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June 2013 Archives


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Rating: 4.6/5 (114 votes)
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Escape from the Bungalow

elleIn the midst of a very hot summer, the idea of vacationing in a whimsically furnished bungalow in the woods is an irresistible invitation to relax and unwind. Or so you would think. Yet in the travel scheme of Tesshi-e, all doors are to be looked at suspiciously—the door to this particular bungalow is no different. Yep. Locked! With no key in sight. Looks like it's time to Escape from the Bungalow! Before you can take off your shoes and kick back, you need to fix wobbly pictures, ask Mr. Birdy for clues, put objects to use and solve codes in an escape-the-room game that's bursting with Tesshi-e's ineffable charm.

Escape from the BungalowAlthough there is no cursor change to signal hotspots, navigation is smooth and easy. Click the corners of the screen to change your view and click on objects, or edges of furnishings, to get a closer look at that area. Any item you pick up can be examined through the "About Item" button and used by highlighting it before clicking where you want to use it, including on other inventory items. Puzzles vary from using objects to figuring out sequences and number codes. The subtitles as you explore (choose either English or Japanese before starting) will also help point you in the right direction. Should you need to step away for a mini-break from this escaping vacation, just utilize the save feature in the "Function" menu; this also comes in handy as you look for both endings, with and without a happy coin.

Once again delving into the charm of Tesshi-e's design is part of the delight in playing Escape from the Bungalow. The puzzles are the typical Tesshi-e fare yet, in this case, that's not a disappointment. Those familiar with this game designer's style of trickery will feel right at home and shouldn't be stumped...not for too long anyways. But there is trickery indeed and this little escape can be challenging, especially with some clues delivered in lightening speed, requiring quick note taking—and re-taking. With such beautiful surroundings, complete with music resembling a Kingdom Hearts medley, there is no sense of rush thus less frustration as you grapple with puzzles. For this reason, although getting out is the goal, the journey out is as much fun as the destination.

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  • Currently 3.8/5
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Rating: 3.8/5 (48 votes)
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Chick Hide and Seek 9

elleYuri's troupe of adorably cute baby birds wants you to cool off with a scoop of delicious ice cream and a game of Chick Hide and Seek 9. They're hiding all around the ice cream parlor, camouflaged by color or obscured by locked doors. Or the ever-effective method of hands over eyes ("You can't see me if I can't see you!"). Locate and click on each until you've gathered all ten and they'll reveal the secret code to escape-the-room. Without a changing cursor, you'll need to click liberally while using found objects and clues for the smattering of puzzles throughout. Just remember they are tiny peeps who can fit just about anywhere and the pixel hunt won't be unbearable. Happiest yet, it's perfectly sized for a short summery break or whenever you need a cuteness infusion. Can I get a collective Awww right now?

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Rating: 4.8/5 (136 votes)
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Ancient Greek Geometry

ArtbegottiWhat can you make using only circles and straight lines? Yes, you can cut a pie into a million slices, but when you've got to make the pie yourself using only two dots as your starting point, the challenge becomes much greater. That's the basic idea behind Ancient Greek Geometry, a webtoy by Nico Disseldorp that uses basic mathematical principles to spin basic drawing into an intriguing puzzle.

Ancient Greek GeometryYour only two tools when playing with Ancient Greek Geometry are a straightedge and a compass (the kind that looks like a giant pair of tweezers, not like a GPS's compass). Starting with two given points, you can build your design by drawing a line between two points (click and drag to connect them), or a circle that has one point as its center and another point along its circumference (click and drag to the appropriate radius). Believe it or not, you can construct a lot of shapes with these techniques, including triangles, squares, and the elusive pentagon. This webtoy gives you the choice of tackling these shape challenges within the suggested numbers of moves, or freely building your own designs. How complex you get is entirely up to you in this intriguing diversion.

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Rating: 4.5/5 (21 votes)
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Outer Wilds

JohnBOuter Wilds is a space exploration game currently under development by a team of students at USC. It's a wide-eyed stroll through your own sense of curiosity, handing you a ship and a solar system to explore led only by your inquiring mind. Maybe you'll mount an expedition to that strange looking watery planet you just passed? Maybe you'll land on an uninhabited chunk of rock and discover ruins beneath the surface? Or what's inside that comet, you wonder? Whatever you do, there's plenty to capture your imagination in this game, and you'll play it for hours just to see what you can uncover next.

Outer WildsOuter Wilds begins in the village where you learn to control the spaceship and get a bit of information about what's going on in the game's world. Controlling the ship is a simple matter of bumping the thrusters to move through space. Autopilot can do most of the work for you, but when it's time to land, switch viewpoints and guide yourself to the surface as gently as you can. Once there, disembark and wander around as much as you like. Your space suit has a limited jetpack feature and can fire probes that take pictures. Between that and your own insatiable inquisitiveness, you'll be amazed at what sort of things you can discover.

The rule of thumb in Outer Wilds is if you can see it, you can (and should) explore it. From gas giants to artificial satellites to massive angler fish, every celestial body offers something unique. There's no real goal in Outer Wilds, nor is there anything to collect, solve, defeat or fix. You just explore. Few games manage to communicate a sense of awe and wonder as well as Outer Wilds, and the environment it creates for you feels vast and innocent and is filled with ancient history. The game is still under heavy development, but as you'll see from this early release, Outer Wilds has definitely captured something special.

WindowsWindows:
Get the free full version

Mac OS XMac OS X:
Get the free full version

LinuxLinux:
Get the free full version


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Attack of the Spooklings

JohnBEver wanted to combine Fruit Ninja with Space Invaders? Pcaro Game Studio did, and so the team set to work to build Attack of the Spooklings, a game of endless fence protecting and enemy slashing. Attack of the Spooklings sends waves of enemies after you, and your only defense is to swipe like your life depended on it. Because it kinda does. Your virtual life, anyway.

Attack of the SpooklingsSpooklings are these squishy, toothy creatures who are good at one thing: swarming. Fortunately they're not too tough, and to knock them off this mortal coil all you have to do is swipe the screen. If a single one makes it to the wall at the bottom, it's game over. Spooklings like to attack in formations with the occasional one running off on its own. The key to getting a good score is swiping with long gestures to create combos, taking out entire groups with a single move. It also makes you feel like some sort of superhero whose power is being really good at drawing lines. Gotta start somewhere, right?

Patterns in Attack of the Spooklings get increasingly more complex, bumping up the challenge the longer you survive. The sheer number of foes also increases as you progress through the waves. It's a simple game, but the combination of pattern recognition and quick-fire swiping gives it that special something that makes you want to come back for more.

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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Maximus

JohnBMaximus is the sidescrolling beat-em-up iOS device owners have always wanted. Taking pages from brawlers like Golden Axe and Castle Crashers, this humorous take on the genre from Mooff Games does the nearly impossible by making touch screen controls actually work for an action game. Sounds crazy, right? It's not, and after spending some time with Maximus beating things up and gaining a few levels, you'll probably want to hunt up the Mooff Games folks and be all like "Are you a wizard?".

MaximusTo start out, pick one of the four heroes, each with their own particular fighting style and special moves. You then fight your way through nearly 20 levels of progressively more difficult enemies, ranging from skeletons with swords to sorcerers with magical staff thingies. Use the left side of the screen like an invisible joystick, sliding your thumb to move around the 2.5D landscape. The A and B buttons on the right serve as quick/weak and slow/strong attacks respectively. As you defeat foes you earn coins and experience, the former allowing you to increase your stats and the latter increasing your character's level so you can unlock new abilities.

Maximus is filled with pomp and theater, much to the game's favor. Everything about it is over-the-top and comical, but never at the expense of honest gameplay or challenging fights. Maximus keeps the brawling formula simple enough to work on a touch screen device without gutting it, and there are plenty of fantastic extras to keep you entertained, like rideable bears, boss vs. boss battles, and a survival arena. Whether you're an old school fan or just want to hit things with a board that has a nail in the end, you really can't go wrong with Maximus.

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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Totally Tiny Arcade

TrickyDudes and dudettes! Something totally untublar is happening down at The Galaxy Castle. Some kinda gnarly video virus has zapped its way into the computers arcade cabinet game things and making them act all bogus. Only one hero can make things rad again: Joystick Johnny! But will Johnny's mad skills be enough to save the Totally Tiny Arcade from utter destruction? Only you know for sure! Totally Tiny Arcade is a fun mega-remix of rapidfire retro arcade classics originally released by Joe Lesko's Flea Circus Games in 2007. However, it has just been released as freeware, and if you missed it the first time around (as a lot of people seemed to), this is the perfect time to jump in and prove who's king of the button-mashers!

Totally Tiny ArcadeThough there are several versions of the arcade to play through, the general goal remains the same: you must complete three rows of arcade games before time runs out, then face off against the video virus in a final showdown. Each row contains different games, and you must beat four of them to force the virus into the next row. On the first game you choose, you must beat one level, the second game will require two levels, the third game three levels, and the fourth will require fourth, including the special bonus virus level. Each row may have another unwitting arcader taking up space on the game you want to play, but you can announce that you "get next" by marking the occupied machine, though doing so requires that it must be the next game you play, by the unspoken rules of the arcade.

The games run the gamut of re-creations, parodies, facsimiles, reinterpretations, and fun new concepts. Generally, you beat each one by either destroying all enemies or filling up the progress bar at the top of the screen. You are racing the clock, however: every life you lose chips away at your timer, and once it runs out, one more mistake means game over. Each of the three arcades has a different mix of games, but whether you're chomping coins in Stoc Man, bonking heads in Clown's Revenge, or slaying dragons in Ninja 1999, you'll use the [WASD] or [arrow keys] to move, and [Spacebar]. [Ctrl], or [Enter] to fire. Finishing a game without losing a life means bonus points. Special items appear in the second and third levels of each game, and collecting five in a row without losing a life means big points. Once you've completed enough games, you'll be taken to the arcade's secret room, where you'll play the experimental prototype game that will show that digital dummy who's the bossest!

Totally Tiny ArcadeTotally Tiny Arcade manages to mix its enjoyable arcade fun with a ton of nostalgia and a punchy sense of humor, making for a nice trip to the old-school. Most of the minigames it offers should be pleasantly familiar to retro game fanatics. While more explicit instruction might have been helpful on the more obscure references (such as Astro Terrestrial, a strangely enjoyable riff on the infamous Atari 2600 ET title), none are so impenetrable as to not be master-able after a few tries. One not-so-great aspect is the occasional appearance of Johnny's girlfriend(?) who's only purpose is to "helpfully" point out aspects of the game he's playing in an annoying voice while obscuring the screen. The fact that this is the main female presence in the game makes one long for a "Joystick Jenny" option. Still, is Totally Tiny Arcade is a smart little title that makes the most of its clever premise? Fer sure!

WindowsWindows:
Download the free 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 (49 votes)
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Vortex Point 2

DoraSomething freaky is happening in the town of Vortex Point again, and that means it's time for our favourite motley crew of investigators to solve the case with their usual, er, finesse in the latest point-and-click adventure from Carmel Games, Vortex Point 2: Nensha. There's something fishy going on with a photo booth, to the tune of a mysterious masked figure showing up in photos and people going missing. The police think it's just a prank to get attention, but nobody's laughing, and it's up to you to get to the bottom of things before anyone else comes down with a bad case of the phantom strangles.

Vortex Point 2: NenshaWhen your cursor changes when you mouse over an object, that means you can click to interact and pick it up, and items appear in your inventory at the bottom of the screen. You can click on items and then somewhere on the screen to use them, or click on one item and then another to try to combine them. Your investigations are going to take you all over town, so make sure you follow every lead, no matter how weird or unlikely, and especially if it involves property damage. While Vortex Point 2 has what is actually a pretty intriguing storyline apart from some awkward dialogue, its biggest flaw is that it typically tends to offer little to no direction, and progression tends to come down to being a jerk, breaking things, and experimentation... Sherlock you ain't. But though it's short, it's got a clever story premise I would have liked to have seen expanded on, and hopefully this isn't the last visit we make to Vortex Point.

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  • Currently 4.3/5
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Rating: 4.3/5 (113 votes)
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Token Hero

DoraWhen the princess needs to be rescued by a brave hero (or heroine!) there's nothing to do but take up sword, shield, and... uh... scruffy white dog? And... match-3 gems? Wait... there's nothing about this in Tolkien at all! Undefined takes a cue from 1000000 to create the fast-paced addictive arcade game that is Token Hero! Rescue NPCs to join your cause, build an airship, and look at the clock and realise you should have been in bed two hours ago holy gooses.

Token HeroYour goal in each dungeon is to make it to the end before time runs out. At the bottom of the screen is a field filled with different tokens, and you can drag them around with the mouse however you like to create matched sets of three or greater. As you run down each dungeon corridor, different obstacles that require different matched tokens will appear in your way. Chests and doors need a certain amount of keys, while monsters need swords crossed to defeat them, and matching shields and hearts defends and heals you, respectively. Power-ups will be added to your inventory to the right of the screen and can be activated with a click. As you match gems and defeat bosses, you'll earn cash you can spend on building your airship, or leveling up the various companions who join you... each of whom adds a unique bonus!

Make no mistake, while Token Hero is vastly different from undefined's previous options and offers considerably less strategy, one thing remains... it is grind-tastic, and the sort of "just one more dungeon" adventuring that's dangerous to your sleep and productivity. Though the story basically slips discreetly into the background in favour of bombarding you with pretty explosive colours and the particular satisfaction you get from watching numbers climb, the fast-paced gameplay is just as addictive here as it was in 1000000, and with a few little twists and considerably more personality to make it stand out. I can't say I cared for the repetitive, relentlessly optimistic soundtrack that made me feel like I was trapped in a 1960s after-school special ("Tonight, on a very special Dungeon Cralwer..."), but the bright visuals and cheery design carry home the fun, casual vibe the game is going for. It's not particularly deep, but Token Hero does what it does quite well, even if it's something we've seen before.

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Samurai Shodown II

JohnBSamurai Shodown II isn't a game you'd expect to see on a mobile device. Virtual controls for a fighting game originally released 20 years ago? Doesn't sound like the most promising combination. But publisher DotEmu has gone to great lengths to make things work, handing you completely customizable button layouts and sizes as well as built-in MOGA controller support so you play without hindrance. A slidey touch screen may not have the give of a good arcade joystick, but it gets the job done!

Samurai Shodown IILike most fighting games from the 90s, Samurai Shodown II gives you a roster of warriors to choose from and pushes you into in a series of one on one battles. Each character has his or her own storyline that plays out, coming to a conclusion only after you defeat the final boss. With 15 characters to choose from, variety or gameplay length definitely isn't an issue, especially if you're the kind of player that likes to build your skills and master a game. Multiplayer is available via bluetooth, so if you've got a friend nearby who wants to get smacked in the face with Gen-An's knife glove, there's totally an app for that.

You'll miss physical buttons when playing Samurai Shodown II on your iOS device, for sure, but this set-up really is the next best thing. You can place the virtual joystick and virtual buttons anywhere on the screen, scale them, even switch between six button and the more traditional four button layout. The new casual mode makes it easy for new players to join, adding a dedicated button for special moves! The game itself is masterfully ported, runs smoothly, has tons of configuration options, and is just as epic as it was two decades ago. Nostalgia will probably drive more players to Samurai Shodown II more than anything, but anyone who wants a solid portable fighting game should seriously consider 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 4.6/5
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Rating: 4.6/5 (308 votes)
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Ending

DoraCody's just a kid like any other, right up until burglars break into his house and make off with his beloved comic collection. When he tracks them down, however, he discovers something amazing... collecting the comics left behind allows him to transform into the heroes within the pages, unlocking their special abilities to deliver sweet, nerdy vengeance on those Beagle Boys wannabes! Eric Bernier's platforming action game Comic Book Cody brings a great style and premise to tap into every kid's fantasy. Use [WASD] or the [arrow] keys to move and jump, grabbing all the comics on each level to turn into a superhero. Be careful, since mild-mannered kid Cody can be taken out in a single hit, so avoid any enemies until you transform. Levels wrap, meaning you can drop from the bottom and fall down from the top, so don't worry about falling. Each stage needs to be cleared of enemies before you can proceed, and each hero has a different ability to help you do so, from freeze rays to super speed.

EndingComic Book Cody has such a great concept that it's a shame it wasn't played with a bit more. The levels all wind up feeling very similar, and it seems like they would have provided a great opportunity for Cody to use his powers in different ways than smacking the same baddies over and over. It's the sort of thing older gamers might find a bit repetitive, which is unfortunate since the game not only looks great, but its responsive gameplay, relatively low difficulty, and boss battles will make it an easy hit with the kiddie crowd. A sequel to flesh out its concepts seems like an easy choice, but for now, Comic Book Cody is still a great idea with a lot of personality that makes it a great way to start younger gamers off with platforming. Just don't blame me if you catch them eating their comic books and expecting to gain super-powers later.

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  • Currently 4.2/5
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Rating: 4.2/5 (31 votes)
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Ninjas Never Die

Starchild You don't need silly things like limbs to be a ninja, as long as you have a katana, mad stealth skills and some shuriken to throw around. Ninjas Never Die is a physics puzzle game in which you roll around collecting coins, cheating death and killing lots of spiders, giving all you arachnophobes out there a sweet chance for revenge.

Ninjas Never Die In all twenty levels (plus four bonus ones) your ball-shaped ninja has to go through a maze, but can only leave it after collecting all the gold coins in it. You move the ninja by tilting the maze either with the left and right [arrow] keys or [A] and [D]. The road is dangerous, beset on all sides with spiders and flails, which won't kill you (because ninjas never die), but will take you back to the starting position. At first you have nothing to defend yourself with, but later you can use stealth to sneak past obstacles, ninja stars to throw and you can even set yourself on fire. All of these powers have limited duration, so use them with care.

Ninjas Never Die is a treat for those of us who enjoy circular mazes. Tilting them with just enough power to get to the desired spot is an acquired skill, and it can seem frustrating or finicky at first. But there's something to be said for this type of physics puzzle: the meticulous movements and careful planning increase the degree of immersion and satisfaction when you finally beat the game. This particular maze puzzler is full of diverse, well constructed levels, and the ninja-based design is an imaginative idea which makes the gameplay all the more entertaining. So roll, little ninja, roll!

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Link Dump Fridays

DoraFriiiiday, Friiiiiday, gotta Link Dump on Friday! Your favourite weekly dietary supplement of unicorns, aliens, and snakes returns with a quartet of games to keep you busy just long enough for the weekend to inch ever closer to your grasp!

  • Room of 1000 SnakesRoom of 1000 Snakes - An ancient temple... a mysterious room... a big red button... and one ridiculous soundtrack make for a very silly "game" from Ben Esposito and Yuliy Vigdorchik that's well worth the few minutes it'll take you to experience, even if you roll your eyes so hard they go clattering across the room afterwards. Well, what were you expecting? (If you have a fear of snakes, you might want to give this one a miss.)
  • Hyper Pixel ManHyper Pixel Man - If you're one of those people who can't sit still for long, you might appreciate the zippy, dead-in-a-flash challenge of Pixelulsar's platform game that uses simple, retro graphics to craft some maddeningly difficult levels. If you can put up with the over-eager movement, it offers a satisfying, if perhaps not all that unique, bit of spike-filled action.
  • Yepi ForeverYepi Forever - Remember when Yepi just wanted to rescue his girlfriend? Remember how cute and adorable that was? Well, FUHGEDDABOUDIT, because Begamer's newest point-and-click puzzle adventure game featuring the little yellow dude has him responding to a distress call on a mysterious red planet, and the tone is decidedly gloomier. Some unintuitive gameplay and painfully slow movement mar this one, but it still provides a solid, coffee-break sized bite of puzzle-y gaming to fill up your day.
  • Robot Unicorn Attack EvolutionRobot Unicorn Attack Evolution - I don't care how many times we've covered Robot Unicorn Attack, this is my feature and I want to listen to Erasure, dangit. Though ultimately the same sort of ridiculous arcade game as its brethren, Evolution has a few tricks up its sleeve, and remains every bit as silly, fun, and addictive as ever. (Why has this not been ponified yet?)

  • Currently 4.2/5
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Rating: 4.2/5 (60 votes)
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Layton Brothers: Mystery Room

JohnBLayton Brothers: Mystery Room is a crime solving mystery game from Level-5, the team behind the well-known Professor Layton series on Nintendo DS. While this incarnation may only bear passing ties to the prof's previous adventures, it's still a solid adventure game that will remind you of Phoenix Wright in some ways. Which is a good thing!

Layton Brothers: Mystery RoomInspector Alfendi Layton is a bit of a genius investigator. His new assistant Lucy Baker isn't as sharp, but she shows a lot of promise. You help Lucy and Layton solve crimes one case at a time, each more unusual than the last. And seeing how the first mystery is about a strangled woman with her hand in a sandwich, that's saying something. Cases take place in several stages, with you working through the investigation at each turn. It starts with the crime scene, allowing you to zoom and pan around an exact recreation while you gather evidence. Suspects get questioned, clues are uncovered, and eventually you get to j'accuse someone and follow through to get to the heart of the matter.

Even though most of the investigation is "on rails", there's still a fair bit of challenge to be found in Layton Brothers: Mystery Room. It's more of an interactive mystery than a traditional game in some ways, but it's written and illustrated so well you'll get drawn in all the same. The free download offers up two mysteries to play through, each one taking about half an hour to complete, maybe longer. Two separate in-app purchases let you buy chapters three through nine, which is a hefty amount of content.

Be ready to do some honest crime solving with Layton Brothers: Mystery Room. Moderate leaps of logic aren't out of the question, just make sure they're, you know, logical!

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


  • Currently 4.5/5
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Rating: 4.5/5 (53 votes)
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King's Ascent

TrickyA terrible dragon had just finished ravaging the northern lands chomping all the livestock in its path. However, through the cunning of the king, the monster has finally met its end. Or so we all thought. Now, it seems that old enemies have returned, and giant chomping skeletons will soon the least of the kingdom's concerns. It's the king they are after, though, and he's got towers full of unstable platforms to clomp down on the heads of anything that wants to munch him. But as he climbs, the complicated truth will soon be revealed. King's Ascent is a vertical-scrolling action-platform game by Aqualuft that'll have both kings and vagabonds playing their very best.

King's AscentUse the [WASD] or [arrow] keys to move, and jump using the up [arrow] or [spacebar], holding it to jump even higher. A beast is chasing you, and will kill you if it catches up. Some platforms will fall once you've stepped on them, but you can use this to your advantage: if they fall on the pursuing beast, they'll knock off a bit of his HP. Destroy the beast's life bar, and you'll move on to the next floor, until you reach the top of the tower for a boss fight. At this point, you'll be transported to another tower with another beast... and it seems like the monarch has made quite a few enemies in his time on the throne.

King's Ascent proves to be an enjoyable iteration of the vertical-climber formula, but with a smart deconstructive edge. It's as if the authors of the game started development by questioning aspects of the gameplay that hadn't really been explored narratively: Why is this character jumping up this tower? What is chasing him? What motives does this creature have for wanting to catch him? What exactly is the plan once they both reach the top? As a result, there's a surprisingly strong sense of plotting in King's Ascent. It goes hand in hand with the strategic puzzle elements included: players will need to plan their jumping in each level if they hope to survive, though restarting each section is a snap. Kudos also has to be given to the unique stained-glass-like graphics style, though one wishes it was also applied to some of the bosses. The CGI modelling is a little jarring to say the least. That said, King's Ascent offers a breath of fun and challenging action to its familiar game play, and its storytelling is sure to separate it from the climbing clones. And hey, the song that plays over the credits is pretty catchy too!

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  • Currently 4.5/5
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Rating: 4.5/5 (46 votes)
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Reverse Boots

HopefulNebulaThe magic boots in Reverse Boots, Denis Vasilev's new platform game, are a wee bit more utilitarian than the last magic problem-solving footwear I've encountered. Your goal is to collect the key (and bonus stars, if you're daring) and then get to the door on each level of the dragon's tower. Use the [arrow] keys to move, and [up] to jump. The trick of the boots is that whenever you jump, the world changes around you. Blocks move and rotate, spikes and fire-breathing totems change direction. Oh, and this happens every time you jump, whether you want it to or not.

Reverse BootsReverse Boots is an interesting take on the "run and jump and avoid fireballs" genre of platformer. In this case, you don't neutralize threats so much as you move them. The challenge isn't always making that perfectly-timed leap, but making sure you'll be safe when you get there. The first few levels are straightforward enough, but just when I thought I had the spikes and moving platforms figured out, there were spikes on moving platforms and I had to rethink my strategy. The new challenges are introduced at a decent rate, so there's always something new to figure out without being overwhelmed. The deaths are a bit grisly in an over-the-top cartoony sort of way (though not overly explicit), and it would be nice to control the height of my jumps, but in the end, Reverse Boots is an engaging set of puzzles. Do avoid the lava, though: these boots might be magical, but they're not that magical.

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Toca Builders

JohnBToca Builders is a sandbox creativity toy created by the team at Toca Boca. Instead of giving you boring drawing tools or other cold, removed contraptions, this adorable game hands you half a dozen robots who each have different abilities. By driving them around, switching between them and using their skills to place and remove blocks, you can construct just about anything you can dream up!

Toca BuildersTo start building your playground, choose or create a world from the level select screen. Once there you'll see an icon that brings up the robot selection menu. All of the 'bots are placed in the playground already, you just have to tap their picture to start controlling one. Each has slightly different controls thanks to their unique abilities, but everything is displayed using big, friendly buttons and switches, so you'll never feel lost or confused. Toca Builders is an extremely friendly game.

Robots have different abilities in Toca Builders, making each one better suited for specific tasks. Cooper the Ball, for example, paints the ground wherever he rolls, allowing you to make broad color changes with a few simple movements. Blox the Hammer lays cubes as he walks, turning him into a quick horizontal path creator. Connie the Crane is a precise instrument that can pick up and place just about any block she sees. The whole cast is creative and likeable, and once you get to know their abilities, switching between them to build some fun playgrounds is easy.

It may seem surprising, but Toca Builders will capture your imagination from the get-go. The interface is simple but fun to use, with no real gaps between robot abilities and structures you might want to build. Want a giant happy face? Do it. Then paint it a bunch of crazy colors by driving around spitting paint balls with Jum-Jum. Toca Builders is safe and accessible to kids, but it's one of those toys everybody's going to have fun playing with for hours on end.

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


  • Currently 4.5/5
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Rating: 4.5/5 (52 votes)
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Light-bot

JohnBThe little programmable robot is back, and this time it's mobile! Light-bot is a logic-based puzzle game that's been kicking around the browser scene for a few years in the form of Light-Bot and Light-Bot 2.0. Now the game has made the jump to Android and iOS, bringing with it several dozen new levels that will challenge your ability to program robots to light up blocks. That makes it sound a bit easy, but it isn't, we promise!

Light-botThe goal of Light-bot is to create an instruction list that can move a robot around an isometric grid, switching on all blue tiles so they glow yellow. At the bottom of each screen you have a list of commands represented by icons. Tap or drag and drop commands to the panels on the right to assemble instructions, creating programs that move the 'bot forward, hop up a square, turn to the right, and so on. Proc1 and Proc2 icons let you set up macros so you can repeat common actions without repeating steps. You have limited space to complete each level, after all.

Light-bot has all of the same charm and challenge as its browser bretheren, and it works very well on the touch screen. Editing existing commands can be a bit cumbersome when you try to drag and drop between icons, simply because human fingers aren't (yet) transparent. But beyond that navigation is as smooth as can be. There are 40 levels to work through, 20 of which contain star challenges. Plenty to keep you up late at night staring at an isometric grid and refining your formulas down to perfection. And once you get into conditions, you won't be able to stop playing.

Play Light-bot (browser demo)

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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Curse of the Aztecs

DoraYou know those academics. Put two of them with opposing theories in a room and within five minutes you'll have fighting and hair-pulling that puts Jersey Shore to shame, amirite? Marshall and Galloway have never seen eye-to-eye, but when Marshall heads off after Galloway's expedition, determined to prove the other man nothing better than a glory hound feeding into sensationalist superstition, he quickly discovers there might be some very dangerous truth to the legends after all. The free indie adventure horror game Curse of the Aztecs, developed by four students named Luke Finlay-Maxwell, Gustavo Da Costa, Charlie Scott, and Jack Pickard provides a frighteningly atmospheric descent into a ruined temple where you'll come face to face with the most terrifying thing of all... *flicks flashlight on under chin* NO SAVE FEATURE.

Curse of the AztecsThe game controls with [WASD] to move, and unfortunately lacks an option to rebind keys if that doesn't work for you. Look around with the mouse, and when the hand icon turns fleshy over nearby items, you can click to interact. Pressing [tab] will display your map, and holding [shift] activates HUFF-HUFF-NYUUHH-UUHNNFF mode, or "running". Your goal, ultimately, is to find the staff in the depths of the temple and use it to escape. The game also boasts that it's done away with scripted scares, meaning no two playthroughs should be exactly alike in terms of knowing when and where to brace yourself for the BOOGABOO moments. After a tutorial area to familiarize you with the controls and such, you'll descend into a maze-like area full of traps and... other... danger. Here you can gather treasure to boost your score while you look for the staff, and this area makes up the lion's share of the gameplay. Watch your torch for clues as to when you need to run, because if it turns bright blue and you're caught, it's game over for you. Just pretend you're Frodo wielding Sting and orcs are after you. You can choose to skip entire first "tutorial" area if you just want to get straight to the AIEEEEE meat-and-potatoes bit of the game too.

For a seven month project by four students, Curse of the Aztecs really is a remarkably well done game despite the painful lack of any sort of save feature or keyboard customisation. Though they consist mostly of ruined corridors, the visuals are great and the atmosphere is appropriately heavy with tension and isolation. Even the voice acting for Marshall is top notch, although the character often drips with such snide condescension you sort of want to punch him after a while. Maybe he wouldn't be so annoying if running for longer than ten seconds didn't cause him to loudly gasp and huff long after you've stopped. But despite being a bit rough around the edges, Curse of the Aztecs is one of those games that, in addition to being fun to play, really illustrates how far gaming has come when something that looks and plays like this can be completely free.

The downside is that after the tutorial, the game turns into less a puzzle adventure and more a straight-up action game with a bit of stealth thrown in as you try to evade the beast within the temple's depths while searching for treasure. It's sort of like Eyes - The Horror Game by way of Indiana Jones.That's not necessarily a bad thing, and fans of action and jump scares will enjoy what's on offer here, but going into this wanting or expecting a more carefully paced puzzle adventure may leave you wanting. Curse of the Aztecs, ultimately, is a game best taken with a grain of salt. It has a surprisingly effective repertoire of jump scares, and the combination of the beast on your tail as well as the other tricks and traps to be found can have you squealing and zipping around like a terrified pinball from terror to terror, giving it a great fun house of horror vibe perfect for turning the lights down low and the volume up.

WindowsWindows:
Download the free full version

Mac OS XMac OS X:
Download the free full version


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Rating: 4.7/5 (65 votes)
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King of Bees in Fantasy Land

TrickyKing of Bees in Fantasy Land, a Twine text adventure game by Brendan Patrick Hennessy, hails to an earlier time of video game plotting. One where the story started with the enemy saying that "all your base are belong to us", but if the player managed to not "feel asleep" and "attack aggressively", they would soon fine the game serving up a hearty "CONGRATURATION" as a blessed reward. ("They didn't even bother giving you multiple ones! Just a single congraturation they had lying around the video game make place.") King of Bees presents such a literary epic, but without all that silly platforming and shooting and stuff getting in the way. Suffice to say, it is the year 2888, and as head space knight of the number 4 astro-boat searching for a habitable planet for the remnants of humanity, you've come upon Garaxas world. A veritable fantasy-land, there is but one problem: the Evil Bee King rules the planet with an iron feeler from the safety of Bee Fort. Can you possibly topple the King and make the planet safe for human-types? Only you know for sure!

King of Bees in Fantasy LandThe prose will lead to various points where you must choose a course of action by clicking the desired option. Some choices will grant you various items and abilities, which may unlock different choices, though generally you'll be traveling through each of the game's "worlds" in a set order. If all King of Bees in Fantasy Land had going for it was non-standard grammar, the joke would probably get stale by the end... and not to mention a little offensive to beleaguered underpaid translators worldwide. However, its focus is on examining and parodying the storytelling tropes of the 8-bit era, and though that has been done before, it is a well that will probably never run dry. Additionally there is a quite cool perspective shift end game that's handled quite interestingly, and may make a play-through of King of Bees in Fantasy worthwhile just to see how the author chooses to get all clever and stuff. In short, those looking for a quick, smart piece of video game comedy should definitely give King of Bees in Fantasy Land a try. A WINNER IS IT!

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Agricola

SuzanneFed up with the current crop of farming games and their incessant cheeriness? Agricola brings you back to reality like stepping in a pile of fresh manure. Playdek's mobile conversion of Uwe Rosenberg's classic strategy board game has the same pleasant exterior as numerous Facebook farm-'em-ups, but its cuddly graphics and music will do little to soothe your aching brain as you struggle to keep your peasants from starvation. Fun? It sure is.

AgricolaTo many Americans, "board game" evokes thoughts of Scrabble, Monopoly, and other family game night staples. But for years, European game designers have been churning out complex, heavily strategic offerings that make Parker Brothers games look like baby toys in comparison. Agricola is of the worker placement subgenre of the Eurogame family. Here, points are achieved by placing game-world "people" onto the board to have them complete actions, like baking bread, plowing a field, or collecting resources. Your goal is to manage your farm over fourteen rounds (about one to two hours play time) so that you have enough food each harvest to feed your entire family. Competitive games end up being a race to add rooms to the house, as adding new family members means more hands to do your dirty work. Right, Mom?

If you've never played a Euro board game before, be prepared for a good deal of initial confusion as you come to grips with the systems in play. But this brilliantly converted digital version means there's never been a better time to jump in, as a series of tutorials introduces the game concepts at a steady pace. The solo campaign encourages you to develop strategies and increase your skills over a series of games with increasingly difficult win conditions. Multiplayer games, either with AI or human partners, require you to be nimble in your plans. The online matchmaking is well-done but the game's short turn lengths and potentially long wait times in between mean that playing against the computer or people in the same room is most satisfying.

Recent years have seen a number of Eurogames converted to the mobile format. And why not? Eliminating the fuss of complex scorekeeping and managing dozens of tiny pieces leaves the player free to enjoy the fun. Some of these games are more accessible than Agricola and therefore better for families (Ticket to Ride, for example, though this version of Agricola does have a simpler family variant) but those who like brain-stretching strategy should snap this up. Let's all bake some bread and celebrate another great addition to the App Store's rapidly expanding game shelf!

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


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Rating: 4.4/5 (53 votes)
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Swap It Et 3

Starchild If you have a few minutes to waste, and you're in the mood for something colourful and relaxing, look no further! Swap It Et 3 is a jigsaw puzzle game with a nice little spin on the original premise (no kidding, the puzzles are made up of gears which are, you know, spinning). Each of the thirty levels is made up of jumbled tiles, and it's up to you to click and swap them until you get a coherent picture. The pictures invariably show multi-coloured gears of all shapes and sizes, moving at different rhythms.

Swap It Et 3 The tricky part is that the tiles don't always display the right size of the gears. Bigger tiles act as magnifying glasses and try to confuse you with their wily ways, making it more difficult to see where to put them. To get the coveted three stars, all you have to do is make as few moves as possible, which kicks the challenge up a notch. Instead of swapping tiles with the swiftness of a speed demon, you get to plan your moves calmly and carefully. Not that the game is difficult either way – you can get the best results on most levels without a problem, but that's not really what Swap It Et 3 is about, anyway. What it wants to do is let you kick back and enjoy some colourful, almost plushy gears and a bunch of well-made puzzles.

Play Swap It Et 3


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Rating: 4.5/5 (50 votes)
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Rocket Pets

HopefulNebula You got your launch game in my platformer! Or is it the other way around? Either way, in Rocket Pets, a new game from Jay Armstrong, you play as a cute fluffy little animal with a jetpack strapped to its back. Your goal is to collect as many coins and powerups as you can before your jetpack overheats or you get killed by spikes (or any of the many other obstacles).

Rocket PetsYou run forward automatically; click and hold or press [spacebar] to lift yourself up. As you advance, you'll earn coins that you can use to unlock upgrades, new worlds, and (most importantly) other animals. These other animals serve as extra lives, but they each have their own set of upgrades. And you can even buy them hats! And since Jimp did the art, the hats are flippin' adorable. Rocket Pets proves that horizontal launch games and platformers are two great tastes that can indeed go great together.


Play Rocket Pets


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The Vault

TrickyWell, we've heard the wishes of you, the consumer, and have decided to back off on some of the changes planed for the next generation of JiG Vault. First of all, the webcam activation that would allow us at JiG central to spy in and make fun of the decorations in your computer room? That's gone. Also, instead of changing The Vault's focus into a celebration of the best of the JiG reviewer staff's junior high angsty poetry output, instead we'll instead keep featuring the best works of casual gaming from our archives. This week we've got some unique defense, action, and arcade titles to play around with. And as for how we said you'd need a steady online connection to access The Vault... actually, yeah, we're probably gonna need to keep that component.

  • ClockwordsClockwords - Hair-brained inventors, mechanical spiders and machines that run on literal word power. Oh my! You'll find it all in Clockwords, a defense franchise made at the behest of Dictionary.com that Gabob started on in 2009. Like Bookworm Adventures, but with a lot more steampunk, Clockwords will stretch every linguistic nerve in your spellbound head as you blast bag buggies with every SAT word you can think of. Sadly, the series seems to have stalled after the release of this prelude and then Act One in 2010. Still what has been released is a gem, a paragon, a nonpariel, and a cynosure.
  • Fig. 8Fig. 8 - Guiding a wobbly bicycle through an architectural blueprint seems an odd premise for a fun, but 2009's Fig. 8, by Intuition Games, pulls it off with aplomb. The precision-based gameplay is the perfect level of frustrating that makes you want to attack it again and again, even as it drives you half crazy. It's amazing how a game based in the aesthetics of technical drawing manages to evoke such a sense of whimsy. But then again, I'm not a drafter, and perhaps it's seeing a world created in the symbols that draws people to the vocation in the first place. In any case, Fig. 8 presents such a world, and it's wonderful to ride around in.
  • Cyrkam Airt�sCyrkam Airt�s - It takes a certain twisted kind of mind to make a simulation of a popular office coffee-break game, apparently designed to be played by people on actual coffee breaks in offices where all the materials to play the actual game are in plentiful supply. Fortunately the developers at Sticky have such minds and the result is 2004's Cyrkam Airt�s. It plays as a kind of proto-QWOP, if a lot less intentionally frustrating, where the player is forced to convert intricacies of how an arm moves to chuck a wad paper into a wastebasket through the mouse input. The result is a quirky and totally addictive minigame with a singularly unique rotoscoped aesthetic. Let yourself get scanned darkly and give it a try.

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


  • Currently 4.6/5
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Rating: 4.6/5 (109 votes)
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Night Lights

DoraDon't be afraid of the dark! Bombocracker's platforming puzzle game Night Lights may seem a little eerie, but shine a little light on things and you'll find there's nothing to be afraid of at all. Use the [WASD] or [arrow] keys to walk and jump, and head for the exit at the end of each level. The catch is that in the dark, hazards like spikes can appear and be harmful, and while the light can get rid of some of them, it can also reveal gaps in ground you could walk across when no light shone on it. Though you'll have to rely on a lot of stationary light sources to change the environment for you, some levels will also grant you a lamp, which can be picked up or put down with [X] and turned on by holding down [C], giving you a comforting, portable glow you can even use to weigh down switches.

Night LightsIt's a simple concept, but it's executed very well here, thanks in no small part to a gorgeous little art style and a perfect moody soundtrack that was even created by the developer. The challenge is that not every type of object behaves the same way, so while most of the spikes in a row may vanish when you turn on your lantern, some patches may not. The same goes for boxes, and for some players, being unable to tell at a glance what's going to be invisible under light might be frustrating. It means you have to proceed slowly and carefully, which chafes somewhat if you're more of a LEEEEEROY JENKINS kind of player. Night Lights, however, really is the sort of game that you want to slow down with anyway. The small, carefully designed levels do a lot with a handful of elements to provide an experience that's challenging, but not hair-rippingly so, and the result is the sort of charming, thoughtful little puzzler that fits right into a snack-sized portion of your time... day or night.

Play Night Lights


  • Currently 4.7/5
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Rating: 4.7/5 (266 votes)
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Daymare Cat

DoraIf it's kinda creepy but more than a little cool, it's got to be by Mateusz Skutnik who wants to take us on another trip to the eerie world of Daymare Town with Daymare Cat. This time, it's a platforming puzzle adventure game where you're tasked with guiding our disheveled and befuddled looking heroine through the Town's twisting streets. Use the left and right [arrow] keys to move, and hit the down [arrow] to interact with things and go through doors. Any items you gather are tucked away into your inventory at the bottom of the screen, and the game will automatically use the correct object in the proper place for you when you press down in front of it.

Daymare CatIf you've never been much for Italian plumbers, don't worry... apart from a few simple sequences, Daymare Cat is less about platforming than it is about exploring and puzzle-solving. Despite featuring the familiar etched lines and otherworldly architecture, this doesn't quite feel like a Daymare Town title, and it's not just because it isn't a point-and-click. It feels a bit less light-hearted and fantastical, lacking the familiar critters and characters, and much more surreal and mysterious. While solving puzzles is largely a case of flipping levers and keeping your eyes peeled for little clues, it's almost an Alice in Wonderland type experience as seen through the eyes of Mateusz Skutnik. Cat Jahnke's music, when you discover it, is both incredibly varied and a pleasure to listen to, but not every piece fits the mood and overall setting of the game. Which is, you know. Something where you sort of expect to see Slender Man standing politely just barely out of frame in a window. Waiting. Always watching.

It's that almost-but-not-quite-freaky vibe that makes Daymare Town so incredibly addictive. That, fortunately, is definitely intact even if the puzzles wind up being fairly straight-forward. Use this key here, climb those platforms there, throw yourself down the hungry gullet in the floor over nyoh. Finding the music in the form of records largely winds up being the whole point of the game, and since the game lacks a map, it's easy to get lost of where you've been and where you're going. With a rich style and setting, however, getting there is still going to be a lot of fun, even if it isn't exactly what you expected a Daymare title to be.

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Mobile Monday

JohnBIt's like spring cleaning for game devs this week! Even though it's summer. And digital goods don't really take up any space. But mobile game sales are mobile game sales, so we're not going to ask too many questions.

kemco-p.gifBig sale: Kemco RPGs - Well-known for their collection of of fine 16-bit-style mobile RPGs, Kemco has gone crazy and put almost every one of its titles on sale for next to nothing. That's nearly 20 original games, each of which capture some element of that old school top down role playing charm. If you're having a tough time choosing, these games come with more than a few good recommendations: Bonds of the Skies, Symphony of Eternity, Machine Knight. Know of any other particularly great ones?

badland-p.gifOn Sale: Badland - How's about a great game for half price? Frogmind's beautiful platform adventure Badland is currently on sale for iPhone and iPad, which is awesome considering the game has only been out for a couple of months. In Badland you control a fuzzy fly character in a dangerous sidescrolling world. The basic plan of avoiding dangerous things is always in play, but the terrain introduces a lot of obstacles that can speed you up or slow you down, such as fans, tilting platforms, sticky cockleburs and exploding plant things. It's awesome, and it's on sale. Case closed! (Badland review)

infinity-p.gifOn sale: Infinity Blade II - Huge sale for this juggernaut of a game. Infinity Blade II is on an impressive 80% off sale until the end of the month, meaning you, too, can swipe and smack giant armored beasts with your iOS device. Infinity Blade is a deep, compelling, great-looking release that melds the casual and the mainstream gaming ideals together. It seamlessly incorporates a strong fantasy story with role playing elements, upgrades, exploration, and even a hint of hidden objects along with fast-reflexes action that will make you sit up straight to play. (Infinity Blade II review)

sparkle-p.gifSparkle 2 now on Android, Windows and Mac - 10tons released its gorgeous match-3 sequel just a few weeks ago on iOS. Now the game has gone and ported itself to Android as well as Windows and Mac systems. Also Windows 8, Blackberry, Kindle Fire, webOS and Windows Phone 8! It just sort of ported itself. 10tons didn't even have to lift a finger. That's how good Sparkle 2 is. Don't believe us? Check out our Sparkle 2 review for proof! (Sparkle 2 downloads)


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House of 1000 Doors: Serpent Flame

Starchild Epic is an overused adjective nowadays, especially in gaming. Get a few swords, add an elf or two, et voilà, you have an epic adventure. Slay some orcs from a safe distance using some flimsy magic spell and it's "epic fight dude lol". So what about games that really deserve to be called epic? The ones where you wake up to the sounds of monsters tearing your world apart, and you go into four different dimensions on a desperate search of lost artefacts, and you have to defeat enormous snakes before they annihilate the Earth? Now, that is epic.

House of 1000 Doors: Serpent Flame Kate has found herself in the House of 1000 Doors for the third time. Brought there by a mysterious stranger, she is greeted by all the house keepers, who will try to help her fight off a huge reptile menace. And so begins House of 1000 Doors: Serpent Flame, Alawar's new hidden-object adventure. Now gather round and pay attention, this gets a bit tricky. See, once upon a time, The Light Ones roamed the Earth and acted as mentors for the human kind. At one point, they fought Nagas, the terrible evil serpent-like creatures, and won; as a consequence, The Light Ones had to leave humans and find a home elsewhere. Fast forward a few centuries, and the Nagas are at it again. They have sent a horde of horrific snakes to bring Earth to its knees. The light Ones reply by dispatching our mysterious stranger to fetch Kate, who is tasked with activating the only weapon that can save the world.

In order to do this, Kate goes through four doors to different epochs (and is incredibly lucky, since all the people there speak flawless English). Exploring these places means finding objects, using them on other objects and solving puzzles. Manipulating items is a breeze, since most of it is nicely intuitive; on the other hand, there are so many rooms that it's quite natural to forget half of your tasks. But never fear, because there's a lovely map with hints you can turn on or off, allowing for quick travelling and a relaxed gameplay. The puzzles are, for the most part, somewhat simplistic, and solved a bit too quickly, so they don't offer much of a challenge. The hidden-object scenes come in two varieties – traditional lists and the put-items-back-in-their-places kind.

House of 1000 Doors: Serpent Flame Certainly the game's strongest point is the story. It is simple enough at the beginning, then branches out into four story lines as Kate steps through the doors, then opens up to reveal an entire little mythology in its own right. Even though at times you might get lost in the intricacies of the plot, by the end it all comes together to form a tale of thrilling proportions, especially among casual games. Such a powerful narrative demands appropriate artwork, which is duly delivered. The scenes range from dark and desolate to gloriously bright, but they are all equally sharp, detailed and imaginative. Some cutscenes are so impressive that they might make you think they belong in a fantasy film (mediocre voice acting aside), and they certainly add a whole new level of excitement. A long and slowly unwinding story like this one also takes time to be told, so expect at least four hours of world-saving action.

It's hard to say what exactly makes House of 1000 Doors: Serpent Flame such a unique experience. It must be the very successful blend of a familiar essence with an intriguing, larger-than-life twists, gorgeous graphics and solid casual gameplay. Definitely check out the demo, and don't be fooled by the slow start – this game is epic.


House of 1000 Doors: Serpent Flame 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:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


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Rating: 4.5/5 (90 votes)
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Blob's Story

Starchild What would happen if two World of Goo-blob look-alikes fell in love? According to Blob's Story, a physics puzzler from Alma Games, they'd find themselves in a strange black-and-white world, tangled in some ropes, and you'd have to help them get together and make really adorable noises.

Blob's Story Your job is to cut ropes with your mouse. In most stages, Mr Blob is suspended, while Mrs Blob (with a pink bow, of course) is waiting at the bottom of the screen. Every level also contains three white flowers. Use the magical power of physics and ropes, crates and portals to swing Mr Blob, try to get all the flowers and land in Mrs Blob's lap. Once in a while, you'll face an additional challenge – a coloured flower which disappears after a short while. There are twenty-seven levels, divided into three parts, and you can unlock them only if you have enough flowers.

Blob's Story is quite simple, and the "story" part of it is minimalistic at best, but it's the design that really stands out. The eerie, almost LIMBO-esque atmosphere, with its shadows and gloomy skies, gives the game an otherworldly, even frightening, air. However, the excellent piano tune that accompanies it balances out the bleakness of the level design and makes for a truly pleasant experience. This is a love story, after all, and two strangely cute one-eyed blobs deserve happiness.

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(15 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Very Retrouvaille

AliceOn an ordinary morning in a quaint little town, Faraday Ram lost her pet rabbit. Faraday is a sheep person, but her rabbit is just an ordinary pet rabbit, so it's very important that Faraday tracks him down before anything happens... and with the dangerous forest perched intimidatingly on the edge of town, there's no guarantee anything won't. Very Retrouvaille, a free adventure game created by PR1NCE, is the story of a town, and the quirky (animal) people who reside there, and a young lady who loves her pet so much that she'd gladly jump through all the hoops in the world to get him back.

Very RetrouvailleMove Faraday around with the [arrow] keys, using the [spacebar] to examine things and talk to your neighbors. Enter their houses and you'll be able to talk to them a little more directly. You'll be doing a lot of favors for the other characters— one of them might be able to help you get where you need to go, but only if you do her a favor... and the person who helps you accomplish that favor might need a favor of her own. It's possible to finish very quickly without seeing everything, so you may want to take some time away from the main adventure to stop and smell the roses. You might learn something new about the characters, or even the town itself.

Very Retrouville isn't exactly forging new ground. An exploration adventure set in a gentle little town, made with RPGMaker, with a limited palette? Never been done before, no sir. But Very Retrouville does a better job of it, in my opinion, than any game like it before. The art is gorgeous, especially the talksprites that show up inside the characters' houses, and the town looks exactly like a gentle, quirky setting should. Most of these games put everything on one big main map, but I found Very Retrouville's method of organizing the town to be much easier to navigate. Separate screens! With memorable differences!

Very RetrouvailleIt's easy for me to get lost in these games, but that didn't happen in this one, and frustration was kept to a minimum. The story and characters, however, are where Very Retrouville really shines. Aside from being adorable precious babies, almost everyone Faraday meets seems like they could be the protagonist of their own little tale, if we weren't busy following Faraday. And to say much more about that would be a spoiler, but there are some well-written surprises along the way in Faraday's story, and not all of them are as innocently fluffy as the game's presentation would make you think.

I didn't expect much from Very Retrouvaille before I started playing it— I'd been on a downloading spree, and I only really got to it once I'd played through the rest of the pile— but I became absorbed in it quickly, and once it was over, my only real complaint was that it was too short: I wanted to spend more time with Faraday and friends! Give it a try, and you might be pleasantly surprised too.

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

JohnBFlowerville is a simple, charming sort of platform game where you play as Goffredo the famous gardener. He has the ability to make flowers come to life just by walking in front of them, which normally isn't that handy of a skill. When all of the flowers in Flowerville start dying, though, the queen summons Goffredo immediately. It's time to put on your gardening gloves and get to work.

FlowervilleControl Goffredo with the [arrow] keys and jump using [z]. Each single-screen level is filled with flowers you must walk by in order to make them bloom. Hit the target number and make it to the exit well to complete the stage. It's not uncommon to get stuck or mess something up in the level, at which point you smack that [enter] key to restart. No worries! Helping you along the way are power-ups such as the feather that gives you a higher jump, the boots that let you double jump, and the potion that shrinks you down to size.

Flowerville is cute and simple, those are its two biggest features. The gameplay doesn't over-complicate anything, it's just a platformer with some power-ups to utilize. A gem and sticker album feature encourages you to do a little more than just smell the roses, and as you reach later levels you'll quickly realize this game isn't as easy as it first appeared. A fantastic freeware offering from Lionsoft, creator of Sprint - King of the Jungle and 8-bit Halloween.

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(9 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Lethal Dose

TrickyThey say that all spy fiction has a proper alcohol that goes with it. James Bond has his martinis, Jason Bourne hits hard like a case of stale beer, and clearly absinthe had something to do with the creation of the Metal Gear Solid 2. For Lethal Dose, the new interactive movie by DonkeyWoman, the drink of choice is a perfectly crafted Cosmopolitan, with a chaser of pure arsenic. In it, you play the part of a femme very fatale, carrying out assassinations against whatever poor sap has crossed someone rich enough to make them disappear. But when demons from her past begin to resurface, the choice of targets will soon end up being hers alone.

Lethal DoseLethal Dose is controlled with the [arrow] keys and [spacebar]. In top-down view mode, you'll use the arrows to move about the area and the spacebar to interact with items. The screen will often switch to a close-up of what you are doing, with on-screen directions informing you what keys need to be pressed. Though things start off easy, by the end succeeding at quick-time events and planning your strategic movement will be key to complete your missions.

Admittedly, Lethal Dose is a work that focuses on aesthetics and plotting rather than gameplay. However, it works fine as the aesthetics are gorgeous. The experience is drenched in gloriously smoky noir, and the twists of the story are perfectly conveyed through the iconic textured graphics. There's a jazzy mellowness that goes down smooth, and while the quick time events get a little repetitive (because quick time events always do), it's never boring. Lethal Dose's dose is a short one, but should be well-enjoyed by players wanting a nicely moody piece of fiction. Just don't blame us if your beverages all start looking mighty suspicious to you.

WindowsWindows:
Download the free full version

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


  • Currently 4.7/5
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Rating: 4.7/5 (30 votes)
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Forever Lost Episode 2

Grinnyp"Do the thing you fear most and the death of fear is certain." Creepy music? Concrete walls? Perspicacious quotes? Yes, your adventures in the asylum are nowhere near over in Glitch Games' latest adventure, Forever Lost: Episode 2. Last year's breakout point-and-click escape hit is back to continue the story, featuring more twists, chills, and lots of classic adventuring fun.

grinnyp_foreverlostepisode2_screenshot1.pngForever Lost Episode 2 picks up right where episode one left off. After discovering that the Hawthorne Asylum you spent the previous game breaking out of was actually some sort of strange underground experiment, you emerge into the open air, ready to get out of this creepy place. Unfortunately you are a bit tired, so it might behoove you to catch a few Zs before traveling on. Refreshed, you can continue the adventure in and around Hawthorne Manor. Hey, wait, Hawthorne Manor? Is this place real or are we in yet another simulation? Hmmm...

Point and click, or, rather, tap and drag your way around the scenery, picking up useful items and solving a myriad of puzzles and mini-games on your way to finding...well, more questions than answers, really. An all new batch of puzzles and brain teasers await the adventurer as they continue their escape. Once again Glitch Games brings the amusement in a game that keeps the adventure genre fresh and fun with its mix of tricky puzzles, gorgeous (if decaying) scenery, and atmospheric music, with a scattering of in-jokes and puns throughout to lighten the mood.

grinnyp_foreverlostepisode2_screenshot2.pngAs with all really well done adventure games the point is not the destination but the journey, and Glitch Games has once again provided a top-notch expedition into the unknown. The hallmark of an excellent adventure game is not how quickly (or slowly) you can complete it, but if you want to keep going back to check out certain things that you missed the first time around, which Forever Lost: Episode 2 delivers in spades. Do you want to go back to admire the scenery, have fun in the My First Adventure tablet game, or just see if you can find the Arrested Development gag? Either way, Forever Lost: Episode 2 is the way to go.


  • Currently 4.4/5
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Rating: 4.4/5 (30 votes)
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Accurate Boy

Starchild It's a beautiful, warm day, the summer holidays have just started, and you're on your way to the sewer to play with your toy boat. Don't make that disgusted face, it's a perfectly logical choice, you're hoping to meet the Ninja Turtles. Alas, your boat is abducted by the nefarious (and weirdly rectangular) sewer monsters. Accurate Boy to the rescue! You take your suction cup gun and get ready for some physics puzzle fun, made by Meetreen Games.

Accurate Boy The goal is to make the boat fall into the pipe at the bottom of the screen. To do this, you'll have to get the monsters out of the way and/or use them to help you reach your destination. You control the gun with the mouse and you can shoot from either side of the screen. When you hit a monster, it's sucked away and eliminated, unless there's an obstacle in its way. The boat is usually precariously perched on top of a pile of monsters of various sizes, so you have to use your gun wisely. As you progress, the puzzles become more complex and add elements like bombs and hilariously inflatable monsters.

There are thirty levels, and three stars to be received for each one, depending on your speed and number of shots. The difficulty increases evenly, and it makes you think, but it's always straightforward and just challenging enough. The design definitely contributes to the game's appeal, so much that you forget that you're traipsing through an icky sewer. It's quirky in a charming way and the monsters' facial expressions are priceless. Add some very pleasant music and you have a great lunch-break puzzler which will put a smile on your face.

Play Accurate Boy


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Link Dump Fridays

DoraAlright. Here's what we're gonna do. First you're going out in a fishing boat at the crack of dawn. Then I'm going to slap you around a lot. After that, you're going to walk around checking for traps for me. Then, we're going to go for a cup of coffee... where you'll probably get shot a whole bunch. Sound good?

  • Man Eats FishMan Eats Fish - In seven days, I shotgunned the entirety of Psych off Netflix. In that same time, Supermoof created a queerly addictive, if repetitive, fishing business simulation for the Fishing Jam. Each day, you putter out in your boat gathering fish to sell at your restaurant, where the type and tastiness of fish determines your customer ratings, struggling to earn enough money for upgrades. It's painfully slow and lacks a save/load function, as well as some streamlining that could have made certain aspects more palatable and yet... I keep coming back to it. Maybe, deep down inside me, there's a salty, scruffy, bearded fisherman in galoshes yearning to return to the sea. Or maybe this is just a great idea that needs further development. You decide.
  • Rose & Camellia 2Rose & Camellia 2 - We've covered it before, but with a new translation and no need to play through the original game to see the content, Nigoro's ridiculous arcade-y smack-em-up deserves another mention. You play the spiteful Saori, bitter after being ousted by her competition, an insolent young woman, and must engage in a number of, uh, stately slap-fights with various other characters to claw your way back for revenge. The premise may be ridiculous, but the haughty, fantastic style and writing makes this a simple campy pleasure.
  • The Ladder of KaliThe Ladder of Kali - Like roguelikes? Then give Benjamin Soule's oh-so-pretty and yet itty-bitty one a try, as you descend through ten levels of tricks, trap, treasure, and monsters. You're going after Kali, who is ticked at humanity and cursed everyone, but since you've been cursed to age rapidly, you might die of old age before you reach her. The game suffers a bit from having a ton of keys and some unexpectedly in-depth mechanics, which would normally be a good thing, except none of them are really that intuitive or explained very well in the game itself. But it looks fantastic and plays surprisingly well once you get the hang of it, and roguelike fans will definitely enjoy sinking their teeth into this one.
  • Coffee MafiaCoffee Mafia - Take the frenetic, one hit KO violence of Hotline Miami, strip out the story and the, uh, more creative killing, as well as the randomness, and you'd have something like JMickle's swanky arcade game about storming what appears to be a coffee house filled with thugs on each level and wiping them out before they can do the same to you. The game's best feature might be its incredibly catchy old-school soundtrack, but the fast-paced twitch action isn't bad either if you don't mind how very simplified it is.

  • Currently 4.4/5
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Rating: 4.4/5 (163 votes)
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The Onomastica

DoraAwww yeah, we're about to get all swanky up in here with mif2000's platforming puzzle/artsy game experience The Onomastica. Using the [WASD] or [arrow] keys, you'll run, jump, and explore a typographical wonderland where the words make up the landscape... literally, and the way you interact with them can change their meaning. It's sort of like ASCIIvania, only swaggier. It's is an incredibly neat little game with a lot of clever ideas, though considering how stiff the jumping is you'll probably appreciate the word puzzling more than you will any platforming. The game is a blink-and-you'll-miss-it affair, and as a result really winds up feeling like it needs a lot more as a game to elevate it beyond simple "Hey, check this out" status. Given its linear nature, there's not much of a puzzle aspect beyond "keep moving forward", but it's such a neat little experience that you'll still want to check it out, and hopefully something we see more of in the future.

Play The Onomastica


  • Currently 4.6/5
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Rating: 4.6/5 (45 votes)
| Comments (11) | Views (3,905)

Icebreaker: A Viking Voyage

JohnBIcebreaker: A Viking Voyage is a brand new offering from Nitrome, the browser game team who are responsible for such previous casual addictions as Steamlands, Hot Air 2: All Blown Up, Skywire, and of course the rest of the Icebreaker series. This new outing marks Nitrome's first foray into the mobile realm, and judging by the depth and quality of this release, we really, really hope it isn't their last!


(12 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Where's My Mickey?

JohnBIt's a sweltering day outside. Seeing all the thirsty people gives Mickey an idea: lemonade stand! He's missing one key ingredient, however: water. Too bad it's not as simple as marching over to the sink and turning on the tap. From the creators of Where's My Water? and Where's My Perry?, the new physics-puzzle adventure Where's My Mickey? follows the same touch and drag formula as its predecessors, only with a new visual style and some few imaginative gameplay additions.

Where's My Mickey?Each level in Where's My Mickey? presents you with a maze of pipes, drains and soil. Much of the dirt can be removed by swiping your finger to draw paths. Make trails to funnel the water to the appropriate drains, collecting stars and turning switches along the way. New to the franchise are sponge-like clouds that store and release water. Use gusts of wind to move these clouds around so you can make it rain right where you need it.

Where's My Mickey? is a real animated adventure. Disney characters make cameo appearances left and right, and there's a host of animated cutscenes to keep things rolling right along. The art style is much more old school Disney rather than prim and polished modern Disney, which was a fantastic choice for Mickey's latest outing. There are over 100 levels to complete, along with some scattered bonus items to uncover that unlock bonus puzzles. It's hard to say no to more dirt-digging water collection. Where's My Mickey? takes the familiar formula and adds just the right amount of newness, making it a creative and challenging puzzle game you'll be happy to play for hours on end!

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.


(4 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Shelter

JohnBSomebody let the zombies out, and they're on a serious rampage to get rid of the survivors! Shelter is a post-apocalyptic strategy game from Survivalist Games that distills all the running, shooting and getting your brains eaten action from surviving a zombie raid into a card game. It's surprisingly challenging and calls on more skill than just being able to place a few cards on the table. And just because zombies busting down the doors happens with cards doesn't mean it's any less thrilling.

ShelterThe game takes place on a map where you can accept missions by tapping colored pins. Enter a duel and you'll see a spread with the zombies on the top and the survivors below. The gist of these battles is you're in a shelter and the zombies are trying to get in. By playing cards from your hand or using cards from the board you can barricade the doors, reinforce the structure, or do some good old fashioned zombie splattering. Turn them into gray goo and you can call it a win. But if the zombies deal you 50 damage, it's game over.

The artwork in Shelter looks as if it were ripped straight out of a graphic novel, which is a fantastic fit for the game and setting. The difficulty slowly increases as you work your way through the map, forcing you to be more frugal with your actions and refine your deck to a true zombie killing machine. Er, defending-from machine. The game's a little slow to begin, especially with the lengthy tutorial text that keeps popping up to explain every detail about playing, but it soon picks up and will have you hooked for hours. Despite one or two awkward interface moments, Shelter is a challenging and creative card-based strategy game that's sure to give you your zombie fix!

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


  • Currently 4.7/5
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Rating: 4.7/5 (28 votes)
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Soundodger

KimberlyImagine a record spinning around, and you'll have a feel for what Soundodger from OneMrBean (Michael Molinari), is like. What's that? You don't know what a record is? How old are you anyway? Does your mom know you're on the internet? Well as long as you're here, you might as well play.

SoundodgerIn this musical avoidance game, the object is to keep away from the arrows and other shapes created by the songs. Projectiles continuously shoot out at you in time to the music, and you can shift into slow motion to help avoid these. Use your mouse or the [arrow] keys to control yourself. Click or press [shift] to slow down time, and press the escape key to pause. Your score is presented in terms of percentage of bullets dodged. Any arrows that hit you, or that exit the screen while you are in slow motion, detract from your score. A small circle begins in the middle of the screen and grows larger as the song progresses, giving you a sense of how much longer the song will last. A lightly tinted circle inside that circle gives you an idea of your score as you go along. Earning percentage points allows you to unlock more songs.

Soundodger's nothing if not pretty. You could fall into a trance-like state just enjoying the patterns the songs bring with them. But good looks are not all there is to like. While the gameplay isn't exactly innovative, the controls handle nicely and the ability to slow down time (and the music) is fun. There are plenty of interesting songs to keep you playing in a variety of styles, though they tend toward the chiptune. Once you've played through a song, zen mode for that track is unlocked. While the whole game has a zen vibe to it, during zen mode you don't take any damage. It's a way to experience the songs and patterns they make without having to worry about survival. Go ahead and turn your speakers up, your lights down, and take the game for a spin.

Play Soundodger


  • Currently 4.6/5
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Rating: 4.6/5 (58 votes)
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Maze Evolution

Starchild The floor is lava! And so are the walls, the ceiling, the curtains and the coffee tables. This is the premise of Maze Evolution, a sweet new puzzle game where you have to reach the finish line without touching anything.

Maze Evolution To start a level, click on the little black star. From that point on, the star is bound to your mouse and follows its movements, so be very careful. If you so much as graze a pixel in one of the walls, you'll end up with a big, humiliating "FAIL" all over your screen. The first few levels go easy on you and serve as a kind of tutorial but, after that, you're on your own. The game's most appealing quality is that it's not static; rather, some levels respond to your movements and change as you go along. Others are moving all the time, and its up to you to catch up with parts of the maze, which makes them feel like a weird game of hopscotch. To make things more interesting, your poor little star gets occasionally shot at, so you must dodge black block bullets as well as navigate the maze. There are twenty-eight levels, each with its own quirks, but don't expect the difficulty to rise evenly. The levels are too diverse, so their individual difficulty depends a lot on your various skills and preference.

The best thing about Maze Evolution is how well the design fits in with the gameplay. The clean, two-colour scheme works perfectly in a precision game. The background colour changes as you play, but it's a subtle fading of muted shades which won't distract you. The overall effect is very stylish and a little retro, a joy to behold if you like minimalism, making it really easy to focus on the task at hand. So grab your best mouse and concentrate!

Play Maze Evolution


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Rating: 4.6/5 (110 votes)
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Escape from Tesshi-e's Room 2

GrinnypYou know, as a room escape enthusiast I just love a scenario where a friend/colleague/stranger locks me into a space and refuses to let me out or feed me until I've solved all the puzzles in the room. If you think that means I really, really love the escape games of Tesshi-e, well, you'd be right. If you think that means that there is something really, really wrong with me, well, you're also right, but that's besides the point. The point is that occasionally a person needs something more than just crisp visuals and clever puzzles in their escaping. Sometimes a person also yearns to need to put together random crap found in a room to construct something useful (that or a device in which to capture their kidnapper, either way is fulfilling). Good thing we have Escape from Tesshi-e's Room 2 to fill that void. (As of this writing, the game is currently Japanese only.)

grinnyp_escapetesshiesroom2_screenshot.pngThe construction comes roaring back to the forefront in Tesshi-e's latest effort. Whether you love it, hate it, or love to hate it, construction is one of those type of puzzles Tesshi-e will return to again and again, perhaps not as frequently as the wobbly picture puzzle but often enough that it has become a hallmark. This game not only brings back this fun and frustrating puzzle, but brings it back in a big way. Aside from the complex series of mind-benders, Tesshi-e is mastering the art of multiple use objects, in that the handy and helpful items you find in the room have two or more uses, making the interconnections between puzzles even tighter and more entertaining.

Tesshi-e room escapes have always been fun, but it has been nice to see them progress from something slightly above average to the standout escape games they have become today. With their multi-layered puzzles and smooth controls Tesshi-e has earned the right to stand with the giants of the room escape field. With the usual two endings (the second featuring a very familiar restaurant), Escape from Tesshi-e's Room 2 continues the trend of point-and-click fabulousness that we've come to expect.

Play Escape from Tesshi-e's Room 2


(13 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Super School Day

JohnBSuper School Day is a quick-fire collection of mini-games from Second Impact Games. It shares a lot with titles like Wario Ware and the classic 4 Second series, though this game is out to make a mockery of them at every turn. Each round drops handfuls of extremely fast micro-games in your face, challenging you to complete them as best you can before you're whisked off to the next one. You will feel lost, you won't know what's going on, you will yell and you will fail. But you'll be laughing the whole time because hey, there's a sea urchin school uniform!

Super School DayTo start out, pick a student. Each has his or her own personality that affects which games you play and how difficult they are. You are then thrown into the craziness that is your "typical" day of school, involving things like landing a UFO, playing dodge ball, racing down the hall with fire extinguishers in rolling chairs, destroying a car with Street Fighter-style moves, and eventually trying to stop a meteorite with your bare hands.

What makes Super School Day so fun is its over-the-top personality. It knows it's a mini-game collection and it doesn't care. It throws stuff at you left and right secure in the knowledge that you're going to fail at some point. But you'll have fun doing it! Unlocking different endings is great fun, and attempting to perfect each challenge will take some work. This is a day at school, after all. You didn't expect to just show up and dance to a song about a giraffe, did you?

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


  • Currently 4.2/5
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Rating: 4.2/5 (29 votes)
| Comments (9) | Views (25)

Nam-Cap

SonicLoverAkaw-akaw-akaw-akaw... That's the sound of Nam-Cap, an innovative retro arcade game from Studio Pia. Billed as an arcade cabinet imported from an alternate universe, Nam-Cap takes the familiar concept of Pac-Man and turns it backwards in many ways.

Nam-CapYou play Nam-Cap, the titular heroine. Use the [arrow] keys to navigate the maze, leaving a trail of dots behind yourself. Your goal in each level is to fill the whole maze with dots (as opposed to consuming them all, obviously), but two catches make this task substantially difficult. The first catch is that the heart in the center of the maze will shrink as you lay dots, and if it disappears completely you can lay no more.

You can prolong or recover your dot-dropping privileges by catching one of the four kings that also wander the maze, forcing it to scramble back home to recover its crown. (Why kings instead of ghosts? I'm guessing it's so the spiky part can be at the top instead of the bottom.) However, that's where the second catch comes in: when you catch a king you leave a small heart behind, and if a king nabs that heart poor Nam-Cap will be temporarily weakened, not only unable to create dots but erasing every dot she passes over! Get caught while weakened by a king or at any time by the level-specific baddie, and you lose a life; lose all your lives and that's all she wrote.

Nam-CapThe thing most people overlook about creating something set in an alternate universe is that it has to make sense within that universe, ignoring our own. Nam-Cap is a little uneven in that area; seeing the kill screen at the very beginning of the game is just odd, but on the other hand, "Work Began" as a substitute for "Game Over" makes sense because once you're done gaming, it's time to get to work. The developers might have just gotten lucky there, though.

But that's not what matters to us; what matters is how fun the game is, and this game is definitely fun. Despite the reversal, Nam-Cap captures everything that made Pac-Man entertaining, from the alternating pursuit towards and from the four other parties in the maze to the panic when you thought you'd finished the level but really there's one little spot of the maze you haven't gotten to yet. There are even little cartoons between some levels, like in the original arcade Pac-Man, although they make slightly less sense because they're attempted direct adaptions. The game has its inherent flaws, like confusion about what needs to be covered in dots and what doesn't, but those are easily overlooked in an otherwise entertaining game.

Are you ready? Excuse me... are you ABLE??

Play Nam-Cap


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Rating: 4.6/5 (31 votes)
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I Hate Candy

DoraYou will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. Of course, I'm talking about the Candy Planet, and I Hate Candy. Or at least, the sullen mercenary hero of Cup of Fun's platforming shooter does, so it's bad luck for him that he's been sent to the sugary sweet world to rescue a bunch of scientists. Seems like candy might just hate him back, too, since the world is full of stuffed animals waiting to pelt him with the stuff, walls covered in sticky-sweet goo that make it impossible for him to climb, bottomless pits... not exactly a warm welcome. Use the [arrow] keys to move and hold [spacebar] to fire, keeping an eye on the temperature meter in the upper left corner so you don't overheat. Your goal is to find and rescue the scientist in each stage, blasting any toddling toys in your way and... uh... nabbing their souls for upgrades, which isn't creepy at all. You'll automatically grab onto and hang from any wall you jump against unless it's covered in slippery goop, so make sure to explore every part of each level to find all the power-ups and secrets.

I Hate CandyProvided you don't find the idea of gunning down toys that actually seem to think they're doing you a favour by showering you with painful treats, there's something delightfully weird about the whole tongue-in-cheek premise, and the great design doesn't hurt either. The spiteful, grudging tone of the alien hero and the gleefully oblivious toy enemies clash in a great way It feels like a few minor tweaks would really have gone a long way towards making the game a lot smoother, however. A map to keep track of where you are in the enormous levels, for instance, and a bit more variety in the environments, which sadly wind up mostly looking and playing the same apart from a few minor style changes. Still, I Hate Candy is one of those games with such a great style and sardonic charm that it's still worth checking out. A remarkable amount of work has clearly gone into it, and though it's begging for a more fleshed out sequel, I Hate Candy is a fun, snarky platformer with a lot of levels to explore and blast through.

Play I Hate Candy


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The Vault

TrickyIt's time to get a little dark and griddy! And by that, I mean, this week in the JayIsGames Vault, we're featuring some of the greatest grid-based games for you to gleefully go and grok. It's so hip to be square!

  • Back to the Cubeture: Era 1Back to the Cubeture: Era 1 - Confession time: this fair reviewer had actually never come into contact with EdibleCastle's humorous Cuboy before encountering this 2009 point-and-click game. But, as advertising methods for your flash cartoon series goes, putting together a hilarious isometric adventure where a cheerfully oblivious protagonist turns the world of the wild west into his whimsical playground has to be among the best. Polished, hilarious, and unabashedly oddball, Back to the Cubeture: Era 1 will definitely put an angular smile on your face.
  • GridzGridz - Originally this puzzler by Atomic Cicada was released merely as "Grid", before being semi-sequeled semi-remade in 2009 with a "z" attached to the end of the title. And that added little bit of EXTREME SPELLING made all the difference, since Gridz is a true classic. It's a joy to see how the mish-mash of presented pipe-segments coalesces into an elegant solution. Perhaps it's just my latent OCD coming through, but when I'm somehow able to put order into the chaos of each of Gridz's forty levels, I get the sense that things are somehow being made right in the world.
  • Grid GameGrid Game - Finally, before this edition of The Vault goes off the grid, I'd like to share with you this charming little chain reaction webtoy. Released by Mark James in 2005, Grid Game feels like it would be as at home on your office-top desk as it does on your computer screen. The simplicity of clicking a cell, which then rotates a cell next to it, rippling out in a cascade of clicks and chirps is strangely beautiful. The "high score" function was definitely a devious inclusion on the part of the developer, since it just about guarantees that I won't be able to stop playing until my coffee break has well and truly disappeared in a flurry of rotating circles. Totally worth it.

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


(3 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Little Luca

JohnBLittle Luca from Glowingpine Studios is a unique one button physics puzzle game that puts you in control of a bunch of floating colored things that change shape. Really! As two friends gazed upon the peaceful night sky something terrible happened. Stars fell from their perches, leaving behind a glowing red void. And the only person/creature that can set things right is you. Time to get wobbling!

Little LucaLevels in Little Luca are filled with objects the game itself describes as "wibbly-wobbly morphing" things. All you have to do is touch the forms to change their shape, using momentum and physics to catapult around the stage to collect stars and make it to the exit. Each shape morphs in a different manner when activated, leaving you some room to experiment and practice your timing before you get a perfect score. In later levels you'll unlock new things to play with, including gravity wells, tractor beams, whales, and maybe even a volcano.

The music and artwork in Little Luca deserves a mention, as both are spectacular in their own right. The game is a bit on the challenging side, but because everything in the world is so happy and cheerful, you never get frustrated, just motivated. Getting the hang of Little Luca takes some time, as it isn't your usual puzzle game by any means. But it's got all the ingredients of a solid mobile release, and you'll happily sit down and poke each little wobbly blob until the sky is filled with stars once again!

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


  • Currently 4.2/5
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Rating: 4.2/5 (149 votes)
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Bustermcthundersticks

DoraHe ain't Stormageddon, Dark Lord of All, but we love him just the same. He's Bustermcthundersticks, and he so happens to be a point-and-click puzzle game by Ninjadoodle, where the aim is to track down 33 tiny ninjas hiding throughout a house filled with tricks and puzzles. To play, just point, click, and drag to interact and keep your eyes open for clues that will tell you how to use the devices in each room.

BustermcthundersticksBustermcthundersticks is a weird name for an even weirder game, but it makes for a great snack-sized piece of puzzling that won't weigh you down... though you will have to contend with getting that soundtrack stuck in your head. While a few of the ninjas are simple reflex grabs, tracking down the others requires both an eye for detail and deciphering contextual clues that at first glance either don't make much sense or seem like simple decoration. Some of the puzzles are definitely more obscure than others, so don't be afraid to experiment or bang on walls if you need to. Short, stylish and sweet makes for a great casual gaming trifecta, and Bustermcthundersticks is another welcome little gem from Ninjadoodle to brighten your day. Now if you excuse me, I have to go inform my husband about his new nickname.

Play Bustermcthundersticks


  • Currently 4.7/5
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Rating: 4.7/5 (22 votes)
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Sokoboom

DoraIn-Finity's Sokoboom may look all sweet and innocent, but this simple puzzle game hides a devious difficulty curve... you may want to take the dark circles around our protagonist's eyes as a warning, because he's clearly been up all night with this one. Using [WASD] or the [arrow] keys, push each crate into a square on the floor with an X in it to open the portal to the next level. That's all. Easy, right? But despite not tacking on a lot of bells and whistles, Sokoboom's tight level design will tie your brain in knots. The downside is that the undo button, which only undoes a single move, feels too restrictive to really be useful, since unless you're going slowly and methodically it's far too easy to accidentally push a single block a few steps too far and be forced to restart the entire stage... which, considering how tidy and intricate the levels become, can be very frustrating. But with a clean presentation, Sokoboom serves up the sort of well thought out puzzling that shows you don't need a lot to be challenging. Just your wits... and apparently to have your hair styled by Javier Bardeem in his No Country For Old Men phase.

Play Sokoboom


  • Currently 4.1/5
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Rating: 4.1/5 (38 votes)
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Life Sciences

KinetikaiBiology was never my strong suit in school. All those mitochondria and phylums and mitosis... meh. Luckily, you don't have to know your genes from your jeans to make it through Life Sciences, a new room escape by Rose Key. The game takes place inside your standard, four-walled room decorated with the theme of — you guessed it — life sciences. Make your escape, or be forever trapped amongst pictures of parameciums and DNA!

Life SciencesIt's a simple but charming affair, and no heavy science knowledge is required for success — most of the puzzles are color-based. While some clicking areas are mildly fiddly, a changing cursor alleviates most of the pixel-hunting woes. The puzzles are definitely on the easier side, but they still have a nice logical flow, making for the perfect little coffee break escaper. So grab your bunsen burners and your graduated cylinders and try to make your way out of the room of Life Sciences!

Play Life Sciences


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Mobile Monday

JohnBWe're back with more games! More specifically a free game, a game that's on sale with a price that happens to be free, and a game about punching fish that isn't free but is close to it!

puzzleretreat-p.gifFree game: Puzzle Retreat - Earlier this year, The Voxel Agents released Puzzle Retreat. The game proceeded to rule our mobile devices with an iron fist, attracting our attention more than any other game. And for good reason, too: it's one of the most polished and entertaining puzzle games out there! To celebrate its awesomeness, Puzzle Retreat is currently free for iOS devices. The sale could end at any moment now, though, so be quick!

applebin-p.gifFree game: Apple Bin - Sometimes you just wanna throw some apples around. Apple Bin from Ruxar is a physics puzzle game that gives you a cannon full of apples and challenges you to do all sorts of stuff with them. Well, mainly get them in the bin using as few shots as possible, but in order to reach the bin you've got to avoid dangerous things and move some junk out of the way. Like giant concrete boulders, wooden planks, sawblades, portals, crates, gravity inversions, etc. It's a simple idea with a great implementation, and it's completely free from in-app purchases and all that other rubbish many mobile games like to feature. Just plain old apple-based puzzle solving! (Android / Windows Phone)

fishpuncher-p.gifAlmost free: Fish Puncher - Guess what this game's about? The official description says it best: "In a near-future dystopia, psychotic demon fish have enslaved humanity (for some reason or another - Global warming, probably). It's up to you, the Fish Puncher, to liberate us all in a convenient, two-minute burst of frantic arcade-style action. Punch stuff, punch more stuff, get a high score, be a hero." (Android)


  • Currently 4.8/5
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Rating: 4.8/5 (29 votes)
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Crazy Machines Golden Gears

JohnBCrazy Machines Golden Gears is a new addition to the Crazy Machines series of physics building/puzzle games. The franchise has made the leap from downloadable desktop game to the mobile world, bringing with it all the challenge, creativity and, well, crazy machines you can imagine. If Rube Goldberg only knew the kind of legacy he would leave to the casual gaming world.

Crazy Machines Golden GearsIf you've played the other Crazy Machines games or the granddaddy of all contraption-building games The Incredible Machine, you'll know exactly where to begin. Each level has a simple goal to accomplish, things like popping a balloon, getting a toy truck to the exit, or guiding a fragile vase to a marked platform. You do this by arranging an inventory of over 75 different contraptions, each more unusual than the last. How about dropping a basketball on that wind-up mouse to hit a button to set off the laser that pops the balloon? Or wiring up a logic gate that powers a boiling kettle that will move a turbine that pulls a conveyor belt? Yeah, you can do that. And it's awesome.

As the name suggests, golden gears play a big part in the mobile release of Crazy Machines. You're rewarded heaps of them based on how efficiently you solved each level, and in order to unlock additional stages, you've got to spend gears like mad. Two simple in-app purchases can help you in that department, and along with them you can gain access to a level editor as well as user-made levels. There are hundreds of custom stages to play, so if the main game isn't enough, Crazy Machines can still deliver!

Crazy Machines Golden Gears has made an easy transition to the mobile realm. Touch screen controls are flawless and it couldn't be simpler to place, arrange or remove items from the inventory. Now all you have to do is figure out how to solve these intricate puzzles and you're good to go!

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 4.7/5
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Rating: 4.7/5 (823 votes)
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Bob the Robber 2

Starchild It's not easy being the modern equivalent of Robin Hood. All he had to contend with were a few half-competent sheriff's henchmen. These days an honest, hard-working thief can't catch a break, with everything from security cameras to laser beams plotting against him. Which is why Bob needs your help once more, in Bob the Robber 2, a great little stealth puzzle platformer by Meowbeast.

Bob the Robber 2 Creep around (rather loudly, for a thief) using the [arrow] or [WASD] keys; use the up [arrow] to interact with objects, and the [spacebar] to whack unsuspecting guards. You also have three upgrade slots, bound to [Z], [X] and [C]. Your task is to reach a certain goal (you can't miss it, it's surrounded by arrows), and then make your getaway. Keep away from any creatures/pieces of technology you see guarding the rooms, or you'll set off an alarm; if you set it off four times, you're busted, and then it's back to square one.

There are lots of improvements compared to the original game. For starters, there are ten levels instead of five, and there's a shop where you can buy upgrades. Every time you pick a lock or mess with the electrical box, you get a tiny mini-game, and don't they make everything better? When you knock someone out, you now have a timer so you know exactly when they'll wake up, which really comes in handy. The levels all fit into a single screen, the graphics are improved and the music is toned down a little. The difficulty curve is similar, meaning that it's well calibrated and strikes a nice balance between using your brain and your reflexes. Another fun feature is the fact that you can adapt the gameplay to your own temperament, and either rush through the levels or try to be patient and stealthy.

Now to end with a pun. Bob the Robber 2 is a steal at this price? No, it's a free game. It's criminally entertaining? Laaaame. It'll rob you of your free time? Yes, alright, let's go with that one.

Play Bob the Robber 2


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

ArtbegottiIt's not every day you reach for a book on the bookshelf and find the laser of a sniper's rifle peeking over your shoulder. And that's a good thing, because that would probably turn a lot of people off to literature. But in Chris Hecker's recently-opened beta of SpyParty, you've got to take that chance and enjoy that book, because at a party of suspicious characters, you've got to use stealth and observation to trick the other player and win. While one player tries to act like the computer players without getting caught, the other tries to pick them out, in a sort of inverted Turing test. Even though SpyParty is unfinished, there's still a ton of tension as you pick up a book... and sneak the microfilm from the inside cover.

SpyPartyIn each round of SpyParty, one player takes the role of the spy, who has to accomplish a series of four tasks in order to win, while trying to look like one of the computer-controlled AI characters. The tasks are relatively simple and subtle actions like swapping a statue or planting a bug on the ambassador, but each of these actions has a small tell which might give the player away if they're not careful. You can move around using [WASD] or the [arrow] keys while moving the camera with the mouse, and performing your espionage actions with a right-click. Advanced players can try their hand at triggering the animation in an action meter that could give them a more subtle tell if successful, or a more obvious one if not. The spy can do regular actions with a left-click (similar to the ones the AI do) to try to fool the sniper, but they still need to complete all of the required actions in order to win.

The other player is the sniper, whose goal is to observe the crowd of partygoers from the outside, identify the spy, and take them out with a single bullet. As the sniper, you know that the spy is the only character who will perform the tells associated with the tasks, but spotting who's doing them in a crowded room can be tough. The sniper can move around on a limited track with [A] and [D], but can also zoom in and out on the room with [A] and [S] or the scroll wheel, and highlight suspicious characters with a left-click (or lowlight them with right-click). Holding down [Shift] initiates the sniper's crosshairs, and a click pulls the trigger on (hopefully) the secret agent.

SpyPartyThe spy wins if they can complete all of their tasks undetected, or if the sniper fires at the wrong person. The sniper wins by picking off the right partygoer, or if the spy runs out of time before completing their tasks. While the premise is simple, the result is an incredibly nerve-wracking atmosphere for both players, where you never know if you're making the right moves or not until the pull of the trigger.

Analysis: Did you remember to read the instruction manual and readme file before playing? The developer recommends you spend some time with the literature before you begin in order to understand some of the subtle nuances that can make or break a game. It might be a strange barrier for entry for new players, but having the extra knowledge and playing a couple of single-player practice rounds can make a huge difference. (After all, you wouldn't hire an untrained spy or sniper to do your bidding for you in real life... Not that you hire spies and snipers, right? ...Right?)

That said, when you start playing SpyParty, you're immediately immersed in an incredibly tense game of cat and mouse. As a spy, you might panic when the sniper's laser sight focuses on you right as you pick the book off a bookshelf. As a sniper, you might doubt your "sure thing" when you see them pick up a statue, but hear someone else mention "banana bread" across the room. Because there's so much going on in the room at any given time, both players are kept on edge as they don't know what the other knows.

SpyPartyEven among such a tense atmosphere, there's still a friendly community surrounding the game. Players are encouraged to discuss the events of the game to help one another out. It also helps to switch up roles often, as what you learn playing spy can help you as a sniper, and vise versa. Though you may be tempted to glean wisdom from higher-level players (note the number of wins each player has in the lobby), you can get just as many (if not more) tips from a player of equal skill level.

As the game is still an open beta, the graphics are still minimalist and clunky, but you quickly forget about that when you're trying to scan the room for details that you can use to your advantage. Some of the levels and missions are still regarded as "experimental" and aren't necessarily balanced for fair play just yet, but they make for interesting grounds for seeing the expansive potential of the game. If you're looking for a competitive and thrilling challenge, grab a cocktail glass and join the party.

Note: As this is game is still in beta, it may be buggy and not function properly on some computers; play at your own risk. As of the time of publication of this review, PayPal is the only method of purchase accepted, though the developer plans to include more means in the future.

WindowsWindows:
Get the beta version

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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Coolson's Artisanal Chocolate Alphabet

JohnBIn a situation that hits a little too close to home for some of us, Coolson's Artisanal Chocolate Alphabet from Things Made Out Of Other Things is a word game based in a chocolate factory starring an out of work English major desperate for a job. You manage to get a position at Coolson's factory packing boxes with letter-embossed chocolates. But since dropping squares into slots isn't all that exciting (and since you want to put that fancy degree to use), you decide to make things more difficult/entertaining for yourself. Instead of filling boxes, now you're writing words!

Coolson's Artisanal Chocolate AlphabetA conveyor belt at the top of the screen slowly moves pieces of chocolate from left to right. In the center is a small grid. Tap and drag letters from the belt to the box, arranging them so they intersect and spell short words, just like in a crossword puzzle. You have to work very quickly, though, as letters drop off the assembly line in a matter of seconds. You'd better have a good vocabulary and are comfortable working with awkward letters if you want to stay in the game. In fact, you might just need to be an English major!

Coolson's Artisanal Chocolate Alphabet can be an extremely challenging game, but not unfairly so. You can restart levels whenever you like with no penalty. It's easy to lose ranking stars by dropping too many letters in a stage, so be prepared to repeat workdays if you want a decent score. Best of all, both online and local multiplayer modes let you word/chocolate battle friends! Oh, and we can't talk about the game without mentioning the artwork. One glance and you'll fall in love!

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 (144 votes)
| Comments (2) | Views (53)

Seeds

HopefulNebula Say you're a little boy (but really you're a dinosaur) and in your roaring rampage of dinosaur-ness, you've stomped all the plants you can. Well, the king of the forest would like a word with you, and he wants you to replant everything you've crushed. Such is the premise of Seeds, an adorable new launch game by funstorm. SeedsYou blow the seed as far as you can by dragging the mouse left and then right. Click while the seed is in the air to drop more seeds and plant flowers. There are sweet spots that give you extra points or other bonuses, so your goal is to aim for them while avoiding trouble spots such as rocks, ponds, and crows. Use the points you earn to buy upgrades that help you make the most out of each launch. There's no distance goal: your distance and score accumulate on each launch to eventually bring you to the next zone.

Seeds is a lovely game, but it isn't without its flaws: the handling could definitely be improved, for example, and it gets very hard to aim your drops accurately as your launch speed increases. But between the vibrantly colored, ridiculously adorable graphics and the way it tweaks the genre just enough to stand out from the rest of the crowd, it's absolutely worth playing.

Play Seeds


(4 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Element4l

JohnBIt's tough to be a little element. You're at the mercy of every current of wind and lava flow on the block. Fortunately for the four elements in Element4l, they're bound together as a single entity and can switch as easily as you or I eat a whole bar of chocolate (i.e. instantly). This soothing but challenging arcade game from I-Illusions puts you in charge of those transformations, utilizing them as efficiently as you can in order to move through each stage safely.

Element4lPress the [left] arrow key to turn into a block of ice, [right] to switch to fire, [down] to turn into a stone, and [up] to become a floaty bit of air. Each of these states can be toggled as easily as you press the keys, and the physics associated with them will immediately take hold. Ice slides on smooth slopes and is great for building up speed. Earth is heavy and practically invincible. Fire lets you dash forward and bounce off of certain surfaces. As air you can tap [up] to float higher, letting the wind currents carry you where they may. You have an energy meter that prevents you from spamming the keys, so timing is everything.

Element4l starts as a little bit of a puzzle game that slowly morphs into an experiment in momentum. Because you don't have direct control over where you move, you have to take advantage of every environmental feature to ensure you stay on the move. One mistake and you'll likely have to restart from the last checkpoint. It's a bit frustrating at first, especially when you lose your speed and sit there like a grumpy little lump. Once you get the hang of it, though, it's an extremely satisfying experience. Accompanied by a beautiful soundtrack and lovely visuals, Element4l is a slice of beauty wrapped around a smoothly-flowing arcade game.

WindowsWindows:
Get the full version (requires Steam)
Get the full version (via Steam)

Mac OS XMac OS X:
Get the full version (requires Steam)
Get the full version (via Steam)


(7 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Wyv and Keep

JohnBWyv and Keep: The Temple of the Lost Idol is finally here! After almost three years in the oven, A Jolly Corpse has released its fully-baked and delicious puzzle platform game to the masses. It's got excitement. It's got adventure. It's got treasure. It's got multiplayer co-op. And it's got enough challenge to keep you scratching your head for a very long time.

Wyv and KeepYou control both Wyv and his buddy Keep as they work together to solve puzzles in a series of single-screen levels. The goal is always the same: get a crate on top of the button to open the exit door, then get someone to the exit. Actually accomplishing that is going to take some serious puzzle solving. Wyv and Keep can jump, pick up some items, push crates, and perform the occasional context-sensitive action like cutting a rope. Switch between characters as you position them in the correct places, using their noggins as temporary platforms to get everything where it needs to go. It's a lot like a simplified version of The Lost Vikings mixed with a touch of treasure hunting.

In addition to the main game, Wyv and Keep packs a level editor called Wyv's Cartographer that's surprisingly powerful. Not only can you create your own puzzles, but you can add custom artwork to make it look just the way you want. Map sharing forum thread, here we come!

Wyv and KeepAnalysis: Wyv and Keep is a seriously challenging game. If you think you're going to blaze through all 60 levels without breaking a sweat, you're in for a surprise. Puzzles take on a strong order-specific nature to them, forcing you to work out what needs to go where and when it needs to go there. And just when you think you've got it all figured out, you realize one of your characters is left stranded in the corner by that crate you just blew up. Time to start over! It's the kind of difficulty that inspires you to press onward, though, so don't get discouraged!

The storyline in Wyv and Keep is ancillary, but because the pair is such a quirky comedy duo it falls in place quite nicely. As new environmental obstacles are introduced you get to read about them in journal pages left by a previous adventurer. It's great watching the characters react to things as simple as sticky mud or statue heads that shoot fire spears. Also, the animations are a lot of fun to watch, especially when Keep or Wyv starts crying when the other one kicks the bucket.

The only real drawback to Wyv and Keep is its insistence upon keeping score. A running total of the time you take staring at the screen is kept, and each time you die you incur a small penalty. That also includes restarting the level because you got stuck. This feels a bit like punishment for not being able to see into the future, but for many it's just further incentive to go back and get a better score.

Wyv and Keep has been a long time coming, but it was worth the wait. It's a polished and well-made puzzle game, and the addition of co-op easily pushes it over the line into exemplary status. A great game no matter how you look at it, just be prepared to do some actual puzzle solving!

WindowsWindows:
Get the full version
Get the full version (via Desura)

Mac OS XMac OS X:
Get the full version
Get the full version (via Desura)

LinuxLinux:
Get the full version
Get the full version (via Desura)


  • Currently 4.7/5
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Rating: 4.7/5 (97 votes)
| Comments (7) | Views (50)

Black Side

satoriBlack Side is an unassuming little puzzle game from Mateusz Narolewski that will have you saying, "Even a child could do that!" — just before it sends the little troops inside your hindbrain dashing to their battle stations and makes you question whether someone's been replacing your breakfast cereal with paint chips. Using your mouse, trace paths across a board of black and white tiles so that the white tiles you've selected turn to black.

Black Side"Oh, that's too simple!", I can hear you saying. Well then, how about this? Your paths can only start on tiles that have been marked with a star, and so the number of paths you can trace on a given board are limited by how many star tiles are there. And all tiles, black or white, will always flip when you've included them in your path. Sometimes, you'll need to traverse tiles twice — once to get somewhere, and once again to flip them back. With a simple premise that must have been a cinch to code, Black Side reminds us that sometimes, all you really need to craft a successful game is a very good idea. Also, that innocent-looking pixels are still capable of making us go completely slack-jawed

Play Black Side

Link Dump Fridays

DoraSo, how about that E3 stuff, eh? While the news about how the Playstation 4 will be cuddling up with indies is certainly great, for me the biggest disappointment was Sucker Punch not standing up and going, "Haha, psych! You thought we were going to stick you with this dorkus malorkus? Not bloody likely. May we now present inFamous 3: Full Throttle Zeke, And Also Cole Is Back Because He Is Best". But I know, I know. You don't come here to see me mewl nervously about upcoming games. You come here for games. And darlin', have I got a batch for you.

  • Kitt's KingdomKitt's Kingdom - It's curiously well armed cat versus never ending army of dog in HighUp Studios' action/defense hybrid. Control the titular Kitt as he fends off wave after wave of angry canines, protecting your tower from their forces and earning all sorts of upgrades to hold the line. It's a gorgeous little game with lots of peppy charisma, though a metric ton of grinding and some mildly clunky controls may sour it for some. I promise you that it is at least vastly more entertaining than trying to nap while a cat determinedly attempts to maneuver its butt at your face/
  • Juggernaut: AwakeningJuggernaut: Awakening - This ambitious retro RPG from Jordan Allen, Nick Johnson, and Matt Jones loses several points off the bat for not opening with someone screaming "I'M THE JUGGERNAUT... uh... RHYMES-WITH-WITCH!" But, no, I kid. Despite suffering from a steep difficulty curve that demands a lot of level grinding right out of the gate, this game, about a group of friends who run afoul of forces best left alone, is still worth checking out if you're the patient sort. Sprinkle in a bit of humour, an epic quest, and an angry beargator and you have the potential for a lot of fun... if you can slog your way through some seriously brutal turn-based combat to get to it.
  • QuestopiaQuestopia - Aleksey Spirkin's dungeon-crawling action RPG has a lot of promise, though it's held back by slow movement and awkward aiming. See, you're a hero stuck inside a massive pyramid, and everything wants to kill you. Fortunately, everything also drops sweet, sweet loot, which I think we can all agree remedies almost any situation. The charming old-school style and addictive hack-and-slash (or run and shoot) style gameplay will appeal to some, though others will take issue with how hard it can be to aim directly at an enemy... especially while it and several of its friends are barfing magical orbs of death at you. Eh, still better than when I worked retail.
  • Dream FishingDream Fishing - Look, just play it okay? Sophie Houlden's Ludum Dare "minimalist" entry maybe be simple, but it's also simply delightful. Traipse around the surreal, softly lit area, casting for and catching fish that have some words of wisdom to deliver. It won't take long to play, but the game embraces its title and core concept perfectly to provide one of the most unexpectedly enjoyable little gems of playtime that's worth the few minutes it'll take you to check it out. Frankly, I loved it, and Sophie is my new bestie wether she realises it or not.

(12 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
| Comments (3) | Views (382)

Pet Rescue Saga

JohnBPet Rescue Saga is a cute and captivating puzzle game that made its way from the world of Facebook to the mobile marketplaces. Created by King, the developer behind Candy Crush Saga, expect a well-tuned matching experience punctuated by a number of useful power-ups, all told through a shoestring story about rescuing adorable pets!

Pet Rescue SagaAt its core, Pet Rescue Saga is a lot like the classic puzzle game SameGame, a formula that has been remixed many times over the years. The screen is filled with tiles of various colors along with a few miscellaneous power-up and point multipliers. All you have to do is tap a group of two or more like colors and they disappear, creating space for the surrounding blocks to fall and squeeze in. By being judicious about which blocks you remove at what time, you can carefully carve out more and more space so the little pets you're trying to rescue can reach safety.

Pet Rescue Saga is a very simple game. King has experience turning Candy Crush Saga into a massive mega-hit, however, and it shows with this release. If you're worried about in-app purchases and the like, you'll be pleased to know that Pet Rescue Saga lets you play all you want, provided you keep winning! Meet the goals of each level and you'll continue unlocking stages as you complete them. Fail to meet the goal too many times and you'll have to wait for your hearts to refill. It only takes about an hour, but if you're impatient you can nab extra hearts via microtransaction or by asking Facebook friends. Very tastefully done.

It's a simple, quick game with a whole lot of replay value. Pet Rescue Saga has a lot of pick-up-and-play power and is perfectly tuned for quick rounds of mobile entertainment. Plus, you get to save cute piglets and bunnies and birds and puppies. That's never a bad thing.

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


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Rating: 4.2/5 (32 votes)
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Monty's Moon

DoraYou might know that they sent monkeys into space, but the fact that these may be lady monkeys probably isn't very important to you unless you're the loveless primate hero of HighUp Studio's launch game Monty's Moon. Unable to find a gal, Monty believes his best chance for love is somewhere out there in the Black, and thanks to a similar simian scientist who can build all sorts of cannon accoutrements for an omnomnominal banana fee, Monty might just be able to reach the moon and find the lady of his dreams. Click to launch Monty when the arrow on the gauge is as far to the right as possible, and steer him with the mouse, nabbing 'nanas and avoiding birds and the like, which will slow you down if struck, and netting mystery power-ups you can activate with a double-click. After each launch, you'll be able to spend the bananas you earned on upgrades that will help you fly farther in different ways. While you can skip the fall animation after a failed flight, you may not always want to since you can grab bananas as you fall, too.

Monty's MoonMonty's Moon doesn't really do anything new with the launch genre, but it does it very well, with a polished presentation and a quirky sense of humour. The sheer amount of grinding required won't appeal to everyone, however, and it doesn't seem like Monty follows your mouse as quickly as he could or should, which makes quick reflexes at high speed sort of moot. It wouldn't grate quite as much if there were a bit more variety in the sky instead of the same birds and backgrounds on and on for so long. Though it could have used some more fleshing out, however, Monty's Moon has charm and style to burn and makes for simple yet fun arcade action on your beverage-of-choice break.

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Rating: 4.5/5 (50 votes)
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American Racing 2

TrickyDeveloping sequels to racing games can be a tricky proposition. Once you've added more cars, more tracks, and Waluigi, where else is there to go? Fortunately TurboNuke knows how to do follow-ups right, and the result is American Racing 2, the much awaited sequel to last year's hit first-person racing game. Gentlepeople, start your engines!

American Racing 2The gameplay mechanics should be familiar: Select an event on the calendar with the mouse, and you'll be transported to the track for a rolling start. Using the [WASD] or [arrow] keys accelerate, brake, and turn left and right as you speed around, advancing upon your opponents. Guiding yourself behind an opponent will grant you a burst of speed from Drafting, as well as adding to your Boost Meter. Your boost can be activated with [X], [Ctrl], or [Shift]. Most of the events are standard "so many laps against so many opponents", though there are also challenges like running over a certain number of boxes, or forcing an opponent to spin-out before time runs out. Each event has requirements for clearing or getting a gold medal. Completing events and damaging opponents during a race grants you cash which can be spent on upgrades for your vehicle. New events are unlocked as you clear races, leading up to the overall championship at the end of the season. Finish all the events, and you unlock the friggin' rocket car. So you've got that going for you.

American Racing 2 has the usual assortment of new races and whistle-bells (including a rear-view mirror!), but TurboNuke has clearly listened to the feedback from the original, and has given their racing engine a good tune-up. Race fans should appreciate how upgrading tires now also improves your car's handling, making precision driving challenges much less frustrating. It's a little more CPU-taxing this time around, which is a shame, but overall American Racing 2 should more than satisfy your daily recommended need for speed.

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Rating: 4.6/5 (33 votes)
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Minecraft - Pocket Edition

DoraThere's a lot to be said for the phenomenon that is Minecraft, and I promise you that when it gets to the stage that my local museum advertises it as part of "summer camp" that it is a phenomenon. The sandbox building simulation has come a long way from its noble beginnings, and multiple ongoing updates by dedicated team Mojang means more content is always incoming. So how, then, does Minecraft - Pocket Edition, the mobile version for iOS and Android devices fare? Well, despite not being anywhere near as content-rich as its desktop predecessor, still pretty darn decently.

Minecraft - Pocket EditionIn essence, Pocket Edition is exactly the same sort of game as the desktop version... a first-person romp through a blocky world you can tear apart brick by brick (and almost anything is a "brick") to rebuild and craft whatever you like, from diamond swords to towering scale-model recreations of the USS Enterprise you'll give up on once you realise just how much work is involved in it. (The most commitment I could ever muster was spelling BUTTFACE out in Netherrack in the sky that overlooked the tower my husband has been building, because I love him.) The Pocket Edition controls with an onscreen directional pad on the left to move and jump, and you can swipe your finger on the right side of the screen to look around. Pressing and holding on nearby blocks will cause you to start flailing away at them with your fist until they break away and can be picked up and added to your inventory, where you can use them to craft. The Pocket Edition offers a much easier crafting interface in that you're simply presented a list of items, and if you have the required materials, you can just tap to create them instead of trying to figure out recipes.

Right now, the game has both Creative Mode, where you're given limitless blocks to build whatever you like safely, and Survival Mode, where you have to contend with hunger and monsters, as well as actually having to search and work for all the blocks and materials you need. Of course, Pocket Edition is still technically in Alpha, and thus lacks a lot of the gameplay editions its big brother desktop version has had. You don't have to worry about making eye-contact with an Enderman, for example, because they don't exist, and neither does the game's iconic baddie, the Creeper. These are, however, things that are constantly changing as updates roll out (albeit much more slowly than the desktop version) and in time you can expect the Pocket Edition to grow increasingly more robust.

Minecraft - Pocket EditionA bigger disappointment than the wait for more content might actually be that the game does not currently support multiplayer of any sort, and when it does in the form of Minecraft Realms, you'll have to pay a monthly fee to use it. If you only want to play by yourself it's not a big deal, but if you enjoyed playing with buddies, and especially if you could host your own server for free off of your computer like I can for the desktop version, this is a little frustrating. Speaking of, getting used to the onscreen d-pad/lookabout combo takes some doing too, so you can expect to do a lot of wildly swinging the camera around or charging in the opposite direction from where you need to be until you get yourself sorted.

Fortunately, both the Android and iOS versions come with free demos to try so you can see if this is something you want to get your feet wet with and wrap your head around the controls. Chances are desktop Minecraft aficionados might find Pocket Edition a bit wanting at the moment, or at least until more updates roll in, and you wouldn't ever call this a substitute for the desktop version either. What this is, is a great way to introduce newcomers to the simple yet addictive sandbox simulation play that has devoured the time of so many for years now, and a satisfying little bit of diggy-diggy-hole to take with you wherever you go. Minecraft - Pocket Edition has a lot of potential as more updates keep rolling in, and as long as you don't mind waiting for more bells and whistles, or if you just want to see what the fuss is all about for the first time, it's still worth picking up.

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


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Lune

DoraThough currently only in Alpha demo stage, Lune, a unique adventure puzzle game by the appropriately named Team Lune, is still worth a gander. Using just [WASD] or the [arrow] keys, you control the moon itself, from its size to its ascent in the sky, and thus affect the world around you with light and the tide. Of course, you are not the moon. (Which is a good thing, because if I personally were to be the moon, it'd be a lot less serene ambient puzzle solving and a lot more DAWN OF FINAL DAY.) You're a young girl who seems to have the mysterious power to shape the moon to her will, and you can click anywhere on the ground to make her move there. As you explore, you'll come across certain objects you can interact with as marked by a dialogue box that appears overhead when you draw near, allowing you to click to select a choice to enact. Figuring out how to proceed also means figuring out how to use the moon's power to your advantage, such as manipulating light and shadow, or bringing the tide in to flood an area with water. Which just goes to show you how unrealistic this is because everyone knows they would only use the moon for supreme acts of laziness or indulgence, like moving it out of the window so you could sleep without its light in your eyes, or making an endless stream of artsy Facebook selfies.

LuneRight now the biggest obstacles to enjoyment can come down to a lackadaisical camera that's more interested in slow, sweeping, theatrical shots than actually helping you as the player, and some slightly awkward movement. Lune has such a great concept and the sort of enviably immersive atmosphere you wish more games had that it's a shame that it doesn't showcase a bigger variety of its potential gameplay in this demo early on. You'd be forgiven for thinking our heroine is wasting her power by early on using it only for a few obstinate block-pushing puzzles, and the game's stubborn lack of directions means some players may find themselves floundering around and frustrated before the game really shows off its chops. Beautiful? Sure. The sound and striking use of light and shadow combine to create a game that at once feels both ominous and peaceful in an otherworldly sort of way, and one you want to learn more about. If lovely, clever puzzle-solving to let yourself sink slowly into is what you seek, then give this demo a try. We can't wait to see the final product.

Play Lune (Alpha)


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Rating: 4.6/5 (53 votes)
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Darktopia

satoriLorraine has probably had better days. Separated from the rest of her crew, stranded in the alien jungles of Tavor, trapped in an ancient ruin, she's now accosted by monsters and the undead. Still, it's not all bad. Occasionally she'll encounter data-discs left by her crewmate Ridley, and various bits of equipment to give her phenomenal new movement abilities. Escape from a cursed alien tomb, find your crewmate and — if you're particularly fortunate — come out of it all with the brand new old fabulous Idol of Tavor as your lovely planetary parting gift. Metroidvania-style action and adventure await you in Angril's new sci-fi platformer, Darktopia!

DarktopiaOne of the first important things you'll learn about Lorraine — aside from her ability to handle difficult circumstances well — is that she can't jump due to an injury she sustains from a fall. Fortunately, you'll recover some boots off a fallen crew member, which allow her to, well, hop with [Z]. With some difficult maneuvering with the [arrow] keys however, Lorraine will soon be collecting colored keycards necessary for passing the appropriate doors, double-jumping, and even using a nifty little gadget called an Accelerator to improve her jumps even more. By pressing [Shift] while running once she finds it, just before jumping, the Accelerator enables Lorraine to boost her horizontal momentum for a full second. What that means is that if it's timed correctly, Lorraine's jumps can cross most of a whole screen even if they don't gain any additional height from it. The fun physics of this doohickey alone is enough reason to give Darktopia a try, and when combined with the double-jump the combination gets almost slapstick as Lorraine whizzes across the screen, disregarding the terrain almost entirely.

But Darktopia (which I'll always think of fondly as, "How Lorraine's No-Good, Awful Day Got Better") isn't just about the flagrant use techno-toys to violate the local laws of physics until they feel a bit sheepish and go home hanging their heads dejectedly. Lorraine eventually manages across a blaster rifle, for example. But you won't be able to just set it on Auto-fire and mindlessly laser your way out of the ghoul-infested ancient ruins, oh no no no. Either assault blaster rifles are banned in the future, or the fact that its previous owner abandoned it in a catacomb of ancient alien tombs indicates that it's a slightly inferior model, which Lorraine doesn't appear to stop to consider. Although [X] will allow you to fire (in any of your cardinal directions, by the way), each shot will heat the barrel slightly as indicated on a color gauge. That means for each shot, a cooldown period is required. And if you manage to max the gauge out to red, be prepared for a loooo-o-ong additional cooldown during which time you'll be unable to fire back.

DarktopiaSly level design also plays a big part in Darktopia. For all the aerial acrobatics Lorraine can eventually muster there is a distinct lack of headroom in these ruins, and much of that is filled with spikes and various other nasties. In some games, that would be annoying. In Darktopia, it's thought-provoking. It means you'll really puzzle out where you need to get to and how the heck to go about it. There will be moments you'll think you're stuck, as you can't always get back to where you started and all the color-coded doors won't open without the corresponding keycards. Don't panic! You'll eventually acquire some nifty device that will make what's impossible for Lorraine at the moment a glib reality later on. The checkpoints enable Lorraine to come back upon death to the last one she'd visited (presumably as a fully-living being rather than some eldritch, undead horror), and just reaching one will fully heal her as well. Even if you're not a huge fan of Metroidvania-style games, come for the gameplay physics of Lorraine's collectible arsenal of gadgets, and stay for the crafty level design and fun. And remember that no day has to be awful as long as you've got deft moves, some futuristic ability-enhancing devices, and a blaster rifle. Definitely a blaster rifle.

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Rating: 4.8/5 (365 votes)
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Room Gamma (Kotorinosu)

elleWhile there are no shortages of short escape-the-room games out there, lengthier adventures with enigmatically coded locks and multiple adjoining rooms, especially ones that hold up to the test of logic, are a rarer find. Among those few that manage to both confuddle and delight with seamless logic and an impeccably clean design, stands Kotorinosu with Room Γ as a one-in-a-million (nearly) flawless escape. Inexplicably locked inside these space age surroundings, with no narrative and the only words nearly invisible in the abstract, your goal is to search around, connecting what you see to what you can do, progressing forward until the last door swings open to set you free. Perhaps it doesn't sound like much, but in Kotorinosu's hands, it means you can happily while away a large chunk of your afternoon in this weekday escape.

Room GammaTo get started in the first room, point and click to explore and navigate, following arrows on the side of the screen to change views, or clicking a doorway or hallway to move that direction. The cursor doesn't change over active areas, leaving you to rely on other visual indicators while looking under furniture and around corners. Sometimes those details are inconspicuous or miniscule or camouflaged by our eyes' tendency to overlook the forest in the trees. Inventory is kept in the side bar where you can highlight to use (the item will follow your cursor) or click the tiny "i" to view an item in detail (which you'll need to do from time to time). Helpful is how inventory items disappear only when they're no longer usable.

Typical of Kotorinosu's style, Room Γ is full of puzzles that rely on figuring out how or where to use objects and decoding ciphers, no bouts of arithmetic or too obvious answers. It's like Device or a Neutral creation in its level of challenge. Among multiple puzzles and rooms, you'll find yourself going back and forth a lot, repeatedly opening and closing your inventory, and reusing items. It can be a bit irritating to have to fiddle with so many items, especially because that tiny "i" for each inventory item means some precision clicking, making you wish for double-click method of opening detail screens that Detarou uses. Although there's no true pixel hunting, because this escape is challenging, anyone who gets stuck will probably spend a long time fruitlessly clicking anywhere and everywhere, wondering if they missed a pixel somewhere. More likely, it's just easy to miss the spot where an item is used. The visuals are so serene and aesthetically pleasing that there are at least two hide-in-plain-sight moments with the potential to trick us. But as lovely as it is to look at, the best part of Room Γ is its use of puzzles. They fit the theme and feel original even as they're not completely unique, making the experience feel like more than a simple escape—it's easy to overlook the flaws and dub Room Γ a perfect break out adventure.

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Bridgy Jones

JohnBBridgy Jones, which we promise has absolutely nothing to do with Helen Fielding or Renée Zellweger, is a physics puzzle/building game from Grow App. It's pretty much free from all that romance and stuff, but it's still tells a bit of a love story in its own way. The love between a dog and a chicken, a man and delicious fried eggs, and you and your ability to make bridges out of thin air, that is.

Bridgy JonesOne part Cargo Bridge and one (smaller) part Mining Truck 2, Bridgy Jones challenges you to create solid structures to help a train safely cross bigger and bigger gaps. Simply tap and drag to place items like rope, railings and planks, all useful for creating platforms and support pieces you'll need to distribute the weight. The train is hauling cargo, so the ride can't be too bumpy. Take it slow and make ample use of the game's friendly editing options to place, slide and erase parts as often as you like.

Bridgy Jones should be familiar to anyone who's played a physics building game before. It doesn't go out of its way to reinvent the genre, nor does it over-complicate things with too many building materials or crazy mini-games. It's simple, bridge crafting fun, with a lot of great artwork and a tongue-in-cheek storyline to boot.

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


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Rating: 4.6/5 (72 votes)
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Ninja Miner

Starchild How many mines would a ninja mine if a ninja could mine mines? Er, on second thought, this would work better with a mime. But could a mime fly from one wall to another, collecting diamonds and stars, avoiding spikes and crushing obstacles in the blink of an eye? Not very likely. Ninja Miner by SilenGames is a quick-fire arcade game with a puzzly disposition. Your goal is to pick up all the diamonds in the level, at which point you can keep playing (in order to get the three stars as well) or exit through the same door you entered from. To do this, either use the mouse or the [arrow] keys. There are twenty-four levels, each with a different size and layout and lots of added object to help/hinder your progress. Some might include portals, or tools you have to use to break crates, or coloured blocks controlled by levers.

Ninja MinerAll this seems easy enough at the start; however, our little ninja is so overexcited by the joys of being a miner that he'll zoom through a tunnel as long as his little feet will carry him. In other words, once he starts running along a straight line, there's no stopping him, so you'll have to carefully calculate your route if you want to clear a level. Add to that a good number of spikes on the walls (some of which you don't even see until the ninja runs into them), and you've got yourself a nice little conundrum. This is not to say that the game is frustratingly difficult – the solutions might be obscure when you play some levels for the first time, but it's so much fun that you really don't mind trying again, and again if needed. The 3D graphics work well with this type of game and the vibrant colours contribute to the pleasant environment. And for those who like an extra challenge, there are 65 achievements to reach.

With its fast pace and bouncing off the walls, Ninja Miner has an almost pinball feel to it. You'll have to think on the fly, react quickly and keep your eyes open at all times, and you'll have a lot of old-school fun doing it.

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The Vault

TrickyWhile it wasn't quite on the level of New Coke or the Arch Deluxe, it's safe to say that a lot of people are happy to see the old Link Dump Friday return. In LDF's honor, this week in the Vault, we're featuring classic titles from our archives that made their debut by gettin' posted on Friday, Friday!

  • The VisitorThe Visitor - One of Zeebarf's most underrated talents as a developer is his skill in franchise building. Each of his games has so many ideas just waiting to be expanded upon, that it would take more sequels than any one person could make before the well ran dry. You can see this particularly in 2007's The Visitor, a point-and-click adventure game. The concept of an puny worm of an alien who assimilates abilities by consuming creatures around him is equal parts comedic and horrific, like Kirby re-invented as a cannibalistic demon. Even though your control the alien, the sense of dread grows as the choice of victims slowly goes up the food chain. Good thing there's a guy like Reemus out there, or else there'd be no hope for us puny humans.
  • Colour My HeartColour My Heart - Some games are just made to be comfort food, and Colour My Heart, a 2009 point-and-click platformer by Silver Stitch, is one of them. Though its control scheme is a little uneven, the tale of a lonely person looking for a little color in their work of gray, black and white, still has emotional punch. Accusations that Colour My Heart is a little syrupy cannot be denied. However, that just means it's sweet enough for everyone, and, of course, there is the rest of the Colour My series for one's daily dose of sturm und drang.
  • I Wish I Were The MoonI Wish I Were The Moon - I Wish I Were The Moon, by Daniel Benmergui, was the winner of the 2008 Best of Casual Gameplay award in the Interactive Art/Webtoy category, quite rare for an LDF entry. However, its victory was well-earned, as this small story of boy, a girl, and a moon is a piece of beauty. The work packs a truly impressive amount of emotion into its minimalist graphics and gameplay, and its iconic simplicity is nothing less than elegance of game design. After this, and his similarly excellent Today I Die, Benmergui dedicated himself to the development of Storyteller, a work that promises to be his masterpiece and had better not end up being vaporware or else I'm going to hunt him down and kick over his sandcastle.

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


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Rating: 4.7/5 (53 votes)
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Color Zen

JohnBColor Zen from Large Animal Games is a relaxing puzzle game that's probably going to be your next go-to for quick bursts of entertainment. Each level hands you shapes of various colors, some of which are movable, all you have to do is give them a quick swipe. When shapes of the same color collide they meld into each other and fill the entire screen, effectively eliminating that color from the puzzle. The goal is to get every visible object the same color as the border.

Color ZenColor Zen becomes challenging when it starts playing with shapes nested inside of other shapes. If you want to get rid of all blue things, you have to make sure every blue object can be "touched" when you slam two blue shapes together. It's a bit like Factory Balls in that order is king. Think a few moves ahead and you'll do fine. There's no scoring and no timer, making this a great puzzler to sit back and relax with. Simple idea, great game.

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


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Rating: 4.7/5 (374 votes)
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A Dark Room

DoraIt's just you, a fireplace, a dwindling stack of woods and your thoughts in A Dark Room, an adventure game/sim-like webtoy from doublespeak games that takes gameplay cues from Candy Box!... though sports a decidedly creepier tone. Just click to select options as they appear, which could take some time, so this is a game you might want to leave running in another tab as you surf. Initially all you can do is stoke the fire in your meager room, but what might the light in that otherwise dark forest attract? Would could you build if you dared venture outside to search for supplies?

SEE ALSO ON JAYISGAMES: Untrusted

Like Candy Box!, the less said about A Dark Room the better, although the experience is decidedly more of a straightforward game once you get rolling. Well, straightforwardish. A Dark Room excels at crafting a slow boil narrative in the time you interact with it, leaving a lot to suggestion and your imagination instead of stated fact. How well it succeeds and keeps you riveted, however, depends on whether for you that atmosphere and interest can survive the long delay between certain timers and just waiting for something to happen. By and large, though not as unexpectedly delightful as Candy Box!, A Dark Room feels far more like a complete game, and even features a compelling, mysterious setting that makes you want to hang around your computer even longer the more you find out about it. Though slow to start, A Dark Room is pleasantly eerie and addictive with some clever ideas of its own and surprises that make it well worth your time and a dedicated tab of its own in your browser.

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Rating: 4.7/5 (178 votes)
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BackDoor Door 1: The Call

DoraIt seemed like just another weird dream... after all, why else would you suddenly find yourself falling through nothingness? But when you hit the floor with a painful thud you're forced to admit this seems like reality... which means something is seriously wrong, considering the room you find yourself locked in and the taunting voice over the phone that dares you to find a way out. But as strange as your situation may be, it's going to get a whole lot stranger before it's done, and BackDoor Door 1: The Call, the first chapter in SolarVagrant's new adventure game series, has a whole lot of tricks up its sleeve beyond its sneaky puzzles, escape-like premise, and retro-tastic premise that's chock full of references.

BackDoor Door 1: The CallUse the [arrow] keys to move, [Z] to interact, [X] to use your current item, and [C] to cycle through the objects in your inventory. Hit [spacebar] to open your inventory, where you can view or combine items, and of course, save your game. Clues and items are hidden everywhere, so don't be afraid to examine everything. If you know what you're doing, Door 1: The Call is actually a fairly short game. Once you find your way out of the room, you've still got to find your way out of the house, and doing so requires solving a nice chunk of mostly logical puzzles.You sort of need to pay attention to everything, since the game likes to hide clues in what seems like simple descriptive text, and having the actual item puzzles be fairly straight forward once you figure those clues out makes a nice change from the overly convoluted solutions most adventure games expect you to cobble together.

The downside, apart from the somewhat kludgy movement, is the lack of in-game instructions, and also the fact that you'll end up with way more questions than answers at the end of it. Oh, you'll find out why you are where you are, and even "where", to an extent, but the game ends leaving you wanting more just as things start ramping up. With an oddball sense of humour, an appealing surreal story, and an old-school style, Door 1: The Call is short but fun and full of promise for one big, weird adventure down the road we're looking forward to seeing more of.

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Mobile Monday

JohnBTiny little change for this week's Mobile Monday. We're going to start featuring a few free games each week along with some mobile games that didn't quite make the cut when we worked out the weekly schedule. Any objections? Didn't think so! Onward!

minecraftpocket.gifMinecraft mobile gets multiplayer - In case you stopped playing Minecraft for some reason, you should know that Minecraft: Pocket Edition recently had a rather significant update that added a sorely-missed feature: multiplayer! Mobile Minecraft is making use of the beta version of Mojang's Realms, an official service set to provide servers for all who play the game. For a fee. But it's free at the moment, so go and check it out! (iOS / Android)

quadropus-p.gifFree game: Quadropus Rampage - One part roguelike, one part arcade smacking game. Quadropus Rampage from Butterscotch Shenanigans is what near-mindless button smacking should be. The game touts one of its features as "Hit enemies in their stupid faces", which we admit is really rather awesome. Randomly generated levels, tons of loot to pick up and equip, and some bright and shiny graphics that look fantastic on your Android device. And yeah, it's free! (Android)

pixoban-p.gifNearly free: Pixoban - Bringing a little sokoban action to the mobile markets, Pixoban stars the young Pixo who has been abducted by aliens. In order to escape, you have to puzzle your way through 126 levels of tough block-shoving puzzles. It's ok, though, because you might get a spiffy hat out of the deal. (iOS / Android)

ff4-p.gifFinal Fantasy IV hits Android - It took its sweet time, but Square-Enix has finally brought the 3D remake of the fourth Final Fantasy game to Google Play. It's not on sale like Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions is (darn), but it's Final Fantasy, and it's still good! (iOS / Android)


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Inceptio

HopefulNebula Doodle God is fun and all that, but sometimes you just have to go deeper. That's where Inceptio, an alchemy puzzle for Android from Noon, comes in. In most alchemy games, you're given one playing field and the goal is to find all the combinations, and at first Inceptio seems like more of the same. But what sets Inceptio apart from the other games in its genre is the variety of themes. There's a Hollywood puzzle where you have to make your way from four famous movie directors to Charlie Chaplin in a "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon"-esque web of directors, actors, movies, awards, and themes. There's a Star Wars-themed puzzle where you have to create the New Jedi Order. There's even a murder mystery to solve.

InceptioThe interface is simple: drag two or more elements together to (hopefully) combine them into something new and better. Double-tap on an element to duplicate it, or on an empty space to organize things. You can drag any item to the trash to hide it in the element tray, tap the trash icon to hide all the terminal elements, or long-press it to clear the board. Each puzzle has a set number of hints in the free version, and you get one free hint every day. The premium edition includes unlimited hints and an Undo button. And if you run out of hints or puzzles, or if you just think that Lion plus War should make House Lannister, you can create your own levels, including original elements.

There are a few small frustrations in the game, however. In particular, it would be very nice to have a larger, scrollable workspace to arrange elements in. Some element names — generally titles of films — are in French (or slightly different from the English). This isn't a game-breaking issue for non-French speakers, though: it's pretty easy to tell from context that the World War II-era soldier's helmet labeled "Soldat Ryan" in the movie level represents "Saving Private Ryan."

Inceptio is a nice, in-depth alchemy game with literally infinite combinations. If you enjoy tinkering with various combinations of items and the thrill of realizing what elements join together, it's definitely worth a look.

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 4.3/5
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Find the Escape-Men 53 in the Service Area

GrinnypThere's nothing like a really long car ride with the throb of a well-tuned engine... the thrum of tires against asphalt... the hum of the climate controls... the rattling of one of the fan vents... the numbness in your left leg... the whining of your passengers... the crackle of the radio as you JUST TRY TO FIND A DECENT STATION IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE... uh, eventually, in any long-distance ride, a person needs to just pull over and stretch their legs, hit the restroom, and maybe find something to eat. Not a problem in more populated areas, but if you are in the vast stretches between towns sooner or later you might want to brave the nearest rest stop, also known in other parts as the service area, home to squabbling families, long-haul truckers, interstate serial killers, and apparently escape men. No1game is back with the road trip that refuses to die in Find the Escape-Men 53 in the Service Area, yet another road trip themed escape. Are we there yet?!?!

grinnyp_findescapemen53_screenshot.pngThe inevitable sequel to Part 51 (Traffic) and Part 52 (Gas Station) sees the long-suffering traveler attempting to catch a break at a fairly decent looking Service Area, one that is home to restrooms, restaurants, a gift shop, and the inevitable green escape men. Why these little international symbols of an exit want to keep hiding in the scenery is a mystery that is once again explored in point-and-click format. The problem, you see, is that although it's nice to get out of the car and move around a bit, you won't be able to get back on the road until you find ten of the little slackers and make them get back to their jobs. No1game serves up an amusing little mini-escape with a couple of puzzles, some combining of found items, and a lot of annoying the folks around you. Find the Escape-Men 53 in the Service Area reminds us that in the vast excursion that is life it is not the destination but the journey that is important. And, you know, the escaping.

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Labyrinthine Dreams

AliceWhen do you give up, and when do you keep trying? Sometimes it seems like a good idea to throw in the towel and save yourself the strain of a losing battle. But what if you're fighting for something incredibly important? What if it's your own life? In Labyrinthine Dreams, a free narrative puzzle from Solest Games, a very sick young woman named Beth faces this choice. Is it really so bad to give up, or is fighting worth it even when you're unlikely to win?

Labyrinthine DreamsLabyrinthine Dreams is a game about mazes—metaphorically, in that Beth's still trying to understand her life and how she got to this point, but literally too. Each level is made up of several examples of a different type of maze. Sometimes you won't be able to turn in certain direction, or you'll be on a grid where each spot has its own set of directional limitations. Sometimes you'll be able to go wherever you want, but on an invisible path or a slippy floor. At the end of each level, you'll need to run away from the monster inhabiting Beth's dreams. Like what it represents, it more than outmatches you physically, but you're a thinking person and it's an inhuman force. With a little clever thinking, you'll be able to outwit it.

Labyrinthine DreamsThough the graphics are simple, they're charming and look nicely polished. The mazes are well-designed, too. Though they may be challenging, the rules are always clear, and the different twists on your standard maze keep the experience feeling fresh. Unfortunately, if mazes aren't your thing, the gameplay here doesn't have much else to offer. Another big draw of Labyrinthine Dreams is probably its story, which is both well-written and respectful about the subject matter. It's more mellow than you usually see in game writing, which, in addition to the gameplay choices, makes it worth checking out just by virtue of its uniqueness. Some of the relationships in Beth's life could have been better fleshed out, since relationships are really what this game is all about. Perhaps more exploration scenes (which felt underused) could have helped?

Still, Labyrinthine Dreams is a quality game. Short but sweet, it won't take up too much of your day, and it's nice to see developers try something different. This is definitely one to try for anyone who enjoys a good maze, or prefers a more human-experience sort of story in their games.

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Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions

DoraA kingdom struggling to recover after a half century of war that leaves the very men and women who were its heroes no other recourse than a life of crime. Two lifelong friends whose paths are about to diverge in ways neither could imagine. In the iOS port of SquareEnix's epic turn-based strategic RPG adventure Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions, the beloved tactical fantasy game gets a touch-screen interface that keeps all the important things intact. Raise and train an army of wildly different heroes and jobs to tell the tale of Ramza through a series of challenging, engaging battles that will test your leadership abilities. And your finger-tapping precision.

Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the LionsChances are you already know all the nitty-gritty about the game, but here's a brief rundown. Rather than traveling around a world map and exploring towns manually (shaking down people's drawers and chatting with NPCs), you travel from point to point on a world map and all the story unfolds in cutscenes at each location. At its core, The War of the Lions is a game that focuses far more on combat when it comes to gameplay. You'll maneuver your soldiers one by one across a grid-like battlefield, positioning them to take advantage of enemy forces that are trying to do the same to you. Though each battle may have different conditions for victory or defeat, failure can come if your entire army is wiped out.. and since a soldier will vanish for good if you don't revive them within a set amount of turns, you don't want to slack off when it comes to your fallen. With battles that often seem tilted in the enemy's favour, areas that force you to use the terrain to your advantage, and soldier classes that will let you unleash powerful spells and abilities as you play, The War of the Lions still remains one of the finest, deepest role-playing tactical experiences you can have today.

Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the LionsThe most recent update of this iOS port was a pretty substantial one, most noticeably including new, sharper display and character sprites that look more smooth and modern. That's all well and good, provided you're not a graphics purist shrieking inside at those pudgy little sleek clay people, but... There's really no way to say this without sounding like an ungrateful schlub, but for all the touchscreen optimization work here, a simple onscreen D-pad probably would have been a lot smoother. Selecting individual items and tiles on the battlefield is frustratingly fiddly, and more often than not you'll wind up selecting every tile adjacent to rather than the one you want. Especially when the terrain is uneven. You have to get used to tilting, swinging, and otherwise angling the camera around at all times, which can be annoying. Isn't there a Moogle I can pay to do this for me? Several of them stacked atop each other could operate a camera, right?

These, however, are largely things you'll get used to if you have the patience to even play as heavy a game as this to begin with. Fussy user interface aside, there's a reason this game has endured for so long, and quibbles aside this iOS port keeps everything about it you loved intact. It's a massive game, with the sort of gameplay mechanics that are relatively easy to pick up but still make every battle a challenge simply because the game expects you to use your wits rather than simply grind numbers higher. Seated alongside that is a storyline that is a lot deeper and more intelligent than you might expect, with more emphasis on characters and political intrigue than magical flim-flammery. (Don't look at me like that. I love it too, but you know as well as I do Final Fantasy has never been what you'd call grounded.) The story here, for instance, is considerably heavier than the ones in the Fire Emblem series, or even Final Fantasy Tactics Advance. If you've been craving a complex narrative and difficult battles to match, do yourself a favour and find out why this game has been loved by so many over the years and systems it's been featured on. If you haven't played it in a while, despite a somewhat fudgy user interface (and some minor instability on a first generation iPad), this is still an extremely playable port you can lose yourself in all over again.

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


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The Night of the Rabbit

SuzanneDo you remember the picture books of your childhood? The cozy, sun-dappled worlds encountered in the pages of A. A. Milne and Beatrix Potter were a soothing antidote to the frequent cruelty and unfairness of daily life. The Night of the Rabbit, an indie point-and-click adventure by Daedalic Entertainment, is the digital equivalent of those picture books: visually and aurally lush, with a cast of charming animal characters and a human boy as the plucky protagonist. It's an engaging companion for an evening's play but unfortunately it can also be a little too long-winded for its own good.

The Night of the RabbitJeremiah Hazelnut is a cheerful young lad who heads out one morning determined to make the most of the two days of summer he has left. He certainly finds adventure in the form of a strangely alive letter that bounds out of his mailbox. Upon following the instructions within he summons an old magician's trunk—and a six foot tall talking rabbit in a purple frock coat called the Marquis de Hoto.

The rabbit is a magician and a treewalker, able to transport himself between worlds. He is looking for an apprentice and Jerry, an aspiring magician himself and possessor of a mysterious magical coin, is his choice. To begin his training the Marquis takes Jerry back to Mousewood, an enchanting realm where hedgehogs repair boats and a dainty mouse on roller skates named Anja runs the local café. As Jerry, you will start small, solving puzzles and combining inventory items to perform errands for the Mousewood folk. But after a lengthy series of quests you will gain the magical knowledge necessary to combat the evil that threatens to unravel this idyllic world...

The Night of the RabbitThe Night of the Rabbit is a point-and-click adventure in the traditional style, which means there are loads of puzzles to solve in between all the dialogue. Talking, and picking up and using items are all accomplished with a single click of the mouse, and scrolling the mouse wheel is all it takes to open your inventory. Holding down the wheel activates Jerry's magic sight, highlighting all the clickable spots on the screen and occasionally turning up a hidden wood sprite or elf. The territory you cover is quite large and a easily-accessible game map is not available, so progress can get tedious at times and will require plenty of trial and error. Luckily the puzzles are mostly sensible, and the solutions never get as bizarre as they were in the good old days of Sierra and LucasArts.

Analysis: Oh, how gorgeous this game is. We wouldn't be surprised to learn that Daedalic Entertainment had holed up in the children's section of the library prior to making this game as the scenery evokes happy memories of the warm, enveloping forests drawn by Arnold Lobel or E.H. Shepard. In screenshots it looks good but in motion it positively blooms, as dandelion seeds waft by on the breeze and fireflies dance in the soft lantern glow at the Hare family's birthday party. It's a vision of childhood as it might exist in the Western collective unconsicous: safe, comfortable, warm, and a little bit magical. The universally excellent voice acting just adds to the charm.

The Night of the RabbitIf only the script were up to the high standards set by the art. Make no mistake, the dialogue is witty and written with a novelist's skill. The pacing, however, is off. Seriously off. The first several hours of the game are ostensibly Jerry's trial period in which he proves himself worthy of magic study, but it seemed to us more like a series of poorly-signposted fetch quests.

The game in general suffers from this lack of direction. Why are you here? What's the point? Who are these strange masked creatures? Where's the big bad guy? A little mystery is good storytelling but these questions are left unanswered for far too long. If you're not yelling, "GET ON WITH IT!" after five hours of charming and funny but pointless dialogue with your animal friends you are made of sterner stuff than we are. The game's initial refusal to open up can get frustrating, but the story gets more involving as Jerry's magical skills grow and the radiant setting and soundtrack will be enough to carry many through the dozy bits.

German game studio Daedalic Entertainment has been sustaining the genre of story-driven point-and-click for years now with games like A New Beginning and Edna & Harvey: The Breakout, and The Night of the Rabbit is a typically well-produced addition to their resumé. Other adventure games may be less unwieldy but few are endowed with this much atmosphere. While its poor pacing frequently tried our patience, The Night of the Rabbit is an enchanting trip down the rabbit hole we're glad we took.

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Don't Escape

DoraIn ScriptWelder's point-and-click puzzle game Don't Escape, you're not trying to find a way out of the tiny, cramped hunter's cottage, but rather a way to keep yourself in. See, werewolves aren't exactly known for their cuddly-wuddliness, whatever pop culture has taught you, and as a werewolf yourself, your only hope to avoid delivering bloody carnage to the townspeople nearby is to make sure you can't get out when the moon rises at night. There doesn't seem to be much outside, or in the single room that makes up the cottage's interior, but somehow you're going to have to make it work and shut off all avenues of escape when the beast comes out. Click around to gather items and try to figure out ways to keep yourself inside by creating as many obstacles as possible. If you can interact with something, your crosshairs will dim slightly. When you think you've done enough, click the hourglass in your inventory to advance time to dusk and cross your fingers, because if the werewolf inside you is still strong enough to get past all of your hastily erected blockades, the hapless villages don't stand a chance. Remember, nobody is ever Team Mass Murderer.

Don't EscapeIt's a clever concept, twisting the old escape-the-room formula around to force you to try to think of every possible way to keep yourself trapped later on. With a moody atmosphere and visuals, the game's concept feels even more urgent, and the lack of any real instruction beyond "keep yourself inside" means you're really going to have to get resourceful to succeed. The downside is the game's dark, somewhat muddy graphics make it both hard to see at times and easy to miss items, and when some interactive areas aren't indicated visually unless you mouse over that exact point, you wind up having to sweep the mouse around to make sure you aren't missing anything instead of relying on your own deduction. There is, for instance, a second page to the notes on the table, but clicking anywhere except one particular portion of the screen just exits you out of looking at them, so you'd be forgiven in thinking there's nothing there at all. Still, despite relying on some truly fiendish scrounging for success and some red herring items, Don't Escape is a fresh and welcome change to the genre. It almost feels like the sort of thing that could become a genre of its own, in fact, and I'd love to see even more installments and scenarios in the future.

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Rating: 4.5/5 (20 votes)
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All We Need Is Brain Level Pack

HopefulNebulaWhat does a vegetarian zombie eat? GRAAAAINS. It's a shame more zombies aren't vegetarian. Thankfully, you have a friend at the local brain depositary who's supplied you with all the tasty tasty zombie bait you'll need to get through thirty new levels of non-vegetarian zombies in VladG's All We Need Is Brain Level Pack. Gameplay is identical to the previous games in the series: click to drop a brain and watch its scent waft oh-so-invitingly left and right, attracting zombies from any nearby graves. Lead the zombies to their doom to move on to the next level.

All We Need Is Brain Level PackThe level pack doesn't add any new surprises, but after the first few levels, Hard Mode turns on with a vengeance. One level will require you to time your brain drops just right, another will and then the next will call on all your abilities to plan the right sequence. Guess you'll need more than just pixelated brains to get through this, and even more to collect all the bonus coins. And since you have a large stockpile of them, who better than you to lead brand new levels of zombies to their re-deaths?

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Ghost Party

SatoriHave you heard? There's a fancy evening dinner party at a stately mansion, and you're invited! But you know, these things would be a lot more fun if we could throw one that didn't involve the wealthier guests falling over dead partway through. Get ready to party the night away with cute talking bats, chic clairvoyant goth girls and giant malfunctioning robots in Tuan & Marshall's premiere afterlife adventure mystery, Ghost Party!

Ghost PartySince you're a ghost already, you have less to be personally concerned about when it comes to guests suddenly collapsing unexpectedly into their soup. Instead, you'll be wafting through the mansion with the [arrow] keys gathering clues as to whodunnit. (No, not this one. We've already sorted out what happened there.) You can also use [space] to interview listen in on the various guests. Influencing events to keep everyone you can alive — which Miss Manners advises us is a very important element of hosting a successful event — is a little more difficult, as nearly all the mortals don't see you. Much of your afterlife is spent finding obscure items or clues that various people need, and then being utterly incapable of getting it to them because they're not on your plane of existence. Well, not yet at least! But where there's a will there's a beneficiary, and Ghost Party has come up with some clever means of getting around that. You can also bring up information about your inventory with [esc], as well as saving and loading.

Ghost PartyWith an 8-bit Nintendo look-and-feel and an inventory-based Infocom sort of gameplay dynamic, playing Ghost Party really starts to feel a little like Maniac Mansion — if you could keep playing after you've managed to kill off all the kids. It was built in RPG Maker, the same engine that's been used to bring us so many other indie games. It's fairly short and can be solved in under an hour, but features three possible endings. For a game put together by two people taking a few random weeknights out of their schedule to make it — including all the graphics and music — it really gives a sense of how solid RPG Maker is, and what can be made with it. So get set to party with the night life, high life, lowlife and afterlife in Ghost Party!

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  • Currently 4.6/5
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7 Grand Steps

JohnB7 Grand Steps is a new story-driven game from Mousechief, creator of the multi-award-winning Dangerous High School Girls in Trouble. It's a tale of growing and evolving, progress and struggles, families and histories, all told through the lens of a token-operated machine. In practice, 7 Grand Steps is very much like a board game fused with interactive narrative elements. And like any game of substance, just talking about its parts doesn't do justice to the whole. This game will reach out and grab you on a whole different level. It has this uncanny ability to make you feel for the characters, which is surprising seeing as how you're just dropping tokens into slots.

7 Grand StepsAll of this seemingly complex storytelling neatly plays out on a glorious moving wheel driven by tokens. The wheel shifts a bit each turn, moving the people on it one step closer to their doom. You control two parents (and eventually their children) by dragging tokens into the slots beneath each character's portrait. He or she will then move to the nearest space that matches that token's symbol. Once a token is used on a character, their slot closes until the next turn begins. Along the way you collect beads, which adds to your family legends and gives you a better standing in the community.

But moving characters by dropping tokens is only the beginning. 7 Grand Steps is telling a story one turn at a time, and that story involves romance, children, old age, social climbing, rites of passage, warring kingdoms, epic challenges, and so much more. It's all very personal and very meaningful. It can become a delightfully complex game as you start getting into the intricacies of it all, but because 7 Grand Steps is driven by token creation and token spending, it never loses you in the process.

7 Grand StepsEach turn, you make tokens, take stock of your family's standing, then decide where to spend tokens. Subtle strategies form as you play, all in the name of gathering beads and furthering your family's standing. You'll learn which tokens to pass to which parent to maximize gathering. You'll figure out how best to train children's talents so they can pass their rite of passage and begin a new generation. You'll even use love to launch ahead of your neighbors in an attempt to thrive. And as you progress to the outer tracks on the wheel, tokens get more varied and the decisions you make more precious.

Analysis: As someone who is deeply interested in history, mythology and ancient cultures, 7 Grand Steps is nothing short of a magical experience for me. The awe and wonder instilled in each move, each age, each decision and each struggle is phenomenal. The emotions that are so effortlessly connected to these choices are just as well thought-out. Even if you don't give two shakes about history, this isn't a game you're likely to forget anytime soon.

7 Grand StepsThere are so many wonderful little touches in 7 Grand Steps we could sit and list them all day. You'll delight in the stories it tells as children grow up and look for love. You'll be shocked when random events occur, sitting and contemplating the actions you can take each time. You'll laugh at the descriptions when you mouse-over the crocodiles. And you'll feel all the more connected to these events because you're the one influencing them. You don't have complete control over what happens, which important to the emotional impact the game has, but you can sway things this way or that.

Half of the point of 7 Grand Steps are the discoveries you'll make, which is why we tried to steer away from too many spoilerish details in this review. Beyond the deeper meanings you'll find the game is pleasantly simple to get into, and the token mechanism is an extremely satisfying way to play. Text-based choice cards pop up often, narrating events in the family's life and giving you options to choose from that affect how each character grows. All of this happens quite invisibly, leaving you to sit and ponder how to spend your tokens in peace.

7 Grand Steps truly is a grand game, spanning ages of human life and telling stories with each token you drop. It's one of the most meaningful indie game experiences I've come across in a very long time, and that it's so accessible even to a casual player is nothing short of legendary.

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On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness: Episode Four

DoraSave the world. Seems like a pretty simple plan, right? Only things didn't go so well for Tycho, Gabe, and the rest of our heroes, and now they're stranded in the Under Hell, which is not exactly the best place to be even when you don't find your party split apart. Now Gabe and an unlikely new companion are searching for Tycho and a way out, while elsewhere Moira and Jim are doing the same. Maybe in the process they'll finally set things right and save the world? After all, that's what they all want... right? Zeboyd Games delivers an epic conclusion to the surreal and sublimely funny indie RPG series with On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness: Episode Four. Sporting free-roaming maps, all new battle mechanics, new characters and locations, challenging, strategic battles, and one awesome soundtrack, Episode Four delivers big laughs and bigger adventures.

On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness: Episode FourYou'll swap automatically back and forth between party members as the story progresses and you explore Under Hell and its surrounding areas. You can wander freely around the map this time, and you'll find villages to visit and friendly local inhabitants to chat with. Except for that one town that apparently communicates entirely in strangles. Ultimately, your goal is to reunite everyone and finish what you've started, but as you might expect, it turns out things are a little more complicated than that. The last God is still standing, but you can't reach him... mainly because he's way up in Over Hell. Go on a journey to destroy all the pillars holding it up to bring it crashing down upon you to reach it, you say? Encounter sentient fake nose glasses? Fight a fish-centric team of nutjobs with their own theme song? Team up with a mentally unstable maniac? Sure, why not! Sounds like a plan.

As before, combat is classic turn-based, and since enemies gain power each turn you want to defeat them as quickly as possible. Unlike before, however, your heroes aren't participating in battle. At least not directly. While they still level up, the hard work is instead left to the monsters that join your party that each hero can train, imparting special abilities, passive or otherwise. A variety of different monsters can be found, some optional, ranging from a sentient vending machine to a particular dapper cat. You'll want to experiment to figure out what combination of critters is best for any given situation, since their wildly different strengths and abilities can make an impossible battle merely challenging if you bring the right roster into a fight. Since you can see all the enemies on the map and save whenever you like, there's no real reason not to experiment and plan for every battle.

On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness: Episode FourAnalysis: Rejoice! Instead of being nailed to a set route on a world map, you're now given free roam. I mean... you're still basically going to want to go on the set route because that's really the only direction to go apart from a few optional areas, but hey! No more Mario-esque pods and roads! You're a big kid adventurer, now! The dungeon-crawling and battling definitely outweighs everything else, however. Towns are few and far between, and there's not really that much to do in them apart from talk to a few people, so the bulk of the gameplay still falls on punching things in the face. Some chapters and areas do tend to drag on a bit as well. Fortunately, Episode Four continues the series' tradition of challenge over grind, and with unique monsters in every area, it never really gets boring. The monster battling is a switch that is both unexpected and odd, and might be a bit too silly for some players, but, well, we are talking about a series that once had you soak someone's hands in magical urine to strengthen them. Being able to swap different monsters in and out actually adds a nice additional layer of strategy, although it basically feels like a different manifestation of Episode Three's Class Pin system.

On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness: Episode FourStill, as satisfying as the battles can be, you'll probably wind up wishing there was a bit more party chatter, mostly because it's so entertaining. To say your group is composed of a bunch of eccentric whackjobs is sort of understating it, and at this point in the series, the story and setting are so deliberately over-the-top you could still have trouble following what's going on even if you've played all the games from the beginning. It feels at times like your characters (and virtually every single NPC) are more interested than random amusing babble than any sort of story advancement. But darned if it isn't entertaining. From the enemy descriptions to homicidal rantings of a new party member you'll gain, Episode Four embraces its surreal weirdness and squeezes for all its worth.

On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness: Episode FourDoes Episode Four feel like the culmination of the series it should? Well... yes and no. Three and Four have so little in common with the first two games, even story-wise, they almost feel like their own contained duo rather than parts of a whole. And that's hardly a bad thing, given how much hard work its two-man team have put into it. The soundtrack was created by Hyperduck Studios, who also did the similarly awesome music for Dust: An Elysian Tail, and the retouched graphics are a subtle but welcome improvement. Episode Four is an incredibly ambitious game, with all the challenging battles you could possibly want (and then some) and a story that treats nearly any notion of seriousness as a fate worse than death... apart from a few unexpectedly sweet moments. Funny, freaky, and tactical in all the right ways, this is a fitting end to one of the few genuinely clever comedic game series out there that fans will love to sink their teeth into.

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Pixel Rooms

JohnBPixel Rooms is a room escape game born from the combined talents of Urara-Works and Skipmore. You might recognize those names from the utterly amazing mobile RPG Fairune released not too long ago. Pixel Rooms goes several steps beyond the usual mobile escape setup, treating you to puzzles and stages that bend the rules in creative new ways. It's more than just doors that need unlocking, it's like a series of mini-puzzles from Hapland or Grow!

Pixel RoomsPixel Rooms stars Mr. Pixel, a mysterious pixel person whose sole purpose is to head towards open doors. Your job is to make sure he can actually reach those doors. Sometimes it's a simple matter of unlocking the exit. Sometimes it's a little dark and Mr. Pixel needs a light. Maybe there's a small lake to cross, or the door is high atop some boxes, or a slot machine stands in the way. By tapping, dragging and otherwise manipulating each scene, you can make it so Mr. Pixel can reach the goal.

Pixel Rooms is a simple take on the escape game genre, but it's done with a charming style with puzzles that are much less stuffy than most games on the market (we're looking at you, almost every game with "100" in the name). The only downsides to Pixel Rooms are side effects of it being free: there are ads, it's a bit short, and there are social features placed prominently on the screen. No biggie, really. It's a very small prices to pay for a few dozen creative levels of puzzle solving and room escaping. And once you're done, it's speedrun time!

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 (66 votes)
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One Step Behind

KimberlyNo one likes to feel like they are out of the loop, especially if your job and even your life may be on the line. From Drink Cider, Make Games, developer of Somewhere In England, 1928, one of our CGDC 10 winners, comes One Step Behind. another clever point-and-click adventure.

One Step BehindThe game is less about adventuring however, and more about piecing together a story. Click on one of four chapter titles to begin in any order you like. Click to interact with people and objects, and drag your inventory items onto objects or each other to use them, or double-click some inventory items to check for any other uses. I don't want to say too much, because part of the fun is watching the story be revealed one segment at a time. I will say this: along with the main character always being behind, One Step Behind makes the player feel behind as well. It makes you want you to keep playing so you can figure out what is going on. If you're looking for a short but compelling mystery, give it a try.

Play One Step Behind

Link Dump Fridays

DoraLadies, gentlemen, other assembled bodies organic or otherwise... we now return you to our regularly scheduled Link Dump Friday. That's right. From now on, the classic format has emerged to stay out of the mists of time. I can't tell you what happened. It was very technical. Very wibbly-wobbly. Maybe even timey-wimey. There may have been bowties involved. But all that matters is the old Link Dump Friday has been saved and is here to say. At some point in the future we plan to give news and previews their own spaces, but for now, well... it's baaaaaa-aaaaaack.

  • Derp till DawnDerp Till Dawn - I'm sorry, did you seriously expect our very first old school Link Dump to not include ponies? What kind of party is that? Donitz, the creator of the supremely creepy Friendship is Magic: Story of the Blanks returns with another pony-themed horror game that ponifies the wildly popular Slender game. Everyone's favourite wall-eyed pegasus is lost in the woods with only a lantern for company, unable to fly because of reasons, and a series of increasingly cryptic and alarming notes pull her onward... but she's not alone. To say this one is a bit abstract is an understatement, since it lacks any real set-up or story structure, but still stands as a remarkable example of just how much atmosphere and fear you can craft out of a few pixels and cartoon horses.
  • Pork Must ArrivePork Must Arrive - I'm sure this is probably going to make your monocle pop right out in shock and dismay, but I don't get all the fuss over bacon. I can't decide if that would make Ron Swanson challenge me to manly fisticuffs, or like me more because that meant there was more for him. Basically what I am saying is I would be a lousy orc, and in Playstival's action/defense game you play a big, burly one who wants some sweet, succulent pig meat. Too bad the neighbouring castle is hoarding it all... too bad for them! Now you're waging war against them with axes, upgrades, and an angry trained boar while your minions try to carry that piggy goodness back to you. The controls are a bit clunky, but some great artwork and a silly premise filled with upgrades make this worth a peek.
  • Collapse It 2Collapse It 2 - Hypnocat Studios has something against people, because in this physics puzzler, they've trapped them inside shoddy wooden structures and given you a whole mess of explosives and such to bring the whole building down on them in the most gruesome possible way. It's sort of like if Nitrome's Rubble Trouble series had been designed by, I don't know, Elizabeth Bathory and the family from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. For some people, the excessive violence, even presented in the game's bright cartoony fashion, might be a bit much to take and feel out of place besides, but if that's your thing, well, have at it. I'll just be over here. Keepin' an eye on you.
  • RokilotRokilot - Yuriy Votintsev's arena shooter envisions a magical world where mercenaries are drawn to a place and forced to complete missions for the world itself. Hearing that, I was sort of disappointed to see that this did not, in fact, star Bruce Willis, because it sounds like the sort of premise he would/should be all over. Instead, it's just your square-jawed mercenary and limited ammo against the floods of enemies on each stage. Take them out to earn coins to upgrade your weapons and abilities! Rokilot has a sort of silly charm that's hard not to like, and the presentation is great, but at the same time the stiff controls and repetitive, grindy gameplay may turn off some.

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

JohnBSparkle 2 has just arrived from 10tons, the team behind the mobile physics puzzle games Tennis in the Face and King Oddball. And you know what? It looks gorgeous. It plays gorgeous, too, if you can pretend that's a thing that makes sense. Smooth marble popping puzzle action combined with a soothing soundtrack and drop-dead stunning visuals. It's everything you could want in a simple casual matching game.

Sparkle 2Marble poppers have been around a while, and Sparkle 2 doesn't alter the basic formula all that much. A trail winds its way through each level, with a pusher on one end rolling lines of colored marbles towards the other side. Somewhere near the center is the spinner, an orb-crafting device you use to spit out marbles to make matches on the chain. With careful, precise timing, you might just keep the line of invading balls at bay!

Setting up combos in Sparkle 2 earns you power-ups, and boy are they useful little things. Some of the simpler ones give you a blast of magic that fires from the spinner to eradicate marbles. Others get rid of certain marbles, paint them the same color, push them backwards or otherwise help you stay in the game. Either way, you have to hit dropped power-up icons with a marble to activate them, and you've only got a few seconds to do so before they disappear. Act fast for much epicness!

Sparkle 2Analysis: Sparkle 2 has the wonderful ability to make you love simple match-3 games all over again. Firing marbles is a game as old as... well, probably as old as marbles. But when you pair it with a beautiful audio visual package (somewhat reminiscent of Harry Potter, actually), add in some exciting power-ups, and design stages that toy with your sense of urgency, it's kind of hard not to fall in love.

Downsides to Sparkle 2 are largely taste-based in nature. It's a very simple game, and the mechanics described above are pretty much all you'll see throughout the experience. There's survival mode along with achievements, equippable enchantments and other unlockables, but don't expect much deviation, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes you just want to kick back and clear some marbles.

Predictably gorgeous and a lot of clean fun, Sparkle 2 adds a little bit of old school magic to your mobile device. Easy to play, no fussing with in-app purchases or other distractions, and it even has a colorblind mode to make sure as many people as possible can enjoy it!

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 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 4.7/5
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Rating: 4.7/5 (377 votes)
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Papa Louie 2: When Burgers Attack!

KimberlyWhat would you do if you were happily serving up burgers at work when someone mysterious walks through the door and warps everyone to another dimension full of food that wants to eat you for a change? Of course you'd have to rescue them, which is just what you do in Papa Louie 2: When Burgers Attack! Use your platforming skills in Flipline Studios latest release featuring all your favorite Papa's characters.

Papa Louie 2: When Burgers Attack!The controls are simple. Use the [arrow] keys to move and jump, and the [spacebar] to attack. When you begin, you'll be taken to the map. After you select a level, you'll see the character selection screen. On the left are the various missions available for the level, which involve saving people, among other things. You get to play as any customer you rescue. Some of them have special abilities, and you'll be told the first time you use them how to activate their specialty. Take note that you can't complete every mission with just any character, because some areas of the map are accessible only to those with a certain ability. That means you'll be replaying levels, but you'll also be exploring new areas within those levels, so don't worry about too much repetition. There are checkpoints you hit along the way, so if an angry burger overwhelms you, you won't have to start the level completely over.

Papa Louie 2: When Burgers Attack! is pretty standard as far as platformers go. That's not to say there isn't a lot to love. Playing through the brightly colored levels gathering coins conjures images of Mario. You'll find yourself smiling as you encounter the creative food themed enemies ranging from lettuce birds to pickle worms, and the various weapons the characters use help keep things fresh. With 28 customers to unlock spanning nine levels, plus badges to earn and costumes to purchase, there is plenty here to keep you busy for quite awhile. Now go teach food who's boss!

Play Papa Louie 2: When Burgers Attack!


(10 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Scurvy Scallywags

JohnBScurvy Scallywags is a hybrid match-3 puzzle game created by Beep Games, that studio where that guy Ron Gilbert works, not to mention his DeathSpank collaborator Clayton Kauzlaric. Scurvy Scallywags dresses you in your piratey best and sends you to the sea on a quest to discover the ultimate sea shanty (a.k.a. "song"). Along the way you'll defeat all sorts of foes, swap and match piles of gold, attach swords, coconuts and rats, spend your pirate booty on ability upgrades, and witness one of the most awkward pirate dramas ever performed.

Scurvy ScallywagsYour journey takes you across the seas and onto islands where you'll hopefully loot some valuable stuff. Entering a puzzle round places your movable pirate character on a grid surrounded by different types of tiles. Tap and slide to swap tiles to make matches, with replacement tiles sliding in to fill in the empty spaces created. Match sword tiles to increase your pirate's attack power, which will come into play as soon as an enemy appears. Oh, there's one there already? Two, in fact? Yeah, better get to matching.

You play a rather exciting game of cat and mouse whenever an enemy drops on screen, keeping your distance if your attack is lower than the foe's but charging over via creative tile swaps once you're ready to call in the win. Your pirate moves just like any other tile, making traversing distances a bit of a challenge. It also makes fleeing from stronger enemies an actual thing, which probably wasn't what you expected from a pirate-themed matching game.

Scurvy ScallywagsSkills play a big part in the Scurvy Scallywags experience, and as the levels go by they're pretty much the only thing standing between you and an untimely visit to that Jones guy's locker. You can equip as many as five skills at a time, each one unleashable during puzzle rounds with a quick tap. They range from free moves to escape danger to a blunderbuss that lets you shoot foes at a distance. There are even passive skills that bump up your attack or gold finding abilities. Spend your upgrade money wisely, as they really do play a key role in your survival later in the game. Don't say we didn't warn you. *ominous stare*

Analysis: Here's our bold statement of the day: Scurvy Scallywags is what every puzzle game secretly wants to be like. It's instantly entertaining thanks to the fantastic sense of humor and writing. Gameplay can be learned in all of four seconds, though the finer nuances of controlling the board take some time to master. There are plenty of long-term goals to keep in mind, keeping you hooked beyond quick rounds on the train. And, well, there's fun stuff to unlock and collect. Everybody loves that!

Beyond the puzzle game, Scurvy Scallywags features a healthy battery of upgrades, including new clothing items and ship refits that increase some of your pirate's stats. You even gain levels as you complete stages and have skill points to assign. There's not much strategy to boosting stats (uh, more attack power, please!), but it still adds a nice feeling of progression. Every single item you match goes into your junk inventory to be sold later, which makes even the most rudimentary of actions feel like it has more meaning.

So, Scurvy Scallywags: great match-3 game, or greatest match-3 game ever? Puzzle Quest has a new casual competitor!

Download on the AppstoreScurvy Scallywags (iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad)

Google PlayScurvy Scallywags (Android)


(6 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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100 Dreams

KinetikaiLately I've been having these weird dreams where I'm trapped in a room — one of many, it feels — and all I have to do is open the door to make it out, but it's never that simple. It requires drawing spirals on the wall, opening up holes in the floor — even occasionally having to turn my whole world upside down. Eventually I make it out, but behind the door is just... another door. And another door. And another. What does this all mean?!

On an unrelated note, the newest room escape game with a "100" flavor (well, I say newest; another 30 have probably just popped up in the time its taken to write this) is 100 Dreams by Daisuke Suzuki, the maker of the excellent Kagi Nochi Tobira series.The format should be secondhand by now: Each stage presents you with the simple task of opening a door under increasingly complex and puzzling circumstances. The puzzles make full use of your mobile device, requiring you to tap, swipe, drag, tilt, turn and shake your device to solve each mini-escape. It's not revolutionary, although there are some puzzles which make interesting use of the inventory — something I honestly have not seen before. There are only 24 levels at the moment, but more are on the way, and for the brilliant cost of "free," it's hard to complain. So give 100 Dreams a try, and hopefully you can make more sense of your dreams than I can...

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 4.5/5
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Rating: 4.5/5 (27 votes)
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Four Scepters

DoraForget threes. Threes stink. Good things come in fours in Benjamin Soule's turn-based roguelike game Four Scepters. Created for Ludum Dare's minimalism theme, it's all about four heroes (see, way better than three already) out to gather the four magic scepters needed to bring down the Big Bad. The catch is, you can only play as one hero at a time, and each has their own strengths and weaknesses, and when one dies, they're gone for good. As a result, the game becomes a lot more puzzle-like than RPG, forcing you to think carefully about every movement and weigh risk versus reward to make sure you're able to reach the scepter in each dungeon and win the game.

Four SceptersMove with the [arrow] keys and bump into things to pick them up, attack them, or go through doors. As you explore, you can find different items to help, such as keys to unlock doors, potions to restore health, and even some things that can only be used by certain heroes, such as the wizard's powerful scrolls. (Note that items must be used in the order you picked them up.) Your enemy's health is represented by the hearts next to them, as yours is by the hearts at the bottom of the screen. To the right are any coins you carry, which can be spent on items from merchants, and gained one for every slain enemy. If you die, you'll have to pick a new hero, though they'll be able to continue in the same dungeon you left off in with all your progress. Don't be fooled, though. As simple as it may look, Four Scepters actually does offer a remarkable amount of strategy. You just have to pay attention to the special attributes of each monster and think how your remaining characters and items would best work against them, and in what order.

If it sounds challenging, well... it is. Since every playthrough is different, there's no way to plan ahead with your first hero, so it often feels like you're going to lose someone almost right off the bat no matter what. It's not a game you can just bulldoze through, and that unforgiving demand for strategy or death won't appeal to everyone. It is, however, a great example of how clever and challenging a game with the "bare minimum" can be. Providing your definition of "great" is "getting slapped down mere feet from success and forced to start all over again because SNAKES ARE DUMB AND I HATE THEM."

Play Four Scepters


  • Currently 4.7/5
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Rating: 4.7/5 (43 votes)
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Colour Blind

DoraIn Nitrome's platformer Colour Blind, you play one half of a pair of sentient, walking eyeballs. Ain't even kidding. When your other half gets abducted by a grungy cloud with a serious case of stink-eye, you set out to rescue her across a grey world filled with danger. Lucky for you, a little colour can change the way you see reality! Use the [WASD] or [arrow] keys to move, and [spacebar] to jump. Jump through paintbrushes to allow yourself to see with whatever colour they contain, also enabling you to interact with objects of that colour like platforms, crates, tokens, and more. Take a dousing from water and you'll wash away all the colours you've got, but since some things that may block your way or hazards like spikes and enemies are also tied to certain colours, washing the slate clean isn't always a bad thing. Just avoid taking damage, since you'll be sent back to the last checkpoint you touched!

Colour BlindAs cute as it looks, Colour Blind can be seriously challenging at times. While there are some puzzle aspects, in most cases it's your reflexes that are being tested, with precise platforming and timing being a factor. The difficulty ramps up noticeably after the first batch of levels, and the one-hit KO can bring you to your knees. It's not necessarily something you'd expect given the game's bouncy soundtrack and cutesy-poo style, and if I'd had any tables in my immediate vicinity while failing over and over at certain points, I would have flipped them most soundly indeed.

Of course, being unexpectedly difficult doesn't make a game bad, and Colour Blind definitely is not bad. Demanding, sure, but hardly bad. Levels are deviously designed, and the game's colour swapping mechanic gets used in some interesting ways that will test your skill. It does seem like the placement of checkpoints is a bit uneven, with some stages throwing them at your feet and others miserly hoarding them, which means having to redo an entire sequence of meticulously timed areas you barely skirted through by the skin of your teeth because you were off by a split second in hopping over a single spike could lead to some ragequits. But if you're up for a challenge, and a good looking one at that, give Colour Blind a try. Just don't be surprised if it has you seeing red.

Play Colour Blind


  • Currently 4.6/5
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Rating: 4.6/5 (55 votes)
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... =D

SatoriIs everybody ready to disco dance? Zapped Cow sure thinks so! They've made you a minimalist avoidance puzzle that's so minimalist it doesn't even have any words in the name, just a pause and a look! (I tried convincing the management here to let me review this one using only interpretive dance, mime and an old Aldis lamp, but they just gave me the same tired look they always do, docked my pay of tinsel and breadsticks and called for Security.) So we'll call it ...=D!

... =D...=D feels like you're on a colorful light-up disco floor — if there were doors, switches, and if the floor itself were actively out to get you. You'll be using the mouse for the menu, [arrows] to move, and [R] to restart. Watch out for this one — it starts off so easy you'll think there's nothing to it... and then just when you've stopped paying particular attention the difficulty spikes up quite sharply indeed. So grab your oversized polyester shirts, your bell-bottommed jeans, and watch your step out on the floor!

Play ...=D


  • Currently 4.7/5
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Rating: 4.7/5 (97 votes)
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The Happy Escape 5

elleWhen you live in Tesshi-e's world, the best way to cap off a relaxing stroll through the park is to find yourself locked inside a deserted cafe—Miyagi, the famous escape café—searching for cleverly construed ciphers and solving them to gain your freedom. Then, when you title this excursion The Happy Escape 5, you have the added delight of gathering up a ten shiny happy coins, some well hidden but unguarded by mechanisms and others secreted away behind riddle-locked doors. The day is made even better after you find and use the heart-shaped key to the exit door, when the proprietor presents you with a well-earned treat.

The Happy Escape 5You already know this is not your usual café and it's also more complicated in terms of how you'll navigate because it's not a standard square space. Sometimes a grey bar appears at the edge of the screen when you hover your cursor there, then you can turn around or change your angle. Other times a large arrow will appear in the center of the screen so you can move forward along the narrow aisle. Click on an area, such as a table or door, to get a closer look at it. The cursor won't change over active spots or obtainable items, so click everywhere you can think to look or grab an item. Use the "about item" button to inspect your inventory and highlight the item you want to use before clicking where you want to use it. Choose your language (English or Japanese) before you start; messaging when you click prompts you away from fruitless efforts and often gives a hint about what a puzzle needs to be solved.

The convoluted layout can be a bit of a headache to make your way around, yet it does add an extra dimension of challenge and enjoyment for those who don't mind all the backing up and moving forward and turning around. Another disappointment is the lack of an extra ending—not too bad since you're sure to exit with those happy coins or not at all. We're talking Tesshi-e, though, which is a magic word for escape fans because it means good stuff abounds at every turn—wobbly picture frames, peppy music, clever clue presentations, an infectiously upbeat personality and all the usual charming characters. That unique Tesshi-e brand is the best part: you know upon entering this lovely café that you'll be served up a full course of fun.

Play The Happy Escape 5


(6 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic

JohnBSo, Star Wars. From what we can tell it's some movie about a guy named Jar Jar who has a speech impediment but somehow joins "the force" and saves a clown from living on the dark side of that metal space moon thing. We're a little sketchy on the details, but what we're not sketchy on is Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and how unbelievably amazing that game was ten years ago and how it's still epic today. Originally released back in 2003, KotOR defined the western RPG and managed to secure a spot as one of the most epic modern role playing games ever released. And now it's out for iPad 2 and newer devices!

Star Wars: Knights of the Old RepublicThe iOS release of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic is essentially a port of the original game refit to work with touch screen controls. Swipe to move through the environment, controlling everything from your party to your inventory using easy on-screen icons. The game is practically an even split between combat, conversations and character management, but it's balanced so well with the story it all just comes across as one big package of awesome. Will you slide on over to the dark side, or are you the genuine savior the Jedi Order desperately needs? That's your decision, and KotOR famously lets your actions determine your fate. Neat, right?

Just like our recent Wizardry article, we could go on and on about KotOR and never get tired of reading those delicious words. But the reality of the situation is this: if you're familiar with Knights of the Old Republic, you don't need convincing, this port is good. And if you weren't around ten years ago to get familiar with it, this is your best chance. It's expensive for an iOS game, and it's a hefty download at 2.5 GB. But you'll be hard-pressed to spend your mobile gaming dollars in a better way. Knights of the Old Republic practically feels like it was made for the touch screen. Just be ready to hold your iPad for a few dozen hours.

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.


(17 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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WonderCity

kyhNewly discovered powers. Mysterious mentor. Evil controlling empire. Perhaps you're thinking these are the points for a superhero story. Well, then you'd be wrong as it's the points in the superheroine visual novel, Wonder City, designed by Naomi Clark and written by Phoebe Harris Elefante. You play as Ada, a seemingly normal high school student who discovers her ability to control Quant, the energy of the universe.

kyh_wondercity_screen.pngCreated as a partner to the documentary Wonder Women!, this game sets out to create strong female characters who call upon the strength of real life strong females from history, encompassing a wide range from Amelia Earhart to RuPaul. Unfortunately, the constant insertion of these names is more distracting than impactful, but the rest of the writing is so well done that the name-dropping can be seen as a minor issue.

Wonder City is of 'lunch break' length, making it a relatively easy visual novel to get into. Achievements are presented as awards for the different ways you can play out the story including being collaborative in your efforts and being secretive with your powers and identity. With over a dozen of these achievements to earn, some of them opposing in nature, you're sure to play through several times to earn them all. Whatever message you take away from this game, it's a well written adventure that anyone can enjoy. So, by Oprah, get out there and start saving your fellow students!

Play Wonder City


  • Currently 4.5/5
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Rating: 4.5/5 (20 votes)
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Gnomeland Security

Starchild It's a boring rainy day and you're in the mood for a good old puzzle with some strategy thrown in. You're tired of sudoku and you've had a personal vendetta against Minesweeper for a few years now. But fret not, help is at hand! Gnomeland Security by The Narf! Workshop is (if you can't tell from the name) a puzzle game where you plant mushrooms. Oh, and there's a gnome or two for good measure.

Gnomeland Security You get a board divided into grassy tiles with a few gnomes here and there. They wear cute little hats with numbers, which tells you how many mushrooms you're supposed to put around them (hatless gnomes don't like anything growing next to them). Click to plant a mushroom, click again to remove it, or hold down the left mouse button to place a marker. Mushrooms send rays of light in all four directions, and you mustn't plant them inside each other's rays. The goal is to light up all the tiles. If you mess up, you can always start over, or get a new board. There are no levels as such, as boards are randomly generated, but if challenge is what you want, the gnomes have you covered. You can choose among three difficulty levels and nine board sizes. If that's not enough, there are two gameplay modes, classic (not timed) and survival, in which you start off with 40 seconds and get a few more with each new stage.

Gnomeland Security is quite superb in its simplicity. It's cute, but not overdone, with simple, clean graphics and straightforward goals, pleasing background music, and enough variety to keep you entertained for a good while. All in all, your perfect rainy day diversion.

Play Gnomeland Security


(12 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Gunpoint

ArtbegottiEveryone knows that to be an efficient freelance spy, you've got to have three things. One, a classy brown trenchcoat. Two, a pair of Hypertrousers that let you spring through the air like a human slingshot. Three, the wits to get the job done while dodging not only dangerous enemies, but also suspicious customers. Gunpoint is a stealth puzzle platformer by Tom Francis where you take on the role of freelance spy Richard Conway, trying to crack a perilous case in extremely elastic pants.

GunpointIn each mission, your job is to sneak into a highly secure building, steal the intel that you need, and exit the map on the right side. You can move using [A] and [D] and navigate stairs and elevators with [W] and [S], but jumping while wearing your Hypertrousers means you'll go jumping far and fast; click and hold with the mouse to aim your shot. Sounds easy enough, but to reach your objective, you've got to get past a maze of locked doors and armed guards who shoot to kill.

That's where your gadgetry comes into play. Using Crosslink, you can rewire electrical devices to your whims. That light switch doesn't have to just flip the lights on and off, you can rewire it to open a door. That motion detector doesn't have to trigger an alarm, it could shock a guard through a nearby electrical outlet. With the right tools equipped, you can even make one guard pulling the trigger set off another guard's gun. Use the scrollwheel or [Alt] to enter Crosslink mode, and click and drag to connect devices, from the controlling device to the controlled device (order is important, you don't want ceiling lights to trigger a switch). Additional electronics can be accessed by equipping Wirejack and hacking access through terminals you've reached.

You're not the only one in the buildings though. Armed guards stand watch with guns at the ready, and a usually-deadly aim if you're in their line of sight. However, guards tend to have the same behaviors and reactions to events, such as turning when an elevator arrives on their floor. By learning their behaviors, they be exploited to trick the guards into opening doors for you, or even killing each other with rewired electronics.

GunpointAnalysis: It's important to note that the only requirement for beating the levels is that "get in, get the goods, get out" mantra. Everything in between is entirely up to you. If you want, you can go on a rampage and take out every guard along the way, or use your tools to completely avoid detection. You can grab the laptops to score a little extra intel, or make a speed run for a Steam achievement. There's technically no right or wrong way to finish a level, though some characters may give you a higher ranking depending on their espionage style preferences.

All of the gameplay of Gunpoint is framed in a series of communications between Conway and his many clients. While keeping some of the names and alliances can sometimes be a bit confusing, the overall story is intriguing. The choose-your-response segments give the game an interesting twist of letting you bluff your way around dodgy questions, even in some instances where it doesn't affect the story much.

Gunpoint isn't the biggest stealth game out there, and some of the levels might be a bit on the easy side, but the replayability and versatility of its design make it a fantastic play, ideal for perfection-runners and meta-gamers. All of this is wrapped in a Philip Marlowe-style old-time detective story, complete with the shady-alley atmosphere and vibraphoney blues riffs to go along with it. Grab your trenchcoat and plunge into one of the cleverest noir adventures around.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo (scroll down for links)
Get the full version

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


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The Vault

TrickyThe changing of the seasons is really starting to hit, and we all know what that means: beach parties, barbecues, and huddling yourself in a dark deathly air-conditioned room to play browser games all day because, c'mon, it's friggin' 95 degrees out. Unless you're in the southern hemisphere, but generally, I assume you guys are too busy running over cane toads and having Carnivales to notice a switch in the weather. This week in The Vault, lets take a look at some quality games from our archives with a suitably outdoorsy theme. Whether webtoys, arcade games, or action works are to your liking, these choices should prove the perfect way to beat the heat!

  • SeasonsSeasons - The games released by Vector Park all manage an iconic aesthetic beauty, unmatched by any other developer. 2010's Seasons lets you guide Thomas (who is an egg riding a unicycle, of course) through a whole year of playful and engaging vistas. There's no goal beyond taking in the sights and minimal sounds, with but a few interactions in each scene. However, somehow that's enough. It's whimsical without being cloying, and fantastic without being too surreal. It's the kind of game that soothes the soul as much as one's frazzled nerves.
  • Save Kaleidoscope ReefSave Kaleidoscope Reef - Whenever you see a sea creature getting a starring role in a game, you know that they are probably A. going to be eating everything in sight, or B. delivering a subtle message of environmentalism (We're looking at you, Ecco!) Save Kaleidoscope Reef, a 2008 work by Tricky Sheep, though, manages to keep things from getting too preachy by combining its charming matching-polyps-with-plankton gameplay with lush art that only gets more gorgeous as you bring the reef back from the brink of disaster. Life may be better, down where it's wetter, and Save Kaleidoscope Reef is all most gamers should need to want to keep it that way.
  • Effing HailEffing Hail - There's nothing worse than being caught outside in a hail storm. But bad weather is not such a pain when you're the one controlling it. That's the premise behind 2009's Effing Hail, developed by Jiggmin and Greg Wohlwend, and it's hard to argue with a huge chunk of ice to the face. Or to the house. Or to the low-earth orbit spy satellite. But Effing Hail offers more than mere visceral thrills. There's an almost perfect skill balance to the gameplay: the longer you keep the ice in the air, the bigger the ball gets. The bigger the ball gets, the harder it is to control, but the more havoc it wreaks when it crashes. Wreaking enough havoc unlocks more things to smash. Throw in the faux-newspaper after-action report, and you've got a game that's fun as hail to plow through.

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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Karateka Classic

JohnBWere you alive and mostly aware of your surroundings in 1984? Good, this article is for you! Karateka Classic is a mobile re-release of the original combat game created by Prince of Persia guru Jordan Mechner. Akuma has kidnapped the princess and you're going to fight your way through every one of his minions until you get her back. Bam! The music, the floppy drive loading sounds, the scan lines... it's all there. With some more modern features to accommodate touch screen controls, of course. But apart from that, it's all retro.

Karateka ClassicThe combat in Karateka Classic is all about studying your opponent, finding an opening in their attacks, then taking advantage of that with full force. You have both punches and kicks to unleash, each available in three different heights, and can also move back and forth a bit to control distance. Spamming the attack buttons will (usually) get you nowhere, so don't even try it, bub. If you do and you die, a handy rewind feature lets you undo previous bumbles. Just remember that's a new-fangled feature that wasn't available in the good old days, you lucky/cheating human of the 21st century.

When looked at from a modern perspective, Karateka Classic doesn't quite live up to the modern ideal of a strategy-based fighting game. It's shockingly good after 30 years, but yeah, it shows its age. If you want something a bit more polished there's always the remake available on iOS as Karateka. But if reliving the days of Apple II is more your style, Karateka Classic definitely delivers.

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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Mushbits2

kyhThey're baaa-aacckkk. That's right, Z3lf's adorable, Q*bert-esque bunnies have returned for more puzzling mayhem in Mushbits 2. Drag out a path for each bunny along blocks of the same color, but be warned as (most) blocks will change colors once stepped on. You're welcome to take as many sets of steps as you'd like to complete each level, but special abilities new to the sequel, such as swapping the bunnies' positions, await those who use fewer moves, earning more stars.

kyh_mushbits2_screen.pngWhen compared to the original, Mushbits 2 is really more of a level pack than a full-on sequel. The puzzle elements are the same, so the gameplay is unchanged. On the other hand, the background is even more squeetastic (haberdashery clouds! monocled kitties!) giving you a varied visual experience. While this game offers few improvements to the first, Mushbits was a fun distraction, so expect more of the same in the sequel. If you're ready for more cupcakes (and who isn't), take the plunge into sweet, delectable puzzling in the skies.

Play Mushbits 2


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Mobile Monday

JohnBNobody wants to wait for games. We want them playable, we want them entertaining, we want them perfect, and we want them now. That's why we decided to collect games on this edition of Mobile Monday that are either currently available to play or juuuust about to be. Because waiting is for chumps!

colorzen-p.gifColor me zenned - Color Zen is an upcoming puzzle concept from Large Animal that is best explained by watching this quick gameplay video. Put to words, all that happens is you slide things around the screen. When like colors touch, they blend and expand, peeling away layers so you can keep matching things to clear the screen. Simple, soothing, and quite attractive if we do say so ourselves. Color Zen is due later this week on both iOS and Android, and you can bet we're going to celebrate with a little article of our own!

madamefate-p.gifMadame Fate hits iOS - If you sat a bunch of hidden object game fans down and wouldn't let them leave until they picked a BEST HIDDEN OBJECT GAME EVAR, Madame Fate could very well be their choice. BigFishGames has just released the epic Mystery Case Files: Madame Fate HD for iPad 2 and above along with a standard iPhone version, bringing the aged but still fantastic hybrid adventure game to the mobile world at long last. Even better, it's a free download with the full game unlockable for $4.99. Not too bad, we say!

snoopy-p.gifFree App of the Week: Snoopy Coaster - Each week on the iTunes App Store, Apple drops a single release down to the tasty price of "free". This week, that freebie is Snoopy Coaster. Snoopy = awesome. Roller coasters = awesome. It doesn't take a mathematologist to figure out that combining the two is awesomeawesome. Chillingo's charming arcade game takes the endless "runner" to Charlie Brown's corner of the universe, complete with plenty of action and loads of unlockables. Also: aaugh!


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Dark Dimensions: City of Ash

GrinnypOnce again the hunt for Dark Dimensions has begun, which is either a place for such emotional angst that the collective anguish has collapsed in on itself and created the most depressed black hole in the universe (and where Sisters of Mercy will launch their next world tour), or just a little town in the middle of nowhere where something so dreadful has happened that the misery lingers (like aging Goths) and the local spirits cannot escape. In both cases you're looking at the once charming hamlet of Phoenix Hill California, the setting for the next hidden object adventure by Daily Magic Productions, Dark Dimensions: City of Ash.

grinnyp_darkdimensionscoa_screenshot1.pngPhoenix Hill has been destroyed by a volcano which, while killing quite a few folks, managed to leave the town miraculously unburned and un-covered-in-ash (take that, Pompeii!). The ghost of Audrey Owens, a young activist who attempted to save the town from its perilous fate, is your guide as you search for the reason why in 1956 the volcano suddenly became active and wiped the place off of the map. What caused this horrible disaster? Perhaps the relationship between Audrey and her father, who is both the mayor and the world's worst dad as his spirit tries to justify whatever it was that brought this disaster down on their heads and wiped out so many people. Ain't that just like a politician?

grinnyp_darkdimensionscoa_screenshot2.pngDark Dimensions: City of Ash features everything you've come to expect from a first-rate adventure hybrid including a convenient bottom-loading inventory, the standard "detective notebook" in which to keep track of the story and various clues, a refilling hint feature, and an easy to use map which doubles as a way to instantly transport from one scene to another. Glints and sparkles indicate places of interest, along with a changing cursor as you point-and-click your way through the amazingly well-preserved town populated only by a few animals and a lot of sullen regret.

Analysis: If you thought Dark Dimensions: Wax Beauty was fantastic over-the-top fun, brace yourself for more: more camp, more dark secrets, and even more gloom and doom than at the last Nine Inch Nails live show. Daddy dearest is especially hilarious with his constant refrain of "I did it for youuuuuuuuuuuu, Audrey!", attempting to justify actions which demolished a lot of lives, including Audrey's. Dark Dimensions is a vehicle that contains a lot of entertaining gameplay and even more wallowing in the Sturm und Drang happening in the background.

grinnyp_darkdimensionscoa_screenshot3.pngDaily Magic Productions has produced their usual top-notch effort with Dark Dimensions: City of Ash. The scenery is hauntingly crisp, the gameplay smart and challenging, and the animations blend smoothly with the scenery. The regular, list-style hidden object scenes incorporate a lot of interaction and mixed in is the occasional "silhouette-style" HOG scene for variety. The puzzles are a mix of old and new, and tend to lean heavily on physical sliders. The voice acting ranges from good to meh, and the ultimate bad-guy is a bit standard, kind of a let-down after all of the heavy father-daughter turmoil. As for the believability of the plot, well, seriously, a gold mine causing a volcanic eruption? Lava flowing through a town that doesn't cause the buildings to immediately flash into flame? A volcanic eruption that doesn't seem to produce any ash, and is still going on 55 years after it first began?

Dark Dimensions: City of Ash, with its three levels of gameplay, addicting puzzles, and involving (and unintentionally hilarious) storyline, is at the end a fantastic way to waste several hours, whether you wish to wallow in the drama or laugh at it. Easy on the eyes and challenging for the brain, this is definitely something to look for in the hybrid adventure genre.

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

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Order the full version

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


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Quell Memento

KinetikaiLocking horns with a great puzzle is an almost zen-like experience. There's something wonderful about letting the world slip away as you sink into the pure logic of a mind-bending puzzle. Of course, when that puzzle is as beautiful and engaging as Quell Memento, it makes the experience that much sweeter. Created by Fallen Tree Games, the lastest installment of the raindrop-sliding brainteaser Quell takes place in an abandoned house, filled with the memories of its previous owner.

Quell MementoLike its predecessors, Quell Memento has you splashing about water droplets — tapping and flicking to send them on their merry way — in order to complete certain tasks. The basic idea is that once you slide a raindrop in a certain direction, it won't stop until it hits a wall or other obstacle. If a drop goes off the edge, it simply loops around and appears on the opposite side. Simple enough it seems, but additional mechanics are quickly added in to complicate matters, such as ice blocks, teleporters, moveable spikes, switches, roses and so much more!

But that's not the end of Memento's new features. While the first two games focused solely on collecting pearls, Memento adds in new level objectives including lightbulbs which change color and crystals which need to be lit up using a fun new mechanic where light emanates from the raindrops in all four directions. (And sometimes, levels require a combination of two or even all three objectives.) There are also now bonus jewels to collect which are either sequestered in a hard-to-reach spot or hidden inside breakable walls, requiring you to bash into them several times to unlock them.

Of course, one thing that hasn't changed is the emphasis on finding solutions that require the least number of moves. This accounts for a great amount of the difficulty of perfecting the game; as anyone who has played the previous Quells will know, simply beating a level and finding an optimal solution are two very different things.

Analysis: Quell Memento is the puzzle equivalent of a cup of tea in a warm bath of cake. It's just all kinds of pleasant and lovely. From the great watercolor graphics to the beautiful and soothing soundtrack, the whole package is just exquisite.

Quell MementoHowever, just because the game is designed to be soothing doesn't mean the puzzles will take it easy on you. The brain-bogglers here definitely do their fair share of boggling. The puzzles in Quell Memento are wonderfully-designed, and there are a lot of clever mechanics, but in a way there might be too many clever mechanics. It feels like a lot more could have been extracted from the new ideas, such as the light crystals or the ice blocks, in the way that the original Quell managed to fill a gameful of interesting puzzles out of a fraction of the mechanics present here. Some of the later puzzles — especially the penultimate clustercuss "All In!" — lack the simple elegance that the first two games revolved around.

But this is a minor quibble in an otherwise exemplary puzzle title. There are a lot of little details, like rubbing the dust off of old photographs, that elevate the experience into something beyond the typical mobile game. Quell Memento creates a lovely atmosphere, and with over 150 puzzles to sink your teeth into it'll keep your brain occupied for a good while. It's another addicting addition to the Quell family of games — a family that we hope continues to grow and develop.

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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Rating: 4.7/5 (74 votes)
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Save the Date!

DoraThings are going well. She liked your choice of restaurant. She loves the food. And look, there off the balcony... dolphins! Everything seems to be going perfect, in an almost magical way. And then it all goes horribly, horribly wrong. In Paper Dino's free visual novel Save the Date!, you have just one objective... to make sure your dinner date with your bosom buddy Felicia doesn't end... um. Poorly. Which is harder than it sounds considering the universe seems determined to make the worst case scenario come true no matter what you do. Click on the choices you want to make as they appear, and right-click to save and load your game.

Save the Date!Save the Date is a short game, only a few minutes required for a single playthrough, but a difficult one considering it seems to be running on some sort of Murphy's Law type of engine. While the events in the game are no doubt horrible and nothing you'd ever wish on anyone, the more you play to try to win and keep getting stymied at every turn, the more morbidly hilarious it becomes. You'll need to fail a lot, however, no matter how discouraging it might seem, and you'll want to replay even through scenarios that lead you to that failure a second time. Trust me on this one. It's difficult to really talk about the game without ruining it the surprise its more clever bits impart, but with some surprisingly good writing and unique mechanics, Save the Date is a funny, weird, and unexpectedly philosophical visual novel that stands out from the pack in a big way with a ton of replay value.

WindowsWindows:
Download the free full version

Mac OS XMac OS X:
Download the free full version

LinuxLinux:
Download the free full version


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Rating: 4.7/5 (234 votes)
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A Duck Has An Adventure

TrickyA duck may want many things. A simple life? An education? High adventure? Clearly there are choices to be made, and you're just the one to help! A Duck Has An Adventure is a humorous piece of Choose-Your-Own-Adventure interactive art by Daniel Merlin Goodbrey, and it's a quacking good time. Click panels to advance the story, or re-center your point-of-view. At times, you make choices that will send the plot in different directions, both metaphorically and literally. Clicking the back arrow will send you to the last choice, and the restart arrow will return you to the start of the story. Find all 16 endings!

A Duck Has An AdventureA Duck Has An Adventure may have more artness than gameness, but hey, it's interactive, it's fiction, and considering there are so few games out there that allow a duck to become a pirate then fight their evil doppelganger, let's give it the benefit of the doubt. Admitting, with the inclusion of achievements, collectible hats, and the multiple ending counter, the authors might be accused of doth protesting their gaming credentials too much. But hey, A Duck Has An Adventure is charming, funny, and the most surreal interactive comic since Choose Your Own Carl...and twice as iconographic!

Play A Duck Has An Adventure


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NothingElse

DoraA quiet night means the perfect time to escape the troubles of home with a good book, right? Except in Ivan Zanotti's horror adventure game NothingElse, your relaxing escapism takes a turn for the terrifyingly surreal when you find yourself pulled into another layer of reality that seems to resemble your own... only more warped and unsettling. Use the [arrow] keys to move and [Z] to interact. You'll need to click on some objects as well, usually those in close-up screens, and not every interactive item highlights when you pass by it, so make sure to examine everything.

NothingElseNothingElse is short, but still might give players a bit of trouble, with puzzles that rely more on interpreting visual or deliberately strangely phrased clues to proceed. The control scheme is a little odd, and the combination of mouse, [arrows], and [Z] to play doesn't really feel natural, especially since it's never that clear when you need to click on something, or whether an unhighlighted object is something you should check out. The story is, uh. Well. It's there. Sort of. So much is left up to interpretation or stated artfully rather than frankly that it's easy to come out a little bewildered, but it's not a happy game. Freaky? Absolutely. Though nowhere near as creative in gameplay and frights as the developer's previous hit, Imscared, NothingElse has some seriously unnerving and tense moments that can make your skin crawl. Part of a good horror story, I've always believed, is allowing the viewer to fill in all the missing gaps themselves. After all, someone's personal imagined horror is always going to scare them more than anything you come right out and tell them. Is NothingElse too ambiguous? That's up to you. But with some creative imagery and tense moments, it's still worth checking out for the short time it'll take.

WindowsWindows:
Download the free full version

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


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Rating: 4.8/5 (77 votes)
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GeoGuessr

DoraAnton Wallén's deviously simple puzzle game GeoGuessr is here to destroy your day, one stretch of scenic forest road at a time. Similar to Pursued, GeoGuessr uses Google Maps to take you to different locations, lets you look around, and then tells you to put a pin on the world map to guess where you are. Click and drag to look around you, and click the arrows to move forward or back. Use the mouse scroll wheel to zoom in on the map in the upper-right corner, and click to place your pin. Take your time. Your score is determined by how far away from the actual location your guess was... and it's harder than you'd think, since you're often not given any famous landmarks, and sometimes you'll have to look very, very hard for any clues as to what part of the world you might be in. One forest looks like another, for example, but what language is that road sign in? Are those people wearing any distinctive clothes? Is that a kangaroo in the distance? As hard as it can sometimes be, however, it's also remarkably addictive, and showcases some of the more surprising sights of the world even as it tests your knowledge and deductive skills.

Play GeoGuessr


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Rating: 4.7/5 (103 votes)
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Moon Waltz

Starchild Ah, it's a full moon tonight. How romantic... Except that you're out of cigarettes, it's late at night, all the shops are closed, and your only chance is a vending machine clear across town. You put on your jacket and your shoes, getting angrier and angrier at yourself. By the time you're out the front door, you feel this RAGE taking over you, like, like... like an animal has been awakened within you! The clouds part, revealing the moon... and you turn into a werewolf. Fangtastic!

Moon Waltz Moon Waltz by Major Bueno is the sort of game you wish you could have made yourself. It's so very short and so deceptively simple, and yet so full of win. It proves that you don't need a lot to make an entertaining game: one wacky idea, one button, some silly graphics.

Now, for those of you expecting the werewolf to dance, it should be mentioned that there's no actual waltzing. You use the [spacebar] to control the clouds. When they are covering the moon, your guy is a normal person. When the moon is out, he turns into a deadly flurry of claws, teeth and fur. The trick is to know when to keep the human form and when to go berserk, because the consequences could be dire. The other trick is to react quickly because the protagonist is walking all the time, and there's no way to pause the game, so you'll just have to improvise and play it over and over again, as there are alternative endings based on your decisions. The best thing about Moon Waltz is how much fun it manages to cram into a few minutes of gameplay. There are actual laugh-out-loud moments, especially because you have no idea what will happen when you experiment with your lycanthropic form – and man, oh man, is it fun to scare hipsters.

Play Moon Waltz


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Rating: 5/5 (20 votes)
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Dust: An Elysian Tail

DoraIn a perfect world, I would just tell you to go buy and play Humble Hearts' indie action adventure Dust: An Elysian Tail and you would so I could get back to playing it myself. In this visually stunning and captivating Metroidvania-esque platforming RPG, originally an XBLA exclusive, you control Dust, a mysterious warrior who awakens deep in the forest with no memory of who he is. Fortunately for him, the mysterious talking sword known as the Blade of Ahrah has awakened and been drawn to him... even if he has no idea why. Together with the sword's unlikely guardian, the excitable flying Fidget, Dust sets out on an epic journey of self-discovery, never suspecting that his true destiny might be bigger than anyone ever imagined. Enormously impressive and stylish with a loveable cast, exciting combat, and a beautiful world to explore, Dust: An Elysian Tail is a game that deserves your attention immediately.

Dust: An Elysian TailFully playable with either a controller, the keyboard alone, or a keyboard/mouse combo, Dust plays like a side-scrolling action RPG. You'll explore a world teeming with danger, magic, and secrets in your search for the answers to Dust's past. In order to survive, you'll need to master the elegant yet deadly and fast-paced combat that lies in the game's core. Dust is a swift and acrobatic fighter, and mashing buttons will only get you so far. You'll unlock a variety of special abilities and attacks you can utilize through certain key presses to fight more strategtically against your foes. Even tiny, sassy Fidget plays a part, as you can combine your attacks with her magic to unleash devastating damage on your enemies... if you're quick and clever enough. Chain together multiple attacks without taking damage to build up your combo, earning more bonus experience towards leveling up and growing even stronger. When Dust goes up a level, he earns skill gems that can be spent on upgrading his strengths as you see fit.

You'll definitely want to explore each area instead of tearing straight to your objective since there are secrets everywhere. Walls can be broken to find, uh, chicken but also passages that may contain treasure chests or the keys to open them. Crafting materials can be discovered to be used with blueprints to make powerful new items. Bomb fruit can be manipulated with wind powers to blow open stubborn barricades or take down enemies. Each area is huge, however, and a lot of secrets and areas won't be able to be uncovered until you have certain items or skills. If you want 100% completion... get ready for a long haul.

Dust: An Elysian TailAnalysis: Dust: An Elysian Tail is one of those rare games that is as fun to play as it is beautiful to behold. Character animations are fluid, and their designs are colourful and packed with personality. The environments can be the real jaw-droppers though, with weather that changes as you explore and tons of detail to just soak in. The whole "amnesiac hero" thing has been done to death in games before, but it's at least presented here with style in a unique world whose history and characters you want to know more about. Dust's pleasant stoicism means he never really gets to exert much of a personality beyond being a hero, sadly, but Fidget shines. Some may find her constant chatter and jokes annoying, but she brings a much needed lightness to the otherwise drama-heavy plot. Even the relatively unimportant NPCs manage to have a lot of charm, aided in part by largely excellent voice acting.

While exploring the huge maps is a lot of fun, however, trekking back and forth over them when you're looking for something and going somewhere specific can be a bit of a pain. Since enemies respawn, the combat can lose some of its shine when you're slogging through literal dozens of the same type of enemy you just defeated when all you want is to get back to an area to use a new skill or item to reach something you couldn't previously. This is compounded by the fact that the map isn't particularly useful, showing you what side of each area exits are on, but little to no other details. It makes tracking down a specific spot frustrating in the more expansive areas... but nowhere near as frustrating as those bomb fruit puzzles. Can we just agree anything involving bomb fruit is the worst? Navigating the explosive fruits around hazards takes practice and a bit of luck, and when a timer comes into play, it makes babying them around big areas to get them where you need them as part of a puzzle tedious. Fortunately, Dust is a far better action/adventure RPG than it is a puzzle platformer.

Dust: An Elysian TailDust's combat is a lot of fun and requires a lot more finesse than Fidget's early suggestion to mash buttons. It's important to practice your combinations and techniques against early foes as much as it is to grind levels, since many of the bosses you'll encounter are far stronger than you and require strategy to beat. Heck, even some standard enemies will thrash you if you don't master your attacks and parrying. While it feels like the difficulty level can be somewhat erratic, with some bosses requiring drastically less finesse than others, combat never stops being fast and engaging. As Fidget gains new spells, you can swap between them for whatever works best and fits your playing style. Together, you can chain together massive combos and execute complex aerial attacks that leave you a little giddy inside whenever you pull one off.

Though Dust's story may feel like a familiar one, it paints a vivid world that embraces its characters with a sense of genuine heart and warmth. It's a long game for its kind, with hefty chapters that will take you all over the world and have you meet a variety of characters with their own problems... and not all of them end well. Don't let the unexpected hilarity of floating chompy cave monsters and Fidget's self portrait lead you into thinking this is a pointlessly fluffy game. It deals with some dark themes, some heartache, and some definite drama when you least expect it, and combined with the game's stunning visuals and overall sweeping cinematic presentation, it makes for an unforgettable experience. If you're looking for a gorgeous adventure filled with memorable characters and more action than you can shake a hittin' stick at, Dust: An Elysian Tail, will provide in spades.

WindowsWindows:
Get the full version (via Steam)

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


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Rating: 4.8/5 (59 votes)
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Undertale

JohnBUndertale is a narrative RPG game currently in the works by Toby Fox. A demo has been released featuring 30-45 minutes of gameplay, and because it's such a unique experience, we couldn't wait to share it. Undertale is the story of a human girl who falls into the monster-controlled underworld where she encounters napping ghosts, mobile vegetables, malevolent flowers and a butterscotch pie. It's a little slice of Anodyne or Earthbound told through simple visuals and charming characters, and after playing the preview you won't be able to wait for the full version.

UndertaleBy and large, Undertale plays like any other indie RPG. You walk through the world, interact with characters, engage in battles and earn experience points. But two things make Undertale stand well above the crowd: combat and characters. Battles are turn-based and use both standard fight/flee commands along with a curious "act" feature. Choosing act opens up an enemy specific menu that allows you to interact with each creature on a more personal level. Maybe it lets you talk to frogs. Maybe it lets you imitate molds. Or maybe it lets you cheer on a down-and-out ghost. Either way you can win many battles using these actions alone, and their inclusion deepens the narrative elements that much further.

The full version of Undertale isn't out just yet, but after playing the demo you'll want to sit on the official site hitting "refresh" until it is. It manages to touch some emotional threads most players will easily resonate with all while maintaining a quirky sense of humor. Phenomenal work!

Cheers to Jacob for sending this in!

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo

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

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