October 2013 Archives


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Pocket God: Ooga Jump

JohnBBolt Creative, the studio behind the strangely captivating Pocket God series, is up to something a bit different. Pocket God: Ooga Jump takes a turn from the previous sandbox games in the series, dropping the poking and prodding in exchange for a little tilt-based endless jumping. The same characters and moderately twisted sense of humor, only now you're helping the pygmies out instead of, you know, zapping them with lightning.

Pocket God: Ooga JumpTilt your iOS device to move the jumping pygmy left and right, aiming each descent to land on a platform so you can continue upwards. Tap the screen to slam down on a platform, a move that lets you smash certain objects as well as get a slight boost in your leap. Gather as many gems as you can along the way, as you'll need them to purchase items in the shop as well as to complete certain missions.

Pocket God: Ooga Jump does a great job introducing twists and turns in the gameplay. Dangers await you every few screens, such as monkeys giving chase, meteors falling out of nowhere, a robot trying to kill all humans, and even reverse gravity situations. Progress constantly moves forward despite these obstacles, increasing the difficulty with each jump.

Pocket God: Ooga Jump does a really nice job transitioning the franchise to a new genre. It features a handful of in-app purchases, which feels a little superfluous, but it doesn't get in the way of bouncing and having a good time. It's not a groundbreaking game, but Ooga Jump does endless jumping right.

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


  • Currently 4.3/5
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Rating: 4.3/5 (76 votes)
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Acid Bunny: Episode 2

TrickyAll Acid Bunny wanted was a lovely day at the beach with his friends. Unfortunately, while playing volleyball, his intense hallucinations resulting from his bunny mother's drug use while he was in the bunny womb, have led him to mistake Mr. Panda for a ball that needed serving and spiking. With Mr. Panda now in pieces, Acid Bunny knows that it his duty to put him back together again, no matter how many of his bunny brothers will try to stop him! The sequel to the surprisingly enjoyable original Acid Bunny, Seething Swarm's Acid Bunny: Episode 2 continues the action platformer series' hallmarks of being adorable darkness and dark adorableness. Please be aware that though it may not look like it, this game contains material some might find disturbing, including drug use and suicide.

Acid Bunny: Episode 2Move, jump, and double jump with the [arrow] keys, exploring the world around you, collecting the 24 spools needed to resurrect Mr. Panda, along with his missing head and torso. To get some of them, you'll need to pick up the sea shells scattered about, which can be traded for admission into minigame competitions with spools as the grand prize. There are enemies to be bopped, or your can throw carrots at them with [A]. There are various vehicles and items you can ride, which you'll enter automatically, using [S] to dismount. There are also mushrooms to collect, which will allow you to see the magical portals that will take you to bouncy trippy bonus game land... maaaaaan.

Acid Bunny: Episode 2 is near-identical to its predecessor in tone, plotting, and mechanics. This is the kind of episodic gaming that exists not to tell an overarching plot with constantly evolving challenges, but rather because a developer had too many ideas for a single game. Still, platform games have a long history of being divided into thematic worlds, and even if Episode 2's main innovation is but pushing the formula into Beach World, Ocean World, and Jungle World, the hopping, bopping, collecting, and puzzling is as enjoyable as it ever was, and the influx of minigames gives it a nice Banjo-Kazooie feel. So while Acid Bunny: Episode 2 isn't quite as fresh or as shocking as the first installment, its quirky off-beat humor, quality level design, and variety of challenges make it the fix fans of the first had been craving.

Play Acid Bunny: Episode 2


  • Currently 4.2/5
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Rating: 4.2/5 (57 votes)
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Theft Punk

TrickyIf there's one thing that thieves love, its a cache of Round-Brilliant Cut Diamonds that some lackadaisical curator has chosen to scatter randomly about their perfectly-gridded museum floor plan. It's time for a little thefty-business as players work it harder to make their bank accounts better in Ticklebot's sliding puzzle game Theft Punk! Taking a cue from the Road Blocks school of sliding, each level of Theft Punk starts with the punk placed in a room rife with gems ripe for the swiping. With each hit of the [arrow] keys, the punk will move in that direction until encountering an obstacle or gem. When adjacent to a gem, you collect it with [spacebar], removing it from the playfield. Levels are complete when all gems have been collected, and, if you get stuck, you can restart with [R].

Theft Punk Later levels will introduce direction pads, sliding chests, and other complications. Though the concept is tried-and-true, these 30 levels have a lot of charm in them, especially with its jazzy score and retro aesthetic. Nice little touches, like how the pitch of the "diamond collect" sound goes higher the closer you get to finishing the level, or the thief's noodly little victory dance will keep you playing right up to the strange-but-funny end sequence. Any fan of sliding puzzles should definitely want Theft Punk to be playing in their house (in their house!).

Play Theft Punk


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The God of Crawling Eyes

DoraIn Kasey Ozymy's freeware indie horror game The God of Crawling Eyes, you play Max, a young man who's only ever been able to see in black and white his entire life. The new medication he's recently starting on promises to allow him to see colour, but when the lights go out in class one day he might wish otherwise. Just use the [arrow] keys to move and hit [spacebar] to interact and talk with people. You can only save your game when prompted, unfortunately, and there are multiple ways to die. Luckily, the game will usually provide some pretty clear clues when something is a bad idea, especially if you exercise basic common sense. The biggest exception will likely be an annoying "chase" section towards the end that actually has a logical solution, but expects you to suddenly be able to intuit you can do something with the scenery you hadn't been able to before.

The God of Crawling EyesThere are four different endings to uncover depending on your choices and actions, and completing the game also unlocks new areas to visit to help encourage replay value. The God of Crawling Eyes is one of those rare horror games that manages to do a lot with very little, and I'm not just talking about its striking visual style and menacing soundtrack. Through the use of great writing the story deftly paints in ominous foreshadowing, and manages to craft believable, likable characters in a short amount of time. It does horror without a lot of jump scares, which is rare these days.

Unfortunately, in a lot of ways the story seems like it needed a lot more setup in certain areas, since most endings are far too abrupt and unsatisfying in their resolution. It's intended to be short, sure, and it definitely has a great Twilight Zone feel to it, but the big reveal is sort of underwhelming. Max's colour blindness feels like it's only there for the visual design, when it felt like there was greater opportunity to weave it into the story, which in general had a lot more potential. But though it winds up being a little predictable, The God of Crawling Eyes is still a cleverly executed and well designed short horror story that makes for a perfect creepy break.

WindowsWindows:
Get the full version

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


  • Currently 3.6/5
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Rating: 3.6/5 (88 votes)
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Kingdom

KimberlyOne foggy dark night, trolls are seen in the land. As king, it is your duty to protect your citizens by paying them to fight for you. In Kingdom, a defense game by Noio with music by Pez, the goal is to survive the troll attacks each night for ten nights. Move your horse with the left and right [arrow] keys, and press the down [arrow] to perform any actions. If you need to pause, just click outside the playing area.

KingdomBy day you must venture forth to recruit help. Once the peasants you find collect the coins you throw to them, they'll wander into to town to help the cause. Depending on what you have purchased, they'll either pick up bows or scythes. Bows are used to shoot rabbits and trolls. Scythes are used to farm and build walls. Of course you've got to have cash to build a kingdom, so pick up the money that drops when your archers kill rabbits. You'll also get coins when your farmers harvest a field. You need to balance Investing your coins in walls and towers for defense and making sure you have enough of bowmen to fend off the enemy. By night beware! Trolls attack! It costs you if the monsters break through your defenses. They will disarm your men and break down your walls, costing you precious coins to rebuild. If they get to the King, it's game over. It can be a bit frustrating as you really have no control over where your archers or builders are stationed. While this may add a little too much randomness for the true strategist, Kingdom still manages to draw you in with its simple gameplay and beautiful atmosphere.

Play Kingdom


  • Currently 4/5
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Rating: 4/5 (118 votes)
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Chamber Door

KimberlyAs the robot slave of some sort of mad scientist, you are tasked with finding and waking Lenore (whoever, or whatever that is) in Chamber Door. In this point-and-click adventure from Silver Stitch, you and your sidekick Eleven delve into dark forgotten chambers to begin your search. Use either [A] and [D] or left and right [arrow] keys to move, and press [S] or down [arrow] to interact with the switch boxes. After you activate a switch, use the mouse to control Eleven.

Chamber DoorInspired by The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe, the twisted story reveals itself through a series of scrolls found throughout the game. There is no inventory, so the puzzles are generally just a matter of clicking things in the right order on each screen. And although the cursor doesn't change for hot spots, various levers and knobs are fairly easy to spot. Chamber Door is great at setting a mysterious, somewhat creepy mood. The personality of the game reminds me somewhat of Windosill, but more spooky than whimsical. Short and simple, but with haunting piano tunes and wonderful atmosphere, Chamber Door offers up a solid little adventure even Poe would enjoy.

Play Chamber Door


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Pocket Titans

KimberlyWhen the king turns to you for help, how can you refuse? Fight your way through untold danger to find and defeat the Orc army in Pocket Titans, a delightful turn-based RPG strategy game from Noisy Orc Games. The goal is to clear all the monsters off the board. Each turn you are given two movement points. Slide any row or column back and forth to position your characters, or to move enemies into attack range. If you don't use both your movement points, you get extra attack power that round. Most attacks need line of sight, and attacks can be blocked by obstacles or teammates on the board.

Pocket TitansBefore each level, you'll be able to select a set number of your unlocked characters to take into battle. Tap on a character or enemy to examine their stats, abilities and gear. Each character has two regular abilities, and, when high enough level, one bonus ability that charges up over time. The game will always choose the higher power attack when available, so after you position the board, sit back and watch the action. But don't take your attention away! Occasionally you'll be able to tap a character repeatedly to up his or her attack power. You gain gold and XP when killing enemies, and as you level up, you get more powerful attacks and better stats. If you lose a battle, don't worry! There's no penalty, and you can choose another crack team and try again. If you are struggling to pass a level, you can spend earned gold on better equipment. While you can purchase additional gold via micro-transaction, it's really not necessary to enjoy the game fully. Gear and gold drop at fairly high rate during battle, and you can always replay levels to earn more cash.

Pocket Titans is one of those games that seems simple at the get-go, but reveals a lot of hidden depth and strategy as you go on. The level design varies, adding things like boards with squares that help or hinder you, or having to protect helpless townfolk, which keeps things from becoming repetitive. There's a multiplayer mode seamlessly integrated where you can challenge your friends or strangers on line. Navigating the world via the map is a little clunky, but otherwise the controls are great, especially the undo button. Eight playable characters and five distinct areas to explore will keep you busy for awhile, and leave you wanting more when it's over. So whether you are new to strategy games, or old hat, the king has requested your help. And who are you to deny your king?

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.


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

DoraNicole, star of the appropriately named indie visual novel/mystery life simulation by Winter Wolves, has just started college. She's worried about her grades, finding her way around campus, keeping her finances in check... oh, and the frightening abductions taking place at her school. Several young women have mysteriously vanished, only to be found wandering the streets days later, confused and disoriented and without any memory of the incident whatsoever. But none of that has anything to do with Nicole... right? And how is she going to get all her homework done with all this foreshadowing looming over her?

NicoleAs Nicole, your job in the game is both to investigate the mystery and manage your various statistics. Both of these things are done by selecting different activities at the locations available throughout the day, while keeping an eye on your morale and energy. Of course, you don't have to investigate the mystery if you don't want to, and there's a lot going on around campus if you know who to talk to. At heart, Nicole is primarily a romance game, with an emphasis placed on raising your relationship with at least one of the eligible bachelors to get the best possible ending. If you're not into guys, be patient... a version of the game with lesbian relationships is on the way! The choices you make in your interactions with your potential romantic interest determine their attitude towards you, but each one also has a specific statistic that's most important to them, and figuring out which is which (as well as raising it to a whopping 900 points!) is the key to getting the very best ending, like no one ever was.

NicoleAnalysis: Nicole the game is as friendly and fresh-faced as its protagonist, with a bouncy energy that rides alongside and appealingly creepy subplot. Although all the characters may be well known archetypes (the womanizing jock, the painfully shy nerd), they're written with charm and a refreshing amount of depth to round their characters out. Surprisingly so, in fact, as at least once the plot threw me an unexpected curveball with someone I thought I had figured out from a mile away. People turning out to be more than they seem to be winds up being a core theme of the story, and the game is great about subverting your expectations over and over. Nicole herself also makes for a likable and happily realistic protagonist... neither too perfect or too tokenly flawed, and frequently funny to boot.

The biggest problem with Nicole might actually be that the game is so painfully slow to start doing anything with the mystery that's supposed to be one of the central themes to the plot. If you're more interested in the thriller aspect, watching Nicole wander around campus making meme-tastic references and flirt starts to get a little frustrating simply because there's so much of it compared to the mystery subplot. While it's true these elements are intrinsic to the visual novel otome-style gameplay, you would think the kidnapping of young women would be a much bigger deal than it seems to be to everyone. Thankfully, a lot of this is mitigated by an interesting and varied cast, and balancing Nicole's statistics is easily done without having to fight her morale and fatigue. It makes for an accessible yet engaging experience you can sink into and enjoy the plot and characters without having to struggle with numbers. Once the game starts adding in job opportunities, raising Nicole's statistics goes a lot faster, and the story scenes come thicker.

Nicole isn't what you'd call a difficult game, with the biggest obstacle being grinding your statistics up. But though its pace is slow, the more time I spent with it, the more I found myself enjoying it... which might be some sort of weird case of life imitating art since that describes Nicole's relationships with most of her male leads. Most of the story choices primarily revolve around picking the right option that will make your love interest like you more, and it would have been nice to have been given some more freedom to steer certain events instead. Still, if you like mysteries and your cast of characters varied and quirky, Nicole is definitely a visual novel that should be on your list to check out. With people you'll want to get to know and a healthy dose of humour, suspense, and surprises, it's the perfect choice for sinking into for a long time. You won't want to put it down, and that's a rare pleasure.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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

LinuxLinux:
Download the demo
Get the full version


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Defender's Quest II

DoraWelcome to the beginning of our coverage on interesting indie funding projects (Kickstarter, IndieGoGo), Steam Greenlight games, and news and previews!

Platform: PC
DRM: Yes and No (will be available through Steam and Good Old Games)
Developer: Level Up Labs
Genre: Fantasy/Tower Defense/RPG/Amazesauce
Planned Release: Unknown
Price: $15.00USD pre-order (comes with Defender's Quest free)
Official Website

I'm passionate about a lot of indie games for a lot of different reasons, but I've found few to be as addictive and infinitely enjoyable as Level Up Labs's witty and challenging tower defense/RPG hybrid Defender's Quest, a game I've logged an untold amount of hours on and still pull out and play today. With engaging, strategic gameplay and a cast of memorable characters buoyed by great writing, it's simply one of the best and most original defense games you can ever hope to play. (And you can even play the demo in your browser!) So it's big news that Defender's Quest II has finally officially been announced, and though it's still in early development, here's why you should be excited... and consider pre-ordering your copy early!

Defender's Quest 2Unlike the original, Defender's Quest II takes place in a world where the surface is covered by a heavy toxic gas known as "Mirk", which as you can imagine means life is less than idyllic. Scavengers willing to brave the dangerous wild through the use of domesticated giant monsters on whose backs they build airtight capsules bring back ancient technology to the few struggling cities, but it's not enough when most of that has to be sent to the empire as "tribute" to keep from being razed. In a world where everywhere is deadly and everyone is out for themselves, including seemingly our heroines Javir and Terevan (and their giant turtle-tank Bitey), you have to be smart and gutsy to survive... but will that be enough for you?

You can consider the gameplay a sort of mix between visual novel, RPG, and tower-defense. During battles, your "towers" are actually the characters you've recruited, placed around a map to deal with incoming enemies, and this time around, you can expect a lot more strategy. Every party member will be a character in the story with a speaking role and their own unique character class and upgrade tree (twelve in all!), duking it out across bigger maps with destructible terrain against more varied enemies with their own new abilities. The game is also getting a significant graphical overhaul from its predecessor, including animation by Dean Dodrill of Dust: An Elysian Tail fame. These changes are just the tip of the iceberg in a game that its talented team wants to make even bigger and better than the original using feedback from players.

You can find out more over at the official website, and although the game's release is still far, far, frowny-face-far off, pre-ordering now for $15.00USD ensures you not only get both a Steam key and DRM-free copy when the game releases, but also a Steam key and DRM-free copy of the original game. If you consider yourself a tower-defense fan, this game needs to be on your radar, and there's no time like the present to get in some time with the original game!


  • Currently 4.2/5
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Rating: 4.2/5 (114 votes)
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Choco Challenge

elle "Why would I eat candies?" "Because they're good for your health!" TomaTea has a sweet tooth, too, and has opened a pretty new sugar shop to tempt you, treat you and delight you: Choco Challenge. Once inside, though, you can't get out so you'll need to point and click around, assembling tile mosaics, making good use of clues and gathering up handfuls of little chocolates in order to escape this room. As if! The soothing music and lovely aesthetics make this place so relaxing and enjoyable, you might lose track of what you're supposed to be doing.

Choco ChallengeBut, as long as we're nom noming, there's no reason we can't solve a few puzzles in between bites, right? I mean, might as well. Luckily, there's plenty of the usual TomaTea-style puzzles sprinkled among the charming decor to keep us occupied. Which is good, or bad if you don't like subtle color hues or clues too well hidden in the design. A glowing cursor tip points to active areas as well as those items you can pick up, as long as you can eye them first and hover the cursor over them. Access your inventory for use by one-click, or view them more closely with tiny "i" button. There's much to sort through but the "I have no clue" messaging will turn you away from futility and help make this little escape substantial enough to satisfy without gobbling up all of your time—just the right bit of mental stimulation to sweeten up your day!

Play Choco Challenge


  • Currently 4.5/5
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Rating: 4.5/5 (88 votes)
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Ninja Miner 2

Starchild Apparently, being a ninja isn't all it's cracked up to be. Long night shifts, no social security, and all the sneaking around gets really tiresome. It's no wonder that ninjas want to change their career after a while. And although mining doesn't seem like the obvious choice, our little protagonist seemed quite happy with it in Ninja Miner. Now we meet him again in Ninja Miner 2, the new platform puzzler from SilenGames, still as busy as ever. His job is to collect gems and stars, then advance to the next stage, and you can move him with the mouse or the [arrow] keys. Ninja Miner 2 uses the same basic mechanics and level design as its predecessor, meaning that the ninja moves in one direction as long as he doesn't hit an obstacle. Obstacles are numerous and diverse in maze-like levels, from walls to spikes to Halloween-themed enemies.

Ninja Miner 2Luckily, this time around you have three lives per level, so one encounter with a rather unpleasant cave bat won't undo all your hard work. Another life-threatening addition is water, which covers parts of some stages; you can control it by pressing switches or swim through if you find a snorkel. The exit door opens when you've collected all the gems, though you can also collect the three stars or try to beat the additional challenges, which definitely contribute to the replay value. Ninja Miner 2 has managed to keep the playful arcade spirit of the first installment while introducing more demanding puzzles and more elaborate levels. It's a delightfully entertaining firecracker of a game, and this sequel hasn't nearly exhausted all the gameplay possibilities, so we could hope for another episode somewhere down the line. After all, the little ninja seems perfectly happy being a miner and certainly wouldn't mind coming back for more.

Play Ninja Miner 2


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The Vault

TrickyWell, it's almost time for Halloween, and that means people all over are preparing for their annual traditions of trick-or-treating, apple-bobbing, and costume parties. Or, in my particular case, watching Friday the 13th: Part IV, eating Almond Joys, and playing Hugo's House of Horrors until I collapse into an insulin coma. But, of course, I always make time for a few horrific adventures from the JayIsGames archive. This week's Vault is, in a word, Spooktacular!... Which I guess really isn't a word, now that I think of it... BOO!

  • Dead Frontier: OutbreakDead Frontier: Outbreak - It was kind of tough limiting myself to one zombie game this week, considering that I'm pretty sure a full 80% of games released nowadays involve the undead in some way shape or form. But even in the face of such a glut, Dead Frontier: Outbreak, a 2009 piece of interactive fiction by Neil Yates, is a doozy. Gamebooks are a natural format for the zombie genre, with the latter's emphasis on ordinary life swiftly changing, difficult choices to be made, and, of course, death around every corner, and here it is played to the absolute hilt. If you're the kind of horror fan who doesn't mind their scares being in text rather than pictures, Dead Frontier: Outbreak is a good dose of Halloween gore.
  • Monster BasementMonster Basement - Apart from "In Your Pocket" or "At The End Of This Book", basements seem to be a natural place for a monster to be kept. But being locked in with an injured one snarling in its cage is no picnic, as this 2008 point-and-click by Godlimations more than sufficiently demonstrates. Combining the puzzles and structure of a quality escape work with the cuttable-with-a-knife-thick tension of a creature feature, Monster Basement is Godlimation's masterpiece and a locale worthy of a yearly pilgrimage.
  • Exmortis 2Exmortis 2 - The particular quirks of Ben Leffler's Exmortis series have been parodied by many across the internet (including myself). However, even with Exmortis 2's tendency towards long-winded found documents and secret codes in Sudoku puzzles, exploring the farm house whose occupants have failed to survive the on-going apocalypse had some of the best atmosphere of any browser game when released in 2006, and the scene near the beginning, where you struggle to break into a car, while a dark cloud of demonic forces creeps ever closer over the horizon, still gives me serious willies. And hey! Check out that name on the CB radio in the basement! It's nice to know that even when hell is literally on earth, our fair website will still be providing quality entertainment.

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


  • Currently 3.6/5
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Rating: 3.6/5 (57 votes)
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Dudefish Episode 1

Starchild There was once a crab who sang about the charms of life under the sea. Now that you've been turned into a fish, you tend to politely disagree, and by 'politely' you mean you'd like to smack him upside the head. Being a goldfish sucks! On top of which, your memory is almost non-existent, so you have no clue as to who did this to you or what your name is. You will henceforth be known as Dudefish as you embark on Episode 1 of Perfectly Paranormal's aquatic point-and-click adventure.

Dudefish Episode 1 Exploring his new underwater home, Dudefish discovers that he (and some other unsuspecting humans) fell victim to crazy scientist Lloyd's Gunzor, a contraption made especially for turning folks into fish. Now it's up to him to find a way to reach the land once more and face Lloyd in hope of getting his legs back – but, this being an adventure game, he'll have some exploring to do first. When you hover over an item and the cursor turns red, that means you can interact with it or put it in your inventory. You can drag some items into two empty slots in the inventory to combine them, and use them by dragging them to the appropriate object/sea creature or yourself. Click on characters to talk to them, and you can press the [spacebar] to skip dialogues.

If you're into old-timey point-and-clicks, you're almost sure to find Dudefish very lovable. It has that almost nostalgic feel, from the goofy plot, to silly item uses to rambling but hilarious dialogues. Even though this is only the first episode, ending in a cliffhanger, you can see how much effort and enthusiasm went into creating Dudefish. It's hard not to fall for a game featuring a couple of advice-giving eels who work as neon lights in the toilet of a quasi-noir bar called The Sea Cucumbar. The hand-drawn backgrounds help set the appropriate marine mood, and the voice acting is inspired and quite funny, even if the recording quality isn't exactly top-notch. You might not always agree with the game's logic, which could result in getting stuck here and there, but the overall impression is of a charming, cheerful little game which will have you shouting CARROOOOOTS! like one of its more eccentric characters.

Play Dudefish Episode 1

If the game is loading too slowly for you, try downloading it!

WindowsWindows:
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Mac OS XMac OS X:
Get the full version

LinuxLinux:
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(3 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Vampire Volleyball

JohnBVampire Volleyball is a simple player vs. player arcade game by Retro64 (the creator of Rune Raiders) that pits one vampire against another in the ancient sport of... volleyball! Utilizing a few special moves and a lot of smartly-timed jumps, you'll face off against AI foes or local human players as you spike and serve your way to the top. To the winner goes the spoils, and to the loser goes a hot blast of sunlight!

Vampire VolleyballVampire Volleyball sets opponents up on either side of the screen with the net in the center and a dirty little volleyball bouncing between them. Choose between easy and expert controls, the latter putting left and right directional buttons on the screen for manual walking. Both modes ask you to do the jumping, and how/when you do so determines where the ball gets shoved, sort of like a primitive game of Breakout. Special moves are initiated with a quick double tap, unleashing head spikes, double jumps and drop kicks to get some action on the court.

The standard move of play in Vampire Volleyball sends you through the ranks of progressively more difficult opponents. Defeat them one by one and you can choose to play them in later matches. Multiplayer mode lets you and a friend face off against each other on the same device, an experience that's every bit as wild as you'd think. Vampire Volleyball keeps things simple, but the attention to minimalism is what makes it such an attractive game. Be ready for dozens of rounds of volleyball before you even consider taking a break!

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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Mobile Monday

JohnBSo many sales! You'd think Halloween was a holiday manufactured by game devs to move merchandise off digital shelves. Some of the sales below don't have end dates, so if your interest is titillated, might as well go ahead and grab them before the price jumps back up.

badland-p.gifBadland, Good Sale - To celebrate over half a dozen updates and special Halloween content, Badland has gone on sale for a paltry 99 cents. The one-touch action game from Frogmind is essentially a cross between an endless flying game and a platformer. It tells a charming story without using a single word, expressing a range of emotions using little more than clever level design and plenty of beautiful, beautiful artwork.

kotor-p.gifStar Wars: Knights of the Old Republic for cheap - A game that's normally $4.99, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic has tumbled way down to the $0.99 line, making it practically impossible not to pick up, even if you try not to hit the "purchase" button. Originally released back in 2003, KotOR defined the western RPG and managed to secure a spot as one of the most epic modern role playing games ever released. The iPad port is surprisingly playable with touch screen controls, and it's way more portable than that old Windows 95 machine you keep in the basement.

combo-p.gifCombo Crew punches down to free - It's you versus floor after floor of bad guys in Combo Crew, a deliciously satisfying swipe-based brawling game that's currently available for free! Utilizing a string of timing-based fighting moves along with ample social features, the game brings a bit of old school punching and kicking to mobile devices. While these sorts of games usually require heavy duty arcade buttons to smash, with Combo Crew, you don't need no stinking buttons.


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

JohnBKrashlander - Ski, Jump, Crash! by Jeff Weber of Farseer Games is the game you get if you combine Solipskier with Angry Birds. Really, it's a naturally evolved version of Diver 2 mixed with a bit of classic Ski Stunt Simulator. Defending your world from robot invaders is as easy as skiing down a hill. Unfortunately you've got to be a bit self-destructive in order to be a hero. Good thing you brought multiple lives!

KrashlanderEach level begins atop a slope. Take a look around the stage using the eye icon, noting where obstacles are placed and robots stand in waiting. When you're ready to slide, tap the right side circle and keep your thumb there. Gently move around this small area to adjust your skiier's position. Changing your stance affects how you move and avoid/collide with objects. Using a combination of positions you'll slowly jump, glide and crash your way through each stage.

Three levels of difficulty let you really bring on the pain. Novice is where you should start, but once you start gliding through levels, switch to expert, which is more realistic and gives you better in-air control. Elite gives you the most points per robot killed, but expect a super steep learning curve. Krashlander is one of those games that slathers on the "so difficult it's awesome" level of challenge, but the addition of the wild physics premise keeps frustration down to a minimum. This is a game you'll play for weeks and barely begin to master, even though you'll get better each time you ski and die.

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


  • Currently 4.5/5
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Rating: 4.5/5 (309 votes)
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Candy Box 2

DoraWhen aniwey's Candy Box! came out earlier this year, we'd never seen anything like it. A deceptively simple looking webtoy that appeared to be all about generating candies for no good reason, yet with a remarkable amount of hidden depth, charm, and humour. Well, hopefully you weren't planning on getting anything done today, because Candy Box 2 has arrived. Able to run by itself in another browser tab, initially all you seem to be able to do is generate candies second by second you can either scarf down or throw on the ground Lonely Island style. But give it a while and you'll find there's a lot more in here than just tooth decay. Like... a lot more.

Unlike its predecessor, Candy Box 2 doesn't play things quite so close to the chest and feels a lot more straightforward as a result. It's less unexpectedly goofy and clever, which is sort of to be expected since the original was so, well, original. That, of course, isn't to say Candy Box 2 doesn't have its fair share of surprises, and there's a lot of content to unlock if you have the patience to "grind" for it by letting the game run and amassing all of its currencies. It feels a bit more like Gold and Gems this time around, but with more to discover. If you prefer a more structured, less obscure path of progression, you'll probably appreciate the sequel's design a lot more, though players who enjoyed precisely that weirdness from before may lament the loss of the unrelenting whimsy. Give it a chance, however, and you'll discover that a lot of what you loved is still there... it's just better hidden and requires more time.

As before, a large part of the fun of Candy Box 2 is discovering for yourself what everything does and what you can unlock, so reviewing the specifics of the new content would spoil a lot. This time around, you can manually save your game in different slots and set it to autosave for you at regular intervals, which makes the whole process a lot more user friendly than having to write down codes. You can even share your save file with other people! What secrets lie within the legendary Candy Box? That's for you to find out! (Remember to use spoiler tags for your comments below!)

Play Candy Box 2

Thanks to Corsaire for sending this one in!


  • Currently 4.4/5
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Rating: 4.4/5 (54 votes)
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Kolobok Level Pack

Starchild If you just can't get enough of a yellow smiling ball rolling around, here's Kolobok Level Pack with twenty new levels. In this puzzle platformer by Trinbox, your goal is to get the smiley to the other side of the screen, past all sorts of dangers, from fire to malevolent spiders. Use the [arrow] keys or [A] and [D] to move, and [S] to eat mushrooms which give you powers of flight, fire and ice.

The gameplay is the same as in the original Kolobok, so the important thing to remember is that you can't jump. This means you'll have to be a bit more sneaky and time your movements correctly in order to avoid being hit by particularly rude woodland creatures. Using the mushrooms to overcome obstacles also requires some forethought, as they must sometimes be used in a particular order. Kolobok Level Pack is still rather relaxed, and it will challenge you just enough to keep you entertained. If you'd like a bigger challenge, you can try to beat the clock and get all three stars in each level, which is still as tricky as ever. If you enjoyed the original, you'll like this new addition – it doesn't introduce any new elements, but it's just the sort of casual rolling-in-the-grass fun to help you unwind after a busy day.

Play Kolobok Level Pack


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Tiny Games

JohnBTiny Games is a collection of quirky diversions aimed at getting you or a bunch of people to do strange things. It uses situational questions and commands and suggests activities based on your location, mood, etc. Think of it as the ultimate collection of road trip games, expanded to cover most of the real world. The "games" aren't games in and of themselves, but you'll be surprised how much fun a competitive "I'm crushing your head" can be.

Tiny GamesEach game is designed to help you kill time while waiting for the bus, standing in line at the post office, or just puttering around home. You start by telling Tiny Games where you're located (home, at a bar, on a walk, etc.), then picking a sub-location (in your living room), followed by number of players. You'll then answer a few quick questions so Tiny Games can choose a diversion to entertain you. For example, the alphabet game is an at-home game that gives you an on-screen spinner. Give it a whirl, and when it stops you have to name an object in the direction it's pointing starting with the first letter of the alphabet. Spin again, next letter of the alphabet, all the way until you hit Q and realize you don't have a map of Quebec on your wall anymore.

A lot of the things in Tiny Games may seem a little too simple, but once you get the app out in public or with a bunch of people, the fun really begins. It's a very well-designed game that's attractive and easy to navigate. The free download includes home games for several players, and you can unlock additional location packs via in-app purchase. They're a little pricey, but if your next party starts to go stale, this might be a cheaper (and safer, cleaner) alternative than fermented liquid beverages.

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 4.8/5
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Rating: 4.8/5 (29 votes)
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Wonderland Adventures: Planet of the Z-Bots

JohnBWonderland Adventures: Planet of the Z-Bots marks the third in the main series of puzzle adventure games from developer Midnight Synergy. It arrives several years after the previous installment, Mysteries of Fire Island, but because it's such a large and well-built game, it's an easy delay to forgive. Planet of the Z-Bots captures every bit of magic and charm from the other releases, only now there's a lot more of it!

Wonderland Adventures: Planet of the Z-BotsYour friends have been captured by the Z-Bots, and if you don't stay on your toes, you'll be captured, too! Working your way through their planet, you'll solve puzzles by stepping on buttons, swiping color-coded key cards and utilizing your own brand of magic. Use the mouse to tell your Stinker where to go, or walk using the [arrow] or [WASD] keys. Inventory items can be accessed by a quick click, and when you're packing magic, you can either click the icon that appears or just right click the mouse to activate the spell.

You'll travel across several different environments in Planet of the Z-Bots, starting in the compound and moving on through jungles and deserts and caverns and beyond. Levels and tasks are focused on central areas that, once cleared, push the story onwards. In total there are over 130 stages to complete, and we're not talking quick puzzles you can run through with your eyes closed, either. Wonderland makes you think, and Wonderland gets you to master the art of sniffing out solutions and secrets. And it does it in a way that makes you want to never stop playing.

Wonderland Adventures: Planet of the Z-BotsAnalysis: On the surface the puzzles in Wonderland Adventures 3 can sound predictable. Buttons and switches and moving platforms, seen it before, right? In action, though, the game is practically a master class in puzzle design. Nothing is wasted in Planet of the Z-Bots, and every action can affect two or three other parts of the level, such as buttons that trigger multiple doors. This leads to a little backtracking, but it also gives you a greater sense of satisfaction once the puzzles are complete. There's a sense of compactness, even in the larger stages, and because most objects play a part in a puzzle's solution, everything you see is suddenly of great importance.

From now through October 31st, Planet of the Z-Bots is 25% off!

Wonderland Adventures has always been a shining example of how to do puzzle adventure games right. Z-Bots is no different. It sticks to the basics but does everything so well you'll forget you're playing a game. You don't need super fancy 3D visuals or countless gimmicks to entertain players. You just need a Stinker or two, some buttons to step on, and brilliant puzzle design. Might as well hand over your next few weekends to this game, as you won't be able to stop playing until you've collected every single star and gem.

WindowsWindows:
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Weekend Download

JohnBWhen robots need psychiatrists, you know we've got a robot apocalypse looming in the near future. Fortunately we have games that help us practice both our conversational skills as well as shooting abilities, so we should be fine. Mostly fine, anyway.

aftertheoutingAfter the Outing (Windows, free) - A short game of dialogue choices that features multiple endings. You're having a conversation with a rather unusual woman after losing to her in poker. You begin to suspect she's up to something, and through the art of conversation you can start to figure out what that is. Read carefully and choose between two options presented at each crossroads. You'll finish the game within a few minutes, but it's worth trying again just to see what else you can learn.

ozeanfaustOzeanFaust (Windows, free) - Inspired by Luftrauser, this intense quick-fire shmup lets you customize your ship before dumping you in the ocean to blast everything in sight. That "everything" includes submarines, fish, and the occasional naval mine, which will end your game immediately if you so much as brush against them. Fast-paced and intense, great for quick rounds!

robotpsychiatristRobot Psychiatrist (Windows, free) - The field of robot psychiatry is... well, it exists, apparently. At least, it does in this game. This comedit pseudo-adventure game puts you in the wheels of Dr. Robowitz, robot psychiatrist, who just wants to make the world a better place. Giving lectures, helping robots, prescribing Bokzicodone... the usual sort of thing! If you experience pain that's painful, the doc can help you out. If you're a robot.


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Steps

JohnBSteps is an experimental iPad game made by Seph Li and Yangzi She. Inspired by taking a walk (you know, in the real world), Steps came about as a sort of two-fingered virtual exploration game designed to share the experiences you have when meandering around the world. There are no puzzles to solve or enemies to fight, just some sights to see, some postcards to uncover, and new roads to travel down.

StepsIn Steps, use alternating touches to move along the on-screen path. It's best to make a little person with your hand and actually walk on the screen, but if you want to use your toes or whatever, we're not gonna stop you. As you head along each road, new sights crop up along the side, decorating the landscape with simple objects to brighten your day. The path occasionally forks and asks you to pick a direction. You don't know what waits at the end of either road, but then again, it's the same way when you wander through a new part of the neighborhood, isn't it?

Steps is a minimalist game at best. It's not designed to challenge or stump you with puzzles. It's a simple artistic statement that says each road you take is different, the only real common element is yourself. Relax, set your iPad on a table, and go on a virtual tour through the park.

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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Heroes of Sokoban III: The Bard and the Druid

TrickySo there was this game, Heroes of Sokoban, where red warriors, green thieves and blue wizards quested for doors in their own special way. Then, there was Heroes of Sokoban II, where the red warriors, green thieves and blue wizards faced off against dragons and goblins with the help of their new ally: yellow priest. Now, however, many centuries have passed. The dragons have died out, and in their place new heroes have arisen. Now comes their chance to occupy a few doors, in Heroes of Sokoban III: The Bard and the Druid, a new level pack in Jonah Ostroff's series of Puzzlescript-powered Sokoban puzzles. With the [arrow] keys Warriors push crates, sticky-fingered Thieves pull them along, Wizards swap places with the first obstacle in the direction he's heading, and Priests are immune to monster attacks and protect adjacent allies. You switch between the heroes with [spacebar], trying to navigate all heroes onto does without killing them. There will be buttons that open closed paths, that shut just as quickly when who or what is standing on them are removed, deadly goblins who kill upon contact (including each other), and doors that refuse to open until all monsters are gone.

Heroes of Sokoban IIIThe new allies have quite the abilities though: First, there is Purple Bard. When you control Purple Bard, his charms crates, monsters, and allies within two spaces horizontally, vertically or diagonally. They will attempt to mirror the bard's movements when charmed, though, of course, this will be affected by obstacles standing in their way. Then, there is Orange Druid, who can turn wood into stone and stone into wood by touching it. Or rather, movable blocks into immovable blocks and immovable blocks into movable blocks. These new heroes definitely make for some clever puzzles and complications, and while the learning curve for the new elements is quite reasonable, new players will want to get up to speed with the earlier installments first. Still a six person adventuring party makes for a great sokoban party, and hopefully this sokoban party won't stop!

Play Heroes of Sokoban III: The Bard and the Druid


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Link Dump Fridays

DoraHalloween is just around the corner, and this week's Link Dump Friday serves up three seasonal games that are juuuuuuuust a little bit creepy without actually being scary, and a whole bunch of stuffed animals to cuddle up with in case they freak you out anyway.

  • Monster ManorMonster Manor - Ain't much spooky or even spoopy about this charming little Halloween advergame where you play a series of reverse hidden-object scenes, figuring out where each item in your inventory belongs on the screen before you. Minus some unintuitive object placement and the misplacement penalties, but it's got a great style and charm for Halloweenies looking for something seasonal without much scare.
  • PlushPlush - You can't save in this free version of redheadgames' charming physics puzzle, but that's just fine. The goal is to rearrange each stuffed toy on the bed so it's happy before you can sleep, but the catch is that certain toys have different specifications, such as only being near another type of toy, or not having anything around it at all. It's a little slow to escalate, and the physics can feel overly fiddly at times, but it's just the ticket if you want something simple and cuddly rather than demanding.
  • Zombie Goes UpZombie Goes Up - Neutronized delivers a simple yet ghoulishly cute arcade game about guiding a zombie around hazards as it tunnels up from its grave to the surface where luscious brains await. Man, if this is the sort of thing a zombie goes through to finally claw its way out of the soil, it almost makes you feel bad for immediately double-tapping them and sending them back down. Almost.
  • Vortex Point 3Vortex Point 3 - Blink and you'll miss the third installment in Carmel Games's point-and-click adventure game series, but any excuse to solve a mystery, even an easy one, is a good excuse. When people begin spreading rumours about a monster in the local lake, you'll need a cheeseburger, a clogged toilet, and an enormous fish to get to the bottom of things. Though a little too short and easy, the game features logical puzzles and the quirky sense of humour you've come to expect... just not a lot of bells and whistles.

(3 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Fright Heights

JohnBFright Heights is a speed-oriented logic puzzle game created by The REDspace. The goal is to scare all the pesky humans out of your nice, shadowy hotel. You do this by placing various spooks equipped with number grids in each room, overlapping values to produce the desired level of fright. Once the quota has been reached, get ready for some screaming former guests!

Fright HeightsThe left side of the screen produces ghosts and humans at random, simply tap to place them in rooms, making careful note of the numbers surrounding each ghost. The number on the right side of the house denotes how many fright points you must accumulate to scare the people on that floor away. To reach that number, make sure a overlapping ghost numbers intersect with enough people. It makes a lot more sense in practice, so the best way to learn everything is just to dive in and start placing. Later in the game you get to unleash special talismans that grant you powerful ghosts, which is as useful as it is fun!

Fright Heights is just a ghost's hair away from being an extremely clever and unique logic puzzle game. It's hard not to look at the IAP system and blame that for pulling it from the mark, but there are a few other features that indicate it's more than just microtransactions. For example, the random distribution of ghosts/people can paint you into a corner once you reach the top floors of a mansion. It's part of the game to experience failure, as it encourages you to plan more efficiently, but in the case of Fright Heights, those failures seem to occur even when you're at the top of your game. This is mitigated with the use of talismans, but then you bump into the IAP quandary again.

The best way to enjoy Fright Heights is to sit back and take things casually. Strategies will form as you play, talismans will become less necessary, and even troublesome floors with missing rooms won't bother you. It's a simple, creative puzzle game with catchy visuals and addictive gameplay that's enjoyable for all types of players.

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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Even Up

HopefulNebula Sometimes the biggest challenges come from games with very few rules. It's the principle behind sudoku and the driving force behind those sliding block puzzles with the numbers 1-15. In his latest game, Kurt Beig of Simple Machine has taken inspiration from both of these in creating Even Up, his new game for iOS and Android.

Even UpThe object of the game is simple: slide all the numbered tiles together until there's only one left. You can only combine tiles with equal numbers, and when they combine, the number on the new tile will increase by 1. If you combine a pair of 2s, you get a 3, and so on. Tap any tile to see where it can go, and swipe to move it in that direction (or tap again to deselect it). That's all there is, and that's more than enough to keep even the most avid puzzle fiend busy.

Even Up features 125 levels of various sizes, and you get a star for each one you complete. The first few puzzles are easy enough, and as the game progresses, they become more difficult. It's a good thing there's an "undo" button. Passing each level doesn't feel like a chore, though: once you've unlocked a level set by earning the specified number of stars, you can solve the puzzles in any order. The interface is simple and bright, and moving tiles is a much more pleasant experience than it is with the metal 1-15 puzzles.

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 4.6/5
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Rating: 4.6/5 (794 votes)
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Lakeview Cabin

DoraPart horror game part comedy of errors, Roope Tamminen's puzzle game Lakeview Cabin at first seems like little more than a "quiet weekend simulator" as you guide a voiceless ginger-haired man around a quiet lakeside cottage. Use the [arrow] keys to move, [X] to interact and use or drop items you've picked up, and [Z] to pick up/throw items. You can also hit [R] to restart. The goal? Well... that takes a bit of exploration and experimentation, and the game offers virtually nothing in the way of direction or explanation to help you. As day turns to night and back again, you can trundle around chopping wood, annoying bees, wrestling with your obstinate rideable mower, even shucking off your clothes if you feel like it. After all, it's just you and nature out here, right? It's, like, all idyllic and jOH MY GOSH WHAT IS THAT

Lakeview CabinViolence aside, which is admittedly fairly gross in a way that I will detail in a spoilered comment below this article for those of you who have certain sensitivities, Lakeview Cabin's main problem isn't the frustrating aiming or the way you can't just sidestep certain hazards. It's that it has so many red herrings, intentionally so, and so few "right" solutions to surviving. The game frequently gives little feedback as to why something doesn't work, or whether you're making progress or not, and just as many players will find the deliberate trial-and-error design of the gameplay frustrating as those will appreciate the madcap challenge of it. There are multiple solutions to your "problems", at least. You'll initially have to wait two in game days for the pivotal moment to happen, and then the game will give you a means of triggering it yourself for when you inevitably have to retry. Winning actually only takes you a minute once you know what to do, but getting to that point sort of starts to feel like you're playing your own version of Supernatural's "Mystery Spot", only without the pig in a poke.

Still, despite the lack of text or outright exposition, I wouldn't call Lakeview Cabin without a narrative. There is a story, it's just contextual, gleaned from the details in your surroundings... like the photo above the bed, the alcohol lying around, the isolation... the sounds you hear when you think you're alone. If the ending were more satisfying, or satisfying at all given the disturbing things you're forced to do, Lakeview Cabin would be a great example of a horror story open to interpretation. But despite its flaws, its clever twist on the concept of a puzzle game wrapped inside a surprising and atmospheric experience is still worth checking out, and something I hope we see explored more in the future.

Play Lakeview Cabin


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Indigo Lake

JohnBIndigo Lake is a first person horror adventure created by 3 Cubes Research. You play the role of a paranormal investigator sent to check into the disappearance of Dr. Everett in an abandoned lake resort. Creepy, right? Armed with a simple pistol and a looming sense of fear, you'll explore a surprisingly large world stocked with mysteries and puzzles around every deeply shadowed corner.

Indigo LakeIndigo Lake's controls are fairly standard for a free-roaming first person mobile game. Use the left side of the screen to move, the right side to look around, and tap the screen to fire your weapon or take a closer look at certain objects. You're equipped with a spiffy headset that shows information about certain things in real-time, which is useful but it won't answer the more pressing questions like "what's up with that air piano?" or "why do those posts have numbers on them?" Rotating your device brings up the menu and objectives.

First person games haven't really found their footing with touch controls, but since Indigo Lake isn't about action, you'll find them good enough to get the job done. Indigo Lake is an exploration game first and a psychological horror game second. There's shooting, yes, but it's survival-based, not kill all the things-based. Puzzles are rather intelligent, if predictable, and the lighting and graphical effects really set the mood. Indigo Lake might not reinvent the horror game, but it's a respectable representative of the genre in an ecosystem that could use a lot more games of this nature.

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.


(18 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Vagabond

KimberlyFrom Zeuzie comes classic style RPG game Vagabond. As a young adventurer who often travels past what is considered reasonable, you discover the cursed land of Granti. While you poke around, looting every crate and chest in sight, you learn the only way to get back home is to defeat the evil in the land. There are many obstacles to overcome, but you have some help along the way, most notably in your companion, who's form changes over the course of the game.

VagabondAfter you answer several questions that determine which of the four classes you will be, you jump right into the story. Use the [arrow] keys to move, and [z] or [enter] to interact with items and people on the screen. Press [x] or [escape] to open the main menu where you can save your game (do it often!), examine your stats and items, and rearrange your skills. Press enter to select the category you want, [arrows] to navigate the menu, and [x] or [escape] to go back.

You'll want to thoroughly explore the world (you are an adventurer, after all), as you'll find many helpful items hiding everywhere. Along with weapons to equip, there are tomes and relics. Tomes affect your stats and allow access to different magic spells during battle when equipped. Relics have a wider range of effects, such as immunity to enemy stuns, or a higher chance of dodging an attack. You have six slots to equip tomes and relics, and it's a good idea to keep a variety of them on hand, as you'll sometimes want to swap things around depending on your enemy. You'll also find things called stones, which are single use items which will permanently increase a certain stat.

Granti is divided into seven zones with varying lovely landscapes, different monsters, and enchanting music. Each zone holds many secrets and quests, including a main boss, and an elusive shapeshifter who will teach you new and useful skills. It's clear a lot of work has been put into making each area distinct, which makes exploring every nook and cranny that much more enjoyable, though there's not a detailed map to help you with this. Vagabond isn't linear, allowing you to discover things at your own pace. An item found early on lets you to warp back to the gates that connect the zones, where you can rest and fully recover your health for free. This allows for worry free gameplay, making Vagabond a great game for the casual player.

WindowsWindows:
Get the full version

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


  • Currently 3.9/5
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Rating: 3.9/5 (26 votes)
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exposure

kyhA test subject's life is never calm. If it weren't enough that Test Subject Blue and Test Subject Green were forced to battle it out for the amusement of the ever present scientists, now the overseers have decided to enter into the mix for themselves. In Nitrome's latest entry in the series, Test Subject Arena 2, up to four local players can duke it out for supremacy with eight characters, each with their own stats, to choose from. But how can four people crowd around just one keyboard?! Why, with Nitrome's own Touchy app, the extra two people that you don't want touching your shoulders can sit a comfortable distance away and still control their creatures. With this addition of more shooting goodness to share with friends, those of us who are loners can also enjoy a single-player option involving shooting targets and collecting keycards. But, really, I think we'd all rather stand over someone in victory, so don't be afraid to ask the person sitting next to you in the computer lab if they'd like to play an innocent, little game. They'll never know what hit them!

Play Test Subject Arena 2


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The Vault

TrickyOkay. I think I have this all planned out: first I'll rig the motion detector to turn off the lights. Then, when the guard goes to flip the switch, I'll duck behind him into the elevator. I've rigged the light switch open the door on the second floor, and the I walk through it to the stairs, the security camera will register my presence, opening the door on the third floor that I've rigged it to, slamming into the guard as he walks by. Then, a few more sound detectors, hacked laptops, and entirely necessary leaps through panes of glass, and I'll finally, finally, be able to walk through the door of the JiG Vault! Jeez. Next time I'm just going to borrow that stungun cane from that crumpled-fedora guy. This week, we've got a trio top-notch platform, adventure, and shooter games from our archives and, thanks to my careful planning, they shouldn't set off any alarms! I think.

  • Apples in the TreeApples in the Tree - With Tim Burton dedicating himself to remaking his own movies, and Jhonen Vasquez having started an exciting new career as a professional Invader Zim-fan troller, there is a definite need for a creator of stark-yet-charming, color-desaturated characters to put on the sweatshirts of disaffected youth. If this 2010 platform game is any indicator, MasterMerol is a perfect applicant for the job. All snarkiness aside, the world created in Apples in the Tree makes for a marvelous encounter, with creativity bursting from the secrets to be unlocked in every screen. Games that reward exploration and experimentation are to be cherished, and the not-too-spooky world of Apples in the Tree is one of the greats
  • Do You Have A Grudge?Do You Have A Grudge? - Apart from Bond, Riddick, and, uh, Ecks/Sever, film license games proving as entertaining as the the movie that preceded them are rare, especially in the browser window. 2004's Do You Have a Grudge? is a nice exception. Building from the psychological tension of the J-Horror-remaking SMG-starring horror-film that inspired it, Do You Have a Grudge? takes players through a list of daily chores turned horribly wrong. It may show it's age in a few of the game mechanics (be sure to keep moving!), but overall it is still a demented and disorienting trip even nine years later.
  • Postal PanicPostal Panic - We don't get the chance to go postal nearly as often as we should. Fortunately, the frantic action of this 2008 shooter by Isaac Williams is here to fill that void. With its inventive enemies, comedic storyline, and happy retro aesthetic, Postal Panic makes delivering missives into the epic it was always meant to be. A side-scrolling shoot-em-up that will appeal to both fans and un-fans of the genre, neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night should keep you from checking this one out.

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


  • Currently 4.4/5
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Rating: 4.4/5 (130 votes)
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Escape from the Happy Coin Room

elleOver the past few years, fans of Tesshi-e have admired the view from a wide array of whimsical rooms, woobled the frames of numerous artworks and met many charmingly coy friends who want nothing more than to lock us up. All in good fun, of course! Along the way, the joy of playing a Tesshi-e escape game has always been happily punctuated by the exclamation: "Out, and with the happy coin!" Now, experience memories of happy coins past. Search through two windowless rooms, solving puzzles and gathering seven different coins in order to Escape from Happy Coin Room.

Escape from Happy Coin RoomIt's the usual scenario and mode of play: you're stuck in a room without a key to the door so click around to investigate everything you see. Click the sides and bottoms of the screen to turn or back up. Although there is no changing cursor, you shouldn't experience any "pixel hunts," just keep a sharp eye out for suspicious looking objects and areas. Once you acquire an item, use one click to ready it for use, then click where you want to put it, or double-click to open its detail screen and examine it more closely or use other items on it. All this will be second nature for anyone who's familiar with point-and-click games.

Your biggest trouble, if it comes, will come early on. Tesshi-e uses a rather sneaky tactic for presenting a clue, one that may be predicated on frustration or, perhaps, stubborn clicking. The concept itself isn't a bad one; it's kind of clever, really, like a little wink and encouraging smile. Truthfully, a toddler presented with such a device could discover quickly, through experimental playing, just what needs be discovered. But in this case, the trick feels a bit unfair. So here's your hint: don't just poke once or twice, shrug and move on. Play it up! After overcoming those sly parts, your Escape from Happy Coin Room will be smooth going. Puzzles are tinged with just enough difficulty to intrigue while being intuitive enough to keep things so enjoyable, you'll forgive Tesshi-e's little shenanigans by the time you leave. When it's all between good friends, after all, who can hold grudges?

Play Escape from Happy Coin Room


  • Currently 3.9/5
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Rating: 3.9/5 (23 votes)
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Alex

DoraHolger Borum calls puzzle game Alex a "a four dimensional system represented in two dimensions". Reading that admittedly caused me to make my confused Scooby-Doo noise, but it turns out in practice, it's actually not all that mysterious. Maybe a little tricky, but not as bizarre as it sounds. As our blocky hero descends deeper into a series of caves he discovers beneath an idyllic meadow, because everyone knows the first thing you do when you find mysterious holes is throw yourself into them, you use [WASD] to move him around each area... and the [arrow] keys to make him transfer over into the next portion of the grid, aiming for the hole to get to the next level. With me so far? Well, when you start having to deal with, essentially, two versions of the same stage at once with two versions of Alex that move at the same time. Both need to have a clear path to move, and the one on the left uses an opposite control scheme... meaning, [WASD] will transfer him to a new grid square while [arrows] are what moves him around the one he's in. The [spacebar] will cause the two heroes to swap positions.

Confused yet? Well, don't be. As weird as it is to describe, Alex is one of those games where a few seconds of fiddling around will bring clarity even if the game itself actually explains very little. It feels very experimental, with its clever concept and lack of bells and whistles... which isn't necessarily a bad thing, though I could have done with a mute button given how short and annoying the level soundtrack loops are after a while. The level construction is actually a nice blend of simplistic and challenging, but for some players the way it simply sits back and folds its arms, forcing you to figure out the rules and restrictions of movement, is going to be more frustrating than a fun exercise in discovery. Still, it's a good idea even if it feels a little rough around the edges, and if you're looking for the sort of puzzle game that only seems easy and doesn't dress itself up, Alex is well worth checking out.

Play Alex


  • Currently 4.7/5
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Rating: 4.7/5 (23 votes)
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Paint it Back

JohnBPaint it Back is a picross game from Casual Labs that aims for ease of use and an attractive presentation. It scores well on both of these fronts, toning down the difficulty just a touch in favor of inviting new players into the world of nonograms. Expect lots of crazy paintings, a handful of achievements, and many hours of staring at the screen wondering which block to fill next.

Paint it BackIf you're new to picross, the basics are really easy to pick up. Similar to sudoku in some ways, these logic puzzles combine clues with a grid of squares, each of which can be filled or marked out with a quick tap on the screen. The numbers at the top and left sides of the grid indicate the number of blocks that need to be filled. What they don't tell you is how many empty spaces there are between the filled blocks. For example, if a row says "3 1 2", you know you'll fill a group of three blocks in a row, a single block, and two blocks. At least one space must go between each group, and by using logic you can gradually narrow down the possibilities until a picture emerges.

The story in Paint it Back involves a ghost scaring away the beautiful images hanging in a gallery. It's your job to repaint them to restore their former glory. Fortunately, a masterpiece is only a grid away! The controls are as easy as tapping squares to fill or mark them as "do not fill". Switch between paint styles at the bottom of the screen. You aren't penalized for incorrectly painted squares, so take your time and don't make wild guesses. This is a game of logic, even when you're puzzling away on a 30x30 portrait that's split between zoomable sections of screen.

Paint it Back is a free download that features a small chunk of the game's full set of puzzles. The full version contains 140 paintings spread across more than a dozen rooms. You can nab them all for a single IAP or buy them piecemeal. Either way, it's one of the few picross games on the mobile market that's actually worth your time and mental energy. Grab it and get to solving!

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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Mobile Monday

JohnBA bundle for iOS games? Yeah, is true! Usually it's PC gamers and Android owners who get all the discountey goodness, but now iPhone and iPad users get to cash in on the fun!

angrygo-p.gifAngry Birds Go (karting) - Team Rovio announced recently the Angry Birds will be making an arcade racing debut in the form of Angry Birds Go on December 11th. Think Mario Kart with a little more dynamism, featuring the birds and the piggies and a whole lot of action. We have a couple of concerns about the title, however. Namely the fact that Angry Birds Go was, according to Rovio, "...built from the ground up as a free-to-play title". There's also a focus on real-world toy integration via Telepods, allowing you to purchase toys and "scan" them into the game to unlock additional content. Translation: spend money. Hopefully the team won't botch the IAPs and the birds will make a gentle transition to the world of racing.

trouserhart-p.gifTrouserheart on Android - Weeks after its iOS launch, 10tons has pushed the action RPG game Trouserheart onto Android devices via the Amazon Appstore! Waking up from a peaceful nap, King Trouserheart finds his trousers have been stolen. Where can they be? Venture out across the kingdoms, fighting blockolds, tentacles, derp kinghts, jelly cubes and other peculiar adversaries to find and reclaim the kidnapped pants. As you defeat foes, collect money and use it to upgrade your weapon, armor, shield and wallet in this hack'n'slash RPG adventure geared toward the casual player as well as the seasoned gamer.

ibundle-p.gifIndie iPhone bundle - Mobile gamers want bundles, too! Following the indie bundling craze, Thumb Arcade has launched a bundle containing ten iPhone/iPad games for $5. Among the titles available are Forever Lost: Episode 1 and IncrediBlox, two games that are worth the asking price alone, which is the equivalent of an 80% discount, in case you were wondering. That's pretty hard to argue with if you like games and fun and stuff. A portion of the proceeds even goes to charity! Grab it before October 31st.


  • Currently 4/5
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Rating: 4/5 (101 votes)
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Three Cats in Halloween

SonicLoverIt's Halloween, and everyone's out trick-or-treating, including Japanese developer Choko-Chai's trademark three cats. When they visit the wrong house and end up locked inside, though (you'd think they'd have learned something from the passenger ship incident), it's time once again for them to escape. Hence, a moody Halloween escaper by the name of Three Cats in Halloween.

Three Cats in HalloweenNavigation is mouse-only, as per usual: click on things to zoom in on or interact with them, and on the little white arrows to look around. Click inventory items to highlight them, then on the environment to use them, or on "About" to examine them up close. Some problems can only be solved with the special abilities of the three cats, so click the cat in the lower left to call them onto the screen if applicable, then pick the relevant cat and the trouble area. The "Save" button is self-explanatory (and useful if you're going for both of two endings).

Choko-Chai's games have a charm all their own; the puzzles are neither too challenging nor too easy, there's a changing cursor right where it counts, the cats' animated antics are hard to tire of, and the one time there's a puzzle that requires knowledge of something Japanese, the creator provides a Wikipedia link. The 3-D rendered environment makes an odd contrast with the flat-colored cats, considering that CC usually keeps the two separate, but that's easy to overlook.

If you're looking for an easy yet challenging escape game to lure you into the Halloween season, well, this is it. Trick or treat!

Play Three Cats in Halloween


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Rating: 4.2/5 (26 votes)
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Draw the Line!

HopefulNebula Do you remember those puzzles where you have to trace an image without lifting the pencil or retracing your steps? Draw the Line isn't one of those, no matter how much it seems like it is. In Draw the Line, you're given a shape much like the ones from the tracing puzzles, but your goal is to cross each line exactly once. If you cross a line twice, or if your own line overlaps itself, you have to go back.

Draw the Line! The first set of 15 levels is fairly easy, but later levels introduce more complicated puzzles and elements like teleporters and double walls. If you finish a level in a cell with a star in it, you finish with honors, which help you earn trophies. The Time Trial mode lets you pit your skills against your friends or compare yourself to the world. The graphics in Draw the Line are clean and smooth (well, as smooth as chalk lines can be), and the puzzles are varied and deceptively tricky. Though it starts slowly, it builds up to become an engaging game that's frustrating in the best of ways.

Play Draw the Line!

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


  • Currently 4.3/5
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Rating: 4.3/5 (50 votes)
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Happydemic

elleLiving their city lives uneventfully, all seemed to be going well for the gray dudes. Until one of them came down with a highly contagious bout of happiness! Now, anyone the infected comes in contact with will also be glowing orange with glee. You, too, can spread the Happydemic in this catchy physics puzzle. Use a well-planned and carefully timed sequence of clicks to break blocks, dropping, rolling or propelling the happy characters toward the sad ones, being careful to not fall out of sight. Also beware of the evil guys, who are nothing but downers; remove them from the scene before they touch anyone else with their doom and gloom.

Here, Monzazart deftly created a comfortable user interface and reliably logical physics, assembling cut-the-rope-like puzzles with some flavors of Bristlies and Let It Glow stirred in. It may not be as cute or unique, but it does have a zippy mood to elevate the casual mode of gameplay. With 28 stages plus a puzzle to complete, the challenge ramps up slowly but progressively enough to remain interesting throughout. Happydemic works well as a coffee break filler or boredom killer or anytime you want to just, um, chill-er.

Play Happydemic


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Weekend Download

JohnBWe're really arting up the place this weekend. Three games, three themes, and countless ways to interpret each of them (well, except maybe our stoat friend). Not for the faint at heart or the lazy of mind, unless you just want to wander around surreal worlds with no idea what's going on.

thejunkieThe Junkie (Windows, free) - An abstract 3D adventure game created by Vladeta Stojanovic that puts you in the shoes of a nameless drug addict wandering the streets. You're looking for a dealer character so you can score your next hit, but that can be difficult seeing as how almost nothing makes sense in this nameless city. When you do find him, tap the [spacebar] and your perception shifts to a world the more drug-addled mind might see. A very surreal, somewhat depressing game, but it conveys its emotion and message very effectively.

eattEat All the Things (Mac/Win/Linux, free) - An exercise in creative chaos as told by Alex Myers through the window of epistemology, human growth and development, and, well, eating all the things. Much like Octodad or QWOP, you're given an unusually precise set of controls and have a simple goal to complete. In this case, you're moving your fingers, elbow, wrist and thumb to scoop things out of a bowl and bring them to your chomping mouth at the front of the screen. Open the download page and keep the controls list handy while you try to eat something. Anything. Or are you just munching on your fingers?

stoatStoat Adventure (Windows, pay what you want) - Styled like an old Mac Classic game, Stoat Adventure is the perfect quickplay time-killer arcade game. Starring a stoat, a small weasel native to North America and Eurasia, your only goal is to grab as much dinner as you can before the computer runs out of memory, ending your game. Press [x] to jump and [z] to stoat, which simply means you warble around like a crazy moon monkey. No walking, just careful arcade platforming, all in the name of food.


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Rating: 4.6/5 (148 votes)
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The Last Door: Chapter 2

DoraContinuing directly where the first chapter of The Game Kitchen's point-and-click horror adventure game left off, The Last Door: Chapter 2 finds our hero worse off than before. Plagued by strange dreams that his visits to a therapist only seem to make worse, he continues his quest to find out what went so horrifyingly wrong with his childhood friend Anthony. He returns to the boarding school he and Anthony once attended together only to find it now converted into a church, but inside he may find more secrets than sanctuary. Just click to walk around, and when the cursor changes, you can click to interact. Items will be automatically added to your inventory when you get them, and you can click on them to select, and then again in the scene wherever you'd like to use them.

The Last Door: Chapter 2Chapter 2 brings a few gameplay improvements over the original, perhaps most noticeably being a faster walk speed players will appreciate. The conversations are a nice touch that help shed light on characters and establish tone, despite being rather flowery and elaborate, but most dialogue options seem perfunctory when you simply have to exhaust them or pick the right one without consequences for the wrong one to advance. What hasn't changed is the game's fantastic atmosphere (and yes, there are still jump scares), though this chapter is a bit more slowly paced and devoted to foreshadowing early on as you explore the school and learn more about the people now living there. It's a bit longer than its predecessor, largely because so much time is spent exploring and talking to people, and while the mood remains ominous, it's not quite the tense crawl the original offered. At least... not right away.

The Last Door: Chapter 2 contains content some players may find upsetting, though perhaps not as much as chapter one's infamous opening scene, but play with caution and respect others' opinions when you voice your own. The game ends on a rather Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrel-y note, but ups the stakes considerably and expands the world (and the mystery behind it) in a compelling way. Eerie, unsettling, though still perhaps over too soon, The Last Door: Chapter 2 is a solid example of classic horror at work.

Play The Last Door: Chapter 2

Though Chapter Three has been released, it's currently only available to people who donate towards funding the next chapter in the series, and will be released freely for everyone when Chapter Four is released. The series will follow this release model until it's finished, and we will wait to cover each chapter until you can play it freely. "Enhanced" versions of each chapter containing sharper visuals and translation options are available on the site. More information is available here.


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Rating: 4.2/5 (136 votes)
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Device 6

elleWaking up inside a castle on a remote island, unsure of how she arrived or why that unusually unpleasant doll seems to be...watching her, Anna is filled with doubts. All she is certain of is that man in the bowler hat seems to have the answers, so she pursues him. You have been invited along, too, dear player, welcomed inside as Simogo's valued guests to playtest and experience Device 6. Turning conventions sideways and upside down, the written word is your map as well as your host in this remarkably unique, originally designed and bizarrely surreal narrative puzzle adventure. Everything here—design, interactions, graphics and sounds—is part of the game.

Device 6After an opening sequence that's deliciously similar to that of a James Bond film, the first thing you notice about Device 6 is its profusion of text. Tapping, dragging and turning your mobile device, follow the narration as if down a path, though, and it feels truly like you're playing a point-and-click game. Is it a game? Or did you somehow wind up inside Simogo's psychological testing facilities, caught unawares? You're expected to play with format and structure, manipulating what you read, see and hear, as you seek out solutions and gather information requisite to carrying on. Three-dimensional photographs not only illustrate and punctuate the narrative, they also serve as puzzle input terminals. Clues are found by reading the text and studying the images or sometimes presented to you in audio clips. To make any sense of it, you'll have to stop to think and consider fully what you've just experienced. A bit of backtracking is required as well while you make computations and deductions. Keep nearby a pen and paper—or a friend to act as your secretary—among the feats you'll need to accomplish: sifting through the beautifully useless to find the disturbingly useful.

Device 6Analysis: I suspect that, by describing Device 6, I might be taking something away from your experience of it. Walking blind into this creatively interactive slice of art and amusement, no pre-conceived notions or opinions, is probably to your advantage. In which case, perhaps you should stop reading this review and return later to compare how your own assessment matches up with mine. I'll wait here until your return; it should take only a couple hours to complete the experimen...um, experience.

If you are not fond of reading mystery novellas, that shouldn't put you off from this game but it could be a hindrance. Likewise, as some clues are presented in the audio clips, you might not hear a needed bit of information and find yourself frustrated. Not all, but most solutions can only be found through combining various elements. It makes you think but it does make you feel quite good about doing it. Because there's minimal guidance regarding what to do or how to go on, many puzzles feel obscure and abstruse. That is until, you suddenly notice, the answer's staring directly at you and wearing a patiently polite smile. It's very gratifying to unravel these brain prickling riddles plus, after each of the six chapters the game engages you in a direct conversation, wanting to know how you feel and think, genuinely interested in you. We all love that feeling of being center stage, no? Yet there is a level of discomfort to go along with it, plus plenty of ironic pokes at the fourth wall that are surprisingly effective. This is probably because Device 6 is immensely artistic, yet humbly so, in that it welcomes you inside its fancy parlor and carries you around on its shoulders like an overly chummy old relative, coming too closely into your personal space while continually flattering you with compliments and courtesy.

Device 6 serenades you with song, woos you with images and poetry, bribes you with points and the desire to know just...why. In the end, will you leave as either a doubter or a believer? Whatever it is, this highly engaging game is expert at doing it.

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


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Rating: 4.5/5 (58 votes)
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Final Charge

ArtbegottiYour rocket lands with a crash in a strange place. It looks like it might've been a city many centuries ago, but now the land is strewn with radioactive hazards and dangerous traps. Your goal is to activate the beacons and clean up the radioactivity, but what will be come of your work? That's the big question in Final Charge, a basic but challenging platformer by Kebabs.

Final ChargeOnce you exit the spaceship, you can move around using the [left] and [right] arrow keys and [Z] to jump, double-jump while in mid-air, and jump off of walls you're clinging to. All of these skills will be quite helpful while you dodge many things that can kill you, such as pools of radioactive slime, electrified walls, piercing drill bits, searing laser beams, auto-turrets, cannons, mechanical bugs, and no less than four varieties of electrocution. If you can make it past all that, you can hit the purple beacons to turn them blue and make the world a slightly better place. (And if you need a reminder of what the world looks like, you can use [M] to open up your map, but you have to activate at least one beacon in the sector to reveal the map.)

Final Charge is a straight-forward platformer where you've got all your skills upfront. There's no messing about with power-ups or upgrades or weapons, just jump around and try not to die. But while its design is very simple, the gameplay is still very challenging. The cleverly-designed maze of a world is sure to keep even seasoned platformer veterans searching for the path to a missed beacon somewhere two floors above you. Can you rid all sixteen sectors of radioactivity? Grab your final charge and find out.

Play Final Charge


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Link Dump Fridays

DoraYou want random? Oh, I'll give you random! This week on Link Dump Friday, a group of bloodthirsty harvesters comes to life on a farm, a little worm thing goes on a bizarre adventure to bulk up in the strangest way, a ship overtaken by devouring pink goo, and a machine that knows every movie ever... maybe!

  • Harvest EscapeHarvest Escape - For this year's Indie Speed Run, Dom2D, Technobeanie and Ian Girard were given a theme and an element ("agriculture" and "engine") and 48 hours, and the result is this simple yet charming puzzle game about farming machinery coming to life. Your goal is to drag and drop your characters to a safe spot on the grid before the harvesters begin moving... and even though they can only move in a straight line, elements like exploding barrels means finding safety in under ten seconds is more challenging than you'd think. It needs a bit more to make it playable beyond a few minutes, but with a quirky concept and a great presentation, it's cute as the dickens. Provided your idea of dickens involves bloody chunks and death metal.
  • DerelictDerelict - Has there ever been a time when AI in a science fiction setting wasn't a bad idea bound to end in death and grossness? Created for this year's Asylum Jam in 48 hours, Anshul Goyal and Shayna Moon deliver a surprisingly creepy experience as you control a crewmember woken up from stasis aboard a spaceship to discover disgusting fleshy goo everywhere and the AI apparently having turned against you. Just click and hold to make your character move towards your mouse. It's a great idea and has a stellar atmosphere, though the lack of better explanation winds up hurting it... when you're unable to move, for example, you need to use your mouse to click and drag or otherwise manipulate things, not that the game tells you that. Still, it's a great example of how unsettling horror can be without a lot of blood and violence.
  • My Little GyonyMy Little Gyony - "Hmmmm", I said, playing Barbarageo's bizarre little adventure game, narrowing my eyes as my flying worm stole kitty ears off a cat to give to the sad girl on its back, "hmmmmmm." Made for yet another game jam, the whole point of this very silly and very weird game is to travel around Gyony-Ville, gathering up items in the proper order to unlock yet more items and bling out your... gyony... in the most elaborate fashion possible. It doesn't make a whole lot of sense, but that would probably matter a lot less if not for the ridiculously short and increasingly annoying MIDI loop you can't shut off, which is the worst... possible... THING.
  • FilmillionFilmillion - A movie-centric take on popular webtoy Akinator? Hmmm... sure, why not! Filmillion will ask you thirty questions and then theoretically be able to guess what movie you were thinking about based on yes/no/maybe/dunno answers. Sometimes it works, but often the odd phrasing or vagueness in the way it poses its questions gets in the way, likely a result of users being able to input their own questions as well as their own movies, or simply because a lot of movies feature themes and concepts that are hard to give a simple yes or no to.

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Rating: 4.6/5 (38 votes)
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The Stanley Parable

DoraIn Galactic Cafe's strange indie experimental unique adventure game The Stanley Parable you are Stanley. ... sort of. Stanley works happily day after day in his office pushing buttons in the order dictated to him by his faceless employers, never questioning, never worrying or wondering. To him, this is what he was made to do, even if to anyone else it might be soul-crushingly boring and unfulfilling. But one day, Stanley realises nobody has given him any new orders, and in fact, he hasn't seen a single soul all day. Venturing out and guided only by an unseen narrator who seems to know everything Stanley does (or should do) before he does it, Stanley finds only empty corridors, vacant offices, and a variety of novelty coffee mugs. Where is everyone? Should he just go back to his desk and wait? Or maybe it's time to make some decisions of his own for the very first time... no matter how small and inconsequential they seem.

The Stanley ParableUse [WASD] to move, click to interact, and use the mouse to look around, while [ESC] opens the pause menu. You can follow the directions and instructions given to you by the narrator... or not, as you see fit. Once you choose one path, however, the other usually closes itself off to you. If you die, something that is entirely possible as you explore and experiment with your freedom (or even follow directions), you'll be booted right back to Stanley's desk to start again. Don't worry. It won't take you long to get back to where you were... or perhaps to try something else and see what happens.

The Stanley ParableAnalysis: If you need yet another example of why some of the best, most innovative and surprising games around can be found only in the indie community, you need to check this game out. The Stanley Parable is one of those games that's hard to review largely because to describe what, precisely, makes it so incredibly funny, mysterious, and even moving would spoil the entire thing. I can, of course, talk about the basics, like the excellent atmosphere, an odd blend of mystery and delight pulling you ever forward. The game's omnipresent narrator is, more often than not, very funny thanks to a dry, matter-of-fact delivery as he comments on your every action. Because, despite what you might think, this game is full of choices, surprises, and secrets, and finding all of them is a delight.

The tone can vary significantly depending on where you go and how you go about it, and just when you think you've got the game pinned down it reveals another layer the next time you do something differently. Finishing the game in one way or another even changes things you've previously experienced in subtle ways, encouraging the sort of replay value and exploration most games can only dream of. Being kicked back to the beginning does start to get old after a while depending on what order you do things, since some variations can occur much farther down the path than others. Players who prefer their adventures a little more "use item on thinger" will definitely want to try out the game's unique demo, which will give you a feel for the way The Stanley Parable plays, if not divulge its mysteries.

Though The Stanley Parable might not be for everyone, or at least what everyone expects, it is something that deserves to at least be tried because I believe that given half a chance, it will compel and impress more people than you may think. It's funny, smart, cheeky, inventive, and memorable, and has a lot to offer the imaginative gamer... no matter what you do, or don't, decide.

WindowsWindows:
Get the full version
Get the demo

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


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Rating: 3.7/5 (40 votes)
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Mosaic Mingle

ArtbegottiWhen all the colorful cool kids at the coffee klatsch create a conga line, you know they're concocting a crazy cotillion. But can you slide the squares in a sequence to spawn a specific shape? That's the challenge behind Mosaic Mingle, a puzzle game by Acoders where your goal is to rebuild an image one square at a time. It's not as easy as it sounds though, because the order of your tiles is restricted by a colorful conga line.

Mosaic MingleEach tile in the 8x8 mosaic must be slid in from one of the four sides. A tile will keep sliding until it runs into another tile or the edge of the grid. Click one of the outlined spaces in the grid to slide a tile into that spot. Your tiles are offered to you one at a time in the order indicated by the snaking line on the left, with your current tile at the top. The trick here is that the tiles aren't necessarily arranged in a pattern conducive to an easy solve. If you're not careful, you might block out tight corners in the grid, making it impossible to slide blocks into place.

After you've played through the levels in normal mode (where the squares are always in the same order, often in large color clusters), you can tackle them again in challenge mode where the squares are shuffled in a random order. There are 25 easy puzzles and 25 hard puzzles with more colors and trickier patterns to fill. For those who are colorblind, there is an option to add shapes to the tiles and grid, but the black/white icons aren't always the easiest to distinguish. But if you're looking for a puzzle that surprises you with a challenge, jump in the line and rock your mosaic in time!

Play Mosaic Mingle

10


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Rating: 4.4/5 (88 votes)
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10

TrickyHow can you not love the number 10? Fingers! Toes! Tiny Turtles Talking On The Telephone! And most importantly, 10 is the title of a new sliding-block puzzle game by iojoe. Mathematical! In each puzzle, you will be presented with a grid with several squares of numbers (positive or negative) on it. By clicking and dragging those squares, they will travel until they hit a wall or collide with another square. When two squares collide, their numbers are totaled into one new square. If the total is equal to 10, the square becomes an immovable block, but no square can have a total higher than 10. The goal is to combine all the squares on the board into 10s, without getting blocked in. And, with later additions like wormholes, the ten-ing will only get trickier with time!

1010 is a colorful and entertaining work whose gentle learning curve works up to some quite interesting puzzles, with the "undo" function keeping it from becoming too frustrating. Though the mental math required is not difficult, playing 10 definitely feels like the kind of brain-training that Nintendo's Floating-Japanese-Doctor-Head-Guy would approve of (not to mention giving a whole new appreciation for the arithmetic weirdness of "0" and negative numbers.) The free browser version offers 55 of the mobile version's 140 total levels, though expansions are currently planned. Anyone in search of a good little mind-twister, should definitely give it their full a-10-tion.

Play 10


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FIST OF AWESOME

JohnBHave you ever wanted to punch a bear in the mouth? The answer is "yes", and the method is FIST OF AWESOME, a sidescrolling mobile beat-em-up game from I Fight Bears that has as much punching, kicking, flannel references and badassery as the all-caps title hints at.

FIST OF AWESOMETim Burr is about to have a celebration, but then there's a crash and a rumble and suddenly everybody's gone and things are on fire. Tim's fist becomes sentient and informs him the timeline has been compromised. Animals run free as intelligent creatures, most of them functioning as demented combat fiends outside of Bearhattan. Oh, and bears are in charge of everything. Kinda makes dirty apes seem tame, doesn't it? Tim immediately sets out, as who wouldn't want to save the world by punching bears?

The controls in FIST OF AWESOME very elegantly translate 2.5D combat to the touch screen. Slide your finger on the left side of the screen to move, tap the right side to punch, and swipe sideways to kick. Swipe up to jump, chaining that with an air kick if you like, and swipe down to stomp on enemies who have fallen to the ground. You can even stun, pummel and toss foes! Between levels you can upgrade your health, power, speed or special moves, but apart from that it's pretty much just you and a fistful of bear fur.

FIST OF AWESOME restores the awesomeness that is old school sidescrolling beat-em-ups. From the graphics to the bear- and beard-centric sense of humor that's laced through just about every screen, you'll be captivated by the strange alternate world Tim finds himself stranded in. The gameplay sticks to the basics but still manages to be exciting and fresh, all thanks to the solid core mechanic of punching bears in the face.

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 3.5/5
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Rating: 3.5/5 (99 votes)
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Bring Me the Star

elleA girl (or a boy) sends a boy (or a girl) out on a quest: "Bring Me the Star," she may have said to him, "Prove your love!" Okay, he thinks, I see it over there. And he heads off after it only to find, once he reaches it, that it's only a piece, one of thirty-three pieces in fact. Thusly he goes on, using the [arrow] keys you guide the boy along a simple path, barring an obstacle to jump over here and there, a rather boring and unencumbered platform adventure by OneGoodGame so far. But the proof of one's heart is never easily done. Continually the journey is convoluted with mind-bending physics and strange puzzles to solve. The game may have been inspired by Neil Gaiman's fantasy novel, Stardust, as our hero's trials and tribulations seem to parallel the ever increasing perils that Tristran Thorn faces in his own quest for the star. Initially, as you play, you might question this assertion... delving further, the feats required to reach each star piece can be headache inducing.

Bring Me the Star It's fun to unlock the secrets of a particular obstacle, but it's not always such fun when repeated attempts at precision maneuvering get you no further ahead. That's aggravated by syrupy controls, which has its own purpose; there are times when the legless slide is just what you need to carry on. There are also times it seems to be messing with your mind! Down is up and up is down and just when you get used to one method, another is thrown at you (controlled by pressing [S]). The exploration-based gameplay suits the theme as much as the challenge does; it does quite a good job melding its allegory, music and blocky art to enhance the fun with atmosphere. You gotta suspect that any request that begins with "Bring me" has to mean trouble, but it's just the sort of dare that can't be refused.

Play Bring Me the Star


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Rating: 3.9/5 (154 votes)
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Dopaminium: The Heal Journey

Starchild What could be more terrifying than delving into your own mind and facing deeply rooted disorders you never knew you had? Dopaminium: The Heal Journey, a bizarre point-and-click puzzle game, takes you right into the middle of a mind riddled with everything from phobias to dementia, asking you to find the cure by putting bits of the broken psyche together. Come along then, but watch your step and leave all common sense at the door. You'll start out with an almost empty map of the brain. Portions of the map will gradually open, each with its own disorder which has to be cured. Every portion is one hand-drawn room, oppressive and chilling, but at the same time strangely intriguing. Your job is to find the right items (the cursor will change when you mouse over them) and then use them to interact with the objects in the room. The items will be stored in the inventory, which can be accessed by clicking on the little walking brain in the bottom right of the screen.

Dopaminium: The Heal JourneyHowever, the interaction is anything but straightforward since, for the most part, the game doesn't follow any perceptible reasoning. Asking yourself what a sick subconscious would do probably isn't high on your list of daily activities, so this gameplay aspect might be a little frustrating. Alternatively, you can pick up an item from your inventory and blindly wave it around the room, and it will glow blue when it hovers over the object it can interact with. This is not the most elegant of solutions, because it sort of does your job for you, but it can also be a relief if you get truly stuck. On the surface, Dopaminium: The Heal Journey can look rough or even devoid of meaning, but its surreal atmosphere and unhinged logic are striking symbols of a mind fighting its own demons. After all, part of the reason we are frightened or repulsed by its imagery might be that it hits a little too close to home.

Play Dopaminium: The Heal Journey

Thanks to Rookwings and Scott for sending this one in!


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The Vault

TrickyI'm afraid I haven't been able to join in the revelry held this week by most video game sites since, uh, I must confess that I've never played a Pokemon game. Unless Pokemon Snap counts. And I don't think it does. So instead, I'll bury the shame of my dearth of mythical-creature cockfighting training experience in this week's Vault selection of the very best adventure, platform, and action games from the JayIsGames archives. To play them is your rest test, to beat them is your cause!

  • Deep Chalk: First PhaseDeep Chalk: First Phase - Deep Chalk, a series of so-far four point and click adventure games created by Zack Livestone with the first being released in 2008, reminds one of what the world of Samorost would look like in the authors chose to indulge in eerily surreal pseudo-abstraction instead of twee organic mechanics. However, I happen to like eerily surreal pseudo-abstraction, and so I like Deep Chalk. Livestone creates a surprising amount of atmosphere in his stark monochromatic worlds using very little animation, and the sound design throughout is some of the best to be found in any casual game. The Deep Chalk series may be overshadowed a bit by similar, more-accessible works, but a playthrough definitely shows that the shadows is where it belongs.
  • Zombies Took My DaughterZombies Took My Daughter - In 2010, long before The Last of Us, Nerdook knew that players would fight through any obstacle if you engaged their parental instinct. The result was Zombies Took My Daughter, an action platformer that packs a punch, even on your thirtieth playthrough. The undead are almost secondary to the threat of the ticking clock, as you search block by block for your missing child before the ferry leaves and the city is nuked by the army. The randomly generated cities of Zombies Took My Daughter are filled with intriguing hints and clues concerning the apocalypse you are fighting through, but wisely they are left at the periphery: in the end, its you, your weapons, and the search. Sometimes that's enough for a horror masterpiece.
  • Four Second FirestormFour Second Firestorm - Perhaps it's the result of my extremely short attention span, but I've always had a soft place in my heart for microgames, and Four Second Firestorm, released in 2006 under the auspices of Jmtb02 as the third of the Four Second Series, is an excellent collection. 57 authors and 175 games show how well a collaboration can turn out when all the programmers and artists are firing on all cylinders. Whether you're dodging zeppelins, exploding balloons, catching flies or turning a baby into a hobo, you'll be enjoying yourself four seconds at a time.

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


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Rating: 3.7/5 (32 votes)
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Desert Hike EX

Starchild What do Burning Man, baby carrots found in abandoned vans and Bitcoins have in common? Why, Desert Hike EX, of course. This text-based adventure by Twinbeard Studios is a devious little parody of the Internet-based life forms that some of us are, with an additional pinch of nerdiness for extra humour value. A few years from now, this game will be a veritable time capsule, reminding us of simpler times, when everyone was still using Twitter and we didn't have jetpacks.

Desert Hike EX You and your Silicon Valley friends are forced to march through the desert back to San Francisco, because someone made off with your car and money. You start out in a group of five, with fifty Bitcoins and some food. The road is long and dangerous, and you have to keep your friends fed and their morale high. Little random events will pop up now and again, most of which will give you several options to choose from by typing the number next to the option. The events influence your stats and play on delightfully geeky stereotypes, as you try to impress potential investors with your glorious ideas of social networks for parrots or code your way out of a dead end. Besides the multiple choice events, there is a mini-game, in which you have to sneak past people you meet along the way, from hitmen to sunbathing Canadians (?!). If you lose the mini-game, one of your friends dies, but hey, that means you'll have one fewer mouth to feed. Desert Hike EX varies in length, depending on your choices and luck, but it's certainly worth replaying a few times, just for the sheer hilarity of the story, not to mention the challenge of keeping the whole group alive until the end. You might even come up with a pitch for the next big thing. Smartphones for pugs? Self-playing mobile farm simulation? Anyone?

Play Desert Hike EX


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Rating: 4.5/5 (22 votes)
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Heroes of Sokoban II: Monsters

ArtbegottiAll y'all played Heroes of Sokoban, right? You know, the game with the warrior, the thief, and the wizard on the hunt for treasured doors? The dungeons were peaceful before, but now you've got to match wits with goblins and dragons in Heroes of Sokoban II: Monsters, a continuation of the Sokoban puzzle game by Jonah Ostroff using the PuzzleScript engine.

Heroes of Sokoban II: MonstersAs before, you've got to navigate your band of adventurers (using the [arrow] keys to move and [X] to switch between your characters) to the exits, bearing in mind your players' quirky personalities (the warrior can push objects, the thief can only pull objects, and the wizard swaps places with objects). However, dungeons are now littered with goblins that instantly kill you if you move into an adjacent square and dragons that kill you if you move into the line of fire (pun intended) to the left or right of them. Monsters can hurt each other though, so you need to figure out how to move monsters out of the way or trick them into killing each other, especially when an M wall blocks your path to the exit.

But what ho, another adventurer? Heroes of Sokoban II also adds the yellow priest, a mystical character that's immune to attacks from monsters. In addition, the priest can protect any companions in adjacent squares from otherwise certain death. Don't let the auto-immunity fool you though, these puzzles start out tricky and only get harder with the addition of the fourth character. Take on the vicious brutes and continue your conquest of the world of doors with this truly puzzling sequel.

Play Heroes of Sokoban II: Monsters


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Mobile Monday

JohnBA fine mixture of fruit and candy (and maps?) on this edition of Mobile Monday. In case you wanted to help a little friend eat plums, we've got your fix. If it's candy you desire, put on your costume and go on a mobile quest from DoubleFine!

harry-p.gifWho likes plums? Harry, of course. - Have you ever played one of those Fantastic Contraption physics building games and thought "Yeah, this is basically the most fun type of game ever.", If so, our pal Harry's got some great things in store for you. Harry Likes Plums is an upcoming iOS game stuffed with contraption-building puzzles and layered with a fine mist of humor. Harry wants the plums, but he can't quite reach them. The only solution is to build a machine (of sorts) to get him from Point A to Point Plum. Couple the creative gameplay solutions with some of the most adorable art this side of a turtle eating a strawberry and you've got a mobile game you won't be able to take your hands off of. Look for Harry Likes Plums in November!

costume-p.gifCostume Quest hits iOS - Halloween isn't too far away, so you'll want to pre-prepare to make sure you're in the proper state of mind. The quirky, lighthearted and utterly enjoyable DoubleFine release Costume Quest has worked its way from consoles/PC to the mobile scene, and it made the transition quite well. The game plays like your typical turn-based RPG. You'll explore areas and get in fights with monsters, which is where things get a bit weird. Throughout the game you'll find different components that will ultimately unlock new costumes to wear. Why is this important? Well, anytime you enter battle your apple-cheeked youngster literally transforms into the embodiment of the costume they're wearing, complete with special abilities. Over-the-top epic, you might say.

device6-p.gifSimogo rides again with Device 6 - Simogo's games always have something special about them (ahem, Year Walk or Beat Sneak Bandits, anyone?). The team's upcoming Device 6 is an innovative and surreal game that combines elements of... well, lots of different elements! It's part game part literature, part geographical puzzle and part novella. It's all intriguing, though, and the release this October 17th couldn't come soon enough! Check out the trailer for a little teaser.


  • Currently 4.6/5
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Rating: 4.6/5 (32 votes)
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Knock-Knock!

DoraIce-Pick Lodge's surreal indie horror adventure Knock-Knock! is a little weird, and in this case, that's a good thing. You are the Lodger, the latest in the line of homeowners of this strange, labyrinthine, creaky house in the middle of nowhere, and lately you've been having trouble sleeping. Plagued by strange dreams, sleepwalking, and now waking up late at night, you find your house seems... different. Dawn will bring clarity, but time doesn't seem to be moving... and then there's the matter of that strange knocking at your door... and the uninvited guests who want so badly to meet you.

Knock-Knock!Initially, the goal is to stay alive until dawn. The catch? You can't just hide under your bed, because time in your house doesn't move unless you've found and started the clock, and it also runs backwards whenever you're hiding, prompting you to find, turn on, or repair light sources. Use [WASD] to move, and hold [spacebar] to open doors or repair and turn lights on or off. Of course, sometimes the rules change, and it's up to you to figure them out both through interpretation and action, and the degree of randomisation means that just because you restart a level doesn't mean you'll know what's going to happen. As the night drags on, however, you'll find that you're not alone, and the things that will begin stalking the rooms aren't something you want to get caught by. It's a frightening game of hide-and-seek that preys on your mind, since you won't be able to see a lot of the danger until its almost too late, forcing you to learn to interpret visual and audio clues to know how to proceed.

Knock-Knock! is, firstly, both a gorgeous and imaginative game with an unsettling visual style and a slowly unfolding story that holds your attention as its doled out piece by piece across levels through the Lodger's narration. You'll want to make sure you're playing with the sound on too, you big baby, since not only does it add to the atmosphere tremendously, but the terrifying whispers you hear can help fill in the story a little. In a way, the gameplay feels as fluid and mysterious as that narrative as well, and that's not something that will appeal to everyone. It's an odd combination of repetition and constant change, with a lot of the levels initially looking and feeling the same because of the setting. It can be frustrating as well, simply because the game tells you only the bare minimum and sometimes figuring out what's needed from you can get you killed over and over again, restarting the level repeatedly. Depending on the type of gamer you are, this is either very frustrating or part of the fun and the game's unique charm.

Despite a cartoonish first impression, Knock-Knock! is also absolutely chilling in a way few games manage to be without the use of gore or violence. "Is anybody there?" intones a flat graveyard voice after you hear the door slam open downstairs. "... don't worry, I'll be quick... " Knock-Knock! is such a unique approach to the genre that it's a shame it doesn't have a demo because it deserves its chance to find a niche. It's a strange yet compelling play that you're either going to love or hate, but if you're a horror fan whose been looking for something truly different, Knock-Knock! is definitely something you should check out. It has some of the most gorgeously terrifying designs around, and a crawling, creeping fear to its gameplay that will keep you up at night.

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

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


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

DoraI feel like the 90s are the new "retro" when it comes to gaming lately, or at least that's the vibe I'm getting from Pigfarmer Productions' freeware action-adventure horror game Halloween. Based on the iconic slasher film of the same name, from its opening credits to its (optional) "movie" camera style, the game lovingly recreates both the look and feel of a 70s horror film, and then throws in the classic tank-style survival horror controls of my youth which are terrifying all by themselves. Playing as Sarah, you pick up a last minute babysitting job late one night and aren't expecting much trouble beyond finding a good VHS (ask your parents, kids) to watch and keeping hyperactive Billy out of trouble. But the prank phone calls you begin to get aren't funny, and when the lights go out, suddenly you've got more problems at hand than spilled milk.

HalloweenUse [WASD] to move, holding left [shift] to run, [spacebar] to interact, [F] to use whatever tool you have (such as Harry Mason's pocket flashlight), and [ESC] to open the menu, where you can examine, combine, and equip items as well as change the options. (The options will allow you to change your camera style, which for some of you will be a lifesaver.) When you find and equip a weapon, just click the mouse to attack in the direction you're facing. You need VHS tapes, found in limited supply, to save your game on the recorder in the study. You've got some time before things hit the fan, so spend some time familiarizing yourself with not only the controls, but the house layout. It's not a big place, but you'll want to know where everything is when you're running for your life. When the game's villain shows up, you've got to run, hide, and find a weapon to take him out since you can only handle a few hits before you die.

While the game's initial set-up is slow, sending you all over the house for mundane tasks, Halloween manages to deliver some really intense gameplay once things kick off. Not knowing where your assailant could be, you still know he has to be somewhere, and the moments of creeping through the silent, dark house trying to watch everywhere at once are just as scary as the ones where you have to run for your life, regardless of the game's... rustic... visuals. You can disable the VHS filter in the options (or switch to "DVD" at least), but with the atmospheric camera angles under the "movie" setting it really does deliver a fantastically authentic slasher film experience. Of course, with the good bits of that era also come the bad, the tank-style controls are a special sort of frustrating when you consider how unforgiving the gameplay is regardless of what camera angle you choose. I get challenge, but... should it really feel like the controls and camera are scarier than a maniac with a knife?

As a result, while some players will still love the game regardless and even enjoy the challenge, Halloween isn't as universally appealing as it might otherwise be to anyone who loves cheesy horror flicks. Still, with an exceptionally creepy mood and a fantastic dedication to classic style, Halloween is worth checking out with a grain of salt in a darkened room of your own.

WindowsWindows:
Get the free full version

Mac OS XMac OS X:
Get the free full version


  • Currently 4.5/5
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Rating: 4.5/5 (174 votes)
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White Cage

GrinnypYou might not have noticed it, but one of our favorite room escape designers has been missing for a while now. And by a while now we really mean two freaking years!!! Where did Petithima go? Some say to the Caribbean, where Petithima cavorted with dolphins by day and with Parrotheads by night. Others say the Himalayas, where all good escape designers go to find their Zen. While we may never know where Petithima has been, we now know what they've been up to as their latest effort, White Cage, arrives with a bang.

White CageWhile it is nice to have a room escape designer that can put out lots of escapes for us to enjoy, it is also nice when a designer takes their time and produces one really exceptional effort rather than a handful of fun to mediocre games. Petithima has used that time off well in putting together this fabulous little gem which, despite having only four scenes, manages to pack a ton of puzzle-solving goodness inside along with a healthy dose of fabulous with the gentle animations which run throughout the piece. The movement is everywhere, from the clouds slowly drifting past to the subtle movements of the lonely bird in the tree, all designed to enhance the escaping experience. And while the animated elements are fantastic, the best part of White Cage is the plethora of amazing and amusing puzzles to solve.

With both a main quest to help the birdies reunite and a side quest to find all seven hidden eggs, White Cage is a lot of entertainment packed into a little space. So welcome Petithima back and enjoy White Cage!

Play White Cage


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Rating: 4.1/5 (80 votes)
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Bit Battles

DoraBoarding Party's chaotic action/defense game Bit Battles is probably a fairly accurate representation of what me actually directing a real war would be like. You guys! Go there! More guys now! Stab them! Blast them! NO, MORE GUYS! WE NEED MORE GUYS! YAAAAAARGH! In your defense of a floating sky castle that suddenly finds itself opposite three death pits constantly spawning enemies, your job is to drag and drop one of your three hero classes to each pathway to fend them off. On the battle screen, you click inside the spawn area to summon heroes with mana, and click on heroes outside the spawn area to activate their special ability, also with mana, which regenerates over time. Have your heroes reach the enemy's side of the screen to win, and you'll be granted cash to spend on upgrades, and also level-up that particular hero type.

Bit BattlesIt's a simple concept, and yet Bit Battles makes it addictive and fun. The different hero classes add a satisfying bit of strategy to things, though being unable to see the enemy's stats makes it difficult to figure out what class is best suited where. As a result, the game winds up feeling more like overwhelming numbers is the key than anything else, even though the way different classes have different strengths and abilities does mean you have to adjust the way you play a bit for each one. The frustrating thing is that you can only activate hero powers by clicking when they're outside the spawn zone... and that does you no good at all when all your available heroes have been pushed back into that spawn zone by the enemy forces. Ultimately, it's a fun, frenetic game for a while, though it may lack some of the depth and/or bells and whistles to really make it stick for long. It's basically the catchy, digital equivalent of bashing together fistfuls of action figures and making "BOOSH BOOSH BOOSH" fight noises when you were a kid... and sometimes, that's exactly what you want.

Play Bit Battles


(13 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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The Wolf Among Us

DoraBeing a fairytale isn't so glamorous... largely because glamor is expensive when the witches can set their own prices. Necessary, though, if you want to blend in with the mundies and avoid being sent off to the Farm. Forced out of their world and driven into hiding amoung humans in New York, the Fable community is a volatile one, but nobody is under more pressure than Sheriff Bigby Wolf, tasked with keeping the peace amidst its unique inhabitants even if most of them would rather never see him again. In Telltale Games' The Wolf Among Us, an episodic point-and-click action adventure (Mac version coming soon!) acting as a prequel to the hit comics series Fables, a long night gets longer for Bigby when one of the first murders in a long time rocks the Fable community, and this is no mere crime of passion, and finding the root of the problem is easier said than done with the shadows of his own misdeeds looming over his shoulders.

The Wolf Among UsLike The Walking Dead, The Wolf Among Us is a blend of classic point-and-click gameplay and timed action sequences. Aside from using [WASD] to move around, you can click to explore the world, gather and use items, and select conversation choices. The choices aren't just cosmetic... they drastically influence everything from Bigby's overall attitude and the way people view him, to the way events will play out later in the game. Lie to a character, for instance, and it may come back to haunt you, or refuse to help someone and you might find them turning against you later on. During certain scenes, however, you'll have to move fast to hit the displayed key onscreen, and click on hotspots before they disappear to fight back. Saving happens periodically at points throughout the game.

The Wolf Among UsAnalysis: Though it plays essentially the same as The Walking Dead, apart from a greater focus on more dynamic action sequences, The Wolf Among Us offers a few tweaks that improve the format. Interactive zones are highlighted with a semi-transparent circle, for instance, allowing you to see at a glance what you can click on. The conversation options tend to offer a suitable range of emotions and responses, but the problem is that they can sometimes be muddy... less in terms of what they mean, and more in terms of not knowing how Bigby is going to choose to deliver a line, thus potentially turning an innocuous remark into a snide attack. It's not LA Noire levels of obfuscation, it's just occasionally frustrating, and the timer for responses means you often don't have long to think on what the potential meaning will be. In this first episode, The Wolf Among Us strikes a solid balance between some genuinely exciting action scenes and point-and-click investigating. It's not really what you'd call a difficult game, with little in the way of actual puzzles, but it feels like immersing yourself in a detective story, and a genuinely intriguing one at that.

The Wolf Among UsThe Wolf Among Us is, largely, a gorgeous game, and the neon-soaked noire feel to its design goes great with its comic book illustrations. Some characters animate better than others... or rather, the more human characters tend to express better than others, such as Colin, for whose porcine face emotions and speaking are a little weird to see in action. But while the story itself is interesting and you don't need to have read the books to understand things, well, as likable as the characters are, if you haven't read the books, that's all they are... likable. Many of them don't get the development they need to have you really care about them, and even Bigby himself offers little in the way of actual depth to be a compelling lead. You know he's struggling to change his image, and to fight against his baser impulses, but without the sort of long-form characterisation you get from the comic series, you don't connect with him as much as the game wants you to. Considering Bigby's character is a large part of the decisions you're making here, that's a disappointment, and few of the other characters get enough screen time to go beyond "interesting" and into "compelling".

I haven't read the comics, and while I enjoyed The Wolf Among Us a great deal, I can't help but feel I would have enjoyed it a lot more if I had been familiar with the source material to establish the characters further. That said, I never felt lost in the lore, thanks in part to the encylopedia that updates as you play, but mainly because the game is great at feeding you just what you need to know to understand what's happening, and a little bit more to make you want to grab the comics to boot. There are still some wonderfully subtle bits, like Bigby wandering against the flow of a crowd that instinctively parts and avoids him, and the action sequences are both fun and wonderfully choreographed. If you already love the series, you'll probably love this, but even if this is your first brush with Fables, The Wolf Among Us is shaping up to be a great adventure for fans and newcomers alike, with more than a bit of bite.

WindowsWindows:
Get the full version (Steam)

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


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Rating: 4/5 (55 votes)
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Olav and the Lute

TrickyIts title might make it sound like a morning zoo radio team, but Olav and the Lute, a music-focused point-and-click adventure by Shelly Alon, and Johann & Daniel Von Appen takes a much more cerebral work for its inspiration: the 1990 Lucas Arts adventure game Loom. Olav and the Lute might add a heaping dose of post-apocalyptic wasteland to its fantastical aesthetic, but the concept of exploring a world with quite a bit more magic in it than our own, and using the power of melody to put right what has gone wrong, is well intact. Check out the game's official website for a download version and also, if you like the game, be sure to shoot a message to the developers through Shelly Alon on Twitter. Your comments will be music to their ears!

Click to direct where Olav should walk, with the pointer icon automatically changing to show when an item can be examined or interacted with. Early in the game you will pick up a blank songbook and a magic lute. These will be key to progressing. The lute has five different note tones you can pluck, and you will be able to cast spells by plucking certain four note sequences. As you discover these sequences, they will be added to your song book. Playing the sequences in reverse, however will reverse the effects of the spell: an unlocking spell becomes a locking spell, a spell for fire becomes a spell for freezing, and so forth. It's up to you to change the world, for better or worse.

Olav and the LuteWhile Olav and the Lute would likely not have been created without the existence of Loom, it does a good job of setting itself from its predecessor. First of all, Olav is a surprisingly sassy son-of-a-gun. There's kind of an expectation that protagonists of these kind of artistic adventures will be ominous, if not altogether silent so as not to break the zen, so the subversion that comes with Olav's snark (and, uh, a little gratuitous swearing) is a knock on the side of the head, though it is not used so much that it doesn't fit with the mood. It's just that the few things he says make him come off a bit like any of us would act if thrown into a post-apocalyptic wasteland filled with mysterious artifacts and runes for unknown purposes, given a magical guitar and told to get at it. Who can blame him? The world he's exploring is similarly unique. The Japanese influence in the scenery and characters give it the serenely creepy (or creepily serene) vibe of a Buddhist temple several years after a nuclear disaster, and its a delight to piece it all together.

The musical spell-casting is at the center of this game world, and Olav and the Lute provides some quite interesting puzzles in that direction. Some lateral thinking will be required to get through the game, and that's meant in the best possible way. If anything one wishes there were almost a few more red herrings along the way. After all, is there any gamer who, once they've gotten their hands on a fire spell, won't immediately try to figure out all the things they can use it on? The game is rather short, with playtimes typically averaging between fifteen minutes to half an hour, but packs in a lot of atmosphere and ideas into a small map despite a strange ending. Olav and the Lute is a unique bit of gaming, continuing the trend of point-and-click adventure games being able to effectively integrate music puzzles into their world.

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  • Currently 3.8/5
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Rating: 3.8/5 (37 votes)
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Mosaika

JohnBFire Maple Games has a special talent with point-and-click adventure titles. The team's latest effort, Mosaika, retains the tap-based formula established in The Lost City and The Secret of Grisly Manor, sending you to a mysterious world with a simple goal in mind. This time around, though, the Myst-like experience is more streamlined, with puzzles that don't go out of their way to twist your gray matter into knots.

MosaikaA crash in the next room wakes you from an unsteady sleep, and suddenly you realize there are strange symbols above the fireplace in your uncle's home. You soon discover a secret world hidden behind the wall, one filled with magic, intrigue, and strange contraptions with missing pieces. You begin your journey through Mosaika with one thought: what's that frog doing here, why was it waiting for me, and why can it talk?

Tap points on the path or the edges of the screen to navigate through Mosaika. You can zoom in on certain areas to take a closer look, pressing the circular arrow to zoom back out when you're done. Tap the backpack icon to open the inventory where you can examine or use items, check your journal, or get a quick clue about what to do next. You won't get stuck often, but the built-in hint system does a great job of pointing you in the right direction when you need it.

Mosaika feels very much like Fire Maple's previous releases. Things are a bit simpler this time around, though. Puzzles aren't as intricate, requiring a minimum number of inventory items and featuring a solution that can be found elsewhere in the game. The answers are never thrown in your face, so you still have to do a bit of thinking to find the solution. You won't feel frustration, only excitement and success. The visuals are absolutely gorgeous, and the atmosphere of slow, quiet exploration keeps you engaged from beginning to 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.


  • Currently 4.2/5
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Rating: 4.2/5 (132 votes)
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ClickPLAY Time 2

Grinnyp"Say, kids, what time is it?" While people of a certain age (ancient) are perhaps screaming about an ugly red-headed puppet, those of us living in the computer age know that the answer is, of course, ClickPLAY Time 2, aka ClickPLAY Time Harder! Ninjadoodle is back and clickier than ever in the latest sequel to the rapidly growing ClickPLAY family. The point and click puzzle game that likes to tease us with attempting to actually start a game has brought 20 more levels of clicking madness.

ClickPLAY Time 2ClickPLAY Time 2 is, like the rest of the ClickPLAY oeuvre, concerned with clicking that magical triangle in a circle which is the universal symbol for starting a game. However those triangles can be elusive, requiring the player to solve a whole slew of puzzles involving spatial reasoning, color, trivia knowledge, and the ability to think outside the box. While most of the ClickPLAY games are concerned with the number of clicks you use (the less clicks the better your score), the ClickPLAY Time games are more concerned with how quickly you think, relying less on reflexes and more on the little gray cells that occupy your noggin. Fans of the genre are sure to find lots of entertainment in this quick and amusing little distraction. Come on, click Play and begin! You know you want to...

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Weekend Download

JohnBThe weekends are for escaping reality. Why worry about taxes or homework or that leaky pipe in the kitchen that's causing mold to grow across the floor when you can run away to be a postal delivery person, Indiana Jones, or a bumbling kid in a crazy person's basement?

donkeymeDonkey-Me: Raiders of the Lost Ark (Mac/Win/Linux, free) - Donkey Kong meets Indiana Jones. Whodathunkit? A description as simple as that sums up the game quite well, but it doesn't begin to explain the lengths developer Bruno R. Marcos went to make the game true to its source materials. Leap over snakes, skeletons and natives instead of barrels, pick up a whip instead of a hammer to fight your way upwards. The music, the controls, the setting, the artwork... everything is perfect for a truly captivating bit of nostalgia.

monstersbasementMonsters in the Basement (Windows, free) - Originally made for a Ludum Dare mini, Monsters in the Basement is a slow-paced Pac-Man-like horror game. Exploring an abandoned house, you and your friends inadvertently discover an abandoned basement. So, you go inside. Using your flashlight to see the paths ahead, collect the batteries to move to a deeper floor. Keep away from the monsters, of course, and use flares and guns when applicable to stay alive. Surprisingly intense, especially with all those shadows filling the corridors.

fakteurFakteur (Windows, free) - Delivering the mail is the best job in the world. Set in a world of paper, Fakteur puts you on a bicycle and gives you the ability to read, alter and deliver mail to the wonderful people of the land. Want to make them happy? In the mood to devastate each and every one of them? It's up to you! The English translation is a little hit and miss at times, and there isn't too much interaction or "game" in the game, but its alluring visual presentation and environments are nice to ride through and experience at least once.


  • Currently 4.4/5
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Rating: 4.4/5 (80 votes)
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Tatami

elleThe randomness, the weirdness, the incomparable chutzpah of Detarou—before we could shut the door in the face of its crudeness, it tilts us with a guileless smile and once again we're welcoming it in. This time it's Tatami that's baffling us with an irreverent mix of strange characters and pop culture cameos for a surreal escape game experience to tease the brain. Everywhere you look is something or someone suspicious but no obvious exit so the only way out is by collecting items, gathering clues and solving puzzles until that golden door key is yours.

TatamiWhile there's been a slight redesign to the user interface, the controls and gameplay are still the usual Detarou: point and click to move around, interact with objects, and manage your inventory. Remember that you can click once to use an inventory item or double-click to examine it in detail and, when possible, combine items to make a new fun gadget. Likewise, make use of the "save" slots as there are three endings to Tatami but not all are winners. Quite a bit easier than most Detarou offerings and only a teensy bit less offensive, the only real hang up might be keeping your bearings in a few convoluted navigational steps. That said, the layers of clues means you'll have to sort out which work together and how to apply them for a solution. So why rack your brain wondering why Detarou is so so strange when you can spend that precious brain power figuring out the abundance of puzzles in store for you in Tatami.

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Link Dump Fridays

DoraZombies, ransom notes, procrastination, and, just maybe, peace. This week's Link Dump Friday features everything from fast-paced shooting action to a concentrated attempt at failure.

  • Zombocalypse 2Zombocalypse 2 - More of the same isn't necessarily a bad thing when you're talking about mowing down zombies with an endless supply of weapons that fall from the sky. This shooter might not represent a significant change from the original, but it's got just enough to keep it feeling fresh without losing what made it so addictive in the first place. Plus, as I write this, it's October, and you can't have Halloween without zombies. That's like... Easter without Snoopy. Or... Christmas without Snoopy. Or Thanksgiving without Snoopy.
  • Gentle GravityGentle Gravity - I played NinjaFox's odd, twee puzzle platformer and smiled at the silent film style presentation and concept... that of a gravity-hopping fellow collecting coins to appease newcomers. And then I got to the graphic death and went "GEH!" It's not that I'm opposed to violence, it's that the gore is incredibly out of place in this otherwise cute and inoffensive little game in an almost Jekyll and Hyde sort of way. Some repetitive levels mar an otherwise clever concept, but it's still worth checking out if you love big moustaches and you cannot lie.
  • The ExamThe Exam - StormAlligator puts a unique spin on a strategy game where your job, as a "Procrastination Agent", is to make sure Pete gets an F- on his exam in twenty days by making him waste time with everything but studying. It's actually harder, and more baffling, than you might think, at least as far as making him get that holy grail of terrible grades, but there's still something oddly compelling about it. Maybe it's the way it's keeping me from actually getting any work of my own done... ? Meta.
  • Player 2Player 2 - I wouldn't call this a game so much as an... interactive cathartic experience? Lydia Neon and Leon Arnott deliver what could, for some people, be an intensely emotional experience in a game that asks you to deal with interpersonal conflict (what that amounts to is determined by you) by confronting it in an unusual way. Some people may find the concept of the game's attempts at healing condescending, but it is, unarguably, made with the sort of love towards ones fellow people we could do with a lot more of in general, and if it helps at least one person, well, it's a success in my book. Besides, whoever your Player 2 is, remember... whoever you are, whatever happened, however big or small you think it may be, I less than three you too, and I care.

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Lost Echo

elleIn a powerful flash and beam of light, Greg's girlfriend disappears right before his eyes. The time: in the vaguely near future, when technology has transformed the landscape but transporters and starships are still stuff of fiction. There is no plausible explanation for Chloe's disappearance and, worse still for Greg, no one he talks to believes she ever existed. All traces of her have been erased from Greg's world, but not his memory, leaving him with no choice but to try to prove either her existence lest he be proven insane. Likewise begins your involvement and immersion in Lost Echo, a lushly designed sci-fi mystery adventure game from KickBack Studios.

Lost EchoEmploying the point-and-click adventure interface, most your interactions in game will involve a simple tap. Tap to move around the 3D environment, to pick up an object, or initiate a dialogue with the people you encounter. A drop down inventory allows you to use, examine or combine items as needed to help you move forward in the story. Once in a while, you'll also have to solve mini-games to open a new area or acquire required tools.

True to the tradition of PC adventure games, there is a heavy emphasis on story and it's in the narrative that most the adventure unfolds. Through your conversations with the other characters, both clues and further details of the mystery are revealed. Yet, although you're given a number of responses during dialogue, your path is steered rather narrowly along a single plot line. Regardless, there are a number of turning points and plot twists along the way; just as you think the story might be winding down, it spins on its heels and runs off, taking you with it. On average, the game will take around five hours to complete if you take your time exploring and work your way through all the puzzles in "normal" mode. Those who want a more relaxed experience can choose "casual" mode which provides more helpful prompts and simplified puzzles.

Lost EchoAnalysis: The gorgeous environments monopolize center stage in Lost Echo—KickBack's design team did an amazing job making settings I actually dream of living in. Making clever use of architectural perspective and the play of light, each location has a depth of field so inviting to the senses it feels hyper-real. This was enough to hold me absorbed throughout the game play; being tourist in this fictional world, even with its dystopic edges, made the entire experience thoroughly enjoyable. Contrasted against the superior game environments, though, character sprites are usually stiff and strange looking; attempts at physical expression are reduced to robotic gesticulations. This wasn't enough to distract from the wonderfully surreal feeling of walking through a covered archway into a futuristic courtyard or up a grassy hill under a wide blue sky.

That wonder carried me through some clunky plot turns and awkwardly cliché dialogues. Let the eyes be mesmerized and other flaws are more easily forgiven. That isn't to discount the opinions of classic adventure fans who will likely find greater disappointment in this flaw. Being that Lost Echo is a story-driven adventure, it's hard to not cast a critical eye on imperfections in the writing. Yes, at times the pace is slow, conversations don't flow naturally, and certain plot details are left deliberately vague. Still, the end result remains unchanged: this is an engaging adventure that satisfies far more than it leaves wanting. Thus, Lost Echo is best enjoyed for what it is: a gorgeous, mystery-themed vacation in an alternate world.

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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Pijaka Blast 3D

DoraJapika's arena-style action-packed game Pijaka Blast 3D is one of those things you might simply describe as weird, but cool. ... maybe more than a little weird, since it stars some sort of freaky bomb-flinging skull-faced monkey creature that must fend off wave after wave of enemies as she blasts her way down through a destructible floating island to defeat the boss and find a way back home. It sounds like the sort of idea you'd get by throwing mad-lib magnets at a fridge and seeing what sticks, but the result is pure chaotic fun... mostly.

Pijaka Blast 3DMove using [WASD], jump with [spacebar], and use the mouse to aim and shoot, with either right-click or the [1] to [4] keys to cycle through your weapons. You have an infinite amount of "ammo" for each weapon, but each also has its own cooldown timer, from your simple default bomb to toss to a temporary Tesla tower that will zap anything that comes near. Enemies will appear in waves and attack as enemies do, and as you destroy them you'll earn experience points to level up, which both replenishes your health, and grants you skill points (as does completing objective/achievement based "quests") you can spend on upgrades the next time you die. And you will likely die, since you'll find it more than a little difficult (or impossible) to get to the bottom in the first go.

Pijaka Blast 3D is one of those games that's both a lot of fun, but one I wish I'd been around to give feedback during development time. The premise is great, a sort of old-school arcade cabinet feel and execution to its gameplay along with decidedly new-school style 3D visuals. What's not so great is the forced grinding, since you can only upgrade when you die, and you have to start all the way over from the very beginning when you start up again. The problem is that most of the upgrades, including those that force you to be a certain level before applying them, increment at such small amounts as to make you feel like you're chipping away at an enormous boulder with a sharpened toothbrush. Pijaka's limited arsenal forces you to really learn to think strategically as the types (and numbers) of enemies increase, and the tiered bonuses in the upgrades, such as the double-jump, help a lot. The whole thing has a gleefully zany vibe that makes it the sort of game that not only makes for a perfect break-sized escape, but also something you can play a lot longer without realising. It's a little rough around the edges, especially where its translation is concerned, but it's still an enjoyable, fast-paced challenge with a unique style worth checking out.

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  • Currently 4/5
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Rating: 4/5 (62 votes)
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Awesome Zombie Exterminators!

TrickyAwesome Zombie Exterminators! Zombie Exterminators are awesome! Or at least they are in this action-driving game by EmitterCritter. In these trying times where the dead walk the earth, Jake and his friends see an opportunity to make a little cash by beefing up their car, taking to the road, and collecting the bounties to be had on any zombie who doesn't wait for the light at the crosswalk. Move the mouse to steer the car as you drive through the city, automatically firing at the monster and obstacles in your path, earning cash for each one cleared. They'll fall just as easily to a head-on collision, but that will take a chunk out of your car's health. You'll also need to keep an eye on the gas gauge too. There are power-ups to collect, though, which can give your more cash or make your ride a little smoother. Use the cash in-between levels to purchase upgrades for you car, or fellow Exterminators who will ride shotgun with a literal shotgun. Kill 100% of the zombies, and retire a successful post-apocalyptic businessman!

Brawlin SailorWith its bouncy animations and cartoonish violence, Awesome Zombie Exterminators is much more comedic than it is scary (though that may just be because some of the zombies look like undead versions of Moby the Brainpop Robot). It does, however, have some nice features that will keep you playing, like how your vehicle will lock into highway lanes for easier aiming, or the slow transition of your car from squeaky-clean to covered-in-ichor as you plow through enemy legions. There isn't much replay beyond trying to complete your task in as few days as possible or futzing about in Survival Mode, but let's face it: there's something viscerally appealing about the meeting of bad-guy with fender, and Awesome Zombie Exterminators is more than happy to oblige.

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  • Currently 4.3/5
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Rating: 4.3/5 (24 votes)
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Type:Rider

JohnBType:Rider is a puzzle platform game as well as an interactive learning experience created by Cosmografik. Taking some visual cues from games like LIMBO, it casts you in the role of two twin orbs traveling through a shadowy world. With Type:Rider, though, those aren't just random shapes you're rolling over and collecting. They're typefaces, each taken from some of the most recognizable fonts throughout history. As you head through each level, you'll relive that journey one unlockable manuscript at a time. And you might actually learn something cool along the way!

Type:RiderType:Rider's controls are pretty simple for a mobile game. You have three options: tilt, virtual buttons, and the more intuitive default option. With default, tap the left side of the screen to move left, the right side to move right, and both sides simultaneously to jump. You'll use these basic abilities to traverse long and varied landscapes, most of which are basic black shapes hovering in front of gorgeous pieces of contextual artwork. Grab letters, move blocks around, and bring the glowing orb to the goal so you can take off for some more font fact finding.

Type:Rider's main gimmick, the inclusion of typeface history, is strangely divorced from the game itself. You collect letters and look at fonts while you play, but the real learning aspect takes place via paragraphs of text you unlock and read, stopping the gameplay entirely while you squint at the words. That lack of integration prevents Type:Rider from becoming a truly innovative experience, but the game itself is still surprisingly atmospheric and entertaining. There's no denying it's a gorgeous game, and it'll definitely bring some awareness to the worlds of typography and the history of written communication.

Type:Rider is available as a mobile game for iOS and Android, as well as a social experience via Facebook, a browser release, and a physical art installation. See the official website for more information on the latter.

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


  • Currently 3.5/5
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Rating: 3.5/5 (34 votes)
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TheHighRoad

kyhYou'll take the high road, and I'll take the low road... Actually, if it's Harrison Mansolf's math-powered action adventure concoction, The High Road, I'll be the one taking it. In this free, indie download, you play a janitor. That's right. In an odd twist of Good Will Hunting's storyline, you're the unassuming cleaner with the power of mathematics at your side. And your goal? To figure out just what in the world is going on in your building. Stacks of papers everywhere, raging white-collared workers and an evil, money grubbing CEO? Yep, it's exactly like Good Will Hunting. All you're missing is Ben Affleck as your sidekick.

TheHighRoadThe High Road offers a variety of input, allowing you to choose what combination of mouse and keyboard works best for you. As you move around in this strange, disorganized building, you'll come across hotspots indicated by arrows. When you choose to interact with them (either by pressing [enter] or clicking the mouse) a message will appear or you may just go into a timed frenzy of arithmetic! Rather than rely on resources or weapons you find around you, a thinking cap is all that's required for the math battles, which also include opening locks or acquiring abilities like jumping. For the lowest level of attack, you are asked to perform a simple calculation. Every level thereafter has an additional step to get to the final sum, difference, product or quotient. Whether it's quicker for you to click in the answer or go for the 'ole 10-key, keep an eye out for that timer!

While entertaining and strange, The High Road lacks some overall polish. There are more than just the occasional typos in the dialogue, which itself can at times feel like a distraction from the storyline rather than an enhancement. The controls, as well, while having plenty of options, does not allow you to use [WASD] instead of the [arrow] keys. Despite these issues, Mansolf has created a wonderfully weird experience with a light sprinkling of rude humor that will not only keep you intrigued, but will also take you back to your school days. Now, quick! What's 7*3*5*2?

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  • Currently 4.3/5
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Rating: 4.3/5 (51 votes)
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Heroes of Sokoban

ArtbegottiOnce upon a time, a brave warrior, a crafty thief, and a mysterious wizard went on an adventure. Their mission: to find precious doors. Doors are fantastically useful things that are made of wood and can keep things in or out of closed spaces. The three adventurers crawled through the labyrinths of dungeons, pushing, pulling, and magicking obstacles out of the way, but when they thought they captured their beloved doors, they found themselves in another dungeon with more doors to claim. That's probably not the story behind Heroes of Sokoban, a puzzle by Jonah Ostroff, but it's one possible interpretation. Using Sokoban-like mechanics, you've got to navigate the three adventurers to the exit, but sometimes dealing with their quirky behaviors is the greater challenge.

Heroes of SokobanThe first adventurer you meet is the red warrior who, like your typical Sokoban protagonist, can push blocks around the map, although uniquely, more than one at a time. Next, you'll meet the green thief, who can't push blocks at all, but will always pull blocks behind him when walking away from them. Eventually you'll meet the blue wizard who swaps places with the first obstacle in the direction you're moving in. When active, you can move each adventurer using the [arrow] keys, or switch the active adventurer using [X]. It'll take some juggling to navigate crowded hallways, push buttons, and open closed paths to the doors, all of which must be covered by an adventurer in order to beat the level.

As a side note, Heroes of Sokoban was developed using PuzzleScript, an online puzzle game editor created by Stephen Lavelle (aka increpare). If you're interested in seeing how the game was made, take a look under the hood. Almost all of the rules that make up this game are written in about 25 lines of code (not counting all the level and sprite designs and whatnot). If you're looking for a starting point for trying your hand at creating games, PuzzleScript might be an interesting choice to consider.

But back to the game. Can you help the warrior, thief, and wizard find their way around the maze (and themselves) to help them collect sweet, sweet doors?

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Angry Gran Run

JohnBAngry Gran Run isn't your grandmother's endless running game. Even though it could star your grandmother, we're pretty sure most human beings aren't capable of running this far, this fast, or of leaping obstacles as high as our protagonist granny. Regardless, this third person arcade runner features all the unhinged action and coin collecting your heart desires. Just don't get too caught up tooling around with granny's crazy costume options.

Angry Gran RunTilt your mobile device to move gran left and right, putting her in the path of coins or out of the path of dangerous obstacles. Swipe upwards to jump, downwards to slide, and swipe sideways to take corners like an old pro. Your main goal is to avoid taking a powder for as long as you can, but Angry Gran Run is determined to throw some of the wildest things in your path, just to see how you'll react.

Once you complete a run, you get to head back to spend some hard-earned coins in the in-gape shop. The store features the usual battery of power-ups and upgrades, including boosts, resurrection charges, coin multipliers, even a coin magnet and a double jump. Basic stuff you'll find very useful if you're in the mood to partake, but granny runs just fine with nothing more than her own two feed.

Angry Gran Run leans a little too heavily on encouraging you to use diamonds to continue your run each time you die. If you don't, you start over at the beginning, which makes each run feel like a failure, no matter how many coins you collected or magic carpet rides you avoided. An unfortunate game design decision added in to push microtransactions. Still, Angry Gran Run is good clean fun, especially when the occasional dinosaur steps in to stir up a little trouble.

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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.flow

DoraYume Nikki is one of those cult classic indie games people love to fight over, largely because the surreal horror adventure game about a girl exploring the landscape of her mind without leaving her home is so ripe with possibilities for interpretation from every angle. The game has been out for over nine years now and players still can't agree over what, exactly, it's about. So ZykovEddy's fangame Yume Nikki 3D, being a new "adventure" rather than a 3D remake, might be new fodder for debate as it sports all new locations and effects to discover, consider, and make your best "bwwuuuuuuuh?!" sounds over. And yes, you'll see a certain iconic scene in 3D as well. There's no real dialogue or exposition... just you and a strange dreamscape to decipher. Think of it like Metroidvania meets Earthbound meets Silent Hill meets... I don't know... Quentin Tarantino after a horror manga binge.

Yume Nikki 3DAs in the original, you control Madotsuki (generally assumed to be a young girl, though "her" appearance could honestly go any way) who won't leave her cramped apartment any other way than dreaming. When you interact with her bed, she'll fall asleep, and from there you can explore a series of bizarre and often unsettling words via a nexus of doors. (Some of which are locked for future updates.) Use [WASD] to move, [spacebar] to jump, [E] to interact, [shift] to use whatever equipped effect you have, and [enter] to open the menu. From the menu, you can either "Wake", which will cause Madotsuki to pinch her cheek and awaken in the real world, equip various effects you've gathered, or quit the game. Effects are equippable things you can obtain from certain characters, ranging from visual changes to special abilities, and there are six of them for you to find here, along with three keys.

It's hard to say whether the "3D" perspective helps or hurts the experience, since it does make some scenes more effective, but at the same time, also makes some areas look a lot more bland. Without the forced, fixed perspective, you get a lot of boring, low-rez skyboxes and flat backgrounds that can make exploring disorienting in a frustrating way rather than the tone Yume Nikki is (in)famous for. 3D has a lot of little references to the original game in the things you can find, and a lot of recurring imagery as well, and the sprawling maps are filled with secrets to uncover despite only having a fourth of the effects of the original game. It's debatable as to whether its nailed the ambiguity of some of that imagery and recurring themes the way its source material did, which is part of the enjoyment for a lot of fans, but Yume Nikki 3D is still an intriguing, mystifying experience with potential for even more as updates arrive. The fan theories for the reasons behind Yume Nikki's startling events and imagery vary wildly, and whether Yume Nikki 3D fits with yours or stands alone like the cheese is up to you.

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The Vault

TrickyI've spent a lot of the past week hijacking cars, moving down pedestrians, and randomly chucking Molotov cocktails at things. Also, I've been playing a lot of GTA V. (Are Vault articles admissable in a court of law? I should probably check on that.) Anyways, until my wanted level goes down, I'm laying low with some nice, adventure games from the JayIsGames Vault. But you didn't hear it from me, okay?

  • The House 2The House 2 - Sometimes less is more, and The House 2, the 2010 horror game by Sinthai Boonmaitree, certainly proves that. Like its predecessor, The House 2 strips away complicated mythology and esoteric puzzles to present all the things that flash games are good at making creepy: minor-key piano tunes, faded black-and-white photographs, distorted sounds of children laughing, and suddenly appearing specters scaring the bejeezus out of you, even when you know a jump scare is coming. It has all the thrills of your local "old abandoned shack where all those murders happened twenty years ago this very night", and, even if some of the scares are cheap, admission to this haunted house is always free! The House 2 is one of the most popular games on our fair site, and it's the perfect season to plan a visit.
  • Dangeresque Roomisode 1: Behind the DangerdesqueDangeresque Roomisode 1: Behind the Dangerdesque - He fights the law! And he also fights the crime, but not as much! Dangeresque! But he's stuck as a desk jockey in this 2008 homage to old-school point-and-clicks by the Videlectrix wing of Homestar Runner. Filling out paperwork may sound a poor comparison to nunchucking kidnappers out on the gritty streets, but this nostalgic recreation has all the humor you would expect, with good ol' SB having a relevant wisecrack for whatever darn fool combination of item-and-scenery you foolishly thought would advance your quest. And once more, for ol' time sake: IT LOOKS LIKE I'M GONNA HAVE TO JUMP!
  • Agent 079Agent 079 - Most escape games make it feel like you, the player, have been trapped in a demented fun house created to the passing whims of a bored criminal supergenius, so it's kind of refreshing to see a work where that is, in fact, the premise. A 2010 work developed by Atomic Cicada, Agent 079 sets itself apart with a clever premise and puzzles, especially its series involving shifting rooms around the lair to various effects. No doubt it's more than a little goofy, with an ending that hits high on the "What the heck just happened?" scale. Still, it's solid adventuring fun and will definitely make you want to check out financing options for death rays and assorted paraphernalia.

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


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Rating: 3.8/5 (53 votes)
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Chick Hide and Seek 12

elleAutumn leaves are falling and cooler weather means more indoor activities in Yuri's land of downy yellow adorableness. A gaggle of cooped up chicks in a small room is also a great set-up for another game of Chick Hide and Seek 12. In order to escape, search out and click on all ten chicks, some of whom are out in plain sight while others have secured themselves behind riddles for you to solve. A lack of changing cursor and the rather flat graphics results in a hunt and peck for one of the hiders, along with minimal directives for figuring out which clues work where, equals a wee bit more challenge than some previous chick games. The merit for this twelfth installment, though, remains in the feel-good spirit and spunky mood of these little cuties. The burst of warmhearted cheerfulness at the end is just infectious enough to make you glad you played.

Play Chick Hide and Seek 12


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Rating: 4.5/5 (57 votes)
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Subway Surfers

JohnBSubway Surfers is a third person endless running game similar to Temple Run. The inspector and his dog are prowling the subway tracks, but you and your friends are bent on getting your graffiti on the walls. The fuzz inevitably stumbles across your artwork, kicking off an epic endless running scenario where you slide between trains, glide across power lines, duck beneath road blocks and fly your hoverboard across the tracks.

Subway SurfersThere are three lanes you can run along, switching between left, middle and right with a quick horizontal flick of the screen. Jump to avoid low-hanging obstacles, and swipe down to slide and pass through small gaps. Subway Surfers lets you combine these moves in a very elegant way, opening the door to half-jumps interrupted by slides and leaps that span lanes so you can keep running on top of the subway trains without interruption. It's all pulled off in a very seamless fashion, avoiding awkward lags or frustrating last second "not your fault" screw-ups that end the game prematurely.

An endless running game isn't just about the running, however. Power-ups can be nabbed that help you collect coins, increase your speed, or give you a boost to clear obstacles on the track. There are also missions to complete that add more dimensions to the game apart from "keep running", such as collecting 500 coins or scoring a certain number of points. Simple stuff, but it encourages you to take chances and increase your skills as subway surfing.

There are two currencies to keep your eye on, both of which can be refilled through regular play or via in-app purchases. Keys serve as simple continues so you don't have to start over from the beginning each time you fail. Coins let you buy items in the shop, refill your hoverboard charges, and even upgrade your sneakers, magnet and jetpack one level at a time.

Subway Surfers shares a lot with its 3D endless running cousins, but that doesn't detract from the fact that it's a very well-made game. The controls are top notch, bringing the free-flowing feeling of actually surfing the subway while staying as simple as can be. The in-app purchases are unobtrusive, as well, clearing the way for you and your graffiti pals to get some real work done!

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


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Mobile Monday

JohnBA Tiny Towers spin-off that centers around the Death Star from Star Wars? You have our attention, NimbleBit. And probably also hundreds of hours of our time. Also, a fair warning: try not to sing that Rolling Stones song as you read down the article. You know which one.

deathstar-p.gifTiny Tower plus Death Star - Disney has teamed up with Pocket Planes and Tiny Tower creator NimbleBit to make a game whose concept is so awesome, it might just break the universe. No solid information was released apart from a single teaser image, but we're guessing you get to add to the Death Star one floor at a time, adding things like a detention level with garbage compactors (with easy shut down switches, in case anyone gets trapped).

storyofaband-p.gifA Story of a Band on iOS - Finally reaching out from Androidville, Hot Byte Games' creative simulation has finally made it to iOS. If you thought Game Dev Story was good but needed a bit more of a Tenacious D sort of vibe, then this power ballad's for you. You may start out as a bunch of tone-deaf nobodies, but with a lot of practice, a lot of schmoozing, and the determination to not only rock and roll all night but also party every day, you will rise from obscurity to be the sort of star all the little flannel-clad YouTube bands want to emulate years from now. Check out our A Story of a Band review for all the info you could ever want!

paint-p.gifPaint it Back announced - If there's anything years and years of casual gaming has taught us, it's that nonogram (a.k.a. picross) puzzles are awesome. A former PopCap developer happens to agree, which is why Paint it Back will soon hit the iOS app store. Based on a solid picross foundation, your job in this upcoming release is to restore paintings that have disappeared from the gallery, one block at a time. It's colorful, creative and familiar, and it looks like it'll have plenty of puzzles to go around.


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.flow

DoraIt's October, and you know what that means... time to get in the spirit of things by playing something spooky! But what if you want something a bit less straight-forward and a bit more surreal? Then it's time to talk about lol's freeware indie Yume Nikki fangame .flow. What's it about? Well, that's... less easily stated. It follows rumple-headed Sabitsuki, a young girl whose life seems to revolve entirely around her tiny room... her bed, her television, and... her computer. She doesn't speak. She doesn't go out. She doesn't even seem fully awake. But by turning on her PC and sitting down in front of it, she can connect and explore her subconsciousness... and the things she encounters there, from the bizarre to the terrifying, are open to interpretation. Largely because the game ain't tellin' you nothin', no-how.

.flowUse the [arrow] keys to move around, [spacebar] or [Z] to interact, left or right [shift] to perform an action based on whatever "effect" (item) you have equipped, and [X] or [ESC] to open the menu from which you can equip new things, check your status, and "Get Up", which returns you to the waking world. Much like its inspiration Yume Nikki, rather than giving you a set objective, or any objective at all really, .flow is about exploring and experiencing. Despite having multiple endings, it's almost more like an interactive art piece. Once you're connected to her PC, you can leave via the front door and explore a strange mindscape of unusual maps full of symbolism. The effects Sabitsuki gathers vary greatly, from the ability to create rain and music to beyond, and when used in the right places, can do more than simply alter her appearance. The only way to save your game is to use the bed when Sabitsuki is awake.

The biggest problem most people will have with .flow isn't even the lack of direction so much as it is the way the maps are designed. With most of them taking place on flat black backgrounds and "wrapping", meaning Sabitsuki can walk forever and keep cycling around the area, combined with doorways frequently being less than obvious, it's easy to get lost and wander in circles. While a systematic straight-line approach to searching can help, it sort of ruins the engrossing, dreamlike feel the rest of the game captures so well. While some people will find the deliberately enigmatic and seemingly incohesive plot a turn-off, others will embrace .flow for an experiment in observational storytelling and adventure. And grossness. And general disturbing imagery. Because make no mistake, while it may initially just seem sort of weird and even a little cute, .flow contains a lot of gore, violence, and other disturbing content as you play. It's not for everyone, it's strange, it's freaky, and it's deliberately obscure. But with patience, like its inspiration Yume Nikki, players who enjoy connecting the dots and surreal horror will find this an... interesting experience, to say the least.

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Try Boot Camp or Parallels or CrossOver Games.


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Rating: 4.2/5 (63 votes)
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Poyas Odyssey

DoraSamy Badache's puzzle adventure Poyas Odyssey that blends simple mechanics with clever ideas for a soothing yet mysterious experience. Plus, you get a Sonic Screwdriver! Sorry, that's what it is, made up my mind. Using [WASD] (or [ZQSD] for European keyboards) to move, the [spacebar] to jump, and the mouse to look around, you'll explore a strange temple filled with little round creatures called the Poyas. The Poyas will be able to help you pass obstacles and descend deeper, but you'll need to use a strange cube that they both fear and worship to manipulate them to do so. You can pick up and carry (or interact) with [E], right-click to throw things, and left-click to change the cube's colour... red will repel the Poyas, while green (... ish) will attract them and cause them to follow the cube, and you if you're carrying it, around. If you get stuck, hit [ESC] and restart the level.

Poyas OdysseyIt's a simple idea, and yet it's executed here with both ingenuity and style... and no small amount of charm, given the expressiveness of the Poyas themselves. The lack of dialogue and exposition doesn't necessarily hurt the experience, though it can occasionally mean interpreting the pantomime hieroglyphics that provide your instruction is potentially difficult. It's a short game, and chances are you'll wish it was even longer, since while it lasts, Poyas Odyssey manages to deliver the sort of relaxing, intriguing experience few puzzle games really manage. It feels a bit more conceptual than finished product, although that might be wishful thinking since a bigger adventure taking place across multiple locations seems like something this sort of concept was made for. Don't let its brevity turn you away, though... if you're looking for a simple yet clever idea, thoughtful puzzling, and a calming mood, Poyas Odyssey is the perfect choice, and the type of thing I hope we see more of in the future.

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Leisure Suit Larry: Reloaded

TrickyIt can be a little tough trying to pin down exactly what boundaries Sierra's Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards crossed when it was first released in 1987. It seems wrong to classify it as the first "mature" game, as it seems series creator Al Lowe would balk at any label of maturity associated with his game, and calling it the first "adult" game would inevitably lead to another discussion of Custer's Revenge (and no one wants that.) Perhaps it's as simple as saying that the exploits of the aggressively uncool Larry Laffer looking for love (or its discounted equivalent) in the decidedly wrong places of Lost Wages, Nevada, was the first kinda-raunchy game that was actually any good. Since then, the series had its ups and downs, though most fans would probably agree Larry lost his way after the release of 1996's Leisure Suit Larry 7: Love for Sail, with the next two appearances of the franchise coming a decade later, in a different genre, with none of the original developers, and both being pretty dire.

Leisure Suit Larry: ReloadedIn 2011, Replay Games saw fit to take the leisure suit out of mothballs, acquiring the rights to a remake and the next year, with Al Lowe and fellow Sierra designer Josh Mandel on board, becoming one of the first big Kickstarter success stories, as fans pledged past the far target amount and its bonus extensions (which promised new bits of story and a new love interest to romance). Though it would be delayed until Summer 2013, and its initial release a little shaky, they've worked through the kinks (so to speak), and Leisure Suit Larry: Reloaded has proven itself to be a classic point-and-click adventure delivering all that it's backers could have hoped for.

Using the mouse, select the icons on the top of the screen to make Larry walk to, look at, take, speak to, use an inventory item on, or, uh unzip at, the objects, people, and scenery of Lost Wages, or you can right-click to cycle through them. To progress throughout the game you will need to call a cab, something that can be done at the payphones throughout the game. Many of the places you can go will cost money, so trying you luck either at the casino, or at one of the many video gaming machines is a must. Good luck, and Viva Lost Wages!

Leisure Suit Larry: ReloadedAnalysis: Leisure Suit Larry Reloaded is a project that was funded by nostalgia, developed in nostalgia, and has a target audience of the nostalgic. If you are already a fan of the original games, you likely would be already sold on the remake, sight-unseen (hence the KickStarter success). The question then, is, does Leisure Suit Larry Reloaded possess enough charm to draw new fans into the fold? In a word, yes.

The world of Leisure Suit Larry is a bit dated, yes, but to term that as a negative is kind of missing the point: movies and games that were once set in modern times but, as time passes, become unintentional period pieces is nothing new. Leisure Suit Larry Reloaded has the plot structure of an early 80s text-adventure, the humor of a stand-up comedian of the late 80s, in a game format that hit its stride in the mid-90s,wrapped in a package of 2013 design sensibilities, and yes, the hodgepodge of attributes sometimes produces a friction in the experience, as old and new fight for prominence. Such is the challenge and the danger for those who create a game remake that, by the demands of the market and technology, must feature new content, while still closely adhering to the spirit of the original, so as to not alienate those fans without who the game would have never been made. But Sierra games have always been more enjoyable with a walkthrough on stand-by, and a few esoteric puzzles with a little borderline sociopathy and kleptomania are simply part of the deal (though, in a definite change for the better, the game can now never be made unwinnable and, after a death, the game will bring you back to just before you expire, usually with an achievement unlocked. Unfortunately, you'll still need to save and reload to gamble your cash reserves up... have luck-based minigames every been really that enjoyable in any adventure game?)

Leisure Suit Larry: ReloadedIf the result sometimes feels a bit of a mess, Leisure Suit Larry Reloaded has a number of attributes going for it in its favor, and they're the important ones. First of all, the game is hilarious. Nearly every object and every combination has a snarky comment or wisecrack attached to it or several, making for such a mass of humor that its hard to get though any room without a smile cracking on your face. Jan Rabson and Brad Venable, the voice actors of Larry and The Narrator, respectively, have a great comedic chemistry, and their interplay captures the zany fourth-wall ribbing spirit of the best Sierra adventures. No doubt some of the more stereotypical humor should have been left in the EGA era where it belongs, but for all of Leisure Suit Larry's pretensions to naughtiness, you'll find worse in the average issue of Maxim. What's more, the graphics team has certainly earned their pay, with each room given that special brand of glorious sleaze entirely appropriate to Lost Wages, and tons of in-jokes and visual gags to spot. The soundtrack is a perfect complement, mixing between the retro bleeps and bloops of a faux-PC speaker, the jazzy swing of a big band, and the low purrs of a lounge act doing their best in a small smoky room on a Saturday night.

Apparently, Replay Games has begun planning the remake of Leisure Suit Larry 2. This will be interesting to see, as that game was the weakest of the original series, almost being a series of unwinnable situations with a game attached, rather than vice versa. One thing is for sure though: these guys get Larry... the obliviousness, the dorkiness, and all those other attributes that ensure this loser stays just that much more loveable than pathetic. As fine as this remake is, one hopes that it's a trial run for all new Larry adventures. If anyone can do it, these guys can.

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Full Bore

JohnBFull Bore is a puzzle platform adventure from Whole Hog Games that turns you loose in a world of corrupt boar bosses and a mysterious conspiracy brewing beneath the surface. After a successful crowd funding campaign in late 2012, Full Bore has emerged as a gorgeous metroidvania-style game that's heavy on puzzle solving with just a touch of boar-flavored humor.

Full BoreThe controls in Full Bore take a few minutes to get used to, as this isn't your usual "run around and hop on stuff" game. Push blocks by bumping up against them, sliding them over one space at a time. If it's breakable, you'll automatically start tapping to smash it. There's no jump button, but you can scramble up single-block ledges by holding a key and moving towards the incline. Gamepad support is included out of the box and makes for a very nice experience if you're properly equipped.

Solving puzzles requires you to quite literally use your head. Boar can pound adjacent things with his/her betusked cranium, breaking weaker objects like soil, sand and wood. Smash things above, below or to either side, taking care to note what will fall once the blocks are removed. Don't want to destroy your next platform by being too smashy, do you? Each area feels a bit like Sokoban or Mr. Driller, but as you move through the massive map and explore different chambers in a non-linear fashion, you'll definitely see the metroidvania influence.

Full BoreAnalysis: And out of nowhere, it's a boar! Full Bore is the kind of game you'll sit on the fence about for a few days, knowing you want to see what all the fuss is about but not really wanting to pull the trigger just yet. When you finally do take the plunge, you'll immediately realize it's worth every [insert smallest unit of your local currency]. The atmosphere of exploration combined with puzzle solving is spot-on perfect. You have the freedom to explore a number of areas at a time, but once you find a room you can simply focus on solving the block puzzles at hand.

Full Bore is very friendly about how things react to being moved, so don't worry too much about being squished by dropping blocks or falling down a shaft only to splat when you reach the floor. In fact, don't worry about dying at all. Failure comes in the form of messing up a puzzle and having to restart at the last checkpoint, which is done manually and never makes you lose much progress.

Whole Hog Games has delivered something very special with Full Bore. It's filled with familiar concepts that are woven together into something a little more unique. The thrill of exploration, the drama of boar politics, the excitement of gathering gems, and the satisfaction of solving puzzles using nothing more than your own two tusks. And maybe a drilling laser.

UPDATE: Full Bore has been released on Steam! The download includes Part 1: The First Dig as well as the brand new Part 2: Into Hard Earth!

WindowsWindows:
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LinuxLinux:
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Rating: 4.5/5 (165 votes)
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Gazania

elleIn the language of flowers, Gazania means "I am proud of you." Here, in this lovely escape-the-room game from the creatively stylish Robamimi, flowers and a feeling of pride go hand-in-hand if you can successfully decipher clues and use found objects to unlock the exit door. Gazania is played like most typical escape games—you're trapped in a room and must point and click your way along the four walls, picking up items to turn into useful tools and solving the puzzles you encounter in order to gather even more tools and valuable clues that will lead to the final door code.

GazaniaIt also contains a number of typical puzzles, which would be almost too ho hum if not for Robamimi's photo-realistic design, worthy of its own spread in House Beautiful. When ordinary puzzles are planted in a gorgeous environment like this, they're virtually elevated to yumminess. Still, there's one puzzle here you're likely to have never encountered before. It can be figured out with logic alone but the thoughtfully affable Robamimi includes, along with the usual hint button, a "?" option within the puzzle to help you work it out. Altogether, the challenges offered in Gazania are at the optimal middle ground: difficult enough that you can feel proud of your success while plenty of clues and other assistance ensure that that success is well within reach.

Play Gazania

Thanks to Sam and Cyberjar88 for sending this one in!


(10 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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The Inner World

JohnBThe Inner World is an adventure game created by Studio Fizbin. It takes place in the town of Asposia, a city that exists in a hollow core surrounded by an infinite expanse of earth. Air is pumped down through wind wells, but recently they haven't been working so well. Become a happenstance hero as you venture through the strange new world, chatting up monks who "meditate" at slot machines and staring at the floating fosfos that light the dark inner world.

The Inner WorldThe world of Asposia is a curious mix of a dystopic fairy tale and a lighthearted parody. Without stirring up any spoilers, the game begins with a pigeon nicking an amulet from Robert, a milquetoast protagonist who has never left the castle monastery. The amulet belongs to Robert's boss Abbot Conroy, the beloved hope-giver to the people of Asposia. Robert is determined to get the amulet back, but Peck the pigeon doesn't seem to be in this alone.

The interface is a simple point and click affair, familiar to anyone that knows what a mouse is and how to use it. Click things you want to interact with and a small menu will appear showing your options, things like "examine", "take", or "talk". Your inventory tucks away at the bottom of the screen and can be shown by sliding the cursor down. Inventory items can be used by dragging them above, and you can even combine items by dragging one over another. If you're not sure what you can interact with, click and hold anywhere on the screen and all hotspots will be shown. Perfect for getting your bearings without going on an epic pixel hunt.

The Inner WorldAnalysis: Within the first few minutes of The Inner World, you'll get a worm drunk, out-haggle a garbage peddler who has a sandwich hanging in his trench coat, and confess your sins to a machine. That should give you an idea of the tone created by this curious adventure game. The setting is at once dark and depressing as well as cheerful and lighthearted, a difficult balance to achieve that the development team managed to hit spot-on. The artwork, writing and voice acting all play perfectly into this theme, drawing you in with each interaction as you discover more and more oddities.

Puzzles are well-balanced in The Inner World, and each explorable area is kept small enough so you don't feel overwhelmed by your options. Chatting with all of the NPCs, picking up every item and examining everything you come across will usually get you where you want to go. The interface can feel a little slow at times, especially when you try combining inventory items, but The Inner World is the sort of game you have to tackle with a relaxed disposition. Take your time and soak in the atmosphere. It's worth it.

Studio Fizbin has assembled a fantastic adventure game, one worthy of a coveted position as a quick-click icon your computer's desktop. It's the perfect blend of humor and storytelling, puzzle solving and exploration.

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Weekend Download

JohnBIndie game creators are apparently trying to make us go mad. Evidence pointing to this can be found in a number of horror/surreal games rolling onto the internet on a weekly basis, twisting our reality so we're never really sure what we're playing. Was this thing fun, or did I just dream it?

Mystery ChannelMystery Channel (Windows, free) - A creepy collection of mini-games presented in the form of a late night surf through horror shows. We're not saying it's like watching Tales from some sort of Crypt, but we'll hint at it. Each section on the mystery channel is a game, and each game is a bit off the wall. Pajama Party RIP, for example, places you, the victims, in a room with a killer running around getting all stabby. It's two parts creepy and one part maddening, but just the right kind of parody to make it all work.

HexcellsHexcells (Win/Mac/Linux) - Described as an ambient logic puzzle game, Hexcells is a bit like Minesweeper played on a hex grid. Click and clear the orange spaces to eventually reveal the pattern hiding underneath. Numbers indicate how many adjacent pieces are part of the pattern, just like in Minesweeper. There are only 30 puzzles to work through, so the replay value is a bit low. So is the price, though, making it worth a few spacebucks for a pleasing puzzle game in the afternoon.

BraindeadBraindead (Windows, free) - Surreal RPGs are a thing now that titles like Middens proved to be a hit. Braindead tells the story of Dan, family man with schizophrenia who happens to be the creator of the universe he's living in. Wander through the creepy wilderness as you battle enemies straight out of your "I ate a bad taco at two in the morning"-induced dreams, then see if you can figure out where your family is through the maze of cyclops stick figures and floating mouths. Lots of mind-twisting events and dialogue, great for an evening when you don't feel like connecting to reality.


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Rating: 4.6/5 (338 votes)
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Headless Zombie

Starchild After the success of Nearly Headless Nick, meet Completely Headless Carl, the star of Headless Zombie, the new puzzle platformer from Flazm. Carl used to be a nobleman, until an envious wizard caused him to fall off his horse, break his neck and die. However, dark magic has a funny way of backfiring, and Carl came back as a zombie to reclaim what is rightfully his and hopefully eventually de-zombiefy. But first, there is a long way to go and many obstacles to overcome, so use the [arrow] keys to move and the [spacebar] to throw your head. Wait, what?

Headless ZombieApparently, one of the advantages of being undead is that you can freely detach parts of your body and toss them around. So any time Carl has to reach a remote lever or press a button that's too high up, he can take his noggin off and fling it towards them, but he must put it back on before he can exit a level. He can also accessorise, replacing his boring old head with fashionable items such as boxes and pumpkins. All this is quite beautifully incorporated into the puzzle aspect of the game. Once you master the jump-then-toss manoeuvre, the levels will seem intuitive and nicely structured, with relatively complex setups fitting into a screen with no need for scrolling. The visual style, with its colourful, yet macabre design and little funny details, is reminiscent of Plants vs. Zombies and the mechanics are pitch-perfect. You could say that the challenge is lacking a little something, or maybe that it would have been nice to see more than twenty levels, but there is definitely a hint at a sequel, so we can expect more fun with Carl in the future. In the meantime, competitive zombie head throwing should totally become a sport.

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Rating: 4.3/5 (157 votes)
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Magic Layers

ArtbegottiWhen the weather starts getting cooler, you might dig through your closet to find extra layers of clothing to put on. When it starts getting warmer again, you've got to find a place to store all your extra layers. Whatever you're doing with your layers, Magic Layers is a jigsaw-style puzzle by Lysis Games where you've got to rearrange layers of shapes with bizarre properties to reproduce a picture. It's a challenge that's fun to play and comfortable to wear all year long.

Magic LayersOn one half of the screen is a picture made up of overlapping shapes. Your goal is to reproduce that picture on the other half of the screen by dragging a handful of transparent-ish shapes into place (the game is generous with snapping shapes into place, and often gives you dotted outlines as a guide). That "-ish" is tacked on there because while they often seem clear, they usually have peculiar properties that only become evident when they're stacked on another color. Red and blue don't necessarily make purple in this game; sometimes they make green, or yellow, or even clear once again. That's part of the challenge of Magic Layers. You've got to discover how the layers interact with each other in order to stack them all correctly and make a matching picture.

There's a certain odd sense of observation that becomes crucial when solving some puzzles that doesn't come up in many other jigsaws. For example, you might see a bunch of seemingly identical transparent circles, but they interact with each other in a very specific way, and only one of those circles will mix with another shape in a unique way. While some of the later levels ask you to apply several layers on top of each other in one of what feels like a billion possible combinations, there's often a hidden logic to putting them in place that makes the puzzle quickly solvable; you just need to discover that logic to succeed.

It is unfortunate that a clever game such as this is very colorblind-unfriendly (maybe use simple patterns?). Also, the working space you're given to shuffle layers around in is a bit small and you might accidentally lose one piece underneath another if you're not careful with how you're stacking your reserves. But these hitches aside, Magic Layers is an entertaining puzzle and worth a playthrough once you get your sweaters and swimsuits sorted.

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This is Not a Test: A Post-Apocalyptic Prequel

KimberlyIf you're anything like me, you grew up with a stack of Choose Your Own Adventure books next to your bed, frequently re-reading them to find out how to get the best ending. As a kid, however "how will I die this time?" was not a question I generally asked when opening the cover. But I've asked myself this frequently as I've played This is Not A Test: A Post-Apocalyptic Prequel from Robot Monster Productions. Interactive fiction meets RPG in this grim narrative, written and illustrated comic book style. You see explosions in the distance as your cell phone loses reception. Bad things are on the horizon...will you survive?

This is Not a Test: A Post-Apocalyptic PrequelYou'll get to pick three out of six possible skills as you start the game. After you tap the ones you want, the story will begin. Use your finger to scroll down the screen to read everything, then choose what you would like to happen next by tapping it. If you've played enough that you don't want to re-read a screen, just tap anywhere for your choices to pop up to the top. Often you will be able to tap a character's picture for more information before you proceed, though it's optional to do so. During your journey you'll find various items to help you on your way. It's important to note that you have to actually tap on the picture of the item or you will not pick it up! On the bottom of your screen you can tap on your backpack to see what you are holding. Tap the item to learn more about it. The green button on the bottom lets you remember what skills you chose, who is travelling with you, and a backlog of all the choices you've made.

The skills you use and the choices you make effect the outcome of the story, though even if you try to repeat your steps exactly there is a bit of randomness thrown in. You can't always succeed at picking a lock, for example. Of the many times I've played through I've yet to survive, and every time has been different in some way. There are many ways to die, and none of them are pretty. The comic book style and the artwork make This is Not a Test a pleasure to look at, which is good considering you keep going back to replay it with different skills or choices to see where they lead. The biggest drawback is the lack of a true save game function. With each game not lasting too long, it's not a huge deal, but something you should be aware of. The game tells a compelling story and has you make some difficult choices. Go it alone or band together? Shoot or run? What would you do to survive?

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


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Link Dump Fridays

DoraSocial awareness as a shooter, the majesty of nature as devouring helpless woodland critters, a battle for your soul against a guy with no eyes and an alien in a thong, and bow-based arena shooting with a jaunty feathered cap. No, it's not the weirdest round of Whose Line is it Anyway?, it's Link Dump Friday!

  • Social Dysphoria The GameSocial Dysphoria The Game - [Parental Warning: Explicit Language] Nichole Brauer uses a retro style and arcade shooter gameplay to spread a little awareness on one of the most seemingly innocuous and yet frustratingly common and hurtful things a transgender person faces... incorrect pronouns. Your job is to dodge or blast the incorrect gender pronouns being flung at you by an angry robot who doesn't think you look anything like what a man/woman is "supposed" to look like, while nabbing the correct pronouns as they fall. It's a simple game, and one that some people dealing with transgender issues may find upsetting or triggering, but, though "not intended to be taken seriously" or as an attack on cis-gendered folk, still serves as a reminder that a little social awareness never hurt anyone.
  • Bird of PreyBird of Prey - Though just a prototype, this simple Unity game about playing a mother bird trying to find and return with food for her nest of young is still plenty enjoyable. You soar around the map, finding small animals and returning to your fledglings with them... though chances are mastering the finer points of flight will take a while, since birds apparently make it look easier than it is to aim. It's bare bones at the moment, but if fully fleshed out with more areas, and perhaps seasons and/or day/night cycles, could provide a compelling experience. Unless you're like me and your gut reaction to large birds is less marvel and more squawking and flailing your arms in alarm. (See one parrot take off a guy's earlobe, never forget it.)
  • Mond CardsMond Cards - Ryan Melmoth's... interactive art... card game... story... thingy... sure is... something. Stuck in a card battle against an eyeless creep and forced to play for your most precious possession (yourself), victory seems impossible since you don't know the rules and he's not telling. Featuring a headcrab in a pink thong and that guy from Jabba's Palace (or was it the Cantina?), it's definitely got a surreal, unique vibe and is more about the story and setting than actually winning. Like weird things? Then check this out.
  • Medieval Rampage 3Medieval Rampage 3 - It's been four years since Medieval Rampage 2, and I still haven't figured out how exactly one goes on a rampage, Lana, with a bow and arrow without getting tackled after the first shot has fired. Regardless, Christopher Gregorio's brave felt cap'd hero is back for another round of arena-based shooting against endless swarms of fantasy monsters... or play capture the flag. Or amass territory. Or just fill other players full of arrows. Whichever. It's not quite the same addictive beast it once was, but it's still fun.

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Marvel Puzzle Quest: Dark Reign

DoraFrom D3Publisher who brought us Puzzle Quest comes yet another match-3 turn-based RPG hybrid in the form of Marvel Puzzle Quest: Dark Reign for iOS and Android. Following the events of an ISO-8 Outbreak, which lead to mysterious crystals that can increase someone's power appearing all over the world after an incident with a meteoroid, Iron Man and Nick Fury suddenly stumble across a dangerous new trade from a new organization at the same time as the Baxter Building comes under attack by Doctor Doom. If all of that sounded like a bunch of random words and names to you, don't worry. You don't need to know a lot about Marvel to enjoy the game, or even to have played the original Puzzle Quest games before. Because despite some bumps and a few frustrating "freemium" choices, Dark Reign is still funny, challenging, and better than you'd expect.

Marvel Puzzle Quest: Dark ReignDuring battle, you and your opponents take turns swapping coloured tiles into rows of three or more. The icon on any particular tile represents the character that will attack when it's matched, and chaining multiple matches allows you to have more than one party member attack in a single round. As you match colours, you build Ability Points for that hero, and when a tile starts flashing, you can tap it to unleash a special attack... Storm's lighting destroys eight random tiles and deals damage, for instance, while Hawkeye can destroy a single tile of your choosing and turn it into a critical hit token. The last party member to attack is the one in front, however, and since they're the ones who take damage from enemy attacks, you want to keep an eye on who's in front. Since battles are usually composed of more than one enemy, each with their own hit points, you definitely don't want to be cornered with one hero standing. Your party retains any damage they took after battle, but you can either spend one of your healing tokens (which regenerate every hour or so) to heal them immediately, or just wait a certain length of time, depending on how badly they were hurt, or just suck it up and walk it off because there's no crying in S.H.I.E.L.D.

Initially, Iron Man is all you've got, though as you play you're given the opportunity to earn both more heroes and additional abilities for the ones you have as rewards for winning battles. (Even against other players!) Of course, as this game is also "free to play", there are two difference currencies to contend with, both of which can either be purchased with real money if you're Tony Stark and you don't care anymore, or by potentially winning them from battle. Both cash and ISO-8 can be used to buy new heroes, or train the ones you've got. However, this is completely optional, and you can earn both new characters, upgrades, and currencies over the course of regular play. Waiting around still stinks, however, and it can often feel like compared to your party, enemy attacks tend to be significantly stronger in a way that seems designed to push you towards paying for healing or stronger heroes and breaks the flow of the game regardless. There is literally no reason this had to be a freemium game... except for money, of course.

Marvel Puzzle Quest: Dark ReignAside from the freemium annoyances, Dark Reign's biggest problem might be that it's slow to impress. It feels relatively shallow at first, with a few bland battles designed to show you the ropes, and handles its tutorial more than a little awkwardly. Give it a few more battles, however, and Dark Reign slowly begins to show it has more depth than you'd expect. Different enemies work in tandem to manipulate the board, for instance, with one character placing explosives and the other placing a detonator, and many party member powers work best when you structure your group in a way that takes advantage of them. Despite taking place entirely with static talking heads, the writing is frequently very funny, and the story itself is interesting. The characters all have distinct personalities and "sound" like they sound, leading to a game that really looks and feels like it was created by people who know and love the material rather than just churning things out.

Marvel Quest: Dark Reign isn't perfect. The shadow of "freemium" content feels like it's hanging over you, it lacks a lot of the fun adventuring/equipment aspects that made other Puzzle Quest titles feel more robust, and it feels like there's some balancing issues (and bugs) to address both when it comes to combat and paying for things. But at the end of the day, if I ask myself if I still want to keep playing it, if the charm and strategy are enough... the answer, at least right now, is yes. You can play Dark Reign and enjoy it without spending a dime, and though it may be missing some of the things Puzzle Quest fans were hoping for, but beneath the free-to-play aspects still beats the heart of a surprisingly enjoyable, strategic, and funny game, and with more updates planned it could get even better... as long as Norman Osborn keeps his hands and his bad haircut off my wallet.

Cosmic Star Heroine

DoraWelcome to the beginning of our coverage on interesting indie funding projects (Kickstarter, IndieGoGo), Steam Greenlight games, and news and previews!

Platform: Windows, Mac, Playstation 4, Vita
DRM: None (Steam Optional)
Developer: Zeboyd Games
Genre: RPG
Planned Release: December 2014
Funding Asked: $100,000.00USD
Funding Ends: October 31st, 2013

Normally I get nervous when a Kickstarter project starts using old school nostalgia as a selling point, but since we're talking about Zeboyd Games and they do "old school" better than pretty much anyone, it's time to get excited instead. Cosmic Star Heroine, their upcoming turn-based sci-fi RPG, will star Alyssa L'Salle, a top-notch galactic government super spy who finds herself suddenly in the spotlight when she stumbles across a conspiracy she was never meant to find... which means that now everyone she's ever tangled with knows her name and face and is out for blood. It's like Peter Parker's worst nightmare, only instead of an elderly aunt Alyssa's got an upgradeable super spy headquarters she can recruit other characters, customiseable party members, combos, and more!

Cosmic Star HeroineZeboyd cites inspiration from gaming classics like Chrono Trigger, Suikoden, and Phantasy Star (it's not just me... Alyssa looks like Alys Brangwin, right?) for Cosmic Star Heroine, and just a glance at the screenshots will probably tell you why. The team has always been about striving to keep the things you loved about classic games intact (the stories, the gameplay, the sprite-based visuals you love more than any polygon), but tweaking that classic gameplay to remove some of the common frustrations. Cosmic Star Heroine, for example, promises to keep the pace of the story moving quickly, while allowing you to save anywhere and removing the need for hours and hours of grinding these classic JRPG-styled games tend to be (in)famous for. They also promise "intricately designed encounters to make each battle its own challenge", which is something we saw from them in On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness: Episode Four, which had each battle crafted in such a way as to feel like it needed its own strategy rather than a simple random encounter.

You can check out the official Kickstarter page for more info, and get a glance of the game's 1980's Anime-tastic cutscene style in the presentation video, but if you're into science fiction, noir, JRPGs, and any combination thereof, this should definitely pique your interest. Zeboyd Games is made up of people with a passion for gaming and their dedication to the craft and their love for the old-school RPG genre has seen the release some of the best classically-styled games in a long time. They understand that you have to do more than simply play to nostalgia to make a "retro" game a winner, and with an intriguing universe, challenging and strategic battles, and enjoyable character (and home base!) customisation, Cosmic Star Heroine is shaping up to be a winner indeed.

JayisGames.com Kickstarter picks are selected based only on personal evaluation and perceived overall quality of the project. We assume no responsibility for failed projects or developer's inability to deliver. Donate with care! Contact dora AT jayisgames DOT com with KICKSTARTER in the subject line if you find a project you think we should know about!


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Rating: 4.4/5 (48 votes)
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Enough Plumbers 2

DoraGlen Forrester knows your secret. Your wish to be surrounded by a flood of tiny, shrill-voiced men in overalls and suspenders to carry out your bidding. That's why we've got Enough Plumbers 2, the puzzle platforming sequel to the original game about spawning herds of tiny plumbers. No, not that guy. These plumbers are totally different. Use the [arrow] keys to move and jump, and hit [spacebar] to reset a stage, heading for each levels tiny flag to win and jumping on (most) enemies to destroy them. The idea is every time you touch a coin, you spawn another plumber that moves in tandem with the others, and while you only need one to survive to win in most cases, you'll quickly discover they're not all as expendable as you thought... especially once the power-ups begin to be introduced, and they only apply to the single plumber that grabbed them.

Enough Plumbers 2Like its predecessor, Enough Plumbers 2 ramps up the difficulty alarmingly fast, though this time through it does feel like there's a bit more emphasis on puzzling out a level solution beyond simple demand for high skill and reflex. Don't worry, though, there's still plenty of challenge! Aside from a slight graphical shift, the biggest changes are primarily to the variety of things you encounter. New power-ups such as the Ghost and the Spaceman are available, and figuring out how to use those effectively to get through stages is a lot of fun... even if it is weird for the Ghost to be able to pass through solid walls but still take damage from enemies and hazards. As before, sometimes the biggest challenge isn't even the many obstacles in your path but the overload of visual stimuli as you try to keep track of every single plumber at once, but while I would hesitate to call it more difficult than the original, I would call it more creative and better at keeping your attention by adding more elements throughout the whole game. It's a sometimes infuriating but always entertaining game, and the carefully crafted stages don't tend to drag the way they did in the original. You'll need fast fingers and patience to see this one through, but Enough Plumbers 2 has the polish and creativity to make it worth it.

Play Enough Plumbers 2


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Rating: 4/5 (52 votes)
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Twizz'ed Firefarta

DoraI guess I'm a fuddy-duddy at heart, because that are certain things I just turn my nose up at. Cutesy-poo themed restaurant menu item names. Novelty dog breeds. ... body humour. So it's weird, then, that I liked puzzle platformer Twizz'ed Firefarta from Gameshot so much, even though it is about a man who cannot jump and thus must use the tremendous power of his farts to propel himself over hazards. And, provided that statement didn't make you roll your eyes so hard you can't see the screen any longer, you just might like it too. Use [WASD] or the [arrow] keys to move, and try to find the exit in each stage. When you have it, you can hold [spacebar] to release a mighty wind you can use to fly a little, though if you use it all you have to wait for your meter to recharge. Of course, while eating certain foods can increase your meter, too much gas is a bad thing too. (Hi Mom, hi Dad! Look at me, I'm a professional games journalist!)

Twizz'ed FirefartaSo, yes. Twizz'ed Firefarta is a little goofy and immature if you're not into fart jokes, and chances are if you aren't, the mere description of the game's premise is enough to make you ignore it. Which is a shame, because as weird as it is, it's also fun and clever in its own way, if possessed of a difficulty curve that takes a long time to amount to more than a difficulty walk-in-the-park. If you wait, consumable cans just regenerate over and over, letting you build up your meter and removing a lot of the challenge from some levels. It's not just the colourful visual style or funky toe-tapping soundtrack, though those help, but it manages to keep its platforming challenging without being punishing with new (fart-related) elements as you play, though some levels feel both simplistic and drug out. As much as I may tease on its concept, humour is, of course, subjective, and taken purely on its own merits, Twizz'ed Firefarta is a simple yet (mildly grossly) endearing little puzzle platformer that's perfect for a coffee break.

Play Twizz'ed Firefarta

Rebuild: Gangs of Deadsville

DoraWelcome to the beginning of our coverage on interesting indie funding projects (Kickstarter, IndieGoGo), Steam Greenlight games, and news and previews!

Platform: Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android
DRM: Steam
Developer: Sarah Northway
Genre: Simulation/Strategy
Planned Release: May 2014
Funding Asked: $25,000.00CAD
Funding Ends: October 31st, 2013

Sarah Northway makes magic things happen, and her smash hit survival/strategy/simulation Rebuild series about trying to restore some semblance of society in a post-apocalyptic zombie-riddled world is proof positive of that. Mixing secrets, excitement, and tons of events for endless replay value, they're exactly the sort of games that are most dangerous to your free time... and in fact as soon as I remembered I hadn't played Rebuild 2 in a while I did so for a few hours before I also remembered that I was supposed to be writing this article. Because next year, the third installment is finally on the way, and now's your chance to help fund Rebuild: Gangs of Deadsville with this recently launched Kickstarter.

Rebuild: Gangs of DeadsvilleWhat sets the Rebuild series apart from every other zombie game out there has always been its intelligence and its variety. In addition to managing groups of survivors with skills and inventories to scavenge for supplies and fend off zombies, you can also grow food, convert buildings into new locations with benefits (like research labs), and discover a wide variety of endings, some more obvious than others, ranging simply from escape to uncovering a new, deadlier way of life. Gangs of Deadsville promises to keep everything we loved, from the humour to the complexity, but make this the biggest title the series has ever seen... according to Sarah, she's spent more time working on this than Rebuild 1 and 2 combined, and it's only halfway done! This time around, you'll find yourself travelling through a variety of cities, contending with new NPC factions you can trade or go to war with, more skills, facilities, politics, things to research, background stories, all-new events and endings, and even a real-time option for those of you who think you can handle it. All of that, of course, is on top of a rather massive visual overhaul that brings with it tons of UI improvements.

This does mean, of course, that this will be (apart from the mobile ports) the first Rebuild title that isn't free, but trust us when we say the series has been worth your time and money for years now. Gangs of Deadsville represents an enormous amount of dedication and passion from its creator, and promises to provide everything fans loved about the original games, but more of it, and with the improvements players have been asking for to boot. 2014 can't come soon enough, but in the meantime check out the official Kickstarter page to learn more, or play Rebuild and Rebuild 2 free online and help make the latest game by a devoted developer who's given us so much free amazing content a reality.

JayisGames.com Kickstarter picks are selected based only on personal evaluation and perceived overall quality of the project. We assume no responsibility for failed projects or developer's inability to deliver. Donate with care! Contact dora AT jayisgames DOT com with KICKSTARTER in the subject line if you find a project you think we should know about!

Redshirt

DoraWelcome to the beginning of our coverage on interesting indie funding projects (Kickstarter, IndieGoGo), Steam Greenlight games, and news and previews!

Platform: PC
DRM: No
Developer: Positech, The Tiniest Shark
Genre: Simulation/Sci-FI
Planned Release: Unknown, Pre-Orders receive Beta access
Price: $19.99USD
Official Website

Redshirt, the upcoming RPG-sy sci-fi simulation game from Positech and The Tiniest Shark, is basically a love letter to all of us who desperately wish we had been born on a Federation starship instead. A love letter, and a wake-up call, since the game is less about you being an interstellar butt-kicker and more about being the sort of expendable floor-cleaner that made those big ships run behind the scenes, which, let's face it, is probably the most likely scenario for a lot of us.

Taking place entirely through your ship's social media network (Spacebook), it plays a lot like a space-themed Kudos title. You manage your life, relationships, and your career as you grow and advance in all of them... but you primarily do so via your interactions with your fellow crew members through Spacebook. You plan events, everything from holo-deck adventures to parties in the crew quarters, you schmooze your bosses, your Spacebook-stalk your crushes, maybe induldge in a little "vaguebooking"... and... stumble across a secret conspiracy nobody wants you to know about? Hmmm...

RedshirtIf you're like me and only maintain social media connections to make sure you remember family birthdays, the concept of an entire game set around liking status updates and and tagging your coworkers at parties sounds... less than stimulating. And yet, surprisingly, Redshirt manages to make it not only fun but addictive. A large part of this is due to how much personality and character the game packs into every aspect, from the various distinct alien races to the quirky details that make up all the little jobs that make the ship run... all of which you can apply for, right up to perhaps, one day, becoming Number One. (I wouldn't try for the beard though. Only one man can pull that off.) Each day, you'll go to work, interact with your friends and coworkers, and increase your skills through a variety of activities to improve your character. Who, incidentally, can be any one of a number of species, sexualities, and even genders... Redshirt allows to to pick male or female, but you can also simply use a slider between the two without settling on one, or choose to make your gender private.

RedshirtThe downside is that because so much is randomised, your Spacebook friends wind up having zero personality. Sure, their chatter is entertaining, but it's also largely meaningless, and as they all spout from the same pool of lines, they start feeling like, well... bots, and as a result it's hard to care about them beyond another stat to be accumulated. Which, of course, might also be seen as a commentary on social media in general. The other more obviously satirical aspect of the game you'll come to dread as a character are the away missions, which... rarely go well for any of the people you're sent out with (more literal guts than glory) and can be a real downer for your character if you don't have the funds and friends to cheer yourself up after. But with an enormous amount of replay value, a snarky, silly sense of humour, and that one-more-turn addictiveness we all crave, Redshirt should definitely be on your radar. Hit up the official website for the trailer, more screenshots, and to pre-order the game... which also grants you instant access to the beta version!


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Rating: 4.4/5 (85 votes)
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Box Life

Starchild I didn't choose the box life, the box life chose... Oh, shut up. Anyway, Box Life by tequibo is a strange little game – part metroidvania, part rat-in-a-maze experiment, but in a good way. All you have to do is escape the box. All you can use to do this is, in a word, nothing. At the beginning, you can only move with the [arrow] or [WASD] keys and use the mouse to look around. What you see isn't exactly encouraging, because you seem to be in a huge room made of blocks, but you'll start making sense of the whole thing soon enough.

Box Life In a game where there's little to do and even less to do it with, snooping around is of the essence. The room is small enough to explore without being afraid of getting lost, but although it might seem empty at first, it still hides a bunch of items necessary for your escape. It is almost impossible to talk about the gameplay without giving anything away, so let's just say that it is devised in quite an ingenious way. You will gradually be given abilities which, with their cryptic explanations, function both as puzzles and hints on how to solve them. Escaping the box isn't the end, though; the room contains several cleverly concealed secrets that you can look for if you want to feel especially good about your investigative skills. Once you finish the game, you have the option to go back with all the abilities already activated, which should make the task easier. Even if you play it twice, Box Life isn't a long game, but its minimalistic appeal, intelligent environment design and shrewd gameplay won't leave you indifferent.

Play Box Life


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Rating: 4.1/5 (33 votes)
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Speed Warp

KimberlyOld school arcade games and the ability to travel at warp speed? What more do you need to make a successful Candy Box type webtoy? Tom Medley has incorporated all this and more in Speed Warp. It's hard to say much, because discovery is half the enjoyment of the game, but the blank screen you begin with won't stay blank for long. A timer counts up, and as it does, more things will become available... including an arcade console. What happens next is up to you to uncover, but we will tell you that crafting and puzzling out secret potions is part of the deal.

Though you have to work (or rather play) for many of your crafting components, Speed Warp is still easily enjoyed in bite size pieces. Your timer and coins continually count up, so it's a good idea to leave it open in the background as you go about your daily browsing, checking in when you have a few open minutes. Make sure you save and bookmark the game for later, as it would be tragic were you to unintentionally close your browser and lose all your progress. While it doesn't have quite the same whimsical charm as Candy Box, Speed Warp nonetheless offers up an enjoyable enigma of an experience that's worth spending some time with.

Play Speed Warp

Thanks to Mikk and Fredley for sending this one in!


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Meadowland

JohnBMeadowland is a slow, atmospheric puzzle exploration game created by JMJ. It casts you in the role of a fairy drifting through a peaceful land, casually observing events as they transpire. Explore the environment, then see if you can interact with things using your simple song ability. It's the sort of game that encourages you to sit back and relax while taking in a delightful atmosphere with some simple trial and error puzzles.

MeadowlandYou get the feeling that things would move along just fine in Meadowland without your presence. In fact, you can't really interact with much in the game. Flying around the scenes, you can stir a few things up as well as activate your ability, Magic Song. Play this little sound in the right place at the right time and you'll cause something to change. Your only clues come from the Grimoire, an instruction book of sorts, and your own explorations around the world.

Meadowland is a very simple game with only a handful of puzzles, but its aim is to captivate your imagination, not challenge you with locked doors or hidden keys. It's a little rough around the edges in some places (the method for quitting the game on PC is a bit absurd), but the core game is very intriguing and rewards you well for persistence, especially if you're the type that likes to take their time and really soak in a game's environment.

WindowsWindows:
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Trouserheart

elleWhat's the world coming to when you can't even take a little nap without some blockold making off with your pants? It's exactly this sort of problem that sends Trouserheart out across the kingdoms to battle a diverse horde of peculiar adversaries to find and recover his kidnapped bottoms. Equiped at first with just a meager sword, wooden shield and heart-speckled boxershorts, Trouserheart hack'n'slashes his way through forests and dungeons, crossing bridges and deserts, defeating such foes as blockolds, tentacles, derp knights, jelly cubes, and wizards. While this is no Sunday walk in the park, the collaborative creativity of 10tons and Dicework Games made this RPG action adventure instantly accessible to casual players and gamers of all ilks.

TrouserheartTrue to its promised accessibility, movement and gameplay in Trouserheart is intuitive: you can choose either buttons or floating controls, but either way, a few swipes and taps are all it takes to propel the protagonist forward or swing his sword. There are approximately 20 different areas to explore, each with various randomly generated stages filled with monsters and treasures to uncover.

As you defeat enemies or cut down bushes and chests, you'll collect coins to spend on upgrading the power of your sword, shield, armor and money pouch which will leave you better equipped to face the increasingly difficult enemies as you progress through later stages of the game map. For most players, this amounts to approximately 5 hours of gameplay; that varies by whether you plow on through heedlessly, or if you "grind your skills" early on, repeating areas until you've gained enough gold to max out every skill set. Conquering each castle or area usually means successfully progressing through a series of rooms, although you can at any time to pause and return to your own castle to rejuvenate or upgrade.

TrouserheartThe limited options for upgrades means you won't be agonizing over which accessories to buy or which weapons path to follow yet that doesn't mean Trouserheart is bereft of strategy altogether. The randomly generated rooms turn up a number of puzzles to solve and you also need to take care how to best approach the various foes. Additionally, especially in the final showdown, combat will require some careful timing and attack styles. This is where some frustration comes in—despite or because of the simple controls, making lickety-split actions or precise maneuvers is just not possible. That wont be a problem in casual mode, though. If you choose to play hardcore, which means enemies deal twice as much damage while being less hurt by your hits, the last battles can be extremely difficult, even with all your stats maxed out. Additionally, as the combat intensifies and loot flies all over the screen, these action animations can cause lag or freezing on your device. Fortunately, the heart of this adventure is in the gratification of reaching the next stage and the charming humor that ensues along the way; serious gaming it is not. With richly-hued cartoon graphics, whimsical concept and a diverse array of characters, Trouserheart will entertain players of all ages and skill levels and it's sure to bring a smile in the end.

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


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Rating: 4.4/5 (49 votes)
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10 Gnomes in Dubrovnik

elleWalled off from the rest of the world, the fortress-like old town of Dubrovnik has narrow streets and tightly built houses. It's a human friendly town where tourists like to flock and residents seem to flourish in peaceful appreciation for their beautiful neighborhoods. Yet here, perhaps among the leaves of a succulent, the grains of potting soil, or the black depths of a wall crevice, live the unseen inhabitants of the town: the 10 Gnomes in Dubrovnik. But can you find them all? That is the question in this lovely continuation of Mateusz Skutnik's point-and-click find-the-gnome game series.

10 Gnomes in DubrovnikIn each scene, move your cursor to pan the camera angles, seeking out questionable spots which invite a closer look via the changing cursor. Investigate each view with precision if you intend to discover—and click on—every gnome before the ten minute timer expires. "10 minutes to find 10 gnomes?" You say, "Not a problem. They're small, so how much time do they really need?" But this location is vast, despite its confined alleys and skinny doorways, and there are many times you'll zoom so close you can see the thin fibers on a plant's leaf yet still find no gnome. It could take several restarts and much more then 10 minutes to explore. Objects, such as a folded-up wheelchair or a single strand of human hair speak of the stories and life behind the walls, and you may end up too distracted to look for gnomes.

Even if some of those elusive imps manage to elude your investigative efforts or if hidden object games are not your idea of fun, play 10 Gnomes in Dubrovnik as art for art's sake. Skutnik's photography captures Dubrovnik's quiet, dignified beauty that is both serene and surreal. It's a wonderful adventure to explore the art and architecture and life of this enchanting location. So take a look around. Who knows what surprises you might find? Maybe even a troll.

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Rating: 3.7/5 (47 votes)
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Cyber Chaser

Starchild If you're in the mood for some old-school arcade fun, here's Cyber Chaser, a new trigger-happy shooter from Silen Games. Today well be fighting colourful cyborgs while collecting power-ups and coins and in general being total badasses. Our hero will run and shoot on his own, so all you have to do is use the mouse or the [arrow] keys to duck or jump. Sounds easy, doesn't it?

Cyber Chaser There are three main stages, each ending with a boss. The catch is that the stages are quite long, so don't expect to finish them in one go (or two, or three). You will have to be patient, young padawan, and make use of the very versatile upgrades system. The money you collect can be spent to upgrade your abilities, weapons or support (power-up drops). On top of this, you can collect fuel cans and gems, which you can exchange for bonuses before each stage. Then there are keys which unlock boxes for a random bonus. Finally, as you level up, you will unlock individual challenges which reward you with upgrades. Levels are gained through in-stage quests, and they vary from killing a certain number of enemies to collecting gems and breaking down doors.

Cyber Chaser is a fast-paced, colourful whirlwind of a game. The cyborgs will drop shiny goodies like overstuffed pinatas, sometimes making it a bit hard to see what you're doing, but in most cases this doesn't disrupt the gameplay. However, even with such bountiful drops, upgrades don't come easily. If you need more money, you can always revisit a stage and farm for it, though this does get repetitive after a while. Levelling up is mostly seamless and the quests are never too difficult; actually, you'll probably finish a lot of them without even trying, though some will require some effort. It seems the game manages to find a comfortable balance between challenges and rewards, which is why it's a pity there are only three stages. Such an addictive, cheerful-looking shooter could certainly have used a few more.

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The Vault

TrickyTricky here! Now you Vault-kateers may or may have not have heard (mainly because I am fabricating it this very second) that we at JayIsGames are looking to expand into the hardware market with the JiGtroller Gamepad! Should you wish to sign up for the frighteningly exclusive beta-test, merely follow these steps: 1. Fill out our simple and strangely invasive 35-page questionnaire/legal documentation/indentured servitude contract. 2. Create a list of technical specifications that you would like to see in the JiGtroller Gamepad. These specifications must include full blueprints and hardware design documents. 3. Raise enough venture capital to secure production of the JiGtroller Gamepad, then sign over all intellectual and profit rights to our shadowy overseas holding company. It's that simple! So while we're waiting for you all to finish your electrical engineering degrees, let's kick back with some excellent puzzle, adventure, and action games from the JayIsGames archives!

  • Child of a Witch TrilogyChild of a Witch Trilogy - The start of October means that I no longer have to hide my yearlong obsession with Halloween, and there's no better way to get into the spooky spirit than with this trilogy of spot-the-difference games created in 2010 by Garbuz Games. The art is beautiful, the differences to spot appropriately challenging and the story, told entirely without words, of a witch, her son, and the world around them, has the perfect balance of love, sadness, and spookiness which will warm your heart like a cup of warm apple cider. And hey, if you spend the entire time playing with your eyes crossed, I'm not going to judge.
  • Quest For The RestQuest for the Rest - The natural quirkiness found in the worlds of Samorost-creator Amanita Design make for some of the most engaging browser games ever created, so it's no surprise that a music group like the Polyphonic Spree would want to hitch a ride on their creativity. Being a commissioned advergame, 2004's Quest For The Rest sometimes gets skipped in the discussion of the Amanita Design canon, but it is as worthy an entry as any other, with a beautiful surreality backing the simple story of a band trying to find its members. All point-and-click fans do themselves a disservice if they don't go ahead and try to get this band back together.
  • Nuclear EagleNuclear Eagle - Nuclear Eagle, made by c404 and Brad Borne in 2007, is a game based on people-flinging, explosions and mindless destruction, and it's not ashamed of it one bit. The physics engine well complements the zany madcap action, not to mention the banjo-pickin' soundtrack. There may not be a clear narrative path between "an eagle trying to feed its baby chicks" and "throwing a tank into another tank, which then explodes into a fuel truck", but altogether, it's a heck of a ride.

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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