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April 2013 Archives


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The Nightjar

JohnBThe most frightening things are often the ones you can't see. It stands to reason, then, that in a world where nothing is visible, just about everything is frightening. The Nightjar is an audio adventure from Papa Sangre that uses a rudimentary visual interface to allow you to explore a sci-fi horror adventure world. Every sound has a meaning, and every step moves you through a dark labyrinth of mental images. Now let's see if you can escape this ship you've been stranded on without getting eaten by one of those "complex, non-human" lifeforms!

The NightjarNavigating The Nightjar requires you to listen and locate sounds then use a few simple visual controls to move through the world. Alternate tapping the left and right "tracks" on the screen to walk, your feet making appropriate noises on every surface they strike. To turn left or right, simply swipe the top of the screen. Sounds appear to come from different locations as you move and pivot. The game often requires you to seek out a particular sound (a door lock release, for example), then find the exit to continue. That isn't to say there aren't some twists in the gameplay, however...

As the story progresses, The Nightjar becomes more of a frightening place. It's a strong story-driven game and puzzles are presented at their absolute minimum. There are 14 chapters in all, each lasting just a few minutes for around an hour of gameplay in all. It's a bit on the short side, but the experience is absolutely worth it. And yes, that's the voice of Benedict Cumberbatch you hear!

Get ready for one of the most frighteningly lifelike games on any mobile device. When a world exists only as words and sounds in your ears, you'll be surprised at the horrifying images your brain conjures up.

NOTE: This game was played and reviewed on the iPad 3. Game was available in the North American market at the time of publication, but may not be available in other territories. Please see individual app market pages for purchasing info.


  • Currently 3.8/5
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Rating: 3.8/5 (108 votes)
Comments (9) | Views (3,715)

Escape from the Similar Rooms 2

DoraI've got a fever, and the only cure is more escape games! Luckily prolific developer Hottategoya is back for more with Escape from the Similar Rooms 2. As before, you've got three seemingly identical rooms, each with their own puzzle to solve before you eventually escape, and with no inventory, success largely comes down to examining everything around you while going "Hmmmmm" in a very wise, scholarly fashion. It's not a particularly long game, or a challenging one, where simple logic and observation rule the day, and so for many of you this is going to be over almost before it starts. Hopefully somewhere down the road we'll meet up with a real Hottategoya behemoth of a game that will give us a real meaty challenge, but in the meantime, these little bites pf gameplay will do just fine... even if you probably would need a whole handful of them to satisfy.

Play Escape from the Similar Rooms 2


  • Currently 4.2/5
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Rating: 4.2/5 (136 votes)
Comments (13) | Views (13,696)

This is Not a Minimalist Game

DoraMade in just 48 hours for Ludum Dare's Minimalism competition, StormAlligator's This is Not a Minimalist Game is a retro-sy adventure that looks ordinary until a curse downgrades your high-tech world into something much simpler. And all you wanted to do was chop off his head to complete your quest... how rude! Use the [arrow] keys to move and jump, [X] and [C] to select dialogue options, and the number keys to select items or open your map. You'll need to think outside the box in order to restore the world... which is going to be tricky since boxes are all you get. To begin with, that is.

This is Not a Minimalist GameThough ultimately a short game, which is to be expected given its teeny-weeny development window, This is Not a Minimalist Game is fun and satisfying in the same sort of vein as Evoland... albeit with even less bells and whistles. It might even be a bit too simple for some players since the story is somewhat underdeveloped to go with the gameplay, though the ending has a cute twist that feels like a punchline. It may approach the competition's theme from a different angle, but This is Not a Minimalist Game has a neat idea that begs for more fleshing out in the future... although that would probably break our poor protagonist's mind even further.

Play This is Not a Minimalist Game


  • Currently 3.7/5
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Rating: 3.7/5 (29 votes)
Comments (5) | Views (6,220)

Wings Over Water

elleBeautiful music, moonlight reflected on the sea and birds gliding on the wind: things that are peaceful and relaxing and sweetly simple. Not what you'd ordinarily expect when you think arcade avoidance games, which drums up images of a stress inducing frantic frenzy to accumulate high scores. Yet Wings Over Water is, as you'd expect from any Orisinal creation, a deft melding of serenity and gameplay. Use your mouse to control as you travel vertically along your route avoiding hawks and other obstacles. Increase your score by gathering little blue birds who follow behind and make avoidance more challenging. To ease your task, a click temporarily joins them all together yet uses energy while bonus floating stars will replenish it. Wings Over Water is a lovely, peaceful excursion that also happens to be a game. Enjoy!

Play Wings Over Water


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The Vault

TrickyGet ready to be metagrobolized, lovers of ludo, by this week's collection of confounding complexities from the JayIsGames archives. That's right, in this installment, puzzles take the forefront, as The Vault features quality works from casual gaming past. Certainly it's a wide-open genre, but whether you like your puzzles with a side of strategy, adventure, or luck, the subsequent selection is sure to satisfy.

  • MagnetismMagnetism - It's always interesting to see where popular authors got their start, and doubly so if they secretly knocked it out of the park the first time. Tyler Glaeil may be best known these days for his work on Closure and Aether, but as a 14-year old he made his debut with 2005's Magnetism, an excellent ball-dropping blend of physics and strategy. Though a little rough around the edges graphically, Magnetism spotlights both Glaeil's talent for conceptualizing intriguing gaming ideas, and his skill at implementing them in his programming. It may have been a long road from "High-Difficulty Ball Bearing/Magnet Simulator" to "Experimental Metaphysical Shadowy Exploration Platformer", but clearly, the ride got off to a good start.
  • Industrial Place ThingyIndustrial Place Thingy - I tell ya, I'm just about always in the mood for a helping-a-hapless-stickdude-make-his-way-across-an--obstacle-filled-screen-by-clicking-the-various-objects-in-his-environment kinda game, and 2005's Industrial Place Thingy by James Trofe is a perfect way to satisfying that craving. Certainly, the debt it owes to the Hapland series is huge, but Industrial Place Thingy holds it own with clever puzzle design and a deliciously dark streak in its physical humor. Be sure to check out its sadly-incompete sequel too!
  • ReelzReeelz - Oh, slot machines! The flashing lights! The clanging sounds! The thrill of finally getting a "Nothing But Calories" or "Lunar Outpost" bonus combo! Okay, that last one is only a factor in Reeelz, released in 2010 by Game In A Bottle. Reeelz's gambling veneer hides a work of surprising strategic depth, as you nudge and lock the seven wheels to achieve the specific sets of icons needed to clear the board. As addictive as a real one-armed bandit, but with no cupfull of quarters required, Reeelz will win you over with its elegant simplicity. Jackpot!

While we welcome any comments about this weekly feature here, we do ask that if you need any help with the individual games, please post your questions on that game's review page. Well, what are you waiting for? Get out there and rediscover some awesome!


  • Currently 4.3/5
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Rating: 4.3/5 (33 votes)
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Robot Unicorn Attack 2

SuzanneTo be a robot unicorn, galloping through the futuristic landscape straight from a prog album cover while feeling the wind in your luxurious mane, dashing recklessly through glittering stars and smashing into your component robot parts when you misjudge that one tricky jump... Robot Unicorn Attack 2 by PikPok and Adult Swim is a candy-coated cream puff of a game with a tough-as-nails center. In short, a new endless runner superstar.

Robot Unicorn Attack 2You are a glorious robot unicorn and you must do what all glorious robot unicorns do: run and jump and chase your high score in a pre-teen girl's fever dream made flesh. Running is automatic, so all you have to do is focus on jumping and dashing by tapping on the left and right sides of your screen. While the basic gameplay is the same, the number of improvements made to the original Robot Unicorn Attack are staggering. Daily and community goals, team challenges, unlockables, power/ups, and enemies to fight: a continuous flow of new goodies provides a compulsive and motivating meta/game. Collect tears, the game's currency, during your runs to purchase upgrades that make your unicorn better, faster, stronger, as well as cooler-looking. Every day brings new treats to the land of the Robot Unicorns, refreshing the stage layout and daily challenges.

There are, of course, a few clouds threatening this otherwise perfect land: RUA2 moves to a free-to-play structure with interstitial ads and in-app purchases for extra features and currency. While this is a controversial choice and some may long for a one-price unlock fee, the flow of currency is constant and fair. Perhaps one of the most necessary in-app purchases of all time unlocks Erasure's "Always" as background music. Yet the payment structure is a minor complaint in the face of the impressive feat PikPok has done: updating a ubiquitous mobile classic without losing the original's joyous soul. Go Team Rainbow!

NOTE: This game was played and reviewed on the iPhone 4S. Game was available in the North American market at the time of publication, but may not be available in other territories. Please see individual app market pages for purchasing info.


  • Currently 2.7/5
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Rating: 2.7/5 (87 votes)
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Canoniac Launcher 2

AliceRemember Jimmy, the shop mannequin who dreamed of becoming a crash dummy? When we last left him, he'd launched himself so high that he shot into space like a rocket and, after a few asteroid-related mishaps, landed on an alien planet. As it turns out, this world is a dangerous place, but some things stay the same no matter where you go... like cannons. There's always a cannon. And so, Jimmy decides to do what he does best: launch himself into the air, take a few bullets, save up for some upgrades, and flail around ridiculously whenever he smashes into something. It's time for Canoniac Launcher 2, a new action-packed launch title brought to you by FunBunGames.

Canoniac Launcher 2The original Canoniac Launcher was fun, but had some notable flaws. It's always good when a developer is willing to learn from their mistakes, and that seems to be the case here— gone are the unclear ending goals, the excruciatingly expensive upgrades, the unbalanced prices... well, mostly. I stuck with the Tornado a little longer than strictly necessary. Unfortunately, these improvements come at the expense of some of the game's charm. There's nothing wrong with the new, cartoonier art style, but it's a very common look for this type of game... and with more standard play on top of that change, Canoniac Launcher 2 feels more like any old launcher than like the original.

And again, there's nothing really wrong with that. It's still a great diversion, and Jimmy still does all those wonderful flailing motions. Hopefully the developer can strike a better balance between originality and improvement next time, but if you're a fan of launchers, this one comes recommended.

Play Canoniac Launcher 2


  • Currently 3.4/5
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Rating: 3.4/5 (96 votes)
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Heavy Room

ellePerhaps, when discussing escape-the-room games, things tend to get a little heavy. In the best of ways, of course, over the weighty matter of puzzle logic and intuitive design and which game designer has the best hair. Wait, not that last part. What isn't disputed, though, is how much we enjoy the opportunity to lighten up the load of the day with a good escape. Heavy Room by Triple Rock is a great example of this.

Heavy RoomIn case you're new to the escape game conversation, here's the gist of it: the door is locked, you're stuck inside, so click the edges of the screen to move around and start looking for signs and clues to decipher the exit code. Your cursor will change over interactive areas and items you can pick up. The text is in Japanese but if you don't read it, don't worry. Examine everything at hand, employ deductive reasoning and, with a small measure of effort, you'll figure you way through all four rooms and out the final door. It's possible to quip that the layout's convoluted or the puzzles easily brute-forced, yet it's hard to mind that much when the theme is cohesive and the game is overall enjoyable to play. Simple, quick and perfectly logical, Heavy Room is balanced just right for an anytime mini-escape.

Play Heavy Room


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Mobile Monday

JohnBMore clones! And not the good kind, either. The kind that science gives us to be members of our band. The bad kind that forces developers to get all litigious. Making games > being litigious.

factory-p.gifFactory Balls going portable - From the mahogany-stained desk of Bart Bonte comes a little teaser that's worth its weight in awesome. Accompanying the image shown to the right, Bonte recently tweeted the following message: "I can't keep this any longer to myself, this is happening very soon: Factory Balls going mobile!". Looks like we'll get a nice iOS version of the puzzle game before too long! In the meantime, give the Factory Balls browser series a play, just to get warmed up and all.

dp-p.gifPlunder ye morree dungeeons - New stuff for Dungeon Plunder! The roguelike RPG meets slot machine game is still going strong, and the new update is the biggest yet. Two new classes have been added &emdash; the Ranger and the Monk &emdash; which can be unlocked via a small in-app purchase. The monk is a melee specialist that uses martial arts to dispatch baddies, while the ranger uses a pet to attack and the new range mechanic to stay out of harm's way. That's a lot of new content for an already well-stocked game. Check out our Dungeon Plunder review for the full scoop.

skyfar-p.gifVlambeer Clone Wars - Wanna clone a game and release it for iOS devices? It seems like Vlambeer's games are the ones to copy! The studio had a rough time with Ridiculous Fishing being cloned and released before the real version was ready, and now the studio's Luftrausers has suffered the same fate with an eerily similar game called SkyFar hitting the iTunes App Store. A lot of "am not!" "are too!" e-mails will be thrown around for awhile, but hopefully Vlambeer can settle the matter and get back to making games instead of defending their properties. Sheesh.

beeleader-p.gifFree App of the Week: Bee Leader - Each week on the iTunes App Store, Apple drops a single release down to the tasty price of "free". This week, that freebie is Bee Leader, a simple arcade game starring a bee searching for nectar. Tilt or touch your way through the gorgeous levels as you gather bee buddies to help in your quest to make honey.


(4 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Enigma Agency: The Case of Shadows

DoraYou've had a bad dream that your boss, John, is in trouble, but somehow neither that nor the address you find mysteriously written on your bathroom mirror screams "bad news" quite as much as the glowing purple nether-portal you arrive to find swirling above his house. Turns out John was contracted by a shady client to track down a map, but ever since he's gotten it, his house has been acting weird... you know... mysterious black vapor emerging from the faucets and electronics sort of weird. Before you know it, you're caught up in a struggle against an ancient evil... and the ridiculously elaborate security measures in John's house. Seriously bro, what if you have to go to the bathroom but you can't because you're missing one half of an intricate puzzle lock? Meridian 93 delivers a cinematic and engaging hidden-object adventure with Enigma Agency: The Case of Shadows.

Enigma Agency: The Case of ShadowsUnfortunately for our bad guy, you're destined to win because you have the power of Click. Clicking lets you gather items, solve puzzles, hidden-object scenes, and navigate around. Your map won't let you travel around by clicking on it, but it will show any objectives you have in each area when you mouse over it. If you're stuck, the hint button will lead you right to your next objective and indicate what you should do to proceed. Unlike a lot of games in the genre, The Case of Shadows benefits from what seems like a real concentrated effort to make most of its puzzles unique and standout. Clues to solving them tend to be hidden everywhere, and the return of Rube Goldberg machines are always welcome, but the sheer variety and number on display is sort of staggering.

The downside is that the game also feels like its burdened with a lot of busywork and long, drawn-out tasks, during which the story grinds to a halt so you can do important things like solve three puzzles and gather ten items just to get someone a glass of water. The result is a long game, with enough puzzles and obstacles to satisfy almost anyone, but a game that's also long primarily because it does so much back-and-forth. Fortunately, it's also lovely to look at, and the sheer heft of its gameplay combined with its otherworldly storyline means you'll be wrapped up with this one for a satisfying length of time no matter what difficulty you play on. Though its pacing is somewhat uneven and I could personally do with a bit less of the whole persistent "malicious evil shaman" theme in games in general, on the whole the game sets the bar remarkably high. Packed with puzzles both clever and challenging and a story that will send you trotting across the globe to put things right, Enigma Agency: The Case of Shadows is flashy and fun and well worth checking out.

Note: Currently, only the Collector's Edition is available. It contains a bonus chapter, art gallery, strategy guide, and more. Remember that Big Fish Game Club Members pay only $13.99 for Collector's Editions (or 2 club credits), and collector's editions count 3 card punches of 6 total needed for a free game.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo Get the full version

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


(2 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Crabitron

JohnBCrabitron from Two Lives Left (creator of Cargo-Bot) is a mobile arcade game that lets you live the life of a giant space crab. Using your giant space claws, crush vehicles and fend off space enemies as you turn space stuff into space lunch. There's nothing about those sentences that isn't awesome, and Crabitron goes out of its way to remind you that being a giant space crab is just that.

CrabitronHow do you pilot a giant space crab? By manning the claws, of course. Using two fingers from each of your hands, touch either side of both pincers and use them like real crab claws. Yes, we know you've pretended to be a crab before, so don't act like it's not second nature. Now simply grab, squeeze and crush anything that flies by, dumping debris into your mouth for points and using your tough claws to protect your soft arms from harm.

Crabitron is built upon a mission-based structure similar to most mobile arcade games. Venture out in space, crushing and eating things until your wimpy arms eventually fall victim to excessive damage. When the round is over, take your earned coins and head to the CrabLab where you can upgrade your claws, buy burps (yep, that's a thing), or buy bonuses like laser swords or an ambulance to repair damage. Once you're ready to go, head back into space and get to crushin'.

The chief drawback to Crabitron is the learning curve required to get used to the controls. Using four fingers to operate both claws can be a challenge, especially when your arms and hands tend to block big chunks of the screen. More often than not you'll find missiles damage you before you even knew they existed. Stupid non-opaque real life arms. But, as you spend more time with the game this happens less and less frequently. It's just a matter of mastering the fine art of being a giant space crab with claws and a hungry appetite!

NOTE: This game was played and reviewed on the iPad 3. Game was available in the North American market at the time of publication, but may not be available in other territories. Please see individual app market pages for purchasing info.


  • Currently 3.6/5
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Rating: 3.6/5 (34 votes)
Comments (2) | Views (4,171)

Sticky Blobs

DoraWe've all been there. You want to change the TV channel, but the remote is, like... all the way on the other side of the room, and getting up would mean ruining this nice butt-groove you've been cultivating in the cushion. It's the First Worldiest of First World problems, but if you were Sticky Blobs, it wouldn't be a problem at all because you could just exude a few friends right out of your own body until you could reach whatever you needed. Because that's not unsettling at all. In MadFatCat's quirky World of Goo-ish physics puzzle, you're helping grunting, squishy, sentient balls of goop reach whatever they want by directing them how to grow. Click, drag, and release on any blob to grow a new one in that direction. You can only make new blobs if you have enough material, as represented by the bar on the left side of the screen, and clicking on a blob will destroy it and return whatever material was expended in making it.

Sticky BlobsThey don't all need to be connected, so you can split them off and move them in groups. Since they're beholden to physics and don't have feet, they can't move on their own, and you'll need to use mass and momentum to get them where you want them to go. Collecting the three stars on each level is optional and will usually require a little tricky building, especially if you're trying to circumvent any hazards that'll make your buddies pop. Simple, right? Well, it gets trickier when you have to use both your stickiness and your weight to figure out how to move and manipulate objects in your environment. Once the special powerups that bestow unique abilities on blobs become available, things get even trickier.

Though not necessarily a wholly original concept and possessed of some mildly obnoxious sound effects, Sticky Blobs is actually a pretty clever and entertaining game. The fiddly physics of some level contructs can be annoying, however, and the explosive fruit feels like it requires some awkward timing and placement to really pull off reliably. Still, the charm of the concept and trickiness of the levels makes this one worth checking out.

Play Sticky Blobs


(13 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Lumber Island

DoraYou'd think washing up on a lone island would be an improvement over slowly sinking alone at sea in the middle of the night, but that's only if you don't wind up on Lumber Island. In the first chapter of this free indie horror adventure from DeanForge, you've got a cell phone for light, but no signal, and that flickering firelight in the distance looks awfully welcoming. After all, anything is better than drowning on this cold, windy night, right? Just use the [arrow] keys to move, [spacebar] to jump, and the mouse to look around. You'll automatically pick up any items you walk over, and the game will use them for you when you need them. Keep your eyes open and your wits about you since you're not alone, and you'll have to start all over if you bite the axe.

Lumber IslandLumber Island is one of those games that will make you cringe. Not because it's gross or violent, but because the subtle sense of wrongness and oppressive creepy atmosphere will have you dreading every noise, every shadow, every corner. It quickly becomes apparent that there's something more than a little otherworldly going on, and initially the sense of disorientation and mystery only adds to the fear. The problem is that Lumber Island lacks any real player direction, and since you can't sprint, slowly walking around trying to figure out where you're headed or where something you may have missed is in the gloom quickly becomes frustrating. Lacking anything so grand as a save feature and slowly but implacably pursued by a one-hit KO antagonist, dying means starting all over from the beginning. The annoyances mount and strike against what is otherwise a visually stunning and exceptionally immersive adventure with an almost palpable air of menace. I was playing with the sound off, and after creeping through the darkness I uttered a literal shriek when I turned around to find something wholly unexpected lumbering through the doorway after me, blocking the exit.

Once you figure out where you need to go and what you need to do, Lumber Island won't take you very long to play, and despite its flaws is still well worth checking out. With some polish and constructive design feedback, the rest of the upcoming chapters could wind up being something really special. As it is, it's weird, it's freaky, and it's an entertaining, menacing ghost story that will leave you wishing for a map and some running shoes, but will deliver a few scares and some unanswered questions for the next installment.

WindowsWindows:
Download the free full version (Desura)
Download the free full version (Game Jolt)

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


(4 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
Comments (0) | Views (7,756)

Dark Tales: Edgar Allan Poe's The Masque of the Red Death

AliceThere's something rotten about the little town of Lumineux. When city officials start dropping like flies, you and the fan-favorite Detective Dupin are called in to hunt down the killer, a mysterious fellow known only as the Red Masque. But are things really what they seem? The Red Masque is a murderer, but is he out to destroy Lumineux, or help rebuild it? What's the real disease infecting this town? Such is the dilemma of Dark Tales: Edgar Allan Poe's The Masque of the Red Death, the latest installment in the hidden object adventure series by ERS Game Studio.

Dark Tales: Edgar Allan Poe's The Masque of the Red DeathIf you've ever played a hidden object adventure before, you probably know what to expect in terms of gameplay. Explore Lumineux with your mouse, traveling between areas with the arrows, picking up any items you might find along the way, and using those items in the right location to get a different item or unlock a new area. Occasionally you'll come across a puzzle to solve or a hidden object scene to search... and if this isn't sounding familiar, the game provides a helpful tutorial at the start. What's new and notable here is that The Masque of the Red Death allows you to make up your own mind about the story, literally putting Justice's scales in your hand. With every important piece of evidence, you receive a Sphere of Guilt. Do you add weight to Mayor Prospero's wrongdoings, or to the Red Masque's? Whose guilt is greater?

Dark Tales: Edgar Allan Poe's The Masque of the Red DeathAs an adaptation, Masque of the Red Death is, to put it kindly, less than faithful. If you've always loved the story and you're looking forward to playing a game about it, this might not be the game for you. (Seriously, where's the plague?) Fortunately, this Masque of the Red Death is an interesting story all on its own. There isn't always enough time with each character to know them and care about them as much as the game asks you to, and many players might find the game's central question to be a very easy choice. This is also much more of a game for the hidden object fans than for the puzzle-solvers. The hidden object scenes have variety and are full of creativity and style... and then the puzzles, half the time, feel like busywork. If you like extra content, Masque of the Red Death is full of it— there's an adorable kitten to play with, a bonus chapter, and even some photographs of the development process— but sometimes it feels like the energy spent on that extra content could have gone toward fleshing out the characters and puzzles a little more.

Still, at least for me, the proverbial scales tip in Masque of the Red Death's favor. Was it perfect? No, but it was an enjoyable few hours, and I appreciated how forming my own opinion was a central part of the game. Try the demo— perhaps a trip to Lumineux will be right up your alley.

Currently, only the Collector's Edition is available. It includes wallpapers, an extra adventure, the soundtrack, screensavers, and a built-in strategy guide. Remember that Big Fish Game Club Members pay only $13.99 for Collector's Editions (or 2 club credits), and collector's editions count 3 card punches of 6 total needed for a free game.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo Get the full version

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