March 2014 Archives


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Rating: 4.2/5 (94 votes)
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Somnium: Exodus

DoraNEW VERSION UPLOADED 2014-04-05
Disclosure: I was asked by the game's sponsor to help improve the game's English translation. I have not been paid for it in any way, nor did I change anything about the story or the text's structure.

Azure Games' action adventure Somnium: Exodus is a horror game. Or maybe it's a science fiction story. Existential crisis? All three? Man, this is where the written medium really lets me down. Pretend I'm sauntering from streetlight to streetlight down a menacing dark street, looking mysterious and thoughtful with a bubble pipe as I speak, okay? As the game opens, you awaken, disoriented and in pain, in an abandoned hospital unable to remember your own name or why you're there. Strange things, dangerous things, seem to flit in and out of reality as you explore the city and empty streets, trying to find out what's going on... but the truth is stranger than fiction, and our world will never be the same once you discover it. Quick! Now find and play the spooky mystery sound effect from Earthbound! Doo-doo-doo-DOO-doo!


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Rating: 4.2/5 (48 votes)
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Goldfish

SatoriA wish! A wish for a fish! In Ondřej Žára's new roguelike Goldfish, you play as a fish who's plenty content until you're caught by a fisherman who lets you go if you agree to grant him a wish. It's a classic motif, and here it provides for leagues of roguelike questing goodness. You'll grind your way through underwater tunnels, duking it out with other sea creatures, and equipping a range of uniquely goldfish-oriented weapons and armor — which will challenge your notions of what games like Nethack can be.


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Rating: 3.4/5 (29 votes)
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Paint Over

AllyIt's always the quiet ones. Sitting over there in the corner, oozing out smooth jazz like they haven't got a care in the world. You wouldn't suspect a game like Sagus Studio's Paint Over of anything... untoward. Certainly not of being the type of puzzle platformer that vexes and bedevils innocent passers-by with its fiendish puzzles and precise jumps. Nothing could be simpler, after all. Collect the key in each level and then get to the exit. You can only safely land on platforms that are different colors from your character, and your big-eyed living paint sponge changes everything it lands on to match, turning previously safe platforms unsafe. Pick up the paint buckets to change your own color, and the twisters to change the platforms' colors. Moving with the [arrow] keys? No problem. Resetting with [R] in case you literally paint yourself into a corner? Good to know, but you won't need it. Right? ...Right?


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Rating: 4.4/5 (64 votes)
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Spiderling

JoelyBeanIn an ancient dark cave, lit only by the luminous glow of fireflies, a war approaches. The Flies don't stand a chance against the bloodthirsty might of the Spiders. Caught in the middle of this conflict, your allegiance is divided. You must find a way to escape this place if you plan to survive... In Martin Petrini's platform game Spiderling, you play a surprisingly adorable critter with limited web abilities trying to traverse caves. Move with the [arrow] keys, jump with [Z], and use [X] or [shift] to shoot webs. The game's central mechanic involves using your web strings to swing across chasms. This involves holding the up [arrow] along with the direction you want to go, then pressing and holding [X] to latch onto the ceiling. You'll hold on to your webbing as long as you hold the [X] key, so don't let go until the right time. This isn't Spiderman—rather than swinging gracefully like you would on a taut rope or vine, you'll need to let yourself bounce on your web, then let go of [X], using the momentum to propel yourself forward at the perfect time.


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Rating: 4.3/5 (70 votes)
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Epic Boss Fighter

TrickyTen monstrous bosses are sequentially set to destroy the Earth, and humanity's only hope is our hero, Blast, who must go it alone against the onslaught of bugs, tanks, cacti, aliens and worse. For some reason. I mean, don't we have the military for this kind of thing, too? I know the JSDF doesn't have the greatest record against Godzilla, but you have to figure they could at least help with bosses one through three or something. Whatever. Epic Boss Fighter is an epic action shooter by Entertainment Forge that'll have you rushing in a manner quite boss indeed. With either [WASD], [arrow] keys, or the mouse, move your constantly firing hero around the landscape, blasting each boss while dodging their attacks. Watch out for their glowing magical weak spot! Collect coins from successful hits and spend between attempts on upgrades. Some, like the force field or the area bomb, much be activated with [spacebar] or by clicking, and need to recharge between uses. Beat bosses quickly enough and they'll be considered KO'd, and won't show up in the next replay. Clear all 10 bosses, and the earth is saved... for now.


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

drstrosyReady to sail the seven skies, engaging in honorable combat in your battered but serviceable airship? You'll do just that in Cliffhanger Productions' new turn-based strategy game, Ærena: Clash of Champions, currently playable in early access Alpha on Steam, and available on your computer and to play cross-platform on your Android device, with iOS support coming soon! Artistically a mashup of steampunk and WWII pinup art, the story drops you into a world of noble battle between sky pirates. In many ways, it plays like a steampunk chess game, if chess had bombs and rocket launchers (which, face it, we'd all love to see). Like all turn-based RPGs, you choose your team, in this case, the crew for your airship, and as you level up and earn coin, you can hire new crew members, purchase bomb packs, and even upgrade to a better ship. Once you enter battle, you place three of your team members on the board and move them to attack either the opponents on the board or the rival ship itself.


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Rating: 3.1/5 (39 votes)
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Artillerize

Lori.hHave you ever thought to yourself, "I could really use some practice to hone my building, budgeting, and obliterating UFO skills. Now how can I do that all at once?"? Well we have the answer for you! Artillerize by Pyxelbit is a platform shooting game where you not only have to keep yourself alive, but build the floor beneath the feet and keep the roof over your head. While movement and purchasing ammo is done with the keyboard, Artillerize gives you two choices for attack. It's automatically set up for the [spacebar] and [arrow] keys to aim, but the mouse may be the easier choice. You can run back and forth between different guns as needed, and you'll want to keep moving to stay ahead of your foes.


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Rating: 4.1/5 (60 votes)
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Mission in Department Store

SonicLoverIt was supposed to be simple: break in to the department store, steal the top secret documents, and get out. But someone gassed you, and now you're alone on the store's roof, and things are bound to get more complex before they get simpler. So begins Japanese developer Gatamari's newest escaper, Mission in Department Store. Click the green and red arrows to navigate, and click on various objects to zoom in on them, interact, or pick them up. Once something is in your inventory, click it to highlight it for use, and if you want to take a closer look at it or combine it with something else, that's what the "About Item" button is for. Your ultimate goal is to nab the top secret file and leave the department store... and maybe do a few things more, if you're interested in getting the better of the game's two endings.


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Rating: 4.4/5 (96 votes)
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Ditto

KimberlyI think fairy tales have given us a slight mistrust of mirrors and reflections. Ever since Alice went through the looking glass, and the magic mirror in Snow White, we've wondered what could be lurking behind that shiny surface. Thankfully in real life, we don't have to worry about parallel universes existing behind our mirrors (as far as I know). But you can explore this idea in a mysterious dungeon with your mirror image in Ditto, an excellent puzzle platformer game from Nitrome. Use [WASD] or [arrow] keys to control the character, and hit [A] or [up arrow] a second time while in the air to glide. When there is a yellow wall or floor, watch for a copy of yourself to appear on the other side of it. The object is to get one of you to the doorway at the end of each level, collecting gems as you go. Green gems can only be collected by the white character, and black ones by your image. Avoid anything red (aside from your trusty cape), and beware of spikes and water, because If you or your copy die, you have to start the level over again.


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Link Dump Fridays

DoraEverything is cute in this week's Link Dump Friday! The monkeys pelting you with trash. The hole you're excavating through the Earth. The backstabbing. Even the unintentionally comedic deaths of your coworkers as you try to lead them to safety! Aren't games wonderful?

  • Dig to ChinaDig to China - Hi-ho, hi-ho, it's off to China I go, with no passport but a big pickaxe hi-ho, hi-ho! Octopodo sends you on an arcade-y journey through the center of the Earth as you try to dig as far as you can each round before the time runs out, spending any gems and minerals you nabbing on upgrades. It sounds like a time-consuming way to travel, but I guess it's better than having naked pictures taken of yourself at the airport.
  • I Eat BananasI Eat Bananas - This simple arcade game must be a metaphor for something, right? Like the beanstalk is, um, life, and the bananas are... are... promotions! But, like, the big mean monkeys up top throwing junk to knock you down are... "The Man", always keeping you down, and so you always have to keep struggling up against society!... or maybe monkeys just really like to eat bananas.
  • RescuenatorRescuenator - gametornado's physics puzzle puts the hilarity into rescue work, although that might just be because I'm a terrible person and I laughed like a hyena the first time I dropped someone down an elevator shaft with a shocked, garbled cry. Click to manipulate the environment and make safe paths for your hapless victims to make it to the ambulance, but beware... danger is everywhere, and hilarious.
  • Don't See MeDon't See Me - ABA Games wants you to face your enemies!... unless, you know, they can actually see you. Then you run and hide like a little coward. In this arcade game, you can only take down an enemy when their back is to you, so you'll have to sneak around and avoid their line of sight. Throw in a trippy, psychedelic retro style and you have one weirdly addictive little game that will have you cheerfully backstabbing your way to a high score.

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Rating: 4.3/5 (25 votes)
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Cabin Escape: Alice's Story

GrinnypMemories are amongst our most precious possessions, next to our flat-screen TVs. We spend millions on backups and storage and have been known to run back into burning buildings to save the family photos (after saving the kids and pets, of course, we're not monsters). Memories are what defines who we are, so the idea of slowly losing them can be terrifying, which is the basis of many a great movie, television show, and adventure game. Glitch Games knows this, which is why memory and its gain and/or loss is at the heart of their fantastic Forever Lost series of point-and-click (or point-and-tap) adventures. Now comes their latest effort, Cabin Escape: Alice's Story, the fabulous prequel in the form of a classic room escape.

Cabin Escape: Alice's StoryIf you've played Forever Lost: Episode 1 or Episode 2 (and why haven't you, they're fabulous) you know at least some of the story. No spoilers here, but Cabin Escape fills in a significant blank in the story, as well as being a wonderful stand-alone gem. Jason, the protagonist of the aforementioned series, has left Alice alone in their vacation cabin. Being that she has difficulty retaining memories (Memento much?) Jason has tried to help by making the entire cabin a series of mind-benders in order to keep Alice's cognitive functions sharp. Yes, the plot has more than a passing resemblance to Tesshi-e's oeuvre of "locking someone into a confined space so they can have fun puzzling their way out", only with more moody atmospherics and less wobbly pictures.

You, as Alice, must tap around this haunting cabin and solve puzzles galore in order to walk out the front door. The game features the controls of the big games, the suitcase inventory and the wonderful in-game camera that you can use to take photos of anything that you might want to remember later. There is a hint feature available, but only as microtransactions, with one purchase unlocking a series of hints for one specific puzzle. With the presence of a few wicked brain-teasers and at least one mystery that requires thinking way outside the box, Cabin Escape: Alice's story is a lively challenge for room escape fans, especially those that would like to see the clear, logical elements common to the best eastern-designed escapes presented with a western flair. Glitch Games brings the escaping joy with this impressive titbit to tide the fans over until Forever Lost Episode 3.


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Rating: 4/5 (44 votes)
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Rogue Horse

TrickyRogue Horse! Rogue Horse! Rogue Horse! He's Rogue! And while he may not lead the Evil League of Evil, he is the titular star of this procedurally-generated, chess-based puzzle game by RatoLibre1, a semi-sequel to his well-received Horse Jump. Rogue Horse moves like a knight on the grid of each procedurally-generated level. Which is to say two spaces forward and one over, or vice-versa (an "L"), with the ability to "leap" other pieces. Every time you make a move the blue circle by clicking the mouse, the enemy "locks" on the board will move in the direction they're pointing, or, if they are facing a wall, stay on the same square as they turn around. They will not travel forward if another piece blocks their way.

Rogue HorseEach level requires you to "capture" a certain number of the locks to open up the door to the next one. Some levels will also require you to land on switch-spaces to open the door. In the upper-right corner is your maximum number of moves. The game ends when you reach that amount, but each level also contains a potion which will add moves to your total. Beat the higher number of levels in the fewest moves to get a high score. For something based around a game with such codified rules, Rogue Horse could use a better explanation of its own. Many players will probably need a practice run. Still, the minimalist graphics are inviting for a game with such originality, and improving one's strategy over time is quite enjoyable (Note that this claim is dependent on me ever actually making it through seven levels in one round. Gah.) Would fans of chess or spatial logic be able to forgive themselves for giving Rogue Horse a pass? In a word: neigh!

Play Rogue Horse


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Rating: 3.8/5 (41 votes)
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No more Bullets

JoelyBeanRemember how difficult Edmund McMillen's The Binding of Isaac was? No way to know what you'll encounter next, hordes of enemies charging at you, and nothing to defend yourself but your salty tears. Well, now you can experience a horror-based roguelike which gives you no weapons at all! Such is the premise of No more Bullets, currently playable in beta and Orangepixel's entry for the recent Procedural Death Jam. Using the [arrow] keys to move, your objective is to find your way to the glowing white beacon without dying at the hands of a proverbial army of monsters.

No more Bullets You won't find any powerups, hidden switches, or boss battles here. This game is as simple as they come. It focuses not on gimmick, but on getting the most out of its game mechanics, and there is something very admirable about that. With the ability to move quickly and not much else, you'll quickly find ways of baiting the monsters—who incessantly follow you like they're under a love spell, even if it means getting themselves stuck on corners—into going where you need them to be. Saying much else would take away from your own experience playing the game, but I will leave you with this. There are ways to recover your health. With more developments to come, this beta has a lot going for it already. It's too bad that the sound doesn't seem to be in operation yet, but it's impressive that Orangepixel managed to create such an eerie atmosphere even without it. Maybe in the next update, we'll learn more about those freaky disappearing heads...

Play No more Bullets


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Rating: 3.7/5 (35 votes)
| Comments (0) | Views (163)

Colony Defenders 2: Swarm Resistance

DoraBugs and I don't get on well. Just last night I was trying to gently trap a spider in a cup so I could release it non-violently into the great outdoors where it could hopefully continue the circle of life by getting its freaky carapace eaten by a bird, and it chose to launch itself at my face. Death before dishonor, I guess. My point is, bugs are not to be trusted, and giant swarms of killer space bugs even less so. In QiGames' tower defense Colony Defenders 2: Swarm Resistance, that's exactly what you're dealing with as you plop down machine guns, rocket launchers, and more to deal with a nasty swarm of alien behemoths who really seem to disapprove of your presence. In each stage, you'll build towers on green bases to protect your command base from the monsters that come in waves. Different critters have different strengths and abilities, but also different weaknesses, so heat-powered rocket launchers can make up for their slow rate of fire, for example, by taking down the huge groups of enemies that are weak against them. (Realistically speaking, what isn't "weak" against a rocket to the face?)

Colony Defenders 2: Swarm ResistanceYou'll earn cash from fallen enemies you can spend on more towers, or on upgrading the ones you have, and valuable ore, gathered by drones, to improve a tower's rate of fire. You can also periodically use a special ability to help the carnage along, such as a rain of missiles, but since these come with a cool down timer, you may want to save them for when you're really in the thick of it. If an alien reaches your base alive, you'll see the base take damage, and while initially it may seem like it has a lot of hit points, you'll quickly discover that waves can be full of literally dozens of baddies, and it doesn't take long for all that damage to add up. As a result, careful tower placement, as well as tower type, makes an enormous difference in a stage's overall challenge. If you survive, you'll be granted stars based on your performance that you can spend on permanent upgrades to your abilities and weapons.

You don't have a particularly huge variety of upgrades, mind. Colony Defenders 2 only has a handful of towers and a few upgrades for each, most centering around boosting damage. Seen from a distance, it looks like a very Cursed Treasure-esque approach, keeping its game centered around a few simple yet balanced towers instead of overwhelming you with lackluster options. At the same time, however, where Cursed Treasure piled on a wealth of various status effect chances and such to add on to keep you fresh and excited in spending your points, Colony Defenders 2 winds up feeling a little one note. The game is difficult, but it also tends to rely on simply huge numbers for that difficulty most of the time, though upgraded rockets often wind up being the way to go. The game's high quality visuals and artwork look fantastic, but the inability to change the quality settings means players with older computers may find this one lags too much when there's more than a few enemies onscreen. All of this makes Colony Defenders 2: Swarm Resistance an extremely impressive, challenging game with a lot to offer, even if it isn't quite as fleshed out as some of the true titans of the genre.

Play Colony Defenders 2: Swarm Resistance


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Rating: 4.3/5 (71 votes)
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Dark Deception (Demo)

TrickySometimes horror is subtle and psychological. SCP - Containment Breach releasing a statue that will break you if you break your gaze. The hazy hallucinations of a Lone Survivor. The desperate, puzzling attempts to wake from a Deep Sleep. However, sometimes horror is about a screeching anthropomorphic monkey thing leaping at you with a machete. Dark Deception, a first-person arcade Unity game demo by Glowstick Games is more akin to the latter. A demented mix of FPS-Man and that Scary Maze Game jump scare thing, this demo will jolt you awake and make you come back for more. Use the mouse to look around the hotel maze, moving with [WASD] and running by holding [shift], which you'll be doing a lot. You must collect all the purple soul shards before being caught by the monsters in the maze, and you have three tries to do it.

Dark Deception (Demo)While the Steam Greenlight page for the game speaks of a decades long tale of suspense and scheming eventually backing up the gameplay, along with many more mazes and monsters, this demo doesn't really provide much context for what you are doing. However, that just makes it all the more disorienting and frightening in my opinion. Creepy never-ending hallway labyrinth! British woman taunting you! Nerve-racking music! That friggin' monkey thing chasing you! Yeesh! Actually, you may recognize said British woman's voice as that of Carolyn Seymor, AKA Mass Effect's Dr. Chakwas AKA Gears of War's Myrrah, AKA Zoey the evil Quantum Leap Hologram. Now I have another fanfic to write. It's a trip-and-a-half, and I can't even imagine what it'll be like with the planned Oculus Rift support. This demo for Dark Deception may overall come off as a mess of interesting parts that needs more development to fully coalesce, but that's kind of the point. Horror fans, or anyone who feels their heart rate is currently too low, should give it a play.

Play Dark Deception

Weekday Escape

elleBlah blah. Chat about this week's assortment of featured escape games while exuding wittiness and charm. Optimal but optional: a collective theme to tie it in all neatly and make like serendipity spawned a matching set. Well, just to be contrary, I'm not going to do that. I'll just throw these games out into the jigasphere and leave it up to you to pretend I gave a whopping good intro. Aaannnd, as long as I'm rabble-rousing, let's make that not three but four games. Surely one of them will take a fondness to you and follow you home?

Dismantlement Sushi (Browser)Dismantlement Sushi (Browser) - by Gam.eBB.jp is a reminder of why we looove the dismantlement games even as it leaves us wanting for so much more. Although the designer recommends Japanese language proficiency, it's actually unnecessary; figuring out the first riddle is just as fun without it. To start play, click on the orange button near the bottom of the game screen, remove the first screw, and you'll be well on your way to taking apart a five-piece sushi dinner. Next, if you enjoy this version, try the other Dismantlement SUSHI on your mobile device—while equally short and simple, it has six new puzzles to temporarily amuse as you draw curious looks from fellow queue-mates, waiting room sitters, or your dinner date.

Candy Rooms 6: Violet SweetCandy Rooms Escape 6: Violet Sweet - The sweetness keeps coming from FunkyLand and we're beginning to think this infatuation is becoming an obsession. It's like Winchester's mansion but with candies instead of restless spirits. Do you want out? Earn the door key ante by collecting—through keen eyes and puzzle solving—five pieces of candy. How did you do? Violet Sweet is either the easiest or one of the most deceptive installments in the series. At least, it had me fooled for...a while. After this particular head palm moment, I wondered if I partook a tad too heartily in the festivities last St. Patty's day.

Escape from the White Picture RoomEscape from the White Picture Room - Perhaps you wonder how many variations of a basic concept can Yomino-Kagura create? The key figure in each Yomino Kagura game is always a piece of furniture or ornament while you continue as protagonist and the theme remains the same: puzzles on top of puzzles. Unless you read Japanese, you'll miss the narrative, but that's not what matters. As long as you love puzzles, then these neat and logical agents of fun are well-stocked inside this otherwise plain room. Not much else needs saying when there's the simple satisfaction of an escape game to be had.

Chick Hide and Seek 16Chick Hide and Seek 16 - Too cute to resist, Yuri's brood of downy yellow peeps are more interested in playing games than having a soak in the tub. If you are hoping for cranial Calisthenics to round out your coffee break, better to seek somewhere else. Otherwise, look around this bathroom for ten adorable chicks, using items and deciphering codes, and don't be surprised if your cheek muscles contract and your smile gets a good workout. Besides, even if you didn't pull off one of the greatest wins of the decade, at least you can make a clean escape!

We love escape games, and our readers love talking about them and sharing hints! How about you? Let us know what you think, ask for clues or help out the other players with your walkthroughs in the comments below.

25


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Rating: 4.1/5 (78 votes)
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25

KimberlyMath has never been my forte, but the recent craze of sliding block number puzzles has really pulled me in. Adding another game to the addiction is Bart Bonte with 25. Use the [arrow] keys to slide all the numbers on the screen. Blocks only move one spot at a time, instead of continuing to slide until they hit something, so will only merge with a matching numbered block when they are right next to each other with no where else to move. The number tiles are not added together, but progress upward one number at a time. Merging a couple of three blocks will make a four block, for example. Red blocks just get in your way, but if you line up three in a row, they'll disappear.

While 25 is clearly inspired by the recent popularity of Threes! and 2048, there's just enough different here for it to stand on its own. The red obstacles make getting blocks together more difficult and add another puzzle element to the game, while the slower movement of the numbers give the game a less frantic feel. While not as original as the games Bonte has given us before, 25 is worth a look, and before you know it you'll be trying to beat your high score... so you can brag in the comments.

Play 25


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Rating: 2.9/5 (30 votes)
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Ridiculous Glitching

ArtbegottiWarning: This game contains flashing elements which may trigger photosensitive seizures in people with epilepsy. Also, certain game events may cause the volume to suddenly increase for short periods of time.

What happens when you combine a classic arcade game like Pac-Man with a modern smash hit like Flappy Bird? You get fatal errors out the wazoo, that's what. As a mustachioed Blinky attempts to take advantage of the mishap and monetize your mashup with paywalls, you've got to do all you can to stay alive in Ridiculous Glitching by Firepunchd. In this glitch-style clone (a la Rom Check Fail) made for Flappyjam (and a smidge late for Candyjam), you only need the [W] key to give your bir—erm, Pac-Man a bit of upward acceleration to fly through the paywall obstacles, but there's more to this game than meets the eye.

Ridiculous GlitchingYou gain one point for each floating fruit you snag, but grabbing a power pellet turns some of the Blinkies on the top and bottom edges into vulnerable Flappy Birds. Each of those that you grab are worth three points, but you also run the risk of hitting an untransformed Blinky or the edge of the game field (which isn't clearly defined). This scoring twist turns the simple (well, "simple") avoidance game into a clever collection challenge. Survival is still a tricky task in any case, especially when you pass through fields that distort the screen and when the barriers start moving!

If you're looking for some multiplayer action, up to four players can battle for high score domination simultaneously, using [up], [G], and [K] for additional players, and they can still attack each other from the edges even after they've been eliminated from play. If you play long enough, you might discover how to unlock a faster hardcore mode (there are at least two ways!). One downside is that the turnaround from losing one game to starting the next could stand to be a hair shorter, but if a major complaint of a game is "I want more, NAO," the devs are doing something right. While Ridiculous Glitching is as basic as its high-difficulty flappy predecessor, it presents enough quirks through scoring and gameplay variations to keep you twitching for just one more play.

Play Ridiculous Glitching


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Rating: 3.7/5 (66 votes)
| Comments (8) | Views (1,463)

Fingerbones

DoraWARNING: This game contains themes you may find disturbing. Consider this a potential trigger warning for things implied. Please see my author's comment below for more detail hidden behind spoiler tags if you are concerned.

Despite its sunlit appearances, David Szymanski's Fingerbones is one of those horror games that sets you on edge right from the beginning. It's just you in a hushed, mostly empty room, dust motes dancing in the light filtering in through the windows... and the knives driven into the table next to the note left atop it. The only direction you're given is the most basic... use [WASD] to move, and the mouse to look around and interact. Progress depends on having a keen eye for detail, on spotting clues, sometimes hidden in plain sight. There's no save function, so be sure you have the time to commit before you sit down, although once you figure out what to do, Fingerbones is on the short side. Oh, and be sure to have your sound turned up... that's absolutely crucial.

A lot of horror stories talk about a feeling of "wrongness" to a place, but few games have managed to capture that as easily and as quickly as Fingerbones. It's the way its soundtrack is more than just music, audio that subtly changes as you move and explore. The still and silent environment, broken only by moving shadows and dust motes... and... of course... the notes. Fingerbones is, more than anything else, a sort of abstract psychological narrative, and the way just a few sentences will start making your skin crawl the more you explore is remarkable. All that being said, however, Fingerbones is definitely not a game you want to play if you're at all adverse to human horror. It's the sort of thing that can make your heart feel heavy the longer you play it, as you start to get an idea of what you're going to find at the end. Most of it is implied rather than outright stated or, thankfully, shown, but the themes here are definitely dark in a way that goes beyond the blood and violence in most horror games. Whether you feel that makes it out of bounds is entirely up to you.

On the gameplay side of things, however, though Fingerbones is relatively straight-forward, there can also be times when it's unintuitive. That buzzing sound from the computer, for instance, isn't actually a "wrong code, sucker" tone, and having to s-l-o-w-l-y trek around to see what else has been activated or to revisit an area to look for something you might have missed can be very tedious. Codes wind up making up for the bulk of any sort of puzzle solving, and some of them can be quite sneaky in the way that they're stated. Fingerbones is best approached as a sort of interactive short story, and the ending may leave some people confused, but if you relish some disturbing atmosphere and masterful use of sound, this is well worth the creepy-crawly feeling you'll be left with at the end.

Play Fingerbones

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Mac OS XMac OS X:
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  • Currently 4.1/5
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Rating: 4.1/5 (21 votes)
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nakobOS.exe

ArtbegottiDo you like your Sokoban hard? Good, because nabokOS.exe by Giorgio Malrone is tougher than scraping gum off your shoe. Like a reverse version of the classic puzzle, served up by a program that seems to want you to fail in anguish, you don't push the blocks to their destinations, but they'll stick to you, and you pull them along instead using the [arrow] keys. And once they stick to you, you'll have to scrape these blocks away to get them off of you!

nakobOS.exeWhile the sticky can get pretty tricky, there's one extra move that might help. When you press up against an immovable block and move into it, you'll obviously stay put, but any blocks stuck to you that can move will move. This scrape/push mechanic is the key to tackling the high-difficulty puzzles in this Puzzlescript-designed game. Can you scrape by and solve all the diabolically twisted challenges nabokOS.exe has to offer? How much harder can the program make the game before it self-destructs? Also, do you have any tips for getting gum off of shoes? Seriously, I can't walk on tile floors anymore without leaving pink quarter-sized tracks.

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  • Currently 4.1/5
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Rating: 4.1/5 (61 votes)
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Limbs Repair Station

satoriDuuuude. Have you ever really looked at your hands? Or dismantled them, added in a scanner, blowtorch and transmitter, and put them back together? That's just what you'll be doing for your clients in this Papers Please-inspired cyberpunk time management game by talented musician and game developer Rezoner of QbQbQb fame. In Limbs Repair Station you work at a cybernetics repair center, accepting the orders of irate customers whose robotic hands no longer work or need modifications for some reason. You're in charge of disassembling the items, diagnosing what's wrong with them, replacing any broken components, and choosing and installing any new parts to meet the specs.


Limbs Repair StationYou'll have some clients with specific professional requirements, and you'll then have to consult the manual to determine just what parts they'll need installed. Other times a customer's specs will involve optimizing for just the right amount of hand grip and precision. Those two qualities are a tradeoff, and parts that add to one will typically reduce from the other. As with the rest of the game thoughtful analysis, reasoning and attention to detail is a must if you're going to get it right — but you're also getting paid for each order you successfully complete, and you're on a timer that ends the game when the work day is over. Mark a job as complete when there's something you didn't get quite right — or managed to miss completely — and it'll get sent back with a jeer from your manager. Fortunately it'll also include an itemized description of just what you missed, so the only thing you'll lose is time. Which is money! Oh, and don't forget to make sure the product is covered under warranty. That means not only making sure its warranty hasn't already expired, but also verifying that it was purchased from a retailer whose products you service — as well as verifying that the bar code on the circuitboard matches the one shown on the warranty. It's a tough job but you didn't think they'd just hand you a paycheck, did you?

This game succeeds in a lot of ways beyond its unique premise. It's more than just a standard time management title because instead of just filling orders to a demanding schedule you'll have to carefully prowl around for a plethora of different things before you can call an order good, and that means it will engage more of your aptitude and strengthen any weak points. It was also made color-blind, and by that I mean it can be difficult to tell Asian skin tones from Caucasian ones. Because you'll need to make the hand you're working on match the complexion of your customer, that can trip you up until you get familiar enough with the palette used to be able to match the skin tone on the customer's ticket. But Rezoner is still frantically grafting new parts onto his latest creation (mad scientist laugh optional), and is conspiring to have a Kickstarter and some new hands hired on for this, so if any of this piques your interest you should definitely check in on him. Just... you know, to make sure he's doing alright. As a friend.

Play Limbs Repair Station


  • Currently 3.9/5
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Rating: 3.9/5 (138 votes)
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Polar Escape

HopefulNebula The cold can do funny things to you. (Just ask anyone who's sick of hearing the phrase "polar vortex.") So when you're stationed at a polar research station, things can get a bit hairy. In Polar Escape, a new game from Just Pine Games, your coworkers have gone a little cuckoo and locked you in someone's room. Luckily, you were able to radio for help and there's a helicopter waiting. Unluckily, that door's not budging, so you'll have to find another way out. As with most escape games, you play by clicking to manipulate the objects around you. Your inventory is on the bottom, and even before you pick anything up, you have a "force" option there that does come in handy at one point.

Polar Escape Polar Escape might be very short and simple, but its sense of humor and intuitiveness more than make up for its lack of length. The central puzzles all have solutions that actually make sense. There's no need to randomly combine inventory items in hopes of creating something useful. There's no pixel hunting. And the character's commentary on each item is well worth reading through. The graphics are clean and fit well with each other. The fact that there are free mobile versions of the game are icing on the cake. If you want, you can just download it onto your phone and pull it out when you need to fill a few minutes of time. Polar Escape is the kind of game that leaves you hoping for more from the developer. Here's hoping that Just Pine is just getting started.

Play Polar Escape


  • Currently 3.6/5
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Rating: 3.6/5 (28 votes)
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Lost Yeti

KimberlyYou'd think by now that migrating creatures would have learned not to let the young'uns walk in the back of the line. What's to stop them from getting distracted by popsicles, becoming lost, and having to puzzle their way back to the pack through dangers untold? Nothing, that's what. But you can help reunite the young yeti with its family in Lost Yeti, a cute puzzle game by Neutronized. The goal is to get the yeti to the black and white square. Click and drag ice cubes or other blocks that are between blue and yellow arrowed blocks in their row or column to clear the way, though you can't move any row the yeti or an enemy is currently standing in. Unless the yeti is completely surrounded by blocks, it will walk straight until it hits an obstacle, then turn clockwise if possible. Needless to say, however, if the obstacle happens to be an enemy or some spikes, you'll have to start the level over.

Lost YetiIn the browser demo, the popsicles don't do anything but taste good, but in the mobile version, you can use them to skip levels you are having a hard time with. While some levels let you take your time, others have moving enemies that eat your treats and make you get out of the way quick or face the consequences, which can be frustrating... I'm looking at you, leaping boar. Sometimes in situations where speed is important, it's a little too easy to over-slide your row, causing premature death, but practice and a steady hand helps a lot with this. As you progress, you get to work with more than just ice cubes, from the star blocks you have to match to make disappear, and blocks that you can punch through. While the demo has plenty to keep you entertained, if you download Lost Yeti for your mobile device, you'll be rewarded with two extra worlds full of interesting new enemies, block types, and music. The graphics and 8-bit soundtrack of Lost Yeti remind me of some Nitrome games, the interface is simple, and the puzzles interesting. Though we got a good game out of it this time, maybe next time the yeti will keep better track of their children.

Play Lost Yeti (Demo)

NOTE: This game was played and reviewed on the Galaxy Nexus. 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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JIG logoDoraWarm winds, fellow game enthusiasts! Recently we put up a call for freelance writers, and we would now like to inform you that the application period has now ended. To say that we got an unexpectedly huge response, is, uh, kind of an understatement! We have not yet responded to all applicants, so while not everyone who has applied will be brought on the site, don't panic if you haven't heard from us... we'll get back to you within the next 24 hours and let you know one way or another! It's been remarkable to see the amount of talent, passion, and often warmth and humour all of you seem to have in abundance, and from the bottom of our hearts we thank you for your time and efforts, and we look forward to meeting and working with you very soon!


(9 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Dark Dimensions: Somber Song

DoraAccording to Daily Magic Productions, Dark Dimensions are places on earth where extreme suffering has left an actual psychic wound that taints and warps the landscape. So any theater that played I, Frankenstein must be an absolute miasma of agony, amirite? Heh, but seriously, this game is about dead stuff. Specifically, hidden-object adventure Dark Dimensions: Somber Song is about a town where seven children, all musical prodigies, were consumed in a deadly fire. You're just passing through when a frantic pounding at your hotel room door (that you have to find a key before you can unlock, because reasons) wakes you up just long enough to see a terrified little girl being whisked away by an evil dark smoke... which apparently has also put the whole panicked town into lockdown. Too bad for it, you have a PhD in... uh... smoke... hrm... how exactly does one toss off a witty one-liner physical threat at a supernatural embodiment of human suffering?

Dark Dimensions: Somber SongFor the most part, Somber Song is a very by-the-book example of the genre, as you solve puzzles, hunt for clues, and gather items. The hidden-object scenes tend to be set up as a chain of puzzles, which is nice compared to the usual junk pile search, and takes some of the sting out of it when they repeat. It is not, unfortunately, what you'd call challenging in the slightest, and for a lot of players, how fast they'll find themselves blurring through it without having to resort to the hint or skip functions, or even the map, will be a bit of a turn-off. Which is a shame, since despite not feeling like it's even trying to trip you up, Somber Song is actually really enjoyable. It's constantly throwing new twists and cutscenes at you as you explore the lavishly illustrated environments, and even manages to execute a few well-done jump scares. The brisk pace makes this one shorter than others, but the intuitive design and simple gameplay keeps you engaged the whole time.

It actually feels as though it might, both in story and gameplay, be the most simplistic of the series, and compared to the stunning artwork the animated cutscenes are... uh... kind of... not stunning, which interferes with the mood. At the same time, however, Somber Song's design and cinematic appeal will make it the perfect choice for players who really are looking for a horror-lite adventure that's a fit for a casual evening's enjoyment. As you explore the town, naturally you discover that the fire that swept the music school all those years ago may not have been an accident, and even as the ghostly spirits of the children seem to be trying to help you uncover the truth, the dark smoke and something even more dangerous works actively to bar your way. A little campy? Sure. But Dark Dimensions: Somber Song is a snappy, fun game that makes up for its brevity and lack of ingenuity by being all-around well designed. Plus, the first item you can pick up is some breakfast toast sausage. If that right there doesn't scream "game with its priorities straight", I don't know what does.

Note: Currently, only the Collector's Edition is available. It contains a bonus chapter, art gallery, strategy guide, and more. Remember that Big Fish Game Club Members pay only $13.99 for Collector's Editions (or 2 club credits), and collector's editions count 3 card punches of 6 total needed for a free game.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


  • Currently 4.6/5
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Rating: 4.6/5 (179 votes)
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2048

DoraPreviously featured in Link Dump Friday, Gabriele Cirulli's fiendishly simple and dangerously addictive puzzle game 2048 has sort of been taking over the world, one square at a time. The object, as the title implies, is to reach 2048 by combining squares... when two squares of the same value are merged, they become a single square with their total value, and your goal is to swipe and combine until you reach that golden number... or the board fills up and becomes immovable. It's harder than it sounds, since each time you move with [WASD] and the [arrow] keys, not only do all the squares move at once in the same direction, a new square will also be spawned with a value of either two or four.

If it sounds a lot like Asher Vollmer and Greg Wohlwend's iOS and Android smash-hit Threes!, well, that's because it basically is, albeit extra simplified in every conceivable way, from design to gameplay. Where Threes! actually boasts some surprisingly challenging rules for such a simple mechanic, 2048 is mostly just about simple matching and addition. It identifies as being "similar" to Threes!, which it is, but a bit more than in a passing fashion. It's still fun and enjoyable as it is, but if you do enjoy it, you should probably also make the effort to acquaint yourself with some of the "source material".

2048 is one of those easy to play yet hard to win games that tend to dominate any spare time you might have had, but Gabriele's has really taken off in a massive way, spawning countless imitators and even outright clones in just a few weeks. It's the same sort of unexpected, jaw-dropping viral success of, say, Flappy Bird, but without the infuriating mindlessness. Randomly swiping your board around can admittedly rack up a fairly decent score, but the more the values start climbing, the more apparent it is that you'll need to start coming up with a strategy if you really want to get anywhere close to victory. If you do manage to succeed, you'll actually be given the option to keep going to try for even bigger combos. Playing 2048 has the same sort of "just enough brain involved" appeal of games like Solitaire, and it's easy to see why it can have you going "one more round" over and over. With so many imitators and clones, it's important to give proper credit where credit is due, so make sure you're only playing on the official site, and consider making a donation to the developer if you've lost an hour or several here, and be sure to check out Threes! if you want something even smarter and meatier for your favourite smartphone device.

Play 2048


  • Currently 3.8/5
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Rating: 3.8/5 (26 votes)
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Dismantlement SUSHI

elleIt's only some innocent slabs of raw fish on a plate. What's the fun in that? Put away the chopsticks and pick up a screwdriver, though, and you shall soon see what. Coming back from a seeming hiatus, Gam.eBB presents another yummy take-things-apart-to-see-what-you-find puzzle game, this time carefully arranged for play on your mobile device: Dismantlement SUSHI. All you have is a screwdriver (cleverly designed to fit invisibly onto your fingertip). With a few tapping motions, loose your first screw to reveal the game stage. Continue to tap and tilt your device to uncover clues and puzzles that, when solved, allow you to dismantle your sushi dinner even further. Play is very similar to an escape game but more focused on code breaking. After deciphering an initial series of codes, your true dismantlement mission is presented.

While this is probably the easiest/shortest episode of the Dismantlement series, outsmarting the challenges brings up that giddy bubble of satisfaction just as readily. Although it's a bit clunky to scroll through an entire alphabet to input codes, gameplay is intuitive. Keeping a pen and paper handy for notes might help yet is not required: the game is designed so that you can solve puzzles individually and solutions can be memorized. You may feel clueless at first but it only takes a bit of poking about before the scheme of things starts making sense. Yay! A click: the sound of success and another dismantlement that hits the spot.

Thanks to Sam for sending this one in!

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


  • Currently 3.6/5
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Rating: 3.6/5 (70 votes)
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Loot Heroes

DoraTAKE UP THINE MOUSE, NOBLE WARRIOR, AND MAKE READY THY WEAPON IN... uh... the service of ultimate evil? Wait, what did I just sign on for? The dungeon-crawling action RPG Loot Heroes, from Vitaly Zaborov, Kirill Kashur, and Edgar Plotnieks, stars you as some helpless berk stranded in the netherworld and conscripted to take down a whole pack of big, mean demons... for a demon who wants to be the biggest and meanest. Golly, what could go wrong? Just click to play, using the mouse to direct your character around the dungeon, and attack whatever's closest. You can choose specific targets by clicking them, but, uh, honestly, you'll typically be so swamped with enemies you might as well just swing at whatever gets in your way. Loot is randomly created and dropped, allowing you to find rare and powerful items you can equip or recycle into gold to allow you to buy more items. As you render enemies into unmoving puddles of gore, you'll also level up, gaining points to distribute to your statistics. Take out each area's big bad demon to move on to the next, and if you die, it's game over... though everything you do works towards unlocking new characters with different abilities!

Loot HeroesThis is one of those games that's definitely fun in an infinitely casual and simply addictive sort of way, but also carries a few buts. Its simplified Diablo-esque gameplay is great for a few minutes of hack-and-slash gimme-dat-sweet-loot action whenever you want it, but the interface and limited control options leave a lot to be desired. The unlockable heroes and veritable plethora of powerful items to find makes for great compulsive action, but it's also undeniably more than a little repetitive and it can feel like difficulty comes down to a simple case of swarming you with a tidal wave of foes rather than any actual strategy. Loot Heroes is also, like... weirdly bloody for a game that's so otherwise cute. Where are in the world are the skeletons keeping it? Are you killing skeletons who are carrying donations for the blood bank? You monster. I'm not opposed to gore, mind, it's just something that limits its audience in an odd way when it didn't need to. All that being said, however, Loot Heroes is still a fun, chaotic little imp of a game in the vein of Hack Slash Crawl, and one whose rough edges I hope we see sanded off for a sequel at a later date.

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Link Dump Fridays

DoraThis week's Link Dump Friday is all about heroes. Zombie slaying heroes. Ninja dicing heroes. Uh... giant... cybernetic... Tolkien-monster slaying... furry heroes... hmmmmm...

  • MeowraMeowra - The hero of Vorbis' turn-based match-3 game is a cybernetic superhero cat who defends helpless kitties from the Nazghul and other genuinely creepy monsters from worldwide folklore while the narration wishes, "May the force be with you, Meowra!" No, I'm not kidding. Though on the repetitive side, it's simple yet weirdly endearing Puzzle Quest-style gameplay as you match gems to help Meowra beat up monsters before they can do the same for him. Godspeed, Meowra.
  • Pillow City RevelationPillow City Revelation - In Small Farm Studios' cute yet gory zombie action RPG, protagonist Xiro must battle his way across an infested city to rescue his little sister with the help of a band of survivors including his game designing boss and a cow with a PhD. It's a game that needed more polish than it has, largely due to some awful text editing for such a story-centric game, and some slow repetitive gameplay besides, yet there's something weirdly charming and addictive about it. Probably the perversely cute way the zombies chow down on human remains, like a toddler with Cheerios. D'aaaawww.
  • Black Bit NinjaBlack Bit Ninja - Ever wonder what it would be like to be the Mr. Bean equivalent of a ninja? Hero Punch has you covered with this retro-styled physics puzzle where you control a tiny ninja whose only weapon is to hurl himself in the vague direction of his foes. Granted, if you can connect, that's a pretty good weapon since you'll instantly slice and dice any enemies you pass through, but you have a limited number of "dashes" per stage, and all that's missing is the sad trombone wah-wah-waaaaaah whenever you aim improperly and miss your mark to plop down a few feet away.
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Game - 30th Anniversary EditionThe Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Game - 30th Anniversary Edition - You're a hoopy frood who always knows where your towel is, right? So why not celebrated with this enhanced version of the classic text adventure based on Douglas Adams' hit science fiction novel and most certainly not that one movie we don't talk about, though Sam Rockwell was pretty good. We've covered the Hitchhiker's Illustrated Guide to the Galaxy game before, though that has since become unavailable, and this new version has everything from the original, plus some shiny new graphics and a new interface. And, yes, the babel fish puzzle, which as we all know is the greatest puzzle to ever grace an adventure game and absolutely will not make someone hate you if you coerce them into trying it.

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Rating: 3.6/5 (76 votes)
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Idle God 3

KimberlyRuling the world is really not as easy as it sounds. Idle God 3, a simulation clicktoy by Belgarionriva, lets you slowly build a kingdom by gathering resources... and making some difficult moral choices. Not only are you immortal, you're an immortal who may be going through some sort of existential crisis. Will your actions ultimately save humanity, or destroy it? Everything is controlled with the mouse, so just move and click as you desire. Use buildings for their various upgrades, click resources icons to mine, and watch for random resource drops to appear on the map. You can jump start things by giving your clicking finger a workout, or sit back and let the game do its thing, checking in periodically.

Idle God 3Idle God 3 is more story driven than something like Cookie Clicker, which gives it more replayability as there are nine different endings to unlock. (Keep track of your choices in the museum.) As a god you'll have to make some tough decisions on how to keep anarchists who leech resources at bay, and how will you get any monuments built without slave labor? The game does a very good job at letting you know how an upgrade will affect you, which saves you from some fumbling around near the beginning of the game. That's not to say everything is clear right off the bat. It takes time to discover precisely why something may or may not be beneficial to you, and when. Though not whimsical like many of the idle games, Idle God 3 still manages to be compelling while tackling some of the grimmer aspects of godhood, and will keep you playing for days to come.

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  • Currently 4.3/5
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Rating: 4.3/5 (70 votes)
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Tinysasters 2: Rise of the Nexus

SatoriGet set to make tiny pixel civilizations thrive again! Storm Alligator has followed up on the success of their original rough-and-ready Ludum Dare entry Tinysasters with the much-anticipated casual simulation followup Tinysasters 2: Rise of the Nexus, sure to become a touchstone of the city-building genre as this time they've thought to add in every nicety you could desire and buffed it all up to a brilliant glossy finish. Using your mouse you'll not only be growing flourishing civilizations, you'll also be fending off wave upon wave of natural disasters that only seem to become more frequent the more progress you make — because creating a utopia wouldn't be nearly as much fun without the challenge of warding off a string of atrocities, now would it?

If for some reason you haven't yet added fending off a series of geologic trials and tribulations to your repertoire, no problem! Tinysasters 2 comes with its own friendly alien-pixie-baby counselor who will helpfully show you just how to go about it. Each level's scenario has been designed as a sort of tutorial to show you how to better utilize the well-developed system of in-game tools available to you — something of which the tiny pixelated citizenry must surely approve as they dodge all the deliberately-engineered meteor showers, floods, tectonic shifts, and the like. You'll approve as well, because this one's not only well-developed, it features a cheery, optimistic look-and-feel, a rockin' soundtrack you can't help but want to improve the world to, and Endless and Time Attack modes you can unlock after making it through the first twelve levels. So get out there and grow those towns — because it's always the right day to make things better, and the right time for disasters is... well, never!

Editor's Note: On Thursday March 20th, we received notice from developers Storm Alligator that the version of this game we had received from another portal was hacked, stripping out valuable components in a way that negatively impacted both the creator and the sponsor. At their request, we took down the game and the review. Today, we received a new (legit!) version from Storm Alligator to host, and we thank them profusely for their patience!

Play Tinysasters 2: Rise of the Nexus


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Rating: 4.2/5 (36 votes)
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Letter Quest: Grimm's Journey

KimberlyFrom Bacon Bandit Games comes a charming new word game where you play a resourceful creature called Grimm. In Letter Quest: Grimm's Journey, free for iOS and Android, you've taken it upon yourself to clear all the dungeons of evil, not with a weapon, but with your words!... okay, a scythe is also used. Each stage is broken down into three parts, indicated by stars, the first of which will be granted when you kill all the monsters by spelling words, while the others are earned by completing different challenges once you've won a stage the first time. Tap the letters on the board in any order to make a word. Letters don't have to be next to each other, and there isn't a clock, so feel free to take your time. Longer words and words that include harder to use letters (indicated by the color of the dot on the tile) do more damage. The tiles will turn blue once you've spelled a valid word, and if you've made a mistake, just tap on your word to return tiles to the board. Once you're satisfied with your word, hit the green attack button to deal some damage. If you can't find a word on the board, hit the arrows on the left to mix things up, though this takes up a turn.

Letter Quest: Grimm's JourneyYou can tap on enemies to see an amusing description as well as their stats. Aside from attacking you, enemies can affect the game board in various ways by changing the tiles. There are poison tiles that will harm you if you use them, or stone tiles, that you can't use at all, among many others. Affected tiles have a countdown in the corner, and once it reaches zero, the tiles go back to normal. Occasionally crystal tiles will appear to give you a bonus, such as a shield, if you use them. If you can't remember what all the different components do, just hit the question mark button, then tap the item in question for a reminder. As you progress the baddies start having peculiar traits... one I found particularly difficult was the enemy that only takes damage from words that begin with a vowel.

You'll earn gems by killing monsters and completing stages and quests as you go. Gems are used to purchase upgrades and potions in the shop. There are also books with special effects that you can carry with you and level up as well. While there are in-app purchases within the game, Grimm's Journey is perfectly playable without buying anything, though you might consider hitting the donate button if you like the game. There are a ton of levels to traverse, achievements to earn, and bosses to kill... enough to keep you busy for quite awhile. While at its core Letter Quest: Grimm's Journey is a simple word game that's easy to pick up, it goes on to show you that the pen and sword can work together to make a lot whole lot of fun.

Play Letter Quest: Grimm's Journey (Demo)

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


  • Currently 3.8/5
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Rating: 3.8/5 (58 votes)
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Doors 2

TrickyThe original Doors: Out Of Office saw everyman Dave desperately trying to sneak away from the dreary confines of his cube farm, so it's not surprising that the lug has sought new employment out of doors. But when his new construction co-workers strand him on the top floor of an unfinished building, he finds himself in familiar, physics-bending, puzzle-platforming territory. It's Doors 2: Dave's New Job by Arctic Arcade.

Doors 2In each level move and jump with the [arrow] keys. When you see a door, you can enter it with the [spacebar], and will exit from its matching pair in another part of the level. Some doors will require key cards to get through. However, if that door happens to be on, say, the ceiling or the walls, gravity will rotate as you come out the other side and the screen will tumbling to demonstrate, tumbling crates and other objects into a new position. Crates can also be moved with the magnetic cranes that appear on some levels, so presumably, they must be filled with cobalt or something. Watch out for unstable blocks that will crumble when you walk on top of them, and those deadly looking electric streams, though some can be turned off with the flick of a switch. There will also be "friendly" co-workers searching for you. While getting caught by them is game over, they will fall victim to your shifts of gravity, so it'll be a snap to keep them occupied as you travel through all 25 levels. Doors 2 definitely keeps up the mellow vibe of it's predecessor: its gentle challenge (at first), gentle humor, and the infectious "Oh yeah!" Dave exclaims upon the completion of a level make it easy to like. Earlier versions of the game had a bug where progress was not saved on the level select screen, but even in the fixed version, it's definitely a game that most will complete in one sitting. So plop a hard-hat on your noggin, and get to work playing!

Play Doors 2: Dave's New Job

Weekday Escape

Dora*Spotlight. Single stool. Dim room. Beret. Weekday Escape. A series of haiku. Because it seemed like a good idea at the time, that's why.

Find the Escape-Men 91: Figure SkatingFind the Escape-Men 91: Figure Skating -
No1game's little green men.
Feels like déjà vu to me.
Whoa... that computer... so meta.

Candy Rooms 5: Ice Blue SweetCandy Rooms 5: Ice Blue Sweet -
Funkyland, more like
eating-candy-found-on-the-floor-land.
That frog's seen some things.

Escape from the Room of the DiamondEscape from the Room of the Diamond -
Yomino Kagura.
Wait, that was six. I'll just borrow one.
Crap. Man I'm bad at this.

We love escape games, and our readers love talking about them and sharing hints! How about you? Let us know what you think, ask for hints or help out the other players with your walkthroughs in the comments below.


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Rating: 4/5 (22 votes)
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Shapist

KimberlyWhen you're not in the mood to have your intelligence judged by your puzzle game, try out Shapist, an innovative sliding block puzzle by Ori Takemura and Dmitry Kurilchenko. Shapist won't time you, or give you a score dependent on how many moves you make. It's just you and the puzzle. Think Rush Hour mingled with Tetris but with shapes that do more than just slide, and you'll have the basic idea of what the game is like.

ShapistThe goal is to completely uncover the lighter grey rectangle by sliding the blocks until none of them are touching it. The rectangle will turn green once you've solved the puzzle; simply click it to continue to the next level. Use your mouse to drag the shapes around, though some can be manipulated in other ways as well. Some will temporarily shrink, while others are able to be rotated, among other things. If you find yourself stuck, or just want to start over, click the yellow arrows in the corner. Unfortunately, you can't skip over a level if you get stuck for too long. Nothing can ruin the zen puzzle state more quickly than getting frustrated with the level you're on and not being able to progress because of it.

Shapist will put your block manipulation abilities to the test, and it's a great new twist on an old puzzle.

Play Shapist

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: 4.1/5 (56 votes)
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Koan

DoraZenmasters live up to their name with the lovely watercolour-swept puzzle platformer Koan, where you play an impulsive disciple struggling to understand the apparently passive ways of your master when all you want is to climb the mountain and get stronger. After all, what good did sitting around ever do anyone? Well, a lot, actually, since in this game meditating is what allows you to proceed. Using [WASD] or the [arrow] keys, you can move and jump (you'll grab hold of the edges of platforms you're close enough to), moving your cursor to the edges of the screen will scroll the level, and tapping [S] will make you sit or rise from a meditative state. Notice those swirling orbs throughout the stages? Grabbing them allows you to place temporary platforms wherever you like with the click of a button while meditating, and when they vanish after fading in and out for a few seconds, the orb can be retrieved to try again. Your goal in each stage is to use these orbs to make your way to the exit, without falling too far to your death.

KoanKoan is one of those games that's both simple and yet simply lovely. While the controls feel a little stiff in a way that puts me in mind of Another World (or maybe Lester the Unlikely), Koan's slow pace and mellow atmosphere doesn't exactly encourage you to move fast anyway. ... well, for the most part, considering the timed vanishing of the meditative platforms, which does sort of feel a bit at odds with the game's narrative. "Sit. Take the world in. EXCEPT FOR NOW NOW NOW BEFORE YOU DROP INTO A PIT OF SPIKES RUN GRAB THAT KEY" It forces you to be a lot more precise in some cases, yet allows for some awkward fumbling for success in others when the running, jumping, and climbing doesn't feel as smooth as it should. Though the game perhaps starts off as too easy for too long considering its slow pace, once you learn the ropes the levels become significantly more complex. No more relaxing climbs through the mountains for you, now it's all spikes and keys and double-sided locked doors and switches. It'll make you wish its rough edges were a bit smoother, though perhaps these are the sort of issues that can only be improved upon with experience as the developer improves... which is sort of apt, considering the game's subject. While not perfect, Koan is still a striking little game with a wonderful distinctive style, and makes me hope we see even more from the developer in the future.

Play Koan


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Rating: 4.1/5 (122 votes)
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J-Tubeus: Steam Adventure

DoraDo precocious robots having adventures count as "steampunk", or do you need a big elaborately twirled moustache and a parasol before you can call yourself that? Tandemark's point-and-click puzzle adventure game J-Tubeus: Steam Adventure stars J-Tubeus, a bowler-hat wearing robot who wheels around his city of brass and steam sporting a boombox, because it's the cutest thing, that's why. On a morning like any other, however, his morning stroll is rudely interrupted when he finds himself kidnapped and tossed in a cell, and even the most optimistic fellow around couldn't think of a whole lot of good outcomes for that scenario... especially when the kidnapper is one of the city's most wanted! To play, just click to interact when the cursor changes, and drag items around the screen in puzzles. While there is no ability to turn off sound effects apart from music, you can control the audio of both simultaneously by clicking and dragging on the little audio bar at the bottom of the screen. If you need a hint, click the little question mark lightbulb in the bottom left corner!

J-Tubeus: Steam AdventureIt reminds me a bit of Little Wheel, thematically at least, all twee robotics and fantastic sense of style. For a robot that doesn't speak, J-Tubeus has a ton of character and personality that come out in the way he moves and emotes. The environment design is so incredibly detailed that it's a shame it tends to look a little grainy when in movement or zoomed out, which can make picking out objects from the busy backgrounds harder than it should be. Most of the puzzles you'll encounter are fairly simple... reassemble pipes or wires, or figure out the proper order to use items. They're not particularly difficult, but at least one of them, the key puzzle specifically, is more frustrating than it should be due to the way it will force you to start the entire painfully long sequence over if you fail too many times. J-Tubeus has such a wonderful, whimsical vibe about everything from its art to its animation that it feels like some Rube Goldberg-esque puzzles would have been a bitter fit, both in style and fun.

J-Tubeus' main issue, however, actually feels like its directly related both to how painstakingly slowly he moves, and the fact that you can't cancel actions or animations. When you're trying to solve a puzzle, watching J-Tubeus creep around the screen at a snail's pace is frustrating enough without having to watch the same failure animation over and over as you try multiple solutions. As a result, it's an incredibly charming and clever little game that feels rough around the edges, and with some more streamlining it would be an absolute joy to play instead of the fun yet somewhat bumpy ride it is now. Still, J-Tubeus: Steam Adventure is so creative and quirky that it's well worth checking out, and we can only hope for more adventures somewhere down the line.

Play J-Tubeus: Steam Adventure


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Rating: 4.4/5 (96 votes)
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Vehicles 3: Car Toons

DoraI am the engine that revs in the night! I am the pleather seat cover that sticks to the back of your legs! I... am Vehicles 3: Car Toons! Vogd and Assaulter take the wheel for more rubber-burning physics puzzle action in this latest installment of the Vehicles games. As usual, you've got command of a group of sentient rescue vehicles, and it's your job to not only get them safely within their designated parking zones, but take care of any lurking baddies along the way by pushing them offscreen into the endless darkness of the pit below, because car judgement is way harsh, man. Just click on a car to start it moving, and then again to make it slide to a stop. Timing is everything as your cars gain momentum, and stopping them too soon can mean they either don't hit their mark, or too late, which could send them hurtling right past it. Certain pieces of the environment can also be clicked for removal, and you've also got the "force" ability in limited uses on certain stages, which, when clicked and then activated on your chosen car, makes them use a unique ability to help them get around certain obstacles.

Vehicles 3: Car ToonsFor a game all about cars going fast as a mechanic, Vehicles 3 feels pretty slow to start, with a lot of overly easy "baby's first smash up" stages to ease you into things. It's helpful if this is your first time playing the series, but if you're a fan, you already know the ropes, and the slow progression might feel like a bit of a drag. When things do get challenging, it's often more a matter of timing and reflexes than the supremely elaborate later stages of, say, Vehicles 2, and I did somehow manage to break the game at one point while reloading a level, somehow accidentally teleporting myself to a non-existent level 99 that consisted of only a smear of wiper fluid and necessitated a reload of the page. Car Toons keeps the goofy humour and charm of the original two games largely intact, however, from the corny jokes to the goggle-eyed expressions that change depending on the actions you take. It's challenging in a different way than the series initially began, and you'll definitely find that the latter portion of the game's 36 levels gets a lot trickier, which helps make up for the training-wheels-easy first fifteen stages or so. Vehicles 3: Car Toons is different, but still a solid game with a lot going for it, and well worth a spin.

Play Vehicles 3: Car Toons


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Rating: 3.7/5 (20 votes)
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Moonchild

SatoriIt's comforting to contemplate that everyone has rough days, even if you're royalty. In the midst of a sumptuous dinner Princess Moonchild asks if she may please be excused in order to get a surprise for Queen Calypso, swearing that it will only take a minute. When a few minutes have passed, the princess hasn't returned, and a loud crash is heard from her room, it's probably time to investigate. Either that's a gargoyle carrying her off through her bedroom window, or the princess still needs a bit of refinement when it comes to planning tasteful surprises — not to mention keeping to her commitments. I'm sure this must all be just a big misunderstanding... right? Right? Queen Calypso certainly seems to have her work cut out for her in Aldorlea Games' epic 20+ hour indie roleplaying offering, Moonchild.

MoonchildIt's all enough to prompt Queen Calypso on a major quest, scouring the countryside and dropping the regional horrific wildlife like so many sacks of potatoes — could she have been awarded her title in a championship fighting tournament? — in the search for her noble daughter. First up, it's a visit to the pointy-eared Elves of Dilldel to cure the only witness to the apparent abduction who — in a colossal fit of cosmic convenience — has developed amnesia. How did that happen? He's not quite sure. Touch of amnesia, you see. Yep, something probably should be done about that. Questing awaits! Move with the [arrow] keys, interact with the [spacebar] and bring up the menu with [ESC]. You can also navigate using the mouse if you'd like, clicking on locations around the screen to set destination after destination like some gleefully cackling digital overlord.

Crisp and colorful landscapes provide beautiful environments to quest through. Rich systems of inventory and skills keep things interesting, and level advancement happens frequently enough to keep things from feeling too grindy. Monster encounters happen in their own mode, preserving the feel of a classic roleplaying game. Like Book of Legends, another popular RPG by Aldorlea's team, Moonchild features several different characters to play, and provides a party switcher feature which enables you to swap them out at will to form the party you'd most enjoy playing — or the one with the skills necessary if surviving your next quest is your pleasure. The characters are well-written and almost come alive with their own character traits and motives, and in addition to the main storyline there's a substantial amount of sidequests as well. Moonchild is a substantial and intricately-developed indie roleplaying game on par with releases from more conventional studios. With plenty of content and even a strategy guide on offer if you need it, Moonchild will draw you into its lush realm and immerse you in its classic roleplaying feel.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


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Rating: 3.6/5 (67 votes)
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Alexia Crow: The Deal of the Gods

KimberlyQuestTracers is back with Alexia Crow: Deal of the Gods, another lovely installment of their point-and click adventure series. Dropped right in to her hero training where The Cave of Heroes left off, Alexia is told that the fate of millions rely on her, though the message is disrupted before she can find out why or what she can do about it. So there's nothing left but to continue to explore and puzzle your way around to try and find some answers out for yourself.

Click to interact with your surroundings, though as before the cursor won't change except to show you area transitions. This isn't a huge setback as the game focuses more on stand alone puzzles than inventory combinations. Drag the items you do find from your inventory at the bottom of the screen to where you'd like to place them. A welcome change this time around is the ability to turn off the visual warping effect that many found disorienting in the last game. Some of the puzzles in The Deal of the Gods don't feel as intuitive as in the first installment, but the beautiful art and intriguing and mysterious story line make this one to check out.

Play Alexia Crow: The Deal of the Gods


(9 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Mystery of Unicorn Castle: The Beastmaster

Starchild Let me start with the moral of the story: if you don't want your home to be overrun by giant rats, don't live in a lavish castle. If you insist on being a wealthy nobleman, you have to put up with the occasional possessed warlock trying to take over, which is why you've procured a magical unicorn (awwww!) to protect you. But then the warlock turns the unicorn into stone, and you're in big trouble. Many years later, a detective is investigating the disappearance of a little girl which leads straight into the forgotten castle, and thus begins the Mystery of Unicorn Castle: The Beastmaster, the new hidden-object adventure by Meridian 93.

Mystery of Unicorn Castle: The Beastmaster As you approach the castle grounds in search of little Sophie, you'll become rather acutely aware of a certain rodent presence, namely huge, bristling, belligerent red-eyed rats. (If you aren't particularly fond of rats in general, be on your guard, because they tend to pop up in a good number of scenes.) You manage to locate Sophie, only to have her snatched from you by the warlock, who plans to sacrifice her in order to gain immortality. While you're trying to unravel the mystery behind this nasty old man, you will be approached for help by ghosts who haunt the castle, unable to find peace. Their testimonies will provide pieces of the story and help you understand how to defeat the villain. Of course, your detective skills will also come in handy, because there are many items to find, doors to unlock and mini-games to play. While all this is pretty typical for the genre, there is an interesting innovation in the "karmic choice". Every once in a while, you'll be asked to decide whether you want to be naughty or nice... for example, whether you want to use one item to smash an aquarium, or another one to gently fish out the item inside. These decisions won't influence the course of the story, but they do give you trophies and allow you to take a break from the goody-goody image of the usual casual game protagonists.

Mystery of Unicorn Castle: The Beastmaster The best moment to play this game is when you feel like having a thrill without actually being scared. There is no horror here, but the game is dark and ominous enough to keep you on your toes. Unfortunately, the darkness also means that the scenes are a bit gloomier than ideal, and some hidden-object scenes look dishearteningly monochrome. The number of locations is pretty impressive, considering that the story never leaves the castle grounds, but never fear, the interactive map will teleport you wherever you need to go. Even though Mystery of Unicorn Castle: The Beastmaster doesn't break new ground, it could well give you a pleasant surprise or two. It's a rather simple, solid story, without much drama, intrigue and convoluted plot twists. If you'd like a more raw game, with no fairy godmothers and happily ever afters, try this one. Oh, and don't mind the rats, they're actually quite cuddly once you get to know them.

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

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


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Rating: 3.6/5 (48 votes)
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Keep An Eye

HopefulNebula So, don't ask too many questions, but someone needs an eye and we're going to get it to them. What do they need the eye for?...That's a question, isn't it? Anyway, Dim Light, Black Ash and ArcadeHero have enlisted the help of some cute little creatures to help you Keep An Eye. In this surprisingly difficult puzzle game, you don't get to control the eye directly. Instead, hold [Z] to activate the ability of the creature nearest the falling eye, and use physics to keep it from hitting obstacles more than a few times. Red creatures will swing the eye like a pendulum, green ones will pull the eye toward it, and blue ones will temporarily freeze the eye in place and make it invincible. You can't influence gray air creatures directly, but if the eye hits one of them, they'll bounce it in the direction of their air flow. A few levels in, you gain an extra set of powers. If you press [X] while you have a creature active, that creature's power is reversed. Get the eye to the vortex at the end of the level to advance.

Keep An Eye Though there are only 16 short levels in Keep An Eye, they're quite challenging, and many of them will have you pressing [R] to restart quite often until you figure out what to do. There's a lot of split-second timing in the game, but the peppy music and adorable artwork help distract from any frustrating bits. The physics of the game are solid and consistent, which means the challenge remains in the game itself instead of fighting with the game engine. As a bonus, the fact that the creature nearest to the eye at any given moment is highlighted in white means you don't have to guess about what's going to happen when you press the button. Keep An Eye is engaging, entertaining, and probably a much nicer thing to do than throwing a real eye around.

Play Keep An Eye


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Rating: 4.8/5 (524 votes)
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Submachine 9

DoraThat little prickle on the back of your neck... it's a combination of wonder and apprehension, and nobody mixes a feeling of awe and the ominous better than Mateusz Skutnik, especially when it comes to his beloved Submachine games. The series has a deep mythology and positively rabid fanbase rife with theories as to the meaning of it all, but now that Submachine 9: The Temple has finally arrived, will we get more answers than questions? This time, you awaken in what looks like the ruins of a strange civilization, only some seemingly busted electronics and a hammer to your name.

Submachine 9As usual, click to interact. Items you can use will appear in your inventory at the bottom of the screen, where you can click once to pick them up, and then again in the game wherever you'd like to try to use them. The cursor will change to highlight interactive zones or area transitions, but that's all the help you're going to get. You're on your own. For many fans, that lack of direction is exactly what they crave. It adds to the air of mystery and the feeling of genuine discovery as you explore. Every bit of progress feels like solving a piece of that mystery, and it's not the sort of atmosphere many other games have even come close to achieving. Of course, that also means when you're stuck, you're stuck, since the game isn't going to offer you a whole lot help. It's up to you to pay close attention to your surroundings and learn how to both spot clues as well as interpret them.

Play the entire Submachine series:
Submachine 1Submachine RemixSubmachine Zero: Ancient AdventureSubmachine 2Submachine 3Submachine 4Submachine 5Submachine 6Submachine 7Submachine FLFSubmachine FLFSubmachine: 32 ChambersSubmachine 8: The PlanSubmachine 9: The Temple

Submachine 9Analysis: Come on, guys. It's a Submachine game. Of course you should play it. The Temple, like its predecessors, marries the otherworldly with the mechanical in its design, encouraging you to poke and prod at everything you see. What often looks baffling in its construction always reveals its own logical use when you start putting the pieces together and learning the way your new realm works. The Temple's construction feels a lot more linear in terms of the way its laid out compared to locations in other games, which makes finding your way around a lot easier. Solving the puzzles? Not so much, but not in any fashion that makes them obstinate or unreasonable. You may not be given a whole lot of clear direction or obvious hints, sure, but the "ah-ha!" moments are always there if you look hard enough, drawing you onward. Each time I thought I was stuck I would notice something new to try, and as a result, I never felt frustrated. Just, y'know. A little dumb.

Though it starts out comparatively easy, the deeper you go into The Temple, the more complex it gets, and mercifully this installment is lighter on backtracking than others have been. You'll still have to do a fair amount of wandering, since it won't always be apparent that something you've interacted with has changed something elsewhere. The visual design makes it fairly easy to pick out items of interest from the backgrounds, but you might still have to use the ol' hot-spot-cursor-wiggle-waggle to find a thing or two. It's also a big game, with a substantial amount of areas to explore that seem to just sprawl out more and more, especially later on. There are hidden doors, secret mechanisms, and, yes, some plot payoff as well. It really is one of those rare games that will have you going "WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME" one moment, and feeling like a magnificent clever pants the next when you finally figure it out. Beautiful, creative, and sneaky in the best possible way, Submachine 9: The Temple isn't just a great Submachine game... it's a great game, period.

Play Submachine 9

Link Dump Fridays

DoraFridays are sort of like the tease of the work week. You know what's coming, but it seems to take forever to get there, seconds not so much ticking by as they are inching with the slow unhurried pace of the shift of plate tectonics. So why not play some games? I mean, when you look up, it's still going to be hours earlier than it feels like it should, but hey... shiny graphics!

  • 20482048 - Gabriele Cirulli's 1024-inspired simple puzzle game is one of those things I just really should not have access to in my browser when things are expected of me, because I keep sneaking back to it. Similar to Threes!, all you have to do is slide numbers around a grid to try to combine pairs of identical numbers until you get to 2048... without locking up the screen. It's harder than it sounds, and a clean presentation makes this one of those bare bones yet addictive puzzle games you can't help but keep fiddling with, even if it isn't exactly new.
  • ShybotShybot - Skudgee's retro Metroidvania game might be a little rough around the edges, but ain't it just the cutest? You control a little robot who, after relentless teasing from his peers, winds up getting lost and trapped in a very dangerous place indeed... though fortunately there are a lot of things to discover to help you! With a note-perfect old school atmosphere and simple gameplay, all Shybot really needs to shine is some less obscure boss battles... and a smaller hitbox!
  • Piggy in the PuddlePiggy in the Puddle - If this cute as pie physics puzzle game feels familiar, it's probably because you played the developer's other game, Golden Scarabaeus. Get the porker into the mud bath in each level by manipulating the objects around him... and by changing the pig itself! Though far fiddlier than the physics in Golden Scarabaeus, the mechanics you'll encounter are almost exactly the same, so if you enjoyed that, you'll be happier than a pig in... uh... mud with this!
  • Shippo Neko and the Missing Fried ShrimpShippo Neko and the Missing Fried Shrimp - Even if you can't read Japanese, you should still be able to appreciate NekoGames' beautifully designed little platformer about a cat with some... unique abilities who goes off looking for, well, some missing fried shrimp, which is a pretty important task, tell you what. The distinctive art style really makes this one shine, and though the gameplay is perhaps overly simple with slow controls, this kitty's acrobatics make it more that worth a peek.

(13 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Glorkian Warrior: Trials of Glork

JohnBAsteroid under attack! Aliens swarming the skies! Sisters in battle suits bullying land-based bipeds! That can only mean one thing: it's glorkian time! After a few years in the cooker, Pixeljam (yep, the Dino Run team) has finally released Glorkian Warrior: Trials of Glork. The creative arcade game draws inspiration from the best shooters of the olden days, all with a fantastic soundtrack and artwork by James Kochalka. It's a big win on so many levels!

Glorkian Warrior: Trials of GlorkStanding on the asteroid's surface, you are the Glorkian Warrior who has the awesome powers of walking left and right as well as jumping. Most of the enemies fly in from the top of the screen, so all you have to do is maneuver yourself and your Super Backpack underneath and auto-fire will take care of the rest. Pick up falling crackers to boost your score and power-ups like double lasers and twisty lasers to increase your firepower. Even with the surprise ground enemies, bosses and crazy baddies jumping around, you'll somehow manage to stay alive. Until you don't, at which point it's time to play again!

Glorkian Warrior brilliantly blends short repeatable gameplay sequences with long-term goals. Not only does a bit of the story unfold after each round, but you also earn credits that unlock bonuses and gameplay alterations, each one more goofy than the last. Just keep collecting crackers and shooting aliens. There's always an awesome surprise waiting just around the corner.

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 (40 votes)
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Cadence

SatoriMade With Monster Love returns from a utopian dimension of ideal geometry to bring you Cadence, a sleek-looking conceptual series of abstract musical puzzles involving resonance, harmony and unity. You'll be provided with a three-dimensional playfield of musical nodes, each of which gives out its own note when pinged by your clicks. Solving a level requires joining them by drawing lines with your mouse, so that the nodes all trigger one another in a recurring melody of notes without a beginning or an end. Some types of nodes will have their own properties, such as cones which will only send a musical pulse to another specific node. If you haven't included a node in your design, feedback resonance builds up within it until the node shatters and you'll have to try again with an improved arrangement.

CadenceCadence has solidly grown to surpass the handful of other musical puzzle and strategy games and webtoys over the last few years. While it shares elements in common with Isle of Tune and Nudge Challenge, you'd certainly never mistake it for them. The world first knew Cadence as Synesthesis, a proof-of-concept title for Ludum Dare, and it's been so well-received that it will soon be available for the iPad, PC and Mac as well. By now, it's also up for vote on Steam Greenlight.

Cadence has taken a basic premise with an easily-mastered set of rules, and beautifully demonstrated how elegant and sophisticated patterns can emerge. The French writer Antoine de Saint-Exupery wrote, "Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away", and here Cadence succeeds admirably. A pleasingly 80's futuristic look with refreshingly comfortable New Age feel, and fundamental precepts which have been very effectively crafted into a game that isn't just soothing and enjoyable, but absolutely engaging.

Play Cadence


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Rating: 4/5 (38 votes)
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Gobble Rush!

DoraMark Richardson's turn-based puzzle game Gobble Rush! is one of those weird little games that manages to be both unexpectedly charming and challenging despite not really having any bells and whistles to speak of. Using the [arrow] keys to move, you're trying to get to the checkered exit at the end of each stage without being flattened by the... yellow... crabby thingers that will charge at you like bulls if you enter their line of sight. The catch is, you have to do just that to lure them away, since they won't stop their charge until they hit something, allowing you to shuffle them around the board with careful planning. When they spot you, an exclamation point will appear above them, and you have one turn to move out of the way, and you can't go through the exit if one of them has you in their sights. Don't worry, you can hit [Z] to undo any moves you like, and [R] will restart the stage if you get creamed.

What's neat about Gobble Rush! is how satisfying its puzzle solving really is, encouraging you to carefully study each level layout to pick your way through. In some cases, for example, you'll need to figure out how to make your yellow foes collide in order to stack them in such a way as to provide more stopping points for others. It's a lot harder than it seems, and it made me wish for a turn counter so I could see how many moves I'd managed to complete a level in to try to improve... or even, hey, a level select at all, though the game will allow you to continue where you left off if you stop playing. While it does get a little repetitive simply because of the way it's designed, players looking for simple and smart puzzle designs should look no further.

Play Gobble Rush!

Weekday Escape

elleEvery now and then it's good to contemplate firsts, to marvel at that feeling of newness, thinking back on that past moment to remember what was going on in your head the first time you tried such and such or met so and so. Somehow that moment connected to others and led to this: you being in this place, here and now. For example, do you remember the first time you played Submachine? Or your first browser game, whatever it was? In the meantime, make yourself at home, pick a room to unwind in and enjoy this week's selection of escape games. Whether today presents more firsts for you or if it's a part of a larger ongoing series, here's to it being a good one!

Escape from the Room of a ClosetEscape from the Room of a Closet - It seems that Yomino Kagura is not out for surprises here. Nothing is going to lunge at you or come tumbling down on your head from this closet. Thankfully. If this isn't your first go around with a Yomino Kagura escape, it'll probably look very familiar to you, too. The fun is not wrapped up in gorgeous aesthetics or cute stories, but the puzzles are enjoyable even if they're rather standard fare. Reliable mechanics and solid logic mean your time isn't taken up with guessing where to look for clues and is, instead, focused on piecing together the information you've gathered so you can decipher codes. That makes this perfect for when you're feeling rather thinky and need something to momentarily engage your thoughts.

Escape from a Living RoomEscape from a Living Room - As Neat Escape puts it, you really were meant to meet up with friends for an outing but are trapped in the living room instead. I suppose if you're the party animal type, being stuck inside is a misery. But, for me, this is my ideal date! Search the room for clues, solve the puzzles, open the door and you win. Oh, and leave if you want to. There's no changing cursor but the design is clean enough that exploration shouldn't prove too troublesome; just keep your eyes out for small details that might indicate an area worth closer examination. The puzzles are light but present just enough challenge to keep you busy for the next 5 minutes.

Find the Escape-Men Part 90: The LibraryFind the Escape-Men Part 90: The Library - Yet another in No1Game's prolific search-and-find little green guys series, this escape distinguishes itself by its winsome personality—very cute and quite charming, as bookworms often are. As cute as it is, it's also short and rather easy as well. At least, it's easy for those who are used to No1Game's antics; newcomers might miss an escape-man or two if they're in a hurry and don't stop to admire the scene now and then. Finding all the active areas also requires diligent clicking/pixel hunting, as there's as many places that elicit nothing as those that bring a response. Even if the puzzles don't challenge, the real charm of the game is in its story so don't give up on it before you've reached the end.

We love escape games, and our readers love talking about them and sharing hints! How about you? Let us know what you think, ask for hints or help out the other players with your walkthroughs in the comments below.


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Windforge

JohnBWindforge is going to blow your mind. On the surface it sounds like a garden variety Terraria or Minecraft clone with a steampunk coat of paint. Spend an hour with the game and you'll realize it's so very much more than that. Windforge is a sidescrolling role playing game that lets you build and fly an airship and craft tons of items, weapons and parts. Everything in the environment is destructible, giving you a tremendous sense of freedom and making just about every other exploration game look restrictive by comparison.


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Rating: 4/5 (67 votes)
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A Ghostly Journey

DoraThis game received its rating of O for mild pixelated violence and blood.

The spectral star of Tin Sleeves' puzzle platformer A Ghostly Journey is dead but not quite lovin' it. After a few years of happy haunting, he (she?) has begun feeling more and more restless, and has finally decided to leave the cemetery. Just because you're incorporeal doesn't mean you've got it made, however, but luckily for our ghostly hero, you can get by with a little help from your friends... and by friends, I mean the people you're possessing. See, as a ghost, you can pass right through physical hazards like spikes, but you can't manipulate physical objects you may need to in order to get to the portal to complete each level, which is where your hapless, oblivious meat suits come in. Using [WASD] or the [arrow] keys to move and jump, stand on top of a human and press the [spacebar] to gain control of them, and press it again to release them, gaining a nice upward boost that can help you reach a high place when you're ejected. Humans can manipulate switches with [X], but they're also bound by the limitations of being squishy meatbags... spikes hurt, naturally, and some of them are faster and stronger than others. Plus, whether you're possessing someone or not, you always need to watch out for light sources, which will damage you if you get too close. Of course, it's not just humans you can possess, and later on you'll have to watch out for other dangers like ghost hunters, too!

A Ghostly JourneyPossession as a gameplay mechanic isn't anything new, as games like Why Am I Dead? have proven, but A Ghostly Journey still manages to make it feel fun and clever by differentiating between the size or strength of the bodies you're inhabiting. Sometimes platforming difficulty feels like it ramps up faster than the puzzle solving does, which might leave you wishing like it was the other way around, or at least more carefully balanced betwixt the two. It's easy to wander the wrong way in a stage and get stuck, thus prompting a restart with [R], which will boot you back to the last checkpoint, or to the beginning of the level if you haven't reached one yet. The checkpoints themselves can also feel like they're used too sparingly, so you'll still wind up being forced to repeat a chunk of whatever stage you're plugging away at... something that can be especially frustrating if you're stuck on something at the very end of a level. Mainly because whenever light touches you, you slow down, so a hit that should have been a glancing blow turns fatal since you can't spring away as spryly as you should. As a result, A Ghostly Journey is a good looking and intriguing little puzzle platformer with a lot going for it and a significant chunk of challenge, but one that might be too unforgiving for some players. Stick with it and you'll find a game that continually pushes your abilities by throwing in new elements, though don't expect it to hold your hand. Mainly because ghosts can't hold hands, you insensitive jerk.

Play A Ghostly Journey


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Rating: 4.7/5 (180 votes)
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Mini Metro (Alpha)

TrickyAnyone who's ever had to wait an hour outside in the cold for a transfer, which is to say, most users of public transportation, would probably leap at the chance to show that they could do a better job making the trains run on time. Well, Mini Metro (hosted here with generous permission), a minimalist strategy simulation game by Dino Polo Club, currently in its alpha release, will show you just how long you can keep up, when there's an entire city ready to crowd your stations and lock your grids. Your city starts simply, with only three stations you'll need to connect. Drag the mouse from one station to another to create a line between them, drag a line's terminator to another station to extend the line, drag a line's terminator over the last station in that line to remove it from the line, and double click a line to remove it entirely. You have a limited number of lines you can place, along with a limited number of river-crossing tunnels, and they cannot cross or visit a station more than once. The trains run along the lines as quickly as they can, and the commuters decide which trains to board and where to make transfers. As time goes by, more stations will pop up to be added to your lines, and more citizens will attempt to ride them. Once you've played past an in-game week, you'll earn upgrades for the metro. For those that affect individual lines, after you select that upgrade, you'll drag the icon from the left pull-out menu to its desired placement. Eventually, a station will get too crowded, the passengers will get too angry, and you will lose. Until that happens though, you've got a ticket to ride.

Mini Metro AlphaAs an alpha version, Mini Metro is only a fraction of what is eventually promised to be. However, as the game popped up in my Facebook newsfeed, with each of my friends attempting to top the other's score, it became clear that people were getting in on the ground floor of something special. It is not merely that Mini Metro has compelling gameplay that hits that casual sweet-spot of being engagingly hectic without becoming too stressful. It's that every time you play, your chart becomes its own bit of abstract efficient beauty... an interactive art generator for your left brain hemisphere to goggle at, like Mondrianism or even The Thinking Machine. And, as implied before, it's great for challenging your friends and/or casual gaming review website readers to beat your score (453! And rising!). So hey, give it a try, then share some feedback to the developers and maybe vote for it on Steam Greenlight. Because, while it may be far from complete, Mini Metro looks like a project right on track to be something amazing.

Play Mini Metro (Alpha)

Thanks to Henry and iceninexp for sending this one in!


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Rating: 4.5/5 (51 votes)
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SmashHit

kyhThe un-aptly named studio Mediocre (makers of other mobile games like Sprinkle Islands and Granny Smith) wants to take you for a ride. A magic carpet ride? No. But it is to a whole new world in the mobile action arcade title Smash Hit. A nonviolent rail shooter, this game takes you along to the beat of appropriately techno tunes as you tap-tap-tap to shatter the various glass objects in your way. But it's not all fun and beauty as you only have a limited number of balls to throw. Hitting special crystal objects will earn back some of those projectiles, but their appearances are limited, so keep an eye on your lobbing practices!

SmashHitBeing a rail shooter, there are no movement controls in Smash Hit. You just tap and shoot to take down the baddies... err, the glass things, whatever. Along the way you'll find temporary power ups like the one that allows you to shoot unlimited balls through a single, long tap or the one that turns your balls into bomb balls that'll blast through barriers that were previously impenetrable. And you'll need all the help you can get with 11 worlds to shoot your way through. Also to help out are the checkpoints between each one, though they're only accessible if you buy the single in-app purchase to upgrade to the premium version for just a couple of bucks.

Smash Hit is a well made, free mobile game with little to complain about. It progresses you beautifully into new mechanics with an ease missing in today's market full of hand holding and hour-long tutorials. While the HUD may have you feeling a little vertically squished, it is easily forgivable amidst the strength of the rest of the 3D, surreal experience. This title is impressive unto itself and can only have good things to say about the future of Mediocre.


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Rating: 3.9/5 (45 votes)
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Forbidden Arms

Starchild Please note that this game received a rating or R due to intense graphic violence and mature themes.

When you hear the word "demonforge", it doesn't exactly conjure up images of kittens and rainbows. No, it's rather something along the lines of a legendary swordsmith who sacrifices his own children in order to make the most powerful weapons the world has ever known. And, lucky you, you get to wield one of those hellish things! In Forbidden Arms, the impressive action arcade game by GodSeeD Studios, you will murder throngs of skilled assassins on your way to bloody greatness. With three areas, an endless array of enemies and lots of delicious upgrades, this is going to be one awesome journey to the dark side.

Forbidden Arms Each of the areas has ten missions, ending with a boss level. There are three mission types, so your goals vary, but they always include killing, killing and more killing. This might seem a bit exaggerated and/or repetitive at first, when it's just you and your sword, but as you progress, you'll learn new moves and abilities, bringing a healthy dose of variety into the gameplay. Another interesting element is the Bloodlust Pool, which is replenished when you bathe in your enemies' blood (literally!) and spent by executing special moves. In addition to blood, you'll collect souls in order to purchase upgrades. Almost anything can be upgraded, usually in several different ways, so you can tailor your gameplay and focus on what works best, or just go for what sounds fun. Do I want to be able to suspend myself in the air while kicking assassin butt? Why, yes, please, here's my money! Speaking of fun, there are three difficulty modes which you can change whenever you like, so the game can be anything from a bit of hack & slash entertainment to a serious challenge, from one level to the next.

If you happen to have played The Legend of Kage on NES, Forbidden Arms will give you nice little flashbacks, from the similar forest backgrounds to the design of the shuriken-throwing ninjas. For a game that's all about murderous rampaging, it certainly is eye-catching, and it's a joy to watch the protagonist carry out his special moves. The gore can be a tad jarring at first, but it becomes a lot more appropriate if you imagine you're Uma Thurman in Kill Bill. The gameplay is relatively repetitive but, between the different mission types and the frequent introduction of new abilities, it feels fast-paced and exciting. The only weak point might be the story, which is somewhat confusing; luckily, it is mainly there to set the mood and doesn't take anything away from the overall experience. So even if you aren't a fan of mindless slashing through numerous ninjas, you might want to give Forbidden Arms a try. It is a polished, well thought-out effort, as addictive as it is bloodthirsty.

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Cube and Star: An Arbitrary Love

JohnBCube & Star: An Arbitrary Love is the kind of game you fire up when you know you want to play something but aren't quite sure what you're in the mood for. The delightfully abstract experience from Doppler Interactive puts you in a gray world and says "now go out and do stuff". That "stuff" involves bumping into trees, painting the ground different colors, knocking corners with other shapes, collecting some of the many strange items hidden throughout the environment, and just generally rolling around to see what you can see. Somehow, it's bizarrely entertaining.

Cube and Star: An Arbitrary LoveThe world of Cube & Star kind of does its own thing. Other creatures walk around, trees and pyramids spring up, night falls, strange structures pop out of nowhere, and so on. There are some achievement-like goals to work towards such as collecting ancient relics, money tokens and journal entries, but otherwise you're not shoehorned into doing anything in particular. There's a simple language you can decrypt, or you can focus on painting everything and subsequently burning it to the ground. Whatever your strange sandbox desires happen to be, Cube & Star will probably accommodate you.

The more we talk about Cube & Star the less there is to discover. It seems a little aimless at first (which isn't necessarily a bad thing), but as you play you uncover some more traditional game-like features, so stick with it. It's easy to get frustrated with Cube & Star, but it's easy to get lost in it, too. Just keep telling yourself to relax. There's no right or wrong way to play. If you're a cube and you're standing there, you're doing it right. Now just start hopping around and see what you bump into.

WindowsWindows:
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Mac OS XMac OS X:
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Rating: 4.6/5 (152 votes)
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In Character

SatoriLetters can be shifty little things sometimes. Despite all their good public works like sponsoring childrens' educational programming and varsity athletes' jackets, as anyone with dyslexia can tell you they're just waiting for their chance to flip around on you. That lowercase p is silently yearning to become a q or maybe even a b at the most inopportune time. Those of us with less-than-stellar penmanship can rejoice, because Robson has dreamed up In Character, an action strategy game in which all that letter ambiguity can actually be a good thing... like when you're a lowercase t hanging off a ledge over a fifty-foot drop straight into a pool of bubbling magma. You know. Like you do.

Using the [arrows], you'll be trying to get your letter through the level and into the safe zone at the end. To avoid the obstacles and pools of molten lava placed rather inconveniently — not to mention improbably! — in your way, you can metamorphose from one letter to another by pressing the corresponding letter key. You'll be limited by the letters in your inventory, although you can acquire more as you progress through a level. In Character was devised as an offering to appease the mighty MiniLD 49 tiki, and we thought you'd enjoy its unique concept and, uh, character. At the moment its twelve levels won't take you terribly long, but here at JayisGames we thought this one showed enough promise to be deserving of a little more love, and if we're very fortunate perhaps even a level editor to go along with it. At the moment this is a fun little break-sized game to brighten your day, and we'd love to know what you think of it.

Play In Character


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Rating: 3.8/5 (56 votes)
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Faint

HopefulNebula The world can be a lonely place. When the world is a monochromatic wasteland and you're the only person in sight, it can seem a lot lonelier. But then, when you stop and listen, the world begins to speak. This is the idea behind Lesingevolant's game Faint. Faint is one of those exploration games where describing anything beyond the most basic elements of gameplay almost seems like cheating. There isn't much in the way of controls: use the [arrow] keys to move. You can hold the [F] key to speed your movement, but most of the game is based on standing still and listening. Whenever you're not moving, the wind fades and if you're lucky, you'll hear strains of music. Follow the sounds to find relics of the world gone by. Each of them will speak to you and give you clues. They also change the color of your scarf, which helps you open doors. Each relic, though, also introduces dangerous artifacts into the game. Stand too long near one of these, and you have to restart the level. Walk through a door whose knob is the same color as your scarf to complete the level.

Faint Faint is a lovely game that uses simple pixel art and atmospheric sound to create a lonely world that seems much larger than it actually is. It can be hard to keep track of where you've been, but in a game like this, being lost is a central element. (One tip: on the screen you get between levels, the artifacts will eventually form a circle, so you can keep track of them that way.) You'll need to wear headphones if you have them, or have a truly excellent speaker system, but as long as you do, it's easy to immerse yourself in the tiny, pixelated world of the main character. There are even two endings, so you even get double the playtime out of it.

Play Faint


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Rating: 4.1/5 (37 votes)
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Roommates

DoraPlease note that this game received its rating of O for a gory Halloween costume, profanity, (non-explicit) sexual content, and a lot of alcoholic consumption.

Winter Wolves tends to go big with their visual novel games. Saving the world from ancient evil, surviving a shipwreck, even solving a murder... but with Roommates, they get back to basics... college life. Depending on what version of the game you choose to buy, you'll play as either Max or Anne, both freshmen with their own hopes and agendas. Whoever you're playing as, the basic gameplay remains the same. The game will take you through the daily life of campus, allowing you to make decisions that influence how people look at you and the way things play out. You'll be able to create your schedule for each day, choosing what to do and where to do, which influences your money and energy levels in addition to improving your grades and your character traits. Rather than traditional statistics, Roommates uses things like Rationality, Spontaneity, and more, which are important when it comes to getting along with your fellow students. And I do mean getting along, wink wink, say no more, say no more!

RoommatesIt wouldn't be a Winter Wolves game without romance, of course, so naturally there are four romantic options for both Max and Anne, including female/female and male/male. While it's disappointing that there's only one gay option compared to a straight player's three (is one choice really any choice at all?), Winter Wolves has always stood out from the pack by making an effort to begin with, especially with Loren the Amazon Princess, which offered multiple gay and straight options for players to pursue. As for the characters themselves, they're a diverse and extremely likable lot in many ways, and the different personalities liven the game up considerably. They have a lot more depth than it may seem at first impression, from Isabella's unexpectedly earnest and generous charm, to Rakesh's mad fits of occasionally dangerous artistic fancy... well, I mean, of course the best way to decorate is a hacksaw! Everyone is very well-written, and Roommates might be the first Winter Wolves game that really made me want to scour every single path to see all of the content with all of the characters and scenarios. Both Anne and Max's storylines offer a lot of different content and interactions to boot. At the same time, however, it did lead to some inconsistencies... at one point, Anne was asking Max to play guitar for her while saying she'd never heard him before, when just a few days ago I'd played a scenario where she'd helped him busk in the park.

RoommatesBy keeping the overall story comparatively drama-free, Roommates delivers a mostly light-hearted tale with some seriously funny dialogue and endearing moments... mayonnaise bath anyone? The gameplay is going to be extremely familiar to anyone who's played a Winter Wolves sim, right down to the grinding for grades and statistics, but the little colour commentary your character offers for each activity provides a lot of charm that breaks things up. That the game also clearly displays what traits each romance option looks for, and at what values, allows you to focus your efforts without flailing around in the dark. It's the sort of relaxing yet engrossing experience that seems to manage putting you in a good mood with ease. Roommates doesn't drastically shake up the life simulation visual novel formula, but it is proof positive just how much fun a simpler storyline can be when done right. Roommates is warm, funny, and definitely replayable... all the earmarks of a genuinely fun visual novel that will make the time fly. Though its stories aren't as complex or dramatic as others, Roommates is certainly my favourite Winter Wolves visual novel to date, and maybe one of my favourites in the genre, period.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version (Anne's Story)
Get the full version (Max's Story)

Mac OS XMac OS X:
Download the demo
Get the full version (Anne's Story)
Get the full version (Max's Story)

LinuxLinux:
Download the demo
Get the full version (Anne's Story)
Get the full version (Max's Story)


  • Currently 4.3/5
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Rating: 4.3/5 (32 votes)
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Icarus Proudbottom's World of Typing Weekly

DoraYou may remember Holy Wow Studios' Icarus Proudbottom Teaches Typing as a whirlwind of insanity and wonderment as you played a speed-based typing game with Icarus, and his owlkin, Jerry. Now our two heroes are back for more with Icarus Proudbottom's World of Typing Weekly, an episodic game packed with all the strangeness you've come to expect... plus... mystery and murder most foul! The gameplay remains the same as the original... you'll type passages of text as they appear onscreen, and any typos result in you losing a heart. Lose them all and it's game over! But type with speed and accuracy and you'll fill your Soul Gauge, which, when activated with [~], bestows either a points multiplier, or extra hearts!

Icarus Proudbottom's World of Typing WeeklySounds pretty basic, right? But where Icarus Proudbottom's World of Typing Weekly gets its strength is from its immense charisma, colour, and sense of humour. It's sort of like Blue's Clues meets The Typing of the Dead meets my childhood with a concussion. This series of planned weekly installments tosses in a narrative, as you find yourself dealing with a heinous crime and a lot of suspects, though since the game is on the short side, it ends with a big ol' "to be continued" as soon as this is established. You'll mostly run through the basics, a few typing drills that deal with proper hand placement and speed, though nothing particularly challenging at this point. World of Typing Weekly doesn't really shake up the formula as far as the gameplay goes, but with a lot of wit and some stellar writing, not to mention a distinctive style and presentation, it's well worth the ten or fifteen minutes it'll take you. Icarus Proudbottom is how educational games should be made... engaging, funny, and memorable.

Play Icarus Proudbottom's World of Typing Weekly


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Rating: 4.1/5 (44 votes)
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Pi-Pi-Ee

KimberlyDespite what you might be thinking, Pi-Pi-Ee is not the sound children make when they want some desert on Thanksgiving (though I'm sure it's very similar). It is the mathematical title of the Othello-like strategy puzzle game from Chris Underwood who also brought us the Hanna in a Choppa games. You start out with several pieces on a game board with the goal to outnumber your opponent. Click and drag to move your creatures around. You can move a piece one square (or hexagon, or triangle) away, and it will clone itself. Alternately you can jump your piece two connected spaces away from its current location, leaving the space you jumped from empty. If your creature lands next to an opponent piece, you capture it, and it changes to your color. Click and hold on one of your guys to highlight possible valid moves. The game is over when all the spaces are full, or if one player can't make any more moves.

Pi-Pi-EeThe first few levels are simple enough, but it gets challenging soon enough, and if the AI isn't tough enough for you, grab a friend for two player mode and show 'em what you got. The board set-ups vary wildly, which keeps things from getting repetitive. A game on a board with squares can be vastly different from a board of triangles, and many levels combine shapes for even more interesting set ups and strategies. Sometimes being aggressive is the way to go, while other times blocking your opponent in the corner might be beneficial. Paying close attention to which spaces are connected to which, indicated by glowing blue lines, can be the difference between a win or a loss. If the web version leaves you wanting more, pick up the game for your mobile device which features more levels and an unlockable harder AI opponent. As a bonus, there are no in-app purchases whatsoever. Simple to learn, hard to put down, Pi-Pi-Ee is a wonderfully strategic game that will keep you coming back for more.

Play Pi-Pi-Ee

NOTE: This game was played and reviewed on the Galaxy Nexus. 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.


(10 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Block Legend

JohnBBlock Legend is unfairly beguiling. We say this because it's so deceptively simple on the surface, yet its design allows for play sessions that never stop. And that's good, because you honestly won't want to. Created by Alvin Phu, Block Legend feels a lot like 10000000 mixed with Puzzle Quest (you know, back when it was good). It combines samegame with an RPG, allowing you to match tiles to attack, defend and level up. And it does so without ads, in-app purchases, or any other crazy gimmicks.

Block LegendAfter picking your hero the quest begins. The center of the screen is filled with a grid of tiles. The corners have your character and the enemy with their respective hit points, defense and other stats just below. You travel through the town and countryside automatically, tapping on groups of tiles to clear them and gain their power. Destroy experience tiles to level your character, shield tiles to boost your defense, gold to gain gold, etc.

Block Legend alternates between fast-paced battles and calmer periods of just taking a walk. During this time you can earn experience or pick up gold, keeping the attack and spell tiles in reserve for when a foe comes a-stabbin'. When your run ends, you'll have to start over with a new character, though some of your labors will be saved. All in all, Block Legend has that magic combination of elements that makes it a prime candidate for being your next favorite time waster.

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.


(16 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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The Walking Dead Season 2: A House Divided

DoraPlease be aware that this game received a rating of R due to intense graphic violence, profanity, and mature themes.

What's that old saying... out of the frying pan, into the fire? Clementine, pint-sized heroine of TellTale's point-and-click adventures The Walking Dead games, thought she'd finally found some breathing room in All That Remains when she stumbled across a house full of wary survivors. But in the next chapter of the harrowing series, The Walking Dead Season 2: A House Divided, Clem wonders how well she really knows her new companions when a stranger who they desperately want to avoid comes knocking one day while she's home alone. As Clem, you'll explore and solve puzzles, but the series' main focus remains on the choices you make, and at times it's hard to tell what's more dangerous... trying to earn the trust of your new group, or surviving the zombies outside. If All That Remains was a portrayal of how much more harsh life has become this far into the apocalypse, then A House Divided is about the way people themselves are getting even harder around the edges. As Clem gets to know the people with whom she's cast her lot, you'll start to realise that everything is a lot more grey than it used to be, and sometimes it's the people you trust the most that will get you killed... even if they don't mean to.

The Walking Dead Season 2: A House DividedA House Divided is less action focused than All That Remains, or at least much better at balancing action and story/character development, and frankly feels stronger for it. Seeing Clem have to work to connect with and gain the trust of this new cast of characters feels a lot more like watching her grow up than simply being forced to commit acts of violence. It's an interesting dynamic, since these people don't know her and thus still view her as a child most of the time, which makes getting her voice heard a lot harder than it ever was for Lee. And speaking of Lee, incidentally, A House Divided really manages to drive home how much replay value the series offers. As Clem talked fondly of Lee and the things he'd done, I couldn't help but wonder how drastically different that exchange was going for others players who had made different decisions. A House Divided finally provides some chances to get to know the new cast members, which was sorely needed two episodes into the second season. Luke still feels a little flat, but the rest of them begin to define themselves more firmly in a way that hopefully gathers momentum down the road. So many new people have been thrown at us all at once these first two episodes that it can feel like they're scrabbling for film time, so chances are you'll care about some more than others simply by virtue of who's actually had a chance to establish themselves the most. At the same time, however, some characters you'll meet for the first time here will surprise you in some pretty significant ways if you let them, and towards the end I was left feeling incredibly guilty of my til-then unrelenting distrust and suspicion of one in particular.

The narrative gains some steam as you're forced to make decisions that draw lines in the sand, and the consequences of The Walking Dead: 400 Days begin to show. You'll finally start to feel like the waters are muddy, as the choices Clem has to make aren't all about what's right and wrong, and it can be impossible to know what will come back to bite you later on. I felt torn in a way the first episode hadn't made me feel, and there were times I was literally holding my breath as incredibly tense scenes played out. It's a welcome complexity that really makes season two feel like it's grasping all its threads and pulling them tight... right before it ends on a pretty huge plot point just two hours in. TellTale's The Walking Dead games have always felt like they're at their strongest when they're placing just as much emphasis on character drama, if not more, than on making you flinch from gore or violence, and in that respect, A House Divided manages to succeed brilliantly without sacrificing any of the hard punches the series has become known for in the process. The next episode can't come soon enough.

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  • Currently 3.9/5
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Rating: 3.9/5 (30 votes)
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Install_D

KimberlyTired of saving the boring old realm or your boring old castle in your spare time? Expand your defense capabilities by saving your computer from possible threats instead, in Install-D, a slick tower defense game by Colin Towle and John Axon. You get to place towers wherever you like, and if (like me) you spent hours and hours of your life on Desktop Tower Defense, you'll already be an expert at building an effective maze out of your towers. Click (or use indicated keyboard shortcuts) to chose which tower you'd like to build, then click on the board to place it. Dotted lines indicate the path the threats will take, and how their movement will change with your placement. The goal is to keep them from reaching the data center.

Install_DAs you progress you earn stars and memory space, which allow you to purchase upgraded programs with new abilities for your towers, as well as unlock bonus stages. Stars are awarded according to how many points you earn, and you can always go back to previous levels to try to up your score by sending waves in early. Once you have more than six tower types, you'll have to choose carefully which ones to bring into battle. Take note of what creeps will be appearing in the round, and the cost to build specific towers before choosing your final arsenal. Certain towers are better in certain situations, and if you only bring the highest tier towers to battle, you may not be able to afford what you need.

Make no mistake, Install_D will put your strategy skills through the gauntlet and back again. It's very challenging to get all the stars on each level. Deciding which upgraded towers are needed for each map is key, and it may take you several tries before you find the perfect mix of towers to destroy the glitches before they destroy you. There are over 40 maps and you can eventually unlock 30 tower types, which will keep you enjoying the vector graphics and demanding gameplay for many hours.

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Rating: 4.4/5 (39 votes)
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The Matter of the Great Red Dragon

DoraAs Jonas Kyratzes' Twine text adventure The Matter of the Great Red Dragon begins, the titular beast, who rises from slumber every hundred years, is about to awaken once more. To avoid complete destruction, the Lands of Plenty need seven great heroes to banish the dragon, and right now they have six willing and able... all they need is you. To play, just click on the green text, which will both advance the story when you use it to make choices, as well as provide a little more explanation on some of the creatures and concepts at work here. But not too much, as the Lands of Dream are always best experienced with more than a little bit of mystery and wonder. Your choices can range from decisions that will shape your character through their abilities and equipment, or things that will change the way the story unfolds.

The Matter of the Great Red DragonIf you're at all familiar with Jonas Kyratzes, you know and have an appreciation for his writing ability, which can spread both joy and sorrow in equal measure as in The Fabulous Screech, which still makes me tear up for personal reasons whenever I think about it. The Matter of the Great Red Dragon, by contrast, might be less of a gut punch to the feels, but no less a careful balance of introspection and engrossing prose. It's not that it's a particularly long read, at least not compared to, say, The Book of Living Magic, but what sticks with you is the way the story weaves parallels of real world events and behaviours into this world of magic... making it more than a little bittersweet in its own way. Once you're done, you can, of course, restart to try different paths, but as Jonas himself says in the author's note, "If you were to live every single permutation of your life, would your choices still have meaning? To see a few alternate possibilities might be interesting, but to see all of them would flatten everything out, until you no longer truly existed as an individual. Consider this when reading an interactive story." Regardless of whether you choose to heed that, The Matter of the Great Red Dragon is clever and thoughtful, and more than worth the time it will take you to journey through it.... whatever the outcome.

Play The Matter of the Great Red Dragon

Thanks to jackabug for sending this one in!

Link Dump Fridays

DoraMy Little Pony. Flappy Bird. Zombies. Strobing lights. I swear I didn't do it on purpose, and yet I just now realised that this week's Link Dump Friday is packed with arcade craziness and more that perfectly encapsulates a significant chunk of what people either passionately love or stridently hate about pop culture. Go figure!

  • 3D Pony Creator3D Pony Creator - Do you need more than two dees when you make your My Little Ponies? PonyLumen has you covered! Now you can create 3D animated ponies in your browser, using all the parts and styles of other ponies, some very customiseable expressions, and, of course, your very own Cutie Mark. Plus, its fathomless, bright eyes follow you, wherever you go, whatever you do... don't blink.
  • 7 Light-years7 Light-years - Nifflas and his cousin Marcus Nygren created this trippy-is-an-understatement arcade game in just ten hours, where the object is to hurtle through a lovely yet bizarre lightshow filled with debris you must avoid on each level. It's a little bit Super Hexagon, but also a lot bit, like, whoa, man. After this, do we get to fight for the Users?
  • UndeadRunUndeadRun - Gamaga's zombie shooting game is cute as the dickens, and essentially blood-free, which is a surprise for the genre, as you control a little hoodied hero running nonstop through a sea of zombies. You automatically attack as they get close, and can nab coins to spend on upgrades... which you'll need for the boss battles! Simple, yes, but also simply fun.
  • A Flap in TimeA Flap in Time - Sick of Flappy Bird? Meh! Plenty of developers are still putting their own spins on the birdie equivalent of an endless runner, and Luderia's is both weird and clever. Instead of just clicking away to pass through pipes, time slows down and you have to click to create checkpoints along a projected path that will see your... flying thingie safely through. If you don't enjoy simple arcade games this won't do much to alleviate your rending of garments and gnashing of teeth, but this is a funky spin on the formula that's worth a look for fans.

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Mines of Mars

JohnBTime to get digging. Mines of Mars is a wholly addicting mining and exploration game created by Crescent Moon Games. It plays a lot like the classic Motherload or the criminally underappreciated early iOS release I Dig It Expeditions. Take your pickaxe and start pecking away at the soil, gathering metals and gems you can carry back to the surface to refine into useable materials. Then take those materials and upgrade your tools so you can dig even deeper!

Mines of MarsMines of Mars is equal parts mining, crafting, and exploration. The touch controls divide the screen in half, dedicating the left side to movement and the right side to aiming and firing your gun. Yeah, you get guns. Who said Mars was a safe place? Since the game pushes the discovery angle, you'll find much more than just blocks of bronze underneath the surface.

There are a few drawback to Mines of Mars, including the miniscule text size, the needless narrations, and a somewhat slow upgrade process. But the game still has that ability to draw you in from the start. Once you start mining, you absolutely won't want to stop. Not until you get all the upgrades and dig to the very core of Mars. The added bonus of a story and objectives to complete only makes the addiction stronger!

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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Doggins

JohnBBilled as a quiet game of exploration, Doggins from Brain&Brain is a sidescrolling puzzle adventure that encourages you to put on headphones and take things slow. The game tells the tale of Doggins the terrier who sleeps in an ordinary doggy bed nestled in an ordinary house that just happens to blast itself to the moon. There he meets Fitzwilliam, the genius squirrel from the 1800s, and wouldn't you know it, that squirrel's up to no good!

Doggins functions like a point-and-click game with simple tap actions to walk and quick swipes to use inventory items. Apart from solving a few quick (and cute) puzzles, it's mostly a game of atmosphere and charm. Grin as you put on a makeshift bowtie, laugh as you uncover the secret squirrel manual. The artwork, too, is just so enchanting, and the animations send every character bounding straight to your heart. In the cuddly sort of way. Doggins is the kind of game you'll actually want to sit back and enjoy. And be thankful your own puppy takes an interest in real world squirrels.

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


(7 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Chuck's Challenge 3D

JohnBChuck's Challenge 3D is Chip's Challenge for the 21st century. Created by Niffler, a team of indie developers that happens to include the original creator of Chip's Challenge Chuck Sommerville, the multi-platform sokoban-like game takes the tile-based puzzles from the original release and updates it for modern players. You'll still deal with slippery ice floors, falling platforms, enemies marching back and forth, and a large supply of items to collect before you can open the door. But now you'll do it with full camera control and lots of pretty visuals!

Chuck's Challenge 3DThe premise behind Chuck's Challenge is a purple alien named Woop has come to Earth, shaken Chuck out of his vacation fog, and convinced him to make a game. Good enough excuse for us! The controls are confined to simple movements across the tiled board. You'll move from one area to another, flipping switches to manipulate parts of the environment as you try to unlock the exit. Simple in concept, but as you know, actually solving those puzzles is going to take some time.

Chuck's Challenge definitely feels like a sequel to Chip's Challenge. Fans of the original won't need convincing to give this one a try, but it's catchy enough to draw in new players without even trying. Over 125 stages to play, a level editor, weekly challenges, user-made puzzles to complete, and even hats to collect. The PC optimization for Chuck's Challenge 3D leaves something to be desired, but otherwise it's exactly what you would expect if Chip traveled through time and released a game in 2014.

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ALZ


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Rating: 4.2/5 (111 votes)
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ALZ

Starchild As Atticus Finch once said, you never really know a man until you walk around in his shoes. ALZ is an interactive art game which literally lets you walk in someone else's shoes, see what they see and understand how they perceive the world. All you can do is press the right [arrow] key to move forward and the [spacebar] when prompted to interact with an object. With its simplified visuals and a minimalistic setting, the game sets the scene effortlessly, unencumbered by an extensive story. There is only the protagonist, taking what seems to be a pleasant stroll to the bus stop. How ALZ goes from that to crushing your spirit in less than two minutes is a stroke of genius. Since it is so very short, giving out any clues would spoil the experience. It's enough to say that the game uses every last of its meagre resources and plays them just right to portray a terrible human condition at the core of our own deepest fears. Before you know it, ALZ will have you staring at the screen in a state of utter dejection, then clicking on "replay", desperately hoping for an alternative ending. It takes real courage to dare to condense such a saddening and complex subject into a small piece of interactive art, but the result is undeniably a sucess, even if it does break your heart.

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Weekday Escape

elleLet's make this short and sweet: this week's collection of escape games are precisely that. Which isn't all that uncommon for games of this genre. What makes a game about being trapped, frantically searching about for the means to get free, go so well with oodles of sweetness and sugary coatings? Is it the juxtaposition? Something in the personalities of escape aficionados that coaxes it out? Or is it that all these qualities are equally alluring? Like the irresistible pull of a cute face or a scrumptious candy, when you're in the mood for something gentle and light, the following three games should hit your figurative sweet tooth just right.

Candy Rooms #4: Rose SweetCandy Rooms #4: Rose Sweet - Oh, FunkyLand, you get me right where it counts: a sweet game of hide and seek along with a smattering of puzzles to tease my brain, all set inside an inviting pink room to make me feel pretty. Here the goal is to find five pieces of candy hidden in the scene or obscured by puzzles to earn your door key. The premise is simple and the game is equally snack-sized, although not altogether without substance; it's just that, with only one true puzzle and an easily solved code, escape comes too quick. Think five candies are not filling enough on their own? Then go back to indulge in #2: May Green Casual and #3: Scarlet Casual as well.

Choco Escape 3Choco Escape 3 - There isn't a lot to say about this chocolate-themed escape from Twinkle, which is light on challenges and short on actual panache. But there is a Willy Wonka abundance of chocolate, a pop culture reference and a wink of festive fun to fill the gaps. The only places you can really be thrown off is a pixel hunt for a needed key and the non-English lettering on a cake. It's true, the puzzles are too straight-forward to offer much challenge to the regular escape fan yet it's compelling all the same to complete this mini escape, especially if shared with someone else. Who can win the gold and open the door first?

Canola Flower Room EscapeCanola Flower Room Escape - Although the sweet yellow flower by which the game gets its title is innocent enough, the other English-from-Japanese translation of the plant's name is not as sensitive. Looking past the unintended controversy, Yuri certainly has the hang of things when it comes to taking something cute and yellow and making a pleasant escape game. Although hopes that an adorable chick will turn up aren't realized 'til the end, and an easily overlooked clue might stump you right off, the puzzles are light and enjoyable, the setting is serenely pastel, and sweet success is still as satisfying as ever.

We love escape games, and our readers love talking about them and sharing hints! How about you? Let us know what you think, ask for hints or help out the other players with your clues and walkthroughs in the comments below.


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Paper Jumper

JohnBNew from Lucid creator YeaBoing, Paper Jumper is an arcade game that's focused on one thing: climbing higher and higher in a world made out of paper! The core of the game is similar to Doodle Jump, Tobe's Hookshot Escape and other games centered around an endless ascent. Your powers are much simpler in Paper Jumper, however, which makes it a more pristine experience.

The little paper protagonist moves left and right on his own, turning whenever he hits a solid wall. Tap the screen to jump, holding your finger there for a higher leap. Tap again to hover in the air, which is your only defense against falling too far off the bottom of the screen. Collect watermelons on your way up, stomp a few enemies, and nab a jetpack for some extra lift. Just don't get greedy, as one mistake is all it takes to end your run. Paper Jumper is simple but surprisingly captivating, one of those games you'll pick up out of curiosity but keep playing because you're having such a great time.

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


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Rating: 3.8/5 (35 votes)
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Dino Shift 2

DoraDon't let it fool you... behind its cuddly wuddly exterior and bumbling sweetness, JWolfGames' platformer Dino Shift 2 has some teeth... clever girl. Oh, it's not that there's anything sinister happening, it's that it has difficulty that slowly creeps up on you. Like the original, you play a pudgy dino who moves and jumps with the [arrow] keys, jumping higher and farther the longer the [arrow] is pressed, and who has a hunger for blocks. Your goal is to devour a certain number of blocks on each stage, but the catch is that you can only chow down on the ones that match your colour, which you can swap from green, blue, and red with [Z], [X], and [C] respectively. Stuffing your face isn't going to be that simple, however, with objects and obstacles you can only interact with when you're the proper colour, which can take some careful timing, and even enemies that will become dangerous to you when you match their hue!

Dino Shift 2There are a lot of little changes here from the first game, from the way the colours are bound to different keys to the way the dino controls feel more responsive and the design even more colourful, but for many people the most glaring will be the timed scoring system, which doles out between one to three stars depending on how fast you complete a level. While you can ignore it, it is a little obnoxious with the way an unseen audience loudly groans if you don't perform well, though it does at least add another layer of challenge for those who wish it. Not that it necessarily needs it, since Dino Shift 2 is both more complex in level design, but also more action-oriented. You'll need to be a lot quicker and more accurate in this installment, and some of those jumps and the timing restrictions are really precise. It's actually something I enjoyed, since each stage felt like a unique and carefully designed challenge, but it's also something that might throw more casual platform fans off. Still, Dino Shift 2 is an absolutely gorgeous and well designed little game with a bit of bite that might make you rage quit temporarily... but at least you'll do it with a smile!

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Rating: 4.5/5 (78 votes)
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Lo.Nyan's Room Escape 9

elleIf you're like me, although you do revel in the fun of pitting your mental prowess against the wits of the game creator, you truly love escape-the-room games because they let you travel to interesting locales and stay in beautiful surroundings. Never mind the whole point is to leave such places! Being able to poke around in and explore this pretty, imaginary world is the main draw. That's why it's no surprise that fans of Myst are also avid escape game enthusiasts, always seeking the next fix. So, as far as pretty aesthetics go, Lo.Nyan's Room Escape 9 makes a wonderful first impression. But as you work your way around the room, gathering up clues and items, opening up drawers and cupboards, you'll also be glad to find a number of cleverly enjoyable puzzles to compliment the scene.

Lo.Nyan's Room Escape 9Lo.Nyan's instructions are standard for the genre: pop-up arrows at the edge or bottom of the screen (depending on where you can go) will guide your navigation while active areas can be zoomed in on and inventory items picked up with a mere click. There is no changing cursor but nearly every surface is available to explore, and you'll want to look everywhere if you're going to find all the necessary agents of your escape. The "About Item" button is also a required component, as several puzzles can only be completed within your inventory. Outside of the challenge of finding all the hidden items, these puzzles are few yet fun, depending on logic and thinking skills to solve. Also, it's helpful to note that some codes can't be broken until you've viewed all the clues.

Like thorns on roses, not all is perfect. A few prickly flaws mar the pretty surface—pop-up messaging obscures the bottom navigational arrows, even though you can usually still click there to back up; a few active areas are picky about where you need to click, some of the graphics are unpolished, and there is no save button. The latter becomes an issue if you're not patient enough to replay the game to experience both endings. This is partly made up for by the time-saving, user-friendly addition of a camera. Even with these inconsistencies, Lo.Nyan's Room Escape 9 is a welcome addition to the JayIsGames archives of lovely escapes, one I can wholly recommend on its charming setting as well as its clever mind.

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Rating: 4/5 (81 votes)
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Shadowscape

Starchild Do you feel like you never have enough lives when playing a platformer? Are you tired of collecting mushrooms, rings and stars to piece together another measly life, only to lose it instantly? Then step right up and play Shadowscape, a high-difficulty platformer where you gain lives just by moving around. It's that simple! Well, not exactly, actually. While you're using the [WASD] or [arrow] keys to move and jump, a bar on the left will keep filling up and supplying you with lives. But this only lasts until the clock on the right is white; when it turns red, the bar starts working against you and you'll lose a life every once in a while just for dawdling.

Shadowscape Shadowscape tells a subtle story of the interplay between light and darkness. Up to level 52, the little protagonist will fight the darkness around him in a LIMBOesque atmosphere, trying not to be squished by moving blocks of death and spikes of misery. But then he finds a dazzling white... thing, and the landscape changes together with the gameplay. Whereas before you were only able to jump once, now you can jump as high as you like as long as you keep pressing the key quickly enough, and with this we enter the treacherous realms of Flappy Bird. Negotiating your way between dark platforms (which kill you as soon as you touch them) while staying in the air is diabolically frustrating, but the levels are simple enough to convince you to keep playing. The checkpoints are dictributed somewhat arbitrarily, but they are a great help, as you can always restart from them with two lives. The achievements will also lend a helping hand, rewarding you with extra lives, which is nicely ironic if the achievement is for dying a hundred times. At times, Shadoscape seems almost easy, but don't let that fool you – this little rascal of a game has a lot of tricks up its sleeve and doesn't mind making you suffer a little.

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Rating: 4.1/5 (28 votes)
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Find the Escape-Men 88: Ice Hockey

Grinnyp"Do you believe in miracles?" Well, if you're a fan of the EM Republic hockey team, you're going to need to as the team has gone AWOL right before the "Olympict" championship game. Can you track them and their coach down and get them to the ice on time? Yes, No1game's latest entry into the Escape-Men games is a call-back to the Winter Olympics with their latest escape game, Find the Escape-Men 88: Ice Hockey. Packed into this lovely mini-escape are some entertaining puzzles including a really tricky color-based one and not one but two endings (the bad and the good) along with some... let's say slightly inappropriate language, which one would probably expect with a hockey team. While not as complex as Find the Escape-Men 86: Secret House, Ice Hockey is a fun addition to the series with some pretty amusing (and somewhat salty) characters to add to the fun. Drink enemy not water!

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Rating: 4.2/5 (28 votes)
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Banished

DoraOne-man studio Shining Rock Software's indie sim game Banished is, conceptually at least, pretty simple. There are no wars to wage, no dragons to slay, and the only real goal is staving off the slow march of death via the cruel machinations of nature. Yaaaaaaaaaaay! And yet, despite its seemingly bleak premise and brutal gameplay, Banished is actually one of the most curiously compelling and absorbing games around. You find yourself in control of a group of exiles, struggling to survive with only what they've managed to carry in the wilderness as they attempt to start a new life on a randomly generated landscape. It's all about population management, town design, and maintaining health, happiness, and all the necessary supplies, and the way the world works means you can't just plop buildings down willy-nilly.

BanishedBanished actually comes with several helpful tutorials that will guide you through the basics of everything from construction to resource gathering and more. Presented in top-down Omnipotent-o-Vision, the game allows you to scroll all over your new world and see everything your little exiles are doing. The long term goal is simply to keep them happy and healthy as long as possible while you slowly (oh so slowly) build their rinky-dink little settlement into a sprawling new community. You'll set people to gather rocks and wood for construction of buildings, farmers and hunters to help with food, herbalists and teachers and much, much more. All of this takes a long, long time, so it's a good thing that Banished comes with multiple speed settings, all the way up to 10x, and an active pause that allows you to issue commands even while the game is frozen.

What sets Banished apart from other games in the "try not to die" genre is how complex it is in a myriad of tiny little ways. You'll need foresters to replant what you cut down if you don't want to run out of supplies, roads to speed up passage, tailors to make clothes from materials you create if you don't want to freeze in the winter, a trading post to deal with merchants who might come bearing seeds and livestock... and disasters, of course, because what's life without the spice of infectious disease or tornadoes? Over time, your people will grow, and eventually pass away of old age if the harsh life doesn't kill them first, so nurturing new generations becomes vital, as does assigning jobs to everyone. Because each new game is randomly generated (and various difficulty settings to boot), you'll need to learn how to prioritize tasks to take advantage of the lay of the land.

BanishedAnalysis: Banished is not the game for you if you prefer experiences with clear end goals or any sort of story whatsoever, or if you need more sense of accomplishment than a bigger map, or a connection to your populace. Though all your settlers are named, the lack of any personalities whatsoever makes it hard to be sad for any reason other than you've lost a worker when they die. Banished is a game that's focused on development, planning, and to a certain extent early on, trial and error. Playing the tutorial for the first time is extremely important, since for your initial game you might want to try building everything it tells you to, in the order it tells you to, until you get the hang of things yourself. I spent a lot of time staring vengefully over at the computer my husband was also playing the game on, as his tiny settlement trundled about blissfully like a well-oiled machine, while my people were filthy, cold, and probably two days away from contemplating eating their own poop. So at least it's an accurate representation of what you'd get if you put me in charge of a community's well-being.

It's the sort of game that's not for the impatient, since leaving it on a high speed is a good way to let things get out of hand. There's something quietly compelling about its pace and design, helped along by its simple yet mellow aesthetic and atmosphere, making it the type of game you can sink slowly deeper into for hours at a time. Your goal is simply to prosper, and through both acts of nature in the form of disasters and your own lack of planning, this can be deceptively difficult to do. It's as much about figuring when you need something as what you need. You can take your time, since there's no combat or invasions or anything you typically expect to find in a civilization simulation, and you absolutely should since Banished's quiet compulsion shows itself best when you're sunk down into your chair with a glass of your favourite beverage, long since having turned the speed down to watch your people grow. Banished fills a niche in simulation games often ignored, being both deeper than it appears and yet so extremely simple in objective. Grow. Grow as much as you can. Keep building. And while some players may find the game too slow or, well, not exciting enough, others will appreciate Banished's silent rolling hills and hardy people for the thoughtful, well designed experience it is.

WindowsWindows:
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Mac OS XMac OS X:
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Try Boot Camp or Parallels or CrossOver Games.


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Rating: 4.7/5 (24 votes)
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True Fear: Forsaken Souls

DoraPlease note that this game received its rating of R for scenes of extreme blood and gore and horror, allusions to child abuse, and suicide.

With a few exceptions, nobody really expects a hidden-object adventure game to be actually scary, but Goblinz aims to change all that and see if they can't keep you up all night with True Fear: Forsaken Souls. As the game begins, its unfortunate star Holly Stonehouse, is having one heckuva nightmare about a bloody massacre in an asylum. At first, she's glad for the pounding at her door that wakes her up from it, because Holly is an idiot and doesn't understand foreshadowing and story progression. The man at her door delivers a letter from her estranged sister Heather, who tells Holly it's finally time to "know the truth" about both of them... and their long dead mother, because that isn't a red flag. It feels like it was intended originally as a straight-up point-and-click game since the hidden-object scenes use a different art style from the rest of the game and seem shoehorned in, in addition to having a few odd and frustrating word choices. Since when does "cell" mean "birdcage"?! The actual gameplay itself, however, is very well designed if not wildly original... you'll have a map you can use to travel anywhere with a click, a journal that will keep you up to date on everything, and, of course, every girl's must-have accessory... a demonic doll that breathes a sinister red mist to highlight hints. It matches my highlights and my new shoes!

True Fear: Forsaken SoulsAs a nice addition, you can also find collectible figurines of characters from the game that add a lot of backstory. The game's pace is deliberately slow, dedicating to establishing its genuinely unsettling atmosphere, and surprisingly does a good job of making you feel truly menaced and in danger. There are jump scares, sure, but there are also some absolutely stellar uses of subtle imagery and visual tricks that will make your skin crawl, such as forcing you to turn on the light when you think you know what's standing in front of you in a darkened room. There are a lot of animated cutscenes that add to the story and the tension, helping to keep you glued to your seat the whole way through. The story has a lot more twists and turns than you'd think, and a lot of shocking, well-executed moments. Compared to Mystery Valley, the developer's last game, True Fear: Forsaken Souls is a much better well-designed, smart, and altogether stronger achievement. Admittedly, it still feels like it needed some extra polish, since some gameplay elements are little clunky, and aspects of the presentation, such as the text or the awkward character model used for Holly, look a little rough around the edges.

True Fear: Forsaken SoulsIt's also a long freaking game for the genre too, stuffed to the gills with puzzles of all kinds... some, unfortunately, repeated more than once. The whole thing is a bit on the easy side as your journal doesn't keep track of "clues" the way it claims so much as it does actual solutions in the most obvious fashion possible. We're all big kids, Forsaken Souls, we dressed ourselves this morning and everything... we can handle a little deduction. But I guess not everyone can be Mystery Case Files: Dire Grove. Still, True Fear: Forsaken Souls has a lot going for it, including its ability to poke fun at itself, such as the books on a shelf that mock the elaborate, ridiculous nature of the locks you find yourself stymied by. "Emblem Locked Doors: Really?" But most importantly, True Fear: Forsaken Souls is a genuinely frightening, engrossing, and engaging hidden-object adventure that begs to be played with the lights off and the sound up. By turns cheesy and melodramatic? Sure. But also fun, scary, and wonderfully weird, and thus well worth a look.

Note: Currently, only the Collector's Edition is available. It contains a bonus chapter, art gallery, strategy guide, and more. Remember that Big Fish Game Club Members pay only $13.99 for Collector's Editions (or 2 club credits), and collector's editions count 3 card punches of 6 total needed for a free game.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


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Danse Macabre: The Last Adagio

Grinnyp"Everything was beautiful at the ballet, graceful men lift lovely girls in white..." For those who are fans of the art, ballet is a glittering world of glamour, intrigue, music, and movement. Fortunately you are a fan, especially since your sister is making her big debut in a starring role at the local ballet. On the way to see her dance you encounter a few problems however, like the fact that she is missing and a ghost is haunting the theater, amongst other things. If that sounds like the intro to an adventure hybrid game, well, it is. In fact, it is the intro to Eipix Entertainment's latest hidden object offering, Danse Macabre: The Last Adagio.

Danse Macabre: The Last AdagioThere is a story here, something involving a kidnapped sister, suspicious characters, and a jealous lover who burns down an entire theater of people in a fit of rage. You know, as you do. What's important is not so much the story as the gameplay, which Eipix once again brings in spades. Every inch of Danse Macabre is packed with puzzles, games, hidden objects, and the like. Hidden object scenes feature a multitude of interactive options, puzzles are challenging and fun, and even something as simple as picking up objects to use later can have extra layers of action. Of course there are secret items hidden in every scene as well, and the option to eschew hidden object finding altogether for the fast and furious fun of marble popping.

Everything we've come to expect from Eipix is present in spades, from the lovely changing cursor and controls to the interactive map, helpful hint features, and customizable gameplay. Yes, the whole "damsel in distress" and "ghosts haunting a theater" and even "crazed lunatic slaughters a whole bunch of people because he misunderstood something he saw/because he's an insane idiot" plot points have all been done before, but rarely with such style and grace, chock-full of enough gameplay to keep the player interested for hours on end. Everything is most definitely beautiful at this ballet, so dive right in!

Note: Danse Macabre: The Last Adagio is currently only available in a Collector's Edition, which includes wallpapers, music, animations, concept art, extra gameplay (including both a new adventure and the ability to replay each and every hidden object scene and mini-game), a built-in strategy guide, and more. Remember that Big Fish Game Club Members pay only $13.99 for Collector's Editions, and collector's editions count 3 card punches of 6 total needed for a free game.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Order the full version

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


  • Currently 4.1/5
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Rating: 4.1/5 (20 votes)
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Puzzle Script DROD

JohnBDemakes and PuzzleScript go together like ice cream and sandwiches. The latest puzzle game to get the retrofication treatment is Deadly Rooms of Death (DROD), Caravel Game's classic top-down monster stabbing series. Puzzle Script DROD by Lukas somehow manages to capture the spirit of the original game, complete with baddies to hack, falling floors to rush across, and twisted passageways to navigate. All in the space of a few big, chunky pixels.

Use the [arrow] keys to move through each room. You can rotate your sword (the giant gray thing floating around you) by tapping [X] followed by the [arrow] keys, which is necessary for stabbing some enemies. The [Z] key will undo your moves. Puzzle Script DROD is turn-based, so each time you step the world reacts, usually in the form of monsters getting closer to you. Kill all the bugs in each stage to complete it, then celebrate by playing another level!

Play Puzzle Script DROD

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