# July 2007 Archives

## Kakuro

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Sick of all of this sudoku nonsense flying about the place? Need a break from all this "one of each in every row column and square" rubbish? I've got the perfect solution for you... sorta. Kakuro—or Cross Sums or Sum Totals, depending on what school of puzzling you were raised in—is another number puzzler that has gained popularity in recent months.

Like sudoku, kakuro is played by filling in all of the open squares with a digit from 1 to 9. At the top of each column or at the left-hand side of each row of blocks is a number in a triangle. Your job is to fill in all of the blanks with digits that will add up to that number. For example, a row of three blocks with a sum of 14 on the end could be 1-5-8, 3-4-7, or several patterns of numbers.

A few key rules to keep in mind:

1. There are no zeroes in the puzzles at all.
2. No digit is repeated within any sum grouping.
3. The order for a string of numbers may vary. You may end up with 1-2-3, 1-3-2, 2-3-1, 2-1-3, 3-1-2, or 3-2-1. The only way to determine the correct order of a string is to solve for the row or column perpendicular to it.

To input numbers onto this grid, use your arrow keys to move the yellow box to any square and type in the number you want to put there. If you prefer using the mouse, click and hold your cursor on any square, and a small number pad will appear nearby. Mouse over the number you want, and release.

If you've never tried a kakuro puzzle before, I would strongly recommend using the never-changing practice puzzle for a quick start. After a few games in the easy level, you might pick up on some patterns and tricks to make the game a bit easier. (A sum of three in two boxes is always 1-2, a sum of 17 in two boxes is 8-9, and so forth. There are many more that I could mention, but it's probably better that you figure them out on your own.) In no time, you'll be tackling all three levels of play.

But that's not all, kids! The game also comes with some dandy features to help you on your way. If you can't decide on which number to put into a box, the pencil feature lets you write in several numbers in a box, until you've reached a final decision on what number you'd like to use. This is found in the bottom row of the mouse's keypad, or in the top-right hand corner of the game. Also in the keypad is a question mark. If you've marked in every number in a row except for one, using the question mark in that box will automatically fill in the space with the digit that completes the sum for that row or column. Plus, if you click on one of the triangle numbers at the end of a row, a small box pops up showing you all of the different number combinations possible for that row (although you still have to decide the order of the digits on your own). Also, if you put in a string of numbers that do not add up to the required sum, they change color to signal you to try again.

Analysis: For a puzzle-lover like myself, this game surely is a delight. The game's interface is convenient and easy to understand, and there's no doubt that they want to make the kakuro experience as enjoyable as possible. All of the puzzles are created so that only one solution is possible, and it does appear that there are a lot of puzzles to tackle. I would easily recommend this online version to anyone who's ever wanted to try kakuro.

The audio in this game is also quite enjoyable. While you're solving a puzzle, you're treated to a nice little latin piece in the background. Sadly, the musical selections are only about two minutes long, so they might sound a little repetitive after a while. Also, every time you input a number into the grid, you hear what sounds like a dying guitar being plucked. This was a bit hard to bear at first, but I eventually learned to ignore it. Truth be told, for such a puzzle like this, it wouldn't hurt at all to hit the mute button and play whatever music floats your own boat.

So if you're ready for a new puzzle twist, give Kakuro a try!

Play Kakuro

Cheers to Anthony for the link!

## And the winner is... №3

It is difficult enough to design a game that is fun to play; harder still to design one that keeps the player coming back to it again and again. It seems that so many games today are one-off, disposable experiences offering little reason for a replay.

When we chose the word "replay" for the theme of this competition, we were looking forward to seeing games with excellent replay value. And like the "grow" themed competition before it, what we received were many varied interpretations of the theme. This is an indication that creativity of expression is alive and well within the Flash game development community, and we feel very fortunate to be in a position to help foster and promote that. However, it has made the judging of this competition especially difficult.

On the one hand we have replay value, which all games possess to some extent—even if very little. Therefore there were no disqualifications this time around: each game submitted was accepted on the basis of its replay value and thus entered into the competition without question. On the other hand, there were some wonderful mind-bending, time-bending interpretations of the theme that produced games the likes of which we've seldom encountered, if ever, before. And yet most of these amazingly creative games were paired with little replay value since once the puzzle is 'solved' or sequence of events figured out there is little left to call the player back.

Due to some confusion and misunderstanding in the comments, let me clarify that incorporating "replay value" in the entries for this competition was never a "requirement". We were pleased to see many creative interpretations of the theme in the entries submitted. Moreover, the entries were not judged on theme alone. Many other factors were considered. For example, games with exceptional replay value were awarded additional points. You can expect this to be true for future competitions as well.

One game, however, continues to nag and gnaw at us to come back for one more try, to replay the game again and again, which indicates the gameplay experience is an exceptionally rich and rewarding one. Likewise, the scoring from 6 competition judges—zxo, Dancemonkey, JohnB, Harukio, Capuchin, and myself—corroborated this experience and pointed to a single entry deserving of the highest prize...

• First Place (\$1000 + Adobe Flash CS3):
• Runner-up (\$500 + Adobe Flash CS3):
• Rerun by Andrew VanHeuklon
• Honorable mention:
• Audience Prize (\$289.06):
• Most creative use of the JIG logo (Nintendo Wii):

With 18.18% of the popular vote, Wouter Visser's game proved to be the favorite among the JIG community as well. Wouter will be awarded the Audience prize of \$200 to go with the donations his game received, for a total of \$289.06!!

For full disclosure, I have made available a spreadsheet listing all proceeds received and how they were distributed based on the voting. We will be in touch with each game designer to arrange for the transfer of all respective voting donations. Our sincere thanks and appreciation go out to everyone who voted.

Most of all, congratulations to everyone who submitted an entry! Just being able to complete a game within a short development period, as this was, is quite an achievement in and of itself. Moreover, your continued participation in these competitions makes future competitions like this possible, and we can't thank you enough. We consider ourselves very fortunate to have received such an excellent response to our call for entries, as the entire collection of entries are all quite deserving of our praise. To show our appreciation, we will be featuring each and every game from the competition in a JIG review complete with our own feedback and constructive criticisms in the days and weeks ahead.

Our sincere gratitude to the kind folks at ArcadeTown, Adobe, and Nitrome for making it all possible by sponsoring this competition...

"A Bark in the Dark"
...by Bart Bonte
"Gimme Friction Baby"
...by Wouter Visser
"Super Earth Defense Game!"
...by Carl Foust
"JIGorbit"
...by DDams
"Speck Oppression"
...by Komix
"Timebot"
...by David Durham
"Parley"
...by Matt Slaybaugh and Joe Versoza
"Replay 2 : The Sequel"
...by Caleb, R. Emmett and longhorn54
"Rerun"
...by Andrew VanHeuklon
"ReMaze"
...by Felix Reidl
"Time Raider"
...by Rey Gazu
"Space Pilot"
...by Alex Kaplan
"The Turtles of Time"
...by Dom Camus
"A Good Hunch!"
...by Philipp Seifried and Markus Mundjar
"Yalpeyalper"
...by Tonypa
"Music Dodge"
...by Daniel Gutierrez
"Paracaidas"
...by Scheletro
"Robot Goal"
...by Ja.Games
"Karma"
...by Zapak Digital Entertainment Limited

## Square Meal

• Currently 4.7/5
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Cute pixelly monsters? Plucky soundtrack? Arcade-style gameplay? It must be the latest release from Nitrome! Hooray!

In Square Meal, you play a cute boxy monster trying to escape from a sinister dungeon. Well, perhaps sinister is a bit of an overstatement—someone has left delicious food lying about all over the place, after all. Still, there are a number of different monsters patrolling each of the 50 levels, as well as floor spikes, exploding blocks, slippery patches, and other hazards. Using the arrow keys, move around each level and use the spacebar to swallow all of the enemies. Before you can eat a monster though, you must first stun it by hitting it with a block. Use the spacebar to swallow a block, then reposition yourself and hit space again to shoot the block at an enemy.

There are a number of different types of blocks available to swallow and shoot. In addition to the normal gray blocks that behave quite predictably, there are also brown blocks that disintegrate when they hit something, blue slow blocks that lose momentum more quickly, green rubber blocks that will bounce off of things (be careful of the rebound!), and black bomb blocks that give you a short countdown and then explode. The normal gray blocks are usually the best to use—they can't kill you, they don't disappear once used, and they travel quickly. Really, all you need is one of these per level, but you are usually given much more than that.

The five types of blocks and four types of enemies combined with the various other hazards provide enough material so that the fifty levels are for the most part unique. However, there are only a handful that are truly challenging—you'll be able to pass most of them on your first try. I was expecting the levels to become more puzzle-like as they progressed, but only a few took advantage of elements such as the retractable spikes and limited ammunition. There's not even a time limit. Mostly, you'll just find yourself avoiding the monsters until you can get in a position to stun and swallow them. Also, I was expecting one or two more types of monsters to appear that were either faster or smarter than the four that exist, but that never happened.

As a result of these game design choices, much of the challenge of Square Meal comes from trying to maximize your score. You have only one life, although thankfully you do not have to start at Level 1 when you die. Nevertheless, your score resets to zero every time you die, so scoring well will require a certain degree of perfection. If you're not careful, you can also miss points on levels by clearing all the monsters before eating all of the bonus food items, or if an exploding block takes food or monsters with it.

With Square Meal, the folks at Nitrome have once again played to their strengths: classic arcade-style gameplay, cute pixelated graphics and an infectious soundtrack that somehow never quite gets old (although if it does, there's a button to turn it off). There's also a collaborative 2-player mode that can be fun to play with a buddy, although it doesn't really add anything to the gameplay.

Play Square Meal

## Competition #4 news

Before we release the results of the 3rd Casual Gameplay Design Competition, we would like to take this opportunity to announce some exciting news.

We have been working hard these last several weeks to bring you even more opportunities to show off your game design talent and to win fabulous prizes. We are very pleased to announce that Sierra Online has agreed to be our lead sponsor for CGDC #4 and we will be making a formal announcement along with the theme in just a couple of days.

We have been listening to all the feedback you have had with respect to the competitions, and especially from those of you who wanted to participate but ran out of time. You may be very pleased to learn that we are lengthening the development period to 2 months!

But that's not all. We are also more than doubling the value of the prizes for CGDC #4 and adding a 3rd place, too(!):

• 1st place:
• \$2,500
• 2nd place:
• \$1000
• 3rd place:
• \$500
• Audience award:
• as before, determined by JIG community popular vote and worth at least \$200.

There is more news yet to come regarding our 4th Casual Gameplay Design Competition, which is right around the corner, so make sure you don't miss it!

## Bodilies

• Currently 4.7/5
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Bodilies is an original, humorous and sassy, graphic adventure that features an elaborate audio-visual production and an engaging story, too. It was originally conceived and developed for a class assignment at the Hogeschool van de Kunsten Utrecht by Jeroen Stout, Mick Moolhuisen, and Roy de Groot.

Submitted by 'Canadian' earlier today: "It combines beautiful graphics and animation, and haunting, melodic music with a story that actually works and feels right. Help Neil in his quest for freedom and self-actualization; it leads you through an interesting point-and-click adventure you won't soon forget! "May your voyages take you to places where imagination has no bounds."

You may save your progress by clicking "Save game" just beneath your inventory (lower left of the game window). Doing so will give you a number with which you can enter and reload the game later, or even at a different computer.

Play Bodilies

Note: Due to some inappropriate language and a rather mature-themed storyline (lots of text), the game is not recommended for young children.

## Escape from Island

• Currently 4.6/5
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Your plane goes down on a mysterious and seemingly deserted island somewhere off the radar charts, and it is up to you to find a way to Escape from Island using only the resources available to you.

Simply move the mouse around each scene to locate positions to click. The mouse cursor will turn into a hand to alert you that something may be there. Arrow symbols are displayed when movement in that direction is possible.

Thought-provoking puzzles and a well-illustrated environment together create an atmosphere ripe for adventure and captivating gameplay. The game is the next in what is hopefully a long series of point-and-click adventure games by Aztec, the same developer(s) that created The Shrine, previously reviewed here last month.

Play Escape from Island

Cheers to Wouter for the link and to Skizzarah for the walkthrough in the comments. =)

## Dream Chronicles

• Currently 4.6/5
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Dream Chronicles is a sensual delight, an intellectual challenge, and a very engaging twist on adventure, seek-and-find and puzzle games. It's been compared to Myst and Uru, and whilst it's certainly not as demanding as those mainstream titles, I found Dream Chronicles even more enjoyable.

You play Faye, who has a dream in which Lilith, the Fairy Queen of Dreams casts a sleep spell over the kingdom. When you awaken, you find that your husband has been kidnapped by Lilith and your child is overcome by the sleep spell. You must find your way to Lilith's domain and free your husband to defeat Lilith and lift the spell. To do this, you must solve puzzles that Lilith has left in your way to prevent you from following her. In addition, you can increase your score by collecting Dream Jewels, which are subtly strewn through each scene.

The whole game covers a wide range of game types, including adventure/RPG, jigsaw, seek-and-find, and a final hurdle that looks alarmingly like the graduate aptitude tests I've been doing recently. You are given hints as to how to proceed, and some brief instruction, but you need to work out what is actually required yourself. (I'm not telling—that would ruin it!) There are walkthroughs available on the web, but they are only useful for finding out what has to be done—the locations of the things you have to find change in each game.

As in Mr. Robot, the variety of puzzles is both a strength and a weakness. If you're not a musician, you may find the music puzzle a significant challenge—even knowing what I had to do, I found it very difficult. Puzzles like this can be a real show-stopper. Conversely, those of you who are veteran point-and-click masters may find Dream Chronicles rather easy. I enjoyed most of the puzzles, coped with the ones I didn't enjoy, and only had to refer to a walkthrough once. (I also kept a pen and paper in front of me, and have two envelopes covered in detailed notes!) You can also replay the game to beat your high score, as you are guaranteed to miss a few jewels.

Visually, however, Dream Chronicles is an absolute joy. The artwork is astonishing, even surpassing lovely games like Hidden Expedition: Titanic. Every scene had me marveling at how beautiful the illustration was. Be sure to check out the credits to see some of the conceptual artwork, which is more cartoony than that used in the game, but still visually stunning.

If you enjoy Dream Chronicles, be sure to read our review of the sequel, Dream Chronicles 2: The Eternal Maze.

The story is also interesting—it's probably an indicator of how many women are getting into casual gaming that you are playing a woman who has to save her husband from being ravished by the evil Queen! The dialogue and descriptive text reveal a sense of humour and a real interest in storytelling, which is sadly lacking in many puzzle games. Although many will find the ending unsatisfying, it makes it clear that there must be a sequel, and I for one am really looking forward to it.

Windows:
Get the full version

Mac OS X:
Get the full version

## Kudos Rock Legend

• Currently 4.5/5
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Positech Games (aka Cliff Harris) specialises in sim games such as Democracy and the previously-reviewed Kudos. His latest album, er, game allows you to indulge your dreams of rock stardom—start out as a struggling band with no publicity or gigs, develop your musical style, write songs and claw your way up to playing the Enormo-dome, making TV appearances and hiring bodyguards to protect you from the hordes of screaming fans.

Every once in a while you'll need to take a day off, or your musicians will get stressed out and quit the band. Fortunately, going to the bar during your day off allows you to both reduce stress and increase hype as you chat about your band and how awesome you are.

Analysis: This is a highly enjoyable sim, especially if you're a frustrated rock star like me. There are lots of fun little references for rock fans like the names of the musicians, such as Lars Halford. (Even Cliff's own name sounds like an amalgam of Cliff Burton and Steve Harris!) Spinal Tap fans will appreciate the ability to buy a styrofoam Stonehenge set. Your 'to do' list has classic rock quotes at the bottom of the page, such as David Lee Roth's "I used to have a drug problem. Now I make enough money."

I only have a couple of little quibbles. Firstly, when you open a musician's window to view their equipment and levels of motivation, tiredness etc, there is a button marked "Fire" if you want to get rid of them. Unfortunately, it's located at the bottom right where you would expect an "OK" button to be. I accidentally fired a couple of perfectly good musicians because of this.

A more serious quibble is that there's no high score table. There's no way to compare if I made more money with my sensitive folk-blues outfit or my operatic cock-rockers, or if my brave, non-selling-out no-record-deal DIY punkers were able to get close to the sales of my big mainstream AOR outfit. The game would be much more replayable with this feature.

Other than that, I thoroughly enjoyed this game and highly recommend it. Plus, if you're a rock fan, why don't you check out the JayIsGames last.fm group?

Windows:
Get the full version

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

The parade of frogs plays trumpets to confetti as the apple moon flies in at 5:67pm. A stitch in time won't save the fairies because no elephant turns on a dime. We are going to the newspapers! We are going to the newspapers! Chocolate! Chocolate! Fax the memo to us! Tuned cans dance falling into mediocrity. Believe it or not, that's a quote from a movie, or at least it might as well be. Can anyone tell me what movie I'm thinking of? Oh, and I'm not crazy, it's just LINK DUMP FRIDAY!!!

• Turret Pong - It's pong, with guns! Use your turret to direct the ball towards your enemy's base-line.
• Statetris You should hopefully know all your states from last LDF, now play Tetris with the U.S. of A.
• Diggtris - Tetris Diggified! Play Tetris with shapes and colors determined by recently dugg stories on Digg.com. It may be hard to resist clicking "10 Tips for Razor Sharp Concentration" while you play, but don't worry, if you click a story the game will pause while you explore. PG-13 for the occasional foul language news title.
• Play the Game - A stomping, clapping, follow the leader rhythm game. Be quick on your feet or be left behind.
• Triangles - Avoid the triangles! Avoid the triangles! A left-hand/right-hand/keyboard/mouse coordination challenge.
• Poco2 Escape 2.0 - An interesting point-and-click, escape the room game.
• TriPeakz - The solitaire game sometimes known as Pyramids made twice as fun with head to head competition.
• Notessimo - Create and share songs with this simple but fun web toy.

Judging continues on the entries for our 3rd Casual Gameplay Design Competition, and it's proving to be quite difficult. We will be announcing the winners on Monday along with the results for the Audience prize, so be sure to vote!! Deadline for voting is this Sunday night.

## Daymare Town

• Currently 4.6/5
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Just a week following the release of Covert Front, Mateusz Skutnik is up to his shenanigans again. He writes to tell me of something "completely new and unforeseen," something different than anything to have come from him before.

Fade in: Daymare Town, a strange and oddly deserted town that gives the unsettling feeling that eyes are peering from around corners. It is a drab and dreary town, not a very pleasant place to be. But now you're stuck, and you'll do anything you can to leave.

The artwork in this game consists of sketches that create a much different atmosphere for a point-and-click game. Also, the difficulty has been kicked up a notch with the author claiming that Daymare Town is the hardest puzzle game he has made by far. It is for "advanced" point-and-click gamers, only.

You are hereby warned. Proceed at your own risk. Escape if you can.

Play Daymare Town

Play the entire Daymare Town series...

Similar games:

## CGDC3: Audience Award

Now that we've seen all the entries, and while the judging is underway, we invite everyone to take part by voting for your favorite(s) of the competition. Each game entry is represented by its icon along with a "vote" button next to it. The vote button will take you to a PayPal donation form where you may donate \$1 (USD) or more to the respective game. (You do not need a PayPal account to vote, PayPal accepts credit cards as well.)

We are limiting voting to only those who donate as it discourages ballot stuffing. And besides, it's only a dollar and these fantastic games are all worth more than that, don't you think? No one is obligated to vote, and all we are asking for is a single dollar from each of you.

At the end of the week, all of the votes will be tallied and the game that receives the most community votes will be awarded the Audience Prize of \$200!

All proceeds* from the vote donations will go directly to each respective game designer(s). Of course you may donate more than a dollar when you vote, though your vote will still count as just one vote. (*Your donation less any fees PayPal deducts prior to our receiving it. For reference: PayPal takes \$0.33 from a one-dollar donation, but only \$0.45 from a five-dollar donation.)

The deadline to vote is this Sunday, July 29, 2007 at 11:59 PM (GMT-5:00).

To cast your vote, simply use the PayPal ("Vote") link next to the game icon you wish to vote for, and then enter your donation amount in the PayPal form. Thank you kindly for your anticipated contributions of support for this very talented group of Flash game designers. =)

Total from voting... \$543.43
Wooty! We surpassed the previous competition's donations! Thank you kindly for your support of these competitions! =)

Update (07/30/07 12:00 AM): Voting had ended! And the winner is...

Wouter Visser will receive \$289.06!! Congratulations, Wouter! And cheers to everyone who voted! =)

(Looking for the competition entries that used to be here? They have been moved to the Game Design Competition #3 announcement page for easy access via the Favorites feature.)

## Gravity Pods

• Currently 4.7/5
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Gravity Pods is a physics-based, projectile shooting, puzzle game created by Keith Peters for his newly launched Wicked Pissah Games website. The goal is to fire a projectile and hit a spinning purple target across the screen. Barriers are usually in the way, but by using gravity pods you can bend the path your projectile takes to send it virtually anywhere.

Aim your turret with the arrow keys and press [space] to fire. Each shot leaves a dotted trail in its wake, so if you miss, your next attempt can be fine-tuned to perfection. Aiming is a precise task that can be obsessed over to the decimal point. Great for puzzle fans, but bad for perfectionists. The real fun begins after about a dozen levels when you get to place gravity pods on your own. Drag and drop orange pods and place them anywhere on the screen, even inside walls, to customize your projectile's path. The possibilities are enormous, and sometimes just a one pixel adjustment can mean the difference between success and failure.

You have around 20 shots per level, so don't be afraid to use a little trial-and-error to supplement your immensely complex physics calculations. Even if you use up your shots without winning, you can simply restart the level and continue until you get it right. And believe me, in some of the later levels, you'll praise this feature on more than one occasion.

Analysis: Gravity Pods is a simple physics shooting game that requires a little more brain work than many gamers may be looking for. Some of the puzzles you'll have to solve can be extremely taxing, forcing you to make fine adjustments to pod positioning as well as your turret's aim. On top of that, trial-and-error is integral to the game, which doesn't float everyone's boat.

Positioning the turret is a precise exercise, but placing pods, however, is more of a slapdash task with no guides other than eyeballing their location. This little bit of randomness is an interesting element in the game, but if you use all your shots and re-start a stage, you lose their position. After two (or three) dozen attempts at a single level without getting a solution, things get pretty frustrating. I resorted to putting my fingers on the screen to mark the pods' spot when forced to re-start a level.

Unique and highly cerebral, if Gravity Pods doesn't make you want to pull your hair out, you'll love it.

Play Gravity Pods

You might know Keith from his BIT-101 lab website, or perhaps from reading his book ActionScript Animation: Making Things Move! His new venture with Wicked Pissah promises that we'll be seeing more new and exciting things coming our way in the near future.

## Jelly Blocks

• Currently 4.6/5
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Sometimes you run across a new game that feels exactly like a classic—like it's been around for years. The mechanism behind Michael Le's Jelly Blocks is so simple, so intuitive, and yet so versatile that it makes you wonder if anybody had come up with anything like it before. In short, it bears all of the hallmarks of a great classic puzzler. [Update: Actually, this is a clone of the game, Denki Blocks, no wonder it had classic written all over it(!) Thanks, JIG community for setting the record straight.]

The goal of each level is to maneuver blocks of the same color so that they touch. Use the arrow keys to move the entire set of blocks around the screen. Immovable black squares can be used to prevent certain blocks from moving, allowing you to separate adjacent blocks from each other. The twist here is that when blocks of the same color meet, they fuse into a single block. Although this is the ultimate goal of the game, you'll have to be careful, as you can easily render a level unsolvable through premature fusions.

There are 100 available levels to play, but they are generally pretty short—once you figure out the solution. They gradually increase in difficulty, and there are surprisingly few which resemble each other. The first fifteen or so are pretty easy, and are designed to give you a flavor of the types of tricks you'll have to pull later on. Some of these can be solved by a number of different strategies, including random key-mashing (OK, maybe not solved but it'll get you a good start.) Soon though, you'll have to plan your moves carefully, and you'll find the undo and restart buttons come in very handy.

The only thing missing from Jelly Blocks is a move counter—this simple device would add so much: more strategy from figuring out the optimal solution, replay value from trying to beat your previous score, and it would allow for the ever-popular high score table.

But fear not, Jelly Blocks contains more than enough puzzler goodness to satisfy the hunger of anyone. So get your jam on and play Jelly Blocks!

Play Jelly Blocks

## CGDC3: update

Now that we have seen all the entries for the 3rd Casual Gameplay Design Competition, it is almost time for the voting to begin for the coveted Audience prize.

We will be back later today with an update that will include a form with links to each of the competition entries, along with PayPal links to vote for each game. This system has worked well in the past and we encourage you to contribute on behalf of the efforts that all of the competition participants have put into their games. Voting only costs \$1 (USD), but we encourage you to donate as much as you can to each game you vote for. Donations received will go directly to each participant following the competition and the number of votes received will determine which entry receives the Audience Prize of \$200!

In the meantime, scoring continues on the judging of the entries, and we will be announcing the results in a few days.

## CGDC3: Karma

Views (539)

The next and final entry to our 3rd Casual Gameplay Design Competition is a game by Zapak.

Karma is a simple game of drawing lines in succession to connect two objects without crossing any previous line. The objective represents washing away sins of a past life as you progress toward salvation. The lines represent your life, from birth to death, and you "replay" your life by means of drawing, collecting a conch shell along the way to wash away one of 7 deadly sins. Can you wash away all 7?

I nearly missed this entry were it not for an email message received just this morning. An inspection of my spam folder revealed that the entry was received on the 15th of July as required. Please give the kind folks at Zapak the same consideration of a warm welcome, feedback and constructive criticism in the comments.

Play Karma

And that concludes the entries for our 3rd Casual Gameplay Design Competition! \o/

Note: All comments originally posted here have been moved to the Karma review page. Please use that page to post your comments and questions about the game. Thank you!

## CGDC3: Robot Goal

Views (503)

The next entry to our 3rd Casual Gameplay Design Competition is a game by Ja.Games.

Robot Goal is a simple action puzzle game that involves programming a robot to collect green spheres and shoot them into goals before time runs out for each level. Programming is as simple as clicking on the icons representing the actions you would like the robot to take. Sequencing several moves together before clicking play will help master each level within the allowed time limit. The "replay" theme appears to be implemented via the robot carrying out, or replaying, your instructions each time.

Ja.Games is also new to the competitions, so please give him a warm welcome and provide feedback and constructive criticism for him in the comments.

Play Robot Goal

One entry left. Did I miscount? No, I found an entry in my spam folder after receiving an email this morning from a worried participant. So check back later today for the final entry to our competition!

Note: All comments originally posted here have been moved to the Parley review page. Please use that page to post your comments and questions about the game. Thank you!

## CGDC3: Paracaidas

Views (533)

The next entry to our 3rd Casual Gameplay Design Competition is a game by Scheletro.

Paracaidas is an action game of skill and timing with the objective being to jump from an airplane and then land safely on a target platform by way of a parachute, or paracaidas (Spanish). Gauge the wind speed and direction, then prepare to jump(!) The "replay" theme is implemented through allowing you to continue, or replay, the game using different wind parameters if you succeed. Collect stars for bonus points.

Scheletro is new to our competitions, so please do what you do so well and provide him with feedback and constructive criticism in the comments.

Play Paracaidas

Note: All comments originally posted here have been moved to the Paracaidas review page. Please use that page to post your comments and questions about the game. Thank you!

## CGDC3: Music Dodge

Views (636)

The next entry to our 3rd Casual Gameplay Design Competition is a game by Daniel Gutierrez.

Music Dodge bears the distinguished characteristic of being the only music game submitted to the competition. It is played by "scratching" the mouse cursor against the surface of the bars generated in real-time from the music spectrum of the chosen mp3 file. If you allow the bars to penetrate the cursor it will explode giving you a time penalty. Points are scored for the duration of successful scratching. There is only one music file to choose from presently in this online version.

It is a creative interpretation of the "replay" theme in that any piece of music that has been played by the user may be played again within a new context. A song that a player has listened to for entertainment can then be played again under a different context inside this game. Thus, this game allows the user to "replay" their music. Please leave your feedback and constructive criticism for Daniel in the comments.

Play Music Dodge

Note: This is the second of 2 Actionscript 3.0 games we received for the competition. And since AS2 and AS3 are incompatible with each other, I have created two versions of the UI so we could allow games created in either to be entered into the competition. You may experience a slight delay when selecting an AS2 game after having played an AS3 game, since the UI shell must be reloaded with the correct version.

And there's still 2 more to go. Please check back later.

Note: All comments originally posted here have been moved to the Music Dodge review page. Please use that page to post your comments and questions about the game. Thank you!

## CGDC3: Yalpeyalper

Views (533)

The next entry to our 3rd Casual Gameplay Design Competition is a game by Tonypa.

Yalpeyalper is a multi-level puzzle game based on chain reactions. The objective is to eliminate all squares from the board with a single click. Chain reactions are created from your click as the squares move to adjacent cells until there is no more movement. The "replay" theme is implemented in a way that is suggested you find out for yourself. ;)

Tonypa has entered all three of our competitions, and it's a pleasure to be able to include another one of his games here. He tells me this is his first game working with Actionscript 3.0. Please provide him with feedback and constructive criticism in the comments.

Play Yalpeyalper

Note: This is the first of 2 entries written in Actionscript 3.0. And since AS2 and AS3 are incompatible with each other, I have created two versions of the UI so that we could allow games created in either version to be entered into the competition. You may experience a slight delay when selecting an AS2 game after having played an AS3 game, since the UI shell must be reloaded with the correct version.

And there's still more. Check back a little later today.

Note: All comments originally posted here have been moved to the Yalpeyalper review page. Please use that page to post your comments and questions about the game. Thank you!

## CGDC3: A Good Hunch!

Views (604)

The next entry to our 3rd Casual Gameplay Design Competition is a game by Philipp Seifried and Markus Mundjar.

A Good Hunch! is a charmingly illustrated and animated platform game of teamwork starring Harvey and Tina, a pair of very colorful goats. In each level you play first as Harvey making your way to one of two available exits. Then switch to Tina to find your way to the 2nd exit while your actions for Harvey are replayed simultaneously. Only one exit may be used per goat, and you may have to jump on Harvey's back to reach higher areas.

You may remember playing a previous game by Philipp called Drifts that was reviewed here back in late 2005. Please join me in welcoming Philipp and Markus to the JIG competitions, and kindly provide them with feedback and constructive criticism in the comments.

Play A Good Hunch

We'll return with more "replay" real soon!

Note: All comments originally posted here have been moved to the A Good Hunch review page. Please use that page to post your comments and questions about the game. Thank you!

## CGDC3: The Turtles of Time

Views (497)

The next entry to our 3rd Casual Gameplay Design Competition is a game by Dom Camus.

The Turtles of Time is a "bizarre and somewhat silly minigame," as the author describes. It is a multi-level action game that includes some of the fastest turtles I've seen. A unique gameplay mechanic allows you to turn back time and "replay" a level to acquire more points, as there is a minimum number of points you will need for each level to move on to the next. Later levels introduce even more turtles to add to the fun and challenge.

Please join me in welcoming Dom to the JIG competitions, and kindly provide him with the wonderful feedback and constructive criticism that you do so well in the comments.

Play The Turtles of Time

Still a few more entries to go, check back a little later today for another "replay"!

Note: All comments originally posted here have been moved to the The Turtles of Time review page. Please use that page to post your comments and questions about the game. Thank you!

## CGDC3: Space Pilot

Views (579)

The next entry to our 3rd Casual Gameplay Design Competition is a game by Alex Kaplan.

Space Pilot is a keyboard controlled, mission-based action game in which you pilot a spaceship that looks, acts and sounds identical to the ship in the classic arcade game of Asteroids. The gameplay, however, is entirely new and original. The "replay" theme is found in the unlimited number of replays you have to complete each mission.

Please give Alex a warm JIG welcome by playing his game and leaving some feedback and constructive criticism for him in the comments.

Play Space Pilot

Note: All comments originally posted here have been moved to the Space Pilot review page. Please use that page to post your comments and questions about the game. Thank you!

## CGDC3: Time Raider

Views (720)

The next entry to our 3rd Casual Gameplay Design Competition is a game by Rey Gazu.

Time Raider is an extraordinary time-bending platform puzzle game that puts you in the shoes of the game designer himself. Armed with only a napsack and your wits, you will flip switches, escape traps and swing on ropes like Indiana Jones. If you fail, no worries. Just rewind and try again. The "replay" theme is layered so deep within this game that it will likely make your brain hurt as you work toward a solution to the puzzle that awaits you.

Rey is no stranger to these competitions, his Cyberpunk entry took home one of the prizes from our first. Please be kind and offer your feedback and constructive criticism for Rey in the comments.

Play Time Raider

Ain't no stopping us now! Check back a little later for more "replay"!

Note: All comments originally posted here have been moved to the Time Raider review page. Please use that page to post your comments and questions about the game. Thank you!

## CGDC3: ReMaze

Views (1,306)

The next entry to our 3rd Casual Gameplay Design Competition is a game by Felix Reidl.

ReMaze is a multi-level puzzle game of increasing complexity. The "replay" theme in this piece is visible as a creative interpretation, and is also present in its replay value as you may see. Navigate through each level of the maze using the keyboard cursor keys for control. An integrated save feature will continue where you left off when coming back to the game. Or, if you wish to start again from the beginning, use the UI console menu reset button. The [spacebar] resets a level.

This is the first of our competitions that Felix has entered, so please give him a warm JIG community welcome by providing lots of feedback and constructive criticism in the comments.

Play ReMaze

And that's not the end of the "replay" you'll see today. Check back later!

Note: All comments originally posted here have been moved to the ReMaze review page. Please use that page to post your comments and questions about the game. Thank you!

## CGDC3: Rerun

Views (926)

The next entry to our 3rd Casual Gameplay Design Competition is a game by Andrew VanHeuklon.

Rerun is a mouseplay action game of collection and avoidance. The "replay" theme plays an important role in the gameplay and forces you to approach this game differently than others of its type. Replay value is also well represented in this entry with its 15 levels and many extras to unlock.

You may have played other games by Andrew, as he is the designer of the brilliant collection of puzzle games titled Click Drag Type, and it is a real pleasure to have him participating in this competition.

The feedback and constructive criticism has been excellent so far, and I encourage you to continue by leaving a few words about this game for the game designer in the comments.

Play Rerun

More great "replay" coming up, check back a little later today!

Note: All comments originally posted here have been moved to the Rerun review page. Please use that page to post your comments and questions about the game. Thank you!

## CGDC3: Replay 2 : The Sequel

Views (847)

The next entry to our 3rd Casual Gameplay Design Competition is a game by Caleb, R. Emmett and longhorn54.

Replay 2 : The Sequel is a unique sequel in that the first game never saw a release. Instead, the code was rebuilt from the ground up and a "2" attached to its name. This turn-based puzzle game also implements the "replay" theme in a unique and challenging way, one that will force you to think ahead and calculate your moves carefully. The first level is designed as a tutorial level to familiarize yourself with the game.

Caleb and his team are new to the competitions, but not to the JIG community. As usual, please provide your feedback and constructive criticism in the comments for the game designers.

Play Replay 2 : The Sequel

Still not even halfway through the entries! Check back in a few hours.

Note: All comments originally posted here have been moved to the Replay 2 : The Sequel review page. Please use that page to post your comments and questions about the game. Thank you!

## Rose & Camellia

• Currently 4.7/5
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Admit it: you've wanted to slap someone silly at least once today. Just haul-off and give them a good hard smack across the cheek. Those tourists that walk four abreast and block the whole sidewalk. That guy who double-parked in the street when there were plenty of parking spaces. The women of the house that offer you no respect after your rich nobleman husband died.

Enter Rose & Camellia from Japanese developer Nigoro. Reiko has married into a noble family, but shortly afterwards her husband Siyunsuke dies. The women of the house do not respect Reiko, and she must beat them all in successive slap fights.

Each fight is turned-based, and each turn is timed. You must first click on the "Attack" button that appears in the lower right hand corner. Then move your mouse in a curving arc to the left across the other woman's face. Do this as many times and as quickly as you can before your turn passes on to your opponent.

During your opponent's turn, you must click the "Evasion" button, located in the lower left, then move your mouse in a curving arc to the right. If your dodge is successful, you will be presented with a "Counter" button in the lower right. Click there and do a quick slap back to the left to get in a counter-strike.

Note that there are screen shots of this on the game page if you scroll down, though the instructions themselves are in Japanese.

Go back and forth like this until one of you loses all of your flowers (representing hit points, of course) and you move onto the next, more difficult, opponent.

Analysis: As silly and simplistic as this game sounds, I found it to be a challenging and interesting fighting game. My description of how to fight may sound complicated, but once you've tried it you realize that the buttons are actually placed perfectly for the assigned actions. The combat takes on a graceful quality like a dance. With slapping.

The graphics are superb and detailed, with rich colorful artwork and nice details that enhance the action. The sound effects do their job, with critical hits echoing satisfyingly, letting you know you've landed a good solid hit. The background music is very well done too, evoking the atmosphere of the noble family and also the tension of the game's events.

Don't over-analyze this game, but enjoy it for what it is: a simple, silly, and quick fighting game with stellar production values.

Please note: a proper mouse is absolutely critical to play this game. Jay reported some slowdown issues on his laptop as well, but I don't know what the minimum requirements are. Give us some help on that in the comments!

Play Rose & Camellia

Thanks to Daniel, Thomas, and Dahnyull for suggesting the game, and especially Jakev for sending this in and for doing some legwork on the translation!

## CGDC3: Parley

Views (833)

The next entry to our 3rd Casual Gameplay Design Competition is a game by Matt Slaybaugh and Joe Versoza.

An anagram of "replay", Parley is an original card game conceived and created explicitly and exclusively for this competition.

The game is a simulation of medieval diplomacy. It is a unique card game against a computer opponent with 9 levels of increasing difficulty and complexity. Its origins are in a variant of the traditional card game, War, in which each player has two stacks of cards instead of just one, and is able to choose from which stack to draw a card.

The deck is unique, however, in that the suits are based on Rochambeau, although instead of Rock-Paper-Scissors, Parley uses Water-Wood-Fire (Fire burns Wood, Water douses Fire, Wood floats on Water). Two additional suits (total of 5) are Air and Earth; Air beats Water, Wood, and Fire; and Earth is beaten by any of the other four suits.

The ranks also differ from traditional playing cards. To keep it simple there are only five: Queen, Duke, Knight, Spy, and Page. The ranks are hierarchical with Queen at the top and Page at the bottom, and higher ranking cards beat any lower-ranking card. But there is a twist in that a Spy of any suit can beat a Queen of any suit.

Update: Card rank is determined first, suit second.

Matt Slaybaugh is the designer of Frog and Vine, a collection of 4 parlor games comprising one entry to our 2nd game design competition, as well as the Escape to Obion series of Flash point-and-click games.

Play Parley

We will return with more replay later today!

Note: All comments originally posted here have been moved to the Parley review page. Please use that page to post your comments and questions about the game. Thank you!

## CGDC3: Timebot

Views (877)

The next entry to our 3rd Casual Gameplay Design Competition is a game by David Durham.

Timebot is a keyboard controlled, multi-level puzzle game with a unique implementation of the "replay" theme. Make use of a limited number of "time jumps" with which you can jump back in time to solve puzzles you wouldn't be able to otherwise. You will have to use this time-bending ability to your best advantage to make it to the exit before your energy runs out.

David Durham is the designer of Gear Puzzle, a very cute and well made puzzle game from our first competition, and it's a pleasure to have him participating with another entry.

Play Timebot

Note: The graphics run a little dark in this game, especially if you're on Windows. You may need to adjust the brightness.

More replay on the way!

Note: All comments originally posted here have been moved to the Timebot review page. Please use that page to post your comments and questions about the game. Thank you!

## CGDC3: Speck Oppression

Views (820)

The next entry to our 3rd Casual Gameplay Design Competition is a game by Komix.

Speck Oppression is another unique an creative entry, qualities that are becoming standard expectations when learning of a new Komix game on the loose. The idea is to gather energy to fully charge a collector that unlocks the next level. You do so by manipulating the beautiful 'specks' that inhabit this game world.

Komix is no stranger to these competitions, as he was only just edged out of a prize with his previous entry Rings and Sticks. This time you may have to look a little harder for the competition theme.

Play Speck Oppression

More entries to follow, check back a little later!

Note: All comments originally posted here have been moved to the Speck Oppression review page. Please use that page to post your comments and questions about the game. Thank you!

## CGDC3: JIGorbit

Views (2,111)

The next entry to our 3rd Casual Gameplay Design Competition is a game by DDams.

JIGorbit is a simple idea that incorporates the JIGster logo directly into its physics-based gameplay. I suggested in the comments on the competition announcement page that I would award a prize to the entry that makes the most creative use out of the JIG logo, and it appears that DDams may have taken me up on that.

DDams participated in our first competition with the entry Liquid Colors, and it's great to see another creative and unique entry from him.

Play JIGorbit

Still many more to come!

Note: All comments originally posted here have been moved to the JIGorbit review page. Please use that page to post your comments and questions about the game. Thank you!

## Covert Front Episode 1

• Currently 4.6/5
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Kicking off a brand new series of point-and-click adventures, Mateusz Skutnik, creator of the Submachine series, has just sent word of the immediate release of Covert Front Episode 1: All Quiet on the Covert Front. You play Kara, a spy in a world where World War I is triggered in 1901 instead of 1914, in which technology is more advanced and your target, physicist Karl von Toten, is on the verge of a revolutionary discovery. Your task is to break into von Toten's house and find clues to his secret.

Controls are the usual point-and-click fare, with inventory items stored in opaque bubbles at the top of the screen. Just like Mateusz's Submachine games, Covert Front is dripping with lush visuals and a deep atmosphere. It also contains a number of red herrings — items, scenes and other oddities that look like important clues but serve no real purpose other than to enliven the environment.

Play the entire Covert Front series:

The key to progressing in Covert Front is to have a sharp eye for details. Don't just dash through the corridors looking for blatantly obvious clues; you'll miss the subtle nuances of the game. Instead, take your time, breathe in each scene and look in the shadows for odd shapes in the dark. Eventually your unanswered questions will begin to make sense.

It's rare for me to enjoy point-and-click games —they usually make me feel incredibly stupid (I have a contract out on Bart Bonte's head) and I almost always fly to the walkthrough if I keep playing at all. Covert Front, however, is logical both as a game and as an alternative-reality story.

The puzzles all make perfect sense, with the possible exception of the library and that one is rather easy. I was assisted by some hints around the web, but at the time of writing there was no complete walkthrough anywhere. The artwork is absolutely incredible, reminiscent of Mike Mignola's work on Hellboy (waits for shouts of "Blasphemy!"). Best of all, this is Episode 1, meaning that there's more to come.

Play Covert Front Episode 1

Read all our Covert Front series reviews and walkthroughs...

## CGDC3: Super Earth Defense Game

Views (891)

The third entry to our 3rd Casual Gameplay Design Competition is a game by Carl Foust.

Super Earth Defense Game starts off like many side-scrolling shmups (shoot-em-ups) do, and then adds a new dimension (and twist) to the formula that makes the game unique. The "replay" theme has been implemented in an "if at first you don't succeed, try, try again" sort of way. The result is likely to surprise you.

Carl is new to our competitions, and it would be great if he were to receive a warm welcome and the usual (and always excellent) feedback and constructive criticism in the comments that the JIG community is especially known for.

Play Super Earth Defense Game

More to come, check back later!

Note: All comments originally posted here have been moved to the Super Earth Defense Game review page. Please use that page to post your comments and questions about the game. Thank you!

## CGDC3: Gimme Friction Baby

Views (1,541)

The second entry to our 3rd Casual Gameplay Design Competition is a game by Wouter Visser.

Gimme Friction Baby is an unusual and unique strategy game of skill based on a very simple idea. The "replay" theme in this game is good old replay value: a challenging game with addictive qualities that will have you coming back to it time and time again.

You might remember Wouter from a couple of games previously reviewed here at JIG, one of which is from our 2nd competition.

As for all the entries in the competition, be kind and provide feedback and constructive criticism for the game designer in the comments.

Play Gimme Friction Baby

More to come, check back later today!

Note: All comments originally posted here have been moved to the Gimme Friction Baby review page. Please use that page to post your comments and questions about the game. Thank you!

## CGDC3: A Bark in the Dark

Views (1,151)

Hopefully the moment you've all been waiting for, here is the first entry to our 3rd Casual Gameplay Design Competition!!

A Bark in the Dark, by Bart Bonte, is a point-and-click game that implements the "replay" theme in a literal sense, with a few surprises and twists that make the game both humorous and enjoyable to play. You might remember Bart Bonte from any one of several games previously reviewed here at JIG, as well as from both of the previous competitions.

Please be kind and provide feedback and constructive criticism for the game designer in the comments.

Play A Bark in the Dark

Much more to come, so please check back often!

Note: All comments originally posted here have been moved to the A Bark in the Dark review page. Please use that page to post your comments and questions about the game. Thank you!

## Hot Air 2: All Blown Up

• Currently 4.7/5
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After months of waiting, it's finally here! Nitrome has just rolled out Hot Air 2, the highly anticipated sequel to the balloon physics game Hot Air. The new incarnation is bigger, better, more intricate and more stylish than the original, proving it's possible to take an already polished game idea and turn it into something even better. Plus, you get to make your own balloons!

The basic gameplay of Hot Air 2 is the same as the first game: your cursor becomes a fan and you must use gusts of wind to push the balloon around each stage, collecting stars, flipping switches, grabbing keys and so on until you reach the goal. Anything you bump into will pop the balloon (except certain safe points that let you rest), keeping you on your toes and always moving the fan around.

Veteran Hot Air players will immediately notice a difference in the sequel. Hot Air 2 has a much more involved adventure-oriented layout than the arcade-style original. Sure, there's still plenty of action to be had, but level structure has been greatly improved with scrolling stages and keys/switches that must be triggered in order to progress. The preview video shows off a number of these crafty mechanisms that simply must be experienced to be appreciated. Levels are chosen from a Super Mario World-style map, making Hot Air 2 feel like an adventure in a sprawling world of color.

One of the biggest new features in Hot Air 2 is the Balloon Maker, a separate app that lets you decorate balloons, save your creations, and use them in the game. Playing through stages unlocks additional designs that can be switched on the map screen. Balloon Maker is simple addition to the game, but I was immediately captivated by the editor and couldn't stop playing with it until I had crafted a masterpiece. Nice touch, Nitrome!

Analysis: Hot Air 2 oozes with personality and almost every pixel shows off Nitrome's creative and artistic talent. Some of the enemies and obstacles are so stunning you have to sit and stare for a few moments before starting the stage. Seeing what the team has cooked up next is half the inspiration for sticking with the game's tough levels.

The down side? Honestly, I can't find one. Hot Air 2 is extremely well-polished on all fronts. Any negative points would be a matter of not caring for the music or the way that one balloon frowns all the time. The blend of action and adventure is nothing short of delicious, and the creativity displayed in stage design and artwork rivals that of big-budget game development studios. Unless you have an aversion to hot air balloons, Hot Air 2 should be on your "play every day" list.

Play Hot Air 2: All Blown Up

Whew! What a crazy week this has been, and another one just now starting... where did the weekend go?

With the deadline for our 3rd game design competition now officially here, all the development and preparation for it seems to have been time well spent. Thanks to the participation and cooperation of some of the best Flash game design talent from around the world, we are now looking at nearly 20 sparkling new, creative game designs to share with you. And we can't wait to begin to roll them out.

So keep a close eye on this page, because you haven't seen nothin' yet! =)

## Barrel Mania

Everybody likes flinging around barrels full of toxic waste, right? Toss, tumble.... Oops. Well, perhaps not in a real environment, unless you are a law-breaking factory owner with questionable ethics. But, when tossed across a gorgeous fantasy landscape, lined with carefully placed adjustable platforms and forces, it isn't so bad. When you get to clear the way with dynamite, and watch things explode... now we're talking.

In Barrel Mania, a new downloadable PC game, created by CGS Software using the Newton Game Dynamics physics engine, it is your job to get these toxic barrels to their dumping grounds intact. The trick is doing it with only four tools, or less. Barrels will roll along stable platforms or bounce on rubbery trampolines, either of which can also become walls or protective ceilings. Adjustable "forces" can be pointed as you please, defying gravity with invisible winds. Finally, some obstacles, such as mines or boxes, can be blasted away with dynamite.

After the first few levels, where you are introduced to your items one at a time, you'll begin to use the objects in combination. So, as your barrel is released from its magnetic hold and tumbles across the level, exploding chain reactions can unfold. Watch out! As the levels get tougher and larger, electrified gates, magnets and bumpers may throw your barrel off course--or simply blow it to pieces.

If your barrel explodes (releasing questionably gaseous contents), don't worry. Adjust the elements along the path, and try again. It can be tricky; each time you start a level over, the variables may be slightly different, causing your barrel to react in wildly different ways. You can try as many times as you like, even trying to collect all of the bonus stars, scattered along each level. The more stars you collect, the better your ranking at the end of the level. Leftover pieces can also increase your points. In higher levels, you may be given more than one barrel, which can be opportunity for more bonuses or more disasters.

Both the physical and graphical interfaces in Barrel Mania are smooth and elegant in design. A variety of screen resolution options are offered at the beginning of the game (including the standard but awkward laptop size) so the game will look great on any monitor.

It does, however, have one glaring drawback. With only 30 levels, this one leaves you wanting more—without giving it. I adore games like this, but any physics-simulation/building game needs to include a level editor, and a way for users to share the levels they've created. This increases the replay value by many times... but Barrel Mania just doesn't have it. However, the limited number of levels are fairly complex, so trying to beat your own score is still an entertaining experience.

While I really hope that the fictional company you are working for, DCAE (Don't Care About the Environment) doesn't have a real-world counterpart somewhere, I think you'll have fun playing.

Windows:
Get the full version

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

## Bound Bear Quest Mode

Hot on the heels of last week's Bound Bear release, Game-Pure has already pumped out a pseudo-sequel to the game with more levels and an updated presentation. Bound Bear Quest Mode features the same Bloons-meets-Breakout gameplay along with the ultra-cute square bears, but now the music and backgrounds have been jazzed up and the levels are much more challenging.

The goal of the Bound Bear games is simple — reunite baby bear with it's mama. Aim the cub's jump with the mouse and click to start the power gauge running. Wait for the black bears to move out of the way, then take your flying leap to see if you can reach the other side. Sometimes you'll have to destroy white blocks surrounding mama bear, but usually these can be avoided with a skilled (or lucky) bounce. You have a limited number of tries before you have to call it quits, so aim with care.

Bound Bear Quest Mode is simple update to a stylish and entertaining game.

Play Bound Bear Quest Mode

## Miss Management

• Currently 4.8/5
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Miss Management is, in fifteen words or less, one of the most entertaining, captivating and hilarious casual games I've played in months. Developer Gamelab has really gone out of its way to craft unique characters that fuel the game from beginning to end, making it play like an interactive sitcom rather than your typical time management game (such as Cake Mania or Nanny Mania).

The main character in Miss Management is Denise, the new office manager starting her first day of work. Instead of controlling one character doing dozens of tasks, you must manage an entire office of people. Each employee has a unique personality and his/her own likes and dislikes, creating work days that feel more like an episode of The Office than a casual game.

Four types of jobs appear on the table at the bottom of the screen, each color-coded for easy recognition. Your overall goal is to distribute these tasks to the employees to earn cash. Each employee has strengths and weaknesses in terms of doing work. For example, Tara is the artistic type and excels in orange art tasks, while the IT guy Winston is a whiz at blue tech tasks.

The really interesting part begins when the character's personal likes and dislikes interact with each other. Employees enjoy doing different things to reduce stress, such as making popcorn, playing videogames, or napping on the couch. But each also has his or her dislikes, and sometimes those overlap to create hilarious situations. For example, Mahavir loves to chat Tara up at the water cooler, but the poor girl can barely stand being around him. She gets annoyed when Mahavir sleeps on the couch, while Mahavir can't stand the smell of Tim making beef strognaoff all day. It's these subtle interactions that fill out each character's personality, giving the game a deep and wonderful flavor of fun.

Driving the whole mass of wacky employees is a set of goals that must be completed each day. Sometimes you'll have to make sure Tara spends at least 30 seconds drawing on the white board, or get Tim to do at least 15 jobs. The goals change each day and range in difficulty, driving the interactive sitcom and keeping you motivated. As the days tick by, characters grow and change, giving the game a definite feel of progression.

Analysis: Miss Management is an extraordinarily well-made game. It doesn't have any real flaws to speak of, though it would be nice to be able to cancel movements after clicking (you can only queue them), as sometimes you'll want to change tasks to handle a more urgent need but will be unable to do so. The music is extremely good and the play mechanics have been tuned to near perfection. The office setting is an environment seldom used in games, and Miss Management does a superb job of making it interesting and fun. It's easily one of the most unique and captivating resource management games released in a very long time.

Windows:
Get the full version

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

When you run, what do you think of? What questions do you ruminate? What perplexing puzzles do you ponder? Do you wonder why people park in a driveway and drive in a parkway? Do you wonder if it really is that important for all the matches in a matchbox to face the same way? Or maybe you wonder how many jelly donuts would it take to build a solid fort against alien attacks. I got up this morning and started running. Now, of course, in my case there was a psycho running after me trying to force me to eat a suspicious piece of toast, but I still had time to ponder philosophical problems. So what did I mentally investigate as my feet pounded the pavement? I thought, how awesome it would be if today was...LINK DUMP FRIDAY!!!

• 50 States - Place all 50 States (US) on a satellite map of North America. See how much you really know! Check out the Africa map for a possibly greater challenge. Didn't do well? Blame your History teacher!
• Platform Racing - Similar to Kongregate Racing except lacking fun bubbles. Leap over pits and platforms picking up deadly items to gain the coveted first place. Fun mini races with unpredictable finishes.
• Revenge of the Stick - A DesktopTD-like defense game of office supply proportions.
• Switch'em Off - A slick but simple game where you click and shut down coal plants as fast as possible.
• Blind Pong - Play pong...blind. Rely on guiding sounds to play one of the simplest games made ear twitchingly devious.
• Three Little Pigs - Slide colorful blocks around the field to make lines of three. For each block you move, two more appear!
• Brick Break - Break the colorful blocks baby! Toss bricks from all four sides of the field to make matches of three or more.
• Frog Day - It's FrogDay, the second best thing to Caturday! The object is simple, get the frog to the goal, or collect all three pyramids. But to get a high score you need to carefully plan your path while breaking "?" Blocks for the yummy fruit inside all under a score eating time limit.
• Bomb Wars - Lob bombs at your opponent while avoiding getting hit yourself. Much like riding a bike, except not at all.

Any of these games truly capture your attention? Suddenly find all your free time sucked away? Let us know which games deserve a true Casual Gameplay review in the comments.

Harukio puts on his robe and wizard hat...

## Temple of Zoom

I always approach advergames with healthy trepidation. The focus of development is usually on the "message", i.e. what they want you to buy, rather than on the gameplay. It's hard enough to develop a great game, much less a great game that also incorporates marketing elements.

Temple of Zoom by Inbox Digital is a great platformer that manages to use its product's features (the Panasonic Lumix TZ3 digital camera) as integral elements of the game rather than as tacked-on graphics and splash advertisements. The shutter is the exit to each level, the zoom lens is a rising platform, and the hot lava is... I guess the hot lava doesn't come from the camera.

Using the arrows to move and the [spacebar] to jump, you must first find the Wide Angle Lens, which opens up the playing field so that you can then find the Exit to the next level. There are of course bonus points and multipliers to tempt you to more hazardous areas of the stage, as well as tried and true features that you would come to expect from the genre, such as high-jump platforms.

There are 25 levels in all, and you actually get a 10% off voucher just for reaching level 10. If you're in the market for this or any other Lumix camera, that's like free money just for playing the game.

Analysis: This is of course a typical platformer with all of the expectations that label implies, but this game has a lot of nice features to set it apart from others.

The pixelated graphics are incredible, at the same time ridiculously simple yet with beautiful effects that really immerse you in the game. Imagine playing a game with graphics like Pitfall! on a modern computer, and you might start to get the idea. Temple of Zoom's swinging rope completes the analogy nicely.

The game takes too long to ramp the difficulty up to a very interesting level, but around level 9 or so you should be sufficiently hooked to want to finish the game. If you're looking for a nice diversion to fill 15 minutes between the endless march of meetings at work, you can't go wrong with this one.

Play Temple of Zoom

## The Calamity Game

• Currently 4.8/5
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Just rolling on to the web and still in beta, The Calamity Game is a web toy and community that combines the complex, physics-based building of Armadillo Run with the free-form creativity of Line Rider. The app lets you craft solid structures, draw, use anchor points, add directed force and connect everything up with springs. Calamity is forming a community of users who are creating and sharing some enormously creative scenes (currently over 1,000).

The basic building blocks in The Calamity Game are simple, but learning to combine them to create a living scene can take some practice. Spend some time watching the demo videos and scenes other players have created to get a feel for Calamity.

• Arrow - Lets you select, move and anchor objects
• Pencil - Draws solid lines
• Link - A basic connection object for creating structures
• Spring - Like the Link, but with bounce!
• Force - Enables object movement

Forging unique contraptions is the real challenge, just start simple and work your way to Rube Goldberg bliss. The Calamity Game gives you everything you need. A few of the top-rated scenes include a kite tugging the rag doll off into the sky, and an elaborate set-up to load a truck with boxes, all created from the same blank screen you stare at.

Dive into The Calamity Game and see what marvels you can conjure up. Be sure to watch the demo videos, they make the process of creating a lot smoother!

Play The Calamity Game

## Sound Energy

Sound Energy, another stylish title from Game-Pure, mixes a simple color-matching game of collection/avoidance with a little bit of musical interaction to create a superb multimedia experience. You control a transparent orb that can change color from purple to blue to gray. Coincidentally, there are three types of objects floating around the screen: purple squares, blue circles, and gray polygons. By clicking the mouse you can switch colors and absorb pieces that match your color. Build up combos to earn a high score and keep the background music shifting as you play!

Collecting pieces racks up a combo score that feeds the orange meter at the top of the screen. If you bump into a piece that doesn't match your color, the combo counter resets. Fill it up and the music changes, the bigger the combo the more the bar fills. Although there doesn't seem to be any significant changes when the music shifts, it's always cool to be able to interact with the audio of a game. And don't dawdle: your orb has both a countdown timer and a meter that forces you to keep collecting pieces at a rapid pace.

No-frills on the outside, Sound Energy is packed with a lot of little touches that make it a deeper experience than many Flash games. The combo spots that periodically appear in the background add a lot of spice. For example, if a block reads "2 combo" and has a picture of a purple square below, move your orb over that spot and click the mouse button after obtaining a combo of two or greater and all pieces on the screen freeze and turn into purple squares. Some really interesting boxes appear that can turn the tide of the game, so keep an eye out for the more creative effects.

Simple, stylish and fun. Sound Energy is yet another great coffee break title from Game-Pure.

Play Sound Energy

Note: Some users with older computers and laptops have experienced glitches and slowdown while playing Sound Energy. Keep the quality setting on 'medium' to get the fastest performance possible.

## The Four Color Problem

• Currently 4.2/5
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Quick fact: Did you know that to color a map of the United States so that no two bordering states share the same color, the lowest number of colors you could use is four? Try it out! It's a great puzzle, and a fun way to waste down a box of crayons.

Now that you've gotten a bit of practice with territory-coloring, take a shot at Taro Ito's new game at GameDesign, The Four Color Problem. It's a turn-based strategy game between you and a computer opponent.

A grid of hexagons is created for you, and the hexagons are divided into large chunks (similar to the layout for Dice Wars). Your goal is to color in as much space as you can, while the computer opponent tries to do the same. The catch the size of Maryland is that like the map puzzle, no two adjacent areas can be filled with the same color. Can you dominate the majority of the map with your color?

You play as the black and grey colorer, while the computer plays with green and orange. You alternate turns with your opponent, and alternate between colors (black, green, grey, orange, black, green...). A tally of how many hexagons you've claimed appears at the bottom of the screen. While the immediate instinct is to color in the largest region you can, further play might reveal strategies to help you beat the computer. Each round is won by gaining over half of the hexagons, or if there is a draw (as in, a region can't be filled by either player because all four colors already border it), then the majority takes the cake.

How long can you last against the computer? My record is eight rounds, can you beat it?

Play The Four Color Problem

## Bound Bear

Game-Pure continues to amaze us with the rate at which they can release new games. Bound Bear is a simple action projectile game that combines elements from Breakout and Bloons to create something wholly unique and enjoyable to play.

The objective is to reunite baby bear with mama bear, and to do so you'll have to avoid the black bears that can block your path.

Use the mouse for control, just aim and press the mouse button to select the power of your shot. Release to fire. Baby bear will bound around the play field, bouncing off black bears and removing white squares, until it comes to rest. Your aim, power, and timing all become important as you negotiate the always changing field of play.

In later levels you will have to break down walls of white squares to get at mama bear, which can whittle away the number of shots you have remaining. To help you gain more, you will see square white bears amongst the black bears appearing at random. Hit those to add one to your remaining shots.

It's a very simple and very cute game that is well made and just right for a round (or two or three or four) of casual gameplay.

Play Bound Bear

## Dangle

• Currently 4.2/5
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Just released from Nitrome, creator of Skywire and Hot Air: a brand new physics-based action game, Dangle. In Dangle you control a spider hanging from a neon pink line of webbing. By swinging back and forth you must work your way down each stage, avoiding enemies and collecting coins along the way. Dangle has some of that same Nitrome magic we've come to expect in all of the company's releases. Only this time it's a little more arachnid-like.

Control the spider's sway by moving the mouse left and right, gaining momentum with each tug. To climb back up the web, move the cursor above the spider and click. To descend, just point the cursor down and click. The spider will stick to platforms it stands on, so you'll need to climb back up and restart your swing from time to time. It takes a few stages to get used to, but fortunately Dangle keeps the difficulty quite low for several levels to let you get the feel of things.

But of course it's never just a straight drop down. You'll need to weave your way around platforms, often using trial-and-error to discover the only path forward. Fans, spikes and enemies don't make your day any easier and constantly threaten to take away your precious little spider life. Sometimes a heart will be hidden amongst the coins, so keep an eye peeled for those valuable gems.

Your only goals in Dangle are to collect coins, score points, and complete every stage. Fairly straightforward, but the challenge comes from the arcade-style swinging and enemy avoiding.

Analysis: With a studio as respected (and productive) as Nitrome, its main competition will always be itself. It's almost impossible not to compare each successive game with the last, which is unfair in some ways, as the games are not necessarily meant to fit together. It's the price of continually setting the bar of quality/fun higher with each release.

Viewed as a standalone game, Dangle really wouldn't have any flaws (except, perhaps, being too simple at times). But putting it in a lineup next to Scribble and Frost Bite makes me squint my eyes with scrutiny. Compared to Nitrome's other games, Dangle turns down the color palette quite a bit and strips some strategy from its gameplay. It's also easier to complete and as a result feels much shorter. None of this takes away from the enjoyment of the game, of course.

Short, creative and more fun than playing with spiders should be.

Play Dangle

Dangle is the first game from Nitrome to be released as part of a new relationship with MTV. The game may also be played at the MTV Arcade.

## Wilfred the Hero

Wilfred, the Hero (Windows, freeware, 40MB) - An astonishingly creative role playing game made by Brandon Abley and Teo Mathlein using RPG Maker XP. The graphics are eye-catching and have a great fairy tale look to them, while the story and gameplay are pure console RPG goodness. The game is laid out much like a classic Final Fantasy title but doesn't copy anything directly. It's a unique, deep and involving game that deserves your attention!

NOTE: Some comments, from when this game was first mentioned on the site, may be found on this page.

What does a muscular bunny rabbit, a pegasus roller coaster, and a bouncy rubber ball have in common? They all enjoy the musky aroma and cherry/strawberry fusion flavor of JIG Cola! That, and they happen to star in games featured on this week's Weekend Download. While you recover from your 7/7/07 party bonanza from last night (you DID remember to party, didn't you?), let these games soothe your soul and tickle your brain into casual gaming submission.

Wilfred, the Hero (Windows, freeware, 40MB) - An astonishingly creative role playing game made by Brandon Abley and Teo Mathlein using RPG Maker XP. The graphics are eye-catching and have a great fairy tale look to them, while the story and gameplay are pure console RPG goodness. The game is laid out much like a classic Final Fantasy title but doesn't copy anything directly. It's a unique, deep and involving game that deserves your attention!

The Stone of Destiny (Windows/Mac, limited demo, 23MB) - If you got a kick out of yesterday's Azada (or if you enjoy item-hunting games in general), Stone of Destiny is right up your alley. A pseudo-mysterious adventure is woven into item-hunting scenes that are far more forgiving than in your average seek-and-find game. Between rounds you'll draw runes and solve simple fantasy-themed puzzles, keeping the action lively. It isn't as full-featured or deep as Azada or the Hidden Expedition series, but it does its job remarkably well.

N-Ball (Windows/Mac, limited demo, 4MB<) - Physics, meet a bouncey ball. Player, meet rubbery platforms you'll have to jump over, bound off of, and shove to the side so you can continue. N-Ball is one part platformer, two parts really strange wacky platformer. But it's fun, and that's what counts!

Coaster Rider (Windows, freeware, 12MB) - Line Rider with a purpose, Coaster Rider puts you in charge of creating a roller coaster track to guide the Pegasus from one end of the stage to the other, collecting stars along the way. It's more challenge than creativity, but the fun use of physics makes it a good play.

• Currently 4.3/5
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Azada combines elements from a number of casual genres to create a game that's one of the most unique titles I've played in months. Take a point-and-click game such as Myst, then combine it with item hunting from Mystery Case Files and throw in a dash of short puzzles just for fun. Everything is so elegantly combined that you can't help but keep playing, both to uncover the rest of the story and to experience more puzzles.

You begin in a locked room listening to a spirit named Titus who has been imprisoned by his great uncle. In order to release him you must solve a series of puzzles within his manor. Puzzles are presented in the form of pages of a book with eight making up a chapter. As you piece together chapters, more of Titus' story is revealed.

Each page challenges you with a different type of puzzle to solve, ranging from matching games to sliding tile puzzles, memory matching and much more. The most common task you'll undertake is item-hunting, which just happens to be the most enjoyable part of playing Azada. In these levels you'll see a still scene of a room inside the mansion. Move the cursor around and watch for sparkles indicating what you can interact with. Click to uncover items, clues, or new parts of the puzzle you'll need to complete the page. Many of the rooms have a number of items you'll need to find and use in conjunction with each other, creating several "stages" within the page. The difficulty level in these puzzles is fine-tuned to give you just enough challenge to keep you interested but not frustrate you.

Each chapter has a time limit (usually around 30 minutes) that slowly ticks as you play through each page. You can request hints during the item-hunting scenes at the cost of 5 minutes each, but use them sparingly! You are also given a limited number of gems to use that allow you to skip puzzles.

Analysis: Azada plays like a delicious blend of a Myst-like adventure with a casual puzzle game. The story keeps you interested in the long-run, while the variety of puzzles treat you from moment to moment with new entertainment. And it's horrendously addictive.

Unfortunately Azada's greatest strength can also be its main weakness: variety. The item-hunting stages are superb, but every puzzle page you encounter won't be as entertaining. Not everyone likes jigsaw puzzles or memory matching games, which could make some roll their eyes in disgust every time one of these comes around. Fortunately you can use purple gems to skip puzzles, and Azada is forgiving enough to keep the difficulty low so you can complete them and move on to greener pastures.

Try the rest of the Azada series:

Azada's presentation is excellent on all fronts. The music and sound effects match the mysterious atmosphere but keep things light-hearted and charming. There are a number of small visual effects that brighten up the scenes and liven-up the otherwise still scenery.

Azada is an alarmingly entertaining game with good variety and a delightful set of puzzles. The Myst-like atmosphere melding with Hidden Expedition-type item hunting makes it extremely addictive, and the slight touch of adventure keeps you in for the long haul.

Windows:
Get the full version

Mac OS X:
Get the full version

## Detective Grimoire

• Currently 4.7/5
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Roquefort; Zoolander; Pizza; Mr. Roboto; Weebl and Bob songs;

That's right, today's category is: Things that are cheesy but I like 'em anyway. Well, add one more thing to that list, because the Super Flash Bros have released their latest game: a point-and-click carnival murder mystery!

You play the title character, Detective Grimoire a hatless (but not hapless) crime-solver assigned to track down the murderer of Hugh Everton, ineffective caretaker of the carnival funhouse. The suspects are all fellow carnival workers and include a clown, a costumed entertainer, a janitor, a mechanic, the games stall clerk, and the carnival head honcho himself. You'll have to question each one of them to unearth details about the crime scene, as well as the ongoing relationships between all the carnival workers. Additionally, you'll need to hunt for clues at various locations throughout the carnival. When you're in the presence of a suspect, click on a clue from your database and they'll tell you if they know anything about it.

You start out considering everyone a suspect and only removing them from the list when you discover information that proves their innocence. By the process of elimination, you'll narrow your list down to just one suspect. However, identifying the killer is only part of the game—you still have to piece together details like the motive, the murder weapon, and explanations for other clues that you find. Put together the whole story correctly and you'll see the perp behind bars!

Analysis: As I said before, Detective Grimoire contains a higher-than-average level of cheese. Come on, a disgruntled clown and a costumed entertainer who hates kids? Now pile on some smoky private-eye music, corny dialogue, and a motley assortment of suspicious alibis, slap it on the griddle and you've got yourself a mighty fine grilled cheese (and red herring) sandwich.

About the only cheesy element missing is the obligatory twist ending—it's pretty easy to see who the murderer is after playing the game about halfway through. After that, it's just a matter of clearing everyone else and piecing together the events of the previous night.

Because the game was five months in the making, the Bros were clearly able to work out all the details. There really aren't any major issues with bugs, and the user interface is set up well—easily navigable and self-explanatory. There's even a button to save your progress, although you probably won't need it. My only beef was that I was expecting to clear suspects by using clues and logic, a la Sherlock Holmes. Instead, you press questions onto them until they break down and admit whatever it is they were hiding—usually just some embarrassing detail having nothing to do with the case. Contrived? Extremely. But what good cheesy mystery isn't? And besides, you'll put your deduction skills to work when trying to piece together the story.

So go grab a hunk of Camembert and play Detective Grimoire.

Play Detective Grimoire

PS - don't forget to check out the bonus feature reward at the end of the game: the making of Detective Grimoire!

Which is better: Hard candy or chocolate? Bare feet or soft socks? A beautiful flower or a stunning sunset? A delicious cake or scrumptious pie? Soaring through the mountains or chilling on the beach? An earth-shattering solo or a unified band? Greeting each day like it holds the infinite possibility to be great, new and refreshing or a plate of somewhat old cheese? Well at least some questions in life are easy... like how about another LINK DUMP FRIDAY!!!

• Cursor Invisible - Play this rapid fire shooting gallery game and acquire limb spatial awareness, except with your mouse. In this game, you're shooting without crosshairs.
• Norakurabako - Escape the room, what else need I say? And yes, we do save all the Japanese ones for Fridays...
• Dice Move - Roll the die carefully around the obstacles to get it to the goal, but make sure it's in the right position!
• Zyrx - Test your visual memory with this devious disappearing dot grid. Seems like one of those things you're either good at, or you're not.
• Planet Trouble - Jump from planet to planet to float successfully to the trouble planet. Beware the flames!
• Ice Candy - Catch the colorful candies on your tray and then dump them into the slots below creating lines of 3 or more! Be careful, the candies fall from the top in groups of color, not from the bottom!
• Puppet Five - The infamous 5-line game with the addition of a score eating time limit and cute puppets!
• HBO Voyeur - Peak in on an apartment with many stories with HBO's intriguing 5 minute Voyeur. Watch life, death, love, and drama play out before your eyes. Explore the city for 4 bonus stories. Site contains violence viewed from a distance and no foul language. I mean, you can't hear them, you're across the street! Why are you watching anyway? Wait...Did you see that! What just happened?! Call the police! CALL! ... Why aren't you calling? ... Why? (Best viewed on PC 1.5 GHZ or higher, Mac G5 or higher. Also viewable on HBO OnDemand and no I didn't get paid for that.)

"As much money and life as you could want! The two things most human beings would choose above all - the trouble is, humans do have a knack of choosing precisely those things that are worst for them." - Albus Dumbledore

## Baseball

• Currently 3.4/5
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You might not know this, but I have 21-month-old son. He's not quite old enough to show any interest in baseball, but he sure does love it when I sing "Take Me Out To The Ballgame." The song captures the essence of the sport beautifully and makes me long to be sitting in a stadium cheering on my favorite team.

Luke Whittaker's latest game Baseball does exactly the same thing. It's a stripped-down baseball sim where you simply bat and run, which—if we're being honest with ourselves—is all we really want out of a baseball video game anyway.

You're given a choice between Arcade mode and Bottom of the Ninth mode. In Arcade, you're given 10 pitches to score as high as possible by trying to hit the ball close to a target in the field. Bottom of the Ninth mode is the real nail-biter, in which it is naturally the bottom of the ninth inning, and you're down by several runs and must use your superior batting and running skills to climb out of the hole and win the game.

In each game mode the basic hitting mechanic is the same: once the ball leaves the pitcher's hand you're presented with a cross-hair target that indicates where the ball will cross the plate. Using your mouse move the circle to the cross-hairs and click on the left mouse button, timing it just right so your bat meets the ball over the plate. By aiming higher and lower of the center of the target you can try to hit a line drive or a fly ball, and by aiming left or right you can hook or slice the ball the opposite direction. A red "landing zone" indicator gives you some guidance as to where the ball may land in the field.

Once the ball leaves your bat, you run automatically to first base. When you get close to the base you're given a "Slide" button near the runner that you can click to, you know, slide. Once you're safely at the bag you can click a "Run" button that pops up if you want to keep running. The computer automatically fields the ball of course, and will try to throw you out at the nearest base.

Analysis: Luke Whittaker's Baseball is easily one of the best online baseball games I've ever played. The gameplay mechanics do a perfect job of capturing what it feels like to be several runs behind in the final innings of a ball game, and have only three outs to fashion a miraculous come-from-behind victory.

The graphics are superb, and even better is the sound. Luke has included many different cracks-of-the-bat sound effects, and you can very quickly get a feel for the strength and effectiveness of the hit from the sound effect alone. Your heart sinks when you hear the weak "crunk" sound of the ball hitting near the handle of the bat, and watch in dismay as the shortstop plucks the ball out of midair. You similarly cheer inside when hearing a good, solid "THWACK!" and you know your hit is headed into home-run territory.

My only problems with the game are minor. First, it's hard, at least at first. The first few times I played I felt like I could never get a man on base, much less score. Second, I came across somewhat of a bug, or hopefully an unusually rare occurrence.

At my fourth at-bat (you can get further at-bats if you tie the game: the computer gets an imaginary "at-bat" in which it scores more points, giving you another scoring target to hit) I tied up yet again, with two outs still left, then cracked a good solid high line-drive to left field. The left fielder overran the ball and wound up at the outfield wall, while the ball bounced a couple times and stopped in the middle of the grass. I kept running, rounded second, kept running, heading into home, and scored! I won! Except I realized that no one had chased down the ball. No one. Since no one chased the ball, no one threw the ball back to the infield. The game never ended. I won, but the game wouldn't advance to the "You Won!" screen. The ball had probably landed on that magic pixel in between fielders where no one wanted to chase it down.

I don't think that ever happens in real baseball.

There are also a few liberties taken with the rules of course, which given the nature of the game doesn't really affect your play. The fielding is also sometimes quirky (see above), but that seems to be a necessary compromise to keep the game simple, fast, and fun.

A couple of suggestions: play once on "Easy" so you can get a feel for where the strike zone is. That's all you'll need. Move up to Medium or Hard after that, where you're given a higher score to beat. Overall I wasn't too enthusiastic about Arcade mode, though I guess that's a good place to make and compare scores. Also, you can press the [spacebar] as an alternative to pressing the "Next Pitch" button, as Luke himself points out in the comments. Let's play Baseball!

Play Baseball

## Nuclear Eagle

• Currently 4.5/5
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If you're sitting on the edge of your seat waiting for the next Brad Borne game, or if a little repetitive strain doesn't bother you, this next game may be just what you're looking for.

In Nuclear Eagle, a brand new release from Luksy of c404, Brad Borne and Armor Games, you play a mutant eagle—apparently a victim of the nuclear waste from a nearby power plant—with a nest of "babies" to feed. Fortunately, there are plenty of townsfolk from a nearby city milling about, and so the objective becomes a task of grabbing them in your claws and dropping them down or tossing them up into the nest. Eventually, as the townspeople begin to fight back, you must begin to defend the nest as well.

Control is entirely with the mouse. Click to grab, then drag and drop to deposit into the nest. Alternately, you can just give a 'flinging' motion with the mouse as you release the mouse button and the poor innocent townsperson will go sailing through the air. Later levels will introduce police cars and swat vehicles, both of which can also be lifted off the ground. Use these as return fire to create fantastic explosions and combos. You can even grab the people as they are flying. Wacky, outrageous fun.

Try to stay alive as long as you can. The townspeople and police increase their rate of attack and will begin to fire their weapons at the nest. You must protect both you (red health gauge) and your nest (blue health gauge) from harm. If either gauge depletes in its entirety, it's game over.

Analysis: Although the game is a bit violent, it was the explosions that held my interest for a while. The underlying physics engine was programmed by Brad Borne, and considering his work with the Fancy Pants Adventures, it's not surprising that it works here, too, save for a bit of slowdown that eventually occurs once there is a lot happening simultaneously on-screen. Unfortunately, the constant and repetitive click-drag-release motion this game requires to make it even to level 10 to unlock the "City" portion of the game is its greatest weakness. Even after the first play through (I only made it to level 8) my arm was aching, so please use caution and take frequent breaks while playing.

Mindless fun. And did I mention the explosions?

Play Nuclear Eagle

## Ethan Haas Was Right

• Currently 4.6/5
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A new puzzle game with a distinct ARG smell recently popped on the scene without much known about what it is or who is behind it. Ethan Haas Was Right is a mysterious Flash-based website that presents a series of 5 unique puzzles, some original and some rehashed versions of classic puzzle games. Interspersed between the puzzles are video segments containing clues as to the origin and meaning of it all.

Even if you don't care for alternate reality games in general, there's enough here for a few sessions of casual gameplay. The game even remembers your progress for when you come back to it.

Play Ethan Haas Was Right

Spoiler alert!: After launching the game you may notice a slightly blue star in the upper left portion of the sky. Clicking it will launch your default mail client with an email address and a subject already filled in. Sending an email to that address sends an auto-reply with the following hints about each of the puzzles. I am including it here to help the more casual players along. If you want to figure everything out for yourself, you probably should have already stopped reading.

If you're receiving this auto-response message it means that I've gone into hiding. You should be careful now, too. They're likely to start coming after all of us in an attempt to keep the balance of power in their favor. But remember, as our numbers increase as a group, the weaker they'll become.

As you recruit new people to our cause, you might need to share this message as guidance for how to navigate the 5 locks to the key code...

1. The first lock will test your memory. Follow the trail of light and sound, but be careful -- one wrong move will send you back to the beginning.
2. For the second lock, you may need to look to the stars. They will help you find HAAS who will lead your way.
3. The third lock will require you to extinguish all lights but one. Only with one light remaining will you be able to proceed.
4. The fourth lock will let you move all 4 pieces through the control of one. However, unless the three key pieces are simultaneously placed into position, you will not be granted access.
5. The fifth lock will be the toughest. Seek help again from the stars to reveal your key and the message that you must decode. The two working together will open the way.

Good luck.

Van

Cheers to Stephen and Jesman1 for sending this one in. =)

## Chicken Grow

• Currently 4/5
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Bart Bonte's entry into the second Casual Gameplay Design Contest (CGDC #2), Chicken Grow, once again showcases the mosaic-like artwork we have come to love from games such as The Bonte Room, Free the Bird (from CGDC #1), and the recently reviewed Loose the Moose. The game centers around one impatient-looking chicken, waiting for you to feed and water it. Doing so requires you to solve two puzzles—one to turn on the water and the other to release chicken feed from a machine.

Given only a month or so to design and submit Chicken Grow, it is understandably shorter and less complex than most of his prior games. Unfortunately, the trickery and originality that we have seen before from Bart did not carry over into Chicken Grow. The puzzle to unlock the feed machine is just a flash implementation of the famous Klotski puzzle, which requires 81 moves to solve—if you know exactly what you're doing. Someone could easily spend half an hour (or more!) moving those maddening little blocks around before finding the solution. The water puzzle shows more creativity, but is rather short and leaves the player hungry for more.

Despite the weak gameplay, there are things to like about Chicken Grow, such as the artwork and the atmosphere. We're always glad to see games from Bart Bonte, and we hope to see another for our third CDGC coming up.

Play Chicken Grow

## Hot Air 2: video preview!

Mat from Nitrome sent word of a YouTube video they put together to show Hot Air 2 in action, including a Balloon Maker with which you can customize your own balloon to use in the game! The release is coming very soon now, so here's a little movie to whet your appetite...

Update: Hot Air 2: All Blown Up is now available to play! Check out our review of it to see how it measures up against the original and against other Nitrome games.

## Phantasy Quest

• Currently 4.5/5
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A throw back to the graphic adventures of days gone by, Phantasy Quest is a welcome and refreshing alternative to the myriad room escape games that plague the Web these days. A game by James Matuszak of Space Pretzel Design.

You play the role of a sailor who has been shipwrecked on an island in the sea. A girl passenger was with you but is no where to be seen. Using only the items you discover as you make your way around the island, solve the puzzles and the mystery of what lies before you. Can you find the girl and escape?

Play Phantasy Quest

Apparently this isn't the first time these two kids have been in trouble. Phantasy Quest is the first adventure game based on a series of Flash animations spanning back to 2002, which were inspired by a 1981 video game called Fantasy by Rock-ola.

Cheers to Graeme for the link. =)

## Pianolina

• Currently 4.5/5
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A soothing sound toy with which to bathe the aural senses, Pianolina is a beautifully designed and gorgeously sounding Flash application created to introduce you to the sounds of the Grotrian piano.

Thoughtfully submitted by JIG visitor, Angst: "You never really think about music being based on physics, but this game shows us how music would sound when subjected to gravity. It's a simple web toy, but you can't help but play just to see how the various settings and notes interact. It's the joy of experimenting with sound in a unique, physics-based music machine. Now if only you could save your masterpieces..."

Elegant.

Play with Grotrian Pianos' Pianolina

Cheers Angst! (Pianolina appeared in a previous Link Dump in case you're getting that deja vu feeling again.)

## Orb Avoidance

Here's a little mindless fun to get your gears turning and your week started on this first Monday of July: Orb Avoidance, a simple game of mouse avoidance with the added bonus of a combo system, created by Kalinium.

Most everyone has probably played avoidance games before. They are generally based on a very simple gameplay mechanic such as moving the mouse cursor around a maze without touching the edges. Some have you moving an object with the keyboard or the mouse while avoiding various shapes that fly about the screen.

In Orb Avoidance, small orbs move directly toward the mouse cursor, though in an elastic-like motion. The first objective is to always avoid the orbs. There are also small gray squares that will pop up randomly from time to time. These are also to be avoided.

By moving the mouse around you will be able to 'fool' the orbs into colliding with the gray squares; doing so destroys the orbs. Clear all the orbs from play to summon the next wave, which always includes 1 additional orb. An additional gray square appears every 5 waves (thanks Khrisper!).

Where the game gets somewhat interesting is when you begin to destroy enough orbs within a short amount of time. The outer edges of the play field begin to 'fill up' with color indicating the rising 'combo'. Continue the rate at which you are clearing the orbs and eventually the combo will fill in its entirety turning red and releasing lots of color with every orb destroyed. This indicates that your score is increasing at its greatest capacity. Keep the combo red and last as long as possible for the greatest score you can.

The random placement of the gray squares will play a large role in how successful you are, so there is a lot of luck to this game. But it's both frustrating and rewarding just enough to be an addictive little game with which to spend 10-15 minutes for a break.

Play Orb Avoidance