March 2007 Archives

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Rating: 4.6/5 (96 votes)
Comments (106) | Views (24,579)

Peggle banner

JayMore fun than I have had with a game in a long time, Peggle is the latest arcade action game from PopCap, and available as a download for Windows or Mac. Think of a pachinko machine and an upside-down breakout game and you will be close to the unique and simple gameplay found in Peggle. It made me giggle with delight.

Each level in the game consists of a variety of pegs arranged in formation—some formations are stationary while others move in undulating patterns. The objective is to clear all the orange pegs from the board by hitting them with any one of 10 balls that you start with. Using the mouse for aiming, fire a ball in the desired direction with the click of the mouse and then watch the results. It's just that simple to play.

peggle3.jpgIf the ball happens to land in the 'free ball bucket' that automatically slides from side to side, then you are awarded a free ball! You are also awarded a free ball by racking up 25,000 points with a single ball. You will learn to carefully aim and time your shots as you improve your skills as there is much more to Peggle than simple blind luck(!)

To help you get started in the land of Pegopolis, you are tasked with completing a series of 10 training missions of 5 levels each. These comprise the Adventure mode of the game, which you must complete to move on and unlock the the more difficult Challenge mode. The training missions give you a chance to familiarize yourself and play with the Peggle Masters, each of whom represents a different type of power-up. A power-up becomes activated when you hit either one of 2 green pegs on every board, and their effects range from showing a visible guide for aiming your next shot to the powerful fireball that destroys all pegs in its path. Becoming familiar with the power-ups and how to get the most from them is important if you are to succeed with the more challenging levels in the game.

Once Adventure mode is finished you will then be able to begin chipping away at becoming Peggle Grand Master, reserved for only those players who can complete all 75 increasingly more difficult challenges. For example, in Adventure mode you only have to clear 25 orange pegs on each level. In Challenge mode there are 5 levels each in which you need to clear 35, 45, and 55 orange pegs; 5 levels in which you need to clear ALL PEGS; 5 levels in which you need to score 300,000; etc.

Analysis: I laughed out loud my first time playing, and I couldn't stop playing until I had all 55 levels completed in Adventure mode. It's just that much fun! It is such an easy game to understand and get started with, and yet you will discover that you simply can't succeed by just dropping balls haphazardly. There is a skill element to it that gives the game its depth, but it's deceptive. Not until the later levels when you find yourself quickly running out of balls will you realize a few strategies are needed to become a Peggle Master.

peggle1.jpgHowever, not only is the gameplay remarkable, PopCap really nailed this one in terms of enhancing the user experience. Through a concert of both sight and sound, a stunning display of particle effects explode on the screen to reward the player at the end of every level. But even more impressive is the dramatic, slow-motion, cinematic close-up just as the ball approaches that very last orange peg(!) And when the ball finally lands on it, the heavens open and a chorus of angels sing Ode to Joy! How cool is that?! Well, let me tell you, it doesn't get any better.

Oh, wait, yes it does. You can view an instant replay of any ball you've played and even save the replays to your computer's hard drive for later viewing again and again. You can even trade and share these replay files with others to show off your Peggle prowess. Lots of attention to detail can be seen throughout the game, from its gorgeous graphics and animations, amazingly realistic physics engine, colorful and infectious soundtrack, even the accessibility options available for colorblind individuals.

You can now Get Peggle for your iOS device!

The downside is that the game does eventually become difficult. Some levels will have you playing again and again and you will still come up short. It can be a little frustrating. But concentrate on maximizing every shot and you will (eventually) succeed.

Peggle is a classic casual game: simple to understand, easy to pick-up and play, and difficult to master. Find yourself the nearest PC and download it now; it is very likely you will giggle with delight when you play as I did.

Download the demo Get the full version

Mac OS XMac OS X:
Download the demo Get the full version

Peggle is available to download from these affiliates:
Arcade TownBig Fish Games

  • Currently 4.8/5
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Rating: 4.8/5 (54 votes)
Comments (128) | Views (15,519)

somethingamiss.jpgJohnBSomething Amiss is an online adventure game created by Tucker Bowen to promote his book of the same name. It has a distinctly classic Lucas Arts adventure flair with surprisingly good visuals. Two chapters have been released so far and Tucker has incorporated user feedback to make the experience as satisfying as possible.

The first chapter sets the stage and has you trapped in a dark, mysterious laboratory. Search the lab for clues to why you're alone and try to find a way out. It's a very short chapter and there isn't very much to do, but it's a good introduction to the series and gets you yearning for the next installment. Also, you'll need to remember a password at the end of Chapter 1 so you can play Chapter 2.

The second chapter in Something Amiss fleshes out everything that made the first one good and cleans up quite a few of the interface issues. After escaping the MRI room, Alice discovers she's no longer in Washington D.C., instead she's lost in the jungle. There's a lot more to explore in this chapter and the puzzles are more intricate.

To play the games, simply use the cursor to guide Alice around the environments. When you see an object you'd like to examine, use, or talk to, click and hold over it to bring up a small menu. A handy save feature is available for both titles, just hit the [esc] key any time during play.

Analysis: Something Amiss does a great job taking the classic adventure formula and turning it into a casual online experience. The story is filled with mystery, though it feels a tad cliche at times. It's early, though, and I feel there will be a lot of surprises in store. Some players have experienced a few minor interface glitches, so make sure you have the latest version of Flash and try a different browser if you continue to have problems.

Now, three(!) great adventure games packed with mystery:

Play Something Amiss Chapter 1

Play Something Amiss Chapter 2

Play Something Amiss Chapter 3

Comments (55) | Views (4,920)

Link Dump Fridays

HarukioAnd now the moment you've all been waiting for! I present to you, things I like to eat (please restrain yourselves from jumping in joy). For breakfast I typically enjoy badly burnt toast with a crown of hard butter chunks. Sometimes, I even add a packet of jelly. The sensation of a strawberry surge across my taste buds is like no other pleasure. Lunch is, of course, only for weaklings. Dinner offers an amazing range of options. These can include delicious fettuccine in alfredo sauce, grilled salmon and pasta, spicy pizza or a bowl of stir fry. But what about dessert? Well of course there's the classic apple pie and vanilla ice cream, and for special nights you can enjoy delightful chocolate mousse. For those extra sophisticated patrons (monocle, top hat, the whole nine yards), I'd suggest a succulent black pudding.

As you may have noticed, I made a nice transition from talking about myself to talking about you (anyone who disagrees can see me out back). Why? Because I'd like to present you with a glorious menu of special Friday gaming dishes ready for sampling. Enjoy, and remember to select your favorite dish of the bunch! Bon Appetite!

We have a delicious special for you this Friday! We present two, yes TWO broccoli games!
  • Run, lil' Broccoli - The blood-thirsty chef is out for to get your little green head! Do broccolis have blood? Do I want to find out? Isn't the plural of broccoli just "broccoli"? Should I go back and fix that? Why all the unanswered questions?
  • Pants Volcano - Keep the suave broccoli dude shooting for the stars by shooting him with toast...and pants.
And now for the rest of the menu!
  • Milpa - A rather fresh take on a match-3 where you swap crops in a line. Try making combos for culturally significant and nutritious bonuses.
  • 5 keys - Keep track of your 5 grey diamonds to stay alive. The game does get a good bit more difficult, trust me. This week's score to beat is: 7430. I'm no pro so I think you can do it ;)
  • Four Square Blues - Flip the tiles to make rectangles of four or more blocks. Not quite what you're thinking and a bit tricky to explain. Therefore I will instead describe how much I like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Oh boy, do I like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Yes I do!
  • The Impossible Quiz - A quiz of EPIC proportions! Test your untelligence! Answer questions! Think! Don't Think! Choose the right one: 1, 2, 3, or 4. Let confusion and eventual discovery rule the day!
  • Giraffe - This song is based on a true story! Well, it's not as much a story as an attic...

Remember to get out and vote!

  • Currently 4.7/5
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Rating: 4.7/5 (114 votes)
Comments (55) | Views (8,265)

skywireg.gifJohnBFresh out the door from developer Nitrome is a brand new physics-based action game, Skywire. You control a small chairlift that runs a crazy path through the sky. Three passengers are on board who would appreciate if you got them to the goal unharmed. A variety of obstacles stand in your way, from birds dropping bombs (the real kind, not, you know, organic bird-type bombs), deranged-looking pandas, and whales that leap from the sea. Each hit you take knocks a passenger from the car. Lose all three and you have to start over again.

The controls in Skywire use a bit of physics to give it a very visceral feel. Press the [up] arrow to move forward and [down] to move back. You can't start and stop on a dime, you have to build speed. Momentum plays a huge part in the difficulty of the game, as you have to fight to climb inclines and hold back when you start sliding downhill. Don't be surprised if you find yourself grunting when climbing upwards to escape a crazed butterfly.

The art style is also superb and really lends a fun atmosphere to the game. Everything has a minature dollhouse feel to it that's difficult to describe but easy to enjoy. Most of the creatures are blocky and almost mechanical looking. Joining the colorful visuals is a wacky soundtrack that, despite my best efforts, is still stuck in my head.

There are 20 levels in Skywire, each with increasing difficulty. Your progress is saved automatically, so don't worry about messing up. Take your time and really drink in the game.

Analysis: This is one of my favorite games from Nitrome so far. I love the art style, the music is perfect, and the gameplay is really something to get into. Some of the hits you'll take feel a bit cheap, as the entire chairlift setup is vulnerable, not just the car itself. The stages often feel a bit short, but later when the difficulty increases you'll be glad they aren't longer.

Another great game from Nitrome to get completely addicted to.

Play Skywire

  • Currently 4.3/5
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Rating: 4.3/5 (547 votes)
Comments (636) | Views (20,790)

JayBloonsThere is something inherently gratifying about smashing or destroying something, even watching a building be demolished is good fun. So it should be no surprise that we see the concept come up a lot in games. Stephen over at Ninja Kiwi claims that his latest Flash game, "is based on the very simple fact that popping balloons is fun." And you know what? He's right! In Bloons you get to pop a lot of balloons!

For control, you're given a small monkey with a handful of darts. To throw a dart, just aim with the mouse and press and hold the mouse button to power it up. A red arrow displays to help you gauge how hard to throw it; then just release the button when ready.

Clear each level by popping the target number of balloons displayed at the bottom of the screen. Of course, to make things interesting, you are limited to a certain number of darts per level, sometimes even to a single dart!

With 50 unique levels to unlock, Bloons will keep you busy for a very long time, if you let it. Stephen provides much in the way of environmental hazards and power-ups to keep the game interesting. Ice balloons, exploding balloons, tack balloons and boomerangs are only just a few of the wide range of items available. My personal favorite, the Pac-Man balloon, summons the mighty Pac-Man himself and places him under your control for a brief, sweet moment!

Analysis: There is a lot to love about this game, not the least of which is the pure enjoyment you get from popping all the balloons you can. Moreover, if you fail to achieve the target for a level, you can keep trying until you get it right. There's no concept of lives lost or game over; just keep trying! The unlockable levels provide a sweet reward of something new when you finally meet the target goal, and an integrated save system remembers which levels you've unlocked across play sessions so you can pick right up where you left off.

But the game is not without a few minor flaws. The aiming control seemed a bit glitchy in the version play tested for this review, and it needs some sort of feedback displayed for the player to gauge against previous attempts. Also, it seems that the power meter is inaccurate. When throwing darts at the same power, one would travel too far and another not far enough. Perhaps just a little tweaking and refinement is all it needs.

A couple of minor blemishes to an otherwise outstanding and very addictive new game from Stephen Harris and NinjaKiwi.

Play Bloons

For even More Bloons, be sure to check out the follow-up with 50 new (and more difficult) levels!

  • Currently 4.2/5
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Rating: 4.2/5 (26 votes)
Comments (49) | Views (7,350)
JayOrbitYou sit yourself down in front of an odd looking, dusty old monitor that displays what appears to be a radar screen with a few colored markers and controls along the outer edge. There are no instructions to be found anywhere, just the thrill of discovery by pointing and clicking with the mouse. You can do no harm to it; nothing is going to break or send you whirling into space without a helmet. So leave caution to the wind and boldly go into Orbit.

Designed and developed by Sean Hawkes for our 2nd Flash game design competition held a couple weeks ago, Orbit is the quintessence of what we were hoping to see in the entries submitted. It is a simple puzzle game with no instructions, one in which discovery is integral to its charm and appeal.

There is indeed a solution, perhaps even three solutions, but you must first determine what is required of you. And even when you know what you need to do, the puzzle is still a challenge to complete.

Analysis: The design and implementation of this puzzle is very nice, apart from the performance issues it causes on slower computers and the total lack of sound—the background music loop that you hear is actually the main menu soundtrack from the competition. It fit so well that we left it like it is.

When running on a super-fast computer, this game is gorgeous with its particles all flying around while getting pulled into the central star of the solar system, and the decaying trails that the planets leave behind. Unfortunately, the game runs very slow on my Mac and I found that I had to reduce the quality using the right-click context menu for the game to move as it should. However, keeping it at the slower speed actually helps by giving more time to complete the puzzle, since there's a time limit involved.

The grow theme is present here, and it becomes integral to the gameplay as you progress. And when completing the puzzle, the player is rewarded with a nice display of thanks. All things considered, Orbit is an excellent entry and a fine puzzle game experience for people of all ages.

Play Orbit

zxoThe atmosphere is great in this one, and the pure experience this game provides outweighs the fact that the gameplay is not too terribly difficult (once you figure out what the gameplay actually is). I'm still not sure why the buttons on the right are necessary—maybe so that it's more difficult to win by accident?

(19 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
Comments (91) | Views (10,956)

chickenegg.jpgJohnBA new game from Donut Games, creator of Castle Smasher, has just rolled onto the web: Chicken & Egg. All the cute chickens have been trapped in their eggs by the Easter Bunny. It's your job to match like-colored shells together by sliding the eggs across the grid. When the pairs come together, they hatch, revealing a set of rather bewildered chicks!

The game takes place on an 11x7 grid that looks like a chess board. Eggs, walls, obstacles and dots are placed around the screen. Click an egg to bring up a set of arrows showing you where it can slide, then click an arrow to send it flying. Eggs slide in a straight line until they come in contact with an obstacle.

You have a limited number of shots in Chicken & Egg, so be economical with your moves. The trick is to plan several steps ahead and only slide an egg if you're sure it needs to be moved. Collecting yellow dots will increase your score, but don't worry too much about them, as your bonus for finishing with shots remaining is much greater.

There are 30 puzzles in all, ten for each level of difficulty. Even some of the early puzzles will require thought as well as trial-and-error. Plenty of challenge to keep you busy.

Analysis: I'm always excited when a new game from Donut Games hits. Chicken & Egg has all the trappings of a quick, coffee-break-style game: easy to play, polished, and, well, cute. Having a limited number of shots adds to the game's challenge, but sometimes I wanted to sit and experiment with the puzzles without worrying about shot limitations.

Polished, simple and fun. Easter hits a bit early this year.

Play Chicken & Egg

  • Currently 3.9/5
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Rating: 3.9/5 (20 votes)
Comments (44) | Views (5,130)
overhead.jpgJohnBThe old "navigate through a maze" concept enjoys a small rebirth in the form of Overhead Persistence, a gorgeous Flash game by Acrid Rose. Guide the cursor through each level avoiding the walls and any other obstacles in the way. One mis-step and you have to start all over. Normally a game like this wouldn't be anything special, but Overhead Persistence provides a great audio and visual package along with a level editor and other extras to make a worthwhile experience.

There are two major modes in the game: persistence and existence. The former requires patience, a stubborn resolve, and chamomile tea to prevent your nervous system from frying itself. The levels are long and often tense, and one mistake sends you back to the beginning. Existence is much more casually-oriented and features shorter levels and less-stressful gameplay.

Another nice touch in the game is the ability to view background artwork and play any stage at your whim. It takes some of the pressure of completion away and allows you to experience more of the game.

Overhead Persistence is actually part of a series of "overhead" games with a similar "don't touch the walls" design. Each one has a unique theme, though Persistence is the most polished and complete of the lot.

Analysis: Overhead Persistence is just like any old maze game on the surface, but the beautiful visuals and soundtrack make it special. The creative maze elements (such as moving doors and swinging objects) make it exciting and challenging. The parallax backgrounds are a nice touch and add a lot of depth to an otherwise flat game. It's the same old mechanic at its core, but with so many bonuses it's hard to overlook.

Play Overhead Persistence

Cheers to Tim for sending this one in!

Comments (30) | Views (2,264)

WIRED MagazineWe are very pleased to announce that JIG has made it onto the tangible printed page of WIRED magazine in the April issue (shown).

You can find us mentioned in the Playlist feature, an article that lists 10 things the WIRED folks think are cool (or "wired") for the month.

It's not an exceptionally large mention, but we are nonetheless grateful for the opportunity to be included in such a well-respected print (and online) magazine. Thank you, WIRED!

(Now if only the on those pages were clickable. A small icon of our JIGster would be a nice addition, too. ;)

(4 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
Comments (8) | Views (3,308)

ZengiefBaffle BeesFrom John Hattan comes BaffleBees, a quick, fun puzzle game for those on a coffee break. Be the best by ordering your bees around the hive until your entire honeycomb is filled with honey.

Control of your bees is as simple as clicking and dragging. In fact, it is clicking and dragging. When a bee is on a honey spot, that spot and the surrounding six spots are toggled. If they started empty, then they fill with honey, while if they have honey, they empty out. By recognizing some common patterns that show up, you will soon be ordering bees around like a queen. Beware: you only have three chances to attempt for a hi-score. High scorers that have logged in will have their game displayed on the hi-score table the next day. The top games can even be played to show the steps that were taken to complete it.

Login is not required to play this game or any of the others on the site (a recent change), but logging in does have advantages. Most notably you can have your game displayed on the hi-score table. You can also start accumulating a wide array of trophies that are awarded for the different games. These awards come for a variety of reasons such as a perfect score or taking too long to finish the game.

Analysis: The game has extremely simple graphics and almost zero sound. That said, it is fun and casual play. I found this nearly a month ago and yet I still play it almost daily. Little details make all of the difference in a simple puzzle such as this. For example, the tile that you drag the bee out of is highlighted. This allows you to easily replace it without costing yourself a move.

There are a multitude of other games on the site as well. Many of the games are similar to other games at other sites. ConFusebox, is similar to Rotate2 at Games for the Brain, but its gameplay is much better. In ConFusebox, the pieces can be rotated in either direction and the game tends to feel smoother and more responsive on my machine.

Another interesting feature is the developer's blog which has been going since 1999. For those interested in developing games as well as playing them, John Hattan has some interesting insights into the game development world.

Overall, Baffle Bees is a fun puzzle to solve and a fun site to explore.

Play Baffle Bees

  • Currently 4.4/5
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Rating: 4.4/5 (49 votes)
Comments (43) | Views (3,924)
dancemonkeyTau'ri BedrockAh, the daily grind! One of the things we hope to do here is relieve you of some of the grind in your daily life, by bringing you the finest in casual gameplay the Web has to offer.

Today I actually bring a little extra grind with your relief in the form of Tau'ri Bedrock by Luca Deltodesco, an unusual and original platformer that is a bit reminscent of Loco Roco for the PSP, in some respects. In Bedrock you play a... slime? blob? that has been tasked to roll a boulder through levels upon levels of verdant terrain in order to return it to its parent rock. The arrow keys move your blob, which has the handy ability to squeeze to fit into the narrowest of passages and float on water.

Your boulder alas cannot fit through narrow passages nor does it float, and that's where the puzzle-solving of this platformer comes in. Without letting your boulder get too far ahead of or behind you, you must direct it onto elevators, toss it down steep ravines, and push it ever-so-slowly out of shallow pools in order to reach the end of each stage, where you are then presented with a factoid on the creation of the game itself and a password to return to the same level the next time you play. Was that a run-on sentence?

Analysis: Tau'ri Bedrock is an excellent game that is probably too easy, but I prefer too easy over too hard in a game like this. Push your little rock around each level and enjoy the delightful music accompaniment that doesn't ever quite get annoying, though the grinding sound of the rock as it rolls does just a little bit. There are very nice touches in the graphics, such as a grove of trees (a grove being, you know, like three) having varying levels of depth, so that you pass in front of some and behind others. It's especially fun when you're offered several downhill runs in a row and can just toss the rock down the slope and race after it as fast as you can, pretty much letting gravity take over.

A quick hint on movement: it may be my imagination, but it seemed that using the arrows in combination with one another makes you move slightly faster on the diagonal slopes. So when moving to the right and up at a slight angle, push the [right] and [up] keys together. It wasn't intuitive to me at first since you're rolling along the ground and it seems like it shouldn't matter, but it does. Don't get caught just holding the left and right arrow keys all day long, use them all. This isn't Super Mario Bros.

Thanks for listening, and enjoy Tau'ri Bedrock!

Play Tau'ri Bedrock

Cheers to John for sending this one in!

(13 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
Comments (24) | Views (10,678)

Ms.45gesundheit.jpgMatt Hammill's Gesundheit! is a beautifully hand-drawn, action puzzle game with a soothing toy-instrument soundtrack (you'll need it) and adorable sound effects. You play an allergic pig chafing under the invasion of hungry monsters from the mountains. The monsters can hear your footsteps, and if they see you, they'll eat you. But you have a secret weapon—your yummy snot! Build up a decent booger, launch it in the monster's direction and lure it toward traps that will swallow them up. You can only have one booger on the screen at any one time, to prevent you simply leaving a neat trail of boogers towards the traps. Bounce the booger off obstacles, toss it through portals and launch it across rivers and canyons. You can also do other neat things with your boogers. Experiment and see what yummy snot can do for you!

Analysis: This is a pretty nifty game to play. The principle is simple enough, but luring the monsters into the traps without getting snaffled is harder than it looks. The illustration is absolutely beautiful, with a watercolor feel that should entrance those of you who swooned for Sprout.

Another subtle feature that I think you'll appreciate is the soundtrack, which is high quality and has a certain Morricone-ish feel in parts. Also be sure to check out the rest of Matt's homepage, such as his bio.

Cheers to Joe and Remister for sending this one in!

Note: this review was originally for a Windows downloadable version of the game, but since that version is no longer available, it's been updated with links to the mobile version that's available now instead.

  • Currently 4.4/5
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Rating: 4.4/5 (692 votes)
Comments (2871) | Views (213,955)


JohnBThe sequel to the hit real-time simulation game Virtual Villagers is upon us: Virtual Villagers 2: The Lost Children. The second installment continues the story and leaves everything intact that made the original game so good. Sixteen new secrets to uncover, new technologies, and a whole new beach to explore, Virtual Villagers 2 is the perfect sequel to an already captivating game.

After exploring their corner of Isola, the villagers from the first game uncovered a path hidden in a dark cavern. Two villagers followed this path and discovered a beach filled with hungry, dirty children fighting for survival. You must help them by teaching them the same farming and research skills you learned before.

Virtual Villagers 2: The Lost ChildrenVirtual Villagers is a simple and enjoyable strategy, simulation game with very straightforward game mechanics. Your goal is to keep the village thriving by ensuring everyone is well-fed, healthy and happy. In order to advance your technology and uncover the island's secrets, you must train the villagers to perform various tasks. Simply drag and drop any adult to the appropriate area to teach skills such as engineering, farming, healing, scientific research and more. Level-up these technologies to perform your daily duties more efficiently and unlock the hidden potential of the island.

Also available for iPhone/iPod Touch!

One of the most interesting things about the Virtual Villagers games is they play out in real-time. There's only so much you can do in one sitting, so you have to play in short increments several times each day. Once you set the villagers to work, leave the game, have lunch, go to school or work, then come back later in the day to see how they've progressed. Although it limits the things you can do each time you play, it goes a long way for extending the game's life.

Analysis: Virtual Villagers 2 is a fantastic follow-up to the original game. Very little was changed for the sequel, but the first one got so many things right that Last Day of Work didn't need to re-invent the concept, just tweak it. Villager management is as easy as drag-and-drop, and the new mysterious are a joy to uncover. Virtual Villagers 2 feels a bit more polished than the original in a number of small ways, such as children resembling their parents.

Play all the Virtual Villagers games:

There are a few minor bumps in the road to Virtual Villager perfection, however. For starters, the game doesn't offer much in the form of instant gratification. Once your village is running smoothly, you can leave them alone for days at a time without checking in. It comes in handy if you don't have time to play, but if you're itching for your Virtual Villagers fix, it can be frustrating. Random events seem a bit more common in the sequel, so that does help ease the separation anxiety.

Virtual Villagers 2: The Lost Children is an excellent title that defines modern casual gaming. You don't have to put in a lot of playtime to get the experience of a long, involving game.

Download the demo
Get the full version

Mac OS XMac OS X:
Download the demo Get the full version

(7 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
Comments (12) | Views (3,751)


NoahGuxt is a fantastic and free top-down shmup from Pixel, author of the beloved Cave Story, or Doukutsu Monogatari. Although not yet complete, a 5 stage demo is available for Windows.

guxtg.gifUSB gamepads are supported, but the controls are very simple even if you don't have one; move with the arrow keys and fire by pressing [control]. Collect power-ups to upgrade your arsenal or increase your speed, and don't get hit. That's all you need to know!

One interesting feature of Guxt is the play-records directory, created when you run the game for the first time. A record is saved every time you play, and you can watch your previous games by dragging the save files onto the game window. If you're feeling generous, email them to Pixel to aid in his continued work tuning the game.

As with Cave Story, Pixel doesn't attempt to be revolutionary or even particularly modern, but his original music, sound effects and pixel-perfect sprites come together beautifully in this difficult but fair shooter. Enjoy!

Download the free demo

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

  • Currently 4.7/5
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Rating: 4.7/5 (56 votes)
Comments (108) | Views (9,402)

gettheglass.jpgJohn BeaverGet the Glass is a 3D board game produced as a part of a new Got Milk advertising campaign in the US. The object of the game is to get the Adachi family around the board and into Fort Fridge so that they can...erm...Get the Glass.

Using the mouse, you throw a single die to move around the board. Most squares result in the picking of one of three types of cards: Fortune cards move you forward, Misfortune cards move you back, and Mastermind cards require you to solve a puzzle. Hot on your tail are the Fort Fridge security guards who will throw you into Milkatraz if they catch up with you. End up there three times and your quest is over. Turns are interspersed with a series of mini-games which you will need to complete successfully to proceed.

Analysis: Graphically, this is jaw-droppingly good. The retro look and feel really evoke a family board game and there is enormous attention to detail from the realistic physics of throwing the die, to the design of the in-game cards. The audio is similarly polished and the "interactive challenges" provide variety and ensure that the gameplay is both engaging and entertaining.

However, all the audio-visual finery comes at a price: don't even think about playing this unless you have a broadband connection, and a fast one at that. Even then, loading times can be agonizingly slow and there are frequent breaks in the action for new content to load. I also encountered a couple of hangs when I ran this in Firefox.

That said, this game pushes Flash gaming to new graphical levels and deserves to be played.

Play Get the Glass

Comments (28) | Views (8,106)

Link Dump Fridays

JohnBThis week's Link Dump Friday is brought to you by the letters H, R, Z, and by the number 642. Look for references to those letters in each game featured below. Then multiply by the square root of pie (cherry). Once you find the solution, let us know by sending smoke signals from your backyard. We'll arrive shortly with a bouquet of beautiful flowers commemorating your efforts.

  • Cosmic Crush - One part gravity, one part flailing around in the darkness of space. Cosmic Crush lets you absorb planetoids smaller than you in an interesting cross between Katamari Damacy, Orbital, flOw, and that game where you do stuff in space.
  • Mesira: Chapter 2 - A nice-looking RPG with a good soundtrack and classic role playing gameplay. It's the second part of a series, but you don't need to play them in order to know what's going on. This installment is actually better than the original in many ways. You can always check out the first chapter just to feel like a good person.
  • 5 til - It's 4 Second Firestorm, but not really. You're a spy doing typical spy-like things. Complete each task in the alotted time while attempting to be half as cool as James Bond.
  • Paso Doble - A 3D java game where you control a puppet in a wooden maze who's trying to reach the goal. The trick is... you can only move two steps at a time. Brain hurt +10.
  • Bubbles Revenge - It's a tribute/clone of Manuel Fallman's brilliant Bubbles game that we reviewed/mentioned here a very long time ago. This one was created by a fellow RIT student, Andrew Ray, and he tells me he spent almost a year in production with it. We can never get enough bubbles, bring 'em on!

And that wraps up another link dump. Ooh pretty.

  • Currently 3.9/5
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Rating: 3.9/5 (348 votes)
Comments (125) | Views (11,492)

JayBubble TanksSometimes JIG contributor, sometimes game developer, Jared Riley sends word of his latest effort, a hypnotic and relaxing shooter if ever there was one. Man your bubble ship on an excursion through a vast bubble field seeking out hostiles to assimilate in Bubble Tanks.

Navigation control is with the [WASD] keys on the keyboard, aim and click the mouse to shoot. You are at first equipped with a weak but unlimited cannon, with larger and more fierce weapons available by absorbing the bubbles your enemies leave behind. The more bubbles you collect, the larger your ship and the greater your weapon become. But as you grow so do the enemies that you will find around you. Lose all your bubbles, however, and the game puts you back to the nearest safe bubble where you get to start your ascent again.

Analysis: The graphics are simple and yet nicely styled, and it all comes together exceptionally well. The soundtrack, although a bit repetitive, is relaxing and complements the atmosphere of discovery. As I was playing the game while writing this review someone submitted the game, using our online game suggestion form, and described it as being similar to flOw. At first I didn't agree; but as I progressed further with the game I could indeed see the similarities. Perhaps Bubble Tanks was influenced by the elegance of flOw, and yet it is most certainly a different game entirely.

The first few bubbles you come to contain instructional text that guide you into the game play gradually, this is a nice effect and a creative way of educating the player. Also, by forcing the player to move between bubbles, Jared can limit the number of objects onscreen at any given moment, thus keeping the overhead for event processing and collision detection manageable for a game that boasts over 37,000 enemies instantiated when the game begins.

Beyond that the game becomes a grand adventure of discovery. I particularly enjoyed how the enemies would change gradually, always keeping my interest by giving me something new to encounter before very long. That observation is from moving always in one general direction toward one of the edges.

I would like to see some gauge of my progress, perhaps a map showing the bubbles cleared, or the number of bubbles assimilated or within the size of my ship; just something to look at besides simply moving to yet another bubble. The game is still very nice as it is, and yet it would benefit from some sort of feedback regarding how far I've gone and how much further I have yet to go.

The other thing it needs is mappable keys. Any game that requires keyboard input should allow the player to change the default mapping to one of their own choosing. There are just too many different keyboards in the world not to support this optional feature in games today. (Update: new version now up with mappable keys! Thanks for the quick response, Jared!) That being said, I dislike keyboard controlled games as a rule, and that aspect of this game was my least favorite part of it. Jared tells me he would like to include an option for controlling the ship entirely with the mouse, so perhaps we may get an upgrade soon.

All things considered, an excellent job, Jared. It's a very addictive game and had I not reached some bizarre "function:include" error in the middle of play, I would probably be still playing and not finishing up this review. I am still unsure whether it was just some strange combination of keys I was pressing at the time, or if I actually triggered something in the program. Is there an end to the game? Please find out and report back.

Play Bubble Tanks

Play the entire Bubble Tanks series...

  • Currently 4.7/5
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Rating: 4.7/5 (120 votes)
Comments (73) | Views (12,291)

NoahBoomshineDanny Miller's Boomshine is a new riff on the chain-reaction action pioneered by Omega's Every Extend and the popular Internet favorite, Chaos Theory. The goal is to remove a given number of the colorful, floating dots moving around the screen.

Simply click the mouse to trigger an explosion; any dots that come into contact with the resulting circle will also explode, although after about 3 seconds each explosion will shrink and vanish. Every level increases in demand for the number of dots that must be removed, from level 1's laughably easy 1 out of 5 to the formidable 55 out of 60 in level 12. You'll want to make your first explosion count, because that's all you get. After setting off the chain-reaction, sit back and watch the explosions play out and, if you've removed enough dots, advance to the next level.

Boomshine is surprisingly addictive and the sparse visuals grew on me after my first dozen games or so. Overlapping explosions result in an appealing color blending effect, which can unfortunately cause a bit of slowdown. It would be a stretch to call Boomshine relaxing—watching those dots float by milliseconds after your chain-reaction begins to shrink is a little too agonizing for relaxation—but it is certainly refreshing, and a nice, albeit simple addition to a rapidly growing category of casual gameplay.

Play Boomshine

(16 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
Comments (62) | Views (17,527)
towerbabblers.jpgJohnBTower of Babblers, an entry by Lars A. Doucet in our second Flash game design competition, is one part puzzle, one part frantic action game. It takes the contest theme of "grow" and morphs it a bit into "build", incorporating cute fuzzy creatures into one of the most unique titles entered into the competition.

Start by clicking the far right cubes a few times to uncover the stage goal. Colored stacks of blocks will appear in one of six positions, each representing a slot on the main part of the game. Your job is to build the towers represented on the right using three different colors of workers. Click the blocks to the left to make a worker pop up, and click the worker to change its color. Like-colored workers build the corresponding block colors, so group them together and let them do their thing.

The real fun comes when you need to destroy blocks or halt construction on a tower. To stop the workers, put a pair of different colors together. To destroy blocks, simply place one worker of each color on one square and they'll start tearing everything down piece by piece. Be sure to stop the workers before a tower reaches the clouds!

Analysis: Tower of Babblers has a great theme, wonderful retro VGA graphics and a delightful soundtrack. Lars has done an excellent job pulling together the whole package into an unforgettable competition entry. It deviated from the "grow" theme a little, but the game itself more than made up for that.

Many players found it difficult figuring out how to play the game. I tend to gravitate towards titles that don't state the mechanics up-front, so Tower of Babblers was even more fascinating to me. Would a tutorial or instructions make the game better? I'm inclined to say "no". Not only does it add a vital element of discovery to the game, it also fits nicely with the whole "Babel" theme.

Tower of Babblers is a welcome blend of puzzle and action elements that gets quite frantic at times. Thanks for another brilliant game, Lars!

Play Tower of Babblers

Be sure to check out other games by Lars here, or at his site Fadupinator.

zxoNot quite Grow, but more along the lines of Build, the concept behind this game stood out more than most. Micromanagement games aren't really my cup of tea, but I'll give Lars credit for this one—there's not much that would improve this one in my opinion. Hiding the plans for the tower did not add anything to the game, and frustrated me to no end before I checked the comments. Also, the music got pretty irritating after a while. However, I loved the voices, the Biblical elements, and the old-school-type graphics. A very solid entry.

dancemonkeyI liked the game fine, but as with zxo micromanagement games give me hives... ON MY BRAIN! I did however fall in love with the game at first sight because of the absolutely stunning, nostalgia-inducing EGA graphics.

JayI struggled with Tower of Babblers the first time I played, determined to figure it out. I could not. It wasn't until after the first few comments began to appear, which suggested to click on the vine covering to reveal the information underneath, that the whole game began to make sense. I understand why Lars chose to hide it—to enhance the 'discovery' aspect of the puzzle—but I feel the entry was harmed more than it was helped by doing so. That being said, and once the player is over that initial hurdle, Tower of Babblers rises into the heavens by virtue of being an enjoyable action puzzler. It is an exceptional effort with considerable thought put into every element. Original graphics and music make this entry really shine. Very nice job!

(8 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
Comments (18) | Views (5,026)

JohnBGames for the BrainGames for the Brain is a delightful collection of short, fun and challenging mini-games playable right from your web browser. When we first featured Games for the Brain it had a smaller selection of games, but thanks to a few updates the site now hosts nearly 40!

While only loosely brain-oriented, all of the games on the site manage to tickle the gray matter in a different way. You get an IQ score for each game, but unfortunately it isn't cumulative and doesn't carry over between titles. Still, for a quick brain-related fix, it's a well-designed site with a wide variety of content.

Play Games for the Brain

Here's a quick breakdown of a few of the new games:

Counterfeit - A "spot the difference" puzzle. Two images are shown, you must click the areas that are different.

Guess the Colors - A simplified version of Mastermind where you must use simple clues to guess the position of the colored pegs.

What Did I Search For? - Decipher the clues and see if you can figure out what the search was for. Similar to Gwigle.

SpeedType - Type the words as fast as you can as they fall from the top of the screen.

On a side note, Philipp, the game's creator, also has a collection of over 700 avatar sprites he has made available under the Creative Commons license. Perfect for instant messaging icons, forum avatars and much more.

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Rating: 4.5/5 (104 votes)
Comments (83) | Views (12,134)

PatrickDotvilleDotville is a city-building Flash game along the lines of Civilization, but greatly simplified. You play the leader of a tribe of Dots (yeah, Dots) and must rise to the rank of Emperor in fifty turns, then defeat the evil empire of Squares. It was created by Finefin.

Each turn corresponds to a year in your character's life and allows you to spend money building food-producing farms, money-producing markets, as well as your military industrial complex in the form of smiths and mines. Your people also have a happiness meter that goes down due to random events and hunger, but can be raised by investing in public works and fortifying your castle. In order to raise in rank—from a humble citizen to a hero, prince, king and then emperor—you must raise your fortress and the happiness of your citizens. It's simple, and yet somehow very complex.

Intermittently, the Squares will try to raid you, but they can be beaten, even without an army, with a few deft moves in a Tic-Tac-Toe mini-game. The final battle, which occurs if you've become an emperor by the end of the game, is a Rock-Paper-Scissors mini-game where you wager troops to deduct from the enemy's total, or lose from your own. Random events occur throughout and can be frustrating, as a sudden punk demonstration can thwart your happiness level a few turns before the end causing you to lose the game for no apparent fault of your own. But, there's a way to play that lets you shrug off even the worst fortune. I don't want to ruin the experience, but reinvest your money in markets as often as possible, and you'll do ok.

Dotville is a flawed but fun attempt to bring city management gaming down to a ten minute experience. And if you've got a soft spot for basic geometric shapes with eyes, legs, and lives of their own, then you better play Dotville.

Play Dotville

  • Currently 4.4/5
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Rating: 4.4/5 (25 votes)
Comments (30) | Views (6,172)

JayClack 2If you are a regular visitor here then you probably remember the unique and imaginative little puzzle game from the first competition that won our hearts over and took first place: Clack. If you haven't already played the original, you may want to go do that first as it is an excellent introduction to these wonderful and original, Flash mechanical puzzle toys from Sean Hawkes.

For those who've been to Clack and back, it's time for another puzzle adventure with Clack 2, as Sean has been busy finishing up the next in what is shaping up to be a series of delightful puzzle games.

Responding to feedback received from the first, Sean has added a few options to this version that allow the player to tweak the action and the display, as well as to save the current configuration. A much requested fast-forward button is included, as is the option to turn off the revealer, either from the mouse or the auto-revealing clackers, or both. While you play, your progress is auto-saved by default, but should you wish to manually save your state to try a radical new approach without losing what you've started, that option is available to you as well.

New to this version is the manner in which the markers appear. But I've already said too much. Go forth and conquer...

Play Clack 2

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Rating: 4.5/5 (41 votes)
Comments (78) | Views (11,668)

JayPLANnedCertainly one of the highlights of the two Casual Gameplay design competitions we have held so far has been the original new gameplay ideas that have come from them. Rising to the occasion of a call for entries and a deadline, Flash game designers from around the world embraced the challenge and rewarded us with their efforts. It really is amazing to see such creativity sprout from a simple word, as with the recent competition and its "grow" theme.

Beginning with a very simple premise of expanding rectangles on a grid to connect them, Wouter Visser creates a unique and enjoyable puzzle game entry with PLANned.

In this 18-level game, there are only but a few rules that you need to know to get started: (1) Click on a rectangle to expand it; (2) No rectangle may be clicked twice in succession; (3) Each rectangle may be expanded only 3 times; (4) All rectangles must connect to advance to the next level. It's as simple as that.

With the first couple levels starting off easy, the challenge comes in later levels when planning your moves carefully becomes necessary and more difficult. A nice musical riff and impressive red paint drip reward you after each success.

Analysis: With one of the stronger entries in the competition, Wouter shows that great things can grow from simple ideas. In fact, a simple idea is often the impetus behind games with a more universal appeal. A successful game designer is someone that can transcend language and cultural differences to deliver an enjoyable game play experience in a package everyone can understand.

This particular implementation of the game design, however, is lacking a couple of features that could improve the depth and quality of the overall experience: random levels, and a save mechanism, both of which might have been outside the scope of the relatively short development period for the competition. Additional gameplay elements thrown into the mix in later levels could even serve to extend and enrich the core concept. Still, PLANned is a solid puzzle game design with plenty of potential for future iterations. I am personally looking forward to the DS version of the game. ;)

zxoAnother neat idea that incorporates the Grow theme as an integral part of the gameplay mechanism. Plus, the music you get to hear after solving each level is a nice incentive. Not quite as appealing to me as Rings and Sticks, but still makes you think and plan each move carefully. Even more than Rings and Sticks, the later levels suffer from guess-and-check syndrome, and I think that the "can't click twice in a row" rule adds more frustration than strategy. Still, technically awesome and refreshingly unique.

JohnBGood overall design and heavy on the "plan ten moves ahead" element. The visual and audio extras make the game feel quite polished, and the gameplay couldn't be easier. Just like zxo said above, I felt the later levels suffered from guess-and-check syndrome. When my PLANning wasn't spot-on, frustration set in every time I had to start over from square one. It doesn't detract from the overall deliciousness of the game, though.

Play PLANned

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Rating: 4.7/5 (240 votes)
Comments (359) | Views (62,332)
sphere1.jpgJohnBSphere is a great-looking room escape by Japanese developer neutral. The visuals have a wonderful polished 3D appearance that seem a bit surreal at times, almost as if you were inside a doll house. The challenge level is an almost perfect mix of vague clues and helpful hints that keep you interested without frustrating you.

As the usual story goes, you're trapped in a room and need to find a way to get out. Navigate using the mouse and the arrows that appear on the sides of the screen. Search for items in every corner of the room, including beneath the furniture and in-between objects. A single click lets you pick up items and store them in your inventory. Some items can be combined, so experiment with everything you grab to see what turns up.

Analysis: Sphere isn't too difficult and the puzzles don't involve a lot of random clicking. The clues you'll stumble across do a great job of guiding you to the goal without being overtly obvious. A handy save feature lets you stop and resume at any point in the game.

Sphere is definitely one of the best-looking room escape games on the web, right up there with Il Destino and the stylish O Quarto. The gameplay is smooth and the puzzles are just right, making it a great experience on every front.

Play Sphere

Cheers to Sean, Amy, Jan.jan, Alex, Arturo and Msimperfect for sending this one in!

Like point-and-click room escape games? Find dozens more in our archives!

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Rating: 3.8/5 (542 votes)
Comments (247) | Views (37,625)

escape2j.jpgJohnBThe second installment in Shawn Tanner's Escape Series has been released: Escape Series #2: The Closet. Each game has no plot, no characters, and no motive, just bare-bones point-and-click room escaping. The first game in the series, Escape the Car, had us trapped in a car, and now we've moved indoors and are stuck inside a closet. Search the area for items you can use to help you escape!

Use the cursor to move around the room and to click on objects and interact with them. Some items can be used in combination with each other, just click on the item you want to use then move it over the second item in your inventory.

Analysis: When you get a formula right, don't mess with it. Escape The Closet doesn't try to be fancy on any front. It delivers raw room escape gaming in a short amount of time, which is why it's good. The game will likely take you less than fifteen minutes to complete and a timer at the bottom of the screen lets you know just how long it's taking.

Short and to the point. Another satisfying point-and-click game to keep the Escape Series going strong.

Play Escape Series #2: The Closet

Cheers to Vault, Andrew and Geekazoid for sending this one in!

Play the entire Escape Series...

(16 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
Comments (18) | Views (6,583)

Mr. Robot

Ms.45The downloadable (Windows) Mr. Robot offers a little something for everyone, with an incredible mix of visual elements, storyline, RPG, action adventure puzzles, and battles.

mrrobot.jpgYou play Asimov, a "lowly service mechanoid" at the mercy of the increasingly flaky computer brain of the good ship Eidolon. The game takes places in an isometric point of view where you move Asimov through the ship to solve puzzles. Initially, you are given fairly simple missions—move a few boxes, collect a few bundles of energy, and get slapped around by bigger robots. As the story progresses it becomes clear that all is not well on the Eidolon. A human member of the crew is dead and strange things are happening to the ship's records...

Analysis: The mixed gameplay of Mr. Robot is both a strength and a weakness. On the one hand, there is a variety of things to do—equip your team with shields, weapons and so on, fight battles, push boxes around, get through mazes without getting killed, and so forth. On the other hand, I really like RPGs and really don't like Sokoban, and in order to successfully get through the game you need to be willing to take on both the RPG and puzzle elements. You'll enjoy this game a lot if you like both. (I'm currently stuck on a quite early level where I have to get through a room full of hostile droids with no obvious path to the door. Grrrr.)

On the very big plus side, the game is beautifully illustrated with a dry sense of humour. Cheer on poor Asimov as he endures the taunts of Samson and the "I-think-of-you-as-a-brother" attitude of Zelda, and struggles to rise above his programmed station in life. And if you work out how to get through that maze, please please please leave a spoiler in the comments!

Download the demo
Get the full version

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

(7 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
Comments (15) | Views (6,266)

AdamBnaac.jpgStrictly not for children, NaaC is a gorgeously bloody and beautifully violent shooter download for Windows only. What Bloody Monkey has given us is a frantic, no-holds-barred, gore filled, blood soaked tour-de-force of non-stop thrilling kill-everything-you-see action. In short, its fun. Lots and lots of fun.

NaaC harkens back to ye olde days of gaming with its straightforward get to the point attitude. You fill find no story here. In its place is gameplay and gameplay is what you get. Thrown instantly into the fray, you are forced to take charge as hundreds upon hundreds of blood thirsty alien creatures hell bent on destroying you are instantly active and ready for action.

Initially you are equipped with a rather embarrassingly low powered weapon—which does get the job done I might add—however more interesting weapons are thrown into the ring with you which can be collected. These include a very useful machine gun, an electro shock thingy, a shot gun which seemingly blasts small calibre rockets and my personal favourite: the flame thrower. There are more weapons, all of which can be cycled through at any time for instantaneous usage.

While the game is short on depth, it redeems itself by focusing on what it does have and blowing out those elements until they make up the whole world. The bugs are varied and clearly distinct species—their death by whichever weapon also varied. The floor; walls, pick-ups and extras have all been considered and are presented at the peak of what they can be. At any given time dozens of creatures swarming, exploding and still attacking can be on the screen with you as you shoot round after round into them and the game holds up, never lagging for an instant.

Not shy on violence, NaaC is not for the faint of heart. What it is for though is filling a niche market in freeware games, not many can boast as high level of pure unadulterated goo splattered mayhem, but this does and does it with pride. Crammed with action, incredible graphics and a terrific sound scape, NaaC is guaranteed to satisfy the primitive blood lusting male in all of us. Do yourself a favour, get the game now.

Download the free full version

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

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Rating: 4.6/5 (1934 votes)
Comments (764) | Views (52,880)

JayDwarf CompleteOn of Eyezmaze has been busy at work lately on a game commissioned for the online RPG, Lineage II, and it was just released today.

Dwarf Complete is an adventure puzzle game that features dwarfs from the Lineage II game, and On claims it will pose quite a challenge for you. So, get your collaborative skills in order and help each other out in the comments.

The objective of the game is to advance through all the rooms of the dungeon, collecting items, weapons and armor along the way. With each item found, a door opens somewhere within the dungeon. Use a combination of arrow keys and clicking to use items and solve puzzles.

And they're FREE!

The game features On's characteristically charming graphics, a wonderful soundtrack, and it has an auto-save feature so you can play it casually, step-by-step in your free time.

Play Dwarf Complete

Cheers to Wouter for the alert about this brand new On game.

If the links above don't load, then you may use our mirror of the game to play. Seems the Lineage site experiences trouble from time to time, and the game is down for long periods.

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Rating: 4.4/5 (52 votes)
Comments (24) | Views (28,995)
stopdisasters.gifAdamBStop Disasters, a flash game created by playerthree, is one of those games you could easily dismiss before even launching it. However, the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction group has not drenched their game in messages and important life lessons that we all should follow (lest tragedy befall us all). Instead we get a game which is easy to pick up, figure out and get in to, but hard enough to challenge and reward not only planning but learning about successful planning.

In any of the five scenarios you are given (more to come), you are dropped into a portion of the world susceptible to the kind of Natural Disaster about to strike the unknowing inhabitants. Fortunately, using your God-like pre-eminence, you know there will be a disaster occurring soon and it's up to you to use logic, strategy and a little bit of trial and error (Rome wasn't destroyed and rebuilt in a day, you know) to save the town as best you can.

Given a budget for your town, you are to use education and any number of local initiatives to stop or minimise damage caused by the disaster. For example, in the flood scenario, install drainage, cover the wells and plant trees and mangroves. In the bush fire scenario, clear dry foliage from near housing, plant trees with higher natural water levels and instruct citizens to move their flammables away from their houses, etc..

In whatever scenario you choose, there are sure to be events which you do not anticipate or that you feel you could do better in. Returning to the scene again (each with three difficulties and each increasing the size of your town) will ensure the ability to better yourself and your own knowledge of how to prevent or protect yourself should you find yourself in one of these situations.

Analysis: There are a few drawbacks in this game, however, such as the controls. Most of the time they work well, but its the actual looking around and movements on the map which is quite cumbersome with the corner only directional controls. Though with a bit of practice, they do turn out to be usable.

The main focus of the game is, and I quote, "If we teach them [children] from the early age about the risks posed by natural hazards, children will have a better chance to save their lives during disasters". That alone makes it worth at least a cursory play. I found myself learning and re-adapting what I learned in the game to better my own high score and in the mean time saving lives and property. I can imagine children (of a certain age) doing the same, as well.

KarmenI also found the scrolling interface awkward to use, especially when surveying the scene after a disaster. In those cases, some objects which appear along the edge of the scene appear to go up in smoke. The bugs weren't limited to scrolling issues, however. Building a wood hut in a certain spot in one of the scenarios gave me an unlimited budget, yet I still lost, in the end.

In some ways, the game is successful in informing the player about preparing for natural disasters. It highlights the effectiveness of some simple measures, such as educating citizens, preparing evacuation drills, or maintaining natural protections such as wetlands and coral reefs. These simple steps invariably lead to more success than more costly solutions, both in the game, and the real world.

Unfortunately, unlike the real world, the game doesn't offer much feedback on the effectiveness of your choices. After the disaster, you are only given a snapshot overview of the results (and a buggy one, at that.) There is no way to find out how one area or building fared, or how much impact the individual defenses you built had.

Even the catastrophe, as it unfolds, seems to lack in cataclysm. If you arrange for an evacuation drill, and invoke it in time, the figures on the screen continue to stand in the same place. (It would be nice if they moved around at all.) This can be a dull minute, especially if you've already spent your allotted budget. Once the disaster hits, there is minimal sound. The small amount of drama that does play out is difficult to track, due to the scrolling issue.

Overall, it's a respectable effort to combine education with casual game play, but it could stand a little more attention to detail, in order to achieve this goal. When it comes to sharing knowledge which can save lives, we'd like it to be a memorable experience.

Play Stop Disasters

Cheers to Wouter and Zengief for sending this one in!

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Rating: 4/5 (47 votes)
Comments (126) | Views (8,774)

Flash Circle TDThomasDear JIG community, David Scott is back. If you don't recall who that is, you will certainly remember Flash Element TD, David's first JIG-featured title.

Yes, he's back, and he brought candy. In Flash Circle TD, you will immediately find yourself at home with similar concepts as before. It is your duty to defend your position against wave after wave of various types of monsters. What kind exactly to expect next is always indicated in the bottom right of the screen.

You may build (and upgrade!) five different categories of towers, which you may find familiar from the previous game as well, even though there have been slight adjustments for balancing reasons.

Buying new towers and upgrading existing towers happens in real time. And this is where the new concept comes into play. Instead of pausing between waves, the game goes on continuously. If you don't manage to dispose of all the monsters in a wave, they will "circle" indefinitely. However, if you allow 100 of the beasts to accumulate, then the game is over.

Compared to the first title, this warrants a shift in strategy. You have all the time in the world to kill your foes, as long as there aren't more than 100 of them on-screen at the same time.

Analysis: I have been addicted to Flash Element TD for quite a while, and I suspect that the same will happen to Flash Circle. The slightly different setting is even more appealing to me, as it takes away the haste and replaces it with a need to establish slowly a working setup of towers that can deal with larger and larger hordes of evil.

This puts even more stress on the element of strategy, which I personally find appealing.

David has delivered a fresh take on a familiar concept that is easy to pick up, demanding enough to be enjoyable in the long term, and allows for enough variety in approach to have the player coming back for more. Thumbs up and play Flash Circle TD!

Play Flash Circle TD

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Rating: 4.5/5 (30 votes)
Comments (22) | Views (3,418)

newnestmoai.jpgJohnBA new Nest of Moai game has recently been released! The same quirky atmosphere and simple gameplay as the original are here, but now the screen is much bigger, there are more levels, and the moai statues follow different patterns. All you have to do is move the cursor over the statues as they fly on-screen, pop out from behind buildings, or sit sipping tea inside their homes.

This new Nest of Moai game does add one new gameplay element to the mix: zooming. Use the left mouse button (or scroll wheel if you have one) to switch between views. When zoomed in you can see hidden statues that give you bonus points, but you might miss some moai that appear outside of your viewing range. Zooming in also reveals several bonus scenes.

Bigger, better, and with more moai hilarity.

Play New Nest of Moai

(9 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
Comments (4) | Views (2,751)
turningmoai.jpgJohnBTurning Moai features the same statues from the rest of the Moai series but with a slightly different take on the gameplay. Instead of touching the statues or rescuing them with a ladder, you must move the cursor to make them face the same direction. Each statue rotates at a different rate and responds to either vertical or horizontal mouse movement. And you only have 20 seconds to get them to line up!

Turning Moai has the same in-your-face spunky style as the rest of the games, which is a good thing. Half the fun is the soundtrack and punchy visuals. Unfortunately the gameplay itself makes you feel a bit helpless at times. It's mostly guesswork at first, but eventually you discover underlying patterns in each of the stages. And be sure to stop moving the cursor when you see their eyes light up!

More moai is always a good thing.

Play Turning Moai

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Rating: 4.7/5 (108 votes)
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zxoRings and SticksEarning an honorable mention in our 2nd Flash game competition is Rings and Sticks, a captivating and original puzzle game from designer Komix and created expressly for the competition. More so than any other entry in the contest, Rings and Sticks took the Grow theme and made it a fundamental element of the gameplay.

At the beginning of each level, you start off as a tiny little treeling and are offered various ways in which to grow: you can grow straight, grow a narrow fork, grow a wide fork, grow left or grow right. Competition honorable mention awardThe objective is to work your way to each of the shiny golden rings spinning above you, suspended in midair. We looooove shiny things!

It can be tricky because each move must be planned carefully. The method you choose (with the exception of grow left and right) applies to all of your branch ends, and you have to be very wary of what is happening at all parts of the tree. The right move for one branch might send another branch too far past the ring it is supposed to catch. Or worse, into one of the pink sparks, setting the entire tree ablaze!

Analysis: What really pulled me into Rings and Sticks was the way it captured the beauty of fractals in a puzzle game—and actually made it fun! Even in the background, you can see some beautiful examples of the types of dendritic trees you can create. There is a very holistic flow to the game as well. You can't focus too much on any one branch without checking on the others to make sure they are still on track. It would be like a symphony conductor who only cued the tubas and left all the other parts to their own devices.

If you do burn up or fail to get all the rings, don't worry. Trial-and-error is a large part of the game, and you can restart as often as you like. On most of the levels, planning is key; there's usually only one way to solve each level, and order matters. Luckily, each pass only takes a few seconds to do, so you can run a lot of trials in a short amount of time.

dancemonkeyRings and Sticks is an elegant puzzler with a very simple gameplay mechanic I really enjoyed. The sounds were simple but complemented the action well, and I think the lack of music was the right choice. A zen-like game of concentration such as this doesn't need music to distract you. My only real complaint is a bug: if you click too fast while growing a branch it may count against your 'stock' without actually growing. A minor bug that is easily avoided.

JohnBSuch a simple premise executed quite elegantly. Rings and Sticks was one of the first competition entries I played and it stuck as one of the most intriguing. The idea is quite basic, but wrapping your head around the concept takes some time. You have to be able to extrapolate the final position of your branches before you start clicking, which, if you think about it, is quite a feat. Later on some of the levels were were more trial-and-error, and I would have liked to see a touch more strategy rather than guesswork. But the concept is solid and can be adapted to all sorts of games. I hope Komix tries the idea out in a few different genres to see what grows out of it!

JayRings and Sticks is just the kind of game we were hoping to see in the competition: a creative and original puzzle game that was built from the ground up with the competition theme in mind. Komix shows how taking a relatively simple idea can blossom into a unique new game that is fun to play. All it takes is a little inspiration and a deadline. An excellent competition entry, and well worthy of its Honorable Mention distinction.

Play Rings and Sticks

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Rating: 4.6/5 (63 votes)
Comments (49) | Views (7,977)

frostbite.gifJohnBFrost Bite is a colorful new platforming adventure game from Nitrome, the creators of Scribble, Hot Air and many others. Your goal is to climb to the top of each stage, fending off monsters and collecting bonus items along the way. The best part is that you get a grappling gun you can use to latch onto platforms and swing yourself upwards. The gun doubles as a harpoon to attack enemies and gather items, making its use a central element in the game.

Each stage is filled with score-increasing items in the form of... ice cream! You can also collect letters that spell "BONUS" to get extra points at the end. The difficulty progresses fairly evenly, although it does take it some time for the stages to become a challenge. Use the first few levels to get used to the walking and grappling mechanic, as you'll need all of your skills towards the end.

Analysis: A colorful and great looking game, exactly what we've come to expect from Nitrome. While it's easy enough to pick up and play, Frost Bite's control scheme feels a little awkward at times. When walking, your character always faces the cursor, so half the time you're facing backwards. It doesn't affect the gameplay, it just feels strange. It also feels limiting not to be able to fire the grappling gun downwards.

Regardless of the small control inconveniences, Frost Bite is a fulfilling action game continuing Nitrome's tradition of good looking games.

Play Frost Bite

(18 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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NoahFree RiderFree Rider is a brand new take on Boštjan Cadež's massively popular Line Rider, which you voted best web toy of 2006.

Pete, from OneMoreLevel, adds several interactive elements to the mix that actually serve to create an entirely different experience. It's more like Line Rider meets Teagames' BMX series, the result of which is a create-your-own-level style of game.

Using the palette of drawing tools, create a series of lines, ramps and jumps for the bike to maneuver over. Control the rider by pressing [Up] to move forward, [X] to change direction, and [Left] and [Right] to lean. You can also place collectible stars around your level.

Another nice touch is the ability to share levels, which is as easy as copying and pasting a line of text into the comments here, or your favorite forum. OneMoreLevel even has its own forum where you can find others to share levels with. Interestingly, there doesn't seem to be any divide between editing and playing your level and it is possible to add and edit lines even while riding! Unfortunately, creating visually appealing levels is more difficult than in the original Line Rider, as Free Rider doesn't have a background line tool, or a pencil or brush with which to draw curves. In addition, your rider's new found interactivity can be seen as a blessing or a curse. Maneuvering is unforgiving, and the defining aspect of the original Line Rider, that Goldberg-esque sensation of watching the rider move inevitably through your elaborate creation, is all but lost.

Free Rider is well worth a look, regardless of your opinion of the original, and should go a long way towards helping fans wait for the upcoming Wii and DS releases of Line Rider. Feel free to post your levels in the comments section.

Play Free Rider

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Rating: 4.7/5 (363 votes)
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dancemonkeygateway2.jpgThe original Gateway game was one of my favorites from the first CasualGameplay Design Competition (and one of yours too), so I was extremely excited to see that Anders Gustafsson had given us another chapter (hopefully in a series?) to work our way through. In case you missed it, Gateway II is also our runner-up in this competition.

(I will be careful in discussing the game here in case some of you haven't yet played through it. I don't want to spoil the fun of discovery.)

Competition runner-up award winnerIn Gateway II, you again guide a robot, through a dream-like setting, in order to solve numerous and varied mini-puzzles for a seemingly unknown purpose (though a purpose there is, as you soon discover). Using well-placed musical cues and subtle environmental sound the author has created a virtual world that draws you in from the moment you launch the game. The setting and aesthetics are so enticing and mysterious, it doesn't matter at first that you don't know what your ultimate goal is (or indeed if you have one).

There is a tutorial available at the start of the game, but you probably won't need it even if you never played the first Gateway (and thank you Anders for allowing us to skip it up front this time!). Just click around to move. If something is highlighted when you mouse over it you can interact with it or pick it up, and you can drag objects from your inventory onto other objects in the environment in order to use them together.

None of the puzzles are terribly hard, though several of them are extremely clever and require you to actually think in simpler or more basic terms than you're used to thinking when you try to solve puzzles. There aren't really any puzzles in here that require lateral thinking or thinking outside of the box, but that in itself is pretty devious of Anders considering the audience.

Analysis: Neither the gameplay nor the approach are novel ideas in puzzle gaming, but there's something about the world that Anders has created that advances this game above other point-and-click style adventures. He has written an interesting and emotional story that surpasses the original Gateway (did it even have a story?), and incorporates the "Grow" theme of the competition in a surprising and unconventional way. The exemplary sound and music combined with the minimalist graphics establish a dark and sinister world for you to explore.

Anders took some hits in the comments and in the judging on the first Gateway for lacking accessibility features (we do score based on that), and this time around he has rectified that very well. Notice on the options screen that you can turn on captions for audio-based puzzles and gray-scale for color-based puzzles.

I did have one or two minor quibbles with the game. Pathfinding for the game is still sometimes frustrating, especially when going up or down stairs. I also noticed that everyone in the comments was giving hints on how to pass a certain puzzle involving a fire alarm and a rainbow, but when I first played the game I found I didn't actually need to trip that alarm in order to pass through the room and back again. While playing it again for the review the far door was closed and I had to go through the entire puzzle.

I also have some minor opinions to offer in the discussion of "The _______ Scene," but again out of courtesy to those who haven't yet played the game I will save that discussion (and indeed the nature of the scene itself) for the comments.

zxoFrom my personal review of the original Gateway: "I am guessing that the author did not design the 3D setup and movement system just for this contest, but instead created a set of puzzles using a previously made environment."

The sequel, if not the original, was certainly made using this route. I noticed that the difficulty of maneuvering through narrow areas was not fixed in Gateway II. However, it improves a lot on the original in terms of coherency and adherence to the theme of the competition. The story was intriguing and I liked how there was a feeling of being in Laura's subconscious, although I disagreed with the order in which the scenes purportedly took place. The puzzles, although often clever, were again slightly too simple. Overall, though, a fun and high-quality casual game.

JayWith Gateway II, Anders proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that he understands how to evoke emotion within the player of his games. He accomplishes it well in the first Gateway game, though it is for a brief moment in an otherwise plotless adventure. In the second, however, he accomplishes much more by weaving an engaging and emotional narrative throughout the adventure that unfolds as the player progresses.

Although Gateway II looks and acts like a sequel, it is more a second iteration of a game submitted to our first competition. Anders listened to the constructive criticisms leveled on his first Gateway creation, and delivered a more complete, more accessible game this time around. The result is an exceptional game play experience, and well deserving of the runner-up prize for the competition.

Play Gateway 2

(8 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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applefarm.gifJohnBApple Farm is another well-made game from GamePure, the creators of Speed Cluster and Oshidama. It plays like a Breakout clone but with more freedom and better control over the ball. Use the mouse to move the bear side to side and the left button to jump. When the bird comes near, make sure you're there to bounce it upwards. The bird knocks fruit down from the treetops and its your job to catch them. Arms laden with delicious apples, slide over to the baskets and start filling them up.

The "apple meter" on the left side of the screen gradually fills as you collect apples. Once you've knocked down every piece of fruit from the tree you move on to the next level. If the bird touches the ground you lose a life, represented by the big hearts on the right side of the screen.

The only stumbling block to playing Apple Farm is the large amount of Japanese. It's easy to play without reading the language, but there are several instances you might feel lost. When the title screen appears, mouse over the buttons at the top from left to right to get an idea of how to play. Click on the rightmost button to start the game. If two options appear between levels or after you lose, choosing the top or the left one is your safest bet to continue playing. Any JIG Casual Gameplay readers who can offer translation help would be greatly appreciated!

Analysis: The games that have appeared on GamePure so far have shown a distinct design style that's sleek and attractive. Apple Farm features a brighter color palette and flatter objects without sacrificing much of that polished look. It also revolves around a very basic gameplay mechanic that's deceptively simple.

Despite borrowing most of its gameplay from Breakout, Apple Farm doesn't feel like a clone. An interesting dynamic is created when your attention is divided between grabbing apples and keeping the bird afloat. The fruit is a little less important, so don't be surprised if you dash halfway across the forest to save the bird. It's a light-hearted, cute and very entertaining game.

Play Apple Farm

(9 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
Comments (16) | Views (3,407)
tabuto.jpgJohnBFiled under the "fast, furious and strangely mesmerizing" category, Tabuto is an arcade action Flash game by NinjaKiwi. Cards fall from the top of the screen at increasing speeds. Your job is to move the cursor over each one before it drops off-screen. The more you get in a row, the higher your score, but if you miss 20 cards it's game over. The goal is to stay alive as long as possible, which is much easier than it sounds. It's similar in concept to the Eyezmaze game Hatch, as well as to the classic Atari game Kaboom!.

Tabuto is surprisingly tough once you survive through five or six levels. Keep your cursor low on the screen and resist the urge to creep upwards to catch the cards earlier. Even for such a simple game, Tabuto is well-made and has a lot of style.

Play Tabuto

Cheers to Valarauka and Stephen for suggesting the game. =)

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Rating: 4.7/5 (336 votes)
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JohnBSproutSprout is a creative and original adventure puzzle game created by Jeff Nusz, of New Zealand, for our second Casual Gameplay Design Competition. From the moment you lay eyes on it you know it's something special. The unique artwork for a Flash game has a paper-cut appearance that lends a storybook atmosphere to the game. This environment perfectly suits the role you play as a young seedling trying to find its way home. Sprout has everything we love to see in a Flash game: originality, a simple design, and a beautiful presentation.

Competition 1st Place award winnerSprout begins with a small green seed-pod stranded on a tiny island. This seedling has the peculiar ability to learn to grow into different plants. For example, stuck on the island with no way to cross the water, the palm trees teach you how to grow into a coconut. With a click of the mouse you transform, and then just sit back and watch the story unfold.

Different situations calls for different transformations, and you cannot always be sure what effect growing into one form can have. Competition Audience award winnerBecoming a coconut might help you move forward. It could also cause you to roll back to where you began. This sense of innocent exploration is one of the most charming aspects of Sprout. Making mistakes and testing the environment are integral parts of the experience.

Analysis: When I first saw Sprout I knew I was in for a treat. During the word-less introduction I could almost hear the seedling asking the palm trees where to find its home. As many game designers have pointed out, the main ingredient in a successful game is human emotion. If you can tap that your players are hooked. Sprout nets your emotions from the very beginning and never lets go. You want this young seed-pod to succeed and you'll do anything you can to make that happen. You internalize the story and bring the seedling to life; Sprout simply lets you play out the story you're already invested in. That gives the game a very magical feeling, and Jeff chose the perfect art style and setting to bring it alive.

Congratulations, Jeff, on an excellent entry into our competition. Sprout shows a lot of thought and creativity on your part and deserves all the praise we can possibly give it!

dancemonkeySprout was a welcome surprise from start to finish. Beautiful artwork is well complemented by a detailed soundtrack to create lush environments for your little sprout's journey. The gameplay itself is like nothing I've ever played before, and the puzzles are tricky without being frustrating. You have a very few simple options to choose from at any given point in the game, yet the solution to each puzzle sometimes vexed me through several attempts. A well-deserved win!

zxoThis one was really neat! I especially like games where you have to select the right tool for each job, and I feel Sprout does this in a superb way. The art is fantastic—charming and cute—and the noises complemented them well. I love how the ambient sounds fade from one to the next as you scroll along the landscape. This is also probably the most kid-friendly game of the contest. Not too challenging, but it's clearly not the type of game that would benefit from overly difficult puzzles. My only complaint is that it ended!

JayI, too, was delighted from the moment the game first loaded. How could one not be? The quaint colored pencil drawings and cinematic intro evoke feelings of being transported to a far away island. The transition to widescreen at the conclusion of the intro is an excellent touch that effectively pulls you right into the story, surrounding you in its magic. But my particular delight went deeper than the superficial; for when I was first presented with the choice between two options—the coconut and the dandelion—visions of Grow ver.1 danced through my head. But Sprout is not a Grow clone; Jeff has created a unique experience all his own. The game perfectly embodies the theme of this competition on multiple levels, and for that it is quite deserving of the highest award. It has been a pleasure and an honor having Sprout part of this competition. Well done, Jeff!

Play Sprout

Comments (14) | Views (2,142)


JohnBIt's the weekend. You can download games. But you cannot download the weekend itself. Weekend Download contains less than 8% of the recommended daily allowance of niacin. Weekend Download knows what you did last summer. Do not taunt Weekend Download.

thingavore1.jpgThingavore (Windows, freeware, 35MB) - An inventive puzzle platformer by Texas Aggie Game Developers headed by Tower of Babblers and Alchemist's Apprentice creator Lars Doucet. You play a little blobby thing that can both pick up items and morph into them. Using an object and being an object are two totally different things. For example, picking up an axe and using it lets you swing to the side, while turning into the axe lets you smash down like an anvil. It's a little complex at first, but once you get the hang of the controls it's easy and unbelievably fun. There's even a crude but usable level editor included.

krank1.jpgKrank (Windows/Mac, freeware, 22MB) - A beautiful and atmosphereic game where you play a small snake-like critter trying reunite solo orbs with the revolving groups in the center. Move around with the mouse and use the snake's body to bounce the orbs around the screen. Each stage is a different environment with different sounds, so when you're on a pond the bouncing balls sound like a frog croaking. A very relaxing game!

penumbra1.jpgPenumbra: Overture (Windows, demo, 115MB) - The Penumbra tech demo released last year showcased a unique physics engine nestled inside a dark 3D horror adventure game. We ate it up, so developer Frictional Games promised a commercial version. In comes Overture, the first of three episodic adventures to be released this year. This demo gives you a good taste of what a creepy horror game should really be like. Better visuals than Penumbra (which were already stellar), more spookiness, and you can pick up and interact with every object in the game, just like in the real world! Overture is a bit heavy on the hardware, so check the system requirements before giving it a go.

Comments (5) | Views (10,460)

SproutWith voting now over, it is my pleasure to announce the recipient of the Audience Prize for the CasualGameplay Design Competition #2: Sprout!!

With 41.6% of the popular vote, Jeff Nusz' Sprout proves beyond a doubt to be the favorite among the JIG community as well.

Jeff will be awarded the Audience prize of $200 to go with the donations his game received, for a total of $373.87!!

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 go out to everyone that voted. Thank you for making this Audience prize a very special one.

Comments (20) | Views (9,596)

SproutWhen we first announced the competition and its "GROW" theme in January, the response was warm and welcoming. There seemed to be a popular expectation that the competition would yield games similar to the Grow series from On of Eyezmaze. Instead, we received more than a dozen different "GROW" interpretations, each one creative and original in its own way, and not a single Grow clone. And still the games exceeded our expectations.

As with our first competition last August, we have once again been entertained and delighted by the creative brilliance of a group of highly talented Flash game designers. The task of choosing just 2 of them to receive the honor of a prize was difficult at best. Many of the games were very close as the five reviewers—John, Drew, zxo, Harukio, and myself—recorded scores according to a set of rubrics established for the theme of this competition.

One game, however, scored well above all other entries, thus making the winner of this competition a unanimous choice...

Congratulations to the winners and to everyone who submitted an entry! Your participation in these competitions makes future competitions like this possible. It is our sincere hope that, even if you do not win a prize, you do receive a kind word and constructive feedback on your work to help shape your next design. That is why we will be highlighting each game entry by giving it a proper review in the days and weeks ahead.

Please show your support for all of these talented game designers by casting your votes, and your dollars, toward the Audience Prize, to be announced when voting ends tonight at midnight (GMT-5). Please refer to the Audience Prize page for links to vote for each of the games.

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

Comments (19) | Views (2,284)

Link Dump Fridays

HarukioI bring tidings of bad news! Good readers, my computer has passed softly into the night...aka, it's dead. So the bad news is, there will be no Link Dump for this unfortunate Friday. I had planned this lengthy speech about the wonders of music games and why I love them so; but alas, that will have to wait. Even though I can go play the wonderful Elite Beat Agents, glorious Rez, intense Gitaroo Man, darling Beat Bubbles, inventive Sound Factory, or soulful A Break in the Road, I can not even tell you about it since I have no access to a computer. So, in lieu of such a glorious tale or exciting Link Dump, in it's place I present you with a short list of games dug up from the interwebs and from your wonderful game review submissions.

  • Find your way out! - Honestly, I haven't the slightest idea what you're in, or why you might need to find your way out. Although I'd venture a guess it's a dangerous predicament. It's like a mini Hapland or Warbears, but with music from Kill Bill.
  • Slither Link - Simple presentation of a unique puzzle game you may not have heard of before.
  • Wordz - From the people who bring you games that end with "Z" including the smash LDF hit Glassez, comes this letter-switching multiplayer wordgame.
  • Acid Factory - No, not that type!

  • Tower Blaster - If you can find your way past the ads and the cutesy kiddie graphics, this is actually a surprisingly fun little game that's been around for quite a while.
  • Space is Fun - WEEEEEEEE!!! IT'S TRUE!!!

Don't forget to check back later today when we announce the winners of our Flash game design competition!

Comments (1) | Views (3,128)

JayThere are a lot of awards being handed out this week, in addition to tomorrow's announcement of the results from our 2nd Flash game design competition(!)

The Game Developers Conference is in full swing out in San Francisco this week and the results of the Independent Games Festival (IGF) and Game Developers Choice Awards have been announced, and there are a couple of familiar faces that we need to give a nod to.

AquariaWinner of the IGF's top honor, the Seumas McNally Grand Prize for Best Independent Game, went to Bit Blot's Aquaria, a 2D underwater adventure game that hasn't even been released yet. Congratulations to Bit Blot, which is comprised of only two people, Alec Holowka and Derek Yu (of TIGSource). I can't wait to play this game(!)

Samorost 2Also from the IGF, Samorost 2 took home the highly praised and coveted (at least around here) Best Web Game prize. This amazing and wonderful, surreal point-and-click adventure, created by Jakub Dvorský of Amanita Design, has been available since December, 2005, and yet it's great to see this piece of work win an IGF prize. If you haven't yet played Samorost or Samorost 2, you really owe it to yourself to experience them both, post-haste.

Line RiderAnd the Game Developers Choice Awards don't usually acknowledge any Flash or Web-based games since everyone knows that PC and console games are the only 'real' games that deserve any attention. Still, Boštjan Cadež's infectious Line Rider, the game that fired up the Web last September, joined the ranks of revered console titles, Nintendo's Wii Sports and Capcom Entertainment's Okami, with all three taking home an Award for Innovation. Congratulations Boštjan, we are very pleased to see you earn the recognition you deserve for creating such an inspiring piece of work (that was likely played by more people than both those other two titles combined.)

Congratulations to all of these independent game developers! And join us tomorrow when we give out our own awards for the latest Flash game design competition!

Comments (45) | Views (7,445)

JayFancy Pants World 2 demoA demo was just released, over at Kongregate, of the upcoming sequel to Brad Borne's fantastic jump-and-run platformer, the Fancy Pants Adventure. Although it is still just a demo, those who have been clamoring for more Fancy Pants can now be at least appeased by a glimpse of what is yet to come. And it's looking very good. It will be a long and arduous wait.

Play Fancy Pants World 2 demo

Cheers to Andrew for bringing us word about the release. =)

Update: Fancy Pants Adventure World 2 is HERE!

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Rating: 4.8/5 (25 votes)
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ydkj.jpgJohnBTrivia geeks step-up to the new challenge: You Don't Know Jack has emerged from its coccoon as a bigger, better game. The online version of the desktop quiz show features full voice narration and a slick, media-intense presentation. YDKJ online previously featured a daily DisOrDat, but now it's a full round of trivia madness. The new games contain a few of the most popular question types—including the Jack Attack, a fast-paced match-the-pair question—and will be played online just as the DisOrDats are. The folks at Jellyvision will be producing about 4 or 5 of these per month (about 1 per week) and will continue to produce 3 or 4 DisOrDats per week as well.

More attitude, more strangeocity, and more questions. A Jack a day keeps the doctor away. Or something like that.

Play You Don't Know Jack

Be sure to add this one to your Favorites to make it easy to play frequently. Also, be sure to read Noah's review of the game back when it first reappeared on the Web early this year.

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Rating: 4.6/5 (25 votes)
Comments (29) | Views (4,740)

blockquest.gifJohnBFans of the previously featured Block Action have cause to celebrate! Block Quest is the sequel to the insanely challenging online action game and features more of everything you love. Jump, climb, wall kick and dash through the ever-expanding selection of levels (30 at the time of writing). Stages are created by fellow players and showcase a tremendous variety in design and difficulty.

Block Quest has received some minor visual upgrades and ditches the in-screen level select for a more straightforward web interface. Browse, search and sort through the levels right from the home page and click to play the stage. Use [the arrow] keys to move and [space] to jump. It's quite simple to play, but once you see some of the stages the players have designed, you'll realize there's much more to it than simple platform hopping.

Block Quest is still in beta, so there may be some hiccups in the interface and the design may change in the near future. The forums can help if you have any questions/problems with the game. Otherwise, dive right in and let the craziness begin.

Play Block Quest beta

Cheers to Qwertyuiop, Newbie, Aloloo and Woohooii for sending this one in!

(10 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
Comments (12) | Views (2,675)

formation.gifJohnBWhile it looks like an oh-so-simple avoid the object game, Brian Cable's Formation adds a tough new twist. Instead of simply moving one object around the screen to avoid the falling dots, you must control an entire formation of balls that rotate and periodically change position. Touch one of the flashing white orbs that fall from the top of the screen and it becomes part of your formation, thus forcing you to be mindful of yet another ball's position and causing your brain to hurt.

The one saving move you have in the game is the ability to shrink by holding down the mouse button. Normally your score increases as time goes by, but while in compact mode your score counts down. The goal of Formation is to get as high of a score as you can and proudly list your name on the top of the online score board. While it's certainly tempting to hold the mouse button down and never let go, you must resist the urge. Grabbing one of the flashing white orbs will clear the screen, but the going will be ten times more difficult with a larger formation to contend with.

Analysis: After playing a few rounds of this game, my brain really does hurt. It's tough having to keep track of a whole set of objects, their location on the screen and where the falling orbs are while simultaneously extrapolating your formation's path and choosing where you can go for safety. On the other hand, I'm sure it's a great way to train yourself to be a watchful parent of several children.

Everything about Formation is bare-bones simple. The visual presentation definitely won't win any awards, the music is fine and is easy to forget about when you're so intently focused on your collection of orbs. The mouse controls are fluid and offer precision movement if you can keep a steady hand. It's a simple diversion that offers something a little different in a genre of games we're so familiar with.

Play Formation

Cheers to Rhys and Christian for sending this one in!

(7 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
Comments (15) | Views (3,018)

abstractsea.gifJohnBA brand new game from Ali Maunder, the creator of Neon and Neon 2, has recently graced the Web: Abstract Sea. Using simple but stylish visuals and a nice electronica soundtrack, the game puts you in control of an armed ship at sea fending off enemy attacks. The game has a very visceral feel to it with screen-shaking explosions and a few power-ups floating atop the deep blue sea.

The only goal in Abstract Sea is to rack up a high score. Well, staying alive is also a goal, but you stay alive to get a better score, so they're one in the same. Your gun pivots 360 degrees and is controlled by the mouse while you move your ship with the [WASD] or [arrow] keys. The split controls are a bit like GridWars and offer a wide range of tactics and more precise gameplay, though it may take some time to get used to.

Enemies in the game range from rather benign missiles to heavily armored battleships. Each has its own attack and defense rating, so try and take out the bigger fish first and save the little guys for when the coast is relatively clear. Power-ups appear from time to time that refill your health, give you points or upgrade your gun.

While the visual and aural presentation in Abstract Sea is superb, the gameplay does suffer from a bit of redundancy. Time-limited gun upgrades make the game more difficult after you've stayed alive for some time, but I found myself feeling more helpless than challenged. Big battleships are not easy to take down with a tiny weapon. And apart from avoiding the few enemies and hunting down a couple of power-ups, there isn't much going on. The lack of gameplay variety doesn't detract from game, however. Abstract Sea is perfect to spend a few minutes with here and there, especially if you're interested in pegging your name at the top of the online high score board.

Play Abstract Sea

Comments (58) | Views (4,643)

Jayaudience prizeNow 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. (PayPal accepts credit cards as well.)

We are limiting voting to only those that donate as it helps prevent any 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. 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 Friday, March 9, 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... $428.40
Wooty tooty flip-bam-booty! That's OUTSTANDING!!

Come on. It's only a buck!

Update (03/10/07 12:00 AM): Voting had ended! And the winner is...

(Looking for the competition entries that used to be here? They have been moved to the CasualGameplay Design Competition #2 announcement page for easy access via the Favorites feature.)

(16 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
Comments (11) | Views (5,046)
orange.jpgJohnBOrange, a follow up to the color-themed game Red, is another physics-based Flash project by designer Case. In the center of the screen sits a heavy orb. You control a mobile orange dot with the mouse and can fire shots at the nearest object. Move around the screen shooting at the orb in an attempt to push it off the playing field. Get too close, though, and its gravity starts to pull you in.

As you progress in stages your task gets much more difficult. Small orbs will start to appear around the large one and you have to avoid/shoot them as well. More devious foes eventually appear that home in on your location with frightening speed. Fortunately there is help in the form of a missile power-up that floats by at random. Shoot it to upgrade your weapon temporarily and knock the enemies off the screen.

Analysis: Just like Red, Orange is an extremely simple and beautiful game. The Japanese theme adds an extra layer of elegance and is quite fitting with the sumo wrestling-inspired mechanics. Orange seems to be free of some of the glitches that plagued its predecessor, but unfortunately some of the novelty wears off after a few levels. The difficulty ramps up fairly quickly and makes the game feel more like an action-based shooter than the atmospheric game it starts off as. Without more objects to contend with, however, the game would feel a bit too empty. It's a well-chosen and necessary trade-off. Nevertheless, Orange is a stunning game to experience and a treat to play.

Play Orange

Cheers to Phil for sending this one in!

  • Currently 4.3/5
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Rating: 4.3/5 (32 votes)
Comments (146) | Views (32,430)

Mystery Case Files: Ravenhearst

KarmenYou might be familiar with this scene: You walk into the living room, looking for the phone. You see the cat, the goldfish, and a set of weights. Some candles, a chip, an old corn dog (ew!) Ok, so, it's a little messy. Still, with a bit of effort, you soon see the phone sitting in plain sight, near the chess set and the coffin. Wait... a coffin? Perhaps this isn't your regular living room. In fact, you're inside Ravenhearst Manor.

ravenhearst.jpgMystery Case Files: Ravenhearst is a game of "hunt the item" similar to Hidden Expedition: Titanic and the previous Mystery Case Files games. The Queen of England (affectionately known as "Queenie") has sent you to investigate the mystery behind this creepy cluttered mansion. But beware. Not only is this house abandoned, and likely haunted, but it is also filled with strange twists, puzzling locks and hidden clues. Unlike other games of this genre, which have you search for the essential magic pixel, Ravenhearst will frustrate you by hiding objects in plain sight. While the clock ticks down (her majesty is waiting!) you might find yourself in a bathroom crying out "where is that tuba?"

Much of the game play is similar to the "I Spy" book series or the "Hidden Pictures" game from the children's magazine, Highlights — just a bit creepier. Explore the manor, room-by-room, looking for the objects listed on the right hand side of the screen. Search carefully, as random, rapid-fire clicking may cause you to lose time. Some objects may seem a bit obscure. If you have trouble finding a particular item, a limited number of hints are available.

Don't despair, because this game is as beautiful as it is maddening. The delightful graphics and various sounds will keep your senses sharp, while the clever puzzles are sure to please. To enter some rooms, you'll have to solve strange and wonderful locks, reminiscent of Rube Goldberg contraptions. Find the right combination of oddities, and you'll find passage into the next room. When you gather enough clues (the recovered objects), piece them together to reveal a diary page. The diary, kept by the Lady of the Manor, Emma, will begin to reveal the dark mystery behind Ravenhearst Manor.

Analysis: Mystery Case Files: Ravenhearst is a perfect addition to any puzzle collection. A few notable features set it apart from other games. For one, the sound options offer three separate dials to control the music, background noise, and sound effects. This allows you to set the creaks and moans to your preferred volume, without drowning out other sounds. You have some control over the passage of time, as well. The regular "Detective Mode" is fast-paced enough to keep you on your toes, while the "Relaxed Mode" is still timed, but at a much slower rate.

Be sure to check out the other installments in the Mystery Case Files series, Huntsville and Prime Suspects, Madame Fate, as well as Travelogue 360 and Hidden Expedition series, both of which introduce additional gameplay elements.

The creators of this game consider it appropriate for all ages, but the creepy objects and sounds might be a little much for small children. (There is a small fright in the ending sequence as well.) Parents, use caution, or play alongside your child for reassurance.

Download the demo
Get the full version

Mac OS XMac OS X:
Download the demo Get the full version

Mystery Case Files: Ravenhearst is available to download from these affiliates:
Arcade TownBig Fish Games

Comments (7) | Views (2,651)

JayWestwardIt's Saturday and that means another JIG Poker Night event is coming your way! We'll be taking just a short break from the competition action this afternoon and setting up the poker tables in our own Triplejack poker lounge, as we do every week. The tournaments will get underway beginning at 12 Noon EST (GMT-5). Be sure to join us for some fun and good times, and you just might win yourself a prize or two. And just like every poker night, we have a few prizes to give away to the lucky winners, too!

Nintendo DS LitePrizes up for grabs: Westward games from Sandlot Games. We also have one month of Triplejack Power Player to give away, one deck of Triplejack playing cards, and one JIG Casual Gameplay t-shirt. But, of course, that's not all. The champion of tournaments will be entered into a drawing for a fabulous grand prize: a Nintendo DS Lite! Drawing to be held Saturday, May 26, 2007.

To join us for poker night, be sure use the Triplejack login form here in the sidebar, or use the registration login page, for access to our JIG poker lounge. From there make sure you visit the table named "READ ME PLEASE" for instructions on how to register using the tournament registration form. Registration opens one hour before the event begins.

We had another great poker night last Saturday, and I have another set of winners to report. Similar to last week, we held a series of standard, 11-player, Texas Hold'em tournaments, in which each player buys-in for $500 in chips (money at Triplejack is free). The player to win all of the chips from all of the other players at the table qualified and earned a seat at the final table. This week's qualifiers were...

  • Qualifier #1 winner: redwingwest
  • Qualifier #2 winner: pyabo
  • Qualifier #3 winner: smonsoon
  • Qualifier #4 winner: mr_blonde
  • Qualifier #5 winner: alerty
  • Qualifier #6 winner: bettyboo
  • Qualifier #7 winner: dee2
  • Qualifier #8 winner: HILOW
  • Qualifier #9 winner: Cynic
  • Qualifier #10 winner: secret_player
  • Qualifier #11 winner: ndthorn

Once all the tournaments were held, these players all took their seats at the final table for a fight to the finish in one grandaddy elimination tournament. The prizes up for grabs that were split among the top 5 finishers:

  • (3) 1-year memberships, and (3) 2-month memberships to Quadradius from Jimmi and Brad at!!
  • (1) FREE month Power Player subscription to Triplejack
  • (1) FREE deck of Triplejack playing cards
  • (1) FREE JIG Casual Gameplay T-shirt
And the lucky prize-winners are:
    • 6th place: mr_blonde
    • 5th place: smonsoon
    • 4th place: alerty
    • 3rd place: Cynic
    • 2nd place: secret_player
Champion of Tournaments #7: dee2!

Congratulations to all the winners—even if you didn't win a prize at the final table you still walked away with more Triplejack chips than you started with—and thank you all for working with the registration form, thus making this week's tournaments the best ones yet!

QuadradiusA big shout out to Jimmi and Brad at for sponsoring us with Quadradius memberships to give away as prizes. If you haven't already played Quadradius, or even read our review of it, I recommend that you do. It's a great two-player board game played online, and in your browser. Great fun for people of all ages. And we also want to thank the folks at Triplejack for again sponsoring their part of the prize package for the tournament.

Comments (55) | Views (4,932)

Link Dump Fridays

JohnBMidway through our life of three score and ten, there comes a moment when we realize the steady march of time cannot be stopped. Well, it can, but you'd have to be Superman, 'cause he can do anything. Ever see that one where he made time reverse by flying around the Earth to make it spin backwards? Oh, and then there's that time he flew to France just to get a croissant. I'd totally do that if I had super powers. My powers would also allow me to write a Link Dump Friday with my spleen, which is what I've done!

  • Quest for the Crown - The whole "video games as art" debate will rage on until someone pokes an eye out. Quest for the Crown is a nail in the naysayers' coffins. With sweeping landscapes, stunning hi-res graphics, complex puzzle-based side-quests and over three million hours of gameplay, it's only for the strong of mind. Crank up the volume and enjoy.
  • Line Game - Don't trust the name, it lies! Well, half of it does. Line game doesn't actually involve a lot of lines, per se. Sure, there's a squidgy blotch-type thingie that you have to guide through the black path-like area, but lines? Rounded shapes and curves, yes, lines, maybe. And blotches.
  • The Road Less Taken - It's the game where you defeat yourself. Always wanted one of those. Run to the goal, then run again, only this time you have to contend with a ghost square that mirrors your previous paths. After about four runs things get extremely complicated. You have to think sdrawkcab, and that's hard.
  • Retron - A shooter. Everything's fine until the screen goes all kittywhompus. And then your ship asplode.
  • Submarine - Bing bing bing bing, bingbingbing, boom bing bing bing bing, bingbingbing, bah, bing bing bing... That's just a little sample of the tropical steel drum music in this nice looking little sidescroller. The real game/music is even better, if you can imagine it.
  • Menulis - I couldn't think of any colorful ways to describe this game, so here's a list of abjectives that might work. Fill them in at your leisure: surreal, strange, point-and-click, short, adventure, the turtle has a gun!, banana.
  • Glassez - A simple online multiplayer game where you race to assemble the shards on the blank mosaic above.

We've still got more competition entries to roll out, so stay tuned for more flash gaming goodness!

(16 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
Comments (50) | Views (4,290)

Growbal WarmingFlash Game Design CompetitionYou might have guessed that with a name like Growbal Warming, it is likely the next entry from our "grow" themed competition; and you'd be right! The game was designed and created by Richard Ohanian, a fellow graduate of RIT, and it features gameplay that mimics the futility we potentially face with the problem of global warming.

Play Growbal Warming

Views (1,616)

Jelly FusionFlash Game Design CompetitionMatthew Dirks is the designer of Jelly Fusion, the next entry to our competition. This 15-level puzzle game consists of strategically mixing jellies to reach the desired goal for each level. You have only a limited number of moves and a limited number of jellies that can occupy the same cell. A simple click-drag mechanic is all you'll need for this one.

Play Jelly Fusion

Matthew contributed to our first competition with Colour Connect, a simple yet challenging puzzle game with randomized configurations and excellent replay value.

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

(9 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
Views (2,121)

Chicken GrowFlash Game Design CompetitionBart Bonte sends in this next competition entry all the way from Belgium. Chicken Grow is a point-and-click puzzler that will have you hunting, pecking and scratching (and perhaps even bobbing your head forward and back like a chicken.) As with the other entries, discovery is part of this game, too.

Bart is the author of Free the Bird from our first competition in August, as well as several other games previously reviewed here. We here at JIG CasualGameplay love it when Bart creates a new game to play.

Play Chicken Grow

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

Views (1,864)

enQbateFlash Game Design CompetitionFrom Aquilino Griffin comes this next competition entry. As you may gather from the name, enQbate integrates the "grow" theme quite nicely, and it also fits the simple puzzle game description. The presentation and interface of this piece are especially notable, and the gameplay should be easy enough for most anyone to pick-up and enjoy right away.

Play enQbate

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

Views (1,798)

Grow the RobotFlash Game Design CompetitionGrow the Robot is the next competition entry, this one by Starkraven Madd, long time JIG visitor and now first time contributor. Enlist as a toy soldier and work for the man(iac), Dr. Steel, by initiating the phasing sequence of various robots to 'grow' them big and strong. Fortunately, the mad doctor has turned your job into a game. How delightful. =)

There is much humor packed into this entry. Be sure to fail on each level to see what happens.

Play Grow the Robot

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

Views (1,472)

Frog and VineFlash Game Design CompetitionThe next competition entry is Frog and Vine, a collection of 4 puzzle games from Matt Slaybaugh of New York. You may know Matt from the Escape from Obion series of point-and-click adventures previously reviewed here, or from a variety of other game design and creative talents and ventures.

In this collection you will find 3 original puzzle designs and 1 that may be familiar to you. The "grow" theme is maintained in the visual design of the collection and to a degree in the puzzles as well. Included is the aspect of figuring out what you have to do as part of the puzzle, and each is fairly straightforward in that respect.

Play Frog and Vine

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

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