Squarus II smooths the rough edges of its predecessor and reveals challenging fun

Over at Kongregate on the second screen of their hot new games is a puzzler called Squarus II. Fans of the first game will find some improvements in this version, with a more easily discernible color scheme and finer control movement in “Precision Mode.” The puzzles remain just as challenging and there is little hand-holding as you progress through the levels — I thankfully came across a hint in the comments, otherwise I would still be starting at level 6.

 

This is level 7, not six. I don’t hold grudges. (Grrr…6).

I enjoy minimalistic games that focus solely on the challenge and less on visual aesthetics. It reminds me why I enjoy puzzle games to begin with: a way to kickstart my brain without a lot of sugary-sprite stimuli. Put on your best thinking music and give Squarus II a try. You’ll be glad for the frustration and challenge.

Not only a good game, but a helpful bit of advice to get you through the game and life.

X marks the spot…hey! Wait a darn minute!

While I’m waiting for larger (and possibly duller) games to download, I headed over to Kongregate to pick a five-minute game to pass the time. Thankfully I found “It’s just TIC TAC TOE” whose label appears to reveal the actual contents of the game. It does. It is just TIC TAC TOE, with a bit of something else. That something else I’ll leave for you to discover, but give yourself a few minutes to enjoy this new take on a classic game…with the sound on, if you can.

I have no idea if I’m the winner…or if we’re all winners.

 

The colorful, calm complexity of the new puzzler, Colorzzle

With fifty stages, Colorzzle, the debut game from Darong Studio on Kongregate, is a completely satisfying puzzler. Moving blocks of color together in order to grow a variety of flora, Colorzzle is one of those calm puzzle games that slowly increase the level of difficulty without forcing the player into a wall of frustration. With a lovely soundtrack (that I still have playing in another tab as I write this review) playing Colorzzle soothed my soul on a wintry morning.

This is a spoiler, but I just wanted to you to know that I love you.

The levels progress smoothly and the introduction of new mechanics feels natural, with a level or two to get used to the new item and then a gentle incline for the more challenging areas. Colorzzle’s sound, design, and gameplay all fit together for a relaxing experience that at times, especially in the later levels, will surprise you with its challenge. The game is available for iOS, Android, and Steam, and you can try the first fifty levels at Kongregate right now. Beautiful.

Cube Escape is the rightful heir to Submachine and is so good, we don’t deserve it

With all the Steams and Switches in the world, it’s sometimes hard to remember excellent game areas such as Kongregate. Last night, desperate to shake the unyielding crawl of Fetch Games, I stumbled into their puzzle section and found “Cube Escape: The Cave,” which is the ninth installment of the Rusty Lake series. I now find myself having to go back and play the other eight. The detail of the games atmosphere and puzzles left me bewildered and disturbed, a phantom shadow here, an unfortunate recipe there, and all the while I was wondering how could these puzzles be so challenging without being annoying. There is more than narrative magic in “Cube Escape: The Cave”: there is developer magic as well.

You want so much to feed the doggy. Then you have to feed the doggy. Oh, no doggy, no.

The escape-room genre, recently and not necessarily to its benefit, seen a bump in interest due to the prevalence of IRL escape room games; either permanent locations or pop-up events have become common in the city-scape. Yet, the idea of heading into a room with a group of people (known and unknown) to find the clues and perform the tasks needed to escape seems completely antithetical to the genre. You are alone, in a room, and there are a series of puzzles you must solve to escape and that solitude is what makes solving the puzzles so essential, and urgent. The idea of solving a complicated puzzle with a bunch of buzzed bros from the Bowery feels so much like torture, more akin to the Saw franchise, than a successor to “The Crimson Room.”

My stopping point when I played through. I’ll return to this room when I have the focus it requires. Probably after lunch.

“Cube Escape: The Cave” gives me the same urgency and desperate need for immersion as “Crimson Room” and “Submachine.” I need to solve each riddle and I need to move on, either escaping completely or on to the next adventure. That there are eight other iterations of “Cube Escape” leaves me anxious for a long stretch of time where I can work my way through its labyrinthine story and solve all the puzzles (with the help from a hint or two, not gonna lie). And while playing at Kongregate allows me to save my place, I would have gladly started all over. I highly recommend giving this chapter a try (as it’s the only one I’ve played so far) and let me know if you have a favorite chapter in the series.

Get your errand-girl groove on with the fun Tales of Nebezem

Lost in a sea of adequate, but repetitive casual games from Big Fish, I decided to branch out a bit and look for some interesting games father afield. I’d been an avid player at Kongregate years ago and returned to see what was currently trending. Tales of Nebezem: The Golden Scepter was recommended to me early and it was spot on. This small RPG game was not only entertaining, but dang, it had a nice groove.

In fact, “Good Music” is one of the ways players have tagged Nebezem and trust me, it’s worthy of it. You play as Danu, a young girl in town who is quickly punished for having a big heart and a menace of a dog. To her credit, she only finds the dog at the start of the game, but the terrorizing terrier wreaks so much havoc so quickly she is immediately sent upon a quest(s) to make restitution to all of the injured neighbors. The collection trope is strong in Nebezem, but don’t let that dissuade you from playing. While every successive character may have a desire that Danu must fill to progress, the hopping music and easy game play make it difficult to stop playing this little gem. The game play is typical of an RPG game, though some of the puzzles are quite unique. I’ve yet to find the magical item that will make the chicken lay an egg, yet, if video games have taught me anything, getting a chicken to do something is damn near impossible.

Creator Beranek has also released a larger RPG game called Tales of Nezebem: Elemental Link. Set in the same world as the Kongregate game, this promises to be a much larger adventure, full of the same charm as the shorter game. After playing Golden Scepter I went ahead and purchased Elemental Link and look forward to playing and reviewing it soon.