A blog about casual gaming

New Games Round-up

New Games Round-up

They just don't stop coming. Yet more brand spanking new games to tickle your fancy.

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Published by Andy Jowett on 8th December 2010

Hooray! Another freshly-baked batch of wonderful casual games for your delectation has arrived! This week, we take in the avenues and jazz clubs of gay Paree, post-invasion Earth, the ruins of empires, decidedly unnerving country houses and, er, some water. We spoil you, we really do. But it's okay, because you're nice.

Anyway, let us dust down the mouse mat, polish up the arrow keys and get ready for some serious, er, causal gaming.

1 Pig Detective

Pig Detective has to be one of the best games I've played for, oooh, ages. It's got all classic elements of a good gumshoe drama - a dame in distress, high-speed chases, henchmen and a swingin' jazz trio soundtrack. You play the titular porcine private eye, who comes complete with the classic deer stalker (to prove he's a proper detective). He's been hired to track down a shadowy cat who's up to no good.

Point and click to interact with your environment to pull the right lever, question the right cute little animal or punch the right bad guy to make progress, but it isn't always clear just how you're supposed to go about things. When you do get it right - as with the sequence by the apartment block, which put in mind of the excellent Little Wheel - it can be both immensely satisfying and jolly amusing.

Pig Detective is stylishly designed, challenging, funny and comes with a charming little pay-off at the end. Play it here.

2 Armed With Wings 3

The third instalment of Sun Studios' Armed With Wings retains the slick anime style of the first two games, as well as that extremely handy eagle. The empire has fallen but dark creatures stalk the world. You are Leo, sent on an epic quest to stop the forces of evil after they come round your village kicking off and shouting the odds. It's all very exciting isn't it?

After a level to polish your baddie-bashing skills, you're off to rescue your dear old mum. The action and cut-scenes are beautifully realised and successfully completing your task requires much more than just slashing and hacking your way through the evildoers; there's tricky skills to master and teamwork with your feathery friend is essential. In addition to the main (and fairly huge) story, there's also a survival mode where you can rumble with an endless supply of foot soldiers and bosses.

Play Armed With Wings 3 here. If you want to experience the whole saga from the start, you can play Armed With Wings here and the sequel here.

3 Dark Visions

Dark Visions opens with a country house and a distinct sense of unease not unlike the foreboding that pervades that long-lost PC horror classic Clive Barker's Undying (still one of the scariest games I've ever cowered behind the sofa to). You've been hired to help your uncle Dr Mahler with his ìpatientsî up in New Hampshire. However, when you arrive at Hill Crest Manor, your unc is nowhere to be found - and somebody's chained the front door shut. Ooooh. Don't like it. Once you start to explore, the sense of unease only grows. Something is most definitely up here.

Dark Visions is a slow-burning adventure game with plenty of puzzle elements to test the old brain cells. The house itself provides many nooks and crannies to explore - and no detail, from snippets of overheard conversations to apparently boring old ornaments, should be overlooked because seemingly innocuous items or bits of information you pick up in one part of the house might prove crucial later on. What is the secret of Hill Crest Manor? Where is Dr Mahler? What's that soup all about? Find out here.

4 Ray Ardent Science Ninja

Ray Ardent is a man of science. Also he's a ninja. Perhaps as a youngster he got pushed around for using a chemistry set one too many times. We can only speculate. Regardless, our intrepid hero now flies around in his Zeppelin looking for intrigue and adventure - as you would - and he's found a doozy of a mystery out in the Arizona badlands. Somebody has been unleashing dinosaurs and they're making a beeline for the delectable Miss Jennifer Prudent (who does a nice line in snazzy turtle necks).

The action is fast and furious - you can sprint and slide at fantastical speeds thanks to your source of energy, the mysterious Element X6, which you have to pick up as you go to keep your amazing powers topped up. There's also an impressive array of power-ups that you can mix and match to give you the edge over those terrible lizards.

Developer Ninja Robot Dinosaur have created a witty and frantic comic book adventure with superb retro artwork and the same addictive platform action that made us fall in love classics like Mario or Sonic. Ray Ardent Science Ninja awaaay!

5 Deadly Neighbours

Welcome to Pleasant Springs. A nice place for nice people. Well, not really. Not at all, actually. Deadly Neighbours is a real family game. You get your family and gleefully beat the hell out of another one so you can earn cash to pay off your loan shark. More Sopranos than Waltons, then. There's heaps of joyous, bloody cartoon violence as you take issue with neighbours for crimes varying from having a bigger car than you to amateur opera singing to hurling rocks at your humble abode.

The gameplay takes a similar form to the equally sociopathic Madness Retaliation. Your family of fighters each has a number of action points that you can use to move, stab, bash, shoot and so on in turn-based combat. Like Madness Retaliation, you can also customise your nearest and dearest from top to toe. And remember, the family that slays together, stays together. Play Deadly Neighbours here.

6 Liquid Measure 2

Here's something a bit different. Even from the first Liquid Measure. It's part puzzle, part physics game. You have to decant different amounts of liquid from one place to another - and in these conservation-conscious times, you must ensure that not a drop is wasted.

Placing the pots in the right place to catch the falling torrents is easy enough at first, but things get complicated when you have to place pipes to direct the flow of water and connect up overflow units. Plus, it involves some basic arithmetic, which I personally found rather traumatic. Play Liquid Measure 2 here.

7 Nuclearoids

Nuclearoids isn't a souped-up version of Asteroids or a particularly painful medical condition. No, it's a cool chain reaction game that lets you set off lots of lovely explosions that turn the screen into something resembling a screensaver designed by Jefferson Airplane.

Some Nuclearoids have special party pieces, like creating black holes to pull in nearby objects or setting off cluster explosions. There's a specific task to complete for each level, but if you're not a particularly goal-orientated person, there's still plenty of fun to be had just triggering the chain reaction and watching those Nuclearoids fly. Make things go boom now here.

8 Empire Island

If you have that sneaking suspicion that everyone's out to get you, Empire Island could be the game for you - because they very much are. Your little community in the ocean is accosted by wave after wave of hostile enemies for no particular reason other than they don't like the look of your bit of planet. Up with this will you not put, so your finest minds have been put to work to create an array of daunting defences and fearsome weapons to send your attackers to the murky depths.

The aim of the game is to protect your inner sanctum - your palace, workshop and temple - while building up huts to grow the population and collect more taxes, which means more weapons. Being able to unlock different eras - and better machines of war - is a nice twist and let's you marvel at our endless inventiveness at coming up with ways to kill each other. Play Empire Island here.

9 Echoes: Operation Stranglehold

Opening with a Star Wars-style pan across the stars, Ido Tal's strategy-shooter fusion Echoes: Operation Stranglehold paints itself as an epic adventure from the start. It's the 23rd century and, surprise, surprise, the Earth lies shattered and burning. Humans were so busy knocking lumps out of each other that their disunited ranks were easy pickings for a super-evil race of cyborgs known as the Hybrid Pantheon, which sounds like a lost New Romantics band to me, but never mind.

Luckily, there was a snafu when the bad guys were attempting to assimilate a subject known as Dem, turning him into a buck-hard cybernetic-human fusion who now leads the revolt against the off-worlders. The side-scrolling gameplay pits you against a rich variety of machine-god meanies and your souped-up cyborg suit gives you some pretty impressive powers to beat the bad guys, like invisibility, shields and the ability to call in air strikes.

You also recruit hardy freedom fighters to lead into battle and, after a while, you can start building bases, power stations and supply depots to create a force of mean marines for cyborg stomping. Echoes: Operation Stranglehold has bags of ambition in its gameplay and story, showing that, unlike invading aliens, some hybrids can be really rather good. Play it here.

10 Gravitee Wars

Perhaps the best way to describe this innovative physics game is: 'Worms in space', which is not the latest wacky plan to combat global warming, as you could be forgiven for thinking, but a reference to that great game from the 1990s - Worms. You play the Red team of galaxy explorers and initially you are up against the evil Blue team. Reds. Hurrah. Blues. Boooooo.

You must wipe out the Blues by launching missiles at them. This is where the game's physics comes into its own. Missiles bend around planets just like in real life (I know it is like real life because I spend a lot of time firing missiles around planets - it's like a hobby for me). The further you can make a missile travel before it hits its victim, the more damage you do, making for some interesting tactics. Play Gravitee Wars here.

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