Electric Box, by Twinkle Star Games, is one of the games available on Kongregate. The object of the game is to get the electrical current from the On/Off switch to the goal. You can use wires, generators, wind, light and steam power to get to that goal!
If you enjoy the special pieces having special moves, as in chess or Stratego, you’ll like these electric puzzles. I know some people find this style of game frustrating, especially in the type of game that keeps adding new pieces with new rules, but I thought the pacing of Electric Box’s new additions was perfect to keep it challenging. Each level adds complexity, by adding icons like batteries, which provide a back-up charge, in case your power supply runs out or changes, and electro-magnets, which pull your other pieces towards them. Each level has only one solution, and it’ll use all the pieces in your inventory to reach that solution.
My one complaint — and this is a common one for me — is that some of the icons looked too similar. I was confused a few times when I though I had, say, a stream-powered generator but it was really a refridgerator.
Using all the pieces in my inventory to move the power around the board made for a really interesting puzzle game, although I don’t know if it has much replay value. But that’s not a real problem. The free games portal Kongregate has dozens of other free puzzle games for when you finish one game or get bored.
Women’s Murder Club: A Darker Shade Of Grey, a new casual game based on James Patterson’s best-selling novels, is available starting today from MSN Games. Here is the press release, and some exclusive screenshots!
NEW YORK, NY – February 24, 2009 -I-play, the world’s leading multi-platform casual games publishing division of Oberon Media, announces the exclusive launch of the second casual PC game based on the best-selling Women’s Murder Club book series by James Patterson. Women’s Murder Club: A Darker Shade of Greymakes its debut on MSN Gamestoday, where it will be available exclusively for two weeks. Created by best-selling author James Patterson, in collaboration with I-play’s award-winning team of designer Jane Jensen and producer Robert Adams, this new title delivers another original story and thrilling adventure to follow the massive success of its predecessor, Women’s Murder Club: Death in Scarlet.
“We are pleased to again collaborate with MSN Games on the exclusive launch of Women’s Murder Club: A Darker Shade of Grey”, said Don Ryan, Chief Operating Officer, Oberon Media, I-play’s parent company. “Millions of casual gamers, and James Patterson fans alike, made Women’s Murder Club: Death in Scarlet an interactive gaming hit! Now, James Patterson and the I-play team have created an addictive sequel that will have users riveted with the new Women’s Murder Club storyline through hours of spine-tingling game play.”
A casual adventure game based on Patterson’s massively popular Women’s Murder Club novels, Women’s Murder Club: A Darker Shade of Grey is available exclusively for download at MSN Games until March 10. MSN Games will be offering Women’s Murder Club fans exclusive content including a sneak peek of the first ten chapters of James Patterson’s not-yet-released novel “The 8th Confession,” desktop wallpapers, Windows Live Messenger icons and jigsaw puzzles created from in-game scenes and characters. Additionally, players purchasing the game via MSN Games will have access to Women’s Murder Club trivia questions and quizzes. The game is available for PC download for $19.95.
Women’s Murder Club: A Darker Shade of Grey isthe sequel to the tremendously successful Women’s Murder Club: Death in Scarlet seek-and-find mystery game. The adventure begins when a brisk morning jog ends in tragedy for a young military cadet. The famed heroines of Women’s Murder Club are called to the scene and eventually led to a prestigious but secretive military academy in South Carolina. Users will follow Lindsay and Cindy from California to South Carolina as they interrogate suspects and investigate esteemed military personnel. Along the way, players will attempt to reveal the truth and track down the killer by solving challenging puzzles using instinct, fact and forensic evidence to expose years of corruption, cover-up and conspiracy.
Women’s Murder Club: A Darker Shade of Grey is filled to the brim with new features including an all new Women’s Murder Club storyline; character dialogue; ten thrilling investigations unveiling a story of mystery, adventure and sordid secrets; twenty-five challenging puzzles; a point system to track progress within the game; and breathtaking art of locations that lead gamers to delve deeper into this interactive adventure. The game is being developed and published online by I-play and will be published at retail by Elephant Entertainment, a division of THQ Inc.
One more screenshot of what looks like a forensics minigame. Awesome!
Lexton “Lunarhound” Collins was kind enough to review the upcoming MMORPG, Runes Of Magic, for us. Lexton has been playing the open beta of Runes of Magic for a few months now. Here he discusses Runes of Magic in particular and the free-to-play gaming model in general. Runes will be officially released on March 19th, 2009.
Free online RPG’s have been around for a while now. Besides the text-based Multi User Dungeons of old, games like Runescape were experimenting with free-to-play models years ago. The model has evolved, and in places like Korea and other parts of Asia, free is the primary way of doing business. Furnishing players with a downloadable client and unlimited play time at no cost, then giving them the option to purchase extra goodies in a ‘cash shop’ has proven to be very profitable. In the eyes of the Western gaming public, though, these titles have never come close to living up to the heavy-hitters; the ones hyped on major web sites and in magazines, who put out a fancy box with a 60.00 price tag and expect a further commitment of 15.00 or so a month for the privilege of playing. The free to play titles have always been seen as second rate, and not without reason. Many of them are very poorly translated, have atrocious customer service, are sorely lacking in the depth and game play departments, and are often just plain ugly.
And now, there’s Runes of Magic. It’s aiming squarely for a more Western feel, with WASD controls (though point and click is still available for those who want it), a heavy focus on quests, brisk advancement pace, higher localization standards, and a user-friendly approachability sorely lacking in many other free games. Its creators are determined to prove that you can make a free MMO that’s just as good as any of the more expensive ones out there.
One way it’s doing this is by blatantly copying the current best. The term ‘WoW clone’ is tossed around a lot these days, but it usually doesn’t have much basis in fact. Here, though, the similarities in both graphics and game play are immediately obvious. While die hard fans of the game will protest mightily that this is absolutely not World of Warcraft in any way, an honest assessment quickly proves this to be wishful thinking. The aesthetic isn’t identical, but it comes extremely close sometimes. While it might have been nice if they’d set themselves apart a bit more in the art department, it’s hard not to feel that adopting the same interface, control scheme and core play mechanics was the right thing to do. If you’ve played WoW before, everything will feel immediately familiar and the learning curve, at least when it comes to the basics of getting around and playing with the UI, will be reduced to almost zero. If you haven’t, the same intuitiveness that makes Blizzard’s masterpiece so easy to get into will still ensure that you spend more time playing than learning how to play in Runes of Magic.
In many ways, it almost feels like an improvement over WoW as far as features are concerned. Visual customization options for your character are more extensive, with sliders for adjusting height and resizing various body parts. Once in the game, the customization options expand via the cash shop, with purchasable facial tattoos and the option to dye your clothing and mount in the colors of your choice. All players are granted a free house, without any rental fees, early in the game. This can be upgraded to larger sizes, decorated with furniture that grants a rest bonus similar to WoW‘s, equipped with crafting tools, and used to store possessions. Besides the standard instanced dungeons, there are varieties with randomly generated maps that yield a special treasure at the end. There’s a dual class system, allowing you to mix and match abilities from any two classes. It’s possible to wipe the stats from a favorite piece of equipment and transfer the stats of a different piece to it, so that if you find a great new breastplate but like the way your old one looks better, you can keep both the appearance of the old and the benefits of the new. The interface is even modifiable via XML, and a sizable collection of useful addons can already be found at curse.com.
What it doesn’t have down quite yet is World of Warcraft’s amazing diversity of environments. Nothing here looks bad and, taken individually, each area actually looks pretty good. But there are very few surprises or (excuse the pun) “wow” moments. The game has the basic fantasy staples – green fields and forests, dark caves, snowy mountains – but very little of the raw creativity that makes WoW so stunning. Blizzard‘s environments are brimming with personality and a sense of artistry that elevate them above standard fantasy fare, despite that being exactly what they are. Azeroth has a real sense of place. Taborea doesn’t. It’s not boring and it’s not bad, it just doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be besides a traditional pseudo-medieval fantasy RPG. The developers haven’t yet figured out how to capture that sense of wonder that seeing Darnassus or the underground tram for the first time can evoke.
One place where more creative energy has been spent is on the story. Taborea’s background is involved and interesting. There are no scene-setting cinematics or mood-setting cut scenes to draw you into it – you’re just dropped unceremoniously into the world – so some players might not take enough interest to pay attention to what the NPC’s are saying. If you do, you’ll be treated to a rather unique (as fantasy MMO’s go) pioneering storyline. Unfortunately, this will probably be lost on a large portion of players, as the fairly simple goals of many of the initial quests (talk to him, give this to her, kill that) don’t seem to be worth the large blocks of text that precede them.
The dual class system is interesting and useful, but can often feel cumbersome. Though each class holds up well on its own, the fact that your secondary eventually provides all of your base stats with a bonus means that going without one will leave your character crippled later in the game. Because each of your two classes must be leveled independently (you can swap your primary and secondary at your house, and only the primary is able to gain experience points or raise its skills), it often feels as if you’re being forced to play two characters. Some won’t mind this, but those that don’t have as much time to devote to the game or simply don’t like playing alts will likely find it irritating. The flip side of this is that the system allows for a lot of great options and it really is fun to play with different class combinations. If you enjoy a traditional paladin character, a knight/priest fits the bill and comes with the added benefit of being able to change to a full-on healer if the need ever arises. What if you like tanking but aren’t so fond of the low damage output? Try a knight/warrior or knight/rogue. A rogue/mage can hurl fireballs from the shadows as well as holds its own in melee, a mage/priest can both dish out serious punishment and make up for its lack of fortitude with healing spells, and a warrior/scout can hold its own in both melee and ranged combat. The individual classes feel complete on their own, but each pairing also feels like its own specific class, with its own strengths and weaknesses. It’s just too bad that it has the downside of requiring you to essentially level two separate characters.
One of the features that could still use a bit of work is upgrading. Runes of Magic features an upgrade system that allows you to bolster the power of your equipment in several ways. One is with runes. Through defeating enemies and dismantling equipment, you’ll be able to gain runes that can enhance equipment with various bonuses. How many bonuses one piece can support depends on how many rune slots it has. With the use of a special device that you’ll acquire early in the game, you can combine lower tiered runes of the same type into more powerful, higher tiered runes of that type. This all works fine. What isn’t so polished are the direct stat upgrades through the use of jewels. Certain special jewels offer the chance to increase a piece of equipment’s base stats, with the risk that you could also get nothing at all, or even a downgrade. Each increase will put a +1, +2, etc. after the name of the equipment, up to +6. The problem with this is that increasing a piece of equipment to the point that you’ll notice any tangible benefits is so low as to make the entire system almost pointless. Getting to +1 after a few tries isn’t too difficult, but beyond that, the chance of failure or a downgrade seem to be so much higher than the chance of an upgrade that it’s not even worth the effort. The jewels are expensive and you can often end up spending thousands of gold with no positive result, or even a negative one, to show for it. Worse, these jewels are offered for sale in the cash shop. While their tooltips clearly warn of the chance of failure or downgrade, they don’t highlight just how high that chance is, and several players have already complained of spending significant amounts of real money hoping for an upgrade, with nothing at all to show for it. What’s even more baffling is that the upgrades, when successful, are so slight. If the developers were so afraid of equipment becoming too powerful, it’s hard to understand why they decided to include the upgrade system at all.
All in all, Runes of Magic is a pretty impressive package. It has a solid beginning, it’s at least as good as a lot of other games that require a fee, and it puts a number of features from the genre’s best in one place. There’s nothing revolutionary about the game design itself, and if you’re sick to death of traditional MMO’s, it likely won’t do anything for you. What makes it stand out is the fact that, despite a few flaws (and it’s still early enough that they could be worked out), it’s both free and a genuinely good game. If you’ve played pay to play MMO’s in the past, it’s easy to forget, while playing this one, that it doesn’t have to cost anything. Though it falls just short, it comes closer than any other completely free game has to being able to stand toe-to-toe with the big boys. Hopefully, it will become popular and visible enough that it will start a trend.
This WarCraft III mod is looking for beta testers. I’m not signing up for this one (shocking, I know!), so if you do, let me know how you like it!
Ever wanted to play new version of DotA? Time to for you to apply for Beta Tester. IceFrog need more dedicated beta testers with free time and experience in DotA. If you signed up before, feel free to submit another application (there were some lost applications at one point).
Awomo, a new site for “super fast game downloads” is offering a free download of Tomb Raider: Legend to celebrate their beta launch. You need to make an Awomo account, but it seems to be really free, no catch. Check it out for yourself at AWOMO Beta | The World’s Fastest Game Download Service.
In the first couple of levels, the red ball reaches the star by means of stairs or a slide, while later levels involve levers, weights and all kinds of moving parts, for an irresistible mix of coloring outside the lines and Rube Goldberg contraptions.
Here’s a late valentine’s day present, IGM issue 3 is now available. This issue is our largest yet and features tons of indie game reviews! We review the 2008 IGF grand prize winner: Crayon Physics, Blast robots to bits in Droid Assault, Kick your way to stardom with New Star Soccer 4, Built a Kingdom in Kingdom for Keflings, and more!
I mentioned this issue the other day, because of the impromptu ad contest. It also has my review of the new indie game Chains. You can either get this magazine mailed to your house on paper or view it instantly online.
It’s no secret that I prefer open-ended, creative game to the Press B to Shoot type. I wrote about GrowCube about a year ago, and I really think the whole collection of sandbox-y Grow games are addictive flash games at their finest.
Grow Tower is the newest Grow game. The mechanics of adding interactive parts in different orders is the same, but this time, you add different pieces to build a tower to the sky!
Insult indirectly – Use similes and metaphors to get your point across. For example, if your opponent sounds like he is 7, don’t say “What are you, 7 years old or something?” use an indirect approach to say the same thing, like asking him if he likes apple juice before nap time.
See? It’s not all calling people a n00b and then running away! You can be clever in your insults!
I’d like to add my own rule, for those without Vent or other voice chat: No all-caps sentences, because looking like a spammer isn’t clever on any level.
Game development isn’t exactly my strong suit. Personally I prefer to let other people work long hours, pouring their heart and soul into a game, and then I play it and complain about what’s wrong with it. Hey, that’s where my talents lie!
But I do have huge admiration for indie developers, and I hope to focus on lesser-known titles here on ThumbGods.
Who will survive in the casual game business in 2010?
Big Fish Games, Popcap.
I think I’ve got the full list there.
Big Fish Games is an awesome casual games portal. The “new game every day!” works perfectly for repeat business. They’re a total giant, even my mother-in-law has a Big Fish Games account. But I worry that massive portals like BFG (much as I love them!) and now Amazon are making it harder for the guy-with-website development model to succeed.
Not to be all doom and gloom, because as Cliff’s interview shows, an indie game developer and creative marketer can still do very well.
I really like farm management games, which is odd since I can’t keep a real plant alive, but after playing Harvest Moon, FarmCraft, Farm Frenzy and so many others, I wasn’t sure there was any more room left for new farming games. I didn’t know if Funky Farm 2 by SortaSoft could bring anything new thatother farm sims hadn’t alreayd done.
The premise begins just like any other time management game. Raise your chickens, sheep, and pigs to maximize profits, unlock new animals and farm tools as you improve. But when I saw the rewards, I quickly realized this is not another rinse-and-repeat farm sim. Players don’t receive the typical bigger watering can or a new seed to cover more ground. As you play Funky Farm, you unlock a mailbox for government farm grants, a pet llama, a pet duck and other funny farmyard surprises.
Your sidekick, Piper the hep cat, wants to help you get the farm going so you can throw a happening party. He guides you through the first levels with beatnik words of wisdom, explains the rules, and encourages you to pick up some new duds for the party. Even the error messages arrive with hep cat style!
Any money you earn above your level goal can be spend on accessories. I was a little apprehensive about this part, because I expected the casual-game cliche of a portrait of your hep cat friend wearing each new accessory. (Much like the annoying rewards screen in Tropical Dream and others) Oh no. When you buy accessories, your new livestock appears wearing the Chucks and shades you selected.
Each animal type needs a different type of care, sheep (and your pet llama) need to be sheared, pigs need to be slopped and slaughtered, and cows need to be milked. I was a little grossed out by turning the cute piggies into plates of bacon, but then I took a harder attitude and harvested* all my cows, sheep, chickens and pigs at the end of the day to save herding them into the pens at night. Did I mention that your new animals come with names like “Count” and “Basie”?
Like all time management games, this is all about balance. Players need enough farm products to sell and continue to buy new animals. With too many animals — especially those messy pigs! — you’ll spend the whole time reseeding the ground. With too few, you won’t be able to make the cash for your beehive hairstyles and bowties. This is a very well-done farm management game, with the right level of difficulty and reward, but it’s the wild beatnik personality that really makes the funky farm stand out.
I’m worried that massive portals like Amazon and even my beloved Big Fish are becoming the Wal-Mart of casual games, making it even harder for indie developers to compete. Amazon and BFG have advertising budgets (I could just stop the sentence here, couldn’t I?) that are far beyond the reach of the average independent developer, and they’re able to offer a wider assortment of games at lower prices. This seems like all good things for game players, but I’m afraid it will come at the expense of the smaller, more creative amateur developers, who can’t possibly make a profitable game with that kind of competition. That leads, ultimately, to a smaller assortment of games for us to try.
Even Paris Hilton is in WarCraft! Personally, I thought she’d be more of a Second Life porno avatar than a WarCrafter. She’s an NPC Blood Elf, of course. Typical! The forums say she’s in Shattrath City, hanging out by the bar, refusing to talk to anyone. No word yet on whether “Haris Pilton” will leak a sex tape to lucky gamers, or send players on a quest to find her missing panties.
Supercute gaming site Globulos.com, which offers a bunch of casual multiplayer games, reopens with a free-to-play basic model and a cash shop for extras.
The 20 games and the 50 playing fields are playable 100% for free. Games are 1 against 1 player, 2 against 2 or melee of 4 players. The gameplay is a mix between arcade fun and simultaneous turn based strategy. The kawaii style was noticed by the Japanese Nintendo official magazine, Nintendo Dream with a full page article.
Some options like character customization or power-ups (teletransportation, invisibility and a lot more) can be purchased using Globbies, the website currency.
The 20 games are: Arena, Football, Croquet, Tic-Tac, Save the King, Darts, Funky Foot, Bomber, Rally, Volley, Sumo, Flipper, Pétanque, BomberKing, 4-Square, Snooker, PacGlob, Basket, DartsKing, Monster.
A Nintendo DS game is being developed and is targeting the upcoming DSiWare channel.
Do you love your role-playing character? What about your WarCraft toon? AvatarArt offers portraits of your role-playing characters. You describe your character, and they’ll make it into a pretty picture for your game room. Or wave your nerd flag at work by framing your picture of Gudrun the dwarven warrior, and having it on your desk where your co-workers have pictures of their wives and kids!
AvatarArt also offers a character life insurance policy:
One improvement this policy has over a real policy is that it doesn’t cost you $100 per month.
A second and even better improvement this policy has over a real policy is that you don’t have to die to collect
This wonderful policy is offered as a free rider to any conventional character portrait package offered by AvatarArt. To wit: if/when your character dies AvatarArt will, free of charge, remit to you, free of charge, one portrait of similar style to the one that you purchased, which was therefore not free of charge, illustrating your character’s death. Free of charge!
Would you get your favorite character’s portrait done?
Indie Game Mag is a new magazine about — no points for guessing — independent games. Now, I don’t mean to bash the bestsellers, I love my World of WarCraft and my Sims2 just as much as the next gamer, but fun, creative indie games are often underrepresented in games journalism. It’s sad that so many really creative games get overlooked in favor of same-old mechanics and gorgeous graphics of a lot of mainstream games. IndieGameMag focuses entirely on new games from small developers, there’s no World of WarCraft or Gears of War here!
A few days ago, Indie Game Mag ran a crazy contest for the best ad that game companies could come up with in 24 hours. The winner would receive a full-page ad in the March issue of Indie Game Mag.
Nick Bounty is a parody of a hardboiled detective, with deadpan painful metaphors and black-and-white sketch noir graphics. You don’t have to love trenchcoat detective stories, old movies or retro gaming to enjoy this free flash game, but it helps.
Site of the Gaming Dead has some news about Runes Of Magic, the free-to-play MMO.
Love and romance is filling the the virtual air all over Taborea, the world of Runes of Magic. Players can make handcrafted chocolates, guaranteed to woo and restore 35% of a love interests HP. What girl could say no?!? …
If you have more of a green thumb than a sweet tooth, never fear, part of the celebrations include collecting and culturing rose seeds. The beautiful blossoms reward the gardener in a number of ways, the player receives a buff when the flower blooms and there are special rewards for collecting a large bouquet…
I’ve already admitted my weakness for gamer romance, and romance that restores HP is even better! Don’t go out to a crowded restaurant for Valentine’s Day, stay home and play games with your sweetie!
High Voltage Software is celebrating their new website, and 16 years of game development by giving away T-shirt and a Wii. They say:
Only one entry per person please. Be sure to include your full name and address so we know where to send the package to the next lucky winner. Just email email@example.com and you will be automatically entered through the magic of the Internet.