Developer and Publisher: Nicalis
NightSky is a 2D action-puzzle game from Sweden with a uniquely relaxing ambient atmosphere involving no enemies, combat, or violence of any kind. Using the keyboard you control a black ball with the ability to stop or go, accelerate or decelerate, or even flip gravitational pull, while rolling horizontally through foreboding and twisted environments. You encounter many physical obstacles, and the challenge lies in figuring out how to overcome them. You often have to use inertia or manipulate available elements to make it over or around a seemingly impassable area. The game reminds me of wonderful cross between World of Goo on the PC and Loco Roco for the PSP. The physics of ball motion (as well as other moving objects evident on the screen) is simply excellent. You navigate through eleven massive play worlds, in which you often encounter unusual vehicles on which the ball can ride. The difficulty ramps up as you progress, but you will be having so much fun that you may not notice. There are numerous secrets and unlockable elements, including a Master mode for experts. And backing up all this action is a pleasantly soothing jazz soundtrack. This title creates a mood by combining serenity and whimsy in a way that is downright addictive.
Ghost Pirates of Vooju Island
Developer: Autumn Moon Entertainment
Publisher: DTP Entertainment AG
Ghost Pirates of Vooju Island is an exciting third-person mouse-controlled point-and-click adventure designed by Bill Tiller, of The Curse of Monkey Island fame. The American-made game is set during the golden age of pirates in the 17th century on the mythical Vooju Island. A noble pirate, Captain Tiberius Flint, who robbed from the rich and gave to the poor, has become Pirate King of the Azurbbean with the help of High Voodoo Priest Papa Doc Mystère and his chief of spies Captain Jane Starling. Opposing them are Papa Doc’s dastardly young wife Queen Zimbi, the treacherous Captain Greenbeard, and a horde of zombies. The story focuses on three main highly entertaining characters – Papa Doc, Jane Starling, and Blue Belly (a friendly aspiring cook) – who thanks to a curse have “ghost” abilities to pass through barriers, communicate remotely, and operate undetected. The colorful hand-painted environments are truly sumptuous, particularly when viewed in widescreen resolution, and add a lot to the immersiveness of the plot. The voice acting is convincing, the gameplay engrossing, and the difficulty level is right on the mark. Adventure titles like this seem few and far between today, and this one is a real gem.
Haunted Manor: Lord of Mirrors Collector’s Edition
Developer: Top Evidence Studio
Publisher: Big Fish Games
This hidden-object adventure game from the Ukraine takes the standard haunted house motif to a whole new level. You assume the role of Stan Riddle, who gets mysteriously trapped in an abandoned haunted manor by the Lord of Mirrors after staring into a mirror and seeing a visage other than his own. You try your best to escape, but to do so, you use the mouse to studiously find items and solve puzzles, including why the owner disappeared. You get to explore a whopping 17 rooms and environments in and around the manor, so there are a lot of entertaining surprises. As you progress, you discover many other souls also stuck in the manor, and you need to resolve their predicaments in order to free yourself. There are numerous mini-games to play along the way, in addition to the usual find-the-hidden-object searches. On the play screen, you can readily determine your progress, and can receive a reminder of your current task, and you can access a Ghost Gallery to learn additional background information about the characters. When you complete the game, you are treated to some really great extra content in a secret bonus level for further play. The visuals and audio are consistently high-quality and help to make you feel as if you are really trapped within the old mansion.