December 2012 Archives


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Rating: 4.6/5 (121 votes)
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DoraBad Ice-Cream 2Nitrome couldn't lick the habit, and now those scowling frozen treats are back for more arcade action in Bad Ice-Cream 2, where you and your favourite flavour endeavour to nab all the fruits on a stage full of enemies, ice, and more.

Move with the [WASD] or [arrow] keys, and spit out or smash ice with the [spacebar]. The bar at the bottom of the screen shows the fruit you'll need to chomp before the level ends, and if there's more than one kind left, eating all of one will cause the other to spawn. While getting hit by an enemy is a bad idea, you can block their path by spitting out ice-cubes or bashing your way through some blockades. So far so simple, right? Well, what if I told you that some fruit will run away with you? Or some tiles will cause you to move too fast? Or that some enemies are smart enough to bash through your blockades to come after you? Yeah, what then, smart guy? And you thought being a sentient cone of sweetened dairy was just another walk in the park.

Don't worry about the clock in the corner... that's just there to decide how many bonus points you get for completing a level quickly, and you really should take your time here. Particularly because this is one silly, surreal, and gorgeous little game. Levels are vibrant and colourful, while enemies are wonderfully weird in design. While the gameplay is still essentially the same as you remember from before, the new tiles add a nice touch of variety, and it's always nice to encounter an arcade game where it feels like you need to do a bit of planning and puzzling to succeed. The randomly moving fruit is still a bit of an annoyance, especially since it feels like it's less about skill and more about chance where they're concerned. But with 40 all-new levels and the sort of compulsively playable arcade action that's perfect for a coffee (or an ice-cream) break all wrapped up in Nitrome's signature style, Bad Ice-Cream 2 is still a sweet treat no matter how hard the stars may try to look thuggish.

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Mobile Monday

JohnBWell, so much for 2012. Did you join the gym like you promised yourself you'd do? Finish that novel you were working on? Paint the house? Be nicer to strangers? Stop watching Jersey Shore reruns? If so, you're going to have to get creative for your new-new year's resolutions. Modest suggestion: play more good games?

mew-p.gifTeam Meat has a game about cats - Mew-Genics is an upcoming Android/iOS game from Super Meat Boy developer Team Meat that features over 12,207,031,250,000,000,000,000 cats. Instabuy, right? Yup. Also worth noting: co-creator Edmund McMillen says it's the strangest project he's ever worked on, and if you look at his development history, you'll realize that's a tall order to fill. Little is known about the release at the moment, but the team releases weekly teasers on the Super Meat Boy blog, so you should probably hang around there like some sort of creepy person in a trenchcoat at the park.

touchdetective.gifTouch Detective inspects Android - While Touch Detective may not have the largest fanbase of any detective game, it still manages to find a following across a number of devices. Originally released for Nintendo DS and eventually getting an iOS port, the cartoonish, gothic art style of this puzzle adventure game is finally available on Android devices! Control detective Mackenzie as she solves mysteries in her small (but strange) home town. Includes new content as well as chapters unlockable via in-app purchases.

sprinkle2-p.gifSprinkle 2 currently in development - Firefighters won't admit it, but extinguishing blazes is the most entertaining thing a human being can do. Mediocre Games (whose releases are anything but), creator of Sprinkle along with the equally spectacular Granny Smith, hinted that a sequel for the former is currently in the works. Here's what we know about the game so far: nothing. Sounds great, right? Yeah, we're excited too. But seriously, even if Sprinkle 2 was Sprinkle 1 with some new levels, we'd be all over it. Looking forward to more cute firefighting puzzles!


  • Currently 4.1/5
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Rating: 4.1/5 (266 votes)
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elleWhere Is 2013?So, you survived the Mayan Apocalypse of 2012...what are you going to do next? Roll up your sleeves and avert yet another crisis, of course (and you thought you were going to Disneyland.) Mateusz Skutnik of Pastel Stories presents another dreamily surreal and richly engaging point-and-click adventure to help us play our way into the new year: Where Is 2013?

Feeling like a mash up of Garden Door, 10 Gnomes and, even, a sprinkle of Submachine, you're dropped into a world of atomic fallout, shifting magnetic fields and a malfunction of electricity everywhere, tasked with finding all the necessary objects and putting them back into place. Let the changing cursor guide you while exploring every possible angle and close-up. Besides restoring energy, try to gather ten glass marbles to earn an extra ending. The gameplay is engaging but it's the atmosphere—enchanting wind-chime and bird song ambient music is coupled with expert photographic and hand-drawn art making the most mundane scenery seem extraordinary—that is the real treat. Are you up for the task, survivor?

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  • Currently 4.8/5
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Rating: 4.8/5 (38 votes)
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Don't Starve

DoraDon't you just love the great outdoors? The majesty, the wonder, the fresh air, the creeping horrors waiting for darkness to fall and your last bit of firewood to be consumed to strip the flesh from your bones and give you a respite from the gnawing hunger in your shriveled belly? Hooray, camping! Klei Entertainment's Don't Starve (currently in playable beta) is an indie action adventure game with a heavy emphasis on survival and crafting as you struggle to keep alive day after day the a bizarre and hostile environment you've been transported to by a malicious demon. From insulting and unhelpful pigmen, to plains full of fiercely protective one-eyed giant birds, vicious spider queens, pursuing hounds, Krampus, and much, much more, Don't Starve may sound like a simple objective, but, y'know, that's if the world doesn't hate you and want you to die as horribly as possible. Sort of like dealing with any tech support, ever, if tech support liked to hang out in the darkness and savage you every once in a while. Which, let's be honest, we all sort of suspect it does.

Don't StarveDon't let the lack of a tutorial or instructions put you off... it might not be easy, but Don't Starve is actually quite simple to play. Just click to move around and interact with characters, animals, items, and your environment. [Q] will rotate the screen, and [TAB] opens your map. Your primary concerns are food and health, indicated by the heart and stomach icons on the right side of the screen. As time passes, your tummy shrivels away to nothingness to the point where your character probably starts hallucinating everything as talking hot dogs like an old Bugs Bunny cartoon. Fortunately, you can find food everywhere... sort of. While berries and carrots can simply be plucked from nature's bounty if you're in the proper terrain, some biomes are lacking in the food department... unless you consider animals. You can set traps to capture helpless critters, take an axe to monsters, or even your piggy neighbours... provided, of course, that you're prepared to deal with the consequences of being a naughty murderer. Alternately, if you can find seeds and the stuff to build plots, you can also set up farms. Since items stack, don't be shy about gathering as much food (and resources) as you can whenever possible, especially if you plan on traveling far.

Equally as important is a source of light. While by day you can see where you're going and avoid any threats coming at you, when night falls it's a completely different matter, and the pitch blackness will mean certain death if you can't find a bit of illumination very quickly. In the beginning, that's probably going to consist of a shoddy, unsafe jumble of sticks and dead grass, but we all have to start somewhere. Just, uh. Just make sure you don't feed the flames too much... or that you aren't in the middle of a bunch of highly flammable things when you do. You can cook food on your fire, or feed it more fuel like logs, pinecones, and other things when it gets low.

Don't StarveBut don't worry! Though you only start out with the clothes on your back, a bit of ingenuity and the willingness to scavenge everything from wood to precious minerals to beefalo poops will go a long way. The vertical bar on the left side of the screen represents all your available crafting recipes, from tools to weapons and much, much more. Click on an icon to expand that category. If an item is only shown in silhouette, you lack all the ingredients to make it, but you'll also be shown exactly what you need to gather, and once you have everything it's just a matter of clicking to build it. If an item is shown as locked out, however, that means you'll have to research it before you can make it. You'll need to first build a Science Machine and then feed it items to generate research points, which you can then spend on unlocking new recipes. Of course, once you die, you're dead for good (unless you've managed to craft a certain thing or two), but not only do all your unlocks stay unlocked and you keep any research points you've accumulated, you can also choose to either generate an entirely new world when you start again, or replay the last one. Plus, you'll gain experience that slowly works towards unlocking new playable characters, each with their own subtle abilities.

Analysis: Don't Starve is all about trial, error, and running for your life. Trying to survive in, say, Minecraft if you're a new player is difficult enough, and even though Don't Starve's crafting system is much more straightforward, the sheer hostility and alien-ness of your environment makes the game a pretty significant challenge when you're just trying to figure out how things work. Is this animal going to race over and trample my weak, fleshy body into the dust for looking at its nest? Should I eat this drippy purple hunk of spider meat I carved off a corpse? The fact is, though, despite how disorienting the game is at first, a good hunk of Don't Starve's appeal comes from just how much fun discovering how the world works. There are so many neat little touches to discover that you can get lost just experimenting and exploring, and the clean, friendly user interface makes this a snap to jump into.

Don't StarveAs of this writing, however, while the game is still in Beta it almost feels like the title of the game is the only real goal after a point. Very early on I somehow managed to generate a world so packed with grave-robbing riches (which can provide some of the most research points) in such a small area that I had managed to research everything almost right away. Lacking more of a narrative, it sort of felt like I was aimless without that particular objective to drive me on. It's times like that that really make you pine for a multiplayer option, which the team has said is unfortunately never coming as the game was always intended to be a single-player experience. As a single-player game, it's still a ton of fun, of course, and it's constantly receiving updates with more content. Not just bug fixes, but new monsters, animals, items, and more. Discovering all of this is a joy, and any time an update hits it feels like getting a big wrapped present... one that will probably immediately prove fatal, but isn't it the thought that counts?

Klei's customary stamp of quality is all over this one, and the game is as fascinating to play as it is to look at. The final and perhaps most obvious selling point of the game is how great it looks. Which is, y'know, pretty great at that. The animations are wonderful, the sketchy, twisted storybook designs are gorgeous and expressive, and the musical chatter of your characters is a wonderful touch. Very "Peter and the Wolf"... if Peter was a pyromaniac and the Wolf was a flaming hound from the realms that never tired. It won't be for everyone, of course. Permanent death is a hard pill to swallow if you're more of an easy-does-it type gamer, and the game lacks insane levels of building and customisation if that's your thing. But Don't Starve might just be the most unique, gorgeous, and darkly funny survival adventure around... and one that just keeps getting better to boot.

WindowsWindows:
Order the full version (Google Chrome Store)
Order the full version (GOG.com)

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


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Rocket Island

JohnBThe world is crumbling beneath everyone's feet, and there's only one hope for survival: rockets to the moon! In Clouds and Sheep creator Handy Game's puzzle release Rocket Island, your job is to develop hexagons of land into functional rockets as quickly as you can. Start with the sea, build solid ground, prop up a platform, then make a rocket. All you have to do is keep everyone alive as you frantically swipe between meteors and volcanic eruptions!

Rocket IslandRocket Island is very much like Triple Town in basic design, only here gameplay is focused on short rounds with limited moves. Simply tap and swipe across the hexagons to grow them from simpler tiles to more complex ones. The counter at the top right corner of the screen shows you how many tiles must be in the current swipe. You can't go over or under that number, nor can you include different land types in a single swipe, forcing you to develop bits of land that may not be your top priority. Once a tile turns into a rocket, the next swipe sends it skyward, saving a group of people and opening up the sea for a brand new development.

Speed and forethought are your best weapons in this game. Knowing which groups of tiles to leave undeveloped for the moment can help you get more rockets in the air early on. Natural disasters increase in frequency as the rounds progress, so at any moment a meteor could crash down, a whirlpool could consume a tile, or a volcano could spit out some nasty rocks. You know how it is, world ending and all. Once you get the hang of it, though, Rocket Island quickly becomes a satisfying diversion. Two modes of play offer a little variety, but really it's just a race to the top of the scoreboard. With a lovely steampunk setting and a nice view of your lunar colony, of course!


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Big Fish Games' Customer Favorites Awards Sale!

Should old games be forgot? Heck no, and it's got nothing to do with auld lang syne, it's because they're awesome. Here at JayisGames' Casual Gameplay HQ, in perpetual orbit around the TARDIS (he hasn't chased us off yet), we play and review a lot of games. Like, a lot. And when it comes to casual download games, the games you'd need to put down your cold, hard bits/rupees/gold dubloons for, we take those reviews very seriously and make sure we're only telling you about the best. Which means Big Fish Games' Customer Favorites Sale is our chance to shine the Spotlight on Stupendousness on our favourite titles, and save you a pretty penny in the process!

From now until January 3rd, 2013 (the future), enter code WINNER at checkout to get each game on the Customer Favourites Award list of 60 games for just $4.99USD (excluding Collector's Editions). "But Dora," you say, blinking back dewy tears of desperation, "how do I know which are the best of the best?" Well, never fear, gentle reader, because here are a few of the ones we recommend the most!

Life Quest 2: MetropovilleLove casual simulations? Big Fish Games doesn't just sell games... they make them too! And when it comes to simulations like Life Quest 2: Metropoville, they make them pretty darn addicting. In this sequel to the original, you'll create and manage the life of your avatar from start to finish, including school, career, and maybe even twu wuv. Check out our review for more details!

Shiver: PoltergeistLove horror? Nobody really thinks of hidden-object adventures as being, you know, genuinely scary, but let Artogon Games disabuse you of that notion with the finely crafted creepshow that is Shiver: Poltergeist. Turns out the property our hero inherits has some very nasty things that go bump in the night, and they're none too happy with him taking up residence. While not as relentlessly terrifying as Shiver: Vanishing Hitchhiker, this game features an intriguing story, frights both big and little, and some stunning production values. Check out our review for more details!

Mystery Trackers: Four AcesLove sci-fi mystery thrillers? Elephant Games' Mystery Trackers series of hidden-object adventures is one of the few series I might get into fisticuffs over someone besmirching, because with their tremendous creativity and dedication to story, excitement, and wild plot twists, they're some of the best casual games around. Mystery Trackers: Four Aces is no different as you venture into a snowbound village that was ordered to evacuate after unsettling hybrid beasts beset it, and wind up stumbling onto a conspiracy full of freaky mutations and betrayal that would make Albert Wesker proud. Check out our review for more details!

Christmas Stories: NutcrackerLove holiday fairy-tales? Christmas might be done and dusted for the year, but Elephant Games' Christmas Stories: Nutcracker is one seriously stunning hidden-object adventure any day of the year! Taking on the classic, beloved story with a twist, you'll help a prince defeat the wretched Rat King with three noble heroes (the Nutcracker, a candle, and a cuddly kitten) backing you up. Elephant Games always delivers quality, and Christmas Stories: Nutcracker might be one of their biggest, best titles to date with gorgeous visuals, hours of gameplay, and an all-around phenomenal holiday experience no matter how old you are. Check out our review for more details!

Want more? How about...

Mystery Case Files: Shadow Lake Dark Parables: The Red Riding Hood Sisters Spirits of Mystery: Song of the Phoenix Puppetshow: Return to Joyville Living Legends: Ice Rose Kingdom Chronicles Burger Bustle: Ellie's Organics Jo's Dream: Organic Coffee Awakening: The Skyward Castle Final Cut: Death on the Silver Screen Royal Detective: Lord of Statues Witch Hunters: Stolen Beauty Fabled Legends: The Dark Piper The Agency of Anomalies: Cinderstone Orphanage The Agency of Anomalies: The Last Performance 
Death Upon an Austrian Sonata: A Dana Knightstone Novel Surface: The Noise She Couldn't Make Mystery Trackers: Black Isle Grim Tales: The Wishes Echoes of the Past: The Revenge of the Witch Witches' Legacy: The Charleston Curse Shadow Wolf Mysteries: Cursed Wedding Fierce Tales: The Dog's Heart Gothic Fiction: Dark Saga Criminal Minds Sable Maze: Sullivan River Nightmares from the Deep: The Cursed Heart Redemption Cemetery: Grave Testimony Dark Dimensions: Wax Beauty The Chronicles of Emerland Solitaire
(Use code: WINNER at checkout for discount)



  • Currently 4.4/5
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Rating: 4.4/5 (78 votes)
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elleMusic Box of Life 4Earlier in FunBunGames' alternative reality-bending music box series, a young girl realizes that small, heartless actions can lead to large, heart-breaking reactions. Now continuing its milieu of pictorial parables within remarkably detailed spot-the-difference games, Music Box of Life 4 juxtaposes ambition of fame against the meaning of love.

Each level has two nearly identical scenes side-by-side: your job is to study both, looking for the subtle differences—such as a person's stance, a ruffle on a dress or the shape of a cloud—and clicking on them. Like many sequels, this fourth installment doesn't feel as fresh or sparkly and it never truly answers the question of why one dream can't be had along with the other, seeming rather trite in the telling to boot. Yet, outside of comparisons, Music Box of Life 4 still stands out in its class of difference spotting games with a high replay value, quality graphics, interesting scenes and how amazingly well it communicates a story with pictures alone. Entertaining and thoroughly imaginative, Music Box of Life 4 is bound to please on many levels.

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Rating: 4.6/5 (31 votes)
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The Book of Legends

DoraMaybe the best person for the job isn't just "whoever's cheap and available", but I guess if your solution to dealing with an ancient evil is "put it to sleep for a few decades rather than making with the stabbies" the chips are stacked against you to begin with. Jordan might be a powerful warrior, but he's also powerfully lazy. And greedy. And kind of weird. On the first day of his mission to The House of Fear to deal with the demon Azutura, Jordan manages to lose the very relic he needs to do the job. Of course, once he manages to track it down, everything's easy-peasy and the world is saved for sure!... right? The Book of Legends is a massive turn-based indie RPG adventure from Aldorlea Games that delivers tons of play time, laughs, fantasy, excitement, and the ability to join forces with chickens, cows, ponies, and more.

The Book of LegendsThe game controls with either the keyboard or the mouse. You can use the [arrow] keys to move, [spacebar] to select and [ESC] to open the menu, or simply do everything by clicking. While you can see some enemies on the map, most encounters are random and take place with traditional turn-based style combat, duking it out and leveling up to get stronger and learn new abilities. Though initially your party only consists of Jordan, over time you'll get the chance to gather many more companions. I say chance because your choices here have a big impact on who will join up with you, from wild forest chickens to haughty warrior princesses. You can even flat-out turn certain characters away from you. (Note that if certain party members appear to be removed from your group during story events, you can simply add them back by selecting "Party" to edit your group from the menu.)

The Book of LegendsAnalysis: Heavy on fun and gags and light on brooding anti-heroes and drama, The Book of Legends is the perfect choice if you're looking for a big, meaty RPG without all that crushing seriousness. Though we are talking about a title dealing with a demon war and the end of the world, the chatty cast and colourful design combined with a near-endless stream of self-aware jokes makes for a very light-hearted experience. Of course, this also means it isn't a game for players who don't like a lot of smalltalk or prefer games with a more serious tone. The Book of Legends is, from time to time, one seriously weird little game, but in this case that's part of its charm. It likes to stroll absurd situations and statements right out as if they were the most natural thing in the world. Not all the jokes are winners, but the game's whimsical spirit is a welcome change from your typical dead-serious RPGs. It's just such a relentlessly cheerful, vibrant game that it's hard to really be in a bad mood while you play it.

Another point in its favour is that The Book of Legends is a genuinely huge game that will take you a long, long time to finish. The downside is that those huge sprawling dungeons can also be a pain to explore at times. Their own size works against them without a map, especially when so much of the terrain can look the alike in certain areas, though mercifully once you clear certain dungeons you have the option to just "go through" if you're trying to get from point A to point B. In addition to the main quest, you've got a lot of side jobs you can do if you venture off the beaten path. You'll definitely want to, since there are characters you can only recruit if you explore. Though the writing occasionally feels a little stiff, it works exceptionally hard to make your party feel like a lively bunch of characters. They'll strike up conversations with each other ranging from chatty to snippy, make observations about everything from your surroundings to objects you find or examine, and it goes a long way towards endearing them to you. Except for maybe Jordan himself who, despite moments of heroism, kind of comes off as a bit more of a lazy jerk of a sleazebag than a hero should, even intentionally. Sort of what you'd get if Vash the Stampede, Q, the cast of Jersey Shore, and the worst qualities of the Magician Howl were struck by lightning and fused together.

For fans of classic turn-based RPGs who really embrace grinding and strategy, The Book of Legends will keep you wrapped up a very long time indeed. There's just so much to see and do, from the vast world and huge dungeons to explore to the hefty roster of potential party recruits, that the immense dedicate and pride the developers clearly take in their work shines. It's a love letter to old-school gaming, with a decidedly quirky and happy-go-lucky style, and with its long multi-battle boss fights, will even provide a challenge too. Give the demo a try, and for goodness sakes... the next time you pick a random slob off the street to save the world, at least Google them or check their reviews on Yelp first. If "making friends with woodland animals" and "dressing really elaborately" are listed as higher priority than "not letting the world be consumed by darkness and terror", maybe you should reconsider outsourcing the world's future.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


  • Currently 3.5/5
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Rating: 3.5/5 (62 votes)
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DoraThe Children of BrinnAdventure meets text-based fantasy in the latest game from Hyptosis, The Children of Brinn. The titular "Children" are a guild, a group of adventures from warriors to healers and more you can hire for your problems. In this case, you find yourself leading a small band of them to a village whose vineyard has been beset by supernatural ills. Giant locusts the size of horses, for example, which sort of makes one think maybe Grandma Ben and Fone Bone might be better equipped to deal with this, but hey, how hard can a bunch of bugs be to deal with? The game plays out partly like a choose-your-own-adventure title, tasking you with selecting the choice you like when presented and then dealing with the consequences. Your party and each member's general health is displayed to the left of the screen, along with whatever each character is carrying. Depending on how well your decisions go over and whether you select the right people to carry them out, you'll see the party's status change for better or worse.

The Children of Brinn is well written and handled, but also extremely short and fairly easy to win with flying colours if you pay even half attention to your party's abilities and the events around you. Though it is possible to fail catastrophically, the game will offer you the ability to hop back to the last big choice so there's not much lost even if your entire party takes a dirt nap. There is, however, at least one significant change and a lot of extra scenes that can only occur if you manage to get a specific party member knocked off, but you'll still be done before your coffee cools. In a way, The Children of Brinn almost feels more experimental than anything else, especially given how abrupt the ending is and how little you get to know your party after their initial introduction. With Hyptosis' flair for design and promising world-building at work in a way fans will appreciate it seems like more and larger adventures with the guild would be a great idea. In the meantime, however, The Children of Brinn is a solid little diversion brimming with potential, cat-person-things, faces melting, and ale. Huzzah!

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  • Currently 4.2/5
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Rating: 4.2/5 (66 votes)
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TrickyCube Cube CubeWhen playing a sculpting and chiseling puzzle game like Danny Yaroslavski's Cube Cube Cube, one recalls the old advice that the easiest way to transform a block of marble into a solution, is merely to chip away at anything that doesn't look like a solution. Or an elephant. Or something. Not quite sure. Point is, Cube Cube Cube is an entertaining 3D variation of Nurikabe that presents sets of mental blocks for you to quite satisfyingly smash.

Use the mouse to rotate the level, and click to smash or mark blocks. The [spacebar] is used to switch functions, or else you can click the on-screen icon. You must break apart the level into sets of blocks connected by faces. Each set must include the number of blocks shown on one of the blocks in the set. Each set will contain one and only one numbered block. Different sets can touch along the edges, but not the faces. Three mistakes and you must restart. Five sets of seven levels are available, including the tutorial. With a clever central concept, and a polished presentation, Cube Cube Cube comes off like a lost Conceptis release, and that's meant as a compliment. The only complaint is that gameplay would benefit from allowing interior blocks before chiseling away the outsides, as many other cube-based puzzle games do. Still, Cube Cube Cube has the feel of a new classic, and logic puzzle fans should be pleased to find another addiction to test their wits against.

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Link Dump Fridays

DoraWhat ho, noble reader! As we prepare to sally forth into this brave new year, I bringest thee contests, games, and sheer, pants-wetting terror! Huzzah and verily! (I'm trying to make Ren Fair speech a thing in 2013. Don't you run this for me. I've never gotten over not being able to make fetch happen.)

Contests

Knytt UndergroundCONTEST: Get to Know Knytt Nifflas' (Nicklas Nygren) massive indie adventure Knytt Underground has finally arrived, packing a tremendous amount to see and explore, and because we love you (you especially... shhh, don't tell the others) we're giving you a chance to win one of ten free copies for PC or Mac! To enter, all you have to do is download the demo and leave a comment here telling us what you liked about it! Or, alternately, leave a comment telling us about your favourite moment in a Nifflas game. CONTEST CLOSED! WINNERS: jenimad, moldar, bluemoose, Solatoral, luthy, mrmaxmrmax, zaneramos74, nobody, vctory12, Mantus. Thanks for playing, and make sure you check your e-mail and your Spam folder if you haven't already heard from us!

News and Previews

Slender: The ArrivalThe Horror Don't Start 'Til Slendy Walks In Did you forget about Slender Man? Haha, oh you and your lies. You can't forget about something that is always just lurking over your shoulder and in the darkest corner of your room at night! Slender: The Arrival is still headed for a release (hopefully very) early in 2013, and now the first trailer has been released to whet your appetite. The game definitely looks more than a little intense, blending the frightening, tense gameplay of the original with more hands-on action and a lot more exploration in some very big environments. Our favourite dapper monstrosity has gotten a lot of attention this last year. Are you excited for more (especially combined with the talents of the original "Marble Hornets" videos), or are you ready to tell Slender Man "It's not me, it's you"?

Kickstarter Projects

Radio the UniversePretty Pixels, Big Action Classic Zelda action meets dark sci-fi setting and story? Colour us intrigued. 6e6e6e's Kickstarter for Radio the Universe is a lovely thing to behold for sure. This action adventure takes a rich pixel style and promises to deliver a big open-world experience in a melancholy setting, with influences "from titles like Yume Nikki, Symphony of the Night, Hotline Miami, and Dark Souls". It's more than a little ambitious, and the somewhat cavalier approach to more direct information might not sit well with everyone, but the game has already surpassed its funding goal and looks to have some serious talent backing it up. If this sounds like your bag, head on over and check it out!

Memento: Aurora ChroniclesPretty Girls, Sharp Things, and KAWAII If you like visual novels, you'll want to wander over and make flirtatious eye-contact with Bright Onion Studios' Memento: Aurora Chronicles, a game that follows the friendship that grows between two popular video game heroine archetypes in a way that both satirizes and pays homage to both while our heroine journeys around the world. Described as "the love child of Douglas Adams and Tolkien", it seeks to tell a story full of comedy and action, but also a liberal dose of heart. And not just because of the bloodthirsty, questionable ethics of the other leading lady. If you love vivacious, energetic stories and tons of character choices in fantastical situations, you'll definitely want to check this one out.

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!


(17 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Clay Jam

JohnBSquishy and malleable, colorful and in great peril. That pretty much sums up the creatures in Clay Jam, an arcade game from Fat Pebble that lets you save a world of clay creatures from the clay nemeses that are gobbling them up like tasty appetizers. You've got the power of physics on your side, however, rolling down hills, squishing small monsters to gain mass and make a mad leap from the island to knock the big bad guys away. Heroic!

Clay JamClay Jam puts you in charge of helping out the mysterious stranger who has come to save the world, a.k.a. a rolling ball of clay. As the ball tumbles across the landscape it absorbs small monsters and increases in size. The larger you are, the bigger things you can pick up, and the more clay you'll gain. But don't go thinking this is Tasty Planet or another Katamari-like game. Instead, you simply control the ball's path by dragging temporary troughs in the ground, directing it left or right to collect more bits of clay. When it reaches the end of the hill, swipe the screen as quickly as you can to get a boost of speed, then crash into the big bad monster at the end and see how far you can send it careening!

The farther you shove the boss baddie, the more clay you earn, and clay can be formed between levels to create/unlock new things, like additional monsters to crush, power-ups, or new hills to roll down. You also get missions to complete for each run, adding a little more strategy to the experience than "go fast and hit stuff". All in all, Clay Jam hits a lot of the mobile sweet spots with a fun casual experience that doesn't get old after hours of play. Plus, who doesn't like a game made entirely out of clay?!

NOTE: This game was played and reviewed on the 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.


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Rating: 4.2/5 (90 votes)
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TrickyBezerk Ball 2Man, it's been two years and a half years since the release of Home Run in Berzerk Land, and you would have thought that by now we would have developed a way to physically slap annoying people over the web. Oh well, as usual, our dreams far outpace our technology. But if you'd still be interested in taking out a little rage by using a cricket bat to launch a facsimile of a fellow internet user into the ionosphere, then it's nice to know that Berzerk Studio still has us covered: Berzerk Ball 2 is the latest in the series of action games that demonstrates how hitting-stuff-with-other-stuff will never get old.

After choosing your character, you will be presented with a geek to launch. Using the meters, click to determine the power and angle of your launch. Once airborne, your character will have a certain number of Power Smashes, activating by clicking. These smashes will give the geek a little more speed with a Meteor Attack, or, if close to the ground, smash him up to the sky with a Hell Raiser Various obstacles will either slow the geek down or blast him further. Your distance will determine how much XP is added, with each leveling up granting you skill points to distribute amongst various stats. Crushing obstacles will earn scrap to be spent on various weapons and stat-boosting items, as well as regenerating your power smashes. Crush enough stuff over several launches, and you'll fill up your Rage Meter to unleash a super attack. Reaching certain milestones will unlock minigame challenges. Do well enough on those, and soon, other members of your team will make an appearance during launches to help you out in various ways. Earning achievements will give you precious metals, which can also be earned at a Daily Spin. These metals can be traded at the blacksmith for random quality items. The more you play, the more customization there is, and Berzerk Ball 2 is definitely a game designed for the long haul.

For a game with such slam-bang action to it, Berzerk Ball 2's pace is surprisingly methodical. Every time it seems that all the game's wrinkles has been revealed, and that it's about to fall into that old launch game pattern of upgrades and clicking, a new element, a new feature to unlock becomes apparent. No doubt this unlocking is a little slow at first, which is sad since the earliest bits are the most familiar. Those who stick with it, though, will find it very much worth their while. Admittedly, the presentation of Berzerk Ball 2 is as jam-packed as its content. It seems to be a game which was created within the limitations of mobile device screens, and sadly does not take advantage of the larger resolutions of the browser window. Things definitely get a little cramped. Not so much that it affects gameplay, but it can be a little overwhelming to the senses. That said, it's hard not to like Bezerk Ball 2's addictive gameplay and gleeful biting-the-hand sense of humor, and, when it comes to dealing with the frustration of dealing with dismissive online malcontents, it's a much healthier option than putting your fist through the monitor.

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Rating: 4.4/5 (113 votes)
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elleEscape Bird (TomaTea)If I escape here tomorrow, would you still remember TomaTea? Well, maybe that's not the way Lynyrd Skynyrd would have played it but we here at JIG love our escape games and have no plans to travel on anytime soon. When you open up and start exploring TomaTea's latest creation, Escape Bird, you'll be glad to see nothing has changed about the characteristic TomaTea style that you love so much.

Once again, you're locked inside a welcoming, well-composed room that invites you to explore its numerous chests and tasteful decor as you contemplate clues that are cleverly conveyed. A cursor that glows over hot spots and gentle reminders when a puzzle isn't ready to be solved continues TomaTea's venue as affable host while re-appearing is the use of picture tiles (this time with a slightly trickier trick) and color based puzzles (unfortunately for those less visually acute). Yet, as always, time spent here feels like a cup of tea and biscuits: only a touch of logic, lateral thinking and, perhaps, pen and notepad are all that are needed to be as free as a bird.

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The Journey Down

JohnBThe Journey Down: Chapter One is an adventure game from SkyGoblin that made the trip from desktop download to mobile app without a hitch. First released in 2010, the game has since been remastered with brand new visuals, voice acting, and lots of additional content. It looks fantastic and plays like an expertly-crafted adventure game of old, even with the fancy futuristic touch screen interface!

The Journey DownBwana and Kito are having a bit of an issue. The big bad electric company wants money. Lots of money. And until they get it, the power stays off. It's tough to run Kaonandodo's Gas 'n Charter without electricity, so the duo comes up with a few "alternative" solutions. That's when the lovely Lina shows up asking about a strange book, kicking off a series of events that leads them deep into corporate corruption and more danger than you can shake a plate of oxtail and beans at.

The Journey Down: Chapter One is built like a tried and true adventure game from the ground up. Use the touch screen to tap on items of interest, carrying out conversations or examining items laying around. Tap, hold, then drag to reveal hotspots you can examine, a nice way to take a look around without actually tapping on things. Bring up the inventory by touching the box in the lower corner of the screen. Apart from that, you're on your own to solve puzzles and figure out what the heck is going on in this strange town!

The Journey Down looks fantastic in its updated form, and it was adapted to mobile devices so expertly it might as well have been native to the touch screen. It looks phenomenal, the puzzles are great, the voice acting is superb, the sense of humor is witty, and the soundtrack is catchy. Go on, this game won't play it self!

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


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Rating: 3.8/5 (40 votes)
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DoraSpike: A Love Story, TooYou know those old Flinstones cartoons where they would show a bored looking animal being used as an appliance? Some beleaguered boar under the sink being used as a garbage disposal would look at the camera and quip, "It's a living"? Well, Mike Houser's arcade reflex-driven game Spike: A Love Story, Too is like that, only squishier, and with an undercurrent of vague ickiness. As a lowly spike trap like so many others, you're just coping with the day-to-day drudgery of crushing players and helping keep the monster population down, all while trying to keep your job security high by meeting your quota. Good thing you love what you do, and what you do is render things into a fine paste... especially if it gives you the chance to see your beloved game mascot!

Hit [spacebar], [X] or [L] to drop down and crush anything underneath you, nabbing coins for a score bonus and power-ups to help you out. On some levels you might have to keep the monsters in check by only crushing specific ones, and on others you might have to be even quicker on the trigger to take down wily, experienced players. Just stay sharp and watch out for fireballs! While the actual gameplay hasn't changed much beyond the original game and the story is sort of a one-off gag, Spike: A Love Story, Too is still a fun, silly example of a developer expanding on a simple concept in clever ways. The main problem is that while the game makes an admirable attempt to introduce new twists in each level, sometimes those twists and concepts aren't adequately explained and wind up requiring some experimentation. Still, if you're looking for a simple, twisted little game with tongue planted firmly in cheek, Spike: A Love Story, Too is a weird, fun, and gleefully gross concept with an unusual protagonist, and sort of makes you wonder what other nefarious game traps could get their own installments in the future.

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Rating: 4.7/5 (96 votes)
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Weekday Escape

GrinnypMost room escapes by the prolific designer Tesshi-e feature two endings, one in which you merely escape, and one in which you escape holding the most fabulous token in the world, the Happy Coin. The Happy Coin is so sought after that folks will play Tesshi-e's escapes as many times as it takes to find those fantastically lucky coins. Once in a blue moon, however, Tesshi-e gets mischevious and builds an escape around finding not one, not two, but a grand total of ten lucky coins in a room. These escapes make Tesshi-e fans very happy, thus the title, The Happy Escape 4.

The Happy Escape 4Have you ever wondered what happened to Santa when he left the Southern Islands the last time we visited the strange world of Tesshi-e? Well, he arrived back home to find not only his magic sack of presents missing but also those amazing things without which anything would be possible, the magical Happy Coins also not to be found. It is the job of the room escape fantatic to find not only the presents but all of those Happy Coins scattered about the place, probably hidden by those same naughty elves who locked Santa into his vacation cabin. Perhaps it is also time for Santa to think about some personnel changes...

The Happy Escape 4 features everything there is to love about Tesshi-e: well-designed, logical puzzles, gorgeous three dimensional space, jaunty music, Mr. Birdy, Mr. Hippo, the wobbly picture puzzle, and enough Happy Coins to choke a horse. Tesshi-e's beautifully designed games continue to amaze and delight, putting them at the top of the room escape heap in every conceivable way. Tight designs, easy controls, textual displays of color, grammatically correct English translation...basically everything you want in an escape is here to behold. As a special treat Tesshi-e has included a choice of three presents at the end, perhaps to make up for there being only one way to escape. Time to find out what special happiness Happy Coins will bring to you!!

Play The Happy Escape 4

Thanks to Cyberjar88, Tao, and Itt for sending this one in! :)


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Rating: 4.8/5 (31 votes)
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Pangolin

JohnBPangolin from Feed Tank is a physics-based arcade game that does a fantastic job straddling genres to create a very different, very entertaining sort of game. You indirectly control a Best of Casual Gameplay 2012bouncing orange critter by creating temporary trampoline platforms on the screen, guiding the little guy through some crazy stages filled with bumpers, tunnels, portals and more. Pangolin is almost like a game of vertical mini-golf. Except not. And it's way better!

So here's what's going on: one misty mountain morning, our cute protagonist and a devoted monk head out for morning meditation. Pangolin gets lost, though, and ends up bounding through mist-filled landscapes. You're along for the ride as well, and to help our pal find his bearings, you get to make trampolines! Use two fingers to tap simultaneously on the screen, creating bouncey platforms that have more spring the further apart your fingers are when you tap. When Pangolin hits the trampoline he goes flying, all you have to do is make sure he gets to the exit, hopefully grabbing a few coins and gems along the way.

PangolinYou don't have infinite shots in Pangolin, meaning you can only create a certain number of trampolines in each stage. If you can't make it to the target before then, you can either start over or grab some extra shots via an in-app purchase. Making things even more interesting are complex level designs that feature boosters and bouncers, crates and barrels, and even the odd portal or two. It's like a fast-paced platform game, but instead of jumping and running, you're jabbing!

Pangolin is a little slice of uniqueness wrapped in a delicious style of artwork. More worlds with more levels and obstacles are currently in the works, and the existing content will keep you busy for quite a while. It's challenging but not frustratingly so, and a surprisingly great way to unwind at the end of the day.

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


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Rating: 3.7/5 (47 votes)
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elleFind Dwarfs in Winter 2012Elves, smelves. It's dwarfs you want to find in your stocking or under the tree. Or, behind that mound of snow. Or, under that thingy over there. Ten orangish pipsqueaks altogether are hidden about Nekonote's charming point-and-click snowscape, waiting for your keen gaze to Find Dwarfs in Winter 2012.

The goal is as simple as the title states it, yet these shy creatures are no mere simpletons when it comes to finding places to obscure their itty bitty selves. You'll have to jump through a few hoops, performing actions that might coax the dwarfs out of secreted spots or solving puzzles to earn a key or a coin or the help of the scenery's inhabitants. When you're ready to go—whether you have all ten or only a few dwarfs bouncing about in the cage—locate and click on the "exit" signpost to leave (but the ending varies according to your success). Although it's short on gameplay or challenge, giving only a wee glimpse of these characters' personalities, Find Dwarves in Winter 2012 presents an enjoyable dose of cuteness that infuses whimsy and cheer into the winter drear.

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Rating: 3.7/5 (79 votes)
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KimberlyRocket Santa 2The year is 2020. Just in time for Christmas Eve, one of the elves gets a hold of some matches. One thing leads to another and BOOM! Presents are blasted into the stratosphere, just like that. Good thing Santa kept his rocket equipment from last year! In Rocket Santa 2, another seasonally themed launch game from Berserk Studios, Saint Nick once again gets to use his jetpack for the good of mankind.

Click to launch Santa from a canon to collect coins. Use coins to upgrade equipment so you can go higher. Collecting power-ups along your flight path can boost your height. Collect letters to spell xmas for a giant boost! Unlike the previous game, there are the missions you must accomplish to unlock all of the upgrades, shown to you between launches, and testing your Rocket-Santa-ness achieving a perfect launch, or collecting a certain number of coins. You even get cash bonuses for completing them since Santa is all about the cha-ching cha-ching. If you manage to fly high enough, you'll be able to reclaim the gifts and Christmas can go on as planned, so blast off ye merry Santa!

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The Vault

DoraMerry Vaultmas everyone! What's Vaultmas, you ask? Well, more than just your average, ordinary Vault, it both falls on Christmas, and includes some Christmas-lite content so that whatever you are or aren't celebrating (Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa tomorrow, Hearth's Warming Eve...), you can enjoy it without feeling like Santa is being shoved down your throat. Whatever's going on with you today, here's hoping you spend it with someone you love (or at least tolerate) and next time we see you... it'll be in 2013!

  • Christmas Escape 3Christmas Escape 3 - Be honest... every time Neutral releases a new escape game you squeal a little, don't you? You're stuck outside in the snow and only want to come in out of the cold, but because this is a Neutral game you can expect that to take a while and more than a little brain power. Rendered in simple, lovely cartoon style with more than one adorable surprise waiting for you, the game is a challenge, but not obnoxiously so, and just the sort of clever game you always hope you get to unwrap on Christmas morning. Especially since there's a whole series of them!
  • Yuki in WinterlandYuki in Winterland - FlashTeam's point-and-click adventure about a little girl delivering cookies may not be much of a challenge (... like, at all) but it is absolutely adorable, and the perfect sweet treat to put a smile on your face. The game is packed with details and great design, and the low level of difficulty combined with the gorgeous presentation and whimsical story makes this the perfect thing for the young (or young at heart) to enjoy any day of the year.
  • Grow OrnamentGrow Ornament - As if we needed a special occasion to celebrate Eyezmaze's Grow series! The point of this simple pleasure is to figure out what order to click the icons in so that each one levels up to its max and leaves the tree fully decorated and festive. It's not as complex or baffling as, say, Grow Valley, but it's full of On's signature style and quirky brand of whimsy, and it's a gorgeous little holiday treat from a developer who's already given us so many presents over the years.
  • Sugar, Sugar: The Christmas SpecialSugar, Sugar: The Christmas Special - If anyone is capable of bringing a bit more joy to the world with his physics puzzles, it's definitely Bart Bonte, whose Sugar, Sugar series is literally the sweetest of them all. Draw lines to direct falling sugar into receptacles to fill them up, drinking in the swanky, simple design and clever concept along the way. There's something hypnotically relaxing about this game, something satisfying about watching the little particles of sugar pile up, and the different colours add a layer of challenge without making things too complex. Just the right thing to enjoy at the end of a long, busy Christmas day.

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


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Rating: 3.9/5 (66 votes)
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GrinnypChristmas EveA few months ago Dora introduced us to a new room escape developer, Choko-Chai, a designer with a thing for cats and thieves. It is with great pleasure we now bring to you a Christmas Eve present in the form of an escape called...Christmas Eve by the same folks. The basic premise of the game is simple: it is Christmas Eve, your boyfriend is on his way over, the tree is not decorated, and you can't remember where you stored the ornaments. You must wander around your apartment looking for clues and solving a lot of puzzles in order to get everything ready to go by the time Mr. Right gets here. Better start searching!

Navigation in the home is accomplished by some large white arrows at the sides and bottom of the screen. Christmas Eve featues everything you'd want from a room escape: An easy to use inventory, a changing cursor to indicate hot spots, cute graphics, a save function, and most especially a wide variety of challenging puzzles. The game comes in both Japanese and English flavors with a pretty decent English translation.

The only complaints folks might have about this delightful holiday romp are the plethora of color-based puzzles without the help of hovering text to let you know what shade is what. With its wide variety of puzzles and cute premise, though, Christmas Eve is a year-round treat of room escaping goodness. Enjoy the special bonus pictures of the designer's real-life cats decked out in their Holiday finery if you are up to the challenge of getting everything decorated before the boyfriend shows up. Hey, a date who brings both wine and chocolate cake? That's worth solving a few puzzles!

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Quiet Christmas

JohnBWhat's the last thing that happens before Christmas? You go to sleep! That is, you would if there weren't so much going on in your house. A follow-up to Quiet, Please!, Nostatic Software has released Quiet Christmas, a sidescrolling puzzle adventure game that's all about getting a bit of rest before Santa arrives. The sooner you get your brother to chill out, fix the tree, get rid of the neighbor's annoying decorations, and find a way to warm up the house, you're good to go!

Quiet ChristmasUse the on-screen arrows to move left or right in Quiet Christmas, tapping the "interact" or "item" buttons in front of certain objects to utilize your awesome powers of "doing basic stuff", like opening doors, looking inside the washing machine, or making cookies one ingredient at a time. The puzzles and atmosphere are very old school in nature, so the more you explore and experiment, the further you'll get. A nice lighthearted holiday adventure, perfect for anyone looking for a bit of a distraction until Santa arrives.

NOTE: This game was played and reviewed on the 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.


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Mobile Monday

JohnBHey! You did it! You survived the fabled Mayan-predicted apocalypse! How was it? Pretty ordinary, eh? Yeah, us too. Oh well. As long as we're still here, might as well keep playing games until the next apocalypse skates by.

aboutlove-p.gifAbout Love, Hate, and HD - Team work is the name of the game, and the multiple characters in About Love, Hate and the other ones know all about that. And by "all" we mean "nothing", so you've got to help them get along. The single player co-op puzzle platform game hit iOS just a few months ago, but it was sadly lacking iPad support. Now, the gorgeous game has a full HD version available to drool over, allowing you to learn just a bit more about all those "other ones".

cookserve-p.gifCook, Serve, Mobile! - Hungry? Yeah, same here! And since we seem to be on this mobile theme right now, one of the most challenging and pleasantly complex food-based simulations has just made the leap from Windows to iPad 2: Vertigo Gaming's Cook, Serve, Delicious! A far cry from a simple "tap all the things really fast and you'll win", this game has actual depth, decisions, and intricacy, something you don't always see in casual simulation games. Check out our full Cook, Serve, Delicious! review for the whole scoop, which is kind of a food pun, but we won't go there...

youdont-p.gifYou Don't Know Jack's Mobile - If ever you want to be insulted, entertained, and trivially challenged all at the same time, Jellyvision's high impact quiz game You Don't Know Jack has long been the place to go. Now, the bald host with the most has crawled his way to iOS, porting the highly social Facebook version over to the mobile device. Unfortunately it still requires a Facebook account, which seems a bit of a mis-step, but if you're already FB-ready and want a portable Jack Attack, now you know where to look!

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: 3.8/5 (42 votes)
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DoraFrozen Pixel HuntDeath Ink's incredibly detailed winter-wonderland-gone-wrong serves as the setting for Frozen Pixel Hunt, a tongue-in-cheek hidden-object game where you hunt down and click on various characters from pop culture history with a seasonal twist. Like Sean Connery and his futuristic red mankini. Or Bill and Ted. Or stupid, sexy Flanders. They're all together indulging in some winter mayhem, but it might take you a while to hunt them down in all the carnage and chaos. Since there are 173 characters to find, you'd better get clickin'.

Death Ink's art is so amazingly thorough and complicated that it's a shame the (admittedly itty-bitty) violence and blood means this isn't one for the kiddies, since it's seriously impressive to look at. Some of the characters are fairly iconic, like Spidey's long-time villain Venom, but some might require a Google or two before you can figure out just what you're supposed to be looking for. Even then you might struggle if you haven't seen the movie/played the game/seen the cartoon/and so forth in question to provide context. The design is all fairly simplistic, yet detailed and arranged enough that even the characters without instantly recogniseable designs when shrunk into pixel form, like Ralphie from A Christmas Story, can be picked out from situations and props. Frozen Pixel Hunt is a very simple, very twisted little version of Where's Waldo, but one that reads like a love letter to pop culture, and definitely worth admiring.

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Rating: 3.9/5 (103 votes)
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elleEscape from the Room with 10 SafesSounding more like the title to a 50s era popcorn muncher you'd see on some broadcast channel's late late show, Escape from the Room with 10 Safes by Hottategoya is decidedly tamer, shorter, and less edge-of-your-seat. Unless you are afraid of maths. As you gaze around the room and discover that ten safes actually amount to about ten algebraic puzzles, your opinion of whether this will be an enjoyable escape should be easily decided—either you're giddy at the chance to play with numbers or you're already disappointed, conjuring up images of your mean old Math Teacher from 9th grade.

See, that podium over by the door contains a short string of numbers and functions which you can change, given the right buttons, to equal a number on the front of each safe. Open the first safe, you'll get a new number button to replace any of the others to make a new equation to open the next safe to get a second number button and so on until all ten safes are open, earning you the key to the door, likely in a matter of mere minutes. In typical Hottategoya fashion, the room isn't much to look at, either; while not as imposing as The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T, whatever your attitude toward mathematics, you will feel happily liberated once you succeed.

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The Icarus Box

DoraBrick Singularity's iPad-only puzzler The Icarus Box is a great game to play in public if you want to look like a raving lunatic. A series of mystifying, deliberately obtuse and ambiguous mechanical/wooden puzzles revealed to you one after another where figuring out the rules and the condition for victory in each one is hard enough without the game cheerfully and randomly trying to make you shriek and throw your iPad across the room in terror. Essentially the game equivalent of those "based on a true story" type horror movies, The Icarus Box claims to be a faithful and detailed recreation of an actual, physical box whose interior is guarded by a series of bizarre mechanisms and locks you need to solve puzzles to get past. As you play, you unlock supplemental material that slowly clues you into the Box's history. And also as you play, the game's intro text warns you, you may experience... unexplained phenomena. Such as the tendency to swear loudly at the game, fling it down in a huff and declare yourself well shot of it, before immediately slinking back because you thought of something you hadn't tried yet.

The Icarus BoxThe Box consists of a number of puzzle Tiers, each Tier with its own progress bar, and solving a puzzle on that Tier gradually adds to that bar until the next one unlocks. Simple, right? HA. No. See, as I mentioned, each puzzle has its own objective and set of rules, but the Box never tells you what either one is. It's up to you to tap and swipe and mutter and gnaw on the iPad until you figure out what you're supposed to do. Clues can be hidden in the background material you unlock, or even subtly integrated in the puzzle itself, and don't forget about your accelerometer if you haven't tried everything. Anointing the screen with your desperate, salty, pathetic tears probably won't help, but it's therapeutic.

The Icarus Box is one of those games that really needs a trial version because it honestly isn't for everyone. The complete vagueness of everything from the goal to the mechanics of each puzzle is maddening at times in a way that even Pin Head would be like "Seriously?" over, and that's only something that will appeal to a specific type of player. If it is your particular hook, however, everything about The Icarus Box is a stunner. Its beautifully designed presentation is mysterious and mystifying, and the sheer variety of puzzles (95 in all) range from deviously complex to surprisingly simple... although that might be more because their abstract construction is such that some players will instantly look at a screen and know what they need to know while other players will be stonewalled by it. The actual frightening bits are... well... they're mostly jump scares, which are effective because the game's brooding silence means you'll typically have your nose up against the screen when it happens. While the story is less integrated as it is unlocked alongside, it is very intriguing in a very "House of Leaves" sort of way, except House of Leaves didn't stop and make me shake it up and down trying to disengage some elaborate lock every other page. Still, if you're the type of person who can't resist a puzzle and a mystery in one and love abstract puzzles, The Icarus Box is one of the most gorgeous, mystifying and engrossing ones you can hope to encounter. Now say it with me... what's in the baaaa-haaaa-haaaaax?!

NOTE: This game was played and reviewed on the iPad (1st Gen.). Game was available in the North American market at the time of publication, but may not be available in other territories. Please see individual app market pages for purchasing info.


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Rating: 4.7/5 (42 votes)
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ArtbegottiPerspectiveHwelp, the students of DigiPen have done it again. A class of the game design school has released Perspective, a game that combines platforming with an intriguing first-person puzzle twist, where how you look at the world directly affects how you can move. Perspective will undoubtedly give to you a pleasant afternoon of wrapping your head around cleverly-designed puzzles where you attempt to move your blue fellow to the exit by tweaking your perspective, and to the students who designed the game, ridiculous resume fodder for when they graduate. All we ask is that they wear proper safety equipment when they're invited to go paintballing with Kim Swift, Jonathan Blow, and Tim Schafer. (I maaaay be a bit jealous.)

The movement in Perspective takes place in two modes. In one mode (which you will experience first), you can use [WASD] to move your blue fellow around the level, preferably toward the exit. As you'll learn quickly, it's safe to jump on blue platforms, but red objects must be avoided, and moving (or falling) outside the frame of view is as deadly as touching red. However, if you click the mouse, you switch to a first-person control mode, where you can walk around the space you're in with the [WASD] keys and look around using your mouse. Once you're in a good position (and make sure your fellow is not obscured by any wall), you can click to return to platformer mode. By alternating between these two control modes, you can guide the fellow to the exit, where more challenges await you. (The [E] key is also used to access these challenges while in a level select room.)

Part of the challenge of this game is figuring out new ways to use the movement mechanics to reach the exit, so I won't divulge too much here, but if I had to offer one hint, it's the age-old cliche of "try looking at things from a new perspective." Each room is carefully designed to force you to solve its challenges in a certain way, so take advantage of unique room layouts. If there's a portion of the map that you can see but can't access, or perhaps some extra depth to a room you wouldn't think is necessary if you were just walking through it, explore what you can do with it.

Even though there's barely any text beyond the level titles and some tutorial messages, you can almost feel a story developing as you explore the worlds that house the levels. The universe of Perspective is bizarre and surprising, but easy to fall into. Give Perspective a try and see what you can discover when you look at things in a whole new way.

WindowsWindows:
Download the free full version

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


  • Currently 4.5/5
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Rating: 4.5/5 (201 votes)
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DoraMonkey GO Happy ChristmasThough it's been said, many times, many ways... Happy Monkey... to you. Pencil Kids puts a seasonal spin on their puzzling point-and-click primates with Monkey GO Happy Christmas, your chance to make some simians smile this holiday season. Just click arrows to move around, and click on things to pick them up or interact. Unlike the rest of the series, which typically has you bend over backwards to make your monkey grin in a series of contained levels, this one plays out more like a short, story-less adventure setup as you guide your monkey around. You can move freely between areas, gathering items to solve puzzles, and hunt for the objects you need at the bottom of the screen to make this the ideal monkey Christmas.

Monkey GO Happy Christmas is a short, mostly logical item hunt that won't keep you busy for long, but is perfect for a snippet of Christmas cheer, especially if you have any kids skittering around looking for something easy to enjoy. While it might not offer up a lot of complexity or the typical formula you expect from the Monkey GO Happy series, it's bright, cheerful, and will make the wait for Santa pass just that much faster. After all, if you have to scrounge your tree decorations from abandoned buildings and the surrounding countryside, you probably need all the cheer you can get. (Can you imagine the wet funk that stocking is going to have? Ugh!) Now get out there and have yourself a merry little monkey!

Play Monkey GO Happy Christmas


  • Currently 3.3/5
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Rating: 3.3/5 (30 votes)
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TrickyOh Snow!They call him Mah-teh. The Yeti. The Abominable Snowman (not to be confused with the equally-terrifying-but-more-sit-up-based Abdominal Snowman). But the most mysterious mystery of this cryptic cryptid, is how exactly the Yeti passes time when not rescuing Tin-Tin's friends or trolling Yukon Cornelius. According to Oh Snow!, a platform game by GameShot, that ol' Yeti spends his days being pursued by an angry anthropomorphic snowball. Well, we all have our troubles.

Oh Snow plays like the ultimate anti-escort mission. Run and jump around the Himalayan caverns with the [WASD] or [arrow] keys, avoiding obstacles and Angry Penguins as you make your way to the exit. The snowball will follow you as you move, and it's game over if he tags you. The snowball is just a tad quicker than you, but since he has momentum to deal with, running yourself back and forth can shake him a bit from your path. He can also help you out by mowing over those darn penguins. Bonus points can be scored by collecting golden suns. Oh Snow! is one of the few platform game where the action and puzzle elements are split right down the middle. You'll need both fast fingers and a strategic mind to blitz your way through all twenty-four levels. Some of the levels don't quite feel altogether fair, requiring at least a few deaths while exploring the game's mechanics (like how holding up while bouncing on a trampoline gives you a big boost of height). Still, even if Oh Snow! is occasionally frustrating, it never stops being a flurry of fun.

Play Oh Snow!


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Detective Quest: The Crystal Slipper

MeaghanI don't know about you, but every now and then I get bored with all the paranormal mysteries and long for something smothered in fairy dust and happily ever afters. Luckily for anyone with the same desires Elephant Games has found that star we all wished on and made Detective Quest: The Crystal Slipper, an enchanting hidden object puzzle adventure game that will bring that Disney themed twinkle to your eye. Sadly, you won't be the princess in this tale, but instead a Detective trying to help that silly Prince Charming get his lady love.

Detective Quest: The Crystal SlipperInstead of the tried-and-true method of making women put on shoes until it fits just right, Prince Charming has decided to go for a more practical solution to his problem: hire a detective. The problem? A mystery woman that has captured his heart has vanished, and he wants to make her his beautiful bride. There's some complication with that, though, because finding her doesn't always mean there's going to be an instant win. Instead you'll have to encounter a menagerie of magical creatures and an evil witch trying to overthrow the kingdom. A simple task for a super sleuth like you, right?

There are no dramatic changes to the hidden object genre with this game. There are three difficulties to choose from, and as usual they will determine the existence of sparkles on interactive area, and the rate at which the hint and skip abilities recharge. Your cursor will change when hovering over interactive areas, items that can be picked up, and characters that can be spoken with. To make your journey in the magical kingdom more convenient, a jump map has been provided to allow your travels to be faster than two shakes of a lamb's tail. You will have to complete reverse hidden object scenes where you will place an item back into the cluttered area. Puzzles and mini-games are sprinkled throughout and have a fair amount that are quirky and new.

Detective Quest: The Crystal SlipperAnalysis: It seems to be a consistent fact that any game Elephant Games produces has gorgeous artwork. The scenes are flawless and painted with magic every which way you look, and the creatures are created expertly whether they're a new imagining or an age old myth. The puzzles are witty but not too difficult so you won't have to rely on your skip button too much. The amount of backtracking would be arduous if not for the jump map; though backtracking still isn't that much fun despite the convenient tool.

One of the best parts of this game is that it doesn't use the Cinderella tale like a crutch. Instead, the story is delicately woven with twists and turns to keep you guessing what's going to happen. It would be easy to have simply stuck with a jealous stepmother trying to thwart Cinderella and her happiness, but instead Elephant Games borrows from several fairy tales to weave together an amazing game that will delight any fan of detectives, fairy tales, or unicorns. Whether you're glum or gleeful, a dash of this game will brighten any day.

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


(4 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Potatoman Seeks the TroofJohnBPotatoman is looking for something. What that is he isn't entirely sure, but he'll know it when he finds it. But one thing is certain: every living thing he encounters seems to have an opinion. Also, they're trying to kill him. Potatoman Seeks the Troof is a short "potatosophical" action adventure game from the retro masters at Pixeljam. Trot and hop your way across several landscapes as you take in the wisdom from the animals, avoiding things like bouncing/growing cacti, flying bird eggs, piles of boulders, and a host of more creative obstacles. If you're lucky, you might even learn something along the way!

But we're not here to talk about Potatoman alone. Accompanying the little guy's release is the Pixeljam Octology, a collection of games, music, and other bonuses packaged together into neat little bundles. Grabbing Potatoman also provides you with Planeteri, an album of ambient music/visualizations, and the beta version of Bitku, a pixel comic creation tool/toy. You can also opt for plumper packages that include improved versions of Dino Run SE and Snowball with a handful of other extras, or nab the holiday bonus that includes a Dino Run text adventure (aww yeah!) and an alpha version of a new arena shooter. Basically, it's a whole lot of stuff, and it's all good stuff you'll love, too.

Pixeljam always does fun things, and the Potatoman/Octology combo release delivers on many fronts. Come for the relentless seeking of the troof, but stay for the music and other cool extras. Also, be sure to check out the Potatoman trailer, it's one of the more creative, well-produced, and hilarious indie game trailers out there.

WindowsWindows:
Get the full version (part of the Pixeljam Octology)

Mac OS XMac OS X:
Get the full version (part of the Pixeljam Octology)


  • Currently 4.2/5
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Rating: 4.2/5 (123 votes)
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Ruins

elleSo you're lost in some mysterious remnants of an ancient civilization, mosquitoes are supping on you while some zen silent type is offering no free help on where to go from here? That leaves you with no other option than to fire up those neurons and earn your own way out of these jungle encased Ruins, the latest offering from 58Works showing just how engaging, logical and very fun a mobile escape game can be.

The RoomYou begin your expedition in a jungle outside a strange structure and peppered with archaeological enigmas. Using your finger to point and click, following the arrows at the sides and bottom of the screen to turn or back up, tap around the scenery to find purposeful objects and telling clues. Things you can pick up will land in your inventory when you touch them. Once there, if you want to utilize or get a better view of your new acquisition, you can tap once to highlight it then select either the area on screen where you want to use it or the magnifying glass. In this way, make your way through each area looking for a means of escape.

As you solve puzzles, you'll move deeper into the ruins until you at last uncover the great secrets long shrouded in this verdant environment. While there is no text to guide you and rather pithy instructions on how to play, the design is intuitive enough to not leave you guessing for very long. Most the tasks before you are clear and not too difficult to think your way through. 58Works also bucks the current trend of simple room-by-room puzzles and has made Ruins feel more adventuresome and cohesive, with a nice rewarding reveal at the end. So settle that dusty leather fedora on your head, keep a hand casually over that bullwhip at your hip, and venture through a brainy gauntlet with Ruins.

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.


  • Currently 4.7/5
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Rating: 4.7/5 (63 votes)
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Knytt Underground

JohnBIt's been a few years, but the Knytt series has finally returned! Knytt Underground pulls in design elements from several of Nifflas' (Nicklas Nygren) other games, including Within a Deep Forest, NightSky, and Saira, and creates a beautifully atmospheric game of exploration. There's a big world to run, climb and bounce through, packed with secrets that can only be found by mastering some unique character switching moves.

Knytt UndergroundHumans vanished hundreds of years ago after nearly destroying the planet in a large-scale war. The creatures who survived are mostly Sprites, Fairies, and other tiny critters living in underground tunnels (some with cute houses!). They're all curious about what happened above so long ago. Getting herself tangled up in the middle of all this is Mi, a mute Sprite who loves nothing more than exploration. She starts an innocent journey that eventually leads her to the world's last hope for salvation: ringing the six bells of fate. But, really, couldn't all that stuff be an old superstition? Guess there's only one way to find out.

Knytt Underground's gameplay combines standard platforming elements from the Knytt series with the wildly entertaining bouncing mechanics from Within a Deep Forest. The first few chapters kick the story off and let you learn the ins and outs of controlling Mi and "Bob", both of whom encounter characters who need simple tasks completed in exchange for passage forward. Mi can walk, jump, and scale walls, and when she encounters colored flowers she can initiate special abilities that let her fly across the screen with the press of a button. Bob is more rubbery in nature and can bounce both far and high, just like those dodgeballs you got hit with in elementary school. Bob can also hook and swing from certain machines to gain access to out of the way areas. Separately these characters can get quite a bit done, but if you combine their powers you're pretty much an unstoppable exploration machine.

Knytt UndergroundWith the press of a button you can switch between Mi and Bob, instantly changing back and forth whenever you like. This opens up so many new moves it's almost scary to think about. Who needs ability upgrades when you can bounce off a wall, switch characters, climb up a block, drop down, switch again, bounce off an angled floor, switch again, grab a green flower and fly across the stage like a comet, all while lava bubbles below and robots fire at you from all around? It's exciting and satisfying as well, and it forces you to look at each room with an entirely different perspective.

Analysis: If someone asks you "Hey, what's a good indie game to play?", any release from the Knytt series is the correct answer. Knytt Underground has a lot to live up to, but it manages to be both comfortingly familiar and creatively original in the same stroke. The character switching is by far the best feature, turning the game's sprawling world into both a test of reflexes and an exercise in puzzle solving. The level design reflects your new abilities with elegance, and each time you run across familiar territory and suddenly see how it works with each character, you'll smile and feel like the cleverest little detective in the world.

Knytt UndergroundThe Knytt series has always been about atmosphere, and Knytt Underground certainly does not disappoint. Gone are the basic pixel graphics, replaced with more intricate artwork and photorealistic images decorating both the background and foreground. The music is soothing and ambient, setting the perfect tone for a quiet underground world of small creatures frightened about their fate but hopeful for the future.

Knytt Underground is much more map friendly than earlier Knytt releases, which could be a good thing or a bad thing depending on how you look at it. For most, having a visual representation of visited rooms is a boon, and the icons that show you save points and quest locations make getting lost a thing of the past. Don't expect it to be a straightforward affair working your way to the next point of interest, as the world is a twisted complex of tunnels.

There's more personality in Knytt Underground, from the humorous writing to the quirky but relatable situations Mi and Bob find themselves in.It's a brilliant culmination of years of atmospheric exploration gaming, and it's got just about everything you could ever want in a game. Not only will Knytt Underground fill you with warm feelings of video game enjoyment, it'll reignite your passion for Nifflas' previous releases.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version


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Where's My Holiday?JohnBSwampy still needs a bath, and Perry is still trying to solve a mystery. Who has time for celebrations? These guys do, apparently, as they've managed to squeeze in a little Christmas cheer in Where's My Holiday?, a free release from Disney Mobile that turns the Where's My Water? and Where's My Perry? games into something special for the holidays.

Where's My Holiday? follows the same set-up as the other two games in the series. Each level is filled with dirt, water, and obstacles like lasers, ice, moss and pipes. By drawing lines through the dirt you can clear out pathways and deliver water to Swampy or Perry, filling up bonus rubber duckies/gnomes along the way. There are only a dozen levels in Where's My Holiday?, six for Perry and six for Swampy, and the game reminds you on several occasions that you can purchase full versions of the other releases for more puzzles. It's hard to argue with the price of free, though, and even a small taste of the water-moving puzzles is worth the few seconds it takes to download!

NOTE: This game was played and reviewed on the 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.


(11 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Street Fighter X Mega ManJohnBStreet Fighter X Mega Man is exactly the game you'd expect it to be: Street Fighter mixed with Mega Man. A free release created by Seow Zong Hui with support from Capcom, this love letter to both franchises stays true to the source material while shuffling things around enough to make it something new. Expect a nice and challenging experience, complete with a new chiptune soundtrack and plenty of inside references for fans of each series.

You play as Mega Man, doing the things a Mega Man can, like jumping, sliding, shooting, charging, and defeating robot bosses. In this case, however, those bosses are familiar faces from the Street Fighter universe, so instead of Bomb Man, Cut Man, Fire Man, etc., you'll face off against Dhalsim, Ryu, Chun Li, and so on. Select your opponent and run through his or her stage, each one built with multiple pathways to follow, a nice variation on the traditional linear Mega Man style. Make it to the boss, engage in a rough battle, then collect their power to use in other stages. Not mentioned: dying 24 times trying to beat Dhalsim.

Street Fighter X Mega Man is more challenging than many games on the market today, but it's not quite as difficult as a classic Mega Man release. The only real downside is there is currently no way to save your progress, password or otherwise, which seems like a major oversight. Capcom has stated a patch could be released in the future to address the issue, which would be really great since it's no easy task knocking over these fighters in a single sitting. Aside from that, however, Street Fighter X Mega Man delivers a lot of nostalgia and a lot of modern fun, complete with a great soundtrack and some wonderful pixel art versions of Street Fighter characters.

WindowsWindows:
Get the free full version

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


(15 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Paper Galaxy

JohnBPaper Galaxy from Liquid Entertainment is an arcade game that's just about as charming as a game can be. Once upon a time there was a happy little blue-eyed moon named Luna. While momma Earth was snoozing, Luna caught sight of a beautiful space butterfly. As she followed it, Best of Casual Gameplay 2012she encountered some space dust that gave her a terrible case of the sneezies, propelling her off into the wild yonder. Now, lost in the cold blackness of space and far from her home, Luna needs to find her way back, navigating an array of planets, black holes, comets and other obstacles using little more than the power of her own sneezes.

Running a bit like Jetpack Joyride in basic nature, each round of Paper Galaxy has the overall goal of traveling as far as you can, as fast as you can. Luna starts with a bit of momentum, and whenever she brushes by a planet she automatically enters orbit. Wait for the right moment and tap the screen to sneeze and break away, jetting into space and hopefully getting caught in another planet's gravitational pull sooner rather than later. Paper GalaxyYou see, the gigantic and not-so-cheery Crab Nebula is after Luna, and in order to stay safely ahead of those snappy claws, she's got to keep her speed up. Floating freely through space is the slowest way to travel, so you'll want to hop from planet to planet, following the space butterfly to gain a speed boost whenever you can.

To shake things up a bit, Luna can store up super sneezes that give her a big boost of speed. You can gather more sneezes by following the butterfly ten times in a row, hitting special smoke nebulas, or by, you know, losing a round and starting over from scratch. The upside is each time your game comes to an end you get a chance to shop at the in-game store. Most planets you orbit have a few stars in their pull. Stars work as currency, allowing you to purchase upgrades like more sneezes, controllable sneezes, new planets, more frequent beneficial planets, or even tinker with a few of the game's basic rules, like losing speed while free-floating.

Paper GalaxyAnalysis: So. Adorably. Cute. Paper Galaxy looks like a box of construction paper clippings spontaneously arranged itself into a little galaxy of happiness, complete with big-eyed planets, malevolent black holes, grumpy suns, and one sneezing little moon. You won't be able to take your eyes off of this game, which is good seeing as how it's all about proper timing. But, you know, it doesn't hurt that it looks so gorgeous.

If you're worried Paper Galaxy is a bit too straightforward in its objectives, you'll be pleased to know each time you make a run, you'll have three optional goal to complete. Things as simple as orbiting certain planets or gathering a number of stars start you out, but with 130 goals to complete in all, they get quite a bit more creative later on. Just another excuse to experiment a little instead of powering through to get home.

Paper Galaxy is incredibly charming and creative, and despite being a good old fashioned arcade game at heart, it ends up being quite a relaxing experience. Sailing from planet to planet, gathering stars, watching planets snooze, and freaking out when the space crab comes near, it's all part of the fun.


  • Currently 4.4/5
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Rating: 4.4/5 (238 votes)
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DoraKiller EscapeSee, this is why basements get such a bad reputation. Nobody ever wakes up in one to find a lovely surprise tea party with ponies and cookies. Nope. It's all red gunk and desperate messages scrawled on the walls and shackles and dead rats... and some guy in an exceptionally creepy mask who will be coming back really soon to get better acquainted with your vitals if you can't find a way to escape Psionic's grisly horror point-and-clicker, Killer Escape. Click when text pops up under your mouse to interact, and click the arrow at the top of the screen to drop down your inventory. The first order of business is finding a way out of your gruesome cell, and luckily for you it seems like the poor souls who came before you have left some things to help. Well... theoretically. Certainly didn't do them much good, did it? But maybe if you're clever, and daring, and don't mind fishing around inside dead rats, you might escape the same fate.

Psionic is sort of already established as the dastardly czar of make-you-jump horror games, but Killer Escape represents a significant increase in quality from his earlier efforts. It's not just the production values and visuals, though the overwhelming minute detail occasionally makes it hard to tell by sight alone what will be interactive and what isn't, but the gameplay as a whole. It's a very tightly paced and tense experience, and the notes you collect combined with the ending almost make it sound as though a sequel will be on the way. The downside is that the puzzles can be repetitive (you'll waggle your mouse over more valves than you ever dreamed), and you'll probably be left wanting more... providing one serious scare doesn't send you squealing. Killer Escape is begging for an expansion, but in the meantime, escapers who don't shrink from the grisly and the ghoulish will find this a welcome and gruesome experience.

Play Killer Escape


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Rating: 3.2/5 (32 votes)
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TrickyTumble Towers 2Quick! You gotta help! No time to explain! There are some pernicious polygons precariously perched atop those blocks, and we need you to keep them unharmed! How'd they get up there, and why are there so many trampolines and boxes of explosive scattered about? Like we said, there's no time to explain. Look, just roll with it, man. It's fun. Tumble Towers 2 is a physics puzzler by Team Omni, where solid ground is the only thing that's remotely stable.

Basic gameplay is as thus: clicking on each and every blue blocks to remove them, use physics to eliminate the required number of blocks from the play field while keeping the totems unharmed. Other elements are introduced over time. Things like purple blocks that need to be touching to be destroyed, deadly-to-the-totem-touch red blocks, explosive TNT blocks, and bouncy green jelly blocks. There four modes: Classic, Water (where you must dunk a designated totem into the water), Connect (where you must hook up a male and female totem), and Hybrid (which features elements from the other three modes combined). Tumble Towers 2 doesn't really try to hide the elements it copies from the popular Totem Destroyer games. Even if it's a bit of a clone, though, it's certainly one made with a lot of love for the concept. With sixty colorful levels, a level editor, and a large selection of community levels, it should keep players happily tumbling and dropping for quite some time.

Play Tumble Towers 2


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Link Dump Fridays

DoraCongratulations! You kicked the end of the world right in the teeth. Ron Swanson would be so proud! Since I won't see you again in a Link Dump-y sense before December 25th, let me take this opportunity to wish those of you celebrating a happy holidays and extend our site's heartfelt thanks and appreciation to you for allowing us into your hearts and homes by reading the words we create by training tiny hamsters to play the games while choreographed chickadees hop from key-to-key. ... what? If you figure out an easier way, smarty-pants, you let me know!

Further, a special holiday thank you to all the developers whose hard work makes our job possible. Whether you're putting a game out for free or crafting a commercial indie epic, the entertainment that you labour to give to us and our community is something special. Now go away because this gets super awkward and emotional and I have to head-butt you to offset it.

New Projects and Updates

Knytt UndergroundDo You Know Knytt? What a silly question. Everyone knows Knytt! And if you've been hankering for more indie platform adventuring from Nifflas, now's your chance to help make it happen. While it was recently released for Playstation 3 and PS Vita, Knytt Underground is on its way to a PC, Mac and Linux release, and if you'd like to see that happen, it's probably a good idea to vote it up on Steam's Greenlight service. With a promised 1,800 rooms, quests, characters, and even an ability that sounds like you're channeling Samus by way of her Morph Ball, this is looking like one stunning, huge adventure and we can't wait to get our hands on it. Take a look at the trailer for it!

Penny-Arcade's On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness ThreeThe Beginning of the End is Here! ... and no, the Mayans aren't involved. But Zeboyd Games is! The final free piece of DLC for Penny-Arcade's On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness Three, the retro-styled RPG, has finally arrived for us PC snobs! If you already own the game on Steam, the service will update the game for you automatically. If you don't already own the game, well... why not? It's available on both iOS and Android as well for a paltry $4.99USD, and really is a superb, funny experience packed with content and laughs. And now I guess furry costumes. But hey, whatever floats your boat. Some people juggle geese.

Kickstarter Projects

Full Bore 1000They Call Me... MISTER PIG! If you're a PC user and have a hankering for exploration-oriented indie puzzle adventuring, do yourself a favour and check out the Kickstarter page for Full Bore by Whole Hog Games. Inspired by Metroid and Mr Driller, of all things, the game sends you as a "young impoverished digging boar" into a big, open-world underground environment to uncover secrets, find treasure, and solve puzzles. It looks both gorgeous, and a lot of fun... and considering the Kickstarter page allows you to download a free demo of the game, you can find out for yourself if you think it WILL be fun!

Soul GamblerSoul? Eh, I Wasn't Using Mine Anyway Part RPG, part visual novel adventure, m.gaia's Soul Gambler is an intriguing little Kickstarter project, and you can already play the demo for it on your phone or in your browser! Inspired by the classic tale, you control Faust, a dissatisfied young man working in a boring job, whose chance encounter with an old gypsy woman winds up opening new career possibilities. You know. Like selling his soul. Your decisions and actions determine how things work out for Faust, and while the writing is pretty stiff in the demo, it's a novel concept with a lot of serious potential for fun and mayhem. (Though, seriously, guys... even 1% of your soul is probably too much to ask for a faster bus ride.)

Miscellany

Super Pixel TimeThe Power of Pixels At Your Command Ethan Levy and John Lee know what lurks within your heart of hearts... a secret, burning desire to create authentic-looking old-school pixel art! Or, you know. At least make everything you own look like it's authentic old-school pixel art. Thus, enter Super Pixel Time, a free we-based HTML5 tool you can use to turn any image you have into a retro masterpiece. Just choice an image, a palette from the Pixelator settings (so you can make your image look like it came from a specific old title), and let Super Pixel Time do the hard work for you! Though the quality arguably depends on the clarity of the image you choose, the results are actually quite impressive, typically winding up with pictures that look as if they were always pixels to begin with instead of boring, inadequate people or ink.

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


  • Currently 4.5/5
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Rating: 4.5/5 (20 votes)
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Choice of Kung Fu

DoraChoice of Games teams with Alana Joli Abbott to deliver a rich, compelling narrative set against the backdrop of mystical ancient China with Choice of Kung Fu for iOS and Android. As a young student at the Order of the Peach Tree, an esteemed remote monastery, your life is full of infinite potential and promise. Through a narrative that unfolds over decades, you'll be given a chance to shape your destiny, and perhaps history as a whole. Will you choose to pursue your life as a monk and dedicate yourself to poetry and contemplation? Do you seek to rise to status as the champion of the Empire... or perhaps to lead a rebellion that challenges the Emperor himself? Will you become a hero, a teacher, a master whose name is known far and wide that will draw both students and challengers to you? And when the time comes, at the end, what will your Question to the Immortal Dragon Sage be?

Choice of Kung FuLike all Choice of Games titles, play comes down to reading the text at hand, and then simply choosing your response to it. Unlike most simple "choose your own adventure" style of games, however, Choice of Kung Fu has a lot of factors that impact how well you perform, where you'll end up, and even the actions available to you. As you play, the game keeps track of statistics like your cleverness and honor, or your fighting or magic ability and more besides, changing the story to reflect how good (or bad!) you are in any given scenario at what you're trying to do. It's something that's been done before in other Choice of Games titles, but Kung Fu handles it much more subtly simply by using language and phrasing that never bursts that bubble of immersiveness. The result is that you play more honestly and with more thought to seeing what happens next than "winning". The story will take you from youth to elder, and along the way your relationships with many people will greatly impact the story as well.

Choice of Kung Fu is easily one of the best titles from the developers to date, largely due to the captivating writing of Alana Joli Abbott. While it does unfortunately wind up feeling like your character lacks a personality or is at least vastly overshadowed by the rest of the cast in terms of one, Kung Fu delivers a beautifully handled narrative packed with careful detail. The game feels almost more like a life simulation than anything else, a carefully paced story you craft yourself through your decisions and the paths you take, and as a result has a lot of replay value. It really feels like all of your skills and choices have a big impact on outcomes and events. The promised romances, unfortunately, feel token and shoe-horned in at best with mostly forgettable characters, appearing only briefly and then almost dropped in a way that makes it almost seem like they were only included because it's what people expected of a Choice of Games title. The game honestly doesn't need them because the experience of crafting a life, a legacy, is so much more fulfilling, and the story is full of memorable characters and encounters you'll want to play over again with different characters. Choice of Kung Fu's contemplative tone, cleverly structured events, and sprawling narrative make it one of the best pieces of interactive fiction you can get for your mobile device. We can only hope we see more from this dream team of talent in the future.

Play Choice of Kung Fu (browser demo)


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Pudding Monsters

DoraWhile you or I might not be able to take a bite out of something with eyes, a mustache, and a jaunty makeshift hat, some people apparently do not share our reservations and have no issues with chowing down on a critter able to squeal and look distressed over the fate of its gooey brethren. Since Sarah McLachlan hasn't gotten around to making a commercial about this plight set to sad piano music, it falls to you to take a more hands-on approach to save the day in ZeptoLab's squishy sliding-block puzzler Pudding Monsters. There's safety in numbers, see, since our gelatinous stars simply combine into a hideo... uh... I mean... adorable enormous franken-beast when they make contact with one another. You'll have to make it happen, though, since Pudding Monsters have no feet... and not much traction either, and will go zinging off the edge of the table if there's nothing in the way to stop them.

Pudding MonstersJust tap and swipe on a Pudding Monster to set it in motion, and it'll keep sliding unless there's something in the way. If that something is another Monster, they'll squish and merge together, and the goal is to make sure all Monsters in a level have been assimilated. If even one Monster goes flying, you'll have to start over, and you also want to try to make sure the end result beast is positioned over all three star tiles on the map, since stars are only collected if they're covered when the level is won and are needed to open more level packs. There's more than one flavour of Monster, however, and all of them have different characteristics. Green Goos leave behind a trail of slime that will stop Monsters from sliding past it, for example, and Hypo Goos share a hive mind... move one, move them all in the same direction. To top it off, there are also obstacles beyond your typical household clutter, like ice that shatters once a Monster comes in contact with it. If you're having trouble beating a level, you can buy optional Mushrooms through in-app purchases that will immediately cause all Monsters to multiply until they've come into contact with each other and covered the stars, though this isn't necessary to play and you can earn one or two yourself just be winning stages.

While Pudding Monsters might not bring a whole lot of innovation to its humble genre, it does bring ZeptoLabs' ridiculously high quality stamp of design. Everything about the game is beautifully fluid, from its simple mechanics to its animation, and the clean, vibrant design is a joy to behold. If still sort of creepy since, y'know, who is seriously willing to overlook vocalisations and facial hair on their food? It takes a while for the difficulty to really ramp up, even if you're obsessively going for all the stars, but the various Monster flavours keep adding new wrinkles and challenges to the experience. It may be "easy" to make what is essentially just a sliding-block puzzle, but it's much harder to do it this well and this colourfully, and fans of this style of casual on-the-go gaming will relish another offering with the developer's gleaming polish all over it. Currently, there are 72 levels available with more coming soon, and one can only hope an update eventually includes the Magician Howl and his own brand of slime as a playable Monster. (Hey, we can dream, right?) As it stands, however, Pudding Monsters is a beautifully made, fun and funny little puzzler that deserves a spot on any casual fan's device... especially since an Android version is coming soon as well!

NOTE: This game was played and reviewed on the iPad (1st Gen.). Game was available in the North American market at the time of publication, but may not be available in other territories. Please see individual app market pages for purchasing info.


  • Currently 4.3/5
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Rating: 4.3/5 (69 votes)
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TrickySkullFaceSkullFace hasn't really lived a charmed life. First of all, the guy's face is a skull. Having no skin has to be really chilly on a windy day, and darn inconvenient whenever he's trying to take a drink. Secondly, all of these magical portals have popped up in his hometown, and they ain't taking no for an answer! And, of course, they just had to be filled to the brim with spikes, monsters, cannons, and giant swinging cleavers. It's a good thing he took all those free-running classes at the local skeleton academy, since if lil' SkullFace is going to make it through the Greg Sergeant-developed action platform game that bears his name, he's going to have to run, jump and duck like a mad-skull.

Using the [arrow] keys to run left and right, and the [spacebar] to jump, avoid obstacles and make your way to the portal at the end of each level. Jump into a wall, and you'll grab onto it, jumping again to fling yourself up and off. Hold down while running to do a somersault roll, perfect for dodging low-hanging spikes. Later levels will employ a jetpack, activated by holding up, and refueled at various glowing checkpoints. Three fifteen-level worlds of deadly action stand in his path. Do SkullFace have the nerve? Or, for that matter, any nerves, period? Bearing a not-coincidental similarity to works like Super Meat Boy and N, SkullFace is a quite engaging platformer that effectively utilizes the parkour mechanics which are so hip with the kids these days. Tight controls, tough-but-fair level design, and a sweet sense of flow combine to make SkullFace a must-play for keyboard adrenaline junkies.

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  • Currently 4.6/5
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Rating: 4.6/5 (369 votes)
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elleThe Prince EdwardThe Prince Edward is bored and so sets out to play pranks on all the inhabitants of the castle, refusing to go to bed before exploring every room and discovering every contrivance and scenario that can possibly be done in this mini point-and-click puzzle adventure from Black Square.

Join the puckish young prince in his quest for mischief by using keyboard commands, [WASD] or [arrows], to move about and [E] or [K] to interact—searching for and finding not only useful objects to pick up, but fun places where to use them. Prince Edward isn't too incorrigible: you'll also help him find all the broken stained glass window shards and replace them, perfect for fans of hidden object searches as those little pieces are scattered everywhere!

With very little story to go on and many questions left unanswered, gameplay comes down to using the interact function everywhere, on everything, but it's addictively gratifying to see what new award will pop up next. Unfortunately, there's one area worth mentioning right now lest your never realizing it would spoil the experience—something hides behind a portrait but without a clue that the short little prince needs a mean to reach it. That not-very-minor quibble overlooked, a great amount of amusement can be had in discovering everything this castle has to offer while racking up as many trophies and achievements possible. For players who simply love hunting for items in a whimsical environment, The Prince Edward will prove very charming and handsome indeed.

Play The Prince Edward

Thanks to Cyberjar88 and Jennica for sending this one in!


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

JohnBGraduation time at Spellwood Academy! Biggles the bespectacled bunny wizard is ready for finals, but unlike most school exams, these happen to be quite entertaining. Spellwood from Three Rings (creator of Yohoho! Puzzle Pirates) drops you in a cheery fantasy world of one-on-one word battles, allowing you to face off against opponents in turn-based tile combat. Think of it as Scrabble meets Puzzle Quest with wands and anthropomorphic animals and you'll have a good idea what to expect!

SpellwoodEverything you need to become a dictionary wizard can be found on an empty board with a handful of letter tiles. Battles take place on a 7x7 grid with you and your opponent taking turns spelling words. Each tile has a point value that translates to a damage score, with more difficult letters offering bigger numbers. Simply drag a tile to an empty space, form a lovely BOOT or HARANGUE, hit the wand button and cast the spell. Words are magically converted to damage which lowers the other player's hit points. Reduce your opponent's HP to nought and you'll be one step closer to proving yourself!

Completed words don't stick around forever, so you don't have to worry about leaving space for words a dozen moves ahead. You can, however, work with your opponent's next move in mind, forcing him or her to use awkward letters in tight spaces. Bonus spaces also appear on the board, such as the familiar double letter score, which can be used both against your enemy and against yourself. Later on you even get to carry around a few tiles to place, which will be necessary once those crafty animals start showing you up.

SpellwoodAnalysis: Spellwood is a pleasing combination of word game, puzzle game, and extremely light RPG. Not only are you concerned with making words out of a limited set of letters, you also have to think about how much damage they'll deal your opponent. Stats and items are kept to an absolute minimum, allowing you to focus on the game at hand. There are a few pieces of equipment to fiddle with, including your opponent's arsenal that may or may not contain game-changing items that will be worth taking into consideration.

Spellwood doesn't emphasize longer words over shorter ones, which is somewhat rare in the word game genre. You aren't punished for spelling things like AS, HA, or NO, you just don't deal as much damage, which simply slows down the battle. It's a good feature that takes some of the pressure off of each move, and since you always seem to have a crummy set of letters on hand, you'll need to use that bag of stubby tricks more often than you'd think.

The dictionary in Spellwood occasionally allows strange bits of slang, causing a raised eyebrow or two when you see the things your opponents (and you) can get away with. It also includes some moderately non-family-friendly phrases, many of which the computer AI will actually play on occasion. Nothing offensive or crude, but possibly words that would be cause for a few conversations if a young child came across them.

When you need to prove how awesome you are at words, Spellwood is a great place to start. It's got a fun, challenging atmosphere that offers a few power-ups to liven things up but never strays too far from pure word-on-word battles. It won't be the end-all word game of word games, but it's good for some casual play now and then.


  • Currently 3.2/5
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Rating: 3.2/5 (46 votes)
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JeremyAlone in the ParkWhen you think about shooter games, the first words that are likely to pop into your head are: gory, bloody, or hellish, but not cute. At least, not until you've had a look at Amidos and Vartagh's adorable little multidirectional shooter, Alone in the Park, where you play John the Cook, who after a long day at work, closes down his restaurant and decides to take a shortcut through the park. Big mistake. Because, as we all know, walking alone at night in the park is just asking for a purple multidimensional portal to open up and suck you into a parallel universe controlled by evil mushrooms. You were clearly just asking for it.

In more conventional shooters, you'd have your pick of shotguns, ninja stars, or BFGs. But you're just a cook after all, so you'll have to make due with thrown cigarettes and pizza cutters, at least until you've earned enough points to upgrade your weapons. To do this, you're going to have to do a lot of running with [WASD] and shooting with your [arrow] keys. But, because this shooter is anything but conventional, you can run in any direction and shoot in any direction you like at the same time. As an added bonus, the controls are customizable. If [WASD] and [arrow] keys aren't your thing, you have the choice to fire with your mouse and move with [WASD], along with a few more combinations for the true obsessives among us.

Alone in the Park is a fun mix of simple 8-bit presentation with a customizable control scheme, just-right sound effects, and some nice unlockable characters (Notch the Miner!) that will keep your fingers twitching past that first hectic afternoon play through.

Play Alone in the Park


  • Currently 4.1/5
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Rating: 4.1/5 (33 votes)
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elleFlooded Village: Xmas EveYo ho ho and a bottle of eggnog, even pirates are getting into the holiday spirit in Flooded Village: Xmas Eve, an elf-saving, Christmas cheer bringing, and snow-dappled expansion pack to Staal Media's original puzzle game about rescuing landlocked pirates. Do so by removing blocks, sending water to grounded ships without drowning out the elf villagers.

This time around you have eighteen new levels and an added twist: gain extra points by using ice blocks to turn evergreens into Christmas trees; meanwhile, avoid turning people into frozen chunks. A few tutorial style levels will introduce the concepts to you as each additional element is added, yet the puzzles become more thinky quickly enough to hold your interest. The scoring system seems a bit fickle, requiring speed of light action and the most frugal use of clicks in order to get that ego warming "Great" on each level. But with such a smooth user interface, cute graphics and festively mellow tunes, gameplay is relaxing and enjoyable, a surefire way to wash away stress and be as jolly as a pirate on Xmas Eve!

Play Flooded Village: Xmas Eve


  • Currently 4.7/5
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Rating: 4.7/5 (149 votes)
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Weekday Escape

GrinnypSeasonal room escape games can be tricky in that they are designed to be enjoyed only around certain times of the year. The way to get around that is to either make the puzzles so fantastic that the player doesn't mind when they are playing, or set the game in a decidedly non-seasonal setting. Isn't it nice that we have Tesshi-e to do both with their new room escape, Santa in the Southern Islands?

Santa in the Southern IslandsSanta in the Southern Islands should really be named Santa in the South Seas, because it looks like the jolly old man has decided to take a tropical vacation before dealing with his once-a-year deadline. And the deadline is fast approaching, so it's time to go back to the cold and the snow and the...wait, did the elves just lock him into his vacation cabin? Yes, indeed, and now Santa must solve his way out or Christmas might not make it on time. Looks like it's really, really hard to get good help these days.

Featuring some familiar things (it just wouldn't be Tesshi-e without Mr. Birdy and a wobbly picture puzzle, would it?) and some new, Tesshi-e is in fine form with a host of amusing and challenging puzzles dealing with logic, math, color, and a little intuition. They have also continued their latest tradition, having colors show up in text when the cursor is hovered, making the game accessible to everyone. As usual the game comes in English and Japanese, and of course there's a happy coin escape is well.

With its lush tropical backgrounds (time for a beach vacation!), zippy music, and thought-provoking puzzles, Santa in the Southern Islands is a welcome room escape any time of the year. Take a break to enjoy Tesshi-e's very unseasonal Christmas present to all room escape fans!

Play Santa in the Southern Islands


  • Currently 4.5/5
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Rating: 4.5/5 (415 votes)
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TrickyWorldgate 2October 25, 1888. The Wyoming Territories. The scientist has returned from his first excursion through the Worldgate, and brought with him a strange hexagonal component. Apparently a fuel cell of some kind, its full function is but another entry in a growing list of mysteries. Still, there are gateways yet to be unlocked and further worlds to explore. Maybe this is the passage through which you'll find some answers. Worldgate 2: Contact continues the story of William Buchanan's well-received point-and-click adventure, and the twists are proving ever more intriguing.

At the start, as before, 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 by 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 the small magnifying glass that appears when you mouse over its icon, 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.

Worldgate 2Analysis: The first installment of Worldgate set the bar pretty high, but William Buchanan has cleared it, as Worldgate 2 delivers the same dose of satisfying puzzles, while effectively expanding the story's setting. Whereas the first game's exploration was set in the grays and browns of marble and rock, your second trip is dominated by the translucent blues of crystal. The presentation is sparkly and beautiful, but also cold, shard, and, above all, alien.

Buchanan definitely has a skill for the balancing act of presenting challenges that are comprehensible to the human eye, but still retain that otherworldly quality that is their greatest appeal. Little details like the three-fingered activator pads, or staircase steps with unsupported gaps between them, do a lot to convey the sense that you are trespassing in a place inhabited by beings quite different from us. It is not a completely unwelcoming world, but still one that is clearly not ours.

Play the entire Worldgate series:
WorldgateWorldgate 2: Contact

There are a few nitpicks that can be made: while navigation is easy enough to pick up, there are the usual problems with attempting to convey circular-motion with only four directional keys. There are a few puzzles with obtuse solutions (though frankly, considering how Myst-like the Worldgate experience is, it'd almost be more disappointing if there weren't). And then there's that lighter, which won't be setting anything aflame unless it's examined and opened first. Yeah, that one's obvious in retrospect, but it would be a lie to say this reviewer didn't spend a couple of minutes of fruitless clicking at the start of his first playthrough. (Edit: An update has addressed this issue to make it more intuitive.) No matter, Worldgate 2 is a worthy sequel in a series many have found to be an instant classic. Not to give too much away, but the ending promises a new direction for the upcoming Worldgate 3, and frankly, we hope it isn't too long before we find out what it is.

Play Worldgate 2: Contact


  • Currently 4.2/5
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Rating: 4.2/5 (80 votes)
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DoraRawrOkay, so the plot of the mean ol' businessman trying to destroy a forest and being stood up to by plucky kids is a tale as old as direct-to-video, but how often do you hear about those same plucky kids using ancient, unspeakable beasts to do the job? Shadem's fighting simulation Rawr puts you in charge of training and directing the titular beasts to become powerful enough to stand against the black-hearted champions who want to destroy the forest. Sort of like Captain Planet, but with fangs and a gaze that induces madness. And bloody cage brawling. And gross genetic manipulation.

Choose and name your Rawr, then spend your time clicking around the map to assign skills, buy items, take part in events, or simply have your Rawr duke it out against other beasties. Combat is automatic, though you can help your little killer out by clicking two icons of the same type as they appear to gain power-ups or healing, and following the onscreen prompts to get more damage. The damage your Rawr takes can be healed by chowing down, which advances the time by a day, but more importantly, can also give you big bonuses. Purchase special ingredients at the shop to craft recipes (earn more by spending chef coupons) that can can temporarily grant you more strength and health on top of healing you up, and even grant you permanent stat increases through their own leveling track. Eventually, you'll also be able to visit a trainer who can teach new abilities... for the right price. Be warned that abilities can only be equipped if you have the appropriate number of coloured crystals available, earned through leveling up. If you defeat bosses, you may even get the opportunity to modify your Rawr at a lab, inducing mutations that will change your monster's appearance and its skills. You know. Provided the concept of injecting your li'l buddy with genetic gloop and warping their very being doesn't creep you out or anything. Wasn't that an episode of Pokemon?

Rawr is more than a little odd, weirdly hilarious in a twisted way at times, and suffers somewhat from some awkwardly phrased directions and explanations, but is still enjoyable and addictive. The art style is fantastic, and even if the creatures animate in a clunky "little wooden puppet" sort of way, the design is creative and great. You can't really call the gameplay particularly in-depth, since the whole thing winds up feeling repetitive after a while, but there's just something compulsively playable about it. The gameplay is simple and fun, the story is silly but interesting, and it's a welcome spin on the "train a thing to do a thing" genre, which has probably only rarely had so much ichor and weirdness in it before. The copious amount of blood and frankly mildly disturbing monster design, both of which are at odds with the strangely light-hearted and feel-good backstory, means this isn't one for the kids or those of you who prefer less gross gaming. But if you're a little twisted and looking for something to fill a coffee break with surreal style to spare, give Rawr a look. Just... don't maintain too much eye contact when you do it.

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The Vault

DoraEven if the weather outside isn't frightful, there's something so delightful and satisfying about being somewhere warm and comfortable and seeing something chilly, knowing you're all snug as a bug. With that in mind, let's check out three frosty games... two of which are frozen solid, but one with a bit of a seasonal charm that might warm the cockles of your heart.

  • Heart of IceHeart of Ice - Eddy Larkin's chilly platforming adventure about a nameless hero venturing into a frozen fortress to deal with a being known as "Watcher" has some minor hinks in its gameplay, but sure manages to feel like an epic, atmospheric experience nonetheless. You'll travel through icy caverns filled with traps and enemies, discover messages left by those who came before, and ride a freakin' jet boat. Despite some rough edges, Heart of Ice manages to convey a great sense of scope that allows the game to convey a frosty, old-school platforming adventure with a few bells and whistles along the way.
  • Bad Ice-CreamBad Ice-Cream - Nitrome has never been one to give its players the cold shoulder, and in fact this snowbound arcade puzzler is a tasty treat. Take control of a scowling cone of ice-cream and navigate mazes, picking up fruits while you avoid the hazards and baddies patrolling the maze. It's a very classic sort of vibe, with the simple but definitely challenging gameplay, but with Nitrome's gorgeous signature style sprucing it up, it's the perfect cold desert to enjoy no matter what the weather is like.
  • Colour My FateColour My Fate - Silver Stitch's point-and-click adventure may be a little syrupy sweet, but hey... can't we all use a game that wants to make our hearts grow three sizes every once in a while? As you play, exploring a bleak landscape, you'll gradually bring colour back to the world by solving puzzles and stringing up some seasonal cheer in your quest to remind people about the holiday, and maybe find the perfect gift for that special someone. It's stylish and atmospheric, just a little bit sweet, and it uses the proper spelling of "colour"! What more could you want?

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

Zyl


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

JohnBSuch an easy concept, but such a challenging game. Zyl is a one button arcade release from DevilishGames (whose work you might recognize from Cube Droid Saves the Galaxy) that's all about patience and timing. It looks so calm and peaceful on the surface, but once the game gets going, you'll quickly realize it's in your best interest to leave nervous anticipation in the other room.

ZylHere's the scoop: your job is to drop the marble from the top of the cylinder to the landing spot below without hitting the walls. Orbiting the blue core are jagged gray walls whose gaps occasionally align to create a clear path. All you have to do is watch the walls' movements and tap the screen as soon as you can make the leap. It's that simple. Finding that perfect moment will take some careful observation and lots of patience, though, so don't jump the gun.

Zyl avoids the temptation of adding weird gimmicks or distractions from its distilled essence, providing you a clean and clear game of reflexes that gradually gets more challenging over the 60+ levels. It's a free download for both Android and iOS devices, which includes the first ten stages with the rest unlockable with a single, minimal in-app purchase. It's easy to play, it's strangely relaxing, and it looks great. What more can you ask for from a mobile game?

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


  • Currently 4.5/5
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Rating: 4.5/5 (155 votes)
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DoraA Blocky ChristmasBart Bonte exhibits epic levels of sleek, stylish puzzle simplicity with A Blocky Christmas where you play a magnetic star. Use the [WASD] or [arrow] keys to slide over the board, and just bump into green shapes on any side to make them stick to you like glue. You can get rid of a shape by going somewhere it can't follow you, or by sticking it somewhere that lets you slide off in a direction it's unable to move. The object of the game is simply to place yourself in the transparent image within each level, making sure any green shapes you need are stacked in the proper order. Hmmm... stars... green stuff... what could this all possibly be themed after... heeeeeeey... this is an abstract homage to Luigi, isn't it?! I'm on to you!

A Blocky Christmas might not have a lot of bells and whistles (other than jingle bells, anyway), but with its clever stage structure and classy design, it proves that Bart Bonte is one of the great masters of clean and smart puzzling. Even if you don't celebrate Christmas, it's easy to appreciate the game's simple concept and challenging execution... perfect for enjoying with a glass of your favourite holiday beverage, reclining after a long day of work. With just sixteen levels, A Blocky Christmas might be over too soon for some people, but if you want a bite-sized snack of holiday gaming guaranteed to get your gears turning, this is the perfect choice even if the weather outside isn't frightful, or you have no Christmas tree to rock around. After all, with A Blocky Christmas, you can build your own.

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Rating: 4.2/5 (59 votes)
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TrickyFLOGMost golf games put you in the place of the athlete, hitting balls ever closer to a tiny hole in the ground by clicking when the one meter to point to the center, and the other meter goes to the top. Sure, it's fun, even if it doesn't quite capture the fresh air, the smell of the turf, and the undeniable thrill of loading up on cocktails and driving around in a little car. But Namuol, when designing his entry for the Sports TIGCompo, decided to approach it from the opposite side. What if you were a course designer? A really generous course designer who, knowing that his players have only one swing in their repertoire, decides to put his mini-holes and hazards together in a way that ensures victory. Turns out, it makes things feel... a little backwards. FLOG is an HTML5 retro puzzle game where the player puts together the friendliest fairways possible.

In each of the 18 holes, you must click and drag obstacles and other items so that the ball will travel to the hole when hit in the indicated direction, avoiding going out of bounds. Each hole may contain blocks, which the ball will bounce off of, direction arrows, which will change the path of the ball, activators which, when rolled over, will alter the layout, and ball-teleporting pairs of portals. Click the "Putt" button to launch the ball, or else hit the [spacebar]. Some levels will contain multiple balls and multiple holes. In a neat touch, each level completed will add an element to the hole on the title screen, setting up quite the complicated finale. With puzzles that effectively mix programming and physics, FLOG captures the feel of an 8-bit classic that never was, and its high-but-not-frustrating challenge level is just par for the course. If you like FLOG, be sure to check out the game's official site to give feedback and maybe buy Namuol an Arnold Palmer back at the clubhouse.

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Rating: 4.4/5 (164 votes)
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SonicLoverUbooly and FriendsIt's hide-and-puzzle time with Ubooly and Friends! All twelve of Ubooly's friends are hiding somewhere on the nine-screen map, and the only way to reveal them is to point and click around and solve puzzles relating to the clues they give. Pick up or interact with items with the mouse, and navigate by clicking the blue arrows on the edges of the screen. Where inventory items are concerned, click on the magnifier in the corner of an item to hear Ubooly's comments on it, or drag the item out of its card if you think you know where it goes; if your inventory gets crowded, click the arrow button to scroll through it. If you get stuck, click the fortune-telling platypus in the upper left corner of the map and he'll supply you with a hint.

If the premise sounds familiar, it should. Its author, BenRadish of BeardShaker Games, was also the one behind Tanooky Tracks, which is very similar both in art style and in gameplay, and there's no reason to complain about that. The puzzles are logical and well-designed, the tropical environment is well implemented, and the graphics and audio have a charm all their own. Ubooly's comments on everything can get a little annoying, but as cute and full of personality as he is (to say nothing of his friends as they all appear) that's hard not to forgive. Also, the game's apparently an ad for some sort of iTunes stuffed animal, but here on Cas-Ga we judge the game, not the merchandise behind it... and this time around, the game definitely passes judgment.

Play Ubooly and Friends


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Mobile Monday

JohnBIt's always fun when developers play nice with different mobile platforms, isn't it? This week, we've got several well-known games crossing over from one app store to another, spreading joy and cheer and other such happy words to all!

spellsword-p.gifSpell Sword moves to Android - Spell Sword, the hack and slash sidescrolling action RPG from FireFruitForge, is really rather good. And until recently it was really rather iOS-exclusive. Now the game is ready for some Android love, sporting a free price tag and delivering tons of magical cards to power up and upgrade and a whole lot of vicious monsters queuing up for a beatdown. A great casual RPG for those moments when you want all the epicness of a 40 hour narrative without spending 40 hours experiencing it!

horn-p.gifAn Android with Horn(s) - Double dose of nice news: Horn, the third person action RPG that looks like a cross between Ico and Infinity Blade 2, has split into free and paid versions in addition to transitioning over to the Google Play Android marketplace. No free version for Android users, unfortunately, but it's nice having a little taste of the game before digging into your wallet for that high price tag.

room-p.gifA smaller Room - Now this is something worth squeeing over. Earlier in the year we featured a fantastic Myst-like point and click game called The Room. The only real drawback to the experience was that it required an iPad to play, no small screens allowed. Now developer Fireproof games has remedied the situation with The Room Pocket, a more portable iPhone compatible version of the neat little game. It's even a free download for those of you who are curious, with a single in-app purchase unlocking the full game.

littlethings-p.gifLittle Things For(real)ever - A hidden object game without the adventure part shoehorned in? A hidden object game without the doom and gloom of a haunted mansion/cemetery/insane asylum? Where do we sign?! Right here with Little Things Forever, that's where. We featured Klick Tock's purely object-oriented seek and find game earlier in the year, and boy did we fall in love with it. Now there's a handy (and free) Android version available, so unless your excuse is "I own a Blackberry", it's time to start playing.

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!


(15 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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The Pyraplex

JohnBMan, those ancient pharaohs had it rough. Keeping cobras out of the marketplace. Trying to collect stamps by fulfilling citizen requests. Dealing with the Pyramid Association. And how'd they ever decide where to build their hammer shop?! Kairosoft, makers of Kairobotica, Beastie Bay, and the Story series of games, has recreated a slice of the ancient world with The Pyraplex, a mobile simulation that will steal massive chunks of your time and refuse to let go until you're the pharaoh of all the pharaohs.

The PyraplexYou play the role of a pharaoh (or whatever you want to be called, chief) building a pyramid in the desert out of sweat, stone, and commerce. By mining rocks from the nearby wall you can construct rooms in your pyramid that do everything from house workers to provide shops for visitors to peruse. The goal is to gain coinage and up your pyramid's appeal so you can build your pyramid to the sky, all while managing a complex economy within the walls of your desert abode.

Two main stats to keep watch on are coins and hearts. Coins are gained from visitors buying things and can be used for renovations, buying new shops, and paying upkeep costs. Hearts are a form of customer satisfaction currency that go towards the less tangible elements of your pyramid, like training workers, sending out trade caravans, or ridding the place of cobras. There are other numbers to check on occasion, such as worker happiness, individual worker stats, neighboring countries and their desires, and the overall perception the people have of your structure.

Here's where the big advancements come from: your stamp cards! Completing requests earns you a few stamps on these nifty little things, rewarding you with items or new abilities every so often. Earning respect and pleasing the Pyramid Association is another consideration, and between managing shops and workers you'll also try to sculpt a well-balanced, symmetrical, and, you know, pyramid-shaped pyramid.

The PyraplexAnalysis: The Pyraplex falls on the simpler side of Kairosoft's offerings, sporting a slightly more streamlined interface that gets along well with touch screen devices. The gameplay itself has also been pared down, introducing new elements only when they're available and relevant instead of lumping everything on you from the start. This can lead to some moments of "oh, wish I had known that earlier", but on the whole, it makes getting into the game much easier.

There's so much more to The Pyraplex that isn't mentioned in this review, and unlike some of Kairosoft's other offerings, this game never feels overwhelming. Sure, you're in charge of an entire desert economy, but all you have to do is hire a few workers, give them a place to live, assign different tasks to keep your influx of coins, hearts, trade items and construction stones coming in, deal with random events, renovate shops, move things around to preserve the overall shape of the—you get the picture. Sounds like a lot, but it's all quite manageable and introduced at regular intervals to keep you grinning with things to do.

Apart from being built upon the same skeletal structure as Mega Mall Story, The Pyraplex does have a few minor interface issues, the most pressing of which is text overlap. Fitting English words in the same space as Japanese characters has always been a challenge for localization teams, and in this case it wasn't carried out with 100% precision. Some letters are clipped off at the end of windows, and blue colored text often overlaps text preceding it. Nothing becomes unreadable, but it looks a little sloppy and is cause for pause.

Really, The Pyraplex can be summed up in just a few words: it's another Kairosoft game, and you want to play it. It's a little on the expensive side, but the amount of fun you'll have in the first few fevered hours alone will be worth the investment.

NOTE: This game was played and reviewed on the 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 4.4/5
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Rating: 4.4/5 (153 votes)
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Dungelot

KimberlyUsually I run the other direction when a game tells me upfront that by design I will lose over and over again. But in Dungelot, a terrifically addictive roguelike by Dimitry Mitrofanov, you will die, and that's okay. I guess you can't expect to take on hundreds of monsters by yourself and survive, now can you?

DungelotThe goal is to see how deep you can delve into the dungeon. To start off, you'll choose a hero. Examine their special abilities and select the one you like best. You can always try a different one after your inevitable death. After you've chosen, the game board will appear and you'll see a locked dungeon door. Starting by the door and using just your mouse, click on a tile to flip it over. As you flip tile after tile, you'll reveal monsters and items or people that can help you. Monsters block your way, and you must defeat them to open up the board. The fighting system is simple. You can see how much health each monster has as well as how much damage they will do. Enemies will always strike first, so even if you can deal more damage, they will always get at least one hit in. Keep revealing the board and defeating the monster until you find the level key, which you can use to escape to the next level. Often you will find the key before the entire board is cleared. Then it is up to you to decide if it's worth it to stay and clear out enemies in hopes of finding treasure, or if you should just move on.

Levels get more difficult as you get deeper into the dungeon. You will find spells in treasure chests that can be used against most enemies. However, if you don't want to use the spell to attack, you can turn it into health points. Collecting red gems ups your starting HP, and you'll also find good old-fashioned money. Money is used in two ways. One is upgrading hero special abilities. This is a permanent bonus attached to a specific hero. Or you can spend coins in stores found in various levels of the dungeon. In stores you can purchase attack power or health, but these are temporary and disappear after you die.

Dungelot is great in its simplicity. Anyone can learn how to play in a matter of minutes. Game levels are random, so you'll never have the same run twice. It would be nice to have a little bit of info on the many monsters, as some have special abilities of their own. Aside from that, there's little to complain about. It's got that addicting just-one-more-time appeal. Add to that a little bit of strategy, a lot of randomization, and some fun artwork and you've got yourself a game that's hard to stop playing.

Play Dungelot

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Critter Chronicles

JohnBHey there, adventure gamer! Remember the good old days when your favorite genre was funnier than a car full of clowns crashing into a kazoo factory? Ok, while it doesn't take much to top that colorful feat, you've got to admit you miss the days of The Secret of Monkey Island at least a little bit. Here to soothe those old wounds is KING Art with its release of The Book of Unwritten Tales: The Critter Chronicles, a prequel to The Book of Unwritten Tales that goes all-out for some fantastic laughs, never sacrificing a solid puzzle in the process.

Critter ChroniclesMeet Nate Bonnett, an airship "captain" who sounds like Bruce Campbell and doesn't know the ship's stern from the disapproving look his mother always gave him. Not that it really matters, though, because he's being chased by a bounty hunter who claims he stole the ship from a fat pirate and she's going to bring it back for the reward. That little claim of hers is pretty much the truth, but Nate's not gonna sit around and let her play winner. He's going to fight back. With confetti and cotton balls!

Before you know it, Nate wakes up bound to the ceiling in an ice cave with a totally real and legit yeti preparing to turn him into a stew. And then Critter walks by. Those of you who played the first Unwritten Tales game will recognize Critter and should be delighted to know The Critter Chronicles features quite a bit of the little guy (and his kin) wobbling about on the cold wastelands. In fact, after controlling Nate for the first chapter, most of the game switches between main characters, allowing you to see and interact with two sides of the story, not to mention Critter's own woes.

Critter ChroniclesAnalysis: For the most part, The Critter Chronicles is structured like a standard adventure game, complete with inventory puzzles, clicking things to examine them, and lots of great dialogue. There are some great additions to the experience that make it a decidedly more casual affair, including a few mini-games and the always handy "press [spacebar] to see what you can click on so you don't have to pixel hunt and wear your mouse button out" feature.

Humor is definitely the most appealing aspect of The Critter Chronicles. The jokes are almost as frequent as a sitcom, but it's much more than a few one liners belted together with a crude story. Expect parodies both large and subtle, jokes that break the fourth wall, scenes ripped and contorted from Star Wars and Harry Potter, and plenty of things that will make you roll your eyes in comical exasperation. Critter Chronicles is very well-written, from the humor to the storyline, and that quickly becomes a sticking point to keep you glued to the game.

Apart from its phenomenal presentation and surprisingly awesome voice work, The Critter Chronicles is actually a solid adventure game. Imagine that! The puzzles may seem a little obtuse at times (like the confetti thing near the beginning), but once you settle in to the game's quirky rhythm, things begin to make a lot more sense. Get ready for half a day of hilarity wrapped around some great adventure gaming moments!

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

Mac OS XMac OS X:
Download the demo
Get the full version (via GOG)

LinuxLinux:
Download the demo
Get the full version


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The Walking Dead: Assault

DoraWhen there is no more room on your computer, the dead will walk the iOS. Skybound delivers a gritty comic-book styled action realtime-strategy experience with The Walking Dead: Assault. Roughly following the events of the wildly popular undead-packed comics, the game stars police officer Rick Grimes as he wakes from a coma in a hospital some time after the city has already been overrun. Being made of sterner stuff than you or I, Rick opts not to lay crying in the corner eating SlimJims and instead takes up his trusty axe and gun to hack and blast his way to freedom. Over the course of the game, you'll recruit more survivors from the smash-hit comic series, all with their own abilities, and direct them through sprawling levels packed with zombies, raiders, people to save, and much more. No experience with the comic or television series is necessary to play and enjoy!

The Walking Dead: AssaultThe in-game tutorial will walk you through each new element as its introduced, but the basics are pretty simple. Double-tap a spot to move the character you're in control of there, or press and hold to have your entire party move at once, picking up any supplies or ammo they pass over. Your characters' ranges are marked by blue circles around them, and they'll automatically attack anything that comes into it. While melee weapons may have a smaller range, in addition to not needing ammo, they're also silent, which is important if you're hoping to avoid making a big enough ruckus to bring a massive horde down on you in later levels. Keep an eye out for green highlighted objects like fresh corpses or car alarms that can be tapped to cause a temporary undead distraction.

Each character has both a passive ability that imparts a bonus to the team, and a special ability that has to be manually activated after it cools down ranging from briefly but drastically increasing your party's damage, to distracting all the zombies to go after one specific person, forcing headshots, and more. Your goal is usually to wipe out all the zombies in each level, though the game will frequently throw you choices or secondary bonus objectives, and between each stage you can spend the supplies you've earned on upgrades or hiring new party members so you have more heroes to choose from when assembling your group to tackle a level.

The Walking Dead: AssaultAnalysis: Though it lacks any sort of real story or characterisation beyond what you can gather from each character's special abilities and the locations you visit, The Walking Dead: Assault is still a surprisingly good game for a series that's had its share of tie-ins already. It looks fantastic to say the least, implementing the comic series' signature style with flair, and more importantly, the actual gameplay is both fun and genuinely strategic. Bulldozing your way through each level will only get you so far, and you'll soon have to learn how to issue orders on the fly in order to move characters around individually to take down threats and survive both with force and stealth when necessary. The actual movement and swapping of weapons seems a little sluggish, with hold-to-activate becoming annoying to try to move to areas you may not realise aren't valid or taking an extra spare second to happen you don't actually have. It seems like "tap once to move one, twice to move all" would have worked better, as well as a simple on/off melee toggle.

These quibbles aside, however, The Walking Dead: Assault is a surprisingly frantic, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants experience at times, with distractions and character abilities integrated in clever ways. While you can purchase extra supplies to spend on characters and upgrades via optional in-game purchases, the game never feels like its really forcing you to do so through unfair balancing, and you can always replay stages. As of this writing, only the first batch of levels are available, but there are more planned on the way as well as additional characters and new weapons. (Note that it isn't immediately clear if these will be free updates or additional levels for purchase.) If you enjoy simple but challenging real-time strategy games and have always wanted to send Shane hurtling all by his lonesome into a massive crowd of zombies, The Walking Dead: Assault is massively entertaining and well worth the price of admission.

NOTE: This game was played and reviewed on the iPad (1st Gen.). Game was available in the North American market at the time of publication, but may not be available in other territories. Please see individual app market pages for purchasing info.


  • Currently 4.7/5
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Rating: 4.7/5 (20 votes)
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malditacastilla.gifJohnBInspired by just about every intense action arcade game of years past, playing Maldita Castilla from indie developer Locomalito is a bit like booting up a decades old computer and running one of those old chestnuts that punish you with extreme difficulty. In this case it's not quite as punishing, but the look and feel of an old school Ghosts 'n' Goblins-like experience is definitely there. Don't get too caught up in the nostalgia, though, as you've got a world stuffed with demons to cleanse!

Two moves keep you alive in Maldita Castilla: jumping, and attacking. Enemies dig in from below, drop out of the sky, climb out of doorways and pop out of all sorts of places, ready to chip away at your health. It usually doesn't take too many hits to dispose of these foes, but since you're a bit fragile to start with, you can't afford mistakes. Fortunately, Maldita Castilla offers a handful of unique weapons to use (which you can throw up and down as well) along with helper items like a shield or an attack fairy. It's a far cry from being invincible, but you'll take every bump you can get.

Maldita Castilla is a fairly short romp through the countryside, offering up around an hour of gameplay with a few different endings to uncover. There's no save function, though, so get comfy and prepare to abandon your distracted, multitasking gaming habits. The setting and creatures are steeped in medieval European mythology, and you're going to want to appreciate every pixel of that artwork while you're getting your head gnawed on by a gigantic flying human-headed worm.

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


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Gryptics

ArtbegottiWhy bother with the tedious tumult of trying to sort out annoying crossword clues when you can skip straight to the fun part, laying pen to paper and filling the grid with letters? Gryptics by Lame Sauce is a word puzzle where the business end of the crossword is all that matters. Twelve words (six across and six down) intersect in a 6x6 square, which you must fill in. You only clues you get are the extra letters in words that precede or follow the gridded area, and a handful of hint letters thrown in for good measure. Tap an individual square to select it for the on-screen keyboard input, or swipe the length of a word to fill in all the missing squares in one go.

GrypticsThere's only one way to fill in each puzzle with six valid words reading in each direction, so part of the challenge is fighting off the urge to use a simpler, but incorrect word. For example, you probably don't have to second guess a word like SCHIZO______C, but words like COM______LE could be COMFORTABLE or COMMENDABLE or a bunch of other options. The difficulty ranking of each puzzle seems to be based on how many red herring directions are available with the provided letters, but sometimes a hard puzzle may seem simple if you guess the right words from the start. This app comes with ten free sample puzzles, and extra packs of 25 puzzles are available for purchase. If you're the sort of word sleuth who likes guessing Wheel of Fortune puzzles with only two letters on the board, you'll want to give Gryptics a shot.

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


  • Currently 4.5/5
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Rating: 4.5/5 (149 votes)
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elleNeutral: Christmas Escape ToyIt's that merry time of year again— celebrations, good friends, lots of presents, decorations and (huzzah!) a festive new creation from Neutral: Christmas Escape Toy. Ah, thank you, Neutral. What a thoughtful gift! Best of all, this is a gift that's made to last: a mini escape game that gives no signs of temporary status unlike Neutral's Christmas banner escape which shows up just once a year during the month of December. You want to feel like a kid on Christmas who is locked inside his room and needs to puzzle his way out? Well, maybe that didn't come out right. Either way, it's the usual scenario: follow the changing cursor to explore the holiday setting, looking for connections to solve riddles that will lead the way through the exit.

While it's always a happy occasion to be treated to Neutral's designing talents because of charming artwork and creative puzzles, this particular offering includes a minigame that could add a sour note of frustration: a GameBoy style platform game that is much cuter in theory than it proves to be in actuality, demonstrating that action platform games and point-and-click mechanics are not close friends. Yet it's not unlike Neutral to have such a trick up the sleeve and, like the chicks minigame in Lights, this game is needed to get a necessary clue but it has no skip or easy mode. There is something to be said for patience, perseverance, talent or plain luck because, however you get through it, it's quite satisfying to win when your wits are being tested. Either because of it or despite that extra obstacle, Christmas Escape Toy presents a rewarding experience for your escaping merriment—and it's all wrapped up with that special Neutral touch.

Play Christmas Escape Toy


(17 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Mark of the Ninja

coryThis might come as a surprise, but there's a lot of discrimination in the ninja industry, or the "ninjustry" as those of us in the 'biz call it. If you're not a mutant turtle from New York chances are you're going to have a little trouble finding work. Sure, every so often you see a rising star from Beverly Hills or something like that, but for the most part in this job it's go sewer or go home. Thankfully for those of us who aren't reptiles, there's Mark of the Ninja, a stealth action game developed by Klei Entertainment that provides ninja excitement without the heavy shell or outdated surfer lingo. As an unnamed ninja, you'll use your weapons, skills and the powers of a mysterious tattoo to seek revenge for an attack on your clan.

Mark of the NinjaControl your ninja with the [WASD] keys to move and the mouse to aim your weapons, using other keys for the various ninja actions you'll need like taking cover and hiding bodies. You can also use a gamepad, and in this case it's really the more comfortable choice. You have a wide variety of techniques available, but it's important to remember that you're a classical ninja and not one of those teenage mutant varieties: your goal is stealth, not combat. While you're fairly powerful in battle and can take one or two enemies head on, more than that will likely defeat you. Even if they don't, you'll receive fewer points for dealing with situations in such a crude fashion.

This is probably the most significant way that Mark of the Ninja deviates from the average stealth game. While in most games you're encouraged to kill your way out of situations when stealth fails, here killing is, at best, a last resort. You're encouraged to deal with enemies non-lethally or, failing that, with a measure of humanity. Proper stealth kills are quick, ending the enemy's life efficiently and silently. If you botch the stealth kill command or just slaughter enemies in direct combat, your ninja fails to manage this, leading to noise and a greatly reduced score. This is a stealth game where stealth is the goal rather than a tool to reach a goal. You have a few advantages to make this easier - you can "see" sound, represented as blue waves that emit from noisy objects and actions, and you can easily tell when your ninja is hidden from sight by his silhouette.

Mark of the NinjaAnalysis: This paradigm shift toward stealth as both the means and end is what defines Mark of the Ninja and makes it a great game. You'll come to view situations in a different way: a foolish guard who's not really paying attention to the area is an easy obstacle to creep past, not a free stealth kill, for example. A room full of alert guards focused on the doors would be a difficult battle in many other games, but here it's possible to take advantage of their focus and completely bypass the room by sneaking along the ceiling instead. These aren't just options available to the player; they're actually the ideal options, as you receive more points and a better ranking after each stage by using nonlethal, stealthy solutions. Later on, the levels become more complex and nonlethal play becomes more difficult, but at that point it feels much more rewarding when you manage to get through a stage without killing anyone.

On the other hand, choosing to ignore this and go wild is great fun as well. One fantastic way of dealing with guards is to take out one of their buddies and simply drop his corpse right in front of one of them from a high vantage point. They'll absolutely freak out, making it easy to cause more carnage or sneak by. It's also possible to just straight up kung-fu guards down for an easy finisher with your sword. To further aid you, you have a variety of ninja tools that can be used for both stealthy and non-stealthy purposes like throwing darts and noisemakers. These help keep the action fresh and offer even more options to the player. There are also upgrades purchased between levels that can enhance your stealth and melee capabilities along with your ninja tools.

All this is tied together though a gorgeous animated art style. Mark of the Ninja resembles a cartoon, lightening the subject matter a bit and adding a little flair to the proceedings. The game's story is also presented through animated cutscenes. The music and sound effects are perfect for the subject matter as well, adding tension rather than defusing it. You'd quickly learn to recognize which noises attract guards even if you didn't have the ability to see that effect for yourself.

The precision that Mark of the Ninja offers makes it a fascinating experience. There's very little chance of a plan going wrong because of pure chance or lack of information; here, you're given everything you need to ninja your way through situations and if you fail, it's clear it was your own doing. This also makes it easier to improve in the future, eventually allowing you to turn each level into a perfectly tweaked operation where you sneak through flawlessly...or slaughter the opposition untouched. It's a very rewarding game with plenty of replayability. Ask yourself: can those turtles offer that?

WindowsWindows:
Get the full version (via Steam)

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


  • Currently 4.3/5
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Rating: 4.3/5 (26 votes)
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Middle Manager of Justice

DoraBe honest. You always thought you would do a way better job of managing the Avengers than Nick Fury, but nobody would take you seriously because of your lack of an eyepatch and heavy reliance on pocket-protectors and spreadsheets. Well, my friend... THY TIME HAS COME. Double Fine Productions puts the power of the universe and earning projections in your hands with their free iOS strategic simulation Middle Manager of Justice. Your impeccable references and talent for bossing superheroes around lands you a job managing a branch of Justice Corp in a city constantly beset by supervillains, thugs, and flaming school buses. Since this particular location has seen better days, you'll have to work your way up by hiring and training an elite squad of powerful peeps, taking both them and your headquarters from zeroes to heroes in the process of saving the world and keeping really well-organised filing cabinets.

Middle Manager of JusticeYou won't start out with much, but with your skills you'll turn the place around in no time. Initially, all you'll be able to afford is a single superhero. The game walks you through the basics, but essentially you need Superium (earned through missions and objectives, or optional in-app purcharses) and plain ol' coins (earned by completing tasks, given by happy neighbourhoods, or nabbed by swapping Superium) to keep everything running smoothly and hire the real muscle. Once you've hired a superhero, you won't need to pay them again, but you'll need to pay for any extra equipment and items you want them to have. Cash also goes towards upgrading or purchasing new rooms when your Manager goes up a level, and these rooms can help research items and abilities, train your heroes' stats, give them a place to rest and relax, and more. Just tap on a hero to get a look at how they're doing, and then assign them to a station to reap the benefits. Remember to give them time to sleep if their health is low, or send them off to relax if their morale is suffering.

While most of the game takes place in your office training and managing your team, the city outside is a hive of scum and villainy and is constantly dealing with crime. Tap on the icon in the upper-left corner to view the city map, and tap on any crime to assign a hero (or heroes!) to deal with it. If you choose to watch the happenings on the Hero Cam, you can help direct your squad during battles by giving them items and directing them to use their special abilities, which do everything from boosting their strength to administering a good ol' fashioned beat down. Alternately, you can simply choose to delegate and let them fight it out themselves if you think they have a good chance of winning. Crimes can be anything from robberies to supervillain attacks, but you also have to contend with certain special events like fires that require a hero with a stat at a specific number or above to deal with, so make sure you're training everyone.

Middle Manager of JusticeAnalysis: Double Fine can always be counted on to make things both funny and full of character, and Middle Manager of Justice is not going to be the exception to that rule. From the easy, pick-up-and-go gameplay to the rich artwork and snappy dialogue, it looks and plays great and is something casual simulation fans will really love to spend a few minutes or half an hour with whenever they get a chance. Ultimately, however, what it really needs is some customisation. Being unable to decorate or lay out your quarters in anything but the most basic way is a bit of a bummer, but a bigger letdown is not being able to create your own heroes. Since most of them spout basic dialogue, it seems like something that would be both fairly easy to work into the game, and make players more invested in things. Especially since it feels like you spend a lot of time just waiting around and doing the same things over and over. Makes you look forward to the inevitable plot twist where Sweet Justice snaps from spending too much time knitting in the breakroom and punching trashcans and steals Captain Premium's teddy-bear, turning it into a 3-story tall steel-and-fluff monstrosity you have to team up with Skullface to defeat.

Considering the game is free, however, and the in-app purchases really are so unobtrusively and fairly integrated, Middle Manager of Justice is still a fantastic little game. Combat is easy to get the hang of, so even folks who aren't typically big RPG fans will be able to play, and it's great seeing your heroes slowly turn into an elite squad of death. Uh. And justice, of course. The villains are hysterical and likable, the plots are silly and engaging, and the whole thing is stamped with Double-Fine's signature commitment to quality. While it might not have enough to hold every player's attention for hours at a time, Middle Manager of Justice is a perfect example of how to make a quality freemium game that makes your players feel appreciated rather than like walking wallets. It's one of those games that will only get better as more updates roll out, and is the perfect choice for casual simulation fans looking for a fun, colourful game that lets them order men who wear their underwear on the outside of their pants around. What? I'm not judging. Much.

NOTE: This game was played and reviewed on the iPad (1st Gen.). Game was available in the North American market at the time of publication, but may not be available in other territories. Please see individual app market pages for purchasing info.


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Rating: 4.3/5 (69 votes)
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MeaghanSymbiosisIt will come as a surprise but aliens may not be as we imaged and there's a possibility our greatest salvation will come from none other than... plants? Before you scoff at the idea of Mother Earth being our best defense check out Symbiosis, a pleasant tower defense strategy game by The Gamest Studio that will prove to that dead fern that you do have a green thumb!

To fight off the cursed crystal aliens you will place plants on the map and decide whether the plant will grow, attack, or defend by clicking on the plant itself or using [A, S, D] keys. Close proximity to the enemy will allow your plant to attack faster and there are glowing spots on the map that double attack speed when you place a plant on it. To further assist your plants you have the ability to click and drag on one plant and place a symbiotic link to another. The bigger the distance between the two plants the better the benefits are for the receiving foliage. As an added bonus there are upgrades galore to make use of as well as spells that will help heal, harm, or protect.

As far as tower defense games go Symbiosis offers a wealth of upgrade options that will make the fifteen levels go by swiftly and flawlessly. The ability to adjust the difficulty the crystals will offer is a nifty gift that not only allows for better experience gain but also ensures you'll want to play even after beating all the levels. Even though the title of the game would imply that symbiosis would be an integral part of battle it's unfortunately not needed and after even getting halfway through the upgrades available most levels won't need more than two plants on the map to be victorious. Still, the gameplay itself is rewarding and has enough extra goodies to make it worth playing multiple times, especially if you like to complete achievements.

Play Symbiosis


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Rating: 3.4/5 (76 votes)
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TrickySanta's Rescue ElfHe made a list, and checked it twice. Sadly though, what Santa should have really reviewed is chimney circumferences, and now the jolly old fella is stuck in a precarious position. Fortunately, he has some pointy-toed shoe wearing back-up to assist him, and Santa's Rescue Elf is coming, well... to the rescue! A point-and-click puzzle game by The Gamer Stop, Santa's Rescue Elf is a holly-jolly bit of Christmas fun.

Click on objects and characters in each level to use or interact with them, prepping the house for Christmas morning without being spotted, and helping St. Nick get out of that dang chimney. Each level will give you a score based on how many times you clicked, and you can find Eagle Eye bonuses if you spot the Gamer Stop orbs hidden around. Santa's Rescue Elf has some really expressive cartoon art that really adds to its sense of the holiday spirit. Some of the puzzle solutions are a little obtuse, mainly since the game doesn't always make it clear why you received a game over. (Remember, the Rescue Elf has to do his job without stirring any creature in the house!) Still, you can't help but want the little guy to save the day, and anyone in need of a little Christmas cheer shouldn't wait to open it up.

Play Santa's Rescue Elf!


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Link Dump Fridays

DoraSo I hear the end of the world is apparently next week, all because the Mayans never got a chance to make next year's calendar. But, you know, just in case we're all still around in a week, what say we go ahead and keep celebrating the season and awesome games in general with Slenderman, Submachine, and stalwart puppy explorers? Now there's a holiday party I can get behind!

P.S. Happy Hanukkah to everyone celebrating!

New Projects and Updates

Submachine 7 HDAdventure and Mystery, Ad Free Mateusz Skutnik has been mystifying and enrapturing players for over seven years with his point-and-click adventure series Submachine, and if you've ever wanted to show a little appreciation beyond your kind words for so much free entertainment, here's a great opportunity. For just $2.00USD you can get a downloadable, ad-free HD version of Submachine 7: The Core with an included soundtrack right here. Though the lack of a whole lot of extra bells and whistles may be a disappointment to the myriad of fans who had been slavering for more, two dollars is a small price to pay for close to a decade of free gaming, and a great way to show support, especially since Mateusz promises all funds will go towards development of his next game. Do you know what two dollars is? That is one third of what the cost of buying me a cup of coffee at Starbucks would work out to. And while I'm sure you're dying to do that, give Mateusz a little love for all the gaming and creativity he's given you over the years instead.

Slender: The ArrivalAs Long As There's No "New Costumes For Slendy" DLC It was big news when we found out Parsec Productions had joined forces Team Rocket style with Blue Isle studios to release a commercial sequel to the smash-hit free indie nightmare machine that is Slender, and with a brand spanking new website update, there's even more information on Slender: The Arrival to be had. There's an official trailer and a Steam Greenlight campaign coming soon, but you can look forward to the game in early 2013 with a PC download (Mac to follow, Linux hopefully) at a price of under $20.00 USD. The game promises a story handled by the creators of YouTube sensation Marble Hornets, and though they promise more to do than simply collect pages this time around, they also state that they're aware that what make Slender so scary was the ambiguity and simplicity, and they're working to improve rather than take away. Head on over to the official site to check out new screenshots, read the full FAQ, and be sure to like them on Facebook for the latest updates and trailer news.

Kickstarter Projects

GameTron 1000This is the Game That Doesn't End, Yes it Goes On and On My Friend... A game that generates even more randomly designed games sounds sort of like magic, but that's what Mojo Bones is proposing with their Kickstarter project for GameTron 1000 for PC, iOS and Android. At the push of a button, everything from the genre to the characters, setting, objective and more is chosen randomly through an in-game slot reel, allowing you to play a virtually endless amount of games with silly names for as long as you like. You can even save and share your favourite creations with other players, though the game itself is designed as single-player only. While we'll be curious to see just how much depth and distinct-feeling games you can really get, GameTron 1000 is calling itself "the Everlasting Gobstopper of games", and could potentially be the perfect time-filler. It doesn't hurt that it's easy on the eyes either! If this sounds good to you, head on over to the Kickstarter page to learn more and donate to see this thing happen.

MeriwetherSurvival, Exploration, an OHMYGOSH LOOKIT THE PUPPY Reader Carlos came across this Kickstarter campaign for Sortasoft LLC's Meriwether: An American Epic, and chances are that if you have any interest at all in realistic survival exploration gameplay and history, you're going to be interested in this one. Set in 1803, the game stars you as Captain Lewis who, along with his good friend William Clark, is sent to make a 28 month voyage to western North America, assembling your team of travelers and attempting to do everything from mapping your journeys, to establish peaceful relations with tribes, document new plants and animals, and more. In "Lewis" levels, you'll play the game as a traditional action RPG, while "Travel" levels are procedurally generated and focus on surviving challenges and the land through the skill of your people. Though the game features combat, it also offers plenty of options to avoid it entirely. It looks like it could be a fantastically engrossing experience, especially since you get to CHOOSE A DOGGY OH MY GOSH! If all this sounds swank to you, head on over to Kickstarter to learn more and make it happen.

Miscellany

Video Game LawWhat Should Be In Your Indie We love indie developers. After all, they do the hard work, we just get to have fun with it and then smack our palms against the keyboards until words appear on the screen for you to read. The thing is, while it's easy to get caught up in the excitement that comes with creating and joining forces with other brilliant minds, a lot of newfound indie studios either forget about or just don't know how important a basic understanding of video game law can be. Shaun Spalding aims to help change that with his editorial for the Penny Arcade Report, The Top Five Best Legal Practices for Indie Game Developers. While a lot of this may seem like common sense, they're things that easily get overlooked when you're really focused on the work and design behind your passion, but they're simple steps that can help keep your keister out of the fire.


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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Crayon Physics Deluxe

JohnBIt's been a while since we've seen serious activity from Kloonigames' Crayon Physics games. From its debut as an experimental project in 2007 to the release of Crayon Physics Deluxe a few years later, the crayon-drawing physics/puzzle game went from being a neat-o toy to OMG WANT MORE. And now, not too long after its initial mobile release, the game has fully grown up and is ready for its HD iPad debut, sporting a few nice extras along with the visual upgrade.

Crayon Physics DeluxeAs the game reminds you from the outset, "It's not about finding just any solution. It's about finding the awesomest one." While it may be a relatively simple thing to move the red ball to the star in each level, getting it there with style and creativity are two very different matters. By tapping and dragging the screen you can create solid objects of just about any shape or size. Most of the time simple boxes, triangles, circles or rectangular bridges will suffice, but occasionally you'll be required to get creative with your gap-covering techniques. Make the territory safe, then either tap the ball or drop something onto it to set it rolling. Then, cross your fingers and hope your crayon skills are sound.

Also check out Crayon Physics Deluxe for Windows, Mac, and Linux!

Crayon Physics Deluxe HD looks a little better than its non-HD predecessor (or maybe it's our imagination), and the interface feels a little snappier, too. The stock set of 70 levels will keep you busy for quite a while, and when you can't draw another crayon polygon, head over to the level editor to make your own stages. By, er, drawing more polygons, but it's different, y'know? You even have access to hundreds of user-made levels, though the process requires free registration and is a little awkward to initiate. It's hard to go wrong when both crayon-drawn levels and physics puzzles are involved, and even though this game is a few years young, it's just as creative and cool as ever.

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


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Rating: 4.7/5 (284 votes)
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elleHaretoki: Sometimes Sunny ReverseSometimes Haretoki is cloudy. Sometimes Haretoki is sunny. But always Haretoki is full of cleverly amusing puzzles that make playing an escape-the-room game from this author a true delight. Welcome, then, to Sometimes Sunny Reverse, a new creation from Haretoki that will shine a ray of sunshine on your puzzle-loving self even as it may cloud your brain with some tricky situations.

Here you are, locked up without a story or a cause, in a room brimming with boxes and devices. Start poking around Best of Casual Gameplay 2012and examining everything you can see, drawing conclusions from the clues offered to you until you can decipher the first code and gain the key to the next puzzle. You'll experience the standard escape game user interface features such as an intuitive inventory and navigation by arrow, and everything is so well laid out you will rarely grumble over the lack of changing cursor and textual hints. As you progress, though, you reap the reward of more content: additional puzzles and goodies to play with are presented like wrappings falling off a Christmas gift.

Some might call this one of the best escape games this year in terms of brain busting scenarios and enjoyable gameplay, but that's up to you to decide for yourself. And while Sometimes Sunny Reverse isn't the prettiest room we've spent time in nor is it the most affable, if you can stick it out through some head-desk-thump moments, the logic will lead you through on your own efforts. It's sure to reverse those escaping tummy growls into a plump full feeling of satisfaction.

Play Sometimes Sunny Reverse

Thank you to Aroz and Cyberjar88 for suggesting this game!


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Rating: 4.2/5 (62 votes)
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DoraIcy Gifts 2'Tis the season for explosions, and SilenGames have put an even more Christmassy twist on their original chain-reaction arcade game with Icy Gifts 2. This time Santa's been trapped in ice underwater, and only detonating a number of massive explosions dangerously close to his face will save him! Just click to drop a bomb, but be careful since you only have a few per stage, and try to time it when there are enough frozen explosives floating by so you'll detonate them as well, causing their fragments to trigger still more kabooms. Freeing Santa wins the stage, but there are frozen presents drifting around too, and if you manage to break them free of the ice and pick them up with your cursor, you can spend them on upgrades between stages. This time around you can also earn coins from completing achievements you can trade in for more presents, single-use items, or even try your luck at winning big on the submarine slot machine!

Icy Gifts 2 is one of those weird, perfectly addictive little games that's as compulsive to play as it is cheery and colourful. With its bouncy seasonal soundtrack and constant bursts of sound and colour, it may be simple, but its not mindless. It may be frustrating watching presents slowly drift around, waiting for them to come into just the right cluster, especially on the more sparsely populated stages, but it adds a degree of planning and challenge. Of course, that's not to say the game is particularly difficult, and it isn't meant to be. Aside from the cathartic potential of blowing up dozens of different things with a wide variety of power-ups, it's just the perfect sort of pick-up-and-play gaming that fits easily into a midday break, or an evening wind-down. If only all life's problems could be solved with a well-placed explosion!... well... I mean... they can, but then there's all that tiresome jail time and psychological evaluation after.

Play Icy Gifts 2


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The Grading Game

JohnBWelcome to the life of a teaching assistant (and/or editor)! The Grading Game by Mode of Expression is a beefed-up version of the arcade-style browser release First Person Tutor. It puts you in the unenviable role of a TA grading papers for a grumpy proffessor who wants his students to get the grade they deserve: a perfect F! Since you're a bit strapped for cash you have no choice but to capitulate, sifting through papers and marking every error you see with a big red pen.

The Grading GameYour life as a TA is relegated to reading clumsy essays of college students one after another. Scan the page and tap on errors to mark them, sliding your finger up the screen to scroll when necessary. Errors range from transposed letters to repeated words, straight-up typos, improper capitalization, and much more, getting progressively more subtle as as you move up in rank. Meet the miniimum quota for each level and you'll move on to the next, charging through over 100 papers before the sweet release of victory is yours. It's going to take a good eye and a relatively firm understanding of the English language to earn your keep and push every student you can to a failing grade.

There's much more content in The Grading Game compared to its original free browser incarnation. You'll also get some little grammar tips, randomly generated errors for practically unlimited gameplay, and three modes to choose from depending on how confident you are in your proofreading skills. It's the perfect piece of entertainment for grammar fiends who caught the three typos in this review and immediately flew into a rage.

Play First Person Tutor (browser)

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


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Rating: 4.5/5 (277 votes)
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elleSnail Bob 3Bob has been through a lot lately and yet, fine fellow he is, it hasn't slowed him down one bit. He just keeps moseying along, straight ahead, not a care in the world. Whether he's in a goo-strewn construction site, on a path to visit grandpa or traversing desert dunes here in Snail Bob 3, Bob continues straight on ahead until he reaches his goal—or meets his untimely demise. So it's on your shoulders to keep him from being fried, pummeled, or otherwise rendered not doing so well.

At first, as Bob inches along at a, well, snail's pace, you'll find your task simple in this platform puzzle game from Hunter Hamster. Through just a few clicks of a few buttons, you can remove obstacles or otherwise create a safe path for Bob to travel; you'll probably even have enough time to spot and grab the three somewhat hidden stars in each scene. But, as with life, things don't stay so simple. During the 25 levels, you'll encounter new hazards and added features to help you overcome those hazards, along with witty planning, quick timing and a touch of physics. It helps that you can click on Bob to stop him when needed, though, and the game interface makes the whole experience more relaxing coffee break entertainment than perilous quest to save a gastropod stuck in ancient Egypt. And, trust me, you don't want to be a snaily type in a place like this: hot sun everywhere, camels stomping about and, ugh, think of where that sand is sticking. So, please, save Bob!

Play Snail Bob 3


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Rating: 4.3/5 (34 votes)
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TrickyOrbox CThe light is lost. Only one thing can bring it back: Help us, Orbox! You're our only hope! Game Balance's series of sliding-block puzzles is back with a shiny new coat of sparkles in Orbox C! Get prepared to control a little box who is big on bravery, if not so much with the momentum control.

Use the [WASD] or [arrow] keys to direct the Orbox around the play field. Orbox will keep moving in the inputted direction until an obstacle blocks his path. Completing the given task, or making your way to the red exit box will complete each level. In addition, a number of special blocks are scattered about the play space: Timer Blocks which, when tapped, will start counting down to disappearing in a harmless explosion, Angle Blocks which will deflect Orbox's path 90 degrees, collectible Stars, Teleporters which will transport your to the portal of the same color, Gate Blocks, two separated halves which, when intersected, will merge into a single new block, Grow Blocks, empty spaces which will grow into blocks when intercepted, Sensors which activate the creation of other blocks, and so forth. There are 30 levels in all, with your score determined by how quick you solved each puzzle, and how many unique moves were used.

Play all the Orbox games:
OrboxOrbox BOrbox C

Where the previous iterations of the Orbox series had an elegant simplicity in their presentation, Orbox C is something of an assault on the senses. Not that you can deny that swirling sci-fi animations and thumping techno audio will probably attract a larger audience than quiet puzzling. Still, it gets a little distracting, and one gets the feeling that the dev team is trying a little too hard to make box-sliding a tad more intense than box-sliding has any right to be. That said, Orbox C is as cerebral as its predecessors in its puzzle creation, and most of the changes are definitely for the better: the new block elements makes for interesting set-ups, autosave replaces clunky passwords, and the inclusion of a level editor promises new levels from developers and players alike. Orbox C may be a bit heavy on the glitz, but it is a worthy installment in the series, and should charm players both new and old.

Play Orbox C!


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Rating: 4/5 (98 votes)
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Weekday Escape

elleOne of the enjoyments of playing an escape-the-room game is the room itself. Since you're stuck here for as long as it takes to explore the room's details and decipher its clues, it does help if this place is the sort of place you'd where you'd want to hang out. Does it look too much like a doctor's office? A prison cell? Maybe that's your idea of a good time but I think it's rather pleasant to be someplace mellow, with a good view out the window and a few books to while away the time over. Throw in a touch of color therapy and, you want to lock me up? Go right on ahead. This is one of the reasons 10 Color Dots' Escape from the Reddish Room makes it onto the Weekday Escape stage this week.

Escape from the Reddish RoomEscape this crimson-hued room by clicking about everywhere the changing pointer will take you for an up close look, examining every object you find therein with a little less help from the cursor, until you have, through observation and deductive reasoning, solved a handful of puzzles to open the exit door. There is probably some additional textual hinting in the messages that scroll up as you click on things, yet only those who can effectively read Japanese will get much help there (a question mark or exclamation point can only tell so much!)

You may need to rely more on inference for some of Escape from the Reddish Room's puzzles although the indicators are very much there in all but one case. Then it is flawed in a more disappointing sense—everything flows very smoothly and logically until a single moment when a very significant area on a certain important object is easily overlooked. This genuine pixel hunt could be a game killer for some. So for those of you reading this before beginning, just be prepared for that particular bump in the road and you'll find this a very fun little escape. Making the most of its environment, Escape from the Reddish Room presents clues and puzzles in a way that makes spending time here as enjoyable as getting out.

Play Escape from the Reddish Room


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Rating: 4.1/5 (92 votes)
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TrickyMobil 1 Racing AcademyGentleplayers, start your engines, and get ready for the green flag to wave! It's time to learn to race like a champ, as some of the best in the biz steer you from rookie driver to pro as you face off against a field of challengers, and, perhaps, learn a little about proper engine maintenance. 4T2 Multimedia and Mobil 1 present Mobil 1 Racing Academy, brought to you by Mobil 1: A Mobil 1 Production.

At the start, you select your mentor, either British Formula One Champ Lewis Hamilton or NASCAR driver Tony Stewart. You can switch between the two mentors by clicking the garage door. Each mentor has three courses in his class's progression: Hamilton with Go-Karts, British Formula 3 and Grand Prix, and Stewart with Midget Cars, Open Wheel, and NASCAR. Once in the race, you will accelerate, brake and turn with the [arrow keys]. As you accelerate uninterrupted, over time, your Boost Gauge will light up. When lit, hit [spacebar] to activate it, and get an extra jump of speed. Winning races gives you points to upgrade your cars, unlocks new tracks, and drives you ever higher in the worldwide standings.

Note: While the game is fully playable without it, saving your progress, ranking your race times, and some customization options do require a login.

Okay, so Mobil 1 Racing Academy isn't exactly subtle about its brand loyalty. However, it's created with a loving eye towards the world of automotive racing and the technical specifications therein. Certainly the gameplay is far closer to arcade than simulation, but the physics in each of the available modes feel as they should, from the methodical bounciness of Go-Karting, to the slippery speed of the Midgets, to the high-impact maneuverability of Formula One and Stock Car. Having only two tracks for each variation means that there's more breadth than depth, but the action, while basic in nature, is fast and responsive. The in-game ads are also well implemented, which is to say that they're short, skippable (though provide a small but not unfair upgrade bonus when watched), directly relate to a product that the game's target audience would be interested in, and sweet cool cars going, like, real fast. (I'm a man of simple tastes, people.) Good racing games for the browser are comparatively rare, so when a slick production like Mobil 1 Racing Academy comes along, it's hard not to like it. All that's missing is a frothy glass of milk to chug in the winner's circle.

Play Mobil 1 Racing Academy


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Rating: 4.7/5 (132 votes)
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DoraRed RoguePacked with spurting blood, torn out hearts, and a whole mess of ambiguity, Aaron Steed and Nathan Gallardo's deliberately mystifying Red Rogue is a old-school styled roguelike you can play like an action RPG or in ye olde turn-based style. Either way, don't expect a whole lot of exposition as the game unceremoniously punts you, the titular rogue and her silent minion, into the Chaos Dungeons packed with kobolds, trolls, traps, bats, and much, much more standing in your way as you search for the Amulet of Yendor. What is this place? Who are you? Why are you so good at decapitating things and making other things explode into squishy chunks? Well, that's for the game to know and you to find out, my bloodthirsty little friend, so make sure you explore everywhere, read every bit of wall scribbles, and experiment with everything.

Move with the [WASD] or [arrow] keys, hit up to get items, down to go through doors or drop through ledges, and [spacebar] to open your in-game menu. From there, you can equip or enchant items for both you and your minion, sleep to regain health, search for or disarm traps, chow down hearts, and view any information you've gathered. Attacking is as simple as walking into an enemy, and your minion will move and fight on his own. The big bar in the bottom left corner represents your health, while the three smaller ones beside it are (in descending order) your minion's health, your experience to level up, and your action timer. Don't get too cocky, since death is permanent, and the layout of every level is different not only on every playthrough, but whenever you go up or down stairs... even to a place you've already cleared. Survival depends not only on learning the unspoken tricks of the game, like falling on an enemy to temporarily stun them, but also in figuring out how best to use the runes you find. And, uh. How to make... faces, and what the effects of equipping each one are. Aside from, you know. Nightmares about wearing faces.

If you don't like trial-and-error, you're not going to like Red Rogue, since the game doesn't so much avoid hand-holding as it does shove you down and take your lunch money for even suggesting it. A big part of the game's appeal if just how much you have to figure out on your own, and once you start doing so, it's really surprising just how much story there is, and how much more complex the game can be from its simple presentation. You just have to be willing to get your nose bloodied a bit in the process. If that sounds too frustrating to you and you already don't like roguelikes, Red Rogue might not exactly fill you with the warm fuzzies. For the rest of us who enjoy a good creepy dungeon crawl with tons of secrets, splatters, and one seriously stellar soundtrack, Red Rogue is a great date for an afternoon.

Play Red Rogue

WindowsWindows:
Get the free full version

Mac OS XMac OS X:
Get the free full version

LinuxLinux:
Get the free full version

Thanks to Kh for sending this one in!


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Rating: 4.4/5 (63 votes)
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DoraLiquid Measure 3THE BLUE MUST FLOW. Smart Code serves up another installment in their fluid puzzle series with Liquid Measure 3, where the goal is as simple in concept yet tricky to pull off as ever. Just get the required units of fluid from one container into all the others in each level, using pipes, splitters, overflow, and more. Drag the flashing containers and pieces around to where you want them, then flip the start/stop switch on the right side of the screen to see if your solution gets every drop where it's supposed to be, without causing an overflow. So far so standard, right? Well, what about teleporters? Magical mathematical multipliers? Even... uh... anti-matter bombs? Hmm. Look, I uh. I'm not saying I doubt your word that you're a plumber or anything, but can I see those credentials again?

Though Liquid Measure 3 doesn't do anything drastically different from its predecessors, in a time where games are sort of married to the concept of becoming more and more gimmicky in an attempt to innovate it's always great to see a game that proves a clever mind can make a simple concept just as engaging and challenging. While the last few levels here are absolutely bonkers and the game likes to trick you from time to time by giving you more pieces than you actually need, it's the sort of game that's just challenging enough to keep your brain working with math and water flow for a while. The downside is that some of the elements are annoyingly fiddly as to how they'll accept water (with a pipe or free-flowing?) and if you haven't played the original games, you're not going to know what an overflow tank is or how it works when it pops up. The teleporters and bombs add an interesting new wrinkle, but they're not actually used as much as the multipliers and standard splitters are. In a way, that's a good thing, since Liquid Measure is at its best when its tricking you up with simple math and a maze of pipes. You probably won't learn how to do your own plumbing through playing this, at least not in any way that wouldn't result in needing to make an emergency phone call to an actual plumber immediately afterwards, but Liquid Measure 3 is a fun puzzle experience that knows what it does best and how to deliver.

Play Liquid Measure 3

Thanks to Roland for sending this one in!


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The Vault

DoraGRR! RAAAAH! GNNNNAAAAAHNNN! *stomp stomp stomp* RooooOOOOOoooAAAR! LUTEFISK! RAAAAAARRR!**

**Translated from Rampage-ese You know what always gets the old blood pumping? A little bit of CARNAGE! This week's Vault features from of our favourite rip-roaring, red-knuckled games of action, fisticuffs, and raw power! I hope you're not wearing your favourite shirt, because after these babies you're going to rip it right off!

  • Double EdgedDouble Edged - You may not typically think of carnage when you think of vibrant, colourful Nitrome, but this side-scrolling hack-and-slasher will change all that in a big way. You'll duke it out against the enemy legions and some seriously challenging bosses, which may sound like every other action game under the sun, but I think it's safe to say that few of those games will let you buldgeon your enemies to death with an unconscious chicken, ride a furious tiger through your foes, and even chuck a boar straight into another dude's face. Despite its short length and relative simplicity, Double Edged earns points big time for reminding us that brawlers don't need blood spurting everywhere to be immensely fun and entertaining.
  • Vox Populi, Vox Dei (A Werewolf Thriller)Vox Populi, Vox Dei (A Werewolf Thriller) - Pablo Weremczuk's insanely over-the-top action platformer is one of those games that seems ordinary at first glance, but quickly takes a nosedive into Bananasville right around the time you tackle your first werewolf off a rooftop. The game is short, but extremely violent in a "Wow... wow... WOW" sort of way that can leave you a little bit stunned. The goal here is to rescue a girl who's been kidnapped by werewolves, but fortunately you're the raddest ninja around! Though lacking in replay value and a whole lot of challenge, it's a tremendously entertaining spectacle that will leave you feeling so tough-as-nails even Deadpool would think twice about tangling with you.
  • All We Need is BrainAll We Need is Brain - Last but not least, a game so horrifying, so soul-crushingly violent... we couldn't show it to you, so here's a game about luring zombies to their doom with rotting brains instead. Classing up its morbid subject matter with charming visuals and nasty traps, VladG's puzzler has you plunking brains around the screen so that the delicious, fetid aroma lures the undead from their graves... and into a more permanent one! It's simple, it's silly, it's all the joy of destroying the zombie horde without actually getting your hands dirty. You know. Apart from carrying all those brains around. Ugh. Where did you get them anyway? Wipe down everything you touched before you leave!

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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Finger Hoola

JohnBSo, this exists: PlantPot's Finger Hoola, a simple arcade game where you do exactly what the title suggests! It's not code for nose picking or anything strange, you just place a finger on the screen and play a game of two dimensional hula hoop. Weird, right? Strangely fun, and with a nice ambient score and abstract backdrop to soothe your eyes and ears. Who knew drawing tiny little circles on the screen would translate into such a great game?

Finger HoolaIn the center of Finger Hoola's screen is a vertical bar divided into a number of small sections. These sections occasionally light up with a music note, beckoning the horizontal marker you control to come and pay a visit for a few seconds. By hulaing faster or slower you can move this bar up or down, the goal being to move it to each lit section in turn. Keep it between the lines while the rectangle fills and you'll activate the next one. Activate them all before time runs out and you'll move on to the next stage.

There are a good 70 or so levels to complete in Finger Hoola, and the difficulty smoothly rises with each stage. Later on you'll run across smaller bars with larger timers that require more precise hula expertise to hit. It's all tied together with a lovely little audio visual package that's as relaxing as can be. Even though it's such a simple game, it's a unique concept that's presented with a nice artistic flair. Perfect for quick pick up and play sessions when you want everybody in the room to think you've gone mad!

NOTE: This game was played and reviewed on the 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.

CP6


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Rating: 4/5 (68 votes)
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TrickyCP6It's been a rough day for CP6, the pixelly titular star of Gametron Studios' new platform game. For a long time, he had a nice steady job as Dot #428 in a Pac-Man rom hack, but when the user sent his game to the recycling bin, he had barely enough time to transfer his data to a forbidden sector of the system's RAM. And so begins his journey to the safe-haven of Back-Up, travelling through code from a vast array of programs, trying to stay one step ahead of the Garbage Collector, and hoping against hope that the user won't decide to randomly shut down. CP6 is a knee-less sprite, though, so he'll have to rely on the functions of the platforms around him to make up for his lack of jump-age. It won't be easy, but if he can collect enough access tokens, he'll be in safe mode in no time.

Use the [arrow] keys to move CP6 back and forth. He cannot jump, so you will have to plan your moves with that in mind. However, coming into contact with different colors of blocks will affect CP6 in various ways. He'll start to shrink while resting on Red platforms (which will allow him to duck under low over-hangs, but too much and he'll shrink to death), Orange platforms will bounce him up like a trampoline, Dark Blue platforms are instant death and so forth. In addition to the usual goal of finding the exit, there are three I/O access chips to collect in each level. Grabbing them will require some skillful platforming, but the more chips you collect, the more sectors will be unlocked. If you get stuck, each level can be restarted with a hit of the [R] key.

Note: Currently only the first three sectors of CP6 can be unlocked, for 27 levels in all. The developers have said that remaining three will be made available as the number of people who've played the game and give useful feedback increases. It's a bold idea that will either grant much-needed publicity to a little-known Colombian game developer, or else backfire spectacularly. Or even a little of both.

CP6's has a sneaky level of difficulty to it, so it's a good thing that it's so engaging. The developers use the best of their self-imposed limited color pallet to create some really evocative 4-bit art, making levels that play like Picross solutions come to life. The addition of new colors of platforms in each sector allows level complexity to build right alongside the expansion of the visuals, building to a nice crescendo as the game progresses. Throw in a score of retro gaming references both classic and modern, and a lovable little blip of a protagonist, and you've got a sweet little debut release. Later levels could be a little less stingy with the checkpoints, but CP6 has addictiveness to balance out its frustrations, and the result is retroriffic.

Play CP6


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Rating: 4.1/5 (53 votes)
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KimberlyPirate PatAh, the open sea. The sun on your face, the smell of salt in your nose, the sound of cannons blasting your rival's ship to pieces. The life of a pirate must be grand. Pirate Pat, however, is not satisfied with the mundane life on a ship that sails across the top of the water. Instead he decides to search beneath the waves for the treasures of Atlantis in his submarine. In Pirate Pat and The Treasure of Atlantis, a charming action puzzler by 3Robots, Pat is determined to find his fortune under water, if only you will help.

Using the [arrow] keys, guide the submarine through the water to collect coins and treasure chests, while avoiding obstacles and solving a few puzzles along the way. Your ultimate goal is to find the Crown of Atlantis. Beware! Giant jellyfish roam these waters, and if you bump in to one of them, you'll drop your booty! Exploration is a large part of the fun, so leave no cave unexplored if you want to find all of the treasure chests. Chests hold armor pieces which you need to collect in order to get all the achievements. While not too challenging, Pirate Pat's wonderful artwork and music round things out to provide a very enjoyable gaming experience. And let's face it. Who can resist a pirate in a submarine?

Play Pirate Pat


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Color Alchemy

JohnBColor Alchemy is a sparsely-styled mobile puzzle game from Element Modulus that challenges your ability to mix, split and alter beams of color. By dragging paths and adding special tiles to manipulate colors, you'll create some complex scenes that look like a truck carrying rainbows crashed into a Skittles factory. Just, you know, not as tragic. And with loads of levels and some painfully mind-bending puzzles, you've definitely got your work cut out for you.

coloralchemy.jpgManipulating colors involves placing things like splitters, spinners, and mixers, all of which transform the beams of color in various ways. Got a red emitter and green receiver on the screen? Run that baby through the complement tile to transform it. Things get delightfully complex when you start dividing and copying beams and knocking their shade around the spectrum chart a few times before hitting the receiver. And just in case you aren't an art major, two quick help screens are always available from the bottom menu showing you a color spectrum and hints on how the transformers work.

Color Alchemy wins points for keeping things simple and straightforward. Adding and removing paths or transformers is as simple as tapping the screen, and it's a quick affair to start or stop the emitters to make adjustments. The game features over 400 levels to complete, and while the boast is technically true, the vast majority of those feel like machine-generated filler. Even taking that into account, though, there's still a good 100 or so levels that will offer lots of challenge.

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.


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Mobile Monday

JohnBA pocket-sized family, one of the world's most ambitious RPGs stuffed into a smaller package, and a remade Final Fantasy game worming its way into the mobile market. It's all kind of amazing until you realize we're living in the super-futuristic year of 2012!

vf2-p.gifVirtual Families in ur poket LOL - Just in case you missed it, Last Day of Work released a sequel to Virtual Families over the weekend, and for the time being it just happens to be a mobile exclusive! Virtual Families 2: Our Dream House pulls in the same casual simulation gameplay we've grown to adore from the Virtual Villagers company, allowing you to manage and customize your family's life and home in so many neat ways. Virtual Families 2 gives you a lot more control compared to the original, and the touch screen controls are a natural fit!

bgee-p.gifBaldur's Gate Enhanced finally goes mobile - A very long time in the making, Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition finally made its way to the Windows platform earlier this month. And now it's available for iPad, too! A remake and update of the classic RPG Baldur's Gate, expect more of the same gameplay and storylines from the original, only, you know, enhanced. And with more characters, more content, and complete touch screen integration, of course. We liked the game so much we even forced Dora to review it, so you know it's gotta be good!

ff4-p.gifFinal Fantasy more! - So, another Final Fantasy game is coming to iOS this year. Final Fantasy 4 (the 3D Nintendo DS remake version) has just been confirmed for a simultaneous iPhone and iPad release on December 20. The Android version is expected sometime in 2013.
While we may not be a fan of the Square Enix pricing structure, we are fans of Final Fantasy, and since this port was surprisingly well done, complete with bonus content and a fresh translation, it makes it a little more appealing.

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: 4.5/5 (70 votes)
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DoraCyadonia 2Genre as old as time, still not past its prime, sliding-block puuuuuh-zlllleeeesss! Eh? Eh? I shoulda been on stage! But right now the spotlight is on James Newcombe's Cyadonia 2, the next installment in the bewitching series that adds new twists and turns to the a style of gameplay that rarely ever gets more than token treatment. In each stage, the goal is to get your four (or less) colourful Cyads to the exit. Once a Cyad starts moving, it doesn't stop until it hits something. Move with the [arrow] keys, switch between them with [tab] or [X], [R] to restart when/if you get stuck. There are 150 stages in all, fifteen broken up into ten different categories, and you can play them in whatever order you like. Sounds easy, right? Oh, but that's what it wants you to think. Though the game eases you in nice and gentle-like, even giving you a handful of simple tutorial levels and some water-wings, letting you paddle around until you get confident... it's a trap!

See, Cyadonia 2 isn't a one trick pony, and like its devilishly clever predecessors, will put more than just a wall in your way of the exit. Sometimes you'll need to collect all coloured gems to open a matching blockade. Sometimes you'll have to carefully navigate around explosive mines that will cause you to fail a level if set off! Lasers, mirrors, switches, keys, glue traps, and much, much more... and hey, who needs moderation anyway? Cyadonia 2's later levels don't think twice about piling multiple or even all of the elements into a stage, and then blowing up that stage to labyrinthine proportions beyond what will fit in a screenshot. The sprawling themed stages feel like a special treat, from the haunted house to the gardens, but more often than not, it can be the deceptively simple looking small stages that can hang you up for a long time. The game offers a huge spectrum of challenge, from the light to the devastatingly complex, and the latter require some serious planning. And a compass. Maybe a walkie-talkie. And some tissues to cry into when you realise you've been staring at the same screen for twenty minutes without any progress.

Be one of the first 5 people to complete the game and win a Cyadonia 2 mouse mat and key ring. Details at James Newcombe's Cyadonia site.

It's this, combined with the huge array of elements, that turns what is typically either a simple minigame in other titles or a straight-forward, no-frills game of its own into something really special and engrossing. Though you can play the levels in whatever order you like, you're probably going to want to play at least the first few tutorial stages of each new gameplay addition or you're going to have no idea what all the little symbols represent and how they work. In a similar vein, the some stages just have so much going on in them that they feel cluttered and imposing in a way that may immediately make players looking for more elegant simplicity back off to other levels in a hurry. However, James' eye for puzzle design and his ability to include every last possible puzzle element into his game makes Cyadonia 2 both a challenge and a real pleasure for anyone who enjoys slow, thoughtful gameplay without a lot of pressure. Though Cyadonia 2 lacks much drastically different than its predecessor, the sheer number of new, cunningly planned stages on offer is enough to keep you involved for a long, long time and are remarkable for the thought they must have taken in their own right. What are you waiting for? The Cyadonia has been doubled!

Play Cyadonia 2


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Phantasmat: Crucible Peak

DoraHey, you know what's a good time? Spending a lot of money to hurtle down a remote mountain slope in the freezing cold! Your indulgence in this mystifying pastime somewhat predictably ends poorly, however, when you trigger an avalanche that leaves you stranded, cold and alone, miles from civilization with only an obnoxious fat woodland animal to keep you company. At least, until you stumble across an isolated mountain resort with helpful guests. In fact, one might say, suspiciously helpful... ERS Game Studio takes the reins from Codeminion for the hidden-object horror adventure Phantasmat: Crucible Peak, the loose sequel to the original Phantasmat.

Phantasmat: Crucible PeakLuckily for you, you've got the skills needed to escape this chilly deathtrap, and those skills include clicking things, solving puzzles, rooting through hidden-object scenes, and having cryptic visions. You'll gather a variety of items as you explore and discover clues about this remote, lonely locale and its odd inhabitants. Like its predecessor, Crucible Peak also has an optional match-3 mode, which can be enabled on any hidden-object scene, and allows you to swap icons around to gather eyes that instantly root out items on your list. The difficulty for the match-3 games ramps up as you go along, with frozen blocks impeding your progress, but you can earn items like knives and explosives that will clear away certain icons and allow you to proceed. But speaking of progress, isn't it strange that you find your efforts to rescue everyone seem to keep getting thwarted? Isn't it mysteeeeeerious how the very people who insist they want to help you never lift a finger to do so and keep making charming Freudian slips about how you'll never leave? If a group of people blissfully living in the hollowed remains of a ski resort surrounded by the decades-old devastation of an avalanche doesn't set off a red flag or two, you can expect your Darwin award in the mail shortly.

Phantasmat: Crucible PeakAnalysis: Crucible Peak is one of those games that just sort of comes across as effortlessly gorgeous. ERS's method of animating their lovely character artwork has really come a long way from its nightmare-inducing beginnings in earlier games, and the characters here are fluid and expressive, complete with solid voice acting. The scaling difficulty and more puzzle-like aspects of the match-3 sequences make them much more fun and engaging than before, and being able to switch modes on the fly means you'll never find yourself stuck, which is welcome when the scenes start repeating halfway through the game. Though the puzzles themselves still aren't very difficult, their colourful presentations and creative efforts to deliver something different are still appreciated... especially if you've spent a lot of time playing the same puzzle types in hidden-object adventures over and over. You know. Like if you reviewed these things for a living, and one more "use the newspaper to catch the key on the other side of the door" puzzle is just going to push you right over the edge and turn you into some elaborate, oddly specific mastermind who only kidnaps developers and forces them to run a deadly maze of game-cliches for your own twisted amusement! Ahah. Ahahaha. AHAHAHA!... whoa. Uh. Sorry. Went to... a place there for a moment.

While ERS can always be counted on as reliable developers who do quality work, however, the change in management is noticeable and somewhat jarring if you're a fan of the original game. Where Phantasmat was a game structured around its core mystery and characters, Crucible Peak feels more like a story trying to work around your typical adventure gameplay. Taken on its own merits the game is actually really enjoyable, but it's that its visibly different in style and focus so that fans of the original hoping for more of what they enjoyed will be put off. That's not to say you won't enjoy it, however, since though slow to start, the game does a good job doling out cutscenes and frosty interactions to keep you interested even if you'll probably figure out early on what's happening and why.

Though a different beast from the original Phantasmat in many ways, Crucible Peak is still a gorgeous, engrossing adventure. The main game will take most players around four hours, more or less depending on their difficulty level and the puzzles they skip, with another hour for the bonus chapter. Apart from one or two cringe-worthy scenes and a veritable smorgasbord of frozen corpses, Crucible Peak is actually fairly creepy-lite, and any fan of stunningly visualised supernatural mysteries will want to give the demo for this one a try. It does sort of make me want to have a talk with the developers on pet care, though, because according to one puzzle that has you match up animals with the food they eat, cats eat... yarn. Oh well. Can't win 'em all.

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

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

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


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Rating: 4.5/5 (309 votes)
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Virtual Families 2: Our Dream House

GrinnypLast Day of Work loves virtual sims. I mean seriously loves them, at least according to their lead designer. And, well, their product line, which includes the massively popular Virtual Villagers series. For those of us who love messing with the lives of little virtual people without all that faffing about on an island, Last Day of Work created Virtual Families, a game that features all the animated people without all the exploding volcanoes. Now they've come out with a sequel to that fabulous game, Virtual Families 2: Our Dream House, which deepens the gameplay of the original in new and interesting ways!

grinnyp_vf2_screenshot1.pngVirtual Families 2 begins, as many families do, with a single person and a place to live. Once you've chosen a character to start things with, your next goal is to get them working, marry them off, encourage a few children to spring along, and help take care of the wreck of a place the family calls home. Each person has their own individual looks and personality, and careful consideration of their quirks is the first big decision that you need to make in the game. Folks that don't want children, for instance, can be difficult to persuade to produce the next generation, which is pretty important if you want to keep the game going.

The house itself comes with only four usable rooms, everywhere else is a toxic wasteland, a critter cavern, or just a burned-out wreck that needs time and money (or know-how) to fix it up. The house (and surrounding yard) are also littered with, well, litter. Lots of effort is needed at first to make part of the house clean and inhabitable, and as the game goes on you can eventually renovate rooms until your little folks are living in their dream house.

grinnyp_vf2_screenshot2.pngMoney can be earned by the adult family members as they work at their careers. Money also comes in as a reward for each trophy you gain, for completing a tutorial task, or with e-mail as a random event. Use the coins to buy food for your family so they don't starve, and the upgrades needed to make the house more habitable or their jobs easier. As your little folks get on with their lives you can affect their habits and their environments in a variety of ways from conditioning them to perform certain tasks to buying them upgrades for their workspaces or leisure. Each family is unique and a product of your imagination and the various upgrades available to affect their behavior and living conditions. As long as the next generation shows up your family can keep going in an endless cycle of birth, life, and death, providing countless hours of entertainment.

Analysis: The original Virtual Families was fun but rather limited in an important aspect of the game: the environment. Most of the rooms had a specific and fixed purpose, and even though the characters themselves were varied, the living space remained stagnant most of the time. Virtual Families 2 fixes this problem with movable furniture and room renovations that can become anything your imagination can conjure. Kids' rooms can even be repurposed once they grow up and move out, allowing you to set up that media room you always wanted.

grinnyp_vf2_screenshot3.pngThere are also new and improved ways to interact with your characters, such as upgrades that help advance their careers or re-train them in an entirely different field. New collectibles will appear in the yard and there are new trophies to earn, new jobs for your little folks, and a ton of furnishings and accessories that can be purchased in the store, which has gone from a single screen place that sold groceries, medicines, and the occasional other item to a multi-screen bonanza that covers furnishings, appliances, food, medicine, behaviors, decorations, renovations, and much, much more.

The touch-screen controls are easy to master and are tucked conveniently at the bottom of the screen. Furniture and other movable items are controlled by a handy drop down decorate bar where things will first appear when bought. Items can be moved from the decorate cells to the house or vice versa for easy movement and storage. Items when first placed in the house have little arrows that allow for rotation to orient each item as needed.

Last Day of Work also promises regular upgrades with new add-ons such as pets, new puzzles to solve, new storylines and events, and new items in the already massive store. Although the promise of the upgrades whets the appetite, there is already enough content to keep you busy for quite a while attempting to build your dynasty of simulated people. The game runs in real time which means events are happening even when the game is off (unless you've put the game into pause mode which freezes time).

By overhauling the environmental aspect of the game Last Day of Work has taken an already successful formula and vastly improved the gameplay while keeping the entertainment of the first game intact. Be prepared for some major time suckage as you get caught up in the lives of your little sims and have fun directing their lives!

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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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Cryptic Caverns

JohnBLooking for a little extra adventure in your mobile gaming life? 3D Methods has released another casual point-and-click title that follows the layout of The Haunt, Forever Lost, and the game's own spiritual companion, Cryptic Kingdoms. Instead of rattling about in a surreal fantasy world, though, Cryptic Caverns drops you in a dark and dreary island filled with an intriguing backstory and more than a few ancient mysteries to stumble across.

crypticcaverns.jpgOk, let's take an inventory of what's going on here. You're shipwrecked on an abandoned island. There's a crazy dude rocking back and forth in a cabin in the woods. You keep hearing stories about how there used to be an entire civilization on this hunk of land. And now, it's just you and some forgotten relics. Since you've got nothing better to do than wander around, picking up the odd item and solving puzzles, might as well have at it! Using the touch screen, simply tap where you want to go, tap to zoom in to certain areas, and tap to grab/use inventory items.

The layout of Cryptic Caverns is very similar to Cryptic Kingdoms, providing you with a "back" button to retrace your steps and keeping your movements confined to fairly small sections at a time. Expect a couple of hours of gameplay filled with puzzles that require logical but not necessarily easy to figure out problem solving abilities. There are a few irritating load screens that will make you roll your eyes like the spoiled modern gamers we are, but otherwise it's a lightly flavored and wholly satisfying casual adventure experience well-suited for success on your mobile device!

NOTE: This game was played and reviewed on the 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.


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Rating: 3.8/5 (41 votes)
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MeaghanPaint WorldFor the paint blobs that don't end up being on the brush side of an artist's ambitions there is a world of peace and harmony that they are able to be happy in. Sadly, even life for a paint blob is dangerous and in Paint World, a physics puzzler game by Vadim Pecherskiy, their haven has been so drastically harmed that you need to help bring the paint back together. Help the paint blobs join their matching colored friends by clicking on the colored blob and aiming it towards its buddy. Gray blobs will have to be shot through color smears on the screen before being able to reassemble. The faster and fewer shots you make will give you a higher score at the end of each level, which happens when all your blobs have been happily paired up.

For such a simple game Paint World is visually lush with the black backdrop teamed up with the bright shocks of color. As a treat after the completion of each stage you will get a charming cut scene to keep you up to date on the conflict of the poor paint blobs. The addition of the coins later on appears to be for an added difficulty because you can't complete a level without having collected all coins. Though the game isn't overly difficult that doesn't mean it's not still a great warm up for your brain, and it's also kid friendly making it a wonderful distraction method in case you need a break from family time.

Play Paint World


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Rating: 4.5/5 (31 votes)
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Phantasmaburbia

coryI've got a confession to make: I'm actually an android. That's right, I'm not human at all — I'm a human-like robot programmed solely to write reviews. It's not the easiest existence, but I can afford oil and a recharging station with a little honest work. That's more than you can say for the down-on-their-luck robotic protagonists of Primordia, a new adventure game developed by Wormwood Studios and published by Wadjet Eye Games, the adventure mavens who brought classics like Emerald City Confidential, Gemini Rue and Resonance.

PrimordiaAs Horatio Nullbuilt Version Five, you and your floating spherical partner Crispin Horatiobuilt need to explore a post-apocalyptic world while searching for your stolen power core. Along the way you'll encounter plenty of other robots both good and bad, but not the mythical Man, the original builders who vanished from the world in ages past. Maybe you'll even find out what happened to them during your search... assuming you don't end up in the scrap heap!

You control Horatio with the mouse and little else. You'll talk to fellow robots to dig up clues using a dialogue tree and, true to the adventure genre, you'll also need to collect items to use and combine from your inventory. You also have a Datapouch, a handy-dandy map/diary/notepad system that allows you to take notes and fast travel between locations to minimize the pain of backtracking. Finally, your most useful tool might actually be your partner Crispin, who can be used like an inventory item to solve puzzles or offer hints in a manner reminiscent of the Lucasarts classic Sam and Max Hit the Road.

Also like the Lucasarts games, there's no death or failure state in Primordia. You're free to explore and experiment without fear of getting destroyed for being curious, though it might still behoove you to keep multiple save slots in case you want to play around with alternate puzzle solutions.

PrimordiaAnalysis: Like many other Wadjet Eye-published games, Primordia is essentially a love letter to adventure games of decades past. In this case, the clear inspiration is the aforementioned Sam and Max Hit the Road. Horatio and Crispin, like the dog and rabbity-thing protagonist of that title, serve as a straight man and comic relief duo when it comes to their commentary. They've got tons of personality and spice up the game quite a bit, which otherwise would be fairly bleak and dreary. The setting and backstory are post-apocalyptic, after all, and this theme is conveyed by the fantastic setting art and music. It's hardly a spoiler to say that the tone becomes more serious toward the end of the game but the characters are endearing enough to keep things entertaining all the way to the end.

As adventure games go, Primordia is fairly simple to work through, as there aren't any instances of bizarre game logic when it comes to puzzles, and if you're stuck for too long in one place you can always ask Crispin for hints... if he doesn't just pipe up and offer them himself! One unique feature is that several puzzles have alternate solutions available, which offers a bit of replay value. Primordia is also a fairly short game, clocking in at perhaps five hours, though there are multiple endings to uncover. The length is hardly a strike against the game, however, as the story is told remarkably well and without any instances of padding out the length with needless backtracking and nonsensical puzzles.

Primordia's a great choice for fans of the genre, and those new to adventure games should be pleased with the moderate difficulty, ample guidance and intriguing plot. It's certainly a visual and aural tour-de-force that's easy to recommend. Humans, cyborgs and androids alike are bound to find something to enjoy here.

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

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


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vertigo.gifJohnBWant a simple game with simple graphics that will twist your head in a dozen different directions? Try Vertigo, a tough puzzle platformer from Ketone Games that utilizes just about every gravity and screen-altering element you can think of to bend your brain out of shape. You're limited to walking and jumping in this minimalist game, and your only goal is to make it to the exclamation mark exit. And how do you get there, seeing as it's glued to the ceiling far higher than you could ever hope to jump? Easy, you just mess with physics and screen scrolling!

Signs marked with arrows serve as gameplay-altering triggers in Vertigo. Some simply change the direction gravity pulls you, which is easy enough to understand (but not as easy to move around in). Others either unlock or lock screen scrolling, which can open up new pathways or allow you to pass through the edges of the screen to appear on the other side. What happens when you combine all of that with intricate maps, invisible blocks, walls, keys, and other traps? A headache, that's what you have. But a wonderful one that you'll be so eager to work through that you won't care you're barely making progress. Vertigo is one of those simply made but supremely devilish games that we love to get angry at!

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(9 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Christmas Stories: Nutcracker

MeaghanDo you hear that? The blaring French horns, the whimsical harps, the frenzied violins, the passion! You can't possibly tell me you don't hear the delightful melody of Waltz of the Snowflakes by Tchaikovsky! Fine then, we'll get you into the holiday spirit a different way. With the release of Elephant Games new holiday themed hidden object puzzle adventure game Christmas Stories: Nutcracker, you'll be hard pressed not to feel the jovial ho ho ho chortle trying to escape your lips. Seriously, soon you'll be wearing a gaudy candy cane themed sweater, a reindeer antler headband, and sticking bows on every inch of your body.

Christmas Stories: NutcrackerHere's the thing: this isn't your normal Christmas tale. Clara isn't about to be whisked away to a magical land by the Nutcracker where he'll inevitably battle off with the Rat King. No, this time Clara is going to be the one helping the poor Prince defeat that wretched royal rodent rapscallion. As the doe eyed heroine you will travel through the mansion and several winter land scenes to help the Nutcracker find his beloved princess, thwart the machinations of his enemy, and make sure that presents are had by all.

Like any adored hidden object game there are difficulties to pick from in order to provide you, the player, with the utmost brain stimulation. You'll be able to choose from casual, advanced, and hardcore which upon choosing will affect the recharge rate of your hint and skip buttons as well as determine whether you have sparkles to help locate interactive areas. To assist your heroine in her attempt to help the Nutcracker you will have the aid of three companions: the Nutcracker himself, a slightly melted candle (reminiscent of Lumier from Beauty and the Beast), and a very fluffy kitty who is ready to be as good a rat hunter as his father. As if that weren't enough the game also assists your play with a jump map that will show you areas that require your attention which comes in handy quite often. If that still isn't enough to keep you bloated with gamer joy there are also achievements that can be earned and twenty five dolls hidden through the game that need to be located.

Christmas Stories: NutcrackerAnalysis: I would be lying if I said this game is anything less than phenomenal. The scenes alone are a banquet of gorgeous colors for your eyes to feast upon without limit. The story has a creative twist upon an age old classic that not only has you cheering for the Nutcracker but also sympathizing for the Rat King who isn't quite the villain he's always portrayed as. In some scenes the cursor can feel a bit sluggish and having to scroll through to reach the companion you want can feel more like a chore than one might prefer. Still, these are minor inconveniences that don't ever pop up often enough to halt you in your tracks from annoyance.

Truly, Elephant Games knows how to deliver a game that any fan can enjoy. Boasting over four hours of gameplay may not seem like much, but you'll easily find yourself mesmerized by the lush details for each scene, and that's not even including the bonus game play you can enjoy if you take the leap and get the Collector's Edition. To sprinkle on some extra awesome, the game also includes a few songs from the actual Nutcracker soundtrack that appear most frequently in the generous cut scenes that are littered throughout like tiny presents waiting to be found. Whether you're a Grinch or a walking advertisement for the holiday itself, Christmas Stories: Nutcracker will appeal to anyone who has an insatiable appetite for beauty and adventure.

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


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Rating: 4.4/5 (75 votes)
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elleOfurooobaTo be perfectly honest, I never really know what to think of Detarou, and not for lack of trying. Who can? A new word needs to be invented to describe this escape game designer's particular style because "weird" simply isn't saying enough. When it comes to Detarou-odd, OFUROooBa is a brand new category of "Ewww, really?" There's no need to cramp your brain analyzing it, though. Just play and leave all that mental power to figuring out the solutions to the shrewd puzzles which bar your escape from this loony scenario.

In this case, you're locked in a bathhouse with a number of, um, out-of-the-ordinary characters. Aided by a changing cursor, explore your surroundings by clicking on anything that looks deserving of a second look and following the arrows to navigate. Items you pick up will be stored in the handy dandy sidebar inventory where you can click to use or double-click to examine them in detail. Remember to use diligence in your investigations; clues and puzzles lurk everywhere, even where you wouldn't ordinarily look. Just be careful where you go poking around—a certain mischievous panda wants to make certain you discover each of the three endings, one sooner rather than later, so use the "Save" function often.

Please also be aware that many might find scenes in OFUROooBa entirely inappropriate, so go in well prepared for the aftermath as your eyes may want ice cream and a lot of gentle reassurances after this. Other side effects warning: some players may experience fits of laughter, brain cramps, nausea, and might never be able to look at the color green again!

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Rating: 4.7/5 (203 votes)
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Kimberlykimberly_incursion.pngWill evil never learn? Sure, maybe this time you've got wyverns and soulsuckers, but that doesn't mean you will prevail. Because we've got lightning masters and doomhammers. So come on, it's not even going to be a fair fight! Use your wide variety of troops strategically to fight wave after wave of monsters in Incursion, a tower defense game from Booblyc. It's up to you to cleanse the land of this ominous threat!

Imagine Kingdom Rush, but with only barracks to place, and you've got an idea of what to expect from Incursion. These barracks, however, are fully customizable. Use your mouse to place a tower and you'll have three basic types of units at your command: soldiers, archers, and wizards. Up to three units can reside in each of your towers. Any three. It doesn't have to be all of one type. If it suits your strategy to have two wizards and one soldier, go for it! You don't have to fill each barracks, but once you do, you can begin to upgrade the troops housed there. As you progress, an upgrade tree becomes available, giving you even more customization for your strategy. Your wizards can slow enemies or use chain lightning, for example, or archers can upgrade to mortars with splash damage. You earn gems for each level you pass, which allows you to upgrade your army's general stats such as attack range and cost to train.

It's important to select a waylay point for your troops to gather. The nice thing is it doesn't have to be on the road. So you can stick your archers in a beautiful meadow and let them spray their arrows onto the enemies from afar. You can always move the point as strategy demands. There are six different spells that randomly drop from enemies, ranging from freezing the enemy in place to lighting them on fire. These can be very helpful in a pinch, so use them wisely. Each is assigned a hotkey, or you can click them with your mouse.

It's impossible not to compare Incursion to Kingdom Rush, where Booblyc obviously drew inspiration. The look and feel is very similar, as well as the gameplay. That's not to say it's a complete clone. It's a refreshing change to have a bit more micromanagement in a tower defense game. At the same time, it's not so much management that it bogs the game down. The upgrades are extensive, and it's often not the best strategy to upgrade all your units all the way. This gives you numerous combinations to try and many possibly ways to beat a level. While not as hopelessly addicting as Kingdom Rush, Incursion is nevertheless a stellar game that will suck minutes if not hours of your afternoon away.

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Link Dump Fridays

DoraNow, you might not think ponies, trans-dimensional monsters, and death-dealing chefs go together, but you'd be wrong, sucker! This week, a project evades death with some clever reimagining, friendship and nightmares await you in Ponyville, a team of indies delivers one huge pay-what-you-want deal, and more.

Huntsman: The OrphanageSorry Kids, Still Too Freaky Just a few months after we initially featured it, Slenderman Stories: The Orphanage, an indie horror adventure work-in-progress by the ShadowShifters and bound for Steam's Greenlight service, hit a major roadblock when the rights to the "Slender Man" property were sold. Rather than deal with rights and licensing issues or crumple and cry in a corner, however, ShadowShifters has risen to the challenge remarkably by rebranding their project Huntsman: The Orphanage and creating an entirely new and deliciously creepy antagonist. The Huntsman is a being that can apparently unravel time and reality around itself, pulling its victims into the darkness between worlds, and trapped within the remains of an old orphanage, you seem to be next as you race to save the soul of a boy named Charley... who happens to be your ancestor, and whose demise will mean you simply cease to exist. The new design looks fan-freakin'-tastic, and to see the developers rally to the creative challenge instead of rolling over is really inspiring. If you want to meet the Huntsman soon, keep your eyes out for a playable scene on the way, and head on over to the official site and Steam Greenlight page to learn more.

Bundle in a BoxIndies + Games + You = TOGETHER FOREVER The "pay what you want" Bundle in a Box sale is back, and that's great news for those of you who like awesome indie games, DRM free, and to support charity, the developers, and future developers to boot! Pay the minimum and get five great games, everything from real-time strategy to adventure and more, or pay above the minimum and get four more swank indie games in the process. What's neat is that Bundle in a Box has an Indie Dev Grant, where you can vote on a developer whose project you love so they can get a chance to win a chunk of the money earned by the bundle to spend on their own work. Personally, I have difficulty with these "pay what you want" deals because I get anxious over paying less than what the bundle is really worth, even if I'd be getting it for one specific game, so I end up just not getting it at all and making wistful sighs and doe-eyes at it from across a room. But with so many great games on offer here for such great causes, how can you go wrong?

Welcome to PonyvilleWhere In the Hay is Photo Finish?! Act One of Filly Gamez hugely ambitious visual novel adventure Welcome to Ponyville has been out for a while now, and while this first installment is ultimately too short and too linear to really manage an article of its own (yet!), it's definitely worth a play if you're a pony fan and sporting a Windows PC. (Sorry, Mac and Linux.) The game stars you as a male or female pony (unicorn, pegasus, or earth) just starting out in Ponyville and looking to earn a few bits as well as make a few friends. And, you know, maybe get rid of these mysterious and unsettling nightmares that have been bothering you. The game is fully voiced with some pretty remarkable talent behind it, and there are a lot of ponies to interact with... everyone from the Elements of Harmony themselves to fan-favourites like Lyra and BonBon, Doctor Whooves, and many many more. The team promises the upcoming Act Two will be longer and "more intense", but in the meantime you can get yourselves started and begin speculating as to what the meaning is behind the creepy dreams your protagonist is having!

The Last DoorHorror By The Byte A point-and-click horror adventure released in short online episodes? It could work! At least, we hope it will, because the Kickstarter page for The Last Door is some seriously swank looking stuff. Planned to be released as 15-40 minute playable "episodes", this classic-styled adventure game is about a fellow who receives a letter asking for help from an old friend, but when he arrives at the house in Sussex, it seems like something horrible is going on. Because England is so heaving with horribleness that any game set there is legally required to be a scary one. The intended format is an interesting idea. The first chapter will be free for everyone, while premium users will get new chapters before anyone else, and each time a new chapter is released, the previous one goes free to play as well. It looks and sounds particularly intriguing, but if you're the sort of person with a terminally short attention span then the concept of waiting weeks for new, short pieces of a game might not appeal. If it sounds like your cuppa, then head on over to the Kickstarter page to learn more.

The CookeningAllez Action Adventure! Everyone knows cooking is rad, therefore a game where you play a traveling warrior chef delving into dungeons for the chance to challenge the dastardly FonDoom for the OmNomNomicon has to be even radder. The Cookening, up for funding now on Kickstarter, is a quirky little 2D open-world action/adventure where, as Master Chef, you'll be doing just that, duking it out with your rolling pin and cutting board against monsters. While the classic gameplay will bring in a lot of starry-eyed nostalgics, the whimsical concept and food-filled design is the sort of perfectly silly, fun stuff that looks like it would be ideal Saturday-morning gaming. Check out the official Kickstater page to earn more, and get back to me if you figure out how to mod in Alton Brown as a playable character.

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: 3.5/5 (33 votes)
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Bunny Cannon

JohnBEver wondered where baby bunnies come from? The cuddly protagonist in La Ventanita's Bunny Cannon does, too, but since everyone tells him a different story, he needs to straighten things out. Luckily this involves nothing more playing a game of pachinko where bunnies fired from cannons multiply as soon as they come in contact with the opposite gender. It's a lot like Peggle or Coin Drop!, only so much cuter and with so many more rabbits.

Bunny CannonThe cannon at the top of the screen loads itself with blue or pink bunnies, the former being the boys and the latter the girls. You can position the cannon along the railing and then tap below to aim and fire your shot. When a cannon bunny bumps into a bunny of the opposite color/gender, two new rabbits spring forth. If those happen to come into contact with other stationary bunnies, you can well imagine the fun chaos that ensues! The goal is to fill the basket(s) at the bottom of the screen with as many rabbits as you can, sorting the colors when necessary and hoping beyond hope you don't run out of cannon fodder before they're full.

Naturally, it's never a straight shot to the bottom, and in addition to twisty terrain you'll also encounter your fair share of rolling boulders, dangerous owls, spiny briars, rotating platforms and other obstacles to get in your way. Plenty of variety over the course of 90 levels, and even though the core gameplay doesn't change much, it's still a fun, high-score-trouncing ride from beginning to end. Sorting rabbits is so much more challenging when there's a dozen of them careening around the screen at once!

Play Bunny Cannon (Flash version)

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


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Rating: 4.4/5 (98 votes)
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TrickyA Man's QuestStupid Kevin! First he calls dibs on the coolest tree in the forest. Now, this ghost thing is talking about how Kev's some sort of "Chosen One", selected by the gods to enter that nearby ominous tower and free the specters imprisoned within. You'll show him! Once you make it to the top of that tower, you'll be able to call dibs on it and Kev's stupid destiny! Oh, and uh, free the captive spirits and stuff. A Man's Quest is an HTML5 action platformer by The Drunk Devs that hearkens to yesteryear, both in terms of its retro graphics and its childlike-spirit.

Use the [arrow] keys to move and bounce Ty around the landscape and the [spacebar] to advance through dialogues. Once you've explored a little, you'll find the grip gloves, which will allow you to safely hang from platform corners. You can also move across or up and down ladders that you cling to, tapping the opposite direction to jump off, or the opposite direction and up for a higher jump. Avoid spikes and enemies to make it to the top of the tower. That'll make a man out of you! A Man's Quest quite satisfyingly captures the 8-bit spirit with its challenging but fair platforming, pixellated visuals, and spirited soundtrack. The humor in its writing is a little juvenile, but honestly so, capturing the immaturity of children without getting too cloying. The loose jump physics, while accurate to the era A Man's Quest hopes to emulate, may put some off, but the game is forgiving with its checkpoints and respawns. Clocking in at about twenty minutes, A Man's Quest is a compressed burst of nostalgic fun that's enjoyable times infinity.

For best results use Chrome or Firefox, or download the freeware version.

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Rating: 4.7/5 (89 votes)
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TrickyColor Pic-A-Pix Light Volume 2Whenever Conceptis releases a new installment of their Conceptis Light puzzle series, it's always a cause for celebration. And if you're looking for some colorful pixelated picross art as paraphernalia for your personal party, then look no further than Color Pic-A-Pix Light Volume 2.

As before, the goal is to color in a picture by correctly placing colored squares. Each puzzle consists of a grid with clue numbers of various colors on the top and to the side, and the color square placement corresponds to those clues. Use the mouse or hit the [spacebar] to select colors, clicking a square once to fill it with that color, again to mark it as blank, and once more to clear it. You can also drag over a string of square to fill them with a color. A highlighted "ruler" will help players focus of the selected lines and columns. While it is allowable for strings of different colors to be adjacent, strings of same colored clues will have at least one empty square between them. Sadly, there is no option to change hue schemes for colorblind players.

With only ten new puzzles to solve, the game may feel a bit more like an addendum to the first, rather than a completely new volume. Still, Conceptis is among the best at what they do, and all ten are high-difficulty stumpers with polished presentations that should keep pen-and-pencilers occupied for quite some time.

Play Color Pic-A-Pix Light Volume 2


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Rating: 4.6/5 (155 votes)
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TrickyMonkey Go Happy Mini Monkeys 3Mini Monkeys! Mini Monkeys! Going happy in a game, Mini Monkeys! The world has gone insane, but Pencil Kids is here to set it right with another installment of primate point-and-click puzzling with Monkey Go Happy Mini Monkeys 3. This time, the adventure is on a boat, on a boat, on a monkey-loving boat, and tracking down all of those mischievous mini-monkeys is going to be no cup of grog.

As before, the goal is to use your sharp eyes and puzzle solving skills to find fifteen mini-monkeys and place them in the basket, so as to cheer up Mr. Main Monkey. In all honesty, apart from the changes of setting, some players may think that the series is getting a little too formulaic. Personally though, this reviewer would be happy making those chubby-cheeked mammals jump up and down until the end of time (though he wouldn't mind if future installments make clearer what keys are for doors and what keys are for padlocks... A bit of frustrated clicking there). Monkey Go Happy Mini Monkeys 3 is another adorable and accessible work from Pencil Kids, and, having carved out a nice little niche in casual gaming for himself, there's no reason why they shouldn't keep on keepin' on.

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Rating: 4.4/5 (59 votes)
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TrickyMonsterland 2: Junior's RevengeIt's a battle that has been waged since the dawn of time: Sleeping Parent Vs. Energetic Child. No matter what the form: human, Disney lion, or polygon, it shall occur as long as there are Zs to be caught and prevented. Alma Games presents another chapter of the great struggle in Monsterland 2: Junior's Revenge, a tumble-drop physics puzzler. As in the original, you must make various on-screen objects disappear by clicking them, so as to guide Monster Junior (the little red square) on top of Monster Senior (the big red rectangle). The fewer clicks you use, the more stars you earn. There are 28 regular levels, and earning stars will unlock another 8 as a bonus.

Altogether a more polished presentation than its predecessor, Monsterland 2: Junior's Revenge is a familiar kind of experience, but in a positive way. Certainly, it resembles many of the games put together with the Box2D engine, where the player clicks aways with the ultimate goal of colliding with some quadrilateral, be they box or royalty. However, a certain lack of innovation in no way prevents Monsterland from being a enjoyable time-waster, perfect for those looking for a colorful medium-challenge mental work out.

Play Monsterland 2: Junior's Revenge


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Rating: 3.5/5 (84 votes)
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Weekday Escape

elleDo you enjoy escape-the-room games but feel as if you haven't been challenged lately? Are you feeling too familiar with the usual genre antics? Then it's time for something a bit different, a little difficult, and exceedingly engaging in SuzumeDr's escaping puzzler, Locked Around the Clock.

Locked Around the ClockYou begin with the typical escape game premise: you are locked in a room and need to get out. To do so, search about the room for any clues, puzzles, objects and contraptions that might contain the key to your freedom. When you do find something inspection-worthy, be sure to examine it from every angle, if possible, as there are many areas of interest in this game. Inventory use and navigation is, for the most part, intuitive yet some will bemoan the lack of a changing cursor as a few areas will feel too "clicky" or pixel-hunt prone.

The visuals, adherence to theme and riddling clues seem absolutely characteristic of SuzumeDr's style. As in Triangle and To Nothing, once you get the hang of how things work around this place, keeping in mind that all the puzzles are clock themed, you'll be able to click into the logic and appreciate the creative cunning behind each brain teaser even if they seem to initially make no sense and give you a rough time starting out. There is a payoff to sticking it out, though. If you do feel stumped, utilize the save function and take a break to recharge. Once you get a contraption to function, SuzumeDr's peppy presentation makes the effort feel all the more rewarding. So go ahead and get yourself Locked Around the Clock—it's a fun escape well worth your time.

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(8 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Super Snack Time

DoraLittle Guy Games' adorably addictive action-packed free iOS arcade game Super Snack Time might be the cutest, juiciest, bounciest mobile game around. Just because your world is under attack is no reason to panic... especially not when your enemies are delicious as this! Though it has to count as a war crime to eat your opponents, you're setting out to do just that as a brave little hero who can launch himself into the sky with a slingshot to burst the baddies and rain nuuuuutrients down to the hungry little dudes below. Sound horrific? Not hardly! I mean... not unless you think about it. Not unless you lie awake at night, thinking of all the things you've done, the lives you've ended and seen drunk greedily up by your ownWOO, EXPLOSIONS, COLOURS, YAY!

Super Snack TimeThe gist is enemies will come in from either side of the screen, and your job is to launch your hero at them by dragging and releasing on the screenshot to hit them before they reach the other side. If a baddie escapes, you'll lose a heart, and losing all three means you'll have to restart the level or fork over a Revive if you have any kicking around. Although things start off easy, you'll soon have to contend with a wider variety of enemies, from explosive ones, to armored foes that can only be removed if you take out whoever they're protecting, and much more. Super Snack Time has several types of levels, from a standard arcade-style mode, to a more puzzle-oriented type where you'll need to get rid of enemies in a certain number of shots, and finally flat-out survival where you have to last 'til the time runs out.

Super Snack Time is one of those mobile games you sort of just wish you could plunk down a flat fee for instead of having to contend with the microtransactions. You're far from forced to spend money, but considering the coin-price of upgrades and how you have to keep recharging bonuses, you'll probably be tempted to. There's two different types of currency, coins and energy, and while the latter is easy enough to come by either through simple play or watching 14 second video ads until your eyes bleed (surprisingly tolerable!), forcing you to fork over energy to keep playing is sort of annoying even if it does automatically regenerate over time. Because you will want to keep playing. Super Snack Time is the sort of relentlessly cheery, grin-inducing arcade action you wish you found a lot more of, and it's easy on the eyes to boot. The almost puzzle-like approach you'll need to take to win even the arcade levels keeps you thinking even as you're moving, and the challenge ramps up nicely. Packed with explosions, colour, and more gooey baddies than you can launch a hedgehog at, Super Snack Time is perfectly cute, perfectly fun, and... kind of makes me hungry. Should I tell my therapist about that?

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: 4.1/5 (39 votes)
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DoraUltimate WaterfallsSince MoonMana's latest physics puzzler is called Ultimate Waterfalls, I sort of feel like I should be introducing it on the back of a flaming motorcycle, shooting off flare guns, while a lion plays a guitar-riff in the background, but... it... it's just so darned relaxing. Continuing the fine mellow tradition set by its previous titles, the game boasts lush visuals, a trance-like soundtrack, and a simple goal... fill up all the coloured orbs by directing the matching coloured particles into them. To do this, you'll drag various objects around the screen, such as reflective mirrors or teleporters, to get your shiny sparklies around obstacles and into the receptacle they belong in. There are no time limits. No enemies. Just you, some good vibes, and a relaxing sense of awwwwww yeah.

Play all the Waterfalls games:
WaterfallsWaterfalls 2Waterfalls 3Waterfalls 3 Level PackUltimate Waterfalls

Though you could never call it particularly taxing or a thrill a minute, Ultimate Waterfalls is that perfect sort of relaxing title that feels like the gaming equivalent of having someone stand behind you when you're stressed out and massage your temples for a bit. Or, uh... some less creepy bit of imagery. While it can be occasionally difficult to pick out streams of darker colours against the game's background that means this might not be friendly to colour-blind players (or even those of us who are less than eagle-eyed to begin with), Ultimate Waterfalls's lovely visual style and chilled-out mood are a welcome treat. Though the difficulty level sort of feels like it's all over the place and some stages require fast fiddling, the different elements add a clever bit of strategy over the whopping 57 levels to play. It's a simple, lovely little concept that is the perfect way to remind yourself to slow down and chill out on a day when you're otherwise rush, rush, rushing around. Admittedly I'm a little disappointed that a game with the word "ultimate" in the title is so chill... I mean, I rented this lion for the whole week just for this article, and you try returning a motorcycle you've doused in gasoline and lit on fire for a dramatic entrance!

Play Ultimate Waterfalls


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Rating: 4.4/5 (65 votes)
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MeaghanTransmorpherMonsters aren't mere figments sprung from misunderstanding anymore. Nope, nowadays they're engineered in laboratories where they get to be poked, prodded, and judged by a bunch of guys in weird suits. No longer, though, will the monsters in Transmorpher suffer such injustice! In the physics puzzle platformer by FlashRushGames a select few monsters will attempt a break out from a treacherous laboratory filled with spikes, acid, and electric fields. Click to jump and select where you want the monster to go, or use the [WASD] or [arrow] keys instead, using [1-4] to swap between monsters. Each monster has its own unique set of talents you'll need to switch out in order to complete a stage.

Boasting an impressive 48 levels, Transmorpher is a nice treat for any platform fan, especially with the option for keyboard or mouse control. The random hologram of a dancing woman that you can get on levels if you hit the proper activation button seems unnecessary and out of place in the otherwise innocent game. Sometimes switching between the monsters causes a hitch in the groove you set for yourself but can easily be mastered with enough practice. Having to use each monster interchangeably gives a great flavor of change to an otherwise predictable genre and those monsters are cute enough to possibly surpass the glory of cats... well, maybe, not but they're endearing enough to keep you playing until they've reached freedom.

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The Vault

DoraStrategy can be difficult to pull off properly in a game, walking the line between "challenging enough to keep the players fighting after that carrot dangling in their face" and "so complex that the players feel like they need to do homework just to learn how to play". After all, there's a difference between depth and an instruction manual that'll put people to sleep. If you like to have to do a bit of thinking with your games but not so much you need flowcharts and an entire squadron of poorly paid military advisers to keep up with, considers these three games that all offer different flavours of strategy to varying degrees.

  • Cursed TreasureCursed Treasure - IriySoft's immensely successful and addictive tower defense game puts you in control of a faceless, all-powerful entity with a cache of gems the entire kingdom would like to steal. The three types of upgradeable towers the game gives you to protect your treasure with seems like a painful restriction at first, but by incorporating a unique upgrade tree into each one that means different stages of towers can be as useful as any other, the game actually manages to layer on some surprisingly clever strategy without slowing itself down or feeling like it's just packing on pointless options. Especially since the myriad of different enemies you'll encounter each have their own unique abilities. Cursed Treasure is a good looking little game that may seem like just another tower defense title, but its smart tower system and sense of style makes this game well worth checking out for an afternoon or two.
  • Civilizations WarsCivlizations Wars - With its great style and "think fast!" approach to real-time strategy and an almost Galcon-esque gameplay, Cave of Wonders serves up a global game of conquest with a mythological flair. You'll battle throughout history, directing troops across a battlefield in an effort to squash them with greater numbers before they manage to do the same to you, and go up against some truly gargantuan boss beasts as well. Despite some issues with its difficulty curve, Civilization Wars forces you to think on your feet and pay attention to everything at once, and when combined with the other useful places on a map you can take over to get a leg up on your foes, provides a challenging but engrossing adventure that looks great to boot.
  • Epic Battle Fantasy 3Epic Battle Fantasy 3 - Turn-based RPGs have always offered a very straight-forward sort of strategy, but a good one will mix things up just enough to keep you feeling challenged, rather than subjecting you to a mindless grind for EXP. Kupo707's Epic Battle Fantasy series of games are diverse, but this third installment offers up some genuinely tricky battles, fulls of weaknesses and skills to exploit, on top of your typical RPG fare like... kittens, sharks, and *sigh* Comic Sans. Your three heroes initially begin quite powerful indeed, but are knocked back to level zero when they wind up crossing a demon. If you don't mind humour that seems to be deliberately trying to avoid being politically correct at times, Epic Battle Fantasy 3 is a vibrant, silly, pop-culture-packed game that will keep you parked in your site for quite some time.

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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The Fleet

DoraChoice of Games teams up with Jonathan Valuckas to take you to infinity and beyond in their sci-fi text adventure The Fleet for iOS and Android as well as the Chrome Web Store. As the noble captain Your Name Here, you're forever on guard against a race of aliens that seems to only want to shoot first and ask questions later where your home planet is concerned. As tensions mount and your home ultimately falls under alien rule, your High Council has started talks about forging an alliance with other planets to help combat the alien threat, which you think is totally for suckers. You know... unless you don't. Your choices and actions will determine your future, and maybe even the future of your entire species. Man... that sounds like a lot of pressure. Where's the option to just let Sisko handle everything and cry in a holosuite until it's all over?

The FleetTo play, just select the choice that best suits your personal feelings about any given situation. Feel like sassing your beloved mentor? Go right ahead. Want to outsmart your foes rather than outgun them? Adjust your tactics accordingly. Your choices influence your stats, everything from skills to the support you've got from various factions, and will have an impact on the way events play out. Unlike most Choice of Games titles, the emphasis here is less on your own character development and more on the sort of sci-fi political thriller plot. It's not about who you are, so much as it is who you trust, and how you present yourself and handle everything from your available resources to your stance on a potential allegiance.

Though The Fleet is well written, its lack of Choice of Games's so-far signature levels of enormous character customisation and more linear structure means it will appeal more to players looking for a space-faring adventure that has as much to do with intergalactic politics than anything else. Though fans of more free, character-driven gameplay will lament its loss, The Fleet's focus on trying to convey everything from political drama to pitched space battles is actually sort of refreshing, though trying to remember all the consequences your decisions might have had on the latter, as well as keep all the fancy space names straight in your head, can be sort of tricky. If you don't mind the spotlight not being on you for a change and enjoy stories heavy with social and military maneuvering, The Fleet is a sturdy little sci-fi text adventure that will keep you busy for a while. It's smart, well constructed, and an intriguing bit of space-faring drama. And remember, if the you-know-what really starts to hit the fan, you can always blame Worf.

Play The Fleet (browser demo)


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Rating: 3.5/5 (50 votes)
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KimberlyTesla DefenseDid you know inventor Nikola Tesla claimed to have invented a particle gun? A device so powerful that it could put an end to modern warfare. Now you're wondering what the world might be like if Tesla had actually invented his teleforce gun, aren't you? NSBrotherhood and Michael Gribbin have envisioned that world in Tesla Defense, a lighting blasting, ray gun shooting defense game. Hold back the air and ground forces to protect Tesla on top of his tower!

Use your mouse or keyboard [1-4] to select your tower or ability at the top of the screen. There are ground and air towers, mines, and a powerful orbital strike. You have 30 seconds at the beginning of each wave to place as many towers as you can, after which the wave begins. If you wait to build until after the wave has started, there is a cool down period after you place each tower. As the enemy approaches, they will destroy your towers, so you will have to replace them eventually. However it is in your best interest to get as many out there as you can without having to wait. You earn money after each wave which you use to upgrade Tesla and the number and power of the towers themselves. Aside from placing towers and mines, you get to control Tesla standing tall on the orange tower. Use the mouse to aim and click to fire your gun. You have a limited amount of energy to shoot with that slowly regenerates after use. Use it to help with the toughest attackers, or on a group of weaker ones. While Tesla Defense isn't heavy on strategy, it is immensely fun to zap things with a ray gun. You'll be wishing Tesla had mass produced those things by the time you're done.

Play Tesla Defense


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Rating: 4.3/5 (41 votes)
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corygalliherProtoboticProtobotic, a new action puzzle game from developer, Tyler Owen, poses a valid question to players: what problem can't be solved with lasers? The answer, just as in real life, is very few. Using [WASD] and the mouse, steer your indestructible laser-blasting robot around and solve the puzzles in each room to escape and move on to the next. The proceedings start simple but rapidly increase in complexity as you're faced with devices to reflect, split and block your lasers. Your robot, as mentioned, is indestructible, so the focus is on puzzle-solving rather than action.

Protobotic offers 18 levels of photonic goodness for your laser-blasting pleasure. These range from block-pushing fare to an interesting experiment in traffic control using switches. There's a nice mental workout here without much risk of banging your head against a desk, so dive in! It's not like these lasers are going to blast themselves, after all, though that would certainly be awesome and it's a field that Earth's scientists need to research immediately.

Play Protobotic


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Mobile Monday

JohnBSo much cute! Bunnies and adorable adventurers! Pyramids that somehow look cute even though they're made of sun-baked sandstone! And news of a new Kairosoft release! Could life get any better? Oh, my chocolate pizza delivery has arrived!

bunny-p.gifBunny Cannon is a thing! - Bunnies and cannons? Yep, that's the concept behind La Ventanita's upcoming iOS game, conveniently titled Bunny Cannon. Aim the cannon and launch bunnies below to fill the baskets at the bottom of the screen. Rabbits multiply whenever they touch (naturally), lending a frantic pachinko sort of feeling to the experience. And that artwork is absolutely adorable. Look for the game to be released December 6th.

pyramix-p.gifKairosoft releases new game, in Japanese - Looks like Kairosoft is readying a new release! Just a few days ago, the studio pushed out a Japanese-only version of a game whose name roughly translates to "Kingdom Pyramid Excavation". Gameplay seems similar to Mega Mall Story, only with sand and flying carpets and probably ancient mummy curses and stuff. Most (but not all) Kairosoft games get an English translation followed by an iOS and Android release, so hopefully this little gem will do the same.

famaze-p.gifFamaze...ing! - You definitely like retro games, correct? That's good, because Famaze is exactly that. More specifically, it's a puzzle adventure game that includes random levels filled with RPG elements and some lovely pixel visuals. And even more more specifically, it looks totally charming, and we're ready to play it yesterday. But we'll have to wait a bit, as the game is still listed as "coming soon". The good news is there will be both iOS and Android releases along with PC and Mac versions as well, so no players will be left out of the fun!

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: 4.7/5 (27 votes)
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Miasmata

DoraYour name is Robert Hughes, and it does not rock to be you right now. If it weren't enough to be exiled as a traitor, the very island you desperately struggled to reach, where it was said you could find people looking for a cure for the plague currently running merrily through your body, appears to have come down with a bad case of oh no oh no everyone's dead. And if you can't figure out how to synthesize a cure from the plants and fungi around the island, you're going to be next. But hey! At least it isn't like there's anything else malevolent and deadly stalking your every move, just waiting for the right moment to pounce when the fever is worst and you have nowhere else to run, right?... right? IonFX Studio's indie action exploration-geared adventure Miasmata delivers a tense fight for survival on a lonely island where you'll have to rely on your wits to stay alive as you scour the landscape searching for the things you need to create your cure and conducting your research.

MiasmataStep one: Hit [ESC], open the options menu, and set the inverted controls to "normal", because ugh, inversion. Once you're playing proper, move with the [WASD] keys, right click to view your compass and watch to help you triangulate locations, left click to interact, and [TAB] to open your journal. Your journal is pretty handy, since it keeps everything from your health (gross and disease-ridden), to the medicine you create, to all your notes and research. Time passes as you explore the island, and you can bet it's going to take you a while to do so. Since movement is affected by momentum and the terrain you're on, don't go galloping about willy-nilly unless you want to go sliding down a cliff or unable to stop yourself from falling. If you don't want to get lost, you'll make a point of using simple cartography to map locations and objects of interest as you go, and, uh, tread lightly, yeah? You're not exactly alone on the island, and if you go blundering around, you might find yourself in a sticky situation. There's a beast in the wilderness that can smell, see, stalk, and even trap you, and face-to-face confrontation is probably not going to work out in your favour unless it turns out to be a germaphobe. I mean, okay, fighting for your life in a hostile environment, but would it kill you to give your filthy bloody hands a little rinsey-poo in the water?! Ew!

In addition to taking care of basic needs like water, and sleep, your main objective is ultimately to create a cure for yourself using the dozens of plants and fungi around the island. Early on you'll gain access to a lab that explains the process in detail, but the basic gist of it is that you find and research specimens by chopping them up and examining them, then either combine them with something different or work with them alone to see what you can make. In addition to the all-important cure, you can create several helpful medicines. Normally, I'd advise against just shoving home-made pharmaceuticals in your mouth, but you don't have a whole lot of choices here. If you die, you'll start back at your last save, so remember to sleep and turn on light sources whenever you come across them to save your game.

MiasmataAnalysis: Miasmata was built from the ground up on its own engine, and apart from a few hiccoughs here and there, it really is a strikingly lovely game. While blood looks sort of like ketchup pudding and water pouring looks like lumpy tapioca (I'm hungry, okay?!), it really is lovely to stroll around and admire your surroundings. More than once I had to just stop and admire a sunrise or sunset as the clouds rolled across the sky, and the wilderness teems with life and vibrancy on top of having some realistic and well thought out topography. The downside is that a lack of real direction means you'll strike off into the unknown and can spend literally hours wandering around without much happening or even encountering the creature on the island with you, period. That's not to say there isn't a lot to seek and find, and it's a good thing, since finding what you need to make your cure means trekking all over the island and tracking down everything from plants to bloody research notes.

The actual gameplay is fairly clever, if punctuated by long bouts of wandering around with nothing happening. The realistic pitch and momentum takes some getting used to, but the more time I spent with it, the more I liked it. It adds a touch of realistic panic and a level of immersion you don't normally get from games like this. The game is excellent at creating a lonely atmosphere, and the panic you feel when you take a tumble or are staggering around when a fever is high and you can't find shelter is palpable. One niggling annoyance is that there's no way to tell if you can interact with something until you're right on top of it, so you can spend hours wheezing and gasping as you pull your filthy, disease-ridden body up a hill only to find those lovely, eye-catching pink flowers you spotted from across the water actually aren't one of the dozens you can even pick up. The cartography system is also one of those things that is a neat idea, but actually a little tedious when put into play even if it is realistic.

Miasmata is a really good game, but it's a good game for the type of person who enjoys slow, careful exploration and realistic survival scenarios, and as such the lack of a demo could wind up hurting it in the long run because it really won't be for everyone and I think being able to try it out for a test run would really be the best option. The actual monster took around four hours to encounter during my first playthrough, and while I can't say I found it particularly scary, its stalking behaviour was actually fairly creepy to witness, as it wound crouch down in water or grass to lower its visibility and slowly prowl after me, herding me into steep valleys. Miasmata's gorgeous environments and encouragement of methodical adventuring and gradual storytelling makes it stand out from the pack, though its uneven pacing and abstract approach to narrative means it'll take a particular type of audience to really appreciate it.

WindowsWindows:
Get the full version (GOG.com)

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


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GemCraft

KimberlyTower defense fans, rejoice! Game in a Bottle has made GemCraft portable. IOS users everywhere will be glued to a screen once again, combining gems as expertly as any wizard.

GemCraftThose familiar with the GemCraft series will be able to jump right in. The gameplay is nearly identical to its predecessors, just adapted for the touch screen. Every level has a maze. You place towers next to the maze, and traps right on the path. You can do this while paused, giving you ample time to figure out the best placement. Using your mana, which regenerates with time, you then craft gems of different colors to place in the towers and traps, which zap the enemy. The different colored gems have unique powers, such as slowing the enemy down, or poisoning them. You can combine gems to create one wtih up to three powers. This also upgrades their range and damage. Each monster kill earns you XP, which you need to level up. You must level up to acess new maps, new game modes, and to gain skills. Skills let you upgrade things like tower costs, gem strength, and how much mana you start with. Once you've gained a few levels and upgraded your skills, you can go back and try to beat your old score to gain even more XP. There are very optional in app purchases if you're not opposed to buying your way to a higher level.

Want more? Check out the entire GemCraft series!
The graphics here are much more cartoonish than the browser versions, which lightens the mood. My biggest complaint, and one I hope they address, is that the game doesn't tell you what type of enemy is approaching next. This makes it hard to plan a strategy. Should you focus on armor reduction or splash damage? And is it a bug that sometimes creeps seem to gain energy when they get hit, or is there a type of enemy that has that trait? Despite this glaring flaw, GemCraft is still a solid entry into the tower defense genre. With three difficulty levels and seven game modes there is plenty here to fill your ever nagging defense cravings.

Play GemCraft (browser)

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


  • Currently 4.6/5
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Rating: 4.6/5 (137 votes)
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elleRobamimi: One Scene 5Although a bare, four-walled room may be appealing to minimalists who want to see every side of their entrapment while still sticking to the basics, the simplicity of Robamimi's series of single-walled escape-the-room games has an appeal all its own. This time, the warm colors and stylish furnishings in One Scene 5 welcome you into a cozy home and might even make you hesitant to leave. If only the pleasant view out the window and smartly-arranged puzzles weren't so hard to resist...

As with the other Robamimi single-scene escapades, navigation consists of following your changing cursor to find where you can zoom in and examine interactive areas, then taking the arrows at the bottom of the screen to back out. Rendering solutions less obvious and putting even more emphasis on your ability to make logical deductions, the "Hint" function is less helpful than normal—some hints with questionable wording can be like new riddles altogether. And, because Robamimi is being a bit more abstruse this time, you'll need to pay careful attention to even the tiniest of visual details if you want to garner all that's needed to progress.

In lesser hands, such a tactic feels unfair but when dropped into the beauty of Robamimi's design, it's actually enjoyable to have to stare harder and hunt around more diligently. Despite a slightly ramped up challenge, there are very few obstacles to overcome before you can make your exit. Reluctantly, perhaps, you step through the door, satisfied from the enjoyment of a well-tuned escape and looking over your shoulder to wonder: does Robamimi do home furnishing consultations?

Play One Scene 5

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Rating: 4.7/5 (23 votes)
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Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition

DoraWhen you're doing a remastering, of sorts, of 1998's iconic Dungeons and Dragons RPG Baldur's Gate, you have to be careful because people simultaneously crave and fear the very idea. Either you do too much and people burn you at the stake for Best of Casual Gameplay 2012morphing it into something else entirely, or you do too little and you still get burned at the stake for getting players to pay for something they feel they already own. (Well, I mean, we get so few chances for a good ol' fashioned developer burnin'...) Overhaul's Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition (also available for iPad) was, then a risky decision... but for fans of the old and new players alike one that ultimately pays off. Rather than delivering a Tyra Banks style makeover on the game, Overhaul has instead focused on lovingly restoring it the way you might an old car, creating something that both looks great on a showroom floor and is a lot of fun to zip around in.

Baldur's Gate: Enhanced EditionThe story and core gameplay remain essentially unchanged from the original. As the ward of a wise sage named Gorion, your sheltered life in Candlekeep is destroyed when you abruptly find yourself unable to return to the life you once knew and hunted at every turn by people who seem to know much more about you than even you yourself do. The game plays like a Dungeons and Dragons game, so you'll create your main character, choosing everything from race, gender, class, and alignment in addition to distributing skill points, and level up as you defeat monsters and solve quests. Combat is real time, though you can either pause the game manually to issue orders whenever you like or set the options to force the game to pause for you between actions, and success comes down to careful management of your party, their equipment, and your tactics. As you travel, you'll come across many potential party members, many with vastly different agendas and personalities, and make a name for yourself (either as a hero or a villain) as you struggle to get closer to the truth about yourself.

Baldur's Gate: Enhanced EditionA lot of the tweaks and enhancements aren't immediately visible, apart from the obvious bits like the inclusion of all the subraces and classes and such from Baldur's Gate 2 at character creation. One relatively minor change, for instance, are the coloured circles that correspond to party members so you can tell at a glance where everyone is headed and how they'll stand in formation when they get there. The whole game looks altogether cleaner and sharper and runs (for me at least) buttery smooth without the need for any of the player-created fix mods that were previously so popular. While the new player soundsets and portraits are great, the biggest additions are the three joinable NPCs, all of whom you can pick up fairly early on. The writing and voice acting are largely top notch, and while it's hard to say whether they'll ever be as well loved as the original cast (characters like Jaheira are a tough act to follow), they do actually fit in quite well and grab your interest even if Neera sort of feels like she's directly trying to compete with Imoen.

The only real downside is that the three new NPCs are chatty and dynamic in a way that the original Baldur's Gate NPCs simply... aren't. Coupled with the romances they offer, it's a degree of talkativeness that keeps in line with the way party members are handled in Baldur's Gate 2, but winds up sort of overshadowing the others here. It's also a little disappointing that the biggest addition, the six hour adventure called "The Black Pits" is standalone only with a new party you create yourself, and as such feels like a bit of a missed opportunity to be the sort of challenge you would have relished tackling with your main story party like, say, Watcher's Keep from Baldur's Gate 2. After all, considering how much fun it is for being largely combat-driven, doesn't it sort of seem like you need Xan's resigned confidence in your eventual doom along for moral support? It is, overall, an impressive labour of love that shows the utmost respect not only for the well-loved source material, but for the talented community that has kept the game alive through popular mods. (You can check out which ones are currently compatible here, though many like the popular BG 1 NPC Project at Gibberlings 3 are already being worked on to ensure they can be installed as soon as possible.)

The end result is a subtly refined experience that feels clean and fresh without drastically changing anything that would upset purists, unless you were really married to the old cinematics. You can still find everything from your Golden Pantaloons to the small, unmarked stuff like the ridiculously tiny hidden diamond in the first area after Candlekeep. If you were expecting (hoping) for a drastically different jaunt into the realms, maybe one where all the major boss battles were 80s style musical dance-offs or Imoen has been replaced with something less annoying, like a perpetually yappy and shivering chihuahua, Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition might not offer quite enough in the way of change for you. If what you're looking for is a bit of extra spice and shine to something you already love, or curious about picking up the game for the very first time, then Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition is an easy recommendation, and something that will keep you busy for a long, long time.

WindowsWindows:
Get the full version

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


(3 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Boulder Dash-XL

JohnBEveryone remember Boulder Dash? Back in 1984, a little developer called First Star Software released a puzzle/arcade game for Atari 8-bit computers that featured a treasure-hungry character named Rockford who spent his time digging through dirt looking for gems the size of himself. Turns out that activity worked out quite well for him, and it worked out well for us players, too, as the game thrived over the decades with a number of sequels and ports to other systems. Now, almost 30 years later, the hunt goes in in Boulder Dash-XL, a re-imagined and updated version of the classic game that has finally made its way to mobile devices. And you know what? It's still a pretty good time!

Boulder Dash-XLBoulder Dash-XL puts you in control of Rockford or his pal, but this time it's robotic miners, not an adventurous human treasure hunter. Either way, the gameplay is very much the same, and you'll spend most of your time digging through blocks of dirt, going for the valuables to unlock the exit while trying to avoid boulders and plenty of other traps. Things start off a little slow but quickly turn around with bigger, more complex levels and challenges. Think boulders that only roll when you move out of the way are tame? You just wait, sir or madam!

The visual upgrades make Boulder Dash-XL easier on the eyes than the flat, color-sparse early games, and If "plain old" gem hunting isn't enough, you can also have a hack at puzzle, zen, or score attack modes, or even turn things old school with retro mode! The controls, sadly, aren't quite what they should be, but given that virtual buttons are rarely what we expect when physical controls are by far the superior choice, there's a little room for forgiveness. Boulder Dash may not be as stunning or original as it was a few decades ago, but you can't keep a good puzzle game down. A great nostalgic puzzle time for some players, and a great puzzle experience for others who wish they could be nostalgic about it!

WindowsWindows:
Get the full version

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


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Rating: 4.4/5 (122 votes)
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elleBasementEscape-the-room games have a rather insidious premise—it really shouldn't be fun to be locked up and needing to deconstruct enigmatic codes and quirky contraptions just to be on your merry way. Of all the places to be trapped, though, a basement seems to be the most fitting, and if you happen to find yourself kidnapped and thrown into Nekonote's Basement, you'll be happy to note there are no dark shadows, old skeletons, dusty spiderwebs or monster-mouthed fiery furnaces to scare you.

Instead, albeit grey-walled, it's smattered with rainbow colors, soft white lights and clean lines. The only menace are a few cleverly-construed puzzles to occupy your cranial parts while those thick cold bars mockingly block the exit. So it turns out, it's rather fun to click about, looking for signs of anything that will bring you closer to the key to freedom, and the puzzles are the perfect mid-range of challenge. Pay careful attention to visual clues while you explore and it won't be long before you uncover the exit key. Basement shows that Nekonote has some happy tricks up the sleeve and may leave you wondering if we'll get to explore the rest of house someday.

Play Basement


(13 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Wine & Roses

DoraTurn-based RPGs have a reputation for being repetitive and full of grinding, but Craze's free Wine & Roses aims to change all that, offering up challenging and complex strategic gameplay... all at the cost of backstory and exposition. As the game begins, you find yourself controlling a dapper skeleton leading three young women towards a dangerous castle. Who are they? Well, if you check out their descriptions, it seems they're a bunch of exorcists who are being lead by Lord Francisco (that's your skeletal avatar) to purge the spirits haunting his castle. Not that any of that is important, or even hardly addressed at all, since the goal here is not to provide a deep, dramatic RPG style narrative, but rather put you through a gauntlet of 30 increasingly difficult boss battles, where success hinges on careful strategy and swapping and equipping the various spells and skills you'll earn.

Wine & RosesSo in other words, though you might feel like you've walked into a movie theater halfway through when the game begins as you approach the castle, you haven't missed anything. Use the [arrow] keys to move, [X] to open the menu, and [Z] to interact/confirm choices. You can save anytime you like from the menu, and since battles don't start until you walk up to monsters, you should take your time preparing for them beforehand. Nynavae, Carmanth, and Argent all have their own strengths, and they each begin with a handful of different abilities. As you progress, however, you'll earn more skills and spells from helpful sprites you can assign to any character you choose and swap out between battles, though of course certain characters are better at certain abilities than others. You'll also be granted Gifts (equipment) occasionally from some characters that you can equip. Combat is turn-based, and since you don't get to grind levels, winning comes down to carefully managing and swapping around your skills, and thinking out each character's action very carefully.

During battle, your turn lasts until your characters are unable to perform actions. Each ability requires a certain amount of Energy Points to use, and you gain a set number per character, per turn. Some abilities require you to spend a percentage of your sanity, however, and like your hit-points, you don't want to run out of that in the middle of a battle. Figuring out an enemy's weakness, either Lunar or Solar, can turn a battle around, but you might be better off escaping from battles if you're having too much trouble. After all, only the first few battles occur in a specific order, and you'll soon be able to explore the Lord's massive manor. If you're having difficulty with one fight, consider exploring for any skills or gifts you might have missed, and tackling different battles to get stronger.

Wine & RosesCreating an RPG in a month seems like a gargantuan task if you plan on making a quality one, but Craze's approach to the 2012 RMN All Hallow's Event is a clever one. By leaving out so much of the story, except what you can infer by character description and the scarce chatter, the development time was given to providing the sort of remarkably deep and challenging turn-based combat these types of games rarely see. It's sort of like Disgaea's combat-driven gameplay blended with, say, Final Fantasy 7's materia system, and the result is a game packed full of some really difficult battles that feel like they come down to thinking and strategy over mindless attacking. The downside to this is the huge fortress the game allows you to explore without a map can mean getting lost, simply missing helpful abilities or gifts, and being unsure as to whether you just stink at a particular battle or need to leave it until you're better equipped. If you don't mind the lack of gripping narrative and have really been salivating for RPG-style battles that feel like achievements when conquered, however, Wine & Roses is definitely worth checking out. It looks and sounds fantastic, and provides around four or more hours of extremely challenging battling and exploration for free. Who needs spiky-haired anti-heroes with women problems anyway?

Note: You must install the free RPG Maker VX Ace RTP in order to play Wine & Roses.

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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Casual game of the week

Nevertales: Shattered Image

Browser game of the week

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Mobile game of the week

Nautilus Escape

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