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May 2013 Archives


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Cafe Murder

JohnBHere's a fantastic idea for a restaurant: have a competent waitress who does her job well, then hire a cook that periodically flips out and tries to kill the customers. That's the general idea behind Cafe Murder, a mobile time management game from Beaver Toad Software that emphasizes character and personality over speed. It's not a game about seeing how fast you can serve sandwiches, it's a game about keeping your shop tidy and pleasing the customers. And boy do customers love it when they're not murdered!

Cafe MurderGameplay puts you in control of Rainy, the dedicated waitress who will do anything to feed customers and keep them alive. People walk in the top of the screen and make their four-piece sandwich order. Stabby sits at the bottom of the screen chopping ingredients one by one. After each cut she throws the slice into the air. It makes a small shadow on the floor tile where it will land, all you have to do is tap it to send Rainy there to catch it before it hits the ground. Send it to a workstation as you slowly build up orders to give to impatient customers. Rainy is armed with a convenient device that sucks in and spits out ingredients one at a time, meaning she doesn't have to run all over the place to make a simple sandwich.

Unlike most fast-paced restaurant games, Cafe Murder goes to great lengths to make the customers and people as real as possible. That doesn't mean hyper-detailed artwork straight out of the uncanny valley, it just means each person has his or her own personality, complete with likes, dislikes, and opinions on the work you're doing. This translates directly into how popular your cafe becomes, as customers rank you on everything from accuracy to hygiene to how convinced they are they won't get stabbed while stuffing their face. Food service is a rough business.

Cafe MurderAs Cafe Murder progresses your little cafe will slowly turn into a bustling restaurant. You'll unlock more ingredients to play with, which increases the complexity of each order, but you'll also gain access to some equippable items to give you a little boost. There are also special cafe stats you can work towards to get your star ranking as high as possible, all in the name of successful eating/stabbing.

Analysis: Cafe Murder takes the best parts of old school game design and brings them into the modern era. It feels like a retro game, but without any of the annoying inconveniences of the previous era. Don't let the genre label turn you away, as Cafe Murder isn't about fast movement or complex restaurant management. It's a very casual-friendly game that has the wonderful ability to draw you in right from the start and keep you interested until your very last stab prevention.

The only real downsides to Cafe Murder are the current lack of native iPad support and gameplay that's best suited to short sessions. This isn't the best game to sit down with and play a three hour long marathon, though it certainly won't discourage you from doing so. The simple gameplay design means you'll get a lot more out of the experience if you play it in brief bursts, which is exactly what a casual mobile game should be.

The artwork is lively and creative, and the gameplay takes the core of what makes time management games so good and spreads it out so that everyone can enjoy it. A charming, utterly addictive game you'll love from the minute you start playing.

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.


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Mono

TrickyThe winner of the minimalism-themed Ludum Dare 26 game jam, Mono, a Java game by Timtip Games, is a uniquely artistic top-down mix of puzzles and skill. In it, you must guide an eye through a series of colorful levels. Move with the [WASD] or [arrow keys], attempting to make your way to the purple diamond that marks the exit. Crashing into a red wall sends you back to the beginning, hitting certain gray walls activate triggers that move walls, and blue walls bounce you around. Each level mixes up the formula with shifting gravity, portals, procedural lighting, and all sorts of cool gimmicks.

MonoMono is over way too fast, but it is an incredibly satisfying work. It's a very tight experience: each of its eight levels is packed with evolving mechanics and clever design, supported by engaging visual design and a soothing soundtrack. A well-deserved victor, it's the kind of gem that is so densely packed with ideas, that one thinks it could only have come together through the pressure and constraints of the Ludum competition. Still, we can't wait to see what Timtip can come up with next, though, of course, we're okay with giving them a little more time.

Play Mono


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Rating: 4.1/5 (46 votes)
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DefEndless

DoraLike defense games? Then come play this one. Forever and ever. DefEndless by Mark Dolbyrev and Maxim Yakovenko is exactly what it says on the tin... a tower defense game that never ends. At least not until the enemy plunders all your treasure! When you run out of lives, it's game over with only a high score to keep you company, but starting again will net you a brand new map... with all the upgrades you bought intact!

DefEndlessTaking a page from GemCraft, your towers are actually, well, gems. You'll get three of random colours between each wave to place wherever you like, and they attack whatever comes within range. Enemies will head towards your treasure, hitting each checkpoint along the way. They move faster on the road, but will be forced to go around any gems you put down. While all you have to begin with are a few simple colours, glows around them between stages mean you can click gems to combine them and make more powerful varieties, from simple flawless cuts to towers with special abilities. Refer to the encyclopedia (that's the little book icon at the top of the screen) for the best combination recipes! If things get hectic, you can also use the three magic spells at your disposal to help out. Of course, slaying enemies also grants you cold, hard cash you can spend on more lives, or enhancing the spells you own, or the basic abilities of each gem.

DefEndless, as a tower defense game, is somewhat less developed than its, uh, non-endless cousins and as a result, has a bit of a whiff of repetition about it the longer you play. It still offers a surprising amount of strategy in being able to combine gems into new tower types and drag them around the field, but it also feels like its lacking that undefineable something that makes the games it takes its inspiration from so compulsively playable. Boss fights? The ability to tell the colour of a gem before you place it? More unique enemy behaviours? All those things would definitely have added some oomph, but at the same time, DefEndless can still be surprisingly addictive. It's like the training wheels version of a tower defense game, bringing an almost arcade-like flair to the whole process that makes it perfect for fiddling with whenever you have some time.

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Link Dump Fridays

DoraOld school RPGs? We got that. Sequel to our 2011 game of the year? Got that too. Some sweet, sweet deals? Ditto. Brand new game from Double Fine? Awwww yisss. TGIF.

News and Previews

UndertaleJust a Taste As awesome as it is, I hesitate to tell you to play the PC demo for Undertale, the upcoming classic-with-a-twist indie RPG from Toby Fox, because you're just going to want the whole thing right away and are going to languish until it hits. In a world where monsters have been banished underground after a war with humans, you play a little human child who accidentally falls below and find yourself in a strange world with even stranger rules, where puzzles and danger lurk around every corner. Sporting a unique combat system where you can resort to violence or charm, a fantastic old-school flair, and memorable characters, this is one you need to watch out for. Hey, do you think thirty years from now everyone will be making games that look like Mass Effect and calling those "retro"?

Kingdom Rush FrontiersJust a Sequel to the 2011 Game of the Year, No Biggie Kingdom Rush fans, thy time has (almost!) finally come... launching on iOS on June 6th, the sequel to the smash-hit real-time strategy defense game from Ironhide Game Studio is almost here! Sporting new towers, new enemies, bosses, and much, much more, this is looking absolutely fantastic. Yes, unfortunately initially it's going to be an iOS exclusive, but rest assured it will be headed both for Android devices and your desktop in the future!

Kickstarter/IndieGoGo Projects

Massive ChaliceYou Know, it's Not the Size of the Chalice That Counts... Kickstarter is the thing these days, and when you've had as much success with it as Double Fine has, well, you can't blame them for coming back to it yet again! Planned for PC, Mac and Linux (DRM-free no less) Massive Chalice is a turn-based tactics game where you, an immortal ruler, guide your kingdom through the generations against threats. The twist is, as you manage your city and your army, time is passing, and your heroes will grow up, grow old, and ultimately die, so you'll have to be constantly training new generations of warriors that spring from the old. It looks absolutely amazing, and if you're a strategy nut, then this one should be a no-brainer.

http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/fleish-cherry-in-crazy-hotelWay Cooler than Steamboat Willie Cherry's a classic 'toon kind of gal who's used to being the damsel in distress, but when her boyfriend is captured by his arch-nemesis, suddenly she finds herself the one having to spring to the rescue in Red Little House Studios' upcoming action/puzzle adventure Fleish & Cherry in Crazy Hotel. Sporting a stunning classic animated style with puzzles and action where you'll have to "think like a toon" in order to proceed. This one looks absolutely, jaw-droppingly beautiful, and the unique twist to a tired trope and clever gameplay means it's one to watch out for.

JayisGreenlights

Miscellaneous

Bundle in a BoxGhosts and Hackers and Knights, Oh My! The Bundle-in-a-Box is back, and this time it's packing some serious heat with its "Capsule Computers Bundle". And maybe some serious chill too, since Joey's dead. ... what? I'm not being insensitive. The bundle features the fantastic Blackwell point-and-click adventure games from Wadjet Eye Games featuring psychic Rosa and her dead-but-still-sassy partner Joey. With a minimum purchase of a paltry $1.99USD, there's no reason to not pick these gems up... especially if you want to support the Bundle's Indie Dev Grant and make sure games like these keep coming out!

Humble Bundle 8A Mass Murderer, A Touching Platformer, and a Pyromaniac... Sounds Good The 8th Humble Bundle has arrived, and this one's a doozy. Packing hits like Hotline Miami, Thomas Was Alone, Little Inferno and more, I'd almost call this one mis-matched, except they definitely all have quality in common to burn. As of this writing the average purchase sits at $5.67USD for these beauties, and that is a crazy good price for some crazy good games, so be sure to check it out!

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 jayisgames 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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Ace Attorney: Phoenix Wright Trilogy HD

JohnBPhoenix Wright is back, and he's in HD! After months of waiting Capcom has finally released Ace Attorney: Phoenix Wright Trilogy HD, packing three Phoenix Wright games into a single, easy-to-get-hooked-on download. It doesn't matter if you've never heard of the series or are a tried and true fan, Ace Attorney offers a lot of story and a lot of suspense in a very attractive package.

Ace Attorney: Phoenix Wright Trilogy HDAce Attorney features the three original Phoenix Wright game along with Justice for All and Trials and Tribulations, sequels that continue the series' tradition of courtroom/detective mysteries. Each game presents you with a case that's going to court, allowing you to do some detective work as you interrogate witnesses and scrounge for evidence, all in preparation for bringing it before the judge so you can set the record straight. Each mystery is just as intriguing as it is exciting, and you can expect plenty of surprises and moments of awkward humor as well. Plus, there's no beating the feeling of screaming OBJECTION! in the courtroom after you've gathered all the information yourself.

Analysis: The Phoenix Wright series has a well-deserved reputation for clever writing that walks the line between serious drama and fine comedy. None of that has been changed, and the games are every bit as good as they were when they were first released. The HD visuals look fantastic on iPhone and iPad screens, of course, and you can even rotate your device to switch between classic two screen layout or full single screen experience. Either way, touch controls are great for a game like this.

Ace Attorney: Phoenix Wright Trilogy HDOut of the five chapters found in the first game, the first two are available for free. That's plenty of Phoenix Wright to get you hooked on the series. The rest of that game can be unlocked for $5.99, while Justice for All and Trials and Tribulations are available for $6.99 apiece. There's also the option to just go ahead and buy everything at a discount, which you'll probably end up doing once you remember this is Phoenix Wright.

The only downside to speak of is the game's interface. When you're actually in one of the Phoenix Wright games everything runs just fine, if a touch on the slow side. But navigating between chapters or using the purchase menu is a bit of a hassle. Sliding windows around borders on laborious, and the nav arrows that should make things smoother feel like they're stuck in molasses. A snappier text-only interface would almost be preferred.

Ace Attorney: Phoenix Wright Trilogy HD really is one of those must-get games for mobile devices. You can't go wrong with any of these games in their original incarnations, so when you multiply that by three and add in a non-web version of everybody objects, well, who are we to, you know, object?

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 4.5/5
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Rating: 4.5/5 (21 votes)
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The Yawhg

DoraThe Yawhg is coming. In six weeks, it'll be here, and nothing will ever be the same. But you don't know that, because in Damian Sommers and Emily Carroll's gorgeous indie choose-your-own-adventure style game, you're just a typical soul living out your life on a week by week basis. The things you do with your time now just feel like the same ol' same ol' to you, but when the Yawhg arrives, the choices you have made will determine what happens to not only you but the town itself. Will you dedicate yourself to the arcane arts in the alchemist's tower, even knowing the potential for disaster magic can bring? Will you choose to try to bring law to the troubled slums, unaware of the inhuman darkness that will watch from the shadows? Maybe you'll spend some time attending royal balls, or tending to the sick at the hospital... though if you've come down with a certain affliction yourself, that might not be the best idea. Every action has consequences, and every action determines how ready you'll be when it arrives.

The YawhgAt the start of the game, you can select anywhere from one up to all four of the available characters to play with. Don't worry, all of them can be and do anything, so you aren't limited in any way. The game is turn-based, and each week you'll be asked to select what your characters do and where they go within the city. Once all characters have done something, the turn ends and a new week begins, six in all, until the Yawhg arrives. Each character begins with the same value in all six available statistics, ranging from physical strength to simple wealth, and performing actions in different locations causes these to raise. Fighting in the stadium, for instance, might give you a boost to your strength, while choosing to attend a royal ball at court could increase your charm. Simple, right?

Except each action will usually have a random event attributed to it that comes with a decision. When the patient covered in mysterious sores comes into the hospital one day, do you risk infection? How do you deal with the zombified critter your colleague at the alchemist's tower has just created? While these decisions will also influence your abilities for better or worse, how well you do at your chosen option will usually depend on whether certain statistics are high enough. If your charm is low, you might want to think twice about trying to persuade someone, or if you're not strong enough, running away might be a better choice than getting in a fight. These seemingly inconsequential encounters can lead to big repercussions or rewards later on, and you won't know which until you take a chance. Just remember to apply characters to certain professions and statistics whenever possible to make sure they're ready for the Yawhg... well... as ready as anyone ever can be when they don't know something is coming...

The YawhgAnalysis: For a lot of players, even fans of visual-novel style adventures, the hardest thing to take about The Yawhg might be the randomisation. While certain events only happen at certain locations, there's no real way to tell when and in what order even if you know they're there, so it's hard to really be prepared. On the other hand, that's also sort of the whole point of the game. Like the ambiguous menace roiling towards the town, the people you're playing as have no idea what to expect out of their daily lives. They don't know what's going to happen. They're just living as they always have, and sometimes life is unexpected in ways both good and bad. While the game does provide narration as you go, what it doesn't offer is characterization towards the people you play as at all, forcing you to construct their stories in your own mind. Those proper looking women could just as easily be warriors or thieves as the burly fellow could be a doctor or a courtly gentleman. One of my personal favourite aspects of the game was the way choices felt like they actually had merit and consequences beyond improving your stats because they would pop up again at some point in the rest of the game to show you the results of your decision. The Yawhg feels like it's about crafting lives, and even if the bulk of the story is left up to your imagination, it still succeeds wonderfully.

A large part of the appeal is the gorgeous artwork by Emily Carroll, whose designs breathe personality and a haunting storybook flair into the world. (And if you haven't read her chilling comic His Face All Red, you're seriously missing out.) Add to that a haunting and increasingly tension-filled soundtrack by Ryan Roth and Halina Heron, and you might just have one of the most exquisitely designed story-centric games out there. By suggesting more than it does outright stating anything and never painting you into a corner with its story, The Yawhg creates a world that feels drawn by your choices and ideas, in a world that feels rich with unspoken mythology and danger. Though a playthrough won't last very long, there are over fifty endings to discover, and the game's snappy pace makes it easy to want to jump right back into a new game as soon as you finish one. Rich in player-made stories and surreal, imaginative fairy-tale like atmosphere, The Yawhg is a simple to play yet compelling game that provides a unique and engaging experience.

WindowsWindows:
Get the full version

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


  • Currently 3.8/5
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Rating: 3.8/5 (51 votes)
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Sinjid

TrickyIt has been seven years since Sinjid was thrown into prison for the death of Master Fujin. Seven years confined to the worst dungeons the empire has to offer, for a crime he didn't commit. But that was before the Shogun's rebellion reached the emperor's doorstep. Now, Warlord Masaru thinks Sinjid can be useful. A murderer, but useful none the less. He has an offer: If Sinjid will join Masaru's forces, and help to crush the rebellion, he will get a full pardon and be set free. The best thing that can be said about Masaru is that he is the lesser of two evils, but the chance to find Fujin's real killers cannot be passed up. Sinjid will fight again. An action-RPG by Krin seven years in the making, Sinjid captures the feel of a true ninja epic.

SinjidAfter choosing your character class, use the [WASD] or [arrow keys] to move around and jump. Each character class has different abilities and attacks that can be used with the [1-5] and [Q/F/E] keys, though the keys are customizable by clicking the gear next to your abilities panel. Use them to defeat your many foes. Crouch with [down]/[S] to block attacks. [Spacebar] is used to talk to allies, as well as loot the corpses of defeated enemies. Completing missions and defeating enemies will give you gold to spend on better weapons and armor, as well as XP. Each time you level up, you'll be given a skill point to unlock or upgrade new abilities. There are nine areas to explore and nine epic bosses to defeat. More features can be unlocked through microtransactions.

A semi-sequel, semi-reboot of the author's previous turn-based installment, Sinjid proves to be delight for fans both old and new. It has that classic saga feel in its story-telling, and delivers action that allows for plenty of katana-slashing, while requiring enough strategy to prevent a mere brute-force fest. The landscapes and characters have a beautiful thick-line style to them that evokes a beautiful simplicity. The beauty and the content do come at a cost, though, with some taxing loading times marring the experience, particularly when changing your character's equipment. It's impressive that each piece of equipment has a sprite to go with it, but the requirements in rendering may tax players patience. Still, Sinjid has a breadth to it that rivals many download titles, and hopefully we won't need to wait another seven years to visit its world again.

Play Sinjid


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Rating: 3.5/5 (69 votes)
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Habla Kadabla

Starchild The world is full of wicked witches. If they aren't luring kids into their tooth-rotting candy houses, they are tangling your earphones or hiding your socks (you know witchcraft is the only logical explanation). So when a good witch comes along, you feel obliged to encourage her law-abiding ways, which is why you will help her find a solution to her current predicament. You see, in Habla Kadabla, the newest point-and-click adventure from Carmel Games, the title character is a young sorcerer who owns a nice little ghoulish gift shop. One night, some dastardly blackguard steals her enchanted cash register along with all her money. Habla must find the thief before she goes out of business, or else she just might be forced to start cursing people for a living.

Habla Kadabla Use your mouse to interact with the townsfolk and to click on anything that looks useful. The gameplay is as straightforward as can be – visit the few locations listed on your map, snoop around, pick up items and use them on different objects around town. The cursor changes when you mouse over a clickable item, which is a great help, and the sharp, pleasing graphics make the hunt easier. The story is appropriately nutty, as are Habla's investigative methods, but it all works in its magicky setting and makes for a charming game. Habla Kadabla is quite short and nicely intuitive, so it could be a great first experience for players who are unfamiliar with the genre. That's not to say that it won't please the seasoned audience; it can easily be finished in one sitting, but it's good, clean fun, with its cartoonish sense of humour and goofy logic. So, if you have a bit of time for a round of point-and-clicking, and especially if you can't wait for Halloween, this is a game for you.

Play Habla Kadabla


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Greedy Grub

JohnBGreedy Grub is a freemium town building game from Pixowl Games with gorgeous artwork and gameplay that's just left of the norm. It immediately captivates you with its tale of a cute orange grub falling out of a tree, and every character you meet afterwards is just as quirky and lovable. Layer on top of that an honestly entertaining collection-centric gameplay mechanic and you've got the perfect recipe for an addictive mobile game.

Greedy GrubYou control our grubby pal by sliding your finger around the screen. Where you go the grub follows, collecting fruits and busting bits of shrubbery along the way. To interact with the animal townsfolk or to utilize buildings, simply tap on their front and hold until the grub reaches that position. Most of your time will be spent gathering acorns, tending to fruit trees, and eyeing the next building you aim to create, all with the end goal of helping out mayor Apollo and leveling-up the eye tree.

Plant fruit trees by buying seeds at the store, then make sure you water them whenever they're thirsty. The trees gradually grow up while you play, eventually reaching maturity and producing tasty fruits to harvest. Harvested apples, pears, lemons and so on are converted into acorns, the game's main form of currency, and from there you can spend them on new buildings to further your little orchard/village's progress.

Missions pop up on the side of the screen from time to time, giving you something more specific to accomplish as you manage your forest grove. These are usually pretty simple in nature, asking you to eat certain fruits, craft certain items or build specific buildings within the time allotted.

Greedy GrubAnalysis: The setting and missions in Greedy Grub feel a little like Wandering Willows, a fantastic downloadable game released by Playfirst that walked away with an award in our Best of 2009 voting. Greedy Grub could be the next best thing to a sequel. Quests and goals feel less like busy work and more like genuine entertainment. And when you get so many eyefuls of artwork by Laurel, including a comic, you can't help but get hooked.

Of course, no freemium game would be complete with out a "hurry-up" feature tied to in-app purchases. Trees growing, fruit dropping, and building constructing all take place in real time. If you're impatient you can spend a few gemstones to get things done instantly. The in-app purchase system allows you to buy packs of acorns and/or gems starting with a simple, inexpensive exchange and going all the way to... well, a lot more than pocket change. Fortunately you never feel forced to spend any cash, as the game's pacing is just fine without emptying your wallet.

Balanced and pleasant with just the right amount of challenge, Greedy Grub is a perfect example of how you can take the freemium town building concept and do something genuinely entertaining with it.

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.


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Rating: 4.4/5 (81 votes)
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Monsterland 3: Junior Returns

DoraJust when you thought it was safe to nap... dun-dun... dun-dun...dun-dun-dun-dun-dun-DUN! Alma Games' gleeful brat returns in the latest installment of the tumbledrop-style physics puzzle series with Monsterland 3: Junior Returns. Your goal is to get our excitable little square buddy down to his snoring, long-suffering bigger pal to wake him up. Click other goggle-eyed monsters to drop Junior down, using fewer clicks to earn the most stars, and make him land safely atop Senior to win the level. When Junior is flying, click him to make his wings vanish so he drops. Since some monsters can't be moved, navigating Junior safely around the hazards becomes an even bigger challenge.

Monsterland 3: Junior ReturnsThough not much separates the gameplay here from the first two installments apart from the buzzsaws (Senior really wants to be left alone) and Junior's new wings, Monsterland 3: Junior Returns continues the series' tradition of vibrant visuals and fun, inventive level design that forces you to think. Though the physics are largely reliable, however, moving platforms can be a frustration since Junior tends to slide on them when they change direction beneath him, which can cause him to fall off into the abyss or whirling blades if he doesn't land in the dead center of the platform to begin with. The saws mean this batch of levels feel like the require a bit more timing and reflexes over the other games, but with all the charm and weirdness you've come to expect, it's a colourful way to spend your free time. But, uh. Maybe if you actually want a little kid to leave you alone, lethal traps might be considered... a bit of an overreaction. (Don't worry, kids. Junior is fine.)

Play Monsterland 3: Junior Returns


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Rating: 4.3/5 (101 votes)
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You Must Escape

DoraRac7's Ludum Dare entry You Must Escape was for the "minimalist" theme, but it could also have been under the "how to shred someone's nerves with near-complete silence and a bunch of lines" theme. Which they would have one, being as this maze-like avoidance game is one of a kind. Trapped inside a pitch-black maze, all you can do is use sound to figure out where you are and make your way to the exit through echolocation. As you move with either [WASD] or the [arrow] keys, sound represented as thin white lines radiates out from you, bouncing off walls and doorways, and you'll need to use this to find the exit, which "sounds" different in that when bouncing off of it, the white lines will become slightly thicker and move faster within it. Simple, right? You can even use the [spacebar] to create a burst of sound that radiates out from you, holding it longer to make it louder and travel further. Just watch out for traps that display in red. And for whatever hungry, searching thing is sharing the darkness with you... listening...

You Must EscapeSee, after a rather uneventful few stages of learning the ropes, you're told that you're not alone, and suddenly making a lot of noise to figure out where everything is isn't the best idea. The "beast", when alerted to where you are, will head straight for the location of the sound, emitting growls that paint the area surrounding it red. You can hold [shift] to move silently and escape detection, but, well, then you have no idea where you're going and where the exit is... or where the beast is. As a result, You Must Escape creates a very literal game of cat and mouse rich in tension though simple yet effective sound and the simplest visuals possible. Though movement is both slow and clunky enough that you might imagine you were actually steering a passive-aggressive Clydesdale stallion, like FPS-Man, You Must Escape shows that in the right (wrong?) hands manipulation of sound and perspective is all you need to make something genuinely frightening. Of course, whether this concept is enough to make someone want to push through to the end through gameplay that feels by design achingly slow at times is another matter entirely, but there's no denying this is definitely a great concept and an even greater use of the Ludum Dare competition's "minimalism" theme. ... even if that means I can't make very interesting screenshots out of it for you. Uh. Sorry.

Play You Must Escape


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Rating: 3.9/5 (98 votes)
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Fruits!Fruits!Fruits!

elleIf I told you one of my favorite pastimes was to be locked up in a room with a host of arcane devices and left to only my clue-snooping, puzzle-solving wits to find my way out, would you say I'm fruity? No? Fabulous! Then you, like me, are going to love this almost brief but entirely clever escape-the-room game from suzumeDr of 45-rpm: Fruits!Fruits!Fruits!

Fruits!Fruits!Fruits!Despite the titular allusion to a musical number involving samba dancers and Carmen Miranda in delicious headwear, the setting for this game is quite a bit quieter and tamer. Which allays the absence of a changing cursor since you'll have fewer details to sort your way through as you point-and-click around, trying every angle of the furnishings you do see. Arrows at the sides and bottom of the screen will indicate where you can turn or back up, yet anything else that's up for examination can be reached by clicking it. Obtainable items will land in your inventory automatically where one click will highlight, readying it for use, and a double-click will open its detail screen. Although many players will be able to finish within 10 minutes, there is also a save function in case you need a breather to re-ponder the clues.

Compared to other suzumeDr creations such as Locked Around the Clock or To Nothing, this escape is much easier to come by even if it's not the simplest you'll ever play. At first look, some clues are almost misleading while others are hidden in plain sight, and it might feel like some lateral deductions are needed. Looking back, though, all logic can be explained without any stretches in credulity. Yet Fruits!Fruits!Fruits! should be much more peppy and full of personality as fans of this game designer have come to expect—by the title it certainly sounds like it would be, but it ends up being a bit more mild and comparatively more dull. Those who found other suzumeDr games too abstruse shouldn't shy away from this one, though. Fruits!Fruits!Fruits! is balanced just right in difficulty, making you think hard for your answer but still providing all the information needed to keep the experience enjoyable.

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Word Realms

DoraWhen the world is in danger from the insidious Lord Nightmare, who preys on the dreams of people as part of a sinister plot, they need a hero... someone stalwart, honorable, trained in the ways of dream magic. Unfortunately, all they have is you, some lunkhead who crawled out of the bushes after a night of hard partying. Oh well. In Asymmetric Productions' Word Realms, you'll learn to defeat enemies in turn-based combat by spelling out words from a set of Scrabble-like tiles, learning new abilities as you complete side-quests in your adventure to save the world. Complete with inspirational '80s training montage!

Word RealmsAfter a short tutorial, you'll be booted out into the world proper to begin your journey. Places on the map with an exclamation mark over them have a quest related to them, so click to travel wherever you please. In town, you can purchase items or upgrade your equipment, but most everywhere else will result in duking it out, librarian style, with foes. While swords and armor are important, your vocabulary is even more so, since the power of your attack is determined by the value of each of the randomly distributed letters you're given to spell with. Don't spend too long staring at your letter tiles, since the timer at the top of the screen ticks down until your turn automatically ends, whether you've spelled something or not. Instead of leveling up with experience points, growing stronger depends on defeating multiple types of enemies to achieve milestones. Pounding away at a certain number of skeletons, for instance, could lead to a permanent increase in strength, while defeating lots of intelligent enemies might mean you get a permanent additional letter tile in each battle.

Your questing is simply done by visiting locations and pummeling enough baddies until a story sequence triggers, but there are exceptions. Using your unique powers, you'll be able to capture the dreams of certain characters. Once done, you can enter into those visions to attain clues or free people from nightmares. These events are usually more puzzle oriented than combat related, tasking you to solve riddles, construct specific words from tiles using strict rules, and more. While some dreams are entirely optional, you'll still want to complete them to earn new abilities, since the longer you play, the harder the game is going to get. Making words is the easy part, but as enemies begin to get craftier and come with dangerous new skills and spells that can hamper you, you'll have to be more strategic too. Use abilities to scramble or destruct your foe's tileset, inflict status ailments, use scrolls with unique spells, or equip passive abilities to gain bonuses of all kinds. Once you rescue the village blacksmith, you'll even gain the option to buy a set of crafting tools to make your own equipment, like some sort of medieval, verbose Martha Stewart.

Word RealmsAnalysis: Word Realms is one of those games that will absolutely devour your spare time if you let it. Not only is it easy to pick up and satisfying to play whenever you have a chance, but it's also compulsively playable in a "one more turn" sort of way that makes you look up in bewilderment and realise you were late for your appointment three hours ago. (I didn't need that heart surgery anyway.) Word Realms' best quality, however, might be its sense of humour, which is every bit as sublimely silly and wonderfully weird as you would expect from the creators of beloved online RPG The Kingdom of Loathing. Sometimes sassy and sarcastic, while others more subtle and surreal, the game keeps its plot moving with snappy dialogue and one-liners. It almost seems impossible to predict whether the game will recognise words and use them as taunts in a way that makes sense, with gems like "I'm going to knock your SOUP off!" coming on the heels of "My Monster Journal CITES several sources saying you're a loser!" or unexpectedly funny Star Trek references. Fortunately, if you feel the game missed the mark on its word usage, you have the option to tell the developers so by reporting improper instances after each battle.

The game can definitely feel a little repetitive at times. Lacking any real puzzle-solving or actual adventuring beyond the dream sequences, gameplay boils down to battling over and over in each area until there's nothing left to get out of it. But Word Realms is dedicated to its core gameplay in a way that means it's as engaging and polished as it can possibly be, and the result is what you could call the perfect marriage of word puzzle and RPG for the casual gamer. There are hours of challenging, funny, and smart gameplay to be had that make it hard to put down, especially as combat gets more varied and difficult later in the game. With a great sense of humour and a unique look, Word Realms comes highly recommended to anyone who likes the pick-up-and-play style of Kingdom of Loathing married with the think-on-your-feet action of Bookworm Adventures for one unique, clever beast.

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