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September 2005 Archives

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Dead Can DanceAs luck would have it (possibly your luck), I have two extra 2nd row seats (Row BB Seats 509 & 510) to see Dead Can Dance on Saturday, October 8th at Radio City Music Hall in New York City.

Brendan Perry and Lisa Gerrard tour so infrequently that this is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see them up close and at such a great venue—also a chance to meet me, as I will be sitting in the seat right next to you. =)

First come first served. I don't want to worry about selling them outside the theatre the night of the show.

Update: The tickets have been sold!

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Cheers! to USA Today for the "Hot Sites" listing in the Tech News and Web Guide section. =)

(3 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Legend of ZorroSo you like turn-based strategy games, do you? Were you among the first to play Tactics Arena Online months ago, and still you can't get enough? Did you run through Spybot with nary an invalid checksum, only to crave more ever since? The wait is over.

Enter Legend of Zorro: the turn-based strategy, online, multiplayer Flash game.

Yes, it is another game created to promote an upcoming major motion picture theatrical release, but don't let that turn you off. This game is fun!

The object of the game is to reduce your opponents' health and eliminate them from play by using special attacks during a sequence of turns.

How to play: Each turn you will be given 40 seconds to select a sequence of three (3) plays. Each play may consist of one of the following: attack, energize, defend, or move. When selecting attack, your character's possible attacks will be displayed. Mousing over each will show the attack radius on the game board that your character will strike. Simply click the attack option of your choice. Likewise, when choosing to move, allowed spaces to which your character may move will be highlighted on the game board. Simply click the desired space for your character to move during that turn's play.

Attacking costs energy, so you can't attack during every play. Selecting energize will replenish some of the energy lost from attacking. Defend will reduce the impact of an attack from another player. Successfully attacking and blocking attacks from other players fills a "super attack" meter that will enable a new attack option when filled. When selecting a super attack, click the "lock" button when the orange and white moving boxes are as close together as possible. The closer together you lock them the stronger your "super attack" for that turn.

During play, special power-ups may appear on the game board to increase health, energy, or even grant a new weapon. Moving to that space collects the prize, but at the expense of your opponents knowing where to aim their attack. It's all about strategy and making the right choice at the right time.

That's the basics, and yet the best way to learn is to play a game and see for yourself.

How to start a game: The first time you play you have two options: create a user, or sign-in as 'guest'. Creating a new user doesn't require any personal information. It does, however, enable statistics tracking of your wins and allows you to compete for a spot on the leader board.

Once signed-in, the game room area shows an array of small silver and/or gold 'plates' representing rooms in which games are played. Gold rooms are waiting for players, silver rooms have games currently in progress. To join a gold room, simply click on one. A large sword will appear representing you. If you were the first to click on a room, then you are the creator of the game. If you joined a room, then you must wait for the creator to start the game.

If you are the only one in a room, you may play a game against the computer or you may wait for other players to join. Up to four (4) players may play a game at once, and this is where the real fun of the game begins.

If you created the game, click "Start game" to begin. The creator of the game gets to choose a character first: Zorro, Elena, Armand, McGivens, or Ferroq. Each character has its own special attacks and moves, so try them all out to get a feel for what each one can do. Following character selection by each of the players, one of three (3) game boards is chosen (small, medium or large), and then the game begins.

Summary: Zorro is turn-based strategy in an accessible Web-based package. Big Spaceship has produced another excellent game with a lot of multiplayer fun packed inside. Varied characters with unique moves, special attacks, power-ups, as well as a selection of game boards keep the action fresh and challenging. Four-player simultaneous play adds a dimension of melee mahem to the mix. A high score leader board provides incentive to succeed and be the best that you can be. Click.

Other games by Big Spaceship include the previously reviewed War of the Worlds, and The Grudge.

Thank you, Michael, for the link, and nice job with the game. =)

  • Currently 4.4/5
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Rating: 4.4/5 (30 votes)
Comments (21) | Views (11,967)

Tactics Arena OnlineFrom Digital Seed Entertainment comes Tactics Arena Online (TAO), a turn based strategy game the likes of Final Fantasy. By commanding an army of characters on a battlefield, your goal is to decimate your opponents team in a battle of weapons and abilities.

Your team starts out in a formation that you plan out for them in the settings before the game begins. When the game starts, select which character to utilize. You have the options of attacking from your current position, moving it and then attacking, or moving it and wave your attack option. There's also the option to skip your turn entirely. Only one character is allowed to be moved per turn. The same character can only be used again after they've been through their turn recovery. For example, if a character has a five turn recovery, it cannot be used for 5 turns. A two turn recovery character can be used after 2 turns, etc...

Get to know your characters. Find out what they do, how they move, how strong their attacks are. From there you can learn how to setup your starting formation in a way that works best for you. Always try to keep the offensive in the game, never giving your opponent the chance to get the upper hand.

This game is beautifully drawn and animated, following in the footsteps of Final Fantasy and Warcraft. It plays much like a game of chess, in that you have to try to plan out your attacks ahead of time, and try to outwit your opponent.

Because this is an online game, you must setup an account. The account setup however is relatively painless. It asks you for a name and a password, and that's all. If you want to try the game by yourself first, and not battle against anybody online, the author has created a demo of the game called Tactics Core. It's the exact same as the online version except you don't get to choose your character setup, and they are all chosen at random. If you need more detailed instructions on how to play, there is a detailed online guide available to help you out. There is also a very active player community in the game forums.

If you enjoy games that challenge your intellect and ability to think ahead, then here's your game. Giving you the look and feel of a console game, but nicely packed into a casual flash game.

TAO also has the option to create a gold account with additional features, which is $5.00 USD a month.

  • Currently 4.1/5
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Rating: 4.1/5 (695 votes)
Comments (176) | Views (50,066)

SubmachinePoint-and-click fans, this next game has you written all over it. Submachine is a relatively easy game of the escape-the-room variety that will engage your puzzle-solving skills for about 10-15 minutes. And if you haven't played this one already, you're in for a simple treat.

Several rooms hold as many puzzles and items to find for solving the mystery of the Submachine. Use your mouse to point-and-click your way through the game, and to pick up items that you find along the way. Drag and drop an item from your inventory to place it where it's needed.

Crisp and attractive graphics are pleasantly complemented by atmospheric sound and effects to enhance the overall experience. Created by Mateusz Skutnik ("Murtaugh"), Submachine is a straightforward and polished point-and-clicker that is accessible to most anyone.

Play Submachine

We've been here covering the entire Submachine series since the very beginning with reviews and walkthroughs for all of them...

Outside the main storyline, and yet still another great Submachine, is a game created for the band Future Loop Foundation:

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OpniyamaI am working hard at finishing up two midterm projects for courses I'm taking this quarter at RIT. To take a little pressure off and still be able to post something today, I have decided to cheat a little and not review this next piece. Instead, since the English translation of the French game description seems so delightful to me, I offer it up in lieu of a review of my own. Enjoy. =)

"How to play Opniyama... Climb the slopes of Opniyama (yama means Japanese mountain) and take part in this interactive play while adding to your liking of the trees with the landscape! Discover the jokes of this vertical world! Direct your misadventure and hoist towards the higher plates while launching the hook! Climb the plates by balancing you to reach the top! Personalize your universe by adding plant-monsters which push on the plates of play."

Use the arrow keys to move left or right. Use the [Q] key to fire the hookshot, press [Q] again to jump. Press [A] to drop a seed and watch it grow. Press [S] for the map. Press [Z] to quit. There is no real objective that I could make out, and yet there is a very large world to explore.

Created by Team cHmAn, Aki, Gomoy, and Got, the game was presented at the Palais de Tokyo from January 29th to September 8th, 2002.

Update: The game is no longer available to play on the Web. Previously tagged as: browser, flash, free, game, interactiveart, jumpandrun, linux, mac, original, rating-g, teamchman, unique, windows

  • Currently 4.8/5
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Rating: 4.8/5 (24 votes)
Comments (172) | Views (7,934)

HamuresuHyper Frame is a new puzzle game offered by Shockwave.com that combines 3D graphics and an engaging soundtrack to create a compelling interactive experience.

The goal of the game is fairly simple: connect each pair of same-colored blocks with an unbroken line that does not cross over, or use the same space as, another color.

Control is entirely with the mouse. Click on a colored block and drag along the empty spaces to create a line that connects the pair. An Undo button exists in the event a mistake is made in the process. A Reset button allows you to restart the current puzzle from the beginning.

Controlling the 3D cube can be a bit awkward at times, and it is easy to make a mistake in the process of drawing a line. It is a byproduct of the choice of a 3D interface, which can be viewed as both a plus and a minus for the game. There will likely be some who find the game difficult to control.

The game features two different modes of play: Speed and Mind. The object of Speed mode is to complete as many puzzles as you can within the time alotted. There is no time limit with Mind mode in which the game presents puzzles that must be solved to move on to the next. There are four (4) difficulty levels to Mind mode offering even more depth to the game.

Hyper Frame makes excellent use of Shockwave 3D to create a compelling puzzler that offers two different modes of play. Together these features combine to extend replay value, and to appeal to a broad casual game audience. Click.

Thanks to Tobey for suggesting the game (though I had plans to review it today anyway =)

  • Currently 4.5/5
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Rating: 4.5/5 (24 votes)
Comments (25) | Views (4,723)

AtomsAtoms is a Flash puzzle game of elegant design that loosely borrows elements from Chemistry for the basis of its gameplay. Created by Florian Bliesch of Hamburg, Germany, the object of the game is simply to connect all of the separate atoms together to form a single molecule.

The interface is straightforward and intuitive: just drag and drop the various atoms near one another to fit them together. If the two pieces fit, they will attach themselves automatically. If they do not fit, they will not attach. It's just that easy. Continue fitting the pieces together until there are no unused bonds (stick-like parts) and no unused holes. A rule of play that may help you along the way: atoms of the same color do not attach together.

For each level you complete, the game will reveal a password that you can use to start again from where you left off. Therefore, your progress is not automatically saved.

Atoms is a quality casual Web game that will seem immediately familiar to most people with its elegantly simple gameplay. Click.

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With Friday being the last day of the monthly billing cycle for my blog, I am also approaching my monthly resource limit for traffic. Therefore, I expect the blog will become unavailable some time Friday for the rest of the day. Service will be restored again at 12AM (GMT-8:00) Saturday morning.

I apologize for the inconvenience.

(11 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
Comments (15) | Views (6,622)

Bloomin GardensBloomin' Gardens is a strategy puzzle game in which the object is to line-up rows, columns or diagonals of five (5) or more matching flowers to eliminate them from play. The more flowers that match, the higher the score awarded. The game is actually a clone of Lines, and it has the feel and appeal of a classic casual game: it's easy to pick-up and play and yet difficult to master.

To play, simply click on a flower to uproot it, and then click on a free square to replant it. There must be a free path between the two squares to move a flower, diagonals excluded.

For every flower you move, three (3) new flowers are added to the garden grid in random locations. The types of flowers that will arrive next are displayed to the right of the grid. When your garden becomes full, the game is over.

There is no time limit to the game, which is a nice departure from other tile-matching games. The gameplay is one-part strategy and one-part luck due to the random placement of new flowers. To achieve the higher scores on the high score list, you'll need to work at eliminating complete rows or columns to be awarded maximum points.

Points are awarded in the game as follows:
  • 5 flowers . . . 5 points
  • 6 flowers . . . 8 points
  • 7 flowers . . . 13 points
  • 8 flowers . . . 20 points
  • 9 flowers . . . 28 points
Note: Matching a row and column (or diagonal) simultaneously awards points for each separately, not a combined total.

The game, hosted by Miniclip, is fun to play and can be quite addictive. I found it a bit frustrating that I could not achieve scores even remotely close to what appears in the high score list. I also noticed a bug in the code that happens sometimes when new random flowers appear that make a match of 4 or 5. The bug prevented me from using one or more of the freed spaces for replanting. It did not happen enough for it to affect my overall satisfaction with the game, however. Click.

Thanks go to Seb for suggesting the game. =)

  • Currently 4.8/5
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Rating: 4.8/5 (51 votes)
Comments (35) | Views (5,562)

WulfoUrban DeadUrban Dead is a fantastic and superbly original MMOG that was created a few months ago by Kevan Davis, and which currently has around 85,000 registered players. To put it simply: it is a text-based zombie survival game that runs in any browser.

To start the game, you first have to create a character (obviously). There are a few different character classes to choose from: Military, Science, Civilian, or simply begin the game as a zombie. The class you pick determines the skills you begin with, and the cost to acquire other skills later on.

I recommend choosing a Fireman (Civilian class) to start with. Doing so allows you to begin fast and effective zombie slaughter immediately. This means achieving higher levels very quickly, and then, as soon as you get Melee Weapons Training and Body Building, you will be practically unstoppable.

After the extremely speedy character creation process, you're introduced to the city of Malton (link to map), which consists of 100 suburbs. Each suburb contains a 10 X 10 grid of buildings inside of it, making a total of 10,000 buildings to explore (it's a big game). Once you start the game, your first turns can be crucial. Many a newbie have started the game as a cop with 12 bullets, used them on the first zombie they saw, and then were forced to create a new character. For most classes, the best thing to do is to go searching for supplies in the right sorts of buildings. (Hospitals carry first aid kits, Police Stations carry guns and ammo etc.)

There are several ways to gain experience in the game. The most obvious is to damage (and hopefully kill) zombies. Unfortunately, when beginning the game this option isn't really available to you. If you're a NecroTech employee, then the best thing to do is to use your DNA Extractor on every zombie in sight. If you're a doctor, then it's easiest to heal as many people as you can find. Once you have at least 100 XP, then you can purchase a new skill and move up to the next level (which doesn't really mean anything special).

Game play is governed by Action Points (APs). Every action costs APs, from barricading a building to spray-painting a wall. Even speaking costs 1 AP. Some actions even require several APs. You begin the game with 50, and regain one every half an hour. It's when you get low on APs and are about to log off that the game really gets interesting. When you log off, your character doesn't: it stays in the game in the same place on the map that you left it in. This means that logging off while standing outside is almost sure to get you killed within a few hours. Finding shelter is fairly easy, as you just need to find a barricaded building to enter, and then you should be fairly safe. As a note, after 3 days, your character disappears from the map, but will reappear as soon as you log back in.

Thankfully, death, as mentioned earlier, doesn't mean the end of the game. After dying you become a zombie, ready to terrorise your former comrades among the living. Playing as a zombie is quite different to playing as a human. Prey is generally harder to find, you only have a few attacks and HP aren't really an issue as when they get reduced to 0, you can just stand up again at the cost of 10 action points. Although zombies don't really need to find shelter, in order to avoid the ever-deadly XP-draining headshots, or the simple annoyance of having to stand up again, your best bet is to simply find an empty building. You can also find another crowd of zombies to stay amongst (zombies are nameless, all you see is "x zombie(s)"). Thankfully, zombification isn't permanent, as you can be revived by anybody with a revivification symbol.

Despite the length of this review, I've only begun to scratch the surface of this deep, constantly expanding game. Further information and help can be found in the FAQ and the superb Wiki. Something that really surprised about it is the huge, extremely active community. The forums are constantly abuzz with news of mobile zombie hoards and unprotected buildings full of humans. There are even a number of 24-hour mailing lists run by fans to inform zombies and humans alike of the latest events, and big XP opportunities. As a note, it's probably not a good idea to mention where you're currently situated or anything like that in the comments.

Even if this sort of game isn't usually your thing, I'd thoroughly encourage you to give it a go, as it's an extremely original and absorbing experience.

I'd also like to take this opportunity to wish a happy birthday to my friend Dougal, who is a huge fan of this game (since I couldn't be bothered with getting him a real present).

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Race Against TimeA game that makes excellent use of Flash video (FLV) segments to form an engaging interactive narrative, Race Against Time puts you in the driver's seat of a brand new Saab 9-3 SportWagon on a mission to Hazard Point. What could possibly go wrong?

Your destination is hours from the city, which is where you start in this unique Flash adventure game that uses the decisions you make to affect the story and the gameplay. Decisions are made by answering questions regarding: what route to take, whether to stop for gas, who to ask for directions, etc. In-game video plays out the results of your actions that together will form a story filled with surprising twists of fate.

Every choice matters and will ultimately affect the overall time required to arrive at Hazard Point. The clock starts ticking with your very first choice: whether to drive a petrol or a diesel Saab. Items of particular interest that you should look for along the way of your journey, and that take seconds off your final time, include: Matches, Lighter, Knife, Paddle, Tent, Wetsuit, Lifejacket, Flares, Compass.

Additional mini-games are included at particular decision points that require a bit of dexterity above and beyond your decision making skills. The mini-games fit well within the unfolding narrative and provide added depth to the well-produced game. Although not difficult by any means, the mini-games offer a chance to accumulate points that will also deduct seconds from your overall score.

Registration is required to play, and I recommend you do so since the game is well worth the effort. Your in-game progress is saved at every decision point so that you may return to the same point again later. A random password is generated and mailed to you for use when logging back in. By registering, your best time and statistics are also recorded automatically.

Designed and produced by Draft London, and commissioned by Saab Great Britain Ltd. for a contest of the same name (UK residents only are eligible), Race Against Time offers a unique and compelling advergame experience worthy of your time.

Cheers, Leon! for the link. =)

Update: Unfortunately, this game is no longer available to play on the Web. Previously tagged as: adventure, advergame, browser, draftlondon, flash, free, game, macwinlinux, narrative, original, rating-y, unique, video

  • Currently 4.7/5
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Rating: 4.7/5 (81 votes)
Comments (62) | Views (10,709)

Yohoho! Puzzle Pirates

Arrrr, Matey! To celebrate International Talk Like A Pirate Day, I thought I would take this here opportunity to direct you to an excellent downloadable game that's been entertaining gamers of all ages for a couple of years: Yohoho! Puzzle Pirates, created by 3 Rings Design.

Available for Mac, PC, and Linux, Puzzle Pirates is a massively multiplayer online game world in which players take to the high seas to compete for pirate booty. As with many MMOGs, a persistent world and player-driven economy provide enough challenge and depth to satisfy a wide spectrum of gamer, from the casual minded to the hardcore. And while there are plenty of locales to visit and explore on foot, most of the action takes place aboard a vessel on the high seas playing... wait for it ...puzzle games! =)

A ship needs plenty of crew members to win the right to pillage other ships on the ocean. Lucky for you, finding one that will take you on is only as difficult as finding the town's local missions board and clicking a button. Once aboard, make your way to one of the ship's various duty stations to do your part and prepare for battle!

Yohoho! Puzzle PiratesMany of the puzzle games in Y!PP resemble familiar casual games like Tetris and Bejeweled, and are just as accessible to begin having fun with quickly. The bilging station, for example, performs the unenviable yet essential task of bailing water from the ship as it sails. Bilge pumps allow a ship to travel faster by removing the weight of the water that it takes on while sailing, which would otherwise slow it down. The puzzle game it provides is a simple one of swapping puzzle pieces to line up 3 or more of the same color, which then eliminates them from play. It's a never ending, tedious, and rather dull game, very much in theme with the duty being performed, and yet is a good place to start for a young or brand new adventurer looking to get into the swing of things.

When finally engaged in battle with another ship, the display will switch to the Swordfighting game where a team battle commences between the crews of the two ships. In a Swordfight, colored blocks fall with shapes of swords upon them. There are two types of blocks: solid and shattering "breaky block" pieces that cause all same-colored blocks it touches to shatter in a chain-reaction, and then disappear from your play field. And since this is a team battle, the blocks you eliminate from play in your game are sent to a member of the opposing team. If your play field fills up completely, you are eliminated. The first team to have all of their crew eliminated loses and gets pillaged by the victors.

And I have only just touched the surface of what Yohoho! Puzzle Pirates offers in terms of gameplay. To help you out, refer to this page for details about the many games that you can play.

The game is built in Java, and there is a 30-day free trial available for anyone who might want to give this delightful and truly unique twist on the MMOG genre a try. Once inside, thar be plenty of opportunity to engage in a little swashbuckling role-play, thus giving you an outlet for Talk Like a Pirate Day! Click.

Update: The folks at Yohoho have recently had a change of heart and although there are still subscription 'oceans' there are now 2 free oceans that allow you to either buy doubloons with a credit card, or acquire them using in-game currency. Therefore, purchases are optional and not required for full free participation in all aspects of the game. [Thanks, Barbara! and Mon! ]