January 2013 Archives


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Rating: 3.5/5 (75 votes)
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Traumata

kyhA man with a simple life in Jakarta as an architectural photographer, Adam finds himself assigned to take some shots inside an old apartment building... of thirteen floors. Stranger yet is the familiarity he has with many of the pictures left hanging in the rooms. Ooh, a link to his mysterious past and the death of his parents? Or just a happy coincidence (though we already know from the title that it's probably less-than-happy)? Thus sets the stage for Tempa Labs' point-and-click adventure, Traumata.

Click your way through the story using all three interactions available to you, highlighting to activate them or use the keyboard shortcuts of [A], [S] and [E]. A friendly changing cursor and simple inventory system allow you to focus on and become immersed in Adam's story. A mixture of light horror and light puzzling, Traumata will have you on your toes as you uncover the details of the protagonist's childhood.

Note: Beginning with Floor 4, be sure to save your game often. It is possible to die and get a game over state, forcing you to restart or continue from a save.

Play Traumata


  • Currently 3.9/5
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Rating: 3.9/5 (50 votes)
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Mamono Digger

TrickyUnderneath that rainbow of squares lies treasure galore! Wait. Did I say "treasure"? I meant "demons"... demons galore! Anyways, demons are cool and you're just the shoveler both dedicated and color-coordinated enough to dig them all up! Mamono Digger is a simple idea puzzler by Hojokama Games that makes the ol' SameGame formula feel a little different.

Mamono Digger is in Japanese, but the mechanics are easy to pick up: Click and drag on the grid to trace out rectangles. If the rectangle you traced contains 1. Two or more blocks the same color and 2. No blocks of any other color, those blocks will be removed from the board. Scattered underneath this field of squares are fourteen pictures of monsters. Uncover all of a picture, and it will be added to your collection. Gameplay continues until all the pictures have been uncovered, or there are no moves left to make. Engaging a perfect balance of player luck and skill, Mamono Digger is a minimalist, almost zen experience. It's just so satisfying when you're finally able to fully uncover each creature. Mamono Digger probably won't have much replay value once you've beaten it. Then again, you probably won't be able to stop playing until you do.

Play Mamono Digger


(2 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Time Surfer

JohnBThe only thing cooler than being a helmet-wearing space surfer is having the ability to travel through time while surfing through outer space. With a science fiction slant and some stylish artwork, Time Surfer from Kumobius is a bit like combining Tiny Wings and Braid, adding in smashable objects, creative challenge missions, deadly obstacles, and a handful of helpful/decorative items to equip and party down with!

Time SurferSo, you're surfing along, right? Tapping the on-screen arrow to catch some speed each time you descend, hoping to land on a downward slope so you can keep the air acrobatics going strong. Then all of a sudden you make a mistake, something like falling into a pit, bumping an enemy, or losing so much speed that the exploding star's wave singes your hair. Since those are generally considered "bad" things, you'll want to tap the little hourglass icon to turn back time a few seconds, giving you another chance to succeed. This rewinding ability is limited, though, and must be refilled by collecting orbs along the ground, so you're still going to have to learn how to surf if you want to get anywhere!

Time Surfer draws upon some very well-established gameplay elements to create a familiar space to play around in. The one-touch surfing mechanics will immediately click for most players, and rewinding time is as natural to a gamer as eating mushrooms to grow taller. Earning and equipping helper items is a bit of a departure for the genre, but you'll quickly realize that it's awesome to surf amongst the stars with a rubber ducky in tow. Time Surfer is a little bit of the old and a little bit of the new, but it's always exciting to fly around in space!

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.


  • Currently 4.5/5
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Rating: 4.5/5 (9641 votes)
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Surgeon Simulator 2013

DoraYou know, as idyllic as it sounds to tell people to never give up on their dreams, I sort of think it's even more important for people to be able to tell when they're just not cut out for something. Like performing intricate open-heart surgery one-handed with zero experience and a frightening lack of fine motor skills. Created by Bossa Studios for Global Game Jam 2013, Surgeon Simulator 2013 (available here in your browser or as a free download at the bottom of the article) is a horrifyingly hysterical and graphic simulation of open-heart surgery as performed by one panicky fellow named Nigel Burke who has even less of a clue as you do. You'll want to get the surgery done with as little blood loss as possible, naturally, but considering the controls and potential for accidentally dropping a fully-operational bone-saw into someone's chest cavity, this might not end well.

The catch is that you have full 1-1 (... ish) control of the hand on screen. [A], [W], [E], [R], and [spacebar] each control the fingers of your left hand, while the mouse moves it, right-clicking lets you lift and rotate, and left-clicking lowers it. At your disposal? A wide array of tools for getting the job done, and one fresh, squishy, spankin' new heart... with no instruction manual. Surgeon Simulator 2013 is not, of course, all that realistic, but for a game made in the span of a single weekend it is intensely entertaining in a morbid sort of way. Players who are easily frustrated or put off both by the gore and lack of actual realism may want to give this one a pass, but if you've got a sense of humour and a lunch break to kill you'll enjoy the bizarre concept and presentation. Sort of like if QWOP crossed paths with Alan Probe and Mr Bean. Especially if you've got a bunch of friends on hand for heckling/encouragement. There's already a new extended version now available on Steam with more surgeries in more locations. (And hopefully the option to bind different keys for those of you not playing on American keyboards.) Currently more concept and almost webtoy than anything else, Surgeon Simulator 2013 is perfect slapdash entertainment for those of you with strong stomachs and steady hands.

Play Surgeon Simulator 2013 (Demo)

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

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

LinuxLinux:
Download the demo
Get the full version (Steam)


(4 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Tennis in the Face

JohnBEver had a tennis ball delivered to your face? Not in the gentle way your local postal service worker might deliver a package, the kind of delivery where a professional aims for your head and gives it a good shot? We're glad you answered "no", because if it were true, you might end up like the villains in Tennis in the Face, a game of precision physics from 10tons. A little bit of aiming and a whole lot of ricocheting can go a long way. It's time to take down the corporate machine!

Tennis in the FaceExplodz is an evil company with an evil product. Pete Pagassi is a former tennis pro whose life was ruined by their energy drink. Now he's out to stop them. By hitting everyone with tennis balls! Each stage is stocked with a handful of corporate clowns (sometimes literally) who stand and wait to get served. Tap and hold the screen to aim your shot, then release to let the ball fly. The goal is to knock everyone down, preferably by smacking them in the face, using as few shots as possible. Apart from the occasional exploding can of Explodz or a few movable/burstable environmental objects, your only weapon is a keen eye and the ability to predict trajectories. Think of it as sort of vertical billiards with evil businessmen and trendy hipsters getting smacked by tennis balls.

Tennis in the Face is a loudly entertaining sort of game. The premise alone is wacky, but when you encounter some of the enemy characters and watch them tumble like ragdolls from your well-placed serves, it gets even wackier. The level design is top-notch and keeps you motivated even when you fail. Tennis in the Face sports a number of unlockable achievements, high score-centric stages, and what is quite possibly the most entertaining developer credit roll in any mobile game. It really is furious tennis justice at its finest!

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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

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.


  • Currently 3.8/5
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Rating: 3.8/5 (73 votes)
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Find the Escape-Men 49: In a Hut

SonicLoverThere's nothing unfamiliar about the setup of Find the Escape-Men 49: In a Hut. You're trapped in a room and have to escape from it, which you do by navigating around, collecting and using items, and solving puzzles left and right, all with the usual mouse controls. Since this is a Find the Escape-Men game, you have to find 10 green men before you can pull off your great escape. However, it shouldn't take long to realize that something is a little... off... about our escaper. (Seriously, who does that when examining a bucket?) To say any more would spoil the surprise.

I feel we could feature more work from No1Game, since what they do, they do well. Their puzzles are original and logical yet not too frustrating, there's no tear-your-hair-out pixel-hunting, and there's just the right amount of whimsy holding it all together. Part of the fun is figuring out why the protagonist is behaving so curiously; trust me, you'll burst out laughing when it clicks (no pun intended). The game's only drawback is that it's a little short- you'll probably be done in less than half an hour—so if you came here looking for something lengthy, keep looking. If you're interested in a short but sweet distraction, though, this is it. Just don't forget to click "English" on the title screen, unless you can read Japanese.

Play Find the Escape-Men 49: In a Hut


  • Currently 4.2/5
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Rating: 4.2/5 (90 votes)
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Myosotis 3

elleTrapped in a dream, in time, or in some cruel joke, Rick continues searching for Lily, hoping to change events and prevent an unhappy end to this surreal noir mystery adventure, Myosotis: Chapter 3. You begin by leading Rick through his alternative reality, examining unique elements of each scene to propel him forward, as he wonders what kind of sick game someone is playing with his head (and you might wonder the same thing), while the narrative bridges the gap between Chapter 2 and this latest chronicle. Then you'll encounter a series of five puzzles which must be solved before each door is unlocked, hoping to find Lily safe behind the last one.

Play the entire Myosotis series:
Myosotis: Chapter 1Myosotis: Chapter 2Myosotis: Chapter 3

Rick's plight, which began earlier in Mike Morin's Myosotis series, takes a strange turn this time about. It might disappoint some fans because it differs slightly from the first two's format and ends rather quickly, yet this chapter boasts its own artistic merits. Here the puzzles are more direct and the entire chapter, being shorter, feels like a half step before the next installment, yet everything from the gameplay to Hania Lee's mesmerizing vocals succeeds in communicating Rick's warped-dream-like undertaking into a concrete experience for the player. Myosotis: Chapter 3 remains engaging, as well as appealing to the eyes and ears, and is an enjoyable addition to a lovely series that once again leaves us hanging, questions still on the lips and "to be continued" stamped across a black screen.

Play Myosotis: Chapter 3


  • Currently 4/5
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Rating: 4/5 (54 votes)
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Subbania

TrickyIt was a fiasco from the start. An experimental submarine, an inexperienced crew, and even if you survived the trip cross the ocean, the American fleet would be more than happy to blow you to pieces. But if you could have said no to your Nazi commanders, you wouldn't be spending the December of 1941 freezing fifty meters below the surface of the Atlantic. Now you've lost contact with the bulk of other ships, and the only evidence you've found of their existence were scattered wrecks, torn apart by... something. You knew the mission was suicidal. But there are fates worse than death out there. Subbania is an HTML5 metroidvania-style action-adventure by ektomarch, where cosmic horrors lurk in the depths.

Guide your sub with the [arrow] keys, firing your basic torpedo with [X]. As you explore the ocean, you will discover upgrades. Once you pick up some extra weapons, you can switch between them with [C]. [Enter] opens the map screen and gives you additional information about your sub's capabilities. Subbania is eerie, unsettling, and captivating. The hypnotic soundtrack and stark monochrome pixel art manage to evoke creepiness aplenty, and the unique vector lighting system keeps things shadowy and atmospheric, like a version of Operation Neptune gone horribly awry. It is a little stingy on the save points, which can make it a little hard to orient yourself after some Lovecraftian horror has ententacled you. Still, Subbania has an entire undersea world to explore, packed with enough weirdness to make even H.P. Lovecraft go "Hey... that's pretty weird!"

Play Subbania


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Botanicula is Game of the Year!

JayEach year our "Best of" the year awards keep getting bigger and better with more votes cast as our audience grows in size along with our appetite for better gameplay experiences, and 2012 was an excellent year for excellent games! Just take a look at all the creative wonders that have earned the title of "Best of 2012" and see for yourself!

Best of Casual Gameplay 2012You are sure to find many games worthy of your time among the Top 5 presented for each category, including the coveted Game of the Year award that we introduced for the first time last year. These games represent the very best of all the games we covered in 2012, and we thank you kindly for participating with us by voting for your favorites!

Let's see the results!

Here is a handy list to the results pages for each of the categories:

Best of 2012!

Best of 2012!

Best of 2012!

Best of 2012!

Best of 2012!


  • Currently 4.3/5
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Rating: 4.3/5 (50 votes)
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Hexagonator

JeremyThere are hardcore puzzle games, ones with a capital "P," that are enjoyable only in the relief your poor nerves receive when the tension of a particularly hard and time-consuming level is finally over. For the less masochistic among us, those with kids, family obligations, tight work schedules, or just those that want to relax a little with something fun, there's Hexagonator, a soothing point-and-click puzzler from Char Studio that's perfect for those brief snatches of free time that present themselves throughout the day.

Just click and drag your hexagons to their proper slots so that the colors match to create a perfect pathway to harness the power that is the hexagon. Get them all in the proper order on the first try to receive all three stars at level's end. And don't be afraid to play this one late at night after the kids are put to bed and the worries of the day have receded. Here's one puzzle game that won't keep you up at night.

Play Hexagonator


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The Vault

DoraWe're used to the usual game mechanics. Press B to jump. A to stab. Hold down a bunch of buttons at once with your chin when you run out of fingers to tie your boss's tie before he berates you. (Take my breath awaaaaaay.) But when a game lets us twist the world around us? That's something to take notice of!

  • Dual TransformDual Transform - Andrew Plotkin took runner up in our 7th Casual Gameplay Design Competition, and it's not hard to see why. In this interactive fiction game, your job is to make... virtual realities, of a sort, which would be hard enough if you also weren't trying to make one that felt undeniably real in ways the user can't deny. To say Dual Transform is a bit more different and difficult than your typical text game is a bit of an understatement, since it forces you to really think outside the box and get creative, even to the point of offering little instruction as to how you're supposed to even begin to tackle your task. But with some brilliant writing and evocative imagery, this is one interactive fiction title with a great premise you'll want to check out.
  • I Have 1 DayI Have 1 Day - Why does Link get all the spotlight? Lots of heroes have to rewind time to save the world (or in this case, yourself), and you've only got one day to do it unlike that pointy-eared shmuck. In this point-and-click adventure from Cellar Door Games, you find yourself both trapped in a prison cell and under the effects of a nasty curse that has something to do with that coronation going on later. The first is easy to deal with, but since the cure for the curse takes more time than you've got, you'll need to use your logbook to rewind time to go back to places you've already been. It's all very wibbly-wobbly, but pack in some humour, some great retro visuals, and one intriguing magic mystery, and you've got one great little game.
  • Fault LineFault Line - It's really never a surprise when Nitrome does something clever, but give us the ability to fold levels in half and an inexplicably spooky soundtrack straight out of a 1970s horror flick and you've really got something clever. In this puzzle platformer you play a little robot with clunky legs (so cute) and the ability to grab parts of the screen and pull them together to turn blockades into passageways and bypass threats. It's one seriously cool little mechanic, and all trussed up in some very stylish visuals makes this one a fantastic treat any 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!


(10 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Rise of the Blobs

JohnBRise of the Blobs is a colorful, creative, and fruity puzzle matching game from Robot Invader, the studio behind Wind-up Knight. In a world where marshmallows talk and pieces of fruit are weapons, you have the honor of saving the corn syrupy folk in an endless arcade game that isn't afraid to crank up the speed. In a welcome change from the norm, you must manage a three dimensional puzzle board that rotates at the touch of your finger, meaning you won't always be able to see what those pesky blobs are up to!

Rise of the BlobsAs Marsh Mal the marshmallow helpfully informs you at the beginning of the game, the world is being overrun with Blobs. They're pretty easy to stop, though, since they have an uncanny affection for fruit. Mal stands atop a pillar you can rotate by dragging left or right on the screen. Blobs slowly rise up and threaten Mal's safety, but he's armed with a variety of colored fruits he tosses down one by one. By rotating the pillar you can line up groups of like-colored blobs and, as soon as they eat a fruit, pop them by the bunch with a quick tap. It all sounds pretty simple, but when you factor in the rapidly increasing speeds and the fact that you can't see the entire arrangement of blobs at once, you've got quite the game on your hands.

Rounds in Rise of the Blobs last until the blobs pile high enough to reach Mal. Afterwards, you get to take inventory of the missions you were charged with to see if you get a bonus prize, tally up the coins you earned, and head into the in-game store to do some shopping. Power-ups can be earned or bought via in-app purchases and range from simple coconut bombs and time bonuses to skull smashers, coin doublers and panic buttons. Enough to let you survive just a little bit longer the next time you play.

With four unique modes at the time of review (another one is coming soon!), Rise of the Blobs definitely has something for everyone.The difficulty can be a little high, what with dozens of blobs frantically spawning out of the goop and Mal throwing fruit down like some sort of crazed Donkey Kong. But you quickly acclimate to the challenge and, thanks in part to the gorgeous graphics, fall in love with each time you fire it up.

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 4/5
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Rating: 4/5 (68 votes)
| Comments (9) | Views (171)

Spin Spin: Chapter 1 and 2

TrickySpin had a girlfriend, but he fell down a hole! Well? What else do you need to know? He needs your help! Spin Spin: Chapter 1 and Spin Spin: Chapter 2 are a pair of puzzle platformers by Chris Hughes that take the simple ideas of world-spinning and spike-avoiding, strips them down to their minimalist essence, and the result is truly something special. Move Spin left and right with the [A] and [D] keys. Spin can't jump, but Spin can spin! In particular, the [right] key will spin the world ninety degrees clockwise, and [left] will spin it counter-clockwise. Spin can spin while either on solid ground, or after stepping out into a void, but he'll need to land before he can do it again: if Spin is ready for spin, he'll have a green tinge to his eyes, but red eyes means he's gotten a little dizzy. Spin is a victim of gravity, so make sure to time your spins and movements to avoid the spikes and other obstacles. Walk into checkpoints to activate them, so to regenerate there after an unfortunate Spin-spike collision. Chapter 2 follows directly from Chapter 1, and adds moving boxes (companion cubes?) and mid-air extra-spin power-ups.

The two chapters of Spin Spin are marvels of clever level design, and though the presentation is a little no-frill, they're the kind of games that push you from checkpoint to checkpoint with a sense of "I know I can get it this time." Admittedly, the controls take a bit of practice to get used to, but within minutes you'll be pulling off all the rotating airborne maneuvers you could ever hope for. Overall, Spin Spin's gameplay no doubt owes a debt to And Yet It Moves, and probably a smidge to VVVVVV as well. Make no mistake though: by limiting the number of rotations the player is allowed Hughes definitely puts his own, uh, spin on the concept. Hopefully things will come full circle in the announced chapter 3, and soon!

Play Spin Spin: Chapter 1

Play Spin Spin: Chapter 2


  • Currently 4.6/5
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Rating: 4.6/5 (193 votes)
| Comments (46) | Views (786)

Folds

KimberlySit down and take a look at your opponent. It's just you versus a piece paper. Can you master it? That's just what you've got to do in the origami paper-folding puzzle game Folds, by Bryce Summer. Click and drag an edge of the paper to fold it to any angle you desire. Your goal is to create the shape indicated by the white dotted line. Sounds simple, but when (with the exception making paper fortune tellers in elementary school) has origami ever been easy? You have a limited number of folds which are indicated at the bottom of the screen. If you fail to produce the shape in the required number of moves, you'll have to try again. To undo or re-do any folds, just click on the numbers at the bottom of the screen, or click reset to start over.

Folds is a deceptively simple looking game. The puzzles can be quite tricky, while the calming music and mellow colors serve to mitigate any frustration you might start to feel at not being able to fold a letter 'T'. (Not that I have personal experience with that or anything. Really.) The clean interface makes it a cinch to jump right in to the gameplay, so grab a cup of tea, relax, and fold!

Play Folds


| Comments (2) | Views (48)

Mobile Monday

JohnBDo you ever stare at your iPhone or Android phone and just ask it what the heck it thinks it's doing? Sitting there, sucking power out of the battery, awaiting your commands like some sort of obedient machine. And then, when you're playing a game and suddenly fail, why it made you do that? Because you totally had the skills to pull that jump off, it was your phone's fault you missed it. Your phone's fault...

kairo-p.gifGet it while it's FREE! - If you've been visiting here a long time then you'll remember Matt Hammill's art style as well as his delightful (if a little gross) action puzzle game, Gesundheit. Back in 2005 when we reviewed the game it was available only as a Windows download. Since then Matt worked with Revolutionary Concepts to port the game to iOS, and it's better than ever! In fact, it's been such an award-winning success that Apple has made it the Free App of the Week (choose between the iPhone or iPad HD version)! For the low, low cost of FREE, this game can be yours to enjoy all over again. And it works extremely well with a touch screen interface. Be sure to get it quick, though, because the Free App of the Week changes soon!

kairo-p.gifPut a little Kairo in your hands - Plenty of people have been getting their heads in a twist trying to solve the immaculately sculpted puzzles in Kairo, a 3D minimalist adventure game from Richard Perrin. As if exploring the game's spartan rooms and surreal stages from the comfort of your own home wasn't enough, Kairo is now available as a universal app for iOS devices. No fast reflexes or trigger-happy thumbs required, just an honest sense of curiosity and a willingness to sit and scratch your head for a bit. Of course, you could always consult our handy Kairo walkthrough for a little help!

dungelot2-p.gifDungelot for free, update coming soon - Still playing Dungelot? Us, too! The game just recently exploded across browser, Android and iOS platforms, but now news has trickled through that an update is coming very soon which updates and adds several things, the most exciting of which is a new inventory system and a new character, the Alchemist! iOS owners also take note that Dungelot will be free for a day or two, so even if you were on the fence about it, grab it now while the grabbin's good.

stingout-p.gifRail-mounted gun systems are cool - Pesky liquid masses spreading through the ship. Sometimes I wish we could just mount a gun on a rail system and use it to keep everything clear. Oh wait, I think I just had an idea! An in-dev game from Screen Department, the upcoming iOS release Stingout is one part defense, one part arcade, but even more parts cool. Gameplay proceeds as described, with plenty of power-ups and a lot of twists to keep things active. Even more exciting is the game is promised to be free from in-game currencies/purchases!

pixel-p.gifPixel Defenders plus 0.1 - The matching and merging puzzle defense game Pixel Defenders has been updated to version 1.1, but behind that seemingly small increase hides a host of cozy improvements that players have been asking for. To start with, never-ending assault mode has been added, as well as support for larger screen sizes on iPhone 5 and the newest iPad. Tutorials have been trimmed, Game Center support has been added (with achievements!), and a handful of other issues have been tinkered with to provide a more balanced experience. It's great when a development team has both the will and the ability to respond to player feedback, and we're ready to give Social Titans a really big hug for their efforts.


(2 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
| Comments (0) | Views (108)

Gratuitous Space Battles: The Outcasts

cory If you're a more hands-off sort of space commander, then you probably already about Positech's Gratuitous Space Battles. Set up ship designs and place them into formation before launching them into combat, all on a massively gratuitous scale! Your strategy determines the outcome of the battle rather than your reflexes, a perfect option for those of us who have been reduced to still-living brains floating in jars.

Gratuitous Space Battles: The OutcastsA new bit of downloadable content has recently been released for the core game: Gratuitous Space Battles: The Outcasts. It adds a new race, the cybernetically-enhanced Vla-hurk 2.0 who also happen to be religious exiles. The Outcasts come with their own flavor of "sauceresque" ship in ten varieties, including new modules such as sniper lasers, tractor beams and the race's signature module the Decoy Projector. There are also a couple of new missions that pit you against the Outcasts should you rather do that instead of playing as them yourself.

If you're a Gratuitous Space Battles nut then chances are you've got the various expansions already and are likely to do the same with this one. If you haven't tried the game yet, The Outcasts is a good starter DLC once you've exhausted the base content; the Vla-hurk 2.0's unique modules and ship aesthetics add a bit more unique flavor.

WindowsWindows:
Get the full version

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


  • Currently 4.5/5
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Rating: 4.5/5 (34 votes)
| Comments (11) | Views (1,976)

The Cave

DoraThe Cave is both the title of DoubleFine's latest action adventure, and the name of your gracious host and narrator. Not a nickname, mind... it's very literal. The Cave is a sentient wonder of nature, and within lies treasure, adventure, and peril. Seven strangers have assembled to plumb its depths and uncover its secrets. But whether they survive is up to you as you create your own team of spelunkers to work together, solve puzzles, and maybe even get to the bottom of the Cave entirely... and themselves. What? Too dramatic? Well along the way, you'll also have to rescue a mining cart full of vittles, tantalize a death-breathing beast with an enormous hot dog, track down ill-gotten treasures to sell in a gift shop, and bodily hurl yourself off more cliffs than you can shake a stick at.

The CaveThe game controls with a combination of keyboard and mouse that can be configured to your liking under the options ranging from simple [WASD] to almost entirely mouse-driven. At the start of the game, you'll be presented with all seven potential characters to assemble your spelunking squad, so spend some time experimenting with each one, or just pick the three you like the best and take them each into the Cave to begin your adventure. Think carefully, since once you go past a certain point you won't be able to change your party, and everyone has their own unique ability to help out. The Twins, for instance, can leave a ghostly double of themselves behind to hold switches and such, while the Adventurer can use her grappling hook to snag onto certain bits of scenery and swing past obstacles. Once inside, your party will have to work together to proceed, using each other's special talent or simply muscle mass to manipulate the environment together and solve puzzles. Though any combination of characters will allow you to complete the game, who you pick will have an impact on what you get to see and where you get to go.

So what's in the Cave? Well... a lot. But don't worry. Whether you drown, get crushed, get devoured, are impaled, electrocuted, or otherwise dead, there's no dying in the Cave, and you'll be teleported back to a safer spot close to where you kicked the bucket. Since most of the puzzles in the game will require a lot of experimentation, this is a good thing. Sometimes you'll need to use a bit of simple platforming skill. Sometimes you'll have to trigger different mechanisms all at the same time. Sometimes you'll need to set a trap for a giant killer crystal beast. There's a lot more inside the Cave than rocks and cobwebs. As you play, keep an eye out for glowing drawings representing your party members... when you click on them while the appropriate character is active, you'll get a bit of insight into their history. Of course, for the whole story, you'll have to go deeper...

The CaveAnalysis: The Cave is one of those games that's more than just a pretty face, but is still quite pretty indeed. The visuals are, of course, cartoonish, but it's hard to care when the areas you'll explore are so beautiful. Lighting plays a big role in it, with the rich colours and imaginative design makes this a game you'll love to explore every nook and cranny in. Perhaps even more impressive is the fluid, expressive animation, from the way characters gesture and move their faces naturally as they talk, to the way the Twins quickly help each other work in tandem to do everything from climbing to swimming. It might be one of the best animated computer games around... it's certainly one of the most personality-packed, brought to life with superb voice acting, and in a primarily puzzle-driven adventure, that's extremely important.

The controls are... decent. Ish. With no real way to entirely disable one set of controls in favour of the others, you can find yourself accidentally activating abilities or swapping heroes. Combined with how awkward the platforming can sometimes feel, especially given how slowly your characters climb, this means traveling to and from places is sometimes more frustrating and tedious than it should be. It helps, then, that the actual gameplay itself is really, really fun. While I wish that more of the puzzles you came across used your party's unique abilities in more interesting ways, the bizarre nature of the obstacles you have to overcome is offset by how tightly designed each area is. Though each Cave area is fun, however, the game really shines once you begin to explore each of the locations dedicated to your party members. There, the game executes some great storytelling, allows you to interact with more memorable characters, and offers up some truly beautiful level and environmental design that provides a welcome break from the rest of the Cave.

Ultimately, how much you're going to enjoy the Cave comes down to how much you like clever environmental puzzles and DoubleFine's signature brand of humour, and both are in remarkably fine form here. It's an exercise in marrying absurd jokes with some surprisingly well-handled storytelling, and once you finish you'll want to go back through again with an entirely new party to see what areas you missed. It really is a fantastic example of puzzle-based adventuring, and has more style and charm in a single level than most games have in their entire package. The Cave is one of those games that's an easy recommendation for players who like to think, laugh, and be constantly surprised, and will keep you busy and mesmerized for a long time.

WindowsWindows:
Order the full version (Steam)

Mac OS XMac OS X:
Order the full version (Steam)


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Puzzle and Dragons

JohnBPuzzle & Dragons is a fusion of puzzle gameplay and Pokemon-like monster hunting, training and collecting. From the safety of your mobile device you get to manage a team of tiny elemental creatures who can be fused and evolved to become more powerful fighting machines. When your crew is ready to roll, head into the dungeon where you'll battle enemies by swapping gems on a grid. It's an almost perfect blend of puzzle matching and role playing, streamlined to be casual friendly without removing too much of the team management bits we love to obsess over.

Puzzle and DragonsA quick tutorial walks you through some of the basics, but even with the introduction Puzzle & Dragons can seem overwhelming at first. The main screen has a number of options lined up at the bottom, starting with Dungeon, which is where you'll go when you're ready for combat. The Monster icon will eat up most of your time, as this is where you edit your team and power-up creatures. You'll notice a lot of numbers and stats floating around, such as attack and level ranks for monsters, stamina scores, pal points, eggs, etc. Take our advice and just ignore them for a while. Once you get the hang of combat and team arrangements, you'll see the value of more detailed information.

Combat is all about making the smartest matches you can to create combos and maximize the strengths of your team. Elements on the puzzle board correspond to elemental monsters, so when you make a yellow match, for example, your yellow creatures will attack. Tap and slide gems anywhere you like, not just adjacent tiles, but keep in mind that each gem you move uses a turn. Enemies aren't going to sit idly by for long. Make larger matches for more powerful attacks, or work in a combo for a good old fashioned barrage. You can also match health-restoring heart gems to get an HP boost when you need it.

Puzzle and DragonsAnalysis: Puzzle & Dragons is surprisingly thick with tactical possibilities, especially for a puzzle/RPG hybrid. How you build your army is entirely up to you, and you can focus on special abilities, stack powerful same-colored monsters together, or spread everything out for a well-balanced approach. Different arrangements work better in different dungeons, so even when you find a combination that works, you'll often have to adapt it when you encounter new situations. And there are plenty of new situations to stumble across, too!

Like the somewhat similar structure of Battle Cats, Puzzle & Dragons rewards you for logging in each day. It also features challenges that refresh every once in a while, like themed dungeons or expert-level monsters to fight. It even employs a "pal" system that rewards you for entering combat and inviting another player's monster to fight alongside you. Microtransactions are present but completely optional, and with a little patience and proper inventory management you'll never feel too compelled to indulge.

The downsides of Puzzle & Dragons are largely technical in nature. The game requires a constant internet connection to function, so if you lose your signal, the game will immediately exit. Not exactly the most convenient feature. For the same reason you can expect Puzzle & Dragons to be a bit of a drain on your battery, knocking quite a bit of the portability out of the equation.

Despite being a battery/data hog with an overwhelming first few minutes of gameplay, Puzzle & Dragons pulls things together to create a great atmosphere of monster raising and gem matching. It's much more than just Pokemon plus Puzzle Quest, especially when you realize how deep the puzzle part of the game can be. It's an excellent pick up and play title that goes down well in both small and large doses, and once you start seeing the more complex dungeons and powerful creatures, you'll realize raising and fusing those little whelps was well-worth the effort!


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Death Pages: Ghost Library

GrinnypWhat is the most romantic, and at the same time, most tragic story in Western literature? No doubt about it, the answer is the story of Romeo and Juliet which, since it was first staged in the 16th century, has spawned countless adaptations in theaters, movies, television, ballet, operas, and now casual games. Despite the ominous sounding title, Death Pages: Ghost Library, the latest adventure hybrid from Elephant Games, is less about ghosts and death and more about living vicariously through one of William Shakespeare's most well known works.

grinnyp_deathpagesghostlibrary_screenshot1.pngAll the world's a stage, according to old Will, and all of us merely players. That is especially true for three teens who went to the library to study and ended up being captured by a psycho and his hand puppet (a duo so thoroughly deranged that they make Mr. Garrison and his sidekick Mr. Hat seem like paragons of normality in comparison) and forced to live through the romantic yet fatally tragic tale. Fortunately you, in the form of a librarian, come along to save the day, or at least try to while solving your way through a mysterious library and the living worlds of the story inside the quartos of the original play.

Point-and-click your way between the two worlds of the library and old Verona (the setting of the play), using the handy changing cursor and the various sparkles to light the way. A refillable hint feature gives hints in the hidden object scenes and the adventure scenes, and then becomes a skip feature during the puzzles. Death Pages: Ghost Library also features a delightful twist on the standard hidden object tropes, reverse hidden object scenes, where you place items back into the scenery rather than dig things out, a twist that featured prominently in the Enlightenus series of games. The mini-games are mostly variations on common adventure staples, and the adventuring features a nice mix puzzle solving and found object use.

grinnyp_deathpagesghostlibrary_screenshot2.pngA bottom loading inventory holds many of the items you find along the way although you actually can't pick up everything that is not nailed down as the game reminds you that you only have so much room in your pockets. Instead of the standard "notebook that keeps track of the story" you are supplied with a notebook that keeps track of your goals both immediate and long term. The map feature is a marvel, a two layer section that shows both the library (in flat, blue-print form) and the world of Verona (in a charming 3D scrolling model) and highlights where you've been, places you've not seen, and goals that still need to be performed. Can you save the teenagers before they live out the tragedy? Or will the mysterious manipulator have his way? The answers lay not in the stars, but in our selves, to steal a nice turn of phrase.

Analysis: Death Pages: Ghost Library at first glance seems like the standard adventure hybrid that is so prevalent these days. Don't let the title fool you, however, as there really aren't any ghosts, although the threat of death is real enough. Instead, the story weaves between the "real" world and the world of the old bard, more fantasy than horror. Elephant Games has created not a ghost story but a lovely fantasy with a twist. Have you ever dreamed of living inside your favorite story? Welcome to the nightmare reality.

grinnyp_deathpagesghostlibrary_screenshot3.pngIntensifying the fantasy feel are the hyper-saturated backgrounds and dramatic music which swells in the appropriate places. Smooth animations and semi-competent voice acting (albeit in bad British accents) round out the experience. The story is engaging, the reverse hidden object scenes enchanting, and the increasingly difficult mini-games and puzzles delightful as you rush to rescue the poor hapless kids from the over-the-top (even for teenagers) angst of the tale. The best feature is that fantastic map, which not only shows every place where something still needs to be done, but allows the player to jump from one scene to the next, and one world to the next, eliminating a lot of back-and-forthing, especially late in the game.

If there is a downside to Death Pages: Ghost Library, it is that not enough time is spent in the world of Verona. The story tends to lose focus a bit, and strange things happen like Hamlet popping up out of nowhere demanding the skull of his friend Yorick. What is Hamlet doing running around in the story of Romeo and Juliet? And why does he launch into the "To be or not to be" soliloquy instead of the more appropriate "Alas, poor Yorick" speech? Who knows, and it tends to detract from the main quest and bogs down the action a little towards the end. Not a fatal flaw, but a flaw none-the-less.

Despite the lack of focus, Elephant Games (makers of the Grim Tales and Mystery Trackers series) has once again delivered a fantastically entertaining adventure hybrid that is sure to enchant and delight as you explore the gorgeous scenery and the timeless depth of Shakespeare's most famous tale of tragedy and woe. With three modes of play for everyone from noob to pro, Death Pages: Ghost Library has something for everyone. Bring along your problem solving skills (and maybe some popcorn) and give Romeo and Juliet a happier ending!

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

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

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


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Frantic3

kyhHaving been a few years since their previous title, Polymer Rabbit comes back with a kick in the teeth by cranking up the difficulty of their shooter series in Frantic 3. Bigger enemies, bigger bullets... looks like they followed the 'bigger is better' philosophy. And you'll be glad they did as you wind your way through the top-down scrolling stages flying around with all the grace you can muster through your mouse (or [WASD] for those more keyboard-ly inclined) and increasing the devastation of your auto-firing arsenal with a flick of your left-click/[spacebar]

Get your bulkheads handed to you again and again while working your way through all five areas of three stages apiece. What's that? Not enough for you? Well, completing a stage unharmed unlocks a bonus stage where you can collect even more money to throw at endless upgrades and accessories for your ship. It's time to take a stand against these foreign spacecraft and whatever they have against you, because it's no fun when it's just the enemy with the overly large bullets. Fire away, my fantastic fighters! Fire away frantically!

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Rating: 4.7/5 (22 votes)
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Riven: The Sequel to Myst

JohnBRiven, the 1997 sequel to Myst, has finally made its way to iPad! Ported to iOS back in 2010, the team at Cyan had some graphics issues to deal with before a large screen release would be possible. After lots of tinkering it finally happened, and the result is the lush and intriguing Age of Riven staring you in the face, complete with a refined interface and full touch screen controls.

Riven: The Sequel to MystRiven is built a lot like its predecessor, stringing together still images with some video sequences and allowing you to point and click your way around. But since you have a touch screen and not a mouse, it's more of a tap and touch affair. Either way, there are countless unique contraptions to encounter, dozens of puzzles, and plenty of mysteries to dive into, as you might expect from a game in the Myst series. The iOS versions come with a slick bookmarking interface that allows you to save your position at any time, just in case you, you know, get stuck and have to go cry in the corner.

The atmosphere, the writing, the puzzles, the environments; all are perfectly orchestrated to create the world of Riven in intricate detail. This powerful combination hasn't lost any of its appeal since the game's original release. If you grew up with old school Riven, however, you might miss having a mouse cursor with changing icons. It's handy to see with a glance that clicking somewhere will turn you around or push you forward, but the touch screen controls work quite well in their place.

At this point, no one really needs to be told that Riven is fantastic. And if they do, we just did! Both the iOS and iPad ports were handled with a lot of care and are great alternatives to desktop version. The visuals may look a little dated, but the artistry they show lasts forever.

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

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: 4.1/5 (55 votes)
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Atomic Creep Spawner

TrickyStupid heroes! Always looting your randomly scattered GPs, knocking down your doors and whacking that stupid sword of theirs against your orbs of true evilness. Well, this one picked the wrong dungeon to vandalize, because you're the Atomic Creep Spawner, and you've got a whole mess of atomic creeps just waiting to be spawned. An action-strategy hybrid by Sébastien Bénard (deepnight), Atomic Creep Spawner took overall first place in the evil-themed Ludum Dare 25 competition, and it's not hard to see why.

The overall goal is to prevent the Hero from destroying all your evil orbs, by overwhelming him with enemies. At the bottom of the screen are buttons for each of the minions you can call upon. Click to select a minion, then click to place where you want it to spawn, though you can't place them within the hero's aura. You can also spawn Treasure Chests to distract the hero if it looks like they're about to discover one of your orbs. Spawning each minion type requires a certain amount anger points, which will build as the Hero does things you don't like, such as breaking stuff or stealing your gold. The level is over once the hero is dead, or all of your evil orbs have been shattered.

Atomic Creep Spawner is short, but it's a tightly-constructed malevolent masterpiece made all the more impressive for its 48-hour development time. The visuals and audio invoke the best of dungeon crawls past, and the quips the hero tosses out are just amusingly annoying enough that you'll never feel bad about sicking a zombie on 'em. Gameplay may prize quick-clicking a little over quick-thinking, but Atomic Creep Spawner is a fresh experience that, while complete in itself, could prove a satisfying base for a score of expansions.

Play Atomic Creep Spawner


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Rating: 4/5 (40 votes)
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Cantrip

KimberlyYou may think Hansel and Gretel had it bad, but at least their trail led them out of danger. Not so for the brother and sister team in Cantrip, an action adventure game from Dadiu Games (RaaSool). In this twisted interpretation of the fairy tale, the kids come upon a nasty witch as they are collecting a trail of cans in a scrapyard. They need to redeem the cans for cash to survive. And as if orphans collecting cans isn't sad enough, the witch accuses them of stealing her cans, snatches the sister, and curses the brother to be a human magnet. Sister is smart enough to leave a trail of cans behind as the witch carries her off, so there's at least some hope of tracking her down.

As you might imagine, being a human magnet in a junkyard makes things difficult. Use [WASD] to walk, and [spacebar] to jump.Click to temporarily demagnetize yourself, and the mouse wheel will zoom you in or out. As you wind your way through the junk yard, anything metallic will move toward you. This can be dangerous when there are knives or saw blades laying around, or helpful if you need to be heavier to flip switches at the cost of slower speed. Meters on the screen tell you how long you can demagnetize yourself, and how heavy you are depending on how much scrap you currently have stuck to you. When you demagnetize yourself, anything you've collected is flung off you forcefully. There are guard dogs on the premises, and this is good way to dispose of them.

Cantrip manages the magnet aspect of the game wonderfully. There are places where it is a help, but others where it is a definite hindrance. Figuring out which is which and using it to your advantage is key. The only thing missing is a save button. You've got a beautifully atmospheric game journey ahead of you. Can you help the children live happily ever after?

Note: Mac users please use Chrome or Safari. If the game runs slowly for you, try one of the free download versions.

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Link Dump Fridays

DoraHmmm. Haunted museums? Check. Sweet-toothed monsters? Check. Musical mechanical mayhem? Check! What are we missing... let's see... oh! I know. How about a remake and overhaul of one of the best free indie adventure games of all time, Treasure Adventure Game?

News and Previews

Treasure Adventure WorldSet Sail For Adventure and Sweet, Sweet Treasure! Remember 2011's free indie Metroidvania adventure game of the year Treasure Adventure Game? Well, if you loved it like we did, then get ready to get really excited because Treasure Adventure World is on the way! Billed as a re-imagining of the original freeware hit, the new game will, apart from an improved engine and graphical overhaul, include a bunch of significant new changes like better enemy AI, more treasure, puzzles, and collectibles, and a lot of big changes to the story including a tighter focus, multiple endings, and better cutscenes. If for some reason you haven't yet played the original, now is a great time to start. Platforms, pricing, and a release date will be announced later, so stay tuned.

Among the SleepLittle Hero, Big Scares It's been a while, but Krillbite Studios' "interactive experience" Among the Sleep is finally coming to PC and Mac later this year, so let's celebrate with some new screenshots and concept art! The game, which puts players in first-person control of a toddler navigating a dark house at night where you're unable to seperate imagination from reality, encountered some controversy when some people misunderstood the concept of the game and rallied against it, but thankfully it looks like it's still going strong. We'll be excited to get our hands on this one, but in the meantime, their free, short experimental game "The Plan" will be released for PC, Mac, and Linux on the 10th of February, so save the date!

Kickstarter Projects

HomesickDaydreams and Nightmares Lucky Pause wants to both intrigue and terrify you with their Kickstarter for their upcoming PC game Homesick. The adventure game tasks you with exploring a peaceful abandoned building by day, but when you sleep, you find yourself trapped in a nightmare fleeing from the dark with an axe in your hands. Which is for me a typical Friday night, but I guess I could see how some people might find it unsettling. The game looks like it's going to be seriously engrossing, promising hard (but fair) puzzles and some heavy atmosphere to pull you in. If this sounds good to you, as it should, head on over and check them out to learn more!

Monsters Ate My Birthday CakeBaked Goods Are a Powerful Motivator I wanted to write about SleepNinja's Kickstarter for Monsters Ate My Birthday Cake, but it was so cute it almost finished me off entirely. The game is billed as an "environmental puzzler" and follows a little boy named Niko whose birthday cake is stolen by monsters, and goes on a quest to avenge it only to discover cake everywhere is disappearing! The game looks seriously fantastic, with a planned release on PC and iOS, and aims to recapture the spirit and fun of old-school gaming while packing on the secrets, challenge, special abilities, and of course monsters to defeat... or befriend! This one really looks like something special gamers of all ages will enjoy, so be sure to check it out... after making sure your cakes are under lock and key.

Miscellany

*IbWhat Could Possibly Be Scary About an Art MuseEEEEE! Kouri's free indie horror adventure Ib, about a young girl who gets lost in an art gallery with some sinister secrets, was a hit with our readers. But how often does a little freeware game inspire some sincerely awesome cosplay? Note that these images potentially contain spoilers for the plot of Ib, so don't click through to them if you haven't finished the game. But if you have? Check out the talented Kanda Laam's eerie take on one of the game's most memorable characters, guaranteed to creep you out for a lot of reasons. In addition to being scary, they're also scary good!

The Turret AnthemMusic to Science By So there's this little game called Portal you might have heard of that was/is just a wee bit popular, and one seriously talented fan has found a unique way of showing his love. Zachariah Scott has put together The Turret Anthem, one seriously impressive music video created in TWO DAYS (I hate you a little, Zachariah) featuring everyone's favourite AI and some unusual turret behaviour. It's a pretty fantastic bit of work that is perfectly shot and orchestrated, and another amazing example of the talent that can come when a game inspires a fan.


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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Whisper of Fear: The Cursed Doll

DoraYou and your sister haven't spoken a lot in recent years, but when your niece's health continues to decline, she decides to call you in and see if a visit from you doesn't cheer the poor tyke up. When you arrive, however, you quickly discover that there's more to your niece's health and claustrophobia, and it might be twined up in a deadly curse linked to one seriously creepy doll. A doll that nobody seems to notice or be willing to comment on frequently changes appearance to a drastic degree appear as malevolent as possible, but, alright, just go with it. And it's going to do everything it can to keep you from uncovering the truth. Whisper of Fear: The Cursed Doll by Vogat Interactive is an iOS exclusive hidden-object adventure filled with creeps, curses, puzzles, and more. Though the app is listed as "free", it's actually a demo through which you can purchase the full game after if you so desire.

Whisper of Fear: The Cursed DollJust tap to navigate around and pick up items, where they'll be stored in your inventory at the bottom of the screen for future use. As it happens, solving this mystery and saving your niece is going to require a bit more than crawling around your sister's perplexingly puzzle-filled house (how do you even function?). The nearby town, which has a rather creepy fascination with dolls and toys in general, seems to be going through a run of bad luck where its children are concerned, and you'll need to trace the tragedy back to its roots to find out what's going on. Though you have a hint button, it occasionally just indicates interactive areas (even if those interactive areas are just bits of backstory to read), so you'll want to get into the habit of investigating everything. With your fingers. By tapping. Get your mind out of the gutter... and keep your wits about you! There's something strange and sinister happening in town and to the children, and not everyone (or everything) appreciates your prying.

Let's get this out of the way right now. Turns out playing a point-and-click game without a cursor is more of a challenge than you might think. Lacking a changing pointer to indicate interactive areas, you're sort of resigned to tapping everywhere on everything when you get stuck, especially since the hint function isn't that helpful and neither clues nor even some area transitions tucked in at odd angles are typically indicated visually. With more contextual and visual cues to help you progress, Whisper of Fear: The Cursed Doll would have been just as much of a breeze to play as its computer-born brethren, but as it stands, it's still a great mobile adventure. Vogat always places a tremendous emphasis on story and mystery, and this title is no different as you travel around the town meeting stranger and stranger characters. The actual gameplay doesn't really deviate that much from what you'd expect to find in the genre, with an added scoop of backtracking on top, but it's remarkably lengthy, engaging, and full of puzzles to solve and strange characters to talk to. Plus, it also drives home the point that dolls are inherently evil and not to be trusted, which is something we can all get behind.

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: 4/5 (55 votes)
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Monster Legions

DoraNerdook knows of your secret, burning desire to lead chicken-headed monstrosities into strategic real-time battle against the forces of darkness. In Monster Legions, you'll assemble and lead an army of weird warriors by summoning them to the battlefield via the various cards you earn. It's like if Card Captor Sakura met The Last Samurai, only without the magical girl transformation sequence... sadly. During battle, the goal is to defeat all of your opponent's reinforcements and swarm their base before they do the same to you, as represented by the numbers on the top right and left sides of the screen. When a unit dies, it respawns at the cost of a few of your recruitment points, and once those are gone, you won't get any more units back. Every fifteen seconds, you play a card that deploys a unit, and as you'd expect, units have strengths and weaknesses against each other, so pay attention to what your enemy is deploying to work the field to your advantage. Additionally, you have one advantage your enemy doesn't... the option to occasionally select from randomly chosen spell cards that can do everything from power your forces up to strike baddies down with earthquakes. Which hardly seems fair, but hey, never look a plague of death in the mouth, I always say. As you smash your foes, mouse over coins to collect them to purchase new, special cards between battles. Eventually, after several battles you'll get a crack at one of the bosses, and defeating all four of them will give you a chance to finally attempt to slay the biggest, baddest monster of them all... the Beast!

Monster Legions is a fun idea, but lacking a more hands-on approach to the strategy aspect, it feels like the game really needed to do more with its card concept to really come into its own. Allowing players to create their own card creatures at an increased gold cost would have been a great incentive, but as it is, it's still a surprisingly fun little exercise once it gets going. It takes a while before you get any of the really interesting cards to play with, and the final bosses can be pretty challenging. It makes you wish more of the enemies you encountered outside those huge battles had more of the tricky, interesting abilities the Horsemen do. Monster Legions is one of Nerdook's simpler games, but comes with a great style and a fun chance to let the conqueror inside you out on a coffee break or two.

Play Monster Legions


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Rating: 4.1/5 (131 votes)
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Escape From Yepi Planet

GrinnypEver wonder what life is like on an alien world? Whether it's a dusty wasteland like Mars or something more exotic and further from home, perhaps like the Yepi planet, it would be nice to know what happens in places other than our own little blue marble, Earth. What, you've never heard of Yepi? It's a wonderful place, Yepi planet, lush, verdant, peaceful, home of the Yepi and their Yepi girls, right up until evil alien invaders arrive to plunder and kidnap. You know, as you do. Guess life on other planets is pretty similar to our own. Although hopefully with much less probing. Join one poor Yepi on his yepi quest to escape his yepi planet and rescue his Yepi girl in — yes, you guessed it — Escape from Yepi Planet, a whimsical point-and-click adventure from BeGamer.

Just click in the scene to make things happen, like Yepi finding his perfect mate or his quest to rescue her from the ugly, hairy aliens who abduct her in the opening scenes. Gameplay is very reminiscent of such Pencilkids fare as Abuba the Alien or the Monkey Go Happy series. You just need to find the right combination of actions to get Yepi across the scene and on to the next. This is a short and sweet little time waster, packed with tons of personality, quirky characters and backgrounds, and more than a little rude humor that would have been right at home in Ace Ventura 2. So take a little time to explore alien worlds and enjoy the delights of Yepi, Yepi Girl, Yepi planet, and yepi, yepi, yepi. You know, yepi!

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Momonga Pinball Adventures

JohnBPinball may be just a decade or two from its 100th anniversary, but the genre is far from a fading memory. Momonga Pinball Adventures from Paladin Studios takes the familiar concept and wraps an adventure around it, allowing you to explore a world packed with secrets by guiding characters around with pinball flippers. Take all of that, add a heartfelt storyline and charming artwork and you've got a dangerously attractive arcade game that can capture just about anyone's interest.

Momonga Pinball AdventuresA band of owls turned the peaceful momonga village to ashes, kidnapping its inhabitants and flying off into the night. A single momonga, Momo, survived the attack but was left with a scar running from his head to the tip of his tail. A wandering Lorekeeper found little Momo and took him to his mountain sanctuary to heal. Now, Momo is on a quest to rescue his people from the nefarious owls. And he's got a handful of animal friends to help him out!

Momonga Pinball Adventures takes the basics of a pinball game—flippers, things to bump into, and various marble-like objects to whack around—and places it in an open-style environment. Instead of being trapped on a board working towards a high score, you get to explore a landscape, bust open secret doors, find hidden treasures, defeat a few enemies, and even take part in a few tilt-controlled flying sessions! Momo acts as the pinball, and by tapping either side of the screen you can control the flippers to keep him bounding around the stage.

Momonga Pinball AdventuresAnalysis: If you remember pinball adventure games like Mario Pinball Land for Game Boy Advance, you'll have a bit of an idea what to expect with Momonga Pinball Adventures. It's not just hitting the ball and hoping it does something cool, it involves planning, proper timing, boundless curiosity, and a little bit of luck. You'll also be happy to hear that the game is free from in-app purchases, ads, or any other form of money-nabbing trickery. It's just flying squirrels, pinball flippers, and bespectacled pandas!

Each of the game's nine levels has five challenges to complete, starting with the most basic "finish the level" and moving on to things like finding every secret room, collecting stars, or uncovering level-specific bonuses. You can blaze through the main game in an hour or two, but like any good pinball game the replay value is extremely high. With all the challenges to complete and the endless bonus level to unlock, you won't be hurting for more things to do. And if you are, more Momonga is planned for the future!

Even if you don't find pinball the most fascinating kind of game around, give Momonga Pinball Adventures a try. Half the fun is its simple charm, and the other half is the discovery-based gameplay. It's one of those rare games that makes you excited just to see what's around the next corner. Paladin Studios obviously put a lot of heart into making this gorgeous little masterpiece!

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.


  • Currently 4.1/5
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Rating: 4.1/5 (44 votes)
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Plunger

DoraStand up and stretch your arms out to either side of the room. Did anything happen? Anything like, say, your arms growing to an abnormal length allowing you to stick to and hang suspended between both walls? No? That's okay. That just means you're a boring, fleshy, ordinary organic being. But if you want to be something more, something extend-ier and stickier, then try Nitrome's arcade game Plunger. Use [WASD] or [arrow] keys to move our square avatar around, only instead of inefficient human legs he uses long plunger appendages that shoot out to either side of him in the direction you move, allowing you to slide along their length. The goal is to get yourself to and connect to all flashing purple nodes on a level, without bumping into any enemies or the nodes themselves since both will prove fatal. And, uh. So will a lot of other things. In fact, seemingly cheerful, innocuous bits of your environment will be glad to spit fire at you, or reel you in to gobble you whole, or otherwise ruin your day. Fortunately for you, there are pickups around that can help you out, like the lightning bolt that temporarily turns you into a masked electric avenger that can destroy enemies.

Plunger is a simple concept done up to almost unbearably cute degrees. Nitrome's always had a knack with cartoony environments, but something about the delighted squeal of our square hero when you win a level and the relentless cheer masking the deadliness of your environment makes this one a little bit extra special. A lot of the game's challenge comes from just figuring out what is deadly and how to avoid it, which is part of the charm when there are so many different elements in play that react to you in different ways. On the other hand, it also feels like a lot of progress can be made simply by abandoning caution and planning for mere flailing about until you get where you need to be and staying ahead of enemies. If you like a game where figuring out the rules of each stage is part of the experience, however, Plunger is a silly, fun, energetic little game that's sure to make you look at askance at chipper flora and fauna in your every day life. Yeah, bird. Keep up with the "Oh, I'm so harmless, tip-tip-tip". I got my eye on you.

Play Plunger


  • Currently 4/5
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Rating: 4/5 (74 votes)
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Aries Escape: Episode No.007

trinnIn addition to the bad habit of napping just about everywhere, poor Yumi must have some frightening B.O. to make an entire salon staff seemingly abandon the building and lock her inside while she slept. Although her plans of being pampered and enjoying the seascape have been thrown out the window, she will not be able to escape quite so easily. Fortunately for us, her frustrating scenario translates into another enjoyable installment of Aries Escape: Episode No.007.

Aries Escape: Episode No.007 Libertechno maintains the clean and simple layout of previous episodes, relying on the usual controls. Point-and-click to pick up objects and interact with specific areas conveniently indicated by a changing cursor. Use the side arrows to navigate the room and the bottom arrow to leave a zoomed-in window. This time around, instead of colorful legos, you're on a scavenger hunt for a collection of cards. When found, they and other items can be examined or combined by selecting their respective icons in the boxes at the bottom of the screen. Despite the narrative text being in Japanese, the language barrier is avoided where it counts as the clues and codes are presented in English.

Once you have a feel of the room, it's time to get to the meat of the brain matter. The handful of puzzles you'll encounter are fairly logical, however the hints aren't always straight-forward and you may be tripped up by a couple red herrings. Sometimes even recognizing what is or is not a clue is a challenge, and applying the information you collect to the right puzzles can prove equally daunting. While the gameplay presents a variety of difficulty ranging from elementary to mentally engaging and some refreshing originality, Libertechno sadly leaves out the colorblind yet again with the presence of more than one color-based puzzle.

In addition to the regular ending, a second "perfect" ending provides extra gameplay to enjoy, because if you're like me, sometimes normal just isn't satisfying enough. Expect the pleasantly bright graphics and light, melodic background music befitting a beauty salon to provide a cheerful atmosphere and set a relaxing mood perfect for putting your mind to work. It only makes sense that people would come here to get their scalps scrubbed, now if only the manager would let you leave!

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

Play Aries Escape: Episode No.007


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Inverse Universe

JohnBInverse Universe from FireRabbit, the creator of the Stalker Room Escape series, is a lovely 3D rendered escape game crafted especially for mobile devices. Instead of the usual single room to bust your way out of, Inverse Universe employs a more traditional layout with a dozen or so areas to explore, each with items and clues you'll put to use elsewhere in the game. It's a nice set-up with some good puzzles and a light sense of humor, making it an excellent and extremely mobile-friendly diversion!

Inverse UniverseLike the name implies, Inverse Universe utilizes an alternate world that can be traveled to via mirror. Instead of just slightly altered versions of the same scenery, though, some items are linked between the two worlds, allowing you to reach things on one side by moving things around in the other. Tap the arrows on the side of the screen to walk around your environment, touching objects to take a closer look or to interact with them. Inventory items can be accessed via an icon, and you can quick-hop to different rooms by using the map, a small but quite handy feature!

It's all fine and good to sit and talk about well-structured puzzles or challenging riddles, but the best part of Inverse Universe is its sense of humor. Sci-fi fans will catch more than one reference to popular movies or shows, and you get the sense that the main character is amused to be there. Instead of panicking to escape, it's more like "Hey, let's check out some things, see what we can see", and then you encounter a framed Darth Vader picture. That small difference means a lot when you sit down with the game, and it's exactly what Inverse Universe needed to make it stand above other escape games!

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 3.9/5
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Rating: 3.9/5 (103 votes)
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4 Walls

DoraI'm going to go ahead and assume it's been a while since you were last abducted, had a bloody number spray-painted on your chest, and woke up in a room full of corpses, cryptic clues, and puzzles. If so, here's a game for you to say, "Aaaaah, that takes me back", with GamezHero's 4 Walls escape game about just such a nostalgic pastime. Click (or tap, if you're playing for free on iOS or Android) to interact with or pick up things, and click the big red arrows to navigate around the room. Click on an item in your inventory of the bottom of the screen to highlight it for use the next time you click, or click on another inventory object to try to combine them. (There is a lot of clicking. The madman who kidnapped you, knocked you out, and set you up is very considerate to our dolphin audience. ) Both your keen detective senses and the bodies lying everywhere will clue you into the fact that this is no five-star hotel, so you'll probably want to find a way out as soon as possible.

4 Walls is a short, straight-forward, mostly clever escape game with logical puzzles that rely more on basic observation and math than your ability to MacGuyver things. The atmosphere is fantastic, with eerie sound effects, a discordant musical track, and simple, effective visuals. Don't worry, there are no jump scares or even particularly explicit bits of gore. Unfortunately, if you're playing it in your browser instead of a touch-screen device, you'll probably wish you had a changing cursor to spot interactive zones so you don't have to resort to clicking around. When the end rolls around you'll probably wish the game had more of a story since the scenario really seems to be begging for it, but if what you're craving is a creepy and smartly constructed little escape game to prime your brain for the next time you find yourself locked up with nowhere to go, fire up 4 Walls. And maybe... get that shirt dry-cleaned.

Play 4 Walls


  • Currently 4.3/5
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Rating: 4.3/5 (232 votes)
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Derpy's Story

DoraLove it or hate it, there's no denying that My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic has inspired some truly impressive fan creations, and 4as's short-and-simple but gorgeously moody action-adventure Derpy's Story is no different. Inspired by a piece of art by RizCifra, it centers on a lone little pegasus lost in the dark of the Everfree Forest, where thorns aren't the biggest danger, but you can guide her somewhere safe. Click the screen to start and catch the attention of your little pony, and then hover the bubbles in front of her with your mouse to lead her around hazards. Hold down the mouse button to make the bubbles glow brighter and cause her to speed up, but don't do this too long or you'll temporarily burn out. If Derpy takes damage (represented by the number of tiny bubbles floating around the largest one), she'll spook and temporarily run away. Get her safely to the exit at the end of each level, munching down muffins when you find them to restore health and leading her over ropes to trigger useful paths.

Derpy's Story is not a perfect game. The controls lack a lot of clearer explanation and the fine movement you would really want to guide your little pony around hazards. It's also both short, and simple. But in that brief simplicity, you find that the game really shines, with lovely animated cutscenes and a rich atmosphere that almost make it feel more like a piece of interactive art. There's something weirdly poetic about a game featuring every fan's favourite clumsy gray pegasus being imperfect, but it does sort of make you hope 4as decides to tackle bigger projects in the long run to better refine the craft, because there's clearly a lot of talent there that needs some more polishing when it comes to the gameplay. While it lasts, Derpy's Story is a short, sweet tale about finding both a way home and friends in unexpected places.

Play Derpy's Story


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The Vault

DoraWho says shooters are all about diving sideways with two guns in slow motion or firing off into the air while going "arrrr"? Shooters haven't been "just" about headshots and highscores for a long time, and when you add the ever-increasing creativity of browser game developers into the mix, you know you're in for one fantastic hybrid of a good time. Here are just three of our favourite games who have mixed up the blam-blam with a little of the ol' ooooh, aaaahh in unexpected ways.

  • ZombotronZombotron - Ant Karlov's zombie-infested shooter combines the action with ridiculously entertaining explosives and physics-based platforming gameplay for one incredibly good time. Where Zombotron sets itself apart from the other endless parades of zombie shoot-em-ups is by focusing on highly destructive, carefully planned environments that let you plan and execute the horde following you in a variety of amusing ways... or, uh, just stand on the other side of a cliff and watch them walk straight off it trying to get you. Plus, Zombotron sounds like Jumbotron, only instead of having to kiss someone when the camera focuses on you, you crack open the top of their skull and eat their brains. Aw. Reminds me of my first date.
  • Realm of the Mad GodRealm of the Mad God - You need to make a free account to play this game from Wild Shadow, but trust me, it's seriously worth it, because holy gooses is it ever nonstop bananas fun. This multiplayer shooter blends RPG action with roguelike difficulty by plopping you into a world full of fast moving, fast shooting enemies of all types and a horde of other players swarming around you doing the same. The idea is you're all fantasy classes, like paladins and clerics and such, with projectile attacks, trying to find and bring down the titular baddie, but along the way you'll gain levels, find secrets, unlock new classes... and inevitably die and have to restart, since death in the game is permanent, and happens if you so much as stand still for more than two seconds. It's crazy, it's hectic, and it's endlessly entertaining stress release in one frantic package.
  • StarwishStarwish - Few games are more bafflingly impressive than this visual novel/adventure/side-scrolling space shooter/RPG from Anonymous D Studio. Not only did the creator write, code, and draw everything himself, but the game is fairly massive, and the sort of thing you can sink hours and hours into. You play the role of Deuce, a space pirate who gets wrapped up in an intergalactic battle that can decide the fate of all life, and gameplay is split between traditional horizontal shooter action with the ability to wander around the ship between stages, talk to and form relationships with characters that alter your ending, and even enjoy a ton of upgrades for your ship. It's tremendously well made and engrossing, and is perhaps the single best example out there of the high quality entertainment you're so lucky to get for the low, low, price of free. (And I STILL WANT A SEQUEL.)

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!


(6 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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I Am Vegend: Zombiegeddon

JohnBWhat are you doing? Protect those plant seeds! When zombies get it in their heads they'd rather eat seeds than brains, the plant kingdom rallies together to form the Vegendary Heroes, a group of fearsome warriors dedicated to fighting off the invading undead. I Am Vegend: Zombiegeddon is the tale of this epic struggle, taking a tongue-in-cheek setting and sense of humor from games like Plants vs. Zombies and setting it in a two dimensional defense world.

I Am Vegend: ZombiegeddonZombies crawl in from the right (or fly, or jump, or whatever), and your precious seeds are on the left. Each vegetable soldier has an ability you can activate with a quick couple of taps, targeting foes and blasting them with everything from seeds to tomatoes to veggie-bombs. Gather coins as your reward and spend them on unit upgrades between levels, allowing you to fire faster, hit harder, and reload quicker than you can say "hang on a second, zombies, gotta reload".

Variety is one of I Am Vegend's strengths, and over the course of the game's 50+ stages you'll do more than just line up plants and tap on zombies. Some stages restrict you to certain types of units, such as bomber planes. Other stages throw boss battles at you or pave the way to bonus levels. No matter how you look at it, I Am Vegend is a fast paced and smart parody of a defense game that knows exactly what fans want: upgrades, humor, and zombies dying because they're zombies.

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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Best of 2012!

Dora

... dun dun...

... dun dun...

... dundundundundundundundun!

It's coming! It's nearly here! The deadline to vote for the Best of 2012 looms near, with January 23rd being the cutoff date! You still have time to make sure your favourite games in every genre from adventure to RPG, every category from indie to mobile reign supreme over their competition. You can vote once each day, every day, in every category, but you can also cast one single vote once per day to choose the game you think should be the single best game of 2012.

Your votes matter, so keep at it until this Wednesday when the polls close and the numbers are tallied. As for us? Well, we were hard at work until we realised that the games up for voting for the Best of 2012, well, really are the best, and we've been obsessively replaying some of them. Which ones? We can't tell you that, but if you check the categories, I think you'll find each and every game deserves to be there and is coming out with guns blazing to try to take down Best Game of 2012. And soon we'll know exactly which one pulled it off...
Vote Now! >>


  • Currently 4/5
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Rating: 4/5 (41 votes)
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Pike Club 2

DoraYou know, you hear a lot about companies with shady loan practices, but generally those don't include kidnapping you if you can't pay, putting a paper bag over your head, and threatening to kill you unless you can best them in a memory matching puzzle game like Shade Memory's Pike Club 2. I mean, unless there's some dark secret to Amscot I haven't heard about. In order to repay your debt to the club, you'll need to participate in a series of levels against its members where you try to match cards in pairs to clear the board. Just click on cards to turn them, but be careful, since certain card colours will cause you to lose a life point, and if those run out, it's game over. Likewise, if the clock reaches zero, it'll give you another ten seconds, but at the expense of a life point. Though things start off simply enough, soon you'll have to worry about cards with different effects (both negative and positive), and you'll unlock a whole host of various "Talent Cards" with special abilities you can use to build a deck that helps you as you play.

The original Pike Club was a surprisingly clever twist on a simple genre, but also far too simple to really succeed beyond its novelty. It's something you see happen a lot as developers continually experiment, but what's impressive here is how hard Shade Memory has clearly worked to flesh out the game beyond a simple concept. One of the biggest things Pike Club 2 has going for it is simply its unique style, with surreal visuals and momentous music coming forward to create a unique atmosphere. The downside is it might still be a bit too simple for some players, and the element of a ticking clock means it isn't really the sort of game that's suited for relaxing with. Which is a shame, because with the strategy involved in making the beneficial cards counterbalance the negative ones and the skills and talents to deploy, it really is a wonderfully creative little game that does a lot to improve on what it used to be.

Play Pike Club 2


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Mobile Monday

JohnBWho doesn't like a good animal hybrid? Especially that of the impossible type! One day in the distant past, mankind looked at centaurs with a sort of mystified awe. And today we gaze upon the Goaticorn and wonder "Can I get one of those IRL pls?"

punch-p.gifPunch Quest now has a unicorn goat - It's easy to love everything Rocketcat releases. What, with all the hookshot running/swinging games, lovely, lovely pixel art, a killer retro RPG, and a game that's all about punching things that get in your way. The team recently pushed an update to Punch Quest, tweaking a few features, adding some new abilities, and introducing the Goaticorn, a rideable creature you probably can't wait to get your, er, hands... on.

hex-p.gifSuper Hexagon is now a 'droid thang - If you're an Android owner and have been itching to get your hands on Terry Cavanagh's painfully challenging/addictive Super Hexagon, you can now stop sending angry letters and/or cupcakes to his house! Super Hexagon recently launched on the Google Play marketplace with all the hexagonal avoidance gameplay you could ever want. Check out our review for more info on the game along with links to both the iOS and PC/Mac versions of the game. Nexus 7 owners should note that there's a seemingly unresolvable issue that makes the game run slowly on this device.

orbox-p.gifOrbox slides onto Android - Have you missed Orbox? We have, too! The complex, sci-fi-themed series of sliding block puzzle games from Game Balance have enjoyed years of popularity in browser gaming circles (those exist!). Now, both Orbox B and Orbox C have worked their way to Android devices, preserving the layout and gameplay astonishingly well for touch screen devices. Do yourself a favor and give either of these games a try, it's a great mobile diversion with a good level of challenge.


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

JohnBGunslugs from Orange Pixel is an arcade game. It's an arcade game with guns and shooting and enemies, helicopters jetpacks and tanks. There's lots of destruction, lots of replayability, unlockable characters, and plenty of weapons with which you can cause said destruction. Basically, it's everything you could ask for from a rampaging action game, all packed up in a neat little mobile release with ample amounts of retro-style visuals, music and secrets. There's even a multiplayer mode if you happen to have a physical controller handy!

GunslugsIt starts with a simple mission: shut down the beacons lit up by the Black Duck Army. The story moves you through several new environments, each stocked with its fair share of baddies, all of whom like to shoot at you. You can shoot back, though, and with just as many guns, too! Use the on-screen arrows to move left and right, taping the fire button to attack or the jump button to enter buildings or leap. Much like classic sidescrolling games like Contra, enemies often drop items and new weapons you can pick up and use right away. Standard gun not cutting it? Oh look, a flamethrower! Tired of walking? That looks like a fun driveable tank up ahead. Might as well go for a spin.

As soon as you die in Gunslugs, you start over from the first level. Our protip for the day, then, is this: don't die. You'll encounter several buildings that often have helpful items inside (or just-for-fun arcade mini-games!), like a continue token you can purchase using coins you gather from defeated enemies, making things a little easier. But it's still a stern challenge to stay alive. Gunslugs is the kind of game some would say shouldn't work so well on a mobile device. But given Orange Pixel's extensive experience with sidescrolling retro action games, Gunslugs works perfectly. And with the added bonus of missions, unlockables and plenty of fun secrets, it's one of those games you'll pick up day after day after day, just to see what you can see. And shoot what you can shoot!


  • Currently 3.7/5
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Rating: 3.7/5 (49 votes)
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Colonial Wars

MeaghanIt's pretty easy to admit we're no longer in the age of a manifest destiny mindset. For the battle hungry colonizer in you this has to be depressing information... but don't fret! While it's not land based warfare, Colonial Wars provides you with a great opportunity to flex your naval military muscles. This real-time strategy game created by Eugene Markeev and Olexiy Starodumov starts with you as a red colored island looking to expand your colony. To send your little soldiers off to battle, click and hold on your island, then drag towards the island you want to invade and release, or drag to another island under your control first to send multiple armies to the same destination. Doing so sends over half the number of troops displayed at your island, and you need to send over a larger number than the one displayed on the enemy's forces... which is exactly what they'll also be trying to do. Luckily, the islands regenerate fighters and there are upgrades available that will help you out and hinder your foes.

Off the bat the game might seem too simple for the seasoned strategy gamer but the difficulty picks up as you plow through the levels. Part of the difficulty comes not only from island positions on the map but also from more than one enemy to contend with. Upgrades provide a helping hand though the price for them becomes quite steep when compared to the rate of obtaining the gold. While the boats and planes will seem rather sluggish the speed boost comes in handy to cast away that frustration. You won't need to be a master tactician to beat the game but you will have to keep your wits about you and that's what makes this game all the better. It's a familiar concept, but it's fun, well presented, and fits perfectly into your day.

Play Colonial Wars


(18 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Corpse Party Rebuilt

DoraAin't no party like a Corpse Party, 'cause a Corpse Party don't stop 'til everyone is dead or driven insane by vengeful demonic spirits! Originally released in Japanese by Makoto Kedouin and later re-released as a completely remastered commercial title, the free version of this dark and fraught-with-freakiness horror adventure has been remade and re-released by an anonymous message board member and now finally translated into English by Memories of Fear. In Corpse Party Rebuilt, a group of students who stays after school to help with preparations for a festival wind up attracting the attention of a malevolent forces bound up in urban legend. Proving, of course, that no good deed goes unpunished. Trapped in a twisted nightmare version of their school where the rules of survival seem to change without warning, will they get to the bottom of the mystery and make it out alive? Please be warned that this game alludes to an implied incident that may upset some readers.

Corpse Party RebuiltMove with the [arrow] keys and interact with the [spacebar] (hold the [spacebar] while walking to move faster). You can save and load your game at any time by opening the menu with [ESC], and since, uh, stuff can happen, you may want to save in multiple slots. Stuff like drowning in blood or being set on fire or choosing a really bad time to have an argument about feelings when trapped for all eternity. You'll notice your characters have hitpoints, and that's not just for show. Things can happen to hurt them (though you do have a few opportunities to heal) so you'll want to keep an eye on those numbers. Early in the game, your students will split up into two groups. You can only control one at a time, but you'll often have to work together to solve puzzles, or even save each other's hides. The game has several different endings depending on who survives and the choices you make. Choices like not drowning in blood or not being lit on fire by a mannequin.

Corpse Party Rebuilt is sort of bananas, the insane hybrid of what feels like the overactive and dramatic imagination of a kid telling a scary story and every bloody trope from a straight-to-VHS horror movie in the '80s. And largely this is a good thing. It's campy, cheesy, and full of surreal and bizarre circumstances that can often prove fatal, so saving frequently and in different slots is a good idea. The problem is that the game often feels like it's operating on its own logic (crazy), and that (crazy!) logic typically comes down to trying everything until something happens. Whenever you make some progress or trigger an event that allows you to go somewhere you couldn't previously, there is rarely even a hint of where you should go next, so you'll often wind up swapping back and forth between parties and going back over everything else to see what's changed. More creepy and gory than actually scary (though there are a few loud noises some might consider jump scares), Corpse Party Rebuilt may be a little silly, but it's also a lot of fun, with a climactic final battle to boot. A perfect blood-soaked homage to urban legends everywhere, it's just the ticket for a few hours of crazy carnage and spooks.

Note: You must install the free RPG Tkool XP Runtime Package in order to play Corpse Party Rebuilt.

WindowsWindows:
Download the free full version

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


(8 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Tribloos 2

JohnBThe Tribloos 2 from Bumpkin Brothers is a sequel to the 2011 simulation/time management game The Tribloos. Set in a 2D world starring energetic and eternally optimistic creatures, you'll guide the fuzzballs on a quest to discover the origins of some troubling storms looming near the island. What they find beyond the clouds, however, isn't quite what they expected!

The Tribloos 2As the benevolent administrator it's your job to organize the tribloos to distribute labor as efficiently as possible. You do this by assigning workers to gather resources, remove obstacles, rebuild houses, sawmills and other structures, and staff these locations to keep the resources rolling in. Each level has a series of goals listed at the bottom of the screen along with a timer that gradually sweeps to the left. Work as precisely as you can, never dawdling or making unnecessary work requests, and you just might get the full rainbow of a score at the end of the stage!

To send out a tribloo worker, simply click on an icon floating above a building or pile of resources. You can usually assign multiple workers to the same task, speeding up its completion considerably, but often you'll want to spread the labor out to keep multiple projects running simultaneously. The worker does his thing until the green bar fills then returns to home base to deposit any resources gathered. If nothing was harvested, you can immediately set the worker to another task. Provided you have the required resources, of course.

The Tribloos 2Analysis: Mastering The Tribloos 2 is an exercise in orderly administration. That's an awfully dull thing to say, but the game is never boring, we promise! You start each stage by gathering a few resources. Resources are used to build houses that provide more workers, structures that provide more resources, or other buildings necessary for completing the stage. It's your job to figure out which paths to clear, which order to clear them in, and where everybody needs to be at every moment. If a tribloo isn't on a job, find something for him to do! You are the ultimate manager, and if you don't want to end up painted in a corner with an empty resources bucket, get a plan of action going before you start clicking!

Compared to its predecessor, Tribloos 2 sticks to the same basic design, although the settings are different, the items you work with have changed, and there's a lot more variety as things progress. The graphics have received a major update, switching from a flat digital look to a deeper almost watercolor style. It works very well for the settings and looks great in motion, too. The game also has a nice quirky sense of humor that'll give you a laugh or two, not to mention a few exciting events like piloting an airship with tribloo workers!

The Tribloos 2 is a casual simulation game done right. By dropping the well-tread overhead perspective and focusing on a few refined gameplay elements, it sticks to the basics and does them very, very well. Expect an extremely entertaining set of over 100 levels, a number that includes several bonus stages as well as challenge levels. Also expect to get a good mental workout as you sit and analyze resource log jams and turn yourself into a little administrator person!

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


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Avernum: The Complete Saga

DoraDo you know Avernum? You should. Spiderweb Software's towering isometric indie RPG series is sort of the vast, undersea giant of computer gaming that destroys smaller titles in the wake of its passage. It focuses on the vast underground world originally used as little more than a dumping ground for society's criminals, but eventually evolving over the course of the series to something more. Avernum: The Complete Saga contains all seven of the original Avernum games to deliver hours and hours and hours of classically designed, lovingly detailed RPG entertainment. And corrosive slime. And flesh-eating fleabag unicorns. And constant, constant betrayal. Just like... nonstop betrayal. Luckily for you, it's the fun kind! So clear your schedule, because you've got a prison to escape. Or maybe a rebellion to lead. An expedition into the unexplored? Avernum has all that and much, much more, so call in sick and clear your schedule, because you have a legacy to forge.

Avernum: The Complete SagaIn each game, you'll create a party of adventurers that best fits your play style. Create a squad of lizard hedge wizards, or berserker cat warriors, or go the balanced route and make a group of heroes that cover all your bases and take advantages of the unique traits you can use to make sure you're ready for any situation. It's presented in top-down, turn-based style, where each step you take (or move you make during battle) causes the world to move and advance a bit around you. Most of the game can be controlled with the mouse, clicking to interact or select, though to make things easier you'll want to make use of the numerous hot-keys for everything from your spells to searching the area around you. (Don't worry, each game features a helpful integrated tutorial.) During battle, you'll manually direct your characters around the battlefield to engage enemies and cast spells, with the game pausing after each person takes their turn.

Though each game gives you its own epic quest to undertake, it doesn't do a lot of leading you around by the nose. The maps you can explore are huge, and as they say, fortune favours the bold. Secret treasure and areas are everywhere, as well as secrets of the more substantial kind that can open up new quests for you. Don't worry, though the plots of all the games tie into one another, you don't necessarily have to play them in order. (Though if I had to pick a favourite, I'd probably go with the third.) Each one features significantly different overall goals in addition to a world that actually feels like it reacts to your deeds. Be brave, explore, and, uh. Save often. You never know when a herd of angry unicorns is going to show up to eat your face.

Avernum: The Complete SagaAnalysis: The cheapest complaint to take against the series is that it doesn't so much evolve or change significantly with each installment as it does simply improve in a myriad of small but noticeable ways. There's no denying that Avernum 6 is better than the first installment in almost every technical sense, particularly where the user interface is concerned, but you won't find much different as far as the setting or even the gameplay goes. Is this a bad thing? Well, not really, since Avernum is focused on doing one thing very well, and that's provided a deep and involving "old school" RPG experience. There's no denying the graphics are on the simple side, though if I had any real issue with it it's that I might personally wish Phil Foglio's fantastic illustrations had remained for the whole series and been featured more in the game itself.

Additionally, they are, if you would permit me the indulgence of a technical term, freakin' stupid huge. Each game has the sort of staggeringly long playtime stuffed with sidequests and secrets that puts bigger budget titles to shame, and even more surprising is that they rarely ever feel like they're rehashing material even late into the series. The lengthy plots and subplots are very well written, though exceptionally wordy at times, so fans of more action-oriented RPGs might find this one too slow. Instead, Avernum will be appeal to players who like story-rich games that offer tactical combat. Victory typically comes down less to grinding and more in careful preparation and being able to strategically move and act with your party around a variety of hazards and locations to boot.

If you love deep, involving plots and challenging gameplay, you owe it to yourself to check out the Avernum games. Being able to buy them all in one package at such a low price is sort of shocking, but more impressive is seeing how far they've come. The amount of polish and hard work that has gone into not only crafting each adventure but refining the entire series is enough to make you feel really inadequate, and you can feel the love that's gone into developing them. With its creative, sprawling stories and enormous adventures, the Avernum games are some of the crown jewels of indie RPGs and should not be missed by anyone who loves a good story.

WindowsWindows:
Get the full version (GOG.com)

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


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KRUNCH

JohnBKRUNCH from LeGrudge & Rugged is going to make you growl in frustration. The good kind of frustration. The kind that VVVVVV, Super Meat Boy, and the Karoshi series bestows upon you. The kind that, even after dying in the same short level two or three dozen times, you still come back for more, hoping to slip through that tiny gap between a sawblade and a crushing pillar of death just so you can fly forward and die again. And you'll continue to play until you've clawed your way through over 100 levels of painful, challenging, gorgeous arcade fun.

krunch.pngYou take control of a flying Beholder-like mechanation trying to escape the rapidly razing factory you were housed in. The controls keep things quite simple: [arrow] keys for movement, and hold [z] for a speed boost. The thing is, you're constantly losing health in KRUNCH, even when you're not doing anything but sweating in a fevered panic. Dashing consumes extra health, so you've got to collect glowing energy coins in order to stay alive. This leads to a lot of frantic moments with the walls closing in, health running out, and dangerous things mere pixels away from your vulnerable self. Whew.

The goal of each level is to make it to the exit duct alive. Levels only last for 20 or 30 seconds but are absolutely packed with spikes, blades, crushing walls/ceiling/floors, bully-like enemies, and other insta-death ouchies. That adds up to a whole lot of mad dashing and precision arrow key tapping. You don't have to gather every energy coin you come across, but KRUNCH keeps track of how many you gather along with how long you play and how many times you die, displaying everything on an online leaderboard. Want a spot up there? Get ready to work for it.

krunch2.pngAnalysis: Retro gaming is the cool place to be, and KRUNCH doesn't try to hide its inspirations. Both the artwork and soundtrack have a distinct NES-era flavor to them, though the artists responsible for each clearly went above and beyond the limits of the classic system. That's a good thing, though, as KRUNCH looks, sounds, and plays like a dream. Which is why you can't stay mad at it no matter how many times you die.

The only real drawback to KRUNCH is that because of its high level of difficulty, it won't be the sort of game everyone can enjoy at all times. Sometimes you want to kick back and drink a cup of tea. With KRUNCH, tea drinks you. Or something like that. The point is, the game is exciting and requires repeated attempts at the same small sections. Failure is part of the experience, so if you're the type who gives up easily, you'll probably be better off just banging your head against the keyboard and getting it over with.

For a good time, call KRUNCH. It's got loads of content and provides plenty of incentive to go back and replay levels so you can get a decent score. It'll only take about 20 seconds each run through (or, like, three seconds when you fail), so what's there to lose? Other than your calm demeanor, of course.

WindowsWindows:
Get the full version

Mac OS XMac OS X:
Get the full version

LinuxLinux:
Get the full version


  • Currently 4.8/5
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Rating: 4.8/5 (22 votes)
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Corrypt

JohnB Mushrooms. It's all about mushrooms. And keys and crates and stuff, too, but really, mushrooms. In Corrypt, a puzzle game by Zaga-33 creator Michael Brough, your job is to work your way through maze-like screens as you hunt for the items you need to appease unsettled citizens. Using a slightly tweaked sokoban-style setup, be ready to sit and scratch your head as you wonder at the logic of carving a path through groups of wooden crates.

corrypt.gifCorrypt gives you one simple ability: pushing and pulling boxes. Unlike vanilla sokoban, your hands are a bit sticky and will tug on boxes directly adjacent to you if you move towards or away from them. This is useful in many situations, but it's also a nuisance when all you want to do is walk away from the crates. Solution? Step sideways! Now you get to figure out how to place crates to open passage ways or hold down buttons, all while dealing with some environmental obstacles that make things even more difficult.

Corrypt's puzzles are the kind that delight you in their intricacies. You can usually tell what needs to be done, like sliding a single box into a specific slot, but actually doing that will take some thought. And many failed attempts. And maybe some scratch paper. Don't worry, though, it's never frustrating or overly complex. Just challenging, precisely the way we like it!

WindowsWindows:
Get the free full version

Mac OS XMac OS X:
Get the free full version

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.


  • Currently 3.3/5
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Rating: 3.3/5 (84 votes)
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Escape from Mystery Science Room

SonicLoverGetting into a science laboratory is much easier than it looks... just ask Dee Dee. Getting out of one, however, is another story, as is evidenced in Escape from Mystery Science Room. espcgm's clever little escaper drops you into what appears to be a chemistry lab, and tasks you with puzzling your way out. The navigation is all mouse-controlled and should be self-explanatory, but just in case... click on things to examine, interact with, or take them, click the arrows to navigate, click something in your inventory to highlight it for use, and click the "about item" button for a close-up of the highlighted item. Below "about item" are a language toggle, a sound toggle, and a save button for later resumption.

(Note: to get the description text to appear in English, click the "Jp" button on the title screen or below the inventory. It will turn to "En".)

Don't let the MS Paint graphics throw you off. Escape from Mystery Science Room is not a bad game. The meat of an escaper is its gameplay, and this is a game that has it. The puzzles are logical and flow well, and although there's no changing cursor, the lack of pixel-hunting means you don't really need it. There's one part that the scientifically handicapped may be especially troubled by, but not hard to deduce with trial and error (and seriously, what elementary school graduate doesn't know what shape memory alloys react to?). Escape from Mystery Science Room is a game that's just difficult enough, and well worth the trip. Now, let me stand back while you try science.

Play Escape from Mystery Science Room


  • Currently 4.1/5
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Rating: 4.1/5 (52 votes)
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Uirdz

ArtbegottiDon't be [FOOLED] by a title like Uirdz. It's not really a word game as much as it is a high-difficulty puzzle platformer by Amalgames that uses the power of words as [STEPPING STONES] along the way. If you're looking for a more appropriately alphabet-based challenge, [TRY HERE], but if you're fixing to get your precision and patience tested, [READ ON].

Your movements (using [WASD] or the [arrow] keys) in each level are generally left to right, through a plethora of spikes to the exit. However, the exit is never unlocked until you drag all of the words from the bottom of the screen into the playing area. These writers' blocks can be used as extra platforms to help you reach the exit, barricades that block your path if you don't place them carefully, or perhaps have some other effect that could help or hinder your way out. It only takes a little bit of trial and error to see what words can do, so don't be afraid to experiment.

Uirdz contains 39 hard-as-nails levels to repeatedly die through (each with optional they're-clearly-joking target times to meet), plus one you've-got-to-be-kidding-me-hard boss level. Scattered along the way, you'll also find a handful of no-just-plain-no-why-would-they-even-do-that secret levels that will really put your platforming skills to the test. The secret levels are tricky to find, but you can usually pick up a hint or two from the [ONSCREEN PROMPTS] that pop up before each level, or from the very [WORDS] you have to drag into play. It's that extra layer of puzzle goodness that makes Uirdz a devastating platform [CHALLENGE] to behold.

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Link Dump Fridays

DoraRise and shine, muffins, there are games to be had! This week we're doing something a little different and highlighting some of the great titles up for funding over at IndieGoGo, but that's not all. Ports, interviews, previews? Sounds good to me!

News and Previews

Slender: The ArrivalIt's Coming Can't wait to stay up all night with everyone's favourite dapper nightmare in Slender: The Arrival? Then sink your teeth into this meaty developer interview that talks more about what we can expect, including just who that figure in the trailer is, what the levels will be like, replayability, and more. Slender: The Arrival is still on schedule for an early release this year, and horror adventure fans everywhere will soon be sleeping poorly... if at all.

SpireProcedural Generation is the New Black Hitbox Team, the developers behind the glorious Dustforce, have finally announced details on their next game, a procedurally generated first-person shooter called Spire, where players will be climbing a massive tower filled with mystery and danger that will be different each time you play. Right now, there aren't too many details except of the most general sort, but as the developers promise to already be "well into development" and more in-depth articles later, look for more news soon!

10000000Points on Your PC One of my favourite "I wish I could quit you" games of 2012 was the immensely addictive match-3/RPG hybrid for iOS, 10,000,000, which had your character trapped in a dungeon and unable to escape until he amassed the full ten million points. If you don't have an iOS, however, now you can finally experience the "I should have been in bed six hours ago" addictive action of the game on your PC via Steam. Right now, the promotional price is $3.99USD, and after January 22nd it goes up to $4.99USD, and if you love fast-paced gameplay with retro graphics and tons of upgrades, this is definitely one you need to check out.

IndieGoGo Projects

Eternal Eden: EcclesiaEden Makes a Re-Entry It's been five years now since Blossomsoft released the indie RPG Eternal Eden, but one-man crew Elder Prince hasn't been quietly resting on his laurels. Up for funding on IndieGoGo, Eternal Eden: Ecclesia will be the sequel to the original hit, with completely original assets, a new storyline set in a constantly shifting world, and a massive overhaul of everything that made the original great. And speaking of the original, one of Ecclesia's stretch-goals include a remastering of the first Eternal Eden game that you'll receive for free if you pre-order and funding is met. Eternal Eden was a fantastic game, but the significant leaps forward in everything from design to gameplay here are really impressive to see, and if you're looking for classic RPG adventures with depth, you'll definitely want to check this one out.

*un*Lucky7Fur and Fear "A horror, sci-fi themed, jRPG-view, story-driven, pixelart puzzle game!" Hmmm, says I. Hmmmmm. It's the sort of concept that sounds like it was chosen from a dart board, and yet if you look into it, *un*Lucky7 seems like it could definitely have a lot going for it. The story follows six prisoners serving life sentences who are promised freedom if they agree to venture out into space with an experimental engine and explore the unexplored, but soon wind up trapped on an alien planet in an abandoned facility. The game will offer a lot of different endings, depending on how well you did, and with the claim of drawing inspiration from titles like Corpse Party and To the Moon (sure, we can pretend those go together!), this could be something special, and definitely worth investigating.


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 4.1/5
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Rating: 4.1/5 (36 votes)
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Temple Run 2

DoraWhile diabolical strategies and complex gameplay can be satisfying, Imangi Studios' smash-hit action-arcade game for iOS Temple Run illustrates that your beloved mobile device really is the perfect vehicle for delivering breakneck action in fast, frantic doses that keep you coming back again and again. Simple, sure, but an instant addiction world-wide, it was immediately embraced by gamers looking to have their reflexes challenged the good ol' fashioned way... fleeing from blood-thirsty monkeys through endless ruins with a pilfered golden idol. Now it's back, bigger, and badder than ever with the free sequel Temple Run 2, featuring everything from overhauled graphics and music to new locales, new obstacles and special abilities, and one very big, very angry, skull-faced monkey. Sounds like a party to me!

Temple Run 2Gameplay is, essentially, exactly the same was before. Keep running, grab coins, and don't stop or you're monkey meat. Tilt your device left or right to have your character move in that direction, and swipe to either side to take corners and choose paths. Swiping up will let you leap, and swiping down will cause you to slide. Behind you, of course, is the aforementioned angry monkey, and you really don't want him to catch up. Bumping into some obstacles will make you lose momentum, while some, such as cliffs, spinning spike pits, blocked mine paths, and more are instantly fatal. (If you're the sort of person who can survive a plummet into whirling blades and crushing blocks, why haven't you called Stan Lee yet?) If you have any gems on you, you can choose to spend one (increasing by one each time you use it per run) to be saved and keep running. Of course, failure is inevitable, but don't worry. You can spend the coins you nabbed on upgrades, and even new characters to play as. If you're impatient, you can choose to buy more coins or gems through the in-game shop with real cash.

Temple Run 2 wins a lot of points for focusing on improving almost every aspect of the original rather than overhauling the game to change it. It's still the same, wrist-breaking, addictive game of avoiding death by the seat of your pants, but now it's just... better. The visuals are nice, with eye-catching backgrounds, although if you're like me you're glad to hear the music change from the annoyingly repetitive loop of the first game. The player-activated power-ups are a nice touch, allowing you to use helpful abilities by double-tapping the screen, and it feels like there's more variety to the things you encounter overall. But is it perfect? Well... not quite. Most of the objectives are, unfortunately, fairly repetitive and tend to boil down to "spend thus much", "go this far", or "get this much". There are also a few minor bugs (that will no doubt be ironed out) and frustrations, such as occasionally falling through a bridge when you try to leap across a gap, or rubber-banding off the side of a wall just enough to plummet into the abyss along a narrow edge. But ultimately? Temple Run 2 represents some of the very best "never gonna give you up, never gonna put you down" arcade action your iOS can get. It's breathless, fun, addictive, and full of more of everything you loved about the original. So go on, try it. Just... make sure you've completed any obligations you needed to do today first. Trust me on this.

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 4.1/5
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Rating: 4.1/5 (194 votes)
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Qoosh

DoraHad enough of platform puzzle games where you play a lab experiment being guided through a series of tests and trials by a suspiciously smug narrator? Of course not! Especially not when one gives out candy so often as Qoosh, and we all know accepting candy from strangers never goes wrong! As the titular little green cyclopean blob, it's your job to make your way through the Q-Science Facility, following the orders of the voice over the speaker system. (Also a scenario that has never done anyone any harm!) Use the [WASD] or [arrow] keys to move, and click outside the screen to pause the game, while [M] mutes it and [R] restarts your current level. Initially, you can't do much other than hop around, but you'll soon gain an ability that lets you warp to wherever your cursor is when you click, over distances or through obstacles. Your range is limited, though, so you'll have to be sneaky and experiment to use it to its fullest advantage, like teleporting in midair to gain some extra height, or clicking on certain objects to move them around by swapping places with them. What could be safer and less suspicious than that? Any facility with Q in the name is doubly trustworthy after all!

All teasing aside, while the concept may not be especially new and fresh, Qoosh does a great job of presenting it in a fun, likable fashion. It helps that the narration is frequently funny in a sly, snarky way, and both well-voiced and engaging. What's neat about the gameplay is that despite the lack of any real instruction, figuring out things on your own rarely feels frustrating and in fact is rather rewarding as you experiment to figure out both each stage's puzzle and how to solve it. It takes a few levels for the game to really ramp up and provide enough elements to feel like it has any significant difficulty, but Qoosh is a familiar yet fun diversion that fits perfectly into any breaks you're looking to fill, and does so with its fair share of charm and challenge.

Play Qoosh


  • Currently 4.1/5
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Rating: 4.1/5 (62 votes)
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Westerado

DoraOstritch Banditos delivers a sun-soaked, pitch-perfect Western action adventure with Westerado. You, a strong-silent-type cowboy, return home from chasing down a stray buffalo from your family's herd to discover tragedy waiting for you. Revenge is the only answer, but first you'll need to track down clues to the identity of the coward what dun it, and more often than not you'll need to let your gun do the talking for you. Can you track down a villain and mete out the only cold, hard justice that matters? Of course you can. You wear a stetson now. Stetsons are cool. Oh, and when your Uncle tells you to get a pen and paper? He's not being cute. Apart from visual clues to the murderer and a simple map, the game doesn't keep track of anything for you, so you'll want to write down your jobs and such yourself, including any important topics the people you meet talk about. Just like they did in the olden days! Another important thing to remember, however, and perhaps the most important, is that this game does not save progress. If you leave and come back, you will have the option of skipping straight to your Uncle's house, and the map will have all the locations you unlocked, but that's it. Man... the olden days are, uh, a lot harsher than I remember.

WesteradoUse the [WASD] keys to move, hold [left shift] or double-tap the directional key to run, [P] to open your map and [E] to interact when the prompt appears. When you receive it, pull out (or holster) your gun with [J], tap [K] to cock it, and [K] again to fire. When you're out of bullets, tap [R] to reload one bullet each time, but try not to stand around in plain sight while you do it, since getting damaged knocks off one of the cowboy hats in the upper-left corner. When they're all gone, you'll die the next time you get hit. In order to track down the murderer, you'll need to do odd jobs for and earn the trust of the nearby townsfolk. Not only will this get you cash, but they'll help provide you clues to the killer's appearance so you can eventually get your revenge. It'll take a lot of work, though, and you'll find yourself traveling all over the land, though luckily you can use horses to fast travel to different locations. Herd buffalo, protect caravans, root out bandits, play cards, and more. Sadly, no apple-bucking is to be had.

Westerado is an amazingly gorgeous game, both visually and aurally. Suspiciously gorgeous, really, in that I remain unconvinced no infernal bargains were struck in the course of its design. (Who was it? Mephisto? Clavicus Vile? David Bowie? You can tell me!) It sounds amazing, with a perfect instrumental soundtrack that sets a new standard in music for browser games, but the amount of detail and atmosphere the retro-style visuals deliver to your environments is fantastic. The control scheme, however, is going to be a bit of an acquired taste for most people, especially since figuring out how best to aim your line of fire takes some trial and error though it will eventually become second nature. It also feels a little bit buggy in places as of this writing, with enemies occasionally getting stuck below the screen in certain missions and forcing a reload. The big killer for a lot of people, however, is going to be the game's decidedly old-school approach to play, and by not allowing players to save their game, it's definitely limiting its audience. Those willing to stick with it and take their own notes, however, will discover that Westerado is a sun-soaked masterpiece of design that will take you down your fair share of dusty trails. Try it out, and if you find it to your taste, Westerado will keep you busy for quite some time.

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(6 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Crumble Zone

JohnBAsteroids have long been the nemesis of creatures living on Earth. Just ask the dinosaurs. Or the makers of that gem of an arcade game, Asteroids. Or the NASA researchers who were trying to figure out if we'd get smacked with a big chunk of space rock in a few decades (spoiler: we won't). Crumble Zone from Rebel Twins understands that ancient fear and it capitalizes on it by letting you save the world over and over again by tossing little missiles towards the sky. With satisfying sound effects, a soundtrack that actually rocks, and plenty of things to unlock, it's quite possibly the most exciting asteroid defense "simulation" around!

crumblezone.jpgStanding on a small planet, you have two virtual buttons that allow you to walk clockwise or counterclockwise along the surface. A third button is your attack: launching a stone-looking missile into the air. Doesn't sound too menacing, but it gets the job done. Looming clusters of various asteroid sizes get closer and closer as time passes, but your pebble can smash them to bits if you time it right. Keep the skies clear and the planet's surface free from collisions and you'll earn some diamonds. Pick up as many as you can to unlock new special weapons that really give you an edge in the anti-asteroid campaign.

Apart from the main "get as far as you can, then start again when you die" mode, Crumble Zone doesn't offer any other means of distraction (except single-device multiplayer), just straight-up arcade gaming. There are no in-app purchases, which is always nice to see, and each of the unlocks are fueled by your performance, giving you plenty of reason to come back for more. The graphics and sounds were handled with professional care, The shifts in color, the subtle gradients, and the satisfying crumbling sound when you break apart an asteroid really makes the game something special. And when the gameplay itself is both tense and strategic, you really couldn't ask for much more from an arcade defense game!

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.


  • Currently 4.3/5
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Rating: 4.3/5 (82 votes)
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Cat Around Europe

elleHe purrs when he's happy, and what makes him happy? Food, food and more food. "I can has cheezburger?" is only the start of it. He wants cheese from Switzerland, sausage from Germany, and salami from Italy—if it's bite-sized and can roll, then he's got to have it. The kitty who already circled the globe and stole our heart is back for a second tour de cuisine in Cat Around Europe, an easy-yet-thinky physics puzzle from AlmaGames.

Click blocks to remove them and press buttons to activate them, figuring out the correct set-up, sequence and timing to move the food from one end of the obstacle course to where our hungry feline awaits. Collect stars along the way and make your move as quickly as possible to rack up the best score, all while avoiding the electrical hazards... kitty cries when his food fries! If you enjoyed the first culinary excursion, you're sure to enjoy these additional 30 levels. It's more of the same but, when same is just so tasty, that's always a good thing, especially when you can just sit back, relax, and satisfy your craving for physics fun.

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  • Currently 4.4/5
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Rating: 4.4/5 (114 votes)
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Fractured

DoraIf you've ever said to yourself, "Self, I wonder what a puzzle platformer designed by MC Escher, narrated by the Cranberries, illustrated by a cartoonist, and then violently beaten with a hammer would look like," well, wonder no longer my curious specific friend, because GroZZleR's Fractured is here to serve. Use the [arrow] keys to move and jump and eventually unite our ballcapp'd little lad with the floating pink specter on the screen even though that sounds exactly like something that should be a scary Doctor Who episode. The catch? Though it starts out slowly, each level becomes, as the title suggests, progressively more fractured... broken into pieces strewn haphazardly around the screen at odd angles. Though you'll still be able to move from piece to piece, the controls change depending on your orientation where you come out into the new one, and trying to decipher the lay of the land when the land looks like a jigsaw puzzle someone took the scissors to then had a temper tantrum with is harder then you might think. Especially since there is no level select, so finish the game all in one go or you'll have to start over.

Fractured is a very neat idea, and it's always great to see people trying to innovate. For the most part, it pulls off its concept well, though it does sort of feel like a slightly more topsy-turvy Continuity and the oppressive atmosphere and poetry are... intense. In a way, Fractured feels like the start of a bigger idea, and a follow-up with more elements at play in the levels to really force you to use your brain would be fantastic. What exists is still quite clever, however, and it's surprising how tricky mentally assembling a puzzle can be. It's sort of the platforming equivalent of a tongue-twister. Only for your eyes. And your hands. And your jam poetry sessions.

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Rating: 3.9/5 (126 votes)
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Sunken Room Escape

elleAmong the myriad of escape-the-room scenarios—besides the general "Hey, I'm in a locked room, let me out of here!" many reasons urge us to seek escape—being half-submerged in a room full of water and sea creatures has to be one of the most creative and compelling. Imagine the discomfort of prune skin and claustrophobia that would start to sink in! Yet it'd be worth it to experience Sunken Room Escape, the dreamlike aquatic abode from the imagination of MyGames888 and the beautifully-rendered setting for our midweek sojourn.

Sunken Room EscapeAll the usual rules for playing escape games are also in place here: point-and-click everywhere you can, trying to make sense of the enigmas in your surroundings. What is in that shell and how do you get to it? Is that sawfish safe or is he behind bars for a reason? Those questions and more can only be answered by savvy detective skills and clever thinking. Gather up as many clues and items as possible, figure out how to put them toward puzzle solutions, pressing forward with a bit of experimentation, until you gain the exit code and can be free from this watery trap. Watch out for some misdirection as well as clues that seem impossibly hidden until spotted, in which case they seem so obvious you might do a face-palm.

As evidenced by this selection and 3 Small Keys, MyGames888 has a talent for aesthetically pleasing yet minimalist, surreal environments and inventive puzzles. Yet, in this case, there are a few quirks in navigation: a couple instances where you can't help but think the presentation should be better. First, there's the need of a reset button (rather than having to zoom back out and in) and, second, the help of a changing cursor to prevent overlooking important active areas is always a welcome tool. These quibbles, as well as the stagnant on-screen arrows, dull the polish of an otherwise overall lovely experience. Still, it's impossible to be disappointed when enjoying this unique game set in a world that's not only fun to slosh about in, the cool "Congratulations!" screen is sure to leave you smiling.

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Pinball Kid

JohnBRemember pinball? Not the the massive stand-up tables you'd feed with quarters at the arcade while your friends foolishly played Mortal Kombat. We're talking about the handheld versions with simple boards and inexplicably infinite replay value! Sauce Digital looks to recreate that world of tiny metal pellets and plastic flippers with Pinball Kid, a small and simple arcade game for iOS devices. It looks retro, it plays retro, and with board names like Rocktopus, Zombeaver and Antdroid, it's almost impossible to resist.

Pinball KidEach round of pinball starts with a handful of balls waiting in the queue, one dropping down to the chute ready to be deployed. Tap and hold the screen to pull back the launcher and release to send it flying (can't you just hear the crummy spring yelling "toing!"). A flipper is placed somewhere on the main part of the board, all you have to do is tap the screen to activate it. The goal is to get each ball into one of the score cups to rack up as many points as you can. The flipper is a big part of this, but tilting your device around also helps, shifting the ball's trajectory just like it would in real life.

The default version of Pinball Kid is free but features a small banner ad at the top of the screen. You can opt to remove it with a minimal in-app purchase, but otherwise the game is free and without microtransactions. There are just three boards to play, and gameplay is limited to quick rounds and competing for a high score. It's not a game for everyone, but if pinball is at least a tiny part of your gaming nostalgia, Pinball Kid will definitely tickle a fancy or two.

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: 3.9/5 (75 votes)
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Da Capo Escape

elleWe all find ourselves in sticky situations every now and then, some of us more than others. As it turns out, you're one of the mores as once again you're locked in a room without explanation or reason, and only your wits and ability to make logical deductions can help you escape from Da Capo.

As you navigate via point-and-click trying to gather up clues and tools to open a smattering of door codes, you might think the environment is rather dull. Yet the beauty of it is in its simplicity: the design is so clean that, even without a changing cursor and lack of an English translation to the Japanese messaging, there's no pixel hunting or deep enigmas to be found. Everything is laid out logically making for a brief excursion that is both simple and clever, with a bit of originality mixed in with the familiar formulas (including a color code). This entry from new-to-the-scene game designer, Indice, will have you looking forward to the next tricky circumstance you can get caught up in.

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Rating: 4.2/5 (101 votes)
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A Team For The Job

JeremyThe most I've ever accomplished in four days was manage to get over a particularly bad head cold. StormAlligator, on the other hand, managed to create A Team for the Job, a short card game where the goal is to have all five card classes in play at the same time before your opponent. The first to gather a complete team will be chosen by the king for a special mission!

During play, hover your mouse over a card to get a description of its abilities, and click to select it during your turn. By figuring out what card (or rather, character) to play, you can effectively block, remove, and otherwise hinder your opponent's progress. The Thief, for example, forces your opponent to discard a card, while the Witch will allow you to counter an opponent's card, but will both cost you the Witch herself and make you discard another card from your hand. Thus, it becomes a constant back and forth battle of strategy as you an your opponent struggle to thwart each other at every turn as you both try to get all five characters into play before the other. Card games like this, which go beyond the usual solitaire and poker combinations, are few and far between, and it's nice to see something new come around. The game is short enough to play a couple of rounds during breaks, but due to it's random nature, the possibilities for playthroughs are close to infinite, which is more than you can say for your boss' patience as you wile away the company's precious time.

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The Vault

DoraWhat is disturbing really? For some people it's blood, gore, and Jersey Shore, but for others, it's both more subtle, and more personal. After all, one person's freak-out is another's "just another day". Personally, I'm more a fan of subtlety, and when it encourages discussion it's even better. So here are three games with varying degrees of out-and-out ooginess that have inspired some of the most interesting (and entertaining) discussion in the community.

  • CoilCoil - Edmund McMillen and Florian Himsl are no strangers to unique work, but this experimental mouse-controlled game/narrative about (ostensibly) gestation (of a sort) is definitely near the top of that list. Figuring out how to play and proceed through each stage is part of the puzzle, at least as much as deciphering what's actually going on. It's one of those games that just sort of gets creepier the more you think about what's actually happening and what the game is implying, though the controls will be frustrating enough that some people might find this one too obtuse. It's still worth playing, though, and represents a cleverly handled exercise into unique gameplay and typically unexplored territory.
  • Friendship is Magic: Story of the BlanksFriendship is Magic: Story of the Blanks - Unless you're really determined to win some sort of sarcasm contest, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic isn't ordinarily something you can honestly call nightmare fuel. It's cute, cuddly, and sweet by design, unless you're developer Donitz, in which case it's an opportunity to make a mild-to-moderately unsettling adventure game. You control Cutie Mark Crusader and ribbon enthusiast Apple Bloom, who follows a mysterious figure deep into the forest and stumbles upon an idyllic community of ponies all lacking their own Cutie Marks... and concealing one big secret. It's short and simple, having been made for a "creepy pasta" contest, but makes for a great spooky escape from your day regardless of whether you love little ponies or not.
  • LoomingLooming - Gregory Weir is one of those developers who never does a game that's "just" anything, and this otherworldly adventure is no different. You're exploring a vast, uncharted land called Looming, uncovering artifacts littered around the void, and, well, trying to figure out just what the heck is going on. It's a bit like wandering through an art gallery, only each thing you discover slowly gives you more and more details, as do the initially baffling letters your character writes your dear January. Looming is that very special sort of unsettling that comes from atmosphere and implication, and serves as a great slow, thoughtful trip into another realm entirely.

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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Noble Nutlings

JohnBNoble Nutlings is a physics racing game by Boomlagoon, a studio formed by several members of the original Angry Birds team. Don't expect slingshots and piggies, though, as this one's a very different sort of ride. Using a combination of tilt controls and good old fashioned upgrades, you'll pilot a trio of squirrels through different landscapes as they collect acorns and try to make it through the countryside in one piece. Also, the squirrels are the cutest creatures in any mobile game, especially the grumpy brown one. You can quote us on that!

Noble NutlingsThere are two control styles in Noble Nutlings: tilt, and virtual buttons. The latter assigns the chili boost, the "gas pedal", and left and right rotations to separate buttons across the bottom of the screen .Opt for the wilder (and better) tilt controls and you'll just have boost and gas on the screen while you tilt your device to control the direction the squirrels face. Either way, the little guys need to be kept upright through the rollercoaster-like stages, surviving crazy hills, TNT-fueled jumps, and even loops. Before each run you get to purchase upgrades to make things a little easier to handle, like buying a sturdier chasis, new wheels, or refilling the chili booster. Several in-app purchasing options are also available to get packs of coins.

Making it to the end of the level is your real goal in Noble Nutlings, but you can earn more stars and coins by gathering all the acorns and being speedy with your trip. If you do happen to crash (oops), don't worry, as the little squirrels hop back up after a few moments' delay, continuing the journey from that very spot. It's a no-fail sort of approach to design, but it doesn't detract from the entertainment value provided the wild game. Also expect a few surprises, like unicycle stages and a prize-distributing slot machine!

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: 4/5 (116 votes)
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Mad Princess

MeaghanFor a knight, the greatest accomplishment is to rescue a Princess from whatever cursed prison she's been placed in, and the bonus is she's so happy about her escape that she supplies a happily ever after. In Mad Princess, a defense strategy game originally created for the "You Are the Villain," themed Ludum Dare 25, creator Jussi Simpanen has given the Princess a neurotic twist. Instead of looking for her gallant knight she's killing them off little by little with the help of caltrops, bombs, crossbows, and swinging spiked balls. You can access these weapons by either clicking them or by using the [1]-[5] keys to select from your given arsenal then placing them on the floor. The traps will turn green if they are able to be placed and will remain red if they can't be put down. Blood is the currency that you will need to collect in order to purchase your death traps and with diligent placement and timing it is up to you to prevent the knights from reaching the Princess.

Whether you find it awesome or maniacal that the princess is a sociopath it's easy to appreciate the twist on the overused damsel in distress plot. It's not hard to see how the idea would translate perfectly as a defense game and the traps given are amusing to say the least. Having a finite amount of traps and revealing them quickly without any chance of upgrade keeps the game tiptoeing a fine line between difficult and repetitive but fortunately it handles the balancing act well. Strangely, even in the moments of repetition the game doesn't lose its allure to help the fearsome princess maintain her freedom from a fairy tale ending that isn't of her choosing.

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Rating: 3.9/5 (32 votes)
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Sparkman Stop World

KimberlySparkman: Stop World is a creative puzzle platformer from Gamezhero. Sparkman may not be able to shoot or slide like Megaman, and since there's no backstory, I can only assume Sparkman is going to destroy humanity out to save the world. And don't worry, he's got some tricks up his sleeve (or whatever the robot equivalent of a sleeve is). Sparkman spawns on a portal of sorts. Your goal is to get to the other portal located somewhere on the level, collecting discs along the way. If you happen to touch a bomb or other hazard, you'll reset at the beginning of the level. There's also a reset button if you should find yourself trapped somehow.

Run and jump with the [arrow] keys, and you can go through the sides and top of the screen Pac-man style. Pushing down stops the screen from scrolling as you move, which then allows you to loop through from one side of the screen to the other where you might not have been able to before. You'll have to use this trick in various creative ways to get where you need to go. The jumping feels slow at times, and the game can lag a bit if you try to play it in full screen mode. But it's a small complaint in an otherwise clever game. The futuristic atmosphere is perfect, and the game mechanic is fresh and fun. So let's hope Sparkman IS saving the world, or we could be in a lot of trouble.

Please note that this game may take some time to load.

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Mobile Monday

JohnBQuick! Think of your favorite mobile game! Now think about it ported to another system! Now pretend the impossible happened and something like Portal was ported to a graphing calculator. How funny would that— oh it totally happened, didn't it? Good for you, science!

dungelot-p.gifDungelot in Dunge-more places! - If you still haven't managed to pull your head out of the captivating roguelike-esque game Dungelot, we've got bad news. The game is now available for both Android and iOS devices (and PC/Mac, if that's your thing). Yeah. Even when you're not in front of a browser window you can sit there tapping those squares, defeating enemies, and trying to earn coins so you can level up your characters and dive even deeper into the dungeon. So, sorry if you wanted free time or something. Whatever.

dragon-p.gifDragon Flight flaps to Android - Dragon Flight is a quick pick up and play shooter that employs the now-popular quest and upgrades bases system found on so many mobile game. Shoot some enemies, gain some coins, upgrade your weapons, do it all over again. Only this time, you'll make it even further! AND... you do all of this on the back of a dragon! "Boss" is what we say, and now the game is available for Android devices as well as iOS. Bosser!

abyss-p.gifAbyss: The Wraiths of Eden goes mobile - When good games go mobile, good things happen. Artifex Mundi's Abyss: The Wraiths of Eden is one such game, and it's made the transition from downloadable hidden object adventure to mobile hidden object adventure with everything intact. Explorer Robert Marceau went missing while on a dive, but his bride-to-be isn't giving up on him. She heads to the site to find him but stumbles across a ruined city instead. Didn't see that one coming, did you? It's a lengthy and adventure-heavy game, one that works quite well on portable touch screen devices!


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Grim Tales: The Stone Queen

MeaghanMagic and mystery, much to the displeasure of many, is not as ever-present as is should be. On one hand that fact makes reality seem far too dreary, but on the other, it might be for the best that power of that nature isn't lurking around every corner. In the newest installment of Elephant Games' Grim Tales series, Grim Tales: The Stone Queen, this is made very clear. In this hidden object puzzle adventure mystery game, it's easy to realize why magic and supernatural powers can be a grim alternative to the mundane normalcy of bill paying and chores.

Grim Tales: The Stone QueenIt all begins in Stoneville where you're about to meet your nephew. Yeah right, since when does anything go as planned in a hidden object game? Instead of finding him happy and healthy, you stumble upon something bizarre: people are being turned to stone by a woman known as the Stone Queen. To add the extra cherry on the top, your nephew is on the verge of death whilst being cradled in a bed of crystals. The once charming town that was protected by the Stone Queen is now the unwilling victim of her fury. It's up to you to figure out why she's off her rocker with rage and hope that once you find out, it will help you cure your ailing nephew.

After you've chosen a difficulty level and started your adventure you will encounter a smattering of mini-games and hidden object scenes that will help you obtain inventory items that will assist your enterprise. Your inventory bar is collapsible so it won't interfere with your view of the surrounding area, and to the right of the bar is your interactive map that will allow you to jump between scenes.

Grim Tales: The Stone QueenAnalysis: Unlike previous games in the Grim Tales series, Stone Queen takes a story twist by focusing on the villain more than the family. This doesn't keep the story from touching on the familial bond or the strength it can provide, but it offers a greater dimension for relationships by showing more than what you might expect. The greatest shock of all is the very obvious lack of achievements and collectibles that have become a standard of Elephant Games releases. It's not a point against the game, per se, just a bit of a head scratcher.

Despite a few questionable tweaks in the otherwise perfect formula, Grim Tales: The Stone Queen offers the same great experience as previous releases. Each scene is crafted with a touch of autumnal beauty lending the game a solemn yet sensational atmosphere. To add the perfect sprinkling of magic there are creatures that will assist you or detain you, but nevertheless intrigue you with each new appearance. While it's hard to say for sure whether this is better than any of the Grim predecessors, it's easy to be certain that Grim Tales: The Stone Queen is a glorious game that is worth the number of hours it will take you to devour it.

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


  • Currently 4.7/5
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Rating: 4.7/5 (129 votes)
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Steppin' Stones

elleIn this deceptively simple puzzle game by Emiel de Graaf, you'll be Steppin' Stones over other stones, building pathways to the goal. The number on the stone indicates how many can be placed along the path you choose. Click and hold on the stone you want to use and drag your mouse over one of the arrows, then release to lay down the stones in that direction, connecting with other stones as needed to reach the outlined zone in each of the sixteen levels.

Your strategy for success means planning out which direction to go as well as the proper sequence for clicking and laying out the series of stones; this will likely leave you to restarting a level from scratch a few times until the solution becomes clear. Gameplay compares to Huebrix yet, in this case, the white-on-orange monotone presentation creates a new kind of challenge, making Steppin' Stones simultaneously easy and thoughtful, a great way to chill during a coffee break while still keeping your brain cells steppin' up.

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Bouncy

JohnBSometimes you just wanna jump on a trampoline. And turn three sets of reversing flips while in the air and land without smacking your face! Bouncy from monogames is an impressively illustrated arcade game that is essentially an upgradeable stunt trampoline for your iOS device. It's better than risking your cranial integrity on a real life trampoline, and you get to fight for higher scores and upgrade your equipment in the process. Plus, buck-toothed bunny!

BouncyTwo sets of controls let you hop in Bouncy: touch, and slide. The former will likely be more comfortable for most players, but you can switch at any time from the settings menu. With touch controls active, the screen is divided into three vertical columns. While airborne, tap the left column to flip left, the right to flip right. The center column lets you control the height of your jumps with carefully placed taps and releases. It's a lot like gaining speed in Tiny Wings, only you don't have wings, just legs and knees and bunny ears.

The goal of Bouncy is to bounce and keep bouncing until you crash, performing stunt combos in mid-air like a land-based version of Dolphin Up. The more moves you do, the bigger your combo multiplier becomes, making your score higher and higher until you unlock new bouncier trampolines. Apart from wind variables, new sights higher in the sky, and upgrading bunny colors to increase rotation bonuses, Bouncy doesn't stray too far from its core mechanics. But what's here is shockingly entertaining, and the audio/visual presentation on its own is worth the small price of entry. Go forth and bounce!

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.


  • Currently 4.8/5
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Rating: 4.8/5 (28 votes)
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Kentucky Route Zero: Act I

JohnBKentucky Route Zero: Act I is a curious mash-up of an old school adventure game and a cinematic text adventure. Created by Cardboard Computer (which includes A House in California developer Jake Elliott), the game is packed with phenomenal visual and sound design, setting an atmosphere that's one of the most intriguing in recent indie gaming history. it's a bit like Twin Peaks meets a moody old school adventure game (on a dark night in the middle of Kentucky).

Kentucky Route Zero: Act IIt all starts with Equus Oils, a gas station in the middle of nowhere, with Conway pulling in to ask for directions. He's making a delivery for an antiques store and wants nothing more than to find Dogwood Drive. According to shop's owner, though, getting to Dogwood means you have to find the Zero, a highway you learn is shrouded in as much mystery as, well, just about everything else you encounter in this quiet place. Information in hand, you hop back in your truck and hit the road, on to your next stop in the quest for information.

Gameplay is divided into two main sections: traditional adventure-style scenes and driving on the game's road map. The former are operated with a nice point-and-click interface that showcases areas of interest with stylish vector-like icons that only appear when you're nearby. Multi-path conversations allow you to choose a variety of responses, most of which seem to lead to the same conclusions but give you different fragments of information along the way. There are no puzzles to speak of, nor is there an inventory. It's just you, your truck, your dog, and a handful of incredibly abstruse people.

Kentucky Route Zero: Act IWhen you're on the road, point-and-click controls also apply, but here you only see a rough map of the countryside. Occasionally you'll come across side quests that play out like a short multiple choice text adventure. They don't have anything to do with the main events of the game, but they definitely set a stronger atmosphere, and Conway can encounter some really odd locations by driving around the place.

Analysis: Kentucky Route Zero is a very cinematic experience that puts any sort of puzzle solving elements far into the background. It's a game about setting and atmosphere, careful writing and mysterious plotlines. It couldn't take place in the daylight, it couldn't be set in the bustling streets of London. Information is doled out in precious droplets that you horde and protect like water in the desert. For this reason, upon completing the game you'll almost immediately start over again. What if you were a little less straightforward with certain characters? What if you took a different path in the mines? And what the heck are those guys doing with that airplane?!

Kentucky Route Zero is on the short side, clocking in at just around an hour's worth of gameplay. This is lengthened somewhat by replays and optional events you'll inevitably seek out. Keep in mind this is just the first of a planned series of five acts set to be released over the course of 2013. More is on the way, and more is exactly what you'll want when you reach the end. This is the sort of game that stays with you after you walk away.

WindowsWindows:
Get the full version

Mac OS XMac OS X:
Get the full version

LinuxLinux:
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Rating: 4.6/5 (143 votes)
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Growtopia

JohnBThe world of creativity games continues to expand, but this time it's on mobile devices! Growtopia, a combined effort from Robot Wants developer Hamumu and Dungeon Scroll creator Robinson Technologies, strips out a lot of the complexities often found in creativity games like Minecraft or Terraria, allowing you to build and decorate your own little world that goes wherever your mobile device goes. Bored on the bus? Growtopia! Don't wanna listen to your boss droning on? Growtopia! Entire evening free? GROWTOPIA!

GrowtopiaGrowtopia is built on the idea of planting and splicing seeds, collecting gems, and building a custom world for you and your friends to inhabit. Use the on-screen arrows to move and jump around the sidescrolling landscape. Your inventory neatly slides up and down using the tab at the bottom center of the screen. Simply tap an item and tap the playing field to use/place it. You gather and destroy things using the almighty punch, an ability that functions by selecting the fist and tapping nearby areas on the screen (or using the action button). It all works quite well in practice, and after a few minutes of running around and digging, you'll feel like an old pro.

To really kick the game off, your first tasks will involve digging in the soil for dirt seeds and gems. As soon as you have a dozen or two gems you can nip over to the shop and purchase a package of five random seeds, giving you something a little more creative to play around with. Seeds grow into trees that mature in real-time, some taking a few seconds or a few minutes to reach harvest, others taking hours or even days. Each seed and item has a rarity score from one to 100, one being as common as dirt (literally) and 100 being the metaphorical Holy Grail. You can combine seeds by using a seed on a freshly planted crop, but not all combinations will work. The Growtopia wiki has a nice list of recipes you can work from, and more are being added all the time.

GrowtopiaAnalysis: Creativity sandbox games that actually play well on mobile platforms are a relatively rare thing. Not only is it difficult cramming virtual controls onto a small touch screen, but the logistics of online connectivity can cause all sorts of trip-ups. Growtopia deals with both problems elegantly, giving you some simple tools that work really well with either virtual buttons or by tapping the screen. The complexity of gathering and crafting things is also curbed thanks to the seed system, which has the side benefit of encouraging you to stay loyal to your home world with its little farm of proto-items.

There's not very much to "find" in Growtopia, not by digging or exploring the small landscapes. Most of the new items you get will be obtained by purchasing seed packs, trading with other players, or by splicing seeds. While it's a bit of a bummer not having the exploration incentive, Growtopia is much more a game of decorating and socializing rather than mining. Being able to create your own persistent worlds is great, and if you can gather a group of trustworthy pals, you can build some really fun things.

GrowtopiaEarning gems can be a bit of a hassle. Since spending gems is the speediest way to get new seeds, you'll probably feel compelled to dip into an in-app purchase or two. That's not necessarily a bad thing (game developers need to eat, too!), but the process of earning gems and items through normal play feels a bit slow, almost turning IAPs into a requirement. There's the option of completing some (mostly) free offers for no-charge packs of gems, which does speed things up a bit. Usually it's something painless like downloading and running a free game from the marketplace. Microtransactions or no, nothing gets in the way of having a good time in Growtopia.

Simple and easy enough to work on the mobile platform (and be fun for kids), but with enough room for customization and socialization, Growtopia lends itself well to quick play sessions that lead to grandiose worlds filled with structures of your own creation. Don't be afraid to work with other players or explore their worlds, either!

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: 4.6/5 (26 votes)
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MiddensJohnBAfter playing John Clowder's Middens, you might ask yourself the following question: what just happened? Calling this adventure/RPG "surreal" is a bit like saying a hike to the moon would be a bit of a trek. You start off with a talking gun who reminds you that each time you pull the trigger, its tongue will be close enough to lick your nails. Then you're dropped in the Rift, a place where... well, who knows what's going on there. The surprising part is Middens actually begins to make sense after a while, though your first experience with the game will be filled with delightful, bewildered confusion.

Move using the [arrow] keys, initiate conversations and confirm actions by tapping the [spacebar], and bring up the menu screen with [x]. Battles are turn-based and will be somewhat recognizable for anyone who has played an RPG. Don't expect simple "Attack" or "Defend" menu options, though. Instead, Middens is all about "Trigger" and "Prowess", commands that roughly correspond to simple actions but are still a bit out there at first glance. Also, you can summon battle companions named Lam, Yam, and Om. We'll let the game explain that one to you on your own.

We won't risk telling you anything additional about this swirling collection of concepts and dreamlike visions that is Middens. We will say there are two different endings, collectible nemotodes, hundreds of pieces of original artwork (both pixel and watercolor images), and pieces of dialogue taken from occult sources and the last words of serial killers. The game is an experience, one that will probably delight and shock you all at the same time.

WindowsWindows:
Get the free full version

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


(7 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Lake House: Children of Silence

JohnBLake House: Children of Silence is a casual adventure game from Alawar that involves a young couple, a mysterious death, a kidnapping, some really creepy goings-on, and, naturally, a lake house. It all begins in the cafe with an awkward wedding proposal met by a cold reaction from the would-have-been bride-to-be. When she explains that someone broke into your house and burned/scratched you out of the photo albums, you can understand why she's so freaked out. And you should be too, seeing as how there's a masked man who may or may not be Ann's long-dead brother following you around. At least the proposal will be a day to remember!

Lake House: Children of SilenceWorking from a solid casual adventure layout, Lake House: Children of Silence builds multi-stage puzzles, mini-games, and a few light hidden object scenes around a lot of exploration and item hunting. Each area is tightly packed with things to examine, most of which are incomplete in some way and need a few extra pieces to make them functional. So, for example, you might encounter a clockwork train that needs to be wound, but they key is inside a box, that box is locked and requires a few pieces to complete which can be found by assembling another container, and so on. Fortunately you won't be carrying things around for too long, and Lake House never makes the solutions too obtuse for the logical mind.

Analysis: The real star of the Lake House show is the story and setting. Talk about creepy. The long-dead brother in an iron face mask is weird enough, but as soon as you start poking around the house and beyond, things get even weirder. The tale being told is very personal in nature, always rooted firmly in the main characters and their immediate family. You actually start to feel for them after a bit, despite a few clumsy set-ups and awkward lines of dialogue.

Lake House: Children of SilenceThe artwork and imagery in the surrounding settings are pretty powerful, always bordering on the "Am I going insane?" look while staying gray and gloomy from the start. Lake House is definitely one of those games you'll get hooked on because of a powerful need to see what happens next, but the gameplay doesn't suffer from a lack of attention, either.

A complete package from any standpoint, Lake House: Children of Silence delivers a lot of good puzzles with a brilliantly realized story and setting. And with 14 chapters (not counting the bonus chapters in the collector's edition) to play through, you'll have a good three or four hours of enjoyment before the satisfying end.

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

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

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

Vex


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Rating: 4.1/5 (99 votes)
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Vex

cory Scrabble is the game of champions, you know. Not everyone can claim glorious victory by coming up with a word containing two of the most valuable letters in the alphabet. Thankfully, with the introduction of Vex, a platformer from Amazing Adam, we get both a fantastic running and jumping extravaganza and an easy way to introduce this three-letter 13-point bombshell into the world's collective vocabulary. No longer will those Vs wait for Vim! No longer will you simply use the X to make Ex! Vex offers you a chance to improve both your hand-eye coordination and your tile-board coordination. Move with the [WASD] or [arrow] keys. You've come to get down, so jump around with the [W] or [up] keys; your stickman has mad hops and is also able to walljump and grab ledges for that little extra boost. As for ground movement, once you've picked up some speed you can slide with the [S] or [down] keys.

You'll need all of this to avoid many of the nasty obstacles that will challenge you in Vex, such as spikes, smashing platforms and approximately ten thousand varieties of shuriken, all of which will kill you in one hit and send you back to a checkpoint flag. You can also swim in water when necessary. Your goal is to make it through various stages filled with traps that want nothing more than to see you dead. Unlike many similar platformers, Vex's goal isn't to frustrate the player. Checkpoints are liberally scattered throughout the levels, typically ensuring that you won't have to repeat tasks if you die (and you will.) Dying costs you valuable time that will cut down on your ranking, though, so a real master will the most efficient way through each stage. Regardless, with a little patience and focus, anyone can get through Vex... and once they do, it's off to the Level Editor to see if you can throw together a stage to stump the world! Perhaps one day custom Vex levels will overtake Scrabble as the game of champions.

Play Vex


(5 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Escape: The Ruby of Judgment

JohnBHide and seek can be a very serious past time, but it loses som`e of its appeal when bad things start to happen as a result of an innocent game. Escape: The Ruby of Judgment is a point and click escape game from the talented folks at IDAC, the mobile division of Gotmail. Featuring lovely stylized visuals and an impressive battery of puzzles, this somber but entertaining release proves you don't need a mouse to craft a good escape game!

Escape: The Ruby of JudgmentYears ago, you and your friends used to play hide and seek near an old church. One day, one of the girls hid so well nobody could find her. You eventually stumbled across her ruby ring near the well behind the church. Part of you knew what happened to her, but fear drove you to keep quiet. The next day the girl was found at the bottom of the well. Time passed and your two other friends also died under mysterious circumstances, leaving you all alone when you received a strange card with childlike handwriting on the front that read "give me back my ring". You returned to the old church to find everything looked exactly the same. As the doors closed themselves behind you, one word stuck clearly in your mind: escape!

Move through the world of The Ruby of Judgment using the on-screen arrows, gathering items and investigating things with a few simple taps. The inventory works in a similar manner, hovering on the fringes of the screen awaiting your command. The whole setup is very similar to Little Red in Danger, complete with the same challenges and faults. The visual style really is spectacular and the story immediately gives you a sense of empathy with the main character, drawing you into the world so it becomes more than a simple "get out of this room" puzzle game. Sadly, you can't interact with everything you see, mostly just things directly related to the puzzles.


  • Currently 3.6/5
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Rating: 3.6/5 (91 votes)
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Tickets4Love

MeaghanBack in my day, a guy wouldn't have to go searching all over town for tickets to a sold out concert just to have a girl give him the briefest hint of a smile and her name. Clearly, I've missed some key element in the courting process because that's exactly what Shawn has decided to do in order to catch the eye of a beguiling blonde haired stranger that is being guarded by her talkative friend. In Tickets 4Love, a point-and-click adventure game brought to you by Carmel Games, you will have to search through a small town on your daring hunt for tickets. Click to pick up items, located with the help of a changing cursor, and then use those items on scenery or people to help in your grand scheme. Your map and inventory are located at the bottom of the screen and both can be double checked whenever you please.

For a point and click game, Tickets 4Love keeps the search about town on a moderately linear path. The game, fortunately, maintains a logical thought process for use of items so you don't feel as if you're wandering about searching desperately for some type of clue. There's still a touch of fiendish methods to achieve your means but the results are more humorous than horrifying. The addition of the changing cursor helps greatly for some of the harder to notice items, but thankfully the amount of objects you need to find and use are minimal. Both quirky and amusing, Tickets4Love makes a nice joke out of the dating game and does so with a fun twist.

Play Tickets 4Love


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Link Dump Fridays

DoraGood morning, internet! Here's your weekly serving of updates, news, previews, and subliminal messages! This week's Link Dump Friday is a big one, full of Pokemon, zombies, monsters, creepers, and more! Don't worry, we made sure to keep the separate... I... uh... huh. Oh. Oh dear. Does anyone know how to clean Pikachu out of the carpet?... and the ceiling?

News and Previews

Best of 2012The Polls Are Open! It's that time of year again! Because nobody will listen to my awesome idea of a Battle-Royale-style event to decide which developers are the best, voting is now open on our yearly awards for Best of 2012. Once each day, you can cast a vote in each category and genre from browser to indie and beyond for the game you feel deserves to win in its category, including casting a single vote overall daily for the game you think was the single best game of 2012. Last year that honour went to Ironhide Games' tremendously stupendous Kingdom Rush, but with so many celebrated browser and indie games this past year, the award could go to anyone, anywhere. Naturally, I have a few favourites I am going to throw a ginormous tantrum over if they don't win and will never speak to you again if you don't vote for them, but since telling you which ones they are would be unethical, I'm just going to sit here and glare meaningfully. Now get out there and vote!

Pokemon Tower Defense 2: GenerationsGotta Update 'Em All! Hope you haven't hung up that red and white cap just yet, 'cause tower-defense/RPG hybrid Pokemon Tower Defense 2: Generations has just received a substantial new update! Bringing the game's version to 1.30, it brings a new chunk of story to play through for those of you who had already reached the current limit, as well as some balance changes and a new soft level cap on top of the ability to have some challenging rematches. I'm not sure how much that's going to help me, since my Pokemon team is less dictated by strategy and effectiveness and more by the Pokemon I think are cutest, but I'm sure you Pokemaniacs will have no trouble with it! The game still is far from finished, so you can expect more updates with more story, Pokemon, and everything else in the future.

DayZThe Apocalypse is On Hold Many of you were excited at the prospect of getting a standalone version of the zombie-survival multiplayer action game DayZ (which currently requires a copy of ARMA II: Combined Operations to run.)... especially since it was originally promised for the end of 2012. Well, with that date done and dusted, the DayZ devs have taken to their blog to explain what's going on, and the result is largely good news... even if it means you and I will have to wait a while longer to frolic through the killing fields together. The bare-bones explanation is that instead of simply repackaging and polishing the mod into a simple standalone for sale, they're instead completely rebuilding the game on its own engine, which is understandably going to take a while. It's always a little disappointing when something you're looking forward to gets postponed, but with such massive upheaval and improvements to the player experience, I think we can probably forgive them. Stay tuned!


Kickstarter Projects

NoctemisCurses, Possession, and Side-Scrolling Calling your game a "mix of adventure classics like Zelda and Mega Man" sort of sounds like fishing for nostalgics with illegal bait, but darned if Lacuna Entertainment's platforming adventure Noctemis doesn't look intriguing. The game is set in a place where the inhabitants of a cursed town release their nightmares on the world as they sleep, and a drug supposed to suppress these abilities hasn't been the cure they hoped for. You'll play as a scientist willing to venture into the town and solve its mysteries, while combating the creatures you encounter. There's a lot of detailed story to be found on the page, as well as some great artwork. The extremely detailed breakdown is also refreshing since it details exactly where your money will be going and what their plans are. If you love horror and stories blending with action, this might be one to reach into your pocket for.

Vacant Sky: AwakeningAll The Meat, None of the Fat If you liked the free indie RPG Vacant Sky: Act 1, here's something to pique your interest. Creator Bishop Meyer has launched a Kickstarter for Vacant Sky: Awakening that looks to be a vastly different beast but an extremely intriguing one. Billing itself as a "pre-apocalyptic RPG", it follows a cast of characters over seven years and promises that your decisions will shape your party's evolution. It's sort of a big claim when you think about just how much can happen in seven years, but right now it looks extremely promising. If you were a fan of the original series, this should be on your radar, and if you're interested in the Kickstarter the free original game is a great way to tell if you're interested in the team's style. Trust us, they've got some serious talent and this could be something extra special.

Miscellany

The Free BundleSometimes You Get More Than You Pay For, Especially When You Pay Nothing There are a lot of amazing free indie games out there, but not all of them get the attention they deserve, which is why the Free Indie Bundle is a great idea. The CabreraBrothers have created a totally free download bundle, primarily for Windows, that highlights some of the best free indie games you might have missed, including great titles like Imscared and Abobo's Big Adventure. There are a lot of pay-what-you-want bundles out there for quality indie titles, but it's wonderful to be reminded that there are a lot of freeware games out there that are still more than worth your time. Pick up this bundle, and make sure you send them a tip if you think you know a free indie game that should be included in the next one!

Moving BlocksStep by Step, Block by Block User RXReckonHD is here to destroy your self-esteem about the little square house you made in Minecraft with Moving Blocks: A Mincraft Stop-Motion, a three-week long project that turned into a music video showing you a mansion being built block-by-block. Obviously the game is running with a few mods and texture packs, but there's no denying that the resulting video looks fantastic and is painstakingly well choreographed. Do you know what the last two things I built in Minecraft were? An irregular rectangle stone "coffin" that I hid in crying while Endermen snorted around outside and a giant Netherrack butt floating in mid-air outside the window of the castle my husband was building. You'll forgive me if I'm just a bit in awe of this.

Indie Speed RunCongratulations, You Win Snark! (Also Cash and Accolades) The Escapist's entry period is now closed for the 2012 Indie Speed Run, where developers each created a game in under 48 hours to be judged and have a shot at being sent to Yahtzee Croshaw, who will decide who the winner of the $2500.00 grand prize. Why should you care? Well, because in addition to this being a great opportunity for developers to get some exposure, you get a whole bunch of mini games to play! There are a ton of games to play and rate, and your ratings will help choose three of the finalists, so go get your game on and make some dreams come true.

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!


(7 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Joe Danger Touch

JohnBJoe Danger is kind of a big deal. Not only is he the World's Most Determined Stuntman, he can also leap across shark-infested pools, dodge giant mousetraps, evade threatening speed bumps, and apparently hover atop giant fans. Pretty sweet deal, right? After Joe's initial outing as a console download, the fearless stunt driver has landed on iOS devices with Joe Danger Touch, a fantastic arcade game from Happy Games with tons of things to unlock and plenty of wild rides to pursue. Great mobile racing game, or the greatest mobile racing game?

Joe Danger TouchThe controls are so elegant in Joe Danger Touch, they quickly become second nature. It's almost a one button game, as you can easily control everything with one finger. Getting all the extras might be a little more involving, though, so don't let the rest of your hand get lazy. Joe starts each round behind a restraint which you have to tap to release. Once he's going Joe powers himself forward, you just deal with making sure his momentum doesn't carry him into trouble. Tap and hold the screen to duck, tap and release to jump. You can also swipe left or right to pop a wheelie, which gives you some extra speed. Swipe while airborne to do a barrel roll—kidding, it's just a spin. But it's fun to play pretend, right?

Each level has several optional goals you can complete, but the only requirement for moving to the next stage is getting to the finish line. Later, though, you'll need to meet certain milestones to unlock the next set of levels, so don't dash through the courses all willy-nilly, ignoring everything you see 'cause you're bad to the bone. For starters, each track is strewn with coins, most of which are within grasp of Joe and his bike. You might have to duck and double jump to reach them, but it's possible, and usually pretty spectacular to perform. You can also land perfect jumps for another bonus, tap to collect letters that spell DANGER, or find the hidden star/secret Happy Games coin looming in the background. Yes, you'll need to divide your attention between scanning Joe's surroundings and making sure he doesn't run face-first into a wall. But without multitasking, where's the challenge?

Joe Danger TouchAnalysis: Joe Danger Touch combines stunt riding with an arcade racing experience laced with lovely touch-enabled bonuses left and right. You'll be riding along when suddenly a little voice from the corner of your mind says "Hey, I just saw a UFO flying by. Probably shoulda tapped it like two seconds ago when it happened. Just sayin'." Curse that voice and its tardiness, but the more you play, the more prompt it becomes, allowing you to nab all the coins and find all the secrets, which is enormously satisfying.

Some levels require you to have special costumes, all of which require coins to unlock. Coins are earned through regular play, but you can also dip into microtransactions to get a little boost. It's completely non-invasive, and it's actually fun to unlock things on your own, no real grinding necessary. These special costume stages are usually focused on speed and coin collecting, so they're definitely worth completing. Costumes offer more than a cosmetic upgrade as well, each one provides bonuses like increased coin count or a score boost. For wearing a green chicken outfit while riding a bike, there'd better be some sort of bonus involved!

Joe Danger Touch began as a side project that grew into fruition over the course of a few years. The finished product is an extraordinary fit for touch screen devices, you can tell this isn't some lame port with tap controls strapped to the side. This is an honest mobile game with a perfect interface and wildly entertaining gameplay that has you tapping, swiping, jumping and... stunting through level after level. Even when you don't quite hit the goals, you're having fun, but when you do obtain a level of proficiency, the game suddenly becomes ten times as addicting. Joe Danger Touch is just absolutely fantastic.

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.


  • Currently 4.2/5
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Rating: 4.2/5 (57 votes)
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KimberlyWake Up the Box 5The sleepy box is back Wake up The Box 5, the latest installment in the physics puzzler series by Eugene Karataev and Artem Popov. You'd think that in a nice hotel, or secluded cabin in the woods he'd finally be able to get some shut-eye, but noise and interruptions seems to follow this box around like a stray puppy.

As before, the goal of each level is to wake up the box however you can, namely drawing objects that then interact with items already in the scene. Click the buttons in the upper left corner of the screen or press [1-3] on your keyboard to change how you draw. You can freehand it, create circles, or this time around you have the option to draw only straight lines. Hold [CTRL] (or [CMD for Mac users) while clicking to delete an object you have created. Each level has an area marked with lines. This is the only place you are allowed to draw, but there are often trampolines or rockets to get your creations where they need to go. You'll sometimes have to think out side the box (yes, I just went there) to come up with the solution.

Play all the Wake Up series games:
Wake Up the BoxWake Up the Box 2Wake Up the Box 3Wake Up the Box 4Wake the RoyaltyWake the Royalty Level PackWake Up the Box 5

Wake Up The Box 5 continues to please and is another great entry in the series. I'm still not sure why we can't allow the poor box some rest, but it sure is fun to wake him up.

Play Wake Up The Box 5


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Rating: 4.4/5 (126 votes)
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elleGolden Bell (TomaTea)If you're miserable over cold and blustery weather or only wishing wistfully for the wonders of a Northern Hemisphere winter holiday night, then ring in the season with this gorgeous star-dappled escape-the-room game from TomaTea, Golden Bell. Search around a room of deep midnight hues and warmed by a crackling fire, picking up clues and useful objects, solving puzzles until you find the key to leave. Or just linger a while, treating yourself to one of TomaTea's most soothing atmospheres.

This peaceful feeling is interrupted only a few times by some unclear directives; be on the watch for essential snowman parts that only a practiced hidden-object seeking eye could find (if Frosty won't stand where you want him, it's probably because he's feeling incomplete) as well as very tiny visual clue that a tool might be needed somewhere. Even so, all the enjoyment of a TomaTea design is presented here in this late holiday gift from one of our favorite designers!

Play Golden Bell


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Rating: 4.1/5 (218 votes)
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Battle Cats

JohnBKitty minions, go forth and fight! In Battle Cats from PONOS, you control legions of tall cats, chubby cats, flying cats, cows (which aren't cats), and plenty of other cute warriors whose sole purpose is to defend their base from legions of tiny stickmen, hippos, snakes and other bad guys. It's a familiar combat-oriented defense set-up we've seen before, but there's so much lovable style poured into this game, you can't help but to play until the wee hours of the morning, pitting cartoon cat against cartoon cat.

Battle CatsBattle Cats places you in a two dimensional world with your base on one side and the enemy's on the other. Troops slowly march/fly/slither out of the bad guy's tent, gradually making their way to your home sweet home. You're not going to let them just waltz right in, though, so by spending coins and summoning various warriors using the icons at the bottom of the screen, you can put up a decent fight. You earn money both by defeating enemies and by letting time pass, but you can also upgrade "worker cat" to speed up cash production. It costs a pretty penny, of course, so you must carefully consider it in light of defense costs (which sounds boring, but it isn't!).

Upgrades are half the fun, and after winning a battle you get to head back to the store to beef up your abilities. Troops can be upgraded to provide sturdier defenses and stronger attacks, but you can also put some cash in unit recharge speed, increase the size of your wallet, beef up your last-ditch laser attack, or strengthen a few other global attributes. Really, there's no shortage of options to suck up your newfound cash reserves, and that doesn't even take into account the special cat units you can summon using the game's secondary currency, cat food.

Battle CatsAnalysis: Battle Cats is the sort of game that will catch you by surprise. On paper it sounds a bit ordinary: a strategy defense game where you summon troops. Seen it, played it, mastered it, right? To a certain extent this is true, but Battle Cats has an impressive amount of variety, especially for a mobile game. There are 50 troops in all, most of which can be unlocked or purchased through the in-game store. Not mentioned in this review (uh, until now): the stamp card that earns you bonuses for logging in on a daily basis, the fact that there are 100 stages to fight through, single-use items, secret treasures, cat evolution, and the almighty god-cat.

Battle Cats can be a little overwhelming with its complexity. Fortunately, you don't need to deal with most of these elements until later in the game, which sets a nice pace. You can also dip into some in-app purchases if you're so inclined, spending money on cat food that can be used in the shop to buy all sorts of rare and delightful goodies.

There's a lot to experience in Battle Cats, so much so that this quick pick up and play combat game grows on you over time. Soon it'll become your diversion of choice when you've got a spare minute or two, and after the weeks and months go by, you'll eventually see some of the more spectacular sights the game has to offer!

Cheers to Aquilegia for sending this one in!

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: 4.4/5 (129 votes)
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DoraWilt: Last BlossomIn Alex Asvegren's retro platforming Metroidvania-flavoured adventure Wilt: Last Blossom, the world has ended and the only thing that inspires you to slog through each day is finding food for your daughter, Lily. Right up until she's abducted by a mysterious figure in a hazmat suit, which is rarely good, and considering you're alone and unarmed in your search for her through a mutant-strewn wasteland it's even worse. Use the [arrow] keys to move, [A] to jump, and the [spacebar] to interact with things. Hit the S button in the bottom-right corner to save whenever you like. Initially, you can't do much beyond jump and climb, but as you play, you'll discover and unlock new abilities... everything from the trusty double-jump, to energy blasts, and more. Rare pills found scattered around will permanently increase your health (displayed in the top-left corner), but be sure to use health stations whenever you find them, since the last one you passed will be the one you respawn or reload at. Keep in mind that enemies like the mutants only damage you if they actually hit you, so as long as you're out of the way before they can attack, you can run by them freely. Also, because your character is apparently part Wile E. Coyote, it's useful to know that if you walk off the edge of something, you can actually jump in mid-air.

Wilt: Last Blossom is one of those rare retro games that plays as well as it looks and doesn't seem to be sneaking by on coquettish looks alone. Which is good, since the game is definitely a looker from its faithful classic visuals to the fantastic moody soundtrack by Calamaistr. You can feel the love from the groundwork up, and the mechanics feel tight and responsive. The downside is that a lot of the areas feel sort of... empty... which is understandable for a post-apocalyptic setting, but also means that it winds up feeling a little repetitive at times, especially early on before you gain a few powers and encounter your first boss. Even after it might have been nice to see some more variation or even just, say, find some scattered lore about the world in all those empty buildings. Stick with it, however, and you'll find an incredibly faithful recreation of the classic era of gaming that retro action/adventure fans will love. What's interesting (and always good to see) is that Wilt: Last Blossom has been largely shaped by player feedback to its original "demo", and the result is really something special. A map might not have gone unappreciated, and some of the jumps can demand perfect timing, but Wilt: Last Blossom is still well worth your time

Play Wilt: Last Blossom


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Best of 2012!

DoraIt was the best of times, it was the worst of times... wait, wait no. It's totally just the best of times, because it's time for the Best of 2012! Best of Casual Gameplay 2012Tell you what, if Charles Dickens had had all the awesome games that came out this past year, his work would have been a darned sight cheerier. After all, how can you not be excited when you have games about uncoordinated unicorns, random fire hazards in space, stories as currency, ponies with a passion for dental hygeine, and kitties that force you to confront the harsh inevitability of death?

... okay, so maybe they haven't all been cheerful, but 2012 was yet another chapter in gaming excellence, with developers new and old getting together to create things solely for your entertainment. Which is pretty rad when you think of it, considering how much of it was free! And what better way to thank those tireless folks than to vote for your favourite game to win top prize in each category in our Best of 2012 awards? That's like a fistbump, a high-five, a bro-hoof, and a verging-on-creepy hug all in one!

Voting is now OPEN!

And the categories are... >>


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Rating: 4.3/5 (80 votes)
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Weekday Escape

elleDespite making resolutions for change, to start new habits and eschew old ways, the undertow of the familiar, ordinary routine is just too hard to resist. But then, like a twisted superhero, Detarou appears on the scene with yet another escape from the mundane, once again beckoning you to look in places you really don't want to look, trapping you inside a house occupied by as much weirdness as puzzles with Uchino.

UchinoSome of you are already quite well acquainted with Detarou, the one who everybody at the party makes excuses for: "Yeah, that's the same ol' Det, wacky as ever. What can you do? But we love him!" For the rest of you, let me explain: you begin the game facing a door—go ahead, try it. It's locked. So your goal is to search the surroundings, pointing and clicking with a changing cursor as your guide, searching for anything that'll help you get out, which is the typical scenario in all these escape-the-room types. Yet Uchino, like other Detarou entries, departs from the typical fairly quickly. Not only do you find clues and creative locks during your explorations, you'll discover things that are there simply for the sake of your discovering them. Depending on your point of view, this might not always be a welcome thing (small hint: odd doesn't begin to explain it.)

Uchino turns out to be on the challenging end of the spectrum, as well, because all rooms of the house are open to you, allowing you to spend a looooong time looking round and gathering up information and other goodies ("Nakagawa get!") before you even have to solve a puzzle. The trouble comes in trying to sift through an overabundance of things to see, so that determining which ideas fit with what solutions can cause you overthinking syndrome. Ignore all the misdirection, though, and the perfect logic of every puzzle comes into clear focus.

Before you begin, here's another little hint: no matter how cute or friendly they may look, pandas are always up to no good. Therefore, utilize those two save slots before you go poking proffered buttons, that way finding all three endings will be much more convenient without unnecessary backtracking. Use a screen grab program or pen and paper to sort out answers, shape up those synapses, and resolve to indulge in uncomfortable laughter and you're well on your way to a fresh new Detarou outlook.

Play Uchino

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Blizz

JohnBBlizz is a mobile matching puzzle game from Hex3d set in a futuristic world where ice is a bit of a problem. Hexagon tiles on a hexagon grid form your playing field, and all you have to do is drag things around to make matches and shut down the reactor. It's familiar enough concept to rope you in from the start, but the shifted focus from making matches to freeing up frozen cells that need to be matched creates an endless cycle of preparing and setting off chain reactions, one of the most satisfying parts of any puzzle game. Do your job well and you just might save the world!

blizz.jpgIn the year 2088, global warming became a serious issue. Scientists got together to fix things once and for all, and so the Blizzadrome was born. This massive city-sized machine regulated temperature on a worldwide scale, but as technology is wont to do, the Blizzadrome began to malfunction. The thermostat went out of control and the cooling never stopped, plunging the world into an artificial ice age. Now, scientists head below to deactivate the reactors, but the frost is so overpowering none have been successful. Get your coat, because now it's your turn!

To save the world, you're going to need to detonate the cells that fuel the Blizzadrome's reactors. Fortunately, this process is a lot like playing Bejeweled, only with a little more lateral strategy and a lot more pressure. Tap and drag to move colored cells anywhere on the grid. Make a match of four or more and they vanish, dropping new cells in to take their place. Over time different groups of cells become frozen, rendering them incapable of being matched. To unfreeze them you have to clear adjacent cells. If you don't, the entire grid will eventually look like a skating rink. Progressing in the game becomes a process of placing frozen cells near potential matches, then flipping the switch to create a cascade of vanishing cells and broken ice. Strangely enough, it's pretty exciting!

blizz2.jpgAnalysis: Matching puzzle games haven't enjoyed much attention over the past few years. If you want to succeed with the genre, it seems like you've got to make a hybrid like Puzzle Quest or BioGems. Hex3d says "forget that" and keeps the puzzle game firmly rooted in its origins, working with the very core mechanics of the game to create something both interesting and challenging. Plus, it totally helps to have the awesome sci-fi backdrop and a killer soundtrack!

Blizz comes with two main modes of play: survival and puzzle. Survival mode gives you a progressively more challenging matching journey down to the depths of the Blizzadrome. Puzzle mode, on the other hand, sets you loose on missions that require a precise economy of moves, not fast swapping. There are hundreds of levels to play, and survival mode never seems to get old. There's no high score tracking or anything like that, which you may or may not miss, but the challenge level is high enough that when you finish a level, you'll pat yourself on the back.

A good, solid puzzle game that isn't afraid to keep things streamlined. Come for the scientists saving the world, stay for the excellent combination of speed and tile swapping strategy.

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 (66 votes)
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DoraDemons vs FairylandPart Kingdom Rush, part Cursed Treasure, Storm Alligator's tower-defense/realtime-strategy hybrid Demons vs Fairyland takes place in a world where babies are being snatched in the night by demons. Naturally, any race that has a baby-based economy is probably pretty sketchy, but when it comes to demons you have to wonder... if they're not using these kids for hors d'eouvres, then just what is going on? What kind of beast would do such a thing?!... well, uh. You apparently since you're the bad guy in this scenario, and you're trying to carry your bundle of pilfered babies back to your evil overlord for who-knows-what. I mean, since you're monsters I have a feeling it's probably quiche related, but... still probably nothing good.

The goal is simple... protect the babies at the end of each stage's path from getting carted off by incoming (sneer) heroes. Like most tower-defense games, you pay cash to plop down various structures that will do everything from attack enemies directly to spewing out creatures to do the job for you. Each tower has to be placed within range of a specific type of building, however, so you'll need to think carefully about what you put down and where. If things get hairy and you've got the mana, you can even call forth a pillar of flame, lay down some chain-lightning to serve invaders up extra crispy, or summon hordes of the undead to do your bidding. Both support buildings and the towers themselves can be upgraded during levels if you've got the cash, and between stages you can spend any earned points on the upgrade tree to apply permanent bonuses and get new abilities. Upgrade points are netted whenever you level up, and to make that happen faster you can select various difficulty increases at the start of the stage, like faster or more powerful enemies, to earn more experience points.

Demons vs Fairyland is one seriously cute and quirky little title. Games so rarely let us be the bad guy, and the goofy premise makes this one even more fun. By keeping the towers you can buy limited to three different varieties and focusing on upgrading them, the game forces you to think strategically without wading through piles of options. You really do need to make use of your resources in a careful manner and utilize all the spells at your command, especially as you encounter more and more enemy types. The downside is that it feels like past a certain point, grinding EXP and levels to get skill points becomes essential to progress. As a result, the game can be extremely difficult at times even without any extra EXP settings ticked, but the fun premise and fantastic style goes a long way towards keeping you hooked.

Play Demons vs Fairyland


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Rating: 3.8/5 (34 votes)
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DoraMonsters TD 2Booblyc's beasties are back with Monsters TD 2, the sequel to the original tower-defense game that's all about making monsters go splort before they find their way into our world. In each level, monsters will appear in waves and head towards the portal at the other side. By clicking the gray blocks along the path, you can build various towers (provided you've got the cash) that will stun or damage anything within range. As the game progresses, you'll unlock potions that you can click on at the bottom of the screen to deploy devastating damage or other status effects. Perform well and you'll earn crystals you can spend on upgrades between stages.

Monsters TD 2 is essentially the same game as before, albeit with tweaks and upgrades that make it seem more like an expansion than a real sequel. The new laser tower, for example, is handy for large groups of monsters, and the expanded upgrade tree gives you more reason to strive for crystals. Neater, however, is the construction of the stages themselves, with terrain that can bestow both negative and positive effects to the monsters and even powerful creatures that you can use to your advantage. It may still be a little too familiar if you were really hoping for some sort of massive change, but in a way, Monsters TD 2 is smarter than most since it focuses on keeping everything you enjoyed and trying to both up the challenge and address previous player quibbles. It's a solid upgrade to an already enjoyable game that will let you keep closets and spaces under beds safe and monster-free... with lasers, fire, and executioners.

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The Vault

DoraThere are a lot of games out there, and we always try to stand by our motto of finding the good stuff so you don't have to. As such, we never feature a game that we don't feel deserves it, but sometimes, games wind up being more wildly popular than we had anticipated. And no, I don't mean because of subliminal messages from the Daleks (... although I do feel oddly compelled to make a souffle...), but occasionally a game that makes us go "Hey, neat!" makes you fine folks go, "Hey, awesome!" Here are just three of our favourite surprise hits, and they couldn't be more different.

  • Mamono SweeperMamono Sweeper - Hojamaka Games was apparently playing Minesweeper one day and thought, "Hey, you know what this needs? Monsters! And RPG elements!" And because Minesweeper is boring unless you're Captain Picard, those things did indeed make the resulting fusion, a funky puzzle/strategy hybrid all the better. Instead of mines, you're hunting down the monsters scattered across the board, yet trying to do so in a way that you uncover all the lower-level beasties first so you level up to be able to contend with the stronger ones. It's such an amazingly simple concept, and yet those relatively small changes to the presentation made it an addictive, breakout success.
  • IcycleIcycle - It's a game about a naked man riding a tricycle through cold places. Hey, don't look at me. You're the perverts who were all, "Yes, we love it! Finally, a game about our needs!" Kidding aside, this quirky, cute, and thoroughly silly little game about pedaling through dangerous, chilly lands is actually very unique, and very fun. No surprise if you know Reece Millidge of Wonderputt fame is behind it. Icycle might sound weird, and it is, but it's that weirdness combined with some fantastic, clean design and simple enjoyable gameplay that make it an unexpected pleasure.
  • I Wish I Were the MoonI Wish I Were the Moon - Part interactive art, part webtoy, Daniel Benmergui's sweet little gem is all wonderfulness. All you do is click anywhere onscreen to take a photo of whatever is within the frame around your cursor, and then click again anywhere else to deposit whatever was in the image there. In doing so, you can unlock different endings by causing the characters and the environments to interact with one another in unexpected ways, and maybe even give them a happy ending to boot. It's short and simple, but it's also the perfect thing to show just about anyone. Especially your mother-in-law, once and for all proving that the things you forward her are way more interesting than that video of the corgi dancing for kibbles for the eleven millionth 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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Conceptis Nurikabe

JohnBMore mobile Conceptis puzzles, hooray! The team that practically invented the online presence of pen and paper logic puzzles has released an iOS conversion of one of its browser-based offerings. This time it's Conceptis Nurikabe, a touch screen friendly incarnation of Nurikabe Light. It has a very similar interface to the browser games, offering an easy way to work on hundreds of puzzles on the go without having to sharpen a single pencil.

Conceptis NurikabeNurikabe is all about filling a grid with a network of connected squares. Tap a space once to fill it in, tap it twice to mark it with a dot noting that it should not be filled in, and tap a third time to clear it. You determine which spaces to fill by looking at the numbered tiles which note the number of squares that directly touch that square. It's like little weaving together islands with pathways of land (or, like in Princess Nuriko, another of our favorite mobile nurikabe games, farmland carved in the wilderness). There are a few other rules to become acquainted with, but these are the basics that will get you in the game. From there, it's all up to your powers of logic.

The little extras we've grown accustomed to from Conceptis are also here, including a solving helper, tutorial tips, and a checking system to see if you're on the right track. The free download includes three puzzle packs, one for each easy, medium and hard difficulty levels, for a total of 120 puzzles in all. You can more than double that amount with a few well-placed in-app purchases, cherry picking the level of challenge you want for the next few hours of head-scratching grid filling.

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.


  • Currently 3.9/5
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Rating: 3.9/5 (65 votes)
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DoraEnola PreludeQualifications? Kid, lemme tell you, heroes don't need no qualifications. Training, experience, proper equipment... all useless unless you have an RPG hero's most important tools. Namely, a vendetta and a really spiky haircut. In JIMP and Grindhead Games' combat-oriented Enola Prelude, you've spent your whole life inside the walled, self-sufficient city of your birth, but a journal left behind after your father's death makes you restless where the rest of the people are complacent. Together with your sword and... floating... fish... thinger?... you set out to form your own legacy and take down the beast you believe was responsible for dear old dad's dirt nap.

Just click on your choices and options to navigate through menus and the game world. The game is, essentially, a series of battles that takes you all over the world toward your eventual goal of revenge, without any exploration or chit-chat to really speak of. Fights are technically turn-based but have more in common with "Active Time Battles", which means that once your enemy's attack bar fills up it tacks its turn whether you've finished with deciding yours or not. Most battles consist of a series of waves of enemies, so fight strategically, conserving some magic points to cast healing spells and clicking the Attack or Defensive stances as the situation calls for it. Win and gain EXP towards leveling up and learning new spells or attacks, but also crafting items you can use to make better swords. Eventually, you'll gain a Limit Break ability that allows you to unleash a powerful attack when your yellow damage gauge fills up and makes use of your fishy friend in a way that will make you think he and Magikarp probably went to the same school. HA! Get it?! School? Fish?! Ha, 'cause... uh... *sigh*... okay, okay... back to work...

Enola Prelude is one of those games probably best suited for coffee break style gaming, or even just for those players who don't mind linearity and repetition. The game has a series of challenging battles, and JIMP's artwork makes watching combat play out against the increasingly bizarre beasties a real pleasure. Eventually, however, you do start to wish you could do something other than simply stab things, especially after the plot-heavy opening scene, and the lack of more in-depth character or equipment customisation also feels like it limits your involvement. Where Enola Prelude shines, however, is by providing a straight-forward and uncluttered RPG combat experience that looks great too. It'll make you hope the next installment allows for more freedom and typical adventuring, but for players looking for a simple, colourful, engaging game of fantasy fisticuffs with style and charm, Enola Prelude will provide.

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Mobile Monday

JohnBIt's backwards day on Mobile Monday! Instead of telling you about portable gaming's goings on, we're going to analyze historical examples of decidedly non-portable games. Did you know that Stonehenge is actually a massive in-progress game of tic-tac-toe? Or that the pyramids are the only remaining pieces of a game of chess? Your move, gargantuan space aliens.

oddball-p.gifOddball does something odd - Here's a bit of reverse mobile news: the formerly mobile-exclusive physics game King Oddball by 10tons has gone and spawned a downloadable version of itself! Feels backwards, right? Either way, it's more destruction and more of the weirdo king and his cantaloupe head. King Oddball is so mad that he's flinging rocks with his tongue and trying to take over the Earth. The forces of humankind aren't going to sit back and watch, so the Earthlings send in the military, occupying squares of terrain that the King gradually moves through one conquered space at a time.

stanley-p.gifDr. Stanley does house calls - If the recent avalanche of mobile escape games hasn't satisfied your puzzle solving needs, let a classic browser game do the trick! Both of James Li's Dr. Stanley's House games have made their way to Android and iOS, and they're just as good as they were when they first hit a few years ago. The touch screen controls couldn't be smoother, either. We're so cool we've even got walkthroughs for both games. Go ahead, consult them when you get stuck. We won't tell.

training-p.gifI wanna be an astronaut! - Need to squeeze in your astronaut training but are on a budget? Jorge Hernandez, creator of the phenomenal Astronaut Spacewalk, has released a free training simulator to help you figure out what the heck is going on in this insanely detailed game. Astronaut Training sticks you in the Neutral Buoyancy Lab swimming pool so you can learn to use the Manned Maneuvering Unit with something resembling skill. It's a good introduction to the physics and detailed control mechanisms in the full game, but like the marketplace page warns you, it's EXTREMELY difficult. We like that in our space games!


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Duncan and Katy

JohnBDuncan and Katy is a mobile action/arcade game by Francisco David Moreno Pérez. Featuring two young heroes, a nutty scientist, and swarms of invading aliens, you get to run around a series of small islands picking up things like swords, crossbows, guitars, chocolate bars and springboards to stave off the attack. Keep knocking those baddies around and the professor will provide you with a weapon that can chase them away, but don't think for a second that defeating aliens will be that easy!

Duncan and KatyControl either Duncan or Katy using the on-screen d-pad, a method that works surprisingly well for being virtual. Two buttons on the right allow you to perform standard attacks using your primary weapon or use special items you pick up on the battlefield. Hold down the red attack button for a few moments and you'll charge up for a more powerful attack. Be careful, though, as you're vulnerable while charging, and those aliens aren't too keen on sitting back and watching you flex. Stay close to some delicious health-restoring foods and you just might survive.

Weapons, items and power-ups constantly fall from the sky. There are around 15 weapons you can use, from short range heavy hitters like the sword or hammer to long range weapons like the machine gun. Weapons have different attack speeds and damage scores, but you'll have to figure out their uses on your own, as very little is spelled out in the game. You'll have plenty of opportunities to switch weapons, so even if you get stuck with something you don't like, a new one will appear pretty soon. Secondary weapons are less numerous but arguably more useful, allowing you to set bombs, land mines, decoys and other traps to deal heavy damage to your opponents. Lots of destruction, but it's cool since you're the one causing it!

Duncan and KatyAnalysis: By some standards, Duncan and Katy shouldn't work well on mobile devices. The lack of physical buttons is usually an instant game killer, and if that doesn't do the trick, the comparatively cramped screen space would be the final nail. But here it works extremely well, managing to just barely categorize itself under the "casual" category but providing a deeper experience than many mobile arcade combat games out there. It's surprisingly playable, and once you start beating up alien blobs, you'll find you don't really wanna stop.

Duncan and Katy is lighthearted and unique, but it's not without some slight flaws. For starters, the levels go on a bit too long for our taste, pushing you through three waves of enemies before lobbing a boss at you. Whew. The levels are also a bit thin and serve as little more than a backdrop for the frantic combat. It would be nice to have an environment that plays a bigger role in the fighting.

Apart from a few tiny issues, Duncan and Katy wins on every front. Lots of action, plenty of tactical engagement (especially with those bosses!), and epic enemies that do more than just sit and let you shoot them. Coat it all with a bright and shiny graphical style and you've got a perfect mobile arcade game that's well worth the small price tag!


  • Currently 4.3/5
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Rating: 4.3/5 (238 votes)
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KimberlyShapik: The QuestWhy do the baddies always seem to strike at peaceful little sisters who are minding their own business? Shapik: The Quest, a darling point-and-click adventure by Pavel Podberezko, starts out in just this manner. Now you and your faithful bee companion must set out on an adventure to rescue her.

Click to walk or to interact with your environment, and watch your cursor for changes that indicate an interactive area. It's important to note that sometimes you have to walk to a different part of the screen before you'll be able to click certain hotspots. It will also occasionally be up to your bee to get to things out of your reach, so experiment until you find your way to the next level. The developer lists inspiration from Machinarium, though Samorost deserves a nod as well. The visuals and artwork are lovely, and the soundtrack enchanting. Though short, Shapik: The Quest is a wonderful way to sidetrack your day.

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Pixel Defenders Puzzle

DoraThe pixel is mightier than the sword when Social Titans blends genres with a healthy dollop of charm and pixels for the addictive match-3 puzzle defense iOS hit Pixel Defenders Puzzle. Your ranks of heroes depend on matching and merging coloured blocks to create warriors. While ordinary heroes created from basic matches might be fairly weak, however, creating three or more identical heroes together the same way you'd match pixels means they will combine to create the next tier of warrior in that class. From necromancers to vampires, rangers to highwaymen, it's like some great, geeky circle of life. Except instead of an adorable, sassy lion cub who learns a lesson of life and responsibilities, you get a vacant, silent idiot of a VIP who wanders uselessly around a battlefield in easy reach of boulders thrown by burly orc soldiers. Sigh. Can't win 'em all.

Pixel Defenders PuzzleThe game has two types of levels, standard turn-based defense and puzzle. On defense stages, you're given a VIP you can't control to protect, and a bunch of waves of enemies to defeat before they crush that VIP to dust. The number beside an enemy as they trundle in at the top of the screen notes how many turns are left until they attack, and you need to take them all out before they smash your VIP to win. Tap to place coloured pixels on the battlefield, and three or more matching pixels horizontally or vertically will combine to create a hero. This nets you some Action Points, which is important to do since Action Points are shared between all of your fighters and are used to attack. Each created warrior only has a finite number of uses, however, marked as small dots above their heads, and when that runs out they vanish to be replaced with an obstacle on the field that will prevent you from placing anything there unless you find a way to remove it. If the board fills up before you crush your foes, you lose the level. Puzzle levels have essentially the same rules, but the object here is simply to place a finite amount of pixels in such a way that all the matches you create eventually clears the board.

Pixel Defenders Puzzle is one of those cute little mobile games that really seems to get the whole point of being a cute little mobile game is to be instantly playable and fun whenever you get the chance. It isn't a game with a whole lot of depth, with a core set of rules and gameplay anyone can master, but neither is it exactly shallow when it comes to strategy and difficulty. Plop pixels without planning and you'll quickly wind up with a uselessly cluttered board and a VIP one turn away from being a red smear on the landscape. The lack of a story or any sort of upgrade tree to drive for means players looking for more than a pick-up-and-play title good to pass the time with might not find enough here to hold their interest. Especially if, like me, you're a nostalgia-blinded nerd who is disappointed one of those pixel combinations doesn't summon Captain Planet (or Bart's pigeon rat). But with a fantastic pixel-art style and effortlessly addictive gameplay, Pixel Defenders Puzzle is an easy recommendation.

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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100 Escapers

JohnBFrom the creator of 100 Doors 2013, Gipnetix Games, comes 100 Escapers, a game that strides a little closer to traditional room escape territory than the usual lot of mobile escape games. You're still trapped in rooms, of course, but instead of having a single screen to bust out of, you've got a little big of wiggle room to walk around, open drawers, examine things, and fashion a way to get that door open so you can continue forwards.

100escapers.jpgTo move around each level simply tap the arrows on the sides of the screen. You can examine areas of interest, grab items, or interact with certain objects by giving them a quick tap as well. Inventory items can often be combined or used on one another. Double tap one item to open a small window with a bigger view, then tap another item and tap on the window to try using them together.

Puzzles are fairly logical for an escape game, though some of the item combinations arebeyond the comprehension of mere mortals. Since the rooms are so small, though, you'll never really get stuck. Just try tapping on a few things and you'll eventually work it out! At the time of writing, 100 Escapers features over 50 levels to complete, spanning a variety of themes and featuring plenty of puzzles to solve. It's a lot of good, old fashioned escape gaming!

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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JohnBfold1.gifWith a name like F.O.L.D. - Fantastic Olfactory Latrine Discoverer, you know something interesting has to be going on. This puzzle platform game by Cosine relies on just two mechanics to fuel its levels: picking up blocks, and folding the screen. By combining those in some seriously head-splitting ways, you get to figure out how to get from one side of the screen to the other, all in the name of making it to a single pristine bathroom fixture!

The [left] and [right] arrow keys move you back and forth one block at a time in F.O.L.D., and you automatically walk up single height ledges, so no need to worry about timing or precision platforming. Stand next to a movable block and press the [up] arrow to pick it up, then tap [down] to set it wherever you need. The [spacebar] activates fold, a limited use ability that essentially cuts and pastes a mirror image of one side of the screen to the other. F.O.L.D. also has great gamepad support, if that's more your style, but the game plays quite well with just a keyboard.

With those basic mechanics in place, F.O.L.D. proceeds to mangle your brain with tricky puzzle situations. Since you can only move up single height blocks, you have to watch where you step or risk getting stuck. The folding mechanic takes some time to get used to as well. F.O.L.D. does lack a certain spark that makes it one of those "gotta have" games, but its quiet brand of puzzle solving definitely has its place in the world. Sit down and get ready to scratch your head over these levels, and be thankful your latrine trips aren't this complex.

WindowsWindows:
Get the free full version

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


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Nightmare Realm: In the End...

DoraTen years ago, thanks to her mother, Emily barely managed to escape the dark, mystical legacy looming over her, handed down by a father who wasn't what he seemed and a world that lurked just beyond the shadows. Unfortunately, even after Emily has graduated high school and stands ready to begin her own life, a realm she never understood or wanted to be a part of isn't willing to let her go, and her mother is running out of time. Lesta Games and Film delivers a visually stunning and immersive hidden-object adventure rich with dark fantasy and strong storytelling with Nightmare Realm: In the End..., a direct sequel to the original game. Is the sinister figure leading you deeper into the Dark City working for or against you? Who is the Curator, and how does he... or it... command the dark-cloaked extractors? More importantly... isn't "may actually be part of an ancient dark order of otherworldly beings" something you should disclose on the first date, right under "non-smoker" and "likes country music"?

Nightmare Realm: In the End...Early on in the game, Kathleen (Emily's mother and your in-game avatar) will have to venture beyond her idyllic suburban home into a dark world that acts as a gateway between minds and dreams. As it turns out, Emily and her family might not be the only ones in danger when Kathleen discovers out what's really going on when you're dreaming and realises she's going to have to go up against ancient forces to protect her family and perhaps the world. Sounds intimidating, huh? But, suddenly! MAGIC BOARD GAME! That's right, that is exactly what I meant to type. No, it's not Jumanji, so sadly Robin Williams won't be making an appearance. An old board game Kathleen discovers in a box of keepsakes appears to be trying to help guide her through the surreal world she suddenly finds herself stranded in, which is, you know, not quite as cool as a Sonic Screwdriver, but I guess you work with what you've got. In addition to providing more backstory as you collect origami figurines scattered about the game, it also provides a map that helpfully details where you should go next and where things are left undone. Click around to gather items, solve puzzles, and escape... unless you want your dreams to wind up being juiced too.

Nightmare Realm: In the End...Analysis: The original Nightmare Realm was a rare game... gorgeous, focused on telling a story, rich in imagination, and genuinely creepy without ever resorting to cheap scare tactics or gore. And, surprise surprise, this sequel is even better. It delves more deeply into the lore the first game only gave us glimpses into, providing a fantastically designed fantasy adventure that's full of unique beasts and characters. Which is a good thing, because it really is the sort of concept that was screaming for more exploration even if there is so much going on it gets a bit muddled in places. While the animation of the characters actually winds up becoming somewhat... unsettling in places due to awkward proportions and a weird overlay of live actions at times, the rest of the game is an absolute knockout. Environment design is beautiful, surreal and otherworldly, with colour-rich artwork and fascinating creatures. And gross stuff. Am I the only one that thinks caterpillars stop being cute right around the time their squishy little bodies become gargantuan, mile-long nightmares of spines and flesh?

Nightmare Realm: In the End... is a surprisingly long game that leans fairly hard on the adventure side of gameplay, with a focus on traveling around and solving puzzles. While this does mean you'll do a lot of backtracking, it also means there's a greater emphasis on story-telling and world-building being integrated into the gameplay as a whole. The hidden-object scenes, however, wind up feeling so clearly tacked on to a game that wants to be a pure adventure title that they both fail to engage and somehow look shoddier than the rest of the game itself, so it's good they pop up so rarely. In a way, the actual gameplay winds up not being quite as engaging as the story and setting itself simply because the gameplay is so standard. It's fun and beautifully presented, but it's also not particularly creative. With its incredible visual design and engaging story and atmosphere, however, Nightmare Realm: In the End... delivers a fantastic adventure that fans of dark fantasy will want to check out immediately.

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

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

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


  • Currently 4.2/5
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Rating: 4.2/5 (125 votes)
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KimberlyJewelanche 2Cascading gems are back in Jewelanche 2, a beautiful match-3 game from FlashRush Games. Terrible monsters have invaded the land and turned everyone into jewels. It can be rough owning that magic amulet as it means you must be the one to break the curse! Draw lines across at least three adjacent gems of the same shape and color to make them to disappear. To pass a level, you need to fill up the progress bar on the right side of the screen before the gems fill the screen, or before the time runs out, depending on the level. This time around there are 50 themed levels, with a boss to defeat every ten levels.

If you match quickly enough, the bomb meter will fill up and drop a bomb gem. These explode when matched and are a great way to create some space on the board. You earn gold for each level played, which is spent in the shop on a few upgrades or a wide variety of single use power-ups. Some levels test your speed matching, while others let you take your time to plan your moves. There are also various challenges to overcome, such as stone or ice blocks. This added variety, plus the many different power-ups you can purchase from the shop, combine to keep the gameplay fresh. With brilliantly colored jewels and quirky bosses, Jewelanche 2 is a match-3 game done right.

Play Jewelanche 2


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Link Dump Fridays

DoraWe've got a short Link Dump this week, fillies and gentlecolts, and those of you who entered in last week's Knytt Underground contest and won will be getting an e-mail from Nifflas himself within the next few days. Winners will be posted later today on the original contest page. But for now? WE GAME.

News and Previews

DungelotDungeons Need Balance Too Dimitry Mitrofanov's free browser roguelike Dungelot is awesome, and with recent updates it's even awesomer! The balance has been tweaked, bugs have been fixed, and there's a new hero available to be unlocked, with even more content on the way. While Dungelot lacks a tremendous amount of depth, it also lacks the steep difficulty curve a lot of roguelikes have to offer, making it sort of a perfect introduction to the genre if you've been meaning to try it, or have a friend you think might like it. It has a simple, breezy playstyle, colourful graphics, and it's one of those games that fits perfectly into a coffee break... or into a larger time frame when you're supposed to be doing something else.

FezI Port to Other Platforms Now. Other Platforms Are Cool. Polytron's smash-hit XBLA puzzle platforming adventure Fez is coming to other platforms. That's it. That's the extent of the news. Dropped New Year's Eve in a post entitled "State of the Polytron", the news is both incredibly exciting and frustratingly vague. What other platforms? How much? If we wheedle really hard will you give it to us right now? We'll have to wait to find out more. Maybe in the meantime, you and I should use this as an excuse to start working through that colossal backlog of games I know we both have. I think after eschewing the many brand-new games I received for Christmas to replay Phantasy Star IV, I can probably admit I have a problem.

Kickstarter Projects

DreadlineA Backpack Full of Harvested Hearts and a Spring in Your Step Being a kid is hard enough. Being a kid who thinks he's a ghost and massacres people with other monsters throughout time and space is even harder. And weirder. If, like us, you thought Eerie Canal's upcoming indie RPG/real-time strategy gem Dreadline sounded awesome, now's your chance to help it come to pass by donating to the official Dreadline Kickstarter. Headed for PC in October of 2013, the game hopes to add multiplayer and port the game to other platforms if the project succeeds. Sounds good to us!

Miscellany

Hotline Miami: The Text AdventureDon't Get Too Excited No, Hotline Miami: The Text Adventure is not an actual playable interactive-fiction version of indie juggernaut Hotline Miami, and in fact this parody feature by PC Gamer shows you just what a bad idea it would be if it were. Or maybe it's a great idea. I'm not sure, since this perfectly captures what it's like to actually play the game. Well, almost. All you need is a steady stream of expletives, and a well-meaning friend or family member hovering nervously over your shoulder to suggest you maybe "play something you have fun with" so you can whip your head around and snarl "I AM HAVING FUN" before dying another 30 times in fifteen seconds.

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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Hundreds

JohnBHundreds, you should be a really easy game, you know? Tapping on circles to make them grow, increasing their value so everything adds up to 100. Making sure red active circles don't collide. Easy idea, easy to play, but when it comes down to actually getting somewhere, you present quite the little challenge. Part puzzle but bigger part arcade game, Hundreds from Semi Secret Software (which includes Adam Saltsman, creator of Canabalt) and Greg Wohlwend (from Solipskier team Mikengreg) is a minimalist experience that nabs your interest from the first level and refuses to let go until you've driven yourself mad with numbers and circles.

HundredsEach level in Hundreds populates the screen with a bunch of circles, most of which are marked with a big fat zero on their face. Sitting in the background is a tally of the value of each circle. Your goal is to tap circles to increase their value until that number reaches 100. Each time you tap (or, more likely, tap and hold) a circle, it also increases in size. While a circle is growing it turns red, and the catch to all this adding business is that if a red circle touches anything, you have to start the level over again. Sounds simple, but of course, Semi Secret never lets you off that easy.

Adding complexity to the circles/numbers situation, levels feature some fancy tricks to make your day a little more challenging. There are bubbles that need to be popped. There are bound circles that must be touched simultaneously. There are negative circles that must be deflated before you can work on that positive 100 sum. And there's more! The stages present a wide variety of obstacles and challenges to deal with. Having too many circles on the screen is the least of your worries when a sawblade is bounding around, threatening to chop your inflated shapes down to zero.

HundredsAnalysis: Somewhat similar to Terry Cavanagh's Super Hexagon, Hundreds can be an infuriating game. The kind of infuriating that makes you angry enough to try, try, try again. Mistakes only take a fraction of a second to make, and just about every time you make one you'll slap your forehead because, hey, you totally should have seen that one coming, shouldn't you? But that's why Hundreds is such an engaging game: you only get better at it. There's no fear of relapse, your skills multiply as levels increase in speed and complexity, and the longer you play, the more interesting things get.

If you want to get all analytical about some of the design aspects of Hundreds (and we totally do), you could argue that Hundreds isn't necessarily a game about circles and numbers, it's a game about empty space. Your attention is acutely focused on one thing at all times: preventing collisions. Making things add up to 100 is almost a byproduct. To stay in the game, you've got to watch the ever-changing space between the sliding circles, predicting how it will morph once the shapes grow and start to bounce off of each other in new ways. It can be a very calming experience in a moderately twisted sort of way, even though half the time you're frantically pecking the screen trying to nail down a circle for half a second.

Simple ideas can make the best games, and the developers behind Hundreds have got that nailed down to near perfection. It gets everything right and looks (and sounds) good while doing it, which about all you can ask for from a mobile game.


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Rating: 4.7/5 (2874 votes)
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DoraPokemon Tower Defense 2Sam Otero's free fan-made spin on the Pokemon franchise, Pokemon Tower Defense, was a surprise smash-hit, blending gotta-catch-em-all RPG elements with surprisingly complex and strategic tower-defense gameplay. How do you top something like that? Why, by turning it into an adventure game too, of course! Pokemon Tower Defense 2: Generations has arrived, bringing with it a whole host of new features. Play as a boy or a girl as you manually explore the world, traveling to become a Pokemon Master and solve the mystery of the strange Shadow Pokemon in the process. Note that you do need to register a free account to play and save, but since the e-mail address is only used for trading and such, feel free to enter gibberish.

Use [WASD] or the [arrow] keys to move, [Z] or [spacebar] to interact, and use the button at the top of the screen to save your game. When you receive it, you can just click the word to open your PokePad. When you're in a standard versus Pokemon battle, just drag your preferred Pocket Monster from its space at the bottom of the screen to an empty orange square and they'll automatically attack anything in range. Click on them to set their tactics, or on the name of one of their abilities to force them to use that instead. You can access your backpack during battle at the side of the screen for healing and Pokeballs. Since everything happens in real-time, don't be afraid to adjust your strategy on the fly and move your Pokemon around the map. Defensive battles are handled the same way, except you'll be trying to keep your opponents from escaping or reaching something on the screen. As your Pokemon level up, they learn new abilities and even evolve, so since they only gain experience points if they land a hit on a defeated enemy, don't be afraid to get their hands dirty. Or... wings. Vines. Gas? Ghastly's a ghost, so... hm.

Capturing Pokemon is a bit different. As you wander around willy-nilly, you can see and attack Pokemon in the field, provided they don't run from you. Once you touch them, the battle will either play out one on one, or almost like a Defensive one, with a stream of that particular type of Pokemon of varying levels and genders moving from one side of the screen to the other. Once a Pokemon leaves the screen it won't be coming back, so if you have your eye on one, take it down quickly. To capture a Pokemon, its health needs to be in the red. Click on your backpack and then select your Pokeball... once you've done that, you can simply drag the Pokeball icon onto the screen, and if it opens around the Pokemon you hover it over, you can catch it! Different Pokemon will be available depending on the time of day, and you may need certain conditions met to catch them.

Pokemon Tower Defense 2Analysis: So, how well does it hold up against the original? Solidly. Not having to pay to level up anymore is nice, and overall the game feels like it has a smoother, more engaging flow. It's not quite as endlessly addictive as the original was, however, and as it keeps moving towards looking and feeling more and more like the actual Pokemon games themselves, you have to wonder where you draw the line between "homage" and "imitation", form of flattery or otherwise. As of this writing, the game stands at version 1.29, which means that while it's playable, up to a certain point the game just won't let you proceed any further. It is, however, updated frequently with everything from more Pokemon to catch, to additional story content. (Don't worry. As the game is updated, the new content will be applied to your save file, so you can play it as it develops.)

Generations is maybe a bit clunkier to handle than its predecessor, especially considering how chaotic large-scale battles can be and how little the game offers in the way of instruction on the finer points. What's neat is that those "boss battles" require significantly more strategy and active participation, swapping Pokemon around the field and changing their attacks often to compensate for how much more powerful the bosses usually are. The sheer amount of new content is impressive, and fans of the original will love the ability to wander and go after Pokemon in the field. There's just something exciting about seeing a rare Pokemon trundling about and charging after it, and the way the types you encounter change depending on time of day means you'll spend a lot of time hunting. And grinding levels. Mostly grinding levels. I cannot stress to you enough the sheer amount of Zubats, Geodudes, and Pidgeys you are going to go through. Gotta grind 'em all.

Whether you embrace Pokemon Tower Defense 2: Generations as a well-made fan homage or shun it for riding on the series' coattails is entirely up to you. There's no denying, however, that the game is an impressive piece of work with an impressive amount of thought and effort behind it, and can leave a terrifying amount of productive hours beaten and battered in its wake.

Play Pokemon Tower Defense 2: Generations


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Rating: 3.7/5 (80 votes)
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Soom 2013SonicLoverWelcome to 2013, the year of the snake. Everyone celebrates the coming of the new year in their own way: party-goers engorge themselves on wine, people with bad habits make resolutions they usually can't keep, and escape game developers like Place of Light create tributes. Soom 2013 is such a game. You know the basics if you're a point-and-click fanatic: click around the room, pick up items, solve puzzles, and ultimately (hopefully) escape. Items that appear in your inventory in the lower left can't be examined or combined, but you can select them by clicking them, then use them once they're marked with the red star.

Although Soom 2013 isn't long at all, particularly compared to Place of Light's earlier works like Loom Dawn and Room Marine, it's good while it lasts. The room and its puzzles are very well designed, and although the lack of any sound can be a little disconcerting, it doesn't really get in the way. There's one part that'll absolutely stump anyone who's not familiar with those weird Japanese doodads involving a tangerine-headed snowman on a pedestal (seriously, what are those even for?), but the rest of the puzzles are so well done that that's easily overlooked.

As someone born in the year of the snake myself (...er, not this year of the snake, the one 24 years ago), I consider myself qualified to recommend Soom 2013, and I do so eagerly.

Play Soom 2013


  • Currently 4.4/5
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Rating: 4.4/5 (32 votes)
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DoraIce BeakNitrome's latest teeny-weeny (literally, at just 50x50 pixels!) game is the ice-blasting action title Ice Beak, where you control a frost-spewing bird able to freeze its enemies in their tracks. Fly with the [arrow] or [WASD] keys, and fire with the [spacebar]. The bar at the bottom-left displays how much ice-shooting energy you have left, and since you're both defenseless and unable to trigger switches without it, you don't want to be too frivolous with your freezing. The blue beams will both act as checkpoints on a level and recharge you, but they're not always placed in a way that makes flying back and forth between them an option if you need to charge up. So that's where a little bit of strategy comes in, since enemies that have been frozen will immediately drop to the ground, also freezing and taking out any baddies below them. Screen too shrimpy? Just click the play area and the bottom-left icon to expand it until it suits you.

Ice Beak is a simple little game on the surface, but the bit of thought it requires you to put into using your frosty abilities sparingly also makes it a clever one. The downside is that it's also sort of slow to start and challenge. It isn't until the third level or so that the game really ups the ante with respawning enemies, intimidating gauntlets of danger, and switches that need to be triggered in creative ways. Considering the game's one-hit KO policy, being booted all the way back to your last checkpoint in some of the bigger, more densely packed levels is sort of a bitter pill to swallow if you managed to just flit by on the skin of your beak. As cute and unassuming as it may seem, Ice Beak will need an eagle-eye (if playing in micro-vision), a steady hand, and fast reflexes to make it through unscathed, but is a clever, challenging little game that makes a great addition to Nitrome's stable of small titles.

Play Ice Beak


  • Currently 4/5
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Rating: 4/5 (107 votes)
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Weekday Escape

GrinnypWe try to provide the best mid-week breaks available for Weekday Escape, cute little room escape diversions whether you need a pick-me-up in the middle of a difficult week or a diversion from the pounding headache caused by the party last night. This time we decided to go super light with another of Hottategoya's amusing "three puzzles and out" rooms in the form of Escape from the Room with Three Keys 8.

Escape from the Room with Three Keys 8Hottategoya livens up our day with their usual three puzzles, three keys, and out room escape. Simply point and click your way around the barren space to find clues to getting out before bedtime. This time around the puzzles are heavily color-based, so watch out for that. Despite the constrained format Hottategoya manages to come up, yet again, with three interesting and challenging puzzles, especially the last one for the third key. There's no changing cursor, although in this minimalist room one is really not needed. All that is really needed is some attention to detail and pretty soon you'll be out the door, just in time to stagger back to work or school or whatever else you have scheduled for today.

Once again we are faced with a nearly empty room and three tricky puzzles to suss out to make our escape, courtesy of the ever inventive Hottategoya. Escape from the Room with Three Keys 8 is less of a full room escape and more of a serial, one of those five to ten minute "to be continued" shorts shown before the main event. Here's a perfect way to take a short yet entertaining break that will leave you wanting more.

Play Escape from the Room with Three Keys 8


(6 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Wordament

JohnBOriginally released as a Windows Phone game, Wordament from Microsoft is a straightforward Boggle-like word game that's heavy on statistics and competitive scores. Round after round of letter arrangements you'll see, utilizing your precious few minutes to spell as many words as you can before it's on to the scoreboard followed by the next letter grid. And if you're not as interested in beating everyone over the head with your fast-finding word skills, you can also just, you know, play the game and have a good time!

WordamentWordament is technically a multiplayer game, as everyone who plays shares the same arrangement of letters and competes for a high score. Functionally, though, it's just you, a 4x4 grid of letter tiles, and a timer that always seems to be running on empty. All you have to do is drag letters to spell as many words as you can as quickly as you can. Tiles are worth points, the more difficult a letter is to use the more points you get (we're looking at you, Z). The player with the most points gets to shine atop the leaderboards at the end of each round.

In addition to comparing raw scores, Wordament also fills you in on details such as which words were found, how many seconds it took to find words, words found and not found, and multiplayer averages. Looking at the stats is surprisingly interesting and might reveal a bit about language habits, but since the next round begins after just a few seconds, you won't have too much time to calculate. Wordament is rather fast-paced, which may or may not be your thing, but it's perfect for those moments you need a quick word game fix.

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.


  • Currently 4/5
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Rating: 4/5 (62 votes)
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Kyhkyh_electricjoing_screen.pngTaking a step sideways from their previous title, Char Studio brings a delightfully simple, and yet challenging, puzzle game about connecting electric charges. In Electric Joint, you're tasked to click all the charges on the screen into one big loop. But it can never be as simple as that. Adjacent charges must be opposite, and (in the famous words of Ghostbusters' Egon) "don't cross the streams". With these restrictions and other hazards like moving particles and electric barriers, you're sure to be scratching your head before you complete all 25 levels. So if you're looking for a challenge over your next coffee/tea/chocolate milk break, why not play around with some electricity?

Play Electric Joint


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The Vault

DoraHow is it in the future? Considering as I write this I'm still in the boring past (2012) and you, dear reader, are in the future (2013) I must assume there are flying cars everywhere, plants are only found in museums, and you have been assimilated into a cold, mechanical life as one of the new robot overlords, incapable of pain, but also of feeling. Which... doesn't seem like a lot of fun to me, but I guess you know better, being in the future and all, and I'm sure I'll join you shortly. Unless I'm the one who leads the daring uprising about your cruel steel fists. Rad! But in the meantime, here are three games to get you ready for enjoying your new existence as a robot. All these games are 100% factual to a robot's day-to-day life. No, don't Google that. Trust me.

  • ManufactoriaManufactoria - As a robot, you're going to need to get used to programming things, so Pleasing Fungus' logic puzzle game is a good place to start. The point is to place conveyors that get each specific robot to where they belong on the factory floor, but that's not as easy as it sounds since each robot's programming responds to different switches and checkpoints, forcing you to really plan out where everything needs to be. It's inspired by Zachtronics' "Games for Engineers", and if you enjoy fine-tuning and brain-twisters, then Manufactoria is the perfect choice for an afternoon of gaming after labouring for three straight shifts in the robot oil mines. Wow, becoming a robot is starting to look like a really bad choice.
  • Give Up, Robot 2Give Up, Robot 2 - As a robot, you'll have to get used to carrying out your sinister mechanical tasks without praise, so Matt Thorson's challenging platformer is a good place to start hardening your weak human psyche. Part Mario, part Bionic Commando, part GLaDOS, the game sends you on a bizarre, psychedelic journey through a series of severely punishing stages as a robot armed only with a grappling hook for an arm and a bunch of sentient objects who are really going to wish they had thought twice about being so cheerful to help you. You destroy everything you touch, after all. Just like a real robot.
  • Robot Wants PuppyRobot Wants Puppy - Don't look so sad. There are upsides to being a robot too! All your weak, fleshy human friends and relatives will have been assimilated into indistinct robots themselves, but animals will still be your companions! Hamumu's Robot Wants series of Metroidvania-esque games about a robot continually searching for upgrades that will eventually allow him to reach a thing he wants has always been well received, but for my money, this installment is the best. If only because many of those upgrades also extend to your constant cat companion, who can use her tail like a helicopter to lift you, or be flung at enemy faces to shred them while they run back and forth in a panic. It's an adorable, highly entertaining little game that will warm and delight any vestiges of humanity left in your cold robot soul, the better to stand out on routine scans by the motherbrain so they can be ripped out of your husk.

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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