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April 2013 Archives


(15 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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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 (107 votes)
Comments (9) | Views (2,505)

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 (134 votes)
Comments (12) | Views (8,173)

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 (28 votes)
Comments (5) | Views (3,866)

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 4.4/5
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Rating: 4.4/5 (31 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)
Comments (12) | Views (1,937)

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 (95 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 3.5/5
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Rating: 3.5/5 (33 votes)
Comments (2) | Views (2,509)

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 (5,138)

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


  • Currently 4.5/5
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Rating: 4.5/5 (1103 votes)
Comments (24) | Views (44,993)

Baba Yaga

elleSo, you're minding your own business, spying on some swanky tree house and the strange witch who lives there when, before you know it, you're locked inside. Fortunately for you, the house of Baba Yaga is full to the brim with magical items. Unfortunately for you, you have no mana and no magic spells hidden up your sleeve and a lot of this hocus pocus stuff makes no sense—not at first at least. Ergo you take on this enchanting point-and-click adventure by Pastel Games' Barbara Jarosik.

Baba YagaThis three-room treehouse is replete with puzzles, knicknacks, spell books and other nifty items that will, when used correctly, secure your freedom—the challenge comes in finding it all. Collect an object, set it in motion or zoom in closer by clicking it. When zoomed in, just click the bottom of the screen to back up. In a wider scene, a circling arrow spins you 180° to view the next stage. To use your inventory, one click puts an item in your hand where it stays until you put it back. While the cursor changes over interactive spots, different spots are often close together, care is needed to not miss the distinction or to find small nooks you wouldn't otherwise think to search.

Baba Yaga moves from ordinary escape-the-room to a larger venture through the plethora of interactivity found at every turn. Every detail is whimsical and fun, yet with so much to toy with and so many areas to explore, it's difficult to stay focused on the task at hand and figure out your next puzzle. In the same token, a pixel-hunty feeling might arise as it's easy to overlook important information or a small area that contains big secrets; the visual clues are all there, just sometimes subtle. One shouldn't go plundering through a kooky witch's belongings with reckless abandon, of course, lest you stumble and turn into a frog. Still, it'd be nice if the exploration and inventory were a tad less cumbersome. Many solutions rely as much on inference as logic and piecing together of clues, which fits the tone and situation rather well. Through artwork that's effervescent with personality and engaging puzzles throughout, Baba Yaga is a basket of happy whimsy waiting to be tipped on edge.

Play Baba Yaga


(15 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
Comments (3) | Views (3,988)

Monaco

ArtbegottiA pickpocket, a locksmith, and a hacker walk into a bar. You wouldn't know it though, because the hacker planted a virus in one of the bar's electrical outlets that shorted out the lights for twenty seconds. During that time, the pickpocket's monkey snuck up behind you and grabbed your wallet out of your pocket, and the locksmith stole all of the money from the cash register (and a couple bottles of cognac, if that shelf behind the now-pantsless bartender is anything to go by). They then escaped out the window and ran for their getaway yacht. Such is the life in Monaco, an International Games Festival-winning multiplayer stealth arcade game by Andy Schatz of Pocketwatch Games where grabbing the loot is just half the fun.

MonacoMost of the missions you'll encounter in Monaco require you to sneak in or out of a high-security facility of some variety. You might be robbing a bank, erasing security footage, or rescuing a comrade from captivity. Use the [arrow] keys or [WASD] to move around, or hold [shift] to move slowly (helpful for sneaking past people in close proximity undetected). To unlock doors and safes, pick up equipment, or disable electronics, walk up to your target and hold to fill up your progress meter. When you gain weaponry to knock out or kill guards that may attack you, aim using the mouse and fire with a sharp click.

But what fun is a heist if you don't case the joint where you're at it? There's tons of gold to be found on each floor of the facility, both lying around loosely, and tucked away in safes and cash registers. Sweep up all the gold you can find to help unlock future levels, and also to avoid a time penalty on your final score for the level. If you need to recap your current objective or how much gold you still need to find, tap the [control] key.

Don't expect your plundering to go unchallenged, because your crew is severely outnumbered by a plethora of armed guards, attack dogs, and sensors that can set off alarms that draw everyone to your location. Most sensors can be deactivated by manually disabling them, or hacking computers to set up a virus to temporarily disable them. As for the guards, you'll have to either be ready fight back with a weapon or know where to hide, such as in bushes or overhead ducts.

MonacoTo start, you have four characters to play as, each with their own special abilities. The Locksmith is quicker at unlocking doors and safes, the Pickpocket has a monkey that can pick up nearby gold for you, the Lookout can detect hidden enemies across the map, and the Cleaner can knock unsuspecting enemies unconscious. In later levels, you can rescue more members for your motley crew, such as the Mole who can burrow through walls, the Gentleman who can disguise himself while hiding, and the Hacker that can create an electricity-shorting virus from any outlet.

Each mission is playable in both single-player and multiplayer modes. While in single-player, when a character loses all their health, you're required to choose a new character to continue the mission from the last staircase used (until you've used a total of four lives). In multiplayer mode though, you've got to rely on your teammates to revive you, all while they're hunted down by the same folks who took you out, and once everyone's been downed, it's game over!

Analysis: While Monaco has to be classified as a stealth game, there's a certain sense of non-stealthiness that makes the game a lot more thrilling. It's next to impossible to complete a level without being spotted (if not chased and shot at) at least once, if only because it's impossible to predict where a guard might be walking without walking into their line of sight first. If you're quick to respond to the situation, you can make a simple getaway. If you bumble around a little bit, you might be in for the chase of your life, running through every room as fast as you can, tripping every alarm and bumping into every confused guard as you panic searching for a ladder to escape above ground. There's joy to be had at both ends of the stealth spectrum (although you're likely to have an easier time if you can stick to the former end).

MonacoThis spectrum transfers well to the multiplayer mode. Once you've played through a few levels alone, try jumping into a multiplayer game, and with friends if you can. Even if you start by planning out your perfect crime and coordinating everyone's movements, it will usually devolve into a chaotic free-for-all with all parties shouting commands at one another while being chased by guards like ghosts surrounding a Pac-Man.

With each level with new elements added in, there's a bit of trial-and-error involved in figuring out how each new tool or sensor works. Sometimes you can clean out a level on your first attempt, more often you won't. The game never throws too much at you that you'll be overwhelmed, but that's not to say it'll be easy. In a sense, Monaco's difficulty curve is a comfortably steadily rising one, although it's been placed on a small stepladder to start.

As you catch a glimpse of useful items in your field of vision while passing through a room, these are stored in your memory and appear on the blueprint-style map when you round a corner and can't physically see them anymore. This is a neat idea and really helps when you're trying to find that last bit of gold on a floor. This "vision" mechanic can backfire a bit if you don't remember that sometimes things that look like walls aren't necessarily walls, such as half-height countertops that guards can look over and spot you. While each level is a maze with carefully constructed corridors, it's easy to forget that some of those hallways give you less cover than others, and the game won't hold your hand in reminding you which is which.

MonacoThe stealth mechanics of this game really stand out in the sound effects and music. When you're running through hallways looking for a quick escape, the jaunty old-timey (read: out of tune) piano accelerates to fever pitch, matching your hectic pace and making the game feel like a scene from a black and white train heist movie. When you've found cover and evaded capture, the music slows back down to silent, allowing you to keep an ear peeled for approaching footsteps and enemy reactions. Add to this the chipper pings of bicycle bells and beeps of security systems, and you've got an audibly satisfying game that lets you know your status at all times.

The variety of characters allows you to not only find a play style that you're comfortable with, but also provides a very fulfilling story, even with minimal dialogue between levels to set it up. It's easy to fall into the story, and doing so heightens the tension you'll experience as you try to pull off the perfect crime (and inevitably fail). Round up the crew and get ready for the heist of a lifetime, because "What's Mine is Yours, and Monaco is Mine!"

WindowsWindows:
Get the full version (DRM-free)
Get the full version (via Steam)

Mac OS XMac OS X:
Not yet available. A beta version is expected in May.


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I See You

DoraWhen I was fourteen, I volunteered one summer as a Candy Striper at the hospital, and was dared one afternoon by one of the other girls to venture down to the basement, which was, of course, empty except for the morgue. Nothing happened, of course, but the scenario dreamed up by my overactive imagination as I crept down those dark hallways filled with disused furniture and echoes is something very similar to Bryce Maciel's free indie horror adventure I See You. Inspired by Ivan Zanotti's hit Imscared, I See You has you wandering lonely as a cloud through what appears to be a deserted hospital with only your thoughts and some increasingly ominous tutorial text for company.

I See YouFind a key in each area to unlock the next door to proceed and follow the instructions... what could be simpler? All you need are [WASD] to move, the mouse to look around, and [E] to interact. While easy to play, however, if you're not a fan of jump-scares I See You is absolutely brutal to endure. The game has a slow but ruthless pacing and execution of its frights that will still leave you wanting if what you want is a story, but will definitely get your heart pounding. While definitely similar in style to its inspiration, however, it's also far less clever in execution, requiring you to do little more than keep moving forward. It's a very on-rails experience, more like going through a haunted house at a theme park (WHERE MY SCAREACTORS AT) and leaving you squealing and breathless at times. I See You has some fantastic visual scares that made me whimper far more than a loud crash in the silence. Is one better than the other? Eh, I'd argue that both have their place and are easily worth experiencing on their own merits for the short time it'll take you to run through this one... even if you can't escape. Because

i found you

WindowsWindows:
Download the free full version

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


(10 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Viking Brothers

KimberlyAfter living peacefully and prosperously under the watchfulness of a magical tree, trouble hits your viking settlement. Savage tribes have become jealous of your land and use dark magic to destroy the tree. The Viking Brothers start a quest in search of a way to restore the tree in this resource management strategy game from Alawar. Follow the pair through Asgard and beyond, cleaning up the land as they go, following vague clues from a hermit, all in the hopes of saving the tree and returning to their way of life.

Viking Brothers The control scheme is similar to other games of this type. Just a click sends your workers off to build, upgrade, or collect resources. Most level goals consist of gathering enough resources, fixing up statues or other landmarks, and scaring away the baddies, and are listed on the bottom of the screen. Your current resources are listed at the top of the screen, and the timer countdown on the left. Hover over any object to get more information about it. You can queue up tasks for your workers, but if you change your mind, right click on the check mark to cancel the order, if it isn't yet underway. Some levels include magic totems. When you send a worker to activate a totem, you'll get a run speed or production bonus. Aside from your regular workers, most levels need some muscle to destroy enemy blockades and fight off warriors. It's up to you to build a barracks and get a soldier or two on your side.

The game has followed the great example of Kingdom Chronicles in its design. There's just something about restoring your homeland that leaves you satisfied. And while the story line may be a bit over used (and perhaps plays into stereotypes a bit), Viking Brothers overcomes the trite with creative map layouts and good level design. It's a challenge to get a gold star on each level! It's important to look ahead to what resources you're going to need to plan a strategy. Upgrading everything all the way is rarely the best way to go, so it pays to take a second to think. The graphics and music are nice, and while not terribly innovative, Viking Brothers nonetheless offers a solid and enjoyable gaming experience.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


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Rating: 4.4/5 (857 votes)
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Mystery IQ Test

Starchild You wake up in a strange room with no idea how you got there or what is going on. The only clue is a note telling you to use your brain to unlock the next 30 rooms, so you trundle off through the door, thus starting your Mystery IQ Test, a puzzle game by Entertainment Forge. Use the [arrow] keys to move and [spacebar] to interact with objects. There are three difficulty levels with different point systems, but no timer, so you can relax and try to figure out the puzzles at your leisure. However, you start with an IQ of 80 and the number can go up or down, depending on your performance – solving puzzles without hints awards more points, and you forfeit a whole bunch of them if you ask to be shown the solution.

Mystery IQ Test The level design is simple, clean and friendly. The puzzles are varied and will exercise your linguistic, spatial and logical intelligence, which means they stay interesting and stimulating throughout the game. They are a little on the easy side, though, so you might want to choose the highest difficulty straight away. In any case, one good thing about a game which claims to measure your IQ is that you have a strong urge to beat it; every solved puzzle feels like a tiny victory, and you finish it with a smug smile. That'll show those elitists at Mensa who didn't want to let you in their silly club!

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Link Dump Fridays

DoraIt's Friday, Friday, gotta Link Dump on Friday! A lot has happened this week. Virtual Families 2: Our Dream House arrived on PC, Thomas Was Alone made the leap to the Playstation 3 and Vita, and Don't Starve finally made it out of beta to become a full release! (Watch for our expanded review soon.) But that's not all...

News and Previews

MushSocial Gaming We Can Get Into As a gamer, it can sometimes be hard not to grit your teeth whenever someone brings up "social" games, since these days that's come to mean barely interactive human hamster wheels on social media sites that are about as creative as a macaroni necklace. Motion Twin aims to change all that with the upcoming browser sim sci-fi adventure game Mush, where you and fifteen other players play characters stranded on a spaceship. The catch is one of you is actually a horrible shapeshifting alien beast looking to take everyone out, and the others are trying to find out who it is before it's too late. As a result, everyone has an agenda, and trying to figure out who you can really trust and who wants to eat your face sounds like an immense amount of fun... especially since if you're the monster, you'll be trying to figure out how you can pick everyone off one-by-one without getting noticed! The game launches soon on the Twinoid service, and looks like exactly the sort of clever social gameplay we could do with more of.

Dementium 2I HATE When That Happens! So you've just had radical experimental brain surgery and you wake up in an asylum to learn that your family is dead and all signs point to you as the murderer. Not only that, you have a sneaking suspicious that the doctor is out to get you, and you might not be hallucinating all the beasts you see stalking the corridors. Sound like fun? Then you want to check out the upcoming PC and Mac horror adventure Dementium 2 from Memetic Games and Digital Tribe. Originally only released for the Nintendo DS, this looks like a spectacularly freaky survival horror game with just the right amount of cheese topping it off.

TowerFallLet's See Hawkeye Do THIS Matt Thorson is a guy who has made some pretty cool stuff before, so if you're at all familiar with his work, you should definiately be excited to check out his upcoming multiplayer action game TowerFall, where you and up to three other friends for a total of four players duke it out as archers trying to take each other out with limited ammo, a ton of upgrades and power-ups, and even some tricks in the level designs too. The style of it is great, but what's really appealing to it is the friendly-yet-frantic combat that looks like the sort of thing you and a group of friends could lose an entire night to without really realising it. Personally, I can't wait to pull an arrow out of my husband's face to shoot my brother-in-law with! Yay, family time!

Kickstarter/IndieGoGo Projects

RealmAdventure is Beautiful Atomhawk Design and Lantern Interactive are going to transport you to another world not so very far away with their upcoming game Realm. Planned for 2014 on PC, Mac, and certain tablet devices, the game is a point-and-click adventure that takes place far in the future, when nature has reclaimed most of the world and humans lead simpler lives. You'll control a young girl named Sarina, who sets off in search of a cure for her sick mother, and Toru, a legendary giant golem who has forgotten his past and befriends our heroine. Each character has their own abilities, and you'll need to have them work together in order to solve puzzles and proceed. It sounds captivating and looks stunning, and deserves a place on your radar if you're a fan of heartfelt fantasy adventure.

Risk of RainAction and Random Generation? Awwww Yeah If you like roguelikes but like your games a little more fast-paced, hopoo's Risk of Rain might just sweep you off your feet. Planned for PC, it's an action-packed platformer that gets harder the longer you play, challenging you to survive against bosses and monsters with random properties and abilities, as one of ten different characters with over a hundred items at your disposal. If that sounds pretty sweet to you (and it should), why wait to find out? You can download a demo of the game over on its Kickstarter page right now, which is a perfect way to find out if you want them to shut up and take your money.

A.N.N.EWhat is it With Robots and Girlfriends? Metroidvania meets Gradius? Colour me intrigued, and stop poking into my childhood because that's creepy, Gamesbymo! A.N.N.E, planned for PC, is about a little robot whose robotic ladyfriend has been whisked off for dismantlement and sets off to save her. Go by foot or fly in your ship, using its bulk to get rid of obstacles and firing its weapons on enemies, and explore the world leveling up and upgrading your equipment. It sounds ambitious, but if pulled off rightly, could be the sort of game that becomes an instant classic. Heck, I can hear some of you salivating already!

Miscellaneous

It's Dangerous to Go AloneThe Hero of Time, and Also Nostalgia Some games grow up to be bigger than the cartridges they started out on, and few are bigger than Nintendo's massive Zelda franchise. Joe Granato and his team are making a documentary examining not only the early series' influence on gaming, but the 8Bit era as a whole, and if you're interested you can find out more in a seriously clever way. It's Dangerous to Go Alone isn't just the project's website, it's also a browser game where you'll go on a very Zelda little action adventure, stabbing monsters and gathering items to meet the team behind the project and learn more about it. Now that's dedication to a concept!

Do you know an upcoming indie project or some community gaming related news you think deserves some attention? Send me an e-mail with LINK DUMP FRIDAY in the subject line at dora AT casualgameplay DOT com with the info, and we'll judge it with the all-seeing glare of our own self-importance for inclusion in a future Link Dump Friday article!


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Rating: 4.5/5 (34 votes)
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Blendoku

SuzanneDescribing Blendoku, a mobile puzzle game from Lonely Few, is simple: it's sudoku with colors. Blendoku is such an intuitive game that reading about its mechanics will take longer than grasping them through experience. Puzzle freaks are advised stop reading now and gobble up this colorful and satisfying gem. Everyone else, read on for all the convincing you'll need!

BlendokuYour objective is to restore order to a partly-empty grid. Instead of numbers you work with colored blocks, tapping and then placing them on the grid so the shades correctly segue from light to dark or from color to color. The simplest puzzles have you arranging shades in order from light to dark, while later grids require you to consider the transition between entirely different colors and demand that you manage multiple intermediary shades. With 400 puzzles to solve, ranging from super-simple to break-your-phone tough, there's no shortage of challenge.

While sudoku demands of its solver logic and persistence, Blendoku is a more intuitive affair requiring an acute sense of visual harmony and perhaps a bit of training in color theory. There are negatives to this right-brained approach: there's nothing concrete to guide you towards resolution except a sense that things aren't quite in order. Logic won't help you here. Yet seeing a Blendoku puzzle slowly click into place provides a satisfaction up there with the best in the genre. Graphic designers and artists of all types: your new addiction just might be here.

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.


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Rating: 4.1/5 (63 votes)
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Incursion 2

DoraThere's just something about directing around masses of tiny armies that brings out the MUAHAHAHA, DANCE MY PRETTIES in me, and Booblyc's realtime strategy defense game Incursion had that plus all the right ingredients for one seriously addictive game. In Incursion 2, you are Targa Wrathbringer, which sounds like a really good name for an edgy My Little Pony, but is actually the hero leading an army against invading demon forces.

Incursion 2As before, you pay to train soldiers, archers, and sorcerors out of barracks stationed along a road, and your goal is to have them obliterate any enemies attempting to reach the other side of the screen. If one of your little warriors is killed, don't worry... they'll eventually respawn without cost to you. This time, however, Targa, your hero, will also play an important role in battle. He's permanently deployed and acts as a superpowered unit who can grow in strength as he levels up, and be directed around the screen rather than be forced to remain at a barracks. Though he'll be the only hero at your disposal in the beginning, that will change as the game goes on, and since each hero can learn unique spells and skills, they'll quickly become just as important in your army as your endless supply of nameless meatshields. Between battles, you can upgrade not only those basic units, but buy new spells, and even special items that can give you a leg up on battles, because all's fair in love and the eternal struggle between the forces of good and evil. Nobody's going to complain if you bring in a little extra help. I mean... the bad guys might. But forget those guys. Those guys suck.

Incursion 2 does a great job of both keeping everything you loved about the original intact, and actually improving on it without making it feel like an entirely different beast. While the heroes are arguably the biggest and most obvious addition, as well as the magic associated with them, being able to have more control over your units in battle is also a pretty sweet deal. Now you can manually tell them what to attack, and that simple improvement can be a big deal in the way it allows you to better strategize your battles instead of just crossing your fingers and hoping a skirmish works out in your favour. Make no mistake, the game is still difficult, and victory depends on learning which units work best in any given clash, as well as how your upgrades should best be spent. With a new story, new ways to turn enemies into smears on the landscapes, and new heroes to train, Incursion 2 is a polished little gem of a strategy title that fans of the original will embrace while tearfully waving farewell to their free time.

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Rating: 2.7/5 (57 votes)
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DeGrade

ArtbegottiIn most shooters, a player is rewarded by earning upgrades to their equipment making them more powerful, even if the enemy stays weaker. But what if that system were flipped on its head and you became weaker as you went along? DeGrade is an arena shooter that puts that idea to the test. Your (unexpectedly cute) bear protagonist can be moved using [WASD] or the [arrow] keys, and fires all of his weapons simultaneously when you hold the mouse button. After each wave of enemies, whatever weapon caused the most damage in that wave will be downgrad— sorry, degraded. Sometimes your weapon simply weakens a bit, sometimes you lose it entirely. After several waves of enemies, you'll get a much needed upgrade before entering the next world... and losing everything again.

DeGradeWe really like the game theory-ish idea of becoming weaker as the game continues, forcing you to play with more skill rather than more firepower. If you're careful, you can force a certain weapon to be the next one to degrade by making sure it does the most damage, which adds an extra layer of strategy to the game. Unfortunately, there is a flaw in that if you're constantly moving, you'll take very little damage and the game becomes significantly easier, and the game's main conceit loses its edge. However, DeGrade is still an interesting illustration the ideas you can create when you take the Overused Game Mechanics Handbook (2nd ed.) and toss it in the wood chipper.

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Rating: 4/5 (23 votes)
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Hiversaires

KinetikaiHiversaires is a game about not knowing. Not knowing where you are, or why you're there. Not knowing what those markings on the wall mean. Not knowing where you're supposed to go, or how to get there. But eventually, piece by piece, you start to figure things out.

HiversairesCreated by Aliceffekt, Hiversaires is a first-person point-and-click adventure that drops you cold into a dark, mysterious, monochrome world full of cryptic symbols and machines. You begin on a white stone path pockmarked by abstract trees in a pool of blackness. The first thing in front of you is a white block displaying two unknown symbols on top of each other. To your left is a terminal with a different unknown symbol. Behind the block is a screen showing a circle with four symbols like a compass. Tapping the screen causes the image to change, but what is the significance of it? What purpose does any of this have? That's for Hiversaires to know and for you to find out.

The design of Hiversaires is minimalist in form and function. There are no menus, no inventories, no text, no heads-up display and no clues — save for some subtle cues given at the bottom of the screen. The controls are aptly simple. Tap the center of the screen to move forward, and tap the sides to turn left or right. Anything you need to interact with will always be in the center of your field of vision, so there's no worries about tapping on random areas of the screen to move into an awkward position in order to access something that seems out of reach.

HiversairesAnalysis: When you know nothing, everything you discover is an achievement. Like Myst or Kairo, Hiversaires is a game about exploration and discovery that makes no attempt to lead you, instead letting you come to terms with the world around you in your own time and on your own terms. Everything that can typically bog down adventure titles — pixel-hunting, frustrating item combining, cartoon logic — is stripped away, allowing the game to focus on the puzzles and the atmosphere, both of which are exceptional.

For those who like more information with their games, the stark simplicity of Hiversaires can be disconcerting. Akin to the old adventure games of yore, making your way through the labyrinthine settings requires taking notes — maybe even drawing yourself a map — and taking in full account of your surroundings. But for those who live for the thrill of discovery, who eschew hand-holding for the opportunity to walk into the darkness alone, Hiversaires is a breath of fresh air.

Conceptually and aesthetically beautiful, Hiversaires is one of the finest adventure games to come out in quite a while — certainly one of the best on iOS, if not the best. All of the game's mysteries draw you in, and unraveling them bit by bit in a world that becomes curiouser and curiouser with each turn is enthralling. All of the puzzles are well-constructed out of pure logic, and to say anything more about them would be a disservice. If wandering through a cryptic environment is your cup of cocoa, this is one title you can't pass up.

NOTE: This game was played and reviewed on the iPad 2. 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.


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Rating: 3.5/5 (144 votes)
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Escape from the Strange Forest

elleJust how strange is the titular forest in Hottategoya's Escape from the Strange Forest do you wonder? For one thing, it's strangely disorientating. You're not so much stuck inside this forest as you are hovering above it like a bird, one who is only able to see a select portion of this labyrinth copse at any given time and who, on occasion, can swoop down to examine a detail of the grassy floor. For another, these stoically quiet evergreens will, for reasons unknown, change their formations and create new paths for you to wander along. Stranger still, hidden somewhere in its depths is a set of stairs that lead further down toward a door—it is through here you can escape, if you can decipher the secret code that is.

Escape from the Strange ForestDespite the confusion taunting layout of this escape-the-room game, it's played by the same rules: click arrows that pop-up on the edges of the screen to move about and, when you find something that seems to stand out in this monochromatic world, you can click on it to zoom in for a better look or to pick it up. The three items you find here are not only useful, they are essential to your sanity. Helpful guides, they'll provide the clues you need to get your bearings, solve the puzzles and find your way out.

Until you reach the box containing your first clue, if you're easily panicked by enclosed spaces or have a phobia of being trapped in a maze, it could prove an extremely frustrating experience. Often those things that are most challenging, though, are the most rewarding and engaging. Escape from the Strange Forest takes all that is good about Hottategoya's triplex fashion of puzzle presentation and elevates it to an escape that is a refreshing take on the genre. By staying in the moment and paying heed to your map, you can find the open doorway at the end of the tunnel and another victory to notch into your surreal adventure belt.

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Rating: 4/5 (57 votes)
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Unholy Flesh

DoraA dimly lit room, a bed, the soft sound of rain outside... it might be all a bit more romantic if you weren't in Milcho Milchev and Martin Dimitrov's interactive fiction horror adventure Unholy Flesh. You wake up alone, head throbbing, in unfamiliar surroundings decorated like Pyramid Head had a stint on Trading Spaces. Who are you, and what's going on? To find out, you'll need to explore, solve puzzles, and track down the diary pages you'll discover scattered around to fill in the blanks. The handy in-game tutorial will walk you through the basics, but if you've played a text adventure, you know the drill. Type in commands like "look around" or "take ___" and hit [enter] to execute them, paying attention to the coloured text that will draw your eye to points or items of interest. The game makes use of a checkpoint system rather than saves, so since you can die repeatedly, it's best to pay attention to your surroundings. Be aware that while the game will restore you to your last checkpoint if you die, it will not do so if you exit the game and return to it later, forcing you to start from the beginning.

Unholy FleshThe best way to describe Unholy Flesh's interface is tidy. By using various colours of font to denote important objects you'll rarely miss anything, and the tutorial does a great job of hand-holding any potential newcomers to the genre while refreshing us oldsters... especially since looking under things in text adventures is uncommon enough that I appreciated it being pointed out. The story itself makes use of a lot of familiar tropes, but the use of sound effects and visual touches brings it to life with admirable subtlety that makes up for the cheesier moments. Waiting for the text scroll to finish before you can input your commands does get old, especially if you're replaying after a death, and while I can understand using checkpoints to recover from fatalities, not allowing players to manually save and load feels like a mistake.

A few tweaks and optimizations would have gone a long way towards really making the game shine, including mute options and a proofread over the text since occasional burps like "leeding" instead of "leading" detract from an otherwise atmospheric story. Taken as a whole, however, Unholy Flesh makes for a fine creepy adventure that cultivates an air of mystery throughout. It's not particularly long, and as long as you explore everything and remember to use your inventory and your Resident Evil-esque problem solving skills the puzzles shouldn't give you much difficulty. It's on the short side, and the ending feels a little underdeveloped, but it's an effort packed with promise from two people with a clear passion for the genre that we'd love to see even more from in the future.

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Rating: 4/5 (113 votes)
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Chick Hide and Seek 6

elleOne of the great things about escape-the-room games is how stylistically versatile they can be considering the basic lock-you-up premise. There are some that are scary, others that are remarkably beautiful, and those that are trickily clever. Chick Hide and Seek 6 by Yuri falls into the Oh So Easy! Aw So Cute! category of escape games. Which is why it's so worthwhile: I dare you to play this game of hide and seek with ten chirpy balls of yellow fuzz and not crack a smile.

Chick Hide and Seek 6Use the yellow arrows to navigate and click to interact with objects, searching for all ten chicks: some chicks are hiding in plain sight, others need to be uncovered, and some need to be helped out of sticky situations. You'll also find a few simple puzzles and will need to use items creatively to reach certain chicks. After gathering your brood of tiny peeps together, it's a breeze to solve the door lock code and get out.

Chicks are tiny and it's their world, so the game is tiny, too. The smallness of the screen lends to eyestrain, but the design is clean and details are clear enough that there's no mistaking one object for another, even without a cursor change. Simple and sweet, Chick Hide and Seek 6 takes just a tiny portion of your day to play but leaves you with a large portion of cuteness to fill it with cheer.

Play Chick Hide and Seek 6

Note: scroll down the page a bit to find the game's start screen.


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They Need to Be Fed 2

JohnBFrom Jesse Venbrux, whose name you might recognize from games like the Karoshi series or Focus, They Need to Be Fed 2 is a mobile sequel to a freeware downloadable game that's all about feeding helpless critters to chomping piranha plants. Neat, right? Don't worry, it's not all sad and evil. In fact, it's quite a cheerful mix of puzzle and platforming elements that works really well on touch screen devices.

They Need to Be Fed 2Gravity in They Need to Be Fed 2 works like you'd expect, but instead of pulling you into pits it tugs you towards the nearest object no matter what side you're standing on. Three on-screen buttons let you navigate each level. Clockwise and counter-clockwise controls on the left move you in that direction around your current object, while jump lets you, you know, jump. The goal is to reach the hungry plant at the end of the stage so you can feed yourself to its empty little tummy.

Standing between you and the end are blocks, spikes, plant springboards you have to activate, and plenty more. Along the way you'll also collect diamonds to unlock new stages as well as earn various medals. There are 50 stages to complete in Classic Mode, and after that Epic Mode opens up and turns the once calm game of rotating spikes into an insane mess of upside down worlds and explosions, all without checkpoints to save your location. Eep. Overall, though, They Need to Be Fed 2 is an easy to play and highly enjoyable action game that provides challenge only when you crave it!

NOTE: This game was played and reviewed on the Nexus 4. 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.


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Rating: 3.5/5 (29 votes)
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Planet Punch

DoraTired of being ridiculed for your little fists and being told that your best punch is as devastating as a cool spring breeze? NO LONGER! Expanding on the weird and wonderful concept behind Ra Ra: Extreme Star Boxing, Matt Thorson and Alec Holowka give you the dukes to take on an entire galaxy, heavenly bodies and all, in the action-packed Planet Punch where you control a surly star more than willing to pummel everything in its path senseless.

Planet PunchUse the [WASD] or [arrow] keys to move, and the left and right mouse buttons to punch out with the various planets your orbit will acquire. You'll only have one to start with, but as you play you'll gain more with different effects you can choose to equip at the start of each stage. Your goal? Survive and obliterate! Punch everything in your path and take advantage of the way many enemies and projectiles can be sent ricocheting around the stage, doing more damage and queuing up devastating chain reactions. Some stages will require to you smash everything within a time limit, while others will make you pick on someone your own size by setting you up against a boss.

Thanks to some beautiful design by Frederico Machua, Planet Punch is as lovely to look at as it is a blast to play. The whole thing has a bouncy, frenetic energy to it, and chaining up perfect destructive combinations is a satisfying thing to behold. Though there's definitely some repetition to the stages, with new elements typically introduced so slowly that only the boss levels feel truly distinct, give it a chance to win you over with its distinct style and premise and it makes for perfect cathartic action. Especially once you make your way to the Space Crab Nebula, which is where things get even stranger. Planet Punch is odd, no two shakes about it, but it's odd in an energetic, gleefully ridiculous way that echoes something you would have plunked endless quarters into an arcade machine to play, and we wouldn't have it any other way.

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The Vault

TrickyWelcome to this week's installment of The Vault, where we take a look into classics from the JayIsGames archives. With the recent celebration of our fair site's 10th JIG-iversary, it seemed like just the time to go retro with a set of awesome browser remakes from the mid-aughties.

  • Klax 3DKlax 3D - First, it was the nineties, and there was time for Klax. Then it was 2005, and there was time for Wheel House Creative to put together an isometric reimagining of the arcade classic. Now, in the present, players both new and old to the Klax-iverse should definitely find time for this fun game of tile stacking and clearing. With gameplay that's simple to learn, but a challenge to master, the excellence of Klax 3D may not have been enough to save the Atari Lynx, but it will certainly give fingers a happy workout
  • QixQix - Qix! JiG tested, JiG approved! Originally released by Taito America in 1981, then brought to browsers by the skilled work of Drunk Men Work Here in 2004, Qix was the first and still one of the best in the oddly-specific "cutting pieces out of a larger square while avoiding the things flailing around in the middle" genre. As addictive as it is challenging, Qix consumed a lot of quarters back in the day. Though the bleeps and blorps its faithful recreation here is so 80s it hurts, even the most jaded game should get a few Qix from playing a round.
  • Prince of PersiaPrince of Persia - Ever since its 1989 release on the Apple ][, Jordan Mechner's Prince of Persia has seen all manner of sequels, remakes, re-imaginings, reboots, re-reboots, and Jake Gyllenhaal movies. Somewhere in that mix came this fun "special edition" flash game UbiSoft released in 2004. Though there are a few changes, it should definitely give players a taste of what made the original so special: the fluid rotoscoped movement that launched the "cinematic action-platform" genre, the cunning level design, and devious difficulty. You have eight minutes to stop the evil plans of the vizier. Can you make it?

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!


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Rating: 3.9/5 (24 votes)
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Dungelot

KinetikaiWhy do 100-floor buildings always insist on making you jump through a bunch of hoops just to make it to the top? Well, we don't care, because it's makes for a nice distraction. Created by Perfect Games Inc., 100 Floors Escape is a new escape game with "100" in the title (a theme so oddly prevalent it has become a genre in itself) for Android devices.

100 Floors EscapeEach level tasks you with figuring out how to open the elevator doors to make your way up to the next floor. The point-and-click puzzles and minigames feature a variety of mechanics, requiring you to tap, hold, drag, turn or shake your device to put out a fire, swat some mosquitoes, solve a number code or assemble a hamburger. (What sort of building is this?!)

At the time of writing, 100 Floors Escape only has 48 floors — there's still some brick and mortal to be laid on the upper levels — but more levels are promised in the near future. It's nothing particularly groundbreaking in the genre, but 100 Floors Escape looks good and will certainly scratch your room escape itch for a little while, at least.

NOTE: This game was played and reviewed on the Motorola Droid 2. 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.