Developer and Publisher: Timetrap AB
This impressive action-platform game from Sweden reminds me a bit of Frozenbyte’s Trine. You play as Kindle Elderwood, a gnome who tries to rescue the kingdom of Grendale from marauding gremlins led by the sinister CandleFinger. When you visit an infested house, after clearing out existing gremlins, you must light the fireplace by touching it to prevent the people inside from being attacked in the future. To succeed in the frequent combat, you have many special attacks, including turning into a spinning ball or dropping down from above and crushing foes. You also gain magical abilities (which you can only possess one at a time). My favorites of these abilities are generating tornados that send foes flying, putting those around you to sleep, releasing bubbles that capture and choke enemies, and shooting out fireballs. Throughout the gameplay, there are doors blocking your passage that you need to break open and enemy weapons and vehicles that need to be taken out. The fantastic level design contains many secrets, including treasure chests hidden within caves, and three fireflies that flash around you and glow if secrets are near. The amusing cartoon-style graphics support widescreen resolutions, and both keyboard and gamepad can be used to play.
Developer and Publisher: LittleWing Co. Ltd.
Not many developers are creating pinball games for the PC these days, but LittleWing from Japan continues its tradition of creating some of the best with the release of Mad Daedalus, a sequel to 1994′s Loony Labyrinth. The setting is ancient Knossos, where the Minoan civilization once flourished. Perhaps the most important feature in computerized pinball is realistic ball physics, and Mad Daedalus passes this test with flying colors. You direct the ball with customizable keyboard controls (I use an external utility to activate a gamepad, which I prefer for computer pinball), and at your disposal is a plunger, four flippers, and a left, right and center nudge. There are two fun two multiball features: King Minos Frenzy and Minotaur Multiball. There’s also a special underground lane, a skyway ramp, and a mino chamber to spice up the action. If you are really lucky, you get to experience the incredible Spatiotemporal Rendezvous. The visuals are bright, crisp, and available in widescreen mode, and the sounds and special effects are impressive. To succeed, you need deft skill, and some experience playing virtual pinball really helps. Although composed of just one table, its complexity and multifaceted opportunities for scoring make this title a real winner.
Mystery Trackers: The Void Collector’s Edition
Developer: Elephant Games
Publisher: Big Fish Games
In this hidden-object offering from Russia, the backdrop is an abandoned mansion built in 1890 where it is said that Dr. Malleus Void conducted truly horrible experiments. When three renowned celebrities a horror author (whose name is cleverly Kevin Sting instead of Stephen King), an illusionist, and an actress go missing after entering the dwelling, you are sent on behalf of Mystery Trackers to solve their disappearances. As is typical of this genre, you play from a first-person perspective and use the mouse for everything. The mini-games present, in addition to the hidden object searches, are especially tantalizing, and lots of adventure elements are present. You need to consult your journal often to put together clues and solve the puzzles. There are twelve achievements you may earn along the way, and that really gives you an incentive to take the time to go through, look for everything, and solve every puzzle. After you finish the main storyline, this Collector’s Edition contains a bonus chapter of additional gameplay. This game, overall, is without question the longest I have played in quite a while, and every moment was really enjoyable. This extraordinary length permits an in-depth story, presented with stunning visuals (including animations that bring scenes to life) and ambient environmental sounds.