After ERS Game Studios' hidden-object adventure series Maestro: Music from the Void and Maestro: Music of Death, you'd think your taste for musical prodigies might have soured a bit, what with all the unspeakable evil and demonic pacts they seem to attract and leave you to clean up. In Maestro: Dark Talent, a performance by "Diva", a singer who literally came out of nowhere, turns freaky when your friend, Kate, and the rest of the theater patrons are sucked inside by the dark forces du jour, where they'll have their life force drained unless you can stop them. At least, according to some dandy in an alleyway who calls himself a "Knowing One", which sounds smug and insufferable until you realize there's a good reason he's not called the "Actually Effective One", and soon it's up to you to stop Diva and the dark forces and wannabe Dementors behind her.
What do you do with an action game sequel? What do you do with an adventure game sequel? What do you do with a pirate game sequel, ear-ly in the morning? Well... if it's Labu Games' Pirateers 2, the sequel to the original Pirateers from 2012, well, then I'd suggest playing it, no matter what the time of day it is. It takes place in a time long ago when merchant adventurers roamed the seas, and a parrot on the shoulder was still considered a swank accessory. It is a time of legends, no more famouse than that of The Artifact, a treasure so valuable that anyone who possesses it could remake the entire world. You are only starting out on your pirating career, but thoughts of The Artifact drives you forward. Be smart, be strong, and be quick, and the seas and all its bounty will be yours for the taking.
The problem with kids these days is they just don't get it. They think the fun is all about jumping around, making noise, playing games...being sociable for goodness sakes. As if. Napping is where it's at. But don't try telling Junior and Jenny that—not only do they feel like bouncing about and giggling, they want sleepy dad to join in. All tired, overworked parents out there can sympathize; no wonder it's called Monster-land. That's Monsterland 4: One More Junior to be more exact: a continuation of Alma Games' physics puzzle series bringing 36 more nap-busting levels, made just right for a relaxing break without the Zzzs. Just point-and-click to pop blocks in the right sequence to move Junior (who jumps on dad to wake him) and Jenny (whose special moves break dad's kid-proof helmet) through the increasingly complicated obstacle courses and onto dozing dad. Sometimes this is a straight-forward drop or slide, other times you'll need to make use of buttons, treadmills, trampolines, teleports and more. All while avoiding saw blades and long falls, such things that are hazardous to kids' health.
Gelato Games' sword-swinging platformer Goblin Sword is one of those iOS titles that earns the term "retro" both in look and gameplay. If you had shown it to my ten year old self back in the nineties I would have believed it right at home on the SNES, and then I would have told you to leave me alone and let me get back to Chrono Trigger because ten year old me was a brat who was an insufferable RPG snob. The premise with Goblin Sword is pretty basic, in that you play a hero out to stop ye olde ancient evil-e, which requires leaping and slashing your way through levels filled with minions, traps, angry wild life, and pots to smash. There are only four buttons... the left and right arrow keys, and one to slash, and one to jump and double-jump. Stab enemies and collect gems and coins to buy better equipment, and don't let your hearts run out or you'll need to start the entire level over. Don't worry, most stages are short... unless you want to find all the chests, coins, and crystals. Pile on a bunch of bosses, power-ups, and secret areas, and Goblin Sword is a vibrant love poem to days gone by with bite-sized levels that are perfect for on the go.
Deep in the heart of the labyrinth, something waits. One by one, the men and women of the elven militia have gone in, and all of them have failed to return. You are all that's left of their once-proud army. But you have a mighty sword and indominable will to survive... Oh, and mastery over arcane magics. That helps too. Elventales: The Arcanery, from Elven Games, puts you in the greaves of this lone adventurer as you plumb the depths of the savage dungeon that has already taken so many lives. Which will probably include yours. Several times. This action RPG has a hefty amount of roguelike in its ancestry, which means the challenge level gets fairly high. But if you have no patience for the stat-building and micromanaging of most roguelikes, don't worry... Elventales is a simplified and streamlined experience that removes turn-based battles and cuts you free from the grid for a more open and active experience. You can walk anywhere you like with [WASD] or the [arrow] keys, interact with anything nearby with [E], and attack anything in front of you with [R] or a left mouse click! You can spend the currency monsters drop on unlocking new spells, which you can then bind to the number keys. It's more accessible to be sure, but it's still got plenty of teeth!
For coy playfulness and understated charm, Yonashi's escape games are like little treasures found in the window of a whimsical shop in some quaint seaside town you visit on vacation. They're colorful toys that wordlessly catch your attention from afar and draw you in, leaving you to ponder over little details that seem incongruous with the rest of the parts, pieces of inventory that make no sense, until they do. Mori Room serves as a quintessential example of these Yonashi traits, with a few quirks thrown in. You start with the basic locked-up-in-a-room setup—point and click to navigate and examine all this setting has to offer. Its subtitle, "Chameleon, etc." has it about right, too; a uniquely talented chameleon and an assortment of other fine friends, both animal and inanimate, will guide you through puzzles until you reach your ultimate destination: a fantastical escape.
Danilo Studio's Climbo is a joy to play. It's a charming platform game that plays fast and loose with gravity. Your little bug/alien thing can walk up walls and make the whole universe rotate around him. Use the [WASD] or [arrow] keys to meander about, jumping over spikes and pits, collecting little light balls to boost your score. The game adds boxes that slide hither and thither as the course rotates around them so you'll have to be mindful of getting crushed. This might be little solace to our Climbo monster, but his death animation is just adorable. Positive attitude and all that.
The Wheel of Time turns, and days come and pass, and before you know it, it's Wednesday again and time for Weekday Escape. It's been a while since you escape game aficionados and I had a chat, so I knocked Elle over the head with a sock full of pennies and left her tied up in a room with a goldfish, a screwdriver, a ticket stub, some coloured plates, Gumby fanfiction, and the jumbled sonnets of a 14th century unknown poet. None of those will actually get her out in any combination, but she doesn't know that, so I've bought you and I a few hours together at least. So what's new? How do you like the new Doctor? Is that a new shirt? Do you want to look at my pony collection? What should we order on our pizza?... man, you don't even care, do you? You just want the games. No, no. It's fine. It's not like I count the minutes until we're together again. Have some Gotmail, Yomino Kagura, and some Choko Chai. Good thing game reviewers don't have feelings or anything.
In the desert land of Ecta, tongues are parched and cities are wasting away for the want of water. Only one man controls the water... er, well, one walrus... and that selfish jerk, Walrus King (his self proclaimed title of "king" is debatable) is refusing to give any out! The true Queen of the land sent out her loyal engineer, Dame Celeste, to try and talk some sense into the Walrus King. Short story even shorter, it doesn't work and the ton of blubber falls in love with you, and throws you in the dungeon as soon as you refuse his attempt to woo you. Of course, he forgets you're an engineer and you have maps to his entire mansion. After that the name of the game is stealth. In Adjective Animal Studios' Dame Celeste you get five in-depth levels of sneakiness. Dress up in disguises, dodge the vision of the guards, and hide inside bushes and suits of armor alike in this highly difficult game.
I'm conflicted. On the one hand, TomaTea's Room 39 is as lovely and challenging an escape game as you'd expect, but on the other hand, its soundtrack makes me feel like I should be 85 and back somewhere in the "old country" in the middle of a snowfall wearing my grandmother's babushka. Which couldn't be further from the actuality, since the room our beloved yet fiendish developer has locked us up in this time is all buttery yellows and flowery decor, complete with what I choose to believe are memorial Hatoful Boyfriend statuettes. To find your way out, you will of course need to solve puzzles, and as per TomaTea's usual, the game will inform you whether you've encountered the clue you need to solve them by telling you that you have no idea how to solve it. The tip of the cursor will glow slightly if you're hovering over an interactive area, and items in your inventory will pop up a small "i" icon when you mouse over them, allowing you to view them close up with a click.
Plexus puzzles always look less like jigsaws and more like someone's photo album was attacked by a wild herd of ravenous scissors, but hey... that's sort of how we like it. Like the others, Fun to Boot features a scene where the pieces are jumbled up and sliced up at odd angles, so putting it together isn't as easy as picking out all the edge and corner pieces. Instead, you click to drag pieces around, and click the edges of each one to rotate them, or click a piece and use [WASD] and the [arrow] keys to rotate instead. When you have two pieces that fit together properly aligned, they'll lock together automatically. It's all about lining up the edges, like a normal jigsaw, only the edges here aren't neat and orderly and are instead all wibbly-wobbly. If you're not going to play all in one sitting, remember to hit "save" in the upper right corner, and the mute button is in the lower left for those of you who prefer your puzzle solving a bit less plinky-plonky.
If video games have taught us anything in life, it's that no matter what sort of problem you're having, be it kidnapped princesses, disease, or vandalism, call a plumber. The hazmat-suited hero of Respire Games' Locom may not have a monogrammed hat or sweet dinosaur pal, but he and his trusty pressurized water tank can still navigate a booby-trap-filled sewer with the best of the world's plumbing superstars. Only he's not quite as athletic as Messrs. Mario & Mario, so instead of hopping and bounding like other platform game heroes, he lets his hose do the walking. Just aim his water nozzle with the mouse cursor, and click to fire a powerful stream that will send him soaring in the opposite direction. On the surface, that's all there is to it. But to those who knows the hose, our portly protagonist can run, jump, shoot, push, hover, and even fly, all with a single click! Just keep an eye on how much water he has left in his tank... It's a unique, simplistic control scheme that's both intuitive and tricky, and it makes for a mighty fine platforming challenge.
With the trend of new incremental games coming out, it's been difficult for gamers to find titles that bring worthwhile ideas to the genre, or sometimes to even tell them apart. Some are barely-coded "watch the numbers get bigger" examples, while other developers have been lunging for some flashy gimmick to vie for your attention in an effort to get their own title to stand out from the rest. Pray don't toy with our affections, good sir! And then along comes a title like Idle Village. Unity-savvy up-and-comer Supercluster just goes ahead and bolts on everything he can find to the experience, unabashedly throwing the kitchen sink at the game and not even satisfied until the thing releases a pile of adorable puppies into the room from a hidden vent and checks your e-mail for you at regular intervals. If all that sounds a bit on the hyperbolic side, take a gander at the list of features and decide for yourself. A full-fledged CG model of your village, complete with day and night cycles, that accurately depicts the growth and development of your village — and which you can enter as a player. The ability to gain a fourth of some of your resources, and all of the rest, while you're offline and while the game isn't even loaded. A sophisticated and intricate system of buildings to research that produce everything from potatoes to shrimp and lanternfish to jewelry, carrots and deer and bear meat. An employment system, where you delegate your growing body of villagers to produce these various resources, and a market where you can sell them all for gold and buy new resources for your town. A smithy, where you can craft a diverse arsenal of weaponry, and a recent addition to automate your production. All this and more, from a title still very actively being developed, has put Idle Village firmly on the map.
She's traveled through The Cave of Heroes. She's asked what's The Deal With The Gods. Now Alexia Crow, tourist and reluctant chosen one has to face the most dangerous peril yet: the third game of a trilogy! No, wait... I mean: Pandora's Box! As in the Pandora's Box... the one with the bad history in re: unleashing things? At the very least something of equivalent danger. Chiron wants her to destroy it and it looks to be in that shady office buildinge. Since the outside is secured by all kinds of weird puzzle junk, you know that the inhabitants are up to no good... the "millions of lives are at stake" kind of no good. Alexia Crow: The Pandora's Box is the concluding chapter of QuestTracers' point-and-click adventure saga, where a hero finally discovers her destiny.
Funkyland continues to live up to the name with Alice House: No. 3 House of White Rabbit, an escape game that looks frilly and sweet, but is just a little bit weird, sort of like a restrained version of its source material. The White Rabbit Hole had you searching for, well, rabbits, and with The Pool of Tears it was dodoes. This time, you're searching for items emblazoned with lizards, because why not? Click around to interact, and since your cursor won't change to highlight any interactive areas, you'll want to scour everywhere. Not that you have much to scour, since House of White Rabbit is a very small game indeed. Keep your eyes peeled for clues, and click any item you're carrying to "equip" it for use.