May 2013 Archives


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Cafe Murder

JohnBHere's a fantastic idea for a restaurant: have a competent waitress who does her job well, then hire a cook that periodically flips out and tries to kill the customers. That's the general idea behind Cafe Murder, a mobile time management game from Beaver Toad Software that emphasizes character and personality over speed. It's not a game about seeing how fast you can serve sandwiches, it's a game about keeping your shop tidy and pleasing the customers. And boy do customers love it when they're not murdered!

Cafe MurderGameplay puts you in control of Rainy, the dedicated waitress who will do anything to feed customers and keep them alive. People walk in the top of the screen and make their four-piece sandwich order. Stabby sits at the bottom of the screen chopping ingredients one by one. After each cut she throws the slice into the air. It makes a small shadow on the floor tile where it will land, all you have to do is tap it to send Rainy there to catch it before it hits the ground. Send it to a workstation as you slowly build up orders to give to impatient customers. Rainy is armed with a convenient device that sucks in and spits out ingredients one at a time, meaning she doesn't have to run all over the place to make a simple sandwich.

Unlike most fast-paced restaurant games, Cafe Murder goes to great lengths to make the customers and people as real as possible. That doesn't mean hyper-detailed artwork straight out of the uncanny valley, it just means each person has his or her own personality, complete with likes, dislikes, and opinions on the work you're doing. This translates directly into how popular your cafe becomes, as customers rank you on everything from accuracy to hygiene to how convinced they are they won't get stabbed while stuffing their face. Food service is a rough business.

Cafe MurderAs Cafe Murder progresses your little cafe will slowly turn into a bustling restaurant. You'll unlock more ingredients to play with, which increases the complexity of each order, but you'll also gain access to some equippable items to give you a little boost. There are also special cafe stats you can work towards to get your star ranking as high as possible, all in the name of successful eating/stabbing.

Analysis: Cafe Murder takes the best parts of old school game design and brings them into the modern era. It feels like a retro game, but without any of the annoying inconveniences of the previous era. Don't let the genre label turn you away, as Cafe Murder isn't about fast movement or complex restaurant management. It's a very casual-friendly game that has the wonderful ability to draw you in right from the start and keep you interested until your very last stab prevention.

The only real downsides to Cafe Murder are the current lack of native iPad support and gameplay that's best suited to short sessions. This isn't the best game to sit down with and play a three hour long marathon, though it certainly won't discourage you from doing so. The simple gameplay design means you'll get a lot more out of the experience if you play it in brief bursts, which is exactly what a casual mobile game should be.

The artwork is lively and creative, and the gameplay takes the core of what makes time management games so good and spreads it out so that everyone can enjoy it. A charming, utterly addictive game you'll love from the minute you start playing.

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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Mono

TrickyThe winner of the minimalism-themed Ludum Dare 26 game jam, Mono, a Java game by Timtip Games, is a uniquely artistic top-down mix of puzzles and skill. In it, you must guide an eye through a series of colorful levels. Move with the [WASD] or [arrow keys], attempting to make your way to the purple diamond that marks the exit. Crashing into a red wall sends you back to the beginning, hitting certain gray walls activate triggers that move walls, and blue walls bounce you around. Each level mixes up the formula with shifting gravity, portals, procedural lighting, and all sorts of cool gimmicks.

MonoMono is over way too fast, but it is an incredibly satisfying work. It's a very tight experience: each of its eight levels is packed with evolving mechanics and clever design, supported by engaging visual design and a soothing soundtrack. A well-deserved victor, it's the kind of gem that is so densely packed with ideas, that one thinks it could only have come together through the pressure and constraints of the Ludum competition. Still, we can't wait to see what Timtip can come up with next, though, of course, we're okay with giving them a little more time.

Play Mono


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Rating: 4.1/5 (43 votes)
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DefEndless

DoraLike defense games? Then come play this one. Forever and ever. DefEndless by Mark Dolbyrev and Maxim Yakovenko is exactly what it says on the tin... a tower defense game that never ends. At least not until the enemy plunders all your treasure! When you run out of lives, it's game over with only a high score to keep you company, but starting again will net you a brand new map... with all the upgrades you bought intact!

DefEndlessTaking a page from GemCraft, your towers are actually, well, gems. You'll get three of random colours between each wave to place wherever you like, and they attack whatever comes within range. Enemies will head towards your treasure, hitting each checkpoint along the way. They move faster on the road, but will be forced to go around any gems you put down. While all you have to begin with are a few simple colours, glows around them between stages mean you can click gems to combine them and make more powerful varieties, from simple flawless cuts to towers with special abilities. Refer to the encyclopedia (that's the little book icon at the top of the screen) for the best combination recipes! If things get hectic, you can also use the three magic spells at your disposal to help out. Of course, slaying enemies also grants you cold, hard cash you can spend on more lives, or enhancing the spells you own, or the basic abilities of each gem.

DefEndless, as a tower defense game, is somewhat less developed than its, uh, non-endless cousins and as a result, has a bit of a whiff of repetition about it the longer you play. It still offers a surprising amount of strategy in being able to combine gems into new tower types and drag them around the field, but it also feels like its lacking that undefineable something that makes the games it takes its inspiration from so compulsively playable. Boss fights? The ability to tell the colour of a gem before you place it? More unique enemy behaviours? All those things would definitely have added some oomph, but at the same time, DefEndless can still be surprisingly addictive. It's like the training wheels version of a tower defense game, bringing an almost arcade-like flair to the whole process that makes it perfect for fiddling with whenever you have some time.

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Link Dump Fridays

DoraOld school RPGs? We got that. Sequel to our 2011 game of the year? Got that too. Some sweet, sweet deals? Ditto. Brand new game from Double Fine? Awwww yisss. TGIF.

News and Previews

UndertaleJust a Taste As awesome as it is, I hesitate to tell you to play the PC demo for Undertale, the upcoming classic-with-a-twist indie RPG from Toby Fox, because you're just going to want the whole thing right away and are going to languish until it hits. In a world where monsters have been banished underground after a war with humans, you play a little human child who accidentally falls below and find yourself in a strange world with even stranger rules, where puzzles and danger lurk around every corner. Sporting a unique combat system where you can resort to violence or charm, a fantastic old-school flair, and memorable characters, this is one you need to watch out for. Hey, do you think thirty years from now everyone will be making games that look like Mass Effect and calling those "retro"?

Kingdom Rush FrontiersJust a Sequel to the 2011 Game of the Year, No Biggie Kingdom Rush fans, thy time has (almost!) finally come... launching on iOS on June 6th, the sequel to the smash-hit real-time strategy defense game from Ironhide Game Studio is almost here! Sporting new towers, new enemies, bosses, and much, much more, this is looking absolutely fantastic. Yes, unfortunately initially it's going to be an iOS exclusive, but rest assured it will be headed both for Android devices and your desktop in the future!

Kickstarter/IndieGoGo Projects

Massive ChaliceYou Know, it's Not the Size of the Chalice That Counts... Kickstarter is the thing these days, and when you've had as much success with it as Double Fine has, well, you can't blame them for coming back to it yet again! Planned for PC, Mac and Linux (DRM-free no less) Massive Chalice is a turn-based tactics game where you, an immortal ruler, guide your kingdom through the generations against threats. The twist is, as you manage your city and your army, time is passing, and your heroes will grow up, grow old, and ultimately die, so you'll have to be constantly training new generations of warriors that spring from the old. It looks absolutely amazing, and if you're a strategy nut, then this one should be a no-brainer.

http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/fleish-cherry-in-crazy-hotelWay Cooler than Steamboat Willie Cherry's a classic 'toon kind of gal who's used to being the damsel in distress, but when her boyfriend is captured by his arch-nemesis, suddenly she finds herself the one having to spring to the rescue in Red Little House Studios' upcoming action/puzzle adventure Fleish & Cherry in Crazy Hotel. Sporting a stunning classic animated style with puzzles and action where you'll have to "think like a toon" in order to proceed. This one looks absolutely, jaw-droppingly beautiful, and the unique twist to a tired trope and clever gameplay means it's one to watch out for.

JayisGreenlights

Miscellaneous

Bundle in a BoxGhosts and Hackers and Knights, Oh My! The Bundle-in-a-Box is back, and this time it's packing some serious heat with its "Capsule Computers Bundle". And maybe some serious chill too, since Joey's dead. ... what? I'm not being insensitive. The bundle features the fantastic Blackwell point-and-click adventure games from Wadjet Eye Games featuring psychic Rosa and her dead-but-still-sassy partner Joey. With a minimum purchase of a paltry $1.99USD, there's no reason to not pick these gems up... especially if you want to support the Bundle's Indie Dev Grant and make sure games like these keep coming out!

Humble Bundle 8A Mass Murderer, A Touching Platformer, and a Pyromaniac... Sounds Good The 8th Humble Bundle has arrived, and this one's a doozy. Packing hits like Hotline Miami, Thomas Was Alone, Little Inferno and more, I'd almost call this one mis-matched, except they definitely all have quality in common to burn. As of this writing the average purchase sits at $5.67USD for these beauties, and that is a crazy good price for some crazy good games, so be sure to check it out!

Do you know an upcoming indie project or some community gaming related news you think deserves some attention? Send me an e-mail with LINK DUMP FRIDAY in the subject line at dora AT jayisgames 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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Ace Attorney: Phoenix Wright Trilogy HD

JohnBPhoenix Wright is back, and he's in HD! After months of waiting Capcom has finally released Ace Attorney: Phoenix Wright Trilogy HD, packing three Phoenix Wright games into a single, easy-to-get-hooked-on download. It doesn't matter if you've never heard of the series or are a tried and true fan, Ace Attorney offers a lot of story and a lot of suspense in a very attractive package.

Ace Attorney: Phoenix Wright Trilogy HDAce Attorney features the three original Phoenix Wright game along with Justice for All and Trials and Tribulations, sequels that continue the series' tradition of courtroom/detective mysteries. Each game presents you with a case that's going to court, allowing you to do some detective work as you interrogate witnesses and scrounge for evidence, all in preparation for bringing it before the judge so you can set the record straight. Each mystery is just as intriguing as it is exciting, and you can expect plenty of surprises and moments of awkward humor as well. Plus, there's no beating the feeling of screaming OBJECTION! in the courtroom after you've gathered all the information yourself.

Analysis: The Phoenix Wright series has a well-deserved reputation for clever writing that walks the line between serious drama and fine comedy. None of that has been changed, and the games are every bit as good as they were when they were first released. The HD visuals look fantastic on iPhone and iPad screens, of course, and you can even rotate your device to switch between classic two screen layout or full single screen experience. Either way, touch controls are great for a game like this.

Ace Attorney: Phoenix Wright Trilogy HDOut of the five chapters found in the first game, the first two are available for free. That's plenty of Phoenix Wright to get you hooked on the series. The rest of that game can be unlocked for $5.99, while Justice for All and Trials and Tribulations are available for $6.99 apiece. There's also the option to just go ahead and buy everything at a discount, which you'll probably end up doing once you remember this is Phoenix Wright.

The only downside to speak of is the game's interface. When you're actually in one of the Phoenix Wright games everything runs just fine, if a touch on the slow side. But navigating between chapters or using the purchase menu is a bit of a hassle. Sliding windows around borders on laborious, and the nav arrows that should make things smoother feel like they're stuck in molasses. A snappier text-only interface would almost be preferred.

Ace Attorney: Phoenix Wright Trilogy HD really is one of those must-get games for mobile devices. You can't go wrong with any of these games in their original incarnations, so when you multiply that by three and add in a non-web version of everybody objects, well, who are we to, you know, object?

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


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The Yawhg

DoraThe Yawhg is coming. In six weeks, it'll be here, and nothing will ever be the same. But you don't know that, because in Damian Sommers and Emily Carroll's gorgeous indie choose-your-own-adventure style game, you're just a typical soul living out your life on a week by week basis. The things you do with your time now just feel like the same ol' same ol' to you, but when the Yawhg arrives, the choices you have made will determine what happens to not only you but the town itself. Will you dedicate yourself to the arcane arts in the alchemist's tower, even knowing the potential for disaster magic can bring? Will you choose to try to bring law to the troubled slums, unaware of the inhuman darkness that will watch from the shadows? Maybe you'll spend some time attending royal balls, or tending to the sick at the hospital... though if you've come down with a certain affliction yourself, that might not be the best idea. Every action has consequences, and every action determines how ready you'll be when it arrives.

The YawhgAt the start of the game, you can select anywhere from one up to all four of the available characters to play with. Don't worry, all of them can be and do anything, so you aren't limited in any way. The game is turn-based, and each week you'll be asked to select what your characters do and where they go within the city. Once all characters have done something, the turn ends and a new week begins, six in all, until the Yawhg arrives. Each character begins with the same value in all six available statistics, ranging from physical strength to simple wealth, and performing actions in different locations causes these to raise. Fighting in the stadium, for instance, might give you a boost to your strength, while choosing to attend a royal ball at court could increase your charm. Simple, right?

Except each action will usually have a random event attributed to it that comes with a decision. When the patient covered in mysterious sores comes into the hospital one day, do you risk infection? How do you deal with the zombified critter your colleague at the alchemist's tower has just created? While these decisions will also influence your abilities for better or worse, how well you do at your chosen option will usually depend on whether certain statistics are high enough. If your charm is low, you might want to think twice about trying to persuade someone, or if you're not strong enough, running away might be a better choice than getting in a fight. These seemingly inconsequential encounters can lead to big repercussions or rewards later on, and you won't know which until you take a chance. Just remember to apply characters to certain professions and statistics whenever possible to make sure they're ready for the Yawhg... well... as ready as anyone ever can be when they don't know something is coming...

The YawhgAnalysis: For a lot of players, even fans of visual-novel style adventures, the hardest thing to take about The Yawhg might be the randomisation. While certain events only happen at certain locations, there's no real way to tell when and in what order even if you know they're there, so it's hard to really be prepared. On the other hand, that's also sort of the whole point of the game. Like the ambiguous menace roiling towards the town, the people you're playing as have no idea what to expect out of their daily lives. They don't know what's going to happen. They're just living as they always have, and sometimes life is unexpected in ways both good and bad. While the game does provide narration as you go, what it doesn't offer is characterization towards the people you play as at all, forcing you to construct their stories in your own mind. Those proper looking women could just as easily be warriors or thieves as the burly fellow could be a doctor or a courtly gentleman. One of my personal favourite aspects of the game was the way choices felt like they actually had merit and consequences beyond improving your stats because they would pop up again at some point in the rest of the game to show you the results of your decision. The Yawhg feels like it's about crafting lives, and even if the bulk of the story is left up to your imagination, it still succeeds wonderfully.

A large part of the appeal is the gorgeous artwork by Emily Carroll, whose designs breathe personality and a haunting storybook flair into the world. (And if you haven't read her chilling comic His Face All Red, you're seriously missing out.) Add to that a haunting and increasingly tension-filled soundtrack by Ryan Roth and Halina Heron, and you might just have one of the most exquisitely designed story-centric games out there. By suggesting more than it does outright stating anything and never painting you into a corner with its story, The Yawhg creates a world that feels drawn by your choices and ideas, in a world that feels rich with unspoken mythology and danger. Though a playthrough won't last very long, there are over fifty endings to discover, and the game's snappy pace makes it easy to want to jump right back into a new game as soon as you finish one. Rich in player-made stories and surreal, imaginative fairy-tale like atmosphere, The Yawhg is a simple to play yet compelling game that provides a unique and engaging experience.

WindowsWindows:
Get the full version

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


  • Currently 3.7/5
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Rating: 3.7/5 (46 votes)
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Sinjid

TrickyIt has been seven years since Sinjid was thrown into prison for the death of Master Fujin. Seven years confined to the worst dungeons the empire has to offer, for a crime he didn't commit. But that was before the Shogun's rebellion reached the emperor's doorstep. Now, Warlord Masaru thinks Sinjid can be useful. A murderer, but useful none the less. He has an offer: If Sinjid will join Masaru's forces, and help to crush the rebellion, he will get a full pardon and be set free. The best thing that can be said about Masaru is that he is the lesser of two evils, but the chance to find Fujin's real killers cannot be passed up. Sinjid will fight again. An action-RPG by Krin seven years in the making, Sinjid captures the feel of a true ninja epic.

SinjidAfter choosing your character class, use the [WASD] or [arrow keys] to move around and jump. Each character class has different abilities and attacks that can be used with the [1-5] and [Q/F/E] keys, though the keys are customizable by clicking the gear next to your abilities panel. Use them to defeat your many foes. Crouch with [down]/[S] to block attacks. [Spacebar] is used to talk to allies, as well as loot the corpses of defeated enemies. Completing missions and defeating enemies will give you gold to spend on better weapons and armor, as well as XP. Each time you level up, you'll be given a skill point to unlock or upgrade new abilities. There are nine areas to explore and nine epic bosses to defeat. More features can be unlocked through microtransactions.

A semi-sequel, semi-reboot of the author's previous turn-based installment, Sinjid proves to be delight for fans both old and new. It has that classic saga feel in its story-telling, and delivers action that allows for plenty of katana-slashing, while requiring enough strategy to prevent a mere brute-force fest. The landscapes and characters have a beautiful thick-line style to them that evokes a beautiful simplicity. The beauty and the content do come at a cost, though, with some taxing loading times marring the experience, particularly when changing your character's equipment. It's impressive that each piece of equipment has a sprite to go with it, but the requirements in rendering may tax players patience. Still, Sinjid has a breadth to it that rivals many download titles, and hopefully we won't need to wait another seven years to visit its world again.

Play Sinjid


  • Currently 3.5/5
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Rating: 3.5/5 (63 votes)
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Habla Kadabla

Starchild The world is full of wicked witches. If they aren't luring kids into their tooth-rotting candy houses, they are tangling your earphones or hiding your socks (you know witchcraft is the only logical explanation). So when a good witch comes along, you feel obliged to encourage her law-abiding ways, which is why you will help her find a solution to her current predicament. You see, in Habla Kadabla, the newest point-and-click adventure from Carmel Games, the title character is a young sorcerer who owns a nice little ghoulish gift shop. One night, some dastardly blackguard steals her enchanted cash register along with all her money. Habla must find the thief before she goes out of business, or else she just might be forced to start cursing people for a living.

Habla Kadabla Use your mouse to interact with the townsfolk and to click on anything that looks useful. The gameplay is as straightforward as can be – visit the few locations listed on your map, snoop around, pick up items and use them on different objects around town. The cursor changes when you mouse over a clickable item, which is a great help, and the sharp, pleasing graphics make the hunt easier. The story is appropriately nutty, as are Habla's investigative methods, but it all works in its magicky setting and makes for a charming game. Habla Kadabla is quite short and nicely intuitive, so it could be a great first experience for players who are unfamiliar with the genre. That's not to say that it won't please the seasoned audience; it can easily be finished in one sitting, but it's good, clean fun, with its cartoonish sense of humour and goofy logic. So, if you have a bit of time for a round of point-and-clicking, and especially if you can't wait for Halloween, this is a game for you.

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Greedy Grub

JohnBGreedy Grub is a freemium town building game from Pixowl Games with gorgeous artwork and gameplay that's just left of the norm. It immediately captivates you with its tale of a cute orange grub falling out of a tree, and every character you meet afterwards is just as quirky and lovable. Layer on top of that an honestly entertaining collection-centric gameplay mechanic and you've got the perfect recipe for an addictive mobile game.

Greedy GrubYou control our grubby pal by sliding your finger around the screen. Where you go the grub follows, collecting fruits and busting bits of shrubbery along the way. To interact with the animal townsfolk or to utilize buildings, simply tap on their front and hold until the grub reaches that position. Most of your time will be spent gathering acorns, tending to fruit trees, and eyeing the next building you aim to create, all with the end goal of helping out mayor Apollo and leveling-up the eye tree.

Plant fruit trees by buying seeds at the store, then make sure you water them whenever they're thirsty. The trees gradually grow up while you play, eventually reaching maturity and producing tasty fruits to harvest. Harvested apples, pears, lemons and so on are converted into acorns, the game's main form of currency, and from there you can spend them on new buildings to further your little orchard/village's progress.

Missions pop up on the side of the screen from time to time, giving you something more specific to accomplish as you manage your forest grove. These are usually pretty simple in nature, asking you to eat certain fruits, craft certain items or build specific buildings within the time allotted.

Greedy GrubAnalysis: The setting and missions in Greedy Grub feel a little like Wandering Willows, a fantastic downloadable game released by Playfirst that walked away with an award in our Best of 2009 voting. Greedy Grub could be the next best thing to a sequel. Quests and goals feel less like busy work and more like genuine entertainment. And when you get so many eyefuls of artwork by Laurel, including a comic, you can't help but get hooked.

Of course, no freemium game would be complete with out a "hurry-up" feature tied to in-app purchases. Trees growing, fruit dropping, and building constructing all take place in real time. If you're impatient you can spend a few gemstones to get things done instantly. The in-app purchase system allows you to buy packs of acorns and/or gems starting with a simple, inexpensive exchange and going all the way to... well, a lot more than pocket change. Fortunately you never feel forced to spend any cash, as the game's pacing is just fine without emptying your wallet.

Balanced and pleasant with just the right amount of challenge, Greedy Grub is a perfect example of how you can take the freemium town building concept and do something genuinely entertaining with it.

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 4.4/5
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Rating: 4.4/5 (77 votes)
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Monsterland 3: Junior Returns

DoraJust when you thought it was safe to nap... dun-dun... dun-dun...dun-dun-dun-dun-dun-DUN! Alma Games' gleeful brat returns in the latest installment of the tumbledrop-style physics puzzle series with Monsterland 3: Junior Returns. Your goal is to get our excitable little square buddy down to his snoring, long-suffering bigger pal to wake him up. Click other goggle-eyed monsters to drop Junior down, using fewer clicks to earn the most stars, and make him land safely atop Senior to win the level. When Junior is flying, click him to make his wings vanish so he drops. Since some monsters can't be moved, navigating Junior safely around the hazards becomes an even bigger challenge.

Monsterland 3: Junior ReturnsThough not much separates the gameplay here from the first two installments apart from the buzzsaws (Senior really wants to be left alone) and Junior's new wings, Monsterland 3: Junior Returns continues the series' tradition of vibrant visuals and fun, inventive level design that forces you to think. Though the physics are largely reliable, however, moving platforms can be a frustration since Junior tends to slide on them when they change direction beneath him, which can cause him to fall off into the abyss or whirling blades if he doesn't land in the dead center of the platform to begin with. The saws mean this batch of levels feel like the require a bit more timing and reflexes over the other games, but with all the charm and weirdness you've come to expect, it's a colourful way to spend your free time. But, uh. Maybe if you actually want a little kid to leave you alone, lethal traps might be considered... a bit of an overreaction. (Don't worry, kids. Junior is fine.)

Play Monsterland 3: Junior Returns


  • Currently 4.3/5
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Rating: 4.3/5 (98 votes)
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You Must Escape

DoraRac7's Ludum Dare entry You Must Escape was for the "minimalist" theme, but it could also have been under the "how to shred someone's nerves with near-complete silence and a bunch of lines" theme. Which they would have one, being as this maze-like avoidance game is one of a kind. Trapped inside a pitch-black maze, all you can do is use sound to figure out where you are and make your way to the exit through echolocation. As you move with either [WASD] or the [arrow] keys, sound represented as thin white lines radiates out from you, bouncing off walls and doorways, and you'll need to use this to find the exit, which "sounds" different in that when bouncing off of it, the white lines will become slightly thicker and move faster within it. Simple, right? You can even use the [spacebar] to create a burst of sound that radiates out from you, holding it longer to make it louder and travel further. Just watch out for traps that display in red. And for whatever hungry, searching thing is sharing the darkness with you... listening...

You Must EscapeSee, after a rather uneventful few stages of learning the ropes, you're told that you're not alone, and suddenly making a lot of noise to figure out where everything is isn't the best idea. The "beast", when alerted to where you are, will head straight for the location of the sound, emitting growls that paint the area surrounding it red. You can hold [shift] to move silently and escape detection, but, well, then you have no idea where you're going and where the exit is... or where the beast is. As a result, You Must Escape creates a very literal game of cat and mouse rich in tension though simple yet effective sound and the simplest visuals possible. Though movement is both slow and clunky enough that you might imagine you were actually steering a passive-aggressive Clydesdale stallion, like FPS-Man, You Must Escape shows that in the right (wrong?) hands manipulation of sound and perspective is all you need to make something genuinely frightening. Of course, whether this concept is enough to make someone want to push through to the end through gameplay that feels by design achingly slow at times is another matter entirely, but there's no denying this is definitely a great concept and an even greater use of the Ludum Dare competition's "minimalism" theme. ... even if that means I can't make very interesting screenshots out of it for you. Uh. Sorry.

Play You Must Escape


  • Currently 3.9/5
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Rating: 3.9/5 (96 votes)
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Fruits!Fruits!Fruits!

elleIf I told you one of my favorite pastimes was to be locked up in a room with a host of arcane devices and left to only my clue-snooping, puzzle-solving wits to find my way out, would you say I'm fruity? No? Fabulous! Then you, like me, are going to love this almost brief but entirely clever escape-the-room game from suzumeDr of 45-rpm: Fruits!Fruits!Fruits!

Fruits!Fruits!Fruits!Despite the titular allusion to a musical number involving samba dancers and Carmen Miranda in delicious headwear, the setting for this game is quite a bit quieter and tamer. Which allays the absence of a changing cursor since you'll have fewer details to sort your way through as you point-and-click around, trying every angle of the furnishings you do see. Arrows at the sides and bottom of the screen will indicate where you can turn or back up, yet anything else that's up for examination can be reached by clicking it. Obtainable items will land in your inventory automatically where one click will highlight, readying it for use, and a double-click will open its detail screen. Although many players will be able to finish within 10 minutes, there is also a save function in case you need a breather to re-ponder the clues.

Compared to other suzumeDr creations such as Locked Around the Clock or To Nothing, this escape is much easier to come by even if it's not the simplest you'll ever play. At first look, some clues are almost misleading while others are hidden in plain sight, and it might feel like some lateral deductions are needed. Looking back, though, all logic can be explained without any stretches in credulity. Yet Fruits!Fruits!Fruits! should be much more peppy and full of personality as fans of this game designer have come to expect—by the title it certainly sounds like it would be, but it ends up being a bit more mild and comparatively more dull. Those who found other suzumeDr games too abstruse shouldn't shy away from this one, though. Fruits!Fruits!Fruits! is balanced just right in difficulty, making you think hard for your answer but still providing all the information needed to keep the experience enjoyable.

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  • Currently 4.9/5
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Rating: 4.9/5 (48 votes)
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Word Realms

DoraWhen the world is in danger from the insidious Lord Nightmare, who preys on the dreams of people as part of a sinister plot, they need a hero... someone stalwart, honorable, trained in the ways of dream magic. Unfortunately, all they have is you, some lunkhead who crawled out of the bushes after a night of hard partying. Oh well. In Asymmetric Productions' Word Realms, you'll learn to defeat enemies in turn-based combat by spelling out words from a set of Scrabble-like tiles, learning new abilities as you complete side-quests in your adventure to save the world. Complete with inspirational '80s training montage!

Word RealmsAfter a short tutorial, you'll be booted out into the world proper to begin your journey. Places on the map with an exclamation mark over them have a quest related to them, so click to travel wherever you please. In town, you can purchase items or upgrade your equipment, but most everywhere else will result in duking it out, librarian style, with foes. While swords and armor are important, your vocabulary is even more so, since the power of your attack is determined by the value of each of the randomly distributed letters you're given to spell with. Don't spend too long staring at your letter tiles, since the timer at the top of the screen ticks down until your turn automatically ends, whether you've spelled something or not. Instead of leveling up with experience points, growing stronger depends on defeating multiple types of enemies to achieve milestones. Pounding away at a certain number of skeletons, for instance, could lead to a permanent increase in strength, while defeating lots of intelligent enemies might mean you get a permanent additional letter tile in each battle.

Your questing is simply done by visiting locations and pummeling enough baddies until a story sequence triggers, but there are exceptions. Using your unique powers, you'll be able to capture the dreams of certain characters. Once done, you can enter into those visions to attain clues or free people from nightmares. These events are usually more puzzle oriented than combat related, tasking you to solve riddles, construct specific words from tiles using strict rules, and more. While some dreams are entirely optional, you'll still want to complete them to earn new abilities, since the longer you play, the harder the game is going to get. Making words is the easy part, but as enemies begin to get craftier and come with dangerous new skills and spells that can hamper you, you'll have to be more strategic too. Use abilities to scramble or destruct your foe's tileset, inflict status ailments, use scrolls with unique spells, or equip passive abilities to gain bonuses of all kinds. Once you rescue the village blacksmith, you'll even gain the option to buy a set of crafting tools to make your own equipment, like some sort of medieval, verbose Martha Stewart.

Word RealmsAnalysis: Word Realms is one of those games that will absolutely devour your spare time if you let it. Not only is it easy to pick up and satisfying to play whenever you have a chance, but it's also compulsively playable in a "one more turn" sort of way that makes you look up in bewilderment and realise you were late for your appointment three hours ago. (I didn't need that heart surgery anyway.) Word Realms' best quality, however, might be its sense of humour, which is every bit as sublimely silly and wonderfully weird as you would expect from the creators of beloved online RPG The Kingdom of Loathing. Sometimes sassy and sarcastic, while others more subtle and surreal, the game keeps its plot moving with snappy dialogue and one-liners. It almost seems impossible to predict whether the game will recognise words and use them as taunts in a way that makes sense, with gems like "I'm going to knock your SOUP off!" coming on the heels of "My Monster Journal CITES several sources saying you're a loser!" or unexpectedly funny Star Trek references. Fortunately, if you feel the game missed the mark on its word usage, you have the option to tell the developers so by reporting improper instances after each battle.

The game can definitely feel a little repetitive at times. Lacking any real puzzle-solving or actual adventuring beyond the dream sequences, gameplay boils down to battling over and over in each area until there's nothing left to get out of it. But Word Realms is dedicated to its core gameplay in a way that means it's as engaging and polished as it can possibly be, and the result is what you could call the perfect marriage of word puzzle and RPG for the casual gamer. There are hours of challenging, funny, and smart gameplay to be had that make it hard to put down, especially as combat gets more varied and difficult later in the game. With a great sense of humour and a unique look, Word Realms comes highly recommended to anyone who likes the pick-up-and-play style of Kingdom of Loathing married with the think-on-your-feet action of Bookworm Adventures for one unique, clever beast.

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  • Currently 4.7/5
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Rating: 4.7/5 (891 votes)
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Infiltrating the Airship

TrickySo you've broken into the bank, escaped from prison, and stolen the diamond, and the government has finally took notice. However, they're willing to cut a deal: the Toppat Clan of international thieves has been a much larger problem that you for quite a long time. Get some evidence, and they'll give you a full pardon. And to do that, you must start by Infiltrating the Airship. The fourth in the series of Puffball United's popular series of stickman-style humorous adventures, Infiltrating the Airship keeps the laughs coming and the awesome occurring.

Infiltrating the AirshipAs in previous entries, infiltrating the Airship is set-up choose-your-own-adventure style. An animation plays, and every so often you use the mouse to make a choice as to what your stickman avatar should do to proceed. Most of the decisions you can take your time on, though a few are quick-time events just to keep you on your toes. There are four ways to victory, sixty fatal fails to find, and a host of clickable secrets. There's been sort of an online backlash against the sort of random comedy that Puffballs United happens to specialize in, but Infiltrating the Airship shows that when it's done well, there's nothing more hilarious. The pop culture references come as fast as the frenetic physical comedy, and while the addition of voice-acting takes a little getting used to, Infiltrating the Airship is perhaps the most fun repeatedly killing a stickman ever has been.

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The Vault

TrickyI claim this Vault in the name of King Jay and Queen Dora! You know, it's tough being a casual-gaming pathfinder, heading deep into the archives to bring back quality games of all genres from whatever godforsaken rock they're hiding beneath. Fortunately, there are quite a few that have taught me the ways and means of exploration, and they've served me well in my journey. Come now and check out a few wonderful works about charting exotic new places, meeting fascinating characters and then, most likely, shooting them with a laser gun.

  • The DreamerzThe Dreamerz - Even wonder what would happen if Eyezmaze and the Samorost guys teamed up to make a point-and-click adventure game? Well, 2010's The Dreamerz is probably the closest we'll ever get to that dream-team, and the fact that it's all the work of RobotJam is definitely deserving of the slow clap. There's so much to find and interact with in The Dreamerz's multiple tiny worlds, it really does give the sense that a dream has come to life on your monitor. However, as ethereal as the experience is, the surreality never gives way to nonsensical puzzles or unsatisfying interactions. The Dreamerz is a game as comfortable and refreshing as a perfect nap.
  • K.O.L.M.K.O.L.M. - Exploration has a dark side. The different and uncharted is also the strange and unfamiliar, and there's only the finest of lines between trailblazing and becoming hopelessly lost. The robot protagonist of K.O.L.M., a 2010 metroidvania platformer by Anthony Lavelle, wakes in a world he can barely see and barely move in, with a voice overhead constantly reminding him of his incompleteness. At first, he moves, because that's all that he can do, while others watch and judge him. But his exploration gives him efficacy over his surroundings, and it's as empowering to the character as it is to the player. Discovery begins to stand for something more: escape. K.O.L.M. is a quiet masterpiece about the struggle to figure out where you belong and, not to mention, a killer action-adventure.
  • William and SlyWilliam and Sly - Of course, exploring doesn't have to be about far off planets or technological dungeons. It can be as simple as your own backyard through another's perspective. Of course, the backyard in William and Sly, a 2009 puzzle platformer by Lucas Paakh, may have more gnomes and fairyflies lurking about it than most, but the atmosphere remains the same. It gives the feeling of finally exploring every nook and cranny of a clearing that you've walked through a million times on the way to something else, and uncovering something fantastic that you'd never expect. It is, in a word, magical.

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 (27 votes)
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Bread Kittens

DoraBread Kittens is a free iOS adventure/RPG game where you travel around Catlandia, training and battling cats Pokemon style, in an effort to save them from the tainted pet food that has made them aggressive... by putting bread on their heads. Ain't even kidding. Bake º450 is to blame/praise for this evil/brilliant premise that stuffs simple, cute, addictive gameplay down your eyeholes. It's simple. Tap to an icon on the map to travel there, and battle kittens that attack along the way. During battle, tap anywhere onscreen to fight back, but try to time it when the meter at the bottom of the screen hits the gold bar in the middle for extra damage. Use cat chow to replenish your health when it gets low, and hurl bread at your enemy when their health gets low to try to capture them and add them to your team!

Bread KittensOf course, you don't have an infinite supply of bread... you have to bake it, and doing so costs flour, which is earned from battles, and takes real time... unless you spend Meowbux to speed it up. It's not just about sliced bread either, since you'll unlock other recipes that you can use to bake special items that will boost your kitties' abilities... when equipped on their heads, of course. Each region you'll travel to has its own unique kittens to capture, with everything from plain tabbies to ultra rare exotic breeds. You can even send friend requests to other players and do kitten battle with them. It's exactly the sort of thing that would get you arrested and turned into the subject of a psychological case study in real life, but with adorable visuals, chirpy sound-effects, and the sort of "whenever you get the chance" gameplay the iOS was made for, it's somehow still endearing.

So what's the downside? Monetization and simplicity. While things like flour, chow, and even Meowbux can be earned through regular gameplay, they're doled out so slowly you really have to grind battles if you don't want to pay out. Especially when it comes to Meowbux. The simplicity of the one-button combat style that makes up the meat and potatoes of it all starts to wear out its welcome, and its silly story just sort of drops off the face of the earth after your ginger kitty sasses you through a tutorial. As a concept, Bread Kittens has tremendous potential. It's beautifully illustrated, wonderfully wacky, and something that fills up whatever time you give it, no matter how much or how little. At the moment, we can only hope that eventually earning the in-game currency is tweaked to become a bit more generous, but as it stands, as long as you know what you're getting going into it, Bread Kittens is a simple yet strangely compelling formula well worth at least checking out.

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 3.5/5
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Rating: 3.5/5 (63 votes)
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Find the Escape Men 52 in the Gas Station

GrinnypWell, now you're out of gas. What can you do but find the nearest gas station and pull in? Good thing there's one so close by. Unfortunately, it appears to be staffed by another large green man and before you know it, you've collected him. No1Game is back again with yet another room escape game in which you find a contingent of green men in Find the Escape Men Part 52 in the Gas Station. Do you remember Find the Escape Men Part 51 in the Traffic Jam? Part 52 is a direct continuation of that amusing little game. You are no longer stuck in your car, although the sterile, soulless cookie-cutter gas station isn't necessarily that much of an improvement over sweating out the stop and go traffic.

grinnyp_findescapemen52_screenshot.pngOh well, at least here you can stretch out your legs. And, since you collected the green attendant, you'll not only have to find the other nine escape men, you'll have to pump your own gas (oh, the horror)! Who knew that gas station attendants were still a thing, even in Japan? Seriously, most of you reading this article are probably too young to remember a time when there was such a mythical beast as a full-service gas station. Regardless, you must point-and-click your way around the place, collecting every little escape man you can find so that you can pay for some gas and get back on the road. It's a delightful mini-escape featuring logical puzzles, amusing dialogue, and even two different endings. Welcome to yet another short and whacky escape adventure with those hard-to-find little green men. Time to gas up the car and go!

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  • Currently 3.1/5
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Rating: 3.1/5 (62 votes)
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Everyone Together

satoriWhat makes some friends a part of our daily lives, and others friends we only talk with a few times a year — if that? Dan Lin has us pondering this and more in his minimalist puzzler made for Ludum Dare, Everyone Together. Use the [arrows] to maneuver a yellow block into contact with a plethora of gray blocks. As you make contact, they brighten to yellow and move in unison with you in a Katamari-esque manner. The object is to make simultaneous contact with all the immobile blue areas on the field, but you'll usually have to use your once-grey friends in order to do that.

Everyone TogetherThis is where the strategy comes in — and it gets pretty daunting for such a visually simplistic title! You may neerdver to route them to some areas. You may need to navigate your crowd around splitters, at which point they'll often lose contact with you. Each level has been designed to carry a specific theme or concept regarding friendship, so as you play through you'll find yourself musing on how our basic relationships work, and the dynamics of friendships and long-term associations. Everyone Together is a tough little stumper in a meek, unassuming package, and it will give you the urge to go back through your various contact lists and catch up with people you haven't gotten in time with for years. You know exactly the ones I mean!

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Mobile Monday

JohnBHard to say no to the games featured on this edition of Mobile Monday. Free Angry Birds? Yes, please. A game about a CEO kicking through walls to engage in fisticuffs with werewolves? Ok! Phoenix Wright on iOS in HD? !!!!!!!

phoenix-p.gifNo objections here - Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney Trilogy HD is coming to iOS this Thursday. That's really all you need to know. You may now commence celebratory... celebrations. There's been a lot of drama and delay for this game making its way to the U.S. iTunes App Store, but almost a year and a half after it was first announced, Capcom is finally making it happen. The pricing structure is pretty friendly, too, offering a free download with games unlockable with in-app purchases. Here's our premature review of the release: YES.

executive-p.gifC-E-WHOA - You played Pizza vs. Skeletons, right? If not, facepalm yourself. RIGHT. NOW. The "just as amazing as it sounds" arcade game from Riverman Media turned more than a few heads with its... well, it's pizza and skeletons. Now the team has unveiled a new title that's just as likely to make you look twice. The Executive puts you in the shoes of a CEO fighting employees who have turned into werewolves. Talking about the game is madness. Seeing the trailer is so much better. The Executive won't launch until 2014, which is sad. But it exists, which is awesome.

pudding-p.gifFree App of the Week: Angry Birds Space - Each week on the iTunes App Store, Apple drops a single release down to the tasty price of "free". This week, that freebie is Angry Birds Space. Heard of it? Darn tootin' you have. Since space is all vast and (apparently) empty, Angry Birds Space is doing its best to reflect that with a temporary price reduction. Come on, it's Angry Birds. And it's Angry Birds in space!


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Love Chronicles: Salvation

Starchild If there is one thing you can learn from fairy tales, it's this: if you defeat a witch, make sure she really goes out of work. Unless you see her break her wand in two and take up a job with an animal shelter, you aren't safe. In Love Chronicles: Salvation, a hidden-object adventure by Vendel Games, we find that the hero hasn't learned this valuable lesson and has to save the day all over again.

Love Chronicles: Salvation In the previous game, the prince rescued a little island kingdom from Alura the witch and her icy doom. Now he is coming home, dreaming of a fluffy bed and a cup of hot chocolate. When he gets there, however, he finds out that Alura is a sore loser and that she has lain waste to his own kingdom. Determined to deal with her once and for all, the prince decides to go right to the source and try to undo everything that has happened. He travels back in time to find Zander, the dark lord who imprisoned Alura when she was a girl and forced her to be evil. His quest takes him to very strange lands where he meets lots of colourful characters (from fluffy to ghostly) and has to find a bunch of magical gems to break Zander's spell.

Analysis: Exploration is as easy as clicking around the screen. The cursor turns into a hand or a magnifying glass if you can interact with items, and the hidden-object scenes sparkle. There is a map, so you don't have to backtrack, and the hint button is cool – if you are supposed to go back to a scene, it will show you that exact scene, instead of vaguely telling you to move backwards; it can also be recharged more quickly if you catch fireflies which buzz around and drag them to the button. The hint system is very helpful especially because there is an extraordinary number of rooms, so much so that, at one point, even the map becomes too complicated.

Love Chronicles: Salvation One pleasant feature is the implementation of hidden-object scenes. Quite often they are just a random list of things to find without a real connection to the story. There are some such scenes in this game as well, but others consist of finding parts of an item you actually need in order to progress, or of repairing objects, so they bring some much desired variety. Also, you will never have to revisit a hidden-object scene, and they are quite colourful and unique. Puzzles are plentiful and well made, although often short (which at least means you won't get bored of them).

The game is very nice to you in the beginning, what with the fairy tale story and the flowery environments, but it has much darker plans in store, and even a mildly horrory element or two. On the other hand, the voice acting (which is good, but a bit over the top) and the plethora of peculiar scenes always verge on the ironic, so it's your choice whether to take the plot seriously or not. It's also worth noting that the bonus chapter in the Collector's Edition takes you to a completely different world and has a story of its own, much lighter than the main game.

Probably the most striking aspect of Love Chronicles: Salvation is the abundance and the design of the environments. You'll wander along many corridors and discover many bizarre places and creatures, until you almost forget where you started from and why you're there. It's a fantastic, whimsical journey to go on when you just want relax and lose yourself in a strange and beautiful world.

Love Chronicles: Salvation is currently only available in a Collector's Edition, which includes a bonus level, concept art, wallpapers and more. Remember that Big Fish Game Club Members pay only $13.99 for Collector's Editions (or 2 club credits), and collector's editions count 3 card punches of 6 total needed for a free game.

WindowsWindows:
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Tilt and Swipe

JohnBName and function, this game is! Tilt and Swipe is a mobile arcade diversion from Charlie Dog Games, creator of Burble. The game gives you a screen full of objects and challenges you to move your phone to shift things around. Get two or more like-colored objects together and you can swipe them to get rid of them. It's a little bit of a physics puzzle but involves a touch of dexterity as well. And if you play it in public, people will give you strange looks.

Tilt and SwipeYour goals in Tilt and Swipe are to clear the screen and to do it as spectacularly as possible. Building combos and clearing larger groups earns you a higher score, and in later levels you get to contend with joker balls as well as different object shapes, each of which must be removed if you want to head to the next level. You can't leave any spheres behind, so make sure all colors are in a match before you start swiping. Planning is just as important as shaking your phone around like there's a bug on it.

It's a simple idea, but Tilt and Swipe executes it very well. The challenges gradually increase as you work through the levels, providing just the right amount of resistance to keep you working without making you frustrated. And the audio visual package is surprisingly nice, especially that delicious noise the objects make when they clack against each other. Tilt and Swipe is a great arcade puzzle game to keep on your mobile device for quick rounds of quick, challenging fun.

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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Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller: Episode 3: The Oracle

TrickyErica Reed, FBI agent, certainly seems to attract a certain type. Unfortunately that type seems to be serial killers with a flair for the thematic and dramatic. Hours after the previous cliffhanger, and still recovering from her perhaps-not-as-unconnected-as-they-first-seemed investigations into the The Hangman and The Wise Monkey, Erica gets her curiosity piqued by the trail of clues (and bodies) leading to the Enthon Towers, a luxurious high-rise with a checkered past. But when a shady new superior forbids her from investigation... well, that gets her attention. Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller: Episode 3: The Oracle is the third in the series of episodic point-and-click mystery adventure games by Phoenix Online Studios, and it's really going to bake your noodle.

Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller: Episode 3: The OracleClick to have Erica walk to a location, and if the cursor lights up, click again to examine, manipulate, or talk with your selected target. In the top left corner of the screen is your inventory which allows basic item usage along with combining objects. You also have a phone that allows you to contact other agents, search for information, or call your father for a hint. With the action centered on Enthon Towers, there's no use for a map screen this time around. Clicking the cognition icon allows Erica to use her cognition powers, visually marking objects that she perceives as unique and allowing a glimpse into the past and a possible reconstruction of events that transpired. You will soon gain the new psychic ability to make contact with another character who will, uh, "assist" in your investigation. At times, the player will control this character and utilize their own set of unique powers to help Erica sift through what the heck happened.

Analysis: If the first two episodes of Cognition were a little meandering in their set-up, then this is the pay-off, and it is glorious. Phoenix Online Studios clearly took the time to map out Erica Reed's story in all of its intricacies ahead of time, and this is the point where plot threads are beginning to weave together, and overlooked bits of foreshadowing could not have been more obvious in retrospect. Keeping things in a single location this time around means the game is fairly short and largely linear, but that is balanced by how it keeps the story focused and tense (and, not incidentally, side-steps the "you need a pencil to solve this puzzle, but the only pencil in this game-universe is halfway across town" problem that affected earlier episodes). The puzzles feel much more investigative and psychological than inventory as Erica and her new partner use their cognitive abilities to unravel the complex backstory, and yes, the phrase "multiple timelines" will probably be invoked in the mind of the player. The lack of forensics to balance it out mean that some parts may be get a little too sci-fi for those wanting a more down-to-earth thriller, but the basic premise remains the same: people have been killed, and its up to you to find out whodunit and the horrific details of whydunit. Of special note, also, is Austin Haynes amazing soundtrack (which, in a smart move, is available for purchase at the Phoenix Online Store).

Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller: Episode 3: The OracleOn the downside, while the 3D models and animations are improved, they're still served with a noticeable side of uncanny valley dressing, and far out-classed by the 2D environments. Likewise, while Raleigh Holmes serves a tough-but-sympathetic Boston twang as Erica's voice actor, excellent as always, but some of the minor characters veer between hammy and under-emotional. Also, while the puzzles are mostly logical and intuitive (with the endgame sequence being a particularly exciting stand-out), there are a couple that may have players pulling their hair out, if they've not read every scrap of information they can find. Most of the time Cognition lives up to its story consultant Jane Jensen's work on Gabriel Knight, but figuring out how to crack open the safe here reminds one more of, well, Gabriel Knight 3.

Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller's continuity is tight, and as the third episode of a four-part series, the game is entirely playable for those new to the series, but it will feel like wandering into the middle of the movie. With the final, climactic chapter soon to be released, however, there has been no better time to catch up. Adventure game fans who worried if Cognition was going to be able to stick the landing should rest assured: even those without psychic powers will say that this series is only getting better.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

Mac OS XMac OS X:
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  • Currently 4.3/5
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Rating: 4.3/5 (23 votes)
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Re:Kinder

AliceThird-grader Shunsuke's life is a little bit strange, but it's peaceful enough... until he comes home from a visit to his grandparents to find his town a desolated wreck, his babysitter a mindless monster, and his mother a bloody corpse at the door. Shunsuke escapes to his clubhouse, and meets the remaining population of Kowada Town: six terrified children who just want to call for help. And then there's Yuuichi, the little boy behind it all, whose bizarre demands offer a promise of escape. Can you save your friends, or will you be left all alone? Re:Kinder, a free RPG adventure made by Parun and translated by Vgperson, might sound like a relatively straightforward horror story... but no, that's not the case. It's just that the sheer level of weirdness in this game is difficult to convey with words.

Re:KinderGuide Shunsuke through what remains of Kowada Town, solving puzzles and figuring out the right course of action before it's too late and one among your number is gone for good. When the party needs to fight, you'll be dropped into a turn-based battle. You'll need to pay attention to the characters' abilities and the enemies' patterns of attack— trying to brute-force your way through a battle is the quickest way to lose. Though the combat is far from the star of Re:Kinder (there's no levelling and only one weapon upgrade, and veteran explorers may find a way to skip the final boss entirely), it does an admirable job in its supporting role. Sometimes the gameplay gets weighed down by all the cutscenes, but that's pretty much par for the course in this type of game, and thankfully, Re:Kinder includes the option to skip dialogue. It's not quite as elegant as the skipping system found in, for example, Renpy games, but it is much, much better than nothing at all, and it definitely improves Re: Kinder's replay value.

Re:KinderKowada Town is a great setting, with oddly-named stores and a park that's only there because the two towns who planned the thing didn't want it, and Shunsuke's friends are for the most part a likeable crew. Not everyone gets enough time to shine, but they work well together as an ensemble, and for me, keeping them all alive wasn't just about winning the game— I genuinely didn't want to see them go. The whole game is teeming with a strange sense of personality, leaping back and forth across the line between tragedy and comedy. Sometimes you're listening to a precocious child babble about sperm and adultery, sometimes you're listening to a depressed child tell you about how they want to disappear (a recurring theme in Re:Kinder, which takes place in a world with very little understanding of mental illness, and quite a few of the characters suffer for it). You learn to roll with the mood whiplash after enough exposure to it, even if it's never quite comfortable. Some games don't seem to know what they want to be, but not this one. Re: Kinder feels more like a game that knows itself perfectly well, but doesn't want to open up to you about it. It's very aware of what it does with game conventions, and it cultivates its unique style of odd in a way that seems... carefully halfhazard, if that's a thing.

Re:KinderRe:Kinder is, as the name implies, a remake of a previous game by Parun, simply titled "Kinder." Kinder hasn't been translated into English, and Vgperson hadn't been able to find it at the time Re:Kinder's translation came out. Some accounts of Kinder mention that the black comedy so prevalent in the remake was completely missing in the original game (link is very, very spoilery). It was a deliberate choice to make this game undermine itself so much, and it begs the question: why? Did Parun think his old game was silly, or needed to be lightened up? Was the comedy for the sake of dissonance; a way to make the creepiness pop? Did he just want to troll the players? Perhaps it tied into the themes of the game— Shunsuke is traumatized by the horrors he faces, but the story's tone doesn't change for him. It's eerily reminiscent of the way that certain characters sought help repeatedly for their problems, but were met with indifference every time.

Sadly, Parun passed away in 2011. Given the circumstances of his death, it's possible that his writing on depression came from somewhere personal. It's tempting, though reductive, to see this game as an explanation of sorts. I don't think it's that simple. Re:Kinder has a message, but it isn't only a message. It's a weird, creepy, funny game about struggling to survive and the hidden depths in people— even the ones you've got every reason to write off. Re: Kinder isn't for everyone, but if you're looking for something a little unconventional, you might want to give it a chance.

(Content note: Re:Kinder contains explicit language, sexual references, violence, and discussion/depiction of suicide.)

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Dark Parables: The Final Cinderella

elleIt used to be, a girl would dream of her first ball, dancing with princes and wearing a beautiful gown, a gift from her fairy godmother. But now a glass slipper doesn't lead to a dream come true and, instead, the maidens themselves are being turned to glass as The Godmother searches for "Cinderella", the legendary pure-hearted maiden. Dark Parables: The Final Cinderella twists familiar stories of happily ever after into a morbid nightmare where cursed dresses are only the beginning of the trouble. Once again, detective, your mission is to uncover The Godmother's plot, find Cinderella, and protect the world from havoc in this detail-saturated hidden object adventure from Blue Tea Games.

Dark Parables: The Final CinderellaYou first task is to explore a strange castle, so you'll need to get the pieces to an emblem that will help you proceed—all without being seen by the giant monster attacking the castle. Use your changing cursor to help your eyes scan the area for clues and tools, then keep track of incomplete details so you can return to them later with the requisite items. Much of the focus of your adventure is to gather objects, either in pieces or whole, to unlock more treasures and open new areas. This leads to a large array of those fragmented hidden object search scenes of Blue Tea Games' signature style. There are occasional minigames varying from ones used before in other Dark Parables as well as a few original puzzles; while some are harder than others, they're always logical and not abstrusely complicated.

Dark Parables: The Final CinderellaAlthough you don't have a journal specifically, some found objects unlock new parables explaining the backstories. Increasing the ways you can use items, you also must outfit a set of dolls to yield important items and advance your progress. Because of the nature of your assignment and the tasks involved, you'll travel back and forth quite a bit. To help in this, a map shows areas of interest and locations where main objectives need to be met while a hint button will point you toward more immediate goals. More assistance, such as sparkles, faster hints, or the ability to skip puzzles are customized in the difficulty settings.

Dark Parables: The Final CinderellaAnalysis: For fans of the Dark Parables series, The Final Cinderella is no disappointment. Everything you like about Blue Tea Games' presentation, story telling, and fragmented object searches is just as satisfying in this latest installment. In a side by side comparison to previous installments, the graphics in some stages seem more grainy yet this still stands out as one of the most gorgeous games you'll ever lay eyes upon. The whole adventure in scope doesn't feel as epic or grand as that in Red Riding Hood Sisters, though. It feels as if there are too many hidden object scenes. They're lovely and enjoyable as always with bright colors and aesthetically pleasing compositions, yet those who prefer more story and adventure over searching may wish they were less frequent.

The story itself is a dynamic fusion of Cinderella, Pinocchio, and a few nods toward several others. Surprisingly, it doesn't turn out to be cliché or predictable. Although the focus is decidedly on finding objects and solving puzzles, the story is deftly interwoven with the adventure so it never feels extraneous or tacked on. In that vein, with so much going on—poisoned ball gowns, armies of puppets, mirror portals, and a morbidly dysfunctional family—the plotlines can seem contrived and not fully developed. Even so, it's fun, almost campy, with superb voice acting and well-written cutscenes. The end result? The Final Cinderella remains entertaining throughout the roughly 5 hours of playing time; it's full of remarkable, color-saturated visuals and the gameplay is the perfect level of relaxing and challenging. If you've played the others and loved them, you can be confident this one will satisfy just as much. If not, give the demo a try: The Final Cinderella is a great representation of the quality and magic that make Dark Parables such a joy to play.

Currently only the Collector's Edition of this game is available. It contains bonus content not found in the standard edition: additional chapters, extra puzzles, a built-in 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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The Black Heart

DoraThey say the quickest way to a man's heart is through his stomach, but you and I both know that's a lie because going right through the chest is way more efficient. The man in this case, however, happens to be the king of a twisted world, and within his heart lies the power to make or create all of existence... so it's probably not a great thing that it was ripped out of him by a creature straight out of nightmares called "The Final". And it's probably not great for the universe that all the ones who are going to try to get it back aren't exactly heroes... or anyone you'd want to meet in a dark anywhere... or even people at all. Created over the span of seven years by one man, Andrés Borghi, who handled everything about it from the programming to the art and more, The Black Heart is a fantastic free indie fighting game with a surreal dark horror theme and style. Please be warned that this game contains excessive gore and violence as well as some implications that some players may find disturbing. (Note: If you want to play in English instead of the default Spanish, click the second button from the top in the launcher (Idioma) to change the language.)

The Black HeartThere are six characters for you to choose from, each with their own unique backstory and moveset, from the ghostly spectre of Noroko who was released from her prison inside a Japanese fertility doll, to the chaos-dwelling Shar-Maki serpent monster that can grow stronger in size and number by implanting embryos within its foes. The default playstyle has you use the [arrow] keys to move and [Z], [X], [C] and [A], [S], [D] to attack, but this can be changed in the options menu in-game. Controllers work too! If you've played a versus-style one-on-one fighter before, you know the score. Win two out of three matches against an opponent to move on to the next. The yellow bar on the left at the top of the screen is your character's health, while the one on the right is your opponent's. Deal damage to build up the green power meter below your health to be able to pull off super attacks, enter Killer Mode, or even execute instant fatalities. Hit [ALT+Enter] if you want to play in windowed mode.

The Black HeartAnalysis: Though its description only mentions Mortal Kombat or Street Fighter, thematically at least The Black Heart is much closer to Darkstalkers by way of infamous Playstation fighter Thrill Kill. (Which I promise you was not anywhere near as fun to play as it was to talk about.) It's over-the-top violent in a way that goes beyond simply yanking a guy's head clean off his shoulders, to say nothing of implied sexual assault. But if excessive gore doesn't bother you, chances are you'll find The Black Heart an extremely creative and enjoyable, if very dark, gem. The unique characters shine, with original stories and ideas, and seeing each of their moves in combat is a great incentive. I mean, you'll probably never want to root for any of them to have the power to control all existence, but still. The hand-drawn artwork and animations in battle infuses them with tremendous personality, making each one feel unique to play as well depending on your personal style, so you can find one that fits you. The cutscenes introducing them are so intriguing that it's a bit of a disappointment that you don't get more story throughout the game instead of only at the very end. Also, you uh. Might want to know that at least one of Noroko's victory scenes includes a jump scare.

The Black HeartAs for the gameplay itself, well, I confess. I'm a button masher. It's what I do, and it's served me well. That said, the controls feel responsive and it's easy to pull off moves when you know what you're doing. Especially since the same sets of button/key sequences are shared by all of the characters for most special moves. It does feel like it's a little easy to simply stun-lock several characters in a corner and wail away on them without interruption, but it also seems like that only gets you so far. Inevitably, the game is going to force you to battle against "yourself" (or at least the character you're playing as), and if you've been cheerfully bulldozing your way through by blind luck, you're going to hit a brick wall against something that not only knows all your moves, but can pull them off every time. What's frustrating, however, is the lack of a pause function. All you can do is exit to the main menu, which wipes your progress through story mode, and not all of us can play an entire campaign in a single sitting without bathroom breaks. Or getting a phone call. Or needing to take screenshots.

To think that all of this is the work of a single person over seven years is a bit shocking, but you can feel the drive and passion in every single aspect of The Black Heart. It's clear that it was a game created with dedication from someone who enjoys fighting games as much as fans do. The story is more than a little convoluted and will probably require playing through with most characters to understand it all, and some characters have vastly more satisfying endings than others. Still, sporting a cast of incredibly varied characters and over-the-top action, certain players will find this a ton of fun, even if it's impossible to describe it to other people without sounding like a lunatic.

WindowsWindows:
Download the free full version

Mac OS XMac OS X:
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Wizardry

JohnBHere's a bit of awesome news for retro RPG fans. GOG.com has released three Wizardry games, proving that the first person role playing game will never, ever die! Wizardry VI: Bane of the Cosmic Forge and Wizardry 7: Crusaders of the Dark Savant come as a single package, while Wizardry 8 is sold by itself. Released between 1990 and 2011, these titles are part of the Dark Savant trilogy and share a lot of common themes between them. They also happen to be some of the most complex, most satisfying role playing games ever made.

WizardryIf you're looking at Wizardry from modern eyes, think of it as Legend of Grimrock or QuestLord, only a thousand times more intricate in every way. The storytelling, the setting, the mechanics, the artwork, the... the... the everything! Aah! It's all so epic! Between the three titles you can expect to squeeze in roughly 500-700 hours of gameplay. Assuming you've got a month out of the year you aren't planning on utilizing in any other way.

Wizardry 6 and 7 are the most retro of the trio, featuring EGA and VGA graphics respectively and preserving the step by step turn based movement and combat we know and love. These two games marked a sort of reinvention of the series from the previous releases. The story took center stage and was remarkably well-written, adding flavor and substance to what would otherwise be hallway after hallway of lookalike rooms and walls.

WizardryWizardry 8 was released in 2001, over a decade after Wizardry 6, and as a result it looks and plays like a much more modern game. Gone are the graphics where you can sit and count the colors on the screen, replaced instead with a world you're free to explore from a first person perspective. Even though the look and feel may have changed, it's still the same old Wizardry underneath.

We couldn't possibly say anything about a Wizardry game that hasn't already been said. Unless we start writing in some strange made-up unicorn language or something. The GOG releases provide a good handful of extras, including manuals, cluebooks, quick reference cards and even a map. And they all run without issue on modern PCs. The Wizardry 6+7 package even includes the original DOS version of Wizardry 7 along with Wizardry Gold, which was released later with a few upgrades so it would run more smoothly on Windows and Mac computers.

If you haven't played a Wizardry game, we highly suggest you clear out your weekend and have a go. These are games you can get lost in, both figuratively and literally. You can spend half an hour in the character creation screen fine tuning everything before you embark, and once you're loose, there's so much to learn and experience it's overwhelming. The good kind overwhelming. You've got a great ride ahead of you.

WindowsWindows:
Get the full version (Wizardry 6+7, via GOG)
Get the full version (Wizardry 8, via GOG)

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


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Frozen Synapse

KinetikaiReal-world warfare is a chaotic and stressful affair that requires stark nerve and split-second reflexes. Luckily, this isn't the real world, so we can take our sweet time and plan every little thing out in between sips of coffee. Giving a new edge to tactical combat, Mode 7's much-lauded PC strategy game Frozen Synapse has landed on iPad, bringing with it all of the beloved action along with some new and intuitive touch controls.

Frozen SynapseFrozen Synapse puts you in control of a squad of armed troops and gives you the ability to precisely map out their actions and movements. Once you have settled on a game plan, you and your enemy's commands are then played out simultaneously in real time (the game's defining feature) and hopefully the resulting encounter leaves you with more men standing than the other guy.

Each battle is broken into turns which comprise of five seconds of real-time action. During each turn, you plot out your squad's maneuvers for the upcoming five seconds, beginning by setting up a pathway for each member to follow. You can either map out each soldier's route point by point, or choose a destination and let the computer choose the optimum route, tweaking nodes where you see fit by tapping to select and dragging to move. You can add in commands at any point on a squad member's pathway, such as instructing them to focus their aim in a certain direction, engage or disengage with the enemy, stand still, duck or run. Once you feel your scheme is foolproof, hit the Prime button and the game will determine the outcome, which you can then watch, presumably while saying "Oh man, I wasn't expecting him to go there..."

You can choose between the single-player campaign, which plays out as a series of missions set in a near-future world of war and political intrigue, or a quick battle against an AI or online opponent. Your missions generally involve some variation of "kill all the bad guys" (and conveniently, all enemies appear in bright neon red) although the campaign adds a little variety with escort and protection missions and such. To note, all of the maps in Frozen Synapse — even for campaign missions — are algorithmically generated, so no two battles are ever the same.

Analysis: Frozen Synapse turns close-quarters combat into a stylish game of chess with guns. It's a great concept, and it's pulled off with a great deal of polish, giving you a high level of freedom and precision.

Frozen SynapseTake note: Gamers who are used to victory through sheer firepower may find themselves at a disadvantage here. The only way to win is to outhink your opponent — to predict their movements and stay one step ahead of them. Of course, this is all keeping in mind that your opponent has the exact same mindset, and both of you can view the entirety of the battlefield at all times. Also, the randomly-generated maps mean that you have to constantly adjust to new scenarios. Do you play defensively with precisely-placed snipers, or do you blow a hole in the wall with a rocket and go in shotguns blazing? As Olmec once said, the choices are yours and yours alone.

There's definitely a learning curve to becoming a master tactician, which may turn off some gamers with less background in strategy games. However, it's a curve worth tackling for the sake of a deep and unique gaming experience, and luckily there are plenty of tutorials. And the pulsing electronic soundtrack and slick neon visuals also make the whole learning experience very appealing. (Although some graphical variety here and there would be nice.)

All in all, this is an excellent title that really feels at home on iOS. The touch controls flow nicely and there seem to be no compromises with re-envisioning the game in tablet form. Of course, if you don't have an iPad, the desktop version is still very much available and as good as ever. And Frozen Synapse's cross-platform play also means that your account and data will transfer between tablet and desktop versions of the game, which is always a welcome feature. There are really few things that can be said against it — it's well-made, inventive and tons of fun. Frozen Synapse an exciting new take on action tactics that shouldn't be missed by fans of strategic gameplay.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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

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


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Escape from the Similar Rooms 3

elleHottategoya has more of the same for escape-the-room enthusiasts, which is exactly what we want when in the mood for light, casual puzzles in a minimalist-yet-surreal-yet-photorealistic setting. As you'd expect from the series, this game is both easy and enjoyable; maybe because it's lightweight but remains engaging. You need only click to move around, view clues and work the puzzles. Patiently navigating rooms and stairs while everything looks so much the same is the hardest part. The thinky part is making observations and piecing them together to solve three codes, opening three similar doors, the last one bringing you freedom and congratulations. Well worth that dèjá vu feeling of gratification at the end.

Play Escape from the Similar Rooms 3


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Combo Crew

JohnBIt's you versus floor after floor of bad guys in Combo Crew, a deliciously satisfying swipe-based brawling game from The Game Bakers, creator of the SQUIDS series. Utilizing a string of timing-based fighting moves along with ample social features, the game brings a bit of old school punching and kicking to mobile devices. While these sorts of games usually require heavy duty arcade buttons to smash, with Combo Crew, you don't need no stinking buttons.

Combo CrewCombo Crew utilizes a very simple swiping mechanic to handle every bit of combat there is. Swipe anywhere on the screen to have your character attack. Swipe and hold to summon a charge attack, or swipe with two fingers to start a combo. When an enemy steps up with a flashing red exclamation mark over its head, tap the screen to queue up a counter attack. Unless you're in the middle of a long combo, your character will turn around and give 'em what for. You don't actually control which enemies you attack, which is a bit awkward at first. After a few minutes you'll begin to see the simple beauty offered by the no-brains swiping technique.

And now for the fun part: upgrades. Defeating enemies and completing missions earns you coins. Coins can buy perks, which are permanent stat and ability boosters, or items that bestow temporary bonuses. Either way, you're going to need some help if you want to escape this place alive. Combo Crew is dripping with satire, but you don't have to be a big time brawling game fan in order to appreciate what it has to offer. In fact, Combo Crew is a delight for even the most casual players. Just sit, swipe, swipe a lot more, and hope you survive!

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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Link Dump Fridays

DoraI don't have a real description for this week's Link Dump Friday because I'm both having too much fun a) playing and b) saying The Yawhg aloud. It's like I'm Arnold Schwarzenegger! Yawhg! Yawhg? YAAAAWWWWWHG!

News and Previews

The YawhgAny Relation to the Grue? The Yawhg is coming! What is it? You'll have to find out for yourself, but the village it's on its way to in six weeks' time is full of people living their lives, and the actions you take with up to four of them determines whether they live or die. Due out for PC on May 30th, this choose-your-own adventure style game features a randomly generated story every single time, with over fifty endings available depending on the choices you make in the weeks leading up to the Yawhg's arrival. The game, created by Damian Sommer, Emily Carroll, Ryan Roth and Halina Heron will be available for $10.00USD on release, but from now until then you can pre-order it for $5.00USD, so be sure to check this one out. It looks both stunning and unique, which is a rare combo.

Crypt of the NecrodancerHold Me Closer If, like me, you have a Dance Dance Revolution pad in your living room and you'd really like to do a bit more with it than resignedly tap your way through a bunch of J-Pop mixes over and over, rejoice! Crypt of the Necrodancer is coming later this year, and it's about to change the way you play your roguelike dungeoncrawlers. Instead of just moving about as usual, you'll move to the beat, either with the game's soundtrack or your own .MP3s, on either a keyboard, a controller, or, yes, a DDR dance pad. Best of all? It's by Ryan Clark, formerly of Grubby Games, so you know it's got some serious talent backing it. Pack in some lovely pixel style, and this game could be your new obsession, so stay tuned and get behind me in line for your chance to throw money at it.

Among the SleepGo Into the Dark... I'm Sure It's Perfectly Safe Things keep getting better with Klei's amazing indie sim game/dark action adventure Don't Starve, and now there's even more to explore. The brand new Underground update adds a brand new biome, the caves, which brings with it a host of new items and creatures! If you don't already own Don't Starve, you're seriously missing out, and there's no time like the present to jump on board.

DreadOutHooray, We Get Ghosts! Proving once again that crowd funding can make dreams (nightmares?) come true, Digital Happiness' upcoming indie horror game DreadOut has been successfully funded on IndieGoGo! The game is a dark adventure set in Indonesia and draws from the mythology and legends there to craft a story about a school trip gone wrong when a young woman named Linda finds herself seperated from her group in a deserted town and quickly realises something is very, very wrong. It looks absolutely terrifying, and we can't wait to get our hands on it when it releases for PC, Mac, and Linux!

Submachine HDNo, Not Backwards! Well, it might not be the latest installment of the celebrated Submachine series of point-and-click adventure games, but we'll take it... especially since it means supporting its creator! Submachine 6 is now available in HD for $2.00USD. Sure you can still play the free version online, but if you're a fan, it's a great way to show your appreciation for Mateusz Skutnik, who has been delivering top-notch content to us for free for over seven years now.

Kickstarter/IndieGoGo Projects

Dungeon of ElementsDungeon, Meet... Tetris? Hmmm! Frogdice has an idea for a game, and you might want to bottle up any free time you can't do without right now, because it has the potential, if done right, to be seriously addictive. Dungeon of Elements wants to create a dungeon crawling RPG that combines multiple gameplay elements, appropriately enough, for a truly unique experience. The game will combine elements of classics like Tetris and Dr Mario to make its battles more fun and engaging, while still providing all the gear, crafting, and powers dungeon crawlers crave. Most promising, though, is that building up to the release the developers are looking to build a community from their backers to allow their input to help make the game the best it can be. Now that's development I can get behind!

The Kingsport CasesHorror. Horror Always Changes How do you keep horror fresh? By having it never be the same twice. Machines in Motion wants to make procedurally generated survival horror adventures that make your skin crawl in The Kingsport Cases for PC, Mac, and Linux. Set in the 19th century, you're called into a tiny town to take over after its previous detective dies trafically, only to discover the Lovecraftian mysteries that make up the town means the job will be anything but ordinary... or safe. Sporting procedurally generated maps and NPCs and storylines, it sounds like this one has the potential for infinite replay value... but can procedural generation make a story and characters anywhere near as compelling as a more linear plot fully fleshed out? We're going to find out.

JayisGreenlights

Miscellaneous

IamagamerRock Out With Your... Uh... Wait... So, you can't have a female character in games, huh? We'll see about that! Inspired by Gamasutra's quote, which was referring to the publishing problems upcoming game Remember Me encountered for its female protagonist, iamagamer is getting ready to host their very first game jam in July... all centered around female characters! It's always nice to see people creating more diversity in games, and I personally am especially interested to see what sorts of ways people choose to represent a "strong female", since obviously that means something different to a lot of people and can be showcased in a variety of different ways. Stay tuned!

XBox One"Indie? What's that?" Earlier this week, Microsoft had their big reveal of their next generation console, the XBox One. There are a lot of problems people have with it, such as the unclear "fee" for used games, the required and never really "off" Kinect integration and more, but perhaps for some of us the worst news is that XBox One won't allow indies to self-publish. This is a fairly big blow, since it means any indie developer unable to get a publisher willing to take a chance on them is out of luck, even if they themselves were willing and able to pay. While there are still plenty of opportunities elsewhere for indie developers to get their work out there, it's still a little disappointing to see one effectively close itself off to many of them.

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 jayisgames 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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Leaf Me Alone

TrickyThe scores have been tabulated and the results are in: the overall winner of the minimalism-themed Ludum Dare 26 72-hour Game Jam is Leaf Me Alone, a retro Metroidvania-style platformer by Mark Foster and David Fenn. Now, "minimalism" and "Metroidvania" aren't two words that usually go together (except, you know... alliteratively), but Foster and Fenn have put together a wonderful little world for a pixelated-blob-type-thing to explore. You'll be moving said pixelated-blog-type-thing with the [arrow] keys, using [Z] to jump. Exploration is when much of the game's charm lies, but suffice to say, throughout you'll be discovering new areas and abilities, all the while trying to unlock that strange gate near where you started the game.

Leaf Me AloneWorks like Fez, Melodisle and Proteus have shown that the thrill of uncovering new vistas is no less intriguing even if said vistas are low-rez, and Leaf Me Alone continues that tradition. Leaf Me Alone is a relaxed, quiet kind of experience, more about the journey than the destination, with an almost-poetic feel. Some parts of the game are a little aimless from its lack of explicit direction, and it could use a few more visual cues to distinguish platforms "pass-through-able from below" from the "ones-you'll-clonk-into" variety. Still, Leaf Me Alone is a solid winner, and going on the trip it offers won't leave players too... sigh "bushed".

Play Leaf Me Alone


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Rating: 3.6/5 (34 votes)
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Snaaaake!

DoraSnaaaake! is the latest action-packed arcade game from Fernando Ramallo and Miguel Pérez Martinez, and it's absolutely gonzo in the best possible way. Use [WASD] to control a monstrous snake as it rampages its way across the country, hitting [spacebar] to constrict, and causes as much damage as it possibly can within a time limit to unlock the next level. Each stage is full of people and things to destroy simply by ramming into them, and hitting a red "P" barrel will net you a temporary random power-up. Meet certain conditions on each stage to complete "tragedies". Does that make you feel like a bad person? Of course not, you're a giant snake! YEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!

Snaaaake!From its toe-tapping menu screen soundtrack to the monster-movie-tastic tune that plays during levels and its fantastic visual design, Snaaaake! is one of those games you really love to look at and listen to. There's a great "The horror... the horror!" vibe to everything, and watching people flee in terror before you while the news-ticker at the bottom of the screen is more amusing than it should be. That said, with little variation beyond new scenery to wreck, it does wind up feeling a bit repetitive, and being unable to discern exactly what power-up you're about to grab is frustrating since not all of them are that useful. Still, Snaaaake! is the sort of giddily over-the-top crazy arcade game that captures all the simple joy of being a giant monster Rampage-fashion, and with one fantastic presentation and easy to pick up gameplay, makes for good clean fun. Provided your definition of clean is massive property damage and untold human carnage.

Play Snaaaake!


  • Currently 4.4/5
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Rating: 4.4/5 (140 votes)
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Flip and Go

HopefulNebulaIt's a common enough problem for a cute little alien: you promised to meet your sweetie in the park, but there's candy. So why not collect the candies and bring them to her? In Flip and Go, a game from Lampogolovii, making the date perfect is not as simple as it looks.

Flip and GoAs with most puzzle platformers, use the [arrows] or [WASD] to move. You can use [Z], [X], or [C] to pause everything for a second and flip your environment. Your shadow helps you figure out where you'll end up after the flip, though there's a wide enough variety of challenges that sometimes it's deceptive. Dark blocks don't flip, for instance, and neither do you, but the girlfriend does when you get to control her. Add pulleys and locked doors and a host of other elements, and you have quite a mindbending diversion. There aren't a lot of levels, but what Flip and Go lacks in length, it gains back in originality, challenge, and sheer adorableness.

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Logistics

JohnBLogistics is a physics puzzle game from Robb Akerson. Using only the most basic features from building games such as The Incredible Machine or Crazy Machines, it's your job to move objects around the screen, one piece of candy or one block of ice at a time. It takes a bit of fiddling to make sure everything is in the right place, but Logistics is built with casual players in mind, providing a good logical challenge but never making you feel frustrated.

LogisticsYour mission is to get the stuff from the red dispenser into the green dispenser. You do this by placing simple structures like conveyor belts, fans and springboards, then adjusting their angle until everything's just right. When the path is prepped, tap the red dispenser to plop out an object (what that object is varies between levels) and watch gravity do its thing. On the way to the exit you'll want to try nabbing special icons to go for that perfect score, but otherwise just get everything in the green dispenser and move on!

Probably the most appealing thing about Logistics is the artwork. Everything looks like it was ripped straight out of an I Love Lucy episode, right down to the icons and menu screens. It sets a fantastic mood for the game, keeping it lighthearted while you fuss over the perfect placement for a conveyor belt. There are currently three themed stages to play, each with a dozen levels. Three more are listed as "coming soon", and we can't wait to see what Santa's Workshop or Clockwork Apple brings us!

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


  • Currently 4.3/5
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Rating: 4.3/5 (105 votes)
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Kolobok

Starchild There is always room for one more puzzle platformer. Especially when the protagonist is a smiley, and even more when the game takes a well-known format and gives it a little twist. In Kolobok by Trinbox, the twist is that... wait for it... there is absolutely no jumping whatsoever. Gravity can be so cruel. Once you figure out that there's no point in pressing what you think the jump key should be, the rest is easy.

Kolobok Use the [arrow] keys or [A] and [D] to move left or right, and down [arrow] or [S] to eat a magic mushroom. No, not that kind of magic mushroom, you hippie. These give you special powers. For example, you can only stay underwater for three seconds in your normal state, but if you eat a frosty mushroom, you can freeze water and then waltz across it. There are a number of obstacles, from spikes to spiders – some can be eliminated, while others have to be avoided. With twenty quick levels and just enough of a challenge, Kolobok won't take up a lot of your time. Having said that, sometimes it's quite difficult to beat the time limit and get all three stars, so the achievement addicts among you might stick with the game a bit longer. In any case, Kolobok is good fun and a proof that a little innovation goes a long way.

Play Kolobok


  • Currently 3.9/5
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Rating: 3.9/5 (125 votes)
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Hitonchi

GrinnypWhen you look for a good room escape game, what do you look for? Logical puzzles, to be sure. Interesting scenery is also nice. A decent control structure makes everything better as well. But do you also look for a ninja protecting himself with bubble wrap? A strange line of leaping dancers? Some dude with a green face peering at you through a hole in the wall? Small blue men doing...something to a vase? Anyone familiar with the preceding will recognize those particular tropes, Yep, Detarou is back in town with yet another bizarro fantasy-land madhouse in Hitonchi.

grinnyp_hitonchi_screenshot.pngDetarou's escapes are always filled with an equal mixture of logic and madness, and Hitonchi is no exception. The amusing and bizarre elements of the game, however, would be nothing without the logical underpinnings of the puzzles. As usual, Detarou hands us a fantastic mix of visual clues that, only when combined in the right ways, will help us point and click our way out of yet another madhouse filled with stunningly strange sights. One of the more interesting characters appears to be some sort of shout-out to the escape men from No. 1 games, but in a...well, let's just say a more adult version, shall we? Hitonchi delivers yet another fantastic Detarou three ending escape along with visuals that will definitely linger longer than the game. Not for young kids or those easily offended, Hitonchi is still a fantastic addition to the genre and a great mid-week break.

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  • Currently 4.1/5
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Rating: 4.1/5 (116 votes)
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CastleMine

JohnBCastleMine from Mugshot Games combines tower defense with a little bit of old fashioned digging. Instead of mapping out mazes for creeps to crawl through or building balloon things on green green grass, you get to dig underground one block at a time. Uncover extra gold deposits, additional resources, or even nests of enemies as you attempt to defend your castle from the threat from below.

CastleMineCastleMine very neatly divides gameplay into two general phases: digging and maintenance. Your first task is to tap a shovel icon to dig through a block of soil. You can only dig sideways or down, not up, so when those shovel icons appear, choose with care, as you're creating the very path your foes can use to attack you. If you dig out blocks of gold or crystal you'll add to your resources pool. If you dig out a relic you'll gain some additional XP. If you hit a skull, enemies become more difficult but you'll be one step closer to a perfect score in that stage.

When you're not digging you'll be placing towers in the dirt or upgrading them once they've gained enough experience. There are nine defense towers ranging from fire balls to lightning, stingers and shock towers. You also have a few support towers that increase adjacent tower abilities, adding another layer of strategy that becomes very important later in the game.

The lure of delicious resources is tough to resist in CastleMine, but you can't just go digging all crazy like if you want to keep your castle safe. That slight tension between gathering gold and keeping defenses strong will keep you glued to this game for a very long time. Later levels get difficult without much notice, and you have to experiment with upgrades vs. new towers, just like most defense games of this nature. But with 150 levels and an entire array of tech trees to fill out, there's no shortage of strategy in this delightfully unique tower defense game!

Play CastleMine (browser demo)

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 3.7/5
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Rating: 3.7/5 (95 votes)
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Misadventure

TrickyThe year is 1978. A child has found a game they've never heard of before. It fits into the Video Computer System's cartridge slot just fine, though, and the paper found attached to the game spins an interesting tale of demons and castles. The child is not ready for what they are about to face, for in this game, losing a life means losing a bit of mind. Once that mind is week enough, it will become a perfect conduit for... things on the other side of the screen. And they been waiting. Misadventure is an action-adventure horror game by Mike Houser, done in the retro style of a pseudo-4-bit Atari game gone horribly wrong. Move the little blip with [WASD] or [arrow] keys. You pick up object automatically by walking into them, though you can drop them with [X] or the [spacebar]. Though the manual at the start of the game will give you some general guidance, for the most part, though, you will be on your own.

MisadventureWhether it's the Godzilla NES Creepypasta, Ben Drowned, or even The Story of the Blanks, it's interesting to see how authors have, as of late, used the retro-gaming medium to create a unique brand of fourth-wall breaking horror. One supposes the premise works so well since it combines the kind of skewed nostalgia and innocence that makes old toys and amusement parks so creepy, with the the technical confrontation of a glitched screen: those things always end up looking like a portal into madness, so it's a natural fit that they should ending up being one.

But where Misadventure excels in its creepy cosmic horror atmosphere and slow-building sense of dread, it could afford to be a bit more explicit in its gameplay mechanics. They can be sussed out well enough after a couple of deaths, but by that point, some players might be too freaked out to want to try again (or, at least, frustrated). That being said, Misadventure uses its pixelated blotches of red to create a world that's, in many ways, more viscerally frightening than many horror games with top of the line graphics. Those in the mood for a scare should turn out the lights, turn up the sound, and steel themselves into pressing start.

Play Misadventure

Thanks to Dan for sending this one in!


  • Currently 4/5
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Rating: 4/5 (78 votes)
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Canvasser

DoraThere but for the grace of my ten-speed and a bunch of hand-printed fliers go I. Jackson Lango's Canvasser tells the story of what it's like to be really invested in a cause and trying to get everyone on board with it. Through gameplay that's part strategy and part sim with just a dash of arcade action, you're tasked with helping a charity raise money to prevent a forest from being clear cut. But as anyone who's ever tried to do it will tell you, successful canvassing requires a bit more than waggling your brows and thrusting a donation tin at someone, and you'll need to be persistent, people-savvy, and even thick-skinned to survive meeting your goals each day... and your coworkers!

CanvasserJust click people to interact and make choices. Each day you're given a target donation amount, then sent to a different location to try to raise awareness... and funds! How much people are willing to donate depends on a lot of things, from their mood to the location, but most importantly, how much they care about the matter at hand, and how much they trust you. Those two factors can be raised by talking to them about different related topics, but be careful not to bore them or scare them off by asking for a lot of money. Equally important is your confidence, which increases not only by hitting certain milestones, but by performing well in interactions. Keep an eye out for power-ups that can randomly spawn during a stage, since nabbing one can temporarily give your stats a boost. Watch your time, though, since when the clock in the upper-right corner ticks down, you're done for the day, so be sure to move fast and talk to as many people as possible. When your confidence bar is filled, that's your time to strike, since people will be much more receptive to you! Just be careful, since if you fail to meet your goal three times in a row, you'll lose your job... though meeting your goal at least once resets the three strikes.

Despite looking fairly simple, Canvasser has a bit of neat depth to it. Factors like the weather can influence how people react to you, and even the age of a person can determine how long they're willing to listen to you talk without getting bored. The game is, undeniably, more than a little repetitive, and not everyone likes scrambling within a time limit. Especially when you fall a single dollar short of your goal and are still treated like a failure. But on the other hand... Going out day after day, worrying about meeting deadlines and quotas, the frustration of getting brushed off or knowing who you're talking to isn't really listening to... by presenting all of this in an arcade game-like format, Canvasser gets its point across in an entertaining way without beating you over the head with it. Of course, whether that point still remains fun as a game is up to you. Sometimes funny, good looking, and definitely unique, Canvasser is worth a look... and just might make you think twice the next time you go to reflexively brush that person on the street corner with the clipboard off when they ask for a moment of your time.

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The Vault

TrickyCaptain's Log: Stardate: 52120.13*: After a weekend viewing of a certain blockbuster release (no points for guessing which one), the JayIsGames Vault Commander wishes to share some of the greatest space games from the JiG archives with the rest of the universe. As this is well within the parameters of our five year mission, this week in The Vault, we now present a smattering of classic action, strategy, and physics titles. End transmission.

  • Omega CrisisOmega Crisis - There's nothing quite like the rush of exploring the unknown, being the first to set your eyes upon planetary vistas never before encountered... and then exploiting all the available resources to the fullest as you fend off the streams of filthy xenos who are sore they came in second. Omega Crisis, a 2010 defense shooter by Lucidrine, truly captures the tenseness of being a tiny pocket of humanity possessing only a few thin walls standing between them and annihilation. That is to say, it gives you the stress of both frenetic PEW-PEW-ing, but also the necessary strategic resource management needed to ensure spindly face-huggers don't randomly start pouring in through an overlooked weak spot in your barricades. It's a heck of a crisis, yes, but, fortunately, a very enjoyable one.
  • Star RelicStar Relic - There is comparatively less PEW-PEW-ing Star Relic, a 2010 turn-based strategy board game by Indigon, but that's just because your weapons of choice aren't blaster, but armadas. It's a game of careful planning against tough-but-fair AI opponents, with a unique "orbiting" mechanic that justifies its interstellar setting. Star Relic is easy to pick up, and hard to stop playing, as players will be ever-wanting one more go, certain that THIS is the time those slimy reptiles and confusing asexual space blobs will know defeat... or those slimy, confusing humans, if the reptiles or asexual space blobs happen to be your team of choice. Star Relic is nothing if not equal opportunity in its sliminess department.
  • Gravitee 2Gravitee 2 - After all that future warring, you might be ready for a fun, simple, relaxing game of golf. Well, Gravitee 2, a 2009 physics sports game by FunkyPear, will help you out on two of those counts: fun and relaxing it is, no doubt, and slinging your space-ball around planets starts out easy enough. By the end of the course, however, getting all the medals will anything but simple. Gravitee 2 may use planets and hoops in the place of sand traps and holes, but the joy of achieving the elegance of a perfect shot remains. And, with the game's replay code system, you can share your mad skillz with all of us! We promise not to get too jealous!

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!

* Stardate may not be at all legitimate in any way.


(14 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Demon Chic

SuzanneIf Beret Applications' Demon Chic were a person it would be a Brooklyn-dwelling record store clerk riding a fixie to a farmer's market while listening to Yo La Tengo. It would be of the species Homo ironicus—in other words, the creature popular culture has dubbed the hipster. Yet, astonishingly, the game is neither as insufferable nor pretentious as this analogy would suggest. Instead this mobile piece of art instead is an entirely successful marriage of action RPG gameplay with an absurd, darkly funny, and frequently touching story.

Demon Chic
Gary and his boyfriend Ashok are forced to take in Ashok's brother Devraj as a roommate after Devraj finishes college and can't find a job. The game's allusive and frequently tangential narrative follows the trio as they battle the demons induced by schizophrenia and drug abuse in both figurative and literal forms. Battles are conducted by dragging floating letters to the bottom of the screen to form words that deal damage. You start with FIRE and ICE but as the game progresses offensive and defensive buffs are added, and enemy weakness make the psychotic plants and disembodied heads that much easier to defeat. You can select skill improvements every few battles, but overall the roleplaying aspect is downplayed in order to allow the player to focus on the aesthetics and narrative.

Analysis: Like the guy that spends an hour every day perfecting his bed head, Demon Chic's shambolic exterior belies the effort that it took to produce. The dialogue tossed back and forth among the three central characters deal with race, sexuality, mental illness, and other topics you wouldn't expect to see in an RPG based around pulverizing demons. It's a testament to the realistic quality of the dialogue and situations that we wondered if the three main characters were based directly upon real-life counterparts. Coming as it is from three young friends, Demon Chic's dialogue is heavy with references to sex and drug use, yet these are incorporated naturalistically; it never feels as if the writer is out to shock. This is the rare game in which the label of mature content does not mask embarrassingly juvenile presentation or sensationalist posturing.

Demon ChicDemon Chic is a message game, certainly, but its offhanded nature works in its favor to soften the capital-I Importance of its underlying themes. It's perfectly possible to just enjoy Demon Chic purely as the idiosyncratically gorgeous work of New Media art that it is, but it's also impossible to step away from the game without subsequently pausing to reflect briefly on what you have just witnessed. It is remarkably neither heavy-handed nor polemic despite referencing situations that most games never venture near.

The gameplay, interesting enough but rudimentary, is completely overshadowed by the stunning audiovisual display. Each screen is a legitimate work of art, with endearingly cartoonish and sketchy backgrounds interspersed with surreal watercolor illustrations. You will want to progress the story just to see what absurdist delights wait around the next corner. The soundtrack is as equally high quality, with tracks coming from psychedelic rock vets Queen Elephantine. Imagine a band led by Jim Morrison's stoner metal cousin and you're halfway there.

We initially expected this unusual presentation to become grating, but thankfully it never does. The narrative is inventively spry and changes direction and form frequently, switching between slice-of-life vignettes and hallucinatory side stories in a way that keeps the flow pacy. As soon as you tire of one section, a fresh change in perspective appears.

Demon ChicIt can't be emphasized enough: Demon Chic is a visual narrative in which gameplay elements are only a minor presence in an overall experience. Those expecting deep roleplaying mechanics will be disappointed. Yet although the gameplay is basic it is not extraneous—art and game are tied together. The art could not exist without the game, and vice versa. By the inclusion of this participatory element the metaphoric impact of the narrative is increased, and a product is created that presents an kind of experience unable to be duplicated by other forms of narrative.

The late Roger Ebert famously questioned the ability of the video game to ponder great questions about the human condition without becoming a mere ghost of existing text based forms. A uniquely involving and often wryly funny meditation on human tolerance and difference, this game answers the question implicit in Ebert's statement: what can a video game say that other forms of art cannot? A landmark in app design and an indication of the medium's emerging maturity, Demon Chic deserves to be experienced by every iPad owner with an open mind.

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


  • Currently 4.3/5
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Rating: 4.3/5 (79 votes)
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Disaster Will Strike 2

HopefulNebulaIf you've ever wondered what it would be like to egg the Flintstones' car, you're about to find out. Disaster Will Strike 2 is Anton Koshechkin's sequel to the physics puzzle Disaster Will Strike!, and it picks up where the original left off. Your goal is to destroy all the eggs on the screen by destroying the structures around them ( la Sieger), and your tools are various natural (and un-natural) disasters. (Haven't you ever wanted to use bees as an offensive weapon? I know I have.)

Disaster Will Strike 2Disaster Will Strike 2 ramps up the difficulty much faster than the original, and it has more levels, but the only really new element it introduces is the Epidemic tool that lets you infect an egg, which then infects other nearby eggs. But each level presents a unique challenge, and fans of the first game will simply crack over the sequel. (There had to be an egg pun in there somewhere, don't look at me like that.)

Play
Disaster Will Strike 2


  • Currently 3.5/5
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Rating: 3.5/5 (103 votes)
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Kingdom of Liars 2

TrickyIt has been but days since you and your sister were forced to move to Ashbane, The City of Rats. For all the rumors you've heard, the experience of being in the Hernessian Guard is ten times worse, with threats both magical and scientific threatening the populace from every side. Recently, you uncovered evidence of a conspiracy to assassinate one of Ashbane's leaders through the use of a horrific weapon that has already killed dozens of innocents. You must track the assassin, bring them to justice, and, maybe, shine a little light of truth into the Kingdom of Liars. Kingdom of Liars 2 is the second in the series of dark fantasy point-and-click adventures from Hyptosis, and the plot only gets thicker from here.

Kingdom of Liars 2Point and click to interact with the main game window, and be sure to note to the way your cursor changes to denote people to speak to, items of interest, or objects to pick up. Once something is in your inventory at the bottom of the screen, just click to select it, and then again wherever you want to use it. With his admittedly admirable drive for experimentation, Hyptosis' games have been a little hit and miss as of late, so it's refreshing to see him revel it what he's great at: world-building, colorful characters, humorous descriptions, intriguing twists... and smacking players with the ending just as things are getting good. Oh well, even a short trip through Hyptosis' mind is a good one, and, no fibbin', Kingdom of Liars 2 is excellent.

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Mobile Monday

JohnBSuch a friendly edition of Mobile Monday, this is. Everybody's our friend, especially those who deliver good games to us. We also seem to have a penchant for puzzle games, which are basically brain BFFs.

nonocube-p.gifNono says Yesyes to iOS - Mmm, delicious picross puzzles. We love 'em, and you probably do, too. If you don't, we can't be friends anymore. Our current BFFs at Graycode Software released NonoCube earlier this year for Android and Kindle devices, bringing a fantastic touch interface to dozens of amazing 3D picross puzzles. Now iOS owners don't have to be left out, as NonoCube has finally hit iPhone and iPad! Rejoice! You can also win a free copy of the game if you're clever enough!

timbuktu-p.gifTimbuktu lands on Android - Earlier this year, Green Eyed Games released a charming puzzle game for PC/Mac called Last Train to Timbuktu. The game elegantly combined a Rubik's cube with a sliding block puzzle, challenging you to arrange tiles so the train could make it to the station on time. Now the train is pulling into mobile territory where it fits quite nicely, landing on Android devices as a free download. This thing was made for the touch screen!

sparkle2-p.gifSparkle 2 coming this summer - 10tons continues chugging forward with more great (and gorgeous) mobile games. The team recently released Clowns in the Face, which is every bit as fun as the name implies, and has now announced the impending release of Sparkle 2, a sequel to the original marble popping matching game. Allows us to make some preliminary observations: mmm, pretty picture. That is all. Sparkle 2 will hit iOS, Windows and Mac this June. Eep!

pudding-p.gifFree App of the Week: Pudding Monsters - Each week on the iTunes App Store, Apple drops a single release down to the tasty price of "free". This week, that freebie is Pudding Monsters, a game we reviewed and thought totally rocked. Just tap and swipe on a Pudding Monster to set it in motion, and it'll keep sliding unless there's something in the way. If that something is another Monster, they'll squish and merge together, and the goal is to make sure all Monsters in a level have been assimilated. Easy? Ha, yeah right!


(8 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Go Home Dinosaurs!

DoraGo Home Dinosaurs! doesn't sound like anything a sane person would say, mainly because dinosaurs are awesome and inside all of us lurks a five-year-old (or Ross Gellar) giddy at the thought of dinos in our house. But it's only a good idea to have them around if you're not barbecuing, and unfortunately that's what the gophers happen to be doing, and now the only defense against the BBQ-hungry horde of giant lizards is the tower kind... tower-defense, that is! Fire Hose Games delivers a gorgeous comedic and colourful game that's big on strategy.

Go Home DinosaursAt the start of each level, you'll be given your choice of cards to fill your maximum hand... since different cards summon different units with their own unique effects, you'll want to think carefully about what you're up against to decide and and how much to use. Dinos will flood in waves from the cave and head along the path to your barbecue. Two piles of dynamite will protect your delicious meats at the cost of a single steak each time a dino triggers one, but when those run out, it's game over, man! Initially, all you have is one gopher who will dig anywhere onscreen you click on and attack anything within range. To get help, you need to send him to collect coconuts when they appear, and these are spent to use the cards in your hand. Each card, when picked up, will show you the size of your unit and the range around it, so right-click if you need to rotate it and think carefully before you place it since you can't rearrange a unit once it's down. Collect coins to spend in the store for special cards with temporary boosts, or fancy new outfits to class up your gopher.

Go Home DinosaursAnalysis:Go Home Dinosaurs! is not a game to be played without an eye for strategy. You'll want to eye the lay of the land to figure out what cards to pick at the start of each level, since some units are useless on certain stages where the terrain prevents them from being placed effectively. And speaking of being placed, since you can't move units once they're down, you really need to think carefully about what you're doing. Why can't I spend more coconuts to move or rotate towers? And why can't I choose which dino my gopher attacks when there are a whole bunch of them within range? These two seemingly small things can lead to big frustrations if you accidentally plop down a tower in the wrong position, or realise late in a long level you're going to have to restart because your placement isn't working out. This, along with other things like the lack of an option to speed things up or see how many dinos of each type you'll be facing, means die-hard tower defense fans may find a few things lacking.

Of course, you shouldn't take those criticisms as an effort to warn you away from it, because if I didn't think you should play Go Home Dinosaurs! I wouldn't be here telling you about it or tabbing back into game to play another level when I should be working. The challenging yet accessible gameplay and beautiful character design makes this the perfect choice for casual fun. The card setup is actually a clever one, forcing you to really think and plan your layouts to get the most out of them, especially when it comes to figuring out just how to fit each unit to its best advantage. As a result, the game's vibrant design packed with pop culture references masks a perfectly engaging little gem. There's even an optional vegetarian mode to replace all the barbecue with veggies... though you'll have to grind a whole lot of coins to pay for it first. With a ton of levels, unique towers and baddies, and some serious challenge to boot, Go Home Dinosaurs! is a vibrant little game that deserves a spot in any defense fan's library.

WindowsWindows:
Get the full version (via Steam)

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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Princess Isabella: The Rise of an Heir

Starchild Sometimes you're simply in the mood for a fairy tale. Let's face it, the grown-up world can get complicated and drab, and there's nothing like a bit of old-fashioned fantasy to lift your spirits. So come and spend a few hours in the enchanted realm of the newest hidden-object adventure, Princess Isabella: The Rise of an Heir by Gogii Games. There are fairies, a dragon, magic of all sorts, not to mention a whale with a Scottish accent, what more do you need? Young Bella is a pretty golden-haired teenager, blissfully oblivious of the evil surrounding her. The witch has discovered her whereabouts and has sent her hellish minions to take away Bella's fairy godmothers, leaving her without protection. Bella is now the kingdom's only hope, and she must find a way to end the witch's reign and lift the curse which envelops the land.

Princess Isabella: The Rise of an HeirAs far as gameplay goes, Princess Isabella: The Rise of an Heir offers more than your standard hidden-object adventure. In each scene, you can mouse over different objects. If your cursor turns into a hand, that means you can pick up an item; if a question mark appears, you should use an item from your inventory to interact with it. Hidden-object scenes are indicated with sparkles. However, in addition to this, you can use a flute to call your dragon for help and a wand to break things with (hey, not all princesses have to be dainty and gentle!). Your fairy godmothers will also accompany you as you save them one by one, and you will be able to use their powers to change the world around you.

Analysis: Compared to its predecessor, the game offers some definite improvements. For one thing, the astonishingly annoying blue fairy has decided it's time to tone down, so she's now content with giving advice during cutscenes. The sound effects are unobtrusive and more appropriate, meaning that not every action you take is followed by harps and fanfares. The graphics haven't had a major overhaul, but the scenes look royally grandiose and it's always wonderful to see cursed rooms come back to life and fill with joy and merriment.

Princess Isabella: The Rise of an HeirA Disney-like atmosphere can be felt all through the game, so the animations, which are more cartoonish than realistic, fit in quite nicely. The hidden-object scenes could have done with a little variety. In the olden days, we were used to the click-on-stuff-to-cross-it-off-a-list variety, but it's 2013 and we now appreciate some more puzzliness and challenge. Speaking of which, the mini-games vary from extremely simple to relatively tricky, but never venture into the difficult territory. It is obvious that the developers made an effort to give the series a more grown-up air, but it's still probably a tad too easy for most casual gamers.

What sets Princess Isabella: The Rise of an Heir apart from other similar games is the way fantasy is built into the gameplay. Magical creatures abound, each with their own power, so there's always enough variety to hold your attention. The creatures are characters in their own right, rather than just sidekicks, and they add colour and depth to the plot. Some suspension of disbelief is needed, of course, as the story is one prince short of Sleeping Beauty, but that's the whole point – this is first and foremost an interactive fairy tale and as such, it works beautifully.

Princess Isabella: The Rise of an Heir is currently only available in a Collector's Edition, which includes a bonus level, concept art, wallpapers, behind the scenes footage 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 4.3/5
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Rating: 4.3/5 (64 votes)
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Skyscrapers Light Vol. 1

ArtbegottiLook, up in the sky! Now tip your head down just a bit. That skyline is the key to solving the puzzles in Skyscrapers Light, the newest logic puzzle addition to Conceptis's series of puzzle samplers. Like a sudoku puzzle, the goal is to fill the grid so that each number appears once in each row and column, but all of your clues are sitting outside the grid!

Skyscrapers Light Vol. 1Imagine that the grid is a city block, made up of buildings of different heights. A 1 in the grid represents a one-story building, a 2 represents a two-story building, and so on. When all of the numbers are placed in the grid, the numbers on the outside of the grid tell you how many buildings are visible in that row from that direction, keeping in mind that a tall building will completely hide any smaller buildings behind it. These outside clues are all you get to fill in the entire city block, so it'll help if you become familiar with common patterns that come from clues in relation to each other. Do you have the street smarts to rebuild the city?

Play Skyscrapers Light Vol. 1


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Rootwork

KinetikaiThe woods are no place to be stranded in. You can lose your way; you can lose your mind; you can even lose yourself. Developed by Simulated Culture, Rootwork is a new strategic card game that drops you into the heart of the deepest, darkest forest and challenges you to make it out safely. However, a stray critter or a thorny bush are the least of your troubles here. These woods are full of dark forces and malevolent spirits, and at the center of the dark maelstrom is "She." Who is She? That's uncertain. But these are Her woods, and if She wants you to stay lost forever the odds are stacked against you.

RootworkLuckily, you are not alone. A mysterious Hoodoo man and his son Lucas appear to guide you and protect you with the power of Rootwork. Rootwork refers to Hoodoo practices of using found objects — a feather, a key, some river stones, etc. — to weave together powerful spells. With these simple items at your side, you might just stand a chance of escaping. Maybe.

The game begins with a thorough tutorial explaining the mechanics of Rootwork. Your goal is to flee the forest by visiting three specific Milestones before the sun goes down. Each round, you draw up to five Survival Cards. These are the tools you will use to bypass the Threats that block your passage. You then draw two Threat Cards and one Site Card, which hopefully contains one of the Milestones you need. There are four suits: Fury, Corruption, Deceit and Loss. Every Threat Card and Site Card contains up to two curses in a given suit. In order to access the Milestone on the Site Card, you need to nullify the curses on all three cards by placing Survival Cards of the same suit upon them (by tapping and dragging). However, if you're short on suits, every Survival Card can be turned face down (via a quick double-tap) and placed on any card to remove half a curse of any suit.

There are also special cards such as the Dense Underbrush, which acts as a wild card, and Strange Cairn, which allows you to peek at the top card of any of the four Site Decks. You also have pocket space which can be used to hold extra cards, although only one pocketed card can be played at any given time. Should you fail to remove the curses of either of the Threat Cards, you wil incur their wrath. Menaces will burden you with fright (get frightened more than three times and it's game over) while Sticks will take up pocket space and become irremovable.

RootworkOf course, there are a few more intricacies to the game, and it takes a minute or two to get the hang of, but Rootwork is by no means overly complex. Once you grasp the basic mechanics, jumping in is actually quite simple, and a game only takes a couple of minutes to complete. And once you've got the hang of one character, you can switch to another, which changes how many cards you can carry in your hand and/or pocket.

Analysis: It's always refreshing to see a card game that isn't based around battling a series of increasingly redundant monsters. Even if the backbone of Rootwork is a simple suit matching game, the idea is conceptually pleasing and has clearly been given plenty of thought. By escaping the forest multiple times you can unlock extra cards, characters and videos explaining the origin of the four great menaces, Ruin, Blight, Snare and Mourne, and the dark force controlling them all. There's certainly plenty of atmosphere and intrigue to be had here, which is something you don't often get with a card game that is this easy to play.

If there's one downside, it's that the unlockable cards and different characters don't add a tremendous deal of strategic variety to the mix. And since all of the unlockables and achievements basically require you playing through the game a bunch of times (and we do mean a bunch — one achievement requires over 1,000 wins) tedium can set in quickly if you're just playing game after game after game. You can unlock all the cards via an in-app purchase, but if you do so, Lucas will berate you for cheating. (You can't buy your way to victory!)

But like the old standby Solitaire, Rootwork is a game you just find yourself coming back to for a quick round or seven. And unlike Solitaire, Rootwork is atmospheric, aesthetically pleasing and full of mystique. If you're looking for an interesting and unique card game, you could do far worse than to get lost in the woods of Rootwork.

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


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Rite of Passage: Child of the Forest

elleEverybody knows to stay out of the forest. It's dark and dangerous and, ever since the last Forest Rite, the forest has taken on a life of its own, trapping the citizens inside Willow Ridge. But what happens if the forest doesn't stay out of town? One night, your lighthouse keeper husband disappears into the darkness, taking with him important secrets about Rite of Passage: Child of the Forest. That leaves you to play the heroine and save the town from the encroaching trees in this thoroughly engaging and beautiful hidden object adventure from Mad Head Games.

Rite of Passage: Child of the ForestWhen you begin, you're in the dark about why the forest is attacking the town as much as everyone else. You know only enough to arm yourself with a special amulet that can ward off the nefarious darkness. When it is broken, though, shattered into pieces, your first task is to search for the pieces in a fragmented hidden object search scene. Just as in Rite of Passage: The Perfect Show, you'll find animated story scenes to fix which provide chapter structure to the game and help draw you deeper into the town's story. There are several refreshing varieties of search scenes and puzzles you'll encounter in Child of the Forest yet the game is as much about the story, exploration and adventure. That means traipsing back and forth through a wide variety of locations but a well-designed smart map lets you go anywhere you want with just a click, meaning your time is always spent engaged in the moment.

Rite of Passage: Child of the ForestAnalysis: Many times you'll need to search for or piece together tokens and keys to open new areas, other times you'll have to solve a puzzle or riddle. Whether these tasks are easy or challenging is completely left to player's choice. There's eight options that can be separately modified in the difficulty customization menu at any time during the game. Want no distracting sparkles yet don't want to wait more than 15 seconds for a new hint? Prefer almost no lifelines as you struggle to find answers and solve the town's dilemma? You can have it your way. You seem to be the only capable person in an entire town, which does do fabulous things for the ego. Even so, there's a great deal of logic and sense holding the story and gameplay together. For example, there's a reason you have to click on a list of seemingly random items in a search scene: to move them aside to find the pieces to the object you truly need.

Your suspension of disbelief does need to work on overdrive much the time and those who are impatient to understand why things are awry will have to grit it out until the end, when everything is explained. As for why only you can save the town, that's explained later, too. This surreal fantasy adventure doesn't take well to being described in mere words, though. Nothing I can say about Child of the Forest quite lives up to what it is. The best way to tell if this game is for you is by trying the demo and see if you, too, are entranced by Mad Head Games' astute talent for stunning visuals and engaging storytelling.

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

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


  • Currently 3.6/5
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Rating: 3.6/5 (108 votes)
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N v 2

ArtbegottiTo be an effective ninja, one must possess three things: speed, agility, and a healthy supply of liquid gold coursing through one's veins. In N v 2, you can put these skills to the test in 500 levels full of relentless enemies, deadly traps, and of course, gold. N v 2 is the follow-up to the original download version published by Metanet Software back in 2005, and plays practically identically to the original high-difficulty platformer, with the addition of a new co-op mode.

N v 2Each of the 100 "episodes" consists of five levels, all of which must be completed in 90 seconds or less. Move around with the [arrow] keys and jump with [Z] to hit the button that opens the exit, and get out of the room as quickly as you can. Each piece of gold will add two precious seconds to your life, so be sure to grab as much as you can. And as for the blue drones, weapons turrets, and red mines scattered around the room? AVOID THEM. Bumping into these will kill you instantly, and your progress in that level will be reset. You've got an unlimited number of lives, but being blown to bits when you're so close to the finish is never a fun feeling, so be careful out there.

N v 2 adds a two-player co-op mode that allows a friend to join in the fun. For this mode, player 1 uses [A] and [D] to move and [left shift] to jump, and player 2 uses [,] and [.] to move and [N] to jump. Both players' efforts are cumulative, and only one player has to reach the exit for both players to be successful. Nonetheless, the levels remain as tricky and deadly as ever, so be prepared for the long fight ahead as you progress down the path of N once more.

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Mr. Rescue

JohnBMr Rescue! Help! A bunch of people are trapped in a burning building and only you can save them! Now that you're inside, it's time to be a hero. Mr. Rescue is a simple but amazingly charming action game from Tangram Games. You control the well-protected Mr. Rescue himself as you spray water on fires and climb through a burning building to save the innocent people inside. The best part? You rescue them by throwing them out the window!

Mr. RescuePress the [S] key to jump and [D] to fire water (joystick support is also included). You have a short supply of the liquid stuff, so you have to wait for it to recharge between blasts. Your suit slowly heats up the longer you stay in the fire as well as the more you come in contact with flames. Stay cool, both figuratively and literally, or you won't end up being much of a hero at all. The [A] key allows you to pick up (and throw!) people, but be careful not to toss them into a burning blaze. Head to a window, blast it open with water, then send them to freedom!

There are three levels in Mr. Rescue, each of varying heights and degrees of complexity. You can make as many runs as you like through these buildings, each time attempting to better your rescue rate and score. It's a simple set-up that doesn't need anymore than it already provides. A great little game that'll make you feel like a hero! And P.S.: do yourself a favor and grab the soundtrack by Simon Larsen.

WindowsWindows:
Get the free full version

Mac OS XMac OS X:
Get the free full version
(Note: Requires the free LÖVE Framework.)

LinuxLinux:
Get the free full version
(Note: Requires the free LÖVE Framework.)


  • Currently 3.9/5
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Rating: 3.9/5 (207 votes)
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Grand Banda

DoraGrand Banda from Pastel Games, Karol Konwerski and Marek Lachowicz is a point-and-click adventure game about funky grannies with an amazing soundtrack by Tomasz TJFK Kuczma. If you need to know much more than "funky grannies having an adventure" to play this game, I'm not sure we can be friends, but I'll tell you anyway. Our two be-laced heroines are having a fine old time in their seaside house listening to music right up until their light bulb bursts and they're forced to find other means of entertainment. Baffling, mayhem causing entertainment. Just click to navigate, zoom in, or use items whenever your cursor changes to indicate an interactive zone. Don't be afraid to try everything, because you'll probably need to.

Grand BandaThe main problem with Grand Banda is its baffling leaps of logic. Given how little instruction you're given (none), the first portion of the game makes little to no sense as there's no real reason to assume the player would make the connections required to continue the game. The second portion of the game gives you a better idea of what you're supposed to be doing and why, with puzzles that make a weird sort of sense within the game's cartoony world. Even given the rocky start, however, Grand Banda is still worth checking out. The soundtrack is fantastically weird and funny, and combined with the game's unique style and madcap premise, makes for a delightfully wacky experience. One can only hope future installments give a little more direction in some of their wilder leaps of logic, but we also definitely hope we haven't seen the last of these two troublemakers.

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  • Currently 4.1/5
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Rating: 4.1/5 (371 votes)
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Tug the Table

HopefulNebulaYou know what your average, boring ol' tug-of-war game needs? A table instead of a rope. At least that's what Otto Ojala (of Wrestle Jump fame) thinks, and he's managed to turn the idea into Tug the Table, a simple yet wonderful little one-button fighting game where you play as a little blue person trying to pull an orange person across a line.

Tug the TableThe idea is similar to Wrestle Jump: press the [up] key to jump up repeatedly and pull the table — and your opponent — across the line. The first player to win five matches wins the game. Each match has challenges that change the players' sizes and centers of gravity or alter the table and room. When that gets too easy for you, you can toggle "Hard AI" mode in the settings to introduce a smarter AI and more obstacles, or find a friend to play as Orange in the two-player mode. Tug the Table isn't deep or complicated, but it's a nice way to spend a few minutes. Really, it's worth playing just so you can do a weird, jumpy victory dance among the confetti after you win a game.

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Link Dump Fridays

DoraThis week I took a human head, a confused and frightened baby, some pilgrims, a Victorian lady, and... some... little magical... cloaked dude... and taped them all together! In totally unrelated news, if the police contact you, we were watching So You Think You Can Dance together last night.

News and Previews

Contraption MakerThere's Something Incredible Going On Here... If you love building things, then you've probably played around with The Incredible Machine, and for good reason. It's one of the most engaging, creative bits of puzzle-solving around. Well, you can never have enough of a good thing, and that's real good news since the team behind the original Incredible Machine is bringing it back for the modern gamer with Contraption Maker, a game where you make stuff happen by building stuff that gets stuff done! The game will be out for PC and Mac, and players will get more than 100 new items to build complicated Rube Goldberg machines with, so stay tuned and start drawing up your blueprints!

Among the SleepSleep Tight Krillbite Studio has achieved success with their Kickstarter for their upcoming horror game Among the Sleep, a game where you play as a toddler who wakes alone in the middle of the night and finds his house the center of unsettling events. How much of what you experience is real and what is the overactive mind of a child? You don't have to wait to try it out, though, because there's now a free Alpha demo for Among the Sleep available for PC, Mac, and Linux! Go ahead, try it. This is shaping up to be one of the most eerie, deliciously surreal and otherworldly adventures in a long time, and we can't wait for the finished product.

Alone in the ParkFor the Thick-Skinned and Black of Humour Remember Alone in the Park? Part text adventure, part point-and-click, and part double-yu tee eff, the game followed you on a quest for map fragments in a massive park filled with people you might politely call unique on quests you could politely call "weird as heck". Well, get ready, because it's almost time to head back out again. On June 15th, Alone in the Park hits for iPad, PC, Mac, and Linux bringing an updated and swank-ified version of the original game. If you like snarky humour and off-the-wall adventures, this is definitely the game for you if you don't mind a bit of blue language and some mean-spiritedness. Now if we can just get Alone in the Parp to happen...

Rom Check FailDownload? Or Browser? One videogame is fine. But many all mushed together in one deliberately chaotic gem? That's where the action is! Previously only available as a download, Farbs's crazy action-packed game is now available for free right in your browser. Can you survive Rom Check Fail, when the game is always one step, and one title, ahead of you?

Road Not TakenBeautiful AND Challenging SpryFox has already proven their talent with games like Leap Day, and they're not slowing down yet! Billed as a roguelike puzzle adventure game, Road Not Taken is a stunning looking game set in a chilly wintry forest that will tell a tale of life and loss. It looks and sounds a little melancholy, but also absolutely gorgeous. Keep your eyes open for more details, and get ready to play this one later this year!

Kickstarter/IndieGoGo Projects

Dormant SkyOld School is the New-New School Edge Entertainment's upcoming classic-styled RPG Dormant Sky won't cost you a penny when it's released, but with funding from generous donators they can finally complete their ambitious project and improve its original concept. Following two young men who are feared by the very kingdom they protect for the power they weild, it promises to deliver a SNES-era styled RPG with a compelling story and tactical combat. Sound good? Then head on over to find out more!

Pandora: Purge of PrideNot Covered By Your Insurance So you've gone and unleashed the seven deadly sins on your stately Victorian manor, which is going to make having those lovely demure tea services a bit more challenging. Now what? Well, if you're the heroine in High Class Kitsch's puzzle adventure Pandora: Purge of Pride, you set out to harness the very powers you unlocked to try to get them all under control before they consume you. Planned for PC and Mac, it looks like a clever twist on the first-person puzzle genre, and its unique premise and powers should provide ample reason to check it out.

Town of SalemMurder With Friends Facebook games tend to get a bum rap for being, well, essentially human hampster wheels by and large with little actual gameplay or originality. BlankMediaGames wants to change all that with Town of Salem, a multiplayer game of stealth, strategy and role playing where you and friends take up residence within the titular town. The catch? Each person is assigned a role, and you're all either working against or with one another... but you don't know who you can trust. Serial killers work by night to kill without getting caught, while sheriffs interrogate people to find out the truth... and those are just two of 29 possible roles. By day, the town meets to vote on who should be put to trial, and it's up to the accused to defend themselves and everyone else to find out the truth before it's too late. Morbid? Sure, but exactly the sort of weird and sneaky little title that could make for some seriously fun playtime.

DamnedPress X to Hide Under Bed and Cry! Playing with friends is fun. Terrorizing them is better. Available for funding on IndieGoGo, Damned is a cheery little game where four players are trapped inside a hotel... and one gets to play as the malevolent entity haunting it. While survivors are searching the building for the keys they need to escape, they're also trying to avoid the notice of the monster, who can not only influence their surroundings to try to frighten them, but also physically manifest itself to chase players down and kill them. Each play will be randomised, and sounds like the perfect option for a group of freaky friends who don't might a little good-natured slaughtering.

JayisGreenlights

Miscellaneous

The Free BundleFREEBIRD! The Free Bundle is back again, with five fantastic free indie games for you to download. From an episodic adventure game based on a well-loved classic, to an undead tower-defense game, there's something for everyone and all of it proves the community of indie developers who consistently put out high-quality freeware games are just as talented from the big names... but maybe just a bit more generous, too.

Human Face Rendering DemoUncanny Valley With the way games continue to develop and impress, I always find myself thinking, "This is it. Where do visuals possibly have to go from here?" Apparently, short of forcing actual people to come to your house with movie sets and act out gameplay on your command, the answer is Ira, a free download from Nvidia that showcases just how realistic their new technology is. He may only consist of a head right now, but experimenting with Ira's facial expressions and marvelling at the way the light reacts to his skin should give you a real appreciation for how far games have come. You know, unless you're one of those kids born after the year 2000 and all of this is just something you expect.

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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Nikko RC Racer

JohnBA lot of kids who grew up with RC cars turned into today's gamers. That's a dangerous blanket statement to make, but you can't argue there isn't some overlap. After all, isn't driving a radio controlled car around the living room kind of like a video game? And didn't playing with RC cars and video games make your parents mad? Looking to bring those two worlds together, Paladin Studios, the team behind Momonga Pinball Adventures, has released Nikko RC Racer, a wild and untamed arcade racing game that's about as close to driving the real thing as you can get.

Nikko RC RacerNikko RC Racer features around ten cars, two of which are included in the free download, the rest must be purchases or unlocked via promo code, along with ten tracks to drive through. The basic goal of the game is to race through the environments hitting each checkpoint as quickly as you can. Just like in real life, though, you'll probably want to drive around and explore the landscapes, which you can totally do. The tracks are remarkably open and stocked with neat things to see. Some of them even arm you with different power-ups you can use to find shortcuts.

Nikko RC Racer comes across as a very simple arcade racing game. Too simple, in some respects, as the main drawback is a lack of any binding elements that give your high score challenges a sense of overall purpose. Beating your own best times is fine, as is driving these responsive, unique RC cars, but sometimes you want to feel like you're working towards a greater goal, even if that's just a cheesy ending screen with "you won" written across it.

If you've got a soft spot for RC cars or are looking for a nice and casual arcade racing game, you can't go wrong with Nikko RC Racer.

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 4.6/5
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Rating: 4.6/5 (427 votes)
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Snail Bob Space

Starchild It's a glorious day for snail lovers (all five of you). The time has come to send a snail into space! Our dear friend Bob had long been nursing dreams of buzzing around in a rocket and you can make his wishes come true in Snail Bob Space, the latest instalment in the point-and-click puzzle series by Hunter Hamster. You will follow Bob through his astronaut training, flight and adventures on an alien planet across twenty five levels.

Snail Bob SpaceUse your mouse to press buttons, pull levers and platforms and control your snail buddy. Whatever the dangers, Bob doggedly marches on, so you'll have to keep him out of harm's way and safely guide him to the exit. Luckily, you can click on him to make him retreat into his house and stop moving, which works like a curious pause button. On the other hand, if you are forced to drum your fingers and sigh as he slooowly slides along, you can speed him up (this won't affect the enemies). Every level contains three stars, half-hidden in the background or behind tiny puzzles of their own, and they unlock funny space-themed pictures.

The physics aspect of the game is enhanced by the addition of a gravity button, so Bob can now stick to the ceiling as well as the floor – twice the fun! The difficulty is just right, meaning that it's easy to see what you're supposed to do, but putting thought into action takes some skill. Timing can be crucial and planning ahead pays off. Level design is imaginative, delightfully diverse and has a cute sense of humour. Add to this some cartoonish music and pretty graphics (who knew a snail could look cuddly?) and you've got yourself a perfectly entertaining lunch break puzzle game worth playing more than once.

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  • Currently 3.5/5
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Rating: 3.5/5 (66 votes)
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Obsolescence

ArtbegottiThere's a bit of a discrepancy that comes up when you try to describe Connor Ullmann's Obsolescence. On one hand, it's a bullet hell shooter where you've got to dodge thousands of projectiles while firing lasers to dismantle a giant boss bit by bit. On the other hand, since you're fighting a series of kaleidoscopic bosses spewing delicate white bombs in synchronized patterns, the entire thing looks almost pretty, as though you're fighting a giant space doily. A deadly space doily, mind you, but a doily nonetheless.

ObsolescenceAt the center of each doil— er, level, you'll find the heart of the boss to be destroyed in a glowing red. All of the white bits that fly around it are shields, guns, and lasers that can be destroyed, but not without a little bit of hassle. Use the [arrow] keys or [WASD] to move your tiny ship around the outer ring of the field (the ring will rotate to keep you centered at the bottom). Your ship is always firing a laser beam, so all you have to worry about is staying alive long enough to burrow your way to the center. If your ship takes three hits, you lose a life, but thankfully your progress remains intact. Lose all three lives, and the doily monster wins. Note that there are some patterns to how your enemies' parts move; can you exploit this to take down the decade of deadly doily destroyers?

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Luke at the Stars

JohnBOne night, Luke decided to go out and visit the love of his life. However, an unfortunate note on the door informs him he's now alone in this world. To console himself, Luke wants nothing more than to stare at the stars. With all the buildings in the way, though, how can he? That's where you come into play. Luke at the Stars is a simple but charming puzzle game that's all about moving buildings out of the way so you can get a good view of the sky.

Luke at the StarsEach level in Luke at the Stars features a few building, each with different styles of floors. Tap one of the floors, then tap a floor on the adjacent building to swap them. Match at least two floor types and they disappear, lowering the building's height. The goal is to keep the rooftops from touching the sky.

There's no time limit in Luke at the Stars, nor is there much of an incentive to make complex move or clever swaps. There's a basic counter that shows you how long it took you to complete the level, but that's really it. The gameplay stays simple but gains challenge later on at just the right pace. The artwork and music really help set the mood, turning this lovely little diversion into a beautiful mobile puzzle game experience.

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 3.7/5
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Rating: 3.7/5 (47 votes)
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Watergate

TrickyEver since the unearthing of The Great Gatsby NES game, 8-bit-lovers worldwide having been searching for the next lost retro work. Watergate: The Video Game, could very well be that. Now some may claim that this point-and-click adventure game, an apparent sequel to the seminal Shadowgate, was actually created only recently by famed Funny Or Die comedian Samuel Kim, which explains why the game's investigation into the conspiracies of President Richard M. Nixon quickly take more than a few hilariously surreal turns.

WatergateWatergate plays a lot like the classic MacVentures the game is a clear riff on. A map of available exits and a list of commands is available at the bottom of the screen, and your current inventory appears to the side of the main display window. Players make progress by clicking the desired command then the desired object, collecting evidence, visiting different locations, and being confounded at every time. Sometimes the constant command clicking is a little annoying, but it was annoying when you tried to play Uninvited on the NES, and, if anything, Watergate commits to the joke with all its pixelated heart.

A wry combination of video game parody, pop culture riffing, political satire, feverish adventure-game logic, raunchy one-liners, and bits of stunning historical accuracy made all the more comedic by how rarity, Watergate tries to be a lot of things, and it generally succeeds. It leans much closer to Dick than All The President's Men, as you might expect. As source material combinations go, 1970s investigative journalism and the Nintendo back-catalogue isn't exactly chocolate and peanut butter, but kicking around Nixon is almost as much a comedic trope as a pie-to-the-face, and more jokes work than don't. For a concept that might have proven its point with a photoshopped game cartridge, Watergate is an impressive piece of comedic, and players with an interest in, and a minimal amount of respect for, American history should definitely check it out.

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Rating: 3.4/5 (67 votes)
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Ghostly Me

Starchild Apparently, becoming a big, scary demon takes a great deal of agility. Or at least that's what you learn when you play Ghostly Me, an action platformer by Ppllaayy. See, you are a little, innocent-looking ghost, and you want to climb the ladder of hellish hierarchy and become evil and important. To achieve this, you won't abduct fair maidens, frighten burly adventurers with your eerie presence, or even hide under children's beds. No, instead you'll jump your way through levels in which pixellated lines, hoops and hammers try to end your demonic career.

Ghostly Me You use the [arrow] or [WASD] keys to move. At first, the levels are simple enough: you are supposed to reach a portal somewhere to the right, which will then take you to the next level. If you fall into the water (or better, vividly coloured ghost-melting acid), you die. You must also steer clear of any formations made of rotating little squares which, alas, tend to be placed in your way. So you jump over them and run under them, sometimes with the help of a "slow time" effect, which lasts as long as you hold down the [spacebar]. You can also make the pixel formations disappear by using your own lines to intercept them. In many levels you'll find tiny white squares which you can pick up. They form a trail behind you, and you can use that trail to remove your obstacles. This is still much trickier than it sounds, since you're forced to juggle moving, avoiding and deliberately approaching the pixel lines to destroy them, so the checkpoints will come in handy.

Ghostly Me Ghostly Me lets you think it's easy peasy. The first few levels are simple enough. You're doing great, you're going to be a wonderful demon, these feeble hurdles are no match for you. The difficulty rises slowly, as does the number of tries needed to pass a level, and you might find yourself shouting at the screen. All the effort does pay off, though, because the stages are very interesting and varied, as well as short enough to make you feel like a real wuss if you quit. The graphics are surprisingly beautiful, dark and colourful at the same time. Music is often a weak point in games like this, but Ghostly Me delivers an unobtrusive, mild background melody which doesn't get boring. The only disappointing feature is the story, which is virtually non-existent. There is a demonic voice talking to our little ghost from time to time, but it doesn't build towards anything substantial.

Ghostly Me is the nice kind of platformer, the one that nudges you along, instead of making you rage-quit. It can take more than an hour to finish, depending on your skills, but you always see the solution, so it's only a matter of time before you beat a level. So arm yourself with a bit of patience and help a ghost become...um... the prince of darkness. Being the good guy is old-fashioned anyway.

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Rating: 3.2/5 (101 votes)
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Chick Hide and Seek 7

elleThey're yellow, they're adorable and they want to play a game with you. Not so much an escape-the-room, this is a game for escaping into cute x 10, where the mood lifting chirp of a found chick is enough to brighten oodles of ho-hum weekdays. Just stroll onto the playground and join Yuri's Chick Hide and Seek 7 field day, where these downy puffs of personality are nestled into every possible hiding spot waiting to be discovered by you.

Chick Hide and Seek 7The goal of the game is to find all ten chicks then "escape" the playground by finding the exit. Play by searching each scene for useful items, hints and chicks, clicking anywhere a baby bird might be able to hide and solving a few puzzles to uncover those chicks too shy to be found in ordinary spots. Because it's more involved than the previous hide and seek, this installment feels more fleshed out and satisfying although it's still just as easy.

The only challenge—as well as the biggest annoyance—comes from the lack of a changing cursor. The park setting is varied enough yet has few distinctive areas. Several spots don't immediately elicit an "Ooo! I should look more closely there" response. So, instead, you'll have to try clicking on many nooks and corners no matter how non-suspicious they may be, risking the disappointment of a fruitless click. That's a big drawback for those who abhor any level of pixel hunt. Still, such angst is mitigated by the sweet expression of adorableness on each tiny yellow peep. The fun of discovery, the general ease of gameplay and the rewarding cuteness provide all the reason needed to recommend Chick Hide and Seek 7 for your weekday escape.

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McBank

JohnBMoney, or freedom. Which will you choose? McBank: The Puzzle of Money and Freedom uses stark, humorous imagery wrapped around a series of quick puzzles that play on the theme of the uneven distribution of wealth and power in modern society. Even though most of the world's money is controlled by a relative few people, the masses continue to support them with their purchases and actions. McBank forces you to to choose with each level you complete, and the results aren't always pretty.

McBankVenture through the still streets of the city as you take in the dystopian sights: signs that tell you how the latest fashions are good because they're expensive, advertisements that tout products you already have but are going to buy anyway, etc. There's no shortage of interesting things to look at, but in order to play the game, you'll need to tap on the glowing arrows. There, you're presented with a simple cluster of tiles and can swap any two tiles in a column or row. Maneuver everything in groups to make them disappear, don't leave any tiles stranded, and accomplish all of this within the moves limit listed below.

After you solve a level you can make a choice: freedom or control. The former sets the people in the scene free, turning its black and white streets into a lively world of color. The latter replaces McBank's influence with your own, earning you some cash but leaving all the people trapped under a new master. But hey, you've gotta buy a fancy car and/or suit and/or other useless item. Who cares about them as long as you can amass your own wealth, right?

McBank is looking to make a statement, but it's not trying to hit you over the head with it. Its theme is well-integrated and even goes so far as to color the in-app purchase system that allows you to buy a completely useless badge just to make yourself feel better. There are five endings to experience, each one determined by your actions in the game. If a little dystopian dourness is your thing, McBank is a fantastic combination of puzzle meets narrative art.

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


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Rating: 4.3/5 (75 votes)
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Mini Dash!

DoraAvailable in your browser or on your mobile device, PlayCreek's insane challenging platforming game Mini Dash is a hop, skip, a buzzsaw, a rocket or dozen, and a jump away from being a walk in the park. All you have to do is use [WASD] or the [arrow] keys to get to the exit in each level as fast as possible, nabbing any bonus items you feel like risking your life for. But since the game takes a page or two from Meat Boy's book, you're going to need to master wall jumping, split-second timing, the double jump, and even running on the ceilings to avoid all the hazards that want you dead. Take a hit, and you've earned a one-way ticket to Back-To-The-Start-Of-The-Level Town. Having trouble with a level? Collect three mushrooms to skip it.

Mini Dash!Mini Dash is best described as hectic. While making it to the exit in each level is usually a simple enough task, getting the optional items and making it out fast enough to earn the highest rating is much tougher. If you don't like "twitch gaming", Mini Dash's frenetic pace and unforgiving one-hit K-O is definitely going to be too much for you. If it is your thing, a more pressing annoyance might be figuring out what parts of the scenery you can or can't climb/land on in each level. But with piles of maniacal levels encompassing a variety of unique designs that'll force you to master its controls, Mini Dash is a challenge that will keep you tapping away and grinding your teeth for a long time.

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Rating: 3.7/5 (37 votes)
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Heroine Dusk (Demo)

DoraWhen there's something strange in your neighbourhood, who you gonna call? Heroine Dusk! Clint Bellanger serves up this demo of the as-yet uncompleted retro turnbased RPG adventure game about a young serf who is the only one willing to take up arms when her countryside is shrouded in a perpetual darkness that brings forth monsters. Created for the OneGameAMonth project and written entirely in javascript, it's a great little gem with decidedly old-school leanings that we'd love to see even more of.

Heroine Dusk (Demo)Use [WASD] or click the screen to move and turn around, and click the "i" icon to open your inventory and check your status as well as the map displayed on the left if you get lost. (If the keyboard controls aren't working for you, try FireFox, or play on the official site.) Enemies will pop up randomly as you explore, and you'll duke it out in turns by hitting the sword icon, or the running man icon if you want to flee. Certain spells can also be used while exploring if you open your stat screen and click the appropriate icon, should you find your path blocked. You don't gain experience and level up, however, so Heroine Dusk is as much about fighting strategically as it is exploring. Hidden throughout the maps are various chests with items that will increase your stats, or even grant you new spells and abilities, so make sure you check everywhere. You'll still want to do a little monster slaying, though, since they drop the gold you need to buy the really fancy stuff from the village stores. Note, however, that the game will automatically save your progress, and if you die you can refresh the screen to start over from the last place you rested at the expense of all the gold you carried.

One word to describe Heroine Dusk would be grind-tastic, since you really do need all the equipment you can get and enemies drop gold in the most miserly fashion possible. Trust me when I say you are going to want to scour every square of the map to find treasure to make your life easier. On the other hand, other words you might use to describe it are "classic", "gorgeous" and "addictive". It's simple in a way that lets you jump right into it, eschewing heavy storytelling or complicated mechanics for a straight-forward interface and gameplay design that streamlines everything about it. Battles require thought and planning, and there's something wonderfully engaging about it from the getgo thanks to the lack of melodrama or drawn-out cutscenes... so you'll probably be sad when it's all over, even though it's still a decent chunk of adventuring. Still, Clint has said he plans to keep working on the game if it gets a warm reception, and the game is open source too, so be sure to tell him if you want more (like a "load game" button?), and in the meantime... you have a world to save!

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The Vault

SonicLoverThis week's edition of The Vault is sponsored by... I forget the name. I think it was Opening Science or something like that. Anyways, today we're featuring a selection of Portalesque games. A Portalesque is a puzzle-platformer with a unique mechanic and a sadistic host. Such games include Revive, Qoosh, and the games below. There'll be cake after the showcase, I promise!

  • My First Quantum TranslocatorMy First Quantum Translocator - Now this is as Portalesque as Portalesques can get without being Portal itself. In this classic from Cellar Door Games, you're tasked with testing the Quantum Translocator 4300, which involves dropping shadows and warping directly to them. Momentum is conserved during a warp, which allows for some creative puzzles. Of course, Steve might not be intending to let you go unscathed once you're done testing... anyways, the game has an excellent difficulty curve, exploiting the QT's mechanics in every way possible, and the pixel visuals and chiptune soundtrack don't fail to charm. The plot's anything but original, but if it ain't broke, don't fix it!
  • Never EndNever End - Okay, so there's no sadistic host in this one by Zlong Games, but it's definitely got everything else a Portalesque needs: a faceless protagonist, a clever gimmick, and lots of deadly spikes. You have to jump, run, and rotate the world to get through every room, collecting keys to unlock doors until you reach one of the maze's four exits. You'd be amazed at how thoroughly the gimmick of world rotation is used, crafting all sorts of puzzles involving huge blocks that need to be arranged in just the right way with careful turns. Although the controls are questionable, the atmosphere is breathtakingly simplistic, and the notes you find along the way really help to fill things in. As for the sadistic host... well, what humane host would set up that many spikes and deadly obstacles everywhere?
  • Tower of HeavenTower of Heaven - Don't act so surprised! Not every Portalesque has to take place in a science lab! Born as a downloadable game but later ported to Flash, Askiisoft's Tower of Heaven places you in the shoes of a dark figure who decides to climb a tower guarded by a disembodied voice... who constantly makes new "rules" for you to follow at the risk of being annihilated by divine lightning. Rules like "don't touch golden blocks" and "don't walk to the left". As if it wasn't hard enough with all the spikes and saw blades everywhere! This game's even more retro than average with graphics that literally look like they belong on an old Game Boy, and although it doesn't have that many levels, the game's high difficulty means they'll take a while to clear. There's even a level editor in case the canon levels weren't torturous enough!

As per usual, comments about the weekly feature itself can go here, but comments about the games themselves should go on their respective review pages. Thank you for that, and go rediscover some good games. Oh and one more thing: we haven't had a chance to install the deadly electric traps in the hallways yet, so if you step on or otherwise touch a surface marked in yellow, please shake like a maniac, drop to the ground, and die. Thank you.


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Trial of the Clone

Kinetikai"The first emotion you feel in your life is disappointment. Interestingly, it'll also be your last emotion, and about 80% of the emotions in between." So begins your existence as a clone in Zach Weinersmith's new gamebook Trial of the Clone. Developed by Tin Man Games, written by the mind behind the webcomic Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal (17+) and narrated by Wil Wheaton(!), Trial of the Clone combines a choose-your-own-adventure story with RPG elements, all the while poking fun at all things sci-fi.

Trial of the CloneAfter your rather unceremonious birth, you're sent to the temple of the Silene Monks, where you choose whether to be a medic, a warrior or an engineer. From there, it's up to you to make the right choices to fulfill your destiny and, most crucially, not die. But Trial of the Clone is more than a simple choose-your-own-adventure. Along the way you'll gain stat points, weapons and items, which you can keep track of via a built-in D&D-style Adventure Sheet. These come to play in battles which pop up occasionally and affect the course of the story. Battles are pretty simple: You deal damage to your opponent based on your given stats plus a random number from 0 to 3, and then your opponent does the same — the last one standing wins. Loss in a battle doesn't necessarily mean death; it may just mean being relocated to a different department (say, engineering, where physical strength, ability and charisma are less in demand).

There are some other neat little features which enhance the gamebook experience, not the least of which is the soulful voice of the real Wil Wheaton. You can turn on the ability to cheat, allowing you to jump around and experience all the scenarios regardless of your choices, just like you did when you were a child. (Don't lie; we all did it.) There are also some minigames, plenty of illustrations and did we mention the dulcet tones of Wil Wheaton?

If you know Zach or SMBC, then it should come as no surprise that Trial of the Clone is frakking hilarious. The tale of a clone — a mass-produced person with no cause to call himself special — trying to find his place in a cold, futuristic world is an engaging backdrop in itself, but Zach's humor turns this into a raucous and unexpected romp. The story is not astonishingly deep, but it is entertaining all the way through. The geekiness and raunchy humor mean this is certainly not for everyone, but fans of sci-fi culture and the occasional (or not-so-occasional) low-brow chuckle will find plenty to love and laugh at here.

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


  • Currently 4.1/5
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Rating: 4.1/5 (172 votes)
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Lost Fluid

DoraBlink and you'll miss this short little puzzle platform game from JJ Wallace, but Lost Fluid, where you play a spaceship-wrecked blob of blue goop, is still worth checking out. Use the [arrow] or [WASD] keys to move, and hop into pipes to automatically move to the next connecting pipe. There are only a few puzzles to solve by paying attention to your surroundings, and if you fall off into nothingness the game will just boot you back to the last ground you stood (slimed?) on. But despite only having a handful of screens and an ending that feels a little... abrupt... Lost Fluid features some beautiful atmosphere, interesting ideas, and is something we'd love to see fleshed out more into a bigger adventure in the future. In the meantime, settle back for a coffee break (or, uh, half of one) and give it a peek.

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Rating: 4.4/5 (346 votes)
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The Queen of Snakes

DoraIt's not a super awesome day for Miss Libellule, the heroine in Jo99's point-and-click adventure The Queen of Snakes. The hazards of the jungle (you know, regular stuff like man-eating plants) have taken care of her crew, and now a rockslide has trapped her inside a temple even Lord Voldemort might call "a bit inhospitable". All the parseltongue in the world isn't going to save you from the dangers within the temple, though... or the scares along the way. Click on the blue arrows to navigate, or anywhere onscreen to interact. Some objects can be dragged around, too. There's no changing cursor, so you'll have to rely on your keen eye for detail to solve puzzles and find the items you need to escape. Mouse over the three small buttons on the ridge edge of the screen to get the options to turn off the music or sound effects.

The Queen of SnakesThe Queen of Snakes is, first and foremost, a gorgeous, gorgeous game. Though its distinct art style can make the lack of a changing cursor to indicate interactive zones even more challenging in places, the unique visuals make this one a fantastic treat to explore and infuses it with more character and personality than most other adventure games. Each room is more detailed and fascinating in the next in ways both beautiful and ominous. The way the music swells and evolves as you explore is a great touch. Most of the puzzles rely on being observational, which means the high level of detail can be a bit overwhelming, or simply putting the right item in the right place. If you actually know where you're going and what to do, The Queen of Snakes won't take you very long to complete, but you'll still want to take your time because this is an experience worth savoring. Mysterious, compelling, and full of secrets, The Queen of Snakes is tricky but top-notch adventuring more than worth your time. Now we just have to wait for the sequel to find out what happens next!

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Thanks to Nicop for sending this one in!


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Mobile Monday

JohnBDid somebody leave the front door open? Because there's a draft in here. Seriously, stand by the wall there. You feel it, don't you? Maybe just lean down a bit. More. Moooore. HA! Tricked you into reading mobile game news!

hiver-p.gifHiversaires Says Hi to Android - Hiversaires only hit iOS a few weeks ago, but developer Aliceffekt has already brought the minimalist adventure game over to Android devices. 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. It's a beautiful, challenging and atmospheric game. Our Hiversaires review has more info.

omni-p.gifFancy a little digging? - One part Terraria, one part King Arthur's Gold, and one part Growtopia, OmniDig is an accessible mobile sandbox creativity game currently in the works by Jesse Watson. Out in the woods with just a few basic tools, it's your job to gather resources and craft the materials you'll need to stay alive. There are a variety of biomes to explore, weapons and armor to equip, enemies to encounter, and even turrets to build! OmniDig is currently available for Android, but keep in mind it isn't a finished product just yet, so more goodies are in store!

asphalt-p.gifFree App of the Week: Asphalt 7: Heat - Each week on the iTunes App Store, Apple drops a single release down to the tasty price of "free". This week, that freebie is Asphalt 7: Heat, an arcade racing game from the mobile juggernaut Gameloft. While the game itself is known for being surprisingly playable for a touch screen racer, the real selling point is the visual presentation. Those cars are just gorgeous, and once you see them in motion, you'll be glad you took four seconds to grab it for free!


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Dig!

JohnBDouglas Chase, the hero of Tasty Poison's arcade puzzle game Dig!, has it rough. He works as an archaeologist for a failing museum, and in order to save his job, appease his boss and rescue the museum, he has to dig up new and exciting artefacts, pronto. And he has to do all this while mummies, tentacles and moles chase him, which never makes things easy. Oh, and toilet seats count as priceless artefacts, by the way. Have fun!

Dig!Dig! will remind a lot of old school gamers of Qix. The basic goal is to fence off areas of the screen by drawing lines. Or in this case, digging them. Tap the perimeter of the field to move Douglas to that area, then drag your finger across the screen to mark out a path. As soon as you touch two edges, that part of the ground drops down, revealing any shiny things that were buried beneath. Get 75% of the field dug out and you'll move deeper where the real treasures are buried!

Working with power-ups and avoiding enemies are the other major parts of Dig's gameplay. Nigel the mummy likes to run along the lines you draw at a frightening speed, while other foes wander around the sides or hide beneath the dirt waiting to attack. You can use scarecrows for a quick diversion, but donning hats to gain character perks is the real way to go.

Dig! is deceptively entertaining. It starts out really simple, possibly even a bit too simple, and gradually introduces more complex gameplay as you dig deeper. There's even a mildly tycoon-style museum section to manage once you get a few artefacts stocked away. The more time you spend with Dig! the better it gets. Now, pretend I said a clever pun about digging deeper into the gameplay and go check the game out!

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: 3.5/5 (26 votes)
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Castle: Never Judge A Book By Its Cover

HopefulNebula When a New York City book critic is murdered, dressed up to look like Frankenstein's monster, and hooked up to an electrical current, it's time to call the one detective who actually prefers the really weird cases: Kate Beckett. If she brings her "consultant," a mystery writer named Richard Castle, along with her, so much the better. Such is the premise of Castle: Never Judge A Book By Its Cover, a tie-in hidden object game that was written as a companion to the television show Castle. The case turns out to be more complicated than they had anticipated, and as the team works to keep the body count from increasing, the case begins to hit closer and closer to home for everyone.

Castle: Never Judge A Book By Its Cover Never Judge A Book By Its Cover is an exceptionally well made and quite polished. Gunnar Games worked with Castle's writers while creating the game, so the references to the show aren't simply pasted on after the fact. Most of the hidden object scenes contain at least one item from the show, from Castle's bulletproof "WRITER" vest to a certain red bottle of scotch.

This doesn't mean you have to be a fan of the show in order to enjoy the game, though: they've taken pains to make sure the game stands on its own merits and doesn't divulge plot or character spoilers. The game blends hidden object scenes and minigames seamlessly, allowing you to view the silhouette of any item you're searching for and skip any puzzle that's just too frustrating. One unique element of the game is the puzzle that lets you question suspects: while many games would let you choose from a list of questions, or just make the dialogue into a cutscene, here you have to match each piece of evidence to the place where it was found.

Castle: Never Judge A Book By Its CoverThe end result is a game that plays like an actual episode of Castle and has something for just about everyone. Fans of the show — and of murder mysteries in general — will enjoy trying to figure out the Hardcover Killer's identity. Fans of hidden object games will lose themselves in the detailed, interactive scenes. Fans of puzzles will be baffled in the best of ways as they try to unlock the next door or uncover the next clue. And fans of Nathan Fillion can always just spend a while staring at Castle.

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: 3.1/5 (72 votes)
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Stargazers

TrickyTwinkle twinkle little star, how I wonder where one more quality Ludum Dare entry, um, are. Well, wouldn't you know? One happens to be right here: Stargazers, a minimalist puzzle production by Christina Pham and Mathias Giachino (Cake&Code) that's sure to have everyone watching the skies. In each level, players will be presented with a basic line drawing. You'll observe the night sky, and sketch out the given picture by tapping stars in order, forming connections. You can only use each star once, so you'll have to do a little planning to guarantee the picture you want. Watch the moon, too! When it goes from completely full to completely new, the level is over. After each level you'll be graded on accuracy. Getting 100% will open up the picture for viewing in the gallery, along with some cute commentary.

StargazersStargazers is a relaxing kind of game that rewards methodical observation. The variation on Connect-The-Dots that forms the main gameplay is quite relaxing. It makes one think of how the ancient astronomers must have felt determining what group of stars represented what constellation (even if Ptolemy and his ilk tended more towards "Ram" and "Water-Bearer" instead of "Pac-Man" and "Finn the Human"). Stargazers shows its 48-hour development cycle in its length: at only ten levels it is over far too quickly, especially since things only get really challenging at level five. Still, it is an impressively polished work, and is definitely worthy of being the first game you play tonight.

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Daddy Was a Thief

JohnBDaddy Was a Thief is a solid little arcade game from Rebel Twins, creator of the gorgeous mobile game Crumble Zone. The story begins with dear old dad losing his job, then picking up a How-To book on robbery so he can nip off to the bank for a bit of thievery. When the action begins dad is making his escape. The only problem is there are hundreds of things standing between his high-rise hijinks and the safety of terra firma.

Daddy Was a ThiefYour basic goal in Daddy Was a Thief is to stomp down through the floors of the building so you can escape the police. Swipe down on the screen to heave dad around and break the floor. You can also swipe upwards to jump, useful for avoiding small obstacles. As you progress to lower floors you'll encounter more and more things that want to end your game. In addition to armed officers on some floors, you'll run into missiles firing from outside and even shrink rays to turn you into a tiny daddy. Some items are there to help you out, though, such as the refrigerator shield or the bathtub that lets you crash down several floors at once. And let's not forget a few stops at the pinball-like casino as we make our escape!

Between rounds you can visit the shop to spend coins on various upgrades. They tend to be on the expensive side, unfortunately, so unless you're extremely lucky/skilled, you'll probably end up investing in a few small in-app purchases to beef yourself up. Apart from that, Daddy Was a Thief is practically perfect. The interface is simple and easy to use and the graphics are just plain gorgeous. It's one of those games you'll have to make yourself put down!

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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Mini Motor Racing EVO

DoraAh, the great outdoors. The wind in your hair. The sun on your face. The smell of burning rubber in your nostrils. The screams of rage burning your throat as someone overtakes you just seconds before you take first place so you ram their stupid car in its stupid rear and send their stupid face careening into the side of a building. Such is The Binary Mill's excellent and energetic casual indie racing game Mini Motor Racing EVO. Combining tons of tracks, beautiful visuals, it's a fun and frantic game you can enjoy by yourself or with three more friends online. Or enemies. Or frenemies.

Mini Motor Racing EVOIt's a racing game, you know the drill. Complete all the laps on each stage before anyone else does to take top prize. The game allows you to play with your keyboard, a controller, or even your mouse, so chances are you'll find an option that works for you. Your car can't be damaged, so don't be afraid to give other vehicles a little... gentle persuasion... to get them out of your way. During races, you have three nitrous boosters to start that'll give you a quick burst of speed, but you can find more randomly scattered along the track too. Perhaps more valuable in the long term, though, are the occasional bonus cash pickups since these, when combined with your cash prize for each race, are what you use to upgrade your car. Each different vehicle has its own benefits and drawbacks, such as better handling at the cost of some acceleration, but by purchasing upgrades you can boost your favourite vehicle's performance. You have to upgrade each car seperately, so think carefully when spending your cash!

Mini Motor Racing EVOAnalysis: Mini Motor Racing EVO is a tires-squealing, metal-grinding, all-cylinders-firing joyful rumpus of a game. It's the perfect fit for casual fans, players looking for something effortless to pick up but a lot of fun to try and master for however long you give it. The races are short and sweet, filled with lush visuals and satisfying little details like flying tire stacks and traffic cones. Though it starts out easy, you'll have to quickly learn how to handle your car like a pro to keep first place as the races get even more twisty-turny and densely packed with competitors. The relatively low level of customisation and realism might mean, however, that more hardcore racing fans find this one a bit too goofy and simple. I also sort of wish the game's cars were destructible, partly because I'm a terrible person, but also partly because it would up the challenge by forcing you to be more careful and skillful instead of sling-shotting your car around the track and off of barricades like a maniac.

Less Top Gear and more Mario Kart by way of the bumper cars, Mini Motor Racing EVO is a giddy, gorgeous, exuberant game that catches all the youthful exuberance of the best casual titles. It's the sort of thing you immediately want to play with friends, and would make an excellent party game no matter what the average age was. Though it lacks a lot of the deeper fiddly mechanics some fans may crave, its beautiful presentation and energy makes this one an easy choice for afternoons of reckless, easy to pick up fun.

WindowsWindows:
Get the full version (via Steam)

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


(6 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Portal of Evil: Stolen Runes

Starchild When your name is Van Helsing, you know you can't have a normal life. You might be an ordinary girl, going about your business, staying out of trouble, and then one night you'll have a vision of a gate to hell opening and things will take a messy turn. In the new hidden-object adventure by 8 Floor Games, Portal of Evil: Stolen Runes, Vanessa Van Helsing takes on a difficult task of restoring peace while dealing with monsters, vampires, mysteries and intrigues. After her unsettling vision, Vanessa travels to Italy where she is invited by an arcane religious order. Her grandfather, who went missing some weeks before, belongs to the order and she hopes to find him. Once there, she finds out that matters might be a tad more complicated.

Portal of Evil: Stolen Runes The quiet and unassuming town cathedral hides a gate to another world, kept shut by seven seals. If those seals were to disappear, all manner of evil would come flooding out and everyone would, quite literally, go to hell in a handbasket. And what do you know, four of the seals are indeed missing. Vanessa's grandfather has already gone to try to retrieve them but hasn't returned, so Vanessa is asked to go after him, as she is a Van Helsing and, therefore, naturally gifted for all things supernatural. Each of the seals has a different power, and they have been sent to separate dimensions where they are used to summon forces of darkness. Vanessa must go through portals and into every dimension to find the seals and look for clues as to which member of the order is the traitor.

Portal of Evil: Stolen RunesOn the surface, Portal of Evil: Missing Runes is a standard hidden-object game. You are supposed to collect some items strewn around the rooms and landscapes, find others in hidden-object scenes and solve various puzzles. However, after a while it starts feeling more like a full-fledged adventure. Action cutscenes abound, giving a welcome shot of dynamic energy, and they are skillfully made and a pleasure to watch. Travelling to different dimensions means a wealth of diverse scenes and a meandering storyline that takes you through unknown lands and ancient history. The environments are gorgeous, from imposing, grandiose architecture to the forbidding realms of the Purgatory. The game puts some effort into keeping the gameplay interesting and engaging: the mini-games are varied and beautiful (though sometimes a little too simple), and there is that puzzly kind of hidden-object scenes in which, rather than taking objects away, you have to figure out where to insert them in the scene. There would be a lot of backtracking if it weren't for the map which allows you to travel to any room you've visited and tells you where there is something to be done. Probably the only shortcomings are the voice acting, which isn't on the same level as everything else, and the characters, who are pretty archetypal, but these are both minor flaws and are easily forgiven, given the overall quality of the game.

If you're looking for a game that isn't horror, but is also quite far from being light and fluffy, try Portal of Evil: Stolen Runes. It will intrigue you, excite you, entertain you and, best of all, you'll get to save the entire world from demons without ever getting up from your chair.

Portal of Evil: Stolen Runes 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:
Not available.
Try Boot Camp or Parallels or CrossOver Games.


  • Currently 3.9/5
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Rating: 3.9/5 (34 votes)
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New Splitter Pals

DoraIt slices! It dices! It feeds adorable orange critters to unsettling yellow heads! What is it? Why, it's you, playing the latest installment in Eugene Karatev's physics puzzle series, New Splitter Pals. Just click and drag with your mouse to slice through certain slice-able materials onscreen and carve a path that drops the orange ball right into the yellow ball, nabbing any stars along the way for a perfect score. You've only got a certain number of cuts, but it doesn't matter how many you use as long as you get the ball where it needs to be, so just experiment! Though the first batch of levels will probably be on the easy side for most players, New Splitter Pals offers quite a few clever stage designs that will get you thinking, and with all the, uh, unique weird charm the series has always offered.

Play New Splitter Pals

a2


  • Currently 4.4/5
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Rating: 4.4/5 (53 votes)
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a2

DoraWhat can you do with a month? Well, if you're Arowana, azureXtwilight and Nellie, you can make a free indie visual novel sweet and warm enough to reduce me to tears. a2 follows Sona, a troubled young woman who puts up a hard front, and Hao, fresh into America and struggling to communicate and connect with the people around him. Sona was estranged from her brilliant conductor father right up until he died, so she was stunned when he left her his orchestra and the promise that she'd get paid on each performance as long as she showed up for every practice. She's just been going through the motions until Hao, a former student of her father, shows up, determined to whip her baffled and frightened musicians into shape... despite not being able to speak a word of English or possessing much people skills to speak of. Will Sona and Hao be able to connect despite language and emotional barriers to bring the orchestra to success? Or will they butt heads until neither of them has any hope of finding a common bond?

a2Just click to select choices as they appear and right-click to open the menu to save and load your game whenever you like. The game has three endings as well as a bonus chapter and an unlockable mode that translates all of Hao's spoken Chinese into English... handy, since the story sneakily refrains from translating everything he says, even when you're dying to know. You'll need to find all three endings before you unlock the translation and the special chapter "Reprise", however, but it's worth it if you want a short but definitely sweet cap to the better endings. Though the bonus chapter is exceptionally short, all the endings are worth experiencing, and you'll definitely want to play through at least one more time with Hao's translator on. Especially since Hao... isn't always saying what Sona thinks he is. (Note that this game received its rating for several instances of racism leveled at Sona, some mild profanity, and mild blood.)

Despite its short development time, a2 manages to deliver one of the most satisfyingly emotional and mature stories around. It's hardly what you'd call difficult, and only a half-dozen or so choices throughout that you'd really have to be actively trying to fail to do poorly with, but the emphasis here is definitely on its characters, and Sona and Hao absolutely shine. The use of musical theory to get past the language barrier was clever, but arguably where the story does its best work is in portraying two hurting but human people as honestly and realistically as possible in a way that truly makes you root for them, whether as friends or lovers. Though there's an expansion coming down the road, as it stands now a2 is still a phenomenally well executed piece of work for its time frame, and for a visual novel in general. With a relateable cast, heartbreakingly honest moments, and more than a few laughs, to say nothing of a fantastic theme by the talented Gerald Ko, a2 is the perfect thing to curl up with and relax any time of day and remind yourself that people may be imperfect, but are usually pretty wonderful underneath it all.

WindowsWindows:
Download the free full version

Mac OS XMac OS X:
Download the free full version

LinuxLinux:
Download the free full version


(3 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Zoombies: Animales de la Muerte!

SuzanneSomething has gone terribly, horribly awry at Don Eduardo's zoo. Flesh-seeking undead animals are on the loose and you, plucky boy or girl, are the last line of defense in Zoombies: Animales de la Muerte!, a mobile line-drawing defense game from High Voltage Software. Could this be the worst field trip ever?

Zoombies: Animales de la Muerte!Zoombies plays like a mashup between mobile stalwarts Plants vs. Zombies and Flight Control, liberally seasoned with doses of guacamole and topped with hordes of crazy-cute zombie animals. Here you defend your territory by drawing a line on the screen with your finger, which your boomerang-like weapon follows. As your weapon hits the oncoming baddies, they explode in a cheerful fountain of cartoon guts and gore. Saving Little Mexico from the zoombie onslaught may seem easy at first, but don't get complacent: the challenge ramps up in the second set of levels, where enemies with different attack patterns demand quick reflexes and intelligent use of unlockable upgrades.

Ah, upgrades. What would a defense game be without them? Zoombies has plenty, from new weapons to help you defeat specific enemies to traps that slow down and damage oncoming foes. These are purchased with currency that is gained by downing baddies and completing challenges. Each level has five specific challenges to complete, like saving a certain number of friendly zoo animals or drawing under a specific number of lines. New levels are unlocked in sets of three by completing a set number of these challenges.

All of these elements combine in a well-managed ebb and flow of challenge and achievement, which makes Zoombies a gratifying play. At only forty-five short levels the amount of content might be a little small, but the polished production and zippy, well-balanced gameplay make Zoombies a star among the app store's !ever-multiplying zombie horde. ¡Viva la defensa!

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 (99 votes)
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Banana Breakers

ArtbegottiWhat happens when you combine the logical deduction puzzles of Mastermind, the word-searching challenge of Boggle, and a handful of military monkeys ready to do battle? Everything goes bananas! Thank you, I'm here all night, tip your server, etc. Banana Breakers by Simian Logic is a quick twist on a logic/word hybrid puzzle where you've got to solve not just one word, but up to six words at once!

Banana BreakersThe grid of letters can be divided into a number of words (for example, the easy level has you finding four 4-letter words). Click or tap the letters to select them; they don't have to be touching, any letters in the grid are allowed. If you don't spell one of the target words picked by the computer, you're given clues to the position of the letters in one of the target words. A letter highlighted in green means it's a correct letter in the right position, and a letter in red means it's a correct letter but in a wrong position. Use these clues to help formulate your next guess.

However, unlike other word-Mastermind games like Wordspector, you're not just focusing on one word at a time, you're taking on all four (in easy mode) at once! The clues revealed to you always pertain to the hidden word that most closely matches your guess. You might use the clues from one word to formulate another guess, only to find it gives you new clues to a completely different word! Words that give you less new information than what is already shown won't give you any clues at all, but you'll still be credited for making a valid word with some coins.

For each hidden word you discover (or at least try), you'll earn some coins when you complete the board. Coins can be used to purchase clues such as a crossword-style definition of one of the hidden words, or outright spoil a word if you're stuck. Each board is a self-contained game, so you can quickly blaze through a few easy levels, or take your time with the medium (five 5-letter words) and hard (six 6-letter words) levels. Can you crack the code and deduce all the words before going bananas?

Play Banana Breakers

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


  • Currently 4.3/5
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Rating: 4.3/5 (84 votes)
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Red Ball 4 Volume 2

Starchild Evil blocks are taking over the world! Innocent red balls are being forced into angular shapes! What's so bad about angles, you ask? They are sharp, I tell you! Sharp! Run for your lives! Or better yet, take control of a red ball and fight the usurpers in Red Ball 4 Volume 2, the latest physics platformer by Eugene Fedoseev.

Red Ball 4 Volume 2 The story is the same as in the previous game in the series, and so is the gameplay: use the [arrow] or [WASD] keys to move and jump, and catch as many stars as possible on your way to the next level (also, try to stay alive). There are fifteen new levels, all well done and nicely varied. You'll face two types of enemies – the plain boring ones and the cool ninjas, on whom you have to jump twice. The controls allow you to maintain a tight grip on the lively protagonist, so there is very little unintentional slipping or sliding. As for the challenge, it should be said that Red Ball 4 doesn't exactly make your brain hurt. The levels are quite intuitive, so it never takes more than a glance or two to figure out how to finish them. However, depending on your skills, you might have to redo some particularly tricky stages a few times before you get them right, as they require perfect timing and don't allow for mistakes. This is where checkpoints really come in handy and save you a lot of frustration; even though the levels aren't too long, restarting them from the beginning every time would bite a bit chunk out of the fun.

Red Ball 4 Volume 2 is the whole package. It's got cute bright graphics, entertaining levels, nice music, decent controls and ninjas. You'll like it if you liked its predecessor or even if you've never played a physics platform game in your life. It's a short, sweet, bouncy bundle of fun you just don't want to miss.

Play Red Ball 4 Volume 2


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Link Dump Fridays

DoraMonkeys and robots and candy filled boxes, graveyards and diners but no games with foxes, time travel with monkeys and engineered buildings, these are a few of this Link Dump's things!

News and Previews

Plants vs Zombies 2Summer is Dead... in a Good Way It's been four years since the original smash-hit tower defense game Plants vs Zombies was released, so don't you think it's about time for a sequel? Well, so does PopCap, and this July, look forward to playing Plants vs Zombies 2: It's About Time! Not much else is known, but heck, we have more Plants vs Zombies coming... isn't that enough? Check out a (very silly) announcement trailer here, and make sure to follow them on Facebook to find out more as it happens.

Gun MonkeysTypewriters Are For Chimps Oooh oooh oohh AHH AHHH AHHHH pthththtbBBBBbrrrrt! If you spoke monkey like a true gentleperson, then you'd know that was me telling you Size Five Games (Ben There, Dan That! and Time Gentlemen, Please!) has announced their newest upcoming game for PC, Mac and Linux, Gun Monkeys! A "devastatingly-indie, Procedurally-Generated, Physics-based, Online Deathmatch platform game"? Awwwww yeah, now we're talking. How can you not like a game whose trailer begins with, "Here's the plan. We fling monkeys into the future..." Hit up the announcement to learn more, and check out the gloriously chaotic announcement video that should get action fans salivating.

Cook, Serve, Delicious!GET IN MAH BELLAY We loved Vertigo Gaming's hectic indie time-management simulation game Cook, Serve, Delicious!, and now you have even more reason to play it again, or discover it for the first time with the release of the Extra Crispy Edition for PC and Mac. If you already own the game, it's a free patch that adds ten new foods, breakfast, exotic dish, and rich menus, and some welcome performance tweaks for Mac owners! Cook, Serve, Delicious! isn't for those who frazzle easily, but is is for anyone who loves a fast-paced challenge... and food!

Candy Box!Is This What Forrest Meant? Candy Box!, the bizarre and delightful webtoy that holds a dazzling amount of secrets by 18 year old aniwey, continues to captivate our community. Now, thanks to wonderful reader SrPilha, we have an extensive walkthrough and strategy guide that will help you get started, figure out what to do next... and just what in the world is going on! Candy Box! is one of the most unexpectedly awesome games to come along in, well, a long time, and if you haven't tried it yet... you're seriously missing out.

Kickstarter/IndieGoGo Projects

RawbotsInside Everyone is a Grant Imahara Yearning to Break Free Multiplayer? Good. Sandbox? Awesome. Robots? Sweeeeeeet. Alex Rozgo's upcoming Rawbots sounds like something special for the Doctor Robotnik inside all of you. The game will allow you to build and design your own robots from the ground up to perform every task imaginable in your own universe, where you can program everything from the day and night cycles, to how other players are allowed in... which, of course, opens up great opportunities for trade. Or fighting! The game promises to be easily accessible for newcomers, but also to allow for a ton of detail and tinkering for more hands-on engineering types, and it just might be your next obsession.

Boon HillYes, They Make Games About EVERYTHING "Graveyard simulation" might not see like a very fun idea, but Matthew Ritter wants to change your mind with Welcome to Boon Hill, which is billed as exactly that. Boon Hill is a graveyard where you'll be able to wander about and do as you please. No danger, no real goals. It may sound strange and even a little morbid, but the whole point of the game is to explore, learn the stories of the people buried there through interacting with the people who visit and reading epitaphs, and sort of crafting your own narrative through what you see and do as well as through random events. It might not be for everyone, but it definitely looks and sounds unique, and more than worth a peek.

Ray's the DeadBrains Are Tasty... Usually when we talk about zombie games, the undead are being reduced to a fine paste by us. But in RagTag Studio's quirky action/stealth strategy game Ray's the Dead, you're the one with a passion for flesh... and world domination! You'll control Ray, a zombie who's reanimated when a bolt of lightning strikes his grave, and finds he's unique in two different ways... first that he's actually a little intelligent, and second that he has a giant bulb sticking out of his head that allows him to control other zombies. As you play, you'll have to use your wits and your growing undead army to not only take down the humans all over the world, but discover Ray's story too. Ray's the Dead looks absolutely gorgeous, and could be the clever, creative zombie game you've been waiting for.

City QuestIt Worked For the Beverly Hillbillies Anyone who's ever grown up in a small country town and then moved to a big city has to deal with a certain amount of culture shock. I grew up in a tiny Canadian town, and now I live near Epcot in Florida, where the average daily theme park attendance is double my hometown's population. But if you're the protagonist of Ryan Nohr's upcoming retro point-and-click adventure game City Quest, your destiny as a small town bumpkin could be much bigger. Or deadlier! You'll control a hero who leaves the country behind for city-life, and whether that means you wind up a politician, a mafioso, or more is up to you. It looks delightfully quirky and silly, but also possessed of a fantastic old-school flair, so make sure you check this one out. Heck, there's even a free online demo!

DarkwoodThe Forest is a Wonderful, Magical Place! Horror meets roguelike and survival adventure? Yes please. Acid Wizard Studio is serving up just that with Darkwood, a procedurally generated "top-down, oldschool, sandbox survival horror" inspired by the works of David Lynch. You awaken, amnesiac, in a frightening forest with an orphan child as your only companion, and you'll need to craft, explore, and even grow your character's skills with perks if you want to survive. Darkwood bills itself as "old school hard", but they should be calling it "Awwww yeah", because it looks like exactly what horror enthusiasts have been waiting for.

Miscellaneous

MonacoThieving With Friends We loved the co-op indie stealth game Monaco for good reason... it was awesome. I'm still playing it, but you probably don't want to play with me because I am mentally incapable of playing any multiplayer game channelling anything other than Team Fortress 2's Heavy. But creator Andy Schatz thinks you should be playing with people, and has written an editorial over at Kotaku talking about just how his game encourages cooperation over, y'know, buttheadery. It's an interesting read, and certainly an attitude we should encourage when most of us have probably had a gaming experience ruined by another player who wanted nothing more than to cause grief to boot.

Humble Double Fine BundleThat's Twice As Fine Like setting your own price, especially when it comes to quality games? Then open your wallet, because the Humble Double Fine Bundle is here! Pick up three great games for whatever you want, beat the average to unlock Jack Black, and pay at least $35.00USD to unlock their upcoming adventure game, Broken Age. This is a great deal if you're a fan of Double Fine's stellar adventure games... and trust us when we say, you should be.

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!


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

JohnBPerfection is a simple, casual puzzle game from Dumb and Fat Games, creator of Sling It! and Phantasmaburbia. It tests your spatial resolve by challenging you to slice bits of an object away until it fits inside an outline. There's no timer, there's no move limits, and there are no missions to complete. Just some relaxing music by Omni-Psyence and a great game of self-challenge at your fingertips.

PerfectionTo cut off a piece of the object, simply tap and slide your finger across the screen. Perfection automatically shows you where the cut will take place, and the moment you let go it's chopped off and the object is resized. You can switch between three solving modes, the first giving you just an outline and a shape to trim, and the second and third adding rotation and zooming capabilities. These modes can be changed whenever you like, and you can also swap out the puzzle with two quick taps, just in case you don't like the asteroid-like object in front of your face.

Perfection is one of those games you can keep on your mobile device (or desktop PC!) for months and never get tired of. The puzzles are generated randomly, so you'll never encounter the same one twice. The lack of a timer or any other "game" device makes the experience as relaxing as can be, all without sacrificing challenge. It's a unique and easy to learn game with hours upon hours of replay value!

WindowsWindows:
Get the full version

Mac OS XMac OS X:
Get the full version

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


  • Currently 3.6/5
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Rating: 3.6/5 (27 votes)
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Doodle God HD

JohnBBig Doodle God news! Tired of combining elements on a tiny mobile screen? Ready for something bigger, more feature-rich, and Retina-optimized? Doodle God has finally made the leap to iPad with Doodle God HD. The release coincides with a big 2.0 upgrade for the iPhone version, adding a brand new interface, new artifacts, new reactions, new achievements, improved mini-games, and more. Two new modes of play have also been added: Puzzle and Quest. Puzzle challenges you to create buildings, trains and all sorts of massive objects by combining basic elements, while Quest gives you three different story scenarios you must find a way to solve. Lots of great stuff for the Doodle God fans out there!

Want more Doodle God? Try these browser games:

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


  • Currently 3.7/5
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Rating: 3.7/5 (120 votes)
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Persist

kyhNo one is perfect. Especially you. So when you've committed a horrible act against a higher being, you can do nothing but ask her forgiveness. She is not easily swayed by your words, so it'll take some persistence and platforming skills to prove yourself worthy. You have to Persist.

kyh_persist_screen.pngIn Jussi Simpanen's Ludum Dare entry for the theme "Minimalism", you'll have to swim, jump and run your way through increasingly challenging levels to prove the sincerity of your remorse. Control your sprite with either [arrow] keys or [WASD] from the gloomy beginning to mysterious end. For a game made in 48 hours, the story has more depth than you would expect. It's also a game that sparked some interesting dialogue and interpretations amidst our own staff, with some believing the reason you find yourself searching for forgiveness could be perceived as something some players may find unsettling (or unforgiveable) while others believed your crime a more mundane one. Will you succeed in garnering forgiveness? Or is this all a lesson in futility?

Play Persist


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Rating: 4.6/5 (406 votes)
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Monkey GO Happy 6

elleSad monkey, happy monkey, little monkey, tiny monkey... these are monkeys of many hats but can you figure out what will make these weepy-eyed simians jump up and down in glee? You're tasked with doing just that, and in as few clicks as possible, in Happy GO Monkey 6, the wonderfully interactive continuation of Pencil Kids' popular point-and-click puzzle game.

Monkey GO Happy 6In many of the 15 self-contained stages, something about the scene isn't quite right—at least not in the viewpoint of the unhappy monkey. Scan the scene to find usable objects and clues to the puzzles. The cursor usually changes over action spots but doesn't always; still, solutions are easily thought up. Frustration might rear up when you realize not all tasks are easily done in one fell swoop... or are they?

Some ingenuity and careful planning should help your click economy even as certain mini-games demand more. Unlock the 16th level and your treat is a short adventure to collect 30 coins that feels like a true bonus. Although the challenge is minimal, the interactivity is tremendous, plus there's something about the pathos of Robin Vencel's adorable primates that cannot be resisted. After all, the joy on those sweet faces is all the reward that's needed.

Play Monkey GO Happy 6


(8 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Paper Titans

elleThe world of make-believe can be quite the realistic place if you let your imagination run away with itself. In Paper Titans, imagination has found its playground—Team Lumo and Blitz Games' "fold-em-up" puzzle adventure features whimsical papercraft-made worlds and adorable characters for your creative thoughts to roam free. With a remarkable 3D interface that you can tilt and zoom and rotate, your eyes get an equal amount of enjoyment as well.

Paper TitansEach of the 45 levels in Paper Titans centers around one goal: collect three stars and an envelope sealed with a kiss. To do this, fold up a team of papercraft pals who work together by collecting, throwing, flying, exploding and shaman-ing their way past obstacles. Controls are incredibly intuitive, as if you were engaging with a true life model; one touch or swipe to move characters along a path, following the arrow where you want them to end up.

When you begin, your first task is to create the collector who is required for gathering up the stars and getting the envelope. To fold, just swipe and move your fingers across the screen as the instructions show; or you can press the fast-forward button in the lower left corner and simply watch as the "paper" takes form. If inspiration strikes, you can even download, print and cut out blueprints to fold up actual papercraft toys.

Back on your mobile device, the collector is able to traverse along any path as long as no chasms or platforms get in the way; this is where the thrower (who helps other characters jump by tossing them up) and the flyer (who flies across gaps) come along. Later, an exploder removes barriers while a shaman will superpower abilities. All these actions can only take place at specifically-marked action spots and, as not all actions are needed at the same time, there is some trial-and-error involved.

Paper TitansThe puzzle part of this adventure is never truly difficult, though—in fact it's very easy—with the main challenge coming from having the patience to order about your relay team of titans and waiting as they scamper their way across the stage. This makes Paper Titans extremely accessible to players of all ilks and ages, yet it also poses a possible letdown for those looking for quick action and lots of challenge. It's hard to not want more thought process in each scene, more opening and closing of doors, more places to visit, and more story to go along with our quirky cast. Even so, like Kumo Lumo, the artwork is gorgeously engaging. To those of us who adore distinctive visuals and charming personality, who prefer a more relaxed mode of gameplay, one that you can easily resume after a pause, Paper Titans bursts with imaginative possibilities and is sure to entertain by sight alone.

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


  • Currently 4.1/5
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Rating: 4.1/5 (79 votes)
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Test Subject Complete

HopefulNebulaNitrome has a new game out, and it's a sequel to one of their most popular puzzle platformer series. Test Subject Complete picks up where Test Subject Blue and Test Subject Green left off: you're still the little blue blob of enzyme in a kickin' mech suit. The stakes are higher, though. Your suit's been spying on Doctor Nastidious, see, and it turns out that he's planning on using you to take over the world. Your only option is to get out before he puts his nefarious plan into motion.

Test Subject CompleteThe gameplay hasn't changed much since the previous installments in the series: use the [arrows] or [WASD] to move, and [spacebar] to fire your blaster. However, now you can walk on the ceilings by jumping up against them. The portals transport you while conserving your momentum, the lasers and enemies kill you (but you'll get better!), and the buttons toggle or disable lasers and portals. The goal is still to grab the key and then head to the exit, where you'll *glomp* onto your target and get sucked into the next level.

Nitrome has really taken feedback from the previous games in the series to heart, and has fixed most of the really annoying problems in the form of this awesome new suit. Now your blaster fires without delay, and the movement is much less finicky than it was before. The upshot of these fixes is that the challenge of Test Subject Complete is primarily in the puzzles and the wide array of enemies, not in trying to find the exact pixel to aim for in order to reach the next platform, making for a satisfying chapter of a well-loved series... about a little blue ball of goop. Ew.

Play Test Subject Complete


  • Currently 4.1/5
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Rating: 4.1/5 (87 votes)
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Pursued

TrickyOne day, as you were innocently walking down the street, you were abducted by persons unknown. After hours of travel, you saw your chance to escape and took it. Fortunately, you have friends all over the world, and you're sure they would come here an pick you up. Unfortunately, you have absolutely no idea where you are. You'll need all your wits and observations skills to place yourself, but the clock is ticking: you're still being Pursued. Pursued is a unique HTML5 puzzle game designed by Nemesys Games, powered by the Google Maps Street View engine. In each of the fifteen levels, you are plunked down in some location on planet Earth. By dragging the screen to look around and clicking to move, you must explore your surroundings and determine your present city by the visual clues. You only have so much time to enter the correct city, before your kidnappers will catch up to you. A number of additional level packs and fan-made levels are also available, and players can also submit their own locations for others to get lost in.

PursuedA number of excellent games have been based around Google apps, and, in retrospect, Pursued's use of Google Maps feels like an obvious idea for a game that Nemesys Games just happened to get to first. However, as it turns out, they happened to be the perfect ones for the job. There's a perfect mix of easy levels that plop you next to obvious landmarks, somewhat misleading locations for a medium challenge (e.g. sure, that building has an Italian flag... but lots of Italian restaurants do, whether in Dublin, Istanbul, or Tokyo), and some truly difficult ones that place you in what looks like the middle of nowhere. Pursued is a game that expects you to have another browser tab open, searching for information, but even with the limitless resources of the web at your fingers, the timer keeps things tense. The biggest flaw of Pursued is the rough periods of long loading times that occur as you move from location to location, probably the result of the game pushing Google Maps in ways that it probably wasn't ever meant to. (Installing the Pursued App from the Chrome Web Store relieves some of the loading times, though, of course, that is only possible in the Chrome browser.) Still, Pursued is an engaging world tour of a game, and as it takes you from Nashville to Norway, Bonaire to Zimbabwe, Chicago to Czech and Slovakia, and back, players will find it a pretty sweet journey.

Play Pursued


  • Currently 3.2/5
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Rating: 3.2/5 (797 votes)
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Must Escape: The Clock Tower

DoraNothing good ever happens in clock towers. Either you wind up getting poisoned by a mutated super soldier while you're trying to escape a city, or you're dealing with supernatural serial killers. But it's not all thrills and chills, and in Self-Defiant's point-and-click escape game Must Escape: The Clock Tower, all you have to do is find your way back out of one. Just click whenever your icon changes to interact, and use the arrows to look around or move to new locations.

Must Escape: The Clock TowerMust Escape: The Clock Tower is best described as short and sweet, though a bit of extra polish in some areas to take care of typos would have helped overall. Most will simply find it a brisk warmup than a really substantial challenge, with fairly obvious clues and most puzzles amounting to fixing things. It's like you're role-playing as a mechanic. At one point, you'll be transporting objects between scenes with your cursor, however, which is fairly neat, and with a satisfying chunk of puzzles that'll make you feel like a time lord if not a brainiac. Must Escape: The Clock Tower has few frills, but will kickstart your brain and prepare you the next time you wander into an abandoned building and somehow manage to get lost on five floors where the only way to go is straight up or down. No, I'm not judging you. Aloud.

Play Must Escape: The Clock Tower


  • Currently 4.8/5
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Rating: 4.8/5 (84 votes)
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Factory Balls

JohnBBart Bonte is back (ok, so he never really went anywhere) with a brand new game, this time on iOS! Factory Balls began as an entry in one of our early Casual Gameplay Design Competitions in 2008. The puzzle game has grown and expanded since then, producing several sequels and finally landing on mobile devices with a stylish visual upgrade. Get ready for a new generation of infuriating, satisfying sphere painting!

Factory BallsThe idea behind Factory Balls is you need to alter a blank sphere to match the image marked on the box. Surrounding the center are various colors of paint, seeds, watering cans, belts, hats, glasses, tools, and other items, all ready to take part in your quest to get this thing decorated. Either tap the items or drag and drop the ball on top of them to begin. Most actions affect the entire sphere, whereas other actions are there to serve as blocking agents or add other physical features. Don't want the entire ball to be painted fuschia? Put that hat on there and paint it again, see what happens. By using a combination of these items in the correct order you can eventually recreate the image on the box in perfect detail.

Factory Balls is a great fit as a mobile game. Not only does it control well on a touch screen, but its brand of puzzles are perfect for casual on-the-go play. 44 new levels provide a great challenge, and with no in-app purchases or other wacky gimmicks, you can sit down and get to solving without a care in the world. Well, no cares other than worrying about how you're going to recreate that spotted pattern on a sphere that looks like a big mouse-eared elephant.


  • Currently 4.1/5
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Rating: 4.1/5 (137 votes)
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Creepo's Tales: Chopping Mall

Tricky"Greeeeeeetings, boils and ghouls! It's your old pal, Creepo here, everyone's favorite master of scare-i-monies! Today we're creature-featuring a new point-and-click adventure from Carmel Games. Or should we call it a pain-and-crypt deadventure? Well, when patrons start disappearing from a local food court, just as a killer new burger stand gets hideously popular, a competitor's employee decides that he's hungry for answers. But what he unearths may put him off red meat for good! It's Creepo's Tales: Chopping Mall, and trust me, kiddies... it's a meal to die for!"

Creepo's Tales: Chopping MallThank you, Creepo. Gameplay is standard for the genre: click around to interact and pick up items, clicking on something once it's in your inventory to use it or to combine it with another item. The map in the lower right will guide you to various locations around town. Carmel Games has steadily improved with each of their adventure game releases, and Creepo's Tales: Chopping Mall continues the positive trend. The story may be horror, but the cartoon art and quality voice-acting keeps things comedic. The puzzles have generally sensible solutions, and even the few that don't should pose no problem to anyone versed in adventure game logic... though just once, it'd be nice to, when faced with an antagonistic hungry person blocking your path, get them to move through reasoned conversation, rather than tricking them into eating something gross. Creepo's Tales: Chopping Mall could stand to be a little longer, and the twists of the story are fairly predictable, but classic adventure game fans should find it an entertaining way to fill a lunch break... because man, they probably won't feel like eating afterwards.

Play Creepo's Tales: Chopping Mall


  • Currently 3.6/5
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Rating: 3.6/5 (100 votes)
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Mondrianism

Starchild It's pretty difficult to imagine a game which epitomises the notion of interactive art quite so literally as Jezzamon's Mondrianism, because it actually is interacting with a famous piece of art. And what better artist to pick for Ludum Dare's Minimalist theme than Piet Mondrian, one of the most important figures of the minimalist art movement.

MondrianismIn Mondrianism, you'll be able to take control of his paintings and mess with them until you remove all the colours from them. The colours are trapped in rectangles in the paintings, and you can only move one colour per level (you do so with your mouse). Different coloured rectangles move in different directions – vertically, horizontally or diagonally. You have to move your rectangle until it reaches a different coloured one and absorbs it, at which point your rectangle changes colour, making the game much less monotonous and much more challenging. The catch is that you can't absorb rectangles of your own colour, so you could find yourself stuck on a level with a bunch of blues, having eliminated all reds and yellows, and then the only thing to do is sigh and press [R] to restart.

This game is as simple as they come, but it's insanely addictive, exactly because it looks so clean and straightforward. Whether you like Mondrian or not, his style fits the game so perfectly that it seems incredible that no one thought of putting the two together a long time ago. And therein lies the genius of Mondrianism: it took celebrated, cult art and wasn't afraid to transform it into something new and innovative once again after all these years.

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The Vault

TrickyWhat's a pirate's favorite kind of onion? Arr, chives! And the pirates in our audience should be quite very happy, since featuring quality games from the JayIsGames archives is what we here at The Vault do best. This week, we've got first-person omniscience, snarky lab guys, and multiplying plumbers, just waiting to test your gaming mettle!

  • Doodle GodDoodle God - We shouldn't have been surprised Avalon Alliance found such success with Doodle God, their 2010 puzzle game release. After all, it combines the power of playing God, with the visceral joy of smashing things together to make something new. With simple gameplay and clever waves of humor throughout, players instantly knew that Doodle God was something special. By the end, the experience does get a little trial-and-error, but all those trials and errors never stop being fun. Doodle God provides a glorious set of building blocks, and leaves players happily making ALL the things!
  • EpsilonEpsilon - The release of 2008's Epsilon, developed by Dissolute Productions, was originally intended to coincide with that of Portal, the mega-hit from Valve. It's just as well that Epsilon was delayed, however, as though its inspirations are apparent, the game needs no comparison to be recognized as the polished physics work that it is. Yes, there are portals. However, there are also time-freezers, time-reversers and gravity manipulators. That makes all the difference, my friend, and the end result is very shiny, very science-y and a joy to play.
  • Enough PlumbersEnough Plumbers - Usually getting ten extra lives is a good thing. When all those lives are on-screen at the same time, though, it can get pretty complicated. Enough Plumbers, by Glen Forrester and Arthur Lee, is the best kind of retro-style platformer. Its aesthetic isn't there merely to appeal to nostalgia, but to complement the old-school philosophy of its gameplay design: simple central mechanics combining in creative and logical ways. Many games succeed in aping the 8-bit Nintendo look, without nailing down the feel. Enough Plumbers is the exception. Could someone on the HAL Laboratory design team have found inspiration in Enough Plumbers, when putting together the quite-similar and also quite-awesome Kirby Mass Attack? Probably not, but man, no one would have been surprised.

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


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Conceptis Slitherlink

KinetikaiDo you like numbers and loops? Of course you do! You're only human. Conceptis, the team who brought pencil puzzles like Link-A-Pix and Nurikabe to the web, are continuing their trend of porting their browser puzzles to the iOS platform, trading in the scratch of a pencil or the click of a mouse for the tap of a finger. Their latest App Store addition is Conceptis Slitherlink, a mobile iteration of their loopy logic puzzle Slitherlink Light.

Conceptis SlitherlinkAlternately known as Loop the Loop and Fences, Slitherlink presents you with a grid and tasks you with connecting the dots to form a single closed loop, obeying the numbers on the grid which indicate how many line segments surround the given square. Simply tap a space to add a line segment, tap a line to change it to an X (signifying there is definitely not a line there) or tap one more time to delete. One nice feature is that tapping will default to an X if a given line placement is impossible, which is convenient when you're filling out large sections of a grid. The interface is intuitive and easy to use, and with a few bits of logic and deduction at your side, you'll be well on your way to fencing in numbers like some kind of crazy math farmer.

Of course, Conceptis adds in several helpful extras, including tutorials, an error checker and the option to automatically fill in unneeded spaces with an X. Or, if frustration overcomes you, you can just use the auto-solver. (Look! I completed the level in three seconds flat!) There are 120 puzzles included with the free download, with additional puzzles available via in-app purchase bundles of varying difficulties and sizes. Like everything else from Conceptis, Slitherlink is polished and puts the focus entirely on the puzzles, as it should be.

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


  • Currently 4/5
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Rating: 4/5 (97 votes)
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Also Which?

DoraNormally repetitive questions are annoying. "Are we there yet?" "How much further?" "Why? Why? Why?" But some questions are ones you're glad to hear over and over again, and Yoshio Ishii's clever and addicting puzzle game Also Which? is a fine example. Like Which? and More Which?, you're given a simple task to pick one of two correct circles by figuring out what the clue in each level is asking you to look for. It's one of those beautifully simple concepts that really showcases the ingenuity and creativity of the browser developer community, and Also Which? manages to keep the delightfully tricky puzzles coming with yet another batch of sneaky but cute levels... perfect for enjoying any time.

Play Also Which?


  • Currently 4.7/5
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Rating: 4.7/5 (148 votes)
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Mild Escape 6

GrinnypOf all the fabulous things to be found in the world by wandering down a mysterious alley perhaps the best (at least to room escape fans) is the mysterious door in a brick wall that kicked off the output of one of our favorite game designers, Tesshi-e. Each year on the anniversary of that first game the alley, brick wall, and door reappear like magic to transport us to yet another strange room with a plaintive piano tune wafting in the background, a room full of wonder and mystery and lots and lots of puzzles. Come celebrate room escaping done Tesshi-e style with Mild Escape 6.

grinnyp_mildescape6_screenshot.pngMild Escape 6 is bursting with cool stuff to look at and problems to solve. All the tropes we've come to expect are contained in this delightfully dense point-and-click puzzle with the exception of Tesshi-e's habit of forcing us to construct a useful device out of odds and ends, like cyber MacGuyvers. Some fans will rejoice while others who actually enjoy trying to make a boat out of a plastic bottle, rubber bands, sticks, and other assorted items will have to suffer their disappointment in silence. Seriously, after all the complaining about the car made from a cell phone we don't want to hear it. The haunting melody, crisp visuals, and engaging puzzles of Mild Escape 6 are a great way to show fans appreciation for sticking with the designer for so long. and the excellent and logical puzzle design enhanced with an accurate English translation and the newer feature of using text to point out any colors makes to game accessible to all who enjoy being locked into an unknown room by strangers and having to solve their way out. You know, crazy folks like us room escape fans.

Play Mild Escape 6

Thanks to Na and Cyberjar88 for sending this one in!


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Mobile Monday

JohnBThe Noid hates high quality pizza mobile games. He loves to make your hot pizza ice cold. Read Mobile Monday if you want to avoid the Noid. And you really do want to avoid him.

liege-p.gifDrool now, my Liege - The mobile market is no stranger to retro-style RPGs. When a game looks this good, though, it's not easy to ignore. Liege is an upcoming tactical RPG from Coda Games that emphasizes character-focused narrative and accessible combat. It's still in the early stages of development, but Liege is already an exciting project. Just... just look at those pretty pictures! It'll be late 2013/early 2014 before Liege hits iOS (an Android port is planned), but you can follow the development process with a cheesy grin on your face until then.

triple-p.gifTriple Town Times Two - Triple Town has been going strong for some time, receiving several updates from developer Spry Fox that add new content and new bonuses to nab via in-app purchases. The latest update includes a brand new mode titled Lakes. Lakes adds, of all things, lake blocks that support structures but not bears, making them serve as a sort of placeholder for future expansions. There's also a new decorative theme you can purchase, just in case the current look seems a little drab. For a full rundown, check out our Triple Town review.

denzel-p.gifRun Denzel, Run - An upcoming mobile game from Labpix Studios, Denzel is a 2D endless running game based on the 2011 London Riots. Denzel is a 13 year old boy who steps outside of his home to find the streets filled with rioters. As he goes about his business, Denzel realizes the police are giving chase, spurring him to make a run for it. The dev team has worked hard to capture the atmosphere of London, going so far as to watch hours upon hours of footage from the riots and incorporate accurate architecture.

tennis-p.gifTennis in the (Android) Face - We can always use a little more tennis in our faces. 10tons' fantastic arcade physics game Tennis in the Face is now available for Android as well as iOS. Explodz is an evil company with an evil product. Pete Pagassi is a former tennis pro whose life was ruined by their energy drink. Now he's out to stop them. By hitting everyone with tennis balls! Check out our Tennis in the Face review for more info, then go look at Clowns in the Face, because you know you wanna.


(9 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Hummingbird Game

HopefulNebulaThere are three facts you should know about hummingbirds: a group of them is called a choir; they're the only non-insects that can hover; and they travel in packs to avoid their mortal enemies, the wasps. All right, so that last one is made-up. Or it was, until Bruneras published Hummingbird, his new action game where you play a mother hummingbird who leads her babies to the nest.

Hummingbird GameThe controls are fairly simple: tap repeatedly on the left side of the screen to fly left and on the right side of the screen to fly right. Hold on one side of the screen and tap repeatedly on the other to fly straight up. The babies (and most of your other allies) will follow you around when you touch them, but will abandon you if they touch a wasp. Touching a wasp yourself will cost you a life and scatter tiny green and red feathers all over. (Sad face.) For bonus points — which you'll need to unlock all the level packs — drink from all the flowers you find growing on the lovely scenery. You also get more points for leading more babies to the nest at once.

Learning to navigate is a challenge at first, but once you get the hang of it, you'll be zipping around collecting baby hummingbirds and butterflies and bats in no time. Thankfully, Hummingbird Game is untimed, so you can take as much time as you want to admire the gorgeous artwork and the little details that truly make this game shine. (Each type of animal moves differently! You can fly around the title screen! Baby ruby-throated hummingbirds really are brown!) There are a few flaws: a way to select individual levels within a stage would be wonderful, as would an in-game volume control. (The sound and music are lovely, but I'm not sure the other passengers on the bus would agree.) Soon enough, you'll find yourself cursing the wasps as you try to get just one more dragonfly into your little avian entourage, and wondering how your favorite mobile device ever lived without this wonderful little game.

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.


  • Currently 4.4/5
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Rating: 4.4/5 (90 votes)
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Wayward

satoriCarry on, my wayward sooo-o-on! Whether it's from belting out prog-rock standards way too loud at 2 a.m., a mugging after having a night of one drink too many, or just plain getting shipwrecked, the protagonist of Unlok's new crafting survival adventure Wayward (currently in BETA) definitely isn't in Kansas anymore... but that's only good news for you! You wake up on a desert island with no recollection of what happened, nothing but a few shoddy tools to your name, and you're thinking what we'd probably all be thinking in a situation like that: TREASURE! It's going to take a whole lot of fortitude to make it, but with a bit of ingenuity and plenty of raw natural resources just laying around you'll be throwing together everything but coconut radios before you know it.

WaywardMovement is via the [arrows], though the mouse option is there as well if that's your preference. For inventory and crafting management, it's mouse all the way as you use and slot your vast array of items and equipment. Everything including the combat is turn-based. Crafting aficionados are going to be thrilled with this system. Recipes for which you've got all the items will display at the top of your list, with the rest greyed out. Each recipe tells you what you'd need to craft it, and hovering the mouse over it will also highlight what you've got in your inventory to make it happen. There are no levels, classes or experience points here. Using skills gradually improves them, and you'll occasionally learn relevant new crafting recipes in the process.

WaywardDeath is permanent, so don't expect to be taking your settlement or items with you, though you'll keep any recipes you learned. Unlok's site features a Save / Load add-on for the previous beta version of the game, but as of this writing it appears to be outmoded by the latest beta release so for now it's probably better to leave a browser tab open for it. And do take notice, Wayward is still in beta. It's been exceptionally stable when we played through it though, and the only problems we encountered beyond the Save / Load modding were mild latency and a tendency for equipment being slotted not to register with the mouse the first time. Which is pretty darn good for a game this complex still being in beta, and we definitely wanted to bring you its phenomenally detailed crafting system. Wayward is available for all the major operating systems, and probably several brands of toasters as well, so you have no reason for not playing it! All crafting and survival buffs, just cross out the rest of your weekend now.

Play Wayward

WindowsWindows:
Download

Mac OS XMac OS X:
Download

LinuxLinux:
Download for 32-bit systems
Download for 64-bit systems


(13 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Ark 22

satoriYou knew it would happen, but were utterly powerless to prevent it. When a routine colonization mission goes awry and your ship bites down hard onto the vast frozen tundra of the wrong alien world, its supply of construction materials scattered broadly across the unfamiliar landscape, what remains of the crew have formed tiny village communities around whatever they've happened to salvage in their vicinity. It's up to you to establish contact with these tiny tribes and reunite the fragments of your advanced civilization as you gradually learn more about the unique and subtle menace at work in this strange new land — and your own personal influence on a force whose nature and destiny are warped around and bound inextricably to your own. An intricately-detailed game world meets classic SNES-era gameplay in srehpog's Zelda-like action-adventure, Ark 22.

Ark 22Handling is also pretty SNES-like, using the [arrow] keys, [z] [x] and [c] for most options, [enter] to confirm menu options and [spacebar] to slash. Coffee of various types is a consistent theme throughout the game, and it actually recovers your hit points. It's not only dispensed from machines, but — in a glorious example of "Nintendo logic" — also dropped by the mice that wander around the planet's surface and dungeon. Some mice will drop ammo cartridges as well. Space Advice: If you ever go to another planet and the mice are scurrying around drinking endless cups of coffee and packing ammo clips, you're almost certainly not at your intended destination.

Ark 22You'll trek through the world discovering more about the main plotline as you progress, but interspersed throughout are various mini-games, side-quests, and dungeons where both your deft reflexes and your puzzle-solving abilities will most certainly be taxed. In fact Ark 22 has been consistent in terms of player response as being a couple notches too difficult for most, and some of the boss monsters are tougher than you'd encounter in a conventional title. But it's been around for years now, accruing a loyal following of casual gamers. Ark 22 is a difficult game to put distinctly into one category. It plays like Zelda, but the logic puzzles in some of the dungeons are nothing to snooze through. There are mini-games, but the rewards of playing them are vital to the overall plot. Upgrading your equipment through NPC interaction also figures in, but it's not quite an upgrade game. Ark 22 is really its own unique indie cross-genre creation, with its own sense of challenge level, and whether you love it or you don't is going to be a very personal assessment as well. Either way, what everyone can agree on is that with years in the making Ark 22 features a thoroughly-developed game world and storyline, presented with a puckish, lighthearted sense of humour that makes it a pleasure to encounter.

WindowsWindows:
Get the free full version.

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


  • Currently 4.6/5
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Rating: 4.6/5 (22 votes)
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Sorcery

JohnBNew from inkle studios, the team that brought the interactive novel Frankenstein to iOS in 2012, Steve Jackson's Sorcery! is a digital re-imagining of the Fighting Fantasy roleplaying gamebooks. You don't have to be a fan of the classic series to enjoy Sorcery!, nor do you have to be an avid reader (or even own a pair of dice). You just need a little bit of curiosity and a love of interactive stories.

SorceryThe basic layout of Sorcery! puts you in the shoes of an adventurer striking out on a big quest. That quest unfolds one set of choices at a time, allowing you to decide how events play out and where you explore on the map. Heading through the town and out into the wilderness, you move from location to location by drawing a path on the overworld map, just like moving a board game piece. When you hit a new location the inkle-style narrative begins. Read the events that transpire, then make your decision by tapping one of the options below. Choices direct the story and provide you with different items, outcomes and challenges, all leading to more exciting stuff just down the road.

Whereas inkle studios' previous release was mostly text and artwork, Sorcery! includes a wider variety of experiences. Many of the choices you make will involve using items or casting/learning spells, and don't forget to carry enough rations to keep your stamina high. Combat is just the right level of excitement and plays out with you sliding your character to choose an attack. Slide to the left to go on the defense, or slide right to attempt more powerful (and more exhausting) attacks. It's a bit like rock-paper-scissors, only with goblins and axes and spells.

SorceryAnalysis: Sorcery! is a very well-balanced example of hybrid storytelling. It effortlessly combines choice-based text options with combat, spell casting, light inventory management, and a strangely compelling board game-style overworld that's ripe for exploration. None of these elements are relied upon too heavily, and even the text itself is presented in small, digestible chunks. Perfect for anyone who avoids excessive reading in their video games.

Sorcery's foray into modern-style interactive fiction is very accessible. Having a minimal HUD is strangely comforting, even if the information it carries isn't always urgent. The RPG elements are just strong enough to make you take notice, but the story still takes center stage. Sorcery! has a definite old-style flavoring to its texts, but it's highly enjoyable with a lot of fun interactions. It's a little less literature and a little more game, but the balance is maintained elegantly and should appeal to a wider audience than just interactive fiction fans.

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.


(5 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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TV Farm 2

Starchild There's something to be said for owning a farm. You get plenty of fresh air, there's lush nature all around you and bluebirds land on your shoulder to sing for you while you happily go about your business. On the other hand, there's mud, hard work, droughts, locust swarms and not a single opera house in sight. Luckily, there is a middle ground: if you're curious to know what it's like to be a farmer, but you don't want to ruin your new shoes, here's TV Farm 2, the new time-management farming simulation from A2 Entertainment.

TV Farm 2 The story goes like this: you are taking part in a reality show with a bunch of other contestants. You are given five farms one after another, each in more difficult conditions, and the goal is to make them all thrive by completing various tasks. If you succeed, you get your own farm (provided you aren't sick and tired of agriculture by the end of the competition). You are given your first location and a few workers and you're left to your own devices. The gameplay is simple enough – at the beginning of every level, you have a list of available resources and requirements. Each stage is equipped with a field where you plant your fruits, veggies & other leafy stuff, as well as a number of buildings which use resources to make all sorts of products. Finishing the level within a time limit will get you more points for upgrades. To do this, you must quickly develop a course of action, which includes planting, constructing and sending out a helicopter to get you the items you can't produce yourself.

TV Farm 2TV Farm 2 is a casual sort of time-management game, meaning that you do have a timer, but the gameplay isn't as bustling as you'd expect if you've played other farming simulations. It's fine if you decide to put your feet up, forget about the time and just try to build and upgrade all your assets before moving on to the next level. Your crops stay put until you decide to harvest them; the finished products are automatically transported to the warehouse, so you don't have to worry about them disappearing if you don't pick them up quickly enough. Some levels might feel a bit too slow, but it's still a welcome addition to the genre for those of us who prefer a more relaxed pace. The different settings for your farms ensure variety and challenge, as every farm has its own types of plants and products, so you'll be making ice cream in the oasis and teddy bears at the North Pole. What really sets TV Farm 2 apart from other similar games are the graphics, which are crisp and clean and more realistic than cartoonish. It's a joy to watch your sugar cane swaying in the breeze and your workers collecting flowers to make perfume. The buildings are a little more silly, but also quite imaginative – you can become mesmerized watching a machine put decorations on a Christmas tree.

TV Farm 2 feels entirely wholesome and organic, from birds chirping in the background to juicy tomatoes ripening in the sun. It's pretty much what we thought farms were like when we were kids, all shiny new trucks, fluffy sheep and hamburgers being churned out of magical buildings (in one word, awesome). And although playing it probably won't convince you to move out into the country, it will give you hours of healthy entertainment and it will keep your fingernails clean.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


  • Currently 2.8/5
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Rating: 2.8/5 (35 votes)
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Cell Kingdom

KimberlyYou are a scientist observing a whole new world under your microscope, and it's time to intervene with that world when bacteria start trying to take over, in Cell Kingdom, a match-3 game from Right Fusion, Inc. In the vein of Triple Town, get three of the same type of object next to each other to grow each cell into a higher level organism. The bottom of the screen indicates what your goal for the level is. Goals consists of combining cells until you get a specific number of the right color. On the first level for example, you need to create one yellow cell to continue. At the top center of the screen it shows you what the next three pieces will be so you can plan ahead.

Cell KingdomAs you progress, pesky pink bacteria will be able to move freely on the board to get in your way. If you can trap them for a turn, they will turn purple and become stagnant. The bacteria follow the same match-3 rules, and matching them is a great way to free up room on your board, and is sometimes the level goal which adds nice variation to the gameplay. Some levels give you wild cards or bombs. Drag and drop to use these, and purchase more in the store (along with basic cells) with gold earned in game.

While Cell Kingdom isn't exactly innovative, the crisp look and ease of play make this one to check out. And who doesn't like playing scientist every once in awhile?

Play Cell Kingdom

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.


(18 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Jelly no Puzzle

DoraQrostar's free indie sliding block puzzle game Jelly no Puzzle is a game I want to call hard, but hesitate to do so since that's typically like throwing a bucket of chum into the water where smug comments from other players are concerned. The goal is simply to combine all the jelly blocks on each level by right-clicking to move a jelly once space right, and left-clicking to move it one space left. They can't jump, but they'll fall off ledges and can stand on top of one another. Once a jelly touches another of the same colour, they merge into a larger one and can't be separated, which means that they may not fit into places they previously did... or block the way for others. You can click the little arrow at the bottom of the screen to undo up to three moves.

Jelly no PuzzleIf you've played Qrostar's Hanano Puzzle then you're already used to their way of bending your brain around what looks like it should be a supremely easy concept, and Jelly no Puzzle doesn't disappoint. The game has 40 levels and all of them are uniquely tricky... especially when the fixed blocks that can't be moved come into play. It's also easy on the eyes, with a colourful and cute design and a catchy soundtrack. Games like Jelly no Puzzle are proof positive that sometimes you get far more than what you pay for when it comes to freeware games, and with its devilishly clever level design and elegant execution is a sublime little puzzle that's more than worth your time.

WindowsWindows:
Download the free 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 (26 votes)
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Tipping Point

JohnBPotato chips and a TV. What more could a human being possibly want? Apart from the fulfillment of hopes and dreams and all that stuff, of course. It's been several years since Dan Russell-Pinson's point-and-click adventure series Tipping Point has graced our screens. The iPad debut bundles together all four previously released chapters along with a brand new fifth chapter that resolves the little cliffhanger from chapter four. Tipping Point is some of the best point-and-click adventuring you'll come across, and the story and setting make the game something truly special.

Tipping PointTipping Point's interface is very easy to use; simply touch, tap or drag items you want to interact with. Remove close-up views of things by tapping the small X in the corner, just like closing a browser window. Tipping Point starts with an innocent evening of television and slowly moves into more and more surreal territory. The plot is a wild ride, and while the puzzles are a little on the unusual side, they're never obtuse or illogical. If you ever do get stuck, the in-game hint system is a marvelous piece of work. Instead of spoiling the solution outright, hints get progressively more specific until the answer finally clicks in your head. Best of all, hints aren't refilled by annoying in-app purchases or other modern gimmicks. Just wait a few seconds and more help will be available!

Check out the rest of the Tipping Point series right in your browser!

Tipping Point has not only withstood the test of time, but it actually seems more impressive on the iPad than in a browser. The touch interface is fantastic, the visuals have been improved and look lovely on a shiny iPad screen, and there's plenty of puzzles to keep you busy for hours. Whether you're an old fan or brand new to the series, the mobile version of Tipping Point is a fantastic place to jump in. And hooray for chapter five!!!

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.


(8 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Shiver: Moonlit Grove

DoraIt might seem a little callous to take your stepfather Rene's job as village doctor right after he mysteriously vanishes, but the people need a physician, and after all, that's what he trained you to be... ever since he found you shivering on the side of the road twenty years ago. But when an attack by a wolf leaves you stranded in the road outside one very unusual town, you may learn there's more going on to Rene's disappearance, and yourself, than you ever imagined. Artogon Games delivers a fabulously creepy, atmospheric, and engrossing hidden-object adventure with Shiver: Moonlit Grove.

Shiver: Moonlit GroveThough played simply by clicking around like most other traditional games in the genre, Shiver: Moonlit Grove offers a few welcome twists that keep it feeling fresh. Early on, you'll craft a lantern that you can turn on and off with a click to light your way through dark places. Many hidden-object scenes also contain multi-step item puzzles you'll need to solve before you find what you need. One of the main annoyances is the game's tendency to load you down with piles and piles of items, which wouldn't be an issue if sifting back and forth through your inventory wasn't such a tedious pain when you have more than a handful of objects. It's the sort of game you can devote a lazy evening to, and the piles of puzzles make it a respectable length, especially since the game doesn't so much hold your hand as it does throw a bunch of items at you and give you a vaguely challenging stare while you try to figure it out.

Shiver: Moonlit Grove crafts a stunning atmosphere and an intriguing story through its design, but telegraphing its clues too loudly means you'll probably have figured everything out long before the big reveal. As creepy and moody as it can be, it's also just not very scary, nowhere near as frightening as Shiver: Vanishing Hitchhiker, or its tamer sequel, Poltergeist. It's a bit more story-heavy, with most revelations handled in flashbacks, and with better pacing between the puzzle-heavy parts would be a surefire winner. As it is, Shiver: Moonlit Grove is a gorgeous, melancholy adventure sure to give a chill or two, and fans of werewolves and drama will want to give the demo a try if they're looking for a meaty experience.

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.


  • Currently 4/5
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Rating: 4/5 (81 votes)
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Aqua Boy

kyhIt's a fish! It's a submarine! No, it's Aqua Boy! Okay, so maybe Duncan Fenn's action adventure title has nothing to do with superheroes, but that doesn't stop the titular protagonist from trying to save the day. This metroidvania-style game puts you in the shoes of a boy traveling underwater with his monkey when the devious primate sabotages the submersible for his own ends. Now it's up to you to retrieve your scattered gear and stop the simian's evil plans!

kyh_aquaboy_screenshot.pngInspired by Bit Blot's 2007 title, Aquaria, Fenn has created a pared down aquatic exploration experience. Control the movements of your orange-suited fellow with [WASD] and his pea shooter with either the mouse or [arrow] keys. While most of the creatures you'll encounter are enemies, there are a few allies around who help point you towards upgrades, lost equipment and even secret passages. But don't worry too much about needing their aid, Aqua Boy is on the easy side for games of this genre, and you can plow through from beginning to end with few deaths. Now whether "few" is 5 or 134 is something you'll have to find out.

Play Aqua Boy


  • Currently 4.4/5
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Rating: 4.4/5 (173 votes)
| Comments (12) | Views (338)

Fear Less!

AliceLittle girls and big bad wolves and haunting dreams... sounds like your average creepy fairytale fare, right? But Fear Less!, a new jump and run game by Innomin and Atpalicis, takes a surprising focus on personal empowerment, with a protagonist who resolves to become stronger instead of cowering under her blankets. After all, it's only a nightmare.

Fear Less!Race through the gloomy forest, dodging obstacles, grabbing every coin you can reach, and fighting off the local fauna with your trusty sword. Fall behind and Death will collect you, complete with a ghastly little animation— but buy yourself some upgrades, and you'll have a better chance next time. If you're up for the challenge, there are plenty of achievements to be earned as well.

Fear Less! isn't very long, and sometimes it can be a bit opaque. It's not very obvious how to reach the ending, and it really could have stood to display some signs of progress during runs. But no question about it: this is a charming, sugary treat of a game in terms of atmosphere. The art is simultaneously adorable and unsettling, giving a wonderful feel for the protagonist's personality even though she barely speaks, and the music is so catchy you might just have to download it. And while the gameplay is simple, it can be addictive; even when I didn't know how to win, I didn't think for a moment about giving up. Give it a try— with enough persistence, you can triumph over your fears!

Play Fear Less!


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Link Dump Fridays

DoraCandy and intrigue await the brave souls who venture beneath JiG Mountain, wherein lie slumbering plumbers, mighty schoolgirls, world-shaping warriors... and... LITERATURE!

News and Previews

Candy BoxLollipop, Lollipop... Have you unlocked the Candy Box yet? aniwey's webtoy might look simple, and even boring, but patient players will be rewarded with one of the most unique, fun and funny experiences you can have in your browser. Just make sure you don't have any work left to do for today... you've been warned, and we're not responsible! Especially not when it comes to Candy Box! Hard Mode...

Super Mario Bros. CrossoverIt's-a Me, Crossover! You remember Super Mario Bros. Crossover, right? It's a free browser platformer by Exploding Rabbit where you can play the classic Mario game you know and love with a myriad of characters all from that classic era of gaming... each with their unique moves and abilities intact. It's been a while since we last had an update on it, but that doesn't mean the developer has been sitting idle, and with this trailer for version 3.0 have revealed the game is getting a whole lot bigger when the update lands somewhere in May-June. In addition to more levels and skins, the game will now offer different variations of stages depending on what level of difficulty you're playing on, which adds a ton of replay value all by itself. This won't be the last update the game receives, but it's going to be a pretty special one, and we can't wait!

Black ClosetMystery, Minions, and Romance Hanako Games puts out some of the best visual novel sims around, but their new upcoming game Black Closet looks a little... different! You're attending an all-girls school full of the future movers and shakers of society, but instead of learning how to curtsey and drink with your pinky finger extended, you'll be managing a team of "minions", young women working for you to make sure everything at the school goes smoothly... which includes partaking in a lot of mystery and subterfuge to sniff out trouble, danger, and other mayhem before it happens, and set things right before your reputation suffers. Presented in a visual novel style mixed with a bit of board gaming, it reminds me a bit of Dangerous High School Girls in Trouble, but with the potential for more romance and character development that could make it even deeper. Keep your eye on this one!

Kickstarter/IndieGoGo Projects

Dog Sled SagaWho's a Good Boy? WHOOOOO'S A GOOD BOY?! Puppies, random generation, racing, and team-building? Yeah, I can get behind that! Planned for PC, Mac, iOS and Android, Dan FitzGerald's upcoming racing sim Dog Sled Saga looks like it could be something unique and special. Just like what it says on the tin, you'll be trying to climb your way to the top of a dog sled racing circuit, but the emphasis is also on training and team building too... and here your team consists of ERMAHGERD, PUPPERS who you'll train and outfit yourself. The actual racing is going to be a fairly simple reflexive affair, the kind you'll pick up and play whenever you have a spare moment, so combine that with a slick retro design and the addictiveness of building and managing your own dog team, and this could be a real winner.

SiSSYFiGHT 2000I'M CALLING A TEACHER! Way back in 2006, when dinosaurs roamed the Earth and we had to scribe our articles on tablets made from baked mammoth dung, there was a little multiplayer gamed called SissyFight 2000 that was all about playing a schoolyard brat and doing your best to bully other players in the way only a bunch of little kids with lollipops can manage. It vanished, unfortunately, but there's some serious unexpected necromancy at work, and now the original creators are back and trying to revive it with their SiSSYFiGHT 2000 Returns Kickstarter project! The game is going to be entirely recoded in HTML5 instead of its native Shockwave, and will feature new art and player customisations on top of the quirky gameplay you know and love. Sound good? Then check it out, you sissy!

Son of NorAwwwww Yeah, Environmental Warfare Remember when we talked about upcoming indie RPG Son of Nor? Of course you do, because you absorb and cherish every word I dribble at you! Well, now's your chance to (almost!) get your hands on it with the newly launched Kickstarter. The game isn't out until next year on PC, Mac, and Linux, but developers are seeking funds to help finish it up. If you love the idea of shaping the land to your will and drowning your foes under a crush of sand, this is the game that will have you sighing dreamily while shooting it coy, flirtatious glances. Make sure to check it out!

Miscellaneous

Story BundleRead a Book! The Story Bundle is a site where you can periodically pick up themed batches of eBooks on the cheap, and if you're interested in videogames beyond a sometimes hobby, their newest bundle might be right up your alley. There are ten books this time, all focusing on games and the culture surrounding them, from movies, to violence, indie, and more. There's no minimum, but $10.00USD gets you the three bonus books, and if you'd love to explore the history and meaning surrounding games, this should be a no-brainer to pick up!

Pirates of Game Dev TycoonYarrrr, That Be Some Irony Whatever your personal feelings about piracy, it's hard not to be amused at the events unfolding around Greenheart Games' Game Dev Tycoon, which was recently released both legally online... and as a "cracked" torrent. The catch? The torrent was released by the developers themselves, who had coded that version to essentially become playable after a few hours by informing pirate players that their simulated company was essentially unable to make ends meet because too many people were pirating their game rather than buying it. As Indie Statik reports, the reaction has been rather comical, with players possessing these pirated copies bemoaning how their company is sinking because of pirates, and in some cases, even coming down on those simulated pirates for pirating to begin with. Creative pirate counter-measures aren't new, but because of its setting, Game Dev Tycoon has managed to present its point in a very clever and unique way... though whether this causes anyone to rethink their policies remains to be seen.

DeliriumCarrot and Stick Parental Advisory: Link contains some nudity and gore. This trailer for a game called Delirium looks pretty sweet... so it's too bad it's all a cruel, cruel lie. Created by Ringling College students Edgard Ortega, Connor McCampbell and Gudjon Larusson as part of their thesis, it showcases a beautiful and surreal yet nightmarish concept for a game about being trapped within the twisted landscape of your own mind. Presumably the actual game would theoretically involve more than running around naked admiring the landscape while you Kurt Wagnered your way around, but still. Impressive. The design is stunning and impressive... and hey, you never know. It worked for Swimming Anime.

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!


(16 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Star Command

DoraIf you've ever wondered just how that well-worn butt groove in the captain's chair on a starship would feel beneath your keister, wonder no more since WarBalloon's addictive iOS simulation Star Command wants nothing more to put you at the helm. Everything seems hunky-dory when you're made the captain of a brand new ship in Star Command fleet, but no sooner have you learned the ropes than you suddenly find yourself accused of a crime you didn't commit, and at the center of a conspiracy that might cost you your life. With an entire galaxy teeming with alien races, each with their own agendas, and an entire army on your tail, what hope does one lone starship with a skeleton crew and a rookie commander have?

Star CommandIn a lot of ways, Star Command's gameplay closely echoes FTL: Faster Than Light. You hire crew, assign them to various rooms so they can improve the associated functions, and direct them around the ship to deal with hazards like fire or enemies as they appear. A room needs to have a crew member assigned to it to work, so always make sure you have someone manning the important things like weapons, and remember you can reassign anyone to anything on the fly... though of course they won't be as good at their new station as a crew member who's been working it for a while. Throughout the course of the game, they'll level up by taking part in missions and battles, growing more capable... unless of course they die, in which case all you can do is replace them with someone new. Everything from building and upgrading rooms to hiring crew takes tokens, available in red, yellow, or blue flavour, and since they're gained from successfully defeating enemy ships, you'll want to take swings at foes whenever possible.

During ship battles, weapons and other abilities like dodging slowly power up, and when full, can be activated by tapping the appropriate icon at the bottom of the screen. In most cases, you'll need to take out an enemy's shields before you can start plugging away at their hull... though of course they'll be trying to do the same to you! When (not if) you find your ship invaded, every crew member can be attacked, but only your valiant red shirts can fight back, and only your blue-coated science team can heal anyone. As a result, you have to pay attention to everything at once, manually directing your people to respond to threats and tasks while you keep an eye on your charging weapons. If your ship gets damaged, you'll need to send a yellow engineer to repair it, but watch out! As well as having the potential to set the unwary on fire in a fashion I would call morbidly hilarious, explosions can even rip holes in the hull of your ship, allowing any nearby to be sucked into space and instantly killed. Bummer if it's a handsome young ensign with a twinkle in his eye. Game-ending if it's your captain!

Star CommandAnalysis: Make no mistake, Star Command is one comely little gem. The art is beautiful and colourful, packing detail in even the tiniest objects, and the soundtrack is not only exceptional but perfectly fits any given situation. There's just something about a momentous orchestral piece that makes you want to laugh like a maniac as dozens of expertly timed laser bursts rain down on your enemies. Aside from the structural similarities to FTL: Faster Than Light, Star Command obviously takes a lot of cues from an unknown little property you've probably never heard of called Star Trek, right down to crew classes and associated colours. I may or may not have spent an unhealthy amount of time ticking through potential recruits until I could perfectly recreate the crew of the USS Enterprise and assign them all to their proper stations. You know... mostly proper. Engage, Ensign Picard!

Star CommandUnfortunately, the tooltip tutorial is so woefully inadequate that it leaves out some of the most important basics, leaving you to fuddle through on your own and try to figure out how to fire lasers, how to earn ammo and why, and so forth. Moreover, It feels like the difficulty curve is more of a difficulty cliff, and after the first two missions things get absolutely ruthless. Managing your entire crew quickly gets hectic, especially since they have such poor pathfinding and are, to be frank, stupid. Occasionally reds will stand and obliviously take fire from an enemy within range behind them unless you turn around, and engineers will stand around picking their nose when something is broken a few steps away. The ability to create squads of crew members so you can direct more than one around at the same time would have made an enormous difference. It helps to know to really fill out your crew as much as possible with a handful of reds dedicated to responding to invasions and a couple engineers on call for whenever things get set on fire. Like other crew members. Again... hilarious.

None of this makes the game bad, however, just something that could have done with some streamlining for useability. It's not meant to be an easy game, and every battle will require your full attention and involvement. You need to have your crew in constant movement, especially when battling intruders, and neglecting the screen even for a moment can mean half your staff gets sucked out into space because you didn't notice the enemy targeting the wall beside them. These make for the sort of satisfying victories that make a game memorable, especially against the backdrop of the backstabbing main campaign. You'll need to spend some time getting the hang of those, specifically those weapons-related minigames, but if you like harrying real-time simulation action, Star Command is well worth checking out. There's a wealth of love in its design, and fans of sci-fi space opera intrigue with challenging gameplay will love it right back. Even if there's no option to send Ensign Riker down to woo the alien queen into supporting you. Oh well. Maybe next update?

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 2.1/5
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Rating: 2.1/5 (50 votes)
| Comments (2) | Views (73)

Drop

KinetikaiCreated by Markus "Notch" Persson (the mind behind a certain popular crafting game featuring mines) in just 48 hours for Ludum Dare's minimalism theme, Drop is a simple experimental typing game with a trippy visual twist. To play, you just type the advancing letters before they reach the edge of the screen, pressing [spacebar] or [enter] to submit typed letters for points. All while the fabric of reality bends and warps around you.

DropSpiraling down into the infinite alphabet abyss is actually a lot more fun than it sounds. The mechanics behind Drop are nothing particularly new but its simplicity and visual intrigue make it worth a couple of tries. Of course, there's probably some deeper meaning behind it all, as you spell words like "lucid," "eternal," "mind" and "deconstruct." And each time you fail you're greeted with flashing red letters spelling things like "angry," "afraid" or "bitter." What's the deep psychology underneath it all? Who knows. But hey! It's a fun typing game.

Play Drop (Notch)


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Rating: 3.8/5 (42 votes)
| Comments (2) | Views (41)

Turbo Rally

Starchild When I was little, my brother and I used to race toy cars. We'd make tracks by laying down crayons as outlines, and we deliberately chose bumpy surfaces to make the races more interesting. If you did something similar when you were a kid, Turbo Rally, a new racing game by TurboNuke, should instantly take you back to those times.

Turbo Rally Turbo Rally consists of a series of races around the world. Each one offers you three different time limits, which earn you one, two or three stars. You must get at least one star to be able to unlock the next race. Use the [WASD] or [arrow] keys to drive, [C] or [M] for the handbrake, and [X] or [N] to activate boosts and away we go! The tracks usually alternate between asphalt and gravel and have obstacles like traffic cones and barrels to slow you down. There are also rows of red tokens which add to your score and boost meter, as well as single orange tokens, which give you a short, powerful boost. Your score translates to prize money you can use to upgrade existing cars or to buy new ones. The good news is that you get some cash even if you fail an event, so you can make up for your woeful inadequacy by getting helpful upgrades.

The controls behave quite well for a game of this calibre. The difference between surfaces is tangible, and the handbrake really comes in handy for keeping your car under control. The graphics won't knock your socks off, but it's tiny colourful 3D cars in a realistic environment, and what more could you ask for in a flash game? The tracks are challenging, and there are lots of achievements to earn. Even if you aren't a fan of rally races, give Turbo Rally a chance, but be warned – once you start, you won't want to stop.

Play Turbo Rally


  • Currently 4.6/5
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Rating: 4.6/5 (759 votes)
| Comments (349) | Views (9,649)

Candy Box!

DoraThis is going to be hard.

Because how do you talk about aniwey's Candy Box without ruining it? Part webtoy, part wonder factory, it starts off and seems so simple. You've got a counter that accumulates candies every second, and the option to either scarf them all down, or throw them on the ground Lonely Island style. And that's it, right? Wrong! But we can't tell you what else happens, because that would spoil the wonderful, weird surprise that is Candy Box!, and a big part of the joy of aniwey's creative creation is figuring out not only what's just happened... but how to trigger what happens next. You might think it's simple, but you'd be wrong... unless you meant simply delightful. So just be patient. Leave the game running in another tab or window and check back on it often, and experiment. Make sure to write down the unique password when you save your game so you can pick it up again later! It's absolutely the sort of unexpectedly fun and unique experience the internet could use a lot more of. So go on. Give it a try. You know you're dying to know... what's in the baaaaaa-haaaaaax?!

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Fez


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Rating: 4.3/5 (36 votes)
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Fez

DoraLittle dude, little adventure, right? Wrong! Gomez may be tiny, but he's got a big destiny... not that he knows it. As far as he's concerned, he's just your average, ordinary 2D critter living in a 2D world... right up until the village elder bestows a great power and a greater secret... Gomez's 2D world isn't 2D at all, and with the power of the mystical Fez, he can rotate through it to discover the secrets hidden at every angle! Which, you know, is going to come in handy since the whole world is going to end unless he tracks down every single piece needed to rebuild a cosmic cube. Polytron Coporation's beloved indie XBLA hit finally makes the leap to PC, and drags players on a massive puzzling, platforming adventure full of charm, creativity, and wonder.

FezYou can play using either the keyboard or a USB controller, and I personally preferred the latter. Gomez has all the usual platforming abilities, like jumping and climbing, but once he dawns the titular mystical chapeau, he gains the power to rotate the world around him like a cube, allowing him to see every side and secret. Additionally, the change in perspective can be all you need to bring a ledge or platform that was previously out of reach close at hand. Most every area will have fragments of golden cube hidden about... eight of them will make a whole cube piece, and many doors will require a certain amount of these pieces to open. Secret hidden anti-cubes count towards that cube total, but will require both some puzzle-solving and keen observation to track down.

Of course, it's not just you and your little legs. You've got a floating magical sidekick who will provide helpful information from time to time, and things like bombs can be nabbed to blow open certain pathways. Most of the challenge, however, comes from figuring out how to change your perspective of the world to your advantage. You're not just looking at something from a different angle, you're actually moving the world around you, which means that a ledge that was out of reach just a moment ago could suddenly be within your grasp if you swing the world the right way. You can't save manually, but the game autosaves for you like mad, and chances are you won't need a manual save anyway because the game has no real hazards to be found other than bottomless pits, and even then you'll just teleport back up to the last ledge you were on. Just because nothing wants to eat your face doesn't mean the game is easy, however, and with piles of puzzles and a whole world sprawling out in front of you, you have your work cut out for you.

FezAnalysis: We're so used to being the hero in games these days that it's easy to forget how setting out on an adventure should feel. Awe-inspiring, breath-taking, bigger than us, and maybe a little scary. Like taking your uncle's sword in A Link to the Past that rainy night, or Ness stepping outside his home in Earthbound and not knowing when or if he's coming back. Fez gets back to all that. Gomez's newly expanded world not only feels big, but also beckons you to dive right into it and explore because there is something literally around almost every corner. Few games capture that drive of, "Ooooh, what's over there," and fewer still try. As a result, Fez is one of those games that's best suited to one of those days where you just want to relax and sink right into something. The game has more than a few surprises up its sleeve, and likes to shake you up when you least expect it. Sometimes you'll find that a door you thought would lead you back the way you came suddenly deposits you somewhere much creepier, or that there have been clues to the puzzle you've been agonizing over right under your nose all along.

FezNavigation is, at first, sort of overwhelming. Keeping track of it all seems impossible, and even if you know where you're going, Gomez's every movement starts to feel slow enough that backtracking any significant distance can become a chore. Think Lester the Unlikely, pre-invigorating smooch, but cute and whimsical enough that it's hard to really be mad at him. Jumping can also feel fiddly, with the difference between landing safely on your target and plummeting off into eternity a barely discernible step or two. Admittedly, there's no real menace to make you feel pressed for time or to watch your step, since even blowing yourself up or getting sucked out of reality will pop you right back to where you were a moment later. This might not provide enough challenge for some players, especially since most obstacles and puzzles are simply overcome by rotating your screen until you spot the way through.

Thus, Fez is not a game for the impatient, or those of us who demand a whole lot of action. Instead, it's a game for players who want to remember what it feels like to explore something bigger than themselves, that delight you get from unexpected discovery. The game is, unfortunately as of this writing, a little buggy on first release, and an eventual Mac release is still somewhere in the foggy, unspecified future. Still, these are issues that will be addressed, and as a whole Fez is still well worth experiencing. Its world design is gorgeous, packed with details large and small, and a rich atmosphere that sucks you in. If you love the thrill of discovering new areas and taking in new scenery, not to mention the satisfaction of hunting everything you need for 100% completion, this is definitely one to throw yourself into. Especially since I have it on very good authority that fezzes are cool.

WindowsWindows:
Get the full version (GOG.com)

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


  • Currently 3.5/5
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Rating: 3.5/5 (25 votes)
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Quantum Corps

TrickyQuantum Corps is a fast-and-furious run-and-gun retro platformer by HypnoHustler. In the post-apocalyptic future of 2002, Neo-Detroit is facing a terrible crisis. Ruffians across the fair city have packed themselves into the abandoned factory district, churning out barrels of the new designer drug du jour, "Illegal Substance". Seeing the police helpless, the government forms a new strike team to combat the menace. Gifted with powers over time and gravity, these super-soldiers are all that stands between the gangs and their total domination of the city. You are one of them, a member of the Quantum Corps!

Quantum CorpsAfter level selection, your corp member will charge in guns-ablazing with the [X] key. He's weighted down with his heavy lasers, but [C] will reverse gravity, allowing him to clear those inconvenient bottomless pits. Also, if the action gets too furious, you can slow down time by holding [Z] (though doing so deactivates all bonus stars in a level). Blast bad guys and their equipment, while collecting stars and hostages and dodging bombs and missile firing laser grids. Occasionally, you'll come upon a Corp Clone, who, when collected, will join your pursuit, mirroring your movements and gunfire. Complete all 30 levels and you'll show them that winners truly don't use drugs!

Quantum Corps is definitely a game for those who thought Canabalt and VVVVV had nowhere nearly enough guns or exploding vats. It wears its faux-80s aesthetic well. and the addition of the time-slowing mechanic helps mollify the sharp learning curve typical of the genre. (It must be from all the quantum!) The mechanics it's based around are a little simple, but all in all, Quantum Corps will keep shooter fans gleefully speed-running... and slow-running, too!

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Rating: 3.3/5 (100 votes)
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Vast

Starchild You know what it's like when you go to a foreign country and you don't speak the language? And then you take hats and keys and scarves from some people and give them to others, and they all jump with excitement? No? Well, maybe that's just me. But if you want to know what it's like, try Vast by Johannes Jensen and Takorii, a strangely alluring experimental minimalist game in which you are the only red thing among lots of black things.

Vast It starts out very simply: hold down the left mouse button to walk and explore your surroundings. When you encounter another person, click on their speech bubble to interact with them. Now, this is where it gets tricky – you see, they all talk in symbols and you've left your English-to-alien dictionary at home. But you can tell from their body language that they aren't happy and, since you're a thoroughly decent chap (not to mention that you have nowhere else to go), you stop and try to help. They respond by either staying glum and uttering a single strange sign, or by giving you an item that starts dragging behind you, which you can then give to someone who needs it. The map in the bottom right corner is your best friend; it's rudimentary and stubbornly erases your footsteps behind you, but it will make your life much easier. On the other hand, if you like a challenge, try playing without looking at it and without swearing at the screen.

Vast is a little game with a big heart. It is stripped down to a bare minimum, and yet it gives you an impression of stumbling upon an entire tiny world. You feel like a stranger, what with your outlandish colour and all the noise you make when you walk. You don't know what the people are saying, but still you do your best to understand them because they seem to need a helping hand, and you feel all warm and fuzzy when you make them happy. For a game made in 72 hours, it sure has a lot to say about being kind to strangers. So next time you're on holiday in France, you might look at a mime and hate them a little less.

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  • Currently 3.7/5
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Rating: 3.7/5 (87 votes)
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Find the Escape-Men 51: in the Traffic Jam

DoraThey say into every life a little rain must fall, but I think we can all agree being trapped in your car for fifty freakin' miles in bumper to bumper traffic is no spring shower. No1Game has you tapped like a rat and the only way to escape is to Find the Escape-Men 51: in the Traffic Jam. Just click on the arrows to navigate (though you won't be going much of anywhere in your tiny compact) and check everywhere if you want to find all ten of the escape men hidden throughout the car!

Find the Escape-Men 51: in the Traffic JamAs nightmarish as it is to imagine being stuck in place for fifty miles, you have to admit that having a car full of weird little secrets would liven things up. It's not so much a difficult game as it is a "check every nook and cranny" game, and players hoping for more of a mental exercise in regards to puzzles may go away disappointed. Especially since the lack of a changing cursor means clicking about on every single surface at every single angle. It's a pleasantly quirky game, however, that does more to make you grin that it does adopt a thinker pose, and provides a silly break from your day... even if it is a short one.

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