October 4, 2010 

Robot Wants Ice Cream
Creator: Hamumu Software
Platform: Browser
Price: Free
The Robot Wants… series of platforming games—which includes Kitty, Puppy, and Fishy—concludes with its most varied and cheerful entry yet, Robot Wants Ice Cream. The boxy unicycle robot, alongside his mostly useless brown puppy, flits around a tropical grassland to build up his strength (with gradual upgrades) and conquer the flying saucer that hovers ominously overhead. The quest is dotted with small boss fights that are unlikely to test anybody’s patience, thanks to a generous respawn system (think BioShock’s Vita-Chambers, but twitchier). The bosses do offer variety, though, and Robot isn’t so much about challenge anyway: It’s about basking in the game’s unabashed cuteness. Hamumu executes its charming aesthetic so well that it’s a shame to see the Robot Wants… series end. In a nod to players who have followed Robot’s travails from the beginning, the developers get in one last shocking twist before saying goodbye… A-



Electric Box 2

Creator: Twinkle Star Games Studio
Platform: Browser
Price: Free
This puzzle-game sequel is so much more joyful and beautiful than its predecessor that it proves how far production value can go to improve even simple Flash games. As in the first game, Electric Box 2 asks players to connect a power source to the target using a Rube Goldberg-ian system of transmitters. A tea kettle pours water into the turbine, which powers an electric fan that sends a burst of air into a set of wind chimes, which make the music-loving hamster spin his wheel—and so on. The puzzles are all excellent, and the ambiance really brings the game home. This is a game that could have easily gone for an industrial feel, and indeed, Electric Box tended in that direction. The cleaner, more curious visuals and gentler music of Electric Box 2 make it a more welcoming place to tinker, and correspondingly, a much harder game to put aside…



Pixel Purge

Creator: Epic Shadow Entertainment
Platform: Browser 
Price: Free
Pixel Purge starts out with a melodramatic intro that explains a nonsensical plot about fighting back chaos. But once that’s over, the game turns into a highly enjoyable, fast-paced retro shooter. Using the arrow keys to maneuver and the mouse to aim and shoot, players must weather an unending barrage of monstrous invaders floating through space. The game starts out with simple paLast eons who move in a straight line and are only a threat if they crash into you. As you level up, the combat gets significantly harder, as new types of invaders fill the board with explosive mines, split into other invaders upon death, or spawn tiny monsters that zoom in on your ship. Leveling up also grants skill points that can be used to upgrade your craft. The game is enhanced by solid music and ominous thunder-and-lightning effects that show silhouettes of monsters yet to come… A-



Museum Of Thieves

Creator: Difference Games
Platform: Browser
Price: Free
Museum Of Thieves is a fairly standard spot-the-difference game: Given two images of the same room, you try to spot and click on the discrepancies between them, quickly enough to earn bonus points, but precisely enough to avoid losing points with a mis-click. Difference Games specializes in churning out these sometimes-casual, sometimes-arty, sometimes-frustrating tests of perception, though their products range widely in polish and difficulty. Museum Of Thieves is only middling-hard, with mostly obvious changes from one image to another. Its appeal lies in the gorgeously rich art, and the sense of story, as it attempts to lure players into the conflict at the heart of Lian Tanner’s recently released young-readers’ novel Museum Of Thieves. The art is atmospheric and baroque, and the story it suggests, about a magical museum twisting into something dark as it senses a threat from outside, is fairly chilling… B



[Visible] III

Creator: Psyflash
Platform: Browser
Price: Free
In some ways, it’s good to be a ninja in [Visible] III. You can run up sheer walls or dangle freely from ceilings, at least for short periods. You can turn invisible at will, also briefly. Best of all, you have an infinite number of lives. Unfortunately, you’ll need ’em. In campaign mode, you’re trying to navigate 15 complicated levels full of passive traps to avoid, and electric-eye traps (lasers, homing missiles, plasma emitters, etc.) to sneak past invisibly. And as if that wasn’t challenge enough, some geographical features—from platforms you’ll need to jump on to more traps that will kill you—only show up in the mirror image of the room, reflected beneath the “real” one. You need to keep your eyes on both areas, since there are so very many ways to die—enough ways that one success metric for a level is how many ninjas you expended. Expect to spend a lot of time trying to maneuver through the same tight space without nudging a hair too far in any direction, and expect to get frustrated from time to time as you evade six traps in a row, only to run out of invisibility just as you reach that laser grid. It’s half platformer, half excruciatingly precise puzzle, and all compelling, at least for a certain kind of gamer. Those who do enjoy it will be happy to know there’s much more, in the form of a five-level expert gauntlet to run, plus sadistic user-created levels… B+



Camel Eye

Creator: Hilgreed
Platform: Browser
Price: Free
Camel Eye is like a single-room text adventure with modest visuals pasted on top. Like the most constrained interactive fiction, it lives and dies by its own maddening simplicity. You’re trapped in a small office area that houses three desks, each of which corresponds to a deadly security laser that’s keeping you in the room. As with all escape games, the challenge here is to find a way out without succumbing to cabin fever. The task of keeping your sanity is made more difficult by easy-listening MIDI music that runs on a loop. The soundtrack can be turned off, fortunately, and the language can be switched from the creator’s native Japanese to English. The poor translations—“The door id locked! Unbelievable!”—add an essential touch of weirdness to this odd affair. While the trappings may feel a bit off, the puzzles are all logical and never unfair, though the solutions take some time to discern… B-



A Bonte Escape

Creator: Bart Bonte
Platform: Browser
Price: Free
“You are dropped in a strange room, but are you smart enough to get out…?” This mysterious point-and-click escape game has you use linear thought and a variety of found objects to navigate your way around an unusual environment. Where Myst is a lush Renoir-style exploration of the art, A Bonte Escape is the Alexander Calder take. There are a variety of simple, primary-colored objects filling a four-cornered room. You aren’t given directions on what to do with them—just a mandate to leave the room—so the only way to proceed is to click on everything and try to follow the logic. There’s a water dispenser and a glass, but what do you do when thirst isn’t a factor? A Bonte Escape is a slick meditation on videogame logic. Thanks to a cool synthesized jazz soundtrack, it even has a nice eerie tone that lends some dread to the puzzle-solving… B+



Feign

Creators: Ian Snyder and Brother Android
Platform: Browser
Price: Free
Two colors, dark brown and seafoam green, are all Ian Snyder uses to create a disorienting yet engrossing 3-D space in Feign. As you penetrate the onion skins of the game’s deceptively deep world, the color palette for positive and negative space switches back and forth, so that walls and floors become emptiness, and vice versa. The objective of collecting orange, luminescent human bodies is a hollow, artsy diversion that exists only to justify the game’s visual trickery. But Snyder’s use of his spare visual language doesn’t need any outside justification—it keeps offering surprises all the way through to the end of Feign’s brief journey… B



Dude Icarus

Creators: Brendon Clay, Jake Elliott, Nicole Lenard, Scott Roberts, and Erin Robinson
Platform: Browser
Price: Free
The original Icarus met his untimely end when he flew too close to the sun, but for Dude Icarus, that big orange ball of fire just looks like a killer place to work on his tan. So he hops around his giant circular world collecting feathers, each of which adds to his formidable jumping capabilities. Players start out with a double-jump; grabbing a feather unlocks a triple-jump, and so on. The game peters out a bit once you get to a septuple-jump or so, because by that point, there’s not much left to do but wait for the sun to swing around on its orbit so you can hop on. The developers, who created Dude Icarus at a game jam sponsored by Chicago’s Indie City Games, are aware of the game’s shortcomings. They intend to turn their pleasant 10-minute diversion into a game that can really spread its wings… B-



Slice It!

Creator: Com2Us
Platform: iPhone/iPad (Universal Binary)
Played On: iPhone
Price: $0.99
iPhone games generally fail to utilize the gift God (Steve Jobs) gave ’em: a complete touchpad upon which to play. Too often, these games employ cursory control pads that don’t work well without tactile feedback. But Slice It! is a winning touchpad-only concept that’s executed almost flawlessly. It’s a spatial puzzle that asks you to divide a shape into a mandated number of equal-sized parts using the allocated number of cuts; dividing a square into four parts with two cuts, for example, means one down the middle lengthwise and one width-wise. Things get complicated with the addition of odd numbers (five cuts for eight equal triangle pieces?) and dead zones where the lines aren’t allowed to cross. The cuts themselves are as simple as swiping your fingers across the screen, and the game picks up your motion accurately—so much so that sometimes, when your cut isn’t perfect, the line you’re drawing diverges minutely from one that you already drew, and a tiny ghost piece forms and screws up the entire solution. Still, as a patient puzzler, Slice It! remains innovative and employs the kind of drawing-based head-scratchers only possible on touch controls… A-



Axe In Face: Defense Of The Daffodils

Creator: Blue Carrot Design
Platform: iPhone
Price: $0.99 
Don’t be fooled by this game’s brutal name—it isn’t just another mindless gorefest. Actually, it isn’t even that bloody. You play as a green-thumbed, red-bearded Viking who wants nothing more than to protect his daffodils from the onslaught of inconsiderate foot traffic making a beeline for your flowers. To prevent them from trampling your prized garden, you draw a path from your axe directly to their tender neck meat, yielding some of gaming’s most adorable decapitations. Later levels add extra wrinkles like shield-wielding enemies who can only be struck down from behind (your axe always returns like a boomerang), and tough guys who can only be burnt down with a flame-kissed axe. You’ll have to learn the pace of advancement for each unit and draw the simplest line, not the squiggliest, to take them down. The name alone makes Axe In Face worth a download, and fortunately, the game is just as straightforwardly fun… A-



My First Quantum Translocator

Creator: Cellar Door Games
Platform: Browser
Price: Free
When gamers see a voiceless protagonist wandering around austere grayscale environments to test a teleportation device for a malicious, unseen technological overseer, it’s easy to get a sense of déjà vu. But My First Quantum Translocator has less in common with Portal than it might seem. The game is more like the ponderous cousin of Give Up, Robot. You are a small, nameless pixel person in a spacesuit testing the Quantum Translocator 4300 by moving across platforms in single-screen stages. Pressing W leaves a shadow of yourself, to which you can teleport by pressing the spacebar. The basic gravity-defying maneuver: Jump, leave a quantum shadow, and jump again for extra height. You get betrayed as soon as the tutorial ends, and when an unseen benefactor contacts you, trying to lead you out, the real fun begins. The levels are fast, deaths are frequent, and the game becomes as much about speedy trial-and-error than about skill, much like the aforementioned Give Up. The levels are clever, but not unusually so, and the action is held back by the awkward distance between W and spacebar… B



Turbo Turbo Turbo

Creator: Messhof (Mark Essen)
Platform: Browser
Price: Free
When a balding man in a wifebeater shirt tells you in broken English that he’ll break your thumbs if you don’t go fast, you better damn well go fast, or “turbo,” as the thumb-breaker says. Turbo Turbo Turbo is the latest racing game to show up on Adult Swim Games, though creator Messhof has made it funnier than fun to play. From a bird’s-eye view, you steer a blocky white car around nondescript monochromatic racetracks. You have three laps to cover in a race, but the quickest way to victory is just to ram cars off the road by touching them, racking up escalating points for each crash as you go. If you fail to come in first, get crushed by volcanic boulders, or get run off the road, you have a choice: Beat the crap out of a bunch of people at a bar, or get your thumb broken and go to the next race. (Oh, and if you don't clear everyone out of the bar, you also get your thumb broken.) Two broken thumbs earns you a game-over. The token Adult Swim bleak humor and jittery low-fi graphics are pretty great, but the racing and brawling aren't memorable… B-



The Room: The Game

Creators: Tom Fulp, JohnnyUtah, and Chris O’Neill
Platform: Browser
Price: Free
In paying homage to their favorite poorly acted, poorly plotted would-be Skinemax film, the creators of The Room: The Game breathe new life into the already vibrant, lumpy “film.” (Here’s more about The Room’s glory.) The game is a point-and-click RPG, spinning the characters, the city of San Francisco, and even the ridiculous soundtrack in 8-bit. You guide hero/household-provider Johnny through the events of the film, and always from his perspective. Johnny actually goes to buy the red dress for Lisa, and actually carts Chris-R to the police. The tiniest details make the cut: When Johnny and Denny play catch on the roof (a mini-game of sorts), they only toss the ball back and forth once, as per the film. There are also plenty of Easter eggs for longtime fans of writer-director-producer-star Tommy Wiseau and his vast mythology—like the poster from Citizen Kane in the hallway—as well as those who’ve speculated about this film for far too long. For example, Denny lives in a closet, surrounded by photos of Lisa and a bucket to pee in; his daily diary entries round out the creepy fantasy. There are a few too many dialogue-heavy scenes lifted right from The Room that don’t gain much from the 8-bit treatment, but for the most part, The Room: The Game is a giddy, refreshing take on this puzzling film and its fanatic fans. A-

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