November 2012 Archives


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Ozzle

JohnBOzzle wants to deceive you. Ozzle is bright and colorful, its fonts look like balloons, two big googley eyes watch you while you play, there's pink everywhere. But it's a puzzle game that will make you think and plan and execute only to realize you made a boneheaded move and could have done things much better. So, you try again, knowing you're smart enough to slide some bubbles around to match a stupid little pattern. All of this happens on the first or second set of puzzles, meaning they're easy. Easy! How on Earth are you going to make it through 60 of these things? By summoning the spirit of the relentless bear (that solves puzzles), that's how!

OzzleOzzle is built around sliding tiny marbles across a slotted circular board. There are three line axes that bisect three concentric circles, all surrounding a center point. In other words, it's a wheel with spokes. Or a delicious pie! On top of this pie are colored marbles that can slide along any of these lines. Dragging across a circle moves all the marbles on that circle, while dragging a line moves marbles in that line. You start with things in a bit of a jumble and must match the pattern shown at the bottom of the screen using as few moves as possible. Also, there's a time limit. You can undo moves or reset the whole thing, but you're highly encouraged to seek out big-brained alien beings to give you a hand instead.

Ok, so Ozzle may not be as painfully difficult as we make it out to be, but there's definitely a good level of challenge here, especially since the puzzles are spatially-oriented, something you don't necessarily see that often in games. The presentation gives you this false sense of happy fun time cartoon land, but take our word for it, this is a real and serious game, and when it comes to high scores or insane levels, there's nothing bubblegum pink about Ozzle...

Play Ozzle (browser demo)

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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Brink of Consciousness: The Lonely Hearts Murders

DoraOwen Wright isn't having the best day. With the newspapers full of the gruesome murders and terrifying abductions perpetuated by the one they call "the Lonely Hearts Killer", his daughter Olivia's disappearance doesn't seem like it's going to end well. Hoping for the best but fearing the worst, he writes a letter begging help from his friend Logan, the detective in charge of the investigation into the murders. Together they set out to solve the case and hopefully bring Olivia home safely, but what's really going on here, and what's Olivia's connection to it?
Brink of Consciousness: The Lonely Hearts Murders
is a hidden-object mystery adventure from Magic Indie Softworks that's big on cinematics and dripping with noir atmosphere.

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Brink of Consciousness: The Lonely Hearts MurdersAs Owen, you play the cranky, stern stuffed-shirt Watson to detective Logan's "Never Actually Does Anything" Sherlock... sort of. The game takes place over a series of days as you struggle to find Olivia and figure out what possible connections she could have to the gruesome murders going on, since once they've been kidnapped, the victims of the Lonely Hearts Killer have 30 days before they're killed. You know, kind of like if the girl from the Ring was a whole lot lazier and into procrastination. You'll explore the city, talking to a number of individuals and looking for clues and helpful objects everywhere. And I do mean everywhere, since the residents of this quaint little Murderburg seem to have a weird tendency to hide things all over the place. Fortunately, with a map and a helpful hint button to steer you towards your next objective (all the great investigators have them), you'll never be stuck for long.

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Brink of Consciousness: The Lonely Hearts MurdersAnalysis: The Lonely Hearts Murders is one of those rare hidden-object adventures that feels like it dedicates itself to its plot more than anything else. It's all very Sherlock Holmes meets noir, with a big emphasis on atmosphere and character interaction, which means you see and speak to a lot more characters, making your investigation feel like... well... an investigation. The character models tend to look best from a distance, but the design as a whole is remarkably well done, from the artwork to the soundtrack. Heck, even the hidden-object scenes are typically easy on the eyes and fun to mess around with. Of course, you might be forgiven for thinking the game isn't exactly the most exciting experience around on first impressions, since the first two puzzles consist of finding your keys to open the door to your own house while you're still inside it, and making tea for your buddy Logan. Take my breath awaaaaaaay. Fortunately, that's just the game's awkward way of making sure you're awake, coherent, and know the basics of the gameplay.

The gameplay is as a whole both odd and somewhat... convenient at times. Objects to solve specific puzzles can sometimes be found in completely unrelated places they have no business being, and Owen gathers up so many random items to use later on you start to wonder if he's either psychic or just a hoarder. Really, Owen? What was it about that soda can tab that said, "Pick me up! I'll help you find your missing daughter!" The end result is that the game feels almost a little random, with gameplay that sometimes doesn't feel as cleverly or tightly designed as the story and setting. That's not to say it's bad... far from it, since the item usage is always mostly logical and a good chunk of the puzzles are actually fairly clever. If you're looking for a hidden-object adventure with gorgeous art, creepy intrigue, tons of fully animated and voiced characters and scenes, and the ability to rearrange a woman's shoe closet, do yourself a favour and check out the demo for Brink of Consciousness: The Lonely Hearts Murders.

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

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

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


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Rating: 4.4/5 (298 votes)
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DoraMonster DetectiveWhat do you think the worst part about being a Monster Detective is? Dealing with the actual monsters? Being constantly referred to as a low-budget Dean Winchester or Nick Burkhardt? Or the constant nagging from your mother as to when you're going to get a "real job" like her friend Marge's kid the doctor? In Pastel Games' latest point-and-click adventure, you and your scowl are called to look for a woman who's gone missing in a dingy town you soon discover has more than its share of weirdness and vanishings. Click around to talk to people, pick up items, and drag and object from your inventory to the place on the screen you want to use it, or on another item to try to combine the two. As you might expect from the spooky music and suspicious characters everywhere, nobody in this town really seems to want to help you, so you'll have to go everywhere and track down clues yourself.

This is really the sort of game where artwork just sort of seals the deal, and the fantastic black-and-white character designs and off-kilter architecture add to the sense of wrongness... in a very good way. What's nice is that items you can interact with typically stand out from their environments in a clear way that keeps you from fumbling around clicking on everything. Though you might not spot certain area transitions on your own, the changing cursor helps if you're thorough, and it helps even more that, by and large, the puzzles and item uses are all fairly logical and clear. It's not a particularly difficult game, but it might just have some of the best visual design Pastel Games has ever done, and as such provides a great, if short, moody little adventure. Sadly, since you never once refer to anyone as a "dame" or give an amusing noir narration ("His eyes were like two hard chips of public restroom wall tile"), I regret to inform you that you're probably not qualified to be a real detective, but that won't stop you from enjoying this gorgeously atmospheric case.

Play Monster Detective


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Rating: 4.6/5 (54 votes)
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TrickyDibbles 4: A Christmas CrisisWe're not entirely sure what number-th day of Christmas it is right now, but our true loves over at The Podge have given one heck of a gift to us: Dibbles 4: A Christmas Crisis. Yes, it's time to join those suicidally-dedicated bouncy bipeds as they clear a path for their king through rough terrain. You'll being seeing those little guys a-digging, a-climbing, a-blocking, a-building, a-bridging and whatever actions else needed to protect their monarch. It's Lemmings-style arcade puzzling you'll want to open right away!

Gameplay remains the same as previous installments: Using the mouse, you must help the Dibbles protect their king as he travels from the start of a level to the finish. Click the icons at the bottom of the screen, then place the action-stones in the play area. The first Dibble that encounters an action stone will perform that (usually fatal) action, clearing and modifying the terrain to protect his High Dibbliness. When a Christmas version of an established series is released, it often turns out to be a level-pack except there with more bells on the soundtrack and sprites modified to include floppy red hats. And yeah, Dibbles 4 doesn't exactly break the mold on that count. Still, it has enough refinements and features to be considered a true evolution in the series, and the careful craftsmanship of the developer is on display throughout. So with new levels, new commands, and new animated ways to kill off your squad of helpers, Dibbles 4: A Christmas Crisis, is slightly-sadistic holiday fun for the whole family.

Play Dibbles 4: A Christmas Crisis


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Link Dump Fridays

DoraWhether you're breaking the tree down out of the attic (and watch out for the spiders I promise you have made a thriving little metropolis in its dusty branches since last year), preparing for an entirely different holiday, or just kicking back for another month of simple mayhem and debauchery, this week's Link Dump Friday is for you.

Extra Credits: Combining GenresDon't You Just Perform The Fusion Dance? It isn't as easy to categorize games as it used to be. Trust us, we know. Every year as we prepare for Best of, we go back through all the articles we've published to make sure they're properly labeled and have a bunch of fights over what belongs where. The reason is relatively simple... developers are becoming more and more creative with combining genres, making games that are less "just a platformer" than ever before. It seems appropriate, then, that the brilliant folks at Extra Credits have released an episode dealing with combining genres, and, like everything they do, you should probably watch it. After all, both players and developers are constantly clamouring for innovation, but if you don't think about what you're doing and why, that way there be monsters... of the patchwork Frankenstein's sort.

The Binding of IsaacAn Extra Squishy Post-Mortem Edmund McMillen and Florian Himsl's action-roguelike The Binding of Isaac is one of the most disturbing, fleshy, and addictive experiences around, marrying simple but challenging gameplay with concepts and designs that are, uh... different. As such, any fan would do well to check out the recently released postmortem written by Edmund himself that deals with everything from where the team feels they succeeded and failed, to censorship, blasphemy... and the announcement that development has begun on The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth, a remake bound for consoles. Details are currently sketchy, although they do say one of the plans is for an overhaul of the visuals into 16-bit (which could help get the game on Nintendo's eShops) and we can only hope we get our hands on it via iOS as well, though Edmund expresses concern over how the game might control on iPad. More Isaac? We're all for it!

LA Game SpaceA Place Like Home For Indies If you love indie games and want to see even more of them, you might want to consider helping the Kickstarter for LA Game Space get off the ground. Based in Los Angeles, it plans to be a "non-profit center for video game art, design, and research", with the profits from the funding going towards the development of their physical space, where you can attend talks and other events like exhibitions, or view all of them online if you can't make it to California. What's interesting here is that donators have some pretty swank incentives. Just $5.00USD gets you an exclusive game by Keita Takahashi (creator of Katamari Damacy), while $15.00USD not only includes that, a bunch of classic indie games like Aquaria and a Christmas edition of Super Crate Box, but also a whopping 30 brand new experimental games by everyone from Hotline Miami creator Cactus to something magical from the combined talents of Adventure Time's Pen Ward and QWOP's Bennett Foddy. So... amazing free games and the opportunity to fund a place where even more can be helped to get off the ground?... am... I dead? Is this heaven?

SportsfriendsGaming With Friends Side-By-Side Multiplayer is cool and all, but while it may be harder to organise at times, there's something more infinitely satisfying about the party atmosphere you can get from local multiplayer, and Die Gute Fabrik want you to experience even more of it with their Kickstarter for Sportsfriends, a pack of four local multiplayer sports-ish games destined first for a Playstation Network release and then your humble computer (PC, Mac, or Linux.). $15.00USD gets you a copy of the game for your choice of platforms, while a whopping $60.00USD gets you an additional three unreleased games by the developers... Bennett Foddy, Noah Sasso, and Ramiro Corbetta. The games, which range from an enhanced version of PoleRiders to Johann Sebastian Joust, which has no graphics whatsoever but unspeakable levels of hilarity when played with a group of lively friends, are all perfect for a evening of rowdy fun. The downside is the initial PSN exclusivity, as well as the fact that many of these games require a controller instead of a keyboard, but if you and your friends love gaming together and competing for fun, then this is definitely a project to consider checking out.

Hotline MiamiMo' Murder? No Problem! The adrenaline-fuelled arcade action game Hotline Miami, about a man driven to horrifying acts of violence by messages he receives on his answering machine, is as disturbing as it is fun... and for a game about brutally murdering tons of people (usually in fashions that ensure no court would ever set you free), it's a lot of fun. If you're a fan, then, you may be excited to know that a sequel is already being planned. No development has begun, as the team is still working on polishing and patching the original, and though originally planned as DLC, the release wound up being so big in planned scope (as long as Hotline Miami itself) that the team feels it makes more sense to put it out as a full game instead. Sound good to you?... eh, who am I kidding, you're always looking for an excuse to take your rubber masks out of storage. Creepy, really.

Allow Natural DeathJust Got, Like, A Lot of Dust In My Eyes If you don't like to cry, you may want to avoid reading Allow Natural Death, the devastatingly honest and heart-breaking article by gamer Jenn Frank that deals with her mother's death, and how her thoughts on games (as well as her personal experience with Terry Cavanagh's Super Hexagon) impacted her thinking during that time. If you haven't finished Super Hexagon, you'll want to avoid this since it has spoilers about the end of the game, but Jenn's beautiful writing and heartfelt sincerity as she lets us into this incredibly painful and intimate moment in her life, painted through snapshots of her life, is worth reading. Strictly game related? Not necessarily. But I figure every now and then we could all use some reminding that the people on the other side of the flashing lights, sounds, and lines of code that we enjoy have hearts that beat like ours, and things like these bind us all together in unexpected ways.

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: 4.1/5 (179 votes)
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100 Doors 2013

JohnB100 Doors 2013 is a new point and click escape game for mobile devices created by Gipnetix Games. Like the handful of similarly titled games before it (100 Lights, Doors & Rooms, DOOORS), 100 Doors 2013 puts you in a series of single-room stages with one goal: open the elevator and get to the next floor. Sure, you'll be trapped as soon as you step out, but you never know, there might be something cool waiting for you at the end. We hear test subjects are often promised cake in these situations.

100 Doors 2013100 Doors 2013 utilizes the out of the box approach to puzzle solving, encouraging you to use your mobile device's special features to coax out some of the solutions. Can't figure out how to break the window that holds the exit key? Maybe if you tilted your phone a rock would come rolling along. Or maybe you'll just look like a weirdo. Who cares, you've got puzzles to solve! Most of the time you'll be on a quest to discover a keypad combination, but other times it's as simple as getting the door to open by brute force.

At the time of reviewing, 100 Doors 2013 comes with 40 levels to complete, with free weekly updates promised for the future. None of the stages are too challenging, which is sort of a letdown, and the game trips over its own code sometimes, so it's not a perfect experience from beginning to end. But there's enough content to keep you busy for a while, and it certainly does a good job scratching that room escape itch. Sometimes that's all you need!

NOTE: This game was played and reviewed on a Nexus 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 4.1/5
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Rating: 4.1/5 (50 votes)
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TrickyDoors: Out of OfficePerhaps stepping into that forbidden door of mystery science wasn't such a smart idea. In Dave's defense, though, it was 4:59 PM on a Friday, and he was in no mood to let Da Boss ruin his weekend. Still, if Dave can't figure out a way through all these doors, then he can kiss his weekend goodbye just the same! Now if only the gravity would stay straight! Doors: Out of Office is a puzzle platformer by Arctic Arcade, where every threshold crossing promises to turn reality upside-down.

In each level move and jump with the [arrow] keys. When you see a door, you can enter it with the [spacebar], and will exit from its matching pair in another part of the level. However, if that door happens to be on, say, the ceiling or the walls, gravity will shift as you come out the other side and the screen will rotate to demonstrate. Some doors will require key cards to get through. Watch out for unstable blocks that will crumble when you walk on top of them, and those deadly looking spikes. There will also be guards searching for you. While getting caught by them is game over, they will fall victim to your shifts of gravity and can be great for activating a button. Buttons in the lower will zoom the camera in and out. Entering the exit door completes the level, of which there are twenty-four in all. Though from a different genre, Doors: Out of Office is somewhat reminiscent of the classic Chip's Challenge. It has the same overall mellow vibe and humor, and puzzles based around objects following a sets defined rules and how they interact with each other. The game could probably use a better sense of perspective: zooming too far in means you won't see the whole level and the implications of all its rotations, but zooming too far out means you lose some of the quirkier scenery details (making it all a little gray) and Dave become a tad more difficult to control. Still, Doors: Out of Office is intelligent platforming that should make the work day pass that much quicker.

Play Doors: Out of Office


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Rating: 4.1/5 (101 votes)
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DoraEvilgeddon Spooky MaxWhen there's somethin' strange in the neighbourhood, who ya gonna call?!... well, uh. Apparently nobody, since you're all by yourself in Firebeast's arcade shooter Evilgeddon Spooky Max when an evil force takes over and floods the streets with monsters. Armed only with your trusty peashooter and whatever weapons the baddies helpfully (though perplexingly) drop on death, you'll have to grind your way through dangerous locations filled with waves of monsters, dealing with the baddest boss in each one, before you finally get to set things right once and for all. Use the [WASD] keys to move, the mouse to aim and shoot, and [spacebar] to cycle through your available weapons.

Each stage will release various ghouls at you in waves, and if you survive 'til the end, you can take a crack at the boss. Avoid blasting any ghosts, since they'll drop supplies to you if you touch them. Die, and, well... just try again. Between stages, you can visit the upgrade shop to spend the coins you earn increasing your arsenal, or stars, which are granted for completing special objectives and leveling up, to make the hero himself stronger. It's the sort of game you'd call "grind-tastic", and whether that's a nail in the coffin depends on if you enjoy the sort of achievement-driven gameplay and the repetition of guzzling coins 'til you're buff enough to proceed. It's worth mentioning that I occasionally seemed to encounter "sticky" terrain when moving and I would appear to get hung up on invisible objects, though immediately tapping the movement key again would fix it. It's a simple game that could have done with some more instruction in some areas, but has a great, smile-inducing quirky design. What makes a hero? Not muscles or great one liners. It's all about the hair, man, and the courage to wear your sunglasses at night.

Play Evilgeddon Spooky Max


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Hidden Doodles

JohnBOh, now, where'd that smiling stump with the spectacles go? It was just there but now... Anyway, you've got three other weirdo creatures to find, and Hidden Doodles isn't going to slow down so you can take in the scenery. A hidden object game without all the story or adventure elements, Hidden Doodles from Invedars is similar to Little Things Forever releases, dropping you into level after level of crowded scenes filled with some amazingly creative drawings. Take your entire comic book collection, tear it up (please don't, not really), put it in a blender (don't!), then arrange everything on the table and try to find Superman with Bart Simpson's head. That's Hidden Doodles in a nutshell, and you're going to love it.

Hidden DoodlesSimplicity is the name of the game. Choose from arcade, mission and versus modes, the former serving as an endless find-a-thon (complete with exploding spike bombs) and the latter a two player simultaneous competitive object finding extravaganza. Mission mode contains most of the meat, and it's here that you'll complete level after level of quick doodle finding. At the start of each stage you are shown as many as four characters. Memorize them. When you're ready, tap the window away and start hunting. A timer counts how long you spend staring at the scene, and incorrect taps take away one life apiece. The goal is to be as fast and accurate as you can, earning better times and more stars for your efforts.

Hidden Doodles looks phenomenal, and you'll kind of want to sit and stare at the screen just to take in all the details (how can a roll of toilet paper cry, anyway?). But you've got things to find and high scores to trounce, so there's no time to waste. Hidden Doodles may not have as much variety as some games, but it's great fun in short bursts and even better with a friend!

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 (323 votes)
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DoraLucky Tower 2I know they say clothes make the man, but if teeth have anything to do with it, the flaxen-haired hero of Lucky Tower 2 is as manly as they come. In this sequel to Exotworking's original action platforming adventure, Von Wanst is still searching for glory. When his fellow hero Damokles meets... uh... an unfortunate end, Von Wants gets an opportunity to go on a quest for the king that sounds easy enough, but you forget that Our Hero isn't exactly operating on all four cylinders. Probably because the other two are all gummed up with sheer manliness. Like... sports and... meat... and stuff. Guy things.

Move with the [arrow] keys, jump with [A], attack with [S], and while tapping the down [arrow] will cause Von Wanst to block, tapping up lets you interact with things and pick stuff open. Hit [Q] to open your... quest hand... to keep track of what you should be doing, and [D] to open your inventory where you can click and drag items to use or equip them. Your health is represented by the gleaming teeth in the bottom left corner, so try not to get busted up too badly. Alas, if only you weren't so punchable! It seems like the moment Von Wanst steps out the castle gates, everything wants a piece of him, but if you're willing to dust up anything that takes a swing at you, you'll earn gold you can spend on everything from hats, to more teeth (ew), and better equipment. Like pillows. And dead fish on sticks.

While the original Lucky Tower was a fun but relatively straight-forward game that relied heavily on gags and a sense of quirky charm, Lucky Tower 2 is a much more fleshed out beast. It feels more like an adventure, with a bunch of side-quests to complete and places to explore, and a whole bunch of weird characters to meet. The work that's gone into it, from the voice acting to crafting a whole new adventure, means Lucky Tower 2 is one of those rare sequels where it really seems like a big step up from its roots. You could argue, of course, that the simplistic, slapstick nature of the original was what made it great, and certainly the combat on display here is more than a little dull, but Lucky Tower 2 makes up for it in variety. Use elaborate, silly sign-language to help someone cheat at cards. Defend your beauty secrets from bandits. Go spelunking in crystal caverns full of goblins and sea monsters. Despite the tedious combat, Lucky Tower 2's gorgeously silly sense of whimsy makes this one brave knight worth spending some time with if you're a fan of ridiculousness, dental work, and hats. Lots of hat.s

Play Lucky Tower 2


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Rating: 4.1/5 (50 votes)
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MeaghanEffing Worms XmasSanta may be delayed this year in dropping off presents for everyone. The North Pole is being attacked by a giant worm that is determined to destroy Mr. Claus and his holly jolly Christmas helpers. Get into the anti-holiday spirit with Effing Games arcade action game Effing Worms Xmas. Using your [WASD] or [arrow] keys you will guide your hungry worm under Santa's snow covered workshop with the occasional leap above the ground to munch on a delicious elf or reindeer, maybe even a bunny. Your health meter is at the bottom and you will need to keep eating to stay alive. Your goal for each level is located above the health bar on the left side and after each level you will be given two upgrades to choose from to bolster the defenses of your beast.

It's safe to say that Effing Worms isn't the type of game that will require intense focus and well thought out attack maneuvers. The game dynamics aren't drastically different from its predecessor but who needs innovation when you have havoc to wreak? There's a possibility of your worm getting too big and obscuring your view, but this can be easily avoided by devouring just enough to complete each level. What's best about this game is that it's a wonderful counter to all the holiday cheer you can expect to be shoved down your throat. Here's your chance to get payback on Santa for never bringing you that Red Ryder BB gun because you "might shoot your eye out". LIES!

Play Effing Worms Xmas


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Rating: 4.5/5 (119 votes)
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Weekday Escape

elleThere is a growing trend in room escape games as of late: be minimal, focus on puzzles not decor. The Puritan approach, perhaps? Delving into the essence of a good escape might reveal much more than a few cleverly construed puzzles, but no escape could exist without them. So if we're going to be poking around in starkly furnished, nearly naked rooms, then it's always a welcome sight to see Tesshi-e at the party. As it turns out, an Escape from the Room with No Furniture can be just as full of Mild Escape goodness as any, more dressed-up offering.

Escape from the Room with No FurnitureSome things never change—because "he" is rearranging his room and has taken out all the furniture, it happened to be the perfect opportunity to revamp it for a new escape. And, of course, you can't resist the challenge. Your first look around the plain walls and floors, though, might not turn up much help. Just a locked door... Hmmm. Do a little more prodding about and soon you'll notice slight visual clues to send you forward with puzzles popping out all over; you'll be unlocking the code to one hidden niche while garnering clues for opening the next. In the usual Tesshi-e fashion, you don't get the added help of a changing cursor yet attention to details and the narrative hints should be all you need to make your way through the exit, even stumbling upon a "Happy Coin" along the way.

If Escape from the Room with No furniture proves anything new, it's not so much that looks can be deceiving; that's already been well established. Instead, although the characteristic Tesshi-e charisma still comes across in every way, from the opening sequence to the congratulatory light meal in the end, a significant part of Tesshi-e's charm comes from the kitschy furnishings and quirky interior decor. When they're gone, the result is a little less fun. The dull scenery just seems a bit... sad. There are a few other minor changes that are not really improvements as much as they're just different. Different is okay sometimes, yet you know how it is when your friend gets a new hair style and it just doesn't quite look like her? It takes some getting used to. But getting away from the trivial complaints, there is one puzzle/task in particular that was not handled as well as you'd expect from this designer so I'll leave you with this: if you think you know the solution to something, but it doesn't quite work, try it from a different perspective. Or maybe it's just me? Regardless of any nitpicking, Escape from the Room with No Furniture continues the trend of whimsically amusing romps we've come to count on from Tesshi-e, even without the fancy get ups.

Play Escape from the Room with No Furniture


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Rating: 4.3/5 (35 votes)
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ArtbegottiSwindler 2When there's a treasure chest of goodies waiting to be pilfered, there's no better way to pull off your heist than by dropping in on a cord and nabbing the loot while hanging from the ceiling. It also helps if you can bounce around like a ball and flip the entire world upside down. The world's slyest slimeball returns in Swindler 2, a follow-up to Nitrome's Swindler released earlier this year. Your green thief wants to collect the treasure chest at the end of each level, but you'll have to dangle your way through a maze of vicious enemies and unforgiving spikes to get there. This physics puzzler takes a fresh twist when you gain the ability to let go of the rope!

As before, you can raise or lower Swindler on his cord with the up and down [arrow] keys. Swindler always dangles with gravity, so to go around a bend, you can use the left and right [arrow] keys to rotate the world around your current position. Occasionally, you may need to pick up a boulder or bomb using the [spacebar]. However, in certain levels, you will be able to grab onto a hook, detach yourself from your cord, and roll freely around the room until you find another hook. Swindler doesn't like being unattached though, so you'll have to hook up again quickly or roll into a green slimeball to prolong your run.

In these 25 new levels, you've still got to find a way to the treasure chest hidden in each level, wrapping yourself around corners as you go. Some doors may need to be opened by pressing buttons, either by holding them down with your cord or getting an enemy to press them for you. As a rule of thumb, always try to avoid anything orange or yellow, as they tend to mean quick captures for your fiendish friend. Swindler 2 is also the first new game to be compatible with Touchy, a premium mobile app that lets you play some Nitrome games in your browser using your device as a controller. In this case, the ability to tilt your device to rotate the screen is a very natural fit for the game, and the large on-screen buttons give you comfortable control when raising or lowering yourself along the cord. Like other Nitrome sequels, you may notice that the difficulty level ramps up somewhat quickly (as though it's to be assumed that you've played the prequels), but don't let this stop you from jumping in right now and discovering the twisted world of the evergreen bandit.

Play Swindler 2

Thanks to Donald for sending this one in!


  • Currently 4.1/5
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Rating: 4.1/5 (34 votes)
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TrickyNotebook Wars 3: UnleashedGotta say. As fun as the game is, you have to believe that Francisco Ferreres missed a prime opportunity with his newest installment in everyone's favorite loose-leaf shooter series. True, Notebook Wars 3: Unleashed features twenty brand new levels of vertical-scrolling action, and kicks the speed and challenge up considerably. But what the heck's up with that subtitle? Surely they could have come up with a paper-based pun to kick off the proceedings! How about Notebook Wars 3: Marginalized? Or Notebook Wars 3: Hole Puncher? It's a good thing that the game so begs to be played, since this reviewer could be here all day making suggestions.

Play all the Notebook Wars games:
Notebook WarsNotebook Wars 2Notebook Wars 3Notebook Wars 3: Unleashed

Fly and fire by moving and clicking the mouse, or, if you prefer, with the [WASD] keys, with [K] for shooting. Whether keyboard or mousing, you'll still use [E] to drop screen-clearing bombs and [F] to turn on autofire. Controls are re-mappable. Defeat enemies and pick up coins to be spent between levels for upgrading your plane. Each level features Easy, Frenetic, and Hard modes, and achievements can be unlocked for success on all three levels of difficulty. While Notebook Wars 3: Unleashed is definitely an expansion pack rather than an entirely new feeling game, it's a well-thought out one with new features are nicely integrated into the existing game. Sure, it kinda boils down to new levels, gameplay improvement and more polish, but the overall course of the series has always been the continued refinement of the killer idea at its core: taking the sketchy warfare pencil doodles of classrooms everywhere, and bringing them to life. Since Notebook Wars 3: Unleashed keeps doing that, and doing it well, it should keep players quite happy.

Play Notebook Wars 3 Unleashed


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The Vault

DoraRemember when RPGs were, you know, role playing games? Games about deep stories, playing a role, and having ridiculous hairstyles with really big swords. These days, it's popular for games of all kinds to slap in an experience point/levelling system and call themselves an RPG for it. Don't worry, this isn't a purist rant, just an observation of changing times and evolving genres. When you're old and decrepit and subsisting entirely on Wurther's Originals and angry letters to magazines, what will kids then consider an RPG? Here are three games that take on the moniker in a variety of different ways.

  • Elona ShooterElona Shooter - Noa's defense game leans more towards the "RPG elements" end of the genre spectrum, but manages to provide enough of them in such a way that they feel integral to the system rather than tacked on to appease those of us who aren't interested unless we see a progress bar going up somewhere. You, a "famed officer", are in charge of defending a castle against incoming enemies, and in addition to using your own trusty rifle to shoot manually, you can recruit and train various soldiers to help you. With tons of unlockables, upgrades, equipment and more, Elona Shooter is story-lite and yet still intensely addictive in that "one more level" way the very best combat-oriented RPGs can be.
  • Ge.ne.sisGe.ne.sis - With a heavy anime/JRPG sense of style and flair, An Lieu's turn-based strategic RPG adventure about a surly young woman who finds herself pulled into another world and wrapped up in an enormous conflict between good and evil because of course she is. The game has a fantastic sense of elaborate, surreal design, and fans of turn-based RPGs that rely more on planning and tactics than simply taking it in turns to whack an enemy upside the head will find a lot to love here, especially if they're looking for something vibrant and immersive.
  • CastawayCastaway - Likwid's beautiful, colourful action RPG series has always been popular, and there's good reason for that. As the title implies, you wash up on the shore of an island under siege by monsters and set out to save the day, finding and raising monsters to help you along the way. It's an absolutely gorgeous experience that isn't without a few bumps in the road, but is an absolutely fantastic example of how story-lite RPGs can still be addictive and accessible, and provide a ton of gameplay right in your browser... for free!

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


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Rating: 4.6/5 (36 votes)
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QatQi

JohnBQatQi is like Scrabble with fewer letters and a much more pressing size constraint. The unique word puzzle game from ZWorkBench gives you a small handful of letters, each with its own value, and sets you in front of a small board and tells you "Go forth! Spell!" The catch is you must use all of the letters in order to pass the stage (some children don't have the luxury of wasting letters, you know), forcing frequent use of the undo button when you can't seem to get it just right. If you're both lucky and possess an unusually lush vocabulary, you might just find yourself on QatQi's high score board!

QatQiThe main constricting factors in QatQi are the limited letter availability and the awkward shapes of the board. When you place a letter you can only put subsequent letters on adjacent spaces, meaning you often need to work backwards or from the inside-out. You'll often find yourself spelled into a corner, as well, and QatQi doesn't give you too many options to rearrange the board. It takes a lot of strategy to cram a few dozen tiles into a grid that is barely larger than that, but that's what the undo button is for! You have a generous number of takebacks that automatically refill from time to time, but in case you're stuck, there's always the option of nabbing extras via in-app purchases.

QatQi works on a weekly puzzle basis, unleashing new boards and letter arrangements for each day of the week, slowly increasing in difficulty until you give up and go read the dictionary on Sunday. Previous puzzles are available in the wheel-like main menu screen, but you'll have to unlock them first! The game keeps track of a ton of stats, as well, making you feel sort of like a word puzzle science experiment banging around in the test chamber with letter blocks in your hand. But it all adds to the long term appeal of the game, encouraging you to keep spelling week after week, just to see what happens next.

QatQi provides more than enough in terms of gameplay and challenge to keep you coming back for more. It fits along just fine with the best word games on the mobile market, including Letterpress, Puzzlejuice, and W.E.L.D.E.R.. Now if only there were more two letter English words that involved the letter J...

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 (294 votes)
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TrickyEarn To Die 2012At the end of the original Earn to Die, our hero had thought he was off on his way to salvation. Unfortunately, it seems he forgot to check his gas gauge and there are still zombies in his way. On the bright side, he has a whole new fleet of vehicles to customize and a whole mess of undead out there to introduce to his tire treads. Earn to Die 2012 is an update to Toffee Games arcade-style hit, and has all the post-apocalyptic stunt action you could hope for, without the danger of infected bites.

Gameplay is simplicity itself with the [arrow] keys: driving your vehicle, pressing up to accelerate, down to brake, and left/right to tilt yourself, try to get as far as you can through each of the various levels, plowing through obstacles and zombies alike. The further you get and the more undead you squash, the more cash you will earn. This cash will then be spent on buying new vehicles and upgrades at the garage between levels. Undoubtedly the main purpose of Earn To Die 2012 is to better align the browser version of the game with the features found in the enhanced mobile version. This should be appreciated by those who, like our reviewer, haven't yet bothered to switch from the hilariously tiny Pantech C300 you got back in 2005. That means new levels, new enemies, and new vehicles, though, of course, not as much as the cool kids have on their phones and iPads. But hey, one can't begrudge game developers the need to eat and, in any case, Earn to Die 2012 undeniably brings the crate-crunching, zombie-smushing enjoyment of the original.

Play Earn To Die 2012


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Rating: 4.6/5 (1239 votes)
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KimberlyWrestle JumpThere's a part inside every one of us that, on occasion, just wants to smack someone's head to the ground. Otto Ojala has made this possible (in a safe a civilized manner) in his entertaining one or two player fighting game Wrestle Jump. And with only one button to push, the game is a cinch to learn.

At the start of each round, two burly men in Mexican wrestler attire are locked in battle. Push the up [arrow] on your keyboard to kick your leg against the arena floor to try to throw your opponent's head to the ground or wall. Your leg always points toward the ground (apparently these men are contortionists on the side), so even if your head looks guaranteed to smack the earth, there is a chance to save yourself. You play several rounds, with the arena changing each time, until one person fills up their star meter. At this point that player wins the game. If you like a little more variation in your arenas, or a set number of rounds isn't enough for you, head to the options menu. There you can turn on ice arenas or endless mode. Whether you are playing solo, or beating up your best friend or co-worker, Wrestle Jump will have you laughing and shouting "take that, you mask wearing fool!" in no time.

Play Wrestle Jump


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Mobile Monday

JohnBThis week's edition of Mobile Monday is like a soap opera! What we mean is Mobile Monday's long lost identical twin recently came to town and tried to seduce Mobile Monday's husband. What happened? You'll have to wait for the next episode! Gasp and shock and awe!

hp-v.jpgPrince Harry nude in a mobile game? - Set to launch in December, Hotel Vegas is a Tiny Tower meets time management game starring fake celebrities (Arnold Governator, anyone?) who depend on you to keep things running smoothly so their lives are as glamorous and private as they expect. Problem is, the game has just been banned in the UK for depicting Prince Harry wearing little more than a smile. Developer Tagplay has remarked that the game simply will not be released in the UK, with no mention of changing the content to appease the powers that be. It could be an interesting launch when it hits everywhere but the UK in mid-December. Ooh, the drama!

cro-p.jpgMore Chaos Rings for Android! - Square Enix brings another of its massive console-sized RPGs to mobile devices, this time it's the previously iOS-exclusive Chaos Rings Omega hopping on over to Android! The game presents a traditional role playing world not unlike the PlayStation era of RPGs, only, you know, on that tiny device you own that does everything from play games to make phone calls. Just a few weeks ago the studio released the original Chaos Rings on the same marketplace, so with any luck, simultaneous releases on the major mobile platforms will eventually be the norm.

gtavc-p.jpgGrand Theft Auto coming to iOS and Android - With the brand new Grand Theft Auto V looming over the horizon, Rockstar Games recently announced Vice City will see a mobile release in the first week of December, in all its random car crashing glory! It's kind of amazing to see games as massive and complex as the GTA series on portable devices. Just a few years ago, we game playing people might have balked at the very notion! But hey, it's the future and all, so let's stop complaining and just play!

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


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Rating: 4.8/5 (22 votes)
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Scribblenauts Unlimited

JohnBScribblenauts Unlimited is a new and improved release in the Scribblenauts line from 5th Cell Media. Giving you the power to create objects at will, you embark on a quest to bring happiness to the world, helping people in need by granting them objects from your magic notebook. That's all fine and good and such, but the fact of the matter is you can create just about anything you want, so while that pedestrian is in dire need of a glass of water, wouldn't it be so much more fun to give her a gigantic angry flying shark instead?

Scribblenauts UnlimitedMaxwell and his sister Lily have a great little life. Their parents were adventurers who made Indiana Jones look like a desk jockey, but after they retired they settled down to have a few (dozen) kids. Among their treasures was a notebook that would create anything its user wrote inside. For some reason they thought it would be a good idea to give it to Maxwell, and of course he went out and messed with a poor beggar who immediately cast a spell on Lily, slowly turning her to stone. In order to break the curse, Maxwell must seek out starites, little star-like things that are produced anytime someone is extremely happy. Time to whip out the cute kitten pictures!

Even though Scribblenauts Unlimited is billed as a redemption quest, it's still the same old Scribblenauts we love, with some fantastic added extras. The traditional map-based level system has been replaced with a more world-based method, allowing you to travel around town and countryside helping random folks on the street. The new starite vision lets you check out people in need, and once you're ready for a more frantic challenge, you can head into the game's numerous sub-areas where you'll have fast-draw problems waiting to be conquered!

Scribblenauts UnlimitedAnalysis: Structurally more organic and featuring every parser improvement from Scribblenauts Remix, Scribblenauts Unlimited is bigger and better than its predecessors in every way. It sports the tagline "Create anything. Edit everything.", not so subtly hinting at its biggest and bestest new feature: the object editor. With this fancy piece of software you can customize and craft anything that comes to mind, altering both the visual appearances and rule set for every object. Ever wanted to take a toaster, paint it green, and attach a giant brownie to the side? Do it! Want to make said toaster become angry when it sees an invisible sleeping bat? Do that, too!

Scribblenauts UnlimitedComing from the other Scribblenauts games, it's kind of difficult getting used to the new mapless level system. It offers a great many new challenges both large and small, but something about the one puzzle per stage setup worked really well for the series. Starite vision is a bit clumsy, and the puzzles it presents are usually super easy to complete, so the advantages an exploration-based level system could have had feel sacrificed for the sake of making the game friendlier for a younger audience.

Scribblenauts Unlimited is a logical progression for the series, introducing the ability to actually edit in-game objects as well as increasing the puzzles and challenges before you. It's not as organized or even as challenging as previous releases, but to have that magic notebook in your hands once again is a great feeling!

WindowsWindows:
Get the full version (via Steam)

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


  • Currently 3.3/5
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Rating: 3.3/5 (131 votes)
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TrickySoccer Balls 2Let's face it. There is a significant chunk of people out there who probably consider watching a soccer game less interesting than spending an equal amount of time arguing about its name. Presumably, when TurboNuke was developing its recently released physics puzzler, Soccer Balls 2 they tried to determine what features could be added to bring non-believers into the fold: things like crazily uneven turf, cannons randomly sprinkled about the field, and making bopping people in the face with the ball an encouraged, nay, required aspect. And you know what? It's a lot of fun! So, uh, take note, FIFA.

Move the mouse to determine your kick's power and direction, and click to launch the ball. Unlike the original, players must be cognizant both of the bopping of refs and scoring of goals, and the level will only end when all refs have been bopped and a ball placed in every goal. Most levels will also feature teammates you can pass the ball to, switches with various functions activated when hit, ball-launching cannons, and moveable bits of scenery, especially giant soccer balls (which can also be used for goal scoring or ref boppage). [F] can be pressed to fast-forward through a level, if it looks like the ball will be, say, moving down a slope reeeeeeally slowly. Stars are awarded for beating a level in a certain number of kicks, and the coins you can collect in each level can be used to unlock new avatars and game modes. Soccer Balls 2 is a true sequel, both expanding the concept of the original while refining all that was good. Admittedly, sometimes the "soccer" bits feel a little tacked on (as if only included to give the game wider appeal), but fans of the uniqueness of the first installment should enjoy the continuation, and those new to the series will find it easy to pick up. As for this review... Do you think it's all over? It is now!

Play Soccer Balls 2


  • Currently 4.7/5
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Rating: 4.7/5 (29 votes)
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Bloons TD 5

MeaghanNot sure you were aware of this, but balloons have some friends that appear to be a thorn in the side for the world's monkey population: bloons. The bloons never diminish in number no matter how many bloons-related games are released, and the air-filled fiends are still going strong in Ninjakiwi's Bloons Tower Defense 5 for iOS devices. In this tower defense strategy game, it's time for you to prove that you paid just enough attention in history class to know how to place troops but not enough to hinder your gaming expertise!

Bloons TD 5The mechanics for the mobile version are the same as the browser game. Your job is to stop the bloons from reaching the end of each map by placing towers on the map in strategic locations. The amount of lives you start with, the price of towers and their upgrades, which maps are available, and the ferocity of the bloons are all determined by the difficulty you choose. To place a tower on the map just tap the tower you want then drag it to the spot you want it to stand guard. The longer you have a tower on the map the more experience it will earn, leading to different upgrade paths you can choose from to create bigger, badder, faster, more bloon-destroying monkeys than ever before!

There are a few additions to the mobile version, most notably a new tower and two special agents. There's also a monkey lab where you can purchase further upgrades to help facilitate victory. Fans of the browser version will be pleased to find the mobile release is as great, if not better than the previous release, and the best part is that you can enjoy a round or two in between classes, on a break from work, or even at three in the morning when you can't seem to entice Mr. Sandman to help you sleep.

Play Bloons TD 5 (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.


(10 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Death Upon an Austrian Sonata: A Dana Knightstone Novel

MeaghanFeel like an inexpensive trip to Austria? Maybe you're craving a tragic mystery that needs unraveling? Boomzap has returned with a new installment in the hidden object puzzle mystery adventure Dana Knightstone series: Death Upon an Austrian Sonata: A Dana Knightstone Novel! With a sprinkling of romance gone wrong thrown in, this is already shaping up to be a great romp into the European countryside.

Death Upon an Austrian Sonata: A Dana Knightstone NovelMs. Knightstone, world renowned author, has long been gifted with the ability to see ghosts. As such she is often tasked with setting right whatever devastating wrongs occurred to tie the ghosts to the mortal realm. Much to her surprise, Dana receives a letter from her cousin claiming that he is afflicted with the same ability and is being visited by the silent, sorrowful and beautiful ghost of a famous violinist. Without hesitation Dana sets off to meet with her cousin, help the ghost move on, and possibly get the plot for her next best seller. What Dana isn't aware of is that there are others interested in the mysteries of the deceased musician, and unlike Dana, their motives aren't as benevolent.

There are three difficulty levels to choose from: casual, advanced, and hardcore, all of which will determine how swift your progression through the game will be. No matter what difficulty you choose hidden object scenes will never sparkle and are instead layered through the game like any other object that must be investigated. In puzzles there is no blatant explanation but if you need an overview then all you need do is hover over parts of the puzzle to be given detail on what you need to solve. The inventory bar is constantly available, there is a generous hint button, and there is a journal that will keep track of all vital information obtained. Your cursor will change when hovering over interactive items in the scenery allowing you to more easily achieve your goals for each chapter.

The lush scenery will easily draw any individual, old fan or new, into the sleuthing fray. What will keep you there is the fast paced adventure teamed up with a loveable protagonist aiming to help at all costs, despite constant danger to her own safety. The icing on the cake that will have you wanting another release in the series (and soon!) is the thrilling story, light but fun puzzles, and the pleasing combination of crafty game play and feel good story resolution. To put it in plain terms: this is a game worth your recognition and favor.

A Collector's Edition is also available. It contains bonus content, an 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


(3 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Sugar Cube: Bittersweet Factory

JohnBHave you ever stopped to think about the little cubes of sugar you put in your tea? Like, maybe they don't really appreciate being dropped into scalding hot liquid? Sugar Cube: Bittersweet Factory is a creative puzzle platform game from TurtleCream that tells the story of one little sugar cube that wasn't too keen on the idea of being put into baked goods. Eyeing a method of escaping the factory, he hops from the conveyor belt and begins his escape, one stage at a time.

Sugar Cube: Bittersweet FactorySugar Cube controls like most platform games with simple walking and jumping commands, but with its unique tile-flipping feature, you'll have a tricky time doing either of those things reliably. The world is divided into a tiled grid, from background elements to just about every solid object you see. Move across a grid space and the tile will flip over, often revealing different elements on the reverse side. Platforms disappear, blocks materialize, springboards vanish and morph each time you cross their paths. It's chaos, but a controllable chaos, which is where Sugar Cube gets its delightful puzzle elements from.

Instead of randomly running through stages hoping you'll make it to the exit, you can press and hold the [shift] key to prevent tiles from flipping as you go by. This means you have a bit of control over what happens when you move, though exerting that control is an exercise in speed, timing, and luck. One wrong move and you'll be powdered sugar. Which, we assume, is analogous to being dead.

Sugar Cube: Bittersweet FactoryAnalysis: Sugar Cube is a good mix of puzzles and classic platformer accuracy. Half the time you're fretting over whether or not you can make that jump up ahead, while the other half is spent wondering how on Earth you're supposed to cross the screen with those flipping tiles everywhere. Experimentation goes a long way, especially since you usually can't see what's on the reverse of a tile, and even when you die, you're not really punished, making it a very forgiving sort of game.

Sugar Cube is a bit of a short game by indie standards, featuring around four hours of gameplay from start to finish. It doesn't feel too short, nor does it drag on in later levels, it's just the right length to play out every tile-flipping mechanic the designers could think of. Enemies and boss battles spice things up a bit, but otherwise it's just you and a fevered escape from the conveyor belts.

A simple premise executed with charm and style, Sugar Cube: Bittersweet Factory is a little bit of unique platform gaming that's a great play from start to finish.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo (scroll down for links)
Get the full version (scroll down for links)

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 (98 votes)
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MeaghanHumbug 2Before you get your hopes up, this is not a game made by Ebenezer Scrooge no matter how much you may be preparing for a visit from some specters ready to make you humble. Humbug 2 is in fact made by the evil genius of PixelContinuous. That's right, the quirky puzzle platformer that warps the logic of video games is now a trilogy with that rascal thief Ziggy out to get his ultimate prize: a crown. Navigate the convict with the [WASD] or [arrow] keys. Pause with [Q] and restart with [R] and alter your power with the [1] and [2] buttons. To interact with items hit the [spacebar] and prepare for cryptic hints on how to figure out each level as well as items that need to be collected if you want a special ending.

If you're familiar with Humbug and the follow up, Humbugger, you're aware of the fact that the puzzles are not only bizarre but scoff at the idea of "normal." Ziggy, for instance, can pause the game... and then keep moving himself, allowing him to "cheat" the typical rules of game logic in order to get past challenges. This is a great thing when looking for a game that will challenge you to think outside of the box and keep surprising you with each new level. The puzzles and platform challenges are generously balanced so that you get a healthy amount of both. There's still the difficulty with one hit deaths and sluggish movement but neither of those poison the well that is an innovative and unconventional diamond of a game.

Play Humbug 2


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

DoraConsidering Slender's breakout success as the fastest way to regress to "monsters in your closet are REAL", it takes considerable guts to release your own version and call it "The Real Slender Game", but that's exactly what ParanormalDev, the makers of the free indie first-person horror adventure Haunt have done. Things are looking bad for you right off the bat when you awaken in a mysterious, rainy forest at twilight with no knowledge of where you are or how you got there, and you've got no choice but to follow a nearby posted map and hope it leads you to someone who can help you. Of course, the even worse news is that there's something in the gloom with you whose definition of "help" means "destroy your sanity as it hunts you and then do unspeakable things when it finally catches up with you". And with night falling and only a flashlight as your guide, it's not looking good. Man. The outdoors sucks.

HauntUse the mouse to look around, [WASD] to move (holding [shift] to sprint), and [tab] to open your folder to view the documents you collect. [E] interacts with things, [F] turns your flashlight on and off, and you can use your mouse's scroll wheel to change the intensity of the beam. (And if you want to play in windowed mode, hit [ALT] and [Enter].) As you explore looking for help, you'll find documents and photos laying around that you can collect, as well as keys to open doors and batteries to keep your flashlight bright. The area you find yourself lost in is fairly large, but depending on the difficulty setting you've chosen, you can find park maps throughout the area that will serve as handy reference points as to where you are and what's around you. Of course, not everything is on the map, and if you really want to uncover the mystery you'll have to venture off the beaten path. Watch the skyline for changing shadows and you might be lead to something... interesting. Oh, don't be a baby. When was the last time anything horrible and mentally scarring ever happened to someone who wandered off into the woods at night?

In a lot of ways, in its current incarnation Haunt is almost best described as "Slender, but fancier". It's sort of like those old teenage dramadies where the nerdy guy goes away for summer and comes back a tanned, golden-maned god. Clearly the team behind this has a lot of talent, and the game looks stunning as a result, apart from the sickening "my legs are made of slinkies" lurching the camera does when you run and the "am I being electrocuted?" flash that oddly represents lightning. It takes a while for anything to really happen, but the atmosphere is so dark and disorienting that your tension only increases with each passing second because you know what's inevitably coming... just not when and how. Of course, the "when" might be a bit too far away for some players, but bear in mind your danger here depends on the progress you make and the things you do. Whether its actually scarier than Slender is largely going to be a matter of personal taste, since Haunt has such a drastically different presentation.

HauntThough Haunt shares gameplay almost identical to Slender, largely coming down to trying to collect all the things you can before You Know Who gets ya, it feels more like a complete adventure. It's a lot more intriguing because it does a better job of leading you by the nose towards the promised payoff of a story, but the writing is a little stilted and bland. The potential danger of providing a backstory to a monster like Slender is ruining a lot of that terrifying ambiguity and sense of the unknown that makes the horror so much sharper, and Haunt's exposition and concept might be a little trite for some. Of course, since the game is still only in Beta and the developer promises to flesh it out even further beyond "get stuff, try not to die", all this could change eventually. Literally, since they've promised to pull out all references to the iconic creature if "anyone manages to prove ownership".

In a way, I almost hope this happens, since Haunt feels like it would be a stronger experience overall if it weren't deliberately reinterpreting an already established game and creature. There's so much more room for creativity and freedom when you're working with your own ideas, and the team is clearly talented enough that they could pull off a frightening experience with its own mythos. As it stands, ParanormalDev's "we don't care" attitude combined with calling their work "the real Slender game" might leave too much of a sour taste in some player's mouths, even though they've said they meant it as "a more fleshed out game with Slenderman" rather than implying it was the definitive and only true Slenderman title. For the work of three people in two weeks, Haunt is still a pretty impressive achievement that could only get moreso as time passes. It's a creepy, mysterious, rain-sodden trek through unknown and hostile territory with style and atmosphere to burn. And hey, you've got company, too! And so nicely dressed. Isn't that nice?

WindowsWindows:
Download the free full version

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


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verypinkgame.gifJohnBShort and sweet, Very Pink Game is an adventure game created by sheepherds using RPG Maker 2003. It stars a lonely little girl named Ivy who receives a letter from a friend asking her to meet outside of town. In order to make it out of the pink village, though, Ivy has to solve a series of puzzles, helping the townsfolk go about their day by finding lost items, answering riddles, and solving problems. Just like (a very pink-colored) real life!

Very Pink Game isn't a very long experience, nor does it present epically challenging puzzles, massive boss battles, or twisted storylines. What it does provide are cute locations, relatable characters, and everyday situations you'll feel compelled to solve. It's all very charming in an afternoon diversion sort of way. Simple and enjoyable, which is sometimes exactly the kind of diversion we need. Sheepherds plans to turn the release into a series of color-themed games, so once you get hooked on the pink goodness, get ready for some sort of plaid adventure in the future!

Note: You must install the free RPG Maker 2003 RTP in order to play Very Pink Game.

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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Flea Symphony

MeaghanFleas aren't something you think could be endearing. Strangely enough, The Odd Gentleman has made them not only endearing but capable of musical talent. With your assistance of course. In Flea Symphony, a bizarrely delightful physics puzzle game, you must help the fleas save the music store they live in by playing a variety of instruments.

Flea SymphonyAt the top of the screen is a music bar that shows when an instrument should be hit and how frequently. It will also display how many fleas will be involved in the symphony. Some instruments are on sliding tracks that will require you to move them, some instruments will be able to be touched and rotated to help the fleas bounce in the right direction. Portals will transport fleas, horns will shoot them across the stage, and switches must be hit in order to remove obstacles. Not your ordinary symphony, is it?

It's rare to find a game, any game, that has music that doesn't drive you nuts after a matter of seconds. Flea Symphony keeps the music light and whimsical and adds some creative twists with different sound styles. The mechanics are straight and to the point with instant responses for the movements you coordinate for the instruments. Though there's little room for creative play and the level of precision required is high, the game makes up for all difficulty by having such a great soundtrack attached to a wonderfully animated world. With 100 levels to play through that you can stop and return to at any time, this game can entertain between breaks or for long periods of time. Now go save Maestro Piccolo's music shop and maybe help those fleas prove that not only chipmunks can be appealing musicians.

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: 3.4/5 (34 votes)
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TrickyEngageYou still have nightmares about it. It was supposed to be a simple search and retrieve mission on a deserted island. Sure, you were warned that you'd have to deal with the local wildlife. But you thought that would mean bringing a little extra calamine lotion, not seeing you and your buddies drown in wave after wave of wings, antennae and feelers. Something went wrong here, and, until you've fired your last bullet, it's up to you to figure out what. Engage is a first-person action rail-shooter from FlyAnvil, where it's certain things are going to get more than a bit buggy.

Select a mission to complete, then, once you've started, aim and fire at enemies by clicking the mouse. Your selected weapon will be automatically switched when you run out of ammunition or for aiming at different ranges, but you can change your weapon manually by clicking or by switching to Manual Weapon Changing at the armory screen. Using different types of weapons gives you Skill XP for said type, and better versions are unlocked in the armory the more you use or train with them. Once a mission is complete, click the helicopter button to return to your base. While the entomophobic should probably steer clear, any gamer okay with a little creepy-crawliness will find Engage a polished experience. Even if it does sometimes make the enemies look a little samey, the shadowy graphics are effective at conveying a suitably insecty sense of menace. Engage gets the little things right too, with a nice selection of weapons to shoot, locales to fight in, and a straightforward-but-effective plot delivered to you by your commander barking in your ear. Engage features a lot of shooting, and not much else, but it's high-quality shooting, and will keep adrenaline-junkies, well, engaged to the end.

Play Engage


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MeaghanPinata Hunter 2Work sucks, family demands are getting ridiculous, and those kids screaming at the top of their lungs outside are almost begging to be hollered at with a few colorful threats. You, friend, need something to release some of that stress and I have just the thing for you. Yellow Bouncy Ball has returned with Pinata Hunter 2, the perfect arcade throwback to the birthday party favor you always wish you had. All you need to play is your mouse and the ability to repetitively move your mouse back and forth over a single target. The goal is to smash the pinata to smithereens and collect the candy money all while watching your pain meter in order to keep from experiencing a debilitating hand cramp. With that money you can purchase upgrades that will further your abilities to decimate the colorful sacrifice offered and withstand the pain that comes with gripping something with every ounce of strength you have.

Lets be honest: Pinata Hunter 2 isn't a revolutionary idea that will forever blow away your concept of what a stellar game should be. It's a simple way to have a bit of juvenile fun and that's the greatest appeal. So many areas of life don't allow for random silliness and that's a shame. Thankfully, even though destroying the pinata takes a good deal of time and there isn't much selection of the poor creatures, what makes this game a blast is how ludicrous it is being able to use a light saber to destroy a cardboard caricature with colorful streamers. And really, what more could you possibly ask for at the end of the day?

Play Pinata Hunter 2


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Journey: The Heart of Gaia

elleLiz has an ordinary, uneventful, perhaps even boring life working as a curator in her grandfather's museum of oddities, which doesn't attract many visitors, especially not of late with all the bizarre weather and earthquakes going on. Then a tall, mysterious stranger appears in the doorway to change all that and whisk her away to a fantasy world lush with color, where she is sought after and treated like royalty, where nothing is ever at all dull or mundane. That could be the entire plot of some steamy paperback romance novel but instead it's just the beginning of Journey: The Heart of Gaia, a puzzle-stuffed steampunk adventure hybrid from Waterlily Games, a studio of Frogwares.

Journey: The Heart of GaiaAlthough kidnapped without explanation, instead of turning the focus into why you're here, the main objective is about what you're going to do now you're in this place and how you're going to get back home. The answer to which comes from snooping about, looking in detail at every rock, plant, substance and magical device that Gaia has to offer in its eclectic landscape. Through this quest, you meet and befriend three helpful strangers, each with his own special ability and story to tell. Think Wizard of Oz. Except steampunk. And a much more sarcastic, proactive Dorothy. Plus tons of puzzles to solve, pieces to gather and objects to find.

Much like in the Drawn series, there are no isolated hidden object search scenes—gameplay leans on exploring and using items—either as collected fragments or whole objects—to activate a wide range of minigames which are freshly re-designed and clever, often challenging, renditions of such classics as tangrams, jumbled picture tiles, sequenced buttons, match games, pipe connect, othello, and more. If choosing "Advanced" mode, your puzzles are a tad more difficult to start out and you'll have fewer hints and help than in "Casual." In both modes, an illustrated smart map continually keeps track of your tasks, following your moves to give reliable guidance on where to go and even transports you to there instantly with a click.

Journey: The Heart of GaiaAnalysis: With this wonder-filled and artistically-rendered creation, Waterlily Games lives up to their potential as a Frogwares sibling. The hand drawn artwork is enchanting and eye pleasing to the downside that you can easily overlook what you're looking for in the details. Items that you need to pick up are not hidden as much as they just don't stick out oddly among their surroundings. Then again, that's a good thing if you do like the challenge of finding objects but are bored with other games' pile 'em up and list 'em tacit.

True to its title, Journey: The Heart of Gaia presents a fantastic expedition, exploration, and discovery-worthy environment. Although it has a consignment shop feel to it, with characters and elements that seem borrowed from wider media and better known brands, it comes out more as fun allusion than tired ripped-off, sending a convivial wink toward those sci-fi, steampunk and fantasy stories that we all love. In this way, you're one of the group and part of the camaraderie, able to empathize with Liz as she repeatedly remarks, "This looks so familiar to me, but why?"

Journey: The Heart of GaiaThe addition of three companions is a uncommon quality in a genre which is often populated with helpless bystanders who leave all the heavy lifting to you. The "people" in Gaia are more than willing to take an active part in your mission and it's fun to use Zin's telepathy, Pr3's enhanced vision or Grump's strength though there will be times when you wonder why is a crystal up in that crevice so reachable while a piece of fruit in another nearby tree is not. It's a small quibble, really, when the outcome is this engaging, especially since these three friends are not defined by their special skills alone; each is a dynamic character with a distinct personality, they interact with you and even each other with humorous quips and friendly supportiveness.

Highly interactive and weighty, packed full of gameplay, most players are unlikely to finish it all in one sitting but the well-organized interface makes it something you can easily pick back up after a break. Journey: The Heart of Gaia delivers an overflowing cornucopia for both puzzle buffs and adventure fans alike.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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Try Boot Camp or Parallels or CrossOver Games.


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Link Dump Fridays

DoraHappy Friday! Are you in a post-turkey sleep-state? Or are you out fist-fighting an old lady for a 50% off toaster oven at your local mall? Or are you in a part of the world that isn't concerned with either of those things and are just sitting around wearing your monocle and sipping something elegant from a decanter? Well, whatever the case, we'll make things quick this week, so you can get back to slumbering/headbutting the father trying to rip the Canterlot Playset out of your hands/stroking your chin and thinking deep thoughts about life, the universe, and everything.

Eschalon Book IIINow With 20% More Gruesome Demise and Infectious Diseases! Basilisk Games's indie RPG series Eschalon has always been a fantastic example of how indie studios can still do quality open-world RPG experiences that feel massive and deadly. Like... really deadly. You'll die a lot. And in Summer of 2013, you'll be given the opportunity to die a whole bunch of times once more as the developers bring their trilogy to a close with Eschalon: Book III. This single-player adventure, designed for PC, Mac, and Linux, will at once both cap off the overarching story of the series, while still remaining accessible to new players, and providing a ton of improvements and changes to boot. Sounds good to me, especially since new developer tools will allow players to create their own maps and adventures! If you love challenging, deep RPGs, you really can't go wrong with Eschalon.

Legend of DungeonPut 'Em Up, Put 'Em Up! Robot <3 Kitty is betting that you like retro roguelike dungeon-crawling beat-em-up action, and if that sounds good to you, you'll definitely want to check out the Kickstarter campaign for the upcoming Legend of Dungeon. Created in Unity for Windows, Mac, and Linux, with a planned release in January, the game is 1-4 playing co-op as you battle your way to the bottom of a huge, 26 floor dungeon, and then must make it back out alive with the treasure you find. It looks like a ton of fun already, especially if you don't mind perma-death as an added challenge (though if you're playing with two or more players, there are ways around that), and the sort of thing that could be an addictive blast solo or with buddies. Considering the campaign is already almost fully-funded as I write this, Legend of Dungeon should have no problem reaching its initial goal, but if you want to contribute to some of the stretch goals, head on over to the Kickstarter and check out the free demo!

Advertising Your Indie Game OnlineMaking The Interwebs Work For You Cliff Harris, creator of Kudos among other titles, has thrown together a post titled Cliffski's 2012 Guide to Advertising Your Indie PC Game Online. While there are a few indie developers who can just show up and everyone will trample one another for the mere chance to towel them off, many indie devs have to work extremely hard to get noticed, and pouring their time and effort into a game only to see it sell just a few copies is more than a little disheartening. While features on popular gaming websites definitely help, and of course having an amazing game doesn't hurt either, Cliff talks about the other things you can do to run an ad campaign for your indie game that can benefit and enlighten you in the long run. Food for thought if you're a creator, or a consumer!

The MessageIt's Like "The Secret" But More Meaningful Here's a special bonus for you in case you're searching for meaning during the holidays! The Message is a very short interactive story created in Twine by Jeremy Lonien and Dominik Johann about a message that suddenly appears in the sky one day, and the impact it has on the world below as people struggle to interpret it in different ways. It might just change your life!

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: 4.1/5 (106 votes)
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Weekend Download

JohnBHey, you're trapped in a room! Where's that Nelson guy to laugh at you when you need him? You're not going to sit around and get mocked, though. You're clever, you're resourceful, and even though every time you leave the room you end up in an almost identical location, you're determined to get out. Doors&Rooms is a single-room point and click escape game by Gameday, creator of Escape the Room: Limited Time, that plays like a graphically-improved version of 100 Floors or DOOORS. Ready to get the heck outta here?!

doorsrooms.jpgDoors&Rooms doesn't go the route of getting you to shake your mobile device all over the place. Instead, its puzzles are more traditional in style, requiring old fashioned deduction, logic, memory, and in some cases, quick thinking. The more details you pay attention to the better, keep that in mind while working through the few dozen levels currently available to play. In a fun twist, you can actually die in this game, so don't dawdle if you hear a suspiciously bomb-like ticking in the background!

The interface is entirely touch-driven and works just like you would expect. Tap an item to pick it up, then open your inventory to see what you've got. From here you can often examine, dismantle, combine or simply use items by tapping on the icons at the bottom of the screen. It's a bit of a hassle to go through several tap motions in order to use a key on a door, but when you have this much detail in the handling of inventory stock, it's worth a bit of awkwardness from time to time.

doorsrooms2.jpgAnalysis: Doors&Rooms sets itself up in a long line of puzzle games that have been recently populating the iOS and Android marketplaces. The difference, though, is that there are no weird gimmicks or awkward ideas thrown in to make Doors&Rooms "stand out". Instead, it's just a good game with good puzzles that looks fantastic. It's nice to have a one-room escape game look great for a change, and Doors&Rooms does not disappoint. Most of the visuals look like they were ripped from a graphic novel, right down to the textures and shading.

An in-game hint system gives you three levels of purchasable tips each time you get stuck. Depending on how many coins you spend, the hints themselves are often like riddles, not necessarily giving you the answer outright but teasing you with new information that may or may not be inspirational. You start with a handful of coins and can earn more over time, but if you happen to run out, an in-app purchasing system can give you a quick refill.

High production values and smart puzzles that force you to think, not just parrot back information or go into a point and click-induced trance from all your years of playing these sorts of games. Multiple locations to play through, each with several chapters to complete, and more content in the pipeline. Doors&Rooms is a great mobile escape game you would do well to snatch up right away!

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: 4.5/5 (38 votes)
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ShellShock Live 2GrinnypIf an interviewer with a camera were to stop people on the street and ask them the question "If you could have one wish, what would it be?" the answers would be the usual range from "A million dollars" to "Peace on Earth". However, most of those folks would be lying for the camera, because for many the answer would really be "To be able to drive a tank and blow things up," at least for a certain segment of the population, like those who dream of taking a tank on a rampage through suburban San Diego or points beyond. Last year a great live turn-based multi-player action game answered the prayers of those few and proud with that dream, and now a sequel has brought back the tanking madness with Kyle Champ's ShellShock Live 2!

Like its predecessor ShellShock Live, ShellShock Live 2 (ShellShockier?) is a multi-player strategic arcade-style shooter wherein the players command tanks and basically blow the living heck out of each other. The tanks are back with more weapons, more landscapes, more modes, and more explodey action. It's not just the new and goofier weapons that make ShellShock Live 2 even more fun than its predecessor (personal favorite: the piata bomb), but the new types of gameplay that have been incorporated. Fight as a team or create a free-for-all where everyone is the enemy; play for points or compete in a deathmatch; or have everyone shooting at once as opposed to individually, the choices are endless. Live chat allows you to talk trash to your fellow players as you try to annihilate each other across the changing landscape.

Kyle Champ has taken everything that was great about the original ShellShock Live and added more. Players can create their own logins or use the ubiquitous Facebook. There are micro-transitions within the game, but they are unobtrusive and unnecessary to having a rollicking good time. Playing for free simple means you need to gain experience in the game to level up to some pretty amusing and devastating weapons and considering how addicting the gameplay is this won't be a burden. Let that familiar, throbbing soundtrack wash over you as you wipe out your enemies (and your friends) with this fantastic artillery game!

Play ShellShock Live 2


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Rating: 4.1/5 (25 votes)
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ArtbegottiDuoTaskingDuoTasking feels like it should play like a standard platformer. You play as a robot running around a big-pixel environment, trying to collect all the coins and avoid anything that is red. You move around and jump using the [arrow] keys (or [WASD]). You also control a snazzy laser, which you can fire using [spacebar] or [control] to eliminate obstacles and enemies. However, not only do the same controls that move the robot also move the laser, but while your robot moves horizontally, your laser moves vertically! It's this little puzzling twist that makes DigiCroc's DuoTasking a tricky platforming challenge to wrap your mind around.

As you move your robot from left to right, your laser will move from top to bottom. Both the robot and laser are vulnerable to damage from touching enemies, being shot by enemies, or touching red blocks. It's even possible to shoot the robot with the laser if you're not paying attention to what you're doing. As you start each level, you can usually figure out the order that things need to be done in, as often it will be impossible to move one of your two figures past a certain barrier without removing it with the other. Performing your plan is a lot harder though, since you often have to time your movements against periodically-firing enemy projectiles that always seem to be in line with your laser when you think you've found a good spot for your robot to hide. There are 12 levels to tackle (not counting the "hard" mode, which is the same levels with more enemies to dodge), but the surprising level of difficulty from trying to wrangle two objects at once means you could be DuoTasking for a while.

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Fruitiny

JohnBYou've played memory before, right? That old chestnut of a game where you turn over cards one by one, trying to match pairs so you can remove them from the board. Well, how about memory mixed with the excitement of an arcade game? Fruitiny is a puzzle/memory game from Totano Corp. centered around this very mechanic, challenging you to turn over tiles, match pairs, and do it all with an increasingly fast rhythm. It's a simple concept illustrated with fantastic flair, and it's just the sort of game you can get hooked on. Plus: delicious pixel fruit!

FruitinyFruitiny plays out in a series of levels with a number of face-down tiles strewn about the screen. Tap a tile to turn it over, revealing a picture. You can tap multiple tiles at a time or even drag your finger across the screen to overturn groups, but since tiles automatically flip themselves back over, it's usually best to stick to a few at a time. Make a note of where each fruit piece is located, then try to make matches as quickly as you can. Each time you clear the screen you move on to the next level, upping the complexity and maybe even adding new pieces of fruit to locate!

To make matching sets, tap an overturned card or double tap one that's face down. Once you have a card selected, subsequent tiles you flip will show a question mark instead of fruit, meaning if you don't complete a pair, you're going to waste precious time. The green bar at the top gradually decreases while you're not making matches, so keep the cards turning whenever possible. Making a match causes a handful of adjacent tiles to turn over for a moment, allowing you to make chain reactions that increase both your score and the time remaining in the level. You do want a high score and more time to play, don't you?

FruitinyAnalysis: Fruitiny is a game you'll play over and over again. You'll make it through 30 or 40 levels, flub up and lose, then start all over again. Your high scores will gradually increase the more you play, and the little fruit meter on the title screen will fill with new things you've discovered. A few small curve balls are thrown in from time to time, such as the evil monster tiles or the octopus tile that turns over everything on the screen for a few moments, but otherwise it's just straightforward arcade matching. There are even achievements to earn, which as far as we're concerned is just an extra bonus on an already attractive game.

The biggest danger in Fruitiny is moving faster than your own hand. It may sound unusual, but a certain rhythm gets established in this game, encouraging fast moves alternating with taking mental snapshots of fruit positions. Act too fast and you risk selecting a tile prematurely, too slow and you waste valuable time. The solution is to make a match, watch any resulting tile flips, jump in with more matching, watch the tiles, repeat.

Fruitiny has the same sort of appeal as games like Bejeweled. The concept is simple but it's so playable and so enjoyable you'll keep the game around for months, playing rounds from time to time to see if you can best your previous score. It really feels like a brain workout with the quick recall methodology. No crazy gimmicks or in-app purchases to distract you from having fun, Fruitiny is a straightforward game that will quickly secure a place on your mobile device's home screen!

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: 4.1/5 (48 votes)
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TrickyShameless Clone 2How could Roman Squall and Yuriy Kurenkov possibly top the shameless clonage of Shameless Clone, that awesome melting pot of bullet-hell and internet culture? Why, by making a sequel of course! In retrospect, the answer seems obvious. It's Shameless Clone 2, the arcade space shoot-em-up that rips off ALL the things! However, the title is a little misleading, since this time around, there's even a bit of a plot happening. It seems that the huge space invader Kosmos (no relation to that blue-haired Xenosaga dame) has infiltrated the world of human imagination (or, at least the more meme-tastic section) and has perverted its creations for evil!... Okay, Kosmos didn't really need to pervert it all that much. C'mon. It's the internet, after all. But still, those things need shooting, so the World Shadow Government has assembled a team to travel to the world of imagination and save humanity from Kosmos' threat! The plot kind of falls by the wayside pretty quickly, but who cares? There's stuff to shoot!

You start by choosing your warrior. At the start of the game only the pirate ship is available, though others are unlocked as you progress through the game. Each have their own special attack and a hitbox a mere pixel in size. Use the mouse to fly around screen and hold the left mouse button to fire on all manner of Moogles, Goombettes, Troll Whisps, Orange Anime Ninjas, and Prime Optimuses. Defeated enemies release coins which, when collected, charge up your hate-bar. When the hate bar is full, hit the [spacebar] to launch a super-attack. Collected coins can also be spent on store upgrades between levels. Other enemies release different bonuses: shields, explosions, or a convenient transformation into Bill "Mad Dog" Rizer, spread-shot enthusiast.

Shameless Clone 2's shiny gloss of memes may be its most noticeable feature, but as a shooter it has surprising depth and intensity. The baddies are varied (though bosses can be a grind), the scenery fun to look at, and the patterns of bullets to avoid are quite challenging without ever seeming unfair. Of course, one could say the same about the original Shameless Clone, and that's the rub. Despite all the added stuff, Shameless Clone 2 feels much more like an expansion/remake of the original than a new work per se. Actually, while flash works usually don't have "Game of the Year" editions, that really feels like the most apt comparison: it's has the solid base of the original, with bugs fixed and "what would have been DLC if the developer thought people would pay for it" bells and whistles added. This makes Shameless Clone 2 a perfect jumping on point for those new to the series, but may leave those who played the original wanting more. That said, Shameless Clone 2 is undeniably a quality work, and if it's one thing we know, it's that no one ever lost face by repeating themselves on the internet a little.

Play Shameless Clone 2


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TrickyThanks For PlayingSo, in conclusion, Thanks For Playing is a wonderful bit of high-concept fun that all platform fans should enjoy backing through... Oh wait, I think I just started with the ending there. Well, it should be no surprise, since I just made it to the beginning of Thanks For Playing, an interesting little puzzle platformer developed by Alkemi Games at the Utopialis 2012 Game Jam. It starts with you arriving just a second too late from preventing a mad scientist from perfecting his time reversal device. Now, with the flow of reality well and truly in reverse, the only thing you can hope for it to keep yourself alive by untracing your steps into his laboratory and avoiding trapping yourself in a paradox. Saying any more would spoil the beginning.

Move and jump with the [arrow] keys. However, since time is going backwards, you must clear each screen using typical platform mechanics that would occur if the clock was ticking the right way. You'll be able to leap up huge heights (since before it would be a fall), but dropping too far will short out the time stream (since before, you could never jump that high!) Your score starts at 2030, and you lose points for every monster you resurrect and coin you disperse. It becomes important to look for the visual cues of your surroundings: the streak of sparkles that indicate a place where you collected a coin, the bits of crumpled scenery where a collapsible platform once hung above. Make it back to the start and, well, you'll get to see actual name of the game on the title screen! Other games have used this kind of gimmick as a central conceit, but not quite to this extent. The thing that comes closest is Mushroom Engine. Still, Thanks For Playing's utilization of the reversal theme in both story and directly in gameplay makes for a unique kind of storytelling fusion. Taking about ten minutes to play through, it is a work that manages that proper balance of exploring a clever concept without belaboring the point. So, once again, in conclusion, Thanks For Playing is a wonderful bit of high-concept fun that all platform fans should enjoy backing through.

Play Thanks For Playing


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Rating: 4.1/5 (92 votes)
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Weekday Escape

GrinnypLet's face it, there are a lot of things coming up in people's schedules right now, various holidays and things that are taking up a lot of time. However, there's always time for a room escape, even if it's one of the mini variety, so how about the latest from the King of mini room escapes, Hottategoya? Can you spare five minutes for Escape from the Room with Three Keys 7?

Escape from the Room with Three Keys 7Escape from the Room with Three Keys 7 is the usual minimal three puzzles, three keys, and out escape that we've come to expect from Hottategoya. The room is sparse and minimal, the puzzles are fun and amusing, the navigation is pretty easy as is the inventory control, and the whole thing can be fit into whatever time can be spared from a too busy schedule. A little intuition, a little logic, and soon you'll be out of the room.

The presence of a second door that doesn't open and doesn't lead anywhere is a bit of a downer, leading to the expectation of more, but otherwise Escape from the Room with Three Keys 7 is a satisfying little room escape, something that can take your mind off of whatever is bothering you this week, and giving your brain a nice break.

Play Escape from the Room with Three Keys 7


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Rating: 3.8/5 (36 votes)
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Mystery Case Files: Shadow Lake

DoraI imagine, being a member of the Mystery Case Files celebrated detective agency, you're probably used to getting crank calls. You know... the people telling you the ghost of Elvis is living in a peanut butter jar in their fridge, or a poltergeist called Windows Vista is living inside their computer. But when one particular psychic who acts as a consultant on a ghost hunting television show calls begging for your help in the deserted town of Bitterford, Maine, you suspect there might just be something bigger happening than someone wanting their fifteen minutes of fame. But in Mystery Case Files: Shadow Lake, the latest hidden-object horror adventure from Big Fish Studios, there might be something more sinister afoot than heavy fog and low-budget reality television. As you travel throughout the lonely streets, it quickly becomes clear that something dark doesn't want you there, and it might be bigger than you can handle alone. Unfortunately, that's just how you're going to tackle it... minus a little eccentric radio support.

Mystery Case Files: Shadow LakeOnce you finally meet up with Cassandra, the psychic who summons you, you quickly discover Bitterford has a shadowy past. With Cassandra's direction, you'll be forced to travel all over the town, visiting various locations and hunting down clues and information that will slowly give you a better idea of the mystery hanging over the town. Seems like one mysterious, irresistible item might be at the center of it, but considering the bloody path its left in its wake, do you really want to find it? Luckily for you, you've got a trusty scooter, and simply clicking on the map, then any known destination, will immediately take you right to it. Cassandra will give you drawings of locations the spirits have revealed to her, and you'll need to track down each spot depicted to imbue it with the psychic energy there. Additionally, you can expect hidden-object scenes to send you crawling all over different locations and perspectives to find everything listed. Don't worry... the hint function will point you where you need to go if you need a bit of help.

Mystery Case Files: Shadow LakeAnalysis: In a way, Shadow Lake is at once scarier and darker, and somehow simultaneously cornier than its predecessors, packed with tense moments and jump scares that you'd think would clash with the likes of Jack Talon and even Cassandra's incessant nattering... and yet they don't. Apart from Jack "YO PRISONERS" Talon being the actual best, the patter and cheese feels like it rides comfortably alongside the quiet, frightening mood of the rest of the game, providing a sort of wonderfully self-aware humour and over-the-top characters. In one case, really, really over the top. Really. The actual mystery you'll be solving is surprisingly intriguing because it gives you so little of the big picture in the beginning, and the slow revelation as you travel around town is handled very well. The downside is that if you miss finding the two "secret" tapes left behind by Ghost Patrol, you'll also be missing out on some backstory and exposition that fleshes out the game's narrative. And more Jack Talon.

Luckily, Shadow Lake is surprisingly big, and definitely easy on the eyes as a whole. It also doesn't hurt that there are both big and subtle scares that do a lot to keep you on your toes and dreading every corner and closed door. Shadow Lake asks you to be more of a detective in its gameplay at times, instead of leading you around by the nose. While some of the puzzles are still a little silly, a lot of the typical adventuring comes down to spotting clues and tracking down all the little hints and items you need to put it all together, which is somehow more satisfying than having it all spelled out for you. You're always given a direction, but the game stops short of making you a little bagged lunch, ensuring your hair is properly combed, and then driving you straight there itself. The downside is that Cassandra's constant nagging starts to grate, especially since her gameplay elements are so repetitive. Lady, just post your drawings on the fridge or something and I'll get to them when I'm good and ready! And stop giving me supernatural shopping lists! Tell the spirits I said they're obsessive-compulsive jerks!

Mystery Case Files: Shadow LakeThe inventory items available on the small radial menu quickly become annoying to have to rotate through. The multi-room hidden-object hunting is an interesting idea and actually handled fairly well, though the premise for it is sort of silly, especially when piled on top of the whole Auto-Drawing thing. At least the hint function has been significantly improved since its horrible mangling in Escape from Ravenhearst, making for a much more player-friendly experience overall. With the map allowing you to leap around at a click and the uses for items typically being logical and straightforward, Shadow Lake's gameplay is largely grounded in a way players who hate fashioning keys out of rubber duckies and soda cans in other games will appreciate.

Mystery Case Files: Shadow Lake isn't quite a perfect game, but its gorgeous production values and dedication to providing an engrossing experience make it easy to recommend checking out for any fans of spooky mysteries. Ultimately its biggest flaw winds up being repetition, and the constant Auto-Drawing reconstruction and item hunts in dark locations won't be for everyone. However, the game's fantastic atmosphere, impressive length, and unexpected gruesomeness at times make it a ton of fun. Especially if you don't mind a little harsh language. "Butthead"? MY VIRGIN EARS. I just hate to think of what it's doing to Maine's tourism board. Castle Rock, Derry, and now Shadow Lake? "Come to beautiful Maine, where the sunsets are gorgeous, and the unspeakable ancient evils stay with you forever! Buy one get one ice cream sundaes!... the sundaes are also cursed."

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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MeaghanThe Last DinoAs if it wasn't bad enough knowing that all your friends and family were massacred by a giant asteroid, now you have to survive a game with spikes, evil foes, and fire balls? It's a sad life for this dinosaur in The Last Dino by Rarykos. A one-button platform action game, Last Dino is ready to test your gaming skills. Using your left click or [spacebar] is all you have to do in order to have an action occur. There are twelve levels and each level has four scenes to run and jump through. For the entirety of each level you will only be able to use one special move which includes jumping, controlling the lasers, and controlling launch pads. There are multiple items in each level to collect that will help decipher a message that will appear at the very end of the game.

As far as platform games go, The Last Dino doesn't have any intentions of making things too easy for you. Perfect timing is paramount to success especially when there are spikes ready to kill you at the slightest touch. Unlike other single button games Dino refrains from being a one trick pony because of the addition of multiple abilities but maintains a good level of difficulty because you can only use one ability per level. Be prepared for a few growls of frustration when not launching yourself just right but also be ready to feel satisfied when you beat that level and show those lasers you're too cool for extinction.

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The Vault

DoraGather 'round, my little kiddly-winks, because it's story time! Except this is no Good Night Moon or Very Hungry Caterpillar, this is narration as handled by Flash games. If you ask someone to tell you their favourite game's story, chances are they wouldn't think to mention a browser game, which is a shame because some of them are telling tales every bit as unique and complex as your favourite PC or console titles, and sometimes in vastly more creative ways! So here are three of our favourite games that each take a very different approach to storytelling, from the subtle to the sublime.

  • REDDERREDDER - Anna Anthropy's sci-fi platforming exploration adventure about a lone astronaut searching for mysterious gems on an unknown planet is a tricky little beast. It's distinctly retro style coupled with its lack of any real exposition and its simple gameplay means it's one of those games people tend to take at face value. And if you just want to enjoy it as an atmospheric gem hunt, you can absolutely do that... but if you pay attention to your surroundings and the way things begin to slowly change as you collect gems, you'll realise there's more going on than meets the eye. Part of what makes REDDER so successful, then, is because of the ambiguity that lets the player make up their own mind about what's happening and why, and as a result, this game's subtle mood and evocative design means it just may stay with you for a while.
  • ViricideViricide - Eli Piilonen's arcade shooter starts simply enough, but may end with you laying your head on the table and staring at the wall for a while. As a nameless user cleaning up EXADI, an advanced AI ravaged by a virus, you'll blast down the green anomalies that attack you and purchase upgrades to increase your ship's abilities. As levels go by, however, you soon discover there's much, more more going on (and at stake) than meets the eye, and the game delivers a serious punch of emotion and poignant introspection made all the more effective for its delivery. It isn't exactly cheerful, but it is smart, memorable, and exactly the sort of thing to show someone who thinks games with such simple gameplay aren't good for anything more than wasting time.
  • Trader of Stories: Bell's HeartThe Trader of Stories: Bell's Heart - Pastel Games is no stranger to telling tales, and they came up with something really special when they joined forces with Marek Rudowski to make this point-and-click adventure series. Following Myosotis (no, not that one), a young woman who makes her living traveling and buying the stories from the people she meets, though few actually know anything personal about the woman herself. The gameplay is about what you'd expect, except as Myosotis explores, you literally gather bits and pieces of information from your environment that weave a slowly unfolding narrative. From its rich soundtrack to its gorgeous, evocative art, the series is top-notch at spinning a living, breathing world of a rich mythology all of its own, while still keeping an air of mystery around its heroine that ensures players will want to come back for more with each new installment.

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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DoraPapa's Hot DoggeriaIt's time once again for another installment in the popular Papa's series of time-management restaurant sims from Flipline Studios... but this time you can be the star! In Papa's Hot Doggeria, you can finally create your own hapless schlub who winds up single-handedly running yet another establishment for Papa Louie, this time a stand at a baseball stadium when it seems like getting a job there is the perfect solution to missing out on season tickets to see your favourite team. After all, you can just kick back and watch games all day, right? WRONG. The customers are hungry for hot dogs, popcorn, sodas, and more, and it's up to you to cook it all to perfection! Seriously, don't mess this one up. Especially if the home team happens to be losing. Sports fans can be crazy.

As with all other Papa's games, winning comes down to expertly cooking and assembling customer's orders as fast as you can. You'll take tickets at the order station, carefully time the cooking at the grill station, assemble toppings at the build station, and finally add in any extras like soda or popcorn at the pop station. After a hot-dog is cooked to perfection, flipped halfway through for even doneness, you'll carefully pile on the customer's specific toppings by dropping them as evenly as possible with the mouse. Simple enough, right? Well, when you're only dealing with one customer, anyway. As time passes, more and more people will pile into your little stand at the same time, and you'll have to keep track of all their orders while you fill them on the fly. Luckily, the tips and other money you earn can be spent on upgrades to cook faster, but also decorations for your little stand that will give bonuses to ingredients and customer wait times.

Play all of Flipline's simulation games:
Papa's PizzeriaPapa's BurgeriaPapa's Taco Mia!Papa's FreezeriaPapa's PancakeriaPapa's WingeriaJacksmithPapa's Hot Doggeria

The Papa's series has kind of become a benchmark for quality in the time-management genre, and each one is a perfect go-to option if you're looking for something addictive, colourful, and challenging. Though the core gameplay hasn't changed much, apart from the theming and the new items, fans of the series will love another opportunity to sling fast food with Flipline's winning formula, and the addition of being able to create your own main character is a nice little cherry on top. Papa's Hot Doggeria is another engaging, vibrant, quirky little installment in a celebrated series, and easily worth your time. As long as you can overlook how gross that chili looks as it glops all over everything like... uh... nevermind. Now make me a hot dog! I'm not demanding like those other customers. I just want relish, onions, mustard, and for you to do assemble it all while dancing Gangnam Style.

Play Papa's Hot Doggeria


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Rating: 4.4/5 (53 votes)
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DoraSoulcasterOriginally released on the XBLA, Magical Time Bean's strategic tower-defense dungeon-crawling hybrid Soulcaster is now available to play for free in your browser, and touches on a very important issue we've all had to deal with... accidentally awakening the angry spirits of the dead while out for a stroll. But where you or I might just scream a lot and then die quickly with the most wounds, the red-robed wizard star is in luck, since he's able to summon the spirits of warriors to defend him as he goes deeper into the ruins he's discovered. Initially only the archer Shaedu will be at his disposal, but if he survives long enough he'll encounter a variety of heroic souls willing to be his meat shields on his quest.

The game takes place over a series of 20 stages and saves your progress between each. Click the mouse on the ground to walk to that space, or use the [arrow] keys to move. With the exception of single-use scrolls you can find if you're lucky, you can't actually attack the monsters that come after you yourself. Instead, you'll need to summon heroes as you acquire them to do the dirty work for you. Heroes are bound to a summon key ([Q], for instance), and will appear stationary where you're standing, attacking anything within range until they're destroyed or you recall them with [R]. The glowing orbs at the bottom of the screen represent your Soul Orbs, and you can summon as many different types of heroes as you have available Orbs, or use all of them to bring out multiple images of the same warrior. If you want to summon more, you'll need to shell out for pricey Soul Orbs, so be sure to keep some coins in the proverbial piggy bank.

Your heroes all have different abilities and weaknesses, so give some thought to the terrain when you place them, and don't be afraid to readjust on the fly, especially since certain monsters have immunities and weaknesses of their own. Make sure to nab any healing potions you'll find, and they'll be used on you automatically when your health gets low. As you progress, you'll find cash you can spend at the Merchant's shops to upgrade the warriors at your disposal, or purchase more scrolls and potions. Don't worry, you'll see the Merchant over and over again throughout the game... he's the second brother twice removed from the Merchant in Resident Evil 4 and thinks any fetid, dangerous dungeon is a great place for a store. I think that's the 33rd Rule of Acquisition anyway.

SoulcasterThough it takes some practice, Soulcaster is a great little game for fans of tower-defense who are looking for a title that brings something different to the genre. The free movement for both your character and the monsters is initially a little difficult to get used to, and being able to think strategically on the fly to place and move your defenders is a must for survival. You can expect to do a lot of squealing and running around initially as you get the hang of things, which almost makes me think that fantastic retro soundtrack should have an optional "Benny Hill mode" for those of us who are really bad at not getting chased by baddies. Fortunately, for such relatively simple gameplay, Soulcaster offers a surprising amount of strategic depth. The varying abilities and strengths of the heroes you summon means a little forethought and adaptability will allow you to absolutely decimate foes, so don't just throw your friends down willy-nilly. They work best when they play off of one another's weaknesses to present a united front.

With its surprising challenge and depth on top of a beautiful old-school style and immediately accessible gameplay, Soulcaster is an addictive indie gem. At the whopping new price of free it's a steal for anyone who loves tower-defense with a twist. If you enjoy it, consider purchasing both it and its sequel to support the developers, who released it free online as an experiment. Soulcaster is a perfect example of the remarkable ingenuity and fun people who don't play indie games are missing out on, and a great way to keep you wrapped up for quite some time.

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Micro Miners

DoraHi ho, hi ho, it's off to mine I go! Facing lava pools and angry beasts, hi ho, hi ho! Despite facing a whole lot of potential doom, the itty-bitty stars of Bonus Level's arcade Lemmings-esque iOS game Micro Miners sure are a cheery lot. They know there's gold (and silver, and coal, and diamonds, and more!) beneath them thar hills, and they're willing to risk everything to get it as long as you point the way. Across fast-paced underground levels filled with plunder and peril, draw paths leading them to ore and gems while keeping them away from other hazards. Armed with a few power-ups, relentless optimism, and a seriously quirky sense of humour, these guys may be small, but are no mere minor miners! Just be fast, since the screen is always moving, and there's nowhere to go but down.

Micro MinersAs the benevolent hand of destiny, using your finger, draw to carve a path through dirt for your miners to follow. You can tap on the pickaxe icon to swap to build mode, which can let you create bridges and blockades of dirt, and tap again to flip back. Gems are optional bonuses, but all ore needs to be mined to checkmark completion before it scrolls off the screen or it counts as a miss, and three misses makes you lose the level. Though all you begin with are the white miners, who can nab silver and gold, eventually you'll have to simultaneously manage the black miners who can mine coal, and ne'er the two shall mix. You'll often be forced to dig criss-crossing paths to get your various miners where they belong, quickly flipping between dig and build modes to make sure they don't intermix, since a miner will die if it encounters a material it can't dig mine. They'll also die if they touch hazards or scroll off screen, and since you have a finite amount of the little dudes per level, it's in your best interest to keep them in check. Which is going to get very hard very fast, as the levels start getting more complex, with new materials and hazards, and demanding you dig and build on the fly.

Micro Miners is as demanding as it is funny and adorable, and it is seriously funny and adorable at times. The presentation is great, and the constant quirky chatter from your workers as you play helps alleviate the tension. I mean... not a lot, since the challenge ramps up pretty quickly. Even with the instructional videos that pop up to display different "techniques" as you go, getting the hang of leading your miners around can take some work. Since miners are constantly reversing course if they hit a wall, it can be intensely frustrating if they're all merrily hopping ledges back up towards the top of the screen when you need them to go down along your carefully laid out path. It takes a while to master everything, from how high a ledge is too high for a miner to reach, to expertly swapping two opposing teams on different sides of the screen. Though it will take some practice and nerves of steel, for fans of Lemmings-style arcade action, Micro Miners is easily worth the effort. A bizarre, frequently funny game that piles on more and more surprises the further you play to keep you engaged, and fits in your pocket to boot. What more could you ask for?

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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Mobile Monday

JohnBHey there. How would you like a mobile game based on Game of Thrones? Well, you might just get it! Or you might not, it all depends on how far off the rumor mill is turning. As long as there's a mini-game centered around dropping dung on Joffrey, we'll consider it a success.

gameofthrones-p.jpgGame of Thrones... iOS? - Here's a silly question: who likes Game of Thrones? George R. R. Martin's massively epic fantasy book series A Song of Ice and Fire that turned into the equally massive HBO show could be coming to iOS in some game-like form. The fan site westeros.org recently posted a teaser image with the words "Winter is Coming" above an icon-shaped image and the App Store/NOOK logos. Intricate city management simulation? Card game? Punch-Out!! clone starring Tyrion? Another Angry Birds tie-in? (Oh please not the last one.) It's all rumor at this point, but it's fun to speculate!

Kung Fu FIGHT!Punch, kick, it's all in the mind - Android gets all the coolest, most indiest games first, doesn't it? If iOS owners were jealous a few weeks ago when we featured Nostatic Software's pixel-based endless running game for Android Kung Fu FIGHT!, you can now relax a bit, as the game has recently made its way to iPhone and iPad! Jump, slide, kick, and jump/slide-kick your way through levels filled with bad guys (mostly ninjas, wouldn't you know it) as you attempt to rescue the girl. A lot of excitement for a few little blocky characters!

openfeint.jpgOpenFeint goes bye-bye - Filed under the "lame-o business move" category, social gaming company GREE recently announced it would be discontinuing OpenFeint (which it purchased in 2011), the iOS market's original score sharing network. That's sad news in and of itself, but what really takes the cake and stomps on it is developers have just a few weeks to change to an alternate service or risk having broken apps lingering on the App Store. To top it off, Apple's yearly week-long vacation means many devs are busy finishing up end of the year releases as quickly as they can. Hopefully it won't cause too many issues, but it's still sad to see an oldie like this disappear so suddenly.

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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Little Inferno

DoraPart physics puzzle, part adventure, part pyromania-driven surrealness, Little Inferno, the first release by indie superheroes The Tomorrow Corporation (Kyle Gabler of World of Goo, Kyle Gray, and Allan Blomquist), is an unlikely chimera of a game that works on a multitude of levels. You're stuck inside a cold gray city where it hasn't stopped snowing since... well, nobody can remember the last time it wasn't snowing. It's important to keep warm, however, and lucky for you the manufacturers of the Little Inferno fireplace have made that easy and fun... namely, by creating something that quickly and efficiently burns all your belongings, and then selling you more things to continue the cycle! It might sound like a gloomy existence, but hey, igniting things that burn in spectacular fashion is weirdly entertaining and keeps you alive. Besides, there's nothing outside your walls worth seeing in the snow anyway... right?

Little InfernoSo it's simple. All you need to play the game is to play with fire. Parked in front of your Little Inferno, you can click anywhere to ignite a flame that will burn whatever it's touching, and keep you nice and warm to boot. Different objects made of different material can burn in drastically different fashion, and even interact in unexpected ways as they ignite. Just drag an object from your inventory, place it where you want it (careful, some things are fragile or destructive or... weird!), and then click and drag around the screen to set your flames burning. As things burn away, they generate money you can use to order more things to burn from the Tomorrow Corporation's catalogue. It takes anywhere for a few seconds to a few minutes for an item to be delivered, so if you don't want to wait, you can spend Tomorrow Stamps to get it instantly.

Of course, to get the best results, you can't just go incinerating things willy-nilly. In order to progress, you'll need to unlock combos by burning certain things together at the same time. Click the starred tab in the upper right-hand corner to get a list of all the combos in the game. Greyed out combos mean you can't create that yet, but the names of the others are the clues you'll need to figure out what items you need to burninate at the same time. For a combo to count, you need to ignite the required objects at roughly the same time, so you can't just drop something on the smouldering remains of something that had been burning for a while already. The more combos you earn, the more catalogues full of different items you'll unlock, and maybe you'll discover that there's more to life than what goes on in your fireplace in the process. Though... what goes on in the fireplace is pretty awesomesauce.

Little InfernoAnalysis: Little Inferno is wholly unexpected for quite a few reasons. I mean... it's kind of crazy. Like, a lot crazy. Its distinctive design is somehow both disturbing and beautiful to behold. Not just the way the off-kilter catalogue items are rendered and react to your interaction, but the fire and lighting effects themselves are absolutely gorgeous. It's easy to get caught up in playing around with all the objects you can light on fire, and the game has tons of surprises up its proverbial sleeve in the way they burn. It's a simple sort of gameplay, but also hard to put down, with the rich visuals that are their own reward, and the sneaky way the story unfolds. Triggering combos can be frustrating sometimes, since even if you have the correct items in place, the game can be fussy about recognising it if they're not touching in such a way that they light almost simultaneously. This forces you to slow down a bit and think about what you're doing and where you're doing it, instead of just piling everything into the blaze at once.

But what really makes Little Inferno work, more than its striking original design and simple addictive gameplay, is its clever storytelling. I bought Little Inferno for myself because after reading all the information and watching the trailers, I still wasn't sure what it was all about. I sat down to play it to evaluate it, and couldn't quite pull myself away from it until I finished it hours later. If you're not going for 100% combo completion, you can likely spend around four hours or more on it, but in that period of time Little Inferno manages to convey a surprisingly affecting story and some unexpected emotion. I may have possibly considered the notion of maybe tearing up a little bit at the end. It's beautiful, sneaky, strange, and with a style all its own, and serves up its addictively simple gameplay with a dose of heart to boot. Little Inferno is the sort of game that sneaks up on you, and if its striking atmosphere and intriguing concepts draw you in, it'll keep you warm as long as you park yourself in front of the hearth. Just don't forget... you can go as far as you want.

WindowsWindows:
Order the full version

Mac OS XMac OS X:
Order the full version (Not yet available, coming soon)

LinuxLinux:
Order the full version (Not yet available, coming soon)


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TrickyWhy Am I DeadA murder has happened. Yours. And with the storm, it could be days till the road is cleared enough to let the police in to investigate. You've helped a lot of the people staying at your hotel, and hurt just as many. But who would want to kill you? No one is going to tell a ghost... but your sure your guests won't mind if you borrow their bodies to gather a little information. After all, you'll be happy to move on when you're finished. Why Am I Dead? is a retro-style mystery adventure by Peltast Games, where possession is nine-tenths of the fun.

Move your spirit around the hotel using the [WASD] or [arrow] keys. When coming across a guest you wish to possess, move into them, and hit the [spacebar]. Once possessing a physical form, you can open doors and talk to other people with [E] or [X] Characters will react differently to different guests talking to them, and advancing the plot all the way to the conclusion will require quite the bit of detective work. Why Am I Dead's plotting and characters more than make up for its somewhat rough-around the edges programming and control scheme. Clearly at the moment, the developer has a greater amount of skill at constructing an effective mystery than depicting it in Flash. However, it is an ambitious, atmospheric work reminiscent of Hotel Dusk or Colonel's Bequest, and it has quite the killer ending. This marks Peltast Games as a designer to watch out for in the future. Especially if they're coming towards you with a knife.

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Help Volty

KimberlyIn a quiet shadowy street sits a mysterious bearded man with an intricate box. It is a game, of sorts. Would you like to play? Thus begins Help Volty, a beautifully atmospheric arcade avoidance game with puzzle elements for iPad by Tvundra Games. And of course you want to play. Why else would you be standing around in a shadowy street with a mysterious man?

Help VoltyInsert a coin to begin, and you'll meet your companion, a steam-punky little beetle named Volty. He is so named because he conducts electricity, which is an essential component in each puzzle. Tap and hold to make Volty walk toward your finger. He'll stop walking once you've lifted your finger. Tap or hold the red button on his back to pulse with electricity. On many levels the goal is to charge up a light using Volty's electricity, which in turn opens a door. How you go about that varies greatly. After each level you pass, you'll receive three coins specially marked for then next level. You'll need to insert one coin to continue. Unfortunately this means if you are unable to figure out the trick to the level within three turns, you'll have to go back to the previous level to earn some more coins. You'll make more electric friends along the way, which are essential to passing some rooms.

Volty could possibly be the most loveable bug since the roach on Wall-E. You will discover many different mechanical enemies you must avoid, all while figuring out how to escape to the next room. The downside is the short length of the game and the lack of a back story. I don't mind being dropped into the middle of the story as long as things are revealed along the way. But you don't get that in Help Volty. You will be left wondering why it was so important to get the little insect out of the box, and why he was imprisoned there in the first place. However the clever puzzles, beautiful music, and gorgeous atmosphere help make up for that. Now consider this: The next time you meet a stranger in an alley, perhaps you should just grab the box and make a run for it.

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


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grinnyp_forbiddensecretsalientown_banner.png

GrinnypHeart pounding, your raspy breath echoes in your ears amidst the sound of alarms and the inevitable ticking of a countdown clock. Swiftly you run to the nearest escape pod as time quickly slips away. Heels clatter amongst the throbbing of your heart and the wailing of the alarm as you dive into a handy escape pod and fly away from the mother-ship seconds before detonation. What is going on? The scene shifts to 24 hours earlier...That thrilling opening sequence belongs to the latest adventure hybrid from Alawar Games, Forbidden Secrets: Alien Town, and it's just the beginning of a rollicking good ride through a pastiche of nearly every sci-fi and horror cliche of the past 50 years.

grinnyp_forbiddensecretsalientown_screenshot1.pngThe year is 1969 and it is a gloomy, rainy day in Chicago (are there any other kind?) as a young agent from the Federal Bureau of Biosafety sets off on a train ride to the middle of nowhere, a.k.a. the town of Fort Nightingale. There is some sort of an outbreak in the dying, decaying town that has afflicted the remaining residents, causing them to fall into a stupor. That's not the only problem as you play the lady agent attempting to get to a town that seems to have no ties to the outside world, a place that no-one really goes, especially after the army base and the research laboratory left years ago. Can you find what is causing the illness while dodging the few unaffected (and slightly unhinged) residents as well as the creepy, creepy children?

You wander inside and around the town with the help of a changing cursor to point out areas that can be traveled to along with an amazingly useful map feature that shows where you are, where you've been, what areas need to be traveled to, and any of the "beyond objects" (morphing objects found as a side quest) you may have missed in your travels. Hotspots to investigate are highlighted by small glints of light; hidden object scenes by a cascading, otherwordly glow; and other areas of interest by the helpful cursor. A bottom loading inventory that tucks away out of sight when not in use holds the plethora of items found along the way which might be useful later, and of course the obligatory notebook keeps track of the story as well as visual clues that might be useful later.

grinnyp_forbiddensecretsalientown_screenshot2.pngForbidden Secrets: Alien Town plays like a standard point-and-click adventure sprinkled with puzzles, mini-games, and a variety of hidden object scenes to be solved or played through. You can walk around in the usual fashion or use the aforementioned map to jump from scene to scene. Gather clues, solve puzzles, chat with the increasingly paranoid citizens and the exceedingly disturbing children, and see of you can solve the mysterious plague that has decimated the town and maybe, just maybe, some of your own personal history.

Analysis: Gameplay in Forbidden Secrets: Alien Town is an amazingly cheesy and delightful mix of sci-fi and horror sprinkled with an astonishing amount of good strong puzzles and entertaining hidden object scenes. While the story and its resolution are a bit scattered, the wild atmospheric ride is most definitely worth it, especially for those looking for not only pretty graphics and good story-telling but also an amazing mix of gameplay.

grinnyp_forbiddensecretsalientown_screenshot3.pngVisuals are the standard "gloomy town threatened by a mysterious entity" done with a sharp eye for detail and some life-like animations that bring the little town to life (as much as possible when most of the citizens are frozen into place). The story borrows heavily from the classic sci-fi/horror film "Village of the Damned" (that would be the 1960 black & white British original, thank you, not the terrible 1995 re-make starring the late, great Christopher Reeve) down to the glowing-eyed, robotic, white-haired, British-accented children. Other stories are thrown into the mix with a little "Stargate" here, a little "Children of the Corn" there, with a heavy sprinkling of classic 50's sci-fi graphics to set the mood. In the end the story may not make a lot of sense, and the agent's past is thrown in there willy nilly without any warning, but despite the flaws ends up being a trashy good time. You can almost hear Joel and the bots snarking at every bit of dialogue.

Perhaps the best aspect of Forbidden Secrets: Alien Town is the gameplay, which is a dense, layered mix of pure adventuring, puzzle solving, mini-games, and hidden objects scenes in the perfect ratio. Most of the puzzle solutions are logical, although they do involve a rather heavy amount of property damage to the town you are trying to save. The mini-games are a wide mix of the familiar and the original, and even include some reflex puzzles like an alien-themed whack-a-mole and a nice call-back to early 80's avoidance video games. The hidden object scenes are nicely interactive and vary between classic "find the list of objects" and "reverse" scenes where you must place items back into the scenery. Most hidden object scenes are visited twice, once to find things, and once to put things back (or vice-versa).

The voice acting is adequate, although it falls down in places, and some of the dialogue reveals that English is not necessarily the first language of the author. The history is all out of whack, with a character from 1969 discussing Ebola (first noted outbreak: 1976) and someone in 1959 discussing the Cuban Missile Crisis (which if I recall happened in 1962). And the bonus adventure that comes with the Collector's Edition is pretty hefty, but features Native Americans in a very cartoony, frankly insulting way. It all seems to fit, though, with the goofy story-line and spooky atmosphere, creating an amusing and entertaining experience. Do adventure hybrids have the equivalent of a B-movie double feature? If so, Forbidden Secrets: Alien Town is first on the bill.

A Collector's Edition is also available. It includes concept art, wallpapers, a built-in strategy guide, and extra gameplay. Remember that Big Fish Game Club Members pay only $13.99 for Collector's Editions, and collector's editions count 3 card punches of 6 total needed for a free game.

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

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


  • Currently 4.7/5
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Rating: 4.7/5 (149 votes)
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The Witch's House

DoraCreated by Fummy and translated by vgperson, the free indie horror adventure The Witch's House combines the surreal creepiness of Ib with tricks, traps, and a whole lot of gore. As 13 year old Viola, you awaken to find yourself alone in a strange forest, watched over by a talking black cat that seems largely apathetic towards your fate. The way out of the woods is blocked by a wall of red roses, but there's a house with a door opened wide in welcome. That's not suspicious at all. Still, Viola's got no other choice but to head on in, and throughout the five floors that comprise the bizarre house she now finds herself trapped in she's going to encounter a lot more than cobwebs and broomsticks.

The Witch's HouseUse the [arrow] keys to move, and the [spacebar] to interact, hitting [X] or [ESC] to open your status screen and inventory. You can save your game whenever you talk to the cat, and that's one privilege you should probably take advantage of since, uh, well, Viola is full of squishy red meat and this house is hostile. Keep your eyes peeled for danger everywhere, but also for clues as to how to get past hazards. There's nowhere to go in the witch's house but up, and each floor presents different puzzles and challenges for you to outwit or die trying... literally. Heck, just walking in the door can mean becoming a Viola sandwich. Of course, if you want to make it out and find out the truth behind the house and the strange spectre that seems to be following you, you'll have to brave much bigger and stranger dangers than a mere flattening. Especially if you're intrepid enough to find out the true ending and a bunch of other secrets besides.

The Witch's House may have some moments of masterful terror, but for the most case it's more about being shocking. The story winds up taking a backseat to providing an experience somewhat like going through a theme park haunted house. Just when you think you have it pegged as a slow, subtle crawl through surreal imagery and creepy corner-of-your-eye fleeting creatures, it turns into an absolutely bananas chase sequence with giant angry skulls, thrown swords, vengeful giant bears, and more. It's a lot of fun, provided you don't mind terrible things like being rendered into a fine red mist or tearing her own eyes out happening to a little girl when you screw up, and the moments of subtler creepiness do manage to balance out the more outright weirdness. The downside is that some of the clues for solving puzzles can be almost too vague to the point where they blend into the background with all the other useless interactive objects you can find, and wrapping your head around each obstacle's strange logic can usually mean a few fatal tries. But is it worth it? If you're a fan of horror that keeps you on the edge of your seat and tries to make you jump out of it more than once, absolutely. The Witch's House is a gory, moody, fantastic little adventure to spend an evening with, especially with the lights turned down low and your speakers turned up.

Note: You must install the free RPG Maker VX RTP in order to play The Witch's House.

WindowsWindows:
Download the free full version

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

Thanks to Hyena for sending this one in!


  • Currently 4/5
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Rating: 4/5 (49 votes)
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KimberlyNightfliesEveryone loves ladybugs and fireflies. At least that's what Anton Koshechkin and Maxim Yurchenko are betting on with Nightflies, a charming physics puzzle game. Each level has some colorful lanterns on or near the ground. Your job is to clear a path so the nightflies can pick up the lanterns and carry them to their proper place above.

Using just your mouse, click to attach a ladybug to various moveable shapes around the screen. You've got a limited number of ladybug helpers, so plan your moves carefully. Point the bug in the direction you'd like it to fly and it will tow the shape behind it as it goes. These insects are stronger than they look. Keep in mind that they will also push against anything in their path. If you'd like to place more than one bug at a time, hold the shift key. They will start flying together when you release it. But be careful! The lanterns are fragile and will break if something falls on them. It's also time to restart if any of them fall off the screen. The nightflies will come automatically when you've used up all your turns, or you can call them in early by clicking on a lantern. Featuring challenging puzzles, a gorgeous sky, and cute ladybugs, it's a pleasure to help light up the night.

Play Nightflies


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Chip Chain

ArtbegottiIf you've ever watched professional poker players on television, you've probably seen them fiddling with their chips, stacking them and restacking them and shuffling them together. And that annoys me to no extent. It's like, "C'mon guys, just play already!" And I just want to jump up on the table and punt their piles of chips across the room. Inevitably the dealer would get angry and start throwing chips and cards at me to get me to stop. And then I would pull out a grid and catch all the chips, and we'd start playing Chip Chain, a match-3-esque puzzle by AppAbove Games where making combos with chips and cards can lead to huge points. (I'm good friends with the dealer, so he'd totally be down with this plan.)

Chip ChainNear the bottom of the screen, you'll find a queue of chips to be placed on the grid, with only the left-most chip available to use. When you tap an empty space on the grid, your chip will fly to that spot. The dealer then randomly throws down a chip of its own, sometimes a helpful chip exactly where you want it, sometimes useless (particularly the worthless X chip). Ideally, you want to set up chains of three or more adjacent chips with the same number, and if you can manage it, chains of increasing value next to each other. Tapping a chain clears that cluster of chips, but leaves a chip of the next-highest value in the spot where you tap. If you clear that new chip immediately in another chain, you can get an extra card to play, plus you start racking up more and more bonus points with each consecutive chain you clear.

The ultimate goal of Chip Chain is to accumulate the highest score possible given your stack of chips, but you're also given a hand of cards to play that can influence the board, such as adding or subtracting to the value of the chips, picking up a chip and moving it to the front of your queue, or even matching all of the chips of a certain value on the board, whether or not they're in a cluster. To use a card, tap it in your hand at the bottom of the screen, then tap the chip you want to use it on. Using cards does not interrupt your active combo, so you can use them to strategically change your chips mid-play to increase your score. However, your hand is limited in size, and new cards will bump older cards out of play if your hand is already full, so be sure to use them before they disappear.

In addition to the points that you score, you are awarded gems for each match that can be used to unlock special advantages in play, such as extra cards in your hand or longer limits on the Short and Timed game modes. In the free version of Chip Chain, there are only two modes available to play on a day, but all game modes and bonuses can be unlocked by saving up gems from play, or by purchasing gems in-game. The gems, however, are not a valid form of currency to bail yourself out of trouble when casino security throws you out for ruining the poker tourney, so you'd be better off grabbing Chip Chain to satisfy your chip-and-card urges.

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.


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imscared.gifJohnBGet your fuzzy blankey and turn on the lights, Imscared - A Pixelated Nightmare lives up to its name. This short and simple horror game from Ivan Zanotti puts you in a dark corridor and asks you to explore a bit, gathering keys in order to gain access to different rooms. You know you "need a heart" to make it to the exit, but surely that's some sort of riddle, isn't it? And that portrait totally had blood on it the first time you looked at it, you just didn't catch it in the same light... right?

Standard first person controls apply to Imscared, utilizing [WASD] to move, the mouse to look, and the [E] key to interact with things. Press [ctrl] to crouch, necessary to nab items laying on the floor. You can't interact with most things you see, but you'll be so busy holding [shift] to sprint that there's no time to stop and look through the linens. Watch the environment for clues, and try not to look over your shoulder too much. That looming darkness a few meters away is completely safe!

Imscared doesn't end when you think it does. It deceives you in many ways. Open the game's folder after you beat it and run it again. Maybe something more terrifying awaits? Or maybe it's something fun like a game of tag? Maybe you'll be too shaken up to try it again for a few hours/days/lifetimes. Either way, dark hallways and pixelated faces have rarely been this scary.

WindowsWindows:
Get the free full version

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


(5 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Haunted Legends: The Undertaker

DoraAll right, all right. I know undertakers are creepy and all, but there's no reason to go blaming them for every little unrelated thing that goes wrong, like a poor harvest, or that growth on your back, or... uh... hmm... well, okay, maybe zombies suddenly rising up to beset your sleepy coastal town could tangentially be related to a guy who spends all his time in a graveyard. Maybe. I guess the old saying is true. When there is no more room in H-E-Double-Hockeysticks, the dead will walk the hidden-object adventures. ERS Game Studio serves up a ghoulish good time with the next installment in their popular series, Haunted Legends: The Undertaker.

Haunted Legends: The UndertakerWell, as it happens, the town's zombie plague is only mostly the local undertaker's fault. When the world's most suspicious stranger comes and offers him an Amulet of Prosperity in return for a family heirloom, an "Ancient Mirror", he takes the amulet hoping to solve his family's financial problems. When he decides to stiff the stranger on actually delivering the mirror, however, the impish little fellow takes his revenge in a big way... apparently in the form of a curse that has the living dead wandering the streets day and night. (Although as far as zombies go, these are fairly well groomed and polite.) In an effort to keep her brains firmly inside their original container, the undertaker's wife calls you in to set things right rather than Leon S. Kennedy, who was presumably too busy practicing lame quips in front of a mirror. Unfortunately for you, detective, solving this mystery will be a little more complicated than going to the pub for a pint and waiting for this whole thing to blow over. You'll need to solve puzzles, gather clues and useful objects, and scour the town to get to the bottom of things, uncovering the truth behind a family heirloom and the corpses shuffling through the streets.

Haunted Legends: The UndertakerAnalysis: Don't be afraid. Despite the shambling subject matter, The Undertaker is light on gore and grossness, but piles on the creepy and surreal. It's an absolutely gorgeous game that's heavy on atmosphere and design, and its bizarre storyline piles on so many twists and turns that it's easy to get wrapped up in it almost immediately. The animation and voice acting is surprisingly good, and you'll even get a few mild jump scares for your trouble. Nothing legitimately scary, however, despite some morbid scenes, and some out-of-place goofiness with a capering monkey throughout the game is rather eye-rollingly obnoxious after a while as it disrupts the tone whenever it happens. It's hardly a deal-breaker, though, and fans of the genre will love the game's heavier emphasis on adventure and puzzle-solving, with the hidden-object scenes for the most part spaced comfortably out so they don't grate even if they tend to repeat.

The only real downside is that the game is fairly easy, regardless of difficulty setting. The puzzles are relatively straight-forward, weird as they can be (Zuma?!), and despite needing to do some backtracking items are usually right where you need them, even if it seems a little like busywork from time to time. If you don't demand a challenge, however, Haunted Legends: The Undertaker is the sort of fantastically weird and not a little bit creepy adventure that makes for a perfect evening of gaming. Aside from the undeniable lure of finding out the purpose of something called a "Destiny Fish", the game is packed full of cool scenes, high production values, drama, adventuring, and zombies trying to eat you in a very passive-aggressive manner. There's even a monster shoe. Monster. Shoe. Need a strange but effortlessly entertaining hidden-object adventure? Haunted Legends: The Undertaker is your guy. Provided you don't mind your guy gnawing on your limbs once in a while.

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 4.7/5
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Rating: 4.7/5 (117 votes)
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Escape from Mr. Y's Room 1+SonicLoverBy any real-life standards, the titular Mr. Y of Tesshi-e's Escape from Mr. Y's Room 1+ would be a very weird host. After all, if you were a typical person and someone invited you to get locked into a room so he could make you escape from it, chances are you'd call the police instead. Which is a shame, because you'd be missing out on a very entertaining experience.

You know what to expect from Escape from Mr. Y's Room 1+ if you've played Tesshi-e's past games: click around the room, solve puzzles, pick up items and use them (or examine them with "About Item"), and ultimately get the door open and escape. Or stay for a bit longer and find the Happy Coin that'll grant you the better of the game's two endings.

If anyone knows how to follow a tried-and-true formula, Tesshi-e does; they've gotten a lot right in the past, and they don't change any of it. As usual, the graphics are nicely photo-realistic yet never distracting, and the puzzles are logical and just challenging enough. There's some construction to perform as in many of Tesshi-e's past works (Escape from the Brick Room and Escape from Mr. K's Room 2 come to mind), but thankfully you've got some in-game instructions this time. The game is colorblind-friendly, with significant colors identified with text prompts when the cursor is over them. The music's an odd choice (seriously, it almost sounds like it belongs in a barnyard rather than in a brick-walled lounge), but you can mute it if it gets annoying, and with everything else so fine it's hard to complain.

But I've rambled for long enough. Feel free to go ahead and let Mr. Y lock you up. ...Wow, that came out sounding VERY wrong.

Play Escape from Mr. Y's Room 1+


  • Currently 3.9/5
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Rating: 3.9/5 (89 votes)
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elleEscape from the Room with Three Keys 6Do you have a moment or three to spare? Looking for an escape with the perfect minimalist design and cleverly built puzzles? Hottategoya's Escape from the Room with Three Keys 6 once again shows fanciful decorations, Spanish guitar melodies, and animated characters are, while perfectly nice, totally superfluous.

Forgoing all extras, even a changeable cursor, Hottategoya gets out of the way and lets your brain be the star of this show. You are behind a door with three locks and need to earn three keys by opening three boxes by using three clues in...well, you get the point. It may seem too stark at first but what counts the most—logical clues and quality puzzles—creates a fulfilling mental interlude even when you are short on time. Sort out jumbled picture tiles, interpret an abstract design, and apply a bit of maths skill and you'll be out. With Escape from the Room with Three Keys 6, there's no doubting Hottategoya has an established niche in the genre, honing its craft into a fine-tuned tidbit of escaping you're sure to enjoy.

Play Escape from the Room with Three Keys 6


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Link Dump Fridays

DoraLet us give thanks... for games! With the Baldur's Gate Enhanced Edition (finally) hitting later this month on top of all the news this week, it looks like 2012 is planning to go out with a bang and shows no signs of letting up just yet! So let's celebrate with punching some mimes, ending the world with basketball, growing our global restaurant empire, and creating a fragile colony of humans constantly under threat of attack by aliens and a hostile environment... just like grandma used to make!

Penny Arcade's On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness: Episode ThreeRemember, Remember, The DLC's In December Zeboyd's Penny Arcade's On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness: Episode Three was a pretty stellar off-kilter old-school RPG, and has continued to receive free DLC that expands and enhances the game in a variety of ways. (Like with furries.) Welp, all that is drawing to a close, but there's one last piece of free DLC on the horizon for December, and Zeboyd has just released the first screenshots for it... with a mysterious third party member edited out to avoid spoiling the surprise! Hmmmmm, says we. If you don't already own the game, $4.99 USD for a remarkably big and challenging RPG adventure filled with parodies and humour available on everything from PC and Mac to iOS and Android is a pretty sweet deal, and you can wrap it all up in time for this next bit of DLC in December.

Primordia'Tis the Season For Post-Apocalyptic Dystopias Also arriving in December is Wadjet Eye Games and Wormwood Studios' fantastic looking adventure game Primordia, and if you've been waiting to pre-order then now's your chance. Priced at $8.99 USD for a pre-order discount, the gorgeous and grim looking game follows a reclusive robot who just wants to be left alone with his droid companion in post-apocalyptia, but when someone steals the power source they need to survive, he's forced to go on a journey to a city with more secrets and revelations about the world that came before and our hero himself than anyone could expect. This one looks like it's definitely going to be a keeper, so check out the brand new launch trailer and get excited for when the game hits the proverbial streets this December 5th.

MaiaSure, A Hostile Planet Sounds Like A Great Place For a Colony! If you love simulations that let you build, defend, and come under constant threat of annihilation by angry alien forces, Simon Roth's Kickstarter for Maia, projected for PC, Mac, and Linux, should definitely be of interest. Billed as "Dungeon Keeper meets Dwarf Fortress on a primordial alien world", the game puts you in charge of building and maintaining a colony on a planet categorized as "mostly harmless", with mining, resource management, dark humour, and more. Check out the official website to learn more and see some gorgeous screenshots and concept art, and then head on over to Kickstarter to throw in your support!

Papa's Hot DoggeriaMy Hot Dog Has A First Name, It's P-A-P-A-APOSTROPHE-S If the ratings are any indication, you guys love the Papa's Series of time-management restaurant sims, so you'll be glad to hear that Flipline Studios is going to take you out to a ballgame with the upcoming installment Papa's Hot Doggeria! Though details are scarce, you can expect it to include all the same tricky, addictive gameplay you've come to love as you take and build orders from a huge pool of 46 ingredients. I don't know about you guys, but onions, relish, and mustard is about the extent of my dog adventurousness, but maybe I'll change my tune after we get a hold of this one!

The Magical Realms of T�r na n�g: Escape from Necron 7 - Revenge of Cuchulainn: The Official Game of the Movie - Chapter 2 of the Hoopz Barkley SaGaThat Title's A Mouthful And A Half Remember the bizarre RPG Barkely, Shut Up And Jam: Gaiden? We'll refresh your memory. "Charles Barkley in a post-cyberpocalyptic Neo New York where basketball has been outlawed due to the use of a catastrophic Chaos Dunk". No, you read that correctly. The game was something of a cult hit, and now the story will be continued in the upcoming sequel titled... *sigh*... "The Magical Realms of T�r na n�g: Escape from Necron 7 - Revenge of Cuchulainn: The Official Game of the Movie - Chapter 2 of the Hoopz Barkley SaGa". I'm tired just typing that out! But also excited. You can expect more surreal post-apocalyptic action as you play "X114JAM9, an amnesiac baller with no recollection of his past and no concept of his incredible b-ball destiny". Keep your eyes open for more information and a Kickstarter coming soon, and then go brush up on your ballin' skills in the meantime!... is that what they call it? Ballin'? Man, I don't know. How do you basketball?

Retro Game CrunchWe Jammin' Game Jams can lead to some pretty sweet projects, and now Shaun Inman wants to take the concept to the next level with his Kickstarter for Retro Game Crunch. Players who back the project will get to vote on a theme each month for six months, and Shaun and his team (Rusty Moyher and Matt Grimm!) will build and release each game in three days, then spend the next thirty polishing and developing it further based on player feedback. It sounds like an interesting experiment to say the least, and with some serious talent backing it up, this is definitely one retro train to consider boarding if you like the idea of shaping the development of the games you want to play!

My Life As A Video GameRemember, Remember, The DLC's In December Reader Sean wanted to let you know about My Life As A Video Game, a Kickstarter for a proposed webseries about a slacker named Don who gets pulled into an alternate reality, and must team up with a princess who's fed up with being rescued and her sidekick (The Menu System!) to try to find a way back home as they leap from game to game, through different genres. Getting a webseries off the ground and making it succeed is always a challenge, but it looks like there's some serious talent and dedication behind this one, and the concept could lend itself to some seriously cool episodes. If this sounds like something you'd watch, head on over to the official Kickstarter to show your support!

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!


(13 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Dream of Pixels

DoraDream of Pixels may be pretty darned aptly named, because Dawn of Play's luscious iOS arcade puzzler is all sorts of beautifully surreal and dreamy. Best described as "sort of like Tetris, only backwards and purdy", the game features two modes. In one, a wall of blocks slowly lowers from the ceiling, and you're given shapes to pick out from it to clear lines and keep it from reaching the bottom as long as possible. In the other, you're faced with no time limit, but a limited number of shapes and a structure that has to be fully dismantled before you use them all. With a rich design and addictive, simple yet challenging gameplay, Dream of Pixels is the sort of casually engaging action your touch screen device was made for.

Dream of PixelsGameplay is simple, but by no means easy. In arcade mode, shapes will appear at the top of the screen, and tapping on the grid of descending blocks will allow you to select and remove that shape as long as it fits within the section you're touching, and has room to fall. You can tap and drag to rotate the shape as you wish. Clearing a line keeps the wall from reaching the bottom, and will also move any pieces of the wall that may have been "stranded" by isolating them from the structure when you removed other shapes around them up one space to get closer to reattaching and enabling you to remove them. Remove several lines at once to get bigger bonuses, and keep going as long as you can in search of the almighty high score.

Puzzle mode, by contrast, is more relaxing but no less tricky. Each level gives you a different structure. You've got a finite number of shapes in a row at the top of the screen, and all the time in the world to pick and choose how to best use them to completely remove the shape in front of you. The catch is that shapes have to be used in order, and can't be used more than once, so you'll have to carefully plan each movement. If you mess up, just tap the little arrow in the upper right corner of the screen to undo your last movement.

Despite how frantic its arcade gameplay can get by design, something about Dream of Pixels just makes you want to go "Aaaaah" and sink back into your favourite comfy gaming spot. It's such a simple idea, and yet the lovely, colour-shifting visuals combined with the easy to pick up gameplay makes it something you can play for a long, long time without realising it, or anytime you have a spare minute or thirty to fill. The game lacks any sort of real variation to it, for the most part, and certain colours (usually in the puzzle stages) can blur and bleed together to the point where rotating and identifying where your shape is sitting can be a challenge. But if you're looking for visually stunning and effortlessly addictive arcade puzzle gameplay, Dream of Pixels is easily recommended and heartily endorsed.

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: 3.2/5 (70 votes)
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MeaghanPolar TaleBegamer is back with a new point-and-click adventure game about a little polar bear that isn't too fond of the cold. In Polar Tale it's up to you to lead the adorable bear to a warmer place. You will click on your environment to shift objects or pick up useful items to escape each scene. There is no constant inventory bar, and items will appear when you're in a scene that requires their use. When you have completed everything in the scene that you can you have to click on the bear to move him forward.

Polar Tale is a short and simple game that doesn't require a great deal of time and doesn't force you to solve overly complex puzzles. The "there-and-gone-again" inventory system is disconcerting at first but as you go through the game it's apparent that it's a nice tip off on what you need to do. The challenge of having to spot white items on a mostly white background offers its own unique challenge but will not hamper the enjoyment and inevitable success of your little polar bear.

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Rating: 3.5/5 (103 votes)
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elleSteampunk OdysseyThe 16th American president was one truly awesome dude, capable not only of ending slavery, unifying a nation, and pulling off the swankiest of fashion statements, the stovepipe hat, it was recently reported he was also most skilled at making vampires itch from a cardiac wood allergy. So when Abe (Abraham Lincoln, ladies and gents) needs your assistance through his Steampunk Odyssey, how are you going to refuse?

Move ramps, spin gears and employ steam to escort the distinguished bearded one out of the dark, mechanical city in this point-and-click puzzle adventure from Mif2000. Despite the Homerific title, this undertaking is more amusing afternoon stroll than arduous, decades-long journey and, once you get the timing down in a couple areas, poses little challenge. Meditative music, a smoothly responsive interface and a landscape that's aesthetically appealing despite the soiled grittiness of the steam era, inviting the eyes to gander freely, offer up the majority of entertainment, relegating the gameplay to merely a tactile way to engage in this artwork. It's enjoyable yet too short, leaving you wanting more great moments with Mr. Lincoln. But, while not the Gettysburg Address, Steampunk Odyssey might be just symbolic enough to perk up the rosy-cheeked optimist in you.

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Rating: 4.8/5 (26 votes)
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TNNS

JohnBTNNS is a wild arcade game from Action Button Entertainment and Rabbx that plays like a cross between Breakout and Pong, only about a billion times better (rough estimate). Imagine using a rubber paddle to smack a rubber ball around a stage filled with blocks, stars and arrows, then using some sort of telekinetic powers to make the ball curve a bit. That's TNNS, and if you're not laughing with amazement each time you fail/succeed, you're probably doing it wrong.

TNNSHere's TNNS in four words: don't lose the ball. Whatever happens, keep it bouncing, even if you have to sneeze or someone is stealing your shoes. By sliding the paddle across the side of the screen, you can bounce the ball back into the field, the goal being to gather stars and eventually hit the exit to move on to a new level. Unlike similar arcade games, you get to have a tiny bit of control in TNNS. When the ball is about to hit the paddle, give it a little slide to perform a curve shot. Yeah, ok, it's not that much control, but it helps you feel like you're doing something constructive instead of just playing rescue.

Much like Jetpack Joyride and its ilk, TNNS is extraordinarily replayable and features a between-death shop where you can customize and power-up your game by spending a few of those stars you gathered. There are also goals you can meet for bonuses, such as getting a multi-ball, playing multiple levels without dying, collecting certain numbers of stars, or playing while skydiving (unverified achievement, but it's probably there). All of this adds up to a higher score which you can easily share with your friends/non-friends for bragging rights. Or, even better, force someone nearby to sit down with you and play a two player game!

TNNSAnalysis: So here's a fact: TNNS is pronounced something like "tennis", so in case someone in real life asks you about the game, you won't call it "tens" or "tunes" or "sorta Pong" and sound like a weirdo. TNNS is a speedy, sometimes frustrating, sometimes punishing arcade game that rewards you for fast reflexes and a good relationship with Lady Luck. Mastering the squishy paddle to survive more than a dozen levels will take some practice. But since there are so many pretty colors and smile-inducing things to look at, you won't mind.

Mistakes are your worst enemy in TNNS, and more often than not a slight overshoot will be what ends your game. But that's life, isn't it? A few optional in-app purchases can help curb that pain by allowing you to load up on stars and buy power-ups that give you an easier time, like a barrier to stop the ball from leaving the screen, stage skips, bigger paddles, or destructive power-ups. The store is absolutely filled with neat things to grab, and you'll be more than tempted to do so just to see what hand-crafted madness awaits you in the next level.

TNNS is just, like, the best thing ever. The marketplace description is even worth reading, that's how "the best" it is. Fast gameplay, lots of stuff to do, and you'll never see the end of the game. TNNS may not give you six pack abs like Action Button's previous game ZiGGURAT will, but since it just might win a Pulitzer Prize or two in the future, you can at least say "first!" when everybody else in the world starts playing.

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: 3.6/5 (50 votes)
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DoraFlawed DimensionYou know, the more time passes, the more apparent it becomes that our parents were trying to kill us with nursery rhymes. A lot of us were taught as kids that if we went into the woods we'd see some stuffed animals having a picnic, but it turns out that going into the forest is a one-way ticket to Cursed Monstrosity-ville. We're on to you, Mom and Dad. In Black Square's morbid puzzle platformer Flawed Dimension, from 2PlayerGames, two kids out for a stroll suddenly find themselves twisted into monsters with different abilities, then merged together. One can spit out seeds that sprout platforms, and the other can hurl bone darts at enemies. As awesome as this might be at parties, it's probably a good way to get chased with pitchforks and torches anywhere else, so they set out to find a solution to their unique problem. Use the [WASD] or [arrow] keys to move, [X] or [L] to use your special ability, and [Z] or [K] to reincarnate so you can swap between characters. Keep an eye on the heart that represents your health in the upper-left corner, and grab any hearts you see to replenish it, since if you die you'll start back at the beginning of the stage you're playing. Since the game offers three difficulty settings, which is kind of a welcome surprise, you can make it as easy or as hard as you want.

Flawed Dimension's main, uh, flaw, is that its gameplay is relatively straightforward. The platforming feels simplistic, especially with the ability to only attack in a fixed line, and it doesn't take advantage of its core concept of different characters with different abilities in any way that really makes it feel significant or creative. Which is a shame, since the striking visual design and off-beat idea of cursed and twisted protagonists is one you'd love to see revisited and expanded. The end result is a game with a great sense of style that serves to deliver a slightly dark platformer that fails to really break free of its standard gameplay, but should scratch that itch for all the reality-warping, Tim Burton-esque platforming action you need in one small package.

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Rating: 4/5 (71 votes)
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Weekday Escape

GrinnypFor those of a certain age, the Saturday morning serial (whether you saw it on TV before the Tarzan movies or at the movies along with a cartoon and newsreel) is a wonderful thing, an episodic mini-movie designed to leave you at the edge of your seat awaiting the next installment. Room escape games have their own version of a serial that never ends, and No1Game is back with the next episode, Find the Escape-Men 43: EM-taro. This time around it won't be pretty!

Find the Escape-Men 43: EM-taroActually it will be pretty since the lovely traditional Japanese room the game takes place in is a serene concoction of wood and tatami, populated by a classic fire-pit and suspended cook pot. Find the Escape-Men 43: EM-taro is, as implied by the title, the 43rd episode in the grander scheme of things, finding those green running stick figures you see on exit signs around the world. Why do you need to find them? Duh, because they show you the way out! Finding those elusive men won't be easy, as it involves solving some puzzles, poking around, and making use of some found objects. The usual navigation arrows/bars help you explore the space as you search for those elusive guys wherever they may be hiding.

Find the Escape-Men 43: EM-taro is bilingual and can be played in both English and Japanese. The inventory system is easy to figure out and the puzzles are fun and not too simple. If there is a criticism to be leveled it is that No1Game has eschewed the use of a changing cursor, leading to some pixel hunting. Think of Find the Escape-Men 43: EM-taro not as a feature film but as a lovely animated short, something to hold your attention for ten minutes or so and provide a lovely mid-week break.

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War of Eclipse

JohnBWar of Eclipse is a one button arcade and role playing game from Game Stew that has a distinctly retro look and feel. A mysterious dark explosion destroyed half the population, bringing with it a race of evil aliens. The people fled in terror, taking refuge underground where they now spend their days gathering resources and hoping to survive for another day. But now, just when you get your new ship, the aliens attack. Now you've got to defend humanity the only way you know how: with steampunk ships that fire lasers!

War of EclipseWar of Eclipse takes a simple approach to one on one combat, alternating between turn-based fights and quiet time spent at the shop upgrading the ship's abilities, performing repairs, and gathering information. Once you think you're ready to go, head out to battle a foe and get ready to initialize your superb hand-eye reflexes. All you have to do is watch the moving arrow at the bottom of the screen and tap when it's in the gray areas to launch an attack. Stop in the darker area to perform a stronger attack, then sit back and watch the action. And if you happen to miss? Well, you really don't want to miss when you're fighting a massive alien being intent on feeding off of your corpse, do you?

Defeating enemies earns you gold, and gold can be used to upgrade your ship's various abilities, add additional equipment, or even purchase new vessels to fly into combat. There are also optional in-app purchases to speed up gold gathering. The whole system is satisfyingly deep with plenty of choices to make and a lot of great stuff to find. The battles feel like an epic showdown from Dragon Ball Z. Only faster. War of Eclipse is a frighteningly simple game to pick up and play, but just as frightening is how quickly you'll get sucked into the game and how long its hold will last. A wonderful, wonderful game to keep around for quick battles and long-term ship upgrading success!

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: 4.2/5 (202 votes)
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MeaghanThe ProposalWhen a man decides he wants to propose to the love of his life the last thing he expects is a jilted lover from the past coming around to mess things up. Seriously, third grade love? Some people really never realize when it's time to let go. Such is the case in the recent Carmel Games point-and-click adventure game The Proposal, where poor Josh finds that the girl he's planning to propose to has suddenly vanished. Upon realizing that your lady love has pulled a Houdini, you travel through the town stopping at different (sometimes silly) locations in order to find goods that will unravel where your beloved significant other has vanished off to. You'll click on your map in the top right corner to go back to the town layout and from there click through the mystery of the disappearing girlfriend.

This quirky game is a great addition to the robust genre of the offbeat catalog but its quality is improved compared to competitors. The graphics are more crisp (in a cartoonish way), and the protagonist has more objects to interact with than merely the ones he has to use to progress in his mission. The placement of the inventory boxes can seem somewhat cumbersome but doesn't detract from the full tilt silliness of the game itself, nor outright hinder gameplay. Essentially, this is a short but pleasing game with the age old tale of thwarted vengeance and destined love! Or at least one about a creepy stalker and valiant boyfriend.

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Rating: 4.1/5 (38 votes)
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DoraMusbitsYou know, mushrooms are pretty great, but most survival guides would probably caution against eating gooey, strange coloured, cupcake-shaped mushrooms. Then again, I suppose limbless rabbit things can't be choosers. I think Maya Angelou said that. Mushbits is a simple and simply adorable puzzle game about creating paths for rabbits to reach the colour of mushroom that matches them. The catch? They can only cross on platforms that match their colour, and whenever they cross over a normal platform, it changes to the opposite colour beneath them. Click on a rabbit and drag over the floating squares to create a path, then release to watch the rabbit hop merrily along it. You can take as many moves as you like to try to complete each level, though the only way you'll win a gold star will be if you do so within the number of moves in the top-left corner. When locked squares, unchangeable colours, moving platforms, and more are introduced, that's going to be even trickier.

Mushbit is that rare sort of simple, strange, yet gorgeously designed puzzler that can both put a smile on your face and keep you challenged at the same time. Its vibrant style and bouncy soundtrack are great, and the gameplay introduces enough new elements that its straight-forward concept keeps evolving enough to interest you. It's sort of like Sky Garden's crazier, weirdo cousin, though all the extra elements does mean the gameplay isn't quite as streamlined as it could be. There's a lot to be said, however, for a game that isn't afraid to tackle familiar concepts and try to make them seem fresh and different, while at the same time serving it all up in an eye-catching, toe-tapping presentation. Need puzzling to make your day complete? Mushbits will provide with a style and flair all its own.

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IQ Mission Epilogue

JohnBAnd what made you think your super secret spy assignment was over? Put on your spy hat (a baseball cap turned backwards, your home team's logo marked out, of course), polish off that decoder ring, and sit down with your mobile device to enjoy IQ Mission 2, an expansion to the original IQ Mission puzzle and brain teaser game that adds three new cities, each featuring the same extraordinarily high level of artwork and music that makes the experience just irresistible.

IQ Mission EpilogueThis time around, you have three puzzle types to work through, each with 32 levels to solve. Tokyo's game resembles checkers in appearance, but the object is to place pieces on the marked spaces by jumping over other pieces. Barcelona is a more spatial-type puzzle that challenges you to arrange a mosaic of shapes so that sides of the same color do not touch. And finally, in Tikal you slide a coin through a series of spaces in a vault to get it to the goal. The catch is that those pieces rotate when you move across them, severely limiting your options and forcing you to think so far ahead, you might as well be clairvoyant.

IQ Mission 2 doesn't mess with a formula that works, and these levels might as well have been a part of the first game. It's a bit short on content when compared to IQ Mission, but the challenge is definitely there, along with the creatively built levels that are so much fun to (sit there for 15 minutes without a clue as to your next move before finally getting an epiphany and reaching down to) solve!

Check out the original IQ Mission for over 120 more puzzles to solve!

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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The Vault

DoraA lot of gamers today will tell you they want innovation. Games that devilishly combine old concepts in unexpected ways, or introduce new ideas, or... I don't know... are controlled entirely through correctly performing The Wobble, or where your damage is tied to getting a souffle to rise or something. But you know what? Just because a game has a familiar setup that doesn't blow your socks right off your feet doesn't mean it isn't good, and here are three games that prove a talented developer willing to play with simple, well-trodden concepts is all you really need to achieve greatness.

  • Upgrade CompleteUpgrade Complete - Gamers love achievements and upgrades, but Anthony Lavelle takes that to the extreme in this satirical shooter that has you upgrading everything from the graphics to the menu buttons and more. There's a not-so-subtle tone of mockery to the whole process that left a bad taste in some of our mouths, but there's something undeniably addictive about the whole process... especially if you don't mind a game that feels like it's sneering at its own concept.
  • Red RemoverRed Remover - physics puzzles have essentially become the Starbucks of casual browser gaming... they're everywhere! Of course, this doesn't mean they're all created equal, or even that they need a lot of bells and whistles to stand out, as Gaz proved here. As the title implies, you're trying to get rid of all the sullen red shapes by clicking to remove them, but don't worry... that's actually what they want, and their gleeful expressions as they tumble out of sight are adorable. As the game progresses, with the addition of shapes you need to keep safe and gravity to contend with, it proves it knows just how to make the most out of its simple concept to provide exactly the sort of relaxing, entertaining gameplay experience you'll wish more games could manage.
  • Guardian RockGuardian Rock - It's true that a set of flirtatiously pretty graphics will get your foot in the door, but it takes more than that to make a good game. Fortunately, Torpedo Labs's gorgeous arcade-style sliding-block puzzler has some simple but engaging gameplay to boot. You play an ancient, sentient rock trying to keep greedy explorers out of its temple by doing what it does best... by smashing them into bits, using your environment to move yourself around and stop your sliding. As you play, new elements like traps and TNT will keep you on your toes (blocks have toes now, shut up), and provides enough variety and challenge to make a straight-forward gameplay concept something effortlessly engaging.

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


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Rating: 4.6/5 (368 votes)
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elleMonkey GO Happy: Mini Monkeys 2When the winter blues befall Pencilkids' family of pathos-filled simians, it's because those lovably bitty baby monkeys have gone missing again in Monkey GO Happy: Mini Monkeys 2. Can you help? Solve a few puzzles while searching through these snowy scenes, looking over, under and behind any place a miniature simian can be obscured until you've found, picked-up and returned the precious darlings to the basket.

As in the first episode of mini monkeys, just being observant, looking for clues and signs of hidden cuteness is your main mode of gameplay in this point-and-click seek-and-find puzzle game. While very accessible and affable, something all ages can enjoy playing, you'll likely come to at least one "I wonder if..." and "Yes, indeed it does!" moment while playing, so explore a bit more as not every answer is immediately apparent or right in front of you. But the biggest appeal of this series are the cheek-pinching adorable characters in a discovery laden setting, providing a most affordable frown reversing procedure to start the season in a merry mood.

Play Monkey GO Happy: Mini Monkeys 2


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Rating: 4.6/5 (57 votes)
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TrickyAmerican RacingTo quote something John Kerry never said, "Who among us does not love NASCAR?" Admittedly, most of us has never been behind the wheel of a souped up stock car, but it's hard to resist the siren call when walking by the obligatory sit-down driving game at your average movie theater arcade alcove. American Racing, by TurboNuke, seeks to capture that steering-wheel coin-operated action, and by and large, it succeeds.

Select an event on your calendar with the mouse, and you'll be transported to the track for a rolling start. Using the [WASD] or [arrow] keys accelerate, brake, and turn left and right as you speed around the track, advancing upon your opponents. Guiding yourself behind an opponent will grant you a burst of speed from Drafting, as well as adding to your Boost meter. Your boost can be activated with [X], [Ctrl], or [Shift]. Most of the events are standard races, though there are also challenges like running over a certain number of robots, or forcing an opponent to spin-out before time runs out. Each event has requirements for clearing or getting a gold medal. Completing events and damaging opponents during a race grants you cash which can be spent on upgrades. New events are unlocked as you clear races, leading up to the overall championship at the end of the season.

As mentioned above, American Racing's inspiration is the clearly sit-down coin-op racing games, which means lots of fast and furious arcade fun, but also limited customization options for your car. It's much closer to Daytona USA than Gran Turismo. There's a nice selection of tracks and various racing challenges to face and the Championship League Table is a cool addition to the formula. Gameplay is surprisingly fluid and lag-free for a 3D in-browser work, though one wishes that an upgrade to your car's Handling was available for the more precision-based challenges. That said, American Racing is sure to get your adrenaline rising as fast as your speedometer will. Boogity Boogity Boogity!

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Mobile Monday

JohnBBeginning your weekly journey to continued financial/scholastic success, might we suggest you take a peek at what games are currently brewing for your future enjoyment? Or perhaps have already been brewed for your present enjoyment? They've got nothing to do with actual brewing, just space and wooden blocks and stuff, which is better.

illo-p.gifillo aims to be coolest game ever - An action/puzzle game concept in the works by Raylight, illo is a gorgeous game that utilizes a bit of wind, a bit of physics, and a bigger bit of creativity. The game aims for a minimalist design that can be played and enjoyed by anyone, provided their mobile device has the necessary equipment (touch screen, tilt sensor, microphone). You'll have to check out the teaser videos to get an idea of what the game will be like, but the team is still tight-lipped about the whole thing. Color us intrigued, though!

wakingmars-p.gifWaking Mars update brings more of everything - Even on a buttonless mobile device, you've got to admit a metroidvania game set in space is an awesome idea. We featured Tiger Style Games' Waking Mars earlier this year and absolutely loved it, and just recently the team pushed out an update that adds full voice acting for all of the in-game dialogue as well as various artwork improvements. Previous updates also added Retina display support as well as support for the new iPhone 5's wider screen, and since this game relies so much on visual awesomeness, those are some big improvements indeed.

woodhead-p.gifWoodhead's looking a little lite - A few months ago we featured the sliding block mobile puzzle game Woodhead. A few moments ago we started a paragraph that's going to tell you the game has now been updated to include a bunch of brand new puzzles! Also, in case you were ever on the fence about trying the game, a free lite version is now available, letting you jump in without, you know, really jumping in. Seriously, go check this game out. You won't regret it!

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: 3.6/5 (71 votes)
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MeaghanHordes and LordsGood morrow, fair ladies and gentle sirs! Come hither for a most lovely tribute to your fine tastes! I give unto thee Hordes and Lords, a quite beguiling tactical strategy RPG game created by Oroboro Games. All mock renaissance speech aside, the country of Ingelron was once ruled by a jerk of a king but he came to an untimely demise in a questionable fire. The land is being plagued by bandits of all sorts, but one bandit has set his eyes towards a brighter future. Hardadjust, a fearsome warrior if ever there was one, is ready to be more than merely a criminal. He's ready to take over the land and become the new king. Easier said than done, which is why he needs you and a gaggle of other bandit battalions to help him.

At the beginning you have the option to choose between campaign and survival. Campaign allows playing the story line whereas survival is testing your ability to not be killed. If you choose campaign you will start off with two fighting teams, both of which will have their coat of arms displayed at the top left corner of the screen. On the battlefield there will be a patch of ground that is lighter than the rest of the field and that area is where you will place your troops. Left click on the coat of arms at the top to select it, then move your cursor over the spot on the ground where you will want to place the team. Click on the team and hold down the click to rotate the direction you want your band to fight. When your team is in position you can click fight and the battle will begin. You can choose to leave your teams where they are or click on the banner men and a blue arrow will appear which you can stretch to the area you want that group to go to. Throughout the fight coins will drop from dead enemies which you will have to collect by hovering your cursor over them.

Upgrades are available after each battle for your troops. You can choose to upgrade either armor or weapons but with each upgrade the price goes up. You can also buy an upgrade for the magnet which is used to collect the loot from your foe. As you go through the game you will also encounter other groups that, after the battle they helped in, you can hire them for a fee. On a plus side, after paying the hiring fee the group will stay with you for the entirety of your play. To help earn more gold you have the option to replay previous battles with no consequence for doing so.

It's not common to find a game like Hordes and Lords that not only has a generous upgrade system but also a story line told by such a wily narrator. One thing that seems needless is having to rotate your troops when, more often than not, they shuffle themselves to accommodate victory once the battle begins. It's a small grievance especially because the minute an enemy is nearby your warriors will move of their own accord to fight. It will be necessary to redo previous levels to earn enough gold to continue upgrading, which will in turn allow you to fight tooth and nail to the last battle site. Though the fights are short and don't require much help from you, the option to upgrade and add six more fighting groups boosts the allure of the game. With a cheeky minstrel to give you laughs and high enemy death counts abound, this game will keep you smirking with satisfaction.

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Rating: 4.8/5 (63 votes)
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Sugar, Sugar (Mobile)

elleIt's been said that the simplest of things bring the sweetest enjoyment. If you doubt that saying's verity, you need only sift through Bart Bonte's marvelously simple yet exceptionally unique Sugar, Sugar to know it's true. Those who've enjoyed the browser-based installments in Bonte's Sugar series can now take their sucrose fix to go in 35 brand new levels plus a sandbox mode. You have one basic goal in this physics puzzle game: draw lines to direct the flow of the confectionery bits into their designated cups—that's all there is to it and yet it's so much more.

Sugar, Sugar (Mobile)Close examination of sugar particles reveals their multifaceted complexity and the same applies here. After a couple tutorial levels, the empty cup predicaments become increasingly sticky as new variants are added and the sugar supply becomes more limited; you'll have to figure out how to color the sugar, send it to the correct cup, utilize gravity at just the right moment, and avoid blocking off pathways needed in the future. This means your brain's problem solving center will be high on sugar jitters and, at times, as unsure where to go next as a kid with a pocket full of quarters set loose in a candy store (or an unlimited video game gallery as times may be!).

This mobile version of Sugar, Sugar is not as much a study in patience as its predecessors, but it still tests your cleverness with creative puzzles, requiring you to you plan when and where to draw the pathways to full cups while the sugar flows a bit more quickly and tends to be less plentiful. Sugar, Sugar's only drawbacks are the natural flip sides to its casual gaming goodness. A bit misleading at first, Sugar, Sugar starts easy, giving plenty of room for error and allowing you to breeze through the first half of the game. Ah, the satisfaction of achievement! Until you worry you'll run out of the fun too soon. Fortunately, it's just about that time that the difficulty ramps up, requiring more time and effort; the "restart" button begins to get a lot of play, and you might even wish for a skip level option that is nowhere to be found. Relief is nearby when, at such time you're too stumped, you can switch over to sandbox mode and doodle through an endless "sandy" supply until you have your bearings back, ready to re-tackle the challenge.

Sugar, Sugar plays like a game that was meant to be on the touch screen all along; the production is seamless and well suited for players of every age. If you were especially delighted by the perplexing puzzles in Where's My Water, your wits will be well-matched here. The smooth jazz beat, monochromatic design and almost airy flow of sugar makes the mental challenge feel much less frenzied, more relaxing, and very chill. Sugar, Sugar is a simple idea so sweetly designed your cup will soon overfloweth with fun.

Play the Sugar, Sugar browser games:
Sugar, SugarSugar, Sugar: The Christmas SpecialSugar, Sugar 2

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


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grinnyp_unfinishedtalesillicitlov_banner.png

GrinnypIf you grew up with the story of Thumbelina, you know her as a tiny woman who lived through many adventures before finding her one true love, the flower fairy prince who became her husband. What the classic fairy tale doesn't get into are the trials and tribulations she suffered after she found her prince. Fortunately Elephant Games has stepped in with a charming new adventure hybrid, Unfinished Tales: Illicit Love, and covered the gap after the romance and before the wedding, which of course is imperiled by an evil witch queen. Seriously, it's not a fairy tale without one.

grinnyp_unfinishedtalesillicitlove_screenshot1.pngThe action begins at Thumbelina and the Prince's wedding, which is interrupted by the attack of the evil witch in question. Playing as Thumbelina, you must navigate your way through a fairy kingdom now under the iron grip of evil while trying to rescue the hapless Prince from the witch's clutches. Interestingly enough, she claims that the Prince promised to marry her, and she's just here for her due. Is the evil witch delusional? Is she simply a wronged ex-girlfriend? Is the Prince a two-timing twerp? Or is something else going on, something even more wicked?

Thumbelina must gather her courage and wind her way through the kingdom and the castle in her attempts to salvage her wedding day. Navigation arrows, a grabby hand, a magnifying glass, or a pair of whirling gears are the icons that the cursor can change into to indicate areas of movement or interest. Friendly glints and sparkles of light highlight places you might want to give a second look, and a very helpful magic mirror (who is just sick and tired of lying to the evil witch about who is the fairest) tags along for the ride to provide helpful hints. The level of hints available depends upon the modes of play of which there are three: casual for those who like the hand-holding, Advanced for those who like a bit of a challenge, and Hardcore, for those who want no hints, skips, or help of any kind.

grinnyp_unfinishedtalesillicitlove_screenshot2.pngUnfinished Tales: Illicit Love foregoes the standard notebook to keep clues in as you wander through the world. Instead you have a very handy map that keeps track of current goals, shows areas you've been to, highlights places where things still need to be accomplished, and provides a handy way of moving from one place to the other without a lot of back-and-forthing that plagues many adventure hybrids. A bottom-loading inventory that slides down out of sight when not being used allows you to gather a plethora of items, all of which will eventually be useful. Armed with the hints and the assistance it is your job to help Thumbelina figure out what is going on and rescue her Prince before the wedding cake gets stale.

Analysis: Elephant games drops Unfinished Tales: Illicit Love into a very crowded market, fortunately armed with numerous features that make it a strong contender, beginning with the story of Thumbelina, the Prince, and the wronged Witch. Is the witch fighting for something that she doesn't deserve, or is the Prince a love 'em and leave 'em dawg who two-timed both women? That question keeps things interesting as the adventure unfolds.

grinnyp_unfinishedtalesillicitlove_screenshot3.pngThe first thing you notice when you fire up Unfinished Tales: Illicit Love are the stunning, glowing, fairy-tale graphics, enhanced with a multitude of little animated details that bring the flower fairy kingdom to life. You might need a high tolerance for the cutesy as the tale goes on, especially when you reach the castle gardens, populated with the most adorable baby animals seen outside of face book and various websites that don't know how to spell. Even the most jaded amongst us might sigh and say "Awwww, how cute!" when faced with this miniature menagerie.

The cut-scenes are tense and action-packed, the music is alternatively lyrical and bombastic depending upon the location. The voice acting and dialogue are a cut above with a few exceptions, adding to the entertainment value. The heart of the game, though, is the adventuring, hidden object finding, and puzzles that make up the backbone of the gameplay. The adventure aspects are for the most part well thought out, requiring a lot of logic, object finding, and puzzle solving. The hidden object scenes are rather sparse and nicely spaced so as to not interfere with the flow of the story. The puzzles themselves are a delightful surprise with a wide range of difficulty levels and many unique and original takes on classic logic problems.

There is one downside to Unfinished Tales: Illicit Love, and it is the fact that the story rather goes off track halfway through the game, with Thumbelina concentrating so much on solving problems for the kingdom's inhabitants that the main tale tends to get lost. And while the additional adventure included in the collector's edition is amazingly hefty and most definitely worth the extra price, Elephant Games has placed much of the resolution and exposition there, so that those who play the standard edition will never learn the whole story.

Unfinished Tales: Illicit Love provides intriguing, involving, gameplay wrapped up in an exquisite bow of sound and visuals, enhanced by some pretty decent story-telling. The choice of game modes should appeal to a wide range of adventure hybrid fans, as well as the engaging gameplay. Despite its flaws Elephant games has packed a lot of entertainment into this fresh take on an old fairy-tale.

A Collector's Edition is also available. It includes wallpapers, concept art, music, extra gameplay, and a built-in strategy guide. Remember that Big Fish Game Club Members pay only $13.99 for Collector's Editions, and collector's editions count 3 card punches of 6 total needed for a free game.

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

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


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The Fool and His Money

TrickyIn 1987, a seminal work of the puzzle game genre was released: Cliff Johnson's The Fool's Errand. The tale of a Fool seeking his fortune in the land of Tarot, battling against the challenges Best of Casual Gameplay 2012of warring kingdoms and the manipulation of the High Priestess. It brought the concept of the Meta-Puzzle to the world of computer games, with the solution of each cryptogram, maze, tetramino, jigsaw, word square and so forth contributing to a larger whole. It sported a novel's worth of prose both elegant and confounding, and a silhouetted aesthetic, unique then as now. It was a masterful Alternate Reality Game on a single diskette, any fan of logic and word puzzles owes it to themselves to play it for the price of one shiny "fooling around a bit with the emulator".

The Fool and His MoneyFinished? Good. Spoiler: Having emerged victorious in his quest, the stolen fourteen treasures of Tarot in his possession, The Fool set out to return them to their rightful owners. But Cliff was certain that the High Priestess wasn't done with her mischief, and began sketching out plans for a sequel, where the fool would be parted with his gold and, with the help of the player, find it once again. As so often occurs, other projects took his attention, and Johnson became known as a puzzle-master par excellence, developing new kinds of brainteasers and treasure hunts for various clients, including one for David Blaine which boasted a $100,000 prize at the end. But still, Cliff's thoughts returned to The Fool and His Money. In January 2003, he began accepting pre-orders for the long awaited sequel. Fans waited with bated breath. And waited. And waited. Time went on, almost a decade, and projected release date after projected release date passed on the calendar. Those who had invested began to get antsy. After all, if you are trying to convince your audience that your promise of a game is not, in actuality, some kind of elaborate performance art piece, then titling your work as such is not particularly conducive to your cause. But happily, the sayers of nay were proven wrong, and The Fool and His Money has finally gone gold. Look out next week for the pigs flying and Satan getting whacked in the head with a snowball.

It's hard to describe the nature of the game to those who have never played it, since there are so few other works like it. Broadly, though, upon starting the game and choosing a save file, you will be presented with a list of names corresponding to pages in the book of the Fool's journey. Clicking a name will send you to a screen with an incomplete text describing part of the fool's adventure, setting up puzzles of all types to be solved. Using clues in the text and the often-required instructions provided by the [HELP] Button at the bottom of the screen, solve the puzzle, and the rest of the text on the page will be filled in. The more puzzles you solve, the more pages are unlocked. Every page solved also adds a piece to the Moon Map, a jigsaw that shows the path the Fool takes through the countryside as hinted at through the text. Completing the map unlocks the concluding pages and the final battle of wits.

The Fool and His MoneyAnalysis: It was worth the wait. It was worth all the wait. If you loved The Fool's Errand, you'll love The Fool and His Money, and even if you've never played the original, those among us who fill out Games Magazine's Pencilwise section in ink, will have a lot to like. It is by no means a game that can be rushed through with no effort. To beat this game, you will have to take notes on scrap paper, call over your family member that's great at word square, quit in frustration while cursing Cliff Johnson's name, then immediately re-open the game a second later when the pieces mentally snap into place and you figure that IBNRAGA unscrambles into BARGAIN. It's a tough game, but it's fair. Every puzzle has a logic to it that may be befuddling at first but perfectly obvious in retrospect. Every tiny step you push forward in the plot will make you feel very smart indeed.

There's a nice variety of different kinds of puzzles. Overall, those with the mind of a wordsmith will probably have an advantage, but all parts of your brain will be required to make any headway. A particular stand-out is a type returning from the first game, where the Fool is challenged to a Tarot card game with concealed rules. While your opponent is good, they're nowhere near perfect, and if you can just figure out the rules by observation, you're certain to beat them. There's a certain amount of repetition in the various puzzle types as the game progresses, genres popping up more difficult forms as you get closer to the game's completion. Really, it comes off as a natural feeling progression, though if a puzzle gives you particular trouble early on, then it might cross the line into frustration when it shows up again. (In particular, this reviewer still cannot quite get the hang of the "Press the letter-adding buttons in a certain order, so as to make a final coherent sentence" type, and unfortunately, that seems to be one of Johnson's favorites.)

The Fool and His MoneyAesthetically, the game is a bit of a mixed bag. The black silhouettes combined with evocatively colored backgrounds are nothing short of beautiful, though they lose a lot of their appeal the few times they are animated. It almost seems a little ungrateful to complain that a one-man project with excellent writing, puzzles, and graphics kind of drops the ball on the tweening, but there you have it. Also, the musical cues, while jazzy and interesting, seemed a little out of place for the pseudo-medievalism of the story, and was often distracting during play (though this may be a personal opinion).

Quibbles with window-dressing aside, The Fool and His Money is a worthy successor, and, maybe the best puzzle game of 2012. Even after all this, Johnson has still dropped hints about the possibility of completing a trilogy with "The Fools Paradise". From current data, we can extrapolate that we should be seeing it sometime around the fall of 2037. Well, The Fool and His Money lived up to the hype, and it contains a good twenty-five years of challenge that every sort of fool should rush in to immediately.

WindowsWindows:
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Get the full version

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DoraArkandian Legends Chapter 3: ExplorerMerlin, Gandalf, Dumbledore, Starswirl the Bearded... it's kind of hard to name a wizard that wasn't capable of a whole lot of coolness, so it should follow that the secrets in any wizard's legacy should be pretty nifty too, right? In Undefined's latest chapter in the Arkandian Legends RPG series, Arkandian Legends Chapter 3: Explorer, the archmage Travicus built a series of forever changing magic dungeons on the Border Isles that were protected from everyone by a magic shield until his death. Now, with the shield down, venturing within the unknown depths of those dungeons sounds like a pretty good idea to a whole lot of adventurers... yourself included. With the promises of uncovering four fragments of a magic macguffinIMEAN magic key that will let you into the late, great mage's fortress, this sounds like a primo opportunity for some turn-based dungeon crawling... and sweet, sweet loot! Also, heroism, probably. But mostly loot.

You'll create your character, choosing from sex and appearance in addition to a multitude of different races that have various positives and negatives, and then set out and commence to plundering. Click on a dungeon to enter, and then use the [arrow] keys to navigate. Just walk into items and treasure to pick them up, and enemies to initiate battle. When you begin, you'll be somewhat of a weakling, so you can expect early dungeon expeditions to involve a lot of ineffectual flailing while yelling "not the face, not the face," but hey, that's how we learn. Your skills will slowly climb as you do battle, increasing in everything from basic melee to dodging, magic, and more, so don't worry if it seems like you're missing more than you're hitting in the beginning... you can always select "auto attack" if you can't be bothered to choose every round's attack yourself.

Arkandian Legends Chapter 3: ExplorerAs you adventure, you'll probably wind up with more treasure than you really need, but you can use that to outfit your squad, who will help you during tactical battles, which play out as turn-based strategy board-games... sort of. Only your squad mates will fight during these, as you maneuver them around the map against enemies, but they'll gain in strength and skills just like your hero does. Who is presumably off drinking mimosas, or maybe standing on the sidelines making dramatic Dragon Ball Z-style battle commentary. Additionally, you can also spend extra gold on designing and outfitting your hero's home, because everyone knows you can save the kingdom all you like but you haven't really become the stuff of legends until you've got an indoor swimming pool and an ice cream parlor/bowling alley.

Play all the Arkandian Legends games:
Arkandian Legends: CrusadeArkandian Legends 2: RevenantArkandian Legends 3: Explorer

Undefined has, at this point, basically perfected that formula for the perfect addictive casual RPG. Though heavy on grinding, there's something about the endless quests, treasure, and robust skills and crafting system that makes it the sort of thing that can take huge bites out of your free time. Compared to the first few titles, Explorer feels like it's really been worked to make it streamlined, with auto-attack being a welcome addition to battles in particular. The house design aspect is a nice touch, though it fails to really feel more like busywork, and the tactical battles that make their return still feel a little slow and dull in the beginning. It also feels like the game has taken a step back with its story in that there really isn't much of one, though I guess you can pretend you're actually running around Halaster's Undermountain. Despite these complaints, however, Explorer is still an extremely impressive feat packed with hours of gameplay and tons of additions, like the new races, that make it a lot of fun to spend an afternoon or two with. After all, where else can you play a magical angel who charges into battle wearing pajamas, blue-jeans, and sunglasses?

Play Arkandian Legends Chapter 3: Explorer


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Phantasmaburbia

coryYou know what the worst part of dealing with ghosts is? It's not how scary they are or how they keep you up all night with their anguished moaning. No, the worst part is the ectoplasm. That stuff gets all over everything. If you don't want all your worldly possessions covered in slime, you might just want to ghostbust by proxy in Phantasmaburbia, an RPG by Greg Lobanov, creator of Dubloon, Assassin Blue, and a variety of other titles.

PhantasmaburbiaPhantasmaburbia stars four kids and their spirit companions who are tasked with saving the town of Owl Creek from an extradimensional invader. Much of your time will be spent running around exploring ghostly locations and finding goodies using a top-down view. When you encounter a roaming enemy, you'll use your mouse to battle ghosts, spirits and demons using a battle system styled after the ATB combat seen the Final Fantasy series.

The battle system is simultaneously simple and complex — you can succeed through grinding and brute force, yes, but smart play will get you further with fewer issues. There's also an action element at play during combat: several of your characters' attacks and many enemy attacks involve short mini-games to enhance or reduce damage, so you'll need to stay on your toes. There's an elemental system, stat buffs and debuffs and other nuances to consider as well, but things stay quick and snappy and battles rarely feel like a slog. Since enemies are clearly visible while exploring, it's even possible to avoid confrontation altogether if you're not feeling up to it.

Battle's not all that's going on here, though. Each spirit companion has a unique ghost power, ranging from telekinesis to possession, and you'll put these to work solving puzzles throughout the game. While they're not a walk in the park, pains were clearly taken to keep the puzzles from becoming overwhelming as well. It's not uncommon to walk into a room that seems painfully complex at first glance but which turns out to be fairly simple upon closer examination. There's a definite balance struck between difficulty and accessibility where you'll never find yourself stuck for days in a single room because you just can't figure it out.

PhantasmaburbiaAnalysis: The presentation of Phantasmaburbia is fantastic. Everything's got an endearing Saturday morning cartoon style and the spooky music suits the action, while the writing was clearly inspired by classic games like EarthBound. The enemy designs are great as well — you'll fight everything from a standard white ghost to a "standard" man in a white ghost costume (dubbed "Definitely A Ghost") to elementally supercharged animals. Battle animations are simple but functional as well. You won't see any hour-long spells here, but there's also more going on than colored blobs flying around.

The plot helps reinforce that Saturday morning feel as well. This isn't a horror game, but things are just surreal and spooky enough to stay true to the setting and keep the proceedings interesting. Our heroes and their spirit companions are believable and interesting; nobody grates on the player and nobody steals the show from the rest of the cast at the expense of everyone else. Perhaps the best aspect of the plot is that it's not really forced down your throat. Cutscenes are frequent but never turn into endless, snore-inducing walls of text. You're told what you need to be told, given an idea of where to go next, offered a taste of plot if you want it and allowed to enjoy the game on your terms.

PhantasmaburbiaThe most enjoyable aspect of Phantasmaburbia, and perhaps its most surprising, is the game's depth. This is a game that doesn't go the increasingly popular indie route of relying solely on nostalgia to sell itself; you're getting value for your money here. For instance, the second act of the game involves exploring a variety of dungeons based on the game's elemental pairings. When you go through a dungeon, its opposite is closed off. It's entirely possible to replay the game and see the other dungeons, which feature substantially different structures, enemies and puzzles. This sort of feature, combined with the game's various optional side quests and collection quests, go a long way to keep the game fresh. The first playthrough will likely last around 9 hours and there's a good chance you'll want to play again to see what you missed.

All in all, Phantasmaburbia is a pleasant surprise. The name of the game during development was clearly "fun"; Banov has taken the Japanese-style RPG and strained out the bits that simply don't add fun to the genre like random battles, painfully difficult puzzles and agonizing walls of incomprehensible plot. What we're left with is the essence of a great game. It's fun, it's deep and it's a game that anyone would do well to try, even those who aren't necessarily RPG fans.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


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Mystery of the Ancients: Curse of the Blackwater

MeaghanWhat do you get when you cross a potential Stephen King novel with a pinch of Indiana Jones, minus the Nazis? Not aliens. Better, I promise! You get the newest Mariaglorum game; Mystery of the Ancients: Curse of the Blackwater. This thrilling new hidden object puzzle adventure game is not only a new release by the team but also the newest installment in the Mystery of the Ancients series. And to get this out of the way: no, Shia Lebeouf has not decided to play a misunderstood rebel.

Mystery of the Ancients: Curse of the BlackwaterNews has come in that the town of Blackwater is host to a rather ironic problem. The citizens are plagued by toxic black water and have essentially deserted their homes for fear of their lives. Before this evacuation could occur, however, two archaeologists went missing. Turns out this quiet seaside town is actually the site of an ancient temple dedicated to Poseidon and is guarded by the kraken. This most sleepy of beasts has been awoken by something sinister and is now trying to protect a treasure that could lead to the doom of the world if placed in the wrong hands. It's up to you to figure it all out and keep the world safe.

Blackwater starts you off with the option of two different difficulties which will determine whether you have a smooth play through or one that challenges your brain with no skip and a slowly recharging hint button. There is a journal that will log any pertinent information that you discover in your travels. The inventory is collapsible so you can enjoy the beauty of the scenes and also keep a well trained eye out for any helpful items. Your cursor will change when hovering over interactive items and to further the ease of your play there is a map that, get this, not only shows discovered areas that require action but will also transport you there. Fancy shmancy huh?

Mystery of the Ancients: Curse of the BlackwaterAnalysis: Blackwater improves upon its predecessor which is without a doubt something to get excited about. Granted, you can't hurry the dialogue along by a simple click but you can skip some scenes outright. Also there are a couple cut scenes that seem to take a few seconds too long to switch back to normal play but it's nothing to cry home about and instead allows a good opportunity to pretend you're working on something "productive."

What really sticks as a hidden object game lover is the map. So few games seem to incorporate a map that allows for instant transport to the location you're looking at. Mariaglorum does that and even has a small hovering picture of the place so you get the visual recognition and reminder of what you could possibly have to do there. The art is striking with how easily it switches between ethereal ocean view, dilapidated fishing town, and powerful mythological hiding place. Not an easy task but it's one that visibly proves how talented the team is at their job. Last, but certainly not least, no repeating hidden object scenes despite consistent backtracking. It's always a rare treat when the hidden object scenes are limited to one run through and you don't have to constantly find a skull under a bed or four doves in a toolshed. To put it simply, Mariaglorum shows that they love their craft and they want to make a game that is going to be worth your time spent playing it and not try to jerk you around with needless searching.

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

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

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


(7 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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ArtbegottiWhat's In The Box?Let's say you've got a package to deliver and an infinitely long and indestructible arm with which to deliver it. Seattle to Calcutta? No problem. Stockholm to Lima? Piece of cake. You can save a ton on shipping costs, but can you get the package to its destination unharmed? In Finc's What's In The Box? you have to make your delivery through a retro-styled world of puzzling portals, gates, and perils.

Each level consists of a maze for you to navigate, red box in blue hand, using the [arrow] keys. You will always enter from the left side and exit from the right, but what happens in between is anybody's guess. Sometimes the path is straightforwards, but other times you'll find blue gates that prevent your hand from passing through, or red gates that block the box from passing. It's at this point that you'll have to drop and pick up (and occasionally catch) the box using the [X] key. Remember that while the box and your hand are vulnerable to the purple spikes and should be avoided, your arm can wriggle all around the map without taking any damage, so you can use your arm to trap moving spikes to make your journey a little easier.

What's In The Box? is filled from the get-go with surprisingly complex puzzles that require a bit of planning to conquer. The tricky part is navigating your way through all 25 levels without taking any damage at all, because it takes only one error to prevent the box from being openable at the end of the game. It's a harsh punishment, but it scratches that part of the brain that craves a devious perfection challenge. Even if you never reach the point where you actually find out what—if anything—is inside the box, What's In The Box? is a very clever puzzle that is well worth the journey.

Seizure warning: Please note that this game contains short strobe-like color cycles whenever an error is made, and a solid screen of color cycles at the end of the game.

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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DoraInto Space 2Do you know what I am so over? The moon. It's so two years ago even Hot Topic doesn't care anymore. Now, Mars... yeah, baby, Mars is red hot!... or, uh, red anyway. The point is, everyone knows that Mars is the place to be, and in Barbarian Games' latest launch game Into Space 2, you're going to get us there. Using the [WASD] or [arrow] keys, you'll guide your rocket once it takes off, nabbing pickups to replenish fuel or repair damage, avoiding obstacles that'll bust you up, or zipping through gates to get a little boostie of speed. Once you run out of fuel or take too much damage, you'll fall back to the ground and be given cash to spend on upgrades depending on how far you got and any extra coin you managed to grab. In the sky. Look, don't look a magic-floating-sky-money-horse in the mouth, buddy. Just keep flying until you reach Mars.

Like the original, Into Space 2 takes a simple concept and makes it stand out from a sea of other similar games by piling on tons of upgrade options and more realistic controls. Steering your rocket takes some getting used to, and you'll definitely have to spend a few test-flights grinding enough cash until you can afford to get better parts for your rinky-dink spaceship. The addition of missions to unlock more upgrades and rewards helps to alleviate some of the sense of repetition by giving you other goals to work towards, especially since they actually almost feel like separate minigames rather than just arbitrary checkpoints you would have gotten while playing anyway. The end result is a launch game that feels a bit meatier than most, but might be a bit too fiddly for some players looking for a simple bombastic arcade fix. The greater depth is something you don't see a lot of in these types of games, however, and if you're looking for the sort of casual gameplay that encourages just enough higher brain function beyond "smash this button, like, a whole lot", then this might be your ticket to ride.

Play Into Space 2


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Kimberlykimberly_unfreeze_me.pngGames often play on our innate desire to protect, help, or save adorable things. Face it: Where would Sushi Cat or all of Dora's ponies be without your help? So it's no surprise that Unfreeze me! features adorable little birds. In this physics puzzler, it's your job to save the birds from a lifetime of being stuck frozen in an ice cube.

Use your mouse to shoot your water cannon, and also to move and rotate boards and other objects to help you get the water to the goal. Once the presumably hot water hits the ice cube, it slowly melts away, freeing the bird. There are also vases placed around many of the levels. If you can fill them up, it's bonus points for you! The ability to place and rotate items sets Unfreeze Me! apart from similar titles. There are water accelerators, and colored sponges that all need to be figured out. And while the water physics may feel a bit wonky at times, there's still plenty to fun to be had. So go ahead and save your adorable thing for the day. You'll feel all the better for it when you're through.

Play Unfreeze Me!


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Link Dump Fridays

DoraGood morning, true believers! I hope you're having an awesome week, because I sure am, despite unfortunately not actually turning out to have the zombie plague after my illness last week. Turns out I was kind of married to the idea of leading an Undead Apocalypse in a Derpy Hooves t-shirt to further confuse and terrify people I ate. It was going to be spectacular. Oh well. It's November, so let's celebrate anyway! As the nights get even longer and the time of many feastings approaches those of us in the US of A, not to mention the time of many unproductive hours, our thoughts turn to wrapping up tight in front of our computer-type devices to enjoy some quality gaming to keep the winter at bay. After all, even though 2012 has literally been an amazing year for indie games, there's still a lot more to come and enjoy, so let's get to it!

SkyscrapersHey There, Puzzle Kid, Solving In The Sky So Fancy Free... Hey, you like Conceptis, right? Sure you do. Look at you, all brainy and whatnot. Well, they've got another sky-high logic puzzle series for you brainiacs to solve in the form of Skyscrapers, published exclusively weekly at their site. In their own words, "Each puzzle consists of an NxN grid with some clues along its sides. The object is to place a skyscraper in each square, with a height between 1 and N, so that no two skyscrapers in a row or column have the same number of floors." Sounds... easy! No problem! I can solve those in ten seconds flat! So, uh, while I'm doing that, all you puzzle fanatics should definitely go sign up for a free account so you can take advantage of the weekly releases! I'll just be here!... solving... these...

Ted Talks: Sissy's Magical Ponycorn AdventurePonycorns Are Serious Business Remember Sissy's Magical Ponycorn Adventure? TRICK QUESTION. Of course you do, because it's amazing, and to suggest otherwise is to admit to being a bloodthirsty, heartless pod-person. Well, creators Cassie and her dad Ryan of Untold Entertainment took a little trip to Ted this October to talk about their work creating games together, and you can watch the whole thing online right now. It goes without saying that we friggin' love Ponycorns, but more importantly, we love people who encourage their kids to express themselves in such a creative fashion and encourage a whole other generation to take a hands-on relationship to their love of gaming.

Sir You Are Being HuntedWhen A Robot With A Gun Asks For Money, You Say Yes If you're like me and have been eagerly following development of Big Robot's open-world survival sandbox game Sir, You Are Being Hunted, now's your chance to really help it along. The game is up for funding on Kickstarter, and though it's already reached its funding goal, there are over three weeks left for you to pitch in, netting yourself a DRM-free copy of the game when it releases in July of 2013. The game pits you against a series of frighteningly gentlemanly-garbed robots who are hunting you for sport across a procedurally generated world, and it's up to you to use your wits and stealth to figure out how to handle them and survive. This looks like it's going to be a lot of fun. Provided your idea of fun is getting shot at while hunted by robo-hounds. And whose isn't?!

Another World Intro RemakeWhatever You Do, Watch Out For The Beast! There's a good reason Another World is considered one of the greatest adventure games of all time, and not just because I have many fond memories of hours as a wee lass spent "helping" my Uncle play it. And by "helping" I mean "squealing and covering my eyes whenever a death scene happened". Well, turns out Riccardo Faidutti thinks it's pretty sweet too, and the result is this amazing live-action HD remake of the game's iconic intro sequence. To say it's an impressive labour of love isn't doing it justice, and this is exactly the sort of effort-intensive fan-made project that showcases just how big an impression video games can make on the people who love them.

Hate PlusWe Love To Love Love's Hate Christine Love's emotionally charged and thought-provoking visual novel Analogue: A Hate Story is coming for your feels and your brains again soon. It's new paid DLC sequel, Hate Plus, has been in development for a while now, and with a release date tentatively set for January of 2013 (maybe!), it might be time to refresh yourself on the original. Promising to be "substantial", it takes places immediately after you've returned to Earth and will delve into why the society aboard the Mugunghwa became what it did. You know. That stuff. And those things that they did. (Talking about sequels while avoiding spoilers of the original is hard.) You can check out some new screenshots over at Christine's personal blog, and suffice it to say the game looks fantastic, especially with the added inclusion of neutral responses! You probably shouldn't expect this to be very cheerful, but knowing Christine Love's work, you should expect it to be immensely intelligent and gripping. Stay tuned!

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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Angry Birds Star Wars

JohnBAngry Birds Star Wars is exactly what the name suggests: Angry Birds with licensed Star Wars characters! Developer Rovio has dabbled in different genres in recent months with the building game Amazing Alex and the contraption-centric Bad Piggies, but now the team has returned to old form, pasting together two franchises whose success could never be doubted. Star Wars fans will squeal with delight the moment the title screen starts to materialize, and if by some twist of fate you're not a Star Wars fan, well, it's still Angry Birds, and it's still a whole lot of good-looking physics destruction entertainment!

Angry Birds Star WarsA long time ago in a galaxy far away, some rebel birds were fighting a galactic menace known as the Empire, an evil force composed of Pigtroopers and led by the insidious Lard Vader (who is not one but three pigs, that's how evil he is). The rebels managed to steal plans for the Empire's secret weapon, the Pig Star, and are now racing to deliver those plans to the Rebel Birds. Your journey begins on Tatooine, a desert planet filled with Pigtroopers who have built their structures across the land. As the young Red Skywalker, you must fight your way through pig fortress after pig fortress, uncovering your past and learning the ways of the Force along the way.

Ok, so as far as the plot is concerned, Angry Birds Star Wars probably won't surprise anyone. But the bird/pig twist on the familiar movies does make for some entertaining eye candy, and with the Angry Birds game at its core, you're just about guaranteed to have a good time. As with the other Angry Birds games, you are in control of different birds who can be pulled back and fired from a slingshot to destroy level after level of pig-built structures. Different birds have different abilities, such as Red Skywalker and his lightsaber, Obi Wan Bird and his power over the Force, and Han with his blaster (guess he does shoot first), so you must make clever use of your troops as you carve your way through the game. Along the way, you'll meet some bird-twists on familiar characters and be treated to a series of still images moving the story right along. After all these years, Star Wars is still exciting!

Angry Birds Star WarsAnalysis: At its core, Angry Birds Star Wars is still as Angry Birds as you could ever want. Most of the changes are audio/visual in nature, adding Star Wars art, using Star Wars locations, and porting over Star Wars music and sound effects. We'd be lying if we said it wasn't awesome to mix these two worlds together, and it actually does make the experience feel a lot more epic.

In true Angry Birds fashion, new birds, new piggies, and new environmental elements are introduced as the game progresses. Think Han's blaster is too cool to be real? Wait until you encounter reflective surfaces. Want more R2-D2 and C-3PO? Try unlocking the bonus levels! Lots of secrets to find and plenty of action to be found, so you won't find yourself getting bored anytime soon.

Bad things about Angry Birds Star Wars? Uhh, it doesn't have infinite levels, I guess? The lack of universal support for iOS forces you to choose between small screen or three times as expensive tablet version, which is a shame, but it's nothing new. You'd think by now we would all be getting tired of this game franchise, but when it comes to crazy set-ups and simple fun, Angry Birds seems to have the formula down to a non-degrading repeatable science. It's easy to love but not so easy to master, which is precisely what we want in a casual game.

There you have it: Angry Birds plus Star Wars equals awesome. As if you had any doubt!

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

Mac OS XMac OS X:
Get the full version

NOTE: This game was played and reviewed on 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: 4.7/5 (1053 votes)
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DoraHome Sheep Home 2: Lost UndergroundShaun and his friends just can't keep out of trouble. Normally that wouldn't be a problem, since typical sheep "trouble" usually consists of being extra smelly one day, or getting stuck inside a fence upside-down and backwards... somehow. Sheep are only slightly smarter than your average reality TV show star. But where Shaun's concerned, the trouble's a little bit bigger, and in Aardman's physics puzzle platformer Home Sheep Home 2: Lost Underground, the flock winds up sub terra after they take a tumble in their eternal quest for laundry. And adventure, I guess, but they do have that weird fixation with underpants and socks. Hey, I respect their life choices.

Use the [WASD] or [arrow] keys to move, and the [1], [2], and [3] keys to switch between sheep. You need to get all three of them to the exit at the end of each level in order to proceed, but since each sheep weighs differently, you'll need to make them all work together. Shaun is of average size and is unusually spry, but though Shirley's bigger bulk means she can push heavy objects, it also means she'll sink and can't jump as high, and tiny Timmy can swim and run like Shaun, as well as fit into small spaces, but his little legs won't let him jump high either. With water as a new obstacle to overcome, as well as explosions, our little flock has more challenges in front of them than ever before. And underpants to collect. I wasn't kidding. Shaun, do you need to talk to someone?

Play all the Home Sheep Home games:
Home Sheep HomeHome Sheep Home 2Home Sheep Home 2: Lost Underground

Like its predecessor, Lost Underground is an absolutely gorgeous little game that has the sort of signature charm and character you don't usually get out of a physics puzzle. The little animations and sounds bring Shaun, Shirley and Timmy to life, and the level design allows for some great creative puzzles. Unfortunately, slogging about underground just isn't that visually interesting, and water dripping makes for a, uh, well, no real soundtrack at all really. But even without a lot of fizzing whizbangs going off in the background and a musical score directed by Jack Black, there's no denying a Shaun the Sheep game is usually a cut above the rest, and Lost Underground is no exception. With fifteen clever spelunking stages and some interesting new mechanics, it brings enough to the table to keep things fresh without shearing your beloved sheep into something you don't recognise. Fluffy fun all around, especially if you like gathering up socks and underoos that have been mouldering underground for who knows how long.

Play Home Sheep Home 2: Lost Underground


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Rating: 4.1/5 (108 votes)
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MeaghanQ-Room EscapeDid you get stuck in another room? Not again. I know you're vastly intelligent and always seem to get yourself out but come on, this is getting ridiculous. Fine, have it your way. This time you've landed yourself in Q-Room Escape (by Foresteg) with no way out in sight. You're equipped with a healthy dose of abstract thinking ability and that's your ticket to finishing this escape-the-room game in grand style. You will have to pay close attention to your surroundings for there is no changing cursor to help point things out for you. The few items you will pick up can be located at the bottom of your screen. To combine items you must highlight the object, press About Item, and then highlight a second object to use on the maximized image.

The emphasis on puzzles is great if you're the type of person who prefers solving things instead of figuring out where an object is meant to be placed. However, there's also a minor hiccup for those who love puzzles. In Q-Room it's not mandatory to finish one of the puzzles in order to escape. Initially, this may leave you feeling slighted but don't fret. You can still do the puzzle, the lack of it will only appeal to those of us who are lazy and merely want to have the victory of escape. Despite that, the game is peppered with charming puzzles that will give your brain the mental work out it needed for the day.

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Kung Fu FIGHT!

JohnBKung Fu FIGHT! is a non-stop jump and run arcade game from Nostatic Software, creator of Quiet, Please! It's a game where you fight the bad guys to save the girl, just like in the cheesy old movies and video games from yesteryear! Sporting a variety of obstacles and a number of ways to deal with them, you'll fight your way across dojo and village on your quest, and since Nostatic loves us so very much, there are plenty of unlockable trophies as well as checkpoints to record your progress. Hooray!

Kung Fu FIGHT!Kung Fu FIGHT! gives you three moves to deal with the barrage of obstacles that come your way: jumps, slides, and kicks. Use the on-screen buttons to unleash each move, timing it right so you'll avoid those inconvenient wagons of hay or the not-so-friendly shuriken flying towards your face. You can even combine moves to perform jump kicks and slide kicks, necessary to deal with some of the more creative baddies that will get in your way. Just remember: not everything can be smashed (even though you really want it to), so don't head out with feet blazing and expect to win!

Checkpoints temporarily save your progress, allowing you to restart without losing too much ground. Three levels of difficulty guarantee you'll have a challenge on your hands, even if you start with the lowest setting. There's even an endless mode and unlockable trophies to shoot for, adding plenty of replay value for this lovely little pick up and play arcade game. There's a little bit of a learning curve as you figure out which move to use against which obstacle, but once you get the hang of it, Kung Fu FIGHT! delivers a lot of variety in a very stylish sort of way!

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: 4.1/5 (29 votes)
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corygalliehrPocket Creatures PVPIt's always a good time to look at a game that simulates America's national pastime: monster battling. Who wasn't thrilled at the epic conflict between the Atlanta Balrogs and the New York Zombees in the 1996 Monster Battling World Series? For those of us like myself who just can't get enough monster battling, there's Pocket Creatures PVP, a strategy game from NTFusion that expands on the original Pocket Creature.

In Pocket Creatures PVP, you play a monster trainer who must save the world after Queen Juliet is corrupted and turned to evil. You'll accomplish this with your mouse and your army of monsters. Monsters attack automatically in melee or from range, based on their species; all you need to do is watch and hope your training was enough to see them through! Winning battles earns you gold, which you can use to buy new monsters or feed your team, boosting their stats and allowing them to evolve into more powerful forms. You also earn Gem Points, which can be spent in the Gem Tree to earn gems that serve as stat-boosting equipment for monsters.

The monsters are the star of the show here, as one might expect in a monster battling game. There are four basic types... the Dragon, Corpse, Variant and Pinocchio, each of which evolves twice. You'll select from one of two forms each time, meaning that like the first game there are 28 basic monsters available, along with 13 randomly-found guard monsters. Beyond having their own battle styles and stats, each monster also has a unique ability to give it an edge, ranging from healing to life draining to piercing ranged attacks. Since monsters battle automatically, the strategy here lies in making teams with synergistic monsters. Each monster is lovingly rendered in a style reminiscent of Sony's classic Patapon and has unique animation and sound.

There are over 24 battles available in Pocket Creatures PVP including the Hunting Land that sets you up against a random enemy team. As per the game's name, PVP is another addition to the series that allows you to fight against other players using the same system as the main game. PVP matches are ranked and a matchmaking option is available to ensure you don't get stomped too badly.

If it wasn't clear, Pocket Creatures PVP is practically overflowing with content. Tweaking your monster team is a lot of fun, especially when you take them into battle against other players. The game is well-presented, accessible and addictive. It really shouldn't be missed, much like the 2002 Monster Battling World Series between the Anaheim Demons and the San Francisco Giant Spiders. Sign up (and challenge "Mordridakon" to a PVP battle) if you're feeling monstrous!

Play Pocket Creatures PVP


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Rating: 4.3/5 (141 votes)
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TrickyHood: Episode 4When we last left our Fenrirr Hunter, he had fulfilled his contract by dispatching the witch with a swing of his ax. You've earned your pay, and the residents of Shadetown are happy to let the missing girl with the red cloak fade from their memories. Maybe it was because they seemed so eager to forget, that Hunter thought it all the more important to find her. But the path took him deep into the forest, right to the precipice of a portal to another world. And wolf could possibly prepare himself for what he sees through it. Come then, one last time to Hyptosis' faerie tale world of magic and arcane science for the final installment of his atmospheric point-and-click adventure saga, Hood: Episode 4.

Mechanics are similar to the previous episodes: Use the mouse to click the red navigation arrows to navigate yourself through the spirit world. Mouse the cursor onto items to get a description, or click to manipulate or add them to your inventory. Once in your inventory, items can be selected in order to give them to other characters or "use" them on part of the scenery. If a character is on-screen, you may click to talk to them, and ask various questions by selecting them in the conversation window. Find where the Hood went, why she's there, and if she can be saved.

Play the entire Hood series:
Hood: Episode 1Hood: Episode 2Hood: Episode 3Hood: Episode 4

The plotting and programming have improved with each iteration of the Hood series, and Episode 4 is no different. If the first three games were set-up, then this is the pay-off: questions are answer, loose ends are tied, and a final confrontation is had. While the previous games had arcane spookiness, this conclusion adds an edge of the psychological that makes things deliciously unsettling. Of course, with Hood's undercurrent of whimsical humor, it's hardly a dreary experience: There's a snarky reply every time you try to use an inventory item on a piece of scenery illogically (especially when you're wielding your slightly-moldering friend Mr. Pumpkin), and the annoyingly cheerful fire sprite will crack you up. A bit of pixel-hunting for items mars the experience, as does a obtuse magic runes puzzle late in the game. Still, Hood is an enjoyable final visit to a beautifully constructed and illustrated world. Will this story have a happy ending? That's something players must see for themselves.

Play Hood Episode 4


  • Currently 3.8/5
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Rating: 3.8/5 (206 votes)
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Weekday Escape

MeaghanYou're stuck in a room that, apart from some elevator like music playing, is clearly not meant to be gracious to guests. Obviously, you don't want to be stuck in this room so it's up to you to make a daring plan and escape! Empty Room Escape by Krutovig and Stasy isn't filled to the brim with bizarre images or ghastly color but instead is a sleek and chastely furnished environment. Empty Room EscapeYou will explore the four available scenes picking up items and hints in order to get out to sweet, technology laden freedom. As you roam the stark room your cursor will change to alert you if you can interact with something. Items will be added to your inventory on the right and to look at items closer simply click on the little magnifying glass. You can combine items by enlarging one and then using the second item on the picture of the first.

Though the room may seem an impenetrable fortress of bland at first, Empty Room Escape has several clever tricks up its sleeves. The modest layout of the room forces wily escapists to think beyond the usual pick up an item and go formula. Fortunately, for those who may be battle weary from their searching, the changing cursor is a wondrous gift. Peppered with inventive puzzles and items being practical in their use this game is a fairly linear room escape that still manages to befuddle your brain enough to make your escape quite a victory.

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Rating: 4.5/5 (139 votes)
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TrickySushi Cat 2: The Great PurradeEverybody loves a parade, especially Sushi Cat! The floats! The food! The music! The food! The games! And, of course, the food! But when Wife Cat gets lost midst the bustling crowd, Sushi Cat knows it won't be easy to find his pink lady love amongst the cotton candy, parade balloons, and other squishy critters. But he'll find her, even if it means eating all the shari, nori and neta in the county! Sushi Cat 2: The Great Purrade is a new set of levels in Joey Betz's popular pachinko arcade game series, and it will leave you :3-ing.

Use the mouse to indicate where you wish to drop Sushi Cat, then click to release him. He'll bounce around the screen collecting sushi and power-ups before landing it one of the bonus point buckets at the bottom. Also, you should flail your hands wildly at the screen in order to coax Sushi Cat to move in one direction or another, while swearing under your breath every time he heads left instead of right when there was only one sushi left right there, dangit! (Okay, maybe that's just a personal strategy). Completing each level requires you to eat a certain number of sushi, indicated by the gauge on the left. Any more over the required means bonus points for Sushi Cat. Each level also has a single piece of bonus sushi which will activate a power-up or minigame that'll help your sushi collection. Finally, three pieces of gold sushi appear in each level. Though they don't add to your required total, collecting them will unlock various alternate costumes. Finish all 20 levels, and save Wife Cat!

Play all the Sushi Cat games:
Sushi CatSushi Cat: The HoneymoonSushi Cat 2Sushi Cat 2: The Great Purrade

By what is surely the purest of coincidences, Sushi Cat 2: The Great Purrade timed its release to coincide with the upcoming debut of Sushi Cat Plushes offered in the Armor Games store. That said, the little bit of unsubtle shilling herein is easy to forgive since A. The game is another high-quality entry in a high-quality series and B. Those things are probably gonna be adorable. The parade setting makes for some inspired pachinko level designs, filled with balloons, performers, decorations and flags. Also, like always, the new power-ups are gloriously surreal, with the Whack-A-Sumo minigame being a oddly charming standout. (That said, while it would probably be disappointing if it didn't make an appearance, we've probably hit the limit on the number of Nyan Cat cameos we're going to tolerate in our casual gaming releases. C'mon guys. That thing is so 2011.) All in all, Sushi Cat 2: The Great Purrade is a pack of awesomeness that won't need any wasabi to blow your mind.

Play Sushi Cat 2: The Great Purrade


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Quick Escape - Jail

DoraCome on, come on! Hup hup hup! No time for resting, eye of the tiger buddy-o! Mobest Media wants to whip you into fighting shape with a series of short and snappy free escape games for your Android designed to sharpen your wits. You know, in case someone tries to trap you in a room filled with elaborate MacGuyver tools and puzzles or something. Quick Escape - Jail is exactly what it sounds like, a brief little game where you find yourself locked inside a jail cell... a stinky jail cell, as the game points out. You'll need a whole bunch of keys to get out, and they're everywhere, with some hidden in plain sight, and others will need you to solve puzzles to get at them.

Quick Escape - JailJust tap the little arrows in the bottom corners of the screen to navigate, and tap to zoom in or pick up items. Some objects can be combined in your inventory by tapping on first one and then the other, and using them is as simple as tapping once to highlight the item, and then again whenever you want to use it. True to its name, Quick Escape - Jail is, by design, not going to take you very long. As part of a planned series that releases a new installment about every other week, it's intentionally a very tightly designed little game, and the perfect size and scope for escape fans looking for a quick fix. The downside is that the puzzles aren't particularly elaborate or cunning, and the lack of a cursor to change and indicate interactive areas means you're probably going to be doing a lot of random tapping around if you're stuck. Fortunately, the game is well designed enough that getting stuck shouldn't be a problem, and as long as you keep your eyes peeled the puzzles have a pleasant sort of "ah-ha!" quality to searching your environment and cobbling solutions together. While it won't prove much of a challenge to veteran escape gamers, it's still a great free mental exercise for you to snap up and defeat to get yourself pumped up, and then enjoy a slow-mo run around the room while "We Are The Champions" plays in the background and your boss questions your qualifications.

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.


  • Currently 3.5/5
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Rating: 3.5/5 (33 votes)
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DoraBlinkz 2Blinkz 2 by Aimar and Alexander Ahura is one of those games you should be immediately suspicious of, because it seems to me anything this adorable and filled with soothing sounds and colours is either trying to brainwash you or implant subliminal suggestions. ("Drink more Ovaltine!" "Gary Busey is your master now!") The aim in this physics puzzle is the same as in the first Blinkz game: to unite the pink blocks on each stage by clicking other shapes to remove them (mousing over the stars they drop for bonus points), or in some cases make them explode, making sure you get rid of any sullen "evil blocks" in the process. If your little pink Casanova falls off the screen, the game will sadly inform you that you're unlucky, and you'll have to try again. Most of the time, success is less about carefully dropping him from top to bottom and more about figuring just the right blocks in the stack to remove to send him sliding or flying to his destiny.

Chances are if you've been on the internet long enough to learn how to correctly pronounce "meme", then you've seen a game like Blinkz 2 before. The concept is a very simple and familiar one, and yet there's something so smooth and charming about it that it feels like the perfect choice for break-sized gaming. The different blocks add a bit of interest to the established formula, while the puzzle-like construction of some stages means that solving them usually comes down to more brainpower and less trying frantically to click on everything within a milisecond. Blinkz 2 doesn't break any molds or deliver a whole lot of innovation, but it's a cute and cuddly and cleanly handled little physics puzzler that makes for easy-breezy casual gaming anytime.

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The Vault

TrickyFirst, an update on the JayIsGames Startkicker campaign to fund the new JiG Arcade Megaplex. Well, the outlook isn't good. Despite some neat backer awards like an autographed picture of Jay or a personal invite to Dora's weekly Pot Luck Dinner/Poetry Slam, so far we've only raised $7.50 of our $2,000,000 goal. And I think that pledge might have been made by accident. Oh well, at least there's all the wonderful games in the archives to console me. Today in the Vault, we have a bit of cryptically challenging wordplay, a demonically delicious piece of platforming, and some super sliding Sokoban ripe for the solving.

  • CryptogramaCryptograma - Some games are made exquisite just by taking a simple concept and presenting it well. Take Cryptograma by Alicia Ramirez. It is nothing more and nothing less than an appealing presentation of substitution cipher cryptography puzzles. What sets it apart is the use of symbols instead of other letters, making it a bit approachable to those who'd find walls of jumbled text intimidating.The wisdom you'll receive from the game's nice selection of quotes to decode is all the motivation you'll need to play for hours. Plus, I hear a few dozen new quotes have been submitted and added at the suggestion of a certain friendly neighborhood Vault writer. And man, they ain't gonna decipher themselves, y'know.
  • Bill The DemonBill the Demon - The Mac wasn't exactly the premiere gaming platform of the nineties. Still, Apple users could always rest assure that they could rub PC gamers noses in the fact that the Mac had Marathon and James Burton's retro puzzle platformer, Bill the Demon. Y'know, until Microsoft acquired Bungie, and Apple decided to no longer support older applications. But at least the latter rose from the ashes in a flash remake by the original author. If that means that more people can enjoy scurrying around, devouring souls, and screaming at monsters, all in pursuit of Satan's autograph, well, who can complain? The levels are well-designed and the graphics are equal parts horrific and adorable. And who can resist playing a game where, Bill, you are the demons?
  • Puzzle BoyPuzzle Boy - Puzzle Boy, what is the secret of your power? Well, if we're talking about the Sokoban-styled game put together by Blawars, then the answer is "An obscure Gameboy Game made by Atlas in 1989 then re-released and re-titled Kwirk, so the graphics could be made much more Totally Radical in order to appeal to the US gaming crowd, and also to transform the protagonist into a mohawk-wearing tomato, for some reason." Again, it was the nineties. What's timeless though is the pushing of blocks into their proper place as you guide a cute lil' blob to an exit staircase. Puzzle Boy is a true classic, with mind-taxing puzzles that feel impossible until that glorious moment of A-Ha! Oh, and remember, the game won't start till you click the Blawars logo. Don't worry if you have trouble, we've all been there.

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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Static Quest: The Delivery

JohnBSpeedy delivery! Or, no delivery, it seems. Static Quest: The Delivery from CookieBit is a survival-based arcade game packed with enemies, spells, weapons and items, all of which can be upgraded as you continue to punch baddies that get in your way. It's a little bit like Earn to Die, a little bit like Punch-Out!!, and a little bit like being glued to the floor while your older brother punches you in the arm and keeps asking why you're hitting yourself. But, you know, in an entertaining, good kind of way!

Static Quest: The DeliveryThe story in Static Quest is that you were making a delivery on your last day of work when your van crashed, leaving you alone in the forest. Feet firmly planted on the ground, your only hope for survival is to tap the left or right sides of the screen to attack in that direction, knocking back enemies and destroying them before they get their grubby little teeth on your hide. You fight until you die, at which point you're sent to the armory to tend to your stats before heading back out to do it all over again.

It's more than just you and your fists in this battle, thankfully. Defeating enemies earns you cash, and cash can be spent on new weapons, upgrading attacks, buying spells and potions, upping your own stats, or, believe it or not, making the enemies tougher. Stronger foes means more cash, and more cash means better weapons. Better weapons means you might actually survive a few days in the wilderness, and if you can tough it out for long enough, you'll make your delivery without further delay. Now that's dedication!

Static Quest: The DeliveryAnalysis: Alone in the woods, determined to complete your task. Sounds like my last attempt to start a campfire without gasoline and a lighter. Fortunately, Static Quest: The Delivery is much less futile than that, and the game puts you in the position to kick some enemy butt with a few simple controls. No dexterity required, just smart upgrades and simple "which enemy do I hit first?" decisions. And it only gets better the longer you play!

If Static Quest has any obvious flaws, it's that the speed can be agonizingly slow early on. Those blob things sure do take their time crawling towards you, leaving you punching the air while you wait for some action. That snail's pace doesn't last too long, though, and after a few rounds you'll long for the days when you had time to stand around without being stung by bees or beaten by wizards.

Most upgrade-centric mobile games these days come with a host of in-app purchases, and Static Quest is no different. They're sewn into the fabric of the experience quite nicely, however, and there are enough tiers available so you can buy in without spending your entire allowance on extra coins or weapons.

Static Quest: The Delivery takes a bit to gear up, but when it gets going, it's an epic sort of ride. Perfect for short stretches of play while you kill time waiting for that campfire to start itself!

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.


  • Currently 4.6/5
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Rating: 4.6/5 (730 votes)
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TrickyWorldgateOctober 21, 1888. The Wyoming Territories. A scientific excavation discovers a perfectly spherical chamber fifty feet deep in solid rock. The chamber holds a mysterious device, apparently capable of generating electricity from thin air. It could change the world. But even more fascinating is the metal frame nearby, which, when powered in the proper way, opens up to reveal a corridor that can only be described as... otherworldly. Who made these devices? Are they safe to use? One thing is for sure, though: it's time to explore. Worldgate is a new point-and-click adventure game by William Buchanan, developer of The Free Will Cycle series.

At the start, you may choose whether to navigate by mouse or by keyboard, and whether to display direction arrows on-screen. Using the [WASD] or [Arrow Keys] or clicking the arrows with the mouse, you'll turn left and right, and step forward and backward to navigate around the landscape. Click an object onscreen to examine, manipulate, or add it to your inventory. Once an object is in your inventory, you may examine it by clicking its inspection icon in the lower right, or click to select it to use with an onscreen object. Some objects can be adjusted or combined once examined in greater detail. In general, it's best to visit the options menu to customize your experience.

WorldgateAnalysis: It has been fascinating to follow Buchanan as he develops his CHARM adventure game engine. His willingness to listen to and implement feedback from players is admirable, and the result is an upward trajectory of quality that one hopes will never be interrupted. The navigation problems noted by our charmingly handsome writer in the Freewill Cycle Volume 2 review are nowhere to be found, save for a little inventory muddling. Combined with Buchanan's prodigious world-building talents, this make Worldgate an atmospheric piece of science fiction in an attractive package.

Puzzles are generally of the "encounter mysterious machines, then figure out how they work" variety, which may frustrate the less gadgety minded of our audience, and there is little explicit plot. Above all, Worldgate is a game of exploration: of stepping through doors without knowing where they lead, of connecting wires to objects and hoping they won't explode. Unlike many science fiction game, the player-human is not at the mercy of the larger world. You play a scientist who investigates the unknown by choice. There's a cool technology clash between the 19th century tools you have and the advanced alien world you interact with. If your curiosity kills you, than at least you'll know where your towel is, and that is a quite empowering feeling.

Play the entire Worldgate series:
WorldgateWorldgate 2: Contact

The big question is, of course, where does Buchanan go from here? His CHARM engine has demonstrated its proficiency in presenting empty, ominous, technological worlds, but will it work as well for lived-in, welcoming, organic worlds? Will we ever get to meet the creatures who make such wonderful toys? The ending of Worldgate implies that the story is nowhere near finished, and frankly, whatever direction the story takes, it's worth waiting all the time in the world for another wonderful adventure. Though, of course, if you Buchanan could get Kurt Russel to sign on for the sequel, we wouldn't, y'know, mind.

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DoraCasanovaOrisinal's (Ferry Halim) quest to get you right in the feels and wear out your d'awwwwww muscle continues in the sprightly one-button arcade game Casanova. You control a rambunctious little boy giraffe who wants to get all the smooches he can from the endless parade of lady giraffes. Click and hold the left mouse button to extend your neck, and release it to shrink back down. Your head needs to be on a level with one of the other giraffes for it to count as a kiss, and every one you miss knocks the meter in the top right corner down a bit. If it empties, it's game over, but chain kisses together to fill it and nab floating stars for a big bonus.

Casanova is hardly the most complex game around, but the point of virtually every Orisinal game is to send you on your way with a spring in your step and a smile on your face, and at that the game definitely succeeds. It's a simple, exceptionally charming diversion (providing you don't already have some phobia of giraffes that imagining them with extendable jelly necks trying to French kiss you will exacerbate), and absolutely gorgeous no matter how you slice it from the beautiful design to the inherently cheery soundtrack. This little guy doesn't seem to need a wingman, but if you need a pick-me-up, fire up Casanova for another warm dose of Ferry Halim's signature style.

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Mobile Monday

JohnBHello, and welcome to Monday! How was your weekend? The usual? Yeah, we know that feel, bro/sis. How about a little mobile news to take your mind off the fact that it isn't the weekend anymore? Escape games? Running games? Yes? Yes!

nightmare-p.gifTake a nightmareish run on iOS and Android - In the mood to run from your most feared nightmares? Sure you are! Clockwork Monster's jump and run browser game Nightmare Runner is now available on Android and iOS platforms, porting its level-based upgrade system, power-ups, and plentiful amounts of shooting along with, you know, the tentacles and stuff. The game was retooled to work well on touch screen devices, and to anyone who owns a tablet, you'll be happy to hear the game was made with you in mind! Oh, and p.s. it's free!

clumsycat.gifClumsy Cat now less clumsy - Not so very long ago, we spent some time with Dingo Games' latest mobile release, Clumsy Cat. This lovely little game lets you control a cat that spends its entire day knocking stuff over in the house, from potted plants to TV screens, cars, and that hidden treasure chest in the attic. We had one small misgiving about the release, the controls, but since Dingo Games rocks, an update has just been released addressing the issue! Now, in addition to swipe controls, you can opt for on-screen buttons, lending more precision to your spree of destruction.

endlessescape-p.gifEndless Escape a little closer to being endless - You weren't done escaping, were you? Glad to hear it, because Mobest Media's room-by-room escape game Endless Escape has had a little update, one that adds a dozen brand new stages to work through. Expect more of the usual box-outside-thinking puzzles that challenge you to use your mobile device in unusual ways in order to get the key that leads to freedom!

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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Cook, Serve, Delicious

JohnBCook, Serve, Delicious! is a simulation and time management game from Vertigo Games, creator of the similarly spectacular The Oil Blue. If you see a restaurant game and immediately think "casual diversion", let Cook, Serve, Delicious! change your mind. This isn't a light and simple easy to win time management game. It's a full-on simulation that makes you work for your money, pushes you to play faster than you thought possible, and teaches you to strategically plan menus to maximize income without turning the ever-picky customer base away. It's not an easy game to excel at, but it's an easy game to get hooked on, and the challenge of building and running your own restaurant from front to back is going to captivate you for weeks on end.

Cook, Serve, DeliciousHere's the situation: you have taken control of a neglected restaurant in the SherriSoda Tower. Management has recently decided to re-open the restaurant, giving you total control over its operations and challenging you to turn it into a successful and busy establishment. Not only do you have to handle the day to day operations of the place (serving food, scrubbing toilets, taking out the trash), you also have to plan menus based on demand and income, survive health inspections, purchase new equipment, upgrade existing items, and deal with impatient customers. It's a lot like a more involved version of the classic Lemonade Stand mixed with a bit of urgency from the Papa's series of food service games.

Cook, Serve, Delicious! can be divided into two main sections: food preparation and restaurant management. During the prep phase, you man the counter and tend to customer orders, building every burger and pouring every soda you sell. When someone enters, simply select their number to get a detailed picture of what they want. A menu appears on the right side of the screen with context sensitive options, allowing you to add toppings, adjust sizes, or otherwise prepare the food to order. When it's all done, send it away and the customer walks away happy. During the long work day, you'll also have to deal with chores that pop up, which are handled in a similar manner. You can use the mouse to control everything, but we recommend you familiarize yourself with the keyboard commands as early as you can, as it's a much faster and more precise way to play. The time you'll save later in the game is worth sharpening the learning curve.

Cook, Serve, DeliciousWhen you're not feeding the masses during the business day, you'll tend to the business side of the restaurant. Using the money you earn from each work day, you can choose food items to buy or upgrade, then set a few to active status, allowing customers to order them the next day. Some foods require certain pieces of equipment, which you'll need to buy. Foods also affect something called buzz, the general attractiveness your restaurant has to potential patrons. You'll want to get this as high as you can, naturally, but managing it is a tricky task, as you will see once you start reading the pros and cons list for each menu item you purchase.

Analysis: When most people see a restaurant-themed game, visions of Diner Dash and similar casual games come to mind. In order to appreciate the depth and scope present in Cook, Serve, Delicious!, set those ideas aside right away. This game is detailed and complex (though not prohibitively so), offering opportunities for mastery as you experiment with different approaches to management and food service. Those sound like boring business-type words, but the game is anything but dull. Beyond the main game, there are loads of unlockables and even more secrets to find, not to mention surprise events that trip you up from time to time.

Cook, Serve, DeliciousIt will serve you well in Cook, Serve, Delicious! to read every bit of text you see, carefully consider your options, and try everything before adding it to your active menu. Player preference drives food choices almost as much as the raw numbers, as some foods are more annoying to prepare and you'll naturally want to nix them from the menu as soon as you can. This turns Cook, Serve, Delicious! into a sort of self-management tool as well, teaching you about your own playing style and business management concepts while you play. Bet you didn't expect a game set in a restaurant to turn into a philosophical experience, did you?

Cook, Serve, Delicious! may not be what you expect from hearing descriptions or looking at screenshots, but trust us when we say it's so much better than any image gallery could convey. With depth to rival a strategy game and carefully controlled chaos ruling the action sequences, Cook, Serve, Delicious! is a rare release that encourages you to play until you master every nuance of gameplay. You'll have a great time doing it, and once you reach that zen-like state, your little food hut will be a sight to behold.

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GrinnypOhayo"Good mornin', good mornin'! It's great to stay up late. Good mornin', good mornin' to you." There are many great ways to wake up in the morning, to song, to sunshine, to birds singing, or to a bed that propels you through a closed window. Okay, maybe that last one isn't perhaps the best way to greet the morning, but it is a rather fabulous way to begin the latest room escape from the strange mind of Detarou, Ohayo.

Yes, Detarou greets the morning in some strange, strange ways, but that's to be expected. Ohayo is the usual surreal mind trip through a house filled with odd characters and strange puzzles, sprinkled with a hint of the bizarre. Pretty much like every morning in Detarou-world. Navigation bars, a changing cursor, an easy to access inventory (one click to use an item, two clicks to examine it), and a nifty save feature are all there to enhance the journey through the unknown. Just watch out for Pandas. Seriously.

If you've ever played any of Detarou's games then you know what to expect: multiple ways to escape, a few ways to die, and a plethora of eccentric characters and situations to explore as you once again try to escape a nightmarish house that only a particular kind of mind can envision. Greet the day (whatever time it actually is) with a hearty dose of Ohayo, and a pretty unique wake-up call.

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Pid


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Pid

JohnBPid is a unique and heavily atmospheric platform game from Might and Delight, a team of developers who obviously know some secrets about portable stone-based gravity control the rest of us aren't privy to. Set in a hazy otherworld and starring a lost little kid, you'll learn to control small cones of gravity as you work your way through bizarre landscapes. Sometimes Pid feels like A Boy and His Blob, sometimes a stealth game, and sometimes even Portal. But really, Pid is Pid, and it stands strongly enough on its own to be something unique.

pid.jpgPeople in the world of Pid hop on the space bus, travel to their space jobs, presumably go to space school, and in the case of the unlucky protagnoist Kurt, get stranded on a strange (space) planet after falling asleep on the bus. Naturally the little guy wants to get back, and since the bus leaving from this place doesn't seem to be coming anytime soon, he heads to the conveniently located Old Castle in search of a way home. After meeting a few odd characters and digging his way through cavern and attic and dining room, he'll start to realize something fishy is going on on this here planet. Somebody might even be following him!

For the most part, Pid controls like a standard platform game with walk and jump controls, ducking and crawling, and maybe a bit of enemy/spike avoiding. The real oddity arises when you consider the Gravity Beam, a small column of light that can be created by throwing special gems Kurt gets near the beginning of the game. Toss a gem and the beam shines forth. Hop into the beam and you'll slowly move in that direction, along with any hapless enemies that get in the way. By using these columns on walls, slanted surfaces or moving platforms, you can pull off some amazing mid-air maneuvers. Useful once you start encountering spike traps and mechanized toy things that shoot rockets at you!

pid3.jpgApart from gem tossing, Pid also features a few other items to create a deeper sense of intrigue. Most of these will be purchased from stations that sell them in exchange for stars, a form of floating currency you'll find scattered throughout the game. You can use bombs, for example, to blow up certain walls, shirts to give you a little extra defense, and a music box to slow enemies and their projectiles down a bit. And that's just for starters! Items are limited and best reserved as a last-ditch effort, but they go a long way to extending the gameplay and giving you more sway over the environment.

Analysis: Pid has an extraordinary art style that is at once gloomy but foolheartedly optimistic. You immediately get the sense that this world has seen the wrong side of a corporate steamroll one too many times, and judging by the state of things it's a wonder these people aren't moping in the streets all day every day. But there's a sense of hope in the dusty shadows ahead, highlighted by the main character's sense of optimism. He knows he'll make it home, no matter what's in his way, and that attitude of innocent hope is contagious. It's just one of the many reasons you'll press on and on through spike trap after spike trap.

pid2.jpgHere's another area where Pid really shines: level design. Remember when secret corridors weren't marked on maps or indicated by not-so-subtle arrows in the background? We do, and Might and Delight does, which is why Pid is packed full of secret crannies and tucked away nooks you can wiggle yourself into. Most of the time you'll find a handful of bonus stars, but occasionally you'll nab a collectible item or something else special. This makes it so much more fun to explore Pid's worlds instead of just dashing through to the exit.

And finally, Pid features local co-op play, a somewhat surprising but utterly wild addition to the game. There's no online option, which is a bit of a shame, but if you can get a friend over to check the game out, it's a give and take organized cooperative nightmare. You'll yell and laugh and cry and play until you can't look at another gravity beam (or your friend's face).

There's no shortage of reasons to grab Pid and give it a try. It's familiar enough to be easy to get into, different enough to avoid the copy/paste game design trap, and its atmosphere is something video game artists should look at for inspiration. The gameplay variety stretches from high action to careful stealth, but it never gets frustrating. One of the best all-around platform games we've seen for some time!

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Slide Circus

JohnBSlide Circus is a straightforward but gorgeous mobile puzzle game from qbcode. Using a simple sliding grid, it creates a soothing but challenging puzzle experience that can be as easy or as complex as you like, scaling to suit your needs. It's a bit like solving an intricate jigsaw puzzle, only here the pieces stay neatly together and you don't have to worry about the dog eating the edge of the minute hand from Big Ben.

Slide CircusAll you need to know in Slide Circus is that tapping and dragging any square will move that entire row or column in that direction. The goal is to reconstruct the picture shown at the beginning of the stage, both in appearance and position on the screen. This can be laughably easy with simple drawings like a pair of scissors or a pencil, but as any puzzle fan knows, once you get into intricate pieces of art, one square might look like half a dozen other ones, and who knows how they all fit together. Since you can only move columns of squares at a time, it ends up being more like a Rubik's cube than an old fashioned jigsaw puzzle.

Slide Circus comes with 90 levels out of the box, but it happens to be extremely extensible by including the ability to create and share puzzles based on your own images. It's fun to do, but also functional, and the results are almost always pleasing. This is the sort of game that can be filed in the thin folder marked "stylish and focused mobile games that are awesome", right beside Sakura Quick Math and GYRO. When you let visual design run your game, it can create something as addictively attractive as Slide Circus. You won't want to take your hands away from it!

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


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Cypher

TrickyDogeron Kenan is having a bad day. Okay, a bad decade. A small time data smuggler in the corporate-dominated futuristic city of NeoSushi (formerly Tokyo), his job is to transport passcodes in his cybernetic arm, trying to keep one step ahead of both the lawful and unlawful who want to stop him. He thought this deal with Lime was finally a chance to get a little security, but safe is the last thing his life is right now. Every Retriever in town is out to get him, and it's just a matter of time before one gets lucky. It's going to be a long night. Cypher, developed by the Cabrera Brothers, is a piece of cyberpunk interactive fiction. Visuals and sounds accompany the textual aspects of the adventure, making for a new twist on the classic genre.

CypherAs with most interactive fiction, Cypher has you inputting text commands like EXAMINE BLUE KEYCARD, PICK UP BRIEFCASE, GO NORTH, KISS MELINA, or SHOOT CARLOS WITH SHOTGUN, to control the player character as he solves puzzles and explores the world of NeoSushi. There will be objects to pick up and use, characters to get information from, computers to hack, phones to call contacts, and, of course, the rabid band of mercenaries that will be chasing you around the city. On the left of the screen will be the Graphical User Interface, which will show snapshots of the world around you. Taking notes and mapping your location is recommended, as is reading through the accompanying manuals and feelies to become aware of the numerous special commands you'll use while playing, particularly the Do You Really Know How To Use Your QRS-CODE? brief, invaluable for navigating yourself around the game's version of cyberspace.

CypherAnalysis: Cypher's vision of a cyberpunk future is immaculately crafted in its grit. The game is dark, oppressive, and has atmosphere so thick you could choke on it. It recalls all the most notable works of the setting's tradition: Blade Runner, Snatcher, Johnny Mneumonic... even a little bit of A Mind Forever Voyaging. The writing flows to create a layered dystopia of a world that you would hate to live in, but should be happy to view through the safety of your computer screen. The graphics and soundtrack contribute to the game's immersive success in no small measure. Though an accurate description of Cypher would be closer to "text adventure with pictures and music", a good comparison is to the visual novel genre, where, though the writing is always central, graphics and sound convey in an instant what a thousand words could not: the splash of rain on pavement, the glare of a streetlamp through a smoggy sky. The feelies accompanying the game show the level of detail to which the developers aspired to in constructing their universe's backstory. Even as gameplay takes you from calamity to calamity, you'll be keenly aware of how the lived-in city of NeoSushi is just as much a central figure as each of it's malicious inhabitants. We don't want to spoil too much about the plot, but suffice to say, mutant cockroaches might be involved, and yes, Kenan visits a strip club at one point, since doing so is apparently de rigeur for cyberpunk protagonists.

CypherOne only wishes that it was a city easier to navigate. Cypher text-parser was developed from the ground up, a state of affairs that has both it's benefits and liabilities, and, in this case, mostly the latter. There are none of the textual shortcuts usually found in such games, meaning even those used to Interactive Fiction will think they're doing quite an excessive bit of typing. And while Cypher's dictionary of verbs is impressively comprehensive, there will be more than a few times where you are fumbling about looking for exactly the right command. This feeling is most pronounced when using the in-game QRS data system. It's meant to be a Viewer Friendly Interface of the kind usually found when fictional techies are Hacking the Gibson, but one really hard to describe or navigate in textual form. To it's credit, Cypher's conversation system is one of the most deep yet encountered in interactive fiction, with most character having a proper response for just about everything you throw at it, and, with the manual to guide you, it's pretty easy to get used to the parser's quirks as time goes by. But if you're the type to throw a laptop against a wall when a game will accept "Turn Television On" as a command, but not "Turn On Television", you might want to give this one a pass.

Cypher succeeds as a gripping sci-fi yarn, albeit in spite of its mechanics rather than because of. However, the Cabrera Brothers are working close with the game's community to patch the engine up to expectations, and all indications are that problems with the interface are indeed being resolved. Cypher may not be quite be the herald of a new wave of commercial interactive fiction, but it is a rich, intriguing experiment that fans of the genre should find worth dropping a few Kongbucks on.

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Shadow Wolf Mysteries: Cursed Wedding

DoraThere are a lot of things that can stand in the way of a good wedding. Bad food, karaoke, too many ruffles, or a relative insisting they lead everyone in "The Wobble"... but a werewolf shouldn't be on the list. When Veronica spies the werewolf that has been harassing her family for generations outside her new estate, she knows trouble has followed her all the way to Paris... fortunately, she also knows she can call on you for help, to put an end to this curse once and for all. You know. Until the next installment in ERS Game Studio's hidden-object adventure series hits, hopefully titled something like Shadow Wolf Mysteries: The Wolfening. Shadow Wolf Mysteries: Cursed Wedding plays it safe in terms of familiar and reliable gameplay, but delivers a lavishly designed adventure with a light topping of Victorian-style thrills and chills. Awwwww, yeah. Like a sir.

Shadow Wolf Mysteries: Cursed WeddingYour job here is to keep Veronica and her future husband safe by finding out a way to expose the werewolf... harder than it sounds, since this particular breed is not only able to disguise itself in human form, but hold others in its thrall to do its dirty work, like a hypnotist or Oprah Winfrey. Bad news for the werewolf is, you're a master detective, and you're not going to stop until you've laid it to rest for good. Solve hidden-object scenes and puzzles to get items of use, and keep your eyes open for clues to the werewolf's identity and legacy. Every door or obstacle you'll encounter seems to be missing a piece to it as well, which makes me think Veronica's betrothed might want to have a talk with whoever he had build the estate, but it at least gives you an excuse to be extra nosy and track down items and secrets everywhere.

Shadow Wolf Mysteries: Cursed WeddingAnalysis: ERS has always been one of the reliable benchmarks for quality when it comes to hidden-object adventures, but Cursed Wedding stands as a great example on how hard they've worked to improve that quality since the beginning. The full animation that now moves each character looks leagues better than the creepy breathing and blinking of the first title, and lends the typically beautiful artwork and environments a life of their own. Similarly, more effort has been made to make the puzzles more creative in their execution. None of them are what you would call difficult, but the clever twists on presentation make them fun to fiddle with... which is good, since there are quite a lot of them. The game still hasn't quite shaken its predecessor's habit of being almost painfully easy in regards to adventuring, with items usually handed to you just as you need them, and there's typically very little guesswork ever involved in what you need to do, with yourself or your inventory. The result is an experience that feels decidedly on the rails, leading you by the nose, and while the game as a whole is gorgeous and immersive, you'll still wish you were given more cause to explore or use your brain a little.

Shadow Wolf Mysteries: Cursed Weddings is one of those titles that plays it safe. It doesn't really pull out any unexpected tricks in terms of story or gameplay, but works exceptionally hard to deliver an entertaining adventure in the process. Though you can expect a lot of backtracking and repeated hidden-object scenes, Cursed Weddings bounces you from scene to scene with character interaction, exciting moments, and a fine coat of polish, all at around four hours or so of play time. If you already love hidden-object adventures, then this is another solid addition to the genre, and proves that ERS is far from getting long in the tooth (fang?) when it comes to delivering quality titles with bite.

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:
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Also available: Collector's Edition

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Abyss: The Wraiths of Eden

MeaghanExploring a ravaged underwater utopia sounds like a great idea, right? No? But, think of all the interesting structures, the possessions that were once owned by people slowly rusting away, the great chance of seeing a shark and getting a great picture! Oh, and there are some sinister hooded figures that seem to enjoy causing havoc and destruction and may possibly have intentions to kill you, but that's such a small nuisance. I'm sure you wouldn't even notice it! For the daring protagonist in Abyss: The Wraiths of Eden, the new hidden object puzzle adventure horror game from Artifex Mundi, it's probably a bigger nuisance than she anticipated.

Abyss: The Wraiths of EdenOh the things we do for love. Famous explorer Robert Marceau has gone missing while on a diving mission and the coast guard has concluded he's more than likely dead. That doesn't matter for his fiancée who isn't willing to give up hope and takes it upon herself to go to the dive site and find him. What she doesn't anticipate is that she's about to stumble upon a ruined city in the ocean depths. This crumbling metropolis is not only beautiful but hiding a frightening evil that she is, at first, blissfully unaware of. As you lead her through the decimated city you will encounter the shiver inducing Legates and the Revolution that is taking place.

After choosing which difficulty you want (casual, advanced mode, and expert, each of which affects hint/skip recharge rates during play) you start your journey in the deep blue sea. Within your environment are several items that will assist you in your submerged quest, along with an indicative cursor that will help you follow the objectives that you must complete. You will encounter a sprinkling of hidden object scenes and puzzles, but the emphasis is on the adventuring. If you would prefer to not do the hidden object scene you can change it to a dominoes mini-game instead, which is a nice touch. To further spice up the fun of the game, achievements are available for a variety of swift solving skills and super sleuthing!

Abyss: The Wraiths of EdenAnalysis: Artifex Mundi, since breaking onto the casual game scene, has proven they know how to spin a yarn. While there are plenty of games in the hidden object genre that leave a player feeling cheated of an original (or at least well told) story, Abyss is not afflicted with the same lack of substance. There is only one area within the game that could be improved. Fixing the speech animations would be nice because the words don't seem to pair well with the motion of the lips as well as they should. Also, if you're not a fan of jump scares and shivers down your spine then this gem may not be quite right for you, but this is not a detraction from the game so much as a buyer beware announcement.

Abyss is balanced out well between an enthralling story line, lush scenery, and spooky scenes that encourage a sense of unease and anxiety to hurry for time may be shorter than you think to save your beloved. For a standard edition game, Abyss packs a wallop and provides several hours of stimulating gameplay. At no point is the game overwhelmed by hidden object scenes or puzzles, which is a great change of pace considering many games rely far too heavily on repetitive hidden object scenes. The voice acting is pleasantly believable and the story line is easy to follow as well as greatly crafted. In short, Abyss: The Wraiths of Eden is well worth every penny spent on it and a great play for any fan of excellent storytelling and stunning graphics.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


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Rating: 4.6/5 (35 votes)
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Knights of Pen & Paper

JohnBKnights of Pen & Paper is an RPG. But it's an RPG that's about a bunch of adventurer people sitting down to play a pen and paper RPG. So... when you play the game, you're actually playing a game about a game, even though both games are basically the same game. Penandpaperception, anyone? While these folks sit and enjoy their Dungeons & Dragons-type adventure, you get to take care of everything else, from fighting battles to accepting quests, upgrading skills and hunting down better equipment. And if that isn't interesting enough, you can buy the players a snack, maybe while eating a similar snack of your own?

Knights of Pen & PaperWith your party seated at the table and the dungeon master across the way, your journey begins. Tap the DM to do just about everything, from setting up quests (which you mix and match on your own), choosing quick battles, buying/upgrading items, or camping out for the night. Tap party members to manage their skills or check out stats, something you'll pay more and more attention to as the game progresses. Battles are handled with a similarly pristine menu system that allows you to attack, guard, use items and spells, or run away like a chicken, all with one or two quick gestures. The latter icon really is a chicken, by the way. Just thought you'd like to know that.

Even though Knights of Pen & Paper is very meta in nature, the in-game game still features a story, one that slowly unfolds as you help old men clear the enemies from their basements and escort lost children back to their homes. Don't take it (or anything you come across) too seriously, though, as the quirky humor and emphasis on combat and item collection definitely take center stage in the game.

Knights of Pen & PaperAnalysis: Knights of Pen & Paper is set up for the grind. It's an open-ended, pick your own missions, wage your own battles, see how much gold you can gather sort of game that keeps you hooked because there's always something new to unlock. It's enormously satisfying to beef your adventurers up so they can handle bigger and badder quests, and even though their skills aren't exactly epic in nature, combat is more than just hitting "attack" over and over again. It never hurts that the game looks like every retro RPG we've ever loved rolled into one delicious pixellated package.

Here's the only real downside to Knights of Pen & Paper: its reliance on gold and nudging players to spend real world money to keep the coffers full. Just about everything you do in the game costs gold, from hiring new adventurers to buying items, upgrading equipment, and even traveling to new parts of the map. You gain gold through battle, of course, but the rate at which you earn is far slower than the rate at which you would need to spend to keep the game moving forwards. In other words, you either grind by fighting enemies over and over again, or you indulge in an IAP. Not a pleasant choice, if you ask us, and some balancing of this aspect could really use some addressing for the next update.

With its gold system tweaked just a bit, Knights of Pen & Paper could easily be one of the best, if not the most blindly entertaining casual RPG on the mobile market. It's got all the ingredients for a pick up and play game, but there's enough to explore to keep you coming back for days on end.

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


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Link Dump Fridays

DoraStill recovering from Halloween a few days ago? Well, come on, get with the program! This is November, kiddo, and it's time to start getting hyped!... is what I would say if I
wasn't currently suffering from the plague and needing to get back to bed. So, without further ado, here's your Link Dump. Don't worry, if I turn out to be Patient Zero, I promise to make the zombie apocalypse a lot of fun. Hats, maybe. An official dance. VOTE DORA FOR TYPHOID MARY 2012.

Amnesia: A Machine for PigsCreepy Kids and Nursery Rhymes? NOPE NOPE NOPE NOPE Though its release date has been pushed to early 2013, thus having denied us a Halloween of Frictional Games amd the chinese room horror, it's still easy to remain excited about Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs, the upcoming sequel to 2010's Amnesia: The Dark Descent... especially with this brand new teaser trailer. At about two and a half minutes, it not only showcases some absolutely stunning environments, but also some horrifyingly tense moments as you flee from an unseen monster that appears to be slaughtering pigs somewhere in the dark. Sweet dreams!

Atticus and Boy ElectronicWhen You Look Into the Dog, He Also Looks Into You Like text adventures, but prefer them a little... quirky? Then make sure you check out Bloomengine's Atticus and the Boy Electronic, which is a bizarre retelling of Oscar Wilde's The Nightingale and the Rose, and features a little robot boy and his eerily perceptive mutt in a quest to help a young man. Gameplay is so linear and trouble-free it barely qualifies as such, but if you like surreal stories, this one is definitely for you.

Spud's QuestModern Puzzle Adventuring With an Old School Flair It seems like old school is the new new school, and Chris Davis is out to prove it with the upcoming puzzle adventure Spud's Quest, a game inspired by the classic Dizzy series and up for funding on Kickstarter for a release early(ish) 2013. The game follows Spud and his cursed friend Prince Charming, who has been turned into a frog, as they seek four ancient stones to return him to normal and banish the evil wizard responsible. If you like classic gameplay with features like day/night cycles and big dungeons, then this is definitely one you should be checking out.

OuyaConsoles Have Soft Drink Preferences? The Android-powered open source game console made headlines earlier this year after raking in a whopping $8.6,000,000.00 USD for its Kickstarter funding. People have offered some well-placed caution even as are already extremely twitterpated over the concept, but founder Julie Uhrman wants you to know things are proceeding quite well indeed, even including a photo of the console's printed circuit board to prove it. With developer kits on schedule for a December release, it looks like this one is chugging reliably along, which I'm sure is already cause for people to start planning their launch party.

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: 3.9/5 (67 votes)
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elleUnagi 16On the sushi menu of your favorite Japanese restaurant, you know unagi as a savory, slightly sweet freshwater eel that's better tasted than ogled. So it's the same in Ninjadoodle's hors d'oeuvre portion of sixteen puzzles, Unagi 16.

Gameplay in this case is like the "find the code and enter it below" puzzles in Ninjadoodle's Binga series. If you can point, if you can click, you are well on your way. In each level, manipulate the images in the clues given until you can decipher the code by calculating, doing some computing, and applying a bit of logic. At times you'll need a good memory or a notepad and pencil nearby, occasionally you'll have to do some dexterous clicking and, in the end, there's a little arcade-like challenge to sum it all up. There's not much else to it but it's strangely compelling and oodles of fun.

Play Unagi 16


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Rating: 4.5/5 (123 votes)
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DoraRed Ball 4Red Ball 4, the latest in the physics platforming series by Evgeniy Fedoseev, has come a long way from 1, 2, and 3. From his humble beginnings, Red Ball has become quite the hero, and now he's actually out to save the world from being turned square by malicious blocks. Use the [WASD] or [arrow] keys to move and jump through the game's fifteen levels, avoiding hazards like enemies and water, and tagging red flags to use as respawn checkpoints along the way. Initially, you can simply hop on enemies to destroy them (or find ways to drown them if ya nasty), but later they'll become wise to your ballsy ways and start wearing spiky helmets, forcing you to adjust your tactics. Similarly, while rolling around with a goofy grin on your face will do in the beginning, later levels feature devious physics-based challenges and constructs you'll need to manipulate in order to get by.

Play all the Red Ball games:
Red BallRed Ball 2Red Ball 3Red Ball 4

The Red Ball series is one of those games where the developer's drive for improvement and evolution really shines. It isn't just the significant graphical upgrade, it's the whole package. Red Ball 4 not only plays smoother, it features a more cunning variety to its level design that really takes advantage of its physics-based platforming in creative ways. The physics themselves are, generally, mostly reliable, though they can force you to be frustratingly precise in your angles and speed to get the most height and distance out of even simple jumps. The initial batch of levels are also enjoyable, but don't really showcase much variety or ingenuity in a way that may not capture everyone's interest off the bat. But with a crisp, clean design and kid-friendly gameplay, Red Ball 4 isn't just a good example of one developer's impressive progression of skill, it's a good game, period.

Play Red Ball 4

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