When you think of what this medium is capable of it's easy to grab for lofty terms like "emergence" or even "organic beauty", but have nothing solid to hold onto. The Powder Game is a rare beacon of hope for those who dream of deep interactivity. It is a fondue of loose goals and free play; creation and destruction wrapped in a tumbling embrace. Oh yeah, this game is that good and will keep you engaged for hours.
Minecraft is a sandbox game that lets you make your own world out of colorful building blocks. Construct a fortress, and then plant tulips on the parapets. Dig a vast network of subterranean tunnels, drop a colony of people down the rabbit hole, and watch them wander. Or, if you're in a particularly metacognitive mood, make a sandbox. Uncage your imagination, and let it take you where it will.
Sometimes, a game goes through such a metamorphosis during its development cycle that it's practically a different product from its original release. Thus is the case with Minecraft, a little old building game, inspired by Infiniminer and Dwarf Fortress, and created by Markus Persson. Whether you can only play it for fifteen minutes at a time, or end up devoting hours at a stretch (often unintentionally) to it, Minecraft is intensely enjoyable, and an incredible bargain. Minecraft Beta will be out on December 20th, so this is your last opportunity to get the game at Alpha pricing and with the promise of all future updates for free.
Just over two years ago from this day, a relatively unknown indie programmer called Notch posted about a work-in-progress version of a sandbox building game on the TIGSource forums. It was called Minecraft, and at the time, people thought it was really very cool. Fast forward to the present and Minecraft has sold over four million copies, been through extended alpha and beta phases, spawned the Mojang indie studio, and gained so much popularity, the launch of its official version took place at a Las Vegas convention dubbed MineCon. That's an impressive feat for any game, let alone one started by a single person. But now, Minecraft is officially out. No more beta, no more alpha, it's here. Time to lose yourself in a voxel world all over again!
This Java applet game impressed me with the old-school charm of its scrolling tile-based worlds, its quirky characters and dialog, and its addictive gameplay. And yet the moment the game begins you realize that this is no ordinary Web game. Immediately you are teleporting back to the glory days of the SNES, and from there your task is to seek out the one last sprout, which is the one item you need to open the final gate.
Physics-heavy, sandbox-style webtoys are loads of fun to play with, and Ha55ii's Powder Game has always stood as one of the best and most feature-rich. Version 7 introduces several new elements to unleash on your screen of chaos/coolness!
Stick Ranger is a unique RPG with physics-based combat and starring tiny stick figures, from the creators of Irritation Stickman and Powder Game. Create your four-character party by assigning a class to each member—there are the Boxer, the Gladiator, the Sniper, the Magician, and the Priest—and send them on their way through stages with austere backdrops, fighting stick figure monsters for gold, items, weaponry and experience. You may interfere as you see fit by dragging them around the screen.
A new webtoy designed to steal your afternoon and be a playground for your creativity. Earth Editor uses similar particle physics and materials as previous games but adds a unique twist: centralized gravity. Drop some sand on the screen and it's pulled to the middle. Add water and you have yourself a little planet. Then you fling some meteors and watch the fun explode!
The Dofi-Blog sand and zombie toys are making their way around the Web like a ??? explosion (inside joke), and for good reason: they are quite literally sand box games that allow for a seemingly infinite variety of creative play. And now the author, d_of_i, has released another sand world, Hell of Sand, which appears to be a combination of the previously reviewed War of the Hell and World of Sand.
Ha55ii, creator of the previously reviewed Liquid Webtoy, has put forth another addictive webtoy: Powder Game. It bears a similarity in essence to the Falling Sand games, but takes it a step further with the introduction of wind and air pressure.
Thy Dungeonman 3: Behold Thy Graphics! is a parody of the old 5¼-inch floppy text and graphic adventure games. Made by Videlectrix, Homestar Runner's fictional software design company, Dungeonman 3 sports "state-of-the-art amber monochrome visuals" (circa 1980), real-time simulated medieval English text, a parser that talks back to you, and enough mocked adventure game cliches to fill your beer stein twice full.
Rubicon is an amazing machine-building puzzle game, level editor, and sandbox toy. Gameplay consists of moving crates to one or more targets for each level. Each crate must come to rest on its corresponding target for a green light to appear. Use the component materials provided to construct any machine that will succeed at the task.
Liquid Webtoy is a Java-based application very similar to the Falling Sand games we're all so fond of. Rather than playing with solid elements, however, this game is focused on two things: liquid and color. Fill the screen with water, slosh it around with your mouse and add different shades to the mix. It can be as relaxing or chaotic as you like and is a great time-waster.
File this under: Games as an art form. While I do not often find myself playing Chess (read: I suck at it), I do like to play when I find a game that offers something besides the mere basics. Thinking Machine 4 is just such a game. The authors state that the goal of the piece is not to make an expert chess playing program but to lay bare the complex thinking that underlies all strategic thought.
Tag a Tune is a game created as part of a study by Carnegie Mellon University. You and an anonymous partner team up and listen to a song. You can only hear your tune and must type words that come to mind as the song plays. Then both you and your partner guess if you're listening to the same song or a different one based on the tags submitted. Not only is it a fun musical guessing game, you're also helping computers learn how to better search for music.
Every time we review a picross game, there always seems to be a hubbub about what site does it right. Either there's not enough puzzles to solve, not enough variety in the puzzles, it's all too easy or too hard, or the pictures look like someone sneezed on a piece of graph paper. (I'll admit to being among the gripers before.) And every time, there's at least one person who suggests Griddlers.
Minecraft creator Markus Persson's entry into Ludum Dare is a first-person dungeon crawling exploration adventure. Escape from your cell and explore a surprisingly large series of connected dungeons, discovering new items and abilities, and searching for valuable treasure. An unforgiving death system and lack of a map may prove too frustrating for some players, but for a game made in just 48 hours this is one surprisingly big and fun adventure.
Tiny world, tiny problems, right? More like "not right". Er, yeah. Anyway, Mini Quests is a pint-sized adventure/puzzle game by dishmoth available for Android devices and as a Java Applet for browsers. The chunky-pixeled isometric game puts you in control of a little guy out on an adventure, trudging through the fantasy lands as he hunts for treasure and fights/puzzles his way out of various scrapes, like you do!
Three Degrees is a variation on a classic casual game, and it is played by clicking on groups of the same color to eliminate them from play. Of course, the larger the group the more points awarded. It is a very simple game to pick-up and play, a nice variation on a classic, and one that you will likely find yourself playing again and again.
Breaking the Tower is a slow-paced strategy game where you build a village, raise an army, and eventually topple a tower on the other side of the island. Think Settlers or the original Warcraft, but simpler and with more automation. All you have to do is decide what to build, plunk down a building and your pixelated little peons take care of the rest.
Hostile Spawn is a top-down arcade shooter similar to Robokill in design. Move through a sci-fi setting grabbing weapons and taking out aliens with your mad skills. Although it's similar to other games in the genre, Hostile Spawn has a strong emphasis on exploration, carving itself a nice cozy niche amongst its brothers.
The computer game is not the strongest medium for word games. The crossword puzzle and word jumble dominate the papers; Boggle is the board game master. Computer games are often overlooked by the linguistically minded. But then, Text Twist changes all that. I'm tempted to call it the best word game I've ever played.
A java demake of Terry Cavanagh's retro spacefaring platformer, VVVV is a challenging little gem sure to bring delight to your day as you set about rescuing six of your fellow crew mates across a dangerous map. And by "delight", we of course mean "difficulty designed to make your fingers snap like ineffectual little twigs". Yaaaaaay!
Elemental Box is a brand new physics webtoy from our beloved sandbox game creator ha55ii. Unlike previous releases such as Powder Game or Irritation Stickman, Elemental Box is focused on the physical interaction of solid objects, not so much the elemental properties of them. It's a bit like a building game, complete with a start/stop timer device, that gives you full freedom to let your creativity run wild.
Be legendary! Be powerful! Be... pixellated? Kevin Glass' retro roguelike is currently in continued development, but don't be afraid to dip your toes into this top-notch casual experience designed to be picked up and played at any time by anyone. Sharped your sword, fletch your arrows, and... uh... spark your fireballs? There's adventure to be had!
You're no ordinary criminal. Your name is Sidney and you have special powers worthy of the X-Men: you can make a clone (or two) of yourself. As Kevin Glass' pixelated puzzler entry for the recent Ludum Dare, The Cell takes you through ten levels of prison escaping. There to aid you are your trusty clones, who follow your every move, and wooden crates, which can be pushed around to do a plethora of things. How long will it take you to escape this puzzling prison?
3D-SF Cave is a fun little Java applet game that can be played quickly and easily in any Java-enabled browser. Although there is not much to the gameplay, the game's no-frills presentation cuts right to the chase.
The game is played from a first-person perspective, flying through a cave. Walls of...
From Carnegie Mellon University comes this multiplayer game that is simply called: The ESP Game.
The game requires you to register and sign in, and then it pairs you up with an anonymous partner for a round of ten images. You have two minutes and thirty seconds (2:30) with which to agree...
Ever wonder what it's like to be a dragon? How about a Dragondot? Turns out, it's pretty much the same ol', same ol'. Defend your territory from ghosts, hobgoblins, and more, and bask in the adulation of your defenseless kobold followers. Simple and simply cute, Dragondot is a short but fun hack and slash romp.
If "retro" to you means huge chunky pixels, bleeping and blerping sounds and gameplay that doesn't lead you by the hand, then Attack of the Meeplings may be just the game for you. This Java-based shooter is glorious, retro-styled fun from top to bottom, especially its soundtrack.
Accurately described as a "drag action game", Irritation Stickman has you picking up and dragging stickmen through each stage, avoiding spikes and other traps along the way. You can only keep your grip for a few seconds and must drop stickmen to recharge, forcing you to think before flailing the cursor around the screen. It's a simple but fun action game that produces some hilarious moments of stickman insanity.
If you enjoy interactive fiction or text adventures of years gone by, don't miss these works by award-winning author, Andrew Plotkin. Also known as "Zarf," Plotkin leverages his skills in programming, game and puzzle design to create engaging and compelling interactive fiction that are works of art.
There is plenty of remarkable work being done over at Dofi-Blog in both the Java and Processing languages. Although the blog is written predominantly in Japanese, there are several compelling and engaging interactive games and toys that should not be missed regardless of your language of choice. Strongly recommended: World of Sand.
Why is this game so addictive?
Is it because it's easy to find at least a couple of words? It certainly can't be because I always end up at the bottom of the scoring list. Click....
The 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 eight levels. It's over far too fast, but it's densely packed with interesting ideas and a well deserved victor.
I was playing Christian's games all weekend before I realized they were written in Java. Very nice. Not that Java isn't a capable language to write cool little games like this, it's just that the graphics in Christian's games look hand-drawn, a characteristic that I've come to associate more with...
SlingStar is a space-themed shooter that uses realistic physics to make a strange game concept feel as natural as playing with a paddle and rubber ball. You pilot a small circle that must avoid everything on-screen. Your weapons are two orbiting satellites that you can sling back and forth to pummel enemy ships. By moving your craft back and forth, you send the satellites hurdling around you in a widening path.
BrettspielWelt is a free, online board-gaming community based in Germany but open to players from around the world. Many excellent board and card games, ranging from casual fun to serious strategy can be played online in one place: BrettspielWelt ("board game world").
From Shiftup comes two games featuring their cute tanuki mascot, Ponta. People all over the world have become familiar with the tanuki, an easygoing, shapeshifting raccoon-like creature which frequently appears in Japanese folklore and popular culture such as Studio Ghibli's Pom Poko or Super Mario Brothers 3.
Another great online game from DOFI Blog, the creator of World of Sand, New Rolling Omusubi puts you in control of a lost ball of rolling rice. Use your nori wrapper like a sticky tongue to move along walls, ceilings, and blocks of ice and sand. Reach the goal as fast as you can to top your best times.
Up next is a great pair of Java shmups (shoot-em-ups). Both are simple and small, and yet each offers an unusual idea; there are no run-of-the-mill 1942 or Gradius clones here. The miniscule Fuzetsu was Jos Hirth's entry in the Java 4k competition, and HIZ's Lash is a shmup with a defensive twist.
From Japan, created by Kenta Cho and available on his ABA Games website are a bunch of shmups, and all with source code. Highlighted here is Noiz2, a game that runs as an applet in any Java-enabled browser.
Noiz2 is an excellent little game that can keep you mesmerized for hours. Your ship is the mouse pointer, move it around the screen to shoot a...
A clone of the classic Loopz game for the Atari ST computer, Double is a Java applet, written by Martin Koerwien and Michael Kraus, that brings to the browser the same addictive and challenging gameplay.
The object of the game is to place random pieces on the play field to form closed 'loops' which then disappear to make room for more. You may rot...
Apple Collector is a unique puzzle/physics game written in Java by Matt Hopkins. The goal of each level is to collect a certain number of apples within the specified time period. The delicious fruits pour out of containers and you must draw girders to bounce them into the right basket. The game begins simply enough but introduces multiple colors of apples and other complications that will make your apple picking days much more challenging.
We've just launched our own IRC channel, which you can get to by clicking "Chat" in the menu above. That will take you to an open source Java client and automatically log you onto the chat server being hosted at Casual Gameplay. If you prefer to use your own IRC client, then point it to irc.jayisgames.com and join channel #casualgameplay. See ya there!