your prime spot on the American version (currently being cast) of the reality program spectacle, you can practice your room escaping skills in Aries Escape: Episode No.004.

Aries Escape: Episode No.004In this episode of Libertechno's game series, you're locked inside a small, studio apartment and need to gather an abundance of clues—colorful pieces of Legos, among other things—overlooking a fair amount of misdirection to solve the codes that will elicit your key to freedom. A changing cursor is a good friend in this situation, especially as certain items utilize tone-on-tone color camouflage to avoid detection.

Libertechno is no pal to the colorblind with this particular offering but does present a generous portion of exploration and code breaking to make our escape feel well-deserved in the end. While this episode doesn't feel as polished as Episode No.005, it is equally enjoyable. Again, there is a "perfect ending" in addition to the regular one although getting that special trinket is a simple matter of looking in the right place, a tad disappointing when you'd rather have a final puzzle to work out. Those who don't read Japanese will also lament the non-English opening and ending narrative, but the design is strong enough to compensate for lack of messaging.

It's only a matter of time before game shows such as Dero will be all the rage. In the meantime, we'll keep our skills honed by playing fun escapes such as Aries Escape: Episode No.004.

Play Aries Escape: Episode No.004

Note: to adjust sound, select the [tool] icon and move the bottom slider to the left. Keep the top slider, which controls click sensitivity, all the way to the right.


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Quick Math

JohnBSakura Quick Math from Shiny Things sounds like it's one step away from being an extended homework assignment. But thanks to its stylish and simple design, it turns into a brain teaser that's way more fun than you might expect, and it might just make you a little faster at basic arithmetic!

quickmath.jpgTo play, all you need to do is perform basic calculations. Quickly. By choosing from addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, or mixed modes, you are presented with a series of problems with one of the factors missing. As quickly as you can, draw the missing number on the screen. As soon as you get it right, you'll move on to the next problem. The goal is to be as accurate and as speedy as you can. The game tracks your scores on a chart, allowing you to watch your times to make sure all that TV and cake isn't actually rotting your brain.

For such a basic concept, Quick Math makes itself surprisingly fun. Each mode has three difficulty levels you choose each time you play, so if you aren't in the mood to actually strain your synapses, by all means, don't! The only drawback is the handwriting recognition. As with any program that allows you to draw characters, it doesn't always get it right, resulting in a few errors along the way. Nothing too major, of course, but when you're trying to prove how awesome you are, every second counts.

Quick Math is a simple but enjoyable brain workout that looks both modern and stylish. Try it for the mental boost, but stick with it to prove your third grade teacher she was wrong to say you were a little "behind" in mathematics.

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: 4.3/5 (62 votes)
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DoraSpellStormIt's always nice to see a game that emulates real life, and you're a fibber if you say that Bullet Proof's top-down action game SpellStorm doesn't almost exactly recreate what the majority of us would do with magical powers. You know, the non-Hermiones in the crowd? We'd totally be all over the whole "raining extensive destruction and property damage all over the land" thing... but at least the star of this game has an excuse, of sorts, and isn't just shooting magical frost blasts from his hands for the sheer crazy joy of it. Using the [WASD] or [arrow] keys to move and the mouse to aim and shoot (and [P] to pause your game!), blast your way up from the bottom of the tower and lay waste to all the enemies you encounter, earning experience points to level up and gold to spend on upgrades and new abilities at the end of each level. Slaying all the monsters in a room will open the exit up, and don't dawdle, since taking too long will initiate a countdown that will eventually spawn an invincible beast that will pursue you until you leave the room. As in life, you probably don't want to let too many things chew on your face, since you have a finite amount of lives at your disposal... once they run out, you'll have to start the entire stage over again from the beginning.

At its core, SpellStorm is an extremely simple game, but packages the familiar concept in an extremely polished fashion. Despite the puzzling absence of an in-game soundtrack beyond sound effects and ambient noise, it's a fantastic looking game with a ton of enemies and intimidating bosses, not to mention random spell scroll power-ups and blasts, that makes it feel like it would have been a perfect fit for any arcade. At the same time, though, its simplified gameplay and lack of more in-depth customisation options means it doesn't have quite the manic appeal of, say, Larva Mortus, though it certainly doesn't lack in design. SpellStorm is a fun, frantic, and challenging break of a game that will appeal to fans of classic action games looking to fill their free time with as much monster-shattering action as they can handle, and then some.

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The Vault

DoraGames are great because they're varied, and you can do basically anything. You can be a dapper gentleman thief, you can find danger and romance at a school for birdies, or you can simply hurl yourself against walls and leave disgusting splats. But sometimes... all you really want is something fun that makes you feel good... sometimes for no real explicable reason! It might be the game is funny, or vibrant, or prominently features helpful magical toad sidekicks, but whatever the case... a game that puts a smile on your face is a game worth playing. So here are three games that never fail to put me in a good mood. What are some of yours?

  • Twin Shot 2: Good and EvilTwin Shot 2: Good and Evil - It's hard to be upset when you're playing a Nitrome game. They're just so darned cheerful, and this imaginative action-packed platforming game is no exception. Pick up your bow and arrow (and a buddy!) and do battle against all manner of adorable but deadly baddies, manipulating the architecture to get through. It's full of Nitrome's signature lavish design, and the levels are a joy to behold and romp through, but another reason I've always liked it is because though it implements microtransactions to open up the second set of 50 levels, it makes you feel like you're getting your money's worth by adding a whole host of new concepts and enemies, keeping you from feeling as if you just paid money for a palette swap. It's a rich, vibrant little gem of a game that bundles creativity and madcap archery fun for an easy recommendation.
  • Tasha's GameTasha's Game - Double Fine is basically where the magic happens, but this beautifully silly and funny little platformer really pulls out all the stops to get you to grin, as you go on an adventure with the titular Tasha (Harris) and her magical cat Snoopy as they attempt to rescue her friends. The name of the game is different each time (Tasha's Karate Attack, Tasha's Kid Bobble Chronicles, etc), but that's just one little touch in an entirely wonderfully weird experience. Snoopy acts as your cursor and can be used to magic things into existence to help you out, and the dry humour mixes perfectly with the bizarre landscape and concepts for a game that'll have you giggling the whole way through.
  • This is the Only LevelThis is the Only Level - John Cooney and his elephant are pretty rad, and this brain-twisting puzzle platformer is no different. You play as a blue elephant stuck in a small, simple area, which it assures you is the only level the game has to offer. You just have to flip the switch and go out the door. Easy, right? Well, if not for the fact that Cooney is a mastermind at wringing a remarkable amount of complexity out of this basic concept by throwing monkey wrenches at you at every conceivable opportunity. The more you play, the more the game messes with you, and figuring out how the rules have changes and how to play within them is part of the fun. It's a devilishly fun and silly concept that will have you scratching your head and trying everything under the sun... which you'll need to do in order to win the game. Eventually.

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


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Rating: 4.5/5 (1808 votes)
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Tricky40x Escape"A door firmly locked. But do you have what it takes to escape? 40x times." Such is the introduction to 40x Escape, Bart Bonte's point-and-click puzzle entry to the escape-themed Casual Gameplay Design Competition #10. The aforementioned quote unfortunately doesn't parse as a haiku (cue syllable finger-counting), and "40x times" is probably as redundant a phrase as "ATM Machine", but it gives you everything you need to know: there is a door in front of you. You'll need to get through ones like it forty times, if you hope to escape. Also, there's a bird with you. He won't be much help though. Because, y'know... he's a bird, and he apparently didn't learn his lesson the last time you helped him escape.

In each of the forty screens of 40x Escape, you must determine the proper sequence of mouse actions that will cause the door to open. Oftentimes, it is directly related to getting the ESCAPE sign above the door to light up all its green letters. Sometimes it will require direct clicking of those letters, other times there will be buttons for you to fiddle with, other times there will be a combination or password to input, and still other times you'll need to get creative with mouse movement. Get though all forty, and you can spend the rest of the afternoon contemplating what exactly the architecture of the building you just escaped was. (Seriously, is it like a long hallway of forty rooms, one after another, or rather, are the rooms nested in each other, like some kind of matryoshka doll? But I digress.)

40x EscapeAnalysis: We've seen games like 40x Escape before. Structurally, it bears construction similar to the ClickPlay and This Is The Only Level series. In terms of mechanics, it owes a bit to God Tower-style online riddle games. And, of course, DOOORS and 100 Floors have seen great success on the iOS platform. But really, one of the main reasons we enjoy Bart Bonte's work here at JayIsGames is that, whatever game genre he puts his mind to, his trademark style makes it all his own.

Polished is the word that immediately comes to mind while playing 40x Escape. The "escape" concept is boiled down to its barest essences in a presentation that is clean, engaging, and accessible. It's a back-to-basics approach that strips away the sometimes complex and unintuitive puzzles that may scare casual players off from the escape games. There is room in the great world of casual-playdom for high-quality introductory games, and just as other works by Bonte have found great popularity in kid-oriented game portals, so too one suspects 40x Escape will as well. It's just the thing to get grade-schoolers acclimated to the escape game concept, so they will be prepared when they inevitably become full-on addicted to Submachinery and Darkened Rooms (and we at JayIsGames are always in favor of getting 'em hooked while they're still young. Mwah ha ha.)

Of course, the danger with a back-to-basics approach is that it can come off as, well, basic. While, of course, what kinds of puzzles each person will find difficult is subjective in the extreme, 40x Escape probably won't pose much of a challenge to experienced escapees. There is something exhilarating about gunning through variations on a simple theme, but 40x Escape could stand a little more variety in how it tries to stump the player. Perhaps making into 30x Escape would have tightened up things a little, but who can say? 40x Escape is what it is: a quality time-waster from a quality designer, and a CGDC #10 crowd-pleaser.

Author's Theme interpretation:

"Escape, you know... 40 times :)" -Bart Bonte

Pastel Games' feedback:

"Nice idea and well executed. I love the bird."

"You need to disable right click menu and the TAB key."

"The game gets a bit repetitive after a while. Maybe you could change the colors of the rooms, so we get a slight impression that we're moving forward with each door."

"The pause button doesn't pause the game, but returns it to the main menu. The hell. I know you can hit "continue", but still, it's not good idea to taunt the player like that. Besides - this game doesn't need pause. If you go away from the screen - nothing happens. Pausing is pointless."

"I'd prefer less levels, let's say 10 or 20 but more diversified. Different backgrounds, different objects and you could also use the bird a bit more." -Mateusz Skutnik.

"I like it even so it's nothing original. Puzzles are not too easy or too difficult, love Mr Bird. Simple, cute, fun!" -Karol Konwerski.


Play 40x Escape


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Rating: 4.2/5 (35 votes)
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DoraDemon ShiftNo matter who you are, there's always somebody bigger and badder than you. This is especially true if you're a chubby fuschia demon, and when one such specimen trips and shatters an urn full of souls, he's got to track all the wayward spirits down before his superiors give him one heck of a punishment. In Robot Cake's action puzzle platformer Demon Shift, you may technically be playing one of the bad guys, but that's no reason for you to not be good at what you do. And what you do is wall-climb, jump, flip, and otherwise put acrobats to shame as you try to snag the little green soul hiding in each level. Use the [WASD] or [arrow] keys to move, and, most importantly, hit the [spacebar] to shift dimensions, which can allow you to get past seemingly impassable hazards and blockades by warping your environment. Just make sure to avoid any red objects, since touching one will make you explode into a bunch of demon chunks and force you to restart the level.

For a game about gathering up helpless souls for who-knows-what infernal purpose (hey, maybe it's just a really, really expensive nightlight), Demon Shift sure is pretty. The visuals are gorgeous and vibrant, and pack both its star and their environments with character. And speaking of the environments, Demon Shift takes the short-and-sweet approach to its stages by emphasising speed for medals, and as such manages to strike a balance between relatively straight-forward puzzling and some reflexive platforming action. When it works, it works, but the game's increasing difficulty and emphasis on platforming challenge means players who just want to enjoy some light puzzling might find themselves hitting a wall, and platformer fans might find that on some stages the jumping doesn't quite feel as fluid as you need to. (Though I guess you are a remarkably fat and squat little demon, which doesn't really make for aerodynamics.) As it stands, however, flaws aside Demon Shift is a beautiful little piece of puzzling action that speaks a lot about the talent of its team, and we can't wait to see more from them in the future.

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Mobile Monday

JohnBWhat? Sad news on a Mobile Monday? Sad indeed, fellow gamers. But not without a couple of shots of happy, too. In fact, we'll even argue that the happiness outweighs the sadness, with respective scores of 1.64 and 1.47 as measured on the Jack McBrayer Smile Scale!

sonicjump-p.jpgSonic Jump is a thing - Sega recently announced a new mobile title starring that blue hedgehog guy some folks might just recognize: Sonic! Judging the fact that Sonic Jump already exists as a non-iOS/Android mobile game, we can scientifically determine this incarnation is going to be a Doodle Jump-like hop fest, challenging you to climb through familiar Sonic territory, fight against a few bosses, and roll in some classic Game Boy Advance-era artwork. The game is touted as being "new", so expect some significant updates to the formula and visuals. Or, not, who knows! Look for Sonic Jump in just a few weeks.

devilsattorney-p.jpgDevil's Attorney = Phoenix Wright in the '80s - 1337 Game Design is rapidly becoming one of our favorite mobile indie game developers. The team has already impressed us with the Dark Nebula releases, but now with the announcement of Devil's Attorney, it looks like it's time to go into full fanboy/fangirl mode. Devil's Attorney is a turn-based strategy game starring Max McMann set in the 1980s. Your goal is to free all of your clients, which allows you to furnish your apartment, boost your ego, and unlock new courtroom skills. In a lot of ways, it sounds like the Phoenix Wright series with an '80s twist, which is just fine by us! Look for Devil's Attorney on iOS and Android October 11th. In the meantime, check out the trailer and sing the song! "How do you plead? Not guilty!"

nobynobyboy.gifBye bye, Noby Noby Boy - Sad news, everyone. Katamari Damacy creator Keita Takahashi recently announced that the iOS version of Noby Noby Boy will be disappearing from the App Store on October 9th. Although no reason for the pull was given, we suspect it either has to do with licensing issues or, more likely, a financial decision by publisher Namco Bandai. Either way, purchase the game now or download and back-up your previously bought copy if you want this little package of strangeness to stay in your life!

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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Pixel Rain

JohnBPixel Rain is a physics-based puzzle game from Silicon Studio. Taking the look and feel of a classic handheld LDC gaming system (come on, you know you've at least seen them on the internet), you are handed several dozen levels and challenged to drop gems and coins onto the playing field so that they're protected from the rain of dangerous pixels above. Sounds easy, but the level design means you'll be doing everything from quick-drop ramp stages to precise placement of blocks on a sparse screen.

Pixel RainYour inventory of shapes and gems occupies the left side of the screen, with the playing field taking up the rest of the space. Drag items from your inventory and drop them from the upper portion of the gamespace. You'll be given a wide assortment of shapes to use, from Tetris-style blocks to long platforms, small squares, and just about everything in-between. Once the inventory is depleted, the glowing hexagons that were moored at the top of the screen are released. If they come into contact with the coin or gem on the screen, you have to start the level over. If not, you're an awesome person with an awesome brain!

Here's a surprise treat: online level creation and access to user-made levels! Pixel Rain's editor is only available in your web browser, not on your phone, but it allows you to create drafts, test them, then submit them to the game. There's no way to choose specific user levels to play, which is a bit of a letdown, but the stages you're presented with are enormously creative and challenging, and you'll have a great time extending the game's life with these stumpers.

Pixel RainAnalysis: Nostalgia, the number one reason why we get all giddy about some games. Monkey Labour went all-out for this several months ago, reproducing not only the look but the gameplay of those classic LCD games. Pixel Rain banks on this with its visual presentation, adopting a style that's clearly aimed at former owners of Game & Watch systems or just about anything from Tiger Electronics. And it really works, too, as the game feels like a touch-manipulatable version of an old LCD game with a puzzle wrapped around it. Neat for so many reasons, but even without the nostalgic element, Pixel Rain is a great puzzler to lose yourself in.

It's a free download, but Pixel Rain is supported by a few in-app purchases that both bestow buckets of coins upon you as well as remove in-game ads (which, to be perfectly honest, do get a bit repetitive). Each time you fail a level, you'll have the option of retrying, or retrying with a few helpers turned on in exchange for some coins. You can try again in slow-motion, for example, or add a few blocks to your inventory to help things along. You earn coins naturally as you successfully complete levels, but if you want a boost, you can pick up a pack of several thousand for a small price. Completely optional, but reasonably priced, if we do say so ourselves.

Simple puzzle premises often lead to stunning puzzle games, and Pixel Rain is a great example of that in action. It delivers a lot of challenge in a small package, and the included level editor goes a long way to adding replayability.

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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Rating: 4.2/5 (119 votes)
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Empty White RoomGrinnyp"I'm late! I'm late! For a very important date!" Why the song from the White Rabbit you may ask? Does this game feature a rabbit, or Alice in Wonderland? Well, no, but it does feature a lot of white. Seriously. Lots and lots of white. Hottategoya, that master of mini room escapes is back with the intriguing Empty White Room, a very interesting twist on the usual escaping madness.

Unusually for hottategoya, Empty White Room has a theme, and what a theme it is. The game begins in an empty, almost featureless white room. There is no furniture, no windows, no doors to be had. This amusing and short point-and-click is so minimal it makes Sagrario's Room Escape look like something that belongs on Hoarders. What do you do in such a sparse space? You must look very, very closely is what, and you will soon discover the three intriguing puzzles that make up the bulk of the game. Three puzzles may seem short but they're pretty complex for such a simple game, and one particularly fun one is color-based. Empty White Room brings a lot to the genre with such a simple concept that makes the usual wandering around a room much more entertaining.

Play Empty White Room


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Pixel Blocked

JohnBHey, you there! You blocked my pixel in with your car. Wanna back up so I can get this thing outta here? What's that? You can't back up? Fine, let's just restart the puzzle and try not to be so daft this time, shall we? So goes the conversation (or something like it) you'll have with your self over and over again with Pixel Blocked, a rotation-based block firing puzzle game that has cute and casual written all over it.

Pixel BlockedThe game works using a simple premise of launching blocks onto a rotatable grid with the goal of filling every empty square with a solid piece. Use the [arrow] keys to rotate the grid clockwise and counterclockwise as well as slide your craft left and right. To launch, press [z]. Blocks will soar through the air until they encounter a solid object, so as you move around the puzzle, watch that you don't leave any inaccessible spaces. Otherwise, doom and gloom for you!

In addition to plain solid blocks and empty squares, Pixel Blocked also features a few special block types that change the way you think about solving each puzzle. Magnet blocks, for example, stop fired blocks as soon as they're adjacent, regardless of what's on the other side. Crumbling blocks disintegrate as soon as something hits them, leaving an empty space you'll have to contend with later. Not too many curve balls to deal with, but just enough to keep things interesting.

Pixel BlockedAnalysis: Pixel Blocked somewhat emulates the style of Guru Logic Champ, a lost and forgotten game created for the Game Boy Advance system back in the early 2000s. It never left the shores of Japan, but the game is filled with some of the most convoluted and intense puzzles one can lay eyes on. Pixel Blocked takes the same general idea as Guru Logic Champ but presents a simplified and smaller world to contend with. There are no block removals and grid sizes are greatly reduced, but there are special blocks you get to work with, which does add a nice bit of variety.

Pixel Blocked's simplicity sometimes begins to feel like its downfall, as the game doesn't really offer much of an incentive to keep playing beyond the usual arsenal of achievements and high score self-competitions. The levels do get more difficult, but it's a difficulty you easily learn to work around, so while there's definitely some challenge there, ultimately the game sticks more strongly to its casual roots instead of offering up something that might hurt your brain.

Beyond the few puzzle games it can be compared to, Pixel Blocked is an elegant mixture of simple gameplay and challenging puzzles, all wrapped inside an easy interface. It's casual to the core, and packs almost 200 levels to play across three difficulty settings, which is plenty to keep you occupied for days. The visual presentation is also rather charming, with thick-bordered sprites, blocky little animals, and pastel colors everywhere. It never hurts to add a little cuteness to a casual puzzle game!

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  • Currently 3.7/5
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Forever Lost: Episode 1

GrinnypOminous music pounds in your ears as vague blurs slowly define into concrete walls. Footsteps and distant dripping water echo as confusion engulfs consciousness. Where am I? What is this place? Who Am I? With that chilling and atmospheric opening begins a stunning new adventure from Glitch Games, Forever Lost: Episode 1, the twisted grandchild of many a point-and-click escape game.

grinnyp_foreverlost_screenshot1.pngAnswers will not come quickly as you explore a haunting medical facility in search of the truth. Instinctively, you what to do: explore, find, process, and solve. The story takes place as the unknown protagonist explores the quiet building, and the story is built with clues found in medical files, notes, books, e-mails, and most disturbingly of all the graffiti which covers many of the institutional walls. Who are you? Why are you here? And most importantly... how do you get out?

Gameplay is pretty standard for a point and click game translated to the touch screen of a mobile device. A simple finger tap will create movement, with a helpful "back" arrow to retrace your steps. Items can be examined, picked up, and even taken with a simple gesture, basically point and click without the "click". A bottom scrolling inventory that can be conveniently rolled up into a briefcase is all that is needed for the numerous items that can be found in this wide-ranging game, and a rather unique feature takes the place of the classic adventure hybrid notebook in the form of an in-game camera and photo album. Simply touching the camera feature snaps a photo of the scene, said photos stored in retrievable form in an album icon which allows the player to scroll through all photos taken, zoom in, zoom out, and even scribble notes. A handy way to keep track of the plethora of clues that are to be found, and one that is also necessary for the solving of at least one puzzle.

grinnyp_foreverlost_screenshot2.pngForever Lost: Episode 1 is not an adventure hybrid; there are no hidden object scenes to be found within. Instead, what Glitch Games has given us is pure, classic adventure that harks back to the golden days of Myst, with a lot of pedigree from more recent adventures such as the episodic Being One series, albeit without the jumpscares, boss fights, and copious amounts of blood. Along with the classic found objects having a use somewhere there are several mini-games, including a classic pipe puzzle and a stunning and enchanting little top-down RPG that more than vaguely resembles classic Zelda. The game saves automatically when the player leaves, allowing the gamer to pick up precisely where they left off in this cavernous, eerie place that is really not fit for human habitation, even if they are psychotic, which is what many of the medical records found along the way imply.

Analysis: For those old enough to remember the classic adventure days Forever Lost: Episode 1 is sure to ring the nostalgia bell, and those who are younger are about to get an epic treat as they discover classic adventure done really well. Spooky without being frightening, atmospheric without resorting to cheap tricks like jump scares or gore, Forever Lost: Episode 1 serves up chills and excitement in a way that is rarely seen or done so well.

grinnyp_foreverlost_screenshot3.pngConsidering that the setting is a supposed psychiatric hospital, albeit one that would probably be shut down by state or federal regulatory agencies if they ever saw inside, the visuals are quite stunning and constitute a visual treat of early industrial ugly. The sharp incidental sounds and vaguely unsettling music underscore the mounting fear and paranoia of the story, merging seamlessly with the visuals to create a chilling atmosphere. Movement in the game is smooth and easy and the gameplay itself takes advantage of the touch screen allowing the player to create actions with taps, swipes, and other finger movements.

The puzzles and mini-games tend to keep within the dark theme and cover a range of styles and difficulties. The lone exception being that adorable little faux Zelda RPG which interjects a sudden burst of color and light into the gloomy proceedings, like a bit of childhood lost surfacing amidst the grind of grimy everyday adult life. A built in hint feature in the main menu page is helpful for when a players is stuck without giving the answers outright.

The navigation can feel a bit strange at first with that strange backing arrow, but otherwise there are very few things to complain about in Forever Lost: Episode 1, other than the fact that it perhaps ends too soon and leaves us panting for Episode 2. Challenging adventure wrapped up in an atmospheric and portable package is what we have been looking for, and what Glitch Games has delivered in spades. Turn out the lights, crank up the sound on your portable device, and be prepared to be sucked into the world of Forever Lost.

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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Adventure Apes and the Mayan Mystery

JohnBIt's adventure time and ape time! Adventure Apes and the Mayan Mystery is a retro-inspired platform adventure from ScaryPotato that shares a few genre points with games like La-Mulana, Cave Story+, and many other metroidvania games. As you quest about through the jungle, opening up new areas to explore as you find new tools and power-ups, you'll need to keep an eye out for coins, keys, treasure chests, and relics, all while dispatching common enemies and squaring off against more formidable boss foes. It's all action and adventure, and it's all good fun, from beginning to end!

adventureapes1.gifSomewhere off the coast of Mexico rests an ancient relic that is both incredibly valuable and incredibly shiny. Horatio Hawk has decided he wants this relic, so he skips on in and nicks it. Enter Mitch and Otis, the aforementioned Adventure Apes, who immediately spring into action! Unfortunately Otis slips on a banana peel not three feet from his bed, so while he rests and recovers, it's time for Mitch to head into the jungle (and temple, and lava tunnel, and underground lair) to set things right. You're not alone on the adventure, though, as both Otis and Dr. A can be called upon for a little help and advice while you're deep inside ancient structures.

Adventure Apes controls quite nicely with the [arrow] keys, used for walking, jumping, and rolling into a tiny little ball. Pick up and throw small blocks with [A], and when you find new weapons, use them with the [S] key. As you continue your hunt, you'll obtain item upgrades that both enhance current abilities or bestow brand new ones, like bombs or ghost vision. As soon as you get a new skill, use it to explore new parts of the level. Go ahead, do it!

adventureapes2.gifAnalysis: It's hard to argue with a retro metroidvania game that stars a pixel monkey. Really, it's hard to argue with just about everything in the game, as it feels like it was precisely tuned to provide a little challenge without a hint of frustration. Even if you worry about getting lost, the download includes a nice little instruction booklet that maps out all six levels, showing just enough detail to point you in the right direction without spoiling the puzzles or the fun. Kinda makes you miss the old school printed manuals, doesn't it?

Perhaps the only real shortcoming with Adventure Apes is that it takes a little while to really get going. The controls are somewhat loose, which takes some time to get used to, but as far as the levels are concerned, the interesting bits don't begin until you've spent half an hour or so with the game. It doesn't exactly reach out and grab you from the get-go, but once you settle in with it, this is a game you'll want to explore until every passageway reveals its secrets to you.

It's the perfect little retro release that knows precisely what we want from our platform exploration games and delivers it without hesitation. A fantastic journey with a budget price that provides a good five or six hours of entertainment. Come for the monkeys and the treasures, stay for the hidden power-ups and fast-paced boss battles!

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TrickySnake SquadI don't know, but I've been told! But Snake Squad, an action-packed arena shooter by Yzi Games, has just gone gold! In this top-down arcade game, you control a grizzled, cigar-chomping soldier by directing him with the either the mouse or [arrow] keys. Shooting enemies will soon dot the war-torn landscape, and Cigar Soldier will automatically fire upon the closest one. To survive for long, though, you'll need backup. As noted by the reinforcement timer, every so often, a new squadmate will spawn on the field, each with various weapons and abilities. Move Cigar Soldier near them, and they will join your squad, following behind you in a snaking line. Each will fall after getting hit with a single shot, but every squaddie you collect gives you a boost of health. Slain enemies drop coins which can be used to purchase upgrades and new types of squaddies, and killing ten enemies in a row without suffering damage will give you a screen-clearing air strike, activated by clicking, or with the [spacebar]. Clear waves, collect cash, and rack up points for a high score!

There's not much of a story in Snake Squad, besides the running and the shooting. Still, the teeny solider graphics are viciously adorable, and the snaking mechanic makes gameplay feel surprisingly fresh. Snake Squad isn't interested in depth, so much as providing a fast-paced, fast-blasting good time, and it proves fun can bloom, even on a battlefield.

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Probability 0

JohnBProbability 0 is a procedurally-generated arcade platform game created by Droqen that's all about working your way down. Most games make it pretty easy to move in that direction, as we tend to think of "up" as the win direction (just ask any tall person) and down as, well, not win. With this moody little game, though, you'll have to fight your way to the bottom of the screen, squeezing through blocks, punching holes in the terrain, dealing with evil enemies, and upgrading your abilities at every opportunity you get.

Probability 0Your basic controls are as thus: [arrow] keys to move, [z] to jump, and [x] to either punch or throw stars, depending on if you're on the ground or in the air. The screen automatically scrolls upwards, shoving those nasty black blocks in your way. You can punch through the hollow bricks, freeing up some passages, but really you have to stay on your toes and be lucky enough to not get trapped in a dead end. If you do, it's no big deal, apart from having to start all over again with no upgrades!

As you successfully survive for longer and longer, you'll reach certain points where the action will freeze and you'll get to upgrade some abilities. This is where things get truly interesting. It starts off with a few simple bonuses like a stronger set of legs to survive higher falls or a bigger stash of stars to throw. The skill tree expands as your abilities do, so the longer you stay alive, the more interesting things become. Soon, solid blocks aren't even an obstacle!

Probability 0Analysis: Probability 0 aligns itself with the genre of "go as far as you can" arcade games made especially popular by the growing mobile platforms. It rarely feels like an endless runner, though, opting instead for an almost cerebral experience punctuated by moments of panic when you realize the top of the screen is about to squish your tiny head. It's more about carving a path than jumping around like a bunny, and for that, you've got to think as far ahead as you can manage.

Can't shake the feeling that this game looks a bit familiar? That's no telepathic suggestion being forced into your brain by a transdimensional alien being, it's the truth! Probability 0 began as a freeware title back in 2010. The old game lacks the polish and playability of this updated release, though, so if you're interested in seeing what the game is all about, try the official demo first!

Probability 0 is a different kind of arcade game, one that will challenge your brain as much as your hands. Come for the endless downward action, stay for the cool upgrades you can bestow upon your character. No matter how well you play, you will eventually die, and you will immediately try again, simply because that's the nature of the game!

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Of Light and Shadow

JohnBOf Light & Shadow is a puzzle platform hybrid from 12 Angry Devs that focuses on two characters, each with different abilities as well as environmental weaknesses. It takes place in a crumbling world of chaos, with giant frogs, chomping machine monsters, flying platforms and bubbling pools of lava all waiting to take a piece of you with them to oblivion. But, since you're such a talented player, you can survive the surreal stages and work your way to safety at the end!

Of Light and ShadowBoth Light and Shadow are on the edge of extinction, and if they want to survive, they're going to have to work together. When controlling Light you have a pretty standard arsenal of platforming powers with one big limitation: if you move out of the light, you die. Enter Shadow, a ground-bound character who has the curious ability to stick to walls and ceilings but is unable to jump. In direct opposition to Light, Shadow has to stay in the darkness. Since the decaying world requires both brains and physical skills to survive, you've got to help Shadow and Light make it to the end in one piece, swapping back and forth on-the-fly, oftentimes in mid-jump or while switching from light to darkness!

Of Light & Shadow does a great job mixing puzzle and action elements into one package. The variety is surprisingly strong for such a short (and free) game, and the tense moments when you have to switch characters while in dangerous terrain are more exciting than you'd think! The game also doesn't overstay its welcome, either, and its half a dozen or so levels offer up a few hours of perfectly enjoyable entertainment. There's an emphasis on besting previous scores, so you might actually want to go back and replay previous levels to see if you can do things a little faster. All in all, a great game to occupy a few afternoons of your time, and maybe you'll learn something about teamwork, too?

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Lost Head

elleMisplaced items are a common theme in physics puzzles. It seems like you're always either trying to get the candy or get the water, but how about stray noggins? The stitching on Frankenstitch's shoulders is not doing its job: the playful patchwork monster keeps losing his head. Perhaps because it's so perfectly round, the always cheerful Lost Head seems driven by an unstoppable urge star in a its own physics puzzle, so it keeps popping off and dropping into kooky obstacle courses of pulleys and levers, fans and sponges, trampolines and pistons. Now it's up to your deft timing to return head to body in this offbeat and fast-paced game from Alawar Entertainment.

Lost HeadLost Head is available to you two ways—as a mobile game or a PC download. Going mobile, you can use the multi-touch feature on your tablet to solve certain physics puzzles with greater ease. If you get the download version, you'll need to be a bit quicker and more deft with the mouse as you point and click past obstacles to help Frankenstitch's head reach his body.

The first set of levels are none too difficult but once you enter the chapters with pulleys or fans, you'll need to work out a specific sequence of actions that will spell out success. As you progress, the set-ups become more intricate and difficult to pass, so this there's no shortage of challenge to work your mental muscles. While you can take all the time in the world and overlook the collectibles on your way through, that will only get you one star for your efforts. But future chapters are only unlocked when you gather enough stars. So, if you want to move on to the later levels, you'll need to act fast and grab all the goodies you can along the way to earn three stars on each level.

Lost Head was inspired by a browser game of the same name, and it takes the concept further with more features and levels. Although its appeal doesn't quite reach the same level as Where's My Perry? or Cut the Rope, fans of those games looking for something new should especially enjoy Lost Head. Here the design isn't aiming to wow you with graphics as much as deliver some stand out puzzles for you to solve—and this Lost Head does very well.

WindowsWindows:
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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.


  • Currently 4.2/5
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Rating: 4.2/5 (59 votes)
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Mrs. Daruma's RoomGrinnypDespite the fact that they are a good luck symbol, Dharma dolls (or daruma dolls, for those sticklers in the audience) are a bit creepy, what with the empty, blind eye or eyes staring out at you and following you around the room. Who or what could make them creepier? Glad you asked, and if you answered Detarou, then you have won the prize of their latest escape game, Mrs. Daruma's Room. Just, you know, don't be creeped out by the living Dharma doll who not only watches but physically seems to follow your every move. I'm pretty sure he's harmless...

If the Dharma doll doesn't get to you, well, there are stranger things to be found in this amazing house. Darker things. Twisted things. Things that will haunt your dreams...well, what do you expect if you're playing a Detarou game, anyway? Mrs. Daruma's Room features some pretty challenging and intriguing puzzles to go with the usual disturbing folks who populate the space. Solving your way out of this madhouse will take a little luck, a lot of brain power, and a dash of hairdressing skills. What, you didn't think hair grooming was a prerequisite for escape games? Well, now you know. Navigation feels a little clunky, even with the usual bars and arrows, and some of the solutions, well, let's just say your successful exit depends on your willingness to go spelunking into some guys shorts pocket and leave it at that, shall we?

This is Detarou, so along with the creepy inhabitants be ready for more than one ending to this little romp, and brace yourself for at least one fairly disgusting sight. But if you can stomach the visuals, Mrs. Daruma's Room is stocked with some pretty entertaining brain teasers to go with the eccentric residents. And hey, compared with some of the other things you'll see, maybe that living daruma doll isn't so bad, after all.

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Rating: 4/5 (30 votes)
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DoraOrange Gravity 2The life of an orange. Pretty miserable, right? Some jerk rips you off the thing that gave life to you and you either get all your fluids crushed out of you for consumption by some monstrous flesh creature, or get all your flesh peeled off and your insides consumed... if you aren't left to rot in a bowl. So many oranges deserve to be the stars for once, and Tommycred seems to agree with the release of physics mouse-driven puzzler Orange Gravity 2.

Your goal is to move the orange around the screen to collect all the floating yellow fruit, and then into the portal that opens up after. If the orange falls offscreen, or has a run-in with a hazard like spikes, it's game over. Luckily, this orange tethers itself to blocks as it passes that can be manipulated in various ways. Each block has a different effect that will only impact the orange if its tied to the block itself, and you can click and drag your mouse through the cord to sever it. Click and drag on pink squares to slide them and attached fruit along tracks, for example, while blocks with arrows on them will cause the orange's gravity to shift in that direction when it attaches and remain that way until it hits another switch. T-shaped levels can be spun with the mouse to raise or lower the tether, and certain large platforms have buttons you can click to turn a repulsing field of gravity on and off.

It's hard to do an original physics puzzle these days, with it being one of the go-to concepts for everyone looking for a few guaranteed plays, but while Orange Gravity 2 definitely isn't completely innovative, its clever concepts and interesting gameplay make it stand out from the pack. It looks great, offers a few clever twists on familiar concepts and plays... mostly well. I personally encountered a bit of glitchiness on level eight involving teleporting fruit, but my fellow reviewers assure me they were able to play it fine, so I'm left to trust their word while muttering darkly to myself and shooting them suspicious glances. You know, like always. Orange Gravity 2 isn't perfect, but it is a fun, vibrant little game that seems to be trying to challenge and entertain you rather than just keep you busy. We thank you, noble fruit, and will surely reward your efforts by supping on the flesh of more of your brethren in the days to come. Muahahahaha!

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Link Dump Fridays

DoraSales, spells, sports, and... Slenderman? Uh oh. Looks like this October might be shaping up to be even creepier, but there's more than chills in this week's Link Dump Friday.

NyrthosAlpha Fireballs Still Hurt It's been a while since we last looked at BeerDeer's upcoming action RPG for PC and Mac Nyrthos, and boy have they been busy! The game isn't going to be ready for a full release for quite some time, but that doesn't mean you won't get to play it soon. Starting October 31st, for the discounted price of $9.99USD you can preorder the game and get access to the Alpha and all future updates. In addition to letting you play the game sooner, it also means you'll be supporting the team and be able to give valuable feedback that could help ensure the game is the best it can be... something you should be interested in if this game is already something you've had your eye on! Check out the new Alpha teaser trailer or head on over to the official site to learn more!

BasketBelleFamily and Sports and Fantasy If you've been looking for an excuse to buy and play Michael Molinari's surreal basketball puzzle story BasketBelle, then wait no longer! For this week, the game is 50% at $2.49USD and worth every penny. It's the sort of dreamlike approach to storytelling you don't see often, and follows one family's relationship through the sport that they love, and focuses on experimental combat and puzzle-solving. If you love Michael's other work, consider checking this out and supporting further game development from a talented indie developer!

CharnelKeep the Lights On... or Off I'll be honest with you... I'm probably the last person you'd want on your side in any sort of team-based multiplayer setting. But Team Charnel's upcoming horror versus action game Charnel sounds so neat I might just make an effort to be less terrible. The game is set in an old institute where a bunch of professors have accidentally unleashed a powerful monster that's picking them off one by one, and players can choose to be either human or beast as they go against each other. The monster is stronger in the dark, so humans will want to keep light sources on, while beasts will be trying to keep them off... while both sides are trying to murder each other, naturally. It sounds like a lot of fun, though it looks to be early in its developmental stage at this point, so keep an eye on it if you're up for some team-ups with lead and scares!

Slenderman: The OrphanageSorry Kids, Can't Help You, Too Freaky So you've already freaked out with Slender and are geared up for the official commercial sequel, but the ol' interwebs isn't done with everyone's favourite(?) dapper unspeakable horror just yet. Currently in Alpha on Steam's Greenlight surface, Slenderman: The Orphanage is an upcoming horror adventure from ShadowShifters that promises to "explore the history of Slenderman as you creep through a seemingly deserted orphanage" while strange children appear to be trying to communicate with you. You'll use your in-game phone to hunt for clues and light the way. I don't mind telling you guys I have mixed feelings about this, since I tend to personally feel things are scarier the less you know about them, and throwing back the covers on Slenderman's mystique runs the risk of crippling that alien strangeness, but this still looks like it's going to be a deliciously spooky adventure. Keep your eyes peeled, and the lights on.

Gaming Her BrainThe Feels Whenever possible, I like to include something in these articles that isn't strictly casual gaming related, but should still make you think or get excited a bit about something you do for funsies. Gaming Her Brain, in that vein, is an article written by Mike Schiller about how games both provided early warning signs that his young daughter had tourettes, and eventually provided her with a measure of relief. Rather than "movie tourettes" with profanity, Mike's young daughter endures many severe physical ticks, one of the worst of which is a deep, wracking cough that keeps her up all night... and he talks about how games like Minecraft have made an enormous difference in her coping and her quality of life. It's a great read for anyone who wants a bit of perspective on how what a hobby for them might be something entirely more important for someone else.

Kicking it OldschoolKickstarter and the Problem With "Remember When" Rock Paper Shotgun's John Walker would like you to take a minute and think about it before you crowdfund the next game that starts talking to you about the good ol' days. Kicking it Old School: The Perils of Kickstarter Nostalgia points out that while Kickstarter and crowdfunding in general for games is getting more and more popular, what isn't is innovation. Many of the games that you encounter may sound great, and will probably be well made, but so many of them talk about "retro" or "classic" or "the style of RPG/RTS/balogna sandwich you loved growing up" that it's rare to see a gaming project proclaiming to try anything new and revolutionary... and even rarer to see it perform even half as well as the projects appealing to your childhood or the good ol' days. Mr Walker has some good points to make, and while he definitely isn't saying all such games are bad, and with more and more developers emerging to ask for the money to make video games, it pays to consider the type of development you may be encouraging... and the type you aren't.

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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King Oddball

JohnBFrom 10tons, the heavy-hitting creator of some of our favorite match-3 puzzle games, including Azkend 2: The World Beneath, comes a game about destroying the entire world, one rock at a time. King Oddball is a physics arcade game that plays as sort of an upside-down Crush the Castle or Angry Birds, challenging you fling rocks from the King's tongue so you can cause as much destruction as possible. If that doesn't sound like it's enough fun, factor in the eccentric, internet-approved sense of humor and fantastic visual style and you've got a game you'll have to force yourself to put down.

King OddballKing Oddball, who looks a bit like an unripe cantaloupe wearing a helmet constructed from the fossilized remains of the offspring of a turtle and an armadillo (with a crown), seems pretty upset. He's so mad that he's flinging rocks with his tongue and trying to take over the Earth. The forces of humankind aren't going to sit back and watch, though. Since Godzilla is on vacation, the Earthlings send in the military, occupying squares of terrain that the King gradually moves through one conquered space at a time.

Actually playing the game is as simple as tapping the screen at the right time. The King nabs rocks with his long tongue, then swings them back and forth from his perch in the sky. When you want him to release the stone, tap the screen. To pass the level you have to destroy every tank, helicopter, and soldier below. Bricks and explosives are optional, but often useful in clearing the "bad guys" as efficiently as you can. You've only got three stones to throw (and maybe a bonus stone or two earned by pulling off combos), so be smart, be patient, and watch the tongue carefully!

King OddballAnalysis: It's easy to say King Oddball is similar to just about any physics-based destruction game on the mobile market, but naturally there are a few things that separate this one from the pack. The biggest is the inverted gameplay, placing the throwing mechanism in the sky as opposed to on the ground. It's a simple change but an effective one that makes mastering the art of destruction feel like an entirely new thing. And then there's the always-stunning visual presentation, a staple for any 10tons release!

Achievements and other bonuses are also a part of the King Oddball experience, and you'll be rewarded for pulling off stunts like using a single rock to beat a level, destroying multiple enemies with one throw, or finding and beating the secret moustache world! Apart from this, though, the game is fairly spartan about bestowing lavish extras and bonuses, preferring instead to focus on a game of skill and timing. It's not about chipping away at structures until they fall, it's about hitting that perfect rock throw so everything comes crumbling down as a result!

King Oddball is easy to fall in love with. It's a game that's easy to pick up and surprisingly difficult to master, especially if you want to shoot for those achievements. There's also a wonderful sense of comedic timing you'll appreciate, such as the moment after throwing your last rock when the music goes silent and the King watches in deflated disappointment as you fail the level. Go grab the game now and help the King throw rocks with his tongue!

WindowsWindows:
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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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elle Legend of PandoraThieves. You hate thieves. When you were young, your parents died at the hands of miserable arrow-tooting thieves. Your early start into misanthropy thus initiated, you holed away in the mountains, rather dark knight-like with no intent to ever leave. But, as with all things, adventure bites you on the rear when you least expect it and the smallest things—like a missed morning newspaper—can change a life forever, birthing myth and Legend of Pandora alike.

Your first quest is a humble one but, with it, you're thrust into Francisco Ferreres' nostalgia-induced top down action adventure RPG, a world where chaos reigns and monsters are spawning like...something that spawns a lot. Zombies perhaps. Use fully-customized keyboard commands to navigate, fight and interact. The mouse is used when spending your coins at the shops or your experience points on your character stats page. Like all youths suddenly thrust into the hero role, you begin rather weak and armed with just a wooden sword so it's good that the first foes you encounter are likewise weak. Battle wins equal more experience which means leveling up and new stat points to improve strength, dexterity, vitality or luck. You'll also earn skill points to build specific weapons knowledge, scholarship, or activate special abilities acquired in your questing.

As you discover hidden treasures, complete quests and succeed in battles, you'll gain more riches. Use them to upgrade or change your weapon type, buy accessories or helpful potions. If you die in battle, though, it is game over; computer terminals scattered throughout the lands will allow you to save frequently so you can avoid lost progress. Plus, they allow you to teleport, for a fee, to any other portal where you have saved, which comes in handy toward the end as your journey sends you all over the map.

Legend of PandoraAnalysis: A reverent fandom of Nintendo's The Legend of Zelda inspired Ferreres to create Legend of Pandora. If you have fond memories of old school Link or any other NES or GameBoy Color RPG hero, prepare for a hefty swig of déjà vu. On one level you'll be remarkably charmed by the familiarity. On another, some haven't I already done this, like, a bazillion times before? thoughts might start interceding on your joy. It's best to shrug them off and just let the inner child in you (the one not jaded by all these newfangled gaming devices) run amuck with abandon.

Story-driven quests help keep that abandon from feeling like simple random killing even as your main point of action remains hack-and-slash combat. These quests, on the surface exercises in altruism, provide narrative entertainment and have the side benefit of training for the exhilarating final swarm. While zombies, slimes and other monsters are abundant, nothing pops up unannounced. After hacking and slashing through a square of landscape, it's safely cleared until you've ventured far enough away that the defeated foes can regain their populations. This makes Legend of Pandora well-tuned to players who want to get through as quickly as possible while also providing a ceaseless means of training to those who prefer the grind-and-conquer method of adventuring.

Exploration is well rewarded although there seems to be shortage of treasures to discover in the dungeon crawling moments. It's a great rush to find them but of the occurrence of chests is rare and random enough to make their discovery less than beneficial. Smart training and money management make it possible to purchase the best sword in the lands before the half-way mark, so subsequent chests or quest rewards seem redundant after that. A variety of weapon training pathways—swords, axes, or bows—is appealing for diversity's sake although swords tend to be the easiest, most rewarded path while magic is virtually overlooked and not well-explained. Yet these quibbles also mean Legend of Pandora is designed for immense casual gaming enjoyment. Leveling up, acquisition of new skills and new quests happen frequently, giving a constant buzz of achievement to keep enthusiasm high.

Playing a game like Legend of Pandora in the browser is a treat. Ferreres' passion for RPGs also transmits over to the player; you can't help but get caught up in this nostalgic love of 16-bit graphics and questing zeal.

Play Legend of Pandora


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Rating: 4.1/5 (46 votes)
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SonicLoverJack TubeWhat would you go through for a ton of carrots? Probably not a lot, but Jack Tube, the armless white rabbit from the Begamer game of the same name, would gladly traverse 13 levels of puzzle platforming madness... with the help of your clicking finger, of course. To finish each level, he has to collect all the yellow gems and then hop into the rocket, using the environment to his advantage to get some of the harder-to-reach items.

Everything is mouse-controlled: click ledges to jump up to or down from them, click enemies to attack or jump over them, click tubes to hop into them, and so on. The pictures drawn on some of the walls help to illustrate some of the more obtuse concepts (for instance, you Portal fans can probably guess what happens if you jump into a tube from high up). Although the control scheme and some of the gimmicks in later levels make it clear that Begamer isn't doing a perfect job of disguising its usual point-and-clickery, and it's not exactly a difficult game, this is definitely a clever and interesting departure from the formula... and if that doesn't grip you, the charming visuals and audio most likely will.

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Rating: 4.5/5 (42 votes)
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Beastie Bay

JohnBIt's Pokémon for mobile devices! Ok, not quite, but the latest release from Game Dev Story and Kairobotica developer Kairosoft has certainly been looking at the monster training RPG for inspiration. Beastie Bay takes the familiar Kairosoft set-up and leans it more towards role playing territory, confining simulation elements to a smaller portion of the game while exploration, turn-based battling, and monster management take center stage.

Beastie BayIt looks like you've washed up on an uncharted island, and the only thing that's going to keep you company is your pet pal chosen before the game begins. After constructing a house for yourself and a pasture dwelling for your friend, you see a section of unexplored terrain nearby, a treasure chest taunting you from amidst its blue borders. With a simple tap you'll head out on your quest, a small bar at the bottom of the screen showing your progress as well as any events that lay in wait.

When you encounter an enemy during these outings, Beastie Bay game switches to battle mode where you'll choose attack options from a menu. The usual battery of skills, offensive moves, and item uses are available, all depending on which pets you brought with you, and fights feel very much like a round of Pokémon. Once the enemies are cleared and you reach the end of your journey, you gain a new chunk of land to colonize along with any treasures you picked up along the way.

Here's the twist: you're not just battling creatures, you're also capturing them. By tossing out a hunk of monster bait to a weakened enemy, you can often tame them and allow them to join your party. This ties directly into the non-battle portion of the game, as each new companion needs a place to live, so you have to find a suitable spot and settle them in as soon as possible. Pastures and houses eventually go towards gathering resources and attracting tourists, at which point the simulation part of the game kicks in, keeping you enamored until your phone's battery goes flat.

Beastie BayAnalysis: For those of you who have been following Kairosoft's games over the last few years, you've probably noticed a trend in the gameplay style each successive release has adopted. In short, newer Kairosoft games are overall less simulation and more role playing. That trend comes to fruition in Beastie Bay, and where previous games might be described as sims with RPG elements, this one is quite the reverse.

The menu system from every other Kairosoft game is still present in Beastie Bay, and it's still the tiniest bit cumbersome to use with touch screen devices. Small text choices to select, menus to navigate, and overall cluttered screens to touch your way through make you long for physical buttons from mobile phone days of yore. But, with a few minutes of practice, you'll get the hang of it. And with all the monster capturing going on, you honestly won't care if you had to use toothpicks and a bellows to control the game.

Kairosoft seems to be experimenting with a new payment strategy with Beastie Bay. Instead of separate versions for the demo and full releases, you get the game for free and can unlock the ad-free version via an in-app purchase. This removes a great barrier of entry for a lot of players, as the traditional Kairosoft price tag is a bit higher than your average mobile game. This way, you get to try things out before taking the big dive.

It might be centered around turn-based battles and monster training, but Beastie Bay is a Kairosoft game through and through. It doesn't feel quite as polished as previous games, most likely due to the team's attempt at Pokémon-style battles, but once again, this is a game that will tempt you to pull out your phone at every chance you get.

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


  • Currently 4.1/5
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Rating: 4.1/5 (264 votes)
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KimberlySomewhere in England, 1928It's a little known fact that back in the 1920's there was a large tentacled creature roaming the streets of England. William and Thomas have been investigating the odd case in Somewhere in England, 1928. Drink Cider, Make Games has designed a wonderful point-and-click adventure for CGDC #10. The investigators end up in a situation beyond their control. Can you help them escape with their lives?

The controls are simple and familiar. Use the magnifying glass to explore your surroundings, and the hand icon to interact with things on the screen or in your inventory, which is on the bottom of the screen. Click or hit the [X] key to switch between them. Also click the mouse to advance text on the screen. You are trapped in an old mansion with the monster right on your heels. You must escape from one room to the next, trying to stay one step ahead of the monstrosity.

Somewhere in England, 1928Analysis: The Casual Gameplay Design Competition theme this time around was "escape". The obvious interpretation of the theme in Somewhere in England, 1928, is escaping the monster room by room. However there is more going on here if you pay attention to the dialog between the characters. William is feeling trapped in his life and his job, and doesn't know if he can leave it all behind to find a lifestyle better suited to him. Some of the dialog that makes this clear is not required to win the game, so make sure you hit all of the dialog options if you want to experience that aspect of the game. It adds dimension to the game to have the theme interpreted in two ways.

Somewhere in England, 1928, takes you back in time both in story and graphics. It has great old school imagery and gameplay. The minimalistic story allows you to imagine for yourself what exactly led Thomas and William into this mess. There is no soundtrack, just ambient noise that adds just the right amount of atmosphere to the game. My only complaint is the length of the game: I wanted it to be longer. Despite the fact that it is short, you get surprisingly attached to the characters and end up longing for more once the game ends. If you missed this entry to the competition, I recommend giving it a try!

Author's Theme interpretation:

"1: Both of the main characters are trapped inside a crumbling mansion as a violent monster tears the place apart. The objective of the game is to try and get the characters out of each room."

"2: How do you escape a boring life? William is trapped in more than a physical sense. He can't tell anyone about his secret life of running around in the dark fighting monsters, and he feels trapped. He's thinking of leaving the team and moving away from London, at his family's request, but that's just the easy way out. It would give him a more normal life, something more manageable, but ultimately, it's not what he wants." -Drink Cider. Make Games.

Pastel Games' feedback:

"The black menu screen is a bit of a throw off."

"This is how you start a game. With an intro. With a great sound design. With atmosphere. You got me drawn in from the beginning. That's usually a good sign."

"Let's acknowledge the elephant in the room. The graphics look like Sword and Sworcery - or maybe it's just how pixelart looks like in general, I'm not a big follower of pixelart. But it looks great in this game, I give you that. Consistent graphical design and not a 3D - that's like breath of fresh air right there."

"I love the dialogue in this game."

"One technical thing - when the dialogue displays and mouse is completely hidden - my cursor id flickering on movement. Using Chrome on Mac OSX."

"Another thing - when I choose hand to interact with the surroundings - it goes back to being magnifying glass after using it once on something. It would be nice if I didn't have to change to hand each time I want to interact. The same goes for using items. When I take one in the hand I'd like to be able to use it more than once and then put it back."

"After finishing the game and going back to the menu mouse is still invisible, so the cursor is flickering."

"Other than those minor technical problems - this is by far best game in my opinion. Everything in it is professional and implies a weathered, grown up developer with the sense of what and why he's doing. The gameplay, the story, the sound design, the plot twist at the end - everything is in the right place."

"Congrats, you win at life." -Mateusz Skutnik.

"The game drew me in from the first minute, none of the puzzles were not too difficult nor too easy. I had problems with the look and interact mode. I missed the background music and sound effects definitely exchange. That story was so well written that it begs a second playthrough." -Karol Konwerski.


Play Somehwere in England, 1928


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Rating: 4.3/5 (63 votes)
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TrickyRogue SoulFor months, Rogue Soul has prided himself on being the most lovable rogue in the city. After all, he antagonizes those jerks in the city watch, woos fair damsels, parkours his way through the market-place nearly every morning, and robs from the rich to give to the... Well, robs from the rich in any case. So when he sees that this "Borin Hood" has come to town and instantly commands a 5000 soulon reward, Rogue knows that he'll have to step things up and raise his profile the only way he knows how. Rogue Soul is a jump and run action game by Soul Game Studio that puts players through a free-running paradise where Aladdin, Altair, and Faith would feel equally at home.

Use the [arrow] keys to move, jump and drop your way across the cityscape, grabbing as much coin as you can. Naturally there are obstacles to avoid, starting with pits you need to jump over and low hanging walls to slide under with a press of the [F] key. Then there are the guards of the city: spearmen, soldiers, archers, axemen, assassins. You'll attack them automatically as you run into them, but be sure to time yourself so you don't end up skewered. Various pick-ups will aid your free-running. Parachutes, activated with [D] will grant you extra hang time in the air. Daggers, usually found in barrels or attached to wanted posters, can attack enemies from a distance when thrown with [G], and armor will allow you to survive a single hit. If you can pick up a flower and successfully grant it to Souly, your main squeeze, she'll lift your spirits and give you a supply of double jumps. Treasure chests, and other secret bonuses litter the landscape for those with sharp eyes. Get your reward above 5000 soulons, and the game is won!

Rogue Soul fully understands what many of the genre do not: it's not speed that makes jumping and running fun, but flow... the feeling you get when your reflexes are perfectly in tuned with the game mechanics. As you slide down a clothing line, bounce off a market stall, swipe a goblet, throw a knife at of those pesky archers, and deliver a flower to a pretty girl, before parachuting into a convenient hay stack, all without breaking your stride, Rogue Soul will give you the feeling of being unstoppable... Until you get an ax upside the head three seconds later. It takes practice to become perfect, of course, since Rogue Soul is not a forgiving game. But with its host of unlockable treasures and missions, it is a very rewarding one. Combing the cuteness of Wink, with the intensity of the Prince of Persia, Rogue Soul is sure to keep your keyboard pounding as you stay one swing ahead of the sword, stealing only what you can't afford. (Which is everything!)

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Rating: 3.5/5 (93 votes)
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Weekday Escape

EllePhuket (poo-kèt) is a lovely, tropical oceanside town in Thailand, a place where the azure waters of the Pacific lap ashore soft sand beaches. At night, the city lights look like a cascade of sparkles rolling down Phuket mountain. There's even some familiar faces waiting to serve up a tasty burger to you when all the sightseeing and nightlife leave you hungry. Sounds alluring, doesn't it? You could endure the hassle of airports and the expense of traveling, or you can let Cabeza take you there and all you have to do is Escape! In Phuket.

Escape! In PhuketAfter a brief and blissfully comfortable plane ride across the game screen, the first thing you'll notice about this vacation-themed escape-the-room game is its appealing design in an attractive color palate of turquoise and summery wicker. Navigation is made straight forward with bright arrows and a clean layout means you're not searching for that one special pixel to reap needed clues or items. This leads to a relaxing and peaceful sojourn, where you need only to point and click around, putting items to logical use and noting the clues that are revealed. About five or ten minutes later, you'll have the exit key in hand and a smile of satisfaction to go with it.

This vacation abode has just two tiny rooms with just a handful of codes to solve, but Escape! In Phuket will be appreciated especially by players who want pleasant surroundings as much as affability and logical puzzles in their gameplay. While it is a disappointment to not have more walls to look at or more puzzles to solve, you are well rewarded for your efforts with a fun souvenir: a slide show of places visited in Phuket to prompt the vacation memories, telling the story behind the pictures. A minibreak to Thailand in a free online game? That'll swipe the smug grin off certain red-hatted gnomes.

Play Escape! In Phuket


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Rating: 4.4/5 (82 votes)
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Earn to Die

JohnBIt's a vision of the future we've all considered at one time or another: zombies have taken over the world, and the only way we can get to safety is to drive beat-up old vehicles across the barren landscape, splatting undead walkers as we floor it until we're out of gas. Earn to Die from Toffee Games lets us play out that inevitable reality in the safety of our own mobile devices, dropping you in a desert and giving you a hefty garage of upgrades and the ability to earn cash by running into the wilderness and stunt driving as far as you can over and over again. Despite being a teensy bit repetitive, Earn to Die has that lovely ability to keep us hooked, probably because we get to crush zombies with sawblades attached to our bumper.

Earn to DieThe set-up is pretty simple: drive your vehicle as far as you can before running out of gas. Crush zombies to earn cash, which you use in the garage between runs to upgrade parts of your car. You can boost things like your engine, fuel capacity, and wheel size, but you can also add weapons and bumper improvements to help you squish zombies without losing too much speed. It's a careful balance between performance and raw carnage, but it's a line you'll quickly learn to walk as you buy new vehicles and drive farther and farther each time.

The only real downfall of Earn to Die is its eventual lack of depth. Sure, it's wild amounts of fun, but after some serious quality time with the game, you'll realize the purchasing strategies aren't that complex, and it's fairly easy to upgrade to a zombie-bashing beast with very little effort. That's not necessarily a true drawback, though, as nobody said a game about stunt driving cars with mounted shotguns is required to challenge your brain. Earn to Die is several solid hours of mindless fun, with all the heavy hits and epic moments you could hope to experience!

Play Earn to Die (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.


  • Currently 3.7/5
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Rating: 3.7/5 (53 votes)
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DoraElectro ComboKragSoft's chain reaction arcade game Electro Combo is for people who like to make things go boom without all that pesky police involvement. Your goal is to clear each stage of all the floating icons by clicking to place explosions that detonate everything in their vicinity. The catch is that each icon has a different effect and explodes in a different way, so watching and planning for just the right moment is key to getting three stars and 100% completion on each level. But it's not just about bombs, with coins floating around that can be spent on upgrades between levels when nabbed.

Though the inclusion of different elements with different behaviours for you to puzzle out is a clever idea for injecting some strategy into the genre, Electro Combo doesn't quite manage the effortless addictiveness of, say, Icy Fishes or Icy Gifts. Largely its due to how repetitive Electro Combo winds up feeling, and don't you kind of need sound effects to really capture the dazzling "popcorn for your brain" feeling that chain reaction games require? As an example of clean design wrapping up a familiar, engaging idea, however, Electro Combo is a fine specimen indeed. It's the sort of thing that fits perfectly into any sized break you have, with the stars giving you added incentive to upgrade and try for perfect, and delight the ol' ocular orbs with all the rupturing pixels your heart desires in the process.

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Rating: 4.5/5 (223 votes)
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TrickyThe Freewill Cycle: Volume IIWhoa. For a second there, you were worlds away. But now, you need to focus on what's ahead. You have a job to do, and it's one you've done hundreds of times before. Just break in, deliver that sample where your employer wants it, then get out. So why can't you ignore this feeling of Deja Vu?... The Freewill Cycle: Volume II is a point-and-click adventure game submitted by William Buchanan for the escape-themed Casual Gameplay Design Competition 10. In it, your actions might change everything... or absolutely nothing at all.

Competition third place award winnerExplore the currently-deserted office building, solving puzzles and viewing documents to bring you closer to the completion of your mission. The mouse cursor will change to let you know when an item of part of the scenery can be examined (by becoming a magnifying glass) or picked up (an open hand). Items picked up will be stored at the bottom of the screen, and to use one to solve a puzzle, click in, then click where you wish to use it. The game takes place in the first person perspective, so prepare to turn left and right to view rooms from all perspectives.

The Freewill Cycle: Volume IIAnalysis: At first glance, one might think that The Freewill Cycle Volume II is running in exactly the wrong direction, competition-wise. After all, the main thrust of the action is a break-in, the exact opposite of what we usually consider "escape" to mean. However, by the end, as the larger themes of the plot show through and their relationship to its prequel becomes more apparant, The Freewill Cycle: Volume II proves to have one of the cleverest interpretations of the CGDC 10 theme. The plot is effectively shown rather than told, with new wrinkles doled out at a measured pace, coming together to form a complex and satisfying sci-fi yarn. You approach a fully realized world as an outsider, breaking into not just the work-space of those employed by Verified Technologies, but also their troubled personal relationships. Sure, you could gun through the puzzles, ignoring all the intrigue revealed by the memos and e-mail accounts just waiting to be viewed by prying eyes. But what would be the fun of that?

Not that the puzzles are too shabby either. The game largely dispenses with the overly-technical sci-fi tool-using and pixel-spotting that troubled the first volume. While the puzzles maintain that level of speculative discovery, things feel a lot more user friendly this time around. Even just little things like, labeling the items you pick up, make it feel that the engine is working with you rather than against you, testing your mind rather than your patience. This even extends to the post-game commentary, something more developers should include, that helps smooth over anything you might have missed plot-wise. Sure, The Freewill Cycle: Volume II is happy to let you put the pieces of the jigsaw for yourself. It's just nice to be able to look at the picture on the front of the box when you need a little help.

The Freewill Cycle: Volume IIOne thing that sadly does return from the first volume is slightly cumbersome navigation. Many first person point and click games don't have the player explore such a space from so many perspectives. Having to turn and walk everywhere is probably more realistic that showing up in front of a door when you click on it, however it can become difficult to orient yourself at first. The similar-looking doors and offices and such do a lot to build the atmosphere of the futuristic, vaguely sinister corporate office, yes, but it makes it harder to tell where you are and where you are going. Takes some getting used to tis all.

However, a few extra clicks needed after mistaking one computer for another is a price easy to pay when the reward is a well-crafted story supported by atmosphere aplenty. The Freewill Cycle: Volume II is the kind of innovative game we at JiG hope for when running these Casual Gameplay Design Competitions, and it well deserves its place near the top of the rankings.

Author's Theme interpretation:

"At risk of spoiling the ending (SPOILER WARNING), this game resolves the questions and events from Volume I. The player will learn that they are responsible for the creation of a cataclysmic time loop. However, this infinite cycle can be broken with an act of free will at just the right moment. It is the player's main priority to escape this time loop. They'll need to think hard about everything they've seen in order to properly determine exactly what has happened, so that when the time comes, they'll be able to bring salvation to the universe." -William Buchanan

Pastel Games' feedback:

"The black background in the menu is a bad idea. make it fancy, it's a cover of the book."

"I like the ambient and sound effects. Great atmosphere. Good job here."

"The navigation is a bit tricky. For example - I want to go into lavatory - so I see the door in the corridor, and use the keycard, but it's not working. I have to be facing the door straight on, but that means I have to stand next to them in a position where I can barely see that door and then turn right. The problem with this is that when approaching something - you should always have it in sight in order to know where to click. It's a bit confusing as it is right now."

"I think that once I open the maintenance hatch - it should stay opened. Same goes for the trapdoor in the floor of harm's office."

"In the cargo bay - let's say I want to go back. I got the ultanium and want to return to machine. I click on the door but nothing happens. Again I have to click forward to tay exactly before the door, but I don't see the door right now, all I see is empty wall with a lamp. Now I have to click right and I'm at the door. That's confusing."

"It would be nice to be able to collect all those documents - you'd have them on your disposal to check the codes and passwords."

"Why do I have to enter the lock combination in the cargo door every time I'm passing? That should've been done once and then the door should stay open."

"Other than that - I like the game. The puzzles were not too hard, there was a bit too much backtracking and going back and forth through the same locations. Again - good atmosphere, good ambient, nice sound effects. Nicely rendered and items were finely drawn. Nothing more to complain about." -Mateusz Skutnik.

"Interesting plot, logical puzzles with great atmosphere. First person perspective was a great idea. It's like an extra puzzle in the gameplay. Player can't see entire rooms at a time so he has to make extra effort to solve the puzzles." -Karol Konwerski.


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The Vault

DoraFree is good, especially when it comes to games, and there are definitely times when freeware is even better. Often overlooked for their bigger AAA counterparts, or the more easily leapt into browser games, freeware titles manage to deliver some of the most surprisingly engaging and huge adventures around. Here are three of our favourites for you to lose yourself in on a rainy day... or, in at least one case, a dark and stormy night...

  • The Chzo MythosThe Chzo Mythos - If you're looking for horror wrapped up in a classic point-and-click adventure package, then you don't need to look much further than Yahtzee's (Benjamin Croshaw) stellar creepy series of games. Mainly following a gentleman thief by the name of Trilby who seems to wind up in the most unfortunate of places, the series combines both subtle, lurking horror with more grotesque, disturbing stuff to tell a complex story of an unearthly being that drastically influences the lives of people throughout the ages. By turns unsettling, horrifying, and even funny at times, it remains one of the best and most well-written series of games around for horror fans to sink their teeth into.
  • IjiIji - Platforming adventures are great, and even more so when they serve up a big heaping helping of Metroidvania action. If you feel the same way, then be sure to check out Daniel Remar's immensely engaging story-driven title about a human named Iji who has been enhanced with nanotechnology after the Earth is invaded by aliens. It's packed with all the upgrades and action you'd hope, but with a story that changes depending on your actions and how you play, it's also one seriously impressive display of gameplay-driven narrative you'll want to make a date with if you haven't already. And if you already have, what's wrong with hooking up with an old flame?
  • An Untitled StoryAn Untitled Story - Matt Thorson is a talented guy with an impressive roster of popular browser titles, but you'd be doing yourself a disservice if you didn't check out this challenging Metroidvania platformer. Beginning as an egg in the nest, you'll encounter the usual big boss battles, secrets, upgrades, and more, but you'll also soon find yourself wrapped up in a great plotline that slowly becomes unveiled the more you play. While the difficulty is definitely on the high end of things, the multiple pathways available through each area and the mystery surrounding the whole thing, dropped into your lap in rewarding bits and pieces, is more than enough incentive to keep playing... and to keep recommending this even four years down the road.

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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Prince of Balls

ArtbegottiPrince of Balls is an intriguing platformer where you're only a hop, skip, and jump away from peril. Hops, skips, and jumps will become your friends as you play, because those are the only moves you can make. No swan dives, no sprinting, no hadoukens, just upward propulsion provided by your own spheroid self.

Prince of BallsBeing a ball with nary a leg, wheel, or flagella, your movements are limited to jumping. Tap the screen to jump; the Ball Prince will jump toward the spot where you've tapped (or as close as possible to that spot). It's helpful to assume that your tapping point is the highest part of the arc of your jump. Each jump costs you a unit of energy, and running out of energy means instant death, but you can pick up extra energy by grabbing fruit (double for landing on top of it) or hitting a checkpoint.

Also on your path, you'll find a variety of bonuses to pick up along the way, including coins, chalices, and treasure chests. Your score for each level is calculated by the total score of the bonus items divided by the number of jumps you take, so it pays to snag as much loot as you can with fewer jumps. Extra points are awarded at the end of the level for objectives such as snagging as many valuable stars as possible, so there are a lot of factors that can affect how high you score. Reaching the end of the level is one goal, but getting there in the best way is another challenge by itself.

As you progress through the levels, you'll encounter new challenges such as disappearing and fragile platforms and mud-coated platforms that are easier to slide off of. In later levels, you'll find yourself making more precision jumps between platforms. There's a bit of frustration that comes with miscalculating a jump and falling to your death repeatedly, and it doesn't help that the zoom function doesn't give you nearly enough of a window to plot out your next move, but checkpoints are provided frequently enough to give you sufficient breathing room.

it's a shame that the plotline of the game, a typical prince-saves-princess fairy tale, is abandoned right after the opening cinematic, but it's just enough to set the mood for a daring adventure through five intriguing worlds. Prince of Balls is simple to play, but provides plenty of challenge for the bold.

NOTE: This game was played and reviewed on an iPhone 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 3.9/5
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Rating: 3.9/5 (142 votes)
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elleNoir EscapeYou arrived at his office in the late afternoon. It's not often a private eye gets to investigate a rival. But on the other side of the door, what everyone but you expected happens: you're hit over the head. When you awake, you're trapped inside. Now you must use your wits and detective skills to escape in Noir Escape, a light homage to film noir in an escape game created by Tomislav Podhraski.

As you sleuth out clues and tools, a changing cursor and messaging for every interactive area keeps you in the know. If the scene's a little too noir for your tastes, just click the light icon in the top right corner to brighten it up. Most of the action revolves around discovering useful objects and putting them to use, which is so in character, the fact that there's only one real code to break is easily forgiven. Although you'll probably get out faster than you can ask, "Is that a gun in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?" While Noir Escape ain't exactly hard boiled, the subtle parody and smooth navigation make this one a keeper.

Play Noir Escape


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Mobile Monday

JohnBAnybody up for some mobile teasing? A fresh batch of news for a fresh week (and month!), just enough details to get you excited for the future but not so much that you'll feel like you know it all. It's a delicate balance to taunt the internet reader, isn't it?

jetpackjoyride-p.jpgJetpack Joyride blasts to Android - We haven't made it much of a secret that Halfbrick Studios' amazing achievement-based arcade game Jetpack Joyride is about the most fun you can have on a mobile device. In fact, our review can pretty much be summed up as "omg get". Now, the formerly iOS exclusive has ridden its way to Android, carrying with it all the addicting missions, unlockables, and crazy events from the iPhone version with a gorgeously free price tag. Sound intriguing? It is, and this is the part where you go download it!

oceanhorn-p.jpgExploration-based action RPG, anyone? - Here's a phrase one can never hear too often: a gorgeous action RPG with a heavy emphasis on exploration is currently in the works for mobile devices. Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas from Cornfox & Brothers looks like an isometric Zelda game with a simple virtual control set-up to allow you to run around, throw pots, fight enemies, and the like. No firm release date has been set, but we can expect the game to hit before the year's end!

sorcery-p.jpgInteractive storytelling rides again - Earlier this year, the inkle platform introduced itself to the world with Frankenstein, a modern retelling of the classic tale with all the visual splendor and game-inspired choice-based interactivity of a mobile game. The team recently announced its next project: Steve Jackson's Sorcery!, a four-book series that places you firmly in the role of decision-making hero! Sorcery! starts its run in 2013, so you've got some time to polish off your iPad in preparation.

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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