This special edition of Weekend Download highlights two games that are a bit less accessible due to their large download size and lack of a playable demo. We feel they deserve some attention since each one pushes the envelope by delivering an immersive gaming experience that's both fun and engaging. We've spent a lot of time with them and are ready to sing praise from the roof (in the form of short mini-reviews), so read on to see if one could be your next slice of delicious gaming pie.
Safecracker (Windows, 316MB, full version) - Casual puzzle game, meet a Myst-like adventure. You play the role of an expert safecracker journeying through the gorgeously rendered Adams' mansion searching for clues to find the late master's will. Take in the scenery with a free-looking point of view and click to move through rooms and engage locked safes. Puzzles are brilliantly conceived and vary from safe to safe, ranging from simple tile-shuffling to more complex number/letter locks. To top it off, Safecracker is a gorgeous game with fluid controls and a deep atmosphere of mystery that constantly begs you to forge ahead to the next safe.
The overall experience of Safecracker is a bit sedated and cerebral, almost like a playable episode of Masterpiece Theater (with cool, fun puzzles). The production values are enormously high and include top-notch voice acting, a rarity in any video game. Safecracker's 35 puzzles will keep you busy for some time, and the difficulty level will stump you more than once. You'll need a little persistence to push through some of the safes, but at the end of the day it's a unique and thrilling game well worth getting your brain in a twist over.
Return to Mysterious Island (Windows, 913MB, full version) - Based on Jules Verne's novel The Mysterious Island, this first person adventure takes a few pages from the Myst book of game design and drenches it in a thick story filled with twists and turns. You play the role of Mina, a sailor stranded on a tropical island who discovers remnants of an ancient civilization scattered throughout the jungle. A mysterious figure seems to be haunting her and Mina suspects it to be the famous Captain Nemo. Journey through the beautifully rendered beaches, cliffs, jungles and more in search of the Nautilus as you dig deeper into the island's history to uncover its secrets.
The core gameplay in Return to Mysterious Island centers around exploration, finding items, and using those items to solve puzzles and progress to new areas. The inventory screen allows you to store and combine items to create tools, such as fashioning a spear by attaching a piece of driftwood to a knife. Puzzles usually have more than one solution, allowing you the freedom to explore and experiment. The free-looking point of view gives you plenty of opportunity to do just that.
It may have been released a few years ago, but a recent resurgence on casual gaming portals has given Return to Mysterious Island a second chance at success it so readily deserves. It's a long and satisfying adventure with all the trappings of a great puzzle game folded into a gorgeous setting with a wonderful story.