Friday, December 29, 2006

2006 Game of the Year

Game of the Year: Hex-a-hop

Picking the game of the year was very easy this year. Hex-a-hop is perfect. Simple rules, nice graphics, intuitive controls, gradual learning curve, 100 wonderful levels. And it is free! Playing through the Hex-a-hop was the best gaming of the year for me. I want more; another set of 100 level, please!

Runner-Up: Armadillo Run

The realism of the simulation in Armadillo Run is top notch. I feel that if I were to actually make one of these contraptions, it would behave just like in the game. Look at some of these Spectator Levels where people have the game to model the real world. Oh, there is a great game lurking in this physics simulation. Be sure to check out the fan made levels.

Honorable Mention: Puck

Puck is a simple fun puzzler with an original idea. It has 45 well crafted levels. Free. What more could you want?

Honorable Mention: Buchstabensalat

I do not know if this game came out in 2006 or not, but I first starting playing it this year and it has become a bit of an obsession. I can't really explain why, but whenever I have five minutes to kill, I start up Buchstabensalat. I have not played a game of freecell since getting it.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Swistakowy Klopot

Title: Swistakowy Klopot
Author: Projekt 7
License: Freeware

As best I can tell, a swistak is a small mammal and "klopot" is Polish for "hard case". Put together, Swistakowy Klopot is a fun platform puzzle game. The goal is to get swistak to the exit. Being a small mammal, the swistak can only step up one step at a time and cannot swim. Luckily, each levels comes with some boxes which you can pick up, move around, and drop. Using the boxes, you can form staircases to climb. You can also use boxes to fill in water.

In the later levels, some additional game elements are introduced. There are teleporters. These allow swistak, and a box if he/she is carrying one, to teleport to another part of the board. There are also gates blocking the way on some levels. To open the gate, a box must be dropped on the key pad.

Before I go on, I should tell about the bad, and there is a lot of it. Swistakowy Klopot uses a fixed screen size. You have to complete the levels sequentially. There are passwords to remember or write down. The controls are little clunky. To turn around without moving, hold down the shift key while hitting an arrow. There is no documentation. The background music cannot be turned off. The background graphics, while well done, can be distracting and cannot be turned off. When exiting the program, there is a splash screen for the software development tool click team. Despite all of this, I still liked Swistakowy Klopot.

Now for the good. The rules are simple. There are 41 levels which are well done and well paced. They are not too hard, but a couple made me think. The hardest levels for me were the ones around level 10. I was still learning what is possible by stacking boxes. What I like the most about the game is the depth of the puzzles given the simplicity of the rules.

There are a couple of subtle points in the rules. In order to pick up a box, the space above you must be free. Also, in order to step up while carrying a box, there need to be two free spaces above. You will get the hang of it very quickly.

Their website does not seem to be working. You can download the game from Caiman Free Games. A similar game is Mailroom Madness. It contains the same box moving mechanics.

Friday, December 15, 2006


I spent the week going through my old blog entries and seeing which games had been updated since I wrote about them. Some have had serious updates; others just minor patches. In either case, it is good sign when a game is being actively updated. It shows that the developer and programmers care.

Kiki the Nano Bot

One the best gaming moments of 2006 for me was the release of Kiki the Nano Bot version 1.0.2 with 27 additional levels. Actually, it came out in late 2005, but it took me a while to notice. Kiki is a great game, but just as I was getting used the movement and rules in the previous version, the game ended. The additional levels are pure heaven and make Kiki a much better game.


Version 1.0 came out in the last couple of weeks. I have not played with it much. It contains over 200 new levels. The interesting new feature is a system for recording/submitting of times. Now each level comes with a best time and par time, and you can submit your best times. They also reordered the levels a bit, but did not create a thinkers only level set which I would have liked.

Armadillo Run

Version 1.0.3 contains many small improvements. These improvements show that the author listens to the players and cares. Definitely download this update if you have purchased the game. Also, be sure to download some of the user designed levels.


Version 1.03 is now available. Among the many improvements is a reply feature. Also, after some number of failed attempts on a level, a "show solution" button will appear if you want move on to a new level. Plus, there are now over 200 user made levels.


The renamed Cubrius has added one level pack. I am a little disappointed that there have not been more new levels.


In August, version 3.2.2 came out.


While still technically in beta, version 0.4.0 is now out. This includes some new levels and the ability to download/upload global high scores for each level. See how well you are really doing.

Simple Sudoku

I don't understand why people pay $20 for a sudoku program when this one is free. Version 4.2i came out within the last week.

Tube Twist

The Tube Twist Quantum-Flux Edition can be purchased right now. Their site claims to have a patch/update in the works for those of us who purchased the game. However, they have been claiming for the last nine months to be working on experiment packs for us. So, I am not going to hold my breath on this update.

Puzzle Bunnies

This is my little puzzle game. Version 0.3 contains twenty some odd new levels and a couple of bug fixes. Email me if you would like a copy. I am working on setting up a website.


Just this week, version 1.2.2 was released.

Deadly Rooms of Death

DROD: Journey to a Rooted Hold was my Game of the Year for 2005. In 2006, they kept patching those small bugs that pop up. The current version is 2.0.14. There are also an enormous number of user made holds to play. Also in 2006, DROD: King Dugan's Dungeon was released. It is essentially the original DROD: Architects' Edition with improved graphics and audio. They are now working on DROD: The City Beneath. Check out the progress bar on the CaravelNet Forum page.

GNU Backgammon

One of the best computer backgammon programs in the world keeps improving. The current version is 0.15.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Browser Games 5

It is time for another trio of browser games. This time around, I am going to mention three The Incredible Machine-like games. If you read through my old entries, you will see that I love TIM. I hope that someday a new version comes out. Until then, here are three web based games to tide us over. Oh as a fourth choice, I have previous mentioned WhizzBall.


The goal is to get the ball to the target. Each BluePrint level comes with a variety of items such as ramps, treadmills, nudges, and pipes. When properly placed, these items guide the ball to the target. When improperly placed, the ball goes flying off the wrong way. The physics model is realistic. One nice thing about BluePrint is the items have to placed in the grid, and thus no pixel level placement that some TIM games suffer from. One odd thing about BluePrint is that you only have a limited number of attempts at a given level before it resets. There are 28 levels which can be played in any order.


This is a browser based demo/tutorial of a full game, a really good game. Again, the goal is to get the ball to the target. Sometimes, you have to activate the target by hitting a key object first. Each levels comes with some collection of exploding bombs, imploding bombs, bounce bombs, and teleporters for you to place. With each bomb, you also get to set its timer, how long after hitting start the bomb goes off. The timing on the bombs often has to be right down to the 1/50th of a second, but with Impulse's amazing replay feature this is not a burden. The demo comes with 20 levels. The full version comes with 100 levels.


Rubicon is a great game. What it might lack in graphics, it makes up for in tough puzzles. Also, users can and have submitted levels. This game is going to become a cult favorite. You have to move each numbered (in hex 0x0 to 0xf) create to its destination. To move those creates about, you have conveyer belts, pipes, dozer, ramps, winches. The best item though is the packer which takes two boxes, packs them together, and creates one new box whose label is the sum (mod 16) of the two inputs. As you might guess, people have already come up with some tough puzzles requiring this feature. There are only 12 prebuilt levels. Then you have to move onto the user made levels. These get tough. There are some devious people out there.

Saturday, December 02, 2006


Title: Gartriage
Author: Jean Van Laethem
License: Freeware

Puzzle games with simple rules are always the best. Gartriage falls into this category, simple rules, simple graphics, and good puzzles.

Gartriage is a Sokoban-like game. To complete a level, each of the train cars has to move to the corresponding load of coal. To do this, the train engine is used to push and pull the cars. There are two twists though. First, you can link up two or more cars and push or pull them simultaneously just like a train. Second, no link in a train can make more than 45 degree turn when moving. That is about all there is to the rules.

These two additional rules make for some interesting puzzles. It is often necessary to form a train with multiple cars to free one car stuck behind another car. This adds a nice bit of complexity. The 45 degree turn rule restricts your movement options and dictates some careful storage of cars off on side tracks from time to time. And as with any Sokoban like game, care has to be taken to make sure the engine does not get stuck.

The actual mechanics of playing Gartriage take a little getting used to. The nodes on which the engine and train cars can move to are small and a bit hard to see at first. Then you have to learn how to connect, move, and disconnect cars to the engine. I did not find it obvious at first, but after a few minutes it became clear.

Gartriage comes with 60 puzzles to solve. Most are pretty easy, but there are some good ones in the mix. Any level can be played at anytime, and each level comes with difficulty rating. So, you can skip right to the tough ones. It also keeps track of the best solution by every player for each level allowing for a little friendly competition. A level editor is included.

Gartriage is a good game and well worth playing.