April 2013 Archives


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The Nightjar

JohnBThe most frightening things are often the ones you can't see. It stands to reason, then, that in a world where nothing is visible, just about everything is frightening. The Nightjar is an audio adventure from Papa Sangre that uses a rudimentary visual interface to allow you to explore a sci-fi horror adventure world. Every sound has a meaning, and every step moves you through a dark labyrinth of mental images. Now let's see if you can escape this ship you've been stranded on without getting eaten by one of those "complex, non-human" lifeforms!

The NightjarNavigating The Nightjar requires you to listen and locate sounds then use a few simple visual controls to move through the world. Alternate tapping the left and right "tracks" on the screen to walk, your feet making appropriate noises on every surface they strike. To turn left or right, simply swipe the top of the screen. Sounds appear to come from different locations as you move and pivot. The game often requires you to seek out a particular sound (a door lock release, for example), then find the exit to continue. That isn't to say there aren't some twists in the gameplay, however...

As the story progresses, The Nightjar becomes more of a frightening place. It's a strong story-driven game and puzzles are presented at their absolute minimum. There are 14 chapters in all, each lasting just a few minutes for around an hour of gameplay in all. It's a bit on the short side, but the experience is absolutely worth it. And yes, that's the voice of Benedict Cumberbatch you hear!

Get ready for one of the most frighteningly lifelike games on any mobile device. When a world exists only as words and sounds in your ears, you'll be surprised at the horrifying images your brain conjures up.

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


  • Currently 3.8/5
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Rating: 3.8/5 (107 votes)
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Escape from the Similar Rooms 2

DoraI've got a fever, and the only cure is more escape games! Luckily prolific developer Hottategoya is back for more with Escape from the Similar Rooms 2. As before, you've got three seemingly identical rooms, each with their own puzzle to solve before you eventually escape, and with no inventory, success largely comes down to examining everything around you while going "Hmmmmm" in a very wise, scholarly fashion. It's not a particularly long game, or a challenging one, where simple logic and observation rule the day, and so for many of you this is going to be over almost before it starts. Hopefully somewhere down the road we'll meet up with a real Hottategoya behemoth of a game that will give us a real meaty challenge, but in the meantime, these little bites pf gameplay will do just fine... even if you probably would need a whole handful of them to satisfy.

Play Escape from the Similar Rooms 2


  • Currently 4.2/5
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Rating: 4.2/5 (130 votes)
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This is Not a Minimalist Game

DoraMade in just 48 hours for Ludum Dare's Minimalism competition, StormAlligator's This is Not a Minimalist Game is a retro-sy adventure that looks ordinary until a curse downgrades your high-tech world into something much simpler. And all you wanted to do was chop off his head to complete your quest... how rude! Use the [arrow] keys to move and jump, [X] and [C] to select dialogue options, and the number keys to select items or open your map. You'll need to think outside the box in order to restore the world... which is going to be tricky since boxes are all you get. To begin with, that is.

This is Not a Minimalist GameThough ultimately a short game, which is to be expected given its teeny-weeny development window, This is Not a Minimalist Game is fun and satisfying in the same sort of vein as Evoland... albeit with even less bells and whistles. It might even be a bit too simple for some players since the story is somewhat underdeveloped to go with the gameplay, though the ending has a cute twist that feels like a punchline. It may approach the competition's theme from a different angle, but This is Not a Minimalist Game has a neat idea that begs for more fleshing out in the future... although that would probably break our poor protagonist's mind even further.

Play This is Not a Minimalist Game


  • Currently 3.7/5
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Rating: 3.7/5 (28 votes)
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Wings Over Water

elleBeautiful music, moonlight reflected on the sea and birds gliding on the wind: things that are peaceful and relaxing and sweetly simple. Not what you'd ordinarily expect when you think arcade avoidance games, which drums up images of a stress inducing frantic frenzy to accumulate high scores. Yet Wings Over Water is, as you'd expect from any Orisinal creation, a deft melding of serenity and gameplay. Use your mouse to control as you travel vertically along your route avoiding hawks and other obstacles. Increase your score by gathering little blue birds who follow behind and make avoidance more challenging. To ease your task, a click temporarily joins them all together yet uses energy while bonus floating stars will replenish it. Wings Over Water is a lovely, peaceful excursion that also happens to be a game. Enjoy!

Play Wings Over Water


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The Vault

TrickyGet ready to be metagrobolized, lovers of ludo, by this week's collection of confounding complexities from the JayIsGames archives. That's right, in this installment, puzzles take the forefront, as The Vault features quality works from casual gaming past. Certainly it's a wide-open genre, but whether you like your puzzles with a side of strategy, adventure, or luck, the subsequent selection is sure to satisfy.

  • MagnetismMagnetism - It's always interesting to see where popular authors got their start, and doubly so if they secretly knocked it out of the park the first time. Tyler Glaeil may be best known these days for his work on Closure and Aether, but as a 14-year old he made his debut with 2005's Magnetism, an excellent ball-dropping blend of physics and strategy. Though a little rough around the edges graphically, Magnetism spotlights both Glaeil's talent for conceptualizing intriguing gaming ideas, and his skill at implementing them in his programming. It may have been a long road from "High-Difficulty Ball Bearing/Magnet Simulator" to "Experimental Metaphysical Shadowy Exploration Platformer", but clearly, the ride got off to a good start.
  • Industrial Place ThingyIndustrial Place Thingy - I tell ya, I'm just about always in the mood for a helping-a-hapless-stickdude-make-his-way-across-an--obstacle-filled-screen-by-clicking-the-various-objects-in-his-environment kinda game, and 2005's Industrial Place Thingy by James Trofe is a perfect way to satisfying that craving. Certainly, the debt it owes to the Hapland series is huge, but Industrial Place Thingy holds it own with clever puzzle design and a deliciously dark streak in its physical humor. Be sure to check out its sadly-incompete sequel too!
  • ReelzReeelz - Oh, slot machines! The flashing lights! The clanging sounds! The thrill of finally getting a "Nothing But Calories" or "Lunar Outpost" bonus combo! Okay, that last one is only a factor in Reeelz, released in 2010 by Game In A Bottle. Reeelz's gambling veneer hides a work of surprising strategic depth, as you nudge and lock the seven wheels to achieve the specific sets of icons needed to clear the board. As addictive as a real one-armed bandit, but with no cupfull of quarters required, Reeelz will win you over with its elegant simplicity. Jackpot!

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 4.4/5
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Rating: 4.4/5 (29 votes)
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Robot Unicorn Attack 2

SuzanneTo be a robot unicorn, galloping through the futuristic landscape straight from a prog album cover while feeling the wind in your luxurious mane, dashing recklessly through glittering stars and smashing into your component robot parts when you misjudge that one tricky jump... Robot Unicorn Attack 2 by PikPok and Adult Swim is a candy-coated cream puff of a game with a tough-as-nails center. In short, a new endless runner superstar.

Robot Unicorn Attack 2You are a glorious robot unicorn and you must do what all glorious robot unicorns do: run and jump and chase your high score in a pre-teen girl's fever dream made flesh. Running is automatic, so all you have to do is focus on jumping and dashing by tapping on the left and right sides of your screen. While the basic gameplay is the same, the number of improvements made to the original Robot Unicorn Attack are staggering. Daily and community goals, team challenges, unlockables, power/ups, and enemies to fight: a continuous flow of new goodies provides a compulsive and motivating meta/game. Collect tears, the game's currency, during your runs to purchase upgrades that make your unicorn better, faster, stronger, as well as cooler-looking. Every day brings new treats to the land of the Robot Unicorns, refreshing the stage layout and daily challenges.

There are, of course, a few clouds threatening this otherwise perfect land: RUA2 moves to a free-to-play structure with interstitial ads and in-app purchases for extra features and currency. While this is a controversial choice and some may long for a one-price unlock fee, the flow of currency is constant and fair. Perhaps one of the most necessary in-app purchases of all time unlocks Erasure's "Always" as background music. Yet the payment structure is a minor complaint in the face of the impressive feat PikPok has done: updating a ubiquitous mobile classic without losing the original's joyous soul. Go Team Rainbow!

NOTE: This game was played and reviewed on the 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 2.8/5
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Rating: 2.8/5 (85 votes)
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Canoniac Launcher 2

AliceRemember Jimmy, the shop mannequin who dreamed of becoming a crash dummy? When we last left him, he'd launched himself so high that he shot into space like a rocket and, after a few asteroid-related mishaps, landed on an alien planet. As it turns out, this world is a dangerous place, but some things stay the same no matter where you go... like cannons. There's always a cannon. And so, Jimmy decides to do what he does best: launch himself into the air, take a few bullets, save up for some upgrades, and flail around ridiculously whenever he smashes into something. It's time for Canoniac Launcher 2, a new action-packed launch title brought to you by FunBunGames.

Canoniac Launcher 2The original Canoniac Launcher was fun, but had some notable flaws. It's always good when a developer is willing to learn from their mistakes, and that seems to be the case here— gone are the unclear ending goals, the excruciatingly expensive upgrades, the unbalanced prices... well, mostly. I stuck with the Tornado a little longer than strictly necessary. Unfortunately, these improvements come at the expense of some of the game's charm. There's nothing wrong with the new, cartoonier art style, but it's a very common look for this type of game... and with more standard play on top of that change, Canoniac Launcher 2 feels more like any old launcher than like the original.

And again, there's nothing really wrong with that. It's still a great diversion, and Jimmy still does all those wonderful flailing motions. Hopefully the developer can strike a better balance between originality and improvement next time, but if you're a fan of launchers, this one comes recommended.

Play Canoniac Launcher 2


  • Currently 3.4/5
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Rating: 3.4/5 (94 votes)
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Heavy Room

ellePerhaps, when discussing escape-the-room games, things tend to get a little heavy. In the best of ways, of course, over the weighty matter of puzzle logic and intuitive design and which game designer has the best hair. Wait, not that last part. What isn't disputed, though, is how much we enjoy the opportunity to lighten up the load of the day with a good escape. Heavy Room by Triple Rock is a great example of this.

Heavy RoomIn case you're new to the escape game conversation, here's the gist of it: the door is locked, you're stuck inside, so click the edges of the screen to move around and start looking for signs and clues to decipher the exit code. Your cursor will change over interactive areas and items you can pick up. The text is in Japanese but if you don't read it, don't worry. Examine everything at hand, employ deductive reasoning and, with a small measure of effort, you'll figure you way through all four rooms and out the final door. It's possible to quip that the layout's convoluted or the puzzles easily brute-forced, yet it's hard to mind that much when the theme is cohesive and the game is overall enjoyable to play. Simple, quick and perfectly logical, Heavy Room is balanced just right for an anytime mini-escape.

Play Heavy Room


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Mobile Monday

JohnBMore clones! And not the good kind, either. The kind that science gives us to be members of our band. The bad kind that forces developers to get all litigious. Making games > being litigious.

factory-p.gifFactory Balls going portable - From the mahogany-stained desk of Bart Bonte comes a little teaser that's worth its weight in awesome. Accompanying the image shown to the right, Bonte recently tweeted the following message: "I can't keep this any longer to myself, this is happening very soon: Factory Balls going mobile!". Looks like we'll get a nice iOS version of the puzzle game before too long! In the meantime, give the Factory Balls browser series a play, just to get warmed up and all.

dp-p.gifPlunder ye morree dungeeons - New stuff for Dungeon Plunder! The roguelike RPG meets slot machine game is still going strong, and the new update is the biggest yet. Two new classes have been added &emdash; the Ranger and the Monk &emdash; which can be unlocked via a small in-app purchase. The monk is a melee specialist that uses martial arts to dispatch baddies, while the ranger uses a pet to attack and the new range mechanic to stay out of harm's way. That's a lot of new content for an already well-stocked game. Check out our Dungeon Plunder review for the full scoop.

skyfar-p.gifVlambeer Clone Wars - Wanna clone a game and release it for iOS devices? It seems like Vlambeer's games are the ones to copy! The studio had a rough time with Ridiculous Fishing being cloned and released before the real version was ready, and now the studio's Luftrausers has suffered the same fate with an eerily similar game called SkyFar hitting the iTunes App Store. A lot of "am not!" "are too!" e-mails will be thrown around for awhile, but hopefully Vlambeer can settle the matter and get back to making games instead of defending their properties. Sheesh.

beeleader-p.gifFree App of the Week: Bee Leader - Each week on the iTunes App Store, Apple drops a single release down to the tasty price of "free". This week, that freebie is Bee Leader, a simple arcade game starring a bee searching for nectar. Tilt or touch your way through the gorgeous levels as you gather bee buddies to help in your quest to make honey.


(4 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Enigma Agency: The Case of Shadows

DoraYou've had a bad dream that your boss, John, is in trouble, but somehow neither that nor the address you find mysteriously written on your bathroom mirror screams "bad news" quite as much as the glowing purple nether-portal you arrive to find swirling above his house. Turns out John was contracted by a shady client to track down a map, but ever since he's gotten it, his house has been acting weird... you know... mysterious black vapor emerging from the faucets and electronics sort of weird. Before you know it, you're caught up in a struggle against an ancient evil... and the ridiculously elaborate security measures in John's house. Seriously bro, what if you have to go to the bathroom but you can't because you're missing one half of an intricate puzzle lock? Meridian 93 delivers a cinematic and engaging hidden-object adventure with Enigma Agency: The Case of Shadows.

Enigma Agency: The Case of ShadowsUnfortunately for our bad guy, you're destined to win because you have the power of Click. Clicking lets you gather items, solve puzzles, hidden-object scenes, and navigate around. Your map won't let you travel around by clicking on it, but it will show any objectives you have in each area when you mouse over it. If you're stuck, the hint button will lead you right to your next objective and indicate what you should do to proceed. Unlike a lot of games in the genre, The Case of Shadows benefits from what seems like a real concentrated effort to make most of its puzzles unique and standout. Clues to solving them tend to be hidden everywhere, and the return of Rube Goldberg machines are always welcome, but the sheer variety and number on display is sort of staggering.

The downside is that the game also feels like its burdened with a lot of busywork and long, drawn-out tasks, during which the story grinds to a halt so you can do important things like solve three puzzles and gather ten items just to get someone a glass of water. The result is a long game, with enough puzzles and obstacles to satisfy almost anyone, but a game that's also long primarily because it does so much back-and-forth. Fortunately, it's also lovely to look at, and the sheer heft of its gameplay combined with its otherworldly storyline means you'll be wrapped up with this one for a satisfying length of time no matter what difficulty you play on. Though its pacing is somewhat uneven and I could personally do with a bit less of the whole persistent "malicious evil shaman" theme in games in general, on the whole the game sets the bar remarkably high. Packed with puzzles both clever and challenging and a story that will send you trotting across the globe to put things right, Enigma Agency: The Case of Shadows is flashy and fun and well worth checking out.

Note: 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.


(1 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Crabitron

JohnBCrabitron from Two Lives Left (creator of Cargo-Bot) is a mobile arcade game that lets you live the life of a giant space crab. Using your giant space claws, crush vehicles and fend off space enemies as you turn space stuff into space lunch. There's nothing about those sentences that isn't awesome, and Crabitron goes out of its way to remind you that being a giant space crab is just that.

CrabitronHow do you pilot a giant space crab? By manning the claws, of course. Using two fingers from each of your hands, touch either side of both pincers and use them like real crab claws. Yes, we know you've pretended to be a crab before, so don't act like it's not second nature. Now simply grab, squeeze and crush anything that flies by, dumping debris into your mouth for points and using your tough claws to protect your soft arms from harm.

Crabitron is built upon a mission-based structure similar to most mobile arcade games. Venture out in space, crushing and eating things until your wimpy arms eventually fall victim to excessive damage. When the round is over, take your earned coins and head to the CrabLab where you can upgrade your claws, buy burps (yep, that's a thing), or buy bonuses like laser swords or an ambulance to repair damage. Once you're ready to go, head back into space and get to crushin'.

The chief drawback to Crabitron is the learning curve required to get used to the controls. Using four fingers to operate both claws can be a challenge, especially when your arms and hands tend to block big chunks of the screen. More often than not you'll find missiles damage you before you even knew they existed. Stupid non-opaque real life arms. But, as you spend more time with the game this happens less and less frequently. It's just a matter of mastering the fine art of being a giant space crab with claws and a hungry appetite!

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 (31 votes)
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Sticky Blobs

DoraWe've all been there. You want to change the TV channel, but the remote is, like... all the way on the other side of the room, and getting up would mean ruining this nice butt-groove you've been cultivating in the cushion. It's the First Worldiest of First World problems, but if you were Sticky Blobs, it wouldn't be a problem at all because you could just exude a few friends right out of your own body until you could reach whatever you needed. Because that's not unsettling at all. In MadFatCat's quirky World of Goo-ish physics puzzle, you're helping grunting, squishy, sentient balls of goop reach whatever they want by directing them how to grow. Click, drag, and release on any blob to grow a new one in that direction. You can only make new blobs if you have enough material, as represented by the bar on the left side of the screen, and clicking on a blob will destroy it and return whatever material was expended in making it.

Sticky BlobsThey don't all need to be connected, so you can split them off and move them in groups. Since they're beholden to physics and don't have feet, they can't move on their own, and you'll need to use mass and momentum to get them where you want them to go. Collecting the three stars on each level is optional and will usually require a little tricky building, especially if you're trying to circumvent any hazards that'll make your buddies pop. Simple, right? Well, it gets trickier when you have to use both your stickiness and your weight to figure out how to move and manipulate objects in your environment. Once the special powerups that bestow unique abilities on blobs become available, things get even trickier.

Though not necessarily a wholly original concept and possessed of some mildly obnoxious sound effects, Sticky Blobs is actually a pretty clever and entertaining game. The fiddly physics of some level contructs can be annoying, however, and the explosive fruit feels like it requires some awkward timing and placement to really pull off reliably. Still, the charm of the concept and trickiness of the levels makes this one worth checking out.

Play Sticky Blobs


(12 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Lumber Island

DoraYou'd think washing up on a lone island would be an improvement over slowly sinking alone at sea in the middle of the night, but that's only if you don't wind up on Lumber Island. In the first chapter of this free indie horror adventure from DeanForge, you've got a cell phone for light, but no signal, and that flickering firelight in the distance looks awfully welcoming. After all, anything is better than drowning on this cold, windy night, right? Just use the [arrow] keys to move, [spacebar] to jump, and the mouse to look around. You'll automatically pick up any items you walk over, and the game will use them for you when you need them. Keep your eyes open and your wits about you since you're not alone, and you'll have to start all over if you bite the axe.

Lumber IslandLumber Island is one of those games that will make you cringe. Not because it's gross or violent, but because the subtle sense of wrongness and oppressive creepy atmosphere will have you dreading every noise, every shadow, every corner. It quickly becomes apparent that there's something more than a little otherworldly going on, and initially the sense of disorientation and mystery only adds to the fear. The problem is that Lumber Island lacks any real player direction, and since you can't sprint, slowly walking around trying to figure out where you're headed or where something you may have missed is in the gloom quickly becomes frustrating. Lacking anything so grand as a save feature and slowly but implacably pursued by a one-hit KO antagonist, dying means starting all over from the beginning. The annoyances mount and strike against what is otherwise a visually stunning and exceptionally immersive adventure with an almost palpable air of menace. I was playing with the sound off, and after creeping through the darkness I uttered a literal shriek when I turned around to find something wholly unexpected lumbering through the doorway after me, blocking the exit.

Once you figure out where you need to go and what you need to do, Lumber Island won't take you very long to play, and despite its flaws is still well worth checking out. With some polish and constructive design feedback, the rest of the upcoming chapters could wind up being something really special. As it is, it's weird, it's freaky, and it's an entertaining, menacing ghost story that will leave you wishing for a map and some running shoes, but will deliver a few scares and some unanswered questions for the next installment.

WindowsWindows:
Download the free full version (Desura)
Download the free full version (Game Jolt)

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


(4 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Dark Tales: Edgar Allan Poe's The Masque of the Red Death

AliceThere's something rotten about the little town of Lumineux. When city officials start dropping like flies, you and the fan-favorite Detective Dupin are called in to hunt down the killer, a mysterious fellow known only as the Red Masque. But are things really what they seem? The Red Masque is a murderer, but is he out to destroy Lumineux, or help rebuild it? What's the real disease infecting this town? Such is the dilemma of Dark Tales: Edgar Allan Poe's The Masque of the Red Death, the latest installment in the hidden object adventure series by ERS Game Studio.

Dark Tales: Edgar Allan Poe's The Masque of the Red DeathIf you've ever played a hidden object adventure before, you probably know what to expect in terms of gameplay. Explore Lumineux with your mouse, traveling between areas with the arrows, picking up any items you might find along the way, and using those items in the right location to get a different item or unlock a new area. Occasionally you'll come across a puzzle to solve or a hidden object scene to search... and if this isn't sounding familiar, the game provides a helpful tutorial at the start. What's new and notable here is that The Masque of the Red Death allows you to make up your own mind about the story, literally putting Justice's scales in your hand. With every important piece of evidence, you receive a Sphere of Guilt. Do you add weight to Mayor Prospero's wrongdoings, or to the Red Masque's? Whose guilt is greater?

Dark Tales: Edgar Allan Poe's The Masque of the Red DeathAs an adaptation, Masque of the Red Death is, to put it kindly, less than faithful. If you've always loved the story and you're looking forward to playing a game about it, this might not be the game for you. (Seriously, where's the plague?) Fortunately, this Masque of the Red Death is an interesting story all on its own. There isn't always enough time with each character to know them and care about them as much as the game asks you to, and many players might find the game's central question to be a very easy choice. This is also much more of a game for the hidden object fans than for the puzzle-solvers. The hidden object scenes have variety and are full of creativity and style... and then the puzzles, half the time, feel like busywork. If you like extra content, Masque of the Red Death is full of it— there's an adorable kitten to play with, a bonus chapter, and even some photographs of the development process— but sometimes it feels like the energy spent on that extra content could have gone toward fleshing out the characters and puzzles a little more.

Still, at least for me, the proverbial scales tip in Masque of the Red Death's favor. Was it perfect? No, but it was an enjoyable few hours, and I appreciated how forming my own opinion was a central part of the game. Try the demo— perhaps a trip to Lumineux will be right up your alley.

Currently, only the Collector's Edition is available. It includes wallpapers, an extra adventure, the soundtrack, screensavers, and a built-in strategy guide. 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:
Download the demo
Get the full version


  • Currently 4.5/5
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Rating: 4.5/5 (794 votes)
| Comments (22) | Views (4,176)

Baba Yaga

elleSo, you're minding your own business, spying on some swanky tree house and the strange witch who lives there when, before you know it, you're locked inside. Fortunately for you, the house of Baba Yaga is full to the brim with magical items. Unfortunately for you, you have no mana and no magic spells hidden up your sleeve and a lot of this hocus pocus stuff makes no sense—not at first at least. Ergo you take on this enchanting point-and-click adventure by Pastel Games' Barbara Jarosik.

Baba YagaThis three-room treehouse is replete with puzzles, knicknacks, spell books and other nifty items that will, when used correctly, secure your freedom—the challenge comes in finding it all. Collect an object, set it in motion or zoom in closer by clicking it. When zoomed in, just click the bottom of the screen to back up. In a wider scene, a circling arrow spins you 180° to view the next stage. To use your inventory, one click puts an item in your hand where it stays until you put it back. While the cursor changes over interactive spots, different spots are often close together, care is needed to not miss the distinction or to find small nooks you wouldn't otherwise think to search.

Baba Yaga moves from ordinary escape-the-room to a larger venture through the plethora of interactivity found at every turn. Every detail is whimsical and fun, yet with so much to toy with and so many areas to explore, it's difficult to stay focused on the task at hand and figure out your next puzzle. In the same token, a pixel-hunty feeling might arise as it's easy to overlook important information or a small area that contains big secrets; the visual clues are all there, just sometimes subtle. One shouldn't go plundering through a kooky witch's belongings with reckless abandon, of course, lest you stumble and turn into a frog. Still, it'd be nice if the exploration and inventory were a tad less cumbersome. Many solutions rely as much on inference as logic and piecing together of clues, which fits the tone and situation rather well. Through artwork that's effervescent with personality and engaging puzzles throughout, Baba Yaga is a basket of happy whimsy waiting to be tipped on edge.

Play Baba Yaga


(15 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Monaco

ArtbegottiA pickpocket, a locksmith, and a hacker walk into a bar. You wouldn't know it though, because the hacker planted a virus in one of the bar's electrical outlets that shorted out the lights for twenty seconds. During that time, the pickpocket's monkey snuck up behind you and grabbed your wallet out of your pocket, and the locksmith stole all of the money from the cash register (and a couple bottles of cognac, if that shelf behind the now-pantsless bartender is anything to go by). They then escaped out the window and ran for their getaway yacht. Such is the life in Monaco, an International Games Festival-winning multiplayer stealth arcade game by Andy Schatz of Pocketwatch Games where grabbing the loot is just half the fun.

MonacoMost of the missions you'll encounter in Monaco require you to sneak in or out of a high-security facility of some variety. You might be robbing a bank, erasing security footage, or rescuing a comrade from captivity. Use the [arrow] keys or [WASD] to move around, or hold [shift] to move slowly (helpful for sneaking past people in close proximity undetected). To unlock doors and safes, pick up equipment, or disable electronics, walk up to your target and hold to fill up your progress meter. When you gain weaponry to knock out or kill guards that may attack you, aim using the mouse and fire with a sharp click.

But what fun is a heist if you don't case the joint where you're at it? There's tons of gold to be found on each floor of the facility, both lying around loosely, and tucked away in safes and cash registers. Sweep up all the gold you can find to help unlock future levels, and also to avoid a time penalty on your final score for the level. If you need to recap your current objective or how much gold you still need to find, tap the [control] key.

Don't expect your plundering to go unchallenged, because your crew is severely outnumbered by a plethora of armed guards, attack dogs, and sensors that can set off alarms that draw everyone to your location. Most sensors can be deactivated by manually disabling them, or hacking computers to set up a virus to temporarily disable them. As for the guards, you'll have to either be ready fight back with a weapon or know where to hide, such as in bushes or overhead ducts.

MonacoTo start, you have four characters to play as, each with their own special abilities. The Locksmith is quicker at unlocking doors and safes, the Pickpocket has a monkey that can pick up nearby gold for you, the Lookout can detect hidden enemies across the map, and the Cleaner can knock unsuspecting enemies unconscious. In later levels, you can rescue more members for your motley crew, such as the Mole who can burrow through walls, the Gentleman who can disguise himself while hiding, and the Hacker that can create an electricity-shorting virus from any outlet.

Each mission is playable in both single-player and multiplayer modes. While in single-player, when a character loses all their health, you're required to choose a new character to continue the mission from the last staircase used (until you've used a total of four lives). In multiplayer mode though, you've got to rely on your teammates to revive you, all while they're hunted down by the same folks who took you out, and once everyone's been downed, it's game over!

Analysis: While Monaco has to be classified as a stealth game, there's a certain sense of non-stealthiness that makes the game a lot more thrilling. It's next to impossible to complete a level without being spotted (if not chased and shot at) at least once, if only because it's impossible to predict where a guard might be walking without walking into their line of sight first. If you're quick to respond to the situation, you can make a simple getaway. If you bumble around a little bit, you might be in for the chase of your life, running through every room as fast as you can, tripping every alarm and bumping into every confused guard as you panic searching for a ladder to escape above ground. There's joy to be had at both ends of the stealth spectrum (although you're likely to have an easier time if you can stick to the former end).

MonacoThis spectrum transfers well to the multiplayer mode. Once you've played through a few levels alone, try jumping into a multiplayer game, and with friends if you can. Even if you start by planning out your perfect crime and coordinating everyone's movements, it will usually devolve into a chaotic free-for-all with all parties shouting commands at one another while being chased by guards like ghosts surrounding a Pac-Man.

With each level with new elements added in, there's a bit of trial-and-error involved in figuring out how each new tool or sensor works. Sometimes you can clean out a level on your first attempt, more often you won't. The game never throws too much at you that you'll be overwhelmed, but that's not to say it'll be easy. In a sense, Monaco's difficulty curve is a comfortably steadily rising one, although it's been placed on a small stepladder to start.

As you catch a glimpse of useful items in your field of vision while passing through a room, these are stored in your memory and appear on the blueprint-style map when you round a corner and can't physically see them anymore. This is a neat idea and really helps when you're trying to find that last bit of gold on a floor. This "vision" mechanic can backfire a bit if you don't remember that sometimes things that look like walls aren't necessarily walls, such as half-height countertops that guards can look over and spot you. While each level is a maze with carefully constructed corridors, it's easy to forget that some of those hallways give you less cover than others, and the game won't hold your hand in reminding you which is which.

MonacoThe stealth mechanics of this game really stand out in the sound effects and music. When you're running through hallways looking for a quick escape, the jaunty old-timey (read: out of tune) piano accelerates to fever pitch, matching your hectic pace and making the game feel like a scene from a black and white train heist movie. When you've found cover and evaded capture, the music slows back down to silent, allowing you to keep an ear peeled for approaching footsteps and enemy reactions. Add to this the chipper pings of bicycle bells and beeps of security systems, and you've got an audibly satisfying game that lets you know your status at all times.

The variety of characters allows you to not only find a play style that you're comfortable with, but also provides a very fulfilling story, even with minimal dialogue between levels to set it up. It's easy to fall into the story, and doing so heightens the tension you'll experience as you try to pull off the perfect crime (and inevitably fail). Round up the crew and get ready for the heist of a lifetime, because "What's Mine is Yours, and Monaco is Mine!"

WindowsWindows:
Get the full version (DRM-free)
Get the full version (via Steam)

Mac OS XMac OS X:
Not yet available. A beta version is expected in May.


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I See You

DoraWhen I was fourteen, I volunteered one summer as a Candy Striper at the hospital, and was dared one afternoon by one of the other girls to venture down to the basement, which was, of course, empty except for the morgue. Nothing happened, of course, but the scenario dreamed up by my overactive imagination as I crept down those dark hallways filled with disused furniture and echoes is something very similar to Bryce Maciel's free indie horror adventure I See You. Inspired by Ivan Zanotti's hit Imscared, I See You has you wandering lonely as a cloud through what appears to be a deserted hospital with only your thoughts and some increasingly ominous tutorial text for company.

I See YouFind a key in each area to unlock the next door to proceed and follow the instructions... what could be simpler? All you need are [WASD] to move, the mouse to look around, and [E] to interact. While easy to play, however, if you're not a fan of jump-scares I See You is absolutely brutal to endure. The game has a slow but ruthless pacing and execution of its frights that will still leave you wanting if what you want is a story, but will definitely get your heart pounding. While definitely similar in style to its inspiration, however, it's also far less clever in execution, requiring you to do little more than keep moving forward. It's a very on-rails experience, more like going through a haunted house at a theme park (WHERE MY SCAREACTORS AT) and leaving you squealing and breathless at times. I See You has some fantastic visual scares that made me whimper far more than a loud crash in the silence. Is one better than the other? Eh, I'd argue that both have their place and are easily worth experiencing on their own merits for the short time it'll take you to run through this one... even if you can't escape. Because

i found you

WindowsWindows:
Download the free full version

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


(7 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Viking Brothers

KimberlyAfter living peacefully and prosperously under the watchfulness of a magical tree, trouble hits your viking settlement. Savage tribes have become jealous of your land and use dark magic to destroy the tree. The Viking Brothers start a quest in search of a way to restore the tree in this resource management strategy game from Alawar. Follow the pair through Asgard and beyond, cleaning up the land as they go, following vague clues from a hermit, all in the hopes of saving the tree and returning to their way of life.

Viking Brothers The control scheme is similar to other games of this type. Just a click sends your workers off to build, upgrade, or collect resources. Most level goals consist of gathering enough resources, fixing up statues or other landmarks, and scaring away the baddies, and are listed on the bottom of the screen. Your current resources are listed at the top of the screen, and the timer countdown on the left. Hover over any object to get more information about it. You can queue up tasks for your workers, but if you change your mind, right click on the check mark to cancel the order, if it isn't yet underway. Some levels include magic totems. When you send a worker to activate a totem, you'll get a run speed or production bonus. Aside from your regular workers, most levels need some muscle to destroy enemy blockades and fight off warriors. It's up to you to build a barracks and get a soldier or two on your side.

The game has followed the great example of Kingdom Chronicles in its design. There's just something about restoring your homeland that leaves you satisfied. And while the story line may be a bit over used (and perhaps plays into stereotypes a bit), Viking Brothers overcomes the trite with creative map layouts and good level design. It's a challenge to get a gold star on each level! It's important to look ahead to what resources you're going to need to plan a strategy. Upgrading everything all the way is rarely the best way to go, so it pays to take a second to think. The graphics and music are nice, and while not terribly innovative, Viking Brothers nonetheless offers a solid and enjoyable gaming experience.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


  • Currently 4.4/5
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Rating: 4.4/5 (648 votes)
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Mystery IQ Test

Starchild You wake up in a strange room with no idea how you got there or what is going on. The only clue is a note telling you to use your brain to unlock the next 30 rooms, so you trundle off through the door, thus starting your Mystery IQ Test, a puzzle game by Entertainment Forge. Use the [arrow] keys to move and [spacebar] to interact with objects. There are three difficulty levels with different point systems, but no timer, so you can relax and try to figure out the puzzles at your leisure. However, you start with an IQ of 80 and the number can go up or down, depending on your performance – solving puzzles without hints awards more points, and you forfeit a whole bunch of them if you ask to be shown the solution.

Mystery IQ Test The level design is simple, clean and friendly. The puzzles are varied and will exercise your linguistic, spatial and logical intelligence, which means they stay interesting and stimulating throughout the game. They are a little on the easy side, though, so you might want to choose the highest difficulty straight away. In any case, one good thing about a game which claims to measure your IQ is that you have a strong urge to beat it; every solved puzzle feels like a tiny victory, and you finish it with a smug smile. That'll show those elitists at Mensa who didn't want to let you in their silly club!

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Link Dump Fridays

DoraIt's Friday, Friday, gotta Link Dump on Friday! A lot has happened this week. Virtual Families 2: Our Dream House arrived on PC, Thomas Was Alone made the leap to the Playstation 3 and Vita, and Don't Starve finally made it out of beta to become a full release! (Watch for our expanded review soon.) But that's not all...

News and Previews

MushSocial Gaming We Can Get Into As a gamer, it can sometimes be hard not to grit your teeth whenever someone brings up "social" games, since these days that's come to mean barely interactive human hamster wheels on social media sites that are about as creative as a macaroni necklace. Motion Twin aims to change all that with the upcoming browser sim sci-fi adventure game Mush, where you and fifteen other players play characters stranded on a spaceship. The catch is one of you is actually a horrible shapeshifting alien beast looking to take everyone out, and the others are trying to find out who it is before it's too late. As a result, everyone has an agenda, and trying to figure out who you can really trust and who wants to eat your face sounds like an immense amount of fun... especially since if you're the monster, you'll be trying to figure out how you can pick everyone off one-by-one without getting noticed! The game launches soon on the Twinoid service, and looks like exactly the sort of clever social gameplay we could do with more of.

Dementium 2I HATE When That Happens! So you've just had radical experimental brain surgery and you wake up in an asylum to learn that your family is dead and all signs point to you as the murderer. Not only that, you have a sneaking suspicious that the doctor is out to get you, and you might not be hallucinating all the beasts you see stalking the corridors. Sound like fun? Then you want to check out the upcoming PC and Mac horror adventure Dementium 2 from Memetic Games and Digital Tribe. Originally only released for the Nintendo DS, this looks like a spectacularly freaky survival horror game with just the right amount of cheese topping it off.

TowerFallLet's See Hawkeye Do THIS Matt Thorson is a guy who has made some pretty cool stuff before, so if you're at all familiar with his work, you should definiately be excited to check out his upcoming multiplayer action game TowerFall, where you and up to three other friends for a total of four players duke it out as archers trying to take each other out with limited ammo, a ton of upgrades and power-ups, and even some tricks in the level designs too. The style of it is great, but what's really appealing to it is the friendly-yet-frantic combat that looks like the sort of thing you and a group of friends could lose an entire night to without really realising it. Personally, I can't wait to pull an arrow out of my husband's face to shoot my brother-in-law with! Yay, family time!

Kickstarter/IndieGoGo Projects

RealmAdventure is Beautiful Atomhawk Design and Lantern Interactive are going to transport you to another world not so very far away with their upcoming game Realm. Planned for 2014 on PC, Mac, and certain tablet devices, the game is a point-and-click adventure that takes place far in the future, when nature has reclaimed most of the world and humans lead simpler lives. You'll control a young girl named Sarina, who sets off in search of a cure for her sick mother, and Toru, a legendary giant golem who has forgotten his past and befriends our heroine. Each character has their own abilities, and you'll need to have them work together in order to solve puzzles and proceed. It sounds captivating and looks stunning, and deserves a place on your radar if you're a fan of heartfelt fantasy adventure.

Risk of RainAction and Random Generation? Awwww Yeah If you like roguelikes but like your games a little more fast-paced, hopoo's Risk of Rain might just sweep you off your feet. Planned for PC, it's an action-packed platformer that gets harder the longer you play, challenging you to survive against bosses and monsters with random properties and abilities, as one of ten different characters with over a hundred items at your disposal. If that sounds pretty sweet to you (and it should), why wait to find out? You can download a demo of the game over on its Kickstarter page right now, which is a perfect way to find out if you want them to shut up and take your money.

A.N.N.EWhat is it With Robots and Girlfriends? Metroidvania meets Gradius? Colour me intrigued, and stop poking into my childhood because that's creepy, Gamesbymo! A.N.N.E, planned for PC, is about a little robot whose robotic ladyfriend has been whisked off for dismantlement and sets off to save her. Go by foot or fly in your ship, using its bulk to get rid of obstacles and firing its weapons on enemies, and explore the world leveling up and upgrading your equipment. It sounds ambitious, but if pulled off rightly, could be the sort of game that becomes an instant classic. Heck, I can hear some of you salivating already!

Miscellaneous

It's Dangerous to Go AloneThe Hero of Time, and Also Nostalgia Some games grow up to be bigger than the cartridges they started out on, and few are bigger than Nintendo's massive Zelda franchise. Joe Granato and his team are making a documentary examining not only the early series' influence on gaming, but the 8Bit era as a whole, and if you're interested you can find out more in a seriously clever way. It's Dangerous to Go Alone isn't just the project's website, it's also a browser game where you'll go on a very Zelda little action adventure, stabbing monsters and gathering items to meet the team behind the project and learn more about it. Now that's dedication to a concept!

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


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Rating: 4.6/5 (28 votes)
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Blendoku

SuzanneDescribing Blendoku, a mobile puzzle game from Lonely Few, is simple: it's sudoku with colors. Blendoku is such an intuitive game that reading about its mechanics will take longer than grasping them through experience. Puzzle freaks are advised stop reading now and gobble up this colorful and satisfying gem. Everyone else, read on for all the convincing you'll need!

BlendokuYour objective is to restore order to a partly-empty grid. Instead of numbers you work with colored blocks, tapping and then placing them on the grid so the shades correctly segue from light to dark or from color to color. The simplest puzzles have you arranging shades in order from light to dark, while later grids require you to consider the transition between entirely different colors and demand that you manage multiple intermediary shades. With 400 puzzles to solve, ranging from super-simple to break-your-phone tough, there's no shortage of challenge.

While sudoku demands of its solver logic and persistence, Blendoku is a more intuitive affair requiring an acute sense of visual harmony and perhaps a bit of training in color theory. There are negatives to this right-brained approach: there's nothing concrete to guide you towards resolution except a sense that things aren't quite in order. Logic won't help you here. Yet seeing a Blendoku puzzle slowly click into place provides a satisfaction up there with the best in the genre. Graphic designers and artists of all types: your new addiction just might be here.

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


  • Currently 4.1/5
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Rating: 4.1/5 (58 votes)
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Incursion 2

DoraThere's just something about directing around masses of tiny armies that brings out the MUAHAHAHA, DANCE MY PRETTIES in me, and Booblyc's realtime strategy defense game Incursion had that plus all the right ingredients for one seriously addictive game. In Incursion 2, you are Targa Wrathbringer, which sounds like a really good name for an edgy My Little Pony, but is actually the hero leading an army against invading demon forces.

Incursion 2As before, you pay to train soldiers, archers, and sorcerors out of barracks stationed along a road, and your goal is to have them obliterate any enemies attempting to reach the other side of the screen. If one of your little warriors is killed, don't worry... they'll eventually respawn without cost to you. This time, however, Targa, your hero, will also play an important role in battle. He's permanently deployed and acts as a superpowered unit who can grow in strength as he levels up, and be directed around the screen rather than be forced to remain at a barracks. Though he'll be the only hero at your disposal in the beginning, that will change as the game goes on, and since each hero can learn unique spells and skills, they'll quickly become just as important in your army as your endless supply of nameless meatshields. Between battles, you can upgrade not only those basic units, but buy new spells, and even special items that can give you a leg up on battles, because all's fair in love and the eternal struggle between the forces of good and evil. Nobody's going to complain if you bring in a little extra help. I mean... the bad guys might. But forget those guys. Those guys suck.

Incursion 2 does a great job of both keeping everything you loved about the original intact, and actually improving on it without making it feel like an entirely different beast. While the heroes are arguably the biggest and most obvious addition, as well as the magic associated with them, being able to have more control over your units in battle is also a pretty sweet deal. Now you can manually tell them what to attack, and that simple improvement can be a big deal in the way it allows you to better strategize your battles instead of just crossing your fingers and hoping a skirmish works out in your favour. Make no mistake, the game is still difficult, and victory depends on learning which units work best in any given clash, as well as how your upgrades should best be spent. With a new story, new ways to turn enemies into smears on the landscapes, and new heroes to train, Incursion 2 is a polished little gem of a strategy title that fans of the original will embrace while tearfully waving farewell to their free time.

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  • Currently 2.7/5
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Rating: 2.7/5 (57 votes)
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DeGrade

ArtbegottiIn most shooters, a player is rewarded by earning upgrades to their equipment making them more powerful, even if the enemy stays weaker. But what if that system were flipped on its head and you became weaker as you went along? DeGrade is an arena shooter that puts that idea to the test. Your (unexpectedly cute) bear protagonist can be moved using [WASD] or the [arrow] keys, and fires all of his weapons simultaneously when you hold the mouse button. After each wave of enemies, whatever weapon caused the most damage in that wave will be downgrad— sorry, degraded. Sometimes your weapon simply weakens a bit, sometimes you lose it entirely. After several waves of enemies, you'll get a much needed upgrade before entering the next world... and losing everything again.

DeGradeWe really like the game theory-ish idea of becoming weaker as the game continues, forcing you to play with more skill rather than more firepower. If you're careful, you can force a certain weapon to be the next one to degrade by making sure it does the most damage, which adds an extra layer of strategy to the game. Unfortunately, there is a flaw in that if you're constantly moving, you'll take very little damage and the game becomes significantly easier, and the game's main conceit loses its edge. However, DeGrade is still an interesting illustration the ideas you can create when you take the Overused Game Mechanics Handbook (2nd ed.) and toss it in the wood chipper.

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  • Currently 4.2/5
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Rating: 4.2/5 (20 votes)
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Hiversaires

KinetikaiHiversaires is a game about not knowing. Not knowing where you are, or why you're there. Not knowing what those markings on the wall mean. Not knowing where you're supposed to go, or how to get there. But eventually, piece by piece, you start to figure things out.

HiversairesCreated by Aliceffekt, Hiversaires is a first-person point-and-click adventure that drops you cold into a dark, mysterious, monochrome world full of cryptic symbols and machines. You begin on a white stone path pockmarked by abstract trees in a pool of blackness. The first thing in front of you is a white block displaying two unknown symbols on top of each other. To your left is a terminal with a different unknown symbol. Behind the block is a screen showing a circle with four symbols like a compass. Tapping the screen causes the image to change, but what is the significance of it? What purpose does any of this have? That's for Hiversaires to know and for you to find out.

The design of Hiversaires is minimalist in form and function. There are no menus, no inventories, no text, no heads-up display and no clues — save for some subtle cues given at the bottom of the screen. The controls are aptly simple. Tap the center of the screen to move forward, and tap the sides to turn left or right. Anything you need to interact with will always be in the center of your field of vision, so there's no worries about tapping on random areas of the screen to move into an awkward position in order to access something that seems out of reach.

HiversairesAnalysis: When you know nothing, everything you discover is an achievement. Like Myst or Kairo, Hiversaires is a game about exploration and discovery that makes no attempt to lead you, instead letting you come to terms with the world around you in your own time and on your own terms. Everything that can typically bog down adventure titles — pixel-hunting, frustrating item combining, cartoon logic — is stripped away, allowing the game to focus on the puzzles and the atmosphere, both of which are exceptional.

For those who like more information with their games, the stark simplicity of Hiversaires can be disconcerting. Akin to the old adventure games of yore, making your way through the labyrinthine settings requires taking notes — maybe even drawing yourself a map — and taking in full account of your surroundings. But for those who live for the thrill of discovery, who eschew hand-holding for the opportunity to walk into the darkness alone, Hiversaires is a breath of fresh air.

Conceptually and aesthetically beautiful, Hiversaires is one of the finest adventure games to come out in quite a while — certainly one of the best on iOS, if not the best. All of the game's mysteries draw you in, and unraveling them bit by bit in a world that becomes curiouser and curiouser with each turn is enthralling. All of the puzzles are well-constructed out of pure logic, and to say anything more about them would be a disservice. If wandering through a cryptic environment is your cup of cocoa, this is one title you can't pass up.

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


  • Currently 3.5/5
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Rating: 3.5/5 (143 votes)
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Escape from the Strange Forest

elleJust how strange is the titular forest in Hottategoya's Escape from the Strange Forest do you wonder? For one thing, it's strangely disorientating. You're not so much stuck inside this forest as you are hovering above it like a bird, one who is only able to see a select portion of this labyrinth copse at any given time and who, on occasion, can swoop down to examine a detail of the grassy floor. For another, these stoically quiet evergreens will, for reasons unknown, change their formations and create new paths for you to wander along. Stranger still, hidden somewhere in its depths is a set of stairs that lead further down toward a door—it is through here you can escape, if you can decipher the secret code that is.

Escape from the Strange ForestDespite the confusion taunting layout of this escape-the-room game, it's played by the same rules: click arrows that pop-up on the edges of the screen to move about and, when you find something that seems to stand out in this monochromatic world, you can click on it to zoom in for a better look or to pick it up. The three items you find here are not only useful, they are essential to your sanity. Helpful guides, they'll provide the clues you need to get your bearings, solve the puzzles and find your way out.

Until you reach the box containing your first clue, if you're easily panicked by enclosed spaces or have a phobia of being trapped in a maze, it could prove an extremely frustrating experience. Often those things that are most challenging, though, are the most rewarding and engaging. Escape from the Strange Forest takes all that is good about Hottategoya's triplex fashion of puzzle presentation and elevates it to an escape that is a refreshing take on the genre. By staying in the moment and paying heed to your map, you can find the open doorway at the end of the tunnel and another victory to notch into your surreal adventure belt.

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Rating: 4.1/5 (55 votes)
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Unholy Flesh

DoraA dimly lit room, a bed, the soft sound of rain outside... it might be all a bit more romantic if you weren't in Milcho Milchev and Martin Dimitrov's interactive fiction horror adventure Unholy Flesh. You wake up alone, head throbbing, in unfamiliar surroundings decorated like Pyramid Head had a stint on Trading Spaces. Who are you, and what's going on? To find out, you'll need to explore, solve puzzles, and track down the diary pages you'll discover scattered around to fill in the blanks. The handy in-game tutorial will walk you through the basics, but if you've played a text adventure, you know the drill. Type in commands like "look around" or "take ___" and hit [enter] to execute them, paying attention to the coloured text that will draw your eye to points or items of interest. The game makes use of a checkpoint system rather than saves, so since you can die repeatedly, it's best to pay attention to your surroundings. Be aware that while the game will restore you to your last checkpoint if you die, it will not do so if you exit the game and return to it later, forcing you to start from the beginning.

Unholy FleshThe best way to describe Unholy Flesh's interface is tidy. By using various colours of font to denote important objects you'll rarely miss anything, and the tutorial does a great job of hand-holding any potential newcomers to the genre while refreshing us oldsters... especially since looking under things in text adventures is uncommon enough that I appreciated it being pointed out. The story itself makes use of a lot of familiar tropes, but the use of sound effects and visual touches brings it to life with admirable subtlety that makes up for the cheesier moments. Waiting for the text scroll to finish before you can input your commands does get old, especially if you're replaying after a death, and while I can understand using checkpoints to recover from fatalities, not allowing players to manually save and load feels like a mistake.

A few tweaks and optimizations would have gone a long way towards really making the game shine, including mute options and a proofread over the text since occasional burps like "leeding" instead of "leading" detract from an otherwise atmospheric story. Taken as a whole, however, Unholy Flesh makes for a fine creepy adventure that cultivates an air of mystery throughout. It's not particularly long, and as long as you explore everything and remember to use your inventory and your Resident Evil-esque problem solving skills the puzzles shouldn't give you much difficulty. It's on the short side, and the ending feels a little underdeveloped, but it's an effort packed with promise from two people with a clear passion for the genre that we'd love to see even more from in the future.

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Rating: 4.1/5 (112 votes)
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Chick Hide and Seek 6

elleOne of the great things about escape-the-room games is how stylistically versatile they can be considering the basic lock-you-up premise. There are some that are scary, others that are remarkably beautiful, and those that are trickily clever. Chick Hide and Seek 6 by Yuri falls into the Oh So Easy! Aw So Cute! category of escape games. Which is why it's so worthwhile: I dare you to play this game of hide and seek with ten chirpy balls of yellow fuzz and not crack a smile.

Chick Hide and Seek 6Use the yellow arrows to navigate and click to interact with objects, searching for all ten chicks: some chicks are hiding in plain sight, others need to be uncovered, and some need to be helped out of sticky situations. You'll also find a few simple puzzles and will need to use items creatively to reach certain chicks. After gathering your brood of tiny peeps together, it's a breeze to solve the door lock code and get out.

Chicks are tiny and it's their world, so the game is tiny, too. The smallness of the screen lends to eyestrain, but the design is clean and details are clear enough that there's no mistaking one object for another, even without a cursor change. Simple and sweet, Chick Hide and Seek 6 takes just a tiny portion of your day to play but leaves you with a large portion of cuteness to fill it with cheer.

Play Chick Hide and Seek 6

Note: scroll down the page a bit to find the game's start screen.


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They Need to Be Fed 2

JohnBFrom Jesse Venbrux, whose name you might recognize from games like the Karoshi series or Focus, They Need to Be Fed 2 is a mobile sequel to a freeware downloadable game that's all about feeding helpless critters to chomping piranha plants. Neat, right? Don't worry, it's not all sad and evil. In fact, it's quite a cheerful mix of puzzle and platforming elements that works really well on touch screen devices.

They Need to Be Fed 2Gravity in They Need to Be Fed 2 works like you'd expect, but instead of pulling you into pits it tugs you towards the nearest object no matter what side you're standing on. Three on-screen buttons let you navigate each level. Clockwise and counter-clockwise controls on the left move you in that direction around your current object, while jump lets you, you know, jump. The goal is to reach the hungry plant at the end of the stage so you can feed yourself to its empty little tummy.

Standing between you and the end are blocks, spikes, plant springboards you have to activate, and plenty more. Along the way you'll also collect diamonds to unlock new stages as well as earn various medals. There are 50 stages to complete in Classic Mode, and after that Epic Mode opens up and turns the once calm game of rotating spikes into an insane mess of upside down worlds and explosions, all without checkpoints to save your location. Eep. Overall, though, They Need to Be Fed 2 is an easy to play and highly enjoyable action game that provides challenge only when you crave it!

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 3.5/5
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Rating: 3.5/5 (29 votes)
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Planet Punch

DoraTired of being ridiculed for your little fists and being told that your best punch is as devastating as a cool spring breeze? NO LONGER! Expanding on the weird and wonderful concept behind Ra Ra: Extreme Star Boxing, Matt Thorson and Alec Holowka give you the dukes to take on an entire galaxy, heavenly bodies and all, in the action-packed Planet Punch where you control a surly star more than willing to pummel everything in its path senseless.

Planet PunchUse the [WASD] or [arrow] keys to move, and the left and right mouse buttons to punch out with the various planets your orbit will acquire. You'll only have one to start with, but as you play you'll gain more with different effects you can choose to equip at the start of each stage. Your goal? Survive and obliterate! Punch everything in your path and take advantage of the way many enemies and projectiles can be sent ricocheting around the stage, doing more damage and queuing up devastating chain reactions. Some stages will require to you smash everything within a time limit, while others will make you pick on someone your own size by setting you up against a boss.

Thanks to some beautiful design by Frederico Machua, Planet Punch is as lovely to look at as it is a blast to play. The whole thing has a bouncy, frenetic energy to it, and chaining up perfect destructive combinations is a satisfying thing to behold. Though there's definitely some repetition to the stages, with new elements typically introduced so slowly that only the boss levels feel truly distinct, give it a chance to win you over with its distinct style and premise and it makes for perfect cathartic action. Especially once you make your way to the Space Crab Nebula, which is where things get even stranger. Planet Punch is odd, no two shakes about it, but it's odd in an energetic, gleefully ridiculous way that echoes something you would have plunked endless quarters into an arcade machine to play, and we wouldn't have it any other way.

Play Planet Punch


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The Vault

TrickyWelcome to this week's installment of The Vault, where we take a look into classics from the JayIsGames archives. With the recent celebration of our fair site's 10th JIG-iversary, it seemed like just the time to go retro with a set of awesome browser remakes from the mid-aughties.

  • Klax 3DKlax 3D - First, it was the nineties, and there was time for Klax. Then it was 2005, and there was time for Wheel House Creative to put together an isometric reimagining of the arcade classic. Now, in the present, players both new and old to the Klax-iverse should definitely find time for this fun game of tile stacking and clearing. With gameplay that's simple to learn, but a challenge to master, the excellence of Klax 3D may not have been enough to save the Atari Lynx, but it will certainly give fingers a happy workout
  • QixQix - Qix! JiG tested, JiG approved! Originally released by Taito America in 1981, then brought to browsers by the skilled work of Drunk Men Work Here in 2004, Qix was the first and still one of the best in the oddly-specific "cutting pieces out of a larger square while avoiding the things flailing around in the middle" genre. As addictive as it is challenging, Qix consumed a lot of quarters back in the day. Though the bleeps and blorps its faithful recreation here is so 80s it hurts, even the most jaded game should get a few Qix from playing a round.
  • Prince of PersiaPrince of Persia - Ever since its 1989 release on the Apple ][, Jordan Mechner's Prince of Persia has seen all manner of sequels, remakes, re-imaginings, reboots, re-reboots, and Jake Gyllenhaal movies. Somewhere in that mix came this fun "special edition" flash game UbiSoft released in 2004. Though there are a few changes, it should definitely give players a taste of what made the original so special: the fluid rotoscoped movement that launched the "cinematic action-platform" genre, the cunning level design, and devious difficulty. You have eight minutes to stop the evil plans of the vizier. Can you make it?

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 3.8/5
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Rating: 3.8/5 (20 votes)
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Dungelot

KinetikaiWhy do 100-floor buildings always insist on making you jump through a bunch of hoops just to make it to the top? Well, we don't care, because it's makes for a nice distraction. Created by Perfect Games Inc., 100 Floors Escape is a new escape game with "100" in the title (a theme so oddly prevalent it has become a genre in itself) for Android devices.

100 Floors EscapeEach level tasks you with figuring out how to open the elevator doors to make your way up to the next floor. The point-and-click puzzles and minigames feature a variety of mechanics, requiring you to tap, hold, drag, turn or shake your device to put out a fire, swat some mosquitoes, solve a number code or assemble a hamburger. (What sort of building is this?!)

At the time of writing, 100 Floors Escape only has 48 floors — there's still some brick and mortal to be laid on the upper levels — but more levels are promised in the near future. It's nothing particularly groundbreaking in the genre, but 100 Floors Escape looks good and will certainly scratch your room escape itch for a little while, at least.

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


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Rating: 4.6/5 (2524 votes)
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Eyes - The Horror Game

DoraThey say crime doesn't pay, but they were probably talking about jail or, at worst, being hunted down by Dog Chapman and not, say, an unspeakable horror lurking inside the house you decided to rob. In Paulina Pabis' horror action game Eyes - The Horror Game, your goal is to get in, grab all the loot you can, and get out before the grisly spirit inside finds you. The catch, apart from the spectre on your tail? Each time you play the location of the treasure is randomised, and all you can really do is run and hide and probably cry a little when you're being chased. Fortunately for you, there are eye symbols hidden throughout the manor that will allow you to see through the eyes of the ghost, which is helpful when you're trying to plan the escape route, or want to know if you should be spending your final moment sucking your thumb in the fetal position. Maybe next time, leave this sort of thing to someone more qualified, like Trilby?

Eyes - The Horror GameThe game plays with a control stick on the left to move, and swiping on the right to look around. You can tap items to interact, though some of them will be automatically added to your inventory. Tap the map to see where you've been, or the eye icon if you have any left to briefly look through Ghost-o-Vision... which can take some interpretation, since our ghost apparently sees things differently than we do, but can help you figure out where your stalker is. If it gets close, you'll know since the game will prompt you to run, and if you're caught, it's game over. There are, however, sounds and supernatural phenomena that generally precede the ghost's appearance, so keep your eyes and ears open. The game also has a free browser version that plays exactly the same, but is controlled with [WASD] to movement, the mouse to look around and pick things up, [Q] to activate ghost sight, and [M] to view your map.

Conceptually, the game is almost identical to Slender, with the by now old fashioned formula of "find a bunch of random stuff without getting caught by a monster". But where a lot of your success in Slender was dependant on luck, Eyes allows you to plan and spy and run rather than being caught by a GAME OVER simply because your antagonist can teleport and you can't. Of course, it would be easier to run if the dual-stickish controls didn't take some getting used to and doors opened with more expediency. Eyes is, admittedly, something of a one-trick pony. There's only one level, essentially, though the randomisation of item distribution allows for lots of replay, and the story is essentially non-existent. What it's got, however, is some stupendously eerie atmosphere and scares with not a lot of gore and no violence at all. It may be simple, but Eyes - The Horror Game is a stylishly scary funhouse of horror. It's practically begging to be expanded into a full-fledged adventure game, but in the meantime, for a fast freaky fix of fear, it's a great choice... especially with the lights turned out.

Play Eyes - The Horror Game (browser version)

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


  • Currently 4.3/5
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Rating: 4.3/5 (135 votes)
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Live Puzzle

TrickyLive Puzzle is a jigsaw game by Pipkin Games that presents players with a fun set of animated pictures to reconstruct, with subjects ranging from fish, to spirals, to planets, to cards. Click and drag the puzzle pieces into the central grid to complete the animated scene. If you wish to see a preview of the completed puzzle, it will be found in the upper right. Once all the pieces are in their correct places, the puzzle is solved. There are ten in all.

Live PuzzleLive Puzzle's use of animated pictures is, admittedly, kind of a gimmick to add interest to an otherwise standard jigsaw game, and a gimmick already perfected by Banjo Kazooie at that. Still, as gimmick it's pretty cool, and the developers of Live Puzzle clearly thought through how different pictures would be solved in different and interesting ways ways. This attention to detail puts it a cut above other similar programs, and pictorially-minded puzzle people should definitely give it a play.

Play Live Puzzle


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Mobile Monday

JohnBFeeling a bit edgy today? Does reading Mobile Monday put you on the edge of your seat? Fancy a slice of pie made with the edge of a knife? Noticing a theme yet? Is it pushing you to the edge of your sanity? Or is this constant stream of edgy questions responsible for that?

jdt-p.gifIncoming update for Joe Danger Touch! - Joe Danger Touch from Happy Games hit mobile devices early this year, and gee golly has everyone taken a liking to it! An update has just been pushed through, squashing a ton of bugs, adding iCloud support, and tweaking the gameplay here and there. But the really exciting news is that another, bigger update is coming soon, the details of which are so secret we couldn't even get a hint after sending three of our famous Bologna and Chocolate gift baskets. A lot of new content is on its way, as well as brand new game mechanics that we can pretty much guarantee will be awesome.

edge-p.gifEdge No More - Back in 2009 there was a bit of a stink in the indie community. A certain Tim Langdell decided to enforce his "legal rights" over the use of the word "edge". Around this time, the mobile game EDGE was starting to make waves, but legal papers quickly buried the development team. After more fighting a (mostly) happy ending was had, but just recently the whole debacle has been laid to rest as the US courts officially nullified the trademarks. So go ahead, make a game, call it Edgy Edge McEdgington. You're safe now!

prince2-p.gifPrince returns to iOS - The prince of Persia, that is. Not the other one with that weird guitar. A few years ago Ubisoft released an updated version of the original Prince of Persia game for iOS. Now, the team is working on remastering Prince of Persia 2: The Shadow and the Flame in the same style. The visuals are receiving a nice upgrade, the controls are being adjusted for gesture-based touch screen movements, and a handful of new weapons and abilities are being added. Just enough to get us interested in a little more princely wall jumping and scimitar fighting!

kc-p.gifNew content for King Cashing 2 - A big update recently hit the bizarre but ultimately awesome combination of slot machine combat and RPG, King Cashing 2. A new playable chapter called Wet Crown has been added, along with 30 new weapons, 15 additional Game Center achievements, a brand new class of item, and an extra level of difficulty called "hard", which is, you know, hard. King Cashing 2 was already a beefy game, and with all this extra (and free) content, it sort of makes you want to go high five the developers.


(9 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Empress of the Deep: Legacy of the Phoenix

elleAfter a century of slumber deep beneath the ocean waves, you awoke to discover your destructive and evil twin, Pandora. With the help of the guardians, you pursued and imprisoned her. But now Pandora has escaped and is harnessing the Colossus' power; your people are in peril. They need you, Anna, their empress. Rescue your people by collecting the sacred relics along with other artifacts, resurrecting the Phoenix and reviving the Grandmother Tree in Empress of the Deep 3: Legacy of the Phoenix, a surreal and beautifully Myst-like hidden object adventure from Silverback Productions.

Empress of the Deep: Legacy of the PhoenixYou begin your quest inside the Scroll Temple and, with the help of an old keymaster, set out to find and utilize objects to unlock the spirit codex and open new pathways. Regardless of which level of difficulty you choose, you'll be given instructions along the way as Jacob, your guide, explains the new areas and elements that you discover: a spirit amethyst charged by collecting fairies to remove barriers, coins left behind by cats to activate a teleporter, keys to unlock the ancient scroll, and more. Since you're allowed hints and skips even at the "hardcore" level, select that to lessen the interactive guidance while still maintaining a relaxed mode. Navigate a large and gorgeous environment, following your cursor that changes to indicate where you can move, where an area can be examined more closely, or an item that can be picked up. As you explore, your journal keeps track of your progress while a map helps you see where you've been and where you need to go.

Hidden object search scenes are varied between three types: an interactive list style search, find multiples of an object type, or locate and replace hidden details. These hidden object scenes are well composed with saturated colors and remarkable aesthetics; they also contain the only true challenge or difficulty in the game. Even so, if you do get stuck, the "Hint" feature will quickly unstick you. I'm not usually fond of hidden object searches in other games, but I found these to be extremely enjoyable and fresh even if some objects weren't easy to distinguish. In addition to the search scenes, there's the kind of task-centered puzzles you'd find in a classic adventure game. Because they're not as involved or hard as the minigames used in other hidden object hybrids, you might be disappointed if you're looking for more challenge. Yet, if you're enjoying the serene and relaxed exploration, these puzzles are a welcome part of that experience as they don't take away from immersion.

Empress of the Deep: Legacy of the PhoenixPerhaps the biggest complaint to be made is that the slow pace coupled with the inescapable interactive help makes the game very easy. Comparing it to the first Empress of the Deep installment will probably also bring disappointment. On its own merits, though, Legacy of the Phoenix is extremely enjoyable as a game you can relax with, let yourself be immersed in the stunningly gorgeous scenery and lured into serenity by the hypnotic music. It works very well as an exploration based story, where you can meander through a world that's still very reminiscent of Myst and enjoy discovering new tokens and enchanted pieces. Because of that experience, I can recommend this game—we all need those moments of escape, to relax in beautiful surroundings and feel like an empress.

Currently, only the Collector's Edition is available. It contains bonus content not found in the standard edition: a bonus match 3 game: ZEM 2, an extra chapter, 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:
Download the demo
Get the full version


(10 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Starseed Pilgrim

JohnBStarseed Pilgrim is a very, very unusual game. Created by droqen, author of Probability 0, it's best described as an abstract puzzle game with some light musical elements and a touch of sandbox-style gameplay. That doesn't do the experience justice, though, as its real value comes from the sense of exploration and wonder you'll get trying to figure out which seeds grow which blocks and what exactly you're trying to accomplish in this bleak world.

Starseed PilgrimYou control the so-named starseed pilgrim, a cosmic gardener armed with a handful of starseeds. Move and jump with the [arrow] keys, tapping [down] to remove blocks below you. You can also remove blocks to your side by running into them. Hit the [spacebar] to plant a seed. Different seed types are shown floating above your head, and each one does something different when planted. The orange seed, for example, quickly grows straight up or straight to the side. The pink seed moves much more slowly, but if you dig out one of these blocks you'll add another seed to your inventory. You wouldn't be much of a starseed pilgrim if you didn't have any seeds in stock, would you?

Starseed Pilgrim doesn't spell out goals or gameplay methods right in front of your eyes. You know something vague about the sky slowly dying, and you'll see the dark corruption chasing you as you grow your garden of blocks. You'll also find the inverted "flip" world that contains keys and hearts. What all of these things do and how they're connected is part of the discovery element of Starseed Pilgrim, and we're not about to spoil the feelings of awe, confusion and delight this game doles out with liberal abandon. Sit down with it and get lost in the experience. The more you don't know, the more fun you'll have.

WindowsWindows:
Get the full version

Mac OS XMac OS X:
Get the full version


  • Currently 3.7/5
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Rating: 3.7/5 (49 votes)
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Clowns in the Face

JohnBWhich sounds worse: tennis or clowns? Ha, trick question! They're both equally creepy in their own way! 10tons totally gets that, which is why the team that brought us the physics puzzle game Tennis in the Face has released the follow-up Clowns in the Face. Now, instead of just smacking things in the face with tennis balls, you're smacking clowns in the face with tennis balls. Neat!

Clowns in the FaceExplodz, the energy drink apparently created and marketed as a joint venture by Dionysus and Hades, is causing problems again. This time a posse of insane clowns has taken over the carnival and scared everyone away. As former tennis superstar Pete Pagassi, it's your job to clean up their act. Tap and hold the screen to aim your shot, then release to send a tennis ball flying. Bounce shots off of walls, knock into vending machines, break glass, kick over hunks of metal and much, much more as you clear each level of clowns and work your way to a peaceful world once again.

Clowns in the Face has everything you could want from a mobile game, including gameplay that's easy to pick up but will take time to master, plenty of levels and achievements to unlock, stages you can replay for a perfect score, and a fantastic sense of humor. The variety of enemies and things to smack increases as you move through the levels, and if you ever get stuck, hopping to another stage is a simple matter. Also, Clowns in the Face contains 50 brand new levels and is free for both mobile users and browser players. Kinda tough to say no, isn't it?

Play Clowns in the Face

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


  • Currently 4/5
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Rating: 4/5 (80 votes)
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The Naked Alien

TrickyWe join our hero, The Naked Alien, just as he sets tentacle down on an uncharted world. His mission? Make a name for himself by fulling mapping the mysterious terrain. But, with no spacesuit to protect him from the vicious local wildlife, he'll have to rely on all his skills (and a large supply of lotion) to finish his task. The Naked Alien is an action platformer by Lucas Paakh that offers players a quirky encounter of the nude kind. Move and jump the naked alien around the landscape with the [WASD] or [arrow] keys.

The Naked AlienIn each level, the goal is to make your way to the flag, bouncing off enemies and avoiding spikes. The naked alien will dry up if it moves too much, so you must complete each level before the movement tracker in the upper right counts down to zero. Staying still will not affect the tracker. Various power-ups like double jumps and super stomps will help the naked alien with his mission across 18 levels of action, leading up to the final boss. While a visually stunning showcase of artistic talents, it does feel a bit like a missed opportunity. You'll probably want to explore the alien landscapes rather than fret over the countdown in the corner. However, while the platforming fun is a bit more by-the-numbers than we might expect, new elements are introduced as time goes on and, in any case, hopping and bopping the little naked guy around is strangely amusing.

Play The Naked Alien


(12 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Papo & Yo

DoraUsually when games bring you back to your childhood, it's a good thing. Nostalgic. Filled with memories of Saturday morning cartoons, footie pajamas, and cereal that's 75% corn syrup. But in Minority's indie puzzle platform adventure Papo & Yo, for some people those memories might be more than a little bittersweet... or just plain bitter. Originally only available on the PlayStation 3, it's about a young boy named Quico who has spent a lot of his short life feeling alone and powerless against the danger inside his own home. As the game begins, Quico, hiding in a closet, goes through a glowing portal that appears in front of him and spits him out somewhere strange. Ramshackle buildings, tangled alleyways, hot midday sun... and a little girl who seems to be able to literally draw reality around her as she wishes.

Papo & YoWith nowhere else to go, Quico chases her down only to discover she wants nothing to do with him, but soon finds himself befriended by a chipper, back-packing robot named LULA who wants to introduce him to a beastly tower of muscle and fangs known simply as Monster. The two quickly become best friends, and Quico loves Monster... even when he's afraid of him. And Monster's addiction to potent poisonous frogs that, when consumed, turns him unpredictable, violent, and angry means Quico has quite a lot to be afraid of. But he loves Monster too much to run away, and Quico is willing to do anything it takes to save his newfound friend from himself... even if it means putting Quico himself in harm's way.

Use the mouse to look around, [WASD] to move, and the [spacebar] to jump. Once you've got LULA, hit [spacebar] again in midair to hover short distances. LULA can even activate faraway switches for you by pointing and them and right-clicking or pressing [Q]. [E] lets you interact with sort of things, and some objects will prompt you to perform contextual mouse movements, such as dragging the mouse to the side to pull a lever. Although the world you're exploring looks fairly ordinary at first glance, you'll soon discover it's anything but. Drawings and cardboard can take on lives of their own and allow you to change the landscape around you. If you get stuck, keep an eye out for hint boxes to point the way. Once you join up with Monster, you'll have to figure out how to use him to get around... he's bigger and stronger than you, but also pretty lazy, so you'll usually need to use coconuts to lure him around. You can't manually save, but the game autosaves for you at checkpoints and won't ever boot you back very far if you fail or fall.

Papo & YoAnalysis: Papo & Yo is one of those games that really manages to capture the important parts about being a child... the wonder and the vulnerability, but also the unexpected strength and tenacity. Minority has crafted a world that feels both familiar and magical, and recalls all the imaginary influence you used to pretend you has as a kid as Quico alters his environment with chalk and cardboard. Part of what makes the design so great is how often it takes you by surprise, as houses sprout legs to scurry away from you, lifting a crude box causes nearby buildings to rip from their foundations and float in the air, and more, all rendered in rich colour, sound, and atmosphere. It's a world that begs you to run and jump and play and explore in it... right before it bares its teeth. The more you play, the more clearly the game begins to fill in the gaps in the story without words as you discover the truth about Monster, Quico, and the people trying to protect him.

The gameplay itself is at its best when embracing that rich imagination. You never really lose that little thrill of delight when you see the landscape shudder and rumble around you with the push of a button or pull of a lever, and the more you see, the more you lose yourself in it. It's not what you'd call particularly challenging, for the most part. The way forward is usually clear and just requires a bit of simple thought and timing instead of any particular platforming skill. Which is fortunate, since precise movement and reaction is sort of awkward, especially when you're trying to hit a target or throw something. It can be difficult to aim your landings while hovering with LULA, and it's also not always visually apparent what's scenery and what's something you can use... or walk on. It was never enough to make me want to stop playing, but whenever it happened, it broke the immersion for me.

Papo & YoMonster himself is an immediate delight in your first interactions with him, and the game is adept at making you fall in love with him as fast as Quico does. The animation and design used to bring him to life are fantastic, infusing him with personality though he never says a word. The relationship between the two is the crux for the whole thing, and how you feel its handled is ultimately going to be a personal thing... you may feel it hits the nail on the head, or find it too treacly and simplified. As the story unfolds the more you play, the more obvious the narrative about abuse. Personally, I found a lot to relate to in it. It's a simple, but very honest, depiction of the relationship between vulnerable child and abusive parent. You may fear them, sure, and there are times you wish you could run away forever... but when they're not on something, you love them so much and so desperately you're not only just willing to risk it to be near them, to keep coming back... but you also feel like maybe, just maybe, if you try hard enough... you can fix them.

While some players might find the gameplay a bit too simple and repetitive, for others it might simply be too uncomfortable. Quico's helplessness at the enormous paws of Monster when the beast is in the grip of a frog-induced rage, watching the young boy being chased and slapped around while powerless to stop it at the hands of someone he loves, is somehow more disturbing than many more excessively violent games. But in a way, these are the types of games we need more of. The ones that come from those hurtful dark places in the most honest fashion possible, willing to expose, explore, and reach out with the sort of love and willingness to understand, and hope, that many games don't bother with. Though rough in places, and even hurtful in others, Papo & Yo is ultimately a painful yet beautiful adventure well worth experiencing whatever your background.

WindowsWindows:
Get the full version (Steam)

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


  • Currently 4.4/5
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Rating: 4.4/5 (111 votes)
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Mad Father

AliceLittle Aya Drevis loves stories, playing outside, and her pet rabbit; but like many children her age, she loves her daddy more than anything else in the world. It's a real shame that he's not the most deserving person— the man is an honest-to-goodness mad scientist, who spends his days experimenting in the basement while the rest of the family tries to ignore the terrible sounds. When a tragic anniversary arrives and the dead come back for revenge, it's up to Aya to seek out and rescue her Mad Father— even if she, you know, probably shouldn't. Guess you can't pick your relatives.

Mad FatherMade by Sen and translated by Vgperson, Mad Father is a free horror adventure with personality by the truckload and more variety than you'll know what to do with. One moment, you'll be helping Aya fend off zombie bites, the next, you'll be solving an item puzzle (or mashing Z to thrash your way free from a grabby monster, or sneaking past a guard of living dolls, or leading a decapitated corpse to his head, or deciding whether it's a good idea to uproot a mandrake...) It's a strange trip, and one that fits together only in the sense that it's consistently a jumble of tropes, but fortunately there aren't too many gameplay tricks to keep track of, and they're all pretty well explained when they come up.

Mad FatherIf Mad Father sounds like a ridiculous game so far, that's because it really, really is. But its goofiness is what sets it apart from the pack— imagine watching a cheesy horror movie from decades gone by, one that's fun because it's impossible to take seriously. Mad Father is pretty much the game of that movie, a gleefully absurd romp that's not exactly thoughtful or terrifying, but definitely isn't dull. Approaching Mad Father as a serious story might leave you disappointed, but take it for what it is, and chances are you'll have a blast. From the big creepy mansion to Aya's cute talk sprites to the wonderfully over-the-top awfulness of the Drevis family, there's plenty here to enjoy.

WindowsWindows:
Download the free full version

Mac OS XMac OS X:
Download the free full version


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Redemption Cemetery: Salvation of the Lost

StarchildThe subway isn't the sanest place at the best of times, and today seems to be even worse. You're traveling home with your doggy in an empty train save for three strange figures. The only stop is at an old cemetery, where the three people get off... through closed doors. Your Spaniel doesn't seem to mind the eeriness, though, and jumps merrily out after them, so you follow it straight into the new episode of ERS Game Studio's hidden-object adventure series, Redemption Cemetery: Salvation of the Lost.

Redemption Cemetery: Salvation of the LostYou are greeted by Hina, the beautiful keeper of the cemetery wafting on a cloud. She informs you that you have been chosen to save the souls of the ghosts from the train, who are tormented by their past transgressions. Each of them has caused the death of an innocent and wants you to go back in time and rectify their wrongdoings, making them the laziest ghosts in existence, since all they do is stand around with a mournful expression. Selfless as you are, you would have probably agreed to help anyway, but Hina still wants to make sure you don't bail out, so she's keeping your dog until your tasks are done. Each ghost opens a portal which takes you back to the past, right before the tragedies happen. Once there, you are supposed to locate the victim and make a plan to save them, all the while solving puzzles and rooting around for useful objects.

Analysis: The gameplay is standard for this sort of game: use your mouse to explore and pick up items, and your brain to figure out puzzles. You will also get a raven to bring you objects that you can't reach on your own. There are two types of hidden-object scenes: the usual rooms with a list of items to find, and a kind of hybrid, in which the wanted objects are silhouetted and you can often find only one or two; then you use them to find others and so on until you get to the item you actually need to continue the game.

Redemption Cemetery: Salvation of the Lost It is obvious that Redemption Cemetery: Salvation of the Lost was made by people who know what a good casual game should be. It is solid and consistent from start to finish and, even though it might not bring anything particularly new or ingenious to the genre, it is thoroughly enjoyable. It looks grim, but still colourful and beautifully detailed. The hidden-object scenes are somewhat monochrome, but not so much as to harm the gameplay. You might stop and scratch your head when faced with some of the puzzles; they are pleasantly varied and will exercise all sorts of your little grey cells. The storyline branches out in three directions, as you follow the fates of different ghosts, allowing for quite distinct environments and unique level design. However, if you're looking for horror, you're at the wrong place. The premise does sound frightening, and the opening sequence hints at spectral spookiness, but the ghosts are benevolent and penitent so, if anything, you'll end up feeling sorry for them. Speaking of non-scary features, throughout the game you'll find medals for your dog, and there is a whole section devoted to him/her. There are pet-related achievements, as well mini-games and puzzles which you play with the most adorable puppy ever to appear in a casual game.

Redemption Cemetery: Salvation of the Lost strikes a very nice balance – it is dark without being gloomy, it has a sense of humour but isn't comical, and it hops from cute to serious without losing any credibility. Therefore, it can appeal to a wide audience, including, but not limited to, people who like animals, people who want to get rid of a ghost phobia, ghosts themselves, time-travelers, goths (it really is a beautiful cemetery) and, of course, anyone who likes well-made hidden-object adventures. If you identify with any of the above categories, try this game, but be warned – you will get an irresistible urge to get a puppy.

Redemption Cemetery: Salvation of the Lost is currently only available in a Collector's Edition, which includes a bonus level, concept art, wallpapers, 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:
Download the demo
Get the full version


  • Currently 3.4/5
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Rating: 3.4/5 (82 votes)
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Galaxy Siege

satoriWhen we contemplate space exploration and first contact with alien races we're usually thinking of a universal federation of peace and harmony, equal rights for all, the complete alleviation of poverty, and molecular food replicators. But why would we want all that, when we could conquer every galaxy and raid them for all the resources they have? It's an upgrading, resource-nabbing free-for-all as Vasiliy Kostin presents an alternative take on things to come in Galaxy Siege, a space-themed upgrade shooter that would have even the Hungry Hungry Hippos daintily dabbing at their mouths with a napkin corner and saying, "No really guys, I just can't, I'm too stuffed."

Galaxy SiegeYou'll slalom your craft with the left and right [arrow] keys, automatically firing on anything you encounter that isn't a resource. Those your shuttle will automatically collect with its grappling robotic arms whenever they're within range. You fly a straight course through various galaxies, each with three sectors and a Major Bad Dude at the finish. Your shields, grapplers, fuel and firepower are all dependent on whatever you've got onboard, so accruing resources is of major importance if you're going to defeat every other creature in the universe. If you run out of fuel, your ship will lose all control and momentum and just start listing lazily at an angle — but the good news is that the autosystems for your weapons and grapplers still work, enabling you to keep collecting any resources conveniently nearby until you warp out of there. You'll immediately flee the galaxy if you take too much damage, but you can also warp out on your own whenever you like. Where do you reappear? At a Shop of course, where you can buy all sorts of snazzy add-ons and upgrades with those resources you've collected. And upgrade you will, if you expect to make it out there!

Galaxy SiegeOther than your armaments, where you arrange them as you upgrade doesn't have any game effect on your ship's performance. In fact with no aerodynamics in space you can place components anywhere at all in there, and since you're constrained by the size of your current scaffolding your ship will eventually come to resemble a slice of modular robotic toast. Fortunately, upgrades are indeed available to expand your scaffolding and grow beyond the limits of your vessel's current size. In fact you can blip on out of a galaxy if you're stuck, and come back later with more resources and upgrades from the Shops in other galaxies.

If you play Galaxy Siege looking for a thrilling space-themed action shooter, you'll definitely be disappointed. With the weapons systems on full auto and completely dependent upon how well you've upgraded your craft, frenzied shooting and deft maneuverings are just not where it's at. But that isn't the charm of this game. If you enjoy planned upgrading, growing a system piece by piece to achieve today what you couldn't before, Galaxy Siege will most likely appeal to you. As in life, sometimes the planning is where it's at more than the conflicts. Not in our stars, but in ourselves that determines our results.

Play Galaxy Siege


  • Currently 3.5/5
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Rating: 3.5/5 (57 votes)
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Laser Puzzle

ArtbegottiLaser Puzzle by Dobes Vandermeer is one of those games where you get what it says on the tin: a laser-based puzzle where you've got to direct colored laser beams to the proper receptors. The twist here is that rather than dropping mirrors willy-nilly across the grid, you're given a series of wheels that must be rotated into the correct positions (click each wheel to rotate it). Some wheel segments have double-sided mirrors that redirect beams, others have colored filters that only allow a certain color to pass through. If there's one major downside to Laser Puzzle (aside from the lack of colorblind-friendliness), it's that the game is only fifteen levels long. It introduces a novel concept to a familiar game and lures you in with its clever design, but then ends right at the moment you become hooked and crave more. Nevertheless, it's an interesting puzzle with a fresh take on a simple idea that is well worth a portion of your coffee break time.

Play Laser Puzzle


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JayisgamesHappy 10th Anniversary JIG!It was 10 years ago today, April 19, 2003, that I started this blog on the servers at RIT where I was a returning student, studying for a degree in Information Technology with a concentration in Games. It wasn't until later in 2004 that I finally got my act together and decided to write about the free browser games that were just beginning to become a "thing", but my initial "Hello World" post celebrates its 10th anniversary today.

Over the years the site grew in size by including additional writers, most of whom have been regular readers of the site, and that allowed me to move behind the scenes to take a more administrative and managerial role. Today the site is so much more than I could have ever accomplished on my own that it doesn't feel right anymore talking about it in the first person.

Everyone here at JIG is thankful and grateful to our wonderful, supportive community for hanging with us and watching us grow over the past 10 years. Your comments, your feedback, and your visits have been our sustenance, our reason to keep doing what we love to do most: bringing you the very best games we can find on this planet we all call home.

Here's to the next 10 years! :D


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Link Dump Fridays

DoraAliens and badgers and unspeakable horrors, oh my! From a highly anticipated pre-order, to the exciting reboot of one of the most popular and quirky adventure games from an even popular-er and quirkier developer, as well as some sweet upcoming titles and updates, Link Dump has you covered.

News and Previews

StarboundShut Up And Take My Money! If you're at all like me, you've been staring at a wall listening to lonely country songs while you wait for Chucklefish's upcoming sci-fi indie sandbox/action-adventure Starbound to be released... maybe making plaintive whale sounds once in a while. Well, now's your chance to put your money where your mouth is, because here's your chance to finally pre-order! The game, planned for PC, Mac and Linux, still isn't out until later this year, but by throwing your hat (and your cash) into the ring now you'll not only gain access to the beta when that finally releases, but also help the game reach a bunch of stretch goals for more content. Sounds like a win/win situation to me!

SCP - Containment BreachMake Long, Loving Eye Contact It's been a while since we reviewed the stellar creepy free indie action-adventure SCP - Containment Breach, but the team behind it hasn't been sitting around twiddling their fingers doing nothing. The game has received a massive amount of updating in the months since its feature here, and not just bug fixing... there's a substantial amount of new content in the form of more scenes, items, encounters, SCPs, and much, much more. It's an impressive amount of dedication to what is a completely free project that's well worth experiencing no matter how (un) familiar you may be with the wildly popular community-driven Wiki site behind the material, so make sure you check it out... again or for the first time.

ShelterThe Stones Would Approve Last year, Might and Delight released the gorgeous indie action platforming adventure Pid, which was about a lost little boy in a gorgeous and surreal world filled with danger. For their next endeavor, however, they're going a decidedly different route with Shelter, where you play a mother badger forced from her den with her cubs and trying to find a new safe place for them. Details are scarce, but seem to imply you'll be dealing with a lot of the brutal truth of nature as you try to travel while protecting your cubs... which might not always go as well as you'd hope. The game looks gorgeous, and we'll be keeping our eyes on this for more details as they develop.

The Last InuaThrough Snow and Dark of Night... Though you'll need to look elsewhere other than the actual website to find more information on it, Glowforth's stunning upcoming adventure The Last Inua is something you should be looking out for. Due out later this winter for PC, Mac, and iOS, it's about a father and son struggling to survive in the Arctic when a corruption begins spreading through the land. While the father Ataataq is strong and can climb and push heavy objects, his son Hiko is wasting away from illness... but also developing unique magical abilities. You can read more in Indie Statik's lengthy preview, or follow the official Tumblr of the developers for more information, but this could be one seriously beautiful, unique game that explores one culture often left ignored in games and popular culture as a whole.

Kickstarter/IndieGoGo Projects

A Small FavorTall, Green, and... Handsome?... Sorta? If you love quirky point-and-click adventures, you have to be familiar with Zeebarf, and chances are you've then played his excellent Small Favor series about an illegal favor-trader in space. If that's the case, you're about to get really excited, because you're getting another chance to revist that galaxy in weird and wonderful new ways as Clickshake have officially launched their Kickstarter for the new and improved commercial version of A Small Favor. Planned for PC and Mac, as well as featuring not only new artwork but an expanded story and hours of new content, this is the perfect opportunity to not only support an indie developer who has consistently released some of the best content around for free, but take another adventure into the favor trade!

Among the SleepSleep Tight Krillbite Studios' upcoming indie horror adventure Among the Sleep has been both hotly anticipated, and the source of some controversy. The game has you play in the first-person perspective of a two-year-old toddler who experiences a strange and surreal effect late at night while the rest of the house is sleeping, but some people falsely claimed the point of the game was to have the child hurt, or that the game was too dark to be aimed at children... a moot point since it's a game intended for adults. Regardless, development has soldiered on, and now the time has finally arrived to both help fund and pre-order it with the official Kickstarter campaign! This game has a ton of potential, and if you're a fan of unique horror, it should definitely be on your radar.

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!


(12 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Fish Out of Water!

JohnBNew from Halfbrick Studios, creator of Fruit Ninja and Jetpack Joyride, comes Fish Out of Water!, an arcade game that's one part fish tossing, and, well, another part fish tossing, too! Pick up a scaly friend and give 'em a throw, sending each one across the ocean to see how far you can go. Get an impressive distance score and skip off the surface of the water as many times as you can and you might just impress the crabby judges at the end. Seriously, the judges are crabs.

Fish Out of Water!Swimming near the shore are your collection of fish (and a couple of mammals). Tap and drag one out of the water, then swipe your finger across the screen to throw. While airborne you can unleash a temporary boost to move a little faster, but inevitably you'll come back down to the sea, skipping across the surface before ending your run. Each fish behaves differently in the air and on the water, so depending on your current mission (and weather conditions) you'll need to pick the right fish for the job. After three throws you'll be scored by a panel of distinguished crab judges, each with his or her own criteria. Skippy Steve, for example, is most impressed by a high number of skips.

Fish Out of Water! utilizes a very simple leveling and power-up system that's focused on completing simple missions and gathering and combining gems to create charms. It's as simple as tapping two different crystals and checking out the results, and the power-ups do basic things like add to your score or influence how a judge will rank you. Not much to it, but it adds a little incentive to keep throwing fish until the wee hours of the morning.

Unfortunately, Fish Out of Water! doesn't impress nearly as much as Halfbrick's previous offerings. The graphics are cute and the gameplay is easy to pick up, but it's missing that hook that grabs you and keeps you coming back for more. Still, it's an entertaining game worth its weight in replay value, especially when you're determined to impress that crabby crab of a judge Harwood. Grrr.

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 (67 votes)
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Push Me

KinetikaiHere's a familiar scenario: There's a red block that needs to get slid to a certain location and a number of green blocks in the way that can only move either horizontally or vertically depending on their orientation. Cue response, "Hang on, haven't I seen this before?" And indeed, at first glance, Atomic Cicada's block-sliding puzzle game Push Me looks like a standard Rush Hour clone... until you realize the red block can't be moved on its own — you have to push it using the green blocks. Hmm. A little later on, you realize that the red block is subject to gravity, and can fall down and get pushed over edges. Double hmm.

Push MeThis takes an old concept and turns it on its head with a simple tweak. For each stage, simply click and drag the green blocks to move the red block to the specified alcove on the edge of the grid. (And if you're feeling particularly clever, try to get the "Perfect" by doing it in the least amount of moves.) The falling block mechanic creates a whole new set of rules, leading to some interesting and often ingenious brainteasers. The noisy background graphics are a bit jarring, but luckily they don't interfere with the gameplay.

Giving a much-appreciated twist to a familiar format, Push Me is a refreshing and unexpectedly original piece of logic puzzlery... and with 100 levels, it'll keep your brain occupied for a nice while.

Play Push Me


(8 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Cut the Rope: Time Travel

JohnBIt's been three years since the first Cut the Rope game, but our little green buddy is still hungry! When a time machine so rudely nabs his next snack, Om Nom jumps in and chases after it. But really, can you blame him? Cut the Rope: Time Travel follows the well-established formula from the previous games, adding themed levels that take us through the history of the human race one era at a time.

Cut the Rope: Time TravelHere's our super-exclusive special protip for playing Cut the Rope: Time Travel: use your finger to cut the rope! Get the candy to Om Nom and his hungry ancestor at the bottom of the screen by slicing supports and timing your moves so the candy falls right into their mouths. Just about everything can be touched, poked, pushed and prodded, making each level a puzzle waiting to be solved. Depending on which era you're in you'll have different sorts of obstacles to deal with. In the Middle Ages, for example, you'll need to release blades to slice through chains, and on the Pirate Ship, keep an eye out for mines!

Developer ZeptoLab is in a great position with the Cut the Rope franchise. New releases don't have to reinvent the series in order to entertain, they just have to live up to the high standards set by the original. Cut the Rope: Time Travel definitely does that, providing the same responsive, realistic physics and cartoon-like graphics that never cease to entertain. The time travel mechanic is a great excuse to add themed level packs, and with two Om Noms to feed, things can get a little more complicated in later stages. There are nearly 100 levels to work your way through, which is probably all the excuse you needed to start up your rope cutting addition again!

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


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Rating: 3.6/5 (166 votes)
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Escape from the Similar Rooms

elleWhich of these rooms is not like the other? Which of these rooms just doesn't belong? In Hottategoya's Escape from the Similar Rooms, three of these rooms are not quite the same. The smallest details change but the rest is very... similar. To start off, the first similar thing you'll find is you're locked inside, and your goal is escape from this place by solving the puzzles and unlocking three doors.

Escape from the Similar RoomsClick around the scenes, observing clues and associating them with the proper puzzles, which are located next to each door they unlock. With no inventory items to fuddle with, easy puzzles and a very minimalistic design, typical of Hottategoya, you'll be free in minutes. It eschews the usual drab concrete with a bit of nice wood flooring to warm things up although these rooms still lack much variety in way of color and design. There's comfort in the familiar, though, and even as this escape feels rather similar to a half dozen others by this creator, it offers a pleasing handful of puzzles and a brief diversion from the daily routine.

Play Escape from the Similar Rooms


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Rating: 4.2/5 (67 votes)
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Plexus: Rebuild the Earth

HopefulNebulaAdmit it: you know you wanted to solve a jigsaw today. Well, the team at Plexus Puzzles has granted your wish, and the results are as adorable as ever with Plexus: Rebuild the Earth. Click on a piece to select it, drag to move it, and use the [arrow] keys or [WASD] to rotate the selected piece or move it up or down. Created in celebration of Earth Day, Rebuild the Earth is more of the same combination of stunning artwork and challenging pieces we've come to love from Plexus. The artwork is the same chalky style we encountered in Plexus: Together Till the End, which suits the final drawing quite well. Go! Play! Rebuild!

Play Plexus: Rebuild the Earth


  • Currently 4.4/5
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Rating: 4.4/5 (185 votes)
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Weekday Escape

elleAre you ready for a little escape from the ordinary? You can always turn to MyGames888 to deliver a sublimely surreal adventure, and this is just as true for Escape from the Small Room, a place where it's as satisfying to just be as it is to outsmart cleverly disguised secret codes, nab the key, and get out. Here in this very pink, rather cramped space, the theme is small: therein find small clues and perform small functions and your escape will be no small feat.

Escape from the Small roomTo find your way out, click around the room looking for any area that will turn up a hint of what to do next. In the same vein, once you pick them up, click items in your inventory to examine and interact with them. Without a changing cursor, you'd think this would be kind of a pixel hunt, yet there are other visual clues in the surroundings to ease your way even if all that pink and purple everywhere you look might throw you off. This is a quick 5-minute escape, or much longer depending on how lucky or observant you are. Opening the safe and the wall panel won't be much trouble. It's all well and good and nice and easy like, until you seek out that final code. Trust me, though, it's there. It'll be more difficult if you over think—or over click—the situation. You'll find it eventually, staring you straight in the face.

Maybe it's sometimes a little unfair, but clever MyGames888 has always liked using unique clue presentation and item utilization, and that's where most the fun lies. Plus, you get to feel like a sexy beast when you escape. With impeccable graphical design, saturated colors and depth, Escape from the Small Room will make you feel present in this environment while the inventive puzzles will make you feel smart to get out.

Play Escape from the Small Room


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

JohnBNonoCube from Graycode Software takes the familiar picross puzzle and bumps it into the world of 3D. Now, instead of filling in squares on a flat grid, you carve out a shape by twisting and turning a cube shape floating freely in space. The same rules of logic still apply, you just have another dimension to worry about solving!

NonoCubeNonoCube's interface is pretty easy to use. Tap and drag the screen to rotate the cube. Use the bomb and shield icons to destroy or protect blocks respectively, or unleash the power of row-by-row marking when you know the fate of a large group. Floating arrows allow you to hide faces of the puzzle one layer at a time so you can see blocks in the center of the shape. By using the number clues marked on some of the outside squares, you can slowly remove boxes until all that's left is a cute little turtle!

There are several 3D picross games floating around the mobile markets, but NonoCube hits a comfortable balance between challenge, ease of use, and simplicity. 60 levels are included in the standard download with the option to grab additional packs via in-game purchase. That's enough puzzle solving to keep you busy for weeks on end!

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


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Rating: 3.8/5 (54 votes)
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Liquid Measure 3 Poison Pack

elleSmart Code's superlatively fluent physics puzzle has turned toxic, and this is a good thing. Really. Liquid Measure 3: Poison Pack transforms the pipe-building, fluid pouring, quantum teleporting and bombing you know and love, giving it a more potent purpose. Arrange the pipes, valves and other elements, then turn the start switch to direct glowing green liquids into their respective containers, measuring properly so you don't spill or waste any of the hazardous fluids.

Play all the Liquid Measure games:
Liquid MeasureLiquid Measure 2Liquid Measure 2: Dark Fluid Level PackLiquid Measure 3Liquid Measure 3: Poison Pack

Liquid Measure 3 Poison PackAs an expansion pack, it has the gameplay of Liquid Measure 3 only with 30 newer, glowier levels. You also won't find many instructions here and the challenge ramps up early on, leaving you scratching your head over seemingly impenetrable blocks while an increasing number of pieces forces you to construct byzantine plumbing to reach success. Although it sounds like a simple plan and each level can in theory be solved in less than a minute, Poison Pack is packed with enough experimenting and rerouting to tease your brain for most the afternoon.

Play Liquid Measure 3: Poison Pack


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Rating: 4.1/5 (145 votes)
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Do Not Touch

TrickyOf all kinds of artists, musicians tend to be at the forefront of experimenting with new ways of interacting with their fans. In that vein, Dutch band Light Light, in conjunction with Studio Moniker, has put together something quite clever. Do Not Touch is a piece of HTML 5 interactive art that serves as the "crowd-sourced" music video for Light Light's new single, "Kilo".

Do Not TouchDisplaying the movement of fans all over the world, en masse, is the basic concept of the video. As you watch the song play out, you will be directed to move your cursor in different ways, in conjunction with the thousands of cursors from people who have already watch the video. These directions range from answering basic questions, to forming shapes along with other cursors, to interacting with video footage of band members. Once you finish watching the video, the tracked movements of your own cursor will be added to the ever-growing collection. Overall, the song rocks, the developers make the most of their unique concept, and it's fascinating to see the internet hive-mind in action. Perhaps Do Not Touch can be considered a game only in the broadest of terms, but, hey, it's fun, it's interactive, and it's definitely worth sharing.

Play Do Not Touch


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The Vault

TrickyCome on in to Crazy Tricky's Vault O' Items, for all the best deals on things to clutter your inventory! We've got red potions! We've got blue potions! We've got all manner of ethers, elixers, herbs, and a bunch of feathers we plucked from an annoyed phoenix just this morning! And for just coming in today, you get, absolutely free, three excellent platform, adventure, and arcade games from the JayIsGames archives! Why? Because we're cuh-raaazy!

  • Lucky TowerLucky Tower - The world of hack-and-slash, with its menacing villains and complicated traps, is a natural setting for physical comedy. Lucky Tower, a humorous platform adventure by Exotworking, takes full advantage of the comedic possibilities of its fantasy setting, and the results are hilarious. Playing like an interactive Looney Tune, the none-too-bright knight protagonist will get spiked, barreled, chomped, crushed, and exploded dozens of times before he manages to escape the tower he's trapped in, but you'll be laughing all the while.
  • One ChanceOne Chance - So many games allow us to undo our decisions with a press of a button, or flick of a switch. Whenever that agency is taken away from us, suddenly everything feels a lot more serious. Such is the case with One Chance, a 2010 pixelated adventure from Awkward Silence Games. It does its best to give you only a single run through its apocalyptic scenario, and the decisions you make are permanent. Reloading the browser to find a barren world just as lifeless as you left it, is a strangely haunting image, and gives One Chance a gravitas that most triple-A titles could only hope for.
  • PyoroPyoro - It may be a little greedy, but I always love it when developers include random extras and mini-games with their works, even if they have only limited connection to the rest of the game. Such is the case with Pyoro, a fun arcade game Nintendo released along with the original WarioWare on the Game Boy Advance. Supposedly, it was the success of that game Wario hoped to copy with his own line of games. Of course, while Pyoro itself didn't launch a microgaming hit franchise, that little bird with it's long gulping tongue is as hilarious as ever. In 2005, Johnny Slack recreated its looks and gameplay for the browser, and, much like Pyoro's appetite for seeds, it's hard to stop once you've started.

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


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Rating: 4.3/5 (103 votes)
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Ghost Hacker 2

DoraIf you haven't played the original Ghost Hacker, then you're probably not going to have much of a clue of what's going on in Core Sector's Ghost Hacker 2, but if you're a tower defense fan, then it's very much worth your while to find out. Place towers and power them up with nodes to defend your cache of data cores from incoming hostiles in each level. Or, if playing in Monster Mode, swarm a devious layout of towers and traps yourself by deploying enough minions to capture all the cores yourself. Feeling puny? Then replay stages on harder difficulties to earn more cores to permanently upgrade your structures and abilities, or try a level again with an entirely different layout of towers and powers.

Ghost Hacker 2Considering the original Ghost Hacker came out almost three years ago, it's sort of surprising that its sequel doesn't offer any sort of synopsis to bring you up to date on who everyone is and what's going on. Even if you've played the first game, three years is a long time, and I can't even remember what I had for breakfast today. While not significantly different from the original, however, Ghost Hackers 2 engages with its strategic gameplay, replayability, and sleek cyberriffic visual style. Just stand on your chair and loudly proclaim "I FIGHT FOR THE USERS" and then sit back down and play some more.

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Rating: 4.1/5 (100 votes)
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Magnetized

TrickyMagnetized, by Rocky Hong, is a simple one-button HTML5 physics arcade game of pushing and pulling. The goal, as it is, is to guide the moving square blip safely off the screen, without hitting any walls. However, you may not directly affect the movement of the blip. Instead, there are magnet towers scattered across each screen. By holding [Z] or the mouse button, the towers will magnetize, affecting its velocity by attracting the blip towards the tower. The blip will maintain its inertia, so you'll often be sling-shotting it Apollo 13 style. There are three sets of 20 colored levels to unlock, each with slightly different physics that will combine in interesting way, eventually leading up to a final battle.

MagnetizedThe mechanics of Magnetized are intuitive and easy to grasp. Make no mistake, though, just when you've gotten the hang of them is the exact moment that the game starts pulling no punches with its challenges. Practice makes perfect, however, and while those who complete Magnetized will probably do so with a death count of at least three digits, there's something undeniably satisfying about juuuuust avoiding a wall, as you execute a perfect loop that puts to right on the path to victory. The ethereally abstract presentation and chiptune soundtrack to a lot to set the mood right, and while some may find Magnetized's emphasis on precision annoying, just as many will find themselves strangely drawn to this little square's strangeness and charm

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Mobile Monday

JohnBGhosts return in this edition of Mobile Monday! Real ghosts (well, virtual representations of real ghosts) plus ghost-like games we all thought were gone but have come back to haunt us. The good kind of haunting!

retku-p.gifFinland, Finland, Finland, The country where I want to be - Pause for a moment and wrap your brain around this. In NES-Retku, an upcoming iOS and Android (and PC) game, you play a Finnish YouTube-based game critic who gets sucked in a retro brawling game and has to fight his way out. Lots of mini-games, combat, platforming elements and wacky stuff to be had. Bonus awesomeness points if you already follow Retku's game reviews on YouTube, you're going to love this game so much harder!

ghostly-p.gifGhostly shall materialize - Upcoming free game about ghosts alert! The cute little iOS game Ghostly casts you in the role of a ghost haunting a newly-occupied mansion. Only instead of the bad kind of haunting, your job is to fix a beacon that keeps evil ghosts away so the new owners can get a good night's rest. How adorable is that? The game should be coming in the next few weeks. Be prepared!

blockfortress2.pngMy Block Fortress, your Block Fortress - The tower defense meets first person shooter meets Minecraft mobile game Block Fortress recently received a tidy update that added a fantastic new feature. Before, you could create custom levels, play them, then pat yourself on the back for being so crafty. Now, those levels can be shared, meaning all the little boys and girls out there playing Block Fortress are now making more awesome stages to conquer. In our Block Fortress review we were all "this game = nice!", so if you haven't found an excuse to give the game a go, now's your chance.

gemini-p.gifGemini Rue on iOS! - Did you hear? Gemini Rue on iOS! Yay! The soaked-in-mystery adventure game has crossed over to the mobile side, bringing with it all the old school visual sensibilities we love from the genre. Every excuse you get to play a Wadjet Eye adventure game, you should take it. The studio creates some of the best story-driven experiences of our time, and we've gushed on and on about more than a few of them in the past. Peer pressure dictates you play it.


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Yummies

JohnBYummies is a logic-based puzzle game from YUMMY Factory, the team behind the mobile brain teasers IQ Mission and IQ Mission Epilogue. Your goal is to guide squishy-looking aliens to their respective capsules, nudging them along paths while you deal with all sorts of barriers and blockades. It's an extremely cerebral experience that's softened by a phenomenal visual presentation, right down to the grinning little aliens you'll be helping out.

YummiesTap and slide one of the yummies to move them across the board. A colored capsule square sits amidst the other squares, and all you have to do is clear a path so each yummy can reach the capsule. Naturally, obstacles get in your way at just about every turn, like blocks that rotate when you step on them, portals, locks and keys, and so on. Yummies gets pretty devious with its puzzles later in the game, but the creativity poured into the level design is worth fighting your way through a few dozen brain-benders!

The more thorough and frugal you are with each puzzle in Yummies the more stars you'll earn. Stars unlock new planets, each filled with more levels and more things to see. At the time of writing over 150 stages are available, and future updates promise to increase that number. Yummies is a solid puzzle game with an even level of challenge and a great sense of style. Help the little alien critters out, won't you?

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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Small Town Terrors: Pilgrim's Hook

DoraVera wanted nothing to do with Pilgrim's Hook, the gloomy seaside town she grew up in, but her twin brother Arthur was always drawn back... and now a frantic phone call from him has brought her back to a place she always swore she was done with for good. Why? Well, the unspeakable evil lurking beneath the waters for starters. You know. The usual tourist-y trap stuff. Gunnar Games delivers a cheesy but enjoyable hidden-object adventure with Small Town Terrors: Pilgrim's Hook. When Vera arrives at the island to find it a bit more hilariously overrun with dark forces than she remembers, it's a race against time to find Arthur and get out before a crab the size of a small pick-up truck carries him off, or he gets throttled by all of these sinister inky black tentacles, or he falls into one of these mysterious sinkholes opening up everywhere or... something. Man. And I thought my hometown was a dump.

Small Town Terrors: Pilgrim's HookAs it turns out, Vera has bigger problems than her brother being a flake and whatever bad memories Pilgrim's Hook is giving her. It seems like there's something bigger and darker going on here, and a war between the land and sea is brewing with some truly ancient forces behind it. Vera may have set out looking to save her brother, but she'll quickly discover there's a lot more at stake than that, and something very old and very sinister has had its eye on her from the day she was born to use her as a pawn to tip the tides of war.

Click around to gather clues, solve puzzles and hidden-object scenes. You know you've found an item when you get a very Inception-y BWWUUUUNNN sound-effect. Every time. You'll also get a trusty map that will display locations you can currently do something in, and even let you hop around to places you've visited at a click. Additionally, the game has an extremely helpful hint system that will lead you right to your next objective without repeatedly clicking, and a whole score of optional achievements and bonus morphing objects to track down.

Small Town Terrors: Pilgrim's HookAnalysis: I admit, I spent the first half hour or so good-naturedly ridiculing Pilgrim's Hook. When Vera complained about bad memories from her childhood, I wasn't expecting to be greeted with massive crabs and sinister sentient kraken, and it seemed so over-the-top as to be laughable. And yet, the more I played, the more engrossed I became. Pilgrim's Hook has a surprisingly good story at its core beyond the whole "rescue your brother" bit, and its some captivatingly unique mythology that winds folklore and magic with just the right amount of creepiness. It's still cheesy, but it feels unique and story-oriented in a way that few casual downloads really try this whole-heartedly to be. It doesn't hurt that the game is gorgeous, too, with stunning design, vibrant colours, and an atmospheric soundtrack. Just get used to BWWUUUUNNN, because you're going to be hearing it a lot. BWWUUUUNNN. BWWUUUUNNN. BWWUUUUNNN

On the other hand, the gameplay holds few surprises, and often feels like the hidden-object scenes are almost lazily tacked on. It's one thing to be rooting through a pile of junk to find a useful item. Quite another to hunt down nine of each type of random sea creature before the game will let you pick up the saw you knew you needed that was sitting in plain view the entire time. Some of the adventure-game logic will be annoying too, forcing you to, say, find a sharp item to cut through a single thing, then toss it aside, only to need yet another random sharp object a few minutes later, over and over. Fortunately, the puzzles require a bit more brainpower than usual, even if they're familiar designs, and the plot constantly sitting at the forefront of the experience will keep you intrigued even when the gameplay drags a bit in comparison. It's also on the long side, and most players will probably spend over five hours on the main campaign alone. The bonus chapter in the Collector's Edition is significantly shorter, but at least actually feels like a bonus instead of an integral chunk of the story that Standard Edition buyers would otherwise miss out on. Try the demo and give it a chance to get its hooks into you, and you may just find it a creative and captivating hidden-object adventure of a gem that deserves to be experienced.

Note: 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.

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Florence

StarchildAre you a fan of classical music? Do you miss high school? Are you a teenager? Do you feel like saving the day? If you answered one or more of these questions with anything from "Maybe" to "You betcha!", then Florence by Rebekah Smith is the right RPG exploration game for you. Our young heroine is a promising flautist who has to make sure that the biggest night of her career doesn't turn into a disaster.

FlorenceFlorence is getting ready to play at a concert given by her school in a few hours. She has worked hard and has a lot riding on this performance. Which is why the last thing she needs is her friend running into her room shouting about sabotage and cancelling... and that's exactly what happens. Florence, like your regular self-sacrificing superhero, volunteers to fix everything in time for the show, while her fellow students stand around and panic. There is much to be done and many places to do it in; use the [arrow] keys to move and [enter] to interact with people and objects. Talk to your friends to find out what the damage is and how it can be reversed, then launch into your noble tasks which, at the beginning, mostly consist of finding missing items.

Florence plays out like a good teenage movie. All the elements are there: a pretty, likable girl in the main role, love interests, intrigue, strained relationships with parents, drama and a teddy-bear. The story is driven by dialogues, which are well-written and amusing. There are no puzzles per se, but you will be expected to put two and two together at times, though this comes intuitively enough. The layout is complex without being frustrating; there is a good number of rooms, but it's fairly easy to remember where they are and what is in them. The game can be finished in less than an hour, but it will feel longer, because it is full of developments that change its course. You'll get the most out of it if you really put yourself in Florence's shoes — as she doesn't have much time to save the show, there will be a real sense of urgency which will make your achievements more rewarding, and in the end it does feel like a well-rounded experience. Florence is not a groundbreaking game in any way, but it is definitely pleasant and endearing and worth your time.

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Dungelot

KinetikaiShoot first, ask questions later. Actually, skip the questions and just shoot some more. Created by Puppy Games, Ultratron is a giant neon dose of bullet-filled arcade action, taking a simple Robotron-esque shooter and dressing it up to the nines with slick, stylized graphics, plenty of upgrades and a blasting techno soundtrack.

UltratronIn Ultratron, you control the last remaining humanoid battle droid on a quest to destroy all robots and avenge the human race! You move your character with [WASD] or the [arrow] keys and use the mouse to fire. Or, if you're using an Xbox 360 controller (which Ultratron supports), simply move with the left joystick and shoot with the right. Each level tosses you into a battle against wave after wave of mechanical baddies, and your only objective is to blast away everything in sight, collecting dots (money) and power-ups along the way. There are occasional challenge stages thrown in, requiring you to shoot or dodge a series of fast-moving enemies, as well as assault stages, where you're bombarded with the most annoyingly trigger-happy of enemies.

In between each level, you get the option to purchase upgrades and other accessories, including smartbombs, defense drones and pets that follow and assist you by mowing down enemies with bullets, lasers and rockets. (Truly, man's best friends.) The game's stages are segmented into 10-level checkpoints, with a big bad boss capping each 10-stage set. True to arcade form, each block of stages must be completed in one go — run out of shields and it's back to the nearest checkpoint to start again. Luckily, your score, money and upgrades are all saved at each checkpoint.

UltratronAnalysis: Pew pew pew! Ultratron is an example of a classic arcade experience redone right. The Robotron: 2084 model is modernized and amplified, and the result is pretty darn cool. The upgrades are what really tie the game together. Coinage is just rare enough to make each upgrade purchase a non-trivial matter, especially when you're down on your shields and bombs and the next boss battle is looming ever closer. It adds a well-appreciated modicum of strategy to the mix, separating the game from the elder statesmen it draws inspiration from. Of course, when it comes down to it, skill and reflexes are the lynchpin to success, and you'll need plenty of both to make it all the way through.

This is not a particularly deep experience by any means, but it's a heckuvalotta fun. Ultratron is stylish and finger-bruisingly addictive, with sexy visuals and sexier action. While there isn't a staggering deal of variety in terms of enemies and scenarios, there's plenty of challenge and replayability, and of course, everything is drenched in neon eye candy. So if blowing up a metric ton of evil robots sounds like a fun way to spend a Saturday night, then this is one title you'll probably want to get your hands on.

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  • Currently 3.9/5
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Rating: 3.9/5 (131 votes)
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URBEX

DoraAn invitation to hang out at a creepy derelict factory sounds like a one-way ticket to Murder Town, but for you it's nothing out of the ordinary since you've been called yet again to photograph the graffiti art of your friend "Stinger". Of course, when you show up and he's nowhere to be found, that should probably set off a few red flags and have you running for the hills... but then we wouldn't have the basis for URBEX, Psionic's moody-broody point-and-click horror adventure, and that would be no fun at all. You might not have brought much with you apart from your trusty camera, but hey, it's not like anything will go horribly, horribly wrong and you'll be forced to run for your life, right?

URBEXClick to interact or move around, and moving your cursor to the top of the screen causes your inventory to drop down. Be warned that although it doesn't occur anywhere else, a certain pair of objects in the third chapter have contextual mouse movement, forcing you to click and drag to move them around. The game is broken up into chapters, and will save your progress at the start of each one, so if you fail or, uh, die, you'll be booted back to the start of the last one.

Since the game is divided up into chapters, it does a good job of continually moving you forward with a series of self-contained puzzles instead of having you back-track in circles, wondering what you missed. This also means, however, that the game just isn't that difficult, and it's hard to escape the feeling that you're strictly on rails rather than actually adventuring. It doesn't help that a lot of the challenge that is there is due to some awkward time escape sequences and hunting down interactive zones that aren't well represented visually. Fortunately, the atmosphere and oppressive design is so top-notch it draws you in almost immediately, and the secret areas, documents, and other collectibles provide incentive to explore and replay. Despite some rough patches in design, URBEX is a creepy adventure with a satisfying length and campy storyline that makes for an enjoyable experience.

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Rating: 3/5 (36 votes)
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Treasure of the Abandoned City

JohnBTreasure of the Abandoned City is an action adventure game from Alec Stamos with artwork by Todd Luke. It continues the Tales of the Renegade Sector episodes with a loot hunt through space, sending you on a quest to find Laserbeard's treasure hidden somewhere on the dusty dry planet of Seltan. Fortunately, you get to punch and shoot a bunch of bad guys along the way!

Treasure of the Abandoned CityMove around with the [WASD] keys, interact with characters, signs and the like using [E], and open your inventory by hitting the [spacebar]. You carry a few basic weapons to keep the boulder-tossing bad guys at bay, but a lot of time will be spent avoiding dangers and solving simple puzzles throughout the sparse landscapes. A helpful hyper-glove allows you to punch nearby foes as well as pick up heavy objects, giving you a way to defend yourself even if you're low on ammo.

Treasure of the Abandoned City is a nice mixture of action and adventure elements, stepping back and forth between the genres to give you moments of excitement punctuated by moments of intrigue. The only real downside is the screen's tendency to follow the mouse a little too closely, resulting in jerky scrolling and some confusing close-quarters battles. It doesn't improve the overall experience, naturally, but it isn't severe enough to cut into the enjoyment factor. Treasure of the Abandoned City is one of those games you really won't want to stop playing. The blend of action and adventure elements is smartly done, and the overall challenge is well-rounded enough to offer some resistance without causing frustration. Plus, who wouldn't want to find the treasure of some dude named Laserbeard?!

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  • Currently 4.2/5
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Rating: 4.2/5 (29 votes)
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Palette

AliceRemember one thing, and it might lead to remembering another. It might be difficult to, say, remember the house where you lived as a child, but try thinking hard about something that happened there. What room were you in? What's outside the door, or down the hall? In Palette, a free narrative puzzle adventure made by Yoshitaka Nishida and translated by Vgperson (whose other translations include Ib, The Witch's House, and The Crooked Man), Dr. Sianos B. Sian needs to travel down a much twistier trail— B.D., his new patient, barely remembers anything, and it's up to him to take her one remaining memory and guide her through the process of recovering her past.

PaletteCall up B.D. and explore her memories, fleshing them out as best as you can, forming connections, and pushing past her mental blocks. To make it harder, B.D. only has so much emotional energy, which she expends with every bit of digging, old or new. With so many directions available from the start, you'll have to pick and choose your battles. Can B.D. handle this path? That one? Some directions are best left for when she's feeling stronger, and you might need to play with a notebook in hand to keep track of them all— Palette isn't just going to test B.D.'s memory, it's going to test yours, too.

The original Japanese version of Palette took home the grand prize in the Fourth ASCII Entertainment Software Contest , and even got a PlayStation re-release, And it won for a reason: this game is good. It's a sharp, tricky puzzle that's much more original than it seems, and it's likely to stay with you long after the credits roll. On the other hand... Palette won that contest in 1998. It's very dated-looking, and though it still plays on new computers, it doesn't play perfectly. Sometimes the semi-monochrome effect is missing, or the sound files stack into a cacophonous heap of bleating noise.

PalettePalette has a few smaller problems, too: Dr. Sian could have easily been left out, some aspects of the story might test your suspension of disbelief, and the gameplay is nicely expanded, but pretty one-note. There are plenty of reasons why Palette just isn't a game for everyone. But on the other other hand, if you're looking for a great story, a simple but thoughtful puzzle, or a tiny piece of amateur game development history, this might be one for you. Palette, to me, is like a catchy song. Even if it's been a while since I've heard it in full, sometimes a few bars pop into my head and I think of it and smile. Memories are funny like that, huh?

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(9 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Fester Mudd: Curse of the Gold Episode One

KimberlyThe Wild West has always been the perfect backdrop for adventure. Guns, saloons, and men in black can all be found in the classic style point-and-click adventure game from Replay Games, Fester Mudd: Curse of the Gold Episode One. When Fester gets word from his brother Bud that he's found gold, Fester heads out with his trusty mule Martha to help stake the claim. But when he gets to town, no one has seen Bud in weeks, and Fester is determined to find him.

Fester Mudd: Curse of the Gold Episode OneYou control Fester on his adventure. Simply tap or click where you want him to walk. Your inventory is always open at the bottom of the screen, with the action interface to the left of it. Tap the action you'd like to perform, then move your finger around the screen until you are targeting the object you want. This can be something in the environment, or an item from your inventory. Release your finger to execute the action. A handy action bar at the top of the screen tells you what you are currently interacting with. Be sure to explore each scene thoroughly for objects and clues.

Fester Mudd: Curse of the Gold is point-and-click mobile adventuring at its best. There are plenty of humorous conversations to be had with the quirky cast of characters. The game has a unique sense of humor (and fair share of fart jokes) and never takes itself too seriously. How can you not love that the man who runs the General Store is a retired general with the last name Store? There's plenty of interesting scenery to look at, with wonderful retro graphics, and the soundtrack perfectly evokes images of the old West.

The inventory puzzles never get too far fetched, which is a problem with some adventure games. However, you do end up collecting a fair amount of inventory items which don't disappear once they've outlived their usefulness. This leads to a cluttered inventory that gets a bit difficult to navigate by the end of the game. Billed as a tribute to the golden era of adventure gaming, fans of Sierra and LucasArts (as well as people too young to remember the golden era of adventure gaming) will not be disappointed.

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


(17 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Gardenscapes 2

StarchildHorticulture enthusiasts, rejoice! Gardenscapes is back, and it actually takes place in a garden again! And for those who find this amount of mirth somewhat disconcerting, Gardenscapes 2 by Playrix Entertainment is an excellent hybrid hidden-object time-management game in which you help your long-serving butler, Austin, restore his parents' decrepit garden by selling off a bunch of junk from their house.

The first two games in the series were located in and around your own mansion, but now Austin and you take a trip to his old home, which is in a state of disrepair. You are greeted by Austin's amicable parents who instantly make you feel at home, which is just as well, as you'll spend the rest of the game rummaging through their belongings. Since you happen to have a seasoned green thumb, you will repay their hospitality by fixing up their garden, and you'll raise the money by organising a whole heap of yard sales. While you're busy with that, Austin will go down memory lane, digging up objects from his childhood and reminiscing about the past. Your doggy Rover is there, too (of course it's Rover! What do you mean, you named him something else?), giving the game a pleasant sense of continuity.

Gardenscapes 2So, after getting settled in, you embark on your mission. Yard sales are hidden-object scenes set in various rooms of the house, and upgrading the garden unlocks more rooms. Townsfolk appear on the left side of the screen, five at a time, with a description of what they want to buy. They start out with three hearts, and lose them gradually, depending on how much time you take to deliver their item(s). There are four types of hints to help you find what you need, but it's best not to waste question marks, as you get a bonus for each unused one. Every scene contains a few hidden coins which add a bit of money to your funds. Between yard sales, the game goes back to the garden where you can buy upgrades. There is an impressive array of options, from fences to statues to birdhouses, and each of these comes in three models, so you can choose your favourites and make the garden more personal. Some additions will trigger little events involving Austin, who is put in the centre of the storyline.

Gardenscapes 2Analysis: Gardenscapes 2 is a rare gem among casual games due to its unique atmosphere. It's dfficult to find a game that will make you more relaxed and happy. It's chock-full of sunshine, birdsong and a warm fuzzy feeling of familiarity. But what really sets it (and the whole series) apart is the fact that the characters talk to you personally. Austin will often lift his head to look at you, or wave at you when there is a letter to be read. This is not a major feature, but it truly draws you into the game and makes you a part of it. The main story is straightforward, but there are lots of little events that spice up the time between hidden-object scenes, and Austin often comes up with remarks or comments that add to the feeling of realism. The graphics are detailed and adorable. The garden, especially in the later stages, looks lush and inviting, and it's a joy to watch Rover saunter through it. You can amuse yourself by clicking on different items in the garden and watching Austin's reaction. Another delightful detail is the animation of the upgrades. Each time you buy an item for the garden, it will materialise out of thin air, and it's thrilling to watch a swirl of leaves come together to form a bush.The rooms are well done, with sharp solid objects and enough colour and variety to make them pleasant to hunt in.

Another important feature of Gardenscapes 2 is its lifetime, which goes far beyond the few hours you'll need to finish the story. After you buy all the upgrades, you can continue playing and redecorate every part of the garden; this, of course, requires more money, and therefore, more yard sales. Also, there is that sly achievement for earning all the other achievements, and you can't just let it go, can you? There might be a few more surprises to keep you in the game, but that's up to you to discover. It even brings a few innovations into the series: there are specialised sales, where only five customers ask for a number of themed objects, as well as pre-level tasks given to you by Austin or his parents, where you'll have to combine items to achieve a goal, or clean up a room before a sale. Your efforts are rewarded with achievements which pop up in the upper right corner of the screen. There is also a picture album, documenting Austin's childhood and youth, which starts out empty and gets filled up as you find photos buried around the house.

Finally, the best thing about Gardenscapes 2 is the realisation that you don't need any incentives to play it again. It is so warm and friendly that it can be the game you turn to when you need something to cheer you up on a rainy day, and it will never fail you. So try the demo, wander into Austin's little world and stop to smell the roses.

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  • Currently 4.4/5
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Rating: 4.4/5 (462 votes)
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Jurassic Heart

DoraIt may be small in scope, but GPTouch's (Hima of Grace's Diary) mini-visual novel Jurassic Heart is big on love. And teeth. Lots and lots of teeth. Created in just two days for the 2013 Pulse Pounding Heart Stopping Dating Sim Jam with design and programming by Guts (Thongrop Rodsavas) and art by Piti Yindee, it's a very short but also very funny game that's unexpectedly earnest to boot. You're a young girl getting ready to go out for the day with a friend of yours, Taira-Kun, to visit a music store to help pick out a ukelele to replace the one you inadvertently were responsible for him breaking. The catch? The two of you might have ulterior motives for wanting to hang out and you're sort of nervous about it. The, uh, other catch? You're not exactly in the same place on the food chain. Just click to select your choices whenever given one, and click the cog in the bottom-right corner of the screen to save or load your game whenever you want. There are a few different endings, so don't be shy!

Jurassic HeartWhile Jurassic Heart is short and also silly, I would hesitate before calling it a true parody because it feels more like a loving homage to the dating simulation genre... albeit one that went a little nuts in the best possible way. A goofy premise will only get you so far, however, but what makes Jurassic Heart stand out is both how straight it plays that concept and how genuine the writing is. Everything from the plot progression to the cadence of the dialogue feels like it came straight out of a more straight-laced dating sim, and the result is a wonderfully weird little gem you would never suspect to be half as heartfelt as it manages to be. It doesn't hurt that the artwork by the talented Piti Yindee is absolutely adorable and fantastic either. Jurassic Heart may be short and sort of silly, but any fan of visual novel-style romance games will immediately find a lot to love about it... and maybe we'll see a more fleshed out version one day. Hey, it worked for Hatoful Boyfriend!

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Link Dump Fridays

DoraYou'll need to use your words if you want to survive in this week's Link Dump Friday... and that's literally! But we've also got building, stop-action golems, Steamsmithery, and more, so if you're not feeling particularly verbose, we've still got you covered!

News and Previews

SpelliriumWord. Untold Entertainment's upcoming PC/Mac indie word game and glorious adventure Spellirium is a thing that you should be excited to play... and now you can, since the pre-order campaign has officially launched, and will grant you immediate access to the Alpha version! You play a young man who discovers an extraordinary device... one that allows him to not only battle monsters by spelling certain words, but also shape the world around him. I've spent all morning playing the Alpha, and I'll tell you this is one gorgeous game. It's not enough to just have smooth, beautiful art and animation... you need engaging, clever gameplay too, and fortunately Spellirium has both of those things in spades. It really is much more challenging than simpler games like, say, Bookworm, in the way it forces you to think and puzzle out the rules of each stage, and it doesn't hurt that the story is intriguing too. The game isn't complete yet, but still head and shoulders above most other casual games out there, and well worth your time... and your vote for Steam's Greenlight.

TerrariaHello, Old Friend Re-Logic's indie sandbox RPG building game Terraria was a massive hit, but with the move to consoles, it seemed like PC players were left sighing wistfully in the dust as far as new content went. Well, no longer! Regidit announced they are working on an update to the PC version thanks to four new artists picked up from the community, and we couldn't be happier. Like Minecraft, Terraria is tons of fun to play alone or with friends, and the new elements included in this planned update, which includes new tiles, pets, and more, will give you even more reason to replay it when it finally comes out!

Sully: A Very Serious RPGWhy So S... No, No, Too Obvious... What do you think of when you think of JRPGs? Chances are, apart from random battles and grinding, you probably think of a whole lot of angst, drama, and slow-motion scenes set to Faye Wong. While there's nothing wrong with that, Bread Brothers want to prove the JRPG formula can be fun, funny, and light-hearted in their upcoming indie RPG Sully. Due out this summer for PC, Mac and Linux (as well as the Vita), it features Crystal and Darin, two young people enjoying the last of their time together before they go off to college... in a world filled with talking marine life, sky trains, and Lord Stan... a demon who's probably going to ruin everything. It looks fantastically silly, which is, depending on your taste, a very good thing, and could be just the ticket for people who love JRPG gaming but are sick to death of stories that heap on the melodrama.

That Dragon, CancerHope and Heartache That Dragon, Cancer is an upcoming PC adventure game that I can't help but regard with wariness. It's based, in part, on developer Ryan Green's experience with his four-year-old son, who is in his third year of battling terminal cancer. If this sounds like heavy subject, well, obviously it is, and it's also a sensitive one as people with different beliefs and dynamics deal with grief and illness in different ways that means even people who have gone through this will have drastically different reactions to it. While the site lacks a lot of basic information (platforms, in-depth synopsis, gameplay, etc) it's definitely one to keep an eye on if you like your games personal, moving, and heartfelt.

Kickstarter/IndieGoGo Projects

Final DaysAll Your Cogs and Wheels Won't Help You Now It seems like everyone loves Steampunk, but if you were in a world where it reigned and something very like magic began to creep in, how would you feel about it? In Final Days: A Crystal and Steam Adventure, people have been using steam power for a long time, but mysterious crystals found deep beneath the waves and earth have lead to a clash between science and something more dangerously mystical, and a young Steamsmith apprentice is about to get caught between. Promising multiple choices and a crafting system, it sounds like a great fantasy adventure for fans of old-school gaming, but it would be nice if there were more gameplay showcased or basic details given, like the platforms, though we can probably presume PC as one of them. Still, it has a lot of potential, and adventure fans would do well to check this one out!

Something FragilePrecious Cargo Well there's something you don't see every day... a golem made of various bits a pieces struggling to protect the heart it carries outside its body. Happy Badger Studio are behind the concept for this strange yet captivating puzzle platformer, and Something Fragile is definitely eye-catching, to say the least. Planned for PC and Mac, everything you see with be created with physical media... or in other words, made from physical objects, then animated through stop-motion. The catch is that you, as this creature carrying around your heart, have to get it safely through each stage, and the heart is vulnerable to environmental hazards when you put it down, and venturing too far away will kill you both. Good looking games are a dime a dozen, and even interesting looking games aren't that unusual, so Something Fragile will need more than style to make this Something Special... but it just might have that going for it too.

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


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Rating: 4.2/5 (93 votes)
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Slayin

SuzanneSlayin isn't a game, it's a time machine rocketing from an 8-bit past. Pixel Licker's deliciously compulsive mashup of old school action RPG and contemporary endless runner-style progression is so infused with retro spirit that you might forget you're playing it on a device that lacks buttons.

SlayinControl your tiny warrior using left, right, and jump commands as you ceaselessly pace across a single screen, attacking enemies in a never-ending game of whack-a-monster. Use the coins they spew upon dying to snag yourself the armor and weapon upgrades necessary to stave off your inevitable death. As consolation for your fragile mortality, your high score is inscribed upon a gravestone that you can decorate and show off to your Game Center friends. In an upgrade from the original browser and PC versions, each run nets you performance-based Fame Points, currency with which new classes and visual upgrades can be purchased. Also new to the mobile version are a gnarly chiptune soundtrack, two new gameplay modes, and dozens of class-specific quests that provide incentive to scrape your mangled body off the floor and hit restart.

As resolutely old school as its visuals is Slayin's intense challenge and unforgiving permanent death. Those looking for a more leisurely and relaxing experience might be put off by the unrelenting pace and the repetition of starting from the beginning after every failure. Yet for players of a certain age and mindset Slayin will evoke happy memories of halcyon days spent in wood-paneled rec rooms, passing around the NES controller with friends. For dedicated retronauts, it's hard to give a higher recommendation than that.

While the mobile version has a brand new soundtrack and numerous gameplay enhancements, the older browser and Windows versions are largely the same and a good way to test the game before you buy.

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NOTE: This game was played and reviewed on the 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.


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Rating: 4.4/5 (269 votes)
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Resort Empire

satoriWe fans of resource management sims have always been something of an odd bunch. Sometimes it seems we'll stop at nothing to please our tiny pixelated friends, whether it be researching Emery Boards Level 5, upgrading to Trendy Lamp Store, or just buying that last garden feature to improve their quality of life in every possible way. Rejoice, because Little Giant World has brought us a delightful new resort management simulation, and we can finally put away the exquisitely-detailed dollhouses and model train sets of yesteryear.

Resort EmpireThe interface is very easy to use (just point and click), and going through the Tutorial is definitely recommended. Not only will it clarify everything very easily, but it will start you on a series of achievement goals that reward you with much-needed development cash on completion. You'll start out making sure your guests have some rooms to rent, and preferably the ability to get to them. Despite the walls in the graphic layout, rest assured that rooms are approachable from all sides. You'll also want to add janitorial stations that each provide a radius of maintenance, keeping the property looking great and ensuring that your guests' mood remains high.

From there, you'll be able to place various Facilities and unlock even more through the course of the game. Sushi bar? We've got that. Swimming pools? Golf courses? Yup, even full-on video arcades. Your compound — er, resort — will come to resemble a shopping mall eventually, but a reinvented mall where it's all done right and guest satisfaction is actually Priority One! Each guest has a set of their own particular interests, and making sure they're accommodated with the right facilities drastically affects your rating. This is especially true of prominent VIP guests, indicated by an aura of bright sparklies around them. Refugees from a certain teen vampire franchise? Users of radioactive body products? Who knows! But just look at 'em, puttering around bein' all Very Important and stuff! You can tell 'em right at a glance.

Resort EmpireThe developer has been hard at work debugging the game and responding to user requests, so you'll find all sorts of niceties like the ability to turn off the daily report event, multiple game speeds, and the ability to grow your property once you have the funds. Between upgrading your rooms, adding new facilities and making sure everything's being well-maintained, Resort Empire is hours of absorbing fun for any resource management fan interested in crafting the perfect life for their virtual townsfolk. Now if you'll excuse me, I think I can hear my dog begging me to feed him.

Play Resort Empire


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Rating: 4.5/5 (116 votes)
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The King's League: Odyssey

HopefulNebulaMany months after the tournament that decided Kurestal Kingdom's next ruler, the king is the target of an assassination attempt. The new king survives, but Whitney — one of the Kurestal Knights from the tournament — sacrifices his life to protect him. Clearly, this can only mean one thing: time for another tournament. (You have to fill the position somehow.) So goes the plot of The King's League: Odyssey, the sequel to Kurechii's fantasy simulation/strategy game from 2011, The King's League.

The King's League: OdysseyGameplay will be familiar for anyone who's played the original. The main strength in The King's League: Odyssey is the improvements in the game's graphics and interface. It's much easier to manage your units in the sequel — especially when it comes to finding detailed information about them — and recruitment is a nicer experience when you can close the list of potential recruits and come back to it later. Training fighters no longer costs food or gold, but training points that reset every in-game month: a useful feature for those of us who are trying for a speedrun. The game still gets repetitive after a while of playing, but the addition of more description and worldbuilding to the quests — and the plethora of achievements, new character classes, and upgrades — helps mitigate that. The King's League: Odyssey manages to be quite an improvement over the original despite not adding a lot of new features, and it's a worthwhile way to spend a few hours.

Play The King's League: Odyssey


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Rating: 4.2/5 (27 votes)
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Badland

JohnBPah. Tossed out with the rest of the garbage. The nerve! At least you have your freedom, though once you see what's ahead in this surreal world of shadows and machines you might want to go back to the junkyard. Badland is a one-touch action game from Frogmind that's sort of a cross between an endless flying game and a platformer. It tells a charming story without using a single word, expressing a range of emotions using little more than clever level design and plenty of beautiful, beautiful artwork.

BadlandYou control a fuzzy fly character by tapping and releasing the screen, holding your finger down to fly higher and letting go to drop. The basic plan of avoiding dangerous things is always in play, but the terrain introduces a lot of obstacles that can speed you up or slow you down, such as fans, tilting platforms, sticky cockleburs and exploding... plant... things. You're not alone in this strange world, though. Badland drops power-up pods that do things like increase your size, shrink you down, speed you up, or even spawn a bunch of friends. The way in which the game plays with these power-ups is almost magical, and as you flap through the levels, you'll honestly feel some excitement about what could be waiting for you just around the corner.

Badland is one of those games that comes together without a flaw. It's easy to pick up and play and offers a lot of variety and challenge later on. What will really hook you is the oh-so charming artwork and characters, especially the little touches like shadow animals observing your progress from the background. When you combine artwork as beautiful as this with simple, addictive gameplay, you absolutely can't go wrong.

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


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Rating: 4.6/5 (480 votes)
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no-one has to die

TrickyThe Fenix Corporation security team is dead, a fire has broken out, and there are people trapped on the top floor. You are safe, locked in the security vault, but it is up to you to direct the survivors as they make their way to the ground floor. Unfortunately, the TEMPEST computer planning the escape routes doesn't think everyone can make it out alive. There are tough choices ahead, and you'll be the one to decide. No-One Has to Die is a turn-based puzzle HTML5 visual novel by Stuart Madafiglio where sacrifice is the only way to get closer to solving the full mystery at hand.

no-one has to dieIn each level, you'll be presented with a grid floor plan of people, locations, and switches that can be interacted with, and fire that spreads every turn. Click the arrows to move people, and the arrow in the upper left to advance a turn. When a person is next to a switch, they can turn it on or off. When the switch is on, water will come from the faucet icon, spreading each turn it is on, preventing the spread of fire. People standing on squares filled with water or fire will die. There are doors that, when locked, will prevent the spread of fire or water. However, one door can be remotely locked on each level. The level is completed once the progress of both fire and water is halted. Most levels will require the sacrifice of one or more people to continue. Depending on your choices, new aspects of the plot will be revealed in each play through, though the menu screen will allow you to restart from different branches of the story.

With its emphasis on characterization, moral dilemma, and branching paths presenting parts of a larger, complex story, no-one has to die appears to have gotten direct inspiration from 999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors and Virtue's Last Reward. Certainly, the raw number of plot twists herein could give those games a run for their money, and fans of cerebral jigsaw-puzzle stories will definitely be driven to replay the game until every scrap of information is uncovered. Admittedly, the fire/water puzzles feel perfunctory in comparison to the plot, making one wonder if the game would have been better served as a pure visual-novel. Still, No-One Has to Die is a yarn surely satisfying enough to make even the most meticulous players overlook the blatant inaccuracy contained in its title.

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Rating: 3.4/5 (38 votes)
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Layer Maze 4

DoraDespite all my rage I am still just a ball in a maze!... hmm. That tune needs work, but the experience is just fine in Pipkin Games' Layer Maze 4, the latest in a series of maze-like puzzlers. All you want to do is get to the exit at the end of each level by using your [arrow] keys to navigate. Simple!... except that to pass through coloured doors, you have to have rolled through the matching paint first. And you need to get the appropriately coloured key. And you have to use the [A] and [Z] keys to hop up and down through holes in one layer to explore the next. Hmm... this might be trickier than I thought.

Layer Maze 4Layer Maze 4 is sort of an amalgamation of all the other games in the series, and is better for it. The first game just had you swap between layers, the second game added keys and locks, and the third game incorporated optional stars that applied a bonus to your end-game score, which was based on your time. As a result, Layer Maze 4 feels like the most satisfyingly complete game, with more than just one or two twists to its simple formula... though also possibly the one with the steepest difficulty curve after the first few levels. Since you can have more than just two layers to a level, remembering where all the keys, doors, paints, and paths are requires a lot of mental juggling. It's a concept that won't appeal to everyone, especially if you don't like having your brain tied up in knots. If it tickles your fancy, however, you'll find Layer Maze 4 to be a simple yet devious concept elegantly executed to give your mind a workout... and then some.

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sg6


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Rating: 3.7/5 (110 votes)
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sg6

elleTateita hasn't been around as long as some of our favorite developers, but already has come to be known for making escape games that are short and sweet, filled with logical if not particularly challenging puzzles. Now, with sg6, Tateita brings that same short, sweet and logical style into focus. Here you're in small room with few accoutrements, very little to indicate how you can break out of here, and a rather lackluster view from the window. You'll just have to make good use of the bare minimum to find puzzles to solve before earning that coveted exit key.

sg6The usual rules of escaping apply here: point and click your way around, following the changing cursor, looking for clues and figuring out how to use items, open safes and unlock boxes. That's it. Therein lies the greatest disappointment of sg6. Although the name of the game is to escape, we'd rather stick around and play a while, especially when the puzzles are so casually enjoyable; it's just enough to engage your mind yet straight-forward enough that you can relax for a brief moment before moving along. We hope to see Tateita take it a bit further someday, treating us to a few more rooms and a bit more challenge. Until then, sg6 is a move in the right direction.

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Orion's Forge

JohnBOrion has one of the coolest jobs in the universe: creating constellations. While we'd really like to sit him down to find out how a bunch of random stars is actually a centaur with a bow, Trinket Studios has something better to offer. Orion's Forge is a new mobile puzzle game from the studio that brought us Color Sheep. Instead of defeating wolves with rainbows you'll be working with gravity as you manipulate energy to fill stars so they shine bright and clear in the sky.

Orion's ForgeTo play, simply drag beacons around the screen, positioning them so their gravitational influence pushes the waves of light into the dim stars. Some beacons push energy while others attract it, meaning you'll have to fine tune your movements to make sure everything is lined up down to the pixel. A creative narrative accompanies the gameplay, adding stories to the constellations you're making. Copious amounts of gorgeous hand-drawn artwork will make you feel like giving reason to these strange constellations you're making. And there's so much hand drawn artwork you might start to feel like you're playing Space Ace.

Orion's Forge has a very shallow learning curve, meaning you can hop right in without any effort. It takes some time for the difficulty to kick in, so experienced players may have to push their way through a handful of stages before the game really begins. Later levels introduce things like portals and polarities to make your job much more challenging than just bumping a few beams of light around. All in all, Orion's Forge is a simple but extremely enjoyable puzzle game that only gets better the longer you stick with it!

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


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Rating: 4/5 (35 votes)
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Piggy Wiggy Seasons

DoraSince I was fortunate enough to grow up in a small town that was downwind of a rendering plant that perfumed the whole landscape with rancid pork at certain times in the summer, I already associate pigs with the changing of the seasons. Fortunately, Anton Koshechkin's given me a much more positive association with this sequel to his original physics puzzler, Piggy Wiggy Seasons. Which is, incidentally, all about stuffing cartoon pigs with acorns as they rappel themselves around the screen via lines and pulleys while you listen to peppy music that makes you feel like you're sitting at the New Game screen in Earthbound. Win/Win!

Piggy Wiggy SeasonsJust click on a pig, drag to any connector nodes in range, and release to have your porker shoot out a rope they'll be suspended from... just don't touch the spikes! You can connect to multiple nodes, and unlike the original, sever any ropes by just clicking and dragging through them. As such, the whole thing is essentially, well, Cut the Rope, but with piggies... and, y'know, that's not necessarily a bad thing. It's cute, it's colourful, and its level design is smart and engaging with some particularly neat and imaginative layouts and mechanizations. Piggy Wiggy Seasons's slicing may remind a lot of its inspiration, but it's a beautifully designed little coffee break of a game that shows just how fun simple casual physics puzzling can be.

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Rating: 4.2/5 (80 votes)
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Dream Factory

DoraPrepare to cock your head in confusion like a cute puppy in a hit YouTube video, because Detarou's Dream Factory is one strange escape game... even by Detarou standards. It goes without saying that you're trapped somewhere weird, but this doesn't look like any factory floor I've ever seen... unless this is where they assembled Tingle and he's been the result of a horrific experiment gone wrong all along! Just click to navigate using the grey bars that pop up at the edges of the screen, and again anywhere else to interact when the cursor changes. Items can be used by clicking once to select them, or double-clicking to get a close-up view. Since there are multiple endings, you'll also want to make sure you save every now and again too.

Dream FactoryPart of what makes a Detarou game so much fun is the way clues tend to be hidden not only everywhere, but in different places. While it may be fairly obvious you're looking at a puzzle solution, you'll usually need yet another clue to figure out how to implement it, and connecting the dots in such a way is extremely satisfying. Dream Factory is no different, and filled with plenty... odd... and surprising moments to boot... though unfortunately at least one of them might be a little uncomfortable and suggestive for some players. If you don't offend easily, however, Dream Factory will definitely need you to put not only your thinking cap but your sleuthing pants and detective mustache on. It's complex, sneaky, on the longer side, and full of the off-kilter strangeness you've come to expect... even if this doesn't look like any dream I'd want to have on a regular basis.

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The Vault

ElleIt's one of the most popular genre of games on the Internet, we all have moments when we need it, there's even a corny 1980s love song about it: "If you like pina coladas, getting caught in the rain..." or, ehem, just like using your brain. That is, to solve a slew of puzzles and work your way out of these rooms that you're chronically getting yourself stuck inside. Yeah, I'm that way, too. So, come with me and we'll plan our escape with some clever games that are really too good to be left behind gathering dust.

  • Sagrario'sSagrario's Room Escape - It's so stark, so bare and yet so perfect in everything quintessential to escape games. Dare I say, it was even ahead of its time on the minimalist approach to design? Putting all the onus on excellent puzzles rather than snazzy furnishings (heck, it manages to look snazzy anyhow), this lovely room from Valetin Sagrario is so sublimely well made and enjoyable, even years later it continues to top its class for escaping goodness. Not just merely worth a replay, Sagrario's Room Escape is indispensable to any escaper's repertoire.
  • Great Living Room EscapeThe Great Living Room Escape - What are some things we love about Mateusz Skutnik's Great Escape series? Brightly colored, quirky artwork to delight the eyes? Check. A playful tone with seriously logical-yet-peculiar puzzles? Yep. A perfectly tuned UI and rewarding fun? That's here, too, in this second installment to the multi-part escaping adventure that has everything we love about playing a Pastel Games' creation all packaged up in our favorite genre of games. What more reason to play?
  • The White RabbitTrapped Part 1: The White Rabbit - Rodrigo Roesler's Trapped Part 1: The White Rabbit isn't a conventional room escape, it's the start of a trilogy of point-and-click adventures. You wake up trapped inside a house you've never seen before, a bloodied dead body by your side, and must solve a slew of odd puzzles to make your way out. All that sounds typical, yes. Yet the top-down, third person perspective is unique, the remarkable details are very engaging and, even with a rather cumbersome inventory system and a screen size that's very tiny, it's no belittling experience!
  • OUT file#01OUT file#01 - This escape from Tonakai Interactive begins on the same familiar premise as the Trapped series...and just about every other escape-themed game out there: you're locked inside an unrecognized room, follow the changing cursor, gather clues, solve logical puzzles, yada yada. But there is nothing yada yada about it. Those very basic amenities, found herein, having plenty of staying power and keep escape fans hankering for more. So if you missed it last decade or need a nostalgia rush, play OUT file#01 to experience a bit of escape-the-room's fledglingdom.

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


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Rating: 3.8/5 (66 votes)
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Slice the Box

elleYou're a bored kid with a box cutter in a room full of boxes...you see where this is headed. Not random destruction. Creativity! Slice the Box is a simple idea puzzle game by Oleg Kuzyk and Alexander Ahura where you must create designated shapes given a limited amount of cuts, with a specific number of turning points that must be used. To slice, click outside the box, then draw a straight line that meets the outline of the shape, turning at 1-6 points if indicated, all the way across until that piece drops off. The challenge lies in creating the shape with as close to 100% similarity as possible while you can only start and end a slice outside the box and must use all the turns exactly as indicated.

Slice the BoxLevels 1-10 are quite easy, then it gets increasingly complicated (and more fun) through levels 11-30. Yet, the puzzles are never frustratingly difficult since there's no time limit and resetting your cut via the [spacebar] eases your perfecting efforts. There's a redo button if you run out of cuts before your shape is complete, which means thoughtfully planning your moves or experimenting your way through is where most the gameplay lies, somewhat like Folds in that way. Those looking for quick action and lots of style won't find it here. Even so, Slice the Box is surprisingly gratifying despite its simple presentation and simpler gameplay. It's a relaxing endeavor, truly reminiscent of a rainy day of crafting.

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Rating: 4.3/5 (141 votes)
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Fairune

elleFairune: a world where illusion is reality. Long ago, three spirit icons sealed away an evil scourge at the center of the realm. One day the icons disappeared and monsters overran the peaceful lands. But hey, a monster wouldn't bother a girl in a dress, right? Your help is needed, o' chosen one, so go over to that pavilion, grab that sword and, in that strange spot there, use a bit of mana to create a healing zone. Now you're ready for an action-puzzle RPG adventure that may look derivative but plays on a level all its own.

FairuneUrara-Works' programming joins with Skipmore's retro-style artwork and clever game design to create an experience that is equally nostalgic and original, lovingly poking fun at the hack'n'slash of Legend of Zelda-type RPGs. Although navigation using a d-pad is typical, the attack buttons are replaced with an inventory and pause button. Instead of fighting the monsters you encounter, you walk over them, defeating them instantly. If they're at your level, they'll knock down a point or so of your health while delivering an experience point in return. Since there's no hack'n'slash, there is no need nor possibility to "grind" skills beyond your level, putting more emphasis on using your wits to accomplish goals, which makes sense as a large part of this adventure is solving puzzles. Your main task is to find and return all three of the spirit icons, enter the depths of the realm, and conquer the evil scourge that dwells there. Along the way, you'll encounter other puzzles, need to discover and utilize inventory items, and figure out how to open new pathways toward your ultimate goal.

FairuneBecause the world of Fairune is large, diverse and extremely maze-like, there is more challenge than just figuring out a few puzzles. You'll have to strategize a bit, keeping track of your health and knowing where your healing zone is at all times. If you do die, the penalty—walking from the grave near the pavilion to wherever you need to be—varies in length but is never game ending. Weaker foes are easily crushed yet you earn no experience from them; stronger enemies will drain your health while remaining impermeable to your walk/attack. In this way, pathways are often blocked because you simply cannot move through until you have advanced in levels. This lends an occasional avoidance aspect to the game, especially when you encounter a maddeningly difficult, perhaps even unfair series of boss battles at the end.

With very little textual explanation and no hint button, playing Fairune is challenging: you'll be teased and tricked, but you can't argue with the logic once all is said and done. While the gameplay is slightly different, Fairune is very similar to Synopsis Quest Deluxe in personality and style. That personality, that sincere humor is what makes it so fun. You will both love and hate Fairune, shaking your mobile device in frustration at some tricky puzzle then, feeling rather accomplished once solved, happily engaged in your next quest, plunging through to the finish but never wanting it to end.

NOTE: This game was played and reviewed on the 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.


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Mobile Monday

JohnBReally, all you need to know about this edition of Mobile Monday is that is contains both bears and beards. There might be some other stuff to look at, but it's totally overshadowed by the sheer awesomeness of those two nearly identical nouns.

room2-p.gifMake room for The Room 2 - Fireproof Games has been busy. Not only did the team's point-and-click puzzle game The Room win Best Mobile Puzzle in our Best of 2012 voting, it also managed to spread from iPad to iPhone to Android in just a few months' time. Even better, though, is the sequel is well under way and should be released sometime this autumn! In the meantime, go take a gander at our walkthrough and review for The Room, just to make sure you're ready.

nimbleq-p.gifNimble Quest goes Android - Gleefully filed under the "well that was quick!" category, Nimble Quest has already made its way from iOS to Android. The latest release from Pocket Planes developer NimbleBit combines a classic snake-like experience with an RPG, focusing on quick reflexes and clever combat choices. Check out our Nimble Quest review for the full scoop!

epicpirate-p.gifEpic Copy Story? - Oh look, a new Kairosoft game! Right? Well, not so much. A new game called Epic Pirates Story borrows some serious mojo from some of Kairosoft's games, going so far as to adopt a "strikingly similar" visual style along with a similar naming convention as Epic Astro Story. Now, nobody owns the patent on cute isometric pixel art or the word "epic", but it does seem a bit eerie that two simulation games from separate companies share so much alike. Right? Right. Try out the free version of the game for yourself, see if it crosses the line in your book.

fist-p.gifBears. Lumberjacks. Beards. - Here's all you need to know about Fist of Awesome: it's made by a studio called I Fight Bears. Their tagline is "Games for people with beards". In this game, you are a lumberjack. You punch bears. You dropkick dinosaurs. You have a mean uppercut. We're struggling to find something not to like about this entire situation but utterly failing. That's good, because Fist of Awesome is coming this spring to iOS and Android. And there's a trailer.


  • Currently 4.2/5
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Rating: 4.2/5 (33 votes)
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The Cat Lady

DoraLonely Susan makes a choice to end her life, but the hard road she has to walk is just beginning. Her death takes her to surreal in-between realm where one very old woman would make her an offer few people could ever dream of. But whether or not she accepts the terms, Susan's newfound lease on life is about to get a lot harder and a lot more nightmarish than she could ever imagine. In The Cat Lady, a dark horror indie adventure from Studio 7 and Harvester Games, reality will begin to blur. Susan has been tasked with hunting down and eliminating "Parasites", five ruthless psychopaths plaguing her city, whether she wants to or not. But is she really some sort of supernatural vigilante? Or one lonely, unbalanced woman who is beginning to crack? Please note that some players may find some of the scenes and themes in this game upsetting. Player discretion is advised.

The Cat LadyUse the left and right [arrow] keys to move, and the up [arrow] to interact with something when given the option. Tapping the down [arrow] opens up your inventory, from where you can use any of the items you obtain, hitting [enter] to get a list of options. Coincidentally, you'll also use [enter] to select choices in dialogue, which can have some significant impact on what you see in the game, so spare a little thought whenever given an option. Come chapter three, you'll be introduced to a new mechanic... a red gauge that reacts to Susan's current mental state. It goes up whenever she gets upset, and if it reaches the top, she'll suffer a breakdown. At the same time, you'll also get a blue gauge that increases whenever Susan is happy.

As Susan, throughout the game's seven chapters you'll not only have to deal with the threat of other people, but also the way reality rarely seems to stay cohesive around you for long. You know how it goes. One minute you're laying down for a nice sleep, the next you're staggering down the hallway towards a massive, bleeding heart whose juices you can drink. But just because it seems unreal doesn't mean it can't hurt you, so proceed with caution even when it seems like the only way forward is going to hurt. Since Susan's newfound resurrection means she can't die, however, or at least not permanently, you'll probably have to endure a lot, both physically and psychologically, in order to proceed.

Analysis: The Cat Lady is one of those games that can have you staring at the screen in bafflement one moment and cringing away from it the next. You'll be lulled into a false sense of security only to have the thing lunge at you like a yowling horror. Susan's resurrection towards the end of chapter two is startling to witness, full of howling anger and rage. Though it takes a while to really open up and feel like a cohesive narrative beyond a sting of unexplainable events, once it gets going, the story expertly plays on your emotions. You'll go from sad and introspective, to tense and frightened, to angry and vengeful all in wild unpredictable swings, and the story's almost cinematic progression will keep you glued to your seat when you're not jumping out of it. Players who prefer sensible narratives that don't keep you in the dark for very long may find this one hard to take at times, and whether the game handles its subject matter properly is largely up to you. It also elegantly manages to illustrate Susan's depression with remarkable effectiveness... everything from her conversations with a doctor, to the things that subtly influence her mood, serve as a delicate yet realistic exploration of just how real and unpredictable depression can be.

The Cat LadyWhile Susan doesn't really have too much choice in the matter of killing the Parasites after her, early on you can choose to refuse your mysterious benefactor's help, and I personally found doing so more rewarding. Not knowing who you should trust makes the game an incredibly tense experience, adding a layer of almost palpable paranoia to every interaction and setting. It really helps you to put yourself in Susan's shoes, upping the tension considerably, and for me at least, it made one scene particularly shocking when I discovered I had been suspecting completely the wrong person. It's a nice touch, since a lot of the other choices in the game feel essentially cosmetic... if I can't continue until I talk to a dude, why do you give me the option of not talking to the dude at all? From a gameplay perspective, it has the sort of "use PRECISELY this item on PRECISELY this object" adventure-game logic, which is somewhat exacerbated by the dreamlike surreality that infuses everything.

From an audio perspective, the game is a bit of a mixed bag. The voice acting definitely isn't bad, but some characters gain and drop accents for no reason whatsoever, and in more than one instance the emotional tone used to deliver a line doesn't go well with the text or what's happening onscreen. Fortunately, this is bolstered by a stellar soundtrack... moody, atmospheric, and perfectly suited to whatever is going on at the time. This is also true of the visual style. It's sketchy, dark, and surreal in a way that won't be everyone's bag, but lends itself to some surprisingly effective moments. There was, for example, a scene that made me shiver when Susan actually turned her head to look right at me as she spoke her line... though that was somewhat undermined by the fact that she immediately got stuck in that position and spent the rest of the scene walking around and talking to other characters while giving me permanent stink-eye.

Violent, discordant, and incredibly dark are just a few things you could call The Cat Lady, and this is definitely not a game for everyone. Despite the content, we ultimately decided it was a strong enough game and narrative for consenting adults to use their judgement on whether to buy, download, and install it, so caveat emptor. While the game frequently wields its startling scenes to devastating effect, there are at least a few that feel not only gratuitous, but pointless, as they serve no other function other than to make you flinch in a way that cheapens the rest of the experience. It's sort of a personal choice you have to be able to make for yourself... is the concept of an experience like Kill Bill by way of Silent Hill okay as long as it doesn't cross the line into sexual violence? What about suicide? Then The Cat Lady might be a step too far for you. But if you're looking for a dark, unreal horror adventure that will keep you guessing as often as it makes you cringe, it's well worth taking a deep breath and experiencing.

WindowsWindows:
Get the full version (GOG.com)

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Try Boot Camp or Parallels or CrossOver Games.


  • Currently 4.1/5
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Rating: 4.1/5 (179 votes)
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Button 20x

elleAs a yellow ninja, your quest is this: deactivate the laser and get the key by pressing a big red button. You must do that twenty times, unsurprisingly given the title Button x20. Ah, but what sounds so basic becomes such addicting fun in this platform puzzle game from the very creative Tom Vencel of Ninjadoodle. Using the [arrow] keys, hop, push, avoid, and jump through all manners of hoops to make that door appear so you can exit the room—and do it over again through 20 stages. Each level has a different stunt to perform or hazard to face, hinted at in the title. Usually it's just up to your wits to figure out what you must do, other times you'll need precision platforming skills, but always it's upbeat and engaging, a game that knows how to push all your gamer buttons.

Play Button x20


(11 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Adelantado Trilogy: Book Two

KimberlyContinue your expedition with Don Diego in Adelantado Trilogy: Book Two. Realore Studios has brought you more resource management and building goodness in the second installment of the series. If you enjoyed Book One, what are you waiting for? Even if you haven't played Book One, you can still dive right in.

Adelantado Trilogy: Book TwoAt its bones, the gameplay is nearly identical to its predecessor. Don Diego continues to explore lands new to him in search of treasure and survivors of previous expeditions. Click to place buildings, control your main character, and collect resources. Place buildings according to what resources you need, and don't forget to build enough housing for your workers! Chop bushes and look into pots in search of gold and other secrets. Watch for special magic stones that up your speed, strength or oratory skills... and try to do it all before your rival. Click on the portrait of Don Diego to focus the map on him, and click and drag to scroll around the map.

There are a few new elements and improvements to keep things interesting. Unlike before, the game saves your progress even if you exit in the middle of a level. Buildings can now be demolished if misplaced or no longer needed. Efficiency (or speed of production) of buildings declines over time, but you now have the choice to spend resources to restore efficiency back to 100 percent. The cost in resources can be higher than rebuilding, but you have to weigh that with the additional time it would take to demolish, rebuild, and upgrade a building. Keep an eye out for special altars that give temporary bonuses, and traders who are willing to make you a deal to get the resources you need. Other altars require resource gifts to unlock more lands to explore.

The game feels a bit slow to start out, especially if you've played the previous title. Once you get going, however, there is plenty to keep you busy, such as quests for helping the locals, and of course, treasure hunting. The maps are vast, which is great for exploring, but can get tedious when you have to run from one end to the other. With nice music and varied settings, plus the need to explore just one more region, the Adelantado series continues to please.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


  • Currently 4.4/5
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Rating: 4.4/5 (110 votes)
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Escape from the Scenic Room

SonicLoverYou're in a room with a beautiful view of the horizon. An Escape from the Scenic Room might be the last thing you're interested in doing, but in Tesshi-e's latest escape game of the same name, that's exactly what you're tasked with. Hey, we've all got to go to the bathroom at one point or another, right? After changing the Language setting from Japanese to English and sitting through the introduction, you're good to go. Navigate around the room by clicking on the shaded bars, collect inventory items for examination and use, solve every puzzle in the room, and eventually get out with one of two endings... depending on whether or not you found the Happy Coin, of course.

Escape from the Scenic RoomLike Escape from the Quiet Room and many before it, Scenic Room is as well done as a burnt hamburger. The bouncy accordion music somehow fits the atmosphere quite well, the visuals are realistic but not overwhelmingly so, and the puzzles are well-designed and flow perfectly. Some puzzles are old standbys (seriously, how do those pictures detect what corners you're handling?), some are new, and some are older than escape gaming itself. Just remember that 1 mL of water weighs 1 gram and you'll be fine. It all adds up to an excellent escaper that's well worth your time. Go and escape... or just sit for a while and admire the scene out the window... that works too.

Play Escape from the Scenic Room


(2 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Grimind

satoriIn the mood for something challenging and aesthetically pleasing? From the imagination of Pawel Mogila springs a new physics-based puzzle adventure game, Grimind. Pawel chose to give Grimind a horror twist, but forget the standard rattling chains, apparitions out of the corner of your eye, and overused scream clichés. This is a beautifully-colored adventure game with a physics engine serving up the puzzles.

GrimindYou play as a mild-mannered and rather polite lizard fellow who's being chased through the depths of abandoned caverns by a lot of tiny creatures that sport an uncanny resemblance to Domo-kun. These little guys apparently aren't cuddly and plush, and they have some kind of overwhelming need to... bite you, or attack you, or... well, something. It's never made quite clear, and when conversations with them consist only of a series of adorably savage little snarls and ROWRs it's probably best to just back away. Whatever's going on with them, they appear here and there during your adventure just long enough to hurry you along to the next part of the game.

And the game. As you explore the caverns you'll encounter abandoned parts and machinery, and much of the fun is in working out what they're for and how to restore them to functional condition in order to clear the level. Hydraulic pipes, levers, switches, ducts, elevators that need to be powered somehow... the levels have been crafted with a lot of forethought, and coming up with the solutions is a large part of the enjoyment value here. As are the hyper-intense particle colors, which are gorgeous! Not satisfied with the available options Pawel designed his own particle system for Grimind, resulting in a breathtaking subterranean wonderland that's very easy on the eyes and a joy to explore.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


(9 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Ballad of Solar

StarchildIsn't it wonderful to be a prince... To travel the vast expanses of your land on your mighty steed, while the gentle breeze plays with your golden locks, and your armour shines in the sunlight. To rebuild towns and aid grateful villagers, who will sing songs in your honour in the decades to come. To fight ancient evil with a steady hand, your sword glistening as it bears down upon the forces of darkness. Although, to be quite accurate, this wasn't exactly your idea, more of a desperate mission to save your fiancée. And it's not really your land as much as her father's. And your golden locks sort of make you look like a girl. In Alawar's new time-management game, Ballad of Solar, you are the royal protagonist in search of his beloved, and you have your work cut out for you.

Ballad of SolarA nefarious wizard named Grogan has invaded the neighbouring kindgom and taken princess Lumina hostage. Her father, overwhelmed with grief, has shut himself into a cave, so it is up to Solar to save the day. He roams the land trying to find and defeat the wizard, and, noble as he is, takes it upon himself to help any unfortunate souls on his way. There are villages to be renovated, townsfolk to be saved and sheep to be found. Luckily, the prince doesn't have to do all this by himself; he travels with his faithful servants and, in the course of the game, he is joined by a host of amiable creatures willing to lend a hand.

The kingdom consists of seven regions, divided into levels. Each level has two or three stages, some of which are timed. Your goal for the day comes either from character dialogues before a stage begins, or from interacting with various creatures on the map. At the start of each stage, the prince arrives and sets up his tent containing a number of workers. Their job is to collect wood, stone and gold, remove obstacles and perform other minor tasks. Unfortunately, they refuse to work on an empty stomach, so most tasks require food. The other resources are used for building bridges, repairing houses or upgrading buildings. In some levels, you can only get materials by collecting them, while in others you can claim buildings like mills or quarries, which will generate them for you. However, stage goals are often more complex than just gathering and fixing. Sometimes you will have to fight off enemies, make potions or assemble weapons, and that is where the other characters come into play. During the game, Solar comes across quirky supernatural beings, each with their own particular skill, and they join his merry band in hopes of defeating Grogan. The dwarf is good at forging, the troll breaks heavy stones, the elf is handy with a bow and so on, and you will choose among them according to your current task.

Ballad of SolarAnalysis: Ballad of Solar is thoroughly enjoyable, from start to finish. The level design is clean and intuitive, without unnecessary clutter. One look at the layout is enough to figure out in what order you want to run your errands. The characters, objects and even the scenery look like they've been taken right out of a toy box. There is a troll who likes to draw pretty pictures, workers who turn berries into cupcakes, and even a tiny phoenix with a tinier helmet. If that's not everything you've ever wanted in a time-management game, you don't have a heart. The story begins like your usual fairy-tale, but then it starts making loops and twists as every level gives you a more whimsical quest. Who knew you could defeat a golem with a bucket of water? The characters have their own personalities and contribute to the game's zany humour, which makes dialogues very enjoyable.

Talking about the gameplay mechanics inevitably leads to a comparison with the My Kingdom for the Princess series, and Ballad of Solar wins. Even if you don't take into account the graphics (specifically, their lovingly detailed beauty), it still has superior features. Workers don't have to run back into their tent before you can assign them another task, building-generated resources are picked up by hovering your mouse over them, and the levels are laid out in a more efficient way. The prince actually does some work, and the other characters make the game much more colourful and interesting. Most importantly, there is an actual storyline to follow, as silly as it is at times. Together with the dialogues before and during every level, it makes you feel like you are a part of the fairy-tale, rather than just a player moving workers on a field. In short, Ballad of Solar feels like a complete casual game experience, from the sense of accomplishment when you beat the time limit, right down to the goofy little smile on your face during the closing cutscene.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


  • Currently 4.3/5
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Rating: 4.3/5 (723 votes)
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Mimou Escape

DoraThe sneaky kitty in first time developer Sylviepouetpouet's dangerously adorable escape game Mimou Escape might be one seriously clever feline, but even though it seems like the only thing standing between it and a sumptuously full food bowl is a flimsy carrier door lock doesn't mean things are going to be easy. Luckily, even if your emergency ball fails you, there are clues hidden everywhere for this resourceful cat to help it escape! Use the navigational bars that pop up when you mouse over the edges of the screen to change the direction you're facing. When your cursor changes, click to interact or pick things up, and click on items in your inventory to select them for use.

Mimou EscapeMimou Escape is very, very short, with only one ending if you don't count the optional red herring. But it's also very, very well done, so we'll forgive it. While the puzzles won't cause a lot of brain strain, they're simple and smart with clues that require both observation and thought. Easily its biggest selling point, however, is how beautiful it looks, with clean, stylish animation, a wonderful sense of humour, and a bouncy soundtrack to tie it all together. It probably won't keep you tied up for more than five minutes, but Mimou Escape is one of those stylish little games that will brighten anyone's day, and we can only hope there's more to come.

Play Mimou Escape

Thanks to NicoP for sending this one in!


(13 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Great Permutator

KinetikaiIt's your first day in the shipping plant. You've been given the simple task of sorting out a few colored boxes. How difficult could that be? (For those playing at home, the answer is "immensely.") Great Permutator is a tough-as-a-titanium-statue-of-Steven-Seagal puzzle game by Ripatti Software that will remind you a lot of SpaceChem, in terms of both ingenuity and difficulty.

Great PermutatorAt the top of the screen are incoming boxes that are either red, blue or yellow. Using conveyor belts and a number of specialized machines (called "action blocks") it's your job to sort the boxes into the designated areas at the bottom of the screen in the correct order. You simply click and drag on the tiles to place conveyor belts, or drag and drop action blocks from the available pool on the right side of the screen. Conveyors can be rotated by clicking on them and you can right-click-drag to delete anything you've placed down. Some stages have cracked tiles that can't be built upon, while others have pre-placed blocks that can't be moved.

Action blocks come in a variety of different flavors which are gradually introduced throughout the game, including Triggers which sort boxes left and right alternately, Exchangers which alter the color of incoming boxes and Teleporters which, well, teleport. Once you've got a configuration that seems seaworthy, it's time to hit the play button and see what happens. If any boxes collide, or end up at the wrong destination, or get left behind, it's back to the drawing board. One nice touch is that you can temporarily lock input conveyors with a click. This is perfect for testing out parts of a large contraption without seizing up the machine because you haven't figured out a route for all the boxes yet.

Great PermutatorAnalysis: To quote Mr. Gumby, "My brain hurts!" As mentioned, Great Permutator is reminiscent of SpaceChem in all the right ways. Beyond the themes of production and sorting, Great Permutator contains that beautiful element of seemingly simple tasks which unravel in complexity as you dig into the limits of the puzzle. Make no mistake: while the mechanics are straightforward, Great Permutator is freakin' hard. Some might say frustratingly hard. Many of the stages require an intense amount of thought, planning, refinement, prayer, swearing and mental breakdown. However, that just means that the eureka moment of finding a correct solution is all the more satisfying. Each completed level makes you feel like a genius, and watching your precision-built machine shuffle and sort everything into its right place is a thing of beauty.

Of course, merely finding a solution is one thing — finding an ideal solution is a whole different box of... boxes. Each stage has an A+ ranking which can only be obtained by constructing a solution under the given tile limit. It's pure puzzling masochism, forcing you to re-evaluate every aspect of your mechanism, trim every sliver of fat and, occasionally, start from scratch. It can be maddening, but that only makes the fruits of your efforts that much sweeter.

On another note, while the artwork is pleasingly reminiscent of old DOS games, the in-game visuals are a bit on the drab side. Also, a level editor would've been a nice addition, as there is always untapped potential for evil in the brains of puzzle fans everywhere. But these are minor nitpicks at most.

All in all, Great Permutator is a simply-presented but devilishly good piece of puzzling. It ain't easy, but it's well-made and the puzzles are downright brilliant. While casual gamers may find the difficulty curve a bit steep, hardcore logic fans will find plenty of ingenious brain-teasers to love in this modest but extremely rewarding title.

Great Permutator is on sale for 30% off!

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


(3 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Goatup 2

KinetikaiWhat's the crucial element missing from most games nowadays? If you answered anything other than "goats", you're wrong! Jumping goats make anything better, and that's been proven. By science. Released by Llamasoft, Goatup 2 is the goatiest retro platformer you ever did see. A follow-up to the endless jumper Goatup, this sequel is slightly more traditional gameplay experience, if your idea of tradition involves minotaurs in rainbow sweaters, the Queen of England and angry toilets.

Goatup 2Goatup 2 plays like Manic Miner from a crazy alternate dimension. You control — what else — a goat, and each self-contained level features numerous things to collect (keys, fish, flowers, corn, cups of tea, etc.) as you bounce toward the exit. Sliding your thumb anywhere around the left side of the screen moves your goat, and tapping anywhere on the right side of the screen jumps. These controls can be reversed, though, for any southpaws out there. Glowing items (indicated by a counter on the bottom right) are required to complete the level while other items give you power-ups or extra gas-powered jumps. Adding urgency to matters is the fact that you must constantly eat grass to keep your hunger meter filled, lest your poor goat die of starvation.

If it hasn't become apparent, this is a bit of a wacky game. From the crazy sound effects to the game sprites lovingly stolen from the likes of Donkey Kong and Pac-Man, Goatup 2 plays like a childhood arcade blended with Monty Python box set. While the seemingly random assortment of images can come across as bewildering at first, beneath the madness lies a pretty standard platformer, and once the initial shock wears off, it's pretty easy to get into. There's also a fairly simple-to-use level editor which allows you to modify any of the game's stages or create new ones from scratch. The editor even comes with a random level name generator, which can be used to produce such eloquent titles as "Elongated Lamb Error," "Your Mother's Legendary Madness" and "Humphrey Z. Smythe's Chocolate Fork." (The name generator is worth the price of the app alone.)

Goatup 2 is nostalgia by way of absolute absurdity, and by golly, it's lovely. The platforming is solid, the graphics are colorful and any fans of Pythonesque humor will find goat-loads of ridiculousness in this ungulate extravaganza. Just remember: There's no farting in front of the Queen.

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


(2 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Fear for Sale: Nightmare Cinema

DoraEven if a theater that had been abandoned for years suddenly sent you a ticket to a show, you wouldn't necessarily think "haunting" so much as "hipsters", all with the hanging out in historic old buildings and pretending they enjoy artsy ancient films and whatnot. Annoying, but not alarming. Right up until the cinema slams shut before your eyes, locking everyone inside, and the creepy ticket-taker vanishes in a burst of flames. That right there... might be a red flag. In Elefun Games's hidden-object adventure Fear for Sale: Nightmare Cinema, you'll go on a surreal journey through realms that seem to be connected by writers and ideas in your quest to free the people from the theater. It's weird, wild, and also a little wonderful, and a beautifully made adventure well worthy of your time... painfully short though that may wind up being.

Fear for Sale: Nightmare CinemaTurns out your coworker has been missing for days, and even though the police aren't buying it, his fiancee insists it has something to do with the movie premiere at the old cinema, The Gate, he received a ticket for... a ticket she's now received as well, in fact. When she tries to pass it off on you, the staff doesn't take kindly to it, and you'll need to find a way in before you can even get down to that whole "saving someone's immortal soul" business. Just because you start off grubbing around in the theater doesn't mean you'll stay there. As you explore, you'll quickly begin to discover this is no ordinary kidnapping. The Projectionist, as people call him, isn't your typical nutjob... he's packing some serious supernatural power and has come up with one heckuva way of dealing with writer's block. Plus, he's not exactly working alone...

All you need to do to play is click, picking up items, solving puzzles, and rooting through hidden-object scenes. Which, incidentally, also have an optional jigsaw puzzle mode you can play if you don't feel like hunting down items off a list. The game is also riddled with collectables that will boost your score, everything from origami figures, to tarot cards, and a whole pack of shifting otherworldly items. The final icing on the cake? You've even got a map that will let you hop around to previously visited locations at a click, and show you which ones have objectives you can complete in them to boot. You may be up against a malicious evil entity, but hey, at least they want you to have a sporting chance.

Fear for Sale: Nightmare CinemaAnalysis: Nightmare Cinema really is a ridiculously gorgeous game, with the sort of sharp art, rich colours, and inventive environmental design more casual downloads should be shooting for. Though its premise is campy, its beautiful artwork and intriguing setup makes it immediately engaging and something that keeps you hooked the whole way through. You'll do a fair amount of backtracking, but the worlds you travel through are just so neat that you'll never lack in detail to take in. It's more creepy than scary, but it's also creepy in a big way, with rooms full of twitching mannequins, disembodied eyes, and animated horror movie posters. More than virtually any other casual hidden-object adventure game in recent memory, Nightmare Cinema looks and feels like the sort of thing you can tell the team had a lot of fun creating, and the end result is that you'll have a lot of fun playing and exploring.

The actual gameplay holds few surprises. Apart from all that backtracking I mentioned (and certain sections have a lot), it just isn't that difficult, so chances are you'll fly through it all in a single sitting without much pause. Midway through the game, things seem to be rushed a bit, with objectives being thrown at you only to have the item you need to get past them right in front of them. It's not really a major flaw in the game itself, but it does mean you'll be that much more disappointed when it ends so quickly because you'll have been so wrapped up in it. And I mean it ends quickly... for many players, two hours is going to be a generous estimate for the main game, and it really seems like the "bonus chapter" provided in the Collector's Edition shouldn't have been a "bonus" at all, but an integral part of the story and game, especially since it tacks on another hour or so of play time. You'll definitely want to try the demo for this one, and know that what you're getting into won't last for very long, but while it does, Fear for Sale: Nightmare Cinema is a fun, stylish, and creative gem that makes for a perfect evening's adventuring.

Note: 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:
Download the demo
Get the full version


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Rating: 4.5/5 (174 votes)
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Jim Loves Mary

DoraWhen Meatloaf said he would do anything for love except that, do you think he was referring to angry mobs with pitchforks and complex platforming puzzles suspended over deadly spike traps? Because I think that's reasonable. But apparently I'm not as much of a romantic as the two titular heroes of Meowbeast's Jim Loves Mary, because even though Mary's parents disapprove of our boy Jim to rather extreme degrees, they're willing to do whatever it takes and brave any danger to be together. Use [WASD] to control Jim, and the [arrow] keys to control Mary, aiming to bring them together in each level. Mary can fit through smaller places and pass by her family unharmed, but since they'll take a swing at Jim whenever possible, you'll want to try to grab all three hearts on each stage, each of which will allow him to survive a hit... if not a plunge into a pit of spikes.

Jim Loves MaryMechanically speaking, Jim Loves Mary is essentially a cross between the Fireboy and Watergirl series and games like One and One Story. Just because it's familiar, however, doesn't mean you should pass it by. A lot of games will task you with gathering X optional item on a stage, but by making the hearts valuable to you through allowing Jim to survive a hit, you've got incentive beyond simple hoarding to snatch them up. For some players, both the challenge and variety may ramp up too slowly, and the game is never going to become a real brain-twister. But it's fun, charmingly designed, and engagingly casual in a way that makes it a perfect choice to fill up spare time with just enough puzzling to give your head a workout without breaking a sweat.

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Link Dump Fridays

DoraThere might be a lot of creeping crawling horror in this week's Link Dump Friday, proving that apparently enough of us are twisted to the point where it's Halloween year 'round, but there's more than enough to counteract that too. From a heroic mouse searching for something unknown on an island beset by bipedal rats, to a huge update to one of the year's best indie games, a sneak peek at genetically twisted kittens, and even the sequel to one of the most engrossing visual novels of 2012.

News and Previews

Torchlight 2Just Get Right Into It Runic Games' stellar indie action RPG Torchlight 2 is one of those games you sort of live in perpetual fear of someone mentioning, because you know as soon as they do, you're going to go spend another twelve hours grinding away at it and love every second. Well, it's about to get a whole lot more addictive, because the Torchlight 2 editor GUTS has finally been released. But even if modding isn't your thing, this recent update still has a lot to get excited about, from new monsters and pets (like the Headcrab!) to new endgame content, so get updating and get playing!

Hate PlusDo You Always Hurt the Ones You Love? There's really no reason not to be familiar with fantastic writer Christine Love's work, since she's released some really spectacular free work, but her last pay visual novel, Analogue: A Hate Story was particularly engrossing for a lot of reasons. Soon, you're going to take another trip with AIs Mute and Hyun-ae as you discover the truth behind the strange events on the starship Mugunghwa that lead to the events in Analogue. Hate Plus: ~Mute's Golden Days~ is the upcoming direct sequel that will take players deeper into the story than ever before, and will read off your save data, allowing you to continue the narrative in a way that expands on whatever ending you got. In addition to new art and music, the game promises you'll have to investigate yourself instead of just reading the files your companion gives to you, and you'll find out more about Mute than you ever expected. Look for it this summer and make sure your saves are ready in the meantime!

Mew-Genics!Weird, But Still Cute We're excited for Edmund McMillen's upcoming "crazy cat lady simulator Mew-Genics!, which will allow you to cross-breed and genetically manipulate a variety of cats for a multitude of purposes, and so all news is good news. Especially this most recent update, which talks more extensively about kittens, how the way they look influences their statistics, and even how they grow into adults. Mew-Genics! is rapidly shaping up into one of those games that could have endless replay value and the potential to really just decimate your spare time, so look forward to it with equal parts apprehension and excitement!

OutlastAlone, Vulnerable, Unarmed Some horror games have toyed with making their protagonists vulnerable in different ways, like the original Silent Hill explaining away Harry Mason's general awfulness at combat as him being an unskilled writer, or Amnesia: The Dark Descent's dwindling sanity and general weak squishiness. Red Barrels Games' upcoming action adventure Outlast will take that a step further by planting you, an ordinary unarmed human, in an asylum where you're chased from something very dangerous you'll have to hide from and outwit in order to survive. Planned only for PC release later this year, it's looking like a terrifying but impressive project, with the trailer consisting only of in-game footage that looks, to put it bluntly, both gorgeous and horrifying. Comparisons with Frictional Games' Amnesia and Penumbra games seem inevitable, but given the quality on display here, it's also equally likely this game is going to have more than enough to offer in its own right.

The Haunting of Magnolia ManorEven Ghosts Can Be Buggy When we first reviewed the free action/strategy game The Haunting of Magnolia Manor, where you played a ghost trying to scare a lot of unwelcome fleshbags out, it had a few nasty bugs playing poltergeist. Not anymore! The game has finally been updated, and should be perfectly playable now, which is something you might want to do if you're a fan of silly spooky retro games that play like that game. You know the one. Right? That game where you're the kid who has the haunt the family, and you had green goop, and it was on Sega Gensis, and... man I'm old.

CatequesisBits of Fright Pakarico Games and Curved Cat Games are going to prove horror can come in the tiniest of packages with their upcoming survival horror adventure Catequesis. Looking a bit like what you might get if you asked NimbleBit to design something for the oldest consoles, the game follows Daniel, who discovers after meeting his girlfriend's parents for the first time that her father is supposedly dying, and she believes only a strange religious rite performed by her neighbour can cure him. Things go predictably from bad to worse as the building comes under siege by horrors from beyond the veil, and Daniel finds himself lost and alone in a dangerous situation he'll have to fight his way out of. The style for this one looks fantastic, and it promises to deliver an immersive story on top of classic 90s gameplay. With a planned release this fall for PC, Mac, Linux, and Android, this is definitely one that could deliver the creeps in an unexpected package.

IbWalking Through Horror The free indie horror adventure Ib was updated last week with new content and endings... and now so is our walkthrough! If you've been wanting to see the new stuff but weren't sure how to go about it, we've got you covered. And if this is your first time playing your way through this supremely freaky and engaging tale, we've got you covered too! So make time in your weekend for Ib and her friends... and whatever you do, don't take your eyes off them...

Kickstarter/IndieGoGo Projects

DreadOutTerrifying No Matter Where You're From With so many horror concepts centered in either the West or Japan, it's easy to forget just how rich a tradition and mythology can be in other countries rarely examined by foreigners. Digital Happiness wants to change all that with their horror adventure DreadOut, which takes place in Indonesia and draws from the legends that make up its culture. The game, planned DRM-Free for PC, Mac, and Linux, has you control a lost young girl whose only source of light and protection is a mobile phone with a camera. Comparisons with the classic series Fatal Frame seem inevitable, yet DeadOn's cultural setting and rich history could provide a drastically different experience, and that trailer looks absolutely harrowing as well as incredibly well done. Plus, if you're playing on PC, there's a demo you can download and play right now, so make sure to check this one out!

Ghost of a TaleMice, Not Men You don't need to be big to be a hero, and you don't even need to be human either in the upcoming action-adventure Ghost of a Tale, which puts you in the paws of a tiny mouse in a medieval world populated by animals as you arrive on an island overwhelmed by dead rats. What you're looking for is up to you to discover as you journey and fight your way to puzzles and exploration. To say it's cute is a bit of an understatement, but it's also more than a little beautiful, and could be just the sort of whimsical adventure you've been looking for. Though currently only planned as a DRM-Free PC release, and small in scope given its one-man development team, Ghost of a Tale is shaping up to be something really impressive that could stand out big-time given the chance.

Miscellaneous

Retro GroupeePixels for a Pittance If you've been wanting to play Sean Hogan and Jonathan Kittaka's retro indie action adventure Anodyne, the Retro Groupee sale might be a great choice to pick it up for a low price along with some other fantastic old-school games. For a minimum price of $3.00USD, you get a whopping nine games, including Anodyne, and that's a great deal no matter how you package it!

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


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Rating: 4.3/5 (24 votes)
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Alien Hive

HopefulNebulaAlien Hive, a game by Appxplore is a blend of match 3, sliding block puzzles, and resource management with some alien breeding mixed in. It's all a bit reminiscent of Triple Town, where you shuffle items around to fill in gaps and help tiles evolve to be all that they can possibly be.

Alien HiveMatch three of any item to be presented with an evolved version of that item. Seedlings become sprouts, which grow until they become fruit, which are added to your inventory and can help evolve individual items. More importantly, eggs evolve into master aliens, and breeding these aliens is the object of the game. Standing between you and victory are the Naughty Bots who fix single tiles in place, forcing you to rethink your movement strategies. Fortunately there are some power-ups to give you a bit of an edge, such as a wormhole that lets you move any row of tiles and a shockwave that shuffles everything around. All of these can be won in-game or bought in the shop (with in-game currency or as an in-app purchase), and all of the power-ups persist between games so you don't have to use them right away.

Alien Hive blends its various genres into a rather addictive game. There's a built-in move limit that costs one crystal per action, but since you can earn crystals by regular play and start with 100 already in the bank, there's plenty of room to experiment. The graphics are cute and clean and the interface is smooth. If you're looking for a challenge that can be played in short bursts, Alien Hive is a great option.

NOTE: This game was played and reviewed on the LG Optimus L9. 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: 2.9/5 (64 votes)
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RedWhite Slice

HopefulNebula RedWhite Slice is a fun little action puzzler by Liu Wong. The game mechanic is simple: click and drag to cut off a piece of your given shape. There are two colours of balls bouncing inside... white with a plus symbol or red with a minus. The catch is, you can only slice part off your shape if there's exactly one minus ball — and no others — in that piece, and you can't slice through any red walls either.

Red White SliceThe game is definitely reminiscent of the Fat Slice series, or perhaps JezzBall. (Please tell me I'm not the only person who remembers JezzBall.) RedWhite Slice isn't very long or difficult, and it's definitely possible to get through it in less than ten minutes. Its strength is in its aesthetics. There's a level shaped like the Sydney Opera House, for instance, and a movie camera, and I at least found myself wanting to pass each level to see what the next one would be. It's a great way to spend a coffee break.

Play RedWhite Slice


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Rating: 2.9/5 (34 votes)
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Puzzle Monsters

elleIt's a good-natured game of turf wars as you clear the board of all but the last monster standing in Puzzle Monsters, a strategic puzzle game from Edvent and Almagesta. It begins simply—knock monsters off the board by rolling one into the other, clicking to select the monster you want and dragging in the direction you want it to roll. Soon the challenge increases, requiring a good amount of planning and thought as more crowded configurations, roll stopping grass, and immobile sleeping monsters are added. With 80 levels gently staggered from beginner to expert, redundancy sets in for all but the most ardent puzzle fan while the cutesy characters detract from the ponderous tone. In the same family of gameplay as Steppin' Stones, Puzzle Monsters is a bit like the wacky cousin, sort of off key yet just as enjoyable to interact with around a board game during family fun night.

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Rating: 4.4/5 (21 votes)
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Magicka: Wizards of the Square Tablet

JohnBMagicka is back! And it's mobile! And Vlad's still not a vampire! Bringing with it everything that made the original game a hit, Magicka: Wizards of the Square Tablet takes a slightly more action-oriented approach to the spell slinging arcade game. You still combine elements to cast various bits of magic that can harm enemies, yourself, and your teammates, but thanks to shorter levels and a new camera angle, it's now all about speed and strategy.

Magicka: Wizards of the Square TabletLining the bottom of the screen are seven icons, each representing a basic element such as fire, water, or earth. Tap these icons to start mixing magic, forming spells you can then unleash by tapping a target on the screen. The elements have real reactions with the environment, so if a sopping wet foe walks up to you, a nice blast of lightning will deal extra damage. You can also combine elements to make magical barriers, shields, walls, or healing spells, which comes in handy when every enemy in the universe is attacking you at the same time.

Magicka: Wizards of the Square Tablet is laid out in a different manner than the original Magicka, but the core experience of comedy, spell casting and wizardey stuff remains the same. In addition to a solo mode, online co-op is also possible, allowing up to four players to do the "oops didn't mean to shoot you yes I did bahhahaha" dance no matter which mobile device they own. There's also an armory where you can purchase items using coins earned through in-game hijinks or by dipping into microtransactions. Nothing obtrusive, just some extras to give you an edge when you're in the mood.

Magicka: Wizards of the Square Tablet is Magicka made new. An attractive price, hilarious writing and voice acting, and a fantastic game that's loads of fun in multiplayer mode.

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


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Rating: 4.2/5 (75 votes)
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Howmonica

DoraIf the Stones had written "Paint it Pink" instead of "Paint it Black" they might not have had quite the breakaway hit, but we might have had Spydog's gravity-swapping puzzle platformer Howmonica a few decades earlier. You control a cute little buggy buddy through 50 levels who can turn all those boring grey blocks a fabulous shade of pink when she passes over them, and you need to pinkie-fy the whole stage in order to proceed. The catch? Aside from dangerous spikes being instantly fatal, you also can't jump, but you can reverse gravity to fly around, as well as fall off the top of the screen to come up through the bottom and vice-versa.

HowmonicaUse the [arrow] keys to move, and the [spacebar] to reverse gravity at any time.. even while in mid air! You can also use [A] and [D] to go back and forth through levels you've already completed of the 50 levels in total. Why, you're just a bow-tie and a fez away from being a Time Lord! Make no mistake, this is a very simple little game. It's the sort of thing that feels tailor-made for a coffee break, with its bouncy gameplay and bouncier soundtrack. The twitchy gameplay as you try to narrowly avoid impalement won't be for everyone, and for some players, new elements may be introduced too slowly to keep their interest. But as a sweet, cheerful, challenging little exercise, Howmonica is perfectly pleasant in the way that both brightens your day and keeps you on your toes. Uh... fingertips? Whatever!

Play Howmonica


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Rating: 4.1/5 (131 votes)
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Weekday Escape

elleAh, your neighbors. It's good to have 'em! They're always around when you need helping out by lending cups of sugar, or making sure you get over that pesky sleeping habit, or leaving soap dolls inside the knothole of a tree, or providing the premise for that TV sit-com you've been working on. So when your doorknob is broken, trapping you inside your apartment, you should turn to your Neighbor for his help. If you can get it. See, the catch is, the means to get this particular neighbor's assistance requires some smart problem solving in a cleverly amusing escape game by Robamimi.

Neighbor (Robamimi)After discovering your predicament, click around the room looking for tools as well as clues to your cupboard locks (really, you need to stop with the elaborate codes if you're going to keep forgetting them!) The changing cursor helps you but it's also complicit in a few red herrings, so don't rely on it to always be clear where you should look. You'll encounter a few sly codes to work out and some puzzles feel much like what you'd experience in a traditional point-and-click adventure, partly because of the interaction with another character. A "HINT" button will prod you in the general direction you should be going, but it won't tell all or even exactly where to look. Robamimi gets inventive here in clue presentation, too, so much so that it encourages over-thinking and managed to trick me into a corner. There's a few instances that felt a bit unfair, actually, just slightly unintuitive—but I'm not giving anything away. Discovering the solutions is only part of the enjoyment, though; there's also an enjoyable amount of characterization and visual narrative going on in here. It not only looks like you're immersed in a comical graphic story, it feels like it, too.

Robamimi again shows talent in telling an effective story and employing subtle humor; we've seen it before in games such as Smile For Me and Fake. It's the heartfelt and gregarious jocosity that makes up for Neighbors few less-than-intuitive moments. When you're smiling at the screen, it's difficult to be mad at it, too. You might even be left with more laughs at the end, as either your frustration or stubbornness or silliness is measured up (my count was, I hate to admit it, 83). It's nice to share in Robamimi's playfulness, either way; being poked in the ribs and winked at is like Robamimi's way of saying "Hi, Neighbor!" while inviting us in to play a game and chat a while.

Play Neighbor

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Rating: 3.6/5 (50 votes)
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Hands of War 3

DoraEver argue with someone over the best way to get a job done and wind up so irrationally angry you just start throwing up your hands and going, "FINE! Just tear the coupons instead of cutting them, but don't blame me when you ruin a UPC, you big fat jerk!" Now image you're both burly warriors with chips on your shoulders and the eyes of an entire kingdom upon you to boot. That's the situation in Axis Games' action RPG Hands of War 3, where each leader of two opposing factions thinks they have the best solution to restore the kingdom after war. Before it gets to the name-calling, hair-pulling stage, you're brought in, and it's up to you to decide who you want to work for and influence the kingdom and its heroes to vote in your favour.

Hands of War 3After creating a character and choosing a class, you'll be booted into the game world proper where a handy tutorial will walk you through commands and such as they appear. It's still pretty simple, though. Use [WASD] to move and click on people and things to interact, with icons or hotkeys to open various menus. Combat, when it happens, is real time, and as you defeat enemies you'll earn experience and level up, allowing you to get new abilities or spend skill points. You can also gain experience by completing quests, and the quests you decide to take will influence your standing with different factions... important since their attitudes towards you shift with your actions and can come with rewards or penalties. I'm not so sure why everyone thinks allying with this newcomer is such a great idea, though. Calling your faction "The Shadow Runners" and having a big skull for an emblem isn't exactly reassuring. I mean, come on... were any of the Autobots honestly surprised when the Decepticons betrayed them?

The Hands of War series is one of those games that have only gotten more impressive and bigger in scope as they go along, and you can really tell the drive and passion that has gone into crafting this latest installment. Though still a little... rustic in design and more focused on leveling and combat than anything else, it's the sort of sprawling casual action-RPG experience that can suck you in for hours. Provided, of course, you can get over how slow it is to start. The game is not without its quibbles, of course. Aside from the minor cosmetic issue of people referring to you as a male regardless of whether your avatar is female, the larger cosmetic issue could be summed up simply with "My eyes, my freakin' eyes!" It's a tiny, tiny game, visually speaking, and it feels like if it had been just 25% bigger, those of us who aren't quite so eagle-eyed would do less squinting. If you don't mind a slow progression, however, Hands of War 3 is an easily addictive casual action-RPG game that showcases the passion and drive its developer has for expanding and improving every step of the way.

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Rating: 3.8/5 (304 votes)
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Dungelot

HopefulNebulaDon't you just hate it when you fall asleep in a public bathroom? In Must Escape the Museum, a point-and-click escape puzzle by Selfdefiant, you play a child who's in just that position. You awaken in the museum bathroom, but the museum is closed and, as it always is in these games, all the doors are locked. Can you find your way out before your parents start to worry? Click around to navigate, gather clues, and solve puzzles.

Must Escape the MuseumMust Escape the Museum is very short and easy to solve, but makes up for its simplicity by being well written and just challenging enough for its length. Unlike many games in the genre, there are no pixel hunts and very few of the other annoyances that would make most players go scrambling for a walkthrough. The graphics are clean, the gameplay is intuitive, and even though it's very simple and it doesn't bring anything new to the table, it's a nice little way to spend a few minutes on your lunch break.

Play Must Escape the Museum


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Rating: 3.1/5 (31 votes)
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Stack Overload

JohnBStack Overload is a mobile puzzle game from Bonus Level that feels like a cross between WarGames: WOPR and a memory game. It's your job to crash a series of increasingly complex programs by causing memory overloads one block at a time. This isn't as complicated as it sounds, as all you have to do is match pairs of tiles by turning them over one at a time. Overload the stack and you'll move on to the next level!

Stack OverloadSimply tap/click a square to turn it over, then tap a second to see if you made a match. If you did, you get to go again, otherwise the tiles flip back over and your opponent takes a turn. Up to three matches can be made before the board shuffles. The goal is to send as many blocks to your opponent as you can, overloading it's stack and causing it to crash. The tiles you match have different offensive and defensive actions, allowing you to add a bit of strategy to your attacks. For example, Pop removes a block from your stack, Push adds a block to your opponent's stack, Inc increases the max size of your stack, and so on.

Stack Overload can feel a bit random at times, leaving you to peck away at a set of blank squares hoping you can score a match before the board resets. The better you get the weaker that sensation becomes (until the Swap tile appears, yeesh), but it does subtract from the overall puzzle feel and turn it into more of a memory game. Two modes of play allow you to customize a quick round or run through the story, which features a snarky computer talking to you, just like you'd expect. Overall, it's a great game that requires just the right amount of brain power to be a short, casual diversion.

Play Stack Overload

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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The Vault

TrickyI'm going to go ahead and take a wild guess that I wasn't the only one to catch a recent new episode of throne-based television. And let me tell you, as soon as it finished, the first thing I did... well, actually the first thing I did was check out HBO's cool Sigil Generator to put together a little something for the next time the JiG crew heads out to the Renn Faire. But the second thing I did was dive into the archives to find some middle ages-type fun. This week in The Vault we get medieval, with excellent action, interactive fiction, and strategy titles. Awesome is coming!

  • Pillage the VillagePillage the Village - Pillage the Village, the 2007 action title from XGenStudios, is, officially, the prequel to the classic Defend Your Castle. However, its premise could serve as the perfect prologue for just about any castle-defense game, as it finally lets you engage in all the looting and marauding that gets those villagers and magical creatures so angry at you in the first place. Launching the peasantry high into the air, then slamming them into their tiny thatch-roof cottages, may not be the most mature of gaming pleasures, but there's an undeniable schadenfreude-riffic appeal.
  • VaricellaVaricella - Quite a few games let you play the role of a hacking and slashing knight, or the king commanding an army. However, rare is the work that lets you play the role of master schemer, whose chosen weapon is not a sword, but rather intrigue: exploiting weakness, playing rivals against each other, and betraying your way to the top. Varicella, a 1999 piece of interactive fiction by Adam Cadre, is an exception. Set in a twisted modern version of an alternate-universe Palazzo del Piedmonte, you play as Primo Varicella, an excruciatingly mannered palace minister hoping to grab the power of regency following the king's death, at the expense of your only-slightly-darker-shade-of-gray competitors. The prose of Varicella is as hilarious as it is dark, keeping things enjoyable through the multiple short playthroughs it will take to ensure your plans properly come to fruition. Appropriately, it's a game where you win, or you die.
  • Strategy DefenseStrategy Defense - An impressive 2007 trio of tactical titles from Belugerin Games, Strategy Defense succeeds in making the often-imposing strategy genre feel light-hearted and inviting. Don't be fooled by that adorable aesthetic, though: Strategy Defense is hardly a shallow experience, and gameplay ranges from Ogre Battle style turn-based battles, to real time tower defense, with an impressive selection of units and weapons to wield. And frankly, any game that features both magical lightning bolts and Sherman Tanks can't be all bad.

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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Steve Visits PAX East 2013

ArtbegottiGreetings from Boston, Massachusetts! (Just kidding, I'm back in Pennsylvania now.) Last weekend, gamers young and old flooded the streets of Boston and met in one giant convention center for PAX East 2013, three days of ridiculous gaming bliss. From tabletop to desktop, console to mobile and everything in between, pretty much any form of gaming you can imagine was represented. Last year I interviewed a handful of developers at The Indie Megabooth and Extra Credits' James Portnow, so how could I follow up that experience? Simple, do the exact same thing again, with better sound quality. (But slightly reduced video quality.) Check it out!


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Escape 9000: JayIsGames Office!

elleWelcome to our humble abode, dear JIG reader, where we plumb the gaming catacombs to find and present you with everlasting hours of amusement. Why? Because we hearts you, of course. And, since we know you love escape games, here is Escape 9000: JayIsGames Office, baked up by the JayIsGames staff just for you to munch on for April Fool's day...or anytime you'd like. Feel free to rummage through our file cabinets, desk drawers, kitchen and diary, or anywhere else a puzzle could be concocted. There's even a few hidden achievements, just so we can cheer for you. So, thank you for the awesomeness that you are, now dig in!

Play Escape 9000: JayIsGames Office


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Mobile Monday

JohnBNo tricks in this Mobile Monday. Not a one. Just because it's that April 1st holiday thing doesn't mean we have to participate, right? We're still recovering from the massive influx of news from the two recent game-centric events. We've read all the news and carefully selected the most awesome bits to share with you. Because you're awesome. No tricks!

deckwar-p.gifKlickTock's new strategy game - KlickTock, developer of Little Things Forever, ZONR and several other mobile games, recently teased a new release that's going to be a bit different than its previous games. Deck War is a casual strategy game fueled by virtual collectible cards. Players place a card on the field, the troops go marching and the spells are cast, and the skirmish heats up. This video shows some gameplay in action. Deck War is still in the very early stages of development but should be released sometime this fall.

wayward-p.gifRocketcat unveils new RPG - It's no secret we have a bit of a dev-crush on Rocketcat Games, creator of Mage Gauntlet, the Hook Champ series, and Punch Quest. The studio's next mobile release, Wayward, is a hack and slash dungeon crawling RPG somewhat similar to Mage Gauntlet and described as Zelda plus Dark Souls plus Spelunky. Pick a class and dive into the game, fighting through randomly generated levels as you search for loot and try your best to succumb to permadeath. It looks fantastic and sounds just as great. Wayward is scheduled to hit iOS devices around May. Can't wait!

icycle-p.gifiCycle. Looks. Amazing. - From the developer of Wonderputt, this sidescrolling platform game stars a man carrying an umbrella riding an old Penny-farthing. Move forwards, backwards, jump, and pray to the bicycle gods that you don't crash into anything dangerous. Like, oh, a giant ice fish or basically anything sharp and pointy. iCycle is based on the earlier browser game Icycle and is expected to be released in just a few months.

sorcery-p.jpgInteractive text gets more interactive - The folks at Inkle Studios haven't been napping since the release of the interactive novel Frankenstein by Dave Morris. First announced last year, the team recently showed off the new game/book Steve Jackson's Sorcery. The story plays out through prose with pathways to choose from and events to trigger based on the decisions you make. There's even interactive story-based combat and spells to cast, blurring the line between book and game even further than Frankenstein. Sorcery is slated for release May 4th. Have your reading glasses ready.

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