"I don't get it. This game is called FRIENDS, but I'm alone!" Actually, Pepe, it's called Fiends, and it's stefanT's entry in Casual Gameplay Design Competition #9. Fiends is best described as an innovative puzzle game masquerading as a roguelike RPG, and worst described as an unentertaining game, though you'll find that "unentertaining" doesn't enter into the equation.
You start out controlling Pepe, a hammer-wielding, black-haired character in red overalls. He can attack any fiend by moving to a square directly adjacent to it (click on him, then on any blue square to move) and smashing it with his hammer (click the fiend when the square it's on turns red). If any other fiends are directly or diagonally adjacent to Pepe when he attacks, they'll attack back... and since Pepe can't take it any more than he can dish it out, that means you'll have to take back your move (click "UNDO" when it pops up) and think of another line of action.
Thankfully, Pepe won't be fighting alone for long, or this game wouldn't fit the "friends" theme very well. Before the game is done, he'll team up with Bonnet (who can prevent enemies from counterattacking by engaging them in VERY interesting conversations), Harumaki (whose bow and arrows enable her to attack fiends from two squares away instead of Pepe's one), and Gummy (who can't interact with fiends, but whose "pajama" makes him completely invincible, allowing him to block counterattacks meant for his friends).
As the growing circle of friends makes their way from outer space to a castle to an abandoned marketplace, they'll encounter new fiends with different counterattack ranges, set up in all sorts of arrangements to create all sorts of puzzles, leaving you thinking constantly. Who can I pick off first? If I stuck Gummy there, could Pepe attack that fiend safely? Could Bonnet put those three monsters to sleep without getting countered, and would it help? And by the way, just what are these four friends doing in this weird world, and how will they get home? So many questions.
Analysis: This is my personal favorite entry in the entire competition. Apparently a lot of people agree, if its win of second place is any indication. Everything about Fiends is excellent. The gameplay is the main focus, and it's quite a nice challenge. It's like a one-player game of chess, in a way, and it incorporates the competition's theme perfectly. The fact that you only have to take back the one move when you screw up, and the additional fact that it's impossible to get into a situation where it's impossible to beat the level, takes away most of the frustration that haunts most similar puzzle games.
Elsewhere, the game is simplistic: simplistic graphics, simplistic audio (no SFX whatsoever), simplistic mechanics. This is a good thing; Fiends wants you to focus on the gameplay without distracting you with anything else. There's also plenty of fourth wall humor embedded in the game's dialogue (yes, Pepe, it is typical of RPGs), which is also a plus in my book.
To boot, the game caters to a lot of playstyles. Do you want to make a pacifist run, killing a few fiends as possible, or are you like me, with the desire to kill every fiend you can? Do you want a run that minimizes mistakes? A speed run? A fewest-possible-moves run? It's up to you.
There are few if any flaws in Fiends, and although several bugs turned up in testing, stefanT has been hard at work fixing them. I look forward to a sequel, if indeed stefanT intends on making one. But for now, let's work with what we've got.