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February 2013 Archives


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Eighty-Eight

JohnBEighty-Eight is a puzzle game from Premiere Liaison that smashes together numbers and logic. The simple set-up places you on an 8x8 grid of squares with a few blocks resting comfortably at the bottom. New blocks appear, ready to be dropped, and with a little bit of forethought (ok, boatloads of forethought) you can create some elegant chain reactions and keep the screen as empty as possible. Or, you know, panic and start crying because THE NUMBERS ARE EVERYWHERE.

Eighty-EightNew blocks appear at the top of the screen and can be dropped down any column by tapping on the grid. Blocks only disappear when the digit displayed on its face matches the number of blocks in that column or row. So, for example, if you place a "2" block on top of a single "4" block, the "2" will immediately disappear. Numberless gray blocks also appear from time to time, and special shaded blocks need to be busted open before they can vanish. It's all a wonderfully tidy mess of squares!

Old mobile game pros will recognize this very similar set-up as displayed by Drop7, one of the early hits on iOS devices. Eighty-Eight doesn't try to hide its inspirations, but it does go a little further by introducing a badge system, gameplay statistics, Game Center support, and two unique modes of play. Easy to understand, but building a decent level of proficiency will require time and patience, which is exactly why we love games like this!

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 3.1/5
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Rating: 3.1/5 (48 votes)
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Color Tanks

DoraFunByJohn's chaotic arena shooter Color Tanks does the unthinkable by making tanks bouncy and cheerfully bright, and also by forcing me to spell "color" without a U. Using the [WASD] keys to move and the mouse to aim and shoot, your task, should you choose to accept it, is to take out all your enemies with blasts of colourful blobs before they do the same to you. Doing so earns you cash you can spend at any time by opening the upgrades menu with [spacebar], purchasing everything from temporary flight, to special shots, and extra lives... important since once all your lives run out, your money will be wiped. Just like in real life, naturally, you'll also have to contend with a variety of terrain problems, like conveyor belts and launching pads, that can either help or hinder you against enemies that fly or use other dirty tricks. It's sort of a giddy little game with a soundtrack you'll either love or hate right off the back and a great sense of style. Unfortunately, it'd be a lot more fun if upgrades were persistent or more varied, and the lives system just seems... well, sort of pointless. A fun, frantic little game, if not one to write home to mother about, Color Tanks nevertheless has a great casual appeal for the action fan who is too chicken to actually play paintball when they're not inside an armored vehicle. Hey, I'm not judging. Those suckers hurt.

Play Color Tanks


  • Currently 3.4/5
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Rating: 3.4/5 (101 votes)
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New School Blues

KimberlyWe've all been the new kid sometime in our life, and we've all dreaded it. So there's a part of all of us that hopes the new kid will have a successful first day of school. You can help this happen in New School Blues, a short and sweet point-and-click adventure from Untold Entertainment. Pick your character and click through the day. Inventory items appear at the bottom of the screen, and click the arrow to advance dialogue. New School Blues is heavier on narrative and lighter on gameplay than many adventure games, and the puzzles are straightforward, but it works for the subject matter. In fact, it's a good game to introduce the point-and-click genre to the small school child in your life. Though you'll face ugly jackets, bullies, and inattentive teachers, it's nothing you can't help the new kid overcome.

Play New School Blues


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100 Crypts

JohnBNew in the line of mobile room escape games with "100" in their name ("door exit" games, if you will), 100 Crypts takes a bit of a darker tone with its series of point-and-click puzzles. Dropped off in a series of one screen rooms, your goal is to find a way to unlock the door, unseal the tomb, open the port hole, or do whatever it takes to leave the area, usually so you can find yourself in the exact same situation when you reach the other side!

100 Crypts100 Crypts utilizes some common features of mobile devices to get you more involved in the puzzles. For example, instead of sliding things across the screen, you might have to tip your phone, turn it upside down, or give it a good shake. Very few instructions are given, so don't be afraid to tap on things to see what happens, or do all of the above just for the sake of it!

100 Crypts doesn't mess with the tried and true escape game formula too much, but when you need a good puzzle fix and can't be bothered with a full room escape game, this thing's got you covered!

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 4.2/5
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Rating: 4.2/5 (480 votes)
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Crazy Digger

TrickyYou've just got to envy some of these game protagonists. They seem to be able to eat, eat, eat whatever they want and it never shows up on their waist-lines. In the case of Crazy Digger, an arcade puzzler by Pipkin Games, the hero's diet seems to consist entirely of gems and dirt, both of which are notoriously high in carbs. How does he do it? Oh well, at least on this side of the screen, we don't need to worry so much about cascading rocks or chomping green things. Use the [WASD] or [arrow] keys to guide the digger around each level, with the goal of consuming all the gems. You are able chomp through the green dirt and push around blue rocks in pursuit of your goal, but be warned: while the digger is not affected by gravity, a rock or gem will roll on curved surfaces, and without any support, it will start plummeting to the bottom of the screen. That can lead to a painful squishing, so watch out! There are enemies to avoid as well, though the fact that they are squishing-vulnerable as well gives you an edge in the strategy department. Complete all 25 levels, and maybe you'll show the world this digger ain't so crazy after all. Despite background music that deserves the audio equivalent of an epilepsy warning, Crazy Digger is a simple and addictive time-waster in the Boulder Dash vein, and players looking for a burst of retro fun on their coffee break will not be disappointed. Especially those who hit the mute button fast enough.

Play Crazy Digger


  • Currently 3.1/5
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Rating: 3.1/5 (106 votes)
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Sienna Room

GrinnypOnce in a while when you're trying to solve a room escape puzzle, do you pause a moment and take in your surroundings and say to yourself, "Hey, why would I want to leave this place?" A room where the surroundings are so lush and comfy looking that in real life you'd be kicking back and enjoying living the good life. Tomatea is a designer that specializes in spaces like that, so inviting that you have to wonder why anyone would be trying to get out. Sienna Room, one of their earliest efforts, is yet another place that could make you look around and think, "I could get very used to it here, and not leave."

And Sienna Room has some pretty fun puzzles to distract us with during our stay. There's a lot here that is very familiar in Tomatea's designs, the lovely scenery, the "I have no idea how to solve this" lock on the puzzles, the handy inventory and easy navigation. The only thing lacking is a changing cursor, that lovely glowing cursor that would show up in later games. This does cause a bit of pixel hunting but doesn't ruin the usual zen calm of a Tomatea escape, even without the soothing music. For this mid-week break take a peek at the early days of one of the more popular escape designers out there. And take a few minutes to enjoy the scenery.

Play Sienna Room

Note: If you're having issues getting the game to load in Firefox (we did), use Chrome instead.


  • Currently 3.1/5
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Rating: 4.6/5 (41 votes)
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Briquid

JohnBBriquid is a physics puzzle game from Gamious that quite neatly combines brick removal, brick creation, and flowing liquids. With a few simple taps it's your job to shift all of the water on the screen to the designated zones, all while staying under your movement limit and without wasting a drop of the precious stuff. It's a bit of an extreme brain bender at times, but it's just accessible enough to work!

BriquidSimply tap an empty space to add a brick to the screen, or tap an existing block to remove it. Water immediately flows in the direction indicated by the gravity arrows on the side of the screen. After spending just a few levels getting the hang of conservative brick removal, you'll need to switch these indicators to shuttle the water where it needs to go. That means thinking three or four moves ahead just to keep everything in order!

Briquid is a simple concept built for the die-hard puzzle fan, and its retro look and feel certainly doesn't hurt, either. It's almost like Where's My Water? but on a grid and with a monumentally higher level of difficulty. The only real drawback is it requires a tablet to play, as the concept would take some effort to fit on a smaller screened iPhone or Android device. But if you've got the equipment, Briquid is a fantastic puzzle game with 100 levels to charge through!

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 3.6/5
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Rating: 3.6/5 (49 votes)
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noitcelfeR 2

TrickyEver look into a mirror, and wonder about the world on the other side? Wouldn't it be weird if that world were the real one? Wouldn't it be even weirder if you could see things that didn't exist in your world? That's the kind of thought J-Horror flicks are made of. But it's also the stuff of noitcelfeR 2, a cool puzzle platformer by Wix Games. Use the [WASD] or [arrow] keys to move, with [W], [up], or the [spacebar] to jump. Avoid sharp things like spikes and spinning blades, bounce off enemies and springs, and make it to the right side of the screen. However, many of the obstacles you face will be invisible, only reflected in the bottom of the play area. Likewise, there will also be vampire obstacles which have no reflection. Completing a level, and completing it faster than the developer's par time, will grant coins that can be spent to unlock new features and level packs. While noitcelfeR 2 can be a little laggy when the screen is filled with objects, it embodies both a high concept and a simple concept quite well. With its eight level packs included and comprehensive community level editor, noitcelfeR 2 will keep players reflecting for a long time.

Play noitcelfeR 2


  • Currently 3.8/5
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Rating: 3.8/5 (42 votes)
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Tiny Squad

KimberlyTiny Squad is a wonderful pixelated turn-based strategy game from Kerpenko Ilia where you battle in several different pixel-y landscapes against various monsters until you come out on top! Before warfare ensues, you get to pick a team using a limited amount of cash to assemble your squad. You start out with a basic soldier, but will soon have an array of people to choose from. If you are unsure who to pick, there is an auto select button that will choose a team for you. When the battle begins, it is the highlighted unit's turn, with darkened ground indicating their range. Soldier units need to be right next to an enemy to attack, while ranged units can hit a target from anywhere on the screen. Hover over a unit to see their stats, and make sure to keep an eye on the health bars. With well done pixel art and challenging (but not impossible!) levels, Tiny Squad is a great strategy game. And while we don't know why we are fighting bears, robots, and ogres, we do know one thing: Humans must prevail.

Play Tiny Squad


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The Vault

JohnBWelcome! Ladle you some games from our extensive archives? How about a lovely 2005 from the Boxeau province? Or a vintage 2004 with an eloquent bouquet from Boxine? Try the 2010 box from Boxage because, well, just look at those legs!

  • Cube Droid Saves the GalaxyCube Droid Saves the Galaxy - Cubes are basically boxes, right? In the puzzle game Cube Droid Saves the Galaxy from DevilishGames, you play as a little robot named Cube Droid who, well, saves the galaxy. A mysterious ship left thousands of metal squares and robots in its wake and they slowly started covering entire planets. Cube Droid's rock was left untouched, though, and now his only job is to save the galaxy. Basically, Cube Droid is a good-looking sokoban puzzle game, only with a lot more drama and some really cute artwork. It's also much more challenging than you might expect, but you are saving the galaxy, after all.
  • The Moving GameThe Moving Game - There once was a time when JayIsGames had a few hiccups while moving content from server to server. To distract everyone (including ourselves), we snagged a little diversion called The Moving Game by Benjamin Soule of Motion-Twin. The idea is simple: stick figures carry boxes from building to building, earning cash with each successful deposit. You can upgrade various attributes like speed, number of personnel, or the ability to throw boxes by spending said cash. Not a bad way to pass the time!
  • Rumble BallRumble Ball - Rumble Ball isn't, strictly speaking, about boxes. It's about everything in-between the boxes, but there's also some box smashing going on! From Orbox creator Arseniy Desrosiers, this unassuming arcade game lets you play a stylish billiards-esque game where you tap a ball around the screen, gathering yellow dots and bumping into cubes to clear a path. Play it for a high score, play it for the finely-tuned physics. Or play it because you really, really hate boxes.

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!


(2 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Puzzle Restorer

ArtbegottiHey, didja hear the one about the lady who tried to repaint that fresco of Jesus, but failed hilariously? Art restoration is no simple task, and if you're not properly trained for the job, you could end up unveiling a potato with an afro at the big reveal. In Gavina Games' Puzzle Restorer, you can try your hand at fixing up damaged photos by smearing around a puzzle full of paint, no spuds attached.

Puzzle RestorerThe picture at the top of each level is your target, what the restored painting is supposed to look like. Tap and drag a path from one colored block to smear some paint around, but remember that your path must also end in another similarly-colored block. Once you've made your path, tap the checkmark on the starting point to confirm your move. You have not only a limited number of blocks that you can paint through, but also a limited number of brushstrokes that you can take, so be sure to make every move count!

Paint isn't just smearable though, it's also mixable. When your path of paint crosses a square of another color, the colors will combine in that square, and knowing what each color consists of can help you predict what the resultant color will be. Primary colors mix to make secondary colors according to the standard rules (red and yellow make orange, for instance). Mixing a secondary color with one of the primary colors in it gives you the secondary color again (red and orange just makes orange, because there's already red in orange), but mixing a secondary color with its complement (for example, orange and blue) will always give you black. Black is an important color in this game, as it can be used to mask parts of your path while moving around the grid.

There are 64 standard puzzles to solve, which get trickier as you have multiple brushstrokes to work with, meaning you often have to use one stroke to set up a starting point for a second stroke. By solving the standard levels, you can also unlock bonus levels that throw some twists into the color mixing rules for you to figure out. It's all in a day's work for a professional Puzzle Restorer though. Once you solve a masterpiece, reward yourself with a bowl of fresco au gratin.

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


  • Currently 3.6/5
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Rating: 3.6/5 (144 votes)
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Inner Vision

TrickyInner Vision, a flixel visual novel, from debuting developer Sunil Rao, tackles one of the most important subjects, and one of the most difficult to do justice: suicide. Based on the author's own experiences with depression, Inner Vision presents you with three individuals contemplating killing themselves, and asks you to talk with them. Obviously, you cannot hope to solve all their problems in the course of a single conversation, but maybe the responses you click might help in some small way, and that's enough. Whenever a game designer explores a serious theme, they face the dual concerns that either the subject matter will overwhelm concerns of quality design, or that aspects of the medium will prevent the subject being given its due respect. As a very short and very personal game, Inner Vision does succeed in maintaining that precious balance.

Inner VisionThe game's prose has the sense of genuineness that can only come from personal experience, and, going by the response so far, what it has to say has struck a chord with quite a few people. What's more, while the game faces its subject with compassion, any sentimentality is undercut by the presenter of the story, Yama, a cigarette-puffing skeletal-embodiment of discouragement and a truly vicious piece of work. You'll either want to see more of him real soon, or never again ever. Admittedly, the themes of Inner Vision make an objective review difficult: those who see something of themselves in the characters of the game will, of course, be much more willing to forgive the occasionally clunky writing. But, if nothing else, Inner Vision gives a sympathetic peek into the minds of people afflicted with depression. It's not at all subtle about its message, but it's one many deserve to hear: "You are not alone."

Play Inner Vision


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Mobile Monday

JohnBChewed -up gum and knobby knees are the dominant mental images one may experience while reading this edition of Mobile Monday. That, and the incessant repetition of Torgo's four second theme song running over and over again, never stopping, just looping. Forever.

thesandbox.jpgSand in your Android - The iOS game first released in 2012 has finally worked its way to Android! In The Sandbox, you play a god-like character with the power to paint with the elements. By dragging your finger across the screen, you can drop stones, bits of earth, water, even create batteries, lava, heating elements, and more. Not only that, you can also toy with the lighting, weather, and temperature settings, creating conditions ripe for just about anything your brain can cook up. Check out our full review for lots more info.

manos-p.gifI LeFt a piEce of cHeWed uP GuM on yoUr pilLoW - Master says playing MANOS - The Hands of Fate is good. Master says Torgo needs knee replacements. Master says one of the worst movies ever made, which spawned one of the best MST3K episodes ever made, somehow works as a retro platform game. Master also says it's now out for Android. We like the master, don't we? 8-bit Torgo theme time!

dragonportals.jpgGet your dragon on, on more devices! - 10tons, makers of the scientifically-proven best and most gorgeous matching games on the planet, has just brought a modern classic to mobile devices. Instead of stacking, shooting, swapping, slamming or other S-related verbs, Dragon Portals is based around dropping. Several dragons are flying together in a group, each with a row of orbs on its side. Tap an orb and it falls to the dragon below, snuggling itself between existing orbs and making a tidy match so you can stay flying. It's a fantastic fit for mobile devices and perfect for quick pick up and play sessions.

pvz-p.gifFree App of the Week: Plants vs. Zombies! - Each week on the iTunes App Store, Apple drops a single release down to the tasty price of "free". This week, that freebie just so happens to be Plants vs. Zombies, both the iPhone and HD iPad versions! We've got Plants vs. Zombies review, a special review for the mobile version, and a Plants vs. Zombies strategy guide just in case you're having a bit of trouble with those brutes on the roof. Grab PvZ for free anytime before Friday.


(5 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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9: The Dark Side of Notre Dame

GrinnypThe name Notre Dame conjures up many visuals: towering flying buttresses, sublime stained glass, and a hunchback in love lurching through the bell tower. Now Play Favorite Games has added more to the legend with 9: The Dark Side of Notre Dame, a stunning adventure hybrid with hidden object elements which takes place in and around the "Grand Dame" of Paris, as Victor Hugo so fondly remembered her.

grinnyp_9thedarksidenotredame_screenshot1.pngA little over a year ago Play Favorite Games came on the adventure hybrid scene and blew us all away with 9: The Dark Side. Well, they're back with an even better sequel in 9: The Dark Side of Notre Dame, a continuation of the story of the war between the Guardians and the Clan, as well as a modern retelling of The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Someone with access some pretty dark magic has animated the famous gargoyles of Notre Dame, causing them to kidnap the daughter of a prominent and wealthy Parisian. Fortunately this took place during the Festival of Fools, so all witnesses thought it a great prank and part of the festival.

The inspector in charge of the kidnapping, Inspector Charmant, recognizes that magic and flying gargoyles are out of his purview, so he has contacted you personally, being that you are "The Last Descendant" of the guardians, as learned in the first game. The Inspector cannot risk his career on this "supernatural" option, so his briefings come in the form of clues and communiqus left hidden in and around the historical cathedral, giving you the player an idea of what is going on and him plausible deniability if anyone finds out that the Paris Police has hired a supernatural expert.

grinnyp_9thedarksidenotredame_screenshot2.pngAll you need to do is point and click your way through the stunning (and pretty accurate) scenery and solve the mystery with the help of the Inspector's clues, your own wits, and a charming gargoyle companion who is happy to lend a claw when something is outside of your physical ability. The bottom loading inventory and helpful refilling hint timer is augmented with a really useful map that not only shows areas with unaccomplished goals but which also allows the player to instantly transport themselves from one place to another, eliminating a ton of back and forth wandering. The glowing red guardian amulet is also back, this time its ability to find the evil runes hidden the scenery have an added bonus in being able to give life to whatever stone statues happen to be nearby, explaining your friendly gargoyle companion Gladriel.

Sparks of light and cascades of sparkles point out areas of interest and a handy changing cursor will help along the way pointing out places to go, people to see, and things to do. As with the first time around, 9: The Dark Side of Notre Dame packs a ton of gameplay into every frame with regular hidden object scenes, fragmented hidden object scenes, puzzles, and a wide variety of mini-games ranging from the simple to the devilish. Standard hidden object scenes feature a nice array of interactivity to find all of the items listed. Can you find the kidnapped girl and help the modern day Quasimodo and Esmeralda find happiness as well?

Analysis: Sequels to really well-made games can often be let-downs, inferior product rushed hastily to market to capitalize on the success of the original. Fortunately, that is not the case with 9: The Dark Side of Notre Dame, which actually manages to not only live up to the original but actually surpass it in some aspects.

grinnyp_9thedarksidenotredame_screenshot3.pngThe visuals are of course a treat, sharp and clear despite the night-time setting, not necessarily a difficult feat considering that everything takes place in and around one of the most visually exciting places in the world, Our Lady of Paris. The music is appropriately spooky and mysterious, adding to the atmosphere. Where 9: The Dark Side of Notre Dame really excels, though, is in the gameplay. Play Favorite Games has once again thrown everything but the kitchen sink into the mix, giving us an exciting and challenging series of games and puzzles to enjoy while trying to solve the mystery.

A great improvement is that handy map, a feature not available in 9: The Dark Side. Consisting of two separate layers (exterior Paris and the interior of Notre Dame) the map is extremely helpful not only in avoiding a lot of tedious wandering trying to get from point A to point B but also in giving the player a nudge as to where things still need to be accomplished. The hint feature not only helps with the hidden object scenes and mini-games (as a skip feature) but also helps out in the main adventuring sections of the game.

If there is anything to criticize about this game it is that it is a bit shorter than the original, which is a pity but not a fatal flaw. The amount of gameplay packed into this gem certainly makes up for any deficits, and the pretty, pretty graphics and animations are merely icing on the cake. The three modes of play (casual, advanced, and hardcore) guarantee a fun experience for a wide variety of skill levels and the lack of heavy violence and gore makes for a fun adventure the whole family can enjoy. Take a tour of one of the great architectural wonders of the world and have a grand old time with the gargoyles!

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:
Not available.
Try Boot Camp or Parallels or CrossOver Games.


(7 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Kitten Catastrophe

TrickyYoung Elena Honnor grew up as many of us would have liked to: perched on her dad's knee, playing the latest family-friendly Adventure Game Studio releases as a father/daughter pair. One day, at the ripe old age of 9, she decided that putting together a point and click adventure was something she'd like to do and, more importantly, with the help of her father, Liquid Nitrogen, could do. (Shouldn't her name be Elena Nitrogen then? Maybe she took her Mom's maiden name.) So together, over the course of a winter, they set out to make the game of Elena's dreams. Now it's finally ready to show off to the world: it's Kitten Catastrophy, and it's something any crayon-wielding auteur would be proud of.

Kitten CatastropheThe story stars Daddy Cat, who, after a record day of mouse hunting, wants nothing more than to go home to Mummy Cat and convene his kittens for family dinner. Unfortunately, those four kitties, Rose, Max, Beauty, and Sessame, have lost their way, each stuck in a predicament, or having a chore they must complete before the dinner bell may ring. It's up to Daddy Cat to get his litter together, or else no one is getting any pie. Standard AGS controls apply: click the mouse to move Daddy Cat around the screen, and right click to switch between the various icons used to examine, interact with, or talk to elements on the screen. The inventory is accessible in the lower left, and, when an item is selected, you are able to use it on other objects as part of your right clicking repertoire. Finally, be sure not to forget to pause at random intervals, so that you may point to the screen and shout YOU'RE A KITTY!

Naturally, it is difficult to try to objectively discuss the merits of so adorable a game made by someone so young, at least without getting a little condescending. Like many works from AGS newbies, Kitten Catastrophy is an easy, straightforward, little game with few superfluous details. Of course, even if there are no unique snarky comments for a failed attempt to try add a tree to your inventory, the gameplay and programming are solid. Perhaps even more so than Sissy's Magical Ponycorn Adventure, there is a sense that the ideas here truly sprung fully-formed solely from the mind and drawings of a creative young girl, with her Dad just there to help put it on the computer screen. If only Sissy could've helped on with the voice acting, the internet might've been overloaded with pure joy! Kitten Catastrophe is a genuine work, with a lot of heart, and it's certain that any game-loving child and guardian duo will have just as much fun playing it as LiquidNitrogen and Elena seem to have had putting it together.

WindowsWindows:
Download the free full version

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


  • Currently 4/5
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Rating: 4/5 (157 votes)
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unReal

elleAlthough the situation you're in—locked in a room with apparently no one on the other side to hear your shouts and let you out—is quite typical, unReal by Factory.112 is not your usual escape game as far as puzzles go. And that's about as much as I can tell you because describing this nearly monochromatic room in too much detail will spoil the challenge involved. Let's just say it has a few devices and furnishing that are much more than they first appear and, no, it's not a glitch if you can't seem to get any of them to work properly. Using deductive reasoning, some lateral thinking, a lot of trial-and-error exploration and the point-and-click method to navigate, examine objects and interact with elements until you finally find and obtain the key to the door. Wordless and silent, unReal offers no other help than a changing cursor, so make the most of it. It's actually quite logical but, until you discover the method behind the disfunction of this room, your frustration might be a little more than unreal.

Play unReal


(8 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Color Sheep

JohnBColor Sheep from Trinket Studios is an intense arcade game about a sheep that can change colors and shoot lasers. Wolves have escaped the Wolfcano and are stealing colors from the world. Sir Woolson, the Knight of Light (that's you), can change the color of his fleece to defend against the dark minions. But wolves don't adopt one or two basic shades. Instead, they sport almost two dozen different colors, meaning you got a lotta mixing to do and not a lot of time to do it!

Color SheepOn the left side of the screen are virtual buttons for red, green and blue. On the right sit controls for brightness and darkness. By holding down dark or bright and tapping single colors or swiping across two or three of them, you can craft colors for the sheep to adopt. Wolves march in from the right side of the screen and it's your job to match their colors as quickly as you can, tapping Woolson to send that laser forward to dispatch same-colored wolves in a single hit. The occasional item drops by to help you out of a bind, but otherwise it's just you and some fast thinking color changing.

Color Sheep doesn't give you more than two or three seconds to perform each color swap, so you have to constantly calculate color combinations in your head, switching from cyan to dark red to white to magenta to gray and blasting wolves without so much as a short breather. Once you clear the forest you move on to the next stage, and the difficulty increases sharply after each wave. It's intense, but the kind of intensity you love to master. Now go and shoot colorful lasers from a sheep's mouth!

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.


(10 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Enchantia: Wrath of the Phoenix Queen

elle500 years ago, the kindhearted Elven Queen Isandra was killed and possessed by the Phoenix Spirit, a hardhearted and conceited mystical entity who wants to burn down the entire world into ashes. Terryn who, as a Half-Elf, was alive to witness those events is, coincidentally, your mentor on an educational expedition to the site where he sealed up the malevolent spirit after it destroyed the Elven kingdom. As you arrive at the site, the ancient seal is glowing with power: the Phoenix Spirit has escaped. Now you, the Destined One, must use your Skybird magic to stop the Phoenix Queen once and for all in Enchantia: Wrath of the Phoenix Queen, an epic fantasy story embedded in a hidden object adventure game from Blue Tea Games.

Enchantia: Wrath of the Phoenix QueenFixing the seal and entering a new realm is only your first task. Throughout this adventure, you'll be given numerous quests to complete by a wide cast of characters—mortal and mystical—whom you encounter as you travel a wide map. Explore gorgeous settings overflowing with intricate details, finding and creating ornaments, charms and other tools to further your progress and learning more about the people and myth arc behind the Phoenix Queen story. Pointing-and-clicking just about anywhere in the scene will either reveal a puzzle to solve, a hidden object scene to work through, or narrative details about the world of Enchantia.

The gameplay is mostly adventuring-type tasks, including some back-and-forth between the various lands via a smart map, with a good dose of hidden object search scenes sprinkled throughout. These hidden object searches are in the same style and structure as those in the Dark Parables series—you're presented with a beautiful scene to feast your eyes on as you look for fragments of an ornate object which, once complete, will prove useful in another area of the game. There is the occasional minigame as well, creative interpretations of some standards such as tile switching as well as more innovative puzzles such as an alchemy style puzzle. The collector's edition includes some bonus puzzles as well as a new adventure; there is also a rather challenging side-quest to find 20 morphing objects hidden in various scenes.

Enchantia: Wrath of the Phoenix QueenAnalysis: With plenty of subplots spanning eleven chapters, each about twenty minutes long depending on your speed of play and how many hints you choose to use, Enchantia: Wrath of the Phoenix Queen feels more lengthy than it actually adds up to be (about three and a half hours of playing time). There are several cutscene movies but also many more sidebars in which you engage in dialogues with the people you encounter. At times, it's hard to tell what's going on in the story because so much is going on in the story. Enchantia aspires to be like a J.R.R. Tolkien adventure; it presents stories of the Elf, Human and Dwarf kingdoms, each with its own history and subplot in such a way that those who appreciate that sort of fantasy novel would enjoy in the game.

Enchantia: Wrath of the Phoenix QueenTo the disappointment of some fans, though, Enchantia: Wrath of the Phoenix Queen differs from Blue Tea Games' other releases. While the gameplay is very much like Dark Parables in every way, the story presentation is not. This is a more convoluted and complicated epic, and it's not always handled as well as it could be. Although it's apparent the game designers were trying to make a philanthropic statement about world issues, some of the plot elements tend to be glossed over in an effort to relate a large story without taking away too much from gameplay. Players may need to assume best intentions but there are times when sensitive and controversial events are not given the weight they deserve. I'm avoiding spoilers here, but be warned that you, as the central character, will be faced with a mortal dilemma that has no winning sides.

As an allusion to great fantasy works such as The Lord of the Rings, though, Enchantia: Wrath of the Phoenix Queen does hit its mark. It's refreshing to engage in an original plot line instead of a fairytale rehashed. Although it has its cliche moments, Enchantia stays fresh enough to command attention and it's likely you'll lose track of time as you're involved in gorgeous scenery, entertaining stories, and gameplay that is both serene and challenging. Enchantia: Wrath of the Phoenix Queen is a remarkable creation from a talented game designer, an aesthetically enchanting epic that will tug at your heart as it sweeps you into its magical realm.

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

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

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


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Spunk and Moxie

JohnBSpunk and Moxie is a one touch platform game by Chocolate Homunculus that relies on split-second timing and perfect reactions. It's a game of extremely high difficulty and no room for error, as the slightest little mishap will send you back to the beginning of the stage. That may not sound like a terrible punishment, but Spunk and Moxie is about high scores and unlockables, not raw level progression, so anything less than a perfect run is just not satisfactory.

Spunk and MoxieBoth main characters Spunk and Moxie are mobile blobs of goo that slide along the ground at their own speed. All you need to do is tap and hold the screen to control when and for how long they jump. This allows you to hop over gaps, jump small platforms, and squeeze through narrow openings placed so you have to hit them just so. But even more interesting is that holding the screen allows you to wall jump, allowing you to ascend to great heights or even explore gaps precariously close to death-causing pits.

Spunk and Moxie will remind you of the best old school games, especially secret-laden treasure hunts like Donkey Kong Country. The gameplay is fast and challenging, there are so many things to find and achievements to win, and it's easy to get into, all you have to do is tap the screen. The level design couldn't be better, and the visuals are surprisingly sleek with a lot of little bonus animations that will make you grin. All in all, it's a good looking and delightfully difficult action game you'll be eager to sit down and master.

Extra! Tilt Studios is offering a $1,000 cash prize to the first player to get all the stars in the game. Not as easy as it sounds! Full details.

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 3.6/5
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Rating: 3.6/5 (47 votes)
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Ricochet Kills 3: Level Pack

DoraBang bang, he shot me down. Bang bang, I hit the ground. Bang bang, that awful sound. Bang bang, Mibix shot me down. Sound familiar? That's because Ricochet Kills 3: Level Pack is another batch of stages for its predecessor where you'll be playing the meanest silhouette in town and using physics to puzzle out how to take out all the marks on each level with a limited amount of bullets. Just aim with the mouse and click to fire, sending out a bullet that will bounce around... even off other people! The catch is that while some surfaces will keep your projectile going or can even be used to kill nearby targets, others will simply absorb your shot. While the Level Pack has a ton of cunningly laid out levels that force you to approach them more as a puzzle than an exercise in blind luck, it does unfortunately feel like luck still factors into it from time to time when the physics (and explosives) don't always react reliably. It helps, however, to remember that even if it looks like there's nothing there you can still ricochet your shots off the top, bottom, and sides of the screen. The result is a simple but stylish little game that'll test your aim with some very tricky stages for a coffee break or two.

Play Ricochet Kills 3: Level Pack


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Sprinkfield

JohnBPuzzle game plus farming plus mega-mustachioed man equals Sprinkfield, a logic-based game from Webstar Works that's as simple as watering the lawn. Well, not that simple, but it starts out with that basic direction and adds a little extra complexity from there. It's also a mighty handsome looking game, which is always a nice plus!

SprinkfieldA patch of field sits in front of you, neatly laid out in a grid pattern. Tap a space and drag outwards to water a square-shaped area. You can't water across stones, which creates some awkward spaces you have to learn to work around. Depending on the puzzle there may also be dry squares that need to be watered twice or scarecrows that need free space to set. Water the entire field without using up your supply and you'll move on to the next level. Do it all with maximum efficiency and you'll nab a higher score!

Sprinkfield comes with a few dozen free puzzles divided between two modes, with over 190 more stages unlockable via a few in-app purchases. The gameplay is a little samey and doesn't go too far beyond the basic premise of square dragging and crop watering, but full field mode offers a nice coin-based challenge, and later levels are surprisingly tricky. Once you start seeing pigs, you'll know you're hooked!

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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Sacra Terra: Kiss of Death

DoraHere's one for Dear Abby. When your boyfriend gets distracted from preparing to propose to you by summoning a succubus from a magical book you left lying around, who are you more mad at... him or yourself? Our heroine Tiffany has no time to point fingers if she wants to save her boyfriend Mark from a fiery fate in hidden-object adventure Sacra Terra: Kiss of Death. Turns out that "book of love potions" she picked up from the flea market because she was sick of Mark dragging his feet in their relationship wasn't such a gag after all, and now she has to contend with a succubus, the well-known slinky homewrecker of the abyss, who went and carried Mark away. Tiffany's only option is to head to Sacra Terra Island, the place the book was written, but the old monastery there may only add to her problems. Let this be a lesson to you, kids. Don't speak Latin in front of books.

Sacra Terra: Kiss of DeathTurns out the succubus isn't all that interested in setting Mark free. She claims he's been dreaming of a woman like her (bad makeup, cheap corset), and believes that's proof enough that love is a lie and lust is the only truth. And, y'know, since she's not just any succubus but Lilith herself, chances are you won't be able to deal with her by dragging her onto a talk show and throwing a chair about her while screaming about "not being woman enough for your man". Fortunately, you don't have to give up and go home to make a new dating profile just yet, since it seems like this old island still has some secrets left in it. You'll soon find yourself able to use a mysterious portal to travel beyond the island to places and people also suffering from Lilith's dark designs and fueling her power. Search around to uncover clues and mystical artifacts used to complete rituals, solving puzzles and hidden-object scenes in order to proceed. You'll also get an incredibly helpful map, which not only uses colour-coding to show areas that have available actions in them, but can let you hop around to any place you've already visited at a click. You would think that would be something Lilith would have specifically made sure you wouldn't have, but hey, far be it from me to tell a man-eating nether witch how to do her job.

Sacra Terra: Kiss of DeathAnalysis: Kiss of Death is one of those rare hidden-object adventures with style to spare, fueled by a cinematic story and top-notch voice acting that brings the experience to life. If you don't like having to constantly track down the mystical doo-dad du jour the endless barrage of obstacles overcome by magic rituals might be a bit much, but if fantasy's your thing prepare to be dazzled. It's an absolute stunner of a title with imaginative environments and beautiful visuals, and combined with its rich atmosphere makes it difficult to tear yourself away from once things get started. It's a surprisingly long game, carrying you through with high-quality cinematics in a way that never lets you get bored. I'll say this for Lilith... for an unrepentant demon-spawn of darkness who just wants to suck your soul dry, she sure knows how to show a girl a good time.

If there is a criticism, it's that the puzzles you'll encounter tend to be lovely but fairly dull, of the "swap these things" or "match those things" variety with little actual brain power required. You'll also need to do a lot of backtracking, though your handy-dandy magic map pretty much takes all the sting out of that. It's unfortunate that it's hard to really care at all about Tiffany as a protagonist, since she rarely speaks or even appears and is thus overshadowed by both Lilith herself and the other people you'll be helping. Despite those quibbles, however, and a little hokiness in the plot, Sacra Terra: Kiss of Death is a hidden-object adventure that's exceptional in virtually every single way by a developer who never disappoints. It's beautiful, polished to a mirror sheen, and filled with excitement and drama. Fire up the demo and see if Lilith is a girl you'd like to make a date with... even if you probably shouldn't take her home to mother.

Currently only the Collector's Edition is 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

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 (50 votes)
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Sinjid: Shadow of the Warrior

TrickyBefore the great ninja's final doomed confrontation with Warlord Baka and his Fallen Army, Hattori, the protector of the land, delivered to his friend Fujin the only thing Hattori had left to care for: his infant son, Sinjid. Fujin secreted the babe to the great mountains of Hejstu. There, for the next twenty years, Fujin would train the lad, to combat the Fallen Army that still scourged the land. Today, Sinjid is ready in mind and body to face Warlord Baka, but in combat experience he is lacking. Thus, Fujin has sent Sinjid to the Shadow Temple. Inside the temple resides the great Human Gateway, a portal that can transport a single warrior to the locations of evil men across the land: from the lowliest thief to those like Baka, who seem nothing more than demons in human guise. It is there, at the final stage of Sinjid's training, that we pick up the story... Infrarift Entertainment presents Sinjid: Shadow of the Warrior, an arena RPG.

Sinjid: Shadow of the WarriorYou start by selecting which class of ninja your character will be, and thus your starting stats and abilities. Move Sinjid with the [arrow] keys and interact with different characters or move to different areas by pressing the [spacebar]. Going through the Human Gateway will start a turn-based battle against increasingly dangerous foes. Victories will give grant you gold, to be spent on various weapons, items, and armor, as well as experience points. Gain enough experience and you'll gain a level, unlocking new skill points to allocate and magical abilities. There are also various sidequests around the temple to complete, and other optional gates to open where you can test your abilities against even greater foes. Defeat all twenty enemies, and you may leave the Shadow Temple for the final confrontation.

Though he was just one member of the team, the fact that Sinjid was in part developed by Krin, author of the the massively popular zombie RPG series Sonny, should definitely pique the interest of all looking for the hidden gems of browser role-playing. After all, if there's anything the internet loves more than the undead, it's ninjas. Being from 2005, Sinjid's ambitions are, of course, tempered by the then-current version of Flash: things like manual saving or scene transitions do take a little getting re-used to. However, the limitations of the engines gives the game a charming retro quality. (Do browser gamers feel the same sort of nostalgia for Flash 7 that others do for the NES or Gameboy? Well, why not?) It helps that Sinjid was ahead of its time when it comes to content, and its battles and strategies hold up quite well even today. The story is a standard tale of vengeance, but effectively told, and though the action is largely confined to a single temple, there are quite a few nooks and crannies to explore and secrets to find. All in all, Shinjid: Shadow of the Warrior is a solid role-playing experience and, with its long-awaited sequel just released, this is the perfect time to see where the saga began.

Play Sinjid: Shadow of the Warrior


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Rating: 4/5 (37 votes)
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The Sagittarian 4: Bayou

DoraHyptosis and the zombie apocalypse go together like peanut butter and brains, so it's no surprise we've got another installment in his choose-your-own-adventure series with The Sagittarian 4: Bayou. As part of a group of survivors, you're paddling a boat on another profanity-laden adventure of guns, swearing, zombies, swearing, shoot-outs, and more swearing. Just pick the option that appeals most to you when presented, and don't worry too much if it results in death since the game will allow you to instantly reload back to your most recent (bad) decision or further. It's well illustrated and even mostly well written, but it's also sort of hard to take seriously. Even without the distracting, mood-breaking text at the bottom of the screen that constantly chatters at you about the mute function, the fact that so many of the deaths feel completely random and impossible to predict based on your choices will be a turn-off for some players. If you're already a fan of the first few chapters, however, chances are you're not only used to this, but enjoy it for the slightly goofy zombiedrama it is. It's of just the right size to fit into a coffee break with a good chunk of options and character interaction to carry you through. Just remember, if you hear banjos... paddle faster.

Play The Sagittarian 4: Bayou


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Link Dump Fridays

DoraSalutations, voyager of the web! Welcome to another Link Dump Friday, where we've got more than a thing or two for you this week, and all of them are awesome.

News and Previews

Blackwell EpiphanyHello, Old Friends Wadjet Eye's indie point-and-click adventure Blackwell series of games is about as good as you can get, and the next chapter is on its way for a release later this year. Aimed for Fall, Blackwell Epiphany is the latest installment of paranormal mysteries surrounding everyone's favourite ginger psychic and her smart-alec gangster ghost sidekick. Though details are scarce now, it sounds like Joey and Rosa will be going up against their most dangerous foe yet... an unknown force that can actually destroy souls. Stay tuned for more details!

Hotline MiamiPutting Pain in Your Palms and Living Room I'm not sure how wise it is to put a game so intensely frustrating and twitchy as Hotline Miami in a tiny device you could hurl out a window in a fit of pike, but that's what's happening this Spring as the disturbing smash-hit action adventure heads for both the Playstation 3 console and PS Vita. No word on pricing yet, but if you've been wanting for a game you can break out when company's over and stand a good chance of horrifying everyone in the room, thus testing their awesomeness by crucible of unspeakable violence, you'll get your chance soon.

Depression QuestIt Ain't All Fun and Games While games undoubtably entertain, they can be used to deliver a message too, and that's the whole point behind Depression Quest, a pay-what-you-want (or completely free, if you like) bit of interactive fiction from Zoe Quinn and writer Patrick Lindsey. Intended to help spread awareness and understanding about depression, the game leads you through the life of someone suffering from it, showing you through play and character interaction how huge an impact it can have on virtually every aspect of your life, and how hard it can be to pull out of it. While far from the most cheerful game out there, we believe it's important to allow our players to make their own choices about the content they experience, and if something can open your eyes, shine a little light, or just remind someone that you're not the only one out there, then it deserves a mention.

Kickstarter/IndieGoGo Projects

There Came an EchoNow Yelling at Your Monitor IS Productive! When he's not busy being part of my ultimate zombie survival dream team, Wil Wheaton does a lot of cool stuff, and the Kickstarter for There Came an Echo, an upcoming PC strategy game you control with your voice, is a prime example. Created by the talented Iridium Studios, the folks behind Sequence, it's a sci-fi game about a young cryptographer whose newest algorithm puts his life in danger when it turns out to hold a shocking secret. Though intended and built primarily for voice-recognition, the game will allow you to play with the keyboard if you so desire... which might wind up being for me unless I can reign in my charming habit of uncontrolled nonsense profanity aimed at pixelated characters whenever I do something wrong. Planned for a mid-2014 release, this is one of those rare strategy games aiming to deliver a punchy story as well, and definitely worth checking out.

Ithaka of the CloudsDream On We're not done with Jonas Kyratzes' Lands of Dream just yet, and thank goodness for that! Funding has begun for the next chapter in vivid adventure series, Ithaka of the Clouds, where two trolls in love will journey across the fantastic world of Kyratzes' design seeking the titular city. Promising both crafting and multiple solutions to puzzles alongside the same things you've come to expect from a Lands of Dream game (puns, fantasy, huge adventures, at least SOME tears), this should be a game you should have your eye on immediately and consider donating to if you want to continue to support Jonas' work. With a projected release date 6-8 months after funding and a whole lot of gorgeous incentives for donating, this is an exciting project by a respected developer we can't wait to see completed.

99 SpiritsNever Trust a Demon This puzzle RPG hybrid has been out in Japan for a while now, but Fruit Bat Factory wants to localize it for overseas players with their Indiegogo campaign for 99 Spirits. Centering around a girl named Hanabusa in medieval Japan who possesses a magical sword that would let her slay spirits (right up until one claiming to be her father destroyed it), the game combines puzzle mechanics in its battles that will help you defeat enemies as well as a system to train them and use their abilities for themselves. It looks absolutely fantastic, and if you're a fan of bright RPGs that play on Japanese lore, you'll want to check this one out for sure.

Miscellaneous

Slenderman Harlem ShakeThe Only Harlem Shake Video That Should EVER Be Apparently something called the "Harlem Shake" is a thing, but I don't know why because I thought we had all agreed to stop that after Gangnam Style. The thirty-second ridiculous dance is everywhere, but one unlikely hero is putting a stop to it in this video... and all he wants in return is to do sanity-shattering things to your mind, body, and soul! Be sure and thank him when you get the chance. Make sure you make eye contact when you do. Long eye contact. He likes that.

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 (56 votes)
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Year Walk

JohnBYear Walk, the latest mobile release from Simogo, is almost the exact opposite of the team's previous release Beat Sneak Bandit. It's a great credit to the studio, however, that such different games can be pulled off with equally impressive results. Structured like a minimalist point-and-click puzzle game, Year Walk weaves together various pieces of Swedish mythology to set an atmosphere of cold intrigue and foreboding mystery. It's a beautiful and very meaningful game, and quite the haunting experience if you sit down and let yourself get drawn into the story.

Year WalkYear Walk plays out across strips of horizontal scenes you can scroll left and right by swiping on the screen. Most of the scenery is snowy hills and a few trees, but when something interesting can be examined or a new path opens up, small white arrows appear at the top or bottom of the screen, signalling the ability to swipe in that direction to move to a new row. By scrolling, swiping and occasionally tapping, you'll quickly explore the sparse landscape, picking up clues and encountering a few living pieces of folklore along the way.

Year Walk is the sort of game that begs you to play with pen and paper nearby. Clues are often handed to you with no context, sometimes overtly played on the screen and sometimes casually carved into the side of a tree you'll pass by. There are several interactive contraptions you can mess around with, but their purpose isn't immediately clear. You're going to have to explore and see what you can see. No spoilers here!

Year WalkAnalysis: The concept of a year walk is a Swedish tale where participants deny themselves food and drink on certain days of the year in exchange for a glimpse into the future. Anyone undertaking the tradition is said to see strange creatures during their ritualistic walk, an experience the game Year Walk replicates extraordinarily well. There's an undeniable sense of mood and setting to this game, one that covertly seeps beneath your skin and becomes a part of your mind. The quiet snowy landscapes help you settle down for a thoughtful night until suddenly... something happens. Be ready for some tense emotional moments, and not in the "BOO! SCARED YA!" sort of way.

Alongside the game, Simogo has partnered with folklore expert Theodor Almsten to release Year Walk Companion. The free download collects information about some of the concepts and creatures you encounter in the game, adding a little bit of depth to the experience.

Year Walk may leave some players stranded from time to time, but that feeling of being lost is part of the experience. If you don't know where you are or what to do, even the smallest details take on a heavier meaning. And when your innocent walk turns up something frightening and new, it has such a stronger impact. Year Walk is an extremely polished and quietly beautiful game. Turn out the lights, grab your headphones, and let yourself get lost in one of the best iOS experiences yet.

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.


(7 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Plants vs. Zombies

JohnBThe original zombie-defending gardening sensation may be a few years old, but the real-time strategy hit, Plants vs. Zombies, lives strong as it makes its way to more and more devices. The killer PopCap app hasn't changed much from its original incarnation, it's just been optimized for touch-based controls and smaller screens. It's just as wacky and fun as ever, though, so if you've never given it a try, now's your chance! It's Apple's Free App of the Week!

Plants vs. ZombiesThe general idea of Plants vs. Zombies is this: the zombies are coming, and they're trying to get into your house to eat your brains! They think coming in through the back yard is smart, but what they didn't count on is your army of defensive plant-based weaponry. By gathering sunlight as your currency, you can plant different flora in the soil of your lawn. Each plant has a different zombie-harming ability, such as pea shooters that damage the baddies, wallnuts that create sturdy barriers, or potato land mines. Keep the waves of undead at bay and you just might survive with your gray matter intact!

Zombies, too, have their own personalities and abilities, like pole vaulting zombies, football zombies, or the zombie catapult. Each level introduces new environmental elements to challenge you, such as night time stages where mushrooms reign supreme, fog, a swimming pool, and even a stage on the roof! There are plenty of bonuses to unlock as well, including achievements, items in the in-game shop, mini-games, and more. It all leads up to an epic final battle with the zomboss, an encounter you surely won't want to miss.

Be sure to check out our Plants vs. Zombies Walkthrough and Strategy Guide to get the most out of your mobile PvZ experience!

The creative variety of plants in Plants vs. Zombies is, on the surface, what makes it a supremely interesting game to play. The pitch-perfect level of difficulty and item progression is what makes you want to keep playing for hours on end. And, surprisingly, holding it all in your hands and using touch-based controls works just as well as a mouse, and it feels more natural, to boot. Still one of the best defense games around, the mobile version of Plants vs. Zombies packs just as much fun and funny as the PC version!

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


  • Currently 4.4/5
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Rating: 4.4/5 (89 votes)
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Koutack

DoraOne click. How much trouble could you possibly get into with just one click? Stellar-Ø serves up sneakily simple-looking one-click puzzling Koutack, where all you need to do is get all the tiles on the playing field into a single stack. Just click anywhere on the board, and any adjacent tiles will hop towards your cursor and combine. Keep going until all the tiles on the board have been combined into one neat little tower, finishing up on any star tiles to smash them to pieces. Easy, right? Hah. Aheh. Ahahah. AHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!... uh... what maniacal laughter? No, no, just play the pretty little game, it couldn't possibly give you any trouble! This is one of those perfectly playable little gems of a casual puzzle game that effortlessly embodies the three S's... simple, stylish, and surprisingly freakin' hard. It requires more thinking than you might, uh, think, making it a beautifully zen-like experience that will fit into your day at any time. If there were more elegant puzzles like this out there, there internet would be a vastly cooler place, and Koutack will help make it happen, one click at a time.

Play Koutack


  • Currently 4.7/5
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Rating: 4.7/5 (132 votes)
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Renegade Racing

Tricky And now here they are! The most daredevil group of daffy drivers ever to whirl their wheels, ready to compete for fame and fortune in the stunt racing championship of Paul Gene Thompson's Renegade Racing! Select your vehicle and track to start your race, with [WASD] or the [arrow] keys to control. Use [up] or [W] to accelerate, [down] or [S] to break, [spacebar] or [X] to jump, [left/right] or [A/D] to tilt your car forwards and backwards. The goal of each race, of course, is to make it to the end as quick as possible, along with various secondary objectives. Performing stunts like flips or wheelies will contribute to your Turbo Bar. Once it's filled, it will automatically activate to give you a burst of speed. Collecting coins and winning races will give you cash you can use to upgrade your vehicle, and completing certain objectives will unlock new cars for purchase. Renegade Racing will probably feel familiar to fans of the Cyclomaniacs series. However, since that series hasn't as of yet, let you do inverts with an ice cream truck, a double-decker bus, a Delorean or a '69 Dodge Charger, one thinks there's room enough in the browser gaming world for a high-quality "inspired-by". The races are fast, the controls are tight, and there's a nice variety of challenges to complete. You've got 18 races to get through, a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it's dark, and you're wearing sunglasses. Hit it!

Play Renegade Racing


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Rating: 3.3/5 (67 votes)
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The Island of Earthly Delights

DoraWhen a storm crashes his airship into the sea, our bearded protagonist awakens on a strange island with his companion missing, and must collect eight instruments from dangerous dungeons to wake the Wind Fish and... what? Oh. Whoops. Wrong game. This is Antennaria Games' point-and-click adventure The Island of Earthly Delights, and while he might not need a sword or a shield, Beardy is still going to need a lot of help if he wants to find his friend in this strange place. Click on the ground to walk around, and on items to interact with or pick them up. The sack in the lower-right corner of the screen is your inventory, and clicking it will open it up, whereupon you can just click once on an item and then anywhere onscreen to use it, or another item to try and combine. Since there's no changing cursor, you'll have to explore everywhere... and, sadly, since the game's alien, enchanting environment has its own set of rules and logic, you'll need to experiment too. That, as it happens, is the main complaint you can make with the game, which really needs more contextual clues for the player to make the necessary connections on how to proceed themselves rather than the tried-and-tested "fling everything at a wall and see what sticks" method. It's too bad since otherwise the game is a stunner, with wonderful imagination and personality. Though there are a few kinks and you need to expand your mind in some strange ways to figure it all out on your own, The Island of Earthly Delights is a short but wonderfully surreal adventure we hope to see get polished up and visit again soon.

Play The Island of Earthly Delights


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Relic Rush

JohnBRelic Rush from Jason Pickering is a one-touch arcade game that makes Indiana Jones' job look easy. Relics are stashed at the end of a series of levels, each one guarded by a few denizens of the environment. As the creatures do their things, it's your job to tap the screen to put a temporary restraint on the protagonist's boundless energy. Pick your way across over 100 levels divided between five unique themes and see how good you are at not running!

Relic RushThe controls are as such: touch the screen! The little adventurer runs along on his own power, completely heedless of the dangers ahead. Touch and hold anywhere to stop him in his tracks, then release to continue. Time your pauses to avoid frogs, lizards, fireballs, ghosts, yetis and other dangers and make it to the exit of each stage in one piece. Eventually you'll nab the relic and move on to a new set of challenges!

The faster you complete the levels the better quality medal you'll receive at the end, and we all know settling for anything less than gold is a crime. Obstacles like jump arrows and slippery ice make things trickier, introducing just enough variety to keep you interested in pressing on. Relic Rush doesn't complicate things beyond these few basics, but honestly it doesn't need to. A great arcade-style diversion that perfect to hang onto for quick runs whenever you have a spare minute!

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 (102 votes)
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Counter Terror

DoraMoonloop's retro shooter Counter Terror is so packed with action and bullets they probably have to plug its orifices to keep its manliness from running out all over the carpet. Your job, as part of an elite squad of heroes, is to execute missions to take out the bad guys and rescue hostages, leading up to a final confrontation with an evil scientist who knows all that strange and mystifying dangerous stuff like "chemistry" and "math". Use the [arrow] keys to move, [Z] to jump, and [X] to shoot. [S] will cycle through your special weapons like grenades, deployable ropes, and flashbangs, while [C] will use whichever is equipped. You'll need to use cover, cunning, and the advanced technique known as "spraying everything ahead of you with bullets" in order to save the day... as long as you don't fall and break your own neck in the process.

Counter TerrorCounter Terror is one of those weird little games that is only really as difficult as you make it... literally since you can set the difficulty for each level. The game wants you to be careful and sneaky, but as long as you're not in danger of ventilating a hostage hopping around like a deranged armed rabbit will do just fine for a lot of the time. Hey, it's not my fault Leroy Jenkins is my spirit animal. If you were graded more on the finer points of your performance instead of just baddies shot and hostages rescued you might be more motivated to think strategically, and you really should try to since the levels tend to be laid out for it in some really clever ways with lots of opportunity to tackle rooms from different angles. A bigger challenge for some might be getting used to the game's control scheme, with firing and jumping being bound to different buttons from your typical shooter in a way that might be counter-intuitive. If it pushes all the right buttons for you, however, Counter Terror is a gleefully goofy and fun little shooter with opportunities for strategy, shooting, and kicking keisters and chewing gum all at one.

Play Counter Terror


  • Currently 4.8/5
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Rating: 4.8/5 (245 votes)
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Weekday Escape

elleThe tradition of escape-the-room games has brought us into many circumstances of being trapped and needing to wile our way through the exit. Our reward? Usually it's merely the deep gratification of outwitting the savvy programmer who locked us up in the first place. Every now and again, though, one of our favorite game designers brings us something more: a room that is truly satisfying to explore and an exit scene that is magnificant to behold. Robamimi is just such a designer and Station is a prime example of why.

Station (Robamimi)Much like all of Robamimi's creations, Station is attractively furnished and user friendly. You begin inside a hexagonal room, following a changing cursor to pick up tools or interact with puzzles and clues, and must employ problem solving skills as well as deductive reasoning to make your way through the door—only to learn, with a grin, that you've only just begun. Although the game itself has just one ending, the use of multiple rooms to "break into" makes it feel like more.

Because of its scope, Station is higher on the Robamimi difficulty scale; figuring out solutions takes extra work and quite a bit of back-and-forth, running up and down stairs, as well as some doodling in your notes. The non-standard layout also means more to contemplate and put together, and a greater likelihood you'll overlook an important bit of information or miss looking in a tucked away corner. It takes a while to get oriented, understand what's going on, and make sense of the riddles presented. Along those lines, the "Hint" function is helpful yet hints are more obscure this time, pointing you in a general direction without giving away all the signposts for the solution. You're likely to recollect Hermit Rabi and Wonder Fountain during this venture because of the puzzle types as well as the maze-esque navigation (by the way, if you enjoy this one, you're sure to like that one, and vice versa). Due to its length and a few reported quirks late in the game, using "Save" before starting a puzzle is also recommended.

When you're ready to escape the ordinary milieu of the weekday in the great JIG custom of being locked up, to challenge your thought processes even as your aesthetic sensibilities are serenaded, and treating yourself to a game that's diametrically challenging and relaxing, click the button below. It's a wonderful ride from beginning to end!

Play Station

Not loading? Try the alternative link: Station.

Thanks to Itt and Cyberjar88 for suggesting this one!


  • Currently 3.8/5
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Rating: 3.8/5 (64 votes)
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Tsuregemu 4

SonicLoverThe Japanese are known for a lot of things, two of which are escape games and surrealism. Today we introduce you to yet another Japanese developer whose work falls into both of those categories. The artist is Kung Fu paradise, and the art is Tsuregemu 4. You're in the three-room house of an animated white stick figure named Shirojin, whose only housemate is his cat. Obviously, your task is to escape from the house by any means necessary, even if you have to solve a hundred puzzles to do it. Click around to inspect and interact with things and pick up inventory items, and use or examine things from your golden inventory bar at the bottom. There's also an "About item" button for when items need further inspection, and a musical note that toggles the insanely catchy soundtrack.

Tsuregemu 4Tsuregemu 4 won't be winning any awards with their 3D graphics, but you can tell what you're looking at most if not all of the time. The game's true meat, however, is its puzzles, which are original and cleverly designed without being too nonsensical, and many of them require interacting with Shirojin and his cat in various ways. There's even a memo containing optional hints should you need them. The lighthearted atmosphere is just the icing on the cake; in how many escape games can you catch yourself wondering how you're going to get that afro-wearing weirdo to stop doing the pelvic thrust in front of the picture you want to look at? If you haven't smiled enough today, Tsuregemu 4 is a good way to put one on your face. Have fun!

Play Tsuregemu 4


  • Currently 4.5/5
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Rating: 4.5/5 (203 votes)
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Which?

TrickyThere are two circles in front of you: Circle A and Circle B. One of them is soft. One isn't. One of them is heavy. One isn't. One of them is painted. One isn't, and so forth. And the question you must answer, in this puzzle game by Yoshio Ishii, is simple: Which? It's very much a mouse driven game, and players will have to point, click, drag, drop, spin, launch, rub, and slide to tell the difference in all twenty levels. Figuring out the challenges will depend less on logic, and more on playful experimentation to determine what the developer had in mind. This can be occasionally frustrating, but all of the levels are quite clever, and have an impish streak of fourth-wall aware humor. In short, Which? is a quality five minutes of fun, that fans of Ishii's Hoshi Saga and spin-offs will find very enjoyable.

Play Which?


(9 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Cubed Rally Redline

JohnBIt's not often one can look at a racing game and say "Wow, that appeals to a wide audience!" Cubed Rally Redline is one of those games. Created by No Can Win, this pixel art racing game has more in common with mission-based arcade games like Jetpack Joyride than your average racer. Hit the track, jump a few ponds, dodge some cows, and see how far you can go without crashing.

Cubed Rally RedlineThe track has five paths you can switch between by tapping the sides of the screen. All you have to do is keep driving and hop lanes before you hit anything, occasionally tapping the brake to buy you some time. A special drifting power-up lets you earn some bonus points (and look really cool), while fuel cans replenish your gas meter, which slowly depletes the longer you race. You can also pick up coins and spend them on nifty new vehicles to smash into things!

Cubed Rally Redline keeps everything nice and simple, stripping out most in-app purchases in favor of a single currency and a single type of upgrade. The main endless mode lets you race over and over again to see how long you can survive, while rally mode (unlockable with an in-app purchase) gives a slightly more traditional racing experience. It's good old fashioned arcade gaming with a touch of modern flair.

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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The Vault

DoraIf you're like me, you love developers for the free entertainment they make to deliver into your grey matter, but you also sort of resent them too. They can make magic, after all, creating these incredibly fun and impressive bits of digital artistry while we can only toddle around in the dirt at their feet, plaintively babbling for the fruits of their labour and wondering if we'd gain their powers if we ate their brains. (Short answer: No. Long answer: I am no longer allowed within 500 feet of Christine Love. IT WAS ONE BITE, GAWD.) So the closest someone like you or I with no experience can get? Level editors! Here are three of our favourites.

  • Time KufcTime Kufc - Edmund McMillen knows what's up. It's not enough just to make a platformer, you have to make it about nutso multidimensional time traveling and then let your players get in on the action too. Essentially it's about swapping between "layers" on levels, allowing you to hop back and forth between planes in a way that lets you bypass blocks or hazards, and then they demanded absolutely insane player skills for some of the hardest levels to boot. With a strange sense of humour and a stranger style, it lets you enjoy some familiar concepts in a clever, challenging fashion and then come up with the most brutal challenge possible for your friends.
  • Electric BoxElectric Box - All Twinkle Star Games wants you to do is get power where it needs to go, but the "why" is not nearly as important as the "how" in this puzzle game that's both gorgeous and gorgeously, deviously simple. To get electricity from point A to point B, you need to drag and drop various elements into play that impact it in different ways, from solar panels to magnets, water, and more. Part Rube Goldberg machine, part stylishly simple engineering logic puzzle, it's perfect for experimenting and creating with in ways that will be approachable to kids and captivating for adults.
  • Shift 3Shift 3 - Anthony Lavelle is essentially the grizzled old veteran of browser games, and Shift is one of his simplest, yet most brilliant offerings. The idea to this puzzle platformer is that you can flip between black and white at any time, letting you use the landscape against itself to explore, reach places you previously couldn't, and gather keys. Cliffs become stairs, chasms become platforms as you run along the sides of levels, inside and out, and as the series has gone on it's only gotten stronger by adding new elements while still keeping the original gameplay intact. It's one of those games that's elegant in its simplicity, and yet shows that even straightforward concepts can confound and engage when explored in new ways.

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


  • Currently 3.9/5
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Rating: 3.9/5 (98 votes)
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Ode to Pixel Days

DoraIn Talha Kaya's artsy platformer Ode to Pixel Days, Hans believes retro isn't just a set of graphics... it's the key to winning the heart of the beautiful cheerleader who shuns him because he's ugly. Believing everyone would be happier if we all looked the same, he builds a magical machine that begins slowly downgrading the people of the world... after all, the only thing standing in front of true love is what's in the mirror, right? Use the [arrow] or [WASD] keys to move and [spacebar] to interact when prompted. Ode to Pixel Days is definitely a personal experience, but it doesn't really feel like it becomes an actual game until the latter half when it incorporates more actual puzzles and platforming instead of just simply walking from point A to point B and squishing something along the way. It's a combination of elements that almost feels a little unbalanced, since if you're primarily interested in the story you can be put off by the fiddly bits, and vice-versa. But where some players will dismiss as being too artsy and navel-gazing, others will be able to appreciate it for the personal story it is and the remarkable amount of thought the developer has put into crafting and telling the tale. Cynical? Bittersweet? Still too idealistic? That's up for you to decide. But as a heartfelt expression of a personal journey, Ode to Pixel Days is worth experiencing.

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Mobile Monday

JohnBHere's a trend we wouldn't mind seeing proliferate: games releasing alongside reference guides. Sure, you see the word "reference" and automatically think "boring" and sure, it's not a good idea for every game to do this, but in the case of Year Walk, a game based on Swedish folklore, a companion release that features more detailed mythological information is an amazing idea. Now we're almost more exciting about the companion than the game itself!

forever-p.gifForever Lost is Found - Found again, we should say! The massively good point-and-click puzzle game from Glitch Games has finally made its way from iOS-exclusive land to Android devices. Unfortunately only the standard definition version is out at the moment, but the team hopes to bring HD and Amazon AppStore releases to the world before long. Check out the review for more information as well as a full Forever Lost walkthrough. The game also took second place in our Best of 2012 voting in the Mobile Adventure category, so you know it's gotta be good!

yearwalk-p.jpgYear Walk coming soon, with companion! - Simogo is back with some more news concerning its upcoming (and extremely awesome) game. Year Walk, a 2D first person adventure game set in the cold woods of 19th century Sweden, will hit February 21, which is, like, so soon. Alongside that release will be the Year Walk Companion, a guide containing artwork and reference materials pertaining to the folklore in the game. In other words, instabuy on both counts!

sword-p.gifSword and Poker returns, again - It's one of our dear favorite mobile games of all time, but both Sword and Poker and its sequel have had a rough relationship with the iTunes App Store since their release several years ago. The titles have vanished several times without warning, only to return weeks or months later just as stealthily. Really, though, we don't care, as the series takes RPG gameplay to a new level with poker-inspired card battles that are filled with delicious strategy, tons of new and creative equipment, and card-based spells. It's an absolute must-try if the description sounded even slightly interesting, and besides, you never know when they'll disappear again!


  • Currently 4.1/5
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Rating: 4.1/5 (96 votes)
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A Rabbit Fable

trinnWhen a main character looks like something that walked out of Donnie Darko and wanders a bizarre, natural world that must be Samorost's neighbor, you know things are about to get more than a little surreal. Antennaria Games delivers that surrealism in spades in A Rabbit Fable, a point-and-click adventure where one rabbit's fanciful reality, dreams, and memories all meld together. Click to move around, collect items, or interact with other characters and objects. The lack of a changing cursor leads to the occasional pixel hunt, however, most important areas are easily distinguished from their background. Many of the puzzles require solving some bizarre concepts, but are not nearly as difficult as they first seem. Often, they can be solved by simply collecting and combining items in your inventory and delivering them to the right characters.

A Rabbit Fable For a story with a protagonist that has no real dialogue, there are some surprisingly emotionally engaging moments. It's hard not to feel a pang of regret when you see the poor rabbit's head hang in dejection as he peddles off pieces of the one thing left he holds dear. Having to constantly trek back and forth at a frustratingly slow pace hinders that immersion, but the charming moments of levity draw you back in and keep the tone from going stagnant. A lot more can be said about this short story of a lonely soul who only seeks love and greener pastures, but A Rabbit Fable is odd, imaginative, and special in a way that needs to be experienced rather than told.

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(11 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Zafehouse: Diaries

DoraPart social experiment, part Rebuild, Screwfly Studios' indie strategy simulation Zafehouse: Diaries is about keeping a group of five survivors alive at the start of a zombie apocalypse until help can come... if you can keep them away from each other's throats. See, unlike other games, the characters here are all strangers, and they all come from drastically different lifestyles and backgrounds. One might be a wealthy surgeon who has a lingering bit of distrust for the poor. Another might be an uneducated police officer who claims he isn't racist. Forced into an already tense situation in crowded quarters, these conflicting personalities and ideals could quickly spell disaster if you can't manage them properly, all while trying to scout the city and find when and where help will arrive and struggling to find supplies to boot. With a completely random set of survivors and town layout each time, as well as an additional optional scenario where you can choose to play to scour the town for the parts to rebuild a car, there's a ton of replay value. If you really want to get creative, you can even use the custom-content manager to load in and edit everything from custom-made survivors using your own photos, user made professions, locations, and more!

Zafehouse: DiariesWith the action presented in the form of a diary that writes itself as you play and a map of the city you can drag your survivors around on, gameplay comes down to knowing how and who to delegate tasks to. Click on the current location any survivor is in (each survivor is represented by a unique token) and you'll be presented with a list of options, where those greyed out are unavailable. Just click on one of those choices to assign someone to do it, be it searching for supplies, making barricades, watching for zombies, and more. You can assign more than one survivor to a task, and any idle characters will make use of beneficial items like chess sets and the like to keep themselves busy. The game is turn-based, so click the watch in the diary screen to advance time one hour and see what the fruits of your labour are.

To move to a new location, you'll need to drag a character's token to that place which will set their action to "Investigate (Location Name)". Click that action and you can both set whether you're just scouting, actually trying to breach it, as well as what supplies you want to bring along... just in case. Contrary to roughly every zombie movie ever, holing up in one location won't do you much good, and you'll want to move around frequently to hunt down supplies... both for day-to-day living and eventually escaping. Food is important, of course, but so are first-aid items for treating survivor injuries. Things like hammers and crowbars are used not just for building barricades or engineering new items, but also close combat and breaking into places. Just be careful. Your actions can attract zombies, and if you aren't properly prepared, party members can and will die. From time to time you may also be given a special scenario and a choice... think carefully about how your team will react and the risks involved before proceeding.

Zafehouse: DiariesThe most important part of the game, however, isn't weapons or supplies or even securing a house. It's trying to keep your ragtag group of people functioning as a unit, polite if not exactly friendly. You can click on character portraits at the bottom of the screen to get a detailed view of their background and personality, as well as a coloured diagram representing their relationship with everyone else. As you might imagine, sending two people who hate each other to do the same task together, no matter how qualified they are, is asking for trouble, so pay attention to who gets along best with whom. Each day, you can choose to spread a single rumour about a single person around the group that can change how others view them... perhaps you let slip that your wealthy surgeon often offered her services for free to the poor, or that your chef had some celebrity connections, and you may find it makes others feel better about them.

Analysis: Zafehouse: Diaries is not a game for people who are afraid of experimentation and failure. The fact that the game's "tutorial" is just a link to the manual will turn some players off, but hey, if you're like me, you see reading instructions as a form of weakness anyway. (That's what I tell myself when looking at my lopsided, poorly assembled furniture anyway.) And while it's true that the game may seem dauntingly complex at first blush, thinking like an actual survivor will get you far. Focus on the necessities... hunting for supplies, keeping the troublemakers apart, moving during sunup, and of course, watching for zombies. Don't spread yourself thin, but don't stay in one place for too long either. While it's true that the game seems to take a suspicious amount of glee in chucking misfortune at you, it's also true that you can be prepared for a lot of it just by making smart choices about your surroundings and your party. It's the sort of game best suited for slow, methodical players who like the idea of careful planning, exploration, and don't mind a lot of reading. Plus, I cannot stress how much amusement I got out of the custom content editor. But you can probably guess.

Zafehouse: DiariesThere are a lot of zombie games out there, but Zafehouse: Diaries might be the first one to really focus on and provide an accurate portrayal of people under pressure. Everyone likes to think they'd be able to lead a group of survivors to safety, but this game shows it wouldn't be that simple. Especially if you're dealing with people who might not have gotten along under circumstances where they weren't trying not to have their guts eaten while rationing out a single packet of beef jerky between five stomachs. The hitch, unfortunately, comes in the lack of detailed control and a feeling of distance from the whole proceedings. Not being able to expressly tell your group which entrances in a house to secure, for example, is frustrating when you'd really only rather barricade the main doors on the first floor and they tell you they've secured the upstairs bathroom window. It makes them seem a little... thick... which is only reinforced by not actually being able to see any of the details of their interactions. As a result, when they occasionally get violent with one another, you have nothing to go on other than the simple formula of incompatible traits, and it feels less like tempers reaching a boiling point and more like a bunch of variables behind a computer screen flipping you the bird. Which, y'know, is what's happening, but suspension of disbelief helps.

Zafehouse: Diaries is a surprisingly intricate and yet also casual little strategy simulation about the zombie apocalypse. The sort of thing you can play whenever you have a spare minute, and will probably wind up trying to make even more time for if it grabs you too. It's not perfect, of course, and having everything fall apart because a homophobic firefighter refused to follow orders from a gay athlete (who did a lot of charity work might I add) during an attack and got everyone eaten is still frustrating. But with virtually endless replayability and friendly user-content capabilities, it's one of those weird little games that deserves to find its audience and be appreciated by the people who will love it best... and have the patience for it.

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

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


  • Currently 4/5
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Rating: 4/5 (27 votes)
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Prism Panic

DoraConnor Ullmann and Noel Berry deliver a psychedelic, challenging platformer in Prism Panic, a game where the world is being torn apart by dark energy and it's all your fault. See, you chased down and accidentally activated a mysterious prism that has sent dark mirrors shifting throughout the land, turning both the formerly harmless flora and fauna deadly whenever they pass through it. In order to set things right, you'll have to track down the dark mirrors in each zone and defeat the bosses guarding them. Move with the [arrow] keys, jump with [Z], and attack with [X]. [X] can not only be used to bust down certain blockades, though, but also dash through the air a short distance (even upwards!), letting you cover gaps you couldn't just jump across. If you take damage, you'll explode and be booted back to the start of the last area you entered, but since they're small, it's usually a short trip. And hey, it's going to give you plenty of opportunities to practice your wall-climbing! Over and over and over.

Prism PanicLike most one-hit KO platformers that require fast fingers, Prism Panic is going to appeal to a very specific sort of gamer. For some, practice makes perfect and that's the way they like it. For others, getting blown up because they zigged when they meant to zag two steps from the end of an area they barely made it through for the fiftieth time is frustrating no matter how you slice it. Though the game is largely fairly simple in concept, Prism Panic's lovely retro style and beautiful soundtrack by Liam Berry is a pleasure. Figuring out how to make the land and the animals work for you in both shadow and light takes some doing, but also provides a bit of unexpected pleasure as you learn the rules. Make no mistake, the game is hard, but never really feels unfair, and if you're looking for a challenge, then Prism Panic will meet you head-on.

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(13 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Actual Sunlight

MeaghanMuch like the gentle flapping of butterfly wings, our everyday decisions have unforeseen consequences that will catch up with us, for better or worse. Those very decisions could result in a happy life filled with incredible highs and sustainable lows or they could drown a person in hopelessness and unbearable misery. In Actual Sunlight, an indie adventure game by Will O'Neill, the key character Evan Winter is embroiled in the darkest of emotions and thoughts: suicidal ideations, self-loathing, loneliness, and severe depression. Told through extensive, self-deprecating narratives laced with sarcasm, Winters takes you down a dark path that will leave your emotions in a stranglehold.

Actual SunlightDespite the morbid overtone, the game still plays like your usual adventure where you guide your character with the [arrow] keys and tap the [spacebar] to interact with people or objects. The story unfolds through your discoveries, so to get the full effect of the game you'll want to talk with everyone and investigate every object. All of those discoveries give you a glimpse into the mind of Evan and the very real, very dark hole he's slowly sinking into.

With such a bleak topic, modest interactive options, and a play through that won't be more than an hour, it would be easy to write this game off. Though brief, Actual Sunlight does something that few games are capable of doing: It traps you into the same feelings as the protagonist. The lack of decisions push you into that corner where you're forced to read the macabre thoughts that will inevitably make you pause and realize, oh no, some of this hits far too close to home. As the days pass for Evan you'll be hard-pressed to question why he feels the way he does. Instead you'll have anxiety twisting your gut knowing there's no happy ending but wishing, hoping desperately that there could be. This won't be the game that gets the best graphics award, it won't be the one that makes you feel accomplished for outwitting some puzzle. No, this is the game that once you're done playing you'll sit in front of your computer screen, take a deep breath, and question every choice you have ever made and all the ones that you haven't and that, more than anything else, is what sets this game apart from all the rest.

Due to the nature of the game and the mindset of the protagonist, the thoughts and conversations that occur are not going to be family friendly. You must also install the free RPG Maker VX RTP in to play Actual Sunlight.

WindowsWindows:
Get the free full version

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


(14 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Heileen Series

DoraSometimes we go looking for adventure. Sometimes adventure finds us. Sometimes adventure throws us overboard, turns us into a castaway, and threatens our life at every conceivable opportunity while toying with our emotions. But hey, it's all about the journey, right? And Winter Wolves' visual novel series Heileen, Heileen 2: The Hands of Fate, and Heileen 3: New Horizons is one heck of a journey at that. In the 17th century, our doe-eyed heroine Heileen has spent her entire life as the daughter of a wealthy merchant being unable to do what she wants or even really change her own life. But when her uncle decides to take her on an overseas trip, it quickly becomes apparent that there's more to life than just romance and big dreams... and she's not going to see any of it coming.

Heileen SeriesHeileen plays like a traditional visual novel. You'll read the text that narrates the story, and just click to select the option that appeals to you most whenever you're given a choice. There's no real wrong decision, but Heileen's quest system means that you're given points for successfully completing certain objectives, and since some of those can only be done under certain circumstances, you'll want to think about where you're going and what you want for Heileen as you play. Fortunately, you can right-click to open the menu and save or load the game whenever you like, so you can always go back if you decide you want to try something different. Hey, decades of Choose-Your-Own-Adventure readers will tell you it's not cheating, it's just like keeping your finger on the page! Considering all the possibilities Heileen has for adventure (and romance) you'll want to explore and experiment as much as possible.

Heileen 2: The Hands of Fate introduces a new mechanic, however, in the form of a deck of magical tarot cards that respond to your actions and can help influence Heileen's life in unexpected ways. Like... crossing the border between dreams and reality unexpected. Eventually, you'll even be granted a map (if you're clever) that will allow you to choose where Heileen goes at times. In the third game, however, New Horizons offers you far more choices and in-depth gameplay, as well as an expansion of the tarot cards in the form of the Sins/Virtues system. Thereafter, not only will the choices you make impact Heileen's character, but you'll also have to choose the things she does on a daily basis to influence everything from her statistics to the way other characters think about her. And if you're interested in romance from a specific gender only, the third and final installment is also available in a "Yuri" version that includes all female romance options.

Heileen SeriesAnalysis: Heileen is one of those series that undergoes a significant positive evolution as it goes on. This is great for Heileen herself, since in the beginning she honestly comes across as a shallow brat, but it does mean that the first game feels a little rough around the edges and simplistic to boot. (And arguably, a questionable "good" ending if you choose to pursue the apple of Heileen's eye, though this is essentially retconned at the start of the second game.) With the latest installment, however, New Horizons offers up even more of the sort of depth, engaging writing, and myriad of choices you've come to expect from Winter Wolves... as long as you don't mind an extremely black and white morality system, of course. It doesn't hurt that it's an absolute stunner too, marrying art nouveau style with expressive, beautifully detailed characters.

Heileen SeriesThough you will need to play the first game to give it context, however, arguably the second installment, the Hands of Fate, is where things really begin to take off and the series finds its own stride. Once you're allowed to really make your own decisions as to where Heileen goes and her motivations, it begins to shine and sucks you in, and the fantasy-lite approach to its historical fiction setting really lets it get creative, and by the third game the series has turned into something really impressive. New Horizons is a huge game and brings in some much needed player influence in the form of character stats and more freedom, letting you take a direct hand in Heileen's development the way previous games did not. The inclusion of more simulation elements was a fantastic choice, making the game hard to put down and more challenging overall, and is a phenomenal example of a series growing and changing for the better.

With its vivacious mood, gorgeous art, and fanciful adventures, the Heileen series is the perfect choice for any players who want something light-hearted with a magical twist. Heileen 3: New Horizons is arguably the biggest and best of the bunch, and will keep you both busy for a long time, and coming back for more with the impressive amount of branching paths, romance options, and career choices for Heileen. It even does a good job of recapping the entire series up to that point so you can jump right in there if you wish. Whatever the case, however, Heileen is a huge adventure filled with magic, romance, danger and humour that you should definitely make a date with if you're looking for some swashbuckling... and some smooches.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo (Heileen 1 - Sail Away)
Get the full version (Heileen 1 - Sail Away)
Download the demo (Heileen 2 - The Hands of Fate)
Get the full version (Heileen 2 - The Hands of Fate)
Download the demo (Heileen 3 - New Horizons)
Get the full version (Heileen 3 - New Horizons)
Download the demo (Heileen 3 - New Horizons + Bonus Content)
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Download the demo (Heileen 3 - Sea Maidens (Yuri Version))
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Mac OS XMac OS X:
Download the demo (Heileen 1 - Sail Away)
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Get the full version (Heileen 2 - The Hands of Fate)
Download the demo (Heileen 3 - New Horizons)
Get the full version (Heileen 3 - New Horizons)
Download the demo (Heileen 3 - New Horizons + Bonus Content)
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Download the demo (Heileen 3 - Sea Maidens (Yuri Version))
Get the full version (Heileen 3 - Sea Maidens (Yuri Version))

LinuxLinux:
Download the demo (Heileen 1 - Sail Away)
Get the full version (Heileen 1 - Sail Away)
Download the demo (Heileen 2 - The Hands of Fate)
Get the full version (Heileen 2 - The Hands of Fate)
Download the demo (Heileen 3 - New Horizons)
Get the full version (Heileen 3 - New Horizons)
Download the demo (Heileen 3 - New Horizons + Bonus Content)
Get the full version (Heileen 3 - New Horizons + Bonus Content)
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Bearbarians

DoraThough it sounds like the sort of bananas-crazy concept that would get you fired from your babysitting job for introducing to impressionable little kids, Jay Armstrong's fuzzy-wuzzy blood-soaked action-platformer Bearbariansis somehow horrifying, fun, and adorable! As the surviving hero of the land of Bearbaria, you're leading and upgrading a group of rag-tag heroes through a series of bloody deathmatches to eventually avenge your village. Use the [arrows] to move and jump, [A] to use a melee attack, and [S] for ranged. Most battles are a race to a certain number of points, with a point earned for each kill, so move fast and fight hard! If you die, you can respawn instantly, and even choose if you'd like to do so as one of the game's four various classes. Each class has its own strengths and weaknesses, so go with what works for you. Between levels, spend that hard-earned moolah on weapons, armor, and hats for both you and your AI-controlled teammates to buff up your abilities.

Band of HeroesIt's weird. It's silly. It's even a little horrifying if the concept of cuddly-wuddly animals cheerfully beating the stuffing out of each other disturbs you. But Jay Armstrong's off-kilter sense of humour and beautiful, colourful style makes this game stand out in a way that few others do. It is, of course, sort of undeniably chaotic. When I was a kid, I wheedled my grandmother to play Primal Rage on the SNES with me, and though I giggled and laughed at her slowness and bewilderment, Bearbarians is probably the closest I will ever come to feeling like she did that day. It's sort of Super Smash Bros meets Team Fortress 2, all frenetic action and team-based pummeling, and at times it can be almost too chaotic... especially since your AI party members often feel like they need to be carried. If you love bear-beat-bear beat-em-up action, however, then Bearbarians just might be the fanged, clawed murderer you'll love to make a playdate with.

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

trinnMeet Gray, a lunar alien with a tongue as sharp as his wit. He's a little bit cute, a little bit evil, and a lotta bit bored. Having only read about the solar system his whole life, Gray decides the time has finally come to explore its wonders himself. He sets his sights on our blue planet, aiming to tour the scenery, meet the locals, and maybe conquer the globe while he's there. But the best laid schemes of mice and men often go awry, and aliens are no exception when Gray is forced to make a crash-landing. Guide him back to his UFO and away from the horrors of the rural countryside in Gray's self-titled traditional point-and-click adventure. Just try not to let him destroy any of the local woodland creatures, okay?

GrayClick the icons at the bottom of the screen to inspect, touch, and speak to your target, navigate through scenes, or access your inventory. Double-clicking the edge of the screen will allow you to transition to the next scene automatically, and the character's initially sluggish movements can be adjusted by increasing the "Speed" option within the menu indicated by the question mark icon. However, the developer cautions against altering this feature as it may cause certain audio and sound effects to go out of sync. Gray is something of a walking Wikipedia, and while some will enjoy his know-it-all recitations, others may find him much too chatty. You can press [esc] to skip cinematics or click to speed up those lengthy conversations, but doing the latter risks potentially missing vital clues. You'll be missing out on a lot of the fun too, as the humorous commentary encourages you to explore every option.

GrayUnless you're as clever as our bookworm protagonist, you'll likely have to resort more than once to the ham-fisted approach of smashing things together to see if the magic of adventure game logic creates something useful. The process of solving some of those puzzles can feel occasionally cumbersome when fumbling with the inventory window and picky click-detection. (I'm looking at you, moth!) However, solutions will come to you more easily once you start to get an understanding of what it is exactly the game wants you to do, and the smarty-pants feeling of success is as rewarding as its often comical outcomes.

Everything from the snarky writing to the retro artwork is reminiscent of the classic adventure games of yore. What's more, Maciek Fitzner manages to take only a 4-color palette and paint a world that is vibrant and, at times, even beautiful. The length of the journey is relatively short, probably around an hour your first playthrough, yet feels more expansive as the world transitions from day to night. Gray may say he's antsy to escape, but if you enjoy black humor and colorful characters, you won't be in any hurry to leave.

WindowsWindows:
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Not available.
Try Boot Camp or Parallels or CrossOver Games.


(16 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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QuestLord

JohnBThe world needs a QuestLord, and you're just the lucky person to do it! In QuestLord by Eric Kinkead, you play the only hero in a retro-styled, turn-based, first person RPG. Also, it's your job to save the Shattered Realm from destruction! You start with little more than a basic set of adventuring equipment and head into the wilderness ready to face skeletons, giant rats, living trees, and most frightening of all, greedy shopkeepers!

questlord.pngQuestLord will remind you of games like Dragon Wars, Eye of the Beholder, and more recently, Legend of Grimrock. This is a good thing, as the genre is sorely underrepresented on mobile devices, so QuestLord has some very hungry appetites to appease. Move forwards and backwards by tapping the up and down arrows on the screen. The rounded arrows let you turn left or right, while the other large buttons open the inventory and map screens. Attacking is accomplished by swiping the top part of the screen, and commands such as talking, casting spells or blocking appear as small icons by your health bar when applicable.

Start the game by choosing between a human, elf and dwarf player character, each with unique strengths, weaknesses, equipment and abilities. As you explore the terrain you'll encounter your fair share of enemies to defeat and secret areas to explore, including plenty of treasure to pick up and sort through (gold! delicious gold!). Best of all, you're not trapped indoors and will trek through snowy mountains and pristine forest glens, which look fantastic in their pixel art glory. Everything is filled with enemies and twisted maze-like passageways, of course, but when you've got a handful of quests to work on and the fate of the world is in your hands, you can put up with a few minor inconveniences from time to time.

questlord2.pngAnalysis: QuestLord scores really high on a little something called "replayability". Not only is the game non-linear in nature, but each character class starts in a different part of the world, giving you three slightly different adventures to play right from the start. To top it off, there are over 160 (rather massive) maps to explore, spanning over half a dozen unique terrains. And if you're short on time, dive in for a quick match instead of the full story, which sends you to a randomly generated dungeon to quest around and loot until you die. Hooray!

Perhaps the game's only drawback is that it doesn't always cater to the same central audience. Take one look at it and you'll think "retro RPG for nostalgic gamers", but play it and you'll see it's much more streamlined than games of old. Reassessing your original judgement, your next thought will be "casual mobile RPG", but once again, not quite right. QuestLord is surprisingly difficult and requires some planning, cunning, and maybe even some grinding to stay alive. It's much closer to a casual game than a hardcore RPG, however, so don't be afraid to try it out!

QuestLord is great. There, we said it. It may not be the end-all RPG to satisfy every mobile gamer's dreams, but it's definitely a well-made experience that does a great job at appealing to a wide crowd without alienating anyone. A lot of attention went into making the game something special, and once you start questing, you won't want to stop.

NOTE: This game was played and reviewed on the Nexus 4, 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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Chimeras: Tune of Revenge

DoraYou know what they say... never trust an organ grinder. Well... okay, they might not say that, but they should, since the sinister fellow in Elephant Games's hidden-object adventure Chimeras: Tune of Revenge isn't just turning that crank for coins. When the mayor pays up to receive a fortune that ends the worst possible way (you know, being set on fire), the entire town flies into a panic that isn't helped much by the dangerous, mythical beasts suddenly stalking the streets. But hey, luckily for them, you happened to be there to investigate an older crime, and you can handle a dragon or Cerberus or three, right?... what? Oh, that? That's just the Specter of Death himself, dear, I'm sure everything's going to be fine!

Chimeras: Tune of RevengeDon't expect much help from the citizens. Turns out that thirteen years ago something happened in town that the organ grinder is holding everyone responsible for, and the monsters are exacting that vengeance in some seriously grim, poetic fashion. Is our villain really just a villain with a flair for the overdramatic? Or is there something else going on? You'll be the one to find out, provided the beasts don't turn on you. Click around to gather items and solve puzzles, rooting through sparkly hidden-object scenes for more help. Early on, you'll gain a special fiery friend that can be used in certain situations to reach things you can't or take care of danger. Just... try not to spread around the fact that you both gave a mythical beast a dorky name and then use it for menial labour, since I'm pretty sure there are hundreds of enraged teenage girls out there who would tell you you're wasting it.

Chimeras: Tune of RevengeAnalysis: Chimeras: Tune of Revenge is one of those flashy, unexpectedly fun and creative games that is a joy to play through and see what it comes up with next. Though the production values aren't as high as certain other Elephant Games titles, and in fact the soundtrack is queerly silent at times, the design is absolutely beautiful. The monsters are definitely the stars of the show, with their gorgeous flamboyant designs, but surprisingly the story manages to snare early on as well. I mean... don't go expecting Stephen King or even Dean Koontz, but when most hidden-object adventures tend to be so cookie-cutter straightforward, using their story as an excuse rather than a reason to play, it's always wonderful to see a game that tries to keep you interested, and figuring out the truth behind our suspicious organ grinder and why he feels the townsfolk deserve such horrific fates is a great motivator.

Gameplay is mostly, however, devoid of surprises. It's nice that whenever you try to use the wrong item to solve a puzzle the game will at least give you a plausible excuse as to why it wouldn't work, but you're still just gathering up an assortment of suspiciously convenient junk and using them to overcome overcomplicated obstacles. Most of the puzzles fare the same, though their flashy presentations go a long way towards earning forgiveness for their familiar concepts. The end result is a perfectly casual but also perfect fun hidden-object adventure that goes out of its way to try to put unique spins on its story in a way that few others bother with, piling on the monsters and mystery for a solid evening of adventure and peril.

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

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

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


  • Currently 4.5/5
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Rating: 4.5/5 (101 votes)
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Leap Day

DoraThe Flans aren't having a lot of luck running their kingdom, possibly because unless you're reading Hannibal Lecter's recipe book flans typically don't have brains. Fortunately, they're more than willing to let you take the reigns in Leap Day, a puzzling real-time strategic online cooperative multiplayer simulation from SpryFox and Sparkypants, who combined forces to make the most devastatingly adorable game about sentient puddings ever. From your palace, you'll help the Flans grow and develop a thriving economy by building the land up around them, developing homes, roads, and finding recipes to create factories. Of course, you'll also have to defeat the evil snowy fortresses threatening the land along the way, but luckily for you you'll be working and growing alongside other players also striving to banish the cold. (Note that playing Leap Day requires you to register a free account.)

Leap DayEach game is a cooperative session where a certain number of players can freely join and work together to win within a certain number of real world days. Presented in top-down Omnipotent-o-Vision, Leap Day is presented as an open field on which you can build if you have the cash and freely develop your kingdom. At the left is a panel of all the building options available and the gold you have. Just click an option, then click anywhere onscreen where you're given a green square to build it, using the "pickup tool" to reclaim it if you made a mistake. Leap Day is divided up into day and night cycles. Each day, Flans emerge from their homes and begin work. If their path passes by a resource like food or water, they'll snap it up and continue to your palace, where they'll sell it for gold you can use to build more things. At the end of each night, all resources replenish themselves. Since your basic everyday foraging isn't worth that much, however, you'll have to build factories. When placed, factories contain a number of receptacles, and passing Flan will drop whatever they're carrying in an open one. Find the right combination of raw materials and you'll unlock a recipe which the factory will begin crafting, allowing you to deliver these new, fancified goods to the palace for an even bigger payoff. Make sure to check your Recipedia (the little hammer icon) for a list of discovered recipes, as well as some clues to others.

So far so simple, right? Well, here's the thing about Flans. They'll always proceed in a straight line, but if given a choice, they'll always turn right unless they can't, in which case they'll turn left. They won't turn around, they won't stop and ask directions. They can only follow the paths you set out for them, and as such, running a successful kingdom comes down to figuring out how to lay out the proper configuration of paths that will take each Flan by the resource you want, to the place you want, without them getting stuck. It'll take a lot of careful planning to get things running smoothly, and once you add things like cranes into the mix, which allow you to transfer goods a certain way along paths, it becomes even more important to lay out your landscape efficiently. Don't worry, you'll unlock more things to build with as you play! To defeat the dark forces in each game, you have to deliver certain goods to certain altars, building Fire Towers to melt the snow so you can build your way forward. You'll be working with other players who also have their own kingdoms to run and are trying to do the same things you are. As a result, you'll all be on the same field working towards the same goals, so feel free to peep on someone else's progress for hints and tips on how to optimize your own. Since there is rare "loot" (building materials) to win for defeating bosses and minibosses, you'll definitely want to work together!

Leap DayAnalysis: Leap Day is, in a nutshell, exactly the type of free social multiplayer game we need more of. It's casual, it looks great, it's easy to pick up, but most importantly, it's also far more clever and involved than almost any other game of this type out there. It's one thing for a game to just keep you busy and entertained for a few minutes, but quite another to actually engage you and make you think, and Leap Day deserves some serious props for trying to do both when so few others even bother. It manages to be both approachable and simple in a way that will drag in new players of all experience levels, yet still unexpectedly challenging in a way that will keep fans of titles like Manufactoria happily busy for hours. And then they went and made it really, really cute too, the fiends!

As of this writing Leap Day is currently in Beta, which means there are still a few kinks to be ironed out, like messages not vanishing when you click them and other minor bugs. It's also not the sort of game for players who don't like planning, since just plopping down paths and structures without taking stock of your surroundings won't really get you anywhere. Especially when the cost for everything from roads to houses increases with each purchase. Further, the game's tutorial is only helpful as far as grasping the basics go, and newcomers to this sort of puzzle/strategy hybrid will be lured in by the stellar visual appeal only to be intimidated by both the pressure of real-time gameplay and mechanics only briefly touched upon in the instructions. You'll have to be willing to stink at it a little the first time, but this is where Leap Day's unobtrusive co-op functions can be a blessing. While you might be embarrassed to see someone's utopian society chugging along like clockwork beside your disorganised mess, it provides a great opportunity to learn by example and observation. You're working together, after all, not competitively, and once you get used to that you'll have a much easier time of things.

Leap DayThe game does, of course, implement microtransactions, and while you can play for free as long as you want, the only way to start a new game is to either wait for your current one to finish or spend crowns to "produce a new heir". The problem with this is that currently, crowns can only be gotten by purchasing them with real world cash, putting the cost of getting a new heir at around ten bucks US. This isn't really a huge issue since everything you need to win can be earned in game with careful planning and strategy, but it would be nice if you could earn crowns on your own slowly over time to purchase some of the neat booster packs and new heirs.

But if practice makes perfect, then the future is bright indeed for Leap Day. Stick with it and learn the ropes and you'll find it's as hard to put down as it is fun to watch. Perfectly casual and brilliantly clever, it's a wonderful example of how games can implement cooperative gameplay in a rewarding fashion. If you love puzzle games, then you'll definitely want to check this one out. The kingdom needs a hero, after all... and a city planner.

Play Leap Day


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Rating: 4.3/5 (112 votes)
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Revive

TrickySterile laboratory setting. Series of dangerous test chambers. Generic Omnipresent Voice (or, as he calls himself, G.O.V.) running the show. Yeah, that part of Revive, a retro-styled puzzle platformer by JonBro, may sound a little familiar. What isn't, though, is the particular syrup this poor subject is testing is the very secret to resurrection itself. Of course, to make sure the thing works, you're going to need to die and come back, like, a ton of times. Move left and right with the [arrow] keys, and [A] to jump. The goal of each level is to unlock and make your way to the exit door. However, there are a lot of obstacles standing in your way. Don't worry, though! Getting impaled or crushed only turns you into a ghost, allowing you to fly all over the level. Of course, ghosts can't go through exits, so you'll need to pick up either a jug of Life Syrup, or flying into one of the red streams of the same. There are wooden blocks to push (or float through), switches to flip and grapefruit to collect. Since death isn't as much as a handicap as it usually is, you're probably going to get stuck more than a few times, so have your finger poised on the [R] key to restart. There are twenty levels to complete... and another twenty if you figure out a way to turn the tables on your captors. With clever level design and firmly tongue-in-cheek overseer dialogue that captures just the right mix of humor and menace, Revive is perfect for players looking for that sweet spot of simple concept and challenging gameplay.

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Link Dump Fridays

DoraDo you want the good news, or the bad news? Well, unfortunately, this week on Link Dump Friday you're getting both, but we'll get the rotten bit out of the way first. The good news, however, is actually really, really good, ranging from one very impressive milestone, to the long-awaited third installment in a classic point-and-click adventure series, and more! If that's not enough to turn your frown upside down, well there are cures for that.

News and Previews

Fighting is MagicThis is the End, My Friend A fighting game starring Lauren Faust's My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic sounded bizarre, but after two years and a ton of promising progress, the talented folks of Mane6 were doing a lot to convert neighsayers. (Heh heh.) Unfortunately, as of this February 8th, Hasbro served the team a cease and desist, and now development on the game has been stopped for good. (Despite a surprisingly generous offer by Lauren Faust herself to provide them with some original characters to work with.) It's important to remember that this is less about greed and more about legality, as outlined in this editorial on the matter by Equestria Daily, so the amount of angry mudslinging at Hasbro for the move is sort of pointless. Understandable, though? Sure. Fighting is Magic may have been an odd concept, but the sheer amount of high quality work that went into it was inspiring and exciting, and it's a shame to see this one put out to pasture.

Kingdom of LoathingThat's a Lot of MacGuffins Quested Ready for a shocker and to suddenly feel really, really old? Kingdom of Loathing, one of the first and arguably most popular and creative free comedic turn-based RPGs from Asymmetric Publications has turned a whopping ten years old! The game, which features a supremely bizarre sense of humour and is packed with references to anything and everything, has grown significantly since its first release (three zones and "a handful of items", according to the press release), but what's really impressive is how the game continues to be updated and supported by its creators after all these years. If you have a sense of humour and love parody on top of some surprisingly in-depth gameplay, quests, and puzzles, then you seriously need to give this game a try. Congratulations to the team for ten long, wonderful years of disco banditry, dictionaries, Holy MacGuffins, and more... and here's to another ten!

Slender: The ArrivalPay Money to Scream Yourself Hoarse It's coming. On March 26th, Parsec Productions and Blue Isle Studios will release Slender: The Arrival, their hotly anticipated commercial reworking of the concept behind their free download game and internet phenomenon Slender, but you don't have to wait to play it. Pre-orders are now live, and paying up front not only allows you to pick it up for $5.00USD (half-off the release price of $10.00USD), but also allows you to instantly access and play the Beta version! This version of the game is, of course, more than a little buggy since it isn't final, with a lot of players reporting framerate issues as of this writing, but the team is working amazingly hard to get everything all ironed up and perfect to provide the best nightmare fuel possible.

Kickstarter/IndieGoGo Projects

Dreamfall ChaptersClassic Point-and-Click Fantasy Gets a Revival The Longest Journey is one of the most underrated, fantastic point-and-click adventures of all time, delivering a compelling narrative rich in fantasy, imagination, and ridiculous puzzles. Now's your chance to fund the third chapter in the celebrated series with Red Thread Games' Kickstarter for Dreamfall Chapters. The series weaves a tale that takes you through a dystopian cyberpunk future, of sorts, and the strange magical world it's unknowingly linked to, as well as the heroes being led to save it all. There is some amazing talent behind this one, but most importantly, some serious passion and drive too, making this the sort of game fans of the series have been longing to see. Since the first two games in the series were made by Funcom, you might fear that a shift in developers would bring drastic changes, but in fact much of Red Thread Games is made up of the original team including the creator himself! If you've never played the games before, this is the perfect time to start, and fans? Start getting excited.

Death Inc.Reaping Ain't Easy Ambient Studios knows what you love... namely, collecting souls from the folks you've unleashed horrifying plagues and suffering on! That's why they've set up this Kickstarter for their planned PC, Mac and Linux release of their strategic sim Death Inc. You are Grim T. Livingstone, a freelance Reaper, looking to grow and expand his business (the business of death) by unleashing the plague in 17th century England. Souls you gather from inflicting various terrible unfortunate events on people can be spent in the Nether to expand your operations, upgrade your abilities, buy new hirelings, and more. The style looks great, and with a tongue-in-cheek (does the specter of death have cheeks?) sense of humour and approach to its morbid gameplay, this one could be a real winner, so be sure to check it out if quirky strategy is your thing.

Delver's DropIs it Still a Prison if it Has Infinite Treasure? Pixelscopic is ready to through their hat into the roguelike ring with their Kickstarter for Delver's Drop. Planned for PC and Mac as well as iOS and Android (hooray!), the game is all about playing as a scoundrel trying to escape the towering dungeon he's been imprisoned in, with randomisation, tricks, traps, monsters, and "sinister secrets" in the way. It sounds a bit conceptually like the premise behind Legend of Grimrock, but the infinite replayability and oldschool 2D action RPG gameplay could make this one a huge winner. What's interesting is that the game promises a deep, dark narrative, which isn't something you might expect from its cheery, colourful design, but if you're a fan of roguelikes, this one should definitely be on your radar.

JayisGames HQOh, and don't worry about your little ponies. I think I still found a place for some of them to earn their keep. Can you get a Cutie Mark in game reviewing?


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


  • Currently 4.5/5
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Rating: 4.5/5 (104 votes)
| Comments (13) | Views (1,493)

Steampunk Tower

DoraThings are getting steamy in Dreamgate Company's rip-roaring defense game Steampunk Tower, where you're tasked with building a towering mechanical monstrosity and stocking it with all manner of lethal weapons to take out the invading forces before they can destroy it. Click on the arrow to build a weapon if you've got the cash, then drag it to one of the platforms on either side of the tower on each level. They'll attack automatically whenever something gets in range, but keep an eye on the yellow bar when you mouse over them... that's its ammo, and when it gets low, you need to drag it back down into the tower to reload. As they splatter enemies, their blue experience bar will fill, and when it does, you can drag it back down into the tower again to pay to level it up. And when your tower's core glows red, look out, because you can activate it to burn things up Eye-of-Sauron-Style with a deadly focused electric blast! As you might expect, each level gets more difficult, introducing more and more enemy types, so you'll really want to not only figure out what weapons work best in any situation, but also earn all three stars on each level to spend on upgrades. If you're feeling plucky enough, you can even replay levels you've already beaten in challenge mode to earn yet more stars!

Steampunk TowerSteampunk Tower is one of those games that can easily be pointed to time and again as an example of how to do defense games right. It balances just a handful of different weapon types with useful upgrades and strategic enemy variation to keep you on your toes, and the pace will soon have you frantically flinging towers left and right to adjust your tactics. It doesn't hurt that it both looks and sounds great too, with a high level of professional polish. Repetitive? Maybe a little, though most defense fans will lament the lack of a button to speed up the gameplay. In the end, however, Steampunk Tower isn't just a beautiful defense game... it's a beautiful game period, with the sort of effortless addictiveness and simple yet engaging gameplay that is so dangerous to your productivity. Monocle and tophat not included.

Play Steampunk Tower

Thanks to RacerX for sending this one in!


  • Currently 4.4/5
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Rating: 4.4/5 (45 votes)
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Finding Teddy

elleA little girl is tucked in bed and sleeping peacefully, her teddy bear cuddled under her arm, when... something intrudes her urban surroundings and snatches away her beloved plush pal. Investigating his disappearance, the little girl encounters a fantastical world inhabited by strange creatures and other oddities. Join her Finding Teddy quest, discovering and deciphering the secrets of a magical realm, in this thoroughly enchanting point-and-click adventure from Storybird Games.

Finding TeddyUsing traditional point-and-click mechanics, tap the edges of the screen to move off stage as well as tapping to interact with characters or pick up items where possible. Once you've acquired some objects, tap the girl to open your circlet of inventory, tap the item you want to use, then tap the area where you want to try it. Later, you can touch the top of the screen to access your array of musical notes, useful in solving tone-based puzzles, a necessary part of advancing successfully in the rescue teddy endeavor. As you play through this surreal environment built with gorgeous artwork, there's much to discover, including some deadly dangers, but the game saves automatically as you progress so you're always regenerated back were you left off.

Finding Teddy is as much about entertaining your aesthetic sensibilities with remarkable artistry as challenging your logic with both conventional adventure game puzzles and auditory riddles. You'll complete a number of tasks in each of the three chapters; some will earn you new friends and a couple of traveling companions who assist in your missions. Your rewards include not only the success of overcoming obstacles, you can also unlock entries in a gallery of truly frame-worthy pictures by making it to the next stage or solving a particular puzzle, or by uncovering special orbs hidden within various scenes. The mystery of the orbs is a puzzle in and of itself, but being observant with both ears and eyes, along with a bit of thinking, you'll likely figure it out before too long. If not, at the end of the game, you can go back and try again, keeping the orbs you gathered the first time.

Finding TeddyAnalysis: Finding Teddy is an incredibly unique and thoroughly engaging creation, the result of collaboration between the talents of French developer, Storybird, and Indie game publisher, LookAtMyGame. While there is no narration—nor dialogue in the typical sense—Finding Teddy communicates its story extremely effectively through detailed imagery, animations and music. The surreal beauty coming alive so vividly and magically on your mobile device is reason alone to experience this game. While Finding Teddy is quite playable on the smaller screen, the remarkable visuals are even more lovely played on a tablet.

Since some riddles rely on sound to complete, the challenges can be difficult until you figure out the reason behind the music. There are enough logical and visual hints provided that talent in music is not requisite, but it can feel frustrating if you're hard of hearing or just not used to such riddles. Fortunately, it gets more doable as you go along and get into the rhythm and particular logic of this enchanted world. A couple rare quirks might leave you wondering if they're hiccups in the story design or some enigmatic optional puzzle. It's hard to tell but it's easy to imagine that, in building such a detail-oriented creation, the designers could overlook an edit here or there. On the other hand, in beholding such talent, it's also easy to envision the creators sneaking in an easter egg or two. Either way, extra exploration is always enjoyable.

If you love playing traditional adventure-based games or are a lover of brilliant artistic talents, this story of a little girl braving the unknown to rescue her teddy is a tremendous find. Utterly charming and replete with replay value, Finding Teddy might just cuddle up to your gamer heart and make you its everlasting friend.

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


  • Currently 3.9/5
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Rating: 3.9/5 (60 votes)
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Evolvo Plus

DoraIf you run up to someone smaller than you on the street and start eating them, you won't gain their powers so much as you will a padded cell and a dramatic Lifetime Channel made-for-TV movie in your honour. In The Pox Box's Evolvo Plus, however, there are literally plenty of fish in the sea, and eating the little'uns isn't just allowed... it's the only way to win and grow stronger, as long as you can stay ahead of the bigger fish. Use [WASD] or the [arrow] keys to move just like the real fishies do. Once you've turned enough of your finned friends (any tagged with the green "eat" are safe) into chum you'll be able to choose an ability upgrade at level up, in addition to gradually getting larger, and the game will let you keep playing from your last level when you die, it's not that much of a setback. Unleash any unique evolutionary abilities with the [spacebar] and learn to tell a poisonous snack from a tasty treat while you avoid oil spills, mines, fishermen, and more. Evolvo Plus is, of course, essentially Fishy!, but flashier and with more variety, both in the general gameplay and your environment. Apart from the boss battle, Evolvo Plus is still something you enjoy on a coffee break rather than dedicating an entire afternoon to, but if you're looking to chow down and become comically huge in a way that twigs out my irrational phobias just a tiiiiiiny bit, then dive right in.

Play Evolvo Plus


  • Currently 4.6/5
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Rating: 4.6/5 (59 votes)
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Pixel Dungeon

JohnBRoguelikes are often considered the natural enemy of casual gamers. The ages-old genre has a reputation for endless dungeons and painfully difficult enemies layered on top of obscure keyboard commands to do everything from scratch your elbow to quaffing a potion. To top it all off, classic roguelikes use ASCII graphics, which might as well be a parade of LOLcat speak. Even if you smack some artwork on top of the game, no one puts "roguelike" in the same sentence with "I have five minutes to spare, I guess I'll go play a (blank). Just to relax.".

Pixel DungeonThat's where Pixel Dungeon comes in. This free dungeon crawling RPG aims to be a roguelike anyone can play, all without stripping itself of everything that makes crawling through randomly generated sewers an entertaining event. All you need to do is tap the screen to move across the tiles, wiping away the darkness to reveal walls, doors, items, treasure, and an enemy or three (teeth gnashing, be careful!). Manage over 50 different pieces of items and equipment to ensure you can handle the punishment you'll take, then try to stay alive long enough to crawl deeper within the prison.

Pixel Dungeon hits a very nice sweet spot between mindlessly casual and intelligently retro. It manages to preserve the feeling of mysterious loot and dangerous enemies hiding behind the shadows, encouraging you to explore but never giving you enough power to charge through without a care. You're not helpless, of course, but you're not invincible, either. Pixel Dungeon is missing a few extras that could help round out the experience, like additional character classes and background music, but creator watabou has promised these things and more in the future. Dive in now for a great mobile roguelike, then hang on for some very promising developments in the future!

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 4.3/5
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Rating: 4.3/5 (77 votes)
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Band of Heroes

DoraIt's never cool to be blamed for something you didn't do... even if you were planning on doing it yourself, but someone got to it before you did and decided to leave you holding the bag. That's what happens to Josh, hero of IriySoft's shooter-RPG Band of Heroes, when his plan to steal a legendary gem from the king goes awry when someone else thrashes him and takes the gem before he can. Now he's on the run, both to evade the king's forces and get back that sweet shiny jewel, but as you might expect, he's going to wind up gathering a motley band of heroes where he likes it or not and save the world in the process. Which is, you know, legally required for an RPG, even one that's half vertical shooter too.

Band of HeroesEach stage, your party will advance up the screen as enemies swarm down at you. The game is controlled entirely with the mouse, and during levels your heroes will attack automatically and follow your mouse's path. It's your job to guide them through and around hazards, and grab dropped gold and gems to spend on upgrading your party's abilities between stages. Each hero in your group can sustain damage from the enemies that come your way from the top of the screen and any other environmental hazards, so make sure you stay on your toes and nab any green healing potions you see, since once their health runs out you'll have to complete the stage without them. (Unless one of your party has a special ability, of course.) Luckily, enemies, chests, and crates also drop temporary weapon upgrades that persist 'til the end of the stage, so nab the orbs when you see them. If you're having trouble with a level, remember that on the world map you can not only swap out your party members, but also choose the leader... important since the leader grants different passive bonuses and has a different special attack depending on who's in charge.

Band of Heroes is one of those great simple ideas that takes two genres that work surprisingly well together and bundles them up in a good looking package. The story here is definitely on the cheesy side, but the clever mix of concepts and simple addictive gameplay more than makes up for it. What it doesn't make up for, however, is how sluggishly your party seems to respond at times, and when coupled with each character's large hitbox, the game just doesn't often feel quite as responsive as a classic shooter really should. Whether this is a killer for you largely depends on how much grinding you're willing to do to pump your party full of levels and coin-fueled upgrades, especially Selene's Resurrection ability, which is practically a necessity when it comes to boss battles. Which are, speaking of which, actually surprisingly cool and full of neat surprises. Band of Heroes isn't a perfect game, but it is a really neat idea and is pulled off surprisingly well with a lot of action to be had if you've got the patience.

Play Band of Heroes


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Rating: 4.2/5 (52 votes)
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Frogout

DoraHello, chiiiiillllldren! This is Dora (aooowwww!) bringin' you the news and reviews of physics puzzles from all across the Casual Wasteland, and this week one of the kids from Vault JiG, Monzazart, is servin' up Frogout. As a freaky mutant frog makin' his way to a bunker to save folks from a swarm of mutated killer flies, you'll gobble down all the nasty little buggers in each level and use your tongue to both snap 'em down and swing around. Watch out, since if they see ya they'll try to take a chunk out of you too, and three of those hits will make you restart a level. Just click anywhere onscreen to shoot out your tongue, and if it sticks on somethin' you'll pull yourself towards it until you release it, or click on the frog, drag, and release to jump in that direction. You can even stick that gross ol' tongue of yours to certain objects and pull the mouse to move them around, creating paths. It's a simple idea, and honestly a familiar one too, but there's somethin' to be said for a simple idea done well and creatively, and Frogout pulls that off with appropriate style. Until next time, chiiiilllldren, this is Dora (aooooow!) bringin' you all the games... no matter how bad it hurts your productivity.

Play Frogout


  • Currently 4.5/5
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Rating: 4.5/5 (199 votes)
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Weekday Escape

elleSomewhere in the world right now, it's the perfect time to stretch back on a chaise lounge poolside, a refreshingly colorful drink near at hand and halcyon blue skies blanketing your view. That's why this is the perfect time for Pool Cocktail Escape from TomaTea. Whether you're escaping the weather or just basking in it, this escape-the-room game presents the optimal mix of thinking and relaxing to make your midday break feel like a luxury minibreak.

Pool Cocktail EscapeJust point and click your way around, looking for picture tiles, useful objects and clues to solve puzzles until the exit key is found. In this tropical resort setting, you'll discover all the features you appreciate in a TomaTea creation: a glowing cursor to guide you toward active spots, the "I have no clue" messaging to lead you away from unsolvable puzzles, plus the gorgeous atmospheric aesthetics for which TomaTea has come to be known.

As for flaws in this superlative environment, besides it being a place you'd rather stay than escape, the navigation is not a smooth turn left or turn right square room situation. So pay attention to how, at only certain angles, you can access areas that earlier seemed inactive, making your way around to a different perspective to look in something seen but out of reach before. You'll encounter many conventional puzzles including color codes, counting, tile collecting and jumbled picture sorting. Although TomaTea tends to be predictable, thus easier for anyone familiar this designer, that means TomaTea can always be relied on for a pleasant escape game experience, one that will take you away from it all, even if only for five minutes at a time.

Play Pool Cocktail Escape


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Feast or Famine

MeaghanOonga boonga baboomba troonga. For a more modern translation: Hey everyone! There's an awesome new game that is ready to rock your socks off. Before you ask, yes I am a professional caveman linguist so there's no need to turn to your translation apps. Feast or Famine, a new action platform game for iOS devices dreamed up by X4 Games, was made with some inspiration from Neolithic paintings and just maybe a bit of that totally-not-made-up language above!

Feast or FamineAs a caveman stick figure your one goal in life is to survive. That means you've gotta eat meat. Armed with a string of different weapons like a spear or a ray gun, tap on the left side of the screen to shoot at birds or bison so you can keep your meat-er filled. Starvation isn't your only opponent, however. Tap the right side of the screen to jump, avoiding angry creatures while you grab bones speed boosts. Bones function as a currency that let you purchase helpful and often humorous upgrades that make platforming just a touch easier.

First off, how has someone not thought of this before? Secondly, thank goodness no one has already done this because that game would probably be put to shame when compared to Feast or Famine. Despite being made for mobile devices the graphics are shockingly attractive, the response of the mechanics are impressively clean, and the difficulty that each level presents isn't always dependent upon throwing an obvious obstacle in your way. The only real flaw comes from a lack of checkpoints, which means when you die you have to start the level all over again. Still, the stages are short enough that this doesn't become a game-killer. Whether you have an appreciation for cave art or want to test your mettle at being the hunter instead of gatherer this game is ready and waiting for your tender lovin' attention.

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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The Vault

DoraYou have to be careful on the internet. I don't just mean because you might meet up with someone who wants to roll you for your limited edition Doctor Who pocket watch, but because you never know what you're going to get if you just click around blindly. Could be weird. Could be unspeakable. Could be unspeakably weird. But when you reach blindly into our archives, you... well, you might actually still find some unspeakably weird stuff, but it'll all be awesome too!

  • Crush the CastleCrush the Castle - Contrary to popular belief, destroying structures with physics projectiles didn't start with features, and you can thank Joey Betz for reminding us how hilarious and fun catapults and fleshy kings can be. It's simple... you just fling stones at enemy fortresses, trying to pick the right time to release them so they hit that sweet spot and destroy the structure and everyone inside. The series has evolved some over the years, but by far some of the best endless entertainment can be gotten from the included level editor, allowing the community to create some truly spectacular levels. You know. In case you're one of those people who likes to plot the intricate demise and complete destruction of tiny medieval societies. You monster.
  • The House 2The House 2 - Sinthai Boonmaitree's supremely stylish horror adventure may not make a whole lot of sense at times, but is perfect if you're the sort of person who enjoys an expertly pulled of jump scare... or surprising unsuspecting friends with them. Like the original, you'll explore an eerily silent house at night searching for clues as to what happened to the family that used to live there, while intermittently squealing like a little girl. Sinthai's masterful approach to shocking scenes blends perfectly with the more subtle moments that raise the hair on the back of your neck... for about two seconds before it goes absolutely bananas terrifying again. In a way, the disorienting nature of the game works in its favour, helping to perfectly recreate the feeling of being lost alone and afraid somewhere dangerous. Not that I'd know, of course. [Editor's Note - We're not sure where these articles keep coming from since everyone knows Dora has been dead for ten years now. Wooooo!]
  • ...But That Was [Yesterday]...But That Was [Yesterday] - Michael Molinari (OneMrBean) always knows how to deliver the feels, and this artsy game about the different types of friends we meet and the lessons they teach us is no different. From a pet whose mere presence can be enough to remind you to turn your back on depression to a loved one who always encourages you to push yourself higher and take leaps of faith, it's a beautifully simple yet emotional little game that not only took first place in our 9th Casual Gameplay Design Competition, but also was voted the best interactive art game of 2010 by the community. While some criticized its lack of real gameplay and abstract approach to storytelling and instruction, the strong emotional reactions it got from many others earned it its rightful place as one of the best narratives around.

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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ShellBlast Forever

ArtbegottiWhen I was in college, I discovered Vertigo Gaming's Acidbomb and ShellBlast, a pair of Minesweeper-esque puzzle games about defusing bombs with the numerical clues provided and a handful of deductive reasoning. What I didn't realize (until my roommate pointed it out to me) was that as I played, I tended to call out strings of numbers while playing, chanting them over and over in my head (and apparently out loud) until the solution became clear to me. With the recent release of ShellBlast Forever on mobile devices, I've found myself shouting numbers again, except this time, in public places. It's a bit embarrassing.

ShellBlast ForeverEach level is a bomb made up of a series of tiles, some of which contain deadly triggers that need to be located in order to defuse the bomb. Rather than poking around blindly until you find them all, you are given two SDUs (one horizontal, one vertical) that shine through the grid. As you move the SDUs through the grid by dragging them by their ends, they will tell you how many triggers lie in their path (the number in the top-left corner), but not where; that's up to you to deduce!

When you think you've figured out the location of a trigger, tap and hold that tile to mark it with a green exclamation point. On the other hand, to mark a tile as not having a trigger, tap it to mark it with a red X. (If you continue tapping a tile, you can mark it with a blue or yellow question mark, which is useful for testing out possibilities without committing to them.)

The Campaign mode gives you a nonstop string of timed bombs, with only a handful of lives and chaffs (which reveal any single tile's property) to carry you through. In the Puzzle mode, you have to use a handful of preset SDU positions to solve bombs. Heat mode contains bombs that get hotter (and more dangerous) with every incorrect trigger guess. These three modes have been featured in previous ShellBlast games in one form or another, but one new mode of note is the Static mode, where one tile must be sacrificed in order to access the bomb, but when an SDU shines through that tile, the number of triggers remains hidden.

Admittedly, it feels like a bit of tension as the timer ticks down to zero, while present in the original download versions, is missing here, perhaps as a result of a smaller gaming atmosphere. Still, the unique logic puzzle the ShellBlast series brings to the table is well worth the experience. With the chance to save the day wherever you go, ShellBlast Forever will give you an infinite supply of puzzles to tackle, and possibly turn you into a number-spouting bomb technician-wannabe as well.

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


  • Currently 4.4/5
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Rating: 4.4/5 (75 votes)
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Umiga

elleThere are many reasons you should love a Detarou escape game—puzzles that massage your grey matter with both logic and slyness, three endings that increase content and gameplay, and uniquely strange animations that elicit as much discomfort as chortles—and you if do, then Umiga. Click arrows on the edges of the screen to move while following the changing cursor to find interactive areas and objects pick up. Characteristic of Detarou, you'll find a lot of things to see just for the sake of seeing, so you'll have to do some extra thinking and footwork to put together clues. The "Save" function is your friend, especially when in the presence of giggling pandas, so keep your friend involved in this escapade. With so many areas and rooms to explore, it's easy to get lost, hard to get out, but always the right amount of difficulty to be exceedingly fun.

Play Umiga

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Mobile Monday

JohnBTantalizing secrets are before you! What do you do? A: Take the secrets. B: Tantalize the secrets back. C: See if the secrets secrete anything. D: Some of the above. Make your choice by closing your eyes and imagining with all your might!

vvvvvv-p.gifVVVVVV for iOSSSSSS - So, VVVVVV for iOS will be a thing one day. Developer Terry Cavanagh, who recently brought Super Hexagon to mobile devices, has been casually poking at the game's code to see what works, and the results have been promising. The actual port is a long way away, however, as Mr. Cavanagh has other responsibilities at the moment, but it's comforting to know it's out there, in the future, somewhere...

beastie-p.gifiBeastie iBay - Kairosoft's "Pokemon for mobile devices" game Beastie Bay has finally crossed over to the iOS world, bringing with it plenty of simulation elements and some fantastic battle sequences to boot. Washed ashore on an uncharted island, your job is to build a house, then head out into the wilderness to see what you can see. Hauling back treasure from battle is just part of the fun, the rest is in capturing and raising enemies back at your custom village! Epic bonus: Beastie Bay is free for both iOS and Android!

inbetween-p.gifInbetween mobile Land - G5 Entertainment has been busy these last few months porting some of its best hidden object and casual adventure games from the desktop to the wonderful world of mobile devices! The latest hit to reach the touch screen is Inbetween Land, a steampunk adventure game that does a great job bridging the genres. Check out our Inbetween Land review and walkthrough for the full scoop, then nab the free iOS download and see what you think!


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Rating: 4.6/5 (34 votes)
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Anodyne

JohnBBroom attack! Also, you might be trapped in a dream. Or some other sort of subconscious realm. It's tough to tell, but judging from the strange sights and the cryptic "as legend has foretold" messages from sages and statues, there's definitely something odd going on here. Anodyne from Sean Hogan and Jonathan Kittaka is an adventure through a melancholy world that plays out like a classic 16-bit RPG. It borrows some of the best micro-concepts from games like The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening, Yume Nikki, and even EarthBound, creating a world that's as innocent as it is moving and as dangerous as it is surreal.

AnodyneWith a straightforward action RPG setup (though, without too much action, and not an RPG proper), you won't have a hard time getting started with Anodyne. Move around with the [arrow] keys, interacting with people and objects with the [C] key. You can also save your progress by standing on checkpoint squares and pressing [C]. Early on you get a broom, your weapon of choice in this here dream world. It lets you attack enemies, sweep up dust, and one or two other interesting uses that we don't want to spoil here. Later, you'll nab a few items that give Young new abilities. Abilities we also don't want to spoil in a review!

Sort of the driving point of Anodyne, apart from its journey of self-exploration and discovery, is gathering cards. There are almost 50 in all, found in treasure chests hidden throughout the overworld and deep inside dungeons. Once you gather all the cards in an area, a gem will light up in the Nexus, your hub zone that offers quick-warp portals to different parts of the world, letting you know you've pretty much cleared that chunk of the game. Certain gates halt your progress until you have a certain number of cards (or special keys), encouraging you to stick your nose in every corner of the game to see what you can see.

AnodyneAnalysis: Anodyne sets you free in a wonder-filled environment that contains just as many neutral encounters as it does enemies. Everything has a modestly eerie undertone to it, sort of like playing a David Lynch movie. There's also this constant sense of foreshadowing in everything you see and do, as if something preposterously grand is waiting for you around the next corner. Or just plain preposterous, you never can tell with this game.

Anodyne looks like a classic action RPG, and it indeed feels and moves like one, but the star of the show is the artwork, story and setting. Sure, there are enemies to kill, but they're almost incidental. Yeah, you collect things and get new equipment, but just so you can explore more of the map, not so you can feel stronger or anything. Even with the focus on atmosphere, Anodyne isn't locked in by a wordy narrative, and it's far from being a text heavy game.

If I can break the tone of the review and get personal for a second (as if you could stop me), Anodyne is the most fun I've had with an adventure/RPG game since the last time I played through Mother 3. Listing all of the things Anodyne gets right would be a list of all the things Anodyne does. Unless you're particularly averse to exploration, there's no reason not to sneak up and give this game a try. It's one of those rare gems that gives you an experience you wouldn't trade for anything.

Play Anodyne (browser demo)

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

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

LinuxLinux:
Play the browser demo
Get the full version


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Be Together

DoraThe deliriously cheerful iOS physics puzzler Be Together is one of those games you can feel working its wicked, adorable will on your cheek muscles with every passing second, forcing you to smile. Almost as if the developers, LinkGoGames, had some fiendish ulterior motive... like spreading joy, the fiends! The goal here is to unite your two tittering rotund tots, Maya and Ruby, by dragging their helpful friends around the screen and then tapping the play button in the upper right corner. As soon as you do, either Maya or Ruby will begin to move, dropping or rolling according to gravity until they bump into and interact with something you've placed, hopefully reuniting at the end and grabbing all the stars (and pets!) to unlock more levels. Clouds can be placed to help you bounce, while other characters like the helicopter-headed sprite can carry you short distances. It's not just about minding the gap, however, since hazards like baddies and electric currents also need to be circumvented. Fortunately, restarting a level is as quick as tapping the reset icon, and there's never any penalty for doing so.

Be TogetherBe Together is a simple concept and certainly nothing you probably haven't seen before, but what sets it apart is how absolutely beautifully made and polished it is. The animation is fluid, the characters are quirky and expressive, and the whole thing from its soundtrack to its gameplay is bouncy, fun, and energetic. It's the sort of game you want to smirk cynically at as characters zip and giggle and grin, but you can't. Mostly because in addition to being more than fine to look at, the actual gameplay can be pretty clever and challenging, and the bizarre little characters are just the icing on the cake. Be Together is the sort of game you'd be glad to have on your child's mobile device because you knew it was actually making them thing, but also the sort of simply beautifully made little physics puzzle you should be proud to have on your own, too.

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


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Rating: 4.3/5 (22 votes)
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Star Stealing Prince

MeaghanSecrets, much like annoying songs, seem to come up when you least expect them. For Prince Snowe, long-kept secrets are quickly unraveling as he finds that his deceased parents have left him a legacy marred by less than admirable deeds. In Star Stealing Prince, an RPG adventure game by Star Cadets, Prince Snowe will have to discover the full extent of what his parents have done, which is hard when the whole kingdom of Sabine relies on the Prince being alive and happy.

Star Stealing PrinceUse the [arrow] keys to move Prince Snowe to and fro, and if you're impatient with his leisurely pace, hold [shift] to dash. Use the [Z], [enter] or [spacebar] keys to interact with characters, items and other bits of scenery, and tap [esc] to access the all-important menu where you can save or work with your inventory. Enemies appear as little puffs of air on the screen and you're immediately given the option to fight or flee. Each character has a designated elemental preference in battle, such as Snowe using Fire spells, and each element dictates how strong your spell will be against a creature of a certain element. Pay attention to your health and magic point meters in battle, and watch the IP bar fill as you gradually take damage. Top it off and get ready to exact a bit of revenge!

There's more than just battles to contend with, of course. The story pushes you to explore new areas so you can meet new characters, solve puzzles, and gather items, spells, and potions like any good role playing game. Minions and bosses will be also be waiting for your party, blocking your path and making sure you haven't skimped on leveling your characters while wandering around.

Star Stealing PrinceA game as robust as Star Stealing Prince is hard to find, especially in the freeware realm, so it's an occasion for excitement when you do catch that gem. With hours of playtime to chomp on, a story that is engaging from start to finish, visuals that are impressively detailed, and characters that have realistic responses, I can warn you now that if you start playing you'll find it difficult to tear yourself away. There are phantoms and chimeras, tormented souls and ominous secrets, and most importantly there are new friends to find. The old King and Queen were very fond of hidden passages, so don't let the darkness fool your curiosity. Dive in head first!

Note: You must install the free RPG Maker VX RTP in order to play Star Stealing Prince.

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Otherworld: Omens of Summer

elleThere's this one, annoying, nitpicky thing about evil villains: they keep coming back. Last spring, you thought you stopped the nasty Shade for good, rescuing the innocent yet magically-gifted young Fiona to boot. Happily ever after isn't always forever in fairytales, and here it doesn't last longer than a day—as soon as you've escaped the danger at Fiona's house another turns up in the very place you thought she'd be safe. Now you must stop the Shade again by gathering magical artifacts from a pernicious pixie, baleful banshee and unforgiving nyx in Otherworld: Omens of Summer, a dark fantasy adventure hybrid from BoomZap.

Otherworld: Omens of SummerArriving at Fiona's boarding school, you discover the Shade's nefarious friends are none to happy about his defeat. The place is seeping in a dreary, foreboding magic. Using "the sight," you're able to break the spell and so begins your quest. Fiona joins you on this leg of the journey, providing her magic as well as companionship to help in tasks and give assistance when you need a hint. How much additional help depends on which difficult level you selected and whether or not you have the collector edition's built-in strategy guide. Also at your disposal is a very useful smart map: check it for unfinished tasks and click on it to be transported wherever you need to go, eliminating the drudgery of backtracking.

After righting what's wrong at the school and activating the mirrors to new dimensions, you have three choices of where to go next: a campsite where true love was corrupted, an underwater city where bitterness hardened a father's heart against his daughter, or a deep forest where jealousy destroyed happiness. Each chapter presents a new subplot to engage in while bringing additional answers to your own scenario. Memory mirrors provide additional clues and your journal keeps track of your findings. Again, as in the first Otherworld, complete a side quest of finding fairies hidden in every scene and other achievements.

Otherworld: Omens of SummerAnalysis: BoomZap's follow-up to their popular Otherworld: Spring of Shadows is right in line with fans' expectations for gorgeous, color-saturated graphics, high quality production values, and creative content. Gameplay is evenly balanced between adventuring and minigames with a much lesser emphasis on hidden object scenes. Those few hidden object searches that do occur vary in their presentation: sometimes you're finding multiples of one type of object, others are the more standard interactive scenes, and there's also the occasional need to find fragments or replace a missing item.

The puzzles are not quite as engaging in comparison to the first installment of the series; although inventive takes on the familiar, they are inconsistent in difficulty. BoomZap makes search scenes that you really want more of; they're designed with such care and expertise, beautiful to behold and incredibly enjoyable especially compared to those in most other games. Likewise, Otherworld: Omens of Summer is staged with gorgeous graphics and mesmerizing atmosphere, creating an environment you want to get lost in. So the plethora of minigames sometimes distract from that immersion. As a plus, along with a beautifully-rendered epilogue that is, alone, worth the extra purchase, the collector's edition includes an option to replay all minigames, including the hidden object scenes, so you can skip now, dig in later.

Take note that Otherworld: Omens of Summer is not a light, sweet fairytale about princesses and unicorns as in the Awakening series. Rather, it's a fairytale aimed at a more grown-up audience; it has a theme and setting that's more foreboding, dreary and sometimes disturbing. Yet it is also never gory, bloody or spooky. Instead, Otherworld: Omens of Summer is a sumptuous, rich fantasy with a unique story to tell. It builds on the series and stands on its own merits, giving us something to look forward to in subsequent seasons.

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

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

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Also available: Collector's Edition


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Nano Kingdoms 2: Joker's Revenge

DoraRealtime strategy was rarely so cute as in TruTruka's Nano Kingdoms, and luckily for you that itty-bitty kingdom couldn't stay saved because that means we get another opportunity to indulge in some seriously fun and flashy defensive gameplay. In Nano Kingdoms 2: Joker's Revenge, the royal family has been abducted by one creepy clown, and it's up to Glenn, our adorable hero, to learn the ropes of warfare and recruit an army of legendary warriors to make the land safe once again. Awwww, lookit you! Who's a bwave widdle hewwo? Is it you? Izzit you?! Yes you is!

Nano Kingdoms 2: Joker's RevengeAs you progress through the land, you'll encounter various heroes and villains that need to be stomped before you can proceed. You'll start on opposite sides of the battlefield and need to raze your enemy's headquarters to the ground before they can do it to you. Naturally, this means you need to build an army, and doing so means purchasing upgrades for your castle, like a farm to provide food (an army marches on its stomach!), a foundry to make metal, and so forth. If you want more powerful units than your simply stabby soldier, you'll need to amass your resources (food, metal, and wood) to be able to create even stronger forces. Prove your worth by defeating characters in your path and they may even join you, allowing you to play as them, which will unlock different special attacks and spells you can unleash with enough mana during battle.

Like its predecessor, Nano Kingdoms 2 is one of those games that reminds you that just because it's in your browser doesn't mean it can't look and feel professionally done. It's a gorgeous little game, with clean, crisp art and design, and the simple yet engaging gameplay makes it a perfect choice for strategy fans who don't want to feel like they need to keep a guidebook balanced on their knees while they play. The variation in heroes means you can always tackle a battle with drastically different abilities and even units, since each hero brings their own unique talents to the table in ways that can make a previously impossible battle manageable. The downside is that, also like its predecessor, Nano Kingdoms 2 lacks a persistent upgrade system for most purchases, so battles tend to start out frustratingly routine as you wait around for your resources to build up so you can purchase all the accoutrements you need over and over each time. Though Nano Kingdoms 2 may really lack the depth to provide enough of a challenge for strategy fanatics beyond resource and unit management, but with a rarely-seen level of professional polish to its design and whimsical style, it's well worth a skirmish or two to get your blood pumping. And next time? Take my advice and never trust a jester. I thought you learned your lesson after Dhoulmagus anyway!

Play Nano Kingdoms 2: Joker's Revenge


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Proteus

TrickyProteus is an exploration-based piece of interactive art by Ed Key and David Kanaga. In it, players take a walk through an abstract procedurally-developed island as relaxing harmonies play and react to your movement. After winning a smattering of gaming conference awards and a nearly year long beta-testing period, Proteus has finally gone gold!

ProteusThe basic gameplay of Proteus is simple movement and observation. The default controls will use [WASD] to move around with inverted y-axis mouse controls to look around, but it's best to take a trip to the options menu before starting and decide what you'd find comfortable. After that, travel to the island and get exploring. Also note that Proteus is a game where having the sound on is a must.

Analysis: It's always a curious thing when art tries to capture the beauty of nature. Life and experience is impermanent, which is why some artists try to immortalize it in a a painting or a symphony or a game. Clearly something will always be lacking if all these works do is try to directly recreate the dimensions of a flower. However, it's hard to deny that it is possible to capture something of the essence of nature in art. Proteus offers the essence of a visit to an island that never was, and may never be, and it offers it beautifully and without pretension.

ProteusThe world of Proteus is generated for each user, so this reviewer can only speak for his own island, but man, it was awesome to explore. It started as just a hazy image on the horizon of the sea. Approaching it, the blurs form into trees and flowers and cliffs. After pausing on the sand to troll a group of drum-beating crabs, I ran through a a field of pixelated cherry trees, the chirps of chiptune notes and chords sounding as I collided with the falling blossoms of spring. There was a green creature there who leaped away at my approach, and after following him for a while, he led me to a path that ended at a cabin. By this time, night had fallen, so I climbed to the peak of nearest mountain to get a look at the land surrounding me. This turned out to be the perfect place to view a meteor shower, and to see the clouds of the rainstorm that had traveled to the far side of the island, the sound of its droplets plinking against the ground barely audible over the soft winds of the peak. Sunrise came quickly, and I spotted pieces of light swirling near a circle of stones. I walked there (accidentally interrupting a flock of chickens, who dispersed to the sounds of an organ grinding), and upon my arrival the world began to spin, sounds and colors blended into each other. Then it was summer. I had barely scratched the surface and I wanted more.

In Space Quest IV, one of the boxes Roger Wilco finds in the Galaxy Galleria's Radio Shock describes a game that lets you "wander through" a world with "no other characters, no conflict, no puzzles, no chance of dying, and no interface." In context, this was a send-up of Lucas Arts' Loom, but it's actually a pretty good description of what Proteus has to offer. Some will love it, some will be bored by it, and some will argue it doesn't qualify as a game at all. That's a matter of definition. But while Proteus is probably not going to challenge the conception some have of artistic games as low-rez inaction-fests, that niche of gamers who'd be interested in a chill 45-minute retro vacation will find it a place worth hearing, and a song worth exploring.

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Castle Dracula

DoraCall me crazy, but when you know you live right in the shadow of Castle Dracula, I don't think you get to be all that surprised when things inevitably get weird. And weird they are for Luke, the hero of GondeFire's indie point-and-click adventure, who wakes up one night to find his pregnant wife Grace being hauled screaming out the window by demons and up the cliffs to the castle looming above. Armed with only his wits and his family's silver crucifix (though personally I might have added a whole bunch of extra pointy things to that arsenal), Luke sets off for the castle to find his wife and unborn child and stop whatever sinister plan Dracula has in store for them. Is it sparkles? I bet it's sparkles. Vampires love them.

Castle DraculaUse the icons at the top of the screen to set what action you want to perform. Click the arrows to navigate through rooms, or the hand to pick up things, while the gears allow you interact with objects or items in your inventory. Bear in mind that while you can die, the game will boot you back to where you made your last poor decision after shaming you with a game over screen for a few seconds. Luckily, if you pay attention to your surroundings you can usually puzzle out where the traps and dangers lie. Like, say, pulling a lever directly over a nice big red smear on the ground. Look, just because you think you can tackle Dracula doesn't mean you can ignore Dawrinism. Oh, and if you've got an iOS, you can even enjoy your bloody peril on the go with the mobile version.

Castle Dracula is one of those games that's already pretty solid, but could be made great without a bunch of minor annoyances. At the time of this writing, the game is also currently a little buggy and finicky, from having to slowly drag objects from your inventory to the fussy click detection on selection your action buttons, over and over and over, each time you change locations. With a little more polish and smoother interaction and navigation the game would be a real joy to play, because otherwise the game is so delightfully cheesy and engaging even if it is on the short side. The voice acting is actually pretty exceptional across the board, and the artwork is great as well. What's nice is that the puzzles are all fairly logical, and the flamboyant vibe of the story and dramatic presentation makes this one a lot of gleeful fun. Classic point-and-click adventures are always welcome, and bite-sized ones like this are perfect for fitting inside the sort of breaks you want mobile gaming for. Are you ready for Dracula in your pocket? Only one way to find out.

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Maestro: Music from the Void

DoraIf you're ever watching YouTube videos with distressingly talented musicians and feeling inadequate, just remember that musical prodigies tend to be almost exclusively targeted by dark forces for sinister means, including but not limited to pacts with demonic entities and being in danger of having your soul sucked out through your kiester by a mummy. (It's true. Look it up.) In ERS Game Studios' hidden-object adventure Maestro: Music from the Void, an entire town is beset by terrible things that seem to stem from disappearances and strange music coming from its esteemed musical academy. Turns out someone has played a tune that has summoned some seriously dark things, and only tracking down a legendary instrument and sheet music to thwart the evil will save you. What, nobody's heard of iPods? Come on, with a high quality MP3 and a decent speaker dock I bet you could exorcise the heck out of evil spirits. No? *sigh* Peril and puzzles it is then.

Maestro: Music from the VoidJust click around to gather items, solve puzzles, and generally make yourself a nuisance to the forces of darkness. Some of the game's hidden-object scenes are essentially shadow-hunts with point-and-click style object puzzles in isolated areas, where you track down objects one by one via their silhouette and use them within the area to eventually unlock what you're looking for. Since the entire town is now gleefully haunted by wicked souls making mischief (and, you know, sucking the life out of people), you've got your work cut out for you. Lucky for you, in short order you'll find yourself in the possession of a legendary violin whose music can drive away spirits... though you'll have to track down the sheet music yourself so you can play it whenever you find yourself stonewalled by ghosts. But just what is really going on here? Who is this mysterious "madman" who attacked the academy with devilish, devastating music, and how does the disappearance of Ludwig and Helga, two academy students, tie into all of it? More importantly... if every door in this place requires some sort of intricate puzzle lock, how does anyone ever get to the bathroom in an emergency?!

Maestro: Music from the VoidAnalysis: Like its predecessor Music of Death, Music from the Void is a gorgeous, highly polished title that continues ERS's new trend of leaning more towards traditional adventure gameplay over scrounging through hidden-object scenes. Unlike the first game, however, Music of the Void focuses on delivering a much more cinematic experience, weaving in fully-voiced cutscenes with a story you'll actually pay attention to. It is not, however, a game for you if frequent repetition frustrates. Music from the Void has no qualms with making you backtrack or play the same hidden-object scene (with different items) again within minutes of having completed it. Additionally, regardless of what difficulty setting you pick at the start of the game, you'll probably find the overall challenge level of the game on the low side. Considering the game's gorgeous design and casually engaging gameplay, then, it's a perfect choice for a relaxing evening... or maybe more, since you can expect to spend over four hours on it.

But while its gameplay doesn't necessarily innovate, it definitely entertains. Maestro: Music of the Void delivers an elaborate adventure full of twists, turns, strange puzzles, and stranger characters. ERS knows how to deliver solid games every time like few others, and if you're already a fan, you'll both appreciate the workmanship on display here and how hard they continue to push themselves to refine their craft. With a sprinkling of ghoulishness on top of its supernatural premise, it's creepy without being gory or gross, and beautifully illustrated to boot. Give the demo a try if you're looking for the chance to thwart the forces of evil with the power of song. One can only hope the next game features 80s rock ballads instead of violin concertos, but I guess classical is okay too.

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

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

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


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Rating: 3.8/5 (37 votes)
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Adam

ArtbegottiThe search for the answer to life, the universe, and everything can lead people to do some pretty strange things. For example, you could try building a time machine (disguised as a grandfather clock, because police phone boxes are so cliche) and jump straight to the start of time itself. That's the theory, anyway, in Adam, a short puzzle platformer created in 48 hours where your own worst enemy is yourself!

AdamIn order to generate enough power to make the great leap back in time, you need to gather heat from the yellow heat zones scattered across each level. Grab your grandfather clock with [Z], walk over to the heat zone with the [arrow] keys, then absorb the heat by using the [spacebar]. Be careful though, because every time you make a collection, time rewinds itself, and an extra "you" is added to the universe, following your exact moves! If you run into a previous version of yourself (running into a previous clock is safe), time is completely reset, and you have to start collecting heat all over again.

While only a few levels long, Adam gives a solid challenge that require a bit of planning and perhaps patience. Since the key to the puzzle is avoiding collisions with yourself on a mostly-flat landscape, you'll need to develop a system for pausing at the moments and ducking into corners; don't forget to use the clock in the corner as a guide! The final level does involve performing a medium-level trick-jump several times in order to proceed, but otherwise the game lets the platforming stay out of the way of the puzzle you create for yourself. Time's a-wasting, and who knows if you'll be able to get it back or not, so grab your clock and go!

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Link Dump Fridays

DoraWhat's that, you say? You're finally done with Kingdom Rush for good and you have your life back? Oh, you fool. You poor, sweet, gorgeous fool...

News and Previews

Kingdom Rush 2Welp, There Goes My Productive Spring Brace yourselves, my friends, because Ironhide Game Studio wasn't content to dominate your spare time just the once. A new Kingdom Rush game is on the way, and you can expect to play it this spring! Details are scarce at the moment, though a single recent screenshot will serve to tantalize. Kingdom Rush absolutely dominated our readers, voted Game of the Year in 2011 by the community, and we can only expect that whatever comes next will be more of the addictive real-time defense strategy we've come to love!

The Vanishing of Ethan CarterWeird and Proud You wouldn't expect people partially responsible for the testosterone-fuelled shooter fest that was Bulletstorm to form an indie company and have their first title be slow, mind-bending mystery horror, but, well, here we are. And good news, since The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, an upcoming "weird horror fiction" adventure by The Astronauts, looks pretty darned neat. You'll play a detective able to visualise the scenes of lethal crimes as he races to track down a kidnapped boy, but soon finds his investigation takes him to the mountains where an ancient force has its own say in justice. Look for it to be distributed digitally on PC later this year, and check out the site for the official trailer!

Quadrilateral CowboyHowdy, Hacker Best known for Atom Zombie Smasher, Blendo Games has a new title speeding straight for us and it's not what you might expect! Billed as "twentieth century cyberpunk", Quadrilateral Cowboy, out later this year for PC, says "When you have a top-of-the-line hacking deck armed with a 56.6k modem and a staggering 256k RAM, it means just one thing: you answer only to the highest bidder." Though the site doesn't offer much more info, take a gander at the trailer and it looks like you'll be playing the part of a hacker-for-hire as you infiltrate various places on foot or remote-robotically to accomplish objectives and hack your way to success. If you get all dewy-eyed at the thought of being a renegade computer-slinger, you'll definitely want to keep an eye out for this one, because it looks like it has serious "awwww, yeah" potential, though I'm personally more used to decking myself.

Slender: The ArrivalHe Can't Wait to Meet You Warm up your vocal cords for shriekin', 'cause Slender: The Arrival is getting even closer to, y'know... arriving. Blue Isle Studios announced the game will be available for pre-order soon, which will also grant you access to the beta test! (PC only, unfortunately.) The game definitely has a lot to live up to, both through its own hype and the Slender-fever that's been sweeping the internet this past year, so time will tell whether it passes with flying colours or becomes just another bump in the night... though going by the screenshots and trailers, as well as the talent behind it, I think we can probably expect this one to be pretty darned good indeed.

Kickstarter/IndieGoGo Projects

Huntsman: The OrphanageHow Can Unspeakable Evil Look So Dapper? If you've been waiting to pre-order ShadowShifter's upcoming horror adventure Huntsman: The Orphanage, now's your chance, and help fund it in the process! The team has opened up an IndieGoGo campaign, which will let you pre-order the game for $20.00USD, but all the cash raised will go towards one of the most important aspects of the game... modelling, rigging, and animating the seven-foot tall monstrous antagonist. The Huntsman is one of those inspiring sort of indie stories, with the developers rallying remarkable creative force instead of folding when their initial premise of making yet another Slenderman game fell through, and the end result is shaping up to be something truly, fantastically creepy. Have you been looking for a game that knows horror is more than violence and gore? Then this might be the title for you.

GolemEpic Narrative Meets Action-RPG in Prague Moonbot Studios sends you to the 16th century for their Kickstarter for planned action-RPG Golem. On its way for PC, Mac and Linux, the game puts you in control of a newly created golem in the city of Prague, where you will be used to put a stop to the invasion lead by Cesare Borgia, but along the way as you grow, learn new skills, and rely on the city's guilds for repair and enhancement, you may learn there is more to you than anyone suspects. The game looks like it could be seriously gorgeous, and a minimum donation of $15.00USD will get you a copy of it when it releases.

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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Tapforss

JohnBThere you are floating around on planet Eena, a world with unpredictable gravity, deadly walls covered in sharp things, and sentient triangles that shoot spikes at you. If you were some sort of nigh-invulnerable rock this might be ok, but you're a crystal ball that will shatter if a cloud looks at you the wrong way. Oh, and in order to move around, you have to wobble by temporarily defying gravity with quick screen taps. That's Tapforss in a fragile nutshell, a mobile arcade game from Like a Crocodile that cranks up the difficulty and provides a quietly impressive experience that's probably going to drive you mad.

TapforssTapforss is built around two things: dangerous terrain and a bobbing main character. The controls are split with left and right movements on one side, and an upwards hop on the other. To move, tap one of these arrows. You hop in the tapped direction only slightly, with Eena's gravity quickly pulling you down. And since you can't touch anything in this place, you're basically tapping the controls all the time, adjusting your position and making desperate runs through narrow corridors hoping to reach the exit.

But wait, it gets crazier! Falling boulders and stacked rubble sometimes get in your way, not to mention enemies that rush over and give you a good shove. Special barriers line certain corridors that will change which way gravity pulls you or invert your controls, meaning you can't always rely on which way is up. Or down. Or whatever. Fortunately, one or two friendly things exist in the game, such as health orbs, teleporters, and little space crafts you can hop in for a few precious moments of invulnerability!

You're scored at the end of each level based on number of lives left, how many taps you used, and how long it took you to reach the end. Three difficulty settings let you choose how many hits you can take before restarting the stage, but even on easy mode it's quite a challenge to get a perfect score. Practice makes perfect, right?

TapforssAnalysis: Tapforss hits that sweet spot between something familiar and something unique. You can call it an arcade game, a physics game, or a game you get mad at because you died like ten times on that one spike, but quick labels don't do the experience justice. The eternally off-balance glass orb that is your character needs constant coaxing, so when a level begins, you're on your tappy-toes until you make it to the exit. No breaks, no moment to admire the scenery. It's surprisingly tense, but because you pay so much attention to the level layout and the orb itself, you feel sort of like a mother carrying her newborn baby through a dangerous cave.

The level design adds an element of exploration to Tapforss not usually seen in quick-fire arcade games of this nature. Half the time you're not sure where you need to go to find the exit, so you just sort of fling yourself out there and see what happens. Passageways often connect with each other or, at the very least, feature a health orb if they dead end, so it's not like the game is out to trick you. Besides, the twisty caverns, physics-altering barriers, and player-aware enemies lurking about make it challenging enough as it is.

Tapforss livens up the quick reflex arcade genre with a unique control set and smart design decisions all around. The visuals are suitably gorgeous, and even though you'll hate every nook and crevasse in these pointy caves, you have to admit they look pretty stunning while shattering you to pieces. Go nab Tapforss and see how tap-happy you can be.

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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The Little Who

elleThe Little Who is full of questions; he wonders who he is and how he came to be. There are things that he does know, though: the world is dangerous, sometimes blocks can be moved to element that danger or to open doorways, and he is all alone. Then, one day, he sees "her" and things begin to change as, together, they navigate their way through this drear-saturated world toward the light. Why? Because it is and that's all they know to do. Guide our angst-filled protagonist through a series of obstacles in this atmospheric puzzle platform game from Alex Kershaw using the [arrow] keys to move and [spacebar] to toggle between the two characters. Or use [R] to restart after missteps or an error in timing.

The Little WhoMost of the 30 levels are easy, lulling you into a state of complacency until the last third of the game, when the difficultly ramps up significantly as you coordinate actions between the two figures. The emphasis is more on story and puzzle than platform, probably not without reason, as it mirrors the little who's puzzled thoughts. The surreal, monochromatic artwork by Enotick also takes a starring role along with Kevin MacLeod's music and Lucas Hartbarger's pitch-perfect narration. Any existentialist could probably already tell you where it's all headed, but the story, which taps lightly at the fourth wall, ends with a punch similar to a certain Bugs Bunny cartoon. It may have you taking an introspective look at these poor creatures, the wayward characters of casual games, who are subjected to so many travails just for the sake of our entertainment.

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  • Currently 4.6/5
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Rating: 4.6/5 (503 votes)
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400 Years

DoraIn Scriptwelder's interactive artsy puzzler 400 Years time is both on your side and working against you. You play a sentient stone idol who senses a great calamity approaching the world and sets out to stop it using the [arrow] or [WASD] keys to move. When you come up against an obstacle you can't get past, all you can really do is wait, and holding down the [spacebar] advances time through the seasons and years, allowing you to see the world (and the landscape) change around you until eventually the passage of time presents a solution. Though initially that solution is just "wait until you can go, but don't wait too long", the farther you go, the more you have to take a more active role in shaping the world around you, forcing you to think, explore, and act. The sedate gameplay (and slow shamble of the protagonist) won't appeal to everyone, especially since some of the places you're required to wait force you to do so for a long time. If you can both handle and appreciate that slow pace, however, you'll enjoy 400 Years for its lovely presentation and unique approach to puzzling solving. Though hopefully if we ever get a sequel of some sort, we'll get a more satisfying ending too.

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  • Currently 3.6/5
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Rating: 3.6/5 (45 votes)
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100 Doors of Revenge

JohnBWith a title that practically demands a dramatic pause before the final word, 100 Doors of Revenge is a new single-screen room escape game from Gipnetix Games, creator of 100 Doors 2013 and 100 Escapers. Once again, you find yourself faced with a series of locked doors, and the only logical course of action is to start solving your way forward!

100 Doors of RevengeEach room in this tower of doors is sealed shut, and in order to open the elevator so you can keep moving up, you've got to figure out how to unlock it. Puzzles are usually of the standard room escape variety, with codes and other simple things to solve to gain access. Occasionally 100 Doors of Revenge will throw a wrench in your plans and use the touch screen in unusual ways, just to make sure you weren't on automatic pilot.

There are several dozen doors to unlock, with more being added on a weekly basis. It's hard to go wrong with a "100 game" from Gipnetix, especially when it sports the attractive price tag of free!

Like mobile escape games? Try some more on for size!

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 (115 votes)
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Kotatsu Escape

GrinnypIf you were in Japan, to relax you might tuck your legs beneath a Kotatsu, one of those lovely table frames with a built-in heater and a quilt, then open your laptop and play a room escape game. After all, this is Japan, land of the room escape artists. But wait! The pleasing warmth from the Kotatsu combined with the lateness of the hour can mean dozing off, so you better go with a quick and easy escape like Tateita's Kotatsu Escape. Serendipity! Solve a few amusing puzzles, find the use of a few objects, and soon you will be out the door. Tateita has designed a cute, quick escape that shouldn't take more than a few minutes of your time, a great way to start or end a day. If there is any downside it is the lack of a changing cursor which might lead to some minor pixel hunting, a small complaint considering the entertainment this little gem brings. Sit down, power up, and let the warmth of Kotatsu Escape sooth away the stressful day.

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  • Currently 3.5/5
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Rating: 3.5/5 (63 votes)
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Aries Escape: Episode No.006

elleYou're invited to the birthday party of a dear friend and, as birthdays usually come on an annual basis, there is nothing unusual about this one...except, when you show up, it turns out to be a big set-up, getting you to partake in a surprise room escape game. So, Happy Birthday! Even if it's early or late or right on time, join the celebration in LiberTechno's festively made-up banquet hall replete with pretty balloons, scrumptious cake, chafers of fancy foods and clever puzzles in the form of wall decorations. What better way to escape the weekday than with a little party game called Aries Escape: Episode No.006?

Aries Escape: Episode No.006If you're familiar with LiberTechno's characteristic style, you should mostly feel right at home. In a large part, things work the same way here as in other episodes: a changing cursor will help you seek out active areas, inventory items are kept close at hand, and arrows indicate the directions you can turn so that all actions and navigation take no more effort than a simple click. In this case, though, a long banquet table in the center of the room makes getting around a little less simple, as it can be hard to change perspective and understand your movements. In some cases, this is helped along by arrows on the right and left so you can easily shift over even when in close view of the table. If you're able, keep an open document to make notes and paste in screenshots as this will aid your sleuthing quite a bit.

Not long into the shindig, perhaps you're feeling dizzy from navigating the long room or the sheer abundance of puzzles here—or maybe it's just a sugar hangover—but you'd like to get outside into that gloriously sunny day, wouldn't you? Then make a note to examine every ornament, every place setting, and every corner of this room as you can find. Don't think that, just because you don't see an easy way to reach a particular spot, that it isn't worth a look (sometimes you need to see its clue first, sometimes you need to try a new approach to get there).

Once you click around enough, you'll get a sense of where you're going. What's more challenging is determining which clues will lead to answers to which puzzles and codes; so many details abound just for the stubborness of existing, to divert your attention away from the real solutions. In this way, clues are hidden in plain sight, calling on your detective skills to uncover them. Great fun for those who are looking for more challenge and content in their escape, leading up to a giant feeling of satisfaction once you solve your way out. Now isn't that the best way to leave a party?

Play Aries Escape: Episode No.006

Note: To adjust the sound, select the tool icon and move the bottom slider to the left. Keep the top slider, which controls click sensitivity toward the right.


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Puzzle Retreat

JohnBSometimes a puzzle game comes along that's so smart and so well-made, you wonder why it wasn't created like a billion years ago or something. Puzzle Retreat from The Voxel Agents is one such game, combining elements from sokoban and a sliding block puzzle to create an impressively challenging game that is almost completely void of frustration. You just sit, stare, and play, all while marveling at the beautiful visuals before your eyes.

Puzzle RetreatThere are just two rules in Puzzle Retreat: fill in the gaps, and use all of the blocks. Tap an ice block and slide your finger to push it/them in any direction. Blocks slide over previously filled spaces until they land in an empty slot, and multiple blocks fall out like a series of dominos. It starts with simple blocks that distribute one, two or three cubes per slide, then progresses to include directional arrows and fire blocks that erase some of your hard work. It never gets too complicated, and one thing Puzzle Retreat does so remarkably well is keep everything simple, relaxing, and pleasingly full of challenge.

Puzzle Retreat could almost be played on an old wooden table with a few ice cubes. Except, that would be messy, and not nearly as varied. Plus: your grandmother's antique table! What were you thinking?! That homegrown simplicity is what makes it such a captivating game. The standard version includes almost 100 puzzles, and several puzzle packs are available to purchase if you run out of grids to fill. Until then, start up the logic side of your brain, and get ready to use the undo button!

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 (250 votes)
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Vortex Point

DoraWhen there's somethin' weird in the neighbourhood and the Ghost Busters won't return your messages, who else you gonna call? Lucky for you, Carmel Games has a new investigative team ready to solve all your spook-related issues, and in their creepy hometown, they're always busy. Vortex Point: Far Journeys is the first installment in a new point-and-click adventure series, and this time around you're solving the case of some missing gold bars that he thinks a ghost made off with... in fact, it seems like the whole town is suffering a rash of ghostly burglaries! Just click around to interact and pick up items, clicking on something once it's in your inventory to move it, or to move around town via the map.

Vortex PointThough still ultimately fairly straight-forward in terms of gameplay, Vortex Point is actually quite a bit flashier than other titles from Carmel Games in a way that makes it both more memorable, and feel like a more cohesive adventure. It's still sorta crazy, of course, with some (hilarious) gore popping up towards the end, and you'll need to be willing to experiment and think outside the pizza box in order to proceed, as well as tickle the old ivories. Also, here's a tip if you're thinking of getting into security work... if a guy who previously isn't on your visitor's list shows up claiming to be someone else, then gets anxious and leaves for a few minutes before coming back with the ID he couldn't produce when you asked for it, you should probably consider that a red flag. Still, Vortex Point: Far Journeys is a fun and freaky game and probably the only time you'll get to see a character casually say "take my magical crowbar" with a completely straight face, and that's something special.

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Fae


  • Currently 3.3/5
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Rating: 3.3/5 (43 votes)
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Fae

DoraWhen I was a little girl, my great grandmother used to tell me stories about the fae-folk back home in Scotland, but apparently she missed the one where they liked to hurl themselves around city rooftops while constantly exploding. Podbot's Fae is a challenging breakneck platformer where your goal is simply to get to the glowing portal in each stage without touching any red, which will instantly vaporize you and send you back to the start. Use the [arrow] keys or [WASD] and [spacebar] to move and jump, and keep moving since standing still is a very bad idea. Of course, considering how fast your sprightly in-game avatar moves, it's easy to find yourself hurtling past the platform you wanted to land on, or sprinting right into a laser with no time to react. Hey, at least you've got instant respawn, and the levels are as small as they are vicious. As a result, Fae is a very simple, stylish little game that will appeal to a certain crowd of players... probably the sort who went around with a mad gleam in their eyes and bandaids all over their knees as kids.

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The Vault

DoraYou know, reviewing games for a living is pretty sweet, but if I couldn't do this, I think I'd probably be a bridge guardian. You know. You'd want to pass over my really awesome bridge, and I'd be all, "Only if you answer my riddles three!" and if you got them wrong I'd get to use your hide as a throw rug or something. I haven't really thought it through, but I bet your parts are wicked useful. I just love puzzles, after all, the more creatively integrated the better, so here's three of the ones our audience has loved the best over the years!

  • Sprocket RocketSprocket Rocket - Go figure... whenever there's puzzling to be done, Wallace and Gromit are never far behind. Turns out they love it even more than they love cheese (which is a lot), and when you give Aardman the reigns to make them a new physics puzzle, something pretty magical happens. This time, it's all about building and piloting a craft that can perform certain objectives, and as you'd expect from an Aardman game, it's all done up with a fantastic style, sense of humour, and some seriously engrossing gameplay that gets you thinking as much as it keeps you entertained.
  • Specter Spelunker ShrinksSpecter Spelunker Shrinks - You have Ken Grafals to thank for this clever little puzzle platformer, which illustrates just how many neat ideas are still left out there if you're only willing to experiment. The game is short, focusing on showcasing its concept with style. Basically, our hero, Specter Spelunker... shrinks! But also grows. And you have to manipulate this ability on the fly to navigate your way through corridors and hazards as you shape your size. It's over far too soon, but it'll have you wishing and hoping that Specter Spelunker gets a full game of his own, because it really deserves it.
  • Blocks With Letters OnBlocks With Letters On - Martin Sears knows that anagrams can be exciting, and the Blocks With Letters On series has been charming and bedeviling players' brains for years now. It's simple... rearrange the tiles to spell the word hidden in the letters. The catch? As you try to maneuver letter blocks around, there is a lot that gets in your way, forcing you to navigate everything from switches, locks, and more, all with one great sense of humour tying it all together. It's the perfect solution for players who want to have their brains challenge, and also grin like madmen in the process.

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!


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

JohnBDungeonDiary by Windbell is an RPG mixed with a programming game. It sounds like an unusual combination, but the minute you get your hands on it you'll see the enormous potential it has. After your family suffered through a natural disaster, you're left with a massive debt and no way to pay it off. Except by going on adventures! Not a bad way to survive, until you realize that in order to get paid you'll collect more grasses and mushrooms than you knew existed, fight off hordes of bees and "sexy cats", and escort helpless citizens through the wilderness.

DungeonDiaryIn DungeonDiary you don't actually control your character. Instead, you learn, modify and arrange sets of rules to guide her through randomly generated dungeons filled with treasures, obstacles and enemies. The highest priority rules go at the top of the list and are checked first, so, for example, if you have "I will pick a random direction and walk there" above "I will continue to walk downwards", you will more likely step on a random tile than head down. These rules can be modified to help you avoid enemies, pick up or ignore items, escape when your health is low, and do just about anything you can imagine. There are dozens of them with hundreds of attributes to tinker with, making the possibilities for character control staggering. Best of all, you can watch these events take place (useful for analyzing your setup) or walk away and let your adventurer do the work in the background!

After succeeding (or failing) at a quest, you'll return to the game's main menu where you can chat with a friend for some advice (a brief tutorial), go to bed, pick a new quest, or head to the merchant's shop to deal with your inventory. You have limited space to carry stuff around and also limited movement points, so you should go to bed every once in a while to top off your stats. Sleeping also gives you a chance to repay part of your debt, which is how DungeonDiary determines progress. The more you pay, the more dungeons and quests you have access to. Occasionally the shopkeeper will also upgrade your stats when you take a nap, so no matter what happens, remember your personal banker is rooting for you!

DungeonDiaryAnalysis: Interesting ideas like this don't come along that often, so when you see a game like DungeonDiary, it's like a little treasure. Sure, the interface is clunky, the English translation is awkward, and there's a fair amount of grinding to be done, but since the core concept is so intriguing those issues only make it more endearing in the long run. It also makes the rule sharing feature almost essential to survival, giving you the ability to export your setup so you can help other players get a head start on the adventuring.

Beyond the rule arranging and general item management, DungeonDiary employs a very mild dress-up feature. Before you run off in a huff because you're too old for a dress-up game, know that it's little more than a handful of extra clothing accessories that can be worn or dyed and then saved as an image to share. See, that's not too bad, is it? For the record, though, it's a good thing wearing that shirt with those shoes doesn't attract enemies...

DungeonDiary isn't perfect, but the core idea is creative and massively intriguing. It's one of those games you'll come back to again and again during the day, just to see how your latest quest is going and see if you got any new clothes (er, useful bits of RPG armor) to wear. Without unleashing any spoilers, paying back your debt unlocks something nice, so keep at it and don't be afraid to explore every option the game has to offer!

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


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Mobile Monday

JohnBYou know you're in for a good week when a Magicka is announced for a mobile system! Maybe the new game will shed some more light on that whole Vlad-vampire mystery? Like, seriously, who would ever think he's a vampire? Ever?

magicka-p.gifDangerous elemental battles, Magicka style - So, Magicka is coming to iPad and Android tablets. That is, a version of Magicka reworked into a game that's somewhat similar to but also somewhat different than regular Magicka. Magicka: Wizards of the Square is an action-filled brawling game that uses the franchise's familiar spell casting elemental system for same-device multiplayer insanity. Cast spells, mix fire and water, and try not to kill your friends. Too often. No firm release date has been announced, but Wizards of the Square is expected within a few weeks.

lumino-p.gifMore Lume is on the way! - Lume, the fantastically stylish point and click game from State of Play, is about to get a sequel! Lumino City, a sequel to the fantastically stylish point-and-click game Lume, was recently announced by developer State of Play, and it's safe to say we're already in love. The world in Lume was created out of cardboard, wood and paper and then scanned for use in the game. Lumino City goes a step further and incorporates more refined cutting techniques and even has working motors and lights! Lumino City will be coming to mobile devices later this year, with downloadable versions hitting sometime in the spring.

little-p.gifLittle Inferno is now even littler - The Tomorrow Corporation has gone and smaller-ified its burning-centric physics puzzle game Little Inferno, shrinking it down to fit on your iPad. Ok, so it's not that much smaller, but you get the picture. The mobile realm is a natural fit for the game, and we have to admit it's a little more entertaining setting stuff on fire with touches and taps instead of mouse clicks. Check out our Little Inferno review for more bits of gushing praise!


(8 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller

TrickyHe knows what he's doing. The invitation to the graveyard on a moonless night in the midst of a raging thunderstorm? It's all part of the atmosphere for The Cain Killer's sick sense of ceremony and artifice. And even though you were supposed to come alone, nothing would stop your partner John from following. Those who don't think you're crazy say you have an "intuition" for looking into the past. Well, you probably are crazy, but that may be the only way you can save your brother. Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller is a planned series of four point-and-click mystery adventure games by Phoenix Online Studios, makers of The Silver Lining. Starting with The Hangman and continuing with the early 2013 release of The Wise Monkey, the series puts you in the role of FBI agent Erica Reed as she investigates a series of horrific murders, continuing the story across releases to keep the suspense as palpable as possible.

Cognition: An Erica Reed ThrillerClick to have Erica walk to a location, and if the cursor lights up, click again to examine, manipulate, or talk with your selected target. In the top left corner of the screen is your inventory which allows basic item usage along with combining objects. You also have a phone (what FBI agent doesn't?) that allows you to contact other agents, search for information, or call your father for a hint. Clicking the cognition icon allows Erica to use her so-named powers, highlighting objects she senses are unique and allowing you to peer into the past and, later in the game, reconstruct events that transpired.

Analysis: The first episode of Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller is a cinematic roller-coaster ride of a game. Like many movies, it dumps you straight into the story and doesn't let up until you've been thoroughly hit with plot, character, atmosphere and action. By the time it gives you a little room to breathe you may be feeling a bit overwhelmed. The second episode keeps the creepiness level high and pits Erica against a serial killer known as the Wise Monkey, smoothing out some of the rough points in the first chapter's gameplay quite nicely. It's worth noting that the story consultant for the Cognition series is Jane Jensen, game designer and author of Gabriel Knight as well as the Women's Murder Club hidden object series.

Cognition: An Erica Reed ThrillerPolice investigations are a natural fit for adventure games, and while the killer-with-intricate-themes concept may have gotten a little cliche about thirty minutes after the release of the first Saw movie, here it works quite well: it gives the usual sort of inventory puzzles at least minimal justification, and the writing is sufficient to push you in the right direction. (Albeit, sometimes without much subtlety: this reviewer had to suppress a chuckle early on when an object was described as being "a real fire hazard", and that it wasn't "a good idea" for a nearby candle to be so close to it. No points for guessing what happens next.) However, the real joy of Cognition is in its twisty, authentic, and very satisfying plot. Its complexity forces the pace of the overall game to be much slower than what the opening promises, but everyone loves a good procedural. It helps that Erica Reed is a strong protagonist with a real sense of depth to her motivations. While the supporting cast leans a bit closer to broad stereotypes, they are no less entertaining for it. A lot of that can be credited to the fine voice-acting team, especially Raleigh Holmes as the voice of Erica Reed, who lends the role just the right mix of toughness and vulnerability.

On the more negative side, the art is a decidedly mixed bag. All of the hand-drawn pieces and backgrounds are beautiful, but the 3D character models fall into the dull surprise of the uncanny valley. Their animation is good from afar, but those facial expressions had me wishing for sprites. Likewise, as quality as the voice acting team is, it is quite obvious that they didn't record their lines together, with the sort of mid-conversation "I'll stop talking so that the other person can interrupt me" pauses that hit like a speed bump. This situation wasn't helped by the occasionally intrusive bits of pre-dialogue loading. Finally, a few structural issues plague the middle-game, with a whole lot of revisiting locations to re-examine evidence you may have missed the first time around.

That being said, the Cognition series is off to a very good start. The Hangman is an excellent bit of crime fiction; a complete story in itself, while effectively laying the groundwork for later entries. At the time of writing, Chapter 2 has already been released, and the final two chapters are planned for 2013. All armchair detectives in the mood for a little darkness (and not allergic to colons in game titles) should definitely check it out.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


  • Currently 4.2/5
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Rating: 4.2/5 (37 votes)
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Wild Heroes

KimberlyThe magic castles of the realm must be protected in Wild Heroes, a tower defense game of heroic proportions from Global Pixel Studios. It's left to the bravest among us to face the foe and declare victory! If you've played tower defense games before, you'll be familiar with the basics. Instead of towers, you'll have heroes from among the animal kingdom to choose from. Click to select the hero you want, then click anywhere except on the path to place him or her. You'll find the occasional highlighted red spot which increases the power of the hero placed on it, and blue spots which increase range. By clicking on a placed hero, you can upgrade, sell, or choose a target priority. Heroes can be upgraded three times, with the third upgrade triggering the wild ability. The wild upgrade adds a special attack (above and beyond the standard attack) that occasionally triggers which really helps keep the monsters at bay. Each hero has unique abilities and strategic placement is key to beating back the enemy. In between levels you can use stars earned to upgrade a variety of things, as well as get more detailed information on your heroes or enemy units in the bestiary.

While not terribly innovative, Wild Heroes offers a solid tower defense game. It has all the amenities a good defense game should have: A fast forward button, three difficulty levels, a large map, achievements to be earned, and unlockable heroes and spells. So settle in! You've got some castles to save!

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  • Currently 4.4/5
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Rating: 4.4/5 (117 votes)
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Pixel People

DoraJust because the world has ended and you're the only one left doesn't mean humanity is doomed. Why, with a little cash and some genetic material there's nothing you can't do... in spaaaaaaaaaaace! LambdaMu does the impossible by making the apocalypse adorable and addictive in the free iOS sim Pixel People, putting you in charge of rebuilding a starbound utopia from clones and cash. As the mayor of this newfound floating paradise, you'll be responsible both for building your town as you see fit and managing the incoming clones by splicing them with DNA you have on hand to create different types of people with different jobs. It's not playing God, it's... okay, yeah, it's totally playing God. Am I alone in expecting an inevitable expansion where all the clones go berserk, and the Mayor, played by Bruce Willis, has to escape? And along the way, he meets and falls in love with a young nurse, who is of course one of his clones, and also played by Bruce Willis? Man, that's going to be sweet.

Pixel PeopleYou don't have much to your utopia other than a few floating squares of land, but that'll change soon. The tutorial will walk you through the basics, but the gist is clones periodically arrive at the Arrival Center, and when they do, you splice 'em. Tapping on a clone will give you a list of all the options you have available, and you need to pick two that turn the vial in the center of the screen pink to create a new job. Essentially, this means rebuilding society boils down to a sort of Doodle God combination mechanism... 150 combos in all. When your new job is created, you may find it comes with a building, and you get to choose where to build it. Once it's been built, you can set your people to work in their appropriate locations, where they'll generate cash for you, which is spent on buying new housing or expanding land. Land is extremely important, since the amount you have dictates how much you can build, so make a point of buying expansions whenever possible. All of this takes time, naturally, so you'll have to keep checking to make the most of your society. If you have some, rare Utopium (found randomly, granted through bonuses, or just bought via microtransactions) can be spent to instantly speed up any process. Even in space, money greases the wheels.

Apart from splicing, you'll have to do some general maintenance around town. Buildings need to be repaired periodically when the blue and yellow lightning bolt symbol appears above them, so tap to fix whenever you see it. You'll also notice hearts start to appear on your residential buildings, and whenever that happens, tap to open the building's screen, and then tap and hold on the heart til it expands to gather it. Get enough of them, and you'll earn a random surprise ranging from animals to cash and more. Your town's buildings do more than just generate moolah, too. Tap on a building to get a general overview of it, and you'll discover that certain establishments either grant you a passive bonus, like the bank doubling the output of all full buildings, or an upgrade you can buy, spending a donation of Utopium at the church for more land.

Pixel PeopleAnalysis: Pixel People is one of those games that seems almost too simple on first contact, and yet you can't quite keep yourself from coming back to it again and again. The problems boil down to two shared by virtually all similar freemium games... repetition and busywork. It just doesn't offer a whole lot of depth for the player to actually take part in, but you can't really leave the game alone for long since even springing for the optional upgrade granted by the enterprise complex, which doubles the time between repairs for all buildings, everything still breaks down with annoying alacrity. This becomes more of an issue the longer you play, as the time for objectives to complete stretches out into hours, and you'll probably wish you had more to keep you busy. Not that watching your itty-bitty populace zip around and numbers pop up all over the screen isn't... perplexingly hypnotizing...

It's sort of the ultimate casual simulation, then, where its appeal comes from its gorgeous pixel style and artwork, and its vibrant sense of humour. Puns are everywhere, as are pop culture references, and the game's style and presentation are simply top notch. The amount of detail gone into rendering the architecture is amazing, and it makes you wish you could, say, tap on a building to zoom in and see what's going on inside it. The longer you play, the more you'll find yourself struggling to make the most of your space, though happily the game doesn't charge you anything to move and reorganise your city's establishments whenever you feel like it. If you find yourself tempted to pay for more Utopium, you'll be pleased to find you never feel pressured to do so, and the spending feels remarkably balanced, especially given how fast you earn cash. As a result, it's absolutely perfect, relaxing, virtual fishbowl style gaming that brings out the big guns when it comes to charm and style. There really need to be more bright, cheerful casual games out there that fit in your pocket, and even when more eventually come our way, there's no doubt that Pixel People will remain one of the brightest. Happy apocalypse, everybody!

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


  • Currently 4/5
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Rating: 4/5 (149 votes)
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Elf Story

elleIt's the familiar RPG drill: a magical, mysterious entity taps the shoulder of a humble, non-hero to embark on a god-chosen quest to rescue a girl in trouble. Assuming the role of Edwin, you're transported through a fateful portal to face evils unbeknownst to the ordinary world and to complete your own Elf Story, a point-and-click adventure from Eric Posas of ESP Animation that is as much about supping up the viscerally animated details as the gameplay itself.

Elf StoryIncorporating elements of narrative adventures and action RPGs, Elf Story's only controls are a sometimes changing cursor which directs when and where you can click as well as the occasional tutorial guidance to prompt your actions. Begin your "Call to Adventure" in Edwin's bedroom and, after a multi-threaded dialogue with his spiritual guide, head out into the realm of danger with whatever weapons you have found, bought or traded for. Most the fun comes from discovering the goodness hidden in each scene. Explore carefully: because there is no backtracking, all discoveries must be accomplished at just the right moment or forever hold your peace. All of the challenge comes from figuring out just how to survive despite some nebulous battle mechanics with extremely precise timing and hot spots, making gameplay both simple and tricky.

While Elf Story is overflowing with gory sights and subtle parody, it's surprisingly short, ending suddenly after a few enemy encounters and an almost arbitrary boss battle against an ugly ogre. It also isn't a game for everyone—some will love it, some will send me hate mail for suggesting it. To those seeking a cohesive story, merry adventure and a user-friendly interface, here is a glistening puddle of frustration you'd do well to step over. But for those who love racking up awards for every success and fail, and who delight in discovering the many ways to kill or die in an oozing, bloody chaos of body parts, Elf Story is a deeply satisfying pool of entertainment into which you can dive and splash about happily.

Play Elf Story


  • Currently 4.8/5
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Rating: 4.8/5 (100 votes)
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Antichamber

ArtbegottiAs you stumble through the hallways of Alexander Bruce's Antichamber, you might think to yourself, "Gee, that wasn't so hard." And that's all well and good, except you'll eventually come to realize you've said that about the last twenty puzzles. And that immediately before completing the puzzles, you repeatedly slammed a hardcover dictionary against your forehead to try to knock the natural gaming instincts out of your brain before you continued. Antichamber is all about tackling each puzzle with an open mind, as the game tries to make you forget which way is up. (We're not entirely sure, but we think forgetting which way is up might be the answer to at least one puzzle.)

AntichamberIt's hard to speculate if there's any definite plot in Antichamber, but it's safe to say that your goal is to work your way through each puzzle as it bends the rules of the universe to work around you. You can move with [WASD], look around with the mouse, jump with [space] and walk slowly using [shift]. How you move and how you look at the world are incredibly important, as very little in the Antichamber is as it seems and trying new perspectives is tantamount to progressing. It also helps to be observant of your surroundings, as sometimes the solution is waiting in a subtle change to a wall (or perhaps the entire wall itself).

Antichamber is set in an M. C. Escher-inspired world of impossible structures and hallways that seem to double back on themselves with no regard to real-life physics. These "impossible" scenarios play an important part in challenging how you choose to solve a puzzle, such as one early puzzle in which you are presented with two staircases, one leading up, the other down, and have to either complete circuits of stairs until you climb to a solution, or find another way out of the loop. Many puzzles require you to take the tricks you've learned in previous levels (or, the gaming adages you've had to abandon) and apply them in new ways to reach new areas. With each puzzle solved (sometimes with each attempt at a puzzle), you'll be provided with a small drawing and quip to illustrate the lessons you've learned through your efforts. Soak these in, because they're often the only clues you get to explain the bizarre world around you.

When I first spoke with the developer, Alexander Bruce, about this game at PAX East, he described it as a game that was meant to subvert every gaming norm that you might be familiar with, and he undoubtedly succeeded in doing so. The puzzles require you to slip into a mindset you probably don't get to use anywhere else, and perhaps for a good reason. (Bruce told me a story of one person who, after playing a bit of the game at the convention, attempted to leave the computer area by crawling through the structure holding up a display monitor, nearly knocking it over. Another patron saw this happening and remarked, "If that's what this game is going to do to me, I'm afraid to play it.")

While I can't say I've experienced any psychedelic effects from playing this game, Antichamber really does make you think in a way you probably haven't before, and it's an amazing feeling. Even though the puzzles jab at your brain with a pointy stick, they still do so in a comfortable environment that invites you to be curious. The world is meant to be explored, and you're never discouraged from doing so. If you're up for the challenge, put your thinking hat rack on (because one thinking cap just won't do) and see if you can escape from the Antichamber. (Although in fairness, we should entertain the possibility that by solving the puzzles, we aren't escaping the Antichamber, but digging further into it. Ah, subversion.)

WindowsWindows:
Get the full version (via Steam)

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


  • Currently 4.6/5
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Rating: 4.6/5 (40 votes)
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The Great Work

JohnBSurprise! Just a few weeks after Knytt Underground made its appearance, Nifflas has released a brand new game! The Great Work is a platform adventure deeply inspired by the Knytt series that follows the metroidvania outline of interconnected passageways strewn with items that grant new abilities and access to new areas. Featuring an alchemy-infused story, The Great Work was made to help promote Bautafilm's latest film that follows the story of Christer Böke, a man who took a year off from his job to become a full-time alchemist.

The Great WorkYou are the apprentice to Fulcanelli, an alchemist who thinks he has just produced a philosopher's stone. Your job is to transmute the stone to gold. How you do that is anybody's guess. Not wanting to disappoint, you head out into the dusk-drenched world and encounter other alchemists, items both useful and mysterious, transmutation furnaces, and hosts of natural barriers to block your progress. Pretty much a normal day for a platform adventurer.

Use the [arrows] keys to move and [S] to jump. The [A] and [D] keys allow you to open your inventory, swap objects, and equip certain items. Trading is a big part of The Great Work, and just about everyone you meet in this minimalist game wants something, has something to give you, or both! All you have to do to make these trades is move objects from your inventory box to the other person's. Some items can even be equipped, supplying you with new abilities like wall climbs, higher jumps, faster feet, or even overhead ceiling grabs!

The Great WorkAnalysis: The Great Work was a surprise release from Nifflas, but who doesn't love a good surprise? It has the general atmosphere of a Knytt release with a lot of the platforming mechanics to match. The alchemy storyline is handled well, never overwhelming you with details, and the emphasis on item collection/transmutation makes it feel just a bit like an RPG. Best of all, The Great Work is an open source, meaning you can grab a copy of Multimedia Fusion 2 and tinker around with the code to your heart's content.

For a free multiplatform release made by a well-known indie game developer, it's hard to find fault with The Great Work. It's a textbook Nifflas adventure, complete with soothing visuals, beautiful ambient music, and plenty of opportunities to get lost in passageways as you attempt to circle your way back. It's not an overly difficult or complex game, just perfect for an afternoon or two of exploration.

WindowsWindows:
Get the free full version

Mac OS XMac OS X:
Get the free full version
Note: A few users with Mac OS 10.6.8 have reported issues running the game.

LinuxLinux:
Get the free full version


  • Currently 4.7/5
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Rating: 4.7/5 (49 votes)
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Dream House Days

DoraWhat does it take to be a landlord? Well, according to Kairosoft's latest free Android simulation Dream House Days, more than a keen eye for flattering curtains and well-maintained bathtubs. You've got to be willing to meddle in the lives of your tenants to a shocking degree, from love life to career and beyond. It's not invasive... it's what they expect, in fact! Over the course of twenty years, you'll be responsible for building and maintaining not only a growing complex of apartments, but the well-being and recruitment of all the people living within. That, uh. Sort of sounds like a lot of pressure.

Dream House DaysInitially, all you'll have is a single apartment and tenant, so spend some time experimenting with his (or her) life for your own edutainment. It's up to you to buy furnishings that impact not only the comfort and incoming rent of each apartment, but can increase the stats of the people living inside... important for everything from finding a job to growing a family. You can even make separate rooms by selecting and laying down different flooring. Don't get too carried away, though, since furnishings cost you money, and you need to take into consideration the overall income of the person renting or they won't be able to pay the full amount. Just keep an eye on your currencies. Cash is self-explanatory, but research points are used to get new items as well as buy certain things, and the extremely rare tickets can be used to buy particular items or purchase "scratches" that let you get a shot at getting rare items for free. If you don't like the ads at the bottom of the screen, you can upgrade to an ad-free version via an in-game purchase, or get extra tickets the same way if you so desire. Tickets are also earned one for both each title you earn, and every seven minutes of actual playtime (paid upon restarting the game).

Dream House DaysWhile you won't have much to do initially other than watch your peeps putter about and occasionally bequeath a massage chair from the heavens if you're feeling generous, over time you'll have more to keep you busy as you have more tenants to manage. To grow your fledgling apartment complex, select an empty apartment and choose to recruit prospective tenants, who will show up after a certain time to tour the place. If you've made it comfortable and appealing, you could have more than one potential renter to choose from. It's not all about money when it comes to renters, however, so don't automatically lean towards Mister Moneybags every time. Things like skill level, job, personality, and even relationships are important to consider, and sometimes someone with a lower deposit might have more to offer you in the long run. From time to time, your people will come to you seeking advice on everything from their jobs and schooling to romance, and the advice you give them (as well as whatever you might be willing to pay to help them along) determines their success. Eventually, you'll have entire families in your apartments as the tenants grow and age, including pets. With jobs ranging from adventurer to movie star and beyond, it all comes down to whether you're willing to fork out the cash to buy them what they need to succeed. Which... sounds actually nothing like actually renting an apartment, unless I've been doing it wrong all along.

Like all Kairosoft titles, Dream House Days takes a long time to really get rolling, and you'll spend a lot of time just hunched over your phone watching your tenants trundle about like the world's creepiest omnipresent voyeur. (Please at least scroll away when they start grunting and sighing on the toilets.) The game is essentially an extremely pared down version of the Sims, where the limited player interaction winds up turning it almost into a sort of sea-monkeys-eque toy. Considering the price tag, however (free!), it's entirely worth giving it a shot because once you've spent some time unlocking things the game really does become queerly addictive. Watching your little people grow up, grow old, get married, and become successful really is satisfying, and the sheer variety of items to unlock and place lets you really design some intricate apartments. Dream House Days may not have too much depth, but it just might be one of the most casually enjoyable sims you can put your hands on and have trouble putting down. Colourful, silly, and a lot of fun, Dream House Days is the perfect way to fill your time and get creative.

NOTE: This game was played and reviewed on the HTC One S. 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 (250 votes)
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EvoLand

DoraThe next time you catch yourself gearing up to complain that a game won't let you save wherever you want, remember that there was a time when games didn't have saves at all. Or colours other than "green-y, blackish". Nicolas Cannasse takes us back in time with EvoLand, a short action adventure/interactive art piece made in just 48 hours for Ludum Dare by Shiro Games that will remind you just how good you've got it. In the beginning, all you can do is move to the right, but as you open chests, you'll unlock everything from more abilities, enemies, NPCs and quests, to graphical improvements, sounds, and even game mechanic upgrades. Move with the [arrow] keys or [WASD], and use the [spacebar] to swing your sword when you get it. Be sure to avoid enemies initially since a single hit will kill you, and until you've unlocked save points, that means you'll have to restart the entire game. Because that was how we rolled back in "the day" and now you young whippersnappers get to experience it for yourselves instead of just listening to us oldsters wax on cantankerously about it from the comfort of our porch-bound rocking chairs.

EvoLand is a simple but effective little idea, and a great trip down memory lane. If you're old enough that you actually lived through the periods of evolution on display here (rather than only having heard about them as ominous legends left to the mists of time), it's definitely going to make you dewy-eyed with nostalgia. Of course, the problem with making an old-school game is that you come into old-school problems, like the annoying kick back to the title screen upon instant death and really, really straight-forward gameplay. It also would have been neat if the game had seen fit to weave a bit of facts into the gameplay as you unlocked each advancement, like telling you exactly which game and when was the first to implement save points. Especially since the game sort of feels like it runs out of ideas partway through. EvoLand might be short, however, but it's a great example of how far we've come and what we've got to be thankful for.

The game is also up for Steam Greenlight voting. If you like the game and would like to see it on Steam, please vote for it.

Play EvoLand


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Link Dump Fridays

DoraThis week, the Best of 2012 voting competition drew to a close, but 2013 is just gaining steam. As we gear up to several big indie releases later this year, like Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs and Slender: The Arrival, there's still plenty to keep us busy in the meantime, and look forward to beyond!

News and Previews

Best of 2012And the Winner is... In case you missed it, the results are finally in for Best of 2012, ranking all the games in every category as determined by your own votes. Taking top prize with the lofty designation of Game of the Year was Amanita Design's own stunning point-and-click adventure Botanicula, and the winners in other categories are no less fantastic. If you haven't already, make sure to take a stroll through all the top five games because they really are tremendous (you have a lot to live up to, 2013), but stay well clear of The Fabulous Screech if you aren't in the mood to absolutely shower yourself and everything around you with hysterical tears.

Leap DayItty Bitty Procrastination Committee If you liked Spry Fox's Triple Town, then you might just be interested to know that their latest game, Leap Day, has just entered open beta! It's a co-op strategy game that's all about directing your little workers to build bigger and better things as you lay down the land, and with some seriously squee-able graphics, a friendly tutorial, and free registration, there's no reason you shouldn't give this one a shot right now. I mean... unless you had things you were supposed to actually do today.

Kickstarter Projects

Ritual DementiaFun, Family, and Nightmarish Reality Randomly generated adventure in a world already conquered by a nightmarish horror? Sounds good to me! Sithog's Ritual Dementia for PC, Mac, and Linux will see you as a Paglin, a member of a tribe being hunted for its souls and used as slaves after their world was overthrown by the Lord Behind the Door. Will you succeed in your quest to eventually liberate your people? Probably not right away. But what's neat is that through the game's family system, you can breed heroes throughout generations with new and more powerful abilities, and even rebuild the world's ecosystem! This one looks like it could be a ton of fun, so be sure to check it out.

AsylumIt Looks So Welcoming, Too Agustin Cordes is best known for the creepy indie horror adventure Scratches, and now he's looking to kick things up a notch with Asylum, a Lovecraft-inspired point-and-click adventure game set in a massive asylum. Details of the story are deliberately being kept under wraps, which might turn away some potential investors, but the Kickstarter also currently offers a playable demo, of sorts, and promises that the Asylum itself will feature over 100 rooms to explore, as well as tons of backstory and "genuinely disturbing" horror. It's also already been Greenlit by Steam! Scratches was a surprise sleeper hit, and if Asylum can live up to its roots, this is going to be one seriously cool adventure.

Miscellany

Hatoful Boyfriend: Holiday StarCarve it Into Your Heart! Whenever non-gamers ask me what the weirdest game I've ever reviewed is, I always like to talk about Hatoful Boyfriend, the visual novel adventure where you play a human girl attending a school for pigeons for romance and mystery, both because it's true and it always sounds like I'm making stuff up. Well, if like me you've got a hankering for more, be sure to check out the Christmas-themed Hatoful Boyfriend: Holiday Star, which features seasonal stories in episodic form. The downside is that this is not a game, with bare minimum player interaction, focusing instead on telling a story, and lacking the initial nutso surreal smack of absurdity present in the first game, it isn't quite as legendary. It is, however, cute and sweet as all get out, and definitely worth a look (and a read) if you're a fan.

Matul RemritLittle Heroes. Big Legends. I always get mildly resentful hearing people talk about Dwarf Fortress because it remains one of those ludicrously involved yet intriguing games I'll never quite get my head around. But lots of people have, and boy howdy do they ever have adventures worth coveting. Matul Remrit is one of the biggest and best examples, a years-long illustrated tale of one gaming session packed with some seriously well-written style and beautiful artwork. It's more than enough to make you think about picking the game up for yourself (and why not, since it's free!), and stands as an enduring testament to the passion it's sparked in some players.

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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