I read the mysterious scrap of paper my contact has just put in my hand... "MHCFRYM AV RGU VTW GHIYN!"... Let's see, if I rot13 that, I get "ZUPSELZ NI ETH IGJ TUVLA!". Unscramble and... "PUZZLES IN THE JIG VAULT!" And what type of puzzles do we have this week? Action starring a Lego-Robo, adventure with a cast of steady Teddies at the ready, and a styling tiling board game remix.
- Junkbot - Usually character design doesn't mean that much to me, but I absolutely love Junkbot. He's a a stomping, clomping, banging, clanging piece of metal, and he sounds genuinely happy whenever you've placed Legos to successfully guide him to his wastepaper reward. A Shockwave creation from gameLab, Junkbot is the epitome of what an action-puzzler should have: engaging visuals, consistent rules used to make clever challenges, new elements introduced at a proper pace, and a learning curve that's not too steep. Shockwave can be a bit wonky on modern machines, and you'll need to be signed in with a Lego Club Account to save your progress, but that's a small price to pay for the over 100 levels there are to complete in the two games. Now, if only there were a Junkbot kit for Mindstorms...
- Warbears - .Warbears. HUH! What are they good for? Well, for one, starring in Ioji's excellent puzzle-adventure series. Join Ryoh, Steve, Kla, and Lucas as they take on groundhog bank robbers, their intensive training sessions, subterfuge on the high seas, and Christmas shopping. You'll have to plan your point-and-click context-sensitive actions carefully and with proper timing if you want to please Da Commander and complete the mission. The make-a-mistake-then-restart difficulty is balanced by the adorable animations and gentle humor that are the hallmarks of the series... failure doesn't seem so bad when it's so fun to watch. There's something very chill about the experience that almost makes it the casual gaming equivalent of comfort food. We haven't seen a new installment since 2007, but the four missions and various spin-offs are as enjoyable as ever.
- Slidon - For our final gem this week, we head to the east for a board game puzzle developed by Yoshio Ishii of Nekogames. Those who only know Ishii from his excellent work on the Hoshi Saga or Cursor10 series, should really take a look through the archives. This is a developer takes the most basic concepts and spin them in ways equally innovative and fun. Case in point: Slidon. Now, sliding puzzles often frustrate me and Mahjong confuses me, but Ishii has combined those concepts into a game I love. Gameplay is as simple as pushing matching tiles together on a slippery board to make them disappear, the ultimate goal being to clear them all. However the simple idea is executed superbly, to the extent that Slidon feels like it should be an adaptation of an ancient game, rather something cooked up in 2007... appropriate considering how Mahjong itself is only a late 19th century invention. Slidon, my wayward son!
While we welcome any comments about this weekly feature here, we do ask that if you need any help with the individual games, please post your questions on that game's review page. Well, what are you waiting for? Get out there and rediscover some awesome!