Fragger

Grenades are dangerous! That being said, we can move on to Fragger, a 2D stationary shooting game created by Harold Brenes. Technically it’s not a shooter, more like grenade-throwing-in-order-to-kill-some-Grunts-and-being-very-precise-about-it kind of game.

The mechanics of the game are similar to those of Angry Birds, but not exactly the same. Power of your throw is controlled by moving the cursor to the bottom (for low power) or the top (for more power) of the power meter which is at the same time the trajectory cursor. It takes some time to learn how much power, combined with the right angle, is required to land the grenade where you want it and even then the smallest of adjustments of either power or trajectory will cause you to miss your intended target.

You play as Fragger, a guy dressed up in what seems to be  S.W.A.T. clothes, and your mission is to kill all the Grunts on the level. At least that is my guess since there is no background story to follow which is a shame considering how many good excuses can be made for throwing grenades at other people (do not try this at home). However, even though there is no story, the design and sound effects quality is quite high, keeping you interested from the beginning to the end.

The game has 30 levels which get rather tricky by the end. Some levels even force you to stop and think about your next move even though you can restart the level as many times you need. The whole game on normal mode can be finished within one hour. For the perfectionists there are hard and elite modes to play as well as several achievements to unlock.

All in all, Fragger is an interesting albeit short game, just perfect for those lazy Sunday afternoons.

Awesome Conquest

When a game has the word “awesome” in its title, usually it’s a sign that the creators of the game don’t feel the game has enough to offer. Awesome Conquest on the other side is a well created, enjoyable strategy game without any major flaws. The game was created by Jim Chalwin and Carl Trelfa.

As far as the story goes, an evil red army stole blue people’s amulet and they want it back. It is up to you to help them retrieve it. The game consists of twenty two levels in which you have to eliminate all enemies on the field. You can’t control your army but, since the gods are on your side, you can use acts of god to help you fight the enemy. There are five acts of god: Lightning Strike, Tsunami, Tornado, Finger of God and Meteor, each with unique effect on the battlefield and the enemies.

Between the battles you are returned to your base for one minute. The base consists of a gold mine, a workshop, a temple and barracks. Each building can recruit more workers, depending on the level of the building. For example, the level one gold mine can have a maximum of 4 workers, level two can have 8, level three mine can have up to 12 and level four a maximum of 16 workers. Barracks are similar but the fighters recruited in the barracks will go to the field and fight on the next level. After each successful mission you will be rewarded with one upgrade to choose from. It can either be a level-up for a building or new unlocks (Acts of God, new types of soldiers or better equipment for mine workers).

Altogether, Awesome Conquest is a fun game to play, requiring some strategic planning and approximately one hour of your time to finish it completely.

Blue Box – A minimalistic puzzle game

Minimalism is by definition a style that is characterized by extreme simplicity. The best description of minimalism as a method can be found in the phrase “less is more”. Maciej Targoni and Michal Pawlowski, the makers of Blue Box, embraced the minimalism and created a beautiful platform puzzle game.

As said before, Blue Box is a platform puzzle game in which you are playing as (yes, you figured it out) a blue box. Starting from the green box, your task as a bouncing box is to destroy all other blue boxes before reaching the red box which is the end of the level. The boxes vary in size and the bigger the box the more times you have to jump onto it in order to destroy it. There is a catch, though: if you jump twice on the same box it will return to its original size (unless you jump onto the smallest-sized box, in which case the box will disappear). On some levels there are dark blue boxes which act as power-ups allowing you to jump twice on the same box lowering its size with each jump. In later levels portals are introduced forcing you to think the level through before you start jumping around.

Blue Box has 30 levels and can be finished in a relatively short amount of time. What I enjoyed most, other than some pretty amazing puzzles, was the music. Everything gets better when beautiful, relaxing music plays in the background.

All in all, Blue Box is an amazing idea which turned out into a fantastic game, with all components balanced. It is a really enjoyable way to spend some spare time and hopefully there will be a sequel with even more bouncy blue boxes to destroy.

Slope – A good old game by Rob Kay

Remember when you were a kid and each time you were running down the hill you wished you were able to turn into a giant ball and just roll to the bottom? Then later in life you figure there’s something oddly satisfying with watching any item move down the slope, even more so if the item is round shaped and bouncy. Slope, a game made by Rob Kay (lead designer of Guitar Hero), is all about going downhill.

As the name already says, there is no even ground in this game, only infinite slopes on which you roll a ball. Sounds simple, right? It is far from simple, though. The ball you are in control of by pressing the arrow keys (only left and right) is pulled by gravity and once it gets momentum, there is no stopping it. The ultimate goal of Slope is to keep the ball on the green surface as long as possible without touching the red walls or red obstacles. Levels are based on short segments which are connected by small jumps and each segment counts as one point. Keeping the ball rolling as long as possible leads to a better score as the number of segments passed increases. Some segments have a lot of red obstacles which tests your coordination, whilst others are very narrow and demand precision. Falling from the edge into the abyss will result in game over as will touching anything red.

Slope has 3D design with green lines showing the boundaries of each item therefore giving the game a very inside-of-a-computer retro look.

Altogether, Slope reminds of “the good old” games where there is no ending, just a highscore waiting for you to beat it again.

Gamma Bros

Anyone who has at least minimal knowledge of games knows about Space Invaders, a simple yet difficult space shooter. It is a timeless classic, but Gamma Bros, made by PiXelJAM, might just be the next best thing.

Gamma Bros is a pixelated space shooter in which your task is to shoot the spaceships invading your gaming screen from all directions. The story is compressed into a short intro movie in which two brothers, working on a space station, notice an invasion of spaceships. They enter their shuttles and set off to save the station.

It is a game of mobility, perception and skill. You move your spaceship with arrow keys and can shoot in all directions by using W to shoot up, S to shoot down, A to shoot left and D to shoot right. Some of the destroyed enemies leave behind coins which disappear after a few seconds. Collecting them increases your bank account which you can then use when a travelling merchant carrying health and weapon upgrades passes through your warzone. In addition to coins, some enemies leave behind power-ups (movement speed, health, shield or increased shooting speed for your laser cannons).

One feature stands out, though. When your ship is destroyed, the game isn’t over. Instead, you are left to fight in your spacesuit. When things start to look grim for your player, his brother appears and switches places with him allowing you to continue the fight against the evil aliens. There are plenty of different spaceships to destroy and figuring the best trajectory can be a real challenge.

All in all, Gamma Bros is a challenging shooter with an innovating approach. It just goes to show that it doesn’t take high-end graphics to make an intelligent and fun game.

Stunt Dive – Are you a real stunt man?

Jumping is fun. Jumping into water is more fun. Jumping into water from an enormous height is dangerous, but the most fun as well. A game developing company called Agens had a similar thought when creating Stunt Dive.

The name says it all: it is a game about stunt diving. You have three jumps in which your task is to get as many points possible. Each jump is scored separately and the sum of all three jumps gives the end score. Each jump has three segments which are scored: tricks, style and air. If two same types of stunts are used in the same game, the second one will be scored with 0. The jury values innovation, which means that a different style of jump will give you more points than similar jumps. Another important aspect is the landing. If you enter the water vertically, as is the norm, you will be awarded more points and any other landing (for example, flat on your belly) will lower your score. After three jumps the game offers to upload your score and see how you ranked.

There are five different stunt types to perform: Type A means no flips, Type B stands for front flips, Type C for back flips, Type D means side flips and Type E stands for the hardest of all: twisted side flips. Player controls the diver with SPACE for jumping, UP arrow for spin, DOWN arrow for side flip, LEFT arrow for back flip and RIGHT arrow for front flip.

All in all, Stunt Dive is a small and simple game with no new, innovating mechanics. It may be too simple for its own good, however. With repetitive design, it is bound to make you bored fast and search for a new way to spend your free time, maybe try StrikeForce Kitty 2.

Gemcraft: Chasing Shadows

Shadows are part of us, as well as we are a part of our shadow. But what happens when shadows get a mind of their own? GemCraft: Chasing Shadows, made by Game in a Bottle, offers a fresh perspective to that question.

GemCraft: Chasing Shadows is a tower defense game with an interesting concept. Instead of placing different types of towers in order to destroy wave after wave of creepy, shady monsters, GemCraft players place tower shells in which gems are placed. There are several gem types, each providing a different bonus or attack. What makes this game stand out above the competition is the possibility of crafting gems. Only few gem types can be used on a single level but those gems can be crafted, upgraded and swapped between towers at any time. Additionally, two gems can be combined and create a single gem with two or more attacks and bonuses. The game has an option of placing walls on the path, prolonging the monster’s time spent on the map. Another advantage is an option of placing the towers onto walls, greatly increasing their damage. Further in the game, walls become a crucial difference between winning or losing.

The game uses skill points allowing different types of upgrades. Furthermore, talismans can randomly be acquired during the fight and used on the talisman page to get various bonuses. What fascinated me the most was the achievements page which lists over four hundred available achievements to complete.

Beautiful graphics are focused mainly on the darker tones of the colour spectre, setting a mood that fits the story. Altogether, GemCraft: Chasing Shadows is a genuinely unique tower defense game, with enough challenges and maps to keep you playing for a while.

Play Gemcraft: Chasing Shadows here!

Car Eats Car 3

They say we shouldn’t judge the book by its cover. The same goes with video games. Although the title implies an automobile version of a cannibalistic feast, Car Eats Car 3, made by Smokoko game developing team, is a side-scrolling platform game with nothing new to offer.

The mission is simple, get to the other side of the level and collect as many gems and bonuses as you can while evading or destroying cars that are chasing you. As you drive you have no control of the gun mounted on the roof of your car, however you can release bombs behind you and leave your chasers in a pile of metal and ashes. Boosting can get you flying which can help collect even more of those pesky collectibles needed to upgrade your vehicle. In addition, there is an achievement system which awards you gears, another currency needed to buy more upgrades.

The controls are uncommon, with the UP arrow for moving forward, DOWN for backward and LEFT and RIGHT to balance the car while flying. It is kind of funny to watch your car roll over and over in place when you start playing the game, but it gets annoying quite fast.

Background and item design is beautiful but car design has its flaws. The car you play with is similar to Lightning McQueen, a main character of Cars (cartoon made by Disney and Pixar). Other cars you meet through the game also show strong resemblance to the cartoon, which had me questioning the creative aspect of Smokoko.

With no impressive features and a repetitive soundtrack, Car Eats Car 3 gives nothing to keep you interested and play more than a few levels. It is a sequel that didn’t live up to its expectations.

Monkey GO Happy: North Pole

Monkeys solving puzzles? Charming. Monkeys solving puzzles while wearing Christmas hats? Interesting. Monkeys solving puzzles wearing Christmas hats while helping Santa save Christmas? Amazing! Choose your monkey and go bananas in Monkey GO Happy North Pole, a new point-and-click adventure game in the Monkey GO Happy series from Pencilkids.

The classical point-and-click principle is used in this fun adventure game, making you collect, combine and use items to solve a variety of puzzles scattered all around the North Pole. Before playing, you get to choose between several monkeys to play with: grandpa monkey, grandma monkey, papa monkey, mama monkey, two monkey kids or a baby monkey. In addition, you can customise your favourite banana eating mammal with a Christmas hat.

During this adventure, you get to meet a few recognizable characters: a melting snowman, a hungry penguin, an old fisherman, a few elves and of course the one-and-only Santa! Although they don’t say much (or rather nothing at all), they will help you on your quest to get Santa going on time and save Christmas in an orderly fashion.

Although charming, this game is incredibly short. It can easily be finished within 10 minutes, and when finished, it doesn’t leave you wanting for more. The only hint of story is written in the start menu and leaves you with a lot of unanswered questions.

Altogether, Monkey GO Happy North Pole is a fun and interesting, albeit really short, point-and-click adventure game. Great for introducing kids to the point-and-click genre, or for skilled gamers looking to relax for ten minutes.

Click here to play Monkey GO Happy North Pole!

Skullz

Okay… What the hell was that? It is a general question you will be asking yourself throughout this game made by Pizzamakesgames.

Skullz is a text adventure game, leading you through most of the story via conversation led between you and your companion Yendor, the talking skull. As fits the genre, your options are listed at the bottom of the screen (GO, LOOK etc.), but bigger part of them are just decorative because there is mainly only one option that will let you go further. In addition to the text, the game has beautiful retro style graphics to help set the mood. Even so, it is a wild ride with no guarantee of understanding any of it.

The game describes itself as a bad trip, which can easily be the best description of what you encounter as you are pulled deeper into the story. You get to travel far and wide (while standing in place), explore the dark parts of cyberspace and even fight the eternal being, with very little to none back story to tell you how you ended up in this mess or why. Because it is mainly linear, the game offers little exploration, and puts you in the position of an observer rather than a player whose decisions matter.

Even though it has a short story and a simple design, Skullz is definitely a trip worth taking, leaving you with a fulfilling experience and a lot of questions about the choices made in real life.