August 2013 Archives


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4 Thrones

HopefulNebula There are a lot of solitaire games out there, and these days it's rare to find one that stands out. 4 Thrones is one of those games. Kurt Bieg of Simple Machine was challenged by his wife to make a brand new game in two weeks, and he rose admirably to the challenge. The idea of the game comes straight out of Game of Thrones: there are four stacks of cards, each representing kingdoms, and the goal is to play as many cards from your deck onto these stacks as you can.

4 ThronesAll cards can be played on cards of lower value. Jacks are friendly folks, and any card of lower value can be played on them. Queens can be plied with love or jewelry, so you can play lower hearts or diamonds on them. Kings are strong, and only lower spades can be played on them. Aces represent assassination, and they can go anywhere they please, since they're both high and low. You get a preset number of skips, and once you run out of moves, the game is over.

On its face, 4 Thrones seems like a simple sorting algorithm, and once you get the hang of it, Single mode is just that. The other game modes are what add strategy and nuance to the game. In Endless mode, your deck and skips replenish after you play every card, and the goal is to last as long as possible. But the real jewel of 4 Thrones is Kings mode, which plays like Endless mode except for the scoring. In Kings mode, you can only score points when there's a king atop one of the kingdoms. Each visible king is worth one point, but that point gets scored every turn it's still there, and it gets multiplied by the number of turns you've had a king on the board. Suddenly, there's a whole lot of strategy involved. Do you play that three of spades on one of your kings and potentially keep the game going longer, or do you play it on the two of hearts to keep the multiplier high? The integration of scoreboards and the unlockable themes provide further incentives to keep playing. The interface is lovely, there are no advertisements or in-app purchases, and the themes are wonderful and varied. 4 Thrones is a unique take on the solitaire genre. And it lends itself quite well to imagining the face cards as actual kings, queens, and princes, which is always a plus.

NOTE: This game was played and reviewed on the LG Optimus L9. Game was available in the North American market at the time of publication, but may not be available in other territories. Please see individual app market pages for purchasing info.


  • Currently 4.4/5
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Rating: 4.4/5 (303 votes)
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Hide and Seek

DoraBrume Studio made their nightmarish horror game Hide and Seek in just fourteen days, but it'll creep you out for a lot longer. Trapped in a house and pursued by a madman, you strike a deal with a goat demon (don't ask questions) who promises to kill your pursuer if you can track down items with "cherished memories" and return them to it... before you're caught and killed yourself. Use [WASD] to move, holding left [shift] to run, and right-click to interact, hide, or talk to things, while left-clicking will let you blink away the hallucinations that can grip you. Through it all, you're being stalked by a killer, and when you hear him coming, that's your cue to run and hide or it's curtains for you.

Hide and SeekSo, yeah. Kind of like a less subtle Slender, but Brume Studios still makes it work surprisingly well. Though it might not make a whole lot of sense from a story standpoint, the concept and setup actually fits, I'd argue, with the whole surreal style, with the endless corridors and warped design capturing that vaguely disorienting feeling you get when trapped inside a nightmare. As polished as the presentation is, though, the gameplay is a bit rough around the edges. It's a bit too simple, and the slowness associated with hiding and blinking is maddening. Listening is a nerve-wracking experience on its own, since you need to hear to know when to hide from the killer, but since he stops frequently, it's almost too hard to judge when it's safe to come out, especially since you can't peep out from your hiding places to see if the coast is clear.

Despite that, however, Hide and Seek still manages to capture the frantic, over-the-top freakiness of our best bad dreams, and for its short development time, is a solid little way to spend a while making yourself jump.

Hide and Seek


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Weekend Download

JohnBThis week, we wanted to have a theme where every game had a number in its title. One game fits that rule, another one can be sorta stretched to fit it, and the third, well, that's when we decided rules are dumb and ate some nutella instead.

1ime.gif1ime L0ver (Windows, free) - From Ivan Zanotti, the developer of Imscared, comes a game that's still about ghosts, but it's not likely to run a chill down your spine. 1ime L0ver is a platform game that takes place in ten second intervals. You start as a spirit and can check out each small area, then enter loverboy's body and must quickly navigate the room, get the key, and unlock the door. Time runs out and you have to start all over again. Surprisingly captivating despite its challenge, but maybe that's why we couldn't stop trying?

narcoleptic.gifNarcoleptic Chicken Kid (Windows, free) - You're a baby chicken that falls asleep every ten seconds. Time only passes when you take steps, however. The problem is there's a giant wolf that will eat you if you fall asleep in the sunlight. The solution: time your steps so you only fall asleep in the shade. One mistake and, well, you'll see the grim and bloody outcome we're sure. It's a challenging and rather thoughtful puzzle game with an unusual juxtaposition of cuteness and gore.

bosonx.gifBoson X (Windows, free) - A third person running game that traps you with its stark simplicity. Your only moves are to jump left, right and forward, holding the keys down for longer jumps. Traverse the geometric landscape as you seek out energy-giving blue floors try not to fall off the platforms. Such style and grace, you can't help but get sucked in!


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Rating: 3.4/5 (100 votes)
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Three Nights Escape

SonicLoverThe alarm clock brings you to your senses. The apartment is dark and ill-furnished. Your weird absentee housemate, Ann, is always asking you to do things for her. You don't know why, but you've got to escape... and you've got to do it over the course of three nights. That's why the latest surreal escape masterpiece by Esklavos's Frederico Rutenberg (remember him for Surreal Escape?) is called Three Nights Escape.

Three Nights Escape isn't as bizarre as, say, Detarou's work, but it's not exactly normal, either, if the horse in the bathtub is any indication. It has all the typical disadvantages of a Rutenberg game... mild pixel hunts even with a changing cursor, puzzles that literally can't be solved without trial and error. Fortunately, the atmosphere redeems it very well, and the puzzles DO make sense if you look at them just right. Overall, it's definitely worth taking a night or three off to play.

Play Three Nights Escape


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Rating: 4.5/5 (116 votes)
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Live Puzzle 2

Starchild Live Puzzle 2 is the sequel to the great little jigsaw puzzle game by Pipkin Games. The idea is simple, but very entertaining: instead of static pictures, you'll put together little animated sequences. This means that the puzzle pieces keep showing different images, and you'll need a keen eye to spot a pattern and join the right ones. The intriguing gameplay is coupled with clean, bright graphics and upbeat music for a truly delightful experience. Live Puzzle 2 doesn't change that charming formula, but instead simply brings us ten new levels. More complex puzzles could have come in handy, and hopefully will be included in a future release; until then, we can enjoy this fresh batch of bite-sized fun. It's certainly better than a ten thousand-piece puzzle of a wheat field.

Play Live Puzzle 2


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Rating: 4.3/5 (26 votes)
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PicTune

TrickyPicTune is an experimental sound-based puzzle game by IcyLime based around a unique mesh of sight and sound. In each level, you will be given series of tones that represent a picture on a pixelated grid. You can "scan" the grid in the four cardinal directions by using the [arrow] keys. As the scanning bar traverses the grid, it will play notes when it encounters a segment of the picture, lower notes playing for segments down and to the left, and higher notes playing for segments up and to the right. Beating each level will require you to guess the correct letter, number, symbol, or word secretly depicted in the grid (and note that answers may be case sensitive). There are 40 levels in all, and you are given three skips that you may use. Headphones are recommended.

PicTuneJust when you think developers of the world have run out of new ideas for puzzle games, something like PicTune comes along and stands out by getting a little weird. Reminicient of a more audial take on Z-Rox, PicTune definitely feels like it requires you to use a part of your brain not often tapped, and though it can be frustrating at first, the game has an addictive quality that cannot be denied. And hey, at the very least, it's probably the best video game adaptation of Daredevil that we could reasonably expect

Play PicTune


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Link Dump Fridays

DoraI'm not very good with time limits. Pressed for choice or under the gun, I tend to panic even when the choice or solution is fairly obvious. ("Quick, what's your name?" "I DON'T KNOW!") But ten seconds was the theme for this most recent Ludum Dare competition, and developers were given just a few days to make a game that incorporated that theme however they wish. Some went the literal route. Others chose a more abstract approach. But for games under a time limit themselves, they're all pretty awesome, and here are just a few of my personal favourites.

  • The Only OneThe Only One - JaJ's puzzle adventure tells the story of a brilliant scientist and inventor who becomes reclusive and bitter after the passing of his wife. When he accidentally activates a ring designed to bring him to her side, he finds himself trapped in a cemetary over and over as the ring tries and fails every ten seconds to reunite them. Though a bit rough around the edges with some typos, and of course everyone has their own concepts of grieving, it's a clever use of the theme with a great presentation.
  • Taquito TowerTaquito Tower - Sometimes it feels like you and a developer could really be besties, and with a name like Taquito Tower, I sort of feel that way about MegaDev right about now. It's a survival game about lasting as long as you can in a tower filled with enemies, and every ten seconds the floor collapses, dropping you to the next stage. It's weird. It's funky. And KFaraday's soundtrack is glorious and I'll fight anyone who says otherwise.
  • Stay AliveStay Alive - Wow, apparently being a dude is pretty hardcore. I had no idea! In Julian Reid's fast-paced survival simulation, each day you're given ten seconds to find what you need to keep living... which is, apparently, a daily struggle for men, and probably moreso when you tackle it naked. Don't worry, there's nothing naughty, and in fact it's all pretty cute and silly. How long can you last by completing objectives and keeping an eye on your hunger and thirst?
  • WhodunitWhodunit - Every ten seconds, someone dies in this quirky game by members of MTStudio, so it's up to you to question folk and search for clues if you don't want to be left alone with a murderer. Getting into the swing of things takes a few (fatal) seconds, but with a whole plethora of potential killers and a lot of clues to find, it's a surprisingly engaging little fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants murder mystery I'd love to see expanded on.

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Joining Hands 2

elleThe Peablins know no fear—as long as they're holding hands with their friends. In Joining Hands 2, the sequel to the cheerful tile-arranging puzzle game, a blazing ball of fire has crashed in the far corner of Whispering Woods. What is it? In order to venture out that far, they'll need your help in constructing happy hand-holding troops. Some Peablins have many hands, some have none, and others are very particular about where they're situated on the grid, so move each around the game grid until each is smiling and content.

Joining Hands 2As complicated as some of the challenges may seem, even in later levels when there's an increasing number of character types, obstacles to overcome and empty hands to fill, playing Joining Hands 2 is never frustrating. Gameplay is completely intuitive: just touch and drag a Peablin around the grid, experimenting with placement until you've found the solution. If the spot is already occupied, the characters will switch places, just as long as both can fit where they're moved. Outside of new details and different puzzle challenges, little has changed between this game and the first Joining Hands adventure in terms of gamplay. Since there are 140 levels, the difficulty ramp is somewhat flat; it takes a while before any puzzle becomes too complicated to solve within a few minutes and, even when it does seem impossible, free and unlimited hints will bring quick answers. Without a level skip option, those seeking a heftier challenge might feel underwhelmed. For anyone else who likes to unwind and relax with a brain teaser, as well as families who want to solve puzzles together, Joining Hands 2 will charm and entertain for many hours of play.

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 4.7/5
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Rating: 4.7/5 (30 votes)
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The Room Epilogue

elleThe surreal, Myst-esque world of Fireproof Studios' The Room has just been expanded! This update brings the epilogue consisting of an additional chapter filled to the shadowy rafters with crafty devices and dexterous designs, making this unique and award-winning puzzle adventure even more irresistible.

No doubt your expectations are high and I can gladly say they'll be met and exceeded. Whether it's your first time playing or you're coming back to the game since it was released last year, you'll find immersion comes naturally due to remarkable graphics, intuitive controls and another curiosity-capturing box beckoning you to explore. If you'd like, you can replay the whole experience or skip directly to the new chapter. It's easy to over-think and find yourself stuck, but the quickly regenerating hint system will help your progression. Depending on how much you like to explore and experiment, and how readily the clues spark answers in your mind, this epilogue offers another 30 to 60 minutes of gameplay and removes all possible reasons to avoid entering the Room and leaving the boring old practical world behind.

Check out our review and walkthrough for The Room!

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


  • Currently 4.1/5
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Rating: 4.1/5 (39 votes)
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Oodlegobs

DoraIf you've been on the internet for more than five seconds, you know it's full of cats. For those of us whose hearts aren't miserable hunks of charcoal, it's either wondrous, or we're willing to live and let live, but someone has a serious problem with anyone daring to enjoy online videos about kitties, and in Nitrome's platformer Oodlegobs, you'll take control of the virus he uploads to Mew Tube to get rid of the cat videos once and for all. You monster. See, Oodlegobs.exe is actually a grubby little worm that can replicate itself by devouring any cat videos it comes across, thus spawning yet more worms that move under your control all at the same time. Move with [WASD] or the [arrow] keys and jump with the [spacebar]. Head for the exit in each level, using checkpoints if anything happens, and utilize the overwhelming swarm of your worms to overcome obstacles. That... sounded way grosser than it did before I wrote it.

http://www.nitrome.com/games/oodlegobs/See, the catch is that you can press the [arrow] keys to make your worms do different things (press down first to call all the worms to one position), like form a stack to get to high places, and once you run across teleporters, any worms left behind will be zapped right to you. Which seems awfully accommodating for a computer system under attack by a virus, but whatever. You might lose a lot of worms to hazards, but as long as one reaches the checkpoint or teleporter or end of the level, you'll be okay. Though bloodless and taking place inside a computer system, Oodlegobs is actually... sort of disturbing. Not only do the cat-puters (hold your applause, please) react with horror when you chow down on them, but the end-of-level Oodlegobstrosity you get when you eat the master computer is fairly disgusting. It's like if the Langoliers were digitized maggots. The actual gameplay though? Fairly clever and definitely fun, though wrapping your head around how to wrangle the enormous mass of worms you wind up with in short order can be a little frustrating simply because of how chaotic it is. They tend to jitter around and wind up falling off edges as a result, making precision jumping a pain.

It might have been nice to see more puzzling than platforming, since it is a clever (but gross!) concept that could have had some seriously entertaining World of Goo style possibilities for mechanics and level design instead of the increasingly more precise platforming and traps across longer and longer levels. Oodlegobs winds up being best for patient players rather than the Happy Gilmores amoung us, and all joking aside, if you don't mind the morbid premise, it's got a seriously quirky and colourful presentation and concept. But with lasers, explosive propulsion, timed switches, conveyor belts, and much more, it is not going to be easy. What do you guys think the sequel is going to involve next for people who hate other people enjoying things they don't... Brony Net?

Play Ooblegobs


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Rating: 4/5 (44 votes)
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Just a Trim Please

KimberlyMowing the lawn a chore? Not in Just a Trim Please, a pleasantly retro looking puzzle game from sims5000. Your goal is to mow the grass to just the right length by using the mouse or the [arrow] keys to control the mower. If you cross a space too many times, you'll create a mud puddle and have to restart the level by clicking on the handy restart button at the top of the screen.

Just a Trim PleaseJust a Trim Please starts out fairly simple, requiring you to run over each space only once. Later levels introduce patches of grass you must mow twice, and spaces that don't require mowing, allowing you to cross over them as many times as you like without penalty. The yards to mow also get bigger. This adds to the challenge, and creates quite lovely playing fields. Too bad there are only 15 levels to use as a distraction before you have to actually mow your lawn, which won't be nearly as fun.

Just a Trim Please


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Rating: 4.5/5 (67 votes)
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Terraria

JohnBGather your tools and find a comfortable chair, Terraria has rolled onto iPhone and iPad! The universal app ported by 505 Games shrinks sandbox adventure world found in the downloadable version of the game, rearranging the menus and grafting a couple of virtual joysticks onto the screen. It looks, feels and plays just like the original, and even with its few missing features, it's a solid port of Terraria through and through.

TerrariaThe gist of Terraria is this: you're in a massive 2D world stocked with breakable blocks and hidden treasures. All you have to do is explore, craft and create. You can mine ores and use them to make armor, weapons and tools, then head deeper into the environments to discover many more surprises. Oh, and survival is a thing, too, seeing as how Terraria is swarming with creatures, including a handful of bosses that will give your combat skills a run for your gold.

The controls are likely one of the biggest points of curiosity for any Terraria fan looking for portability. The iOS version does a great job translating physical buttons to the touch screen. It's not perfect, but it definitely works. There are two virtual joysticks to use, the left one allowing for movement/jumping, and the right to control the direction of your currently equipped item, be that a pickaxe, weapon, block, and so on. There's also the option of tapping the block you want to interact with. Combined with the zoom feature, this latter method often works best, though your mileage may vary.

TerrariaAnalysis: Terraria is a big, open game that perfectly blends sandbox creativity with an old fashioned adventure. It gained a reputation as a 2D Minecraft, but it's a very different experience once you look past the basic descriptions. Combat, crafting and exploration are king in Terraria, and the more you discover the more you can do. Floating island or subway tunnel to the dungeon, anyone?

Here's the biggest bummer for Terraria iOS: no multiplayer. This world of green grass, hidden ores and pesky skeletons is for your eyeballs alone. It's unknown if this feature is being worked on or if it's just not possible, but it makes things feel kind of lonely from time to time. Not everyone prefers Terraria with friends, of course, so if you don't mind being the only adventurer on the block, this really isn't much of an issue.

Apart from the lack of co-op play, Terraria for iOS is an absolutely stunning port. Featuring well over 200 recipes in a redesigned crafting menu, two dozen block types, 75 monsters, half a dozen bosses and a dozen biomes to survey, you won't run out of things to do for quite awhile. Terraria fans will probably already have bought the game, but anyone looking for a great sandbox adventure on their iPhone or iPad would do well to pick this one up.

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


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ATTACCA

JohnBATTACCA is an abstract arcade game created by Super Hyper Interactive. It's a bit like a lower difficulty version of Super Hexagon, in that you have simple one touch controls and only have to worry about avoiding the bad things. As the developer points out, playing ATTACCA is a bit like bouncing a paddleball, and sometimes you just want an attractive little diversion to occupy your mind for a few minutes.

ATTACCATo play, simply tap and hold the screen for a moment to charge the center triangle's jump. You'll see the surrounding dark triangles light up briefly, showing where you'll land once you release. All you have to do is avoid hitting the red triangles, a feat that's so much easier said than done, especially when they start coming at you in groups and leave only one little space to hit in-between.

After each round you're shown your score, and you can even compete in leaderboards on each mobile platform, just in case you want to show off your paddleball skills. Beyond that, it's just all tapping and timing. ATTACCA is simple and never deviates from that basic formula, but it's a strangely compelling diversion that's attractive to boot.

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


  • Currently 4.3/5
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Rating: 4.3/5 (159 votes)
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Monkey GO Happy Marathon 4

Starchild Monkey GO Happy Marathon 4 is here! The latest game in Pencilkids' point-and-click puzzle series is just as whimsical and silly as ever. The basic formula is the same: pick your hero, choose a hat (the more outlandish, the better) and embark on a bunch of crazy adventures. The monkey will always start out sad, and it's your duty to brighten its day by making funny things happen. Now, your monkey is a bit of a strange fella. In some levels it'll want to be Robin Hood (though we all know Robin Hood is a fox), punishing bullies and meanies, and in others it will be amused by a childish prank. Primates these days, eh?

Monkey GO Happy Marathon 4 If you've played any of the earlier instalments, you'll be familiar with the gameplay: use the objects in the level to the best of your imagination and watch your monkey jump with joy. This time around you'll also be taking care of seven teensy apes who came along for the ride. There are three coins in each level, and you can collect them in order to buy toys for the mini-monkeys. They don't take part in the actual gameplay, but seeing them playing around with their beach balls and their hula hoops adds an extra dose of cuteness. All the other Monkey GO Happy signature elements are still there: the big, bright, colourful levels, the simple but effective puzzles and the wacky humour. It's as much fun as you can expect from a sulking monkey, and it will probably bring out the prankster in you. Just don't start throwing pies into people's faces and leaving whoopee cushions around, because no one will believe you when you say a chimp told you to do it.

Play Monkey GO Happy Marathon 4


  • Currently 4/5
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Rating: 4/5 (227 votes)
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The Cave of Heroes

DoraQuestTracers' lovely point-and-click adventure game The Cave of Heroes stars Alexia Crow, a young girl who accidentally tumbles into an ancient cave full of secrets. Before she can escape, she'll need to solve puzzles, uncover secrets... oh, and receive the sort of legendary training that heroes of myth and legend did before her, whether she wants to or not. No biggie. Just click around to interact and explore, and drag items from your inventory to where you want to use them onscreen.

The Cave of HeroesThe Cave of Heroes can feel like it's struggling at times to find a balance between the entertaining thinky puzzles and simple environmental item combinations, but for the most part the game's use of clues and objects works well with the contained puzzles. It's sort of like what you'd expect to find in a Tomb Raider game, minus all the clambering around and shooting things, and the ancient ruins are beautiful to explore. Whether the bowed visuals work is another matter entirely, since the overall design is gorgeous, but the movement combined with the subtly warping scenery can actually be a bit nauseating. The decision not to have a changing cursor to mark objects you can pick up is a bit odd, especially since the cursor shifts to show area transitions, but by and large items you can use tend to stand out against the scenery enough that you'll know them when you see them.

The story winds up taking a backseat to, well, nearly everything, which is sort of unfortunate since those static cutscenes are so beautifully drawn. It's the sort of game that will provide just enough of a challenge to make it a satisfying midday treat, without leaving you going in circles and wondering what to do next. Though it may feel a little rough around the edges, The Cave of Heroes is still a lovely, relaxing little gem of a game you'll want to see more of. Even though we Potterheads have essentially ruined any actual credibility the real Nicholas Flamel might have had. Worth it!

The Cave of Heroes


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Rating: 4.3/5 (80 votes)
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Battalion Commander

Starchild Battalion Commander is an entirely awesome vertical shooter by IriySoft. First of all, it has tiny soldiers, awww. Second, those soldiers are seriously deadly (and deadly serious). Also, there are helicopters, tanks, grenades, napalm, and your fashion-conscious enemies are wearing pink uniforms: what's not to like? Your goal is not so much to finish the level, as to complete missions. Each level gets more and more difficult, until you're getting shot from all sides like a loser in a water balloon fight, but that's all right, as long as you keep getting experience points and money.

Battalion Commander There are a hundred missions in total, which ensures hours of butt-kicking gameplay. Every time you start a level, you have three of them to finish, and they range from killing a number of enemies with a knife to destroying helicopters with napalm waves. Experience points go towards your next rank, and each rank unlocks three upgrades, which cost money to activate. The upgrades are well implemented, and varied enough to influence every aspect of the game; they give your little soldiers the much needed upper hand as they progress through the ever harder levels. Mechanics are smooth, your squad moves in elegant unison, and bullets hit their targets with admirable ease. The visuals are (don't say "cute"!) colourful, bright and clear, which is a good choice when your screen is often crowded with enemy objects. Even if, in the beginning, you die well before the end of a level, Battalion Commander never seems frustrating. For a relatively simple shooter, it's surprisingly addictive, not least because it makes you think the good old "just one more mission and I'll stop, I promise."

Play Battalion Commander


  • Currently 3.4/5
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Rating: 3.4/5 (39 votes)
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A Fall From Grace

DoraStudio Maarten's Samsara Room may have given you the idea that this developer is weird in the most wonderful way. The point-and-click adventure game A Fall From Grace cements that by being about a space-faring couple who crashes their magical flying carrot and must reunite on a bizarre world by using the powers of good and evil to make rotten apple bridges, sail paper boats, and other completely logical things. Obviously. Click around to move and interact, and click the icon second from the left in the top bar to swap control from human, to angel, to devil and back. The human can walk between scenes and interact with most characters, while the angel and devil both influence creatures and the environment in different ways. Don't worry about making moral choices so much as proceeding, and click the far left icon in the upper bar to cycle between available items. Wait... what is that? Is that a... oh, it's your arm. I thought it was a... uh... pool noodle.

A Fall From GraceThere's weird and then there's A Fall From Grace, and with its strange imagery and gorgeous design, it snags your attention right away. Too bad the game suffers from being almost too weird in a way that makes it difficult to intuit what should come next, or even tell any sort of coherent story whatsoever. The best surreal games are those that work from their own rules but also have their own logic that the player can figure out and learn to work with and anticipate. A Fall From Grace, unfortunately, is all over the place to the point of simply feeling random most of the time, and throw in some clunky navigation on top and you have a game with enormous potential that stumbles maybe a bit too much for all but the most patient gamer. I was also sort of hoping for more choice in progression, given the good-and-evil concept, but nope, it's dead bunnies for everyone, so sensitive folk might want to steer clear. It's a bit of a bummer, to put it mildly, since the game's formidable length, striking visual style, and clever concept have all the makings of a real winner, and a bit of streamlining and retooling would have put it head and shoulders above the rest. Some great ideas and fun, unique puzzles make this one still worth checking out... especially if you tend to think outside the box yourself.

Play A Fall From Grace


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The Vault

TrickyWelcome to The Vault's Back-To-School Special, where you get 50% off our already low, low, nonexistent, prices on quality works from the JayIsGames archives! This week, we'll be schooling you on a trio of excellent puzzle, action, and point-and-click games. Not even a new Lisa Frank Trapper Keeper can bring such joy.

  • El ComploEl Complo - Though our readers span the political spectrum, I think we can all agree that most propaganda would be made more palatable if it was in the form of Grow-style puzzle games. Case in point: El Complo, a 2006 work to satirize the various video scandals of then Mayor of Mexico City, Andr�s Manuel L�pez Obrador. Still, one need not be aware of the minutia of Mexican bureaucracy to find hilarious this game where one must fine the correct "recipe" of double dealings to make a city (and one's bank account) thrive. Take note, Chuck Asay.
  • Miami SharkMiami Shark - As the great Tracy Jordan once said, you need to live every week like it's shark week. However, for the other fifty-one of the year, at least there's Miami Shark, the 2010 bit of arcade fun that has you chewing up an entire metropolitan area, one double-toothed chomp at a time. Mausland Entertainment always brings its particular brand of insane surreality to its games, and even if it didn't prove prescient enough to include a Sharknado power-up, there's no denying that Miami Shark is (puts sunglasses on) quite a fin time.
  • Dismantlement: RadioDismantlement: Radio - As a young lad I used to love getting old electronics from the thrift-store to take apart and put back together to learn how they worked. Minus the "put back together" and "learning" parts. So Dismantlement: Radio, the first in the popular series by gam.ebb,jpp, was pretty much a godsend. Playing through it for the first time, you just knew you were witnessing the birth of a new subgenre of games. Though it lacks the strangely satisfying "screw-unscrewing" animation that would soon be the games' trademark, Dismantlement: Radio gives players a strong collection of logical point-and-click puzzles and quirky twists.

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 4.5/5
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Rating: 4.5/5 (106 votes)
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Nelly 2: Ep.1

DoraNelly 2: Ep.1 is the first installment in the sequel to Black Square Studios' original macabre puzzle platform adventure game, and it will make you go "Huh?" and "Zhuh?!" but also "Oooh" and "Ahh". Little Nelly lives all alone in the deep dark forest, where peril literally waits at every turn. But when she goes out one night, she discovers a friend, and some new abilities, that may take her places she never imagined. Use the [arrow] or [WASD] keys to move and jump, and [spacebar] to interact when a question mark appears above Nelly's head. Not everything you can use is friendly, and in fact most of it is fatal, but the game provides enough checkpoints that the setbacks are only temporary in the wah-wah-waaaah sad trombone way.

Nelly 2: Ep.1Early in the game, Nelly gains an amulet that allows her to change the forest around her back and forth with the [Z] key, which can allow you to reach places you previously couldn't, or even manipulate obstacles and objects. When Nelly finds her new friend, [X] will allow her to set him down, and then call him back to pick him up again, but by far his most useful ability is to eat any berries you place him next to, which can alter him in ways that will let you get around differently. In a lot of ways, it's a dramatic change over the original both in style and in gameplay. It leans more heavily on puzzles that require a bit of thought this time around, making it feel less like the game is simply there to showcase how purdy the art is. It is gorgeous, though, with its mellow soundtrack and otherworldly visuals, and a myriad of little touches, like the way your little friend anxiously whimpers and hops when you leave him behind, makes for an engrossing experience.

The game is, unfortunately, still a little buggy. You can wind up standing around for a while waiting for your fuzzy friend to chow down on a berry, especially if you use your powers to grow a new one. It's also not really what you'd call difficult initially, neither in the mental or platforming sense, and apart from accidentally snapping the kid's neck from a long fall (sorry kiddo, walk it off) you probably won't encounter a whole lot of trouble. It isn't until about midway through the game when a rather gruesome twist is introduced that it becomes a bit more of a challenge, and reflexes come into play in a way that may disappoint players who prefer the more puzzle-like aspects and mood they bring. It does feel like it's working hard to evolve from the much, much simpler game its predecessor was, and that's always good, especially since the controls here are significantly improved over an earlier version of this I played, which shows a dedication to improvement. Though it has its wrinkles, Nelly 2: Ep.1 is a gorgeous game that paints a vivid dark world full of scares and surprises you'll wish you knew more about.

Play Nelly 2: Ep.1


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Mine to Escape

JohnBMine to Escape is a simple digging and upgrading game created by Nugar Games. Using thick tiles and a whole lot of tapping, you'll dive below the surface in search for valuable ores to fill your inventory with. Return to the green grass above and either sell your valuables for loot or use them to craft parts for your spaceship. After all, the game's called Mine to Escape, not Mine to Mine Some More.

Mine to EscapeTapping and sliding are all you need to do to get things done. Swipe to descend below the surface, stopping when you hit darkened tiles in the grid. Tap blocks to gather/destroy them, then tap and hold the empty square to place a torch to light up nearby squares. With your view now expanded, keep mining and descending so you can pick up more valuable materials. Once your oxygen starts running low, swipe to return to the surface where you can purchase upgrades, useful items, and more torches.

Mine to Escape is a bit like a stripped-down version of Motherload or I Dig It. There's a greater emphasis on mining and selling instead of simply staying alive, but the elements of exploration and discovery are as strong as ever. Mine to Escape lacks polish in some areas (not to mention a slightly frustrating ad placement), and you'll likely wish you could hire a butler to do some of the tapping for you, but it manages to capture that "just one more time" feeling we love to see in mobile games.

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


  • Currently 4.6/5
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Rating: 4.6/5 (507 votes)
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Road of the Dead 2

DoraIt's aich-ee-double-hockeysticks on wheels once more when EvilDog and SickDeathFiend join forces again for Road of the Dead 2, the zombie-filled sequel to the 2010 original action game, only now with 100% more shooting and grinding. This time, your heroes are two survivors desperately trying to escape the city, one driving while the other literally rides shotgun (or pistol, or SMG), dealing with any hazards in the way. Use [WASD] to control your speed and steer, and the mouse to aim and shoot, hitting [R] to reload. You can blast certain obstacles to clear a path, like cars which will explode and damage anything around them, but you'll also need your weapon to, uh, forcefully dislodge any zombies that land on and cling to your hood before they attack and it's game over. When you die, you'll be given the option of restarting at the last checkpoint you passed. (It's okay, you'll keep any upgrades you bought or points you earned.)

Road of the Dead 2Don't be afraid if you stink at everything initially. Not only will your characters' skills improve as you play through basic use, but by stopping in front of certain buildings when the screen prompts you, you can do everything from gather ammo (only the pistol has infinite bullets) to spend "RP", earned through basic play, on new weapons or upgrading your old ones, or even repair or enhance your car to avoid explosions. Make no mistake, Road of the Dead 2 is a game with a massive amount of talent behind it provided by people with a passion for the genre. The cutscenes are animated and fully-voiced, the environments are detailed, and the action is hard and frantic. There are quite a few surprises and changes in store, from the way you can use the landscape to your disadvantage and even some new enemy types and beyond, so make sure you refer to your Survival Guide whenever it gets updated.

The downside is that it feels like the difficulty has missed the curve and gone straight off the cliff, with what feels on a greater emphasis on grinding for upgrades over skill. Zombies take a ridiculous amount of damage before they fall off the hood, even if you're emptying entire clips into their faces, so early on if you get more than one clinger or have to reload, you're basically dead. When combined with how ridiculously far apart the checkpoints are, as well as the way you have to wait for upgrades to complete, you have a game that feels like it's actively fighting you instead of merely challenging you, and for some people that's going to make it more frustrating than fun. It's not that these changes or additions are unwelcome, and in fact they add a new layer of challenge and involvement to a familiar formula. They just need a bit of tweaking to make failure not quite so frequent, inevitable, or enraging. If you like a challenge and don't mind a bit of a grind, Road of the Dead 2 will keep you driving for quite some time... especially if you play logged in at Newgrounds for user-generated content, or make your own!

Play Road of the Dead 2


  • Currently 3.8/5
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Rating: 3.8/5 (29 votes)
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BrokenRobotLove

kyhElectronics just never get a break. Us humans are always after the latest and greatest device with which to entertain ourselves. It's this exact attitude that creates toys-turned-platforming experts like that in Noel Berry's puzzle platformer, Broken Robot Love. Control the discarded toy robot as it strives to win back the affections of its boy-owner. This, of course, is no easy task what with pools of lava, laser beams and armed turrets.

BrokenRobotLoveMove the robot with the [arrow] keys, and, when you've found a platform you just can't reach, activate its powers of block creation with [X]. But it would be too easy to just build yourself a staircase up. Instead, the blocks exist for a limited amount of time before winking out of existence. While this may prove frustrating at times, the tight controls leave you realizing there's no blaming the game. Finally, after 50 levels of careful planning and deft movements, do you think the boy will accept the robot with open arms? Will he change his mind about wanting a newer, better toy? Well, if his neglect continues to produce games like this, maybe it's better if he doesn't.

Play Broken Robot Love


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Mobile Monday

JohnBTouch of puzzle anticipation, anyone? We've got a major game update, a game that's gone free, and a puzzle game in the works that might just make you hate going to the airport just a little bit less!

castlemine-p.gifCastleMine is yours, too - CastleMine has spread its little tower defense wings and flown to new platforms! The browser/iOS game is now available for Android as well as Windows Phone, all with brand new levels and effects. Even better is the game is now free. Free as in just download and play it, no in-app purchases or other hassles. We loved CastleMine in our review, and now we love it quite a bit more!

crazybelts-p.gifCrazy Belts really is crazy - Just entering alpha mode, Crazy Belts from jemchicomac is an arcade game that's all about airport luggage. Well, sort of. It's just that... the game is fun, whereas airport luggage isn't. Anyway, your job is to sort luggage into the correct chutes by directing conveyor belts with the tap of a finger. It has a vaguely Bag It! sort of feeling, especially the artwork, and we can't wait to see where the game goes from here!

tinytycoons-p.gifTiny Tycoons gets bigger - Ever wanted to buy businesses in your own town and flip them for profit? That's what the real world mobile sim game Tiny Tycoons is all about! The game recently received a major update with brand new features, content, and property categories, translating into a whole lot more of everything for the players. Game design legend Will Wright even had some praise to share with the game, calling it one of the most innovative titles to fuse together the real world and a virtual one. Go read some more about the update and ongoing festivities, then grab the game on iOS to see for yourself what all the fuss is about.


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

JohnBIt's tempting to fake redact half of this review, just to fit in with the theme of Blackbar. We'll resist the temptation, though, as this is a game that's worth talking about. Created by Neven Mrgan and James Moore, Blackbar is a word-based puzzle game where you sift through letters written to and from characters and try to figure out which words were blanked out by the Department of Communications. It's one part sci-fi story game, one part political statement, and three parts just plain awesome.

BlackbarCensorship has generally been a problem left for futuristic dystopian novels to deal with while we go about our happy modern lives. With news stories of widespread unauthorized spying piling up each week, your average citizen is slowly realizing how this problem isn't just fiction. Blackbar addresses censorship on a very personal level, feeding you private letters that have certain words blocked out by a sort of of Big Brother. The characters have a difficult time knowing what's happening in each other's lives, forcing them to talk about safe, sterilized topics that won't get censored. We won't go into spoiling the events of the game, but seeing how things unfold from the perspective of real people makes things feel all the more real.

Figuring out the missing words is usually a logical process, though occasionally get stumped. The game gives you decent clues and shows you how many letters each box should be filled with, so even when you do have to guess, you won't be stuck for too long. Blackbar has a message behind its gameplay, but it doesn't sacrifice anything to force it on you. It's a good puzzle game that's well-written and entertaining, with just a touch of a deeper message to hit a few concepts home.

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


(7 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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The Strongest

JohnBThe Strongest from Laboratory is a game that has fun with itself. It can be described as a single-screen arcade punching game, complete with missions, unlockables, wacky pixel characters, and a helping or two of random events. The strange part is that even though the game is minimalistic in every way, you'll sit there punching villagers and thieves all night long.

The StrongestPlaying as the world's strongest human, you stand in the center of the screen with an arm facing to each side. Tap the left side to punch left, the right to punch right. Punchable things walk in from both directions, and all you have to do is punch them, thereby proving your strength. Missions listed at the bottom of the screen slowly complete as you punch, but if you hit a charming little animal your progress will be reset.

As the number of punched things reaches into the thousands, you'll have unlocked half a dozen or so helmets to wear. They're purely cosmetic and offer no gameplay alterations, but you'll wants them, precious, you will. The bonuses are perhaps spread a little too far apart, but with all the stats and the no-fail gameplay, you won't be left wanting for more entertainment. Grab it, start punching, and see just how strong you are.

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 (42 votes)
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Notebook Space Wars

Starchild Just like in boring math classes back in primary school, drawing little spaceships and having them destroy one another for your amusement is still as fun as ever. Look at Notebook Space Wars: it's an awesome vertical scrolling shooter which will delight your inner fourth grader. The mission is clear: destroy all enemy spacecraft and become the most powerful ship in the universe. Use the mouse or the keyboard to move, [F] to autofire and [E] to drop bombs. If you've played Notebook Wars 3, the interface will be instantly familiar. The levels are presented on a map and award one to three stars (depending on the number of destroyed enemies), there are three difficulty modes to choose from and a hangar for all your upgrades and mods.

Notebook Space WarsThe first noticeable difference is in the graphics – even though the trademark notebook-doodle style is evident, it's much smoother and more detailed. In fact, everything about this Space edition is amplified: the upgrades are plentiful, from a larger arsenal to more add-ons; there is a myriad of enemy spaceships, with their own behaviour and weapons. Your ship can level up four times, getting another slot for add-ons each time, which can be replaced or taken off. However, whenever you buy a new ship, you'll start from scratch, so change spacecraft with care. Even in normal difficulty, things can get pretty tough if you don't plan your strategy and upgrade regularly, so finding the right combination is of the essence (and it's fun to experiment). The sometimes frantic gameplay means you'll never have a bored moment, from catching power-ups to making sure you avoid enemy fire to bosses which can't wait to send you to oblivion. In a word, Notebook Space Wars is your perfect shoot-em-up pastime you'll always be glad to come back to.

Play Notebook Space Wars


  • Currently 4.3/5
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Rating: 4.3/5 (27 votes)
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A Game of Numbers

ArtbegottiIt's not often you see the words "fun" and "math" in the same sentence (in a non-sarcastic tone), but A Game of Numbers is a fun math game that hopes to challenge that statistic. In this maze-type puzzle by JoeDev Studios, you play as the yellow box with a number in it, which is the box's value. That value is the key to bypassing the obstacles between you and the exit!

A Game of NumbersAs you move around (using the [arrow] keys) and touch the other boxes in the maze, the value in your box will be changed according to the operation in the box, be it addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, or a modulo operation (represented by %, which returns the remainder when your value is divided by the number in the box). Red boxes will disappear after they're touched, while blue boxes can be touched multiple times, and grey boxes can be passed over multiple times. In most puzzles, you'll need to make your box comply with the values in the green boxes, which require your value to be greater than, less than, or equal to a certain number to pass through.

In addition (heh) to the operation obstacles that block your way, later levels introduce buttons that open and shut doors, arrows that restrict your movements, and switches that take your current value and inject it into the connected boxes. The 75 levels in the full version of A Game of Numbers start with basic operations, but soon turn into tricky algebra problems, whether you realize you're doing algebra or not! There is also a level editor available to try your hand at constructing math maze puzzles, and extra user-made levels are available to download from the main menu.

Analysis: A Game of Numbers is pitched as being "Fun if you like math... Still fun if you don't". This is largely true, as a good portion of the puzzles can be solved with brute force and doing maybe one or two simple operations to make sure you're on the right track. Some levels, such as Sewers I and II, might not even require heavy mathematical processing at all, as much as just good strategy; in these levels, you're required to open the path to the exit while keeping your value below a certain number, but being forced to cross blocks that increase your value. You probably can't crunch the numbers in a puzzle like that, but you can plan out the best path of attack. Since you only need to solve three puzzles in each cluster of five to unlock the next five, you have a fairly good shot at reaching some of the later levels without pulling your hair out.

A Game of NumbersThat said, there's something pleasing about searching for the "mathematically best" solution to a level that you just don't get with brute force. If you're into this game for the math, be sure to keep some scrap paper (or better yet, graph paper) on hand for some of the trickier puzzles later in the game. While playing, I thought of the classic image of the student asking when they'll "ever use this stuff again" (seriously though, if two apples and three pears cost 27 cents and four apples and one pear cost 29 cents, why are you asking me how much apples and pears cost, did they not give you a receipt?), and I found myself gleefully crunching the numbers in ways I couldn't have imagined way back when.

There is one tiny quirk that might send mathematical purists into a bit of a tantrum. When you divide your value by something it's not divisible by (say, 30 by 4), the value returned is the number rounded down, with the decimal dropped (so, 7, not 7.5 as it should be). This might or might not be a quirk that could be exploited to beat some levels, but levels are often designed to be easier if you ignore the exploit and divide your numbers evenly. Whether you're a hardcore numbers nerd or just a casual digit dipper, A Game of Numbers welcomes you with open arms into a pleasingly simple environment of clever puzzles.

(An apple costs six cents and a pear costs five, by the way. When was the last time fruit was that cheap?)

Play A Game of Numbers (demo)

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(6 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Escape to Space

JohnBMobest Media is back with another short but sweet mobile room escape game. Escape to Space drops you in sleek and shiny corridors with the single-minded goal of finding a way to get the door unlocked. Slide it to the side and you'll move on to another level, only this time it won't be so easy to get the job done.

The puzzles in Escape to Space tend towards the sci-fi variety, creating buttons and keypads that are unlocked by deciphering various number codes with clues littered around the screen. Nothing too difficult, even if you think math is something only calculators should do. Some inventory items come into play, but just about everything else can be solved with simple taps and slides on the screen.

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

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


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Weekend Download

JohnBGot your ears turned on? Sound Blaster plugged in? Hearing aid charged and ready to go? This edition of Weekend Download is mostly about sound. Songs and music, perhaps, or a machine voice that spits back insults as you type at it. Either way, crank up the volume and get ready to go!

death1000.gifDeath from a 1000ft Fall (Windows/Mac/Linux, free) - A very creative use of Twine, the interactive narration creation tool. You're falling to your death one screen at a time and must try to slow your descent by making a series of choices. Change your position, choose a landing spot, check your surroundings, dig through your pockets and even take a deep breath and try to relax. The decisions you make affect how fast you fall, and they range from the believable to the absurd. Either way, it's a great diversion-sized game with over 500 pieces of artwork to check out.

dreamcake.gifDreamcake Rescue (Windows, free) - A sound-based puzzle platform game that will take you by surprise. Dreamcake is out to rescue her boyfriend, but the only way she can get through each exit is by singing certain notes. Problem is, her skills are fairly limited. By picking up and moving creatures around, she can change her tune and coax the tree into letting her pass. Don't worry, you'll get the hang of it. And then you'll keep playing and playing.

sinisternames.gifSinister Names (Windows, free) - Possibly one of the most unusual games featured on a Weekend Download. Sinister Names is a "game" about talking to a bird. The bird asks you to type things, then you respond. The problem is the bird's voice is pretty unintelligible at first, and when he asks you to spell something, your first reaction will be "Say... what?". You'll type something anyway, of course, which sends the whole thing spiraling into a land of creepiness and confusion. Sit with it for several minutes and see what happens. It's worth it.


  • Currently 4.3/5
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Rating: 4.3/5 (240 votes)
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BNKR

KimberlyIn a world once populated by humans, only droids roam the earth now, struggling to find the fuel they need to survive. One day, a previously impenetrable door opens on its own. Discover what is behind this mysterious hatch in BNKR a gorgeous point and click adventure game by Piter Games. Click to move or interact with your surroundings or inventory. A changing cursor will let you know when there's an interesting hotspot to investigate.

BNKRYou have been tasked with searching the bunker for fuel or anything else that might be useful to android survival. Examine each scene carefully for clues and helpful items. This is a pleasant task as the artwork is beautiful and and really gives a sense of the desolate state of the world these robot live in. The gameplay is pretty standard for a point-and-click game, but it's the mystery and sense of exploration that will keep you engaged. You may think the post-apoctalyptic thing has been done to death, and indeed the world of BNKR is reminisent of Primordia, where energy is at premium. But BNKR does it well, and the story takes a twist at the end which leaves you hanging and wanting to know more. This first installment is wonderful, so hopefully we won't have to wait long for the story to continue.

Play BNKR


(9 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Billy's Nightmare

JohnBBilly's Nightmare is a memory-style puzzle game from Ravegan. Billy stayed up all night playing video games, you see, and now he's having trouble sleeping thanks to the nightmarish creatures invading his dreams. By watching the patterns of lights on each monster you can help Billy fight off the foes one by one, all in the name of a good night's sleep.

Billy's NightmareEnemies come in many different form, but two things they always have in common are eyes and teeth. Each round in Billy's Nightmare starts with the enemy flashing a pattern on these four points. All you have to do is watch the pattern then repeat it by tapping on Billy's eyes and teeth. Keep acing the sequences and you'll defeat each villain, moving on to longer and more difficult patterns. Get too many wrong and Billy will wake up!

Billy's Nightmare features three different pattern modes, the latter of which utilizes taps, holds and multi-touches in each sequence. The challenge moves at a gradual pace and features different scoring frameworks that range from being error-based to time-based. Even if you have the short term memory of a drunken goldfish, Billy's Nightmare is worth checking out. The artwork alone will give you something to nod and smile about, and the simple gameplay might just get you hooked.

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


  • Currently 3.7/5
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Rating: 3.7/5 (43 votes)
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Happily Never After

Starchild Once upon a time, fairy tales made sense. You had your fair maiden and your prince charming, a dragon gets killed, a witch is forced into retirement, everyone eats the candy house, the end. But look at Happily Never After: the heroine isn't even wearing a dress, and she climbs trees and gets herself dirty and she's not even in love with a prince. It's nothing like the good old times, I tells ya...

Happily Never After Happily Never After is an interactive fiction game, where the "fiction" part is provided by a honey-voiced narrator, whose self-professed job is to guide the plot and provide a moral. The protagonist of the tale is an unnamed young girl with a wonderful fashion sense who sets about finding some adventure in a vast and unexplored forest. She moves with the left and right [arrow] keys, jumps with the [spacebar], and pulls herself up with the [up] arrow when she's hanging off an edge. On her journey, she encounters useful items (which she picks up by walking over them), but her inventory can only hold one at a time, and they are used automatically when the girl is at the right place.

Happily Never After The straightforward gameplay leaves a lot of room to the story and the overall atmosphere. The graphics are gorgeous, and provide a terrific background for the plot; what with the glimmering mushroom caps and majestic trees, the game looks like a storybook. Which is all the more ironic when the idyllic fairy tale world starts crumbling down, because somewhere along the way, the young heroine apparently gets tired of the goody-two-shoes rules of conventional storytelling. She takes matters into her own hands, from dealing with magical creatures to antagonising the narrator who's bent on delivering his version. Some hilarity ensues and the whole thing ultimately veers into delightful absurdity.

It's great fun to see a traditional tale get deconstructed and then put together again in a very eccentric way; the only flaw is that the game is probably too short to bear the extent of its ambition. It feels rushed in places and, though it drives its point home quite clearly, it would have been much more complete with a few more levels. As it is, it's still an interesting experiment in nonconformity and worthy of your time.

Play Happily Never After


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Link Dump Fridays

DoraTwo of the games in this week's Link Dump Friday are inspired somewhat by Candy Box!, which is sweet enough without one of them also being entirely about delicious cookies overtaking the world. Throw in some ponies throwing down and some zombies, because the law of the internet states that there must be zombies in everything now, and you have a recipe for awesome.

  • Gold and GemsGold and Gems - [Submitted by William!] This lovely little RPG webtoy is sort of like Candy Box! minus the whimsy and double the grinding. In the beginning, your sprawling but empty kingdom only generates one gold per second. Leave the game to run itself in another tab or window and check back on it later, however, and soon you'll be able to afford a weapon, which will allow you to start on your journey of stabbing things in the face for money. The battles are very Candy Box!, and there's not much to do beyond waiting and stabbing, and waiting until you can afford equipment to better stab things with, but hey, that's basically my average day anyway. ... what? What did I say?
  • Cookie ClickerCookie Clicker - [Submitted by Sara!] Another Candy Box!-alike? Is that a thing now? In the beginning, there was cookie, and it was good. So click on it to generate more cookies! The more cookies you have, the more things you can buy to make cookies autonomously faster, which lets you make... more cookies! Ortiel's webtoy needs to be in its own page to run on its own, not a tab, but it's worth it to get your empire rolling. It's cute and funny, with a few surprises, though at the moment kind of aimless as you wait for a bigger content update to provide more to do beyond simply generate cookies. Not that there's anything wrong with that. I have a fleet of bartenders whose loyalty I have harvested with free baked goods ready to do my bidding when the time is right. Don't worry, they know, and they're cool with it. The end will come with flair.
  • Canterlot DefenderCanterlot Defender - futzi01 serves up ponies serving up smackdowns in this defense game based on the Changeling siege of Canterlot in season two of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. Hold out as long as you can by blasting incoming Changelings with bursts of magic from Twilight Sparkle's horn, calling in your friends to help out. Though simple and sadly lacking in Fluffle Puff, it's a fun and good looking little arcade game that will keep you on your toes. Hooves?
  • RiseRise - Man, what's up with this zombie apocalypse? It's all full of stairs, and RPG and turn-based-y, as Hyptosis has you choose a hero and climb to the top of a tower said to hold someone who can answer all the world's questions, presumably like why kids love Cinnamon Toast Crunch. It looks and sounds beautiful, though consisting solely of turn-based battle after turn-based battle means its on the simple side. Still, if you're into endurance, it's a solid little game, plus your daily requirement of zombies.
  • Space EmailSpace Email - Email... in... SPAAAAAAAAAAACE! Shelby Smith's strange communication experiment is less a game and more of an example of how weird and amusing people can be given total anonymity, as all you can do is press refresh to receive and read e-mails written by complete strangers like you, or compose one of your own. Because this is the internet and people can be stupid, be warned that you could run across something terribly upsetting, or maybe spoilers for who Luke's father is, but you could also stumble across something interesting, unique, or just plain funny. Which is basically the internet in a nutshell when you think about it.

  • Currently 3.8/5
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Rating: 3.8/5 (20 votes)
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Buttons and Scissors

JohnBButtons and Scissors is a bright and simple puzzle game from KyWorks. It utilizes a straightforward design that's as simple as dragging lines across your screen. The puzzles it creates using colored buttons range from basic to intricate, affording you plenty of challenge when you're in the mood for a little brain teaser.

Buttons and ScissorsEach level in Buttons and Scissors has colored buttons sewn onto a piece of fabric. To remove them, simply draw an unbroken line connecting buttons of the same color. The scissors automatically come out and make the incisions, dropping the buttons so you can cut more bits from the screen. Once every button has fallen, you're ready for another stage!

The chopping mechanic in Buttons and Scissors is extremely satisfying, as is the fact that you can make multiple lines without waiting for one cut to complete. The real selling point for the game, however, are the hundreds of levels at your fingertips. Not handfuls or dozens, but hundreds, spanning small pocket sizes to larger 7x7 layouts. It's plenty to keep you coming back for more for weeks on end.

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


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

DoraSkullgirls is a stunning indie fighting game from Lab Zero Games who one day asked themselves, "How awesome should we make this game?" and then replied, "All of it." Which is sort of confusing since that makes no sense, but since Skullgirls is awesome, I'm pretty sure that's how it went. It's also weird, disturbing, and excessively violent. The story goes that somewhere in the world is a magical artifact with the power to grant a woman whatever wish she wants, but if she isn't pure of heart, that same power will turn her into a twisted abomination... the Skullgirl. Now that one such creature has arisen, it's up to a motley crew of bizarre, superpowered heroines to take her down... and seize the power for themselves! You know, because that's probably going to work out so well.

SkullgirlsThe cast of characters to choose from is... different. There's Ms. Fortune, a scrappy feline thief who swallowed a magical gem that keeps her from dying no matter how often she's torn apart. There's Filia, just your average school-girl who wakes up one day with amnesia and a demonic parasite named Samson living in the back of her head. Then there's the disgusting monstrosity known as Double who serves the Skullgirl and take on the form of anything, though it prefers to appear as a smiling nun. There are more characters, of course, and each of them plays drastically different from the other, sporting their own unique movelist and fighting style. Many character moves actually change depending on when and how you execute them, so chances are you'll probably want to play around with the included tutorial stages and training rooms to familiarize yourself with each leading lady. Or heck, get to know them all, since the game allows you to fight in tag-teams of any twos or threes as well.

Like most fighting games, Skullgirls has the modes you'd expect. You can duke it out against other players locally or online (huzzah!) or just play by yourself (forever alone) through Arcade Mode. Story Mode, however, is the real meat and potatoes, where you'll fight through each leading lady's story. Many of them intertwine in some ways, but all of them are after the artifact, the Skull Heart, to make their wish come true. You can play the game on the keyboard if you're not afraid of breaking it, but it also supports controllers (yes, even non-XBox!) if you're like me and prefer getting blisters on your thumbs for joysticks. The game has multiple difficulty settings, ranging from ridiculously hard to, literally, "sleepwalk", so you can play it however you like.

SkullgirlsAnalysis: Sure, Skullgirls has a strange story and a stranger cast, but that's part of its ghoulish charm. And it is charming, as well as drop dead gorgeous, especially when pared with its unique soundtrack and jazzy presentation. Alex Ahad's artwork is stunning, brought to life with incredibly fluid animation and rich colour that sort of makes you want to just sit and gape at it a while. While they might mostly all sport the same, ahem, assets, each heroine's design is unique, coming into play in combat in startling ways with a myriad of nice touches. Elegant princess Parasol moves in something that comes close to an elegant two-step waltz befitting her character. Ms. Fortune's stitches barely hold her legs together as she bounces around the screen and her detachable head reacts to everything you do. Some of the characters definitely have more satisfying Story Modes than others, but the bits of characterisation and world-building you get in the cutscenes create a fascinating place you're going to wish you knew more about.

The most impressive part about the cast, however, is how drastically different they all play from one another. Painwheel, for instance, is a powerhouse, but her limited reach and slower speed mean she can quickly get overwhelmed by faster characters, making chaining together devastating combos imperative. Though, that holds true with all of them on higher difficulties, and especially when it comes to the final boss, whose ridiculous health bar is a chore to hammer through. On anything except easy difficulty, it's not just about hitting hard, it's about knowing each set of moves inside and out to be able to pull them off when they're most effective. The controls themselves are very responsive, slow only when the character herself is, and perfectly suited for the game's "think and you're dead" nonstop action. Chances are you'll want a controller (the one I'm using cost me the princely sum of ten dollars) to really get the most out of it, but with the ability to remap every single key, you can also likely find a keyboard configuration that works for you if that's your bag.

SkullgirlsThat said, there are a few flaws. Training mode, for instance, isn't as useful as it could be. While the tutorials are fantastic for helping you learn the ins and outs of each character, your inability to really customise the movements of the "dummy" character in training makes it harder to practice some of the moves you might want to. The roster of characters is also, at least compared to some of the fighters out there, relatively small, though the complexity and depth of each one helps to take the sting out of it, and more are on the way as paid DLC. Speaking of DLC, as the first of four planned DLC characters and now available for free herself, if loveable Squigly is an indication of the quality you can expect from those extra playables, you don't have to worry. The quality in her animation, art, and fighting style are beyond reproach, and she might actually have the longest and most fleshed-out story mode of them all.

Skullgirls is freaky, occasionally grotesque, and packed with cheesecake, but it's also one of the most chaotically fun and visually jaw-dropping fighting games to come along in years, indie or otherwise. With online play, a wonderfully comprehensive set of tutorial stages, incredible production values, and some of the most unique and enjoyable characters the genre has ever seen, it's a game that deserves a place on any fighting fan's shelf.

WindowsWindows:
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 (23 votes)
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Sir, You Are Being Hunted

DoraBig Robot's Sir, You Are Being Hunted, currently playable in Alpha (note that purchasing this counts as "early access" and allows you to play now and receive all updates free), is one of those weird, wonderfully clever little indie games that I live for. It's a stealth-based survival game where you play a resourceful British soul who winds up stranded in a procedurally-generated alternate reality because of reasons, and must search for the missing pieces of the device needed to bring you home across a ruined landscape. The twist? Well, as the title suggests, you're being hunted... by dapper, tweed-wearing, mustache-having, gun-toting robots, no less, who think it's fine sport to track you down with their considerable resources and shoot you dead. Which is sort of unfair, since the last time I suggested doing that at our staff picnic, I was being "weird again", but make a game about it and everyone's on board! But no, whatever. It's fine. But if you guys think I'm sharing my dead rat with you, you're sorely mistaken.

Sir, You Are Being HuntedThe game is played from a first-person perspective, using the standard [WASD] for movement, [spacebar] to jump, and mouse to look around. You'll learn early on that this isn't the sort of game you can just blunder around in, as you're both out-numbered and out-gunned, and you'll need to use your wits to survive and search the five enormous islands for all twenty-four pieces of your device. If you're spotted by a robot, they'll continue to pursue and attack you until you lose them, which is best accomplished by using the tall grass for cover by sneaking around in it with [C]. The indicator at the bottom-left will show you how visible (and thus how readily bullet-ridden) you are, so pay attention to it and move carefully, but do move, since robots will head for the last place they saw you and begin methodically searching the area. If you're wounded, you'll begin to bleed out, and you'll need to bandage yourself before you die. Since games can only be saved at the starting point and boats, dying is a bad idea at the best of times. Arriving in this hostile new world empty handed, you'll have to scavenge everything from weapons to food and more from the eerily silent towns scattered around the countryside... or take it from the bodies of destroyed robots, if you dare.

As time and days pass, you'll need to worry about food, too. Luckily, the surrounding countryside is full of hauntingly deserted towns and shacks, all of which can be searched for food and supplies. Some of the best food comes in the form of hunted animals (currently only available as loot, with hunting planned for another update), but they must be cooked, and the smoke from a cook-fire will draw attention from miles around. While you can technically fight if you're fast, careful, and armed, considering how few shots it takes to take you down, stealth and distraction combined with laying traps for your robotic foes is by far your best weapon. Night is often best used to your advantage, making it easier to spot the sinister red glow of your pursuers in the distance. With robot hunting parties, robotic hounds, and even robot-manned hot air balloons with searchlights scouring the countryside, the odds are stacked against you. Fortunately, you're scrappy, resourceful, and this is just beginning. Unless you're gunned down in the back while you're running from Mr Burns's robotic hounds while clutching your stolen loaf of moldy bread. Again.

Sir, You Are Being HuntedFrom the moment I heard about it, I knew this game and I were meant to be, and having finally gotten my hands on this playable Alpha build, I can happily say my opinion remains unchanged. It's a brutally hard, deliciously creepy and tense game with some of the best atmosphere around. The mood and style is gloomy, and hiding in the grass on your belly listening to armed assailants clank past just feet away never fails to make you shiver. The ability to play as Sir or Madam and have the in-game text and dialogue reflect as much is a welcome touch, though probably not that helpful if you're someone who identifies with neither gender. The game's overall tongue-in-cheek tone is very well handled, adding to the overall surreal vibe when coupled with the eerie setting and premise. The actual gameplay itself feels like a trial-by-fire, with very little being explained to you beyond the basics. You'll need to figure out for yourself what's useful in your hurried looting of abandoned buildings, learn how to lure the robots away from your portal pieces when you find them... or how to take them out as fast as possible.

Since you only heal when your vitality is high, how fast it depletes just from walking around seems a little overboard. As a result food is always a concern, and thus so is your inventory, which can be frustrating to handle since you have to right-click and select the option to use anything. Since the game doesn't pause when you open your inventory and things take up real space Resident Evil 4 style, why can't we then rotate and Tetris them around to make the best of our meager space, also Resident Evil 4 style? Also, what's so special about the rocks you find in houses that only they can be picked up and used as ammo or distraction? I assure you, I'm not too proud to use a common ditch rock, especially when they're so good at making a patrol of bots fall for the ol' "WHAT'S OVER THERE?" trick.

At the moment, while the game is playable, you're definitely buying into the potential of the product as a whole. With so much planned for simple aesthetics and gameplay additions like new enemies, biomes, hunter-gatherer systems, and even multiplayer in the future, at the moment you might find Sir, You Are Being Hunted a little bare-bones after a few runs. There are also, as you'd expect from a game so early in development, a few bugs still skittering around, as well as some amusing quirks such as boats sitting in landlocked bodies of water still somehow being able to carry you to the next island. (Click your heels, close your eyes... and believe.) But make no mistake... it does have enormous potential, and what exists at the moment is a lot of fun, provided the idea of huddling in cold, wet grass listening to hunting parties scour the area for you while you clutch your last rock and mouldy scrap of bread sounds like fun to you. This is one to keep your eye on, and one I'll keep coming back to over and over... no matter how often it kills me.

WindowsWindows:
Get the full version (Steam)

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

LinuxLinux:
Get the full version (Steam)


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Rating: 4.5/5 (106 votes)
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Pause Ahead

DoraConsidering Askiisoft also masterminded the brutally hard Tower of Heaven, the fact that their latest puzzle platformer Pause Ahead is also hard as nails should come as no surprise. The game gets teeth early on, after only a few training wheels stages, and it doesn't ease you into the difficulty so much as it does rip off your swim floaties and toss you into the deep end while laughing. Using [WASD] or the [arrow] keys, you have to run and jump to make it to the exit before the time runs out in each stage, thinking and moving fast to avoid the unrelenting hazards that can take you out with a single hit.

Pause AheadThe twist? When you pause the game with [C], though time won't pass, your character's momentum is preserved, and even while paused he'll keep moving in the direction you were running or jumping until you unpause the game again. It might sound like an inconvenience, but this nifty trick is on your side, since it renders him invulnerable to damage and can even let him soar across great distances he wouldn't ordinarily be able to jump. He can't go through obstacles like scenery, though, so you'll need to learn to master using the pause ability in tandem with rapid-fire reflexes and platforming if you want to survive.

Pause Ahead is definitely not for everyone. When you combine timed stages with hardcore difficulty, the end result is typically a whole bunch of flipped tables, though I personally found the timer was rarely an issue. If you're up for a challenge, however, and you're looking for some slick beats (that soundtrack is sweeeet), this is something you should check out. While the extremely tight level design does tax your reflexes, most of the challenge comes from figuring out precisely when to hit pause, and at what angle, and when to drop out. It's a game where milliseconds and millimeters make equal difference between success and failure, between soaring across a spike-laden pit like some majestic... kitty ear... eagle thing, and accidentally hitting pause too soon so you soar straight up into the thwomp blocks at the top with nowhere to go but kablooey. The tone gets decidedly odd around level ten when the game really takes the gloves off, and the level design quickly gets downright malicious. Pause Ahead is a beautiful looking, beautiful sounding game that will pound the snot out of you at any given opportunity, and for some people, that's exactly what they're looking for.

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Rating: 4/5 (62 votes)
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Red Extinction

Starchild It seems that modern science isn't all it's cracked up to be. Where are our jetpacks and hoverboards? Why can't we organise amoeba fights? Luckily, Red Extinction by Veewen is the next best thing: it's an arcade shooter in which you're in control of a microscopic creature fighting off hordes of other, equally minuscule organisms. Every level brings hordes of more advanced enemies, equipped with better weapons, more hit points and a nastier attitude. To defeat them, you'll have to keep upgrading, choosing among a myriad of additions, from spikes to cannons to rockets.

Red Extinction The gameplay is as simple as a paramecium: equip your little fighter, start level, shoot a lot, celebrate. Between two levels, you can improve your stats such as health regeneration and poison damage as well as buy upgrades for your various weapons. Red Extinction is undoubtedly inspired by Spore – the weapons system and its implementation will seem instantly familiar. This similarity is employed in a very creative way; not only is there a vast number of upgrades, which makes the game very versatile, but there are also special drops (look for the creatures wearing crowns). At the end of each level, you're asked to choose between two weapons, and you can replay levels to expand your arsenal. All this, together with the fact that you gain DNA even if you fail a level, lets you experiment with different tactics and combinations and keeps the gameplay fresh and engaging. A word of warning, though: Red Extinction could trigger that little OCD voice at the back of your head that won't let you quit before you get all the upgrades, but it's replayable and interesting enough to make farming for rare drops a fun challenge.

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Rating: 2.8/5 (52 votes)
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Candy Crush Saga

DoraIt's easy to get snobby when you review games for a living, and that was definitely the case with my attitude towards King's juggernaut of a free-to-play match-3 arcade game, Candy Crush Saga, which various in-laws had been nagging me on Facebook to play for a long time now. The thing is, though, someone refusing to play anything but the classics, the deep-thinkers, and the complex concepts, is just as shallow-minded as someone who refuses to play them at all. Sometimes you want X-Com: Enemy Unknown or Journey, and sometimes you just want to be dazzled by high scores and flashy effects as you swap and match candies across a bizarre landscape while it's all being narrated by the world's most unsettling announcer. And if that's the itch you've got, Candy Crush Saga, it turns out, will oblige.

Candy Crush SagaAt its core, Candy Crush Saga is basically Bejeweled with a bit more frills and twists. Each stage has a goal, ranging from getting a certain number of points within a limited amount of moves to clearing the board of jelly, and you tap and drag on candies to swap them around. If you make a line of three or more candies of the same colour, they'll vanish and net you points, and bigger lines and combos means more points and power-ups. As you progress, levels get more and more complicated, requiring careful thought and strategy to win. If you fail to meet a stage's requirement, well, you either pay for a power-up or some extra turns, or you lose a life. You can only have five lives at a time, and you get a new one every half hour of real time. Candy Crush Saga has a staggering 395 levels, and you can play all of them for free... provided you're patient and/or clever, since some of the restrictions and requirements for stages can be extremely demanding.

If you, like myself, are the sort of person who prefers to pay a flat fee outright for a mobile game, Candy Crush Saga's enforced wait periods and "come on, just one couldn't hurt" approach to microtransactions is going to frustrate. Especially since the level requirements often feel less designed to challenge and more to squeeze a dollar out of you, particularly when many power-ups can be bought but not kept in reserve or carried over. Despite that, however, it's hard to deny that Candy Crush Saga is actually a very fun little arcade game. Apart from an amazingly repetitive soundtrack, the game constantly keeps you on your toes by introducing new elements and strategic levels. Comparatively simple and shallow in places? Sure. But Candy Crush Saga is well-produced, addictive arcade fun, perfect to fill the moments when you want something breezy and light. And now you can all stop e-mailing me about it. You too, mom.

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


  • Currently 4.6/5
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Rating: 4.6/5 (288 votes)
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Socrates Jones: Pro Philosopher

DoraEveryone in Socrates's family loves philosophy, including his smart-as-a-whip daughter Ari, but he doesn't get what all the fuss is about. After all, if you aren't a philosopher, why should you care? But in Connor Fallon and Valeria Reznitskaya's Phoenix Wright-inspired educational visual novel adventure game Socrates Jones: Pro Philosopher, Socrates is about to get a crash course in why you don't need a flowing white robe and a long scraggly beard to get why philosophy and basic debating skills are important in every day life. Especially if, like Socrates, an ironic accident strands him in a surreal realm beyond our own where the only way back is to sharpen his mind and provide an answer to what sounds like an unanswerable question.

Socrates Jones: Pro PhilosopherThe gameplay itself comes down to sequences where Socrates (that's you) must square off against someone's arguments or presentation and use tactics to pick it apart. But you're no troll, you're just using basic skills like asking for clarification or supporting evidence, or checking for relevance. As each statement is made, you'll get a chance to ask questions that can force them to change or otherwise update their statements in ways that provide you with more information or even provided an opportunity to make a counterpoint. Of course, to make counterpoints of your own, you'll need to have a little bit of knowledge of your own, and pertinent arguments to raise in any given situation will be added to your "idea slate" to raise when the time is right. Be careful... debating needs to be handled intelligently and credibly, and making wild, useless, unrelated, or just plain wrong statements will lower your credibility bar, and if it drops all the way, you've lost.

Socrates Jones: Pro PhilosopherSee, Socrates Jones: Pro Philosopher is all about teaching you how to debate people in every day life. You don't need to be standing behind a podium to need to know how to argue or even just talk to other people in a productive, intelligent manner. It's what separates the humans from the trolls, after all. But regardless of how useful the skill it's teaching is, any educational game still needs to be fun and engaging to really teach someone and keep them interested, and Pro Philosopher happily succeeds in both parts. Not only is it witty and clever, but the characters are interesting and the topics they discuss doubly so. Of course, not everyone is going to agree with every concept on the table, or the way they're presented, or even the counter-arguments you're given, but hey, that's what debates are for.

It is, by design, an exceptionally wordy game, which means that players looking for more adventure-sy aspects might find it a bit too linear and talky. But Socrates Jones: Pro Philosopher is a great idea delivered in a simple yet effective format that works perfectly for its core concepts. Whether "NONSENSE!" is ever going to become as catch-phrasey as "OBJECTION!" is (snicker) debatable, but with great art and a light-hearted take on some big ideas, Pro Philosopher is a prime example of how edutainment can be effective and still be fun.

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Rating: 4.3/5 (72 votes)
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Dillo Hills 2

TrickyIn 2011, we believed that an armadillo could fly. Now, the hills are alive with the flying of dillos once more, as all the roly-poly creatures of the forest compete to see who is the roly-polyest. It's Dillo Hills 2, the new action racing game by Evil Space Chicken and Fex Labs! And this time, players will be competing against dasypodidae from around the globe. Though completely playable without it, Dillo Hills 2 does require a registration to keep track of your times and upgrades.

Dillo Hills 2You launch yourself into the air by holding and releasing down, and press down again to hurl yourself to the ground in a ball to gain speed by rolling down hills, then release to boost yourself into the air. You can use up to glide a bit to better time your rolling. Collecting stars along the way will charge your bonus-meter, which, when filled, will grant a power-up with the [spacebar]. Winning races will grant you points and XP booster packs, which you can use to boost various stats or unlock new outfits and characters. Fans of the single-player original may be surprising at the multiplayer emphasis in this new iteration. Generally, though, the changes are for the awesome. The multitude of unlockables is, admittedly, probably there to make things a little more microtransaction friendly in the mobile version, but hey, 200 different stat-changing hats are 200 different stat-changing hats. Altogether, Dillo Hills 2 has that rollicking Mario Kart-esque sense of quickness and constant place-changing that makes for perfect pick-up-and-play fun. Armadillos, form and roll out!

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(1 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Death off the Cuff

HopefulNebulaThere's been a murder at the Seafront Hotel. Luckily, you're the famous detective Antoine Saint Germain, who is in no way related to a certain Agatha Christie character, and you solve every case. There's just one little problem this time: everybody's gathered for the obligatory "one of the people in this room is a murderer" monologue, but you have no idea who did it. Death off the Cuff That's really only a minor obstacle, though, since people do love talking about themselves, and surely someone can give something away. All you have to do is get a confession, and save your reputation. If this premise sound familiar, it's because Death off the Cuff was originally written for our 2010 Interactive Fiction Competition. It's been through a lot of improvements in the last three years, though: Simon Christiansen has fleshed out the content, added illustrations, and optimized the interactive fiction game for Android.

Though the story remains quite short, it's full of hidden treasures and things to do. There are more endings than there are characters, so you can accuse anyone. There are secret identities and romances and sordid pasts aplenty, but the plot isn't any more outlandish than the genre demands. Death off the Cuff's main strength, though, is its efficiency. You're going to be typing on a tiny keyboard, and Christiansen accounts for this by adding plenty of shortcuts. The "focus" system, for instance, means that if you're already talking about James, you can just type "motive" instead of "talk about James' motive." You don't have to type "examine" or "talk about" every time you want to examine or talk about something; the game automatically fills in the blanks depending on context. Just type the name of an object or person to get a description, and repeat the entry (or type "g" to talk about it. The text parser is smart enough to accept quite a lot. Can you save the detective's reputation? And oh yes, do try to accuse the right person in the process.

NOTE: This game was played and reviewed on the LG Optimus L9. Game was available in the North American market at the time of publication, but may not be available in other territories. Please see individual app market pages for purchasing info.


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Rating: 4.1/5 (26 votes)
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Hate Plus

DoraChristine Love practically wrote the book on crafting complex characters and compelling stories in visual novel games, and Analogue: A Hate Story delivered all that and more... but left us with a lot of questions. Now in the sequel, Hate Plus, on a three-day journey back to Earth, you'll learn more than you ever wanted to know about the dark truth behind the fate of the people on board the doomed starship society, the Mugunghwa, and the origins and existence of *Mute, the combative security AI. Where Analogue: A Hate Story dealt with unraveling the reason behind why the Mugunghwa had been dead adrift in space for so many years, Hate Plus focuses on both a greater understanding of one of the core characters... and the most questioned aspect, the how and the why society aboard the great ship regressed in the way that it did to such a horrifying degree.

Hate PlusThough it plays like a visual novel, the game is set up as a representation of a high-tech user interface onboard a spaceship, with your AI of choice serving as your guide. The game literally does take place over three real-time days, with the ship's limited power reserves forcing you to pick and choose your actions before you need to stop. You are, of course, supposed to wait until the next day to play more, but if you're sneaky and savvy and have to have a review ready, you can probably figure out a way around that. By having only one AI with you this time, the game is even more straight-forward than before, and consists of little beyond reading and chatting. The focus here is on the narrative, and presenting it in a way that draws you into it as well as if you'd really been there yourself. The story and its characters are both the focus, and the puzzle. Each day, you can pick and choose whatever data blocks you wish to extract, each one taking two percent of your remaining power reserves. Though each block represents a contained storyline or event, in a way, they also weave and tie into each other in a way that slowly reveals the greater whole. You'll need to replay the game more than once to see everything, but the difference between *Mute and *Hyun-ae goes far beyond the cosmetic.

Hate PlusPerhaps appropriately for a game focusing on a pair of futuristic AIs, Hate Plus is a significant upgrade over its predecessor in a myriad of small, welcome ways. One nice addition, is being able to click on someone's name in a file and have your AI remind you of who they are and where you know them from... which, as someone with an abysmal short-term memory, is a function I'd pay money for in real life. Other changes are most cosmetic, such as the subtle but expressive changes to your AI's face as you mouse over different possible responses to her questions, or their reactions to the text files you decrypt as you read them. (And speaking of those text files, it would have been nice if you could have clicked and drug the position marker to scroll through them faster.) Don't let the cutesy otome-esque vibe fool you... Hate Plus has a meaty narrative filled with politics and human drama that you need to be prepared to sink some time into. It's easy to forget, in the sweeter, more casual interactions between you and the AI you choose, the complex and grim history you're diving into.

Hate PlusUltimately, whether you feel the truth behind the fate of the Mugunghwa was worth the wait is up to you, but Love does what she does best and unfolds the narrative with expert delicacy, through layers of correspondence and different people that will keep you second-guessing and rethinking your opinions of them all every step of the way. The character artwork for all the people you read about is also nothing short of stunning, but it's Love's writing that brings them to life and makes you form connections with them that will make you wish you had more time with them. Throw in a haunting ambient soundtrack by Isaac Schankler and you have an experience that will suck you in and make the time fly by. Sadly, while perhaps expected considering the enormous role she had in Analogue, *Hyun-ae feels a little bland this time by comparison, and while pleasant and cute, doesn't really offer much in the way of interest or development. There are things you will only experience if you play with *Mute, and *Mute's story, and her complexity as a character both now and in the documents you'll read about her past, shine.

Hate Plus succeeds in crafting a narrative in the way few other games do, or even bother trying to. It's a story that deftly handles the complexities of both politics and human nature, of why we do the things we do, and presents everything from the smallest player to the biggest villain in complex, startling, and even sympathetic ways. It is, in a lot of ways, an unhappy story, but with moments of joy and bittersweet heartache that will linger with you long after the game is done. Not everyone will appreciate the story-centric gameplay, so you may want to wait for the upcoming demo to see if it's to your taste. Ignoring even the forced breaks between playing, Hate Plus is a long tale, and the replay value makes it even longer. It's not "just" a story about a woman's role in society. It's a story about people, about the best intentions, about love and needs, between all genders and sexualities, and the dark things that can come from that. Play it, think about it, and if you take just one thing away from it, I recommend this, no matter who you are. "Be decent."

WindowsWindows:
Get the full version (Steam)

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

LinuxLinux:
Get the full version (Steam)


  • Currently 4.1/5
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Rating: 4.1/5 (97 votes)
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Night Forest

elleThis pretty little escape game, a first by Amajeto, has a charming design that channels a very TomaTea vibe, especially in the artwork and presentation. Each of the four walls has only a sparse amount of furnishings, all designed to be puzzling or informative all while being aesthetically appealing. Barely glimpsed outside the window is a lovely starry night, but before you can stroll through this Night Forest, you must piece together the clues and solve you way out the locked door.

Night ForestA changing cursor will guide you toward active zones, where you can click to pick up items, study hints or interact with enigmatic devices. You can look closer at your inventory by clicking the lower right corner of an item's box or click the center of the item to ready it for use (or attempted use). As much as Amajeto looks and feels like TomaTea's alter ego, it is rather more tricky since it's a bit tighter with its clues. No messaging will tell you if you're ready to solve a puzzle or not, so you're left with your power of deduction and a bit of guessing. While the first puzzle is straight-forward and the last is easier since your clues have been narrowed down, you might find yourself muddling through the middle. Still, the logic holds up to scrutiny and most players will make make their way through this short escape before long, rewarded by a beautiful scene and a happy feeling of accomplishment to go along with it.

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The Vault

TrickyBright copper kettles, warm woolen mittens, and quality works from the JayIsGames archives... These are a few of my favorite things! Not schnitzel with noodles though. Seriously, schnitzel goes much better with mashed potatoes. I don't know what that Von Trapp lady was trying to pull. This week the Vault has arcade, platforming, and escape titles to remind you of, and when you play them, well, then you won't feel so bad.

  • Gimme Friction BabyGimme Friction Baby - Some games grab you at an initial glance. Others seem a little simplistic on their surface as you play the first couple of rounds, and it's only when you're still trying to beat your high score six hours later do you realize that you are totally hooked. Gimme Friction Baby, a 2007 arcade game by Wouter Visser, is definitely the latter. The winner of the replay-themed 3rd Casual Gaming Design Competition Gimme Friction baby takes a simple abstract concept of bouncing marbles, and makes it into something intuitive and addictive, as should be evidenced by the fact that I have so far played roughly 300,000 rounds of it, even though my high score has never quite cracked the upper-teens.
  • Take a WalkTake a Walk - I'd call Kevin MacLeod an unsung hero of game design, if it wasn't for how his high-quality royalty-free music is omnipresent across the world of browser gaming. I suppose it'd be more proper to call him a quite-often-sung hero of game design. His music is the star of the show in Dachuan Lu's 2010 rhythm platformer, Take a Walk. Seeing that little stick-guy hopping along to the tones and beats of MacLeod's excellent score make Talk a Walk a relaxing, almost zen experience: the gameplay equivalent of listening to a jazz pianist mess around on the keys. In other words, it's a game that's good for the soul.
  • VisionVision - To those who love escape games, the appeal of neutral's 2008 work, Vision, is obvious. While neither the flashiest, nor twisted, nor hilarious, nor innovative work of the genre, it is not hyperbole to say that it is the platonic ideal of escape-gamedom: a solid collection of quirky but logical puzzles that builds to a satisfying endgame almost effortlessly. What more could one want? Vision was voted Best Escape Game in the 2008 Casual Gameplay Awards, and seeing that it still tops the rankings of our best games even five years later, it's still worth exploring every nook and cranny within it.

Happy 150 Vaults, JiG-Fans!

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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Squarescape

JohnBSquarescape is a sliding block puzzle game from Jacob Koch. Working with just a few basic colors and a minimalist visual design, the simple title challenges you to move a square around the screen in an attempt to make it to the exit. Of course, strategically placed blocks, stoppers, orbs and many other obstacles stand in your way, so it's not like you can just waltz on in there and start the end of level celebration.

SquarescapeIf you've played a sliding block puzzle you'll feel right at home with Squarescape. Swipe the white square to send it off in any direction. It continues to move until it collides with a wall, at which point you can make another move. There are colored orbs you'll need to carry to the goal, adding another layer of complexity to the sparse layouts. There are also stop-pads, death spots, and a handful of other obstacles you'll need to use as the game progresses.

Attractive in its simplicity, Squarescape reels you in with its no-frills design and attention to smooth gameplay. There are 100 levels to work through, each one free from ads and other annoying mobile monetization attempts. It's just straight-up retro puzzle goodness, through and through.

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


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Rating: 4.6/5 (441 votes)
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Samsara Room

DoraStudio Maarten's Samsara Room is an escape game, but its surreal atmosphere and imagery make it feel a lot more like a dream... or maybe the sort of browser game they play every day in Twin Peaks. A mirror, a telephone, a chest of drawers, and a grandfather clock make up the room... but it's also missing a door, which is typically important to the whole "escape the room" formula as a general piece of design. But as you explore and begin gathering items, you'll quickly realise that this place is anything but typical, and Captain Reality is no longer steering this steamship.

Click around to navigate and interact with things, clicking an item in your inventory to highlight it for use the next time you click somewhere onscreen. While there are definitely instances of puzzle-solving where you have to do what would seem to be illogical, Samsara Room sort of functions on its own level of rules when it comes to reality, and once you've adjusted to those by experimenting a little, it makes figuring out what you need to do a lot simpler. It's the sort of escape game that's less cerebral and challenging and more, well, an experience, with its strange imagery and stranger atmosphere. In fact, players who prefer more intellectual, challenging game design might find the dreamlike setting and puzzles of this one a bit too weird... which is, of course, more a matter of personal taste than anything else. It's actually a bit on the short side, and its ending is a little unsatisfying after all the buildup, but sometimes it's more about the journey than the end destination, and Samsara Room's journey is a singularly unique, clever, and stylish one worth making.

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Mobile Monday

JohnBA handful of updates, impending updates, and scary-cool images to tease you on this edition of Mobile Monday. Scroll down with the greatest of care!

pixelpeople-p.gifBig update: Pixel People - An update to the massively awesome mobile simulation game Pixel People just rolled out, and for lack of a better term, it's just infested with great new stuff. The short list includes more genes to discover, new buildings, terrain tiles of just water or grass, new medals to earn, and brand new missions to complete. The list of updated content is even longer (and don't forget about the interface improvements), so do yourself a favor and get to playing!

room-p.gifImpending update: The Room - One of the best point-and-click adventures on any mobile device is about to get a big update. Developer Fireproof Games announced an epilogue will be released at the end of August, picking up where The Room left off and getting things started for the sequel due out later this year. Excited? We are!

joining2-p.gifNew game:Joining Hands 2 - 10tons recently announced it will be publishing a sequel to the too-cute puzzle game from 2011 Joining Hands. Joining Hands 2 will feature over 140 levels with eight different characters to join together, each with their own set of rules. The gameplay is relaxed but challenging, with no time limits, violence or interruptions. Just straight-up logical entertainment. Joining Hands 2 is set to release on mobile devices later this month, so keep your eyes open and your hands unjoined.

trains-p.gifOMG Pocket Trains OMG - And finally, an image that is sure to delight and entice you. NimbleBit is currently working on Pocket Trains, a game set to be not unlike Pocket Planes only featuring more conductor hats. Little information is being released at the moment, but the image is all we need to prepare ourselves mentally for yet another crazy-addictive game.


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100 Doors: RUNAWAY

JohnBFrom the prolific developer Gipnetix Games, creator of 100 Doors of Revenge and 100 Doors 2013, 100 Doors: RUNAWAY drizzles some new point-and-click room escape puzzles into your day, one locked door at a time. Featuring over 90 brand new levels, it's your job to solve a series of single screen puzzles by touching, swiping, pinching, shaking and tilting to manipulate on-screen objects so you can get the door open. 100 Doors: RUNAWAY boasts a more relaxing set of puzzles than previous games, focusing more on local logic than math-based riddles. Get ready to do some mobile experimentation as you scratch your head over the new brain teasers!

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


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Rating: 3.7/5 (63 votes)
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Knight Runner

KimberlyWe all know the story: Princess gets captured, princess needs saving, knight comes rescuing. But the hero of Knight Runner, a quick paced action runner from Noname Lab, is one of the few that will run all the way there. Use the [arrows] to move and jump, or play the game solely with your mouse, or a combination of mouse and keyboard. Grab coins and destroy enemies by bouncing on their heads, aiming for combos by staying aloft. Stamina, the red bar, goes down as you run, but you gain more for each enemy you kill. You lose a life, indicated by hearts, for hitting obstacles, from taking damage, and your run ends when either runs out. Visit the shop between runs as it offers upgrades, and allows you to purchase and improve power-ups. If you need more gold, complete "quests" during levels to get achievements and a cash reward.

Knight RunnerKnight Runner plays almost as much like a launch game as it does a jump and run game, which isn't a bad thing. It brings back fond memories of Burrito Bison, what with the gates to break through and the enemies to squish. While the instructions are a little sparse, it's an easy game to pick up, but a hard one to stop playing. Some of the achievement quests seem to be out of order (harder ones come before easier ones), which makes it all the more disappointing that after you save the princess the game resets so you can't continue on to complete all of them. Hopefully this issue will be addressed in the mobile version, set to come to your favorite iOS device in the near future. In the mean time Knight Runner is still a great game that will keep you glued to your screen for quite awhile. I mean, if tradition holds, that princess isn't going to save herself.

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  • Currently 4.5/5
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Rating: 4.5/5 (143 votes)
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Deru Game

DoraAnd everything was Detarou and nothing hurt. Deru Game, the latest surreal escape game from the maestro of... whatever this is... serves up another dose of the bizarre, the mildly unsettling, and the just plain freaky. Click around to find clues, but more often, just find more puzzles as you explore and look for a way out, using the bars at the edge of the screen to navigate and a changing cursor to interact. As usual, solving Detarou's puzzles involves figuring out the relationship between what you're looking at and the clues in the room... as well as deciphering the clues to begin with, since most of them are rarely as straightforward as they first appear.

Deru GameDetarou has a knack for multi-layered puzzle solutions, and often the game's very weirdness tends to act as a red herring that makes you overthink a solution that's staring you in the face. It's the sort of experience that leaves you feeling particularly clever whenever you make progress, but can also be more frustrating than usual when you get stuck. The complete lack of feedback when you're trying and failing to figure things out or use items means it's easy to hit a wall... but, then again, that's sort of what you come to these games for, right? Like other Detarou titles, Deru Game will lead you in circles, referring back to people and things, and you'll need to examine items in your inventory for even more clues in order to proceed. It actually feels a bit less, well, creepy than Detarou's games have had in the past, with a greater emphasis on clever puzzles than shock value... though there's still a lot to raise an eyebrow over. Deru Game is still weird, but definitely not quite Detarou's weirdest, and packed with puzzles and cryptic clues, it's a fine way to spend your day... even if it may still lead to some awkward explanations if someone catches a glimpse of the screen over your shoulder as they walk by.

Play Deru Game

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Rating: 4.5/5 (54 votes)
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Tic-Tac-Logic Light Vol. 1

ArtbegottiIf you weren't able to check out Conceptis' latest mobile release, Tic-Tac-Logic, there's a new reason to celebrate with streamers and cake! Or even if you did get to check out their new logic puzzle offerings, you are also permitted to celebrate with streamers and cake! Tic-Tac-Logic Light Vol. 1 is another addition to the Conceptis Light brand of browser-based puzzle samplers.

Tic-Tac-Logic Light Vol. 1In this puzzle, your goal is to fill the grid with Xs and Os such that there's an equal number of both symbols in each row and column, but you never have three of a symbol consecutively horizontally or vertically (diagonals are allowed), and no two rows are columns are identical. By focusing on these three rules, you can tackle this bundle's thirty puzzles and celebrate once again, because we haven't spent all of our cake budget yet. Eat more cake!

Play Tic-Tac-Logic Light Vol. 1


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Weekend Download

JohnBIt's easy to tell what's on our mind this weekend: sleep, abstract experiences, and butler. The former because sleep is good. The middle one because rhubarb pie. The latter because Mr. Belvedere was a fantastic television show.

Schutll NoiseSchutll Noise (Windows/Linux, free) - A platform game where we really don't want to tell you how to play, as that kinda ruins some of the fun. Schutll Noise works with minimalism in a very challenging sort of way, dropping you in a world where you can walk and double jump and very little else. Colored materials affect you differently, such as red floors killing you and brown stopping you. Make it to the green goal by any means necessary. Be prepared to think way out of the box!

Dungeon ButlerDungeon Butler (Windows/Mac, free) - A turn-based puzzle game of sorts created for the Pack of Horrors game jam by The Bovine Perspectives. Moving from section to section in your master's spacious manor, interact with objects and pick up items necessary to clean the place up (you're a butler, after all). Pesky humans threaten to wake master from his slumber, though, so you also have to manipulate objects to keep them at bay. It's a short but unique game that doesn't take itself too seriously. Which is good, since the set-up somehow reminds us of Manos: The Hands of Fate. Note: Scroll to the third banner image on the following page to download Mac and Windows versions.

ZzzzZzzz-Zzzz-Zzzz (Windows, free) - Finally, a game about sleeping! Actually, it's more about the dreams we have when we're asleep. Ever dreamt you had a superpower but didn't know how to use it? Zzzz-Zzzz-Zzzz lets you live that experience and many more surreal moments as you work your way through level after level of puzzle platforming oddities. Here's some protips to help you get started: walk and jump. When you get stuck, try pressing Z. When you get really stuck, try other things. Like going back to bed or something.


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Rating: 4.5/5 (105 votes)
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Pom Gets Wi-Fi

DoraMe Patra's surreal indie adventure game Pom Gets Wi-Fi is one of those games that makes you pause every so often and give your face a light slap to make sure you aren't hallucinating, and also makes you sound like a complete lunatic and a liar when describing it to other people. You play as a self-absorbed, foul-mouthed, pop-culture obsessed Pomeranian pup who wants nothing more than to spend all day (every day) on the internet, which might hit a bit too close to home for some of us. Things get, uh, complicated, however, and suddenly she finds herself stuck somewhere with no internet connection, and thus begins a quest to get hooked back up online.

Pom Gets Wi-FiUse [WASD] to walk around, and [Z] to interact with things or dogs. To find Pom's beloved internets, you'll need to explore, examining everything and chatting with every dog you find. You can save your game by chatting with Dave Pointer, the swanky looking dog standing below the roses. Shibe, Pom's long-suffering yet bafflingly loyal Shiba Inu housemate, will tag along, and you can talk to him whenever you like to get hints as to what you're doing, or simply to deliver some more verbal abuse. Pom, you see, is... uh... acerbic in that special "I spend 99% of my waking time online" sort of way, which means she delivers a steady flood of profanity, insults, crudity, and pop-culture references to everyone and everything she meets. For some players, this can make her both unbearable and at times impossible to understand, and the unrelenting, cheery nonsense won't be to everyone's tastes... nor will the amount of back-and-forth running you'll have to do to complete fetch-quests.

But while Pom Gets Wi-Fi may be weird, silly, and immature, well, if that's your sense of humour, those are marks in its favour. The cheery artwork and sheer ridiculousness of everything means it's hard not to play with a smile on your face, and the baffled reactions of the other dogs, who also can rarely understand what Pom is talking about, never fail to amuse. It's not what you would call a hard game, though to get the second ending you might have to go against your basic gamer instincts a bit, and the few turn-based battle sequences likely won't give you any trouble since they're mostly for show. Pom Gets Wi-Fi is a crazy, over-the-top parody of both adventure games and online life in general, and it's even unexpectedly sweet at times... in its own bizarre way. It won't take long, but while it lasts, Pom Gets Wi-Fi makes an impression... just remember to get out n smell da rozes sumtimes, senpai, kk? <3

WindowsWindows:
Get the full version

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


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Rating: 3.6/5 (37 votes)
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Janie's Sketchbook

DoraPlease note that though there is no profanity or physical violence, this game received its rating due to its subject matter, so player (and parental) discretion is advised.

Hima and Piti Yindee's Janie's Sketchbook is the follow-up to 2010's Grace's Diary, and although both visual novel games were made for the Jennifer Ann's Group to raise awareness about teen dating violence, they deal with two very different perspectives. This time around, you're playing as Janie, who's baffled and frustrated as to why her boyfriend, Mike, decided he needed a break from her recently. Her friend Trina tells her she needs to calm down and think things through clearly, maybe try another perspective, but Janie just doesn't understand what could have happened. It might hurt and be a little uncomfortable, but Janie is going to have to take a long, hard look at her relationship, and herself, if she wants to get past this.

Janie's SketchbookClick around to explore her small apartment and trigger memories associated with certain objects. Watch the scene that plays out, and then help Janie decide how she should interpret the event by clicking on the appropriate choice, but be careful. Janie has difficulty seeing both sides of things, and you may need to lead her to other conclusions by having her experience other memories first. You can always choose not to decide right away, and you can go back to that memory whenever you wish by clicking on the memo tab. It's rare for a game (or any piece of media) to tackle the subject of abuse, and it's even rarer for it to do so by putting the female in the place of the abuser. Reminding us that abuse can not only happen to men, but happen without landing a blow, is smart, and the gorgeous, expressive artwork brings the story and characters to life.

The downside is that Janie's Sketchbook is both a bit heavy-handed in handing down its moral with some stiff, awkward exchanges at the end, and Janie's mood swings are so drastic and over-the-top as to make her appear psychotic and in need of a psychological evaluation rather than be sympathetic. While it's good to teach people to recognise these patterns in themselves and others, it would have been better to do so in a way that illustrated you don't have to have Janie's full-on berserker unbalanced rage to still have an issue, as well as more clearly offering ways to cope with, understand, and get past it. On the gameplay side of things, the lack of direction means you can be left fumbling around and wondering what you have to do to trigger a choice that will allow Janie to have an epiphany for any given scenario. Still, the game's decision to tackle a sadly more often left examined angle of dating violence is to be celebrated, and Mike is an incredibly sympathetic guy. Janie's Sketchbook doesn't quite stick the landing, but it's a beautiful, thoughtful game whose decision to approach abuse from oft-ignored angles and victims should be applauded.

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Rating: 4.3/5 (60 votes)
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Gone Home

JohnBGone Home is an unconventional story exploration adventure game created by The Fullbright Company. It's a game that's void of traditional puzzles, flashy cutscenes, and hidden rooms filled with guns and ammo. Somehow, though, it manages to capture your curiosity from the beginning and never, ever let go. Anyone who enjoys a good mystery or the feeling of uncovering a story piece by piece should check out Gone Home right away. Everyone else should read the rest of this article, then go play the game!

Gone HomeGone Home takes place in 1995. You know, the good old days when X-Files was still on the air everyone didn't have their eyes glued to a smartphone (or cell phone, for that matter). You play as Katie Greenbriar, a young woman returning home after spending a year traveling in Europe. As she arrives at her family's house she notices things seem to be a bit... empty. A note on the door from her younger sister Sam says she isn't home and doesn't want Katie poking around the place trying to figure out where she went. Well, since this is a video game, let's poke around the place to try to figure out where she went!

Gone Home takes a very different approach to gameplay than most adventure games. Working with the premise of "if you were there, what could/would you do?", Katie can pick up and examine a wide array of objects, most of which don't directly affect the game. The tissue box on the desk probably isn't important, nor is the doggy birthday card that fell behind the cabinet. They do, however, start to weave a subtle story, filling you in on the lives of the family that is supposed to be there. You're given a full range of motion in this 3D game, so don't be afraid to seek out and search mysteries in every corner of the house.

As you continue to satisfy your urge to explore, Gone Home introduces even more mysteries. The end result is a constant cycle of intrigue drawing you deeper and deeper into the game. It's surprisingly immersive and dodges most tropes you might expect from a dark and creepy adventure game. Gone Home doesn't tell you what to do or where to go. It doesn't put locked door puzzles around every corner or make you fill an inventory with stuff so you can figure out how to fashion a key out of it. It's an atypical adventure game that plays on some deeper aspects of human curiosity, and it's one of the more fascinating gaming experiences we've come across in quite some time!

WindowsWindows:
Get the full version

Mac OS XMac OS X:
Get the full version

LinuxLinux:
Get the full version

Link Dump Fridays

DoraWe gotcher zombies. We gotcher alien life forms. We gotcher mysteriously shifting forest paths full of obscure references and bizarre deaths. In short... we gotcher Link Dump Friday!

  • ShamblesShambles - Whenever I think of Notch and zombies, I instinctively want to bury myself in a hole and cry until sunrise... you know how it is. But in his game for 7DFPS, you've got a gun instead of a pickaxe, and you're trying to survive for as long as you can during a zombie invasion that only gets worse as the civilians and soldiers are attacked. Fun, but needs more Ving Rhames, don't you think?
  • The Rogue Less TraveledThe Rogue Less Traveled - Matthew R. F. Balousek, Regina Mako, and Steven An are the Voltron-esque configuration of cleverness behind this twist on a choose-your-own-adventure style interactive fiction game. You're on a road looking for gems, but the twist is that it's different every time you play, offering up new hazards and surreal puzzles... and I do mean surreal. It'll probably take some trial and error, and you'll need a morbid sense of humour, but with good writing and a beautiful art style, it's worth checking out.
  • PoliphonyPoliphony - Here's a lovely little prototype by Heather Penn, Joshua Nuernberger, and Trevor Wilson made for the UCLA Game Lab! As an astronaut who crashes on an alien world, you must explore and learn how to communicate with the alien life. It's a gorgeous little game that will make you wish there was more to it, and despite some bumps in the execution, you'll have your fingers crossed that we see a finished project somewhere down the line.
  • GolemGolem - Begamer and Yepi deliver this little point-and-click puzzle adventure game about a golem trying to find something to do with itself after being created and subsequently booted out into the world with little ceremony. Click around the town to progress, trying not to make the sort of nuisance out of yourself a giant sentient lump of clay might be, and solve puzzles to get by. It's on the short side, but it's also on the cute side too.

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Rating: 3.9/5 (40 votes)
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What Box?

Starchild "Hey, Frank, what's that there on camera four?" "You're so paranoid, Bob. It's just a walking box." "Oh, all right, then. Go back to your Solitaire." Seriously, the security guys in What Box? are the worst. You can scuttle around quite safely in your cardboard hideout and they are none the wiser. Which is just as well, because you don't really need company while you're trying to escape. Who you are and where you happen to be is not particularly relevant; the important thing is to look for the exit and scurry on through it, using the [arrow] or [WASD] keys.

What Box? This being a puzzle game, simply waltzing to the door is not an option. Instead, you are somehow able to see yourself through the various security cameras, so you'll never have a clear view of the room you're in. Sometimes you'll go off one screen and emerge in another, showing a completely opposite angle, and it can take a while to find your bearings. The grey, nondescript walls don't help much, either, and by level three you'll be desperate for a decent interior decorator. The only colourful elements are the lasers and hidden buttons you'll have to find to turn them off. All this works great to create the right atmosphere and reminds you of so many classical sneaky sequences in action games. The concept is fun, simple and quirky, and it's a real pity that What Box? is very very short, so here's hoping for a future version with a load of new levels. In the meantime, I'll go and try to beat the game again, this time without traipsing around like a headless chicken.

Play What Box?


  • Currently 4.1/5
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Rating: 4.1/5 (68 votes)
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Once In The Cave

HopefulNebula Once, in the cave, there was a cliff, a fire, and some shadow puppets... Oh, wait. Wrong cave, sorry. Once in the cave, there was a wizard who was searching for the evil wizard in AnienaGames' fantasy platformer. Use the [arrows] to move, [W] and [E] to fire your weapons, and the numbers [1-4] to use the items you collect in your travels. There are 11 levels in all, each with three special challenges. You might have to complete the level in a certain time, or collect a hidden item, or defeat a certain number of enemies; when you complete a level after achieving one of these goals, you get a star that you can use to buy new skills. In each level you'll collect coins that you can use to buy weapons and potions, and you can collect powerups that restore your health or mana.

Once In The CaveThe neat thing about Once In The Cave is the extensibility of the skills. While there are only a few available skills, AnienaGames has put them to good use. Rather than having a huge skill tree, there are fire and ice skills, which match up with the types of weapons you can use. Since you can reset your skills and sell your items with no penalty, you can always experiment and find the setup that works best for you. Between the flexibility of character and the tidiness of the art, Once In The Cave is a wonderful way to explore a cave without ever leaving your computer behind.

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  • Currently 3.9/5
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Rating: 3.9/5 (134 votes)
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Plants vs. Zombies 2

JohnBPlants vs. Zombies 2: It's About Time has finally arrived. After a brief limited launch in Australia and New Zealand, PopCap and EA have unleashed the game worldwide, closing the four year gap opened by the original Plants vs. Zombies. The sequel has some enormous expectations to live up to. Its predecessor won dozens of awards and has been praised as one of the most original and creative games in recent years. How do you follow something like that? By adding more plants, more zombies, and more levels. Oh, and by introducing tons of in-app purchases!

Plants vs. Zombies 2The story behind Plants vs. Zombies 2 is largely focused on Crazy Dave, the speech-garbled, sauce pan on the head neighbor from the first game. You see, Dave ate a really good taco. It was so delicious he wanted to eat it again. He used his time machine to travel back in time, but things didn't go quite as planned. Instead of moving back a few minutes or hours, Dave pulled everyone to ancient Egypt. Since tacos won't be invented for several centuries, looks like he's got some work to do if he wants that second lunch.

Zombies are as prevalent in ancient Egypt as they are in a modern day backyard. Plants are just as plentiful as well, and they're eager dispatch some undead. Zombies of all types shamble in from the right side of the screen, each occupying one of five rows on the grid. Taking plants from your inventory and spending sunshine as currency, set offensive and defensive units in the soil and watch them do their thing. Each plant has its own ability, ranging from the basic pea shooter to the punch-happy Bonk Choy or the classic potato mine (SPUD-OW!). By populating your yard with a healthy array of plants, you can stave off the zombie hordes and live to fight another day.

Plants vs. Zombies 2The basic set-up of Plants vs. Zombies 2 is pretty much the same as Plants vs. Zombies. There are some key differences introduced in the sequel that make it stand apart from its predecessor, however. For starters, Plants vs. Zombies 2 takes place in three distinct areas: Ancient Egypt, Pirate Seas, and Wild West. Connecting the levels in each of these areas is an overworld map, complete with branching paths that are blocked by locked doors. You can clearly see where many plant upgrades and other events will occur, but there are some surprises in store as well.

Analysis: The defense gameplay of Plants vs. Zombies 2 has been tweaked in a few places. The basic mechanics are largely unchanged, but now you've got a few special abilities to help you out of a jam. Plant food provides a temporary boost for a single plant, allowing it to unleash a quick barrage of attacks to clear out zombies. There are also a handful of power-ups you can use, all of which break the mold of letting the plants do all the dirty work. The pinch power-up lets you squeeze zombies' heads to send them packing. The toss ability lets you pick up and throw zombies from the screen. The lightning power zaps whole groups of zombies at once, clearing out crowds in short order. Fun for a few seconds, perhaps, but their inclusion in a game like Plants vs. Zombies is baffling. Until you consider one other new gameplay feature, that is: in-app purchases.

Plants vs. Zombies 2Ladies and gentlemen, meet the bane of mobile gaming enthusiasts around the world, now a front and center feature of a Plants vs. Zombies game: in-app purchases. A lot of lazy design decisions were made so the IAP model could be grafted onto Plants vs. Zombies 2. The special abilities, the plant food, the locked plants that can only be obtained by spending microtransaction money... All there for no reason other than to entice people into spending more money. Those features don't belong in a game like Plants vs. Zombies. Flicking foes with our fingers is pointless. If it belonged in the franchise, it would have been there from day one. The reason expensive, expendable power-ups and things like plant food exist in Plants vs. Zombies 2 is simple: they're there to push in-app purchases.

The sense of humor, the quirky plants, the dopey zombies with their pitiful ruses... all of that has remained mostly the same in Plants vs. Zombies 2. At least, they're the same on the surface. What Plants vs. Zombies 2 is missing is the underlying heart that made the first game an instant classic. The original Plants vs. Zombies defined itself by its own criteria. Every part of it was sculpted to fit with the rest of the game. No corners were cut, no external gaming trends were consulted, no committees of accountants and businessfolk were brought in to tweak things. Plants vs. Zombies was and still is sublime in its own self-contained perfection.

Plants vs. Zombies 2Plants vs. Zombies 2, on the other hand, is a victim of a strained attempt to be relevant, trendy, and monetarily successful. Its main goal isn't to create a new gaming experience that will make people laugh and dance and clap and yell. It's here to cash in on the Plants vs. Zombies name. The in-app purchases are the most tragic sign of that, but the other new features and the awkward story about Dave and his taco feel like they were copied and pasted from a list of things mobile games do in 2013. Plants vs. Zombies 2 doesn't create anything new, it just blends all the same ingredients together and layers a nice thick coating of brand recognition on top to make sure we'll pay attention to it.

To add a single scoop of fairness to the recipe, Plants vs. Zombies 2 isn't an awful game through and through. When you come from a formula as refined as that in the original release, you'd kinda have to phone the whole thing in in order to cause a complete train wreck. The fact of the matter is Plants vs. Zombies 2 is a sequel, said with all the derisive undertones one could mutter with that word. It looks and feels like the same game, but once you start playing you'll realize the soul of the experience has long since vacated the premises. Plants vs. Zombies 2 goes through the motions of a Plants vs. Zombies game, trimmed with features cut from other popular mobile games of today. But it can't reach anywhere near the heights Plants vs. Zombies so effortlessly reached, not while it's bogged down with in-app purchases and other pointless, IAP-hungry features. An entertaining game, yes, but it's no Plants vs. Zombies.

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


  • Currently 3.8/5
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Rating: 3.8/5 (41 votes)
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Sirtet

Starchild Take Tetris, draw little faces on all the blocks, make it about destruction instead of construction (in other words, add bombs) and you have Sirtet, an uncomplicated, relaxed puzzler. To get started, all you have to know is that red blocks are evil and should be destroyed, and their only weakness are blue blocks. In each level, the red rascals pile up quite conveniently, so you can neatly put the right blue Tetris shapes over them and they'll all disappear. Sweet victory! To move blue shapes, use your mouse. To turn them, either right click or press the left and right [arrow] keys. You can't flip the shapes, though, so you're stuck with the ones you have, which makes things a little more challenging.

SirtetRed blocks vanish when you put shapes on top of them, and you have to clear the level before you can move on. There are also the sleeping blocks, which can only be destroyed by bombs, but you don't have to clear them to finish a level. You must work around them, though, as you never have enough bombs to blow them all up, which can sometimes give you a bit of a headache. The number of blocks rises as the levels progress, which increases the amount of possible combinations and makes the solution a little harder to see. But the game never really becomes difficult – it's usually just a matter of trying out a few combinations and figuring out what works. Sure, an undo button could be useful, but the levels aren't very big, so restarting usually means rewinding just a few moves. Sirtet hits the right balance of simplicity and puzzliness, and even though it doesn't have the revolutionary potential of its role-model, Tetris, it'll entertain you and maybe make you a bit nostalgic.

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Past Memories

JohnBPast Memories is an auto-running platform game from Give Me Five Entertainment. It uses shadowy artwork and a consistent sense of bewilderment and fear to drive its story home, punctuating the gameplay with somewhat realistic controls that remind you not all humans can jump across canyons and bound from walls as if gravity didn't exist. Playing as a woman reliving important memories from her life, you feel a subtle connection to her as you both survive the trials of an oppressive past returning to haunt the present.

Past MemoriesPast Memories doesn't ease you into anything. There's no tutorial, no info buttons, nothing. It's rare to find a game that doesn't hit you over the head with "helpful" tips, so these facts alone make Past Memories worth your attention. The main character runs on her own, all you have to do is tap the right side of the screen to jump. Leap over enemies and obstacles, hop across gaps, and try to stay alive until you reach the end of the stage.

Past Memories does a phenomenal job with its narrative design. You and the protagnoist share a common bond of being totally overwhelmed by what's going on. Neither of you know what those enemies are or what they represent, and even when power-ups come along to help you out, there's no explanation as to what they do. Just like her, you have to keep running, keep experimenting, and hope you stick around to see another stage. Surprisingly poignant, especially since there are no words, cutscenes or other interruptions.

An emotional experience that plays everything subtle with deep levels of intrigue. Past Memories brings its own brand of game design to the auto-running genre for an experience that's unlike the competition.

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


  • Currently 4.1/5
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Rating: 4.1/5 (74 votes)
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Experimental Shooter 2

DoraShooter games are, by their very definition, typically a fairly straight-forward affair that involves putting bullets in things until there are no more things to put bullets in. But Vitalii Zlotskii proved you can teach an old dog new tricks, or at least twists, with Experimental Shooter, and the follow-up to that surprisingly puzzle-y game is here with Experimental Shooter 2. Controlling a sassy, chattering cannon (on wheels!) with [WASD] or the [arrow] keys, you aim and shoot with the mouse to remove all of the bouncing projectiles in a level. Simple, right? Wrong! The twist is that each stage, while it might look the same, has its own set of unique rules and mechanics for you to figure out and master in order to win.

Experimental Shooter 2Like the original, it's a clever concept that keeps its simple gameplay fresh and interesting throughout, proving a little ingenuity can go a long way when it comes to game design. Also like the original, however, some stages are more interesting than others, resulting in a few levels that come down to simple timing and patience instead of cleverness, which can be a little frustrating. The sequel revisits a lot of concepts from the original, though the introduction of platforms makes them a bit more challenging, but it also has its fair share of new ideas. The end result is a game that will challenge both your reflexes and your observational skills, without shaking up what made the original so popular too much. Wrap that in a simple yet sleek design and a bouncy soundtrack and you've got a recipe for success... or at least a fine way to spend a break!

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  • Currently 4.4/5
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Rating: 4.4/5 (122 votes)
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Icarus Proudbottom Teaches Typing

TrickyPlease note: There is a new version incoming within the next week that will address some issues with international compatibility.

Are you obsessed with typing to a somewhat unsettling extent? Does the thought of starting on home row and boosting up your WPMs make you tingly in ways you cannot quite express? Then Icarus Proudbottom Teaches Typing, a parody arcade game made by Holy Wow Studios for SomethingAwful's "Subversive Edutainment" Game Jam, should be right up your carpel tunnel-stricken alley! Come along with Icarus and his spirit animal, Jerry the owlkin, and learn how to type like gods... gods I say!

Icarus Proudbottom Teaches TypingEach screen will present you with a passage of words on the TYPESCAPE to type as accurately as possible, each mistake costing a heart from the Life Gauge. Except for the occasional exam level, the typing is not timed, but the faster you type, the faster your Soul Gauge fills. Once you activate the Soul Gauge with [~], depending on its current level, it will grant you extra hearts or bonus points. Taking the art of the keyboard to a level of oddness that Mavis Beacon, Mario, or even the House of the Dead ever managed.to bring, Icarus Proudbottom Teaches Typing is a surreal mix of high and low brow humor. The targets of the satire are all over the place, but it all somehow works, even if the more off-color bits sadly betray the otherwise pitch-perfect elementary school computer lab feel. Still, Icarus Proudbottom Teaches Typing is always entertaining in that warped Frog Fractions kind of way, and your fingers won't mind the exercise.

Play Icarus Proudbottom Teaches Typing

Thanks to Wctaiwan for sending this one in!


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The Vault

TrickyWell, I've had a hard day mayoring the sovereign town of Trickania: fishing, catching beetles, buying hats, donating fossils, catching more beetles, smacking rocks to get coins, plotting revenge against foxes for selling me fake paintings, falling in holes, shooting balloons, catching further beetles... I think it's time to kick back and relax with some excellent games from the JayIsGames archives. Action, interactive art, and puzzle games should definitely help kill some time... at least until the fireworks festival starts.

  • Exit PathExit Path - Jmtb02 gets a little dark and dystopic in this 2010 action romp. Browser jump-and-run games can sometimes suffer from a lack of plot, but Exit Path shows just how much a well-constructed setting can add. Sure, being a test subject at the whims of a what appears to be a never-ending series of mechanical death-traps isn't exactly new territory for games to explore, but jmtb02's iconongraphic style (the protagonist looks like a street-walk sign come to life) and subversive wit definitely means he puts his mark on the genre... after killing you, like, three hundred times.
  • Record TrippingRecord Tripping - Probably the third best argument for the existence of the scroll wheel (after "opening tabs in a new window" and, uh, "scrolling), Record Tripping, a 2010 piece of trippy interactive art by the Bell Brothers, shows us that old inputs can still surprise us with new tricks. You'll use that scroll wheel to scratch records, run factories, and change the flow of time itself, but it feels so natural that, by the end, you may wonder why no one else has ripped it off yet. Perhaps it would be too much of a challenge to replicate the amazing visuals and soundtrack, with its reading of Alice in Wonderland being used particularly well. Few experimental games are as a glorious success as this one.
  • Me and the KeyMe and the Key - Though Mrs. Perry, my sixth grade English teacher, would shudder at the misphrasing of the compound subject, Bart Bonte's 2009 point-and-click puzzle has charm to spare. The surface simplicity of clicking about to find a key, makes for the unique experience where, almost paradoxically, over-thinking poses the greatest challenge. Bonte is a master at keeping it simple, stupid, and Me and the Key shows his talent for intuitive design running on all pistons. Also, there are penguins. Just sayin'

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 (116 votes)
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Escape from Mr. Birdy Room

DoraA funky beat, a big screen television, a bunch of puzzles, and several not at all creepy bird statues watching you from every single angle... it beats me why you'd want to Escape from Mr. Birdy Room (apart from the aforementioned peeping peepers), but Tesshi-e's latest free escape game wants you to do just that. Come to think of it... I had originally assumed this room belonged to Mr. Birdy, but... he never struck me as an egomaniac. Which means... this place belongs to someone with one serious Mr. Birdy fetish! I'm not saying that if you don't find your way out before they get back they'll glue feathers and a bow tie to you and force you to live out the rest of your life caged within this twisted shrine, but that is exactly what I'm saying. No, you have an overactive imagination!

Escape from Mr. Birdy RoomAfter choosing English from the main menu if that's your lingo, click around to explore and interact, gathering items and keeping your eyes peeled for the clues you'll need to eventually find your way out. This is one of those escape games that sets out to be mystifying from the get-go, not just because of the all-encompassing bird motif, but because of the sheer amount of abstract clues and the lack of a changing cursor. Like all the best escape games, however, it's only confusing until you start putting the pieces together... and it includes a Happy Coin to boot. Plus, the soundtrack makes me feel like I'm wandering around inside of Earthbound, or maybe a Persona game, and that's always a plus. So start hunting for clues and cracking puzzles and find your way out! And then maybe if you haven't already, consider picking up Tesshi-e's first and currently only paid game, Escape from Mr. M's Room, and support a developer who continues to give us years of quality free escape games just like this one.

Play Escape from Mr. Birdy Room

Thanks to Sam for sending this one in!


(7 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Mikey Hooks

JohnBBeaverTap Games has a pleasant surprise in store for you. Mikey Hooks is a fast-paced grappling game along the lines of Hanger or Rocketcat's Super QuickHook and Hook Worlds. It combines elements of platforming with a swinging mechanic, challenging you to race through several dozen levels as you attempt to best your previous times while collecting coins scattered across the stage. Even though it's an action game on a device that lacks physical buttons, you'll find Mikey Hooks plays smoothly without a hint of frustration.

Mikey HooksUse the on-screen buttons to control Mikey, moving left and right with the arrows and using the blue and red buttons to slide and jump. When a hook point is nearby, the jump button doubles as a grapple button, allowing you to reach out and swing without skipping a beat. You'll need to use this to avoid obstacles, dodge spiney foes, and reach certain areas that are no doubt loaded with coins to collect.

The hooking/swinging mechanic is quite elegantly done, working seamlessly into gameplay without making things needlessly complex. The music is superb, and even though the difficulty is higher than average, the game somehow manages to reel you in to keep trying for a better score. Later levels really get into the swinging mechanic, and when you pull off a touch jump followed by a slick swing, you'll feel like the best gamer in the world. For that feeling alone, Mikey Hooks is worth the ride!

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


  • Currently 4.1/5
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Rating: 4.1/5 (79 votes)
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World's End Chapter 1

DoraThe heroes of Mezzanine Stairs' turn-based strategy RPG World's End Chapter 1 are surly, drunken, rude, violent, and more than a little bit potty-mouthed... but then, so is everyone else in this crumbling society. When the opportunity presents itself to make a bit of cash off of a crate of stolen cigarettes, laconic Ivan, hot-headed Ysabel, and deceptively scatter-brained Tevoran decide to seize the chance... and batter, slice, shoot, and stab anyone in their way. Including the criminal cartel who wants their loot back. Fortunately, our heroes(?!) can handle a bit of a scuffle... but can they handle the rest of the trouble and mystery headed their way?

World's End Chapter 1The game is broken up into combat, party management, and cutscenes in a very Final Fantasy Tactics sort of way, with control typically handed over to you when things get violent or you need to equip or otherwise set up your group. During battle, you move your characters around the map on a grid, positioning them to attack enemies, use their special abilities to their most effectiveness, and take advantage of the terrain to defend themselves. Many attacks or abilities are best used from a distance, or when enemies are arranged in a certain way, making strategic thinking a must. Back at the hideout, you'll be given the opportunity to stock up on supplies and buy new skills or increase your "heroes'" abilities... though you'll want to weigh your options since they all share a limited pool of skill points. Cash is, perhaps fittingly given the dystopian setting, very hard to come by, and items are expensive, so make sure you think carefully about what you need.

World's End Chapter 1Though it does suffer a bit from some slow pacing and world building, World's End Chapter 1 largely succeeds as a bleak, comedic strategy RPG in a unique setting. Some people may find the constant barrage of slang and unfamiliar lingo a bit hard to swallow (even Ysabel complains about it at one point), but if you've ever visited the Planes or Seattle, you'll take to it like a foul-mouthed duck to water. The overall tone and setting aren't what you'd call pleasant, so you'll need an appreciation for dark humour and party members that are about as anti-hero as you can get. A lot of the subject matter herein is both fairly grim or mature, and treated somewhat flippantly, so player discretion is advised.

Though it does take a while to get the ball rolling, however, World's End Chapter 1 eventually reveals itself to be an extremely ambitious piece of storytelling and gaming in general. It's a challenging game, and the amount of work gone into crafting everything from the setting to the strategy is clear. It may sometimes feel like its dragging its feet, and I wish it would have made more of an effort to incorporate its world building into the main game instead of hoping you read the in-game Codex Mass Effect style, but it's a meaty chunk of RPG strategy gaming that has an enormous amount of potential to grow from. Just make sure you hold on to your save file for chapter two!

Play World's End Chapter 1


  • Currently 3.9/5
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Rating: 3.9/5 (81 votes)
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No, Birdie, No!

ArtbegottiBirds are jerks. That's the ultimate lesson behind No, Birdie, No!, a quick QWOP-ish skill game by Carnefrisca and w4nderlust that will test your reflexes and dexterity... not that you'll be moving around a lot. After all, all you're doing is hanging from the edge of a cliff by your fingertips. The only place you can go is down. That stupid bird wants to expediate your departure by pecking your fingers off the edge one by one. See? Birds are jerks.

No, Birdie, No!To keep a grip on the edge of the cliff, hold down the [ASDF] keys, and hold on for dear life! However, the bird will start to peck at your fingers one at a time. When the bird appears over a finger, lift up the key associated with that finger ([A] for the index finger, [S] for middle, [D] for ring, and [F] for pinky), and ONLY that finger, in order to lift it and dodge the blow. If the bird hits your finger, that finger gets bruised and is out of play. If too many fingers get bruised, or if you lift too many fingers off the cliff, you rapidly accelerate down the side of the cliff at an estimated 9.81 meters per second squared and the game is over.

It's safe to say you won't last long before you plummet, especially when the bird increases the speed of its pecking order. The game defaults the controls to simulate a right hand on the controls, but things can get a bit confusing when you're asked to use the same keys to lift up the corresponding finger on the left hand (note that the default hand can be switched in the options menu, reversing the controls). It'd probably be a bit too easy if you were given the full home row of ASDFJKL; to play, and that bird wants your torment to be as excruciating as possible (I repeat, birds are jerks). If you're up for a quick nerve-racker, grab hold of this game and see how long you can last.

Play No, Birdie, No!


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Mobile Monday

JohnBWe're saddened to report this edition of Mobile Monday features the word "disco". More than just features it, it directly references disco content recently added to a popular mobile game. We didn't include any graphic disco pictures, though there is an image of Cut the Rope's Nom with big fluffy hair.

trouserhart-p.gifTrouserhart! - Recently unveiled by 10tons Ltd. and Dicework Games, Trouserhart is an upcoming fantasy action adventure game with an easygoing atmosphere and cheerful artwork. A few screenshots were released for the iOS title due in September, but beyond that, all we know is there will be plenty of monster whacking, boss battling, and loot gathering. To be honest, though, the artwork alone has us intrigued!

momonga-p.gifMomonga Pinball on Android - It's not every day (or year) that a good pinball game rolls into the world. Momonga Pinball Adventures appeared on iOS early this year, bringing a story-oriented game that's so much more than two flippers and a tilt warning light. Now the game has made its way to Android just in time for the release of two new bonus levels! Check out our Momonga Pinball Adventures review for the full scoop.

disco-p.gifCut the Disco - Yeah, so, Cut the Rope: Time Travel just got an update that added, of all things in the universe, disco-themed levels. The hair, the glasses, the outfits, the... music. All that, plus big swinging disco balls you have to manipulate in order to deliver candy to Nom and his time-displaced relatives. Disco may be dead (right?), but Cut the Rope certainly isn't!


  • Currently 3.7/5
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Rating: 3.7/5 (59 votes)
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Amateur Surgeon 3: Tag Team Trauma

JohnBWho needs a real doctor when you can give Dr. Payne a call? The unconventional surgeon "simulation" series from Adult Swim is back, retooled for mobile devices and featuring some new devices, new patients, and plenty of medical drama. Amateur Surgeon 3: Tag Team Trauma sticks you in the operating room with tools like a stapler, a pizza cutter, a chainsaw, and some crazy-cool healing gel. Using your, uh, medical knowhow, you'll patch up patient after patient with the greatest of ease!

Amateur Surgeon 3: Tag Team TraumaIt starts off with a few moderately injured patients who just need a few patches here and there. Using a pizza cutter to get inside, you'll grab a pair of tongs and pull out all sorts of foreign objects from your patients. Once complete, use the stapler to patch up cuts, sear it shut with the lighter, then dab some healing gel to seal the flesh once and for all. The tag team element lets you summon a partner to give you or the patient certain buffs, like increasing the coins you earn for a successful surgery or freezing time for a few moments while you perform a delicate task.

The only real drawback to Amateur Surgeon 3 is the in-app purchasing system that goes just a little bit overboard. The game is a free download (with ads), but upgrading your tools, keeping your lives recharged, and buying new tag partners practically requires opening up your wallet. You earn coins and surgeon points naturally through play, but when the game throws some of its trickier situations in your face, you'll find yourself in dire need of some help.

Looking past the awkward free to play aspect, Amateur Surgeon 3 is still a respectable entry in the series. The touch controls work flawlessly, the humor is just as rude and crude as ever, and the visuals will practically turn your stomach. Hooray for unconventional surgery!

Want more simulated surgery action?

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


  • Currently 3.7/5
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Rating: 3.7/5 (78 votes)
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Human Chop

TrickySometimes the big city makes you feel like nothing more than a chop of meat. And man, oh, man, does it sometimes feel like the world world is out to pulverize you into scraps. But in Human Chop, a physics puzzler by Methamphetabear, it is you who are the pulverizer. Let's get out there and crush some dreams, people!

Human ChopUse the mouse to slice lines and click away blocks to crush the citizens of Megaopolis. Different citizens will react in different ways to the hazards of the world, and predicting their actions will be key to completing all 21 levels. Admittedly, cut-the-rope style physics games aren't exactly in short supply on the internet, but there's just something about how hilariously bleak Human Chop that makes it stand out from the pack. Maybe it's how blatant it presents its subtext. Actually, you can't really call it subtext. It's more like just text-text. It's hard to tell how meaningfully the author intends us to take all this, but overall, Human Chop presents a quirky slice of dystopia with a side order of philosophy.

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Brick Roll

ArtbegottiYou know what's hard? Rolling a brick. Those heavy prismatic blocks are meant to stay still no matter what. You know what's even harder? Making a brick jump. In Brick Roll, a tricky puzzle platformer by Gavina Games, you've got a brick that can do both of these things with ease, but that doesn't make navigating a bunch of spike-laden levels any easier!

Brick RollAt the beginning of each level, your yellow brick will start to roll around the outside edge of the block, without stopping for corners or hazards. You can reverse the brick's direction by tapping the left side of the screen, and tapping the right side will give you a flying leap straight up (from the brick's perspective) until you hit another block to land on. This jumbo-sized jump is the key to getting around the level, as well as a powerful weapon; jumping and landing on one of the enemy bricks will knock them out of the level. Collect all of the yellow dots and return to the door to complete a level, but running into hazards and enemies from the side and jumping off the map will cost you a life. Lose three lives, and it's game over!

Each world of seven levels introduces a new element to the gameplay, such as static enemy bricks that fire projectiles at you or spikes (evil, eeeeeee-vil spikes). While the levels might seem samey after a bit, they're really well-designed and challenge you with tiny variations that keep the game fresh. For the completion hound, each level has a secret area with a bonus gem to collect, usually by making a leap to a platform that's barely noticeable unless you keep an eye on the edge of the screen while rolling around. It might take a bit of patience to get the hang of the flip-flopping and jump timing necessary to dodge some obstacles, but when you get the hang of it, Brick Roll is a quality game that's bnever gonna bgive you up, bnever gonna blet you down. (Come on, you knew it was coming.)


  • Currently 4.8/5
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Rating: 4.8/5 (117 votes)
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Papers, Please

DoraWhen I went through immigration in 2007 to cross from Canada to the United States, I had to keep reminding myself how easy a process it was for me compared to others. Expensive and time consuming, sure, but it could have been a lot worse, and a lot more difficult given any number of extenuating circumstances. Lucas Pope's indie sim game Papers, Please paints a very different picture of the experience, as you take on the role of a newly assigned governmental agent in charge of allowing or denying citizens through the first immigration checkpoint opened in six years. It starts out simple as you make decisions based solely on citizenship. But you'll soon realise that as political tensions change and people become more desperate, anything goes, and you'll need a keen eye (and maybe even a hard heart) to keep going on.

Papers, PleaseAt the start of each day, your booth will open for business, and clicking the megaphones atop of it will call the next person in. They'll present you with any documents they have, and it's up to you to approve or deny them using the stamps that pop out when you click the grey arrow at the left side of the screen. As time passes and the situation changes, the documents and other requirements will increase and change too. Everything from a person's appearance to smaller details on their passport or entry ticket need to be carefully scrutinized for discrepancies. Are their documents out of date? Does the city they claimed issued their passport actually exist? Look carefully, but don't take too long, since your pay is determined by how many people you correctly deal with before 6:00PM, and if you can't pay things like your heating, food, or rent, the health of your family will suffer. Make mistakes, and you'll be penalized, and the easily spotted "gimmies", like a person claiming they're coming to visit despite paperwork saying otherwise, will grow few and far between.

Papers, PleaseThough it seems like an easy task initially, things initially get hard. Training yourself to notice small details like a misspelling of a city's name is a must, and the ticking clock means you need to learn to spot these things immediately rather than having to drag out the rule book repeatedly. Constantly dragging things around and clicking through menus can get tedious and awkward the harder things get, even with upgrades, and the sheer amount of documents and reference material you need to juggle can be daunting. The in-game instructions can unfortunately be a little vague at times, causing valuable time to tick by as you scramble to figure out how to use your newest security measure. Finish Story Mode without losing your job to unlock Endless Mode, which is exactly what it says on the tin.

Analysis: The visual style, while effective in terms of setting and narrative, sometimes works against you, making it hard to match fingerprints, but especially when it comes to determining whether the sex of an incoming person matches what it says on their information. I was dinged several times for allowing people with "invalid gender" to pass through because I just assumed I was looking at a more effeminate man, or a stockier woman. As a result, you have to do more invasive scans and searches of people whose sex doesn't neatly fit in a visual box, which, while fitting for such a dark, rigid setting, might be upsetting to some people, so discretion is advised. I felt a flush of shame the first time I forced a person who looked masculine to strip naked to prove their sex as female... which is, arguably, sort of the point. It's your job, sure, but how poorly are you willing to treat other people for your paycheck? Especially when your family might be sick and hungry at home, and your paycheck, and thus their health, relies on following the increasingly restrictive rules set forth by your government? Papers, Please will make you feel the genuine disdain some people have for you and your willingness to bend for your government, and it isn't a happy feeling.

Papers, PleaseWith gameplay consisting solely of checking paperwork for error, Papers, Please is one of those games that won't be for everyone, so you'll want to try the original beta version to see if it appeals. The game's narrative is sort of an abstract one, and the daily dramas that can pop up as people filter through your booth construct a bleak world around you. It's also worth noting that this is a depressing freaking game as you constantly battle to meet your government's demands and keep your family taken care of in a way that reminds me of the uphill battle in Ayiti: The Cost of Life, albeit on a simplified scale. Realising you didn't double-check a passport number and the sinking feeling that comes with knowing that means your family might go hungry that night is a special sort of soul-crushing. Especially when the rent goes up. And your son is already sick. And the woman in front of you is missing the documents she needs and is begging you to let her through because she'll be killed back home, but you can't afford another violation. And you don't even know if you can trust anyone because the last person with a sob story turned out to be a suicide bomber. Yaaaaaaay, gaming!

Papers, Please is one of those games that wants to know... how far is too far? Will you choose sides, or just choose your family? Though you're stuck in your booth with little variation, the way the game manages to tell its story and paint a picture of the world you live in is impressive, revealing layers of depth in snippets of newspapers or just a few words exchanged with travelers. Of course, the sheer amount of information to keep track of means this is also a unique game that at times feels more like work than play... again, admittedly sort of the point, but not something that will appeal to everyone. With its complex themes and clever approach to immersion, Papers, Please more than deserves a look, and will likely occupy your thoughts for quite some time.

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

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

JohnBCrack open your weekend with three games that should give everyone something to "weekend" about. If that doesn't work, you can stay up all night trying to figure out why we used weekend as a verb. Or writing us angry letters!

DenshaDensha (Windows, free) - Created by Field of the Wheat and translated by VGPerson, this short, surreal RPG will take you about an hour to play but offer some surprisingly emotional moments during that time. The downside is some of the puzzles don't translate to English very well, especially the last one. The solution was to include a file with the download that you'll need to refer to in order to beat the game.

GrowingGrowing (Windows/Mac, free) - A simple but touching resource management game that comes straight from the heart. Your only goal in Growing is to tend to a few plants perched atop a cloud. Plant seeds, water them, move them with the shovel, and see if you can get all the plant types hinted in the diary. Creator Corey Nolan made the game as a tribute to her mother, and the soothing music certainly sets a mood.

Scary GardenerScary Gardener Tales 3D (Windows/Linux, free) - A 3D first person shooter-style game starring you, a rake, some skeletons, and a handful of other spooky things. Something has been messing with your flower garden, and you're not about to stand around and let it continue! Picking up some nice, simple gardening tools/weapons, you'll march around dispatching foes one by one. Quirky and short, Scary Gardener Tales 3D is a nice and simple diversion that'll make you smile. As a bonus, the game comes with full Python source!


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Spelunky

DoraYou've come a long, long way, baby. Derek Yu's smash-hit indie action roguelike Spelunky classic captured hearts and claimed keyboards the world over as a freeware title that didn't so much take up your free time as act like a black hole for all productivity. After a prolonged exclusivity period on ye olde XBox Live Arcade, Spelunky HD finally comes home to PC, bringing with it the hard as nails and brutally addictive gameplay we all know and love as well as a whole host of new content, from different characters to play as, to new enemies, areas, items, and more in addition to the shiny new facelift.

SpelunkyAs in the original, the goal is to get to the bottom of a massive series of ruins that changes every single time you start over... which will be a lot, since death in Spelunky is frequent, painful, creative, and permanent. Blending fast-paced platforming action with the randomness and unforgiving nature of roguelikes, you'll use bombs, whips, ropes, and your reflexes to try to make it past every obstacle the game has to throw at you. It's that strange sort of gameplay that demands both caution and fast reflexes in order to survive, and it's not for everyone. After all, when you're punted off a ledge by an angry caveman right onto the bomb you just dropped that blows you backwards into a spike pit, it's hard not to feel like the game is chortling at you just a bit. Especially since the tutorial will only teach you so much and the rest of the tricks need to be garnered through cold, hard, experience. Usually the fatal kind.

SpelunkyIf all of that sounds familiar to you, well, it's because this HD release of Spelunky plays exactly the same as the original for the most part... though not all of the little tricks you'll have learned to get around things will function as they used to. Arrow traps, for instance, aren't as easy to sneak by, and most need to be triggered, while the arrows they shoot now come with an arrowhead that can snap off if it strikes a hard surface, thus making the arrow deal less damage if you throw it around. Movement feels a bit faster, a bit more responsive in a way that can actually send you hurtling past that ledge you were aiming for if you're not ready for it, and will take a while to get adjusted to if you're full of muscle memory for the original freeware title. But am I terrible at Spelunky HD because I don't have an XBox 360 controller, currently the only one it accepts, or because it's legitimately more difficult? Perhaps a bit of both, since areas feel a lot more densely packed with dangers now.

SpelunkyWhile there will always be those that prefer the original's pixelated graphics, Spelunky in HD still looks gorgeous. It's true that everything has a sort of soft, rounded Fisher-Price look to it, but the detail in environments and characters combined with the rich colour makes up for it. Speaking of cosmetic things, the additional playable characters are a nice touch, as is the ability to choose between lady, dude, and pug flavours of Damsel... or enable all three, if you're into equality. The change in music might also be a make-or-break swap for some people. It's catchy and well made in a way that perfectly fits the atmosphere and action, but the original soundtrack had a loyal following that might be a bit less than accepting of the newest tunes. A less cosmetic change is the secret stage you'll have to jump through some hoops to get through, as well as a few "optional" areas you can play if you know how to open the way.

Not everyone can love a game that feels like the better you get, the more it punishes for you, so if you haven't already, you'll want to try the original freeware version before picking this up. As a fan myself, however, the entire time I was playing and letting out the steady river of profanity that flows forth whenever I play Spelunky, I kept thinking about what an incredibly difficult game this must have been to remake. On the one hand, you have the people who are going to demand a lot of change and improvements to justify the purchase, and on the other, you have the people who are going to hiss and recoil from any sort of noticeable difference from the original. A lot of players will be disappointed to discover that multiplayer mode is only local co-op, which means that your dreams of bonding with people the world over through competitive play are essentially dashed. If you're playing on Steam, you can participate in the Daily Challenge maps... you can play each daily map one time only, and your score is ranked against all other online players.

Preference betwixt the two is going to come down to personal taste, but Spelunky HD is still an incredibly addictive, infuriating, and enjoyable game. It boasts a massive amount of replay value that promises not only will you never see the same map twice, but it's virtually impossible to see everything there is to encounter in one go. The amount of work that has gone into polishing and retooling absolutely everything without losing a scrap of the madcap deadly gameplay fans fell in love with is remarkable, and as a result, Spelunky HD shines in virtually every way possible. With all new items and areas to discover and enemies to destroy you when you're one step from victory, it offers a fresh new dose of the exploration and discovery that made the original such a hit, without ever losing sight of the hurts-so-good gameplay that made it such a hit in the first place.

WindowsWindows:
Get the full version (GOG.com)
Get the full version (Steam)
Get the free CLASSIC version

Mac OS XMac OS X:
Not available.
Try Boot Camp or Parallels or CrossOver Games.
Get the free CLASSIC version


  • Currently 3.5/5
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Rating: 3.5/5 (23 votes)
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Teacher Story

DoraMotion Twin's "free to play" turn-based strategy RPG Teacher Story (which requires a free account) is one of those games that you just want to grab and shake a little. Maybe stage an A&E style intervention. "Why do you have such restrictive timers that lead to aggressive monetization?" you whisper tearfully, laying a hand on your computer screen the way you would touch the face of a brilliant but self-destructive invalid. Because despite the demand for hauling in other players if you don't want to spend money or wait around Farmville-style, Teacher Story is a gorgeous, fun, funny game with glimpses of serious cleverness. As the name suggests, you play a teacher who's trying to stuff his classes full of knowledge, but first needs to literally beat the stupidity out of them to get through. ... well, not literally, since the "combat skills" are more things like impassioned speeches, pop quizzes, and knowing how to manage your class' misbehavior, but you get the idea.

Teacher StoryEach student has blocks of colour above their heads... grey blocks are boredom that typically need to be broken through first, while the red represents stupidity, or ignorance if you prefer a more PC term. Use your skills to get through to them and earn experience points, dealing with negative status effects and unique personality traits along the way. Each class is its own battle and has a timer (in the bottom right hand corner) that decreases with every turn, forcing you to think carefully and strategically about how you play, while the red gloop in the bottom left is your self control, and if either of those runs out, you lose. It gets more complex as you play, and a lot more challenging. Knowing how to make various status effects work in your favour, as well as organizing each class to get the most out of area of effect attacks or those that impart special bonuses, becomes the key to victory. As you hammer through students's skulls, you earn experience points to level up, which allows you to choose upgrades or new abilities to your poor beleaguered professor.

Teacher StorySound good so far? Well, here's the thing. After you've finished a class, you have nearly five real time hours before you can play another. If you want to play right away, you spend your budget, and since you only earn a paltry amount for each victory compared to how much you have to spend to advance time or buy items, you'll quickly either need to nag people to sign up with your link so you earn a referral bonus, or pay real cash. Additionally, your self control does not replenish on its own after each class, so you either have to buy items using your budget to refill it, choose an action that takes fifteen real time hours to refill two thirds, or hope that the free actions that allow you to fill a tiny amount of self-control (usually only four points) will be enough to make it through the next class so your time isn't wasted.

Teacher StoryAside from the push for pay, Teacher Story also suffers a bit from other issues like typos, and some screens that have not yet been translated to English. It also would have been nice to be able to create our own teacher from a few cosmetic choices, rather than be stuck with one scowling bro who seems a single dab of hair gel away from Flock of Seagulls. Teacher Story is, in short, a game with an enormous amount of potential where the fun part, the actual gameplay, is being held back by the restrictions of its free-to-play style model. Why am I telling you about it then? Because in spite of that, Teacher Story is a gorgeous little game, packed with style and humour, expressive art and character animation. The gradual increase in class difficulties allows for, or rather remands, much more strategic combat, while at the same time remaining friendly to the casual player. It's a game I would dearly love to see succeed, and all it would really take would be for it to ease up on the time restrictions a bit. It's still worth a look even if you don't plan to pay a dime and don't mind playing for only a few minutes at a time, and its professional presentation and style makes it stand head and shoulders above virtually every other game in the free-to-play market. A game can be free-to-play and still be a success, like Echo Bazaar/Fallen London, and I sincerely hope Teacher Story gets there.

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Rating: 4.7/5 (210 votes)
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Nine Shelves

DoraEverything about Robamimi's elegant escape game Nine Shelves seems designed to lull you into soothing complacency. Sure, you could click around to gather items and solve puzzles using clues and brain power... but listen to those birds. That delicate piano. Check out that... uh... shelf full of random junk. That chain and... pulley system? Well... okay. So maybe this place doesn't have everything a person needs to get by, unless you're some evolved life form that can subsist entirely on relaxing background music, but it does have some sleek and sly puzzles to go with its lovely atmosphere, and that's good enough for me.

Nine ShelvesMy favourite types of escape games are the ones that forgo any real setup and just drop you in a place filled with puzzles, with a greater focus more on deduction and reasoning than simply cobbling items together to get past obstacles. Not everyone appreciates this admittedly random approach to the concept, and it does mean that the sheer variety of puzzles and items can be a bit baffling at first since none of them are really intended to function as they would in real life. While some things are clearly stated or otherwise obvious in their use or meaning, others require more interpretation, and the included hint function is only slightly helpful. There's only one way out, and it sort of makes me wonder if Robamimi isn't secretly a Bond villain, but Nine Shelves is a lovely, relaxing way to get a break from your day... provided you're the sort of person who finds clutching a flower pot, a swim mask, and an iron weight to your chest while moaning "what does it mean" relaxing.

Play Nine Shelves

Thanks to Cyberjar88 for sending this one in!

Link Dump Fridays

DoraI'm not going to lie to you. Things are going to get a little bit weird. First you're going to be all sweaty in a room with ten little green men. Then you're going to have swords and rocks hurled at your face. Then you'll be framed for a murder you didn't commit. And finally? Well, you'll run through the town cackling like a madman while waving a chainsaw. It might be a little strange, but that's just how we roll in Link Dump Friday.

  • Find the Escape-Men 59Find the Escape-Men 59: Sultry Night - Solely because I choose to believe this is a Throw Momma From the Train reference, this is already my favourite in no1game's long running escape game series about little green men watching you from every nook and cranny. Though on the short side and not offering much at all in the way of puzzles, an itty-bitty escape is still an escape, and a fine way to start your day. Dr Oz probably said that. He says a lot of things.
  • 1000 Years Ago1000 Years Ago - "Dora," you say, "shut up about ponies already!" "Can't hear you!" I reply. "It's too colourful and happy and chipper where I am!" Futzi01's My Little Pony game is a sort of horizontal shooter, where you control Princess Celestia as she tries to dodge the attacks of Nightmare Moon while gathering all the fragments of the Elements of Harmony to seal her away. It's a bit on the simple side and has a slow pace, but the great visuals and flashy action mean sealing your beloved sister away for a millennium of cold solitude was never so fun!
  • Flatland: Fallen AngleFlatland: Fallen Angle - See Thru Studios' action-packed noir tale is sort of like what you'd get if you crossed Thomas Was Alone with, oh... Dixon Hill. Framed for a murder you didn't commit, you are an isosceles triangle on a mad dash for freedom, evading capture as you try to find out the truth and clear your name. Some of the action can be both unforgiving and a little awkward, but the clever premise combined with the hard boiled narration makes for a game with checking out.
  • CATDAMMIT!CATDAMMIT! - A cat and a chainsaw walk into a bar... and then rampage right through it, down the street, through a line of parked cars, some fences, and a whole bunch of pedestrians. Fir&Flam serve up this bizarre, short, and riotously chaotic arcade game about a cat with a chainsaw stuck to him, and sends you on a RAMPAGE, LANA through the city to rack up a high score while grabbing water drops to keep from overheating. It's simple, without a lot of replay value, but the high-quality presentation and sense of humour combined with a lack of gore make this fun while it lasts.

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When Ian Fell in the Machine

JohnBWhen Ian Fell in the Machine is a simple endless falling arcade game from Bumpkin Brothers, creator of The Tribloos series as well as the puzzle game The Machine. This precision title asks you to help Ian survive his long fall by tilting/touching your mobile device back and forth, affecting his descent so he picks up coins instead of running face-first into a sawblade.

When Ian Fell in the MachineIan fell into said machine because of one thing: sausages. They may not be cake, but hey, everybody's got their favorite food, right? As he plummets you'll encounter all sorts of platforms, dangerous machine bits, lasers and speed-reducing bumpers. The obstacles get crazier the deeper you go, but so do the valuables, as well. Coins help you purchase items in the in-game shop. Grab a helmet to give you a second and third chance at life, or spend your cash on a monocle, bombs, or, of course, sausages!

It's a simple game no matter which way you look at it, but When Ian Fell in the Machine has the right balance of challenge and charm to keep you falling time and time again.

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


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Love Hotel

Starchild Love is in the air, everywhere I look around... There it is, in the tropical suite. There's some more in the hot tub. It's even in the broom cupboard! When you're the owner of the self-proclaimed Love Hotel, a free indie game by 3 Silly Hats, there's nothing but amorous couples as far as the eye can see. As usual in a management simulation, you start off with limited resources and have to work your way up. Your goal is to get all six stars (because five stars are for losers) by offering increasingly extravagant services to your discerning guests. At the beginning, your hotel only has one star (oh, the shame); as you improve it, you'll reach new stars and unlock new content.

Love HotelEvery room and service brings money and contributes to getting the next star, each in a different proportion, and different types of guests prefer certain rooms. If your clients are content, they'll walk around with a happy thought bubble above their heads; if not, they'll grumble and you'll lose money. The choice of services is limited at first, but the guests will still prefer your lowly vending machines to starvation. As the hotel improves, upgrades will become available, so you'll be able to add luxurious, bizarrely themed love nests, hire more staff and build new floors.

Love Hotel If there's something negative to be said about management simulations, it's that they can get a bit grindy, as repetitive actions are essential to the gameplay. However, Love Hotel keeps them at a minimum: yes, you'll have to frequently restock condom dispensers, but you'll also keep an eye on the number of cleaners, make sure your bellhops aren't leaving the reception desk unattended and provide your passion-filled clients with the best possible service, even if it means tearing down some rooms to replace them. There are enough different things to do at any given time that none of them feels like a chore, and anyway, you'll probably reach the end long before the game becomes monotonous. Love Hotel is rather short, but it has a few tricks up its sleeve to keep you playing after reaching all six stars, like achievements, which are fun to pursue, as well as some surprises if you keep building new floors.

As 3 Silly Hats' first release, Love Hotel is a great success. It took a raunchy theme and flirted with it in the best pixelated fashion, without the need to be explicit or sleazy. If anything, you're almost inclined to cheer the lovebirds on when you see all the cute little hearts coming from behind their locked doors. That is, until they emerge from your sinfully expensive Heaven suite and you see the unholy mess they've left. Oh, well, send your best cleaner in and remember Meatloaf's wise words: I would do anything for love.

WindowsWindows:
Get the free full version

Mac OS XMac OS X:
Get the free full version

LinuxLinux:
Get the free full version


  • Currently 3.4/5
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Rating: 3.4/5 (48 votes)
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Gilmo: The Inner Self

DoraHassan Mottaghi Golshan, Arman Balali Moghadam, and Ismael Chitgar are behind the gorgeous puzzle platformer that is Gilmo: The Inner Self, the story of a spirit who gets chained within an earthly body and must find out a way to get back where he belongs. Use [WASD] or the [arrow] keys to move and jump, holding [C] when nearby certain objects to push and pull them. In his earthly body, Gilmo isn't capable of much, and can frequently be stymied by long falls, gaps, or other obstacles. Fortunately, by coming into contact with certain plants, he can temporarily free his soul to take possession of nearby objects to make a path. That's... probably not a metaphor for anything.

Gilmo: The Inner SelfInitially, you'll be unable to manually shift to your ethereal form, but eventually you'll gain the ability to change at will by hitting left [shift]. In your spirit body, you can fly freely around each level (only with the [arrow] keys0, and pressing left [shift] while close to bronze coloured objects will allow you to control them as you please, before releasing your soul with left [shift] again and returning to your body in the same way. The white bar in the upper-right corner represents how long you can stay in spirit form, and if it runs out, you'll be kicked back to your body, and it will only refill back to a certain point. Remember to hit [P] to pause the game if you need to take a break, since Gilmo's health will (very) slowly deplete as you play, and must be kept filled by scarfing down the fruits on trees.

The Inner Self is, firstly, a GORGEOUS game with soft, appropriately ethereal visuals and a haunting soundtrack. The level of professional polish in its design and distinctive look is impressive. At the same time, however, the game might be both too strict and complicated in its mechanics... lose the decaying health and the restriction on your spirit form bar recovery and suddenly the game would have been a lot friendlier, a lot more casually enjoyable. It would also help if the movement were more precise and less dreamy, physics-y floating, which makes precise platforming in some areas more difficult than it needed to be. It's a shame since despite an uneven difficulty progression, Gilmo: The Inner Self is a beautiful game with a great concept and some flaws dragging it down to earth. If you have the patience for it and a steady hand, it's well worth checking out and admiring. Just... don't expect it to be as forgiving as you.

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Rating: 4.7/5 (991 votes)
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Papa's Cupcakeria

DoraContinuing their crusade to brainwash you into joining the restaurant industry, Flipline Studios serves up another tasty simulation in the Papa's games with Papa's Cupcakeria. Instead of being forced to run the new business because Papa is a lazy jerk, this time you're working off a debt. As if making cupcakes to order fast food style weren't inherently hilarious and difficult enough, in addition to cranky customers, batters, frosting and more, you've also got the changing seasons to contend with... and the holidays they bring!

Papa's CupcakeriaLike all Papa's games, Cupcakeria has a multi-stage process to literally filling a customer's cake-hole. You take down their order, select their cupcake paper and fill it with the appropriate batter (not too much or too little!), bake it until ready, and then decorate it to their exacting specifications. You're scored on how well you perform at each task, which influences both your tip and whether you receive a ticket to play mini-games with. Mini-games, of which there are several, can win you prizes and cash, and money is important since it can be spent on decorations and things to make your bakery function faster and more smoothly. During holiday seasons, make sure to decorate your shop accordingly, as well as make the most of seasonal ingredients. Hey, it works for Starbucks. Get all up in that PUMPKIN EVERYTHING fever action.

Like its predecessors, Cupcakeria is all about the grind, but in the best possible way, and this latest installment offers some minor tweaks that make it a lot more bearable. Customers will now rattle off their order faster, for instance, which is a blessing for the impatient among us who felt our eyes glaze over during the process before. It helps make up for the slow pace as you unlock different ingredients and the difficulty ramps up, though the hardest thing in the game might be mastering that frosting swirl. The seasons and holidays don't have a huge impact on gameplay, but the variation of ingredients and aesthetic changes help to break things up the longer you play, and are a great touch. Having run a bakery for years, I'll tell you that the most realistic part of this game is customers demanding perfect symmetry for their cherries, but you don't play these games for the realism, and Papa's Cupcakeria has fun in spades. I admit, I was hoping for more of an actual storyline this time around considering the debt payoff setup, even if it was just a Tom Nook style racket, but Papa's Cupcakeria is another great installment in a series that keeps improving as it goes, and will keep fans locked behind that counter for a long, long time.

Play Papa's Cupcakeria


(9 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Kid Tripp

JohnBKid Tripp is an auto-running retro-style platform game created by Not Done Yet Games. It borrows some gameplay elements from the endless running genre, though really it's more of an old fashioned action game you might have found on the NES or Sega Genesis. It's simple, it's extremely challenging, and it's filled with chunky pixel artwork that perfectly defines the game's quirky sense of humor.

Kid TrippFlying his little airplane one day, Kid Tripp quite literally runs into a giraffe. He crashes on an island where it seems every creature is out to get him. The screen scrolls on its own and Kid Tripp runs at a steady pace. Tap the right side of the screen to throw a rock, a move useful for taking out birds, fish, frogs, coconuts thrown by monkeys, and all manner of other foes. Tap the left side of the screen to jump, useful for clearing small gaps and collecting all those shiny coins floating in mid-air.

Kid Tripp keeps everything as straightforward as possible. No crazy in-app purchases or strange gimmicks to trick you out of time or money. Just seriously challenging platforming action, all controlled with two simple taps on your device's screen.

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


  • Currently 3.8/5
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Rating: 3.8/5 (29 votes)
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Room Escape Maker

DoraIt's time to put your escape games where your mouth is!... or... something. Currently available in beta, DoctorFou's Room Escape Maker is exactly what it says on the tin... a free online tool that allows you to make and share escape games (which requires free registration with an e-mail address), or play those created by others (no registration required)! Though you should watch/play the tutorial, it's fairly easy to get the hang of things, and the hardest part might be waiting a long time (upwards of eight hours or more in our case) for your finished product to be approved for the site.

At the moment, the tools at your disposal are fairly basic, and the limitations imposed on object count and the like mean creating your grand elaborate escape opus starring Lyra Heartstring, GLaDOS, and an elaborate singalong puzzle sequence will have to wait. Fortunately, you can help that change by submitting everything from suggestions to images to be uploaded for use in the toolset. This is definitely a case where the potential success can come entirely down to the community growing around it, but potential it's got in spades. Besides, it's a free way to help hone your ability to ensnare helpless people in locked rooms filled with diabolical mechanisms. Every fledgeling supervillain/Eli Roth film antagonist has to start somewhere.

Play Room Escape Maker


  • Currently 4.6/5
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Rating: 4.6/5 (523 votes)
| Comments (9) | Views (7,120)

Killer Escape 2: The Surgery

DoraLook, real talk, pal. Get captured by one sicko serial killer with an elaborate kill dungeon set-up, okay. Run straight into the arms of another? I dunno... maybe you're giving off some sort of... pheromone? Psionic is back with another freaky escape game in Killer Escape 2: The Surgery. After the events of the first game, you stumble through the corridors of the ruined building looking for help, but you might have gone from the frying pan to strapped down into the dentist's chair with rusty dental implements coming straight at your face. That's a saying my Grandma used to use, you know. Click around to gather what you can and try to unravel the twisted secret of this place, but above all else solve the puzzles and escape before you're caught for good!

Killer Escape 2: The SurgeryClues hidden everywhere, jump scare, creepy backstory, thoroughly unsettling antagonist... The Surgery has everything you need to craft a good scary escape. A lot of the frustrating randomisation and awkward mouse puzzles are gone from the original, but at the same time, The Surgery has its own issues with a finicky text parser, small items bleeding into the background, and a relatively small amount of puzzles, few of which require any real brainwork. You can, incidentally, complete the story without finding all the little tidbits and opening the world's creepiest lock, so make sure you search every nook and cranny if you're into completion. And teeth. It's a more atmospheric experience with a focus on story... albeit one that ends with a cliffhanger. And, uh. Some therapy bills.

Play Killer Escape 2: The Surgery


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The Vault

TrickySome media leeches kept asking me questions on the Twitter this week, so, you know what? I'm done. The Vault is cancelled. Goodbye!... Too soon? Okay, I guess we'll keep featuring excellent works from the JayIsGames archives for the foreseeable future. This week, your life will happily compare to mine, as we serve up adventure, action, and puzzle perfection

  • Johnny, Why Are You Late?Johnny, Why Are You Late? - The editors here are usually pretty chill about article deadlines (though it may earn you what I lovingly refer to as "The Dora Stare"), but I would have to admit that even they would consider the tardiness tale spun in Keybol's 2010 point and click adventure to be a little far-fetched. Johnny, Why Are You Late spins a lot of humor out of the supposed steps the average adventure game protagonist must take just to get out of the house in the morning, random kleptomania and blatant sociopathy included! But hey, any game that gives you an achievement for adding a toilet-paper-tube sight on top of your make-shift potato gun can't be all bad.
  • When The Bomb Goes OffWhen The Bomb Goes Off - Tom Sennet's 2009 collection of microgames might not be the browser gaming answer to "The Day After", but its action manages a perfect balance of charm and morbidity. A strangely gleeful look at the end of the world, When The Bomb Goes Off is as odd as a Warioware game forcing you to confront your own mortality should be. However, it does pose a question equally appropriate in a game as in a life: How much time do you have left?
  • Rings and StickRings and Sticks - While not quite as flashy as some of the other entries in 2007's Casual Gaming Design Competition 2, Komix's puzzler Rings and Sticks has proved its staying power by virtue of clever concept and implementation. Making fractals fun for the whole family is a tall order, but Rings and Sticks manages it with zen aplomb. There'll be trials. There'll be errors. And yet, watching the trees grow is so hypnotic that you almost won't notice how insane the challenge level gets by the end. Almost.

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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Dropchord

JohnBDropchord is a music-driven arcade game from the lovely folks at Double Fine. With a thumping beat in the background and glowing neon artwork all over, your simple goal is to press two fingers on the screen and guide a line to touch dots that appear in the center. It's somewhat reminiscent of Cipher Prime's Pulse, only with a stronger focus on avoidance and puzzle elements that pure musical skill.

DropchordWith your thumbs on the center circle, Dropchord spawns patterns of orbs that travel around the screen. They're interspersed with inconveniently placed red shapes that slide around and must be avoided. The challenge comes from touching the "good" orbs while avoiding the "bad" ones, a feat that sometimes requires speed, other times precision, and a few times crazy hands-off "jumps". When all of this is framed with thumping music and visuals that shake with the beat, you'll feel like you're in some swanky futuristic night club.

Despite its close ties with music, Dropchord isn't really a rhythm game, it's more of a puzzle-infused avoidance game. Some of the tap-based interludes veer towards the former, but don't expect to rock out with a Guitar Hero-like experience. Also be warned that players on smaller mobile devices might have a tough time with Dropchord, especially if you don't have fingers that are as thin as chopsticks.

With one or two minor faults here and there, Dropchord falls just short of being a universally lovable game. If you're ready for some intense arcade action with a heavy beat thumping in your ears (seriously, headphones are a very good idea), you won't be disappointing with this little gem!

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 (24 votes)
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Escape from Mr. M's Room

elleYour friend Mr. M and you share a common interest: love of a nice cup of tea. Therefore, when he invites you to drop by his new place with a great view, you go there at once. Here, inside this lovely mod style flat, you learn that Mr. M and you share another common interest: locking friends up and requiring them to solve a slew of tricky puzzles in order to get out. Thusly begins Tesshi-e's 89th escape game and first paid download game, Escape from Mr. M's Room.

Escape from Mr. M's RoomAfter purchasing and downloading the Flash file, Escape from Mr. M's Room is played the same as any other Tesshi-e game. Point-and-click to explore each scene, gather clues, operate devices and utilize inventory. Mr. M is rather more guileful than Tesshi-e's other friends, so puzzle solutions require much more diligence to come by while the lack of changing cursor or a hint system leaves you without extra assistance. Still, textual descriptions—choose English or Japanese before starting—keep confusion down. Despite a couple abstruse puzzles, made more challenging by subtlety, complicated computations in mathematical logic and a profusion of "clues" that aren't actually cluing you into anything, once you get past a couple rough spots, the rest should roll smoothly.

As a download, the graphics are higher definition and Mr. M takes advantage of this fact with extra touches of animation. It's fun to behold these details yet they distract from the real clues and can cause frustration. Just note that not everything you see will have a purpose beyond looking good. Is it worth the download? If you love escape games, the answer is a resounding yes! There is no disputing Tesshi-e is a star author when it comes to room escape games. A mastery of puzzle design and a true talent for building charismatic game environments makes any Tesshi-e creation a must play. We've been extremely fortunate to be treated to an abundance of free browser games from this author, even at a time that others are slowing down their output. That should be reason enough to purchase Escape from Mr. M's Room, to support an artist who has provided countless hours of enjoyment to escape fans everywhere and to ensure we continue to get quality games to play. Other than that, Escape from Mr. M's room is just what you expect from a Tesshi-e game, nothing more and, gladly, nothing less. For Tesshi-e fans and friends everywhere, that is a very good thing indeed.

WindowsWindows:
Get the full version

Mac OS XMac OS X:
Get the full version

LinuxLinux:
Get the full version


  • Currently 4.3/5
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Rating: 4.3/5 (77 votes)
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Transmorpher 2

Starchild Lasers, explosions, moving platforms, treacherous steps, guns, acid pools, alien mind control, this game has it all. Transmorpher 2 is an awesome action puzzle platformer by FlashRush Games in which you control four aliens, each with special abilities. To move them, use your mouse or [arrow] keys, and switch between aliens with [1-4], collect fluorescent blobs and proceed to the end of the level. Simple enough, huh? Not really, when you have to morph mid-jump while being chased by angry balls of electricity and there's a laser beam underneath you and you may have left the iron on when you left the house this morning... Well, anyway, you see what I mean.

Transmorpher 2 Transmorpher 2 is light years (yay, space reference!) ahead of its predecessor. To start with, the levels are vastly improved: they are much bigger, longer and more imaginative, so the game looks like anything but a generic physics puzzler. This in itself is a big change for the better, but it wouldn't be as good without a graphics upgrade. Transmorpher 2 delivers a smoother, more polished environments and a real sci-fi atmosphere, while still being fun and quirky. To top it off, the gameplay is so much more interesting – larger levels means more space for varied and challenging puzzles. The difficulty is set just below 'frustrating', so you'll probably have to replay a few stages until you get your timing right, but it isn't nearly hard enough to make you want to give up. High difficulty and fiddly mechanics can spoil a platformer, but in this case, everything seems to be calibrated just right. It's great to see such a successful sequel, one that doesn't deliver more of the same, but steps up its game and reaches its full potential.

Play Transmorpher 2


  • Currently 4.2/5
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Rating: 4.2/5 (91 votes)
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GO Virus

KimberlyFrom developer Martijn Kunst comes another virus that wants to take over the world, or at least your computer monitor. In Go Virus, a turn-based strategy game, the goal is to cover the hexagons with your virus. The interface is simple, the virus inappropriately cute, and the music pleasant. The only thing it's missing is a player vs player option.

When it's your turn, a bar of colors appears on the left side of the screen. Decide which color further spreads your plague the best, then click on it. Your current virus will grow by occupying any of the chosen color it is adjacent to. Try to fill in the playing field with your virus before you run out of turns. In VS mode, turns don't matter. Just try to occupy more spaces than your computer opponent.The levels are randomly generated, which means when you lose, you can just blame it on the board, and the inclusion of a level editor makes for some good replay value. Though short at only 15 levels, GO Virus is definitely worth a look.

Play GO Virus


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Mobile Monday

JohnBThe bestest news on this edition of Mobile Monday is a brand new game from Simogo! Also: Kingdom Rush, how did you get so very very good?

DEVICE 6DEVICE 6 - Developer Simogo is not messing around. After a few clever and cute games, the team released Year Walk earlier this year, a haunting adventure game that could only work on mobile devices. What's next for the team? DEVICE 6, a surreal thriller that plays with narration and the written word to create a truly unusual environment. Check out the official page for a trailer and a few tidbits of info, and expect the iOS release later this year!

Kingdom Rush 2Kingdom Rush: Frontiers Update - Ha, joke's on you. You thought now that you had beaten Kingdom Rush 2 you could go on with your life. Too bad the Rising Tides update was recently released, featuring six new creeps to defend against, new maps and achievements, and two new heroes to deploy. Back to hunching over your mobile device until you're at 100% again! First world problem, right?

badpiggies-p.jpgFree App of the Week: Bad Piggies - Each week on the iTunes App Store, Apple drops a single release down to the tasty price of "free". This week, that freebie is Bad Piggies, Rovio's Angry Birds spinoff that puts you in control of the "bad" guys. Build contraptions out of sticks and wheels, then go on a wild ride down a handful of crazy levels. All the same charm and challenge of Angry Birds, only with fewer birds!


  • Currently 4/5
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Rating: 4/5 (20 votes)
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Deep Dungeons of Doom

JohnBWant that refreshing RPG flavor with a slight twist? Deep Dungeons of Doom from MiniBoss has the formula down to a science. Fight monsters, gain experience, buy equipment and complete quests, all by tapping the sides of the screen. The adventure you'll undertake is as righteous as any "gotta save the world from evil" role playing game, but here you only have to worry about the exciting stuff!

Deep Dungeons of DoomDeep Dungeons of Doom pits you against enemy after enemy in a series of one-on-one battles. Tap the left side of the screen to block, tap the right side to attack. You can't just wail away with your sword, however, as there's a particular rhythm associated with making your moves. Time everything just right and you'll pull off combos or attack enemies in their weak spot, which as we all know is the only way to defeat things like eyeball monsters from the depths of the Earth or giant crabs.

Between bouts you can upgrade your skills, mess with your inventory, or dig through the in-app purchasing store where you can buy revives, gold and the like. It's all very neatly balanced as to not be intrusive or compulsory, just a little extra to enhance the game when you need it. Apart from that, Deep Dungeons of Doom is about as old school as they get, from the pixel graphics to the trickster enemies to the massive amount of dungeons you'll crawl through.

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


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

JohnBPivvot is an on-rails avoidance game created by Whitaker Trebella. It puts you in control of a small pair of orbs traveling along a fixed path in an abstract world of color and shape. Obstacles are placed along the path, and the only way you can avoid them is by pivoting the large orb around the smaller one. Simple concept, but like Super Hexagon and other "don't touch anything 'cause it's all dangerous" games, the challenge quickly escalates into a true test of reflexes.

PivvotPivoting a ball around a smaller ball is surprisingly entertaining, but Pivvot goes further with five game modes to ensure you get just the right amount of challenge. Voyage is the basic mode described above where you run along the line trying not to hit anything. Endless sticks you in a series of levels and is all like "stay alive!". Until you die, of course, which will happen at some point. Both of these have alternate expert modes to dip your toe into, and then there's berserk, which is a completely mad mode only crazy people will enjoy. But you should try it!

It's abstract in a lot of senses, but Pivvot manages to be strangely soothing while turning up the difficulty. There's something innately satisfying about its on-rails pivoting mechanic, especially when you pull off a crazy last-second maneuver to dodge half a dozen floating shapes in a row.

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


  • Currently 3.4/5
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Rating: 3.4/5 (54 votes)
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LeaveMeAClone

kyhYou are an alien... an alien who does alien things... like making clones of yourself to use as jumping points for hard-to-reach platforms. Yep, that pretty much sums up Daniel Haslop's puzzle platformer, Leave Me a Clone. Move yourself around with [arrow] keys and use [X] to create a clone of yourself, which creates a block wherever you are, even in midair, then starts you off at the start of each level as a new clone. Each of the 35 single-screen levels has you collecting the required energy orbs, as indicated in the lower left, to open the portal which will take you to the next level. In your way are spikes, shooting enemies and gravity-defying plants.

LeaveMeACloneIf this doesn't create enough of a challenge, each level has varying requirements to earn up to three stars. The highest tier involves using a limited number of clones of yourself, so if this is your goal, be prepared to perform precision jumps or else face restarting the level. Regardless of working toward the coveted three-star status, you'll find yourself restarting a level often (whether voluntarily or not) as the high difficulty of Haspo's creation will likely confound you at some point. And if you can complete all the levels without rage quitting at least one, then that makes you a better gamer than a certain JiG reviewer... Not me of course, geez!

Play Leave Me a Clone


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Weekend Download

JohnBIt's the first weekend of August! That should be something special, but it probably isn't. One thing can help make it interesting, though: a game designed by Knytt creator Nifflas! And a fan-made Mario game! And a real-life postal service delivery simulator!!!

Shrug SongShrug Song (Windows, free) - Created to showcase the larger game Shrug Worlds currently in development by Alina Constantin, Shrug Song is one of those games we really don't want to spoil by telling you all of the details. It plays somewhat like a point-and-click adventure game fused with a slight musical element. Move around the environment with a few clicks, enter your happy zen mode, then work with the runes floating above your head to change the environment. That's all we'll say. It's definitely a treat, especially with such beautiful artwork. (Note: Click the island marked "download mini game" to get Shrug Song.)

Sorry Mario BrosSorry Mario Bros. (Windows/Mac, free) - Taking a break from the larger project titled The Wild Eternal, Scott and Casey Goodrow whipped up a little reverse Mario Bros. to keep us all entertained. Playing as Princess Toadstool, it's your job to free yourself and essentially play through portions of the original Super Mario Bros. game backwards. The basic mechanics are the same, only now you can float! And Mario's already done a lot of the fun stuff! A nice little diversion that manages to pay homage to the original series without copy/pasting original assets all over the place.

Sealed and SecureSealed & Secure (Windows, free) - Ever wondered how tempting it is for postal service workers to be all sneaky and read the mail? Sealed & Secure from RhysD promises just that, allowing you to live through ten days in the life of a postman as you do exciting things such as deliver the mail, cook breakfast, and steam letters open to read their contents before carefully re-sealing them with your globby tongue. Or not, that last part's entirely up to you. Or is it?


(8 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Tic-Tac-Logic

ArtbegottiThree-in-a-row is the last thing you want with Tic-Tac-Logic, the latest addition to the Conceptis roster of logic puzzles. Every square in the grid needs to be filled with either an X or an O. However, you can't have three consecutive Xs or Os running horizontally or vertically (diagonals are fine). There will be the same number of Xs and Os in each individual row or column, but no two rows or columns can be identical. Those are the rules: Keep the numbers of Xs and Os equal, but you can't have identical rows or three-in-a-row. Simple, right?

Tic-Tac-LogicNot necessarily. You're given only a handful of noughts and crosses to start with, so you've got to cycle between focusing on those three rules to sort the grid out, and even then you might still need to fall back on good old-fashioned trial-and-error Tap an empty square to fill it with an X, again to change it to an O, and once more to clear the square. Keep an eye on the tally bars on the top and left edges of the grid to quickly count up your current totals. With a bit of patience and deduction, you can fill the grid and conquer the 90 free puzzles available in this pack, with extra (and larger iPad-friendly) puzzle packs available for purchase in-app. It might not be the Tic-Tac-Toe you're used to, but this interesting new variety of puzzle is sure to keep you entertained.

NOTE: This game was played and reviewed on the iPhone. 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 (20 votes)
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Savant: Ascent

DoraSavant: Ascent is the most fun you can have for two dollars. It might even be the most fun I've had in any sort of arcade shooter in a long, long time. From D-Pad Studio (the creators of the hotly anticipated Owl Boy) and talented musical maestro SAVANT (Aleksander Vinter) comes a game that's both visually and aurally stunning and hard as b... nuts. Cast out of his tower by a magical reaction, a wizard must battle his way back to the top and collect funky beats along the way to unlock new abilities. Simple and challenging, yet oh so addictive, Savant: Ascent is what more arcade games should be. (Mac, Linux, iOS and Android versions are on the way!)

Savant: AscentUse the mouse to aim and shoot, holding down the left mouse button to fire, and [A] and [D] to bounce between the two places you can stand in each stage, hitting [W] to jump. Enemies will begin to flood the screen, and it's your job to blast them all, dodging and jumping between the two standing points on each stage. Get hit three times and it's game over, and you'll have to start from the beginning of the last stage the next time you play. Tricky? You bet, since you're outnumbered if not outgunned, and more enemies and enemy types will soon begin to appear. But gather four golden disc pieces (place your cursor over them and hit the [spacebar]) and you'll unlock not only a new music track to play alongside, but new abilities too. Charge and unleash powerful attacks, blast five things at once, and more, but above all else... stay on your toes! (Note that if you close the game, the next time you play all your abilities will still be unlocked, but you'll have to start from stage one.)

For a game made in just five weeks, Savant: Ascent is almost criminally enjoyable. It's fast-paced addictive fun, thanks in no small part to its relentlessly catchy and danceable soundtrack, and the sort of thing that would have left your wallet weak and depleted on the arcade floor years ago. With just a few unlockable abilities, the emphasis is more on skill and reflex than grinding away for upgrades, making for breakneck action. The way the enemy movement changes based on your chosen soundtrack is a lovely touch, On the downside, being unable to see the whole screen at once means it's easy, even with the onscreen warning, to get swarmed, and the complete lack of health drops means one wrong move can force you to restart an entire stage you were only barely about to squeak through.

It's easy for gamer entitlement to rear its head in cases like this, however, and some may find themselves falling into the trap of complaining that it's "only" a simple arcade game and "not worth" two dollars. Don't. Savant: Ascent is "only" pure entertainment, a lovingly crafting homage to shooter classics with a gorgeous design, and a professional look and feel. It's more than worth a few dollars, and trust me when I say you'll get a lot of value for your money.

WindowsWindows:
Get the full version

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


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Rating: 4.1/5 (286 votes)
| Comments (7) | Views (676)

Plumber Pickle

DoraI'm one of those people who is completely unqualified to fix... uh... anything... and yet I always have to try... usually making things worse in the process. What I'm saying is if you ever need any sort of home repair and don't think "take it apart, then hit it" is a valid course of action, you should probably call Pastel Games' Plumber Pickle... but he might be busy for a while, since the leak he's been called on to fix in this point-and-click adventure/escape game needs more elbow grease and creative thinking than usual. Just click to move around, interact, and use items, keeping an eye on the cursor for when it changes to see hotspots.

Plumber PickleYour goal is just to fix the leak and then find a way out, since the door apparently broke behind you on your way in because... I don't know... you slammed it too hard with your burly plumber strength or something. Way to go. Like all Pastel Games titles, Plumber Pickle is stylish and has a few surprises up its sleeve that means this is anything but your ordinary repair job. The art is lovely, though the soundtrack gets annoyingly repetitive after just a few loops, and the game has a few seriously adorable moments. With relatively straight-forward puzzles and a snack-sized length contained to just a few areas, it's unlikely Plumber Pickle is going to stump anyone for long, but Pastel Games' signature style and charm make this one well worth the few minutes it'll take you. And hopefully, we haven't seen the last of our mustachioed slacker... maybe he'll even do some work himself in the next installment!

Play Plumber Pickle 1


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Rating: 4.4/5 (56 votes)
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Terra Coda

TrickyConsidering your first moment of consciousness involved being released from a captivity you didn't even no you were in, the freedom you feel is especially sweet. It's a shame though that it's a result of the research outpost's "last ditch" protocols that, with the hull about to collapse upon itself, release all the experimental organisms in the belief that one might be able to save itself and/or at least not make things worse. That just might be you: with your power to revert your consciousness to the moment of your first "awakening", you can replay these precious few seconds time and time again. And that means you have all the time you need to explore, figure out what you are, and just maybe, seek a way out. Terra Coda is a sci-fi adventure game originally developed by Zillix for Ludum Dare 19, now re-released in a polished form.

Terra CodaMoving with the [arrow] keys, and interacting with [x] and the [spacebar], move around the lab, discovering helpful (and sometimes not so helpful) information. Death will happen fairly quickly in each playthrough, but there are actions you can take which will grant you more time and, of course any knowledge you glean from previous playthroughs (like door passwords or how to activate various devices) you can use without delay. A high-concept, cerebral little game, reminiscient of Groundhog's Day style games like Majora's Mask or Level Up, Terra Coda throws you in at the deep end and you can almost hear it chuckling at your first attempts to swim. However, once you get your bearings, the thrill of discovery takes over, and even its red herrings help develop a quirky and mysterious game-world. One of those games that truly feels like you're inhabiting but a small subsection of a fully developed world, Terra Coda takes the concept of "replay value" to a whole 'nother level.

Play Terra Coda

Link Dump Fridays

DoraTake Attack on Titan, stick it in a locked room, and add in a guy whose only special skill is pancake flippin' and what do you have? This week's Link Dump Friday, of course! Escape, action, stealth and breakfast foods all in once place, just like momma used to make.

  • Attack on TitanAttack on Titan - If you're like me and recently fell in love with the anime of the same name, Feng Lee's demo mockup of what a game about Spider-Maning your way around with swords to deal fatal strikes to the back of the necks of flesh hungry giants will quickly make you realise it's probably a good thing you haven't been recruited. You've got a limited amount of time to bring down as many of the creatures as you can using the series' iconic gear, and chances are you'll spend a lot of time getting crushed, eaten, or just slinging in the completely wrong direction at first. Once you get the hang of it, however, it may be simple, but it's a surprising amount of fun.
  • Aries Escape 11Aries Escape 11 - Libertechno's Japanese-only language games may present a bit of a barrier to us English speakers when it comes to these escape games, but don't let that stop you from playing. Here, I'll even summarize the story for you based on my deductive reasoning. Clearly, it's a game where you're kidnapped by someone who has stashed a headless torso in a room, and you need to find a way out in order to bring them to justice. Or... maybe the headless torso is a ghost like in Beetlejuice? But the music is happy, so maybe she's a trendy, cheerful ghost and you want to date her and star in your own weirdo visual novel? Hmmm... no, no, give me a minute, I'll figure it out...
  • Pan ManPan Man - You flip pancakes. You flip pancakes WELL. In Major Bueno's adorably silly arcade game, developed in just a few days, you play a man whose ability to flip pancakes really high catapults him to fame and fortune... but at what cost?! Especially since you only have three pancakes to work with over the course of your entire career... ewwwww. We always look forward to Major Bueno's games for their constant sense of humour and immediately recogniseable style, and though like its star this one is a bit of a one-trick pony, it's still going to effortlessly put a smile on your face.
  • Stealth AssassinStealth Assassin - Playing Dishonored recently has taught me that I'm not cut out to be an assassin, if only because I'm incredibly impatient and my line of thought typically goes, "Whatever, I bet I can take all those armed guards. This is taking too long." But if you think you've got what it takes to be an assassin from the future, MasterMax's stealth game will put you to the test. Eliminate the target and get to your portal without being seen... simple, right? Throw in a little randomisation, however, and it means you'll never really be able to be 100% prepared for anything... even if you died to it before.

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You Still Won't Make It

JohnBYou Still Won't Make It is a high difficulty action game from Vetra Games. It's name and form with this platformer, as each time you start a stage you know you probably won't make it to the exit. Even if you do, it won't be without splattering your insides over a precisely-placed spike trap. With level design by Karoshi veteran Jesse Venbrux, You Still Won't Make It is the kind of indie game you're going to hate while you fall in love with it.

You Still Won't Make ItThe basic controls behind You Still Won't Make It are as simple as can be. You can walk left or right, you can jump, and you can jump once while airborne. It's simple enough to hop over sharp things and avoid various obstacles as you work your way towards the exit. It's another thing entirely to ride a gust of wind over a literal death trap just before you do a double jump to worm your way around an L-shaped wall only to land on a platform that falls out from under your feet.

You Still Won't Make It currently has just over 50 levels to complete, with the first dozen or so serving as a surprisingly calm introduction to the basic mechanics. After that, though, you won't be afforded a single pixel's worth of leeway. Most levels have a checkpoint to give you a tiny respite, but other than that, it's just you and your own stubborn refusal to give in. Good luck, and have fun painting the platforms red!

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  • Currently 4.1/5
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Rating: 4.1/5 (78 votes)
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Harry Quantum 3: Cheese Carnival

DoraEveryone's favourite bizarro-world gumshoe is at it again in this latest point-and-click adventure game from TurboNUKE! In Harry Quantum 3: Cheese Carnival, an alien hires Harry to find photographic proof of people disappearing at the titular carnival, because of reasons, that's why. I mean, what, you thought aliens were all about abduction and probing? Geez. Rude. Click around to navigate and interact, and click Harry if you want to view all the places in each area to do so.

Harry Quantum 3: Cheese CarnivalAdmittedly, being able to magically see everything you can interact with takes some of the difficulty out of the experience, but the game's surreal world and deliberately wacky approach to everything in it means you'll still have to do a little oddball sleuthing to proceed... which is to say, try everything on everything, especially when it involves cheese shakes. Still, it's worth it when you consider this is probably the weirdest (in the best possible way) Quantum adventure to date, and the twists and turns combine with the creative tale to shine while it lasts. The game's campy sense of humour and style make it the perfect light-hearted bit of adventuring to brighten your day. Just one question remains... which amoung you will be bravest to make a cheese shake first? Come on, after the Sinner's Sandwich, this is small time!

Play Harry Quantum 3: Cheese Carnival


  • Currently 4.7/5
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Rating: 4.7/5 (750 votes)
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Super Mario Bros. Crossover 3.0

DoraImagine if you will that your early '90s nerd/nerdette/nerdite self's video game fan-fiction game to life and you'd probably get something like Exploding Rabbit's platformer game Super Mario Bros. Crossover 3.0. Now in its third major release, the game allows you to play as everyone from better-than-Boba-Fett bounty huntress Samus Aran to Mega Man 10's Bass, all with their iconic abilities intact, tearing up the classic Super Mario Bros. levels you know and love. Dismissing this as just a simple knock-off is doing it a disservice, and this latest update cements its position as one of the crown jewels in the fan creation crown.

Super Mario Bros. Crossover 3.0Though essentially the same game as the original, this release brings with it a whole host of changes and tweaks, some minor and others not. You can, for instance, play easy and hard versions of all levels, and an entirely new set of stages from Super Mario Bros. Special has been added, bringing the level count to a Kaiju-sized 192. Add in more skins, new enemies and power-ups, and a ton of improvements and you have a fan-made game that basically redefines "labour of love". The sheer amount of work that has gone into making this what it is, is more than a little impressive. Some characters still feel like they play smoother than others, making them more novelty than fun unless you enjoy the added challenge. But with the staggering amount of characters you can play as with the inclusion of skins and enough levels to keep you going for a long time, Super Mario Bros. Crossover 3.0 is a huge achievement that deserves recognition for that at the very least. Even if it did make me realise how much of my brain is devoted to remembering every single bar of music from Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest. (Is this why I can never remember anyone's name until I hear it several times? It explains so much.)

Play Super Mario Bros. Crossover 3.0

Thanks to Repairmanman for sending this one in!


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rymdkapsel

JohnBrymdkapsel is a mesmerizing defense game from Martin Jonasson (grapefrukt) that is as elegant as it is intriguing. It combines elements of spatial awareness, strategic planning, Civilization-like expansion, and a touch of zen-like exploration as you work your way further into outer space, discovering ability upgrades while defending yourself from attack. It's a beautifully balanced game that has the ability to hold your attention for hours on end.

rymdkapselThe basic idea behind rymdkapsel is to build a functional base and expand to new chunks of land. Monoliths are waiting to be decoded, granting you ability boosts that will help you survive the waves of enemy attacks that occur at regular intervals. You have a small group of minions who follow your every order, carrying resources around and building the structures you've laid out. It starts with a few pieces of corridor, the most basic component that forms passageways to the rest of your facilities. As long as you've got enough resources, the minions will take care of the rest. It's simply a matter of making sure your base is balanced and fully functional so you can survive in the long-run.

Generating and maintaining resources is a key aspect of rymdkapsel's gameplay. Not only do you have to take quantity into consideration, but larger bases need more convenient resource generators, otherwise you'll waste your time waiting for minions to walk back and forth. Extractors and reactors create resources at regular intervals, while gardens and kitchens work together to generate food. Weapons rooms serve as defense points for your minions to staff and take on incoming enemies. These become much more important as your base increases in size, as those handheld lasers have a limited range. You wouldn't want your workers fried to a crisp while strolling down an empty corridor, would you?

rymdkapselAnalysis: Everything about rymdkapsel is as refined and minimalistic as can be. Starting with the visual presentation, you work with little more than basic single-color geometric shapes, piecing them together one block at a time. The tetromino-style building shapes add an element of unpredictability to construction projects. Each time you drag a new piece down it appears in one of several shapes. You can't change the shape, you just have to work with it. There's no such thing as the "wrong" shape, as they all get built in the same manner. But when you get that perfect piece there's a brief moment of pure elation. Just like when the Tetris gods grant you a lucrative I block. There's no real risk or failure involved, just pure reward.

The interface deserves great applause, as it quite neatly ditches some of the more complex control mechanics from strategy and defense games in favor of a streamlined touch interface. Even without direct control over your minions you'll find they do almost precisely what you want. They don't waste steps, they don't make stupid decisions. They're so well programmed you can almost see them thinking about their next move.

The most dangerous thing about rymdkapsel is that you won't be able to stop playing. Aside from the gameplay itself, there's this subtle sense of mystery that keeps pressing you forward. It's easy to compare it to Virtual Villagers or, to a greater extent, 2001: A Space Odyssey. And not just because there are monoliths hanging around outer space. Awe and wonder keep you playing just as much as a desire to outlive/defeat those flying enemy comet thingies.

There's no downside to rymdkapsel. It's all wonderfully simple but endlessly inventive. You'll be completely transfixed by this 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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