Okay. So maybe this looks a little bad. You come to in a dark, strange place, stumbling down a hallway that doesn't seem to have an end, only to find yourself trapped in a room where a little girl's voice tells you that you've been chosen to prove your worth to join her "sanctuary". And maybe this place is filled with cryptic symbols, vanishing doorways, mutilated dolls, and tripwires. But things could be worse!... right? In Mad Head Games' creepy new hidden-object adventure Maze: Subject 360, things are sincerely weird as you find yourself trapped and apparently at the whims of one twisted little girl who has no problem testing her "subject" against deadly traps. The last thing you remember is driving down a rainy road at night, before spinning out after narrowly avoiding a deer, and the more you stumble onward, the more you remember, but you'll need to keep playing your disturbing little host's games if you want to make it out alive. As you explore, you'll solve a plethora of puzzles, gather items from hidden-object scenes, find secret symbols and morphing objects, and, theoretically, find out the truth about where you are and why. With a flair for the extreme and the weird, Maze: Subject 360 delivers an over-the-top horror experience with gorgeous visuals and high production values, though not without a heaping helping of camp and tasty, tasty cheese. Though it might pile on a bit much for people who like their horror truly dark, fans of casual hidden-object adventures who have been craving something with a bit of teeth and some truly creative design will want to clear a dark and stormy night for this one. Captain Jumpscare... awaaaaaay!
When a hidden-object adventure opens with some lady casually obliterating some woman in weird cosplay lounging sexily on a rock a few miles away from the ocean, you know you're in for a weird ride, and EleFun Games' Witche's Legacy: The Dark Throne. See, that was no ordinary bejeweled lady... that was the wicked witch queen, Morgana, and ever since destroying her several months ago, Lynn is just now beginning to relax and enjoy married life with her boring husband... you. You have, in fact, with the help of Lynn and her mother, opened a museum of magic named in honor of your brother (and I mean literally... the name on the building is "Museum Named in Honor of Thomas Charleston", Lynn, you creative minx, you), and it's in that museum that Lynn is suddenly spirited away by dark energies after stumbling upon a stained glass window that turns into a portal into another world. Together with the help of your loyal family imp, you set off to rescue Lynn and find out what's going on, which means exploring a lot of dangerous places seething with dark magic, and undertaking a lot of tasks and otherworldly puzzles your witchy wife is probably way more qualified than you to undertake. Then again, you are a former Witch Hunter, so maybe things will work out in your favour after all. Click around to explore and interact with things, pick up optional puzzle pieces to unlock more of the backstory, and use your little imp pal to help you in certain situations. You know, like when you need a tiny grunting green dude to pop a pose and flash gangsta signs. Witch stuff.
While on your way to a book signing (your own!), an avalanche distracts you from your task of terrible driving to strand you inside a tunnel, and between the unsettling flickering images you keep seeing and the threatening call on the nearby emergency phone, not to mention the creepy little girl crooning disturbing nursery rhymes, you're beginning to think AAA won't be much help here. But in Eipix Entertainment's hidden-object adventure Phantasmat: The Dread of Oakville, your troubles are just beginning. As you hunt for help in the dark hamlet, strange visions plague you, the locals seem more than a little out of it, and with missing persons fliers plastered everywhere, it quickly becomes apparent that you may be in over your head. Hunt through the town for clues, solving puzzles and rooting through piles of items in hidden-object scenes, and brace yourself for a jump scare or two. With gorgeous visuals, an intense moody atmosphere, and a story full of twists, Phantasmat: The Dread of Oakville is a stellar spooky casual adventure that's perfect for any night, dark and stormy or otherwise.
When we last saw Emily, she had just said goodbye to her old restaurant and moved into a new home with her husband and daughter. Now it's time to settle into the neighbourhood and fix up the house while still trying to keep her business afloat. Emily is nothing if not a superb multitasker, but this might prove to be her greatest challenge to date. Join her in Delicious: Emily's Home Sweet Home, the latest episode in the highly successful time-management Delicious series by GameHouse, as she deals with six restaurants, a dilapidated home, and one particularly nasty neighbour.
Friends! Readers! Do not let your life be constrained by arbitrary dates on a calendar! Whether its October or not, we should all be free to enjoy the ghoulish delights of a haunted house or three, and Grey Alien Games' match-3 arcade game Spooky Bonus (also available directly from the developer) is just the ticket if you're looking for a thoroughly casual and thoroughly enjoyable bit of addictive token matching gameplay. Strange things are happening in Old Town!... that's it. That's the whole story. You'll move across a map filled with goblins, ghosts, witches and other things that go bump in the night, but most importantly, the map is also packed to the brim with levels! Match three or more of the same token by swapping adjacent tiles to make a match, with special tiles charging your power-ups or creating bombs that clear the board, and others clearing golden tiles to let you buy more upgrades. Each level (which you can choose to with or without a timer) has its own conditions to meet, such as matching a certain number of a particular type of item, and different levels have different types of items. It's a simple premise done right, packaged up in a sweetly spooky (though not scary!) aesthetic that will keep fans of the genre happy for hours.
"Oh Roberto," croons Lucia, "I know that together we can face any danger, and you can always count on me!" Until they can't, and he can't, when Roberto is stabbed right in front of his beloved's eyes a few moments later, and then whisked away by dark magic. Way to drop the ball, Lucia. To make things even more ironic, Roberto was in the middle of writing a letter to you for help... he was, after all, your student in magic before he became the duke of Florence, but recently he's become concerned someone might come after him for his work. Looks like he was right, and unless you can prove her innocence, Lucia's going to be executed at midnight in ERS Game Studios' hidden-object adventure Haunted Legends: The Dark Wishes. Lucia is actually convinced Roberto is still alive, and it turns out he might have gotten wrapped up in some serious magic indeed, as one of the Fates themselves is here on Earth looking for the Philosopher's Stone. She doesn't say it was stolen by the creepy little guy who keeps making threatening messages appear at you, but, well, c'mon. Now you're in a race to find the Philosopher's Stone before he can figure out where it is and how to harness its power without killing him, and you'll need to travel the world, solving puzzles, finding items, and, yes, rooting through hidden-object scenes to thwart him... with the help of a little magic of your own. And I guess the floating, skeletal goddess of fate. She's probably a little helpful too.
So the kingdom of Avalon has managed to repel the goblin invaders, but was nearly razed to the ground in the process, and now the king gathers his knights to march into the mountain and slay the goblin king to end the threat once and for all. While you stay behind and do all the grunt work, of course. In Anawiki's casual card game Avalon Legends Solitaire 2, you're a druid who's been left holding the bag while the king is off being heroic, and in that bag is a deck of magical cards that allows you to gather the resources needed to rebuild the kingdom when you play solitaire... ssssssssssomehow. Look, it's magic, kid, I ain't gotta explain anything. With the help of the townsfolk who will generate income and resources for you as you rebuild the kingdom, and your extremely passive-aggressive royal engineer, you'll crack ice and stone, purchase helpful upgrades from Merlin (hey, just because the land is burnin' doesn't mean a wizard ain't gonna get paid), and play a whopping 300 levels in your quest to restore the land to its former glory. It's simple, satisfying, Fairway Solitaire-esque gameplay without all the bells and whistles.
[Note: This game was originally reviewed in December of 2008, but while thinking on the best casual games I've ever played, I immediately thought of this one, and wanted to spotlight it again. Enjoy this Flashback Friday, my fellow foodies.]
The world of professional cooking is ugly, friends. Forget your Martha Stewarts, your Rachel Rays, your semi-homemade with matching-table-decor. It's hard, it's hot, and it is really, really competitive. Top Chef is based on Bravo Channel's reality program of the same name, which takes a batch of fifteen confident up-and-coming chefs and eliminates them through a series of culinary challenges each week until only one remains. The game puts you in the shoes of one such aspiring chef and, with your help, she's going to chop, saute, and julienne her way to the top through fifteen episodes and a whopping forty-five challenges. Along the way she'll have to deal with sneaky behavior, backstabbing, and some furious competition, but trust me; that's the easy part about being a Top Chef in this charming and creative time management sim.
Your life seems like it's about as perfect as it can get. You're engaged to a handsome jazz pianist in New Orleans, just putting the final touches on your wedding plans. But when your sweetie's former band mates start turning up dead, and mysterious smoking men are slinking about, it's time to take action before it's too late. You play as Ella in Mad Head Games hidden-object adventure Cadenza: The Kiss of Death. With nothing but a black lipstick stain as your lead, you're going to have to use all your skills, and maybe even learn some new ones (unless picking locks and diffusing bombs are already part of your skill set. Who are you, MacGyver?), as you do everything you can do to save your future husband's life.
Two feuding Louisiana towns. A mysterious mythical owl man. Creepy swamps. A missing boy. Crocodiles. All in a days work if you're a Mystery Tracker detective. When sightings of the local legend are at a peak and young boy goes missing, the townsfolk don't know what to believe. Piece together clues, question suspects, and find the link between things in Mystery Trackers: Nightsville Horror, a hidden-object adventure from Elephant Games. Use your sleuthing, your brave little dog Elf, and your puzzle solving skills to track down the missing boy Oliver before it's too late.
It is generally agreed upon that puppets, much like clowns or doing your taxes, are creepy and scary no matter how many times you come across them. Luckily for ERS Game Studios, some of us hidden-object adventure lovers like to be spooked from time to time. This is why the PuppetShow series is so popular that it's celebrating its seventh birthday this year with a new installment, The Price of Immortality. You find yourself in the delightfully steampunky town of Immortale (the "e" is silent), looking for your friend, Enrique, who went there to investigate the disappearances of a number of journalists, all somehow connected to the Theater of Emotions. Now, the Theater of Emotions sounds like it puts on audience-participation productions where everyone ends up holding hands, weeping and going out for cupcakes afterwards. That alone would be a good reason to save Enrique, but the theater turns out to be a place where snoopy reporters come to die. Turns out the theater holds a sort of murder lottery, where townspeople lucky enough to have their number drawn get to throw knives at the unfortunate reporters. On top of that, Immortale used to be famous for its beautifully crafted puppets, but lately they have been as abused and tortured as the visiting reporters. Just what is going on in this twisted town?
There probably aren't a lot of video game characters who deserve a vacation more than Emily, the non-stop restaurant managing dynamo of Gamehouse's beloved Delicious series of time management games. She and her new husband were expecting a low key honeymoon before her brother-in-law turned up with his newly acquired cruise ship and offered them the trip of a lifetime. But with Emily's entire family and circle of friends on board and her best friend forever Francois in charge of serving the ship's customers, will Emily really get a chance to relax? Delicious: Emily's Honeymoon Cruise is yet another gorgeous, funny, smart and lovingly polished gem that will delight fans and woo newcomers.
The meddling, passive-aggressive mother-in-law who constantly finds fault with the bride is such a ubiquitous trope in pop culture that I thank Celestia for my own sweet, not-as-crazy-as-I-am mother-in-law. In Delicious: Emily's Wonder Wedding, part of the beloved Delicious series of time management games from GameHouse, cafe owner Emily is finally about to tie the knot with boyfriend Patrick, but the road to wedded bliss isn't a smooth one. Not only does Emily have to contend with dress problems, mailing invitations, and, of course, managing her popular eatery, she's also got to win over Patrick's mother who's just flown in from Ireland and seems to pick on everything Emily does and says. With a run of bad luck a mile wide, Emily begins to convince herself that maybe Patrick's mother is right and the wedding is cursed, but that's nonsense... right? GameHouse proves once again they know the time-management trade almost better than anything else, and delivers a fun, funny, and gorgeously polished game that stands head and shoulders above the rest.
When a witch hunter marries a witch, even if she's a good witch, it's a stretch to imagine their life together will be happily ever after, don't you think? Lynn and Edward have been married just a year when the nasty witch queen Morgana, set on bringing back her powerful mentor so witches can rule the world, lures the happy couple to a totally creepy fair (just what every girl dreams of doing on her first wedding anniversary, especially with her mother tagging along) where she and her lackey whisk Lynn away for use in an evil ritual. In Witches' Legacy: Slumbering Darkness, a hidden-object puzzle adventure game from Elefun, you play as Lynn's mother Carrie, along with her somewhat terrifying yet helpful imp sidekick, who are racing the clock to get Lynn back before it's too late.
In the grand scheme of things, match-3 puzzle games might be some of the simplest to make in their most basic incarnation, but taking that simple formula and making it feel fresh and fun takes a bit more ingenuity. Good thing Playcademy seems to have that in spades, with Runefall being one of the most relaxing and enjoyable additions to the genre to come along in a long time. In it, you find yourself in the tiny town of Riverfell, which has had difficulty making ends meet and finding enough to make their tribute to the kingdom ever since the war brought the trade routes to a screeching halt. But when you discover magical, valuable runes while out searching for the resources needed to pay tribute? Well, that's another matter entirely, and suddenly sleepy Riverfell isn't so sleepy at all. Despite some issues with repetition and variation, a genuinely likable cast and engaging story alongside addictive match-3 gameplay makes Runefall a rocksolid addition to the genre that's well worth checking out and losing a few hours to, as comforting and enjoyable as loading up your favourite light fantasy film while wearing your comfiest socks and sipping your favourite beverage.