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February 2008 Archives


  • Currently 3.9/5
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Rating: 3.9/5 (56 votes)
Comments (49) | Views (2,816)

John BeaverMr. MothballMr. MothBall, an entry into our last competition (CGDC4), comes from the talented Polish designer Mateusz Skutnik, well known for his immensely popular Submachine series, one of which featured in CGDC1. More recently, Mateusz has introduced another popular graphical point-and-click series, Covert Front, which has been causing quite a stir on this site and in the wider gaming community.

With Mateusz' strong point-and-click pedigree, some visitors may be surprised to see him contribute a platformer. However, this is by no means his first foray into this genre and fans of this game may like to play some of his other platform games at his Pastel Games site, including the previously reviewed Mr. Mothball 2: Cotton Carnage.

Mr. MothBall is a classic piece of platforming action: using the arrow keys, roll the hero through each of 21 levels collecting as many points as possible before hitting the exit. As the game progresses, new elements such as gates, switches and push-able blocks are introduced.

Analysis: Ball physics are always going to be tricky to showcase in a platformer. In this effort, our hero rolls his way around the hemispherical platforms grabbing ball-like pills avoiding ball-shaped enemies and making his way to a spherical exit. However, as has been mentioned in the comments, all of these items could be exchanged for non-spherical objects without affecting the fundamental gameplay.

What this game does have though is charm and style. The hand-drawn backgrounds, characters and platforms give it a great look and feel and the controls and collision detections are solid. But for me, the real strength in this game is the humour used in the character animation: the outstretched arm as Mr. MothBall jumps, or the little bump he receives as a moving platform reaches its peak.

There's no huge replay value here other than beating your previous score, and many players will turn off the music before getting half way through (which thankfully leaves the cute sound effects audible). But its lovable style, finite length and gradually increasing difficulty will persuade most to play it right through to the end.

Play Mr. Mothball


Comments (20) | Views (1,067)

JayLilo plushieIt's not often we get to post something on February 29th, so I'd like to take this opportunity to update you on a few things that have been happening around here.

First of all, Congratulations to Skarlath(!) for winning the adorable Lilo plushie from The Asylum! Skarlath's name was drawn at random this afternoon here at JIG headquarters, and we'll be sending out little Lilo just as soon as we get a shipping address confirmation (an email has been sent, so check your inbox Skarlath!).

Be sure to keep checking the site, as we'll be giving away another Asylum plushie again soon!

Next, you might have noticed a recent change made to the Recommended icon palette in the left sidebar. We recently added a new palette, Top Rated, made possible by the ratings widget that we also introduced recently. Please note these details:

  • Simply click on the name, Top Rated or Recommended, to switch between the two palettes.
  • Each time you click on the Recommended link to view a random selection of recommended games the list will refresh quickly and automatically without a page reload.
  • Each time you click on Top Rated or Recommended, your selection will be stored in a cookie so that your preference will be displayed each time you visit.

And finally, there are just 4 days left before Casual Gameplay Design Competition #5!!! Get your games finished up and sent in before the deadline of March 16, 2008, at 11:59PM (GMT-5:00) See the CGDC5 announcement page for all the details.


Comments (18) | Views (1,188)

Link Dump Fridays

JohnBToday's Link Dump Friday, much like the calendar date of February 29, doesn't really exist. Well, it does, but, you know, it's just kinda thrown in there. You see, each year we have precisely 487.25 units of casual gaming love to give to the world. Since none of us are particularly good with fractions, we just express that extra bit of love every few years in the form of a (special) Link Dump Friday. What? That doesn't make sense? Well... um... lookhereatthesegamesasadistraction!

  • icon_robotterritories.gifRobot-Territories - Dah! Humans are attacking with their tanks and guns and stuff! Quick, into your giant Robotic Suit of Death® and start clicking the mouse! The more you juggle units, the higher your score, and you can hold the button for a nifty three-stage charge shot.
  • icon_gameoflife.gifThe Game of Life - Why live it when you can play it?! The Game of Life demonstrates the results of actual research on the activity levels of post-retirement folk. Paint the house while keeping the baby asleep, mow the lawn, even go hang gliding in a series of well-illustrated minigames.
  • icon_android.gifAndroid - Awww... Look at the widdle guy run! Android is a great Lode-Runner clone that squeezes everything down to pixel-perfect sizes. Run, spring and bomb your way through the levels collecting enough gold to unlock each exit. There's even a custom level editor, which is always a big bowl of yumminess.
  • icon_spy.gifSpy - What if some sort of number-related grid-based puzzle decided it was a classic game of Snake? Then it would be Spy, a simple-but-stylish game of clicking, counting, and nail-biting. Click adjacent squares to move across the board. Depending on the number on the square you click, you jump ahead that many spaces. Don't touch the bombs or your own trail!
  • icon_mazeman.gifMaze Man - Hello Maze Man, 1974 called, and it wants its graphics and gameplay back. Oh, and 2008 called as well, so you'll have to leave the stylish theme and pretty cool music here. So go collect those pellets, avoid that guy in the red jumper, and remember that a hole in the ground is perfectly safe and will just teleport you somewhere nearby.
  • JayJIG Poker Night - it's almost that time again (oh yes, it is!). Check this page each week for time of day (usually 4PM Eastern). The winner each week qualifies for a championship tournament on May 17th where we'll give away an iPod Nano and a Nintendo DS!! If you don't play, you can't win.

  • Currently 3.5/5
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Rating: 3.5/5 (44 votes)
Comments (47) | Views (1,731)

ArtbegottiThe Perfect ShotIf there were a television commercial for this game, this is likely how it would go:

Get the ball to green
To escape the scene!
Avoid the red,
Or your ball is dead!
Stay in bounds
And listen to the sounds
To see if you've got
The Perfect Shot!

For his first entry into one of our competitions, Dan Black created this action game of skill and finesse, perfectly titled The Perfect Shot.

To play, grab the red ball from its starting position by clicking and holding it. You'll notice an area surrounded by a dotted line pop up. From within these bounds, move your mouse and release to throw the ball toward the green target. If you make the perfect shot and land the red ball in the green target, success! You move on to the next level.

But perfection is a rare thing, and there's plenty to stop you from the glory of the green. Scattered throughout the levels are devious red walls, spears, and birds of prey that will destroy your ball with one touch. Blue holes will teleport your ball, but be careful, because your direction and momentum are preserved in the relocation. Pink, Yellow, and Blue panels require a pattern to be played before they'll disappear and let you pass. And remember, any time you are holding the ball, you must stay within those dotted lines!

While some of the levels are straight-forward (bank the ball off of this to hit that to land it in the target), a lot of levels require some more in-depth planning. Timing when one grabs or throws the ball is key, as some levels will require you to catch and re-throw the ball in order to win. The blue teleporter holes can sometimes create a maze of pathways for your ball to go (sometimes in your favor, sometimes not). In some levels, the red obstacles react to where you move your mouse, so you might need to throw the ball and quickly retreat your cursor in a different direction. Trial-and-error will be your friend when you play this game, as every level is beatable, but sometimes with a bit of effort.

Analysis: The Perfect Shot captures the spirit of the "ball physics" theme of our 4th Casual Gameplay Design Competition (CGDC4) very nicely. One of the initial complaints about the game was due to some erratic behavior when throwing the ball, but Dan has gladly fixed this problem and a few other kinks from the original entry. The result is a game that is well-polished a lot of fun to play.

There's a wide range of challenges to face in the 20 levels of this game, but some people might have a tricky time adjusting to a rather steep difficulty curve. Finding the precise "fling" to send the ball to the goal can get frustrating after thirty-or-so attempts (did I mention the game counts your tries?), but then again, that's what you've got to expect when playing a game called "The Perfect Shot." Half of the fun is that moment of glee you get when you sink the basket and get to face the next challenge. I know that when I beat the final level, I wanted more... Perhaps expanding on this project is something Dan might want to consider? (Hint hint.)

So get ready to throw your all to the goal, and play The Perfect Shot!

Play The Perfect Shot


  • Currently 4.2/5
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Rating: 4.2/5 (73 votes)
Comments (31) | Views (1,685)

PsychotronicHaxed by Megahurtz(Warning: This game features some adult content.)

Making interactive Web art is a dangerous business, as Jason Nelson (Alarmingly These Are Not Lovesick Zombies), Edmund McMillen and Florian Himsl (Coil) can tell you. When you dabble in the language of games, you risk the wrath of gamers, who despite their lip service to "innovation", are often terrified by anything really experimental. There is a contract to uphold when you make the jump from videos to games. When the experience requires our input, we want there to be clearly defined goals and characters, so we're not just clicking around haphazardly like gullible sheep, hoping to be blessed with random visual trinkets. We hate feeling stupid, and that's what art sometimes does when it forces you to participate. It makes you the dumbest person in the room, blindly fumbling for meaning like a Nickelodeon game show contestant fishing for prizes in a bath of green slime.

So one possible MO for developers trying to smooth out this prickly transition is to make something like Haxed by Megahurtz, a game so cracked, so exuberant, so imbecilic it could not possibly be trying to outsmart you. Hating it would be like slapping a candy raver—part of you might want to, but it's easier to just go with the flow and accept her offer of Sweet Tarts and a back massage.

Haxed by Megahurtz is the deformed brain-child of Alien Melon, whose members have been responsible in the past for Blue Suburbia and the hyper-polarizing Alexis, but it is more of a playable game than either of those titles. The hero is a manic green blob named Minibyte, whom during his nap-time in cyberspace has been haxed—quite literally—with an axe wielded by malicious blue fairy-things called Megahurtz. Enraged and bleeding important data, Minibyte goes on a murderous Megahurtz rampage, devouring as many of them as he can sink his pac-man choppers into.

Haxed by MegahurtzI may have gotten one or two details wrong there, but it doesn't really matter. All you need to do is catch the flying Megahurtz (again, they're the blue fly-like creatures) with your mouse, drag them over Minibyte (he's the crazy screaming green thing), and release. And then watch the carnage. You win by increasing your MHZ count to the goal set for each level, and you lose by letting it drop to zero, which it will do over time if you don't feed Minibyte fast enough. There are three levels proper, plus a rather substantial postscript that somehow involves armageddon and a dancing budgie.

But the interactive part of the game is almost completely insubstantial. What is impressive here is the onslaught of stimulus being thrown at you. The roots of Haxed are that of a hyperactive pixelated music video drenched in gaming and internet culture references. The beats are mixed cleverly on the fly according to Minibyte's mood, be it hungry or homicidal. Despite Alien Melon's aggressively lo-fi ideals and punk stylings, this is a technologically solid piece of work.

Whether you'll actually like it or not is something I can't possibly tell you. This is going to be a subjective experience through and through, depending on your sense of humor, your tolerance for color contrasts, your taste in music, and a thousand other factors. For my part, they had me hooked at the loading screen, where a black-and-white tabby with outstretched arms stands on the moon and proclaims the file you are loading to be "Diiiiiiiiiiiiiiiis big!" But your mileage may vary. Haxed is not for everybody, just as Trix is not for rabbits. If you're not feeling the vibe, try pounding a Red Bull and come back to it.

At the very least, I can recommend Haxed by Megahurtz as an operation in expressiveness. Without worrying too much about the social implications: this game was only possible at this exact moment in history, when people's attention spans are being digitally scrambled daily, and Flash has helped wrest game creation from the control of large companies into the hands of regular people. This is what we've become, where we can take something as nonsensical as Haxed by Megahurtz and understand it as a story, however shallow and/or obnoxious.

I found it thoroughly entertaining, but any Alien Melon members who have found this review are probably laughing at me, rightly, for devoting so many words to it. I mean, I'm calling it Web art, and it's making cow noises. Maybe the point was to make me feel stupid after all.

Get Haxed by Megahurtz


  • Currently 4.3/5
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Rating: 4.3/5 (71 votes)
Comments (28) | Views (2,988)

10 Gnomes 2

JohnB10 Gnomes episode 2: Walk in the Park is the second installment in the 10 Gnomes point-and-click series released by Mateusz Skutnik, creator of Covert Front and the Submachine games. 10 Gnomes tasks you with finding ten cartoon gnomes in ten minutes by clicking your way through a series of black and white photographs. In this installment you'll sift through pixels in a park, tapping hotspots to zoom in and look for those crafty gnomes.

Photographs pan with your cursor, allowing you to look from left to right and imparting a limited sense of movement. Certain areas are clickable, allowing you to zoom in or visit different locations. While the image movement is smooth, clicking from one hotspot to the next can be disorienting due to the lack of a transition. It keeps the game's pace moving at a fast clip, however, which is necessary, as the ten minute timer is constantly ticking down.

Another well-presented and simple point-and-click title from one of the best designers of the genre.

10 Gnomes #2: Walk in the Park


  • Currently 3.7/5
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Rating: 3.7/5 (45 votes)
Comments (53) | Views (1,729)

zxoroll.gifBefore there was Cobacoli, there was Roll, a game of balls, angles, spikes and terrain. Roll represents author Ben Gillibanks' first foray into our Casual Gameplay Design Competitions, where its combination of classic gameplay and delicious presentation carried it to the final round of judging.

You're put in control of a medium-sized yellow ball with a mission: destroy the enemy red orbs! It's like McCarthyism all over again! Click the mouse to launch the yellow ball in the direction of the pointer, holding the button down for more power. Use the yellow ball like a cue ball to knock the red balls into spikes or holes. There's a timer, so be fast, but be careful too – you are just as susceptible to the dangers as the red balls! Ice and conveyor belts add another layer of complexity, in ways that are both helpful and hindering.

Analysis: Roll doesn't exactly break a lot of game design molds, but it's a lot of fun to play nonetheless. The control scheme is about as intuitive as you can get, and it's very helpful to be able to redirect yourself before coming to a stop. With a little practice, you'll be able to stop on a dime, even on the frictionless ice. Plus, the ability to control your power gives players multiple options when deciding how best to execute a level – would long, deliberate strokes be appropriate or does this one call for rapid directional bursts?

Although there is no save feature, its fast pace lets you zoom through the first dozen or so of the twenty levels without too many muttered epithets. Still, it might be nice to have a checkpoint halfway through the game, or at least implement a high score board so that there'd be a reason to play all the beginning levels over again.

Roll comes to us with a high level of polish with regard to the visual and audio presentation, especially considering the development timeframe. Although the audio loop is short, it took quite a long time before it began to wear on me, and the pixel art is well-executed and pleasing. The physics seem pretty accurate too, with no collision detection problems.

Cheers to Ben for executing a fun, fast-paced, and all-around impressive game.

Play Roll

An updated version of the game is available to play at Ben's Binary Sun website.


  • Currently 4.3/5
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Rating: 4.3/5 (84 votes)
Comments (20) | Views (2,285)

PatrickSolaRolaThe following review is for a game that appeared previously in one of our Link Dump Friday features:

Sola Rola: The Gravity Maze is a topsy-turvy turntable of a time, published by Gimme5Games. Wiz and Waz are two spherical buddies who are just cruising through space one day and happen to get caught in a series of mazes, a scenario we can all relate to. Together they must escape, but they only move when you rotate the maze. It's your job you roll them right into the red and blue beacons that represent their exits.

The controls consist entirely of the [left] and [right] arrow keys, which rotate the maze. There's a slight variation in the mass of the two balls, the red one is slightly heavier than the blue one, so if you give the maze a slight tilt you'll get more motion out of the red one. Corners have little studs on them that require a little extra momentum to get over. When a ball intersects with a switch all the gates of the same color open. When the two balls are sitting on the power-switch looking icons of corresponding colors, you've won.

Analysis: The Gravity Maze is the Web-based incarnation of an established mobile games franchise published by Gimme5Games' parent company, Eidos. The game shines with the same kind of consistency and polish you would expect from a publisher-supported title, and it also has character and a pretty clever execution. You can see the circular structure that the diamond-shaped maze is embedded in, and you can see bearings on its corners rolling along this hoola-hoop, a nice touch. Then there's the difference between the weight of the balls, it gives enough of a delta to squirm your way out of awkward situations, though there could be a bigger difference to make this process go smoother. The banter between Wiz and Waz does a great job of getting you familiar with the game, and lends a touch of humanity to an otherwise abstract dynamic.

So, go for a spin and become a Sola Rola.

Sola Rola


  • Currently 4.2/5
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Rating: 4.2/5 (75 votes)
Comments (258) | Views (3,313)

dancemonkeySkyBlocsDominoes are those rare brilliant artifacts whose secondary use is far better than their intended use. Why play a game of dominoes when you can line them up and watch them knock each other down? Developer Tom Methven may have been in that exact frame of mind when he created the puzzle game Sky Blocs, the lovechild of youthful domino play and The Incredible Machine (and likely influenced by Pushover, circa 1992). Each level presents you with a starting block (bloc?) and an inventory of pieces to the left-hand side of the screen. Place the items, flick the domino, and watch everything come tumbling down.

Arrange your elements so that the initial toppling of the starting block causes a chain reaction that triggers the raising of a flag at the other end of the screen. After laying everything out press the "Play" button and then click the first block to set your Goldbergian contraption in motion. You have more blocks, balloons, bowling balls, and even a nuclear blast at your disposal to complete each stage.

There's a good handful of default stages included in the game, but a level editor with cut and paste codes allows you to create and share your custom stages for a real sadistic challenge.

Analysis: Sky Blocs is a great puzzle game in the tradition of The Incredible Machine, and it's just as addictive. The domino-like blocks being the main element makes the game that much more intuitive, since the physics of toppling dominoes is almost universal knowledge. It's very easy to look at the stage, look at the elements you have at your disposal, and begin to imagine a successful layout.

Easy to imagine, but not always easy to accomplish. The included levels are suitably difficult, though some I found relied more on size and repetition for their challenge rather than cleverness in design. Hey, that's what the custom levels are for, right?

One minor problem I had was the counter-intuitiveness of the starting block. Rather than clicking on the opposite side of the direction in which you want it to go (simulating the "flick" of a finger on a domino) you click on the the same side. It's small but annoying, something I kept occasionally doing wrong even after 9 levels or so. Maybe I'm just not that bright!

I also felt that for a game based on toppling dominoes, Tom missed the mark on one major design choice: speed. Most of the fun of watching a string of dominoes fall is the combination of the blur of motion and "clackety clack" of the bones hitting each other. What Sky Blocs really needed was to be greatly sped up, or at least offer a speed option.

Other than that I thoroughly enjoyed wracking my brain over each increasingly more challenging stage.

Play Sky Blocs

An updated version of the game is available to play at Tom's The First Door site.


  • Currently 4/5
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Rating: 4/5 (124 votes)
Comments (26) | Views (2,399)

PsychotronicGrid16Ubiquitous developer jmtb02 (John Cooney, now a developer for Armor Games) has added another prize race horse to his growing stable of ultra-fast-paced minigame collections. While his Four Second series (so far including Fury, Frenzy, and Firestorm) stuck pretty closely to the formula established by Nintendo's Wario Ware, this new game feels like its own entity, with a unified visual style and a strong sense of purpose. Grid16 is nothing less than an exploration of our primal gamer instincts, and although it isn't a complete triumph, it's a giant step in an intriguing direction.

Your goal in Grid16 is simply to stay alive as long as possible. You start out with 16 live mini-games, each recognizable as a video game archetype. Every few seconds, the current mini-game will pause, retreat into the background, and be replaced by another game at random. Your control method is always the arrow keys, but they act differently from game to game. Your objective changes constantly as well, but it almost always boils down to either touching something or avoiding something. The whole point here is simplicity.

To keep things interesting, a speed multiplier gradually counts up as you play, eventually doubling the pace of the game, tripling it, and more, with no limit in sight. When you fail at a game it disappears from the line-up, and when you've lost all 16, you're done. Have fun, and try not to have a heart attack.

Analysis: Grid16 isn't perfect. Not by a long shot. The balancing in the different mini-games is all over the place. Some kill you in seconds without giving you a fair chance to even guess at the right control scheme, while others make you actually go out of your way to fail, at least the first couple of times you see them.

Jmtb02 has removed a lot of the helpful audio/visual cues that accompanied Wario Ware and the Four Second games. The Grid16 mini-games just zap in and zap out without explanation or warning, and if your gamer grammar can't parse the basic shapes into characters, goals, and threats fast enough, you lose. If a mini-game pauses at a dangerous moment, you are pretty much guaranteed to lose the next time it pops up, simply because you won't have time to re-adjust. The instructions that ticker-tape along the top of the screen are more distraction than aid (definitely check them out for humorous easter eggs, though), and the way the entire screen goes black every time the speed multiplier increases just serves to break your concentration.

The worst issue is probably what happens at the end of the game, when you have a single mini-game remaining: it gets terribly boring. None of the games are strong enough to carry your attention on their own; they're only fun when you're flipping rapidly between them. So when you get down to the last one—which is probably the one you're best at anyway—you just watch it get faster and faster until you can't possibly keep up. Inexplicably, that last game will keep pausing and going through the whole switching routine, even though it no longer has anything to switch with. It probably would have worked better to simply end the whole thing when there's only one mini-game left.

But despite all these flaws, Grid16 is an absolute blast. I love the distilled purity of the aesthetic, the aggressive techno score, the battering challenge. The statistics page at the end of the game rates you separately on Prioritizing, Reflexes, and Timing, and that's what it feels like Grid16 is doing sometimes—measuring the potential of your very brain.

Of course, those scores would feel more accurate if the mini-games were less wildly unbalanced, but this is still a successful neurological experiment in a fun-tacular shape. If jmtb02 produces a sequel (and this is the developer behind five iterations of Ball Revamped, so it seems reasonable to expect Grid32 at some point) with tighter design, it will be one of the best of its breed.

Play Grid16

You can also play this game at John's jmtb02 Studios site.


  • Currently 3.8/5
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Rating: 3.8/5 (59 votes)
Comments (28) | Views (1,679)

PsychotronicFluke BallIf your soul-crushing day job is making you lose your will to live—or at least your willingness to let your co-workers live—why not blow off a little steam by staging a few rounds of friendly competitive Fluke Ball? Why not? Huh? Huh? C'mon, what's stopping you? Huh? What? You say you don't know how to play Fluke Ball? That's no excuse, crazy muffin head, all you need is a few simple ingredients.

  1. An empty break room.
  2. Your co-workers.
  3. A microwave-based reverse-flux magnetic anomaly.
  4. Office supplies.

If you can't get a hold of one or more of the above (office supplies are expensive!), then may I suggest this free online computer simulation of the sport, courtesy of Andrew Paradise and Georg Pederson? It's fun, it's accurate, and it won't bring an end to civilization as we know it.*

The goal of Fluke Ball is to throw objects into the mysterious waves of force surrounding the office microwave, and knock out your opponent's objects when necessary. It's essentially shuffleboard, but sideways and with gravity. After you've each thrown five objects, the ones remaining in the anomaly will be scored based on how close they are to the center, and whoever scores higher wins a point. Best two out of three points wins the match.

First, select what type of game you'd like to play. "Tournament" is the one-player challenge mode, where you may unlock secret modes and characters. "Versus" gets you into a quick game with a number of options, including two-player matches. Choose your character from a starting line-up of corporate pawns who will immediately remind you of your own cubicle-mates, in spirit if not in morphology.

Once you're in the game, throwing stuff is a three-step process. Click on one of the pieces of office equipment sitting nearby on the table. Then position your throwing arc. This part can be confusing, because you're moving a giant weird shape around. Basically, wherever you click now is the point at which your character is directly aiming, and the shape describes the path the object will take through the air. Finally, fine-tune the object's flight path by moving the mouse up and down, and click again.

It sounds complicated, and it is at first, but it feels instinctive after some experimentation. The various characters have different approaches to the game, so experiment to find which one feels natural. Louie, for example, tries to recapture his childhood hoop dreams with an overhead jump shot, while the caffeine-distracted Fermina uses more of a lackadaisical pitch. The objects all have their own mass, which is part of the strategy. If you're trying to knock out a whole clump of your opponent's score-pieces, something heavy like a stapler is handy, but attempts at the bulls-eye might require the finesse of a rubber earth ball.

Analysis: Fluke Ball already gets 10,000 Psychotronic Points for sheer uniqueness, but the care and detail that Andrew Paradise has implemented sends the game into some kind of upper stratosphere of miracle quirk. Though they remain unseen, the break room has ceiling, walls, and floor, which you can take advantage of with the bouncier objects. The microwave anomaly operates a little bit like a floating blob of goo, but with strange magnetic properties. High-speed collisions, especially between metal objects, will sometimes provoke violent reactions and electrical discharges. Most characters have both a soft lob and a more powerful fastball in their throwing arsenals. It all contributes to a sense of depth and re-playability, which is further bolstered by a healthy dose of unlockable characters and game modes.

Enthralling as it can be, Fluke Ball does lack a certain presentational spark in spots. Sound effects are minimal, and music is non-existent. Georg Pederson's wonderful character portraits and animation could use voice effects as accompaniment, even if they were just grunts and sighs of disappointment. And some sort of tutorial would help players climb the steep learning curve. This quietly awesome game deserves to be an ostentatiously awesome game.

But at least it looks great, all decked out in expressive lines and sly humor. And once you break through a layer of initial confusion, you'll have an whole miniature world of strange physics to explore.

If you can't relate to the office environment, perhaps you'll appreciate the implications of the game's concept. Here these bored, unchallenged employees are finally facing a phenomenon unlike anything they've ever encountered, and they turn it into a pointless competition in a futile attempt to establish a microcosmic pecking order. The essence of human nature in a flash game. That's art, baby.

Play Fluke Ball


* Warning: Fluke Ball may bring an end to civilization as we know it.


  • Currently 3.7/5
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Rating: 3.7/5 (65 votes)
Comments (16) | Views (2,213)

PatrickTomb ChessChess is a classic, easy to learn and hard to master. What would happen if chess was bitten by a zombie and then rose again as an undead shadow of its former self? You'd get Tomb Chess, an intriguing variation on the dynamic, where two ghoulish armies battle across a graveyard.

The graveyard is arranged in a checkered grid, like a chess board, and when the game begins every space is covered by a grave. Players take turns by either moving a unit one space or digging up a new unit. Units have different levels of power, from the Ghostly Pawn with a power level of 1, to the Demon King with a power level of 6. Units can eliminate enemy units that have a level less than or equal to their own, and the kings can be killed by pawns. Victory means eliminating all other units, or entering into a stalemate with a higher point total derived from your active units. The interface involves only clicking: Click on a grave to overturn it, click on a unit to select it, and click on the space where you want to move it.

Analysis: While we commonly associate chess with units being equal in attack power and different in movement patterns, Tomb Chess is actually closer to Chess' Chinese counter-part, with a dash of Stratego and a unique form all it's own. It has depth and replay value beyond most games, and will keep strategy fans hooked. It even has a crude multi-player mode where two people can alternately use the mouse to give orders. The randomized distribution of units gives the game a level of complexity that keeps it fresh, and also adds a level of skill in predicting what is likely to surface, forcing you to hedge your bets against that one green pawn appearing next to your entrapped king.

This is a veritable monster mash of gaming goodness. You owe it to your cerebellum to play Tomb Chess!

Play Tomb Chess


  • Currently 4.3/5
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Rating: 4.3/5 (104 votes)
Comments (104) | Views (2,073)

JessAngular MomentumIn Angular Momentum, Robert Berrier's and Roland Ariens' entry into our 4th CGDC, players are plunged into what seems to be the innards of some sort of machine (it looks a bit like a futuristic ant farm) and must guide the requisite ball through a series of chambers. The levels boast twisty, up and down landscapes worthy of Sonic the Hedgehog; tools such as speed boosts and jump platforms will help you reach the exits, but beware of the eeeevil orange panels that will send you back to the start.

Controls are simple to the max using the arrow keys: [right] moves the ball right, and [left] moves it left (except in some later levels, where [up] allows the ball to levitate). The game is divided into six sets of levels; the first five introduce new gameplay elements, along with plenty of instruction to ensure that the player never becomes confused, and the sixth is a set of "master levels" that combines all previous components into a more challenging experience.

Analysis: Momentum, not actual interactive gameplay, is the star of the show here. Often enough the player barely has to control the ball to reach the exit; in one early level I believe I used the arrow keys all of four times, with the various added elements (speed boosts, etc) in the level taking care of the rest. While sitting back and watching the ball fly through tunnels and soar over traps is kinda neat, I'm not sure it constitutes a truly immersive gameplay experience. Later, more complex levels somewhat ameliorate this flaw, but on the whole I found the game to be much too easy.

A lack of environmental variety was also an issue for me. Each level looks largely the same: gray tunnels and walls with bright blue, orange and purple accents to denote traps and tools. While I did like the sleek lines and minimalist aesthetic, some sort of diversity would have made each individual chamber (or set of levels) more memorable. The soundtrack, while appropriate to the feel of the game, is a single loop that ultimately became a bit annoying to me.

I've made a lot of criticisms here, but make no mistake: Angular Momentum has some really great elements going for it. I thought that the ball physics theme was present and modeled excellently, and I also really liked how the individual levels were entered and exited by tubes, creating the feel of a journey through a single structure. Maybe best of all, Robert and Roland have created a really fantastic level editor/builder, where players can design and play their own creations. I did notice, however, that this element is missing everywhere the game is hosted except for the CGDC4 server. This is really too bad, as without the level builder players will miss out on a great deal of the fun.

I'd advise Robert and Roland to create some more "master levels" and shorten the tutorials, as well as consider adding a bit of verve to the look of the game. You guys have great ideas and a promising start; with some more work and refinement Angular Momentum could be really excellent. And for goodness sakes, make sure that level builder is present anywhere the game can be found!

Flawed but fun, and certainly worth a few minutes of your time:

Play Angular Momentum

JayJay - I really wanted to love this entry since it looks like it has everything going for it: beautiful, photorealistic 3D pre-rendered graphics, excellent presentation, a groovy soundtrack, and enough levels to keep you busy for a while. Unfortunately, the level design is the weakest link here, leaving much to be desired. Perhaps that was because of the relatively short development period, as 2 months is not really a very long time to create such a polished competition entry as this endeavors to be. Still, it's a fun little game with tremendous potential. I would also like to encourage Robert and Roland to take development of the title further and give us the best set of master levels they can muster. Well done!


Comments (339) | Views (2,387)

JayLilo plushieIf you've been visiting JIG for a while, it's likely you've seen and played The Asylum: Psychiatric Clinic for Abused Cuddly Toys before. The game puts you in the role of a psychiatrist as you attempt to cure each adorable yet disturbed little animal. It's one of the most creative and engaging Flash games we've ever seen or played.

The game is actually a brilliant marketing campaign for real plushies that you can purchase via links within the game. Each patient is available for purchase, and the creators continue to add new animals to cure (and to buy) from time to time.

The Lilo plushie in the picture above was recently delivered to JIG headquarters, except the doctor is way too busy to take care of it, so we're giving it away to some lucky visitor with a JIG Casual Gameplay account! All you have to do is leave a comment here on this entry by signing into your Casual Gameplay account. If it's a valid comment, our little mascot (the JIGsterJIGster) will appear next to your name. That's all there is to it!

We will draw one lucky name at random this coming Friday (February 29, 2008). Be sure your email address in your profile is up-to-date and valid, as we will be sending you an email to confirm your account and to request a shipping address to send you this cute, adorable little Lilo. Good luck! =)

Update: Congratulations to Skarlath, the new owner of The Asylum's Lilo plushie!

Be sure to keep checking the site, as we'll be giving away another Asylum plushie again soon!

If you're playing the game again (or perhaps even for the first time) and need some help, you might find some helpful hints, tips or even a walkthrough on one of our previous Asylum reviews.


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Rating: 4.4/5 (26 votes)
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Ghost in the Sheet

JohnBGhost in the Sheet is an unusual point-and-click adventure game for Windows that drops the conventions of item management in favor of supernatural abilities. There is no inventory, as you don't pick up and carry objects in this game. Instead you gain a battery of ghostly powers that allow you to interact with the environment just like a flesh-and-blood human. It's a refreshing take on the adventure genre with a good sense of humor, unique puzzles, and a captivating game world.

ghostinthesheet.jpgAs the titular ghost in the sheet, you play a man who was hit by a bus and finds himself in a sort of limbo, held together by nothing more than a sheet draped over his being. A ghost catching organization immediately recruits him to investigate why the souls of deceased mortals on Earth aren't reaching the afterlife. Your quest begins in an abandoned factory where you'll learn the ropes of adventuring without a solid form.

Because of your ghostly status, carrying items, pushing objects and interacting with the environment is pretty much impossible. Fortunately you learn supernatural abilities that take their place. You start with Telekinesis that allows you to move objects around a room. As you explore you'll learn how to push/pull things, light darkened rooms, and much, much more. Most of the puzzles in the game take full advantage of your ghostly limitations and are centered around using supernatural abilities in creative ways.

Analysis: Ghost in the Sheet bends the adventuring conventions at the source with the lack of inventory and direct item manipulation. This adds a great puzzle flavor to what would normally be simple tasks. For example, if you need to get an object from one room to another, most games would let you pick it up and start walking. As a ghost, however, that's no simple matter, forcing you to get creative and watch your environments very closely. Also, this is one of those adventure games where jotting down notes isn't a bad idea, so have a pen and paper ready.

ghostinthesheet2.gifIt seems like every casual game has to have minigames these days, and Ghost in the Sheet follows suit with a few of its own. Some of them are rather crude and disgusting, whereas the rest are simply forgettable. They're all easily skipped by tapping the [backspace] key, which is a feature many more casual game developers should take note of.

The atmosphere in Ghost in the Sheet is perfectly suited for the story at hand, and locations are well-drawn and pull you right in. The voice acting is entertaining (though sometimes a bit stiff), and you really appreciate the main character's sense of humor about his odd situation, reflected in some of his off-beat comments.

Ghost in the Sheet gets everything right as an adventure game and it manages to lose some of the dryness associated with the genre. The new take on an old theme works wonders. Unfortunately our affiliate doesn't offer a demo for Ghost in the Sheet due to its rather large file size, but if this review grabbed your interest, you won't be disappointed with the full version.

WindowsWindows:
Get the full version

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


Comments (24) | Views (2,237)

Weekend Download

JohnB

The Weekend Download arrives with glee
Bringing fun games to you, from me
Just download and play
Then sit there all day
On Saturday you couldn't be more free!




thenightshiftcode.jpgThe Nightshift Code (Windows/Mac, 40MB, demo) - A hidden object/adventure game starring a young security guard, Mike, who catches a museum thief late one night and discovers the rare artifact she's after is connected to his father's disappearance. Instead of reporting her, he joins Isabel as they travel across the globe searching for items and solving cryptic messages. Along with the comic-style cutscenes, unique storyline and great presentation, The Nightshift Code throws a curveball with riddle-type item clues in every stage. For example, the list of objects might include "four tapes", but each tape is a different object -- a roll of tape, a cassette tape, etc. Even though these clues can be difficult, you enjoy them nonetheless, and they complement the hidden object game quite well.

painajainen.gifPainajainen (Windows, 5.2MB, free) - Similar in theme to Seiklus and, to a lesser extent, Knytt, Painajainen is a 2D platform exploration game about a boy who gets trapped in his own dream. The goal is to gather all the orbs to open a door, and to do that you'll need to walk, swim and fly into every nook and cranny of the surreal world.

beneathasteelsky.jpgBeneath a Steel Sky (Windows/Mac/Linux, 2-7MB, free) - Widely regarded as one of the true classic adventure games from the early 90s, Beneath a Steel Sky is set in a sci-fi cyberpunk universe and tells the story of a young boy called Robert who is the sole survivor of a plane crash in "The Gap". You'll need ScummVM as well as the game file itself, both of which run on practically every computer system ever conceived.

simontathampuzzles.gifSimon Tatham's Portable Puzzle Collection (Windows/Mac/Linux, <2MB, free) - Not one, but 27 small puzzle games ranging from number puzzles to familiar games (such as Minesweeper) to more original fare. Perfect for killing a few minutes in-between projects (or distracting yourself from homework). Windows users can download the games individually, while Mac/Linux folk will need to grab the whole collection in one file.

avernum5.jpgAvernum 5 (Windows/Mac, 26MB, demo) - The fifth installment of the highly-acclaimed role playing series, Avernum 5 sets a standard for independently-made RPGs. Sure, it doesn't look like much, but once you scratch the surface you'll realize there's so much to enjoy about this game. Warning: you'll have to abandon a bit of your casual gaming habits to truly enjoy Avernum.


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Rating: 4.4/5 (46 votes)
Comments (11) | Views (3,112)

Cate West - The Vanishing Files

JohnBCate West - The Vanishing Files is a hidden object game, from developer Gamenauts, that strays as far as it can from the genre without turning into a minigame-focused mystery adventure. In addition to your usual "find all the objects on the list" gameplay, Cate West weaves a number of evidence-related games that keep the pointing and clicking from getting stale. Paired with stellar artwork and an interesting storyline, the final result is something that provides the charm of a hidden object game with new experiences and lighter, more engaging gameplay.

catewest.jpgCate West is an author with a unique psychic ability: she can see places, people and things associated with an item simply by touching it. Working with the police you will investigate 15 full cases, each divided into sub-games that follow the same overall outline. Cases begin with hidden object scenes where Cate searches cluttered locations for clues. The item finding mechanics here are simple: just look at the list and search the image for the objects. You don't have to find all of the items, which is a huge relief, and hints slowly regenerate after each use (though points will be deducted and you may not see the game's best ending).

After clues have been gathered, Cate pinpoints items with strong associations to the criminal for use in the trial. In a slight variation of the hidden object theme, these items are broken into pieces and you must find every part to assemble it. Next, Cate searches for the criminal's hideout by matching a photograph with her mental image, prompting a spot-the-difference minigame. This narrows the location down to a single street where a handful of suspects are rounded up and placed before your eyes. Each profile photo has some basic information about the suspect that you'll compare against Cate's impressions from the evidence, slowly narrowing the choices down to a few. Then it's time to make your arrest.

catewest2.jpgIn court, the suspect gives his or her testimony which begins a fun spot-the-difference/hidden object mash-up game. Instead of looking for items or differences, however, you're given an inventory of items and must place them on photographs of the scene, making sure the left side matches the right. Justice has been served, and it's time to move on to the next case!

Analysis: Games with this sort of mystery-laden atmosphere have always been a draw for me, but I was hesitant to dive into Cate West - The Vanishing Files simply because I didn't want to play another hidden object game. I was very pleasantly surprised, however, at how light this game is on the item finding. Sure, it's still the center of the show, but mixing in the various evidence games really breaks up the monotony and ends up being a lot of fun.

Even though it's a lighter take on the hidden object genre, Cate West suffers from becoming formulaic in its own right. It's a rather lengthy game for a casual title, with 15 cases and almost twice as many locations to visit, but with the same few games repeating over and over it feels a little stale by the end. Fortunately the story is interesting enough to encourage you to forge ahead. Also worth mentioning are the stunning locations and art direction in Cate West - The Vanishing Files. The dialogue-driven cut scenes have an almost manga-style feel, and when you reach a new area you just want to drink in the detail.

It's enough item finding to appease hidden object fans, yet Cate West - The Vanishing files is so much more. It's a carefully crafted blend of experiences that gets just about everything right.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


Comments (38) | Views (1,254)

Link Dump Fridays

JohnBIt's Link Dump Friday: Kitchen Sink Edition! Why kitchen sink? Because that's practically the only thing we've left out of this weeks article. Seven game in all, almost twice the usual dose, and they range from hamster slingshots to soul-searching cursors to brain teasers.

  • icon_flightofthehamster.gifFlight of the Hamster - Hamsters line up. Hamsters jump. You pull the pillow back and send them flying. See how far you can blast and pilot flying hamsters in this Cartoon Network take on Nanaca † Crash.
  • icon_bluep.gifBluep - From Hero Interactive comes a quirky little hopping/shooting arcade game that feels like the confused child of Super Mario Bros., Grid Wars, and Asteroids. Move your ship around the screen, firing with the mouse button and jumping with the [spacebar]. The goal is to destroy the guns that appear around the edges of the screen.
  • icon_heist.gifHeist - An isometric action/adventure game where you play the "best thief ever" trying to steal the World Diamond. Plant explosive charges, search lockers, and avoid the building's security systems.
  • icon_soulsearch.gifSoul Search - A painfully difficult game of "avoid the walls with your cursor", but the setting and presentation are so interesting, it's worth the chunks of missing head hair.
  • icon_bricks.gifBricks - Match-3 games are about as new and interesting as a ham and cheese sandwich, but Bricks manages to add a few spicy condiments to the mix for a slightly refreshing puzzle experience. The goal is, of course, to make groups of three or more like-colors. The catch is that clicking on a square causes it to adopt the adjacent color the arrow points to. In about three seconds you'll get the hang of it, but it's still strangely compelling.
  • icon_musicinmotion.gifMusic in Motion - Another stab at integrating music into the gaming experience, Music in Motion is a great concept title that blends action and techno beats into a very interesting package. Each stage featured blocks that fall/appear in time with the music. All you have to do is avoid getting squished.
  • icon_25boxes.gif25 Boxes - A short brainteaser-type game where you use peripheral vision to find shapes and click their corresponding blank tiles. It's short and not very difficult, but fun for a round or two.
  • JayJIG Poker Night - is every Saturday! (oh yes, it is!). Check this page each week for time of day (usually 4PM Eastern). The winner each week qualifies for a championship tournament on May 17th where we'll give away an iPod Nano and a Nintendo DS!! So, join us won't you?

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Rating: 3.8/5 (88 votes)
Comments (27) | Views (1,954)

JayShotTaro Ito has been a favorite of ours here at JIG for several years, so it is with great fanfare that we welcome new releases from his GameDesign.jp website.

The latest of his designs is this sliding-block puzzle game called Shot. The objective is to progress as far as you can, through a series of increasingly more difficult levels, by knocking all but one of the balls from the play grid. You do this by sliding one ball into another with a simple click-drag movement with the mouse. It's as simple as that.

Always emphasizing minimalist design over clutter and complexity, Ito-san delivers yet another remarkable and addictive puzzler with randomized levels that increase the game's replay value significantly. The only downside is the inclusion of a clock that counts down limiting the time you have to figure out a solution for each level. This will undoubtedly disappoint those who require a bit more time for puzzles like this (myself included).

Still, it's a simple idea based on a familiar puzzle concept, and yet made entirely his own through presentation and implementation.

Play Shot


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Rating: 4.6/5 (116 votes)
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ArtbegottiGriddler PearEvery time we review a picross game, there always seems to be a hubbub about what site does it right. Either there's not enough puzzles to solve, not enough variety in the puzzles, it's all too easy or too hard, or the pictures look like someone sneezed on a piece of graph paper. (I'll admit to being among the gripers before.) And every time, there's at least one person who suggests Griddlers.net.

If you've never played picross before, here's how it works: On the top and left side of a grid, you will see some numbers. These numbers tell you how many consecutive blocks are to be filled in in that respective row or column. For example, a row says 4, you'll fill four squares in that row, no more, no less. If there is more than one number in a line, then you know that there is at least one blank space in between the sections you fill in. For example, 2,2 means you fill in two boxes, leave at least one blank, then fill in two more boxes. Left-clicking fills in a square, while right-clicking marks it with a blank space. Thus, blacking in the last "?" square in the picture above will finish this picture of a juicy pear.

Here is what sets Griddlers apart from the others: Not only is the site's database of playable picross games ridiculously ginormous, but they have many different variations on the genre to keep you interested. Some include:

Colored Griddlers - These are played just like regular picross puzzles, except now you have multiple colors to fill in the grid with. The same rule applies that there is one block between each string of numbers of the same color, however, there does not need to be a gap between numbers of different color. This variety allows for puzzles of up to eight colors, which means all sorts of beautiful animals, faces, and other pictures can be made in a more lively fashion.

Multi-Griddlers - These are sets of picross puzzles that when put together form much larger pictures, in jigsaw-style fashion. Some of the smaller pictures are divided into 2-4 sections, while the larger pictures can contain upwards of 100 separate sections to solve. People have gone to great lengths to use this feature to create very detailed puzzles depicting photographs, cartoon characters, famous paintings, and all sorts of amazing pictures... Can you tell that I'm hinting that this website has a lot of very artistically designed puzzles here?

TriddlerTriddlers - Quite possibly the most radical variation available, Triddlers are played on a hexagonal grid divided into triangles. You fill in the triangles with clues from the left-hand side (going across), the top (going down-left), and the bottom (going up-left). Changing the shape of picross (literally), this variation allows for more three-dimensional designs and generally provides a break from the standard square-grid picross.

With all of these fantastic features, is there any possible problem with this website? Well... yes, but it's a minor one. There is a quick and painless registration process to be able to record your progress. You're allowed to save two Griddlers and two Triddlers in the middle of solving, but beyond this requires a paid subscription (which truth be told, has a ton of extra features, including the ability to download and print puzzles for solving away from the computer).

Analysis: So have we finally found the holy grail of picross? Of course not. Actually, I can almost already predict the two largest problems people will find with these games. The controls are different from any picross game we've featured so far, particularly because of the multi-colored puzzles. It's no longer plain black and white, there's also red, green, and blue, which can pose a problem for colorblind individuals. The second problem is that all of the puzzles run on a Java interface, and I know how some people have issues with Java. But that much aside, we have a site that offers us (I kid you not) tens of thousands of picross puzzles to solve... I'd say it still qualifies as a puzzler's heaven.

So... Picross. Tons of it. Not much more to say here!

Play Griddlers


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Rating: 3.5/5 (45 votes)
Comments (46) | Views (5,604)

ballrooms.gifdancemonkeyAn entry from Dom Camus (The Turtles of Time) into our 4th Casual Gameplay Design Competition, Ballrooms plays more or less like a standard table-top pinball game with an added element of exploration. Really, it's a pinball adventure game where you earn points, grab power-ups, and travel between boards via a network of warp holes. The end result is a pinball universe that's as much flipper pounding as it is exploration.

Ballrooms has several control setups available, one of which utilizes the [WASD] keys for flipper control and the [spacebar] for power-ups. The [A] and [D] keys move the left and right flippers respectively, while [S] activates special flippers and [W] bumps the table. Flippers aren't always placed at the bottom center as on a normal pinball table, but it's usually quite intuitive to see which key moves which flipper.

Bouncing around the various tables in Ballrooms, you'll hit the usual set of switches and buttons that will net you points. You'll also come across warp tunnels and power-ups, which is where things get very interesting. Green-rimmed holes lead to new tables, and exploring the whole Ballroom universe is absolutely something you'll want to do. Power-ups range from boosters, quick-save moves, point multipliers, and so on, all of which are activated with a tap of the [spacebar].

ballrooms2.gifAnalysis: With a solid concept and engaging presentation, Ballrooms doesn't skimp on entertainment value. After spending some time with the game, however, you'll begin to pick up on a few minor shortcomings that stand in the way of a better experience. My biggest issue was with the gravity. Some readers referred to the game as having "springy" walls, but it seemed to me as if I was playing pinball on the moon. The actual physics of the ball's bouncing and trajectory seemed spot-on, but the crazy ball just bounced way too high and with too much power. On a typical pinball table I can direct a ball with a fair degree of accuracy to a target, but in Ballrooms I was consistently frustrated by the ball flying like a rocket off a flipper to the exact same spot every time, despite my attempts at timing the shot differently.

I also felt that each room, or "table", was just too small, and some made it extremely difficult to hit all the targets. I think this may have boiled down to a limitation of the medium, but I would have really liked to see a more robust, almost full-size pinball table for each room, allowing for a truly epic pinball exploration bonanza. The rooms as they are now are simply too small and don't last long enough for me to develop any emotional interest in them (yes, you can develop emotional interest in pinball!).

I have to say that despite the game's flaws, it's fantastic fun to play. The concept is brilliant, and I think Dom was simply limited by the time constraints of the competition and the technical limitations of Flash. He did a great job of theming each room with beautiful background artwork, though he could have extended that to the foreground elements as well and it would have gone a long way. Dom mentioned working on a sequel, which is obviously a great idea, but I can honestly see this concept working as a complete PC or console title. That would allow Dom the freedom to include photo-realistic graphics, larger tables, and more robust and detailed obstacles.

Play Ballrooms