Your Favorite Casual Games - Reviews and Recommendations

Posted By: Marian

Your Favorite Casual Games - Reviews and Recommendations - 02/01/18 04:01 PM

Welcome to our new Favorite Casual Games - Reviews and Recommendations thread! This will be a place where our forum members can post recommendations/reviews of games that they particularly enjoyed. It doesn't matter whether a game was released a week ago or five years ago, feel free to post about it here. Be they recent titles, well-known games released years ago, or what you consider to be a buried treasure that only a few people know about or even remember, all comments are welcome and appreciated. With the dizzying number of games available and new ones constantly being released, it's easy to overlook many worthwhile games in the process. Hopefully this thread will prove to be a valuable resource for casual gamers in search of good new games to play.

Any chit-chat/off-topic posts in this thread will be removed, as we would like to confine this topic strictly to reviews and recommendations.

Happy gaming! wave
Posted By: 8dognight

Re: Your Favorite Casual Games - Reviews and Recommendations - 02/01/18 05:32 PM

Legacy Tales: Mercy of the Gallows:

From Youda, 2013

The artwork uses real historical settings, and the play is much like a regular adventure game. Mercy of the Gallows has a pleasingly retro look and was obviously made with lavish attention to historical detail. If you look at the nonscrolling credits page, you'll see a list of the four Netherlands locations incorporated into Mercy of the Gallows.

I don’t remember any undoable puzzles or puzzles requiring manual dexterity. The music is pleasant with a haunting quality. No horrible saturated blue, pink, lavender. A spirit light will lead you around at first. In game scrolls unroll to provide back story, but—huzzah—you don’t have to find stupid hidden items in the scrolls. You can turn off sparkles.

The items in HO screens are carefully chosen to harmoniously fit the atmosphere and are appropriate to the time of the story under investigation with some slight variations, for example, lovely old brass binoculars would not have been around until the 1850s and the mystery, which is the key to the story, is over a century older. That isn’t a true anachronism. Mercy of the Gallows is one of a tiny percentage of HOPAs with HO screens I enjoyed looking at.

The downside to the game is that to move forward, you must find gold coins in the environment, not in a separate screen, and a few of those coins are blooming hard to see. I had to use hints several times. This didn’t bother me because I usually dislike HOG tasks in any form although I like most of the separate HO screens in this particular game; however, I understand that some players have very high standards about ever hitting the hint button.

Agency of Anomalies: Cinderstone Orphanage This plays better on my laptop using the system cursor. The story here reminds me a little of "Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children." I should also mention that this game doesn't cover the entirety of my current laptop's screen no matter what settings I use. If a game is immersive enough, I have no trouble getting past that. The HO screens contain appropriate objects and are often interactive in various ways; screens repeat using those variations. I like solving puzzles where moving one item moves others in complex ways, for example, switch C might move switch E down while switch E moves itself up and switch A moves itself up two but only needs to go up one; Cinderstone Orphanage has a fairly difficult one that I solved the first time I played. If I can do it, it's far from too hard.

Break the Curse: Crimson Gems Some hard puzzles.

Christmas Stories: Nutcracker

From Elephant

The first time I played this, I had to make an effort at the beginning to roll along with the premise, helping Albert, who was turned into a nutcracker, and his fiance Mary, now a talking doll whose conversation is mostly limited to repeated cries for help, regain their humanity, stolen by the evil genius Rat King. No one is watching you; nobody will poke fun at your choice of game. Go ahead, cannonball into the fantasy. While the content is appropriate for children who might want this version read to them, some of the puzzles are the most challenging and visually pleasing I have played in any game. There are banners for various things in the more expensive edition. I don't recall if there are morphing items or collectibles because I did my best to ignore them. Other than that, Nutcracker is a stand-out casual with pleasant seasonal music.

9: Dark Side: The usual demonic forces have enveloped Prague and you must discover the secrets of an ancient fortress.

Dark Canvas: A Murder Exposed: This is an actual murder mystery and a pretty good game.

Death and Betrayal in Romania: A Dana Knightstone Novel: If you cannot stomach helpers, the presence of Bandit—a ghostly border collie wearing a red bandana—will be annoying. While I often loathe helpers, I kinda liked Bandit. I have no idea how or even if Bandit fits into the story. Like many border collies, Bandit is exceptionally springy and good at jumping to fetch you things. This game does not have those scrolls with clumsily drawn pictures and ostensible written exposition containing words which you must match to an item in the ugly drawing. The one place with such technique has an array of beautiful, setting appropriate objects on shelves in an armoire. Several of the puzzles are difficult.

Grim Tales: The Legacy

Grim Tales: The Vengeance

Inception of Darkness: Exorcist III: Skip the very first puzzle, a lock on a chest in a cart, then go on with the game. That first puzzle is not worth eating up all the time in the demo. If you like the game, buy it and continue on without starting over. After you finish the game, you can always create a new profile and try that puzzle as it only takes a few minutes to find. I’m only slightly better than average at difficult puzzles but I like them and seek them out; nevertheless, I’m fairly sure I would still be working on that chest puzzle years later even if armed with graph paper, screen shots, and sheer stubbornness. Other puzzles in the game are designed better.

Mystery Trackers: Black Isle: I think this one has HO screens that combine with the use of inventory items, a technique that takes some getting used to. Also skillfully done graphics and a pretty good story.

Mystery Trackers: Blackrow’s Secret

Mystery Trackers: Four Aces

Mystery Trackers: Raincliff’s Phantoms

Nightfall Mysteries: Black Heart

Nightfall Mysteries: Haunted by the Past

Riddles of Fate: Wild Hunt: Good graphics. I’ve replayed it a couple of times. Wish I didn’t remember it so well because that would make playing again more entertaining.

Witches’ Legacy: Charleston Curse

Posted By: Jenny100

Re: Your Favorite Casual Games - Reviews and Recommendations - 02/02/18 02:50 AM

Crystals of Time

Crystals of Time is a game I keep on my hard drive for when I'm tired of the excessive animations, visual effects, and pop-ups in modern games -- and I want to play an old-style hidden object game, but one that's a bit more than a succession of hidden object scenes held together by cut scenes.

You play as a female thief, breaking into a mansion to look for your missing father, also a thief. New locations open up as you progress in the game, starting with your arrival at the deserted house, to exploring the backyard garden and shore areas, and boating to an island with a ruined church and castle. Animations are subtle (a curtain blowing, the flicker of a torch), or even non-existent -- especially towards the end of the game.

Unfortunately if grammar and spelling mistakes bother you, this game was obviously not created by native English speakers and it shows.

According to
"Crystals of Time" was released in December 2013, but it seems at least 2 years older. Normal and Hard modes -- on Normal mode it will occasionally "find" objects in the environment for you without your using the Hint. The game folder is a tiny 172 MB, and as you might expect for such a small folder size, there is no voice acting.

Unfortunately it is NOT a good game for puzzles -- it has very few -- and there is one puzzle I have to play windowed in order for the hotspots to line up with the numbers correctly.

I enjoy replaying "Crystals of Time" because it hits a sort of nostalgic sweet spot, straight hidden object lists, but with some exploration and without the annoying timers of earlier games.
Posted By: Mad

Re: Your Favorite Casual Games - Reviews and Recommendations - 02/02/18 12:35 PM

The Lost Cases of 221B Baker Street.

This is a pretty old Casual - so older graphics - and is made up of around 20 or so short cases for Sherlock and Watson to solve - one case at a time.
And I find a spare ten minutes or so can happily be filled by solving one.
[Whenever you break off, the game is saved so if you don't want to, you don't even have to complete ONE at any sitting.]

There is little animation but there are voices (and text) - and music of sorts.
And each case is comprised of a few hidden object type screens and an easy, visual memory test.

I had it permanently installed on my WinXP machine and it's now permanently installed and playing happily on my (current) Win7 machine.

This game is not a brain teaser. Just a nice relaxed way to pass some time.
Posted By: lexxy

Re: Your Favorite Casual Games - Reviews and Recommendations - 02/13/18 12:49 AM

I would highly recommend Dire Grove . This game is as good as any adventure game I have ever played.
Posted By: 8dognight

Re: Your Favorite Casual Games - Reviews and Recommendations - 02/14/18 05:07 PM


Regency Solitaire: I enjoyed the music and many of the period details. To progress, I had to hoard wild cards. I don't know how common that is in similar games because this is the first solitaire game that ever caught my attention sufficiently enough to buy.

There is a modest story with a twist at the end. I plan to keep this game installed.

Posted By: Mad

Re: Your Favorite Casual Games - Reviews and Recommendations - 02/15/18 06:59 PM

An "oldie" match3 game I enjoy playing and would recommend and which is another permanent fixture on my machine, is Legend of Gallant.

It has a bit of a story to follow and is altogether good, mindless match3 fun !! laugh
Posted By: Marian

Re: Your Favorite Casual Games - Reviews and Recommendations - 02/15/18 08:16 PM

The Island: Castaway

This game was released on Big Fish in 2010.

This game is a blending of genres: strategy, adventure, and simulation. My overriding feeling while playing the game, though, was that of playing an adventure game - and there is definitely a storyline. Over the course of the game you will fulfill many quests. There is quite a large area to explore and it is longer than most of the other casual games I have played. I thought it was a great deal of fun and it still stands out in my mind, more than seven years later, as being one of the best games I have played on Big Fish.

At the end of 2011, a second game in this series was released: The Island: Castaway 2. Nearly everyone who played the first game and enjoyed it thought this second game was equally good. I recommend it for the same reasons that I recommend the original.
Posted By: Mad

Re: Your Favorite Casual Games - Reviews and Recommendations - 02/18/18 07:16 PM

Another favourite Casual of mine, and one which I would absolutely recommend, is Sherlock Holmes and the Hound of the Baskervilles.

[I originally bought it from Frogwares but it is at Big Fish now.]

A long and interesting version of the famous story with the good graphics and voice acting one would expect from a Frogwares game and a way of visiting the past which was novel at the time of the game's release thumbsup

Being guided by the list Jenny100 offers re this thread I have edited and added :

I didn't encounter any hugely difficult puzzles.
I don't remember there being any no pop-ups.
Nor do I remember any dexterity issues.
It is slightly gruesome in parts.
Posted By: colpet

Re: Your Favorite Casual Games - Reviews and Recommendations - 02/20/18 01:38 AM

These are two games I recently played on my iPad. I purchaced them at the app store.
Agent A: A Puzzle in Disguise
This game currently has 4 chapters released. When you buy the game, you get all 4 chapters, you don’t get them separately. You play as a secret agent working to thwart an enemy agent named Ruby. Chapters 1 and 2 take place in her hideout. Chapter 3 has you locked away in a devious series of traps, and chapter 4 has you trying to escape and stop Ruby carrying out her plans.
The game is in cartoon style, and has some over the top humour. There are a few cut scenes, and you play as a solitary first person explorer. There are a ton of puzzles, both inventory and not. Each Chapter is a self contained game. All you need is in the location, but there is a bit of back and forthing, especially in the bigger locations, like in Chapter 4. My favourite was Ruby’s Trap, Chapter 3. You have to check eveything to look for clues and investigate all corners of an area. The puzzles range from minigames to inventory, but quite a few had you thinking outside of the box. Apparently there is a Chapter 5 on the way.
The Secret of Chimera Lab
This was a full game. It took me about 5 or 6 hours to play. It has node based movement. You are called to investigate some unusual goings on at a laboratory. The game involves getting into the building and accessing the rooms, as well as snooping through computers and various notes to work out what was happening. This was a challenging game, but the in game notebook keeps track of everything you need. What I liked is that you get to use the knowledge and equipment as part of the puzzles. While there is some backtracking, the building is pretty compact, so it is not too bad. I was so impressed with this game, that I bought another one from the developer (Aircamp) called Adventure Beyond Time. There was some connection between the two with the story line, but there was no notebook, and you had to traipse all over an island. Interesting, but the puzzles were too spread out.
Posted By: Marian

Re: Your Favorite Casual Games - Reviews and Recommendations - 02/20/18 03:41 AM

Brink of Consciousness: The Lonely Hearts Murders

Developed by: Magic Indie

This game was released on Big Fish in November 2012. This was back in the days before achievements, pop-ups, and announcements, so there are none. No dexterity challenges that I can recall. This is a good detective story set in Victorian England. There is quite a bit of dialogue, which I personally enjoy, but I know that some players find this tiresome. It plays like an adventure game more than a HOG. There are some hidden object scenes but not a huge amount. There are also some good puzzles that I found fun to solve.

I purchased the Collector's Edition. One of the extras in the CE is an interview with the developer, which I found interesting and a welcome addition to the usual.

There are three levels of difficulty from which to choose.

I enjoyed the game very much and am replaying it right now - an oldie but a goodie.
Posted By: 8dognight

Re: Your Favorite Casual Games - Reviews and Recommendations - 02/23/18 03:15 PM

Secrets of the Dark: Mystery of the Ancestral Estate

Developed by: Orneon

The premise here is switching environments from their ordinary appearances to their dark alter egos. You are called in to help the heir who is frightened by all the magic in the house emanating from the crypt. No sooner do you arrive than the crypt opens and the spirit of an evil grand uncle whisks her away, leaving you to solve a series of puzzles dazzling in their ingenuity and HOs, all carefully thought out and visually pleasing. One of the early HO screens, for example, is a series of steps like a door puzzle to put together animated miniatures of a hot air balloon, chariot, and cannon. This is a difficult game by casual standards in part because there is no map and the ancestral estate is a sprawling compound. I wish Orneon would make more like it.
Posted By: The Haze

Re: Your Favorite Casual Games - Reviews and Recommendations - 02/23/18 03:54 PM

The newest The Room is, quite simply magnificent. It's gorgeous; lengthy for a casual game; and has a "Help" system that actually helps (If you like those things.) It's probably the best $5.00 puzzle game I've ever played.
Posted By: 8dognight

Re: Your Favorite Casual Games - Reviews and Recommendations - 02/24/18 05:56 PM

Secrets of the Dark: The Flower of Shadow

From Orneon

A game has to have multiple redeeming features that I enjoy a lot for me to forgive a pink and lavender demon spewing pink and purple everywhere like that old Rolling Stones song "She Comes in Colors." I got past the irksome rainbow because Flower of Shadow has some excellent puzzles and also managed to trick me several times in terms of gameplay. The first time I played, I was lost because I skipped the introduction. Don't do it. Grit your teeth and endure the glowing pastel onslaught. Like the other Secrets of the Dark, Flower of Shadow does not play on full screen on my current laptop.
Posted By: colpet

Re: Your Favorite Casual Games - Reviews and Recommendations - 02/25/18 04:26 PM

These were played on my iPad and I purchased them at the App store.
The Secret of Raven Rock
This is an older game and plays like a typical casual adventure. At the beginning there was an unskippable tutorial and some sparkles to show you where the next spot was. But very shortly it changes into a pure puzzle delight, along the lines of the old PC game Pandora's Box. You enter a Temple full of straight up minigames - sliders, codes and riddles, with some inventory items. Clues are kept in a journal for you. There are 25 challenges to beat, most will gain you access to new parts of the temple. There was a particularly good flip tile slider I had never seen before. You also need to use the physics of a tablet to solve a few of the puzzles.
Return to Grisly Manor 2
This is a basic adventure casual(no HOGs). You return to your grandfather's house to help him find the original deed, so the evil developers won't bulldoze it down. There are all kinds of seek and find quests here, but what makes it interesting for me is that there is no hand holding. There aren't many mini games in this one, so the puzzles involve thinking about how to get what you need from what you have. Thinking outside the box is a must.
Posted By: Jenny100

Re: Your Favorite Casual Games - Reviews and Recommendations - 03/09/18 04:19 PM

The Dark Hills of Cherai
The Dark Hills of Cherai: The Regal Scepter.

In The Dark Hills of Cherai, you play as three cousins, Tara, Rahul, and Maya, searching for your cousin Arjun, who has got himself in trouble searching for treasure and needs rescuing. You play the cousins separately, occasionally meeting to exchange inventory. Environments look like a real place -- a jungle with mountainous areas that may be somewhere in India. Hidden object scenes are mostly lists, usually with a puzzle integrated into the scene. You can teleport to locations you've previously visited.

In The Regal Scepter, you again play as Tara, Rahul, and Maya. This time you're searching for the "Regal Scepter" to keep it from falling into the wrong hands. There is more swapping inventory between characters than in the first game.

I described these two games more fully in ***this Gameboomers thread*** which is sort of an overview of these and other games developed by Chayowo Games.
Posted By: 8dognight

Re: Your Favorite Casual Games - Reviews and Recommendations - 03/13/18 11:51 AM

Nightmare Adventures: Turning Thorn from Ghost Ship is one of the top ten casual games I have played out of hundreds I own. The graphics are crisp. Many objects when clicked yield a witty and intelligent remark that adds richness or back story even if the object is otherwise not in play. In addition, you can try to use objects inappropriately for a comment specific to that decision. Our character, Keira, point blank refused to use a baseball bat to break the windows in her own house; she later explained why several objects would not work as a lever with differing reasons specific to each choice. This is an admirable level of attention to detail from the writers at Ghost Ship Studios.

I like a challenge and the puzzles are challenging enough for me. The written in game notes are clear and often humorous. For example, a note early on from a repairman involving an elaborate reset a code to operate a phone that calls down to a secret facility includes the lament, “Next time we replace this, could we try—you know—a button?”

This is the second time I have played Turning Thorn, and I have gone back to a Windows 7 laptop to do so. The game is running well and without glitches.

Nightmare Adventures: Turning Thorn is a gem. I hope we will see a third addition to this series that shows the same skill. Turning Thorn puts the usual sloppy writing and slapdash graphics of ordinary casual games to shame.

Nightmare Adventures: Turning Thorn is a sequel to Nightmare Adventures: Witches' Prison, listed by Reenie below and also a delight.
Posted By: Mad

Re: Your Favorite Casual Games - Reviews and Recommendations - 03/20/18 08:39 PM

I just finished "Legacy Tales : Mercy of the Gallows" and thought it was one of the best Casuals I've played in a good while dance

A nice "adventure type" story to follow, excellent graphics and innovative puzzles to solve thumbsup

I highly recommend the game yes

Looking for more from this developer - Youda - I could only find straightforward HOG games (which don't appeal much to me) or arcade style games (which also don't appeal much to me).
So I am hoping that this Legacy Tales is only the first and that there will be more to follow smile
Posted By: Taintedfury

Re: Your Favorite Casual Games - Reviews and Recommendations - 03/29/18 03:09 AM

I've been mainly playing the Final Cut series, Starting on the Rite of Passage series and beginning of the Amaranthine Voyage series which I recommend them all.

All are very entertaining:) penguin
Posted By: 8dognight

Re: Your Favorite Casual Games - Reviews and Recommendations - 03/30/18 06:46 PM

Portal of Evil: Stolen Runes

While this game contains some HOs, the play is much like a regular adventure game. The cut scenes reminded me of those in games like Longest Journey--I think Longest Journey--where live actors are blended with the background to produce a realistic look.

You are the grandchild of a Van (Von) Helsing. Your task is return runes stolen from a door beneath the Vatican that guards the gates of hell before all hell, in fact, breaks loose. To do this you acquire keys to enter portals into different realities containing the missing runes. The game is sightly. The puzzles are pleasing. The story moves along without a lot of BS. For example, if memory serves, not once did I have to sharpen a knife or ax before using it.

Edited to Add: If casual game developers had paid more attention to the visual and narrative excellence of this game, I think that we wouldn't be stuck with an infinity of mirrored kidnappings.

There is a transport map with active areas marked and unless you keep notes you will need it. HO screens are repeated but in different ways: find things in one version, put things back in another.

Also according to BFG reviews, you should buy the Collectors' Edition of this game to get the full story.

ETA again: Reenie just remarked elsewhere that the grandfather was kidnapped. Who knew? That must be the full story from the Collectors' Edition. I happily played the regular version with grandpa's disappearance as unexplained and the main character following in his footsteps to prevent prototypical Armageddon by restoring the seals.
Posted By: 8dognight

Re: Your Favorite Casual Games - Reviews and Recommendations - 05/02/18 03:26 PM

Word Zen

From: Play at Joe's

This is a timed word game that is not geared downward. There are four levels, student, apprentice, master, and grandmaster, each with 20 or more unique boards that can be restarted with different letters. The boards distribute letters in different clumps on the screen which increases the difficulty of mentally combining them during play. You have to get a certain number of points to progress to the next board within the section. Letter points differ considerably from Scrabble. Word Zen words can be up to 11 letters long. Student and apprentice provided enough useful letters in close proximity to allow me to make quite long words and think I was a wiz. For example, I plunked down "compositions" and believed myself unstoppable. The master section has a couple of difficult configurations. The grandmaster by level three or so is a witch. I say "witch" because the game will not allow any words it deems off-color.

To enjoy this game I had to accept that its dictionary has more vagaries than the Scrabble Dictionary has or at least had back when I played death matches with my mother-in-law 30 years ago. For instance, I tried to play "canopic" and Word Zen would not take the final "c" so I quit and made sure I was spelling it right. I was. Maybe the game just gets sticky every now and then. Other times I have discovered that I am no longer the speller I once was. "Monocle" does not contain either an "a" or an "i."

Also I turned off the music.

The game has plenty of replayability given that you can create four profiles, then delete and start new ones. Also, once a level is finished, you can freelance within it and choose boards.

I wish a better single player word game with the possibility of words longer than 11 letters, a more comprehensive dictionary, and the ability to play with various timers from more to less forgiving would come out.

ETA: After finishing the final level with all four profiles, "Word Zen" stopped letting me freelance within levels or create new profiles, so I uninstalled, reinstalled, and am starting over with new profiles. I don't mind this because the self-imposed point for me is to win with words I have not used before in the game.

The initial loading is a hair slow.
Posted By: 8dognight

Re: Your Favorite Casual Games - Reviews and Recommendations - 05/12/18 05:16 PM

Macabre Mysteries: Curse of the Nightingale

Blue Tea, 2011

Most people who play these games already know that Curse of the Nightingale, apparently a stand alone as I could not find any others available in a Macabre Mysteries series although there may have been some, is a great game. The plot doesn't revolve around a kidnapping. The graphics are pleasing, particularly in the HO screens. At some point, Blue Tea went a hair blurry in the overall look of some of the games, although I hasten to add that those games are usually well above average, too.

One particularly useful facet of Curse of the Nightingale is the diary/journal which contains a map and cast of characters with blurbs about them that are fleshed out as the game progresses. The map is also a minor hint system (it's easy to get a bit lost in the theater) but not one that overpowers exploration. The same is true with objectives; they're in the journal but you don't have to consult them. For inventory hints, I discovered this time around that I could place an object over the eye on the extreme left of the inventory bar and get a close-up of where to use it. I should mention I usually skip tutorials even when I could have used one later.

I normally avoid playing games set entirely within a theater because they feel too confined. Not this one.

HO screens give off a slightly out of focus bubbly quaver to alert the player, and sometimes a spark or two rises from other hotspots. But this is a wonderful game, so those visual cues are forgivable. There were two inventory items I wouldn't have found otherwise although in my defense I am less observant when developers hold my hand than when they don't.

Steven Xhao was the main creative force behind this game. From cursory googling I gather he is now making VR games. It's almost enough to prod me into investigating them.

To get a 2018 HOPA as immersive as Nightingale, I would pay twice the price.

ETA: I noticed another good quality. After finishing the game, I started the bonus game then closed out. When I returned, I carelessly clicked on the main game which started up again from the beginning. I thought, "Darn, now the bonus game will be chained up again." No, that didn't happen. Under the same profile, the bonus game remained open. Very thoughtful of Blue Tea.

Posted By: 8dognight

Re: Your Favorite Casual Games - Reviews and Recommendations - 05/19/18 11:08 PM

Mystic Legacy: The Great Ring

from Foxy Games Studio, 2012

This is a tale of two vampire brothers, Shandor and Drago, who kidnap the friend of your player character. One of the vampire brothers is a vegetarian with an humanitarian streak; the other, a romantic gone wrong.

I had to untoggle both full screen and the custom cursor.

I should mention that your character will address himself or herself in the well written and useful journal by the name you enter at the start. If I had remembered that I would have called myself Von Helpful or something else in the vein of the tale.

In terms of player character comments along the way and in the journal, the writing is lighthearted and close to topflight. The setting is a stately home in rather good repair considering the the nature of the owners and their longstanding grievances. I don't recollect any gross or disgusting horror-type screens. The art is workmanlike and attractive.

Be careful with the hint system because it will flat out tell you what to do next instead of pointing. If I need a hint in a game that uses a pointer, instead of making notes of locations I usually back up to a neutral crossroads then get a directional pointer. I had forgotten that doesn't work with this game.

Mystic Legacy is an SE; however, I discovered the last time I played small morphing lions and griffins which disappear in a discrete puff of aristocratic smoke when clicked. An understated banner announces them on only the first, in my case admittedly desperate, click when I couldn't figure out what to do next. From then on only a small irregular circle of smoke interrupts forward momentum. The start screen lists a bonus game on the lower left that can't be accessed unless the lions, many of which seem to be heraldic rampant, are found first. I investigated the mini game which appears to be simply a standalone puzzle. I didn't finish it.

The play is more adventure game than not. One irritating HOPA (and adventure game) structural feature left me sputtering when I refused to use a perfectly good boat hook that could have snagged a crucial to the story object from high in a tree. There are probably a few more instances when I thought (using the strange meld of first and second person if the game is first person or first, second, and third person if the game is third person that is integral to adventure games) something on the order of, "Well, if you hadn't tossed out your toothpick, I could use it now." On the upside, you get to reuse your razor, which shows consideration of game design.

As casual and also adventure plot lines go, this one is well told, so I have tried not to spoil the fun and deliberately have obscured some of the characterizations.

The lead credit goes to Valeriy Rhadzhabov (I think I spelled that right). I hope to see more games from him.
Posted By: Mad

Re: Your Favorite Casual Games - Reviews and Recommendations - 05/20/18 06:22 PM

I'm playing through the Cadenza series and right now am with "The Kiss of Death" tale.

I like the style of the hidden object scenes and don't find them drastically difficult - and I like the way the stories are gradually unfolded to the player.

Also, nice graphics and nice music.

In fact - for me - altogether NICE thumbsup
Posted By: Jenny100

Re: Your Favorite Casual Games - Reviews and Recommendations - 05/20/18 11:00 PM

World Mosaics

(the first and best of the series)

These type of puzzles have been called Conceptis, Griddlers, Nonograms, Picross, and sometimes Mosaics, though "Mosaics" can also refer to a completely different type of puzzle. For purposes of this review, I'll call them nonograms.

The first time I came across a nonogram was when playing Sherlock Holmes: Mystery of the Mummy. I'd never seen that type of puzzle before, wasn't really sure of the instructions, and ended up skipping it. In my defense, the nonogram in Mystery of the Mummy was timed, and who wants to have to figure out the instructions and strategy for an unfamiliar puzzle type while they're being timed? Certainly not me.

But it looked like it might be a fun puzzle, and I remembered it. Years after playing Mystery of the Mummy I finally found a game with a collection of nonograms -- World Mosaics. Back when I bought it in 2008, it may have been the only one. World Mosaics 2 was not released until 2010.

World Mosaics started with a tutorial on a 5x5 grid. As a beginner who'd been scared off of the larger nonogram in Mystery of the Mummy, I thought the tutorial was very good. On replays, I wish it was skippable. You start with easy 5x5 puzzles, but move on to 10x10, 15x15, 20x20, and eventually 25x25 puzzles.

There's a story of sorts, where you're supposedly visiting exotic locations like ancient Greece and Japan, going back in time and so forth. Each set of puzzles is supposed to take place in one of these locations, and has that location as a background.

There are several games in the World Mosaics series, but the first one is the only one I occasionally replay. I tried the 8th one, but the annoying "special" effects prevented me from buying it. More recently I've been enjoying the Fantasy Mosaics series, which is up to #28 so they seem to be popular.
Posted By: Jenny100

Re: Your Favorite Casual Games - Reviews and Recommendations - 05/20/18 11:30 PM

Fantasy Mosaics series

These are collections of the type of puzzles variously called Conceptis, Griddlers, Nonograms, Picross, and sometimes even Mosaics, though "Mosaics" can also refer to a completely different puzzle type.

The first three Fantasy Mosaics games use single colors.
Later games use three or more colors.

Nearly all puzzles in the Fantasy Mosaics games use 15x20 grids, though they start out with a tutorial level with 10x10 grids.

As for how to play the puzzles, the best way to find out is by playing the tutorial in one of the games -- or by playing the tutorial in World Mosaics. Having several colors may at first seem more complicated to learn, but ultimately it makes the puzzles easier, since you can switch colors if you get stuck.

There is sort of an ongoing story running through the Fantasy Mosaics games, where you're following the life of an anthropomorphic penguin and his family as they move around the universe, occasionally visiting and helping out relatives. Backgrounds of puzzles are the places the penguin visits.

There are several games on Big Fish that are collections of nonograms. The reason "Fantasy Mosaics" is my favorite series is that it doesn't throw up gold coins and gold numbers in my face every time I click something in the puzzle (like Rainbow Mosaics does) and it doesn't make me sit around waiting through two screens after I finish a puzzle before moving on to the next puzzle (a flaw shared by Forest Riddles and Worlds Greatest Places/Cities Mosaics).

Currently on #28, the Fantasy Mosaics series seems to be the most successful collection of nonograms series by far -- and for good reason.
Posted By: Starcom

Re: Your Favorite Casual Games - Reviews and Recommendations - 05/21/18 12:45 AM

The Emptiness: This game is Challenging! Warning: If you are looking for the usual story line, crowded HOG scenes, hand holding, maps and sparkles that show you where to go and a hint system that is helpful, this is NOT your game. It does requires you to put more time and thought into things as you progress.
The game is not really scary, but there are some creepy moment, which helped to create the special "suspense" atmosphere.

Note: There 2 modes, Amature and Expert, I played in Amature mode and you do get some Hints or should I say they more like clues.. Not sure if you even get clues in the expert mode. Regardless of the modes you choose, it is a long game and requires patience to play the game.
Posted By: Reenie

Re: Your Favorite Casual Games - Reviews and Recommendations - 05/21/18 03:33 AM

Caveat as to what I like in a Casual:
I don't like brutality and abuse, and I avoid arcade stuff (Can't physically tolerate timed sequences). I don't play much "creepy."
I prefer my puzzles and mini-games to be darned pesky. If the game is too easy, it feels childish.
I'm no fan of HO scenes in general, especially the brain-dead and unimaginative ones.
If I say a game was more "Adventure-like," it means it required paper and pencil at times (especially to solve pesky puzzles), and required notes on each scene because you had to leave that scene incomplete and come back when you had the necessary Inventory.
I almost always play the CE version of a game. I only play the Standard version if a CE is not available. Can't answer for Standard version of the game.

I have played over 400 casual games and the following were my favorites. I have replayed quite a few; one or two I have replayed twice. This list is culled from my database that goes back 10 years. Initially, there were no pop-ups, so I made no note of them when they began. (I prefer games without them, but can't tell you which ones I might have played that omitted them.) I regret that I can't elaborate more on the specifics of each game, but I was only keeping a list for my own sake, to know which series to watch for and which were not my thing. I would say I am very picky.

Agency of Anomalies: Cinderstone Orphanage = Recently played and LOVED it. I plan to try others in this series. (Thanks, 8dognight)
Amaranthine Voyage: Winter Neverending = On my Top 20 list, delightfully pesky puzzles. Others in the series good, too.
Eternal Journey: New Atlantis = Excellent play, no HOs, great puzzles, longer than most.
Forbidden Secrets: Alien Town = On my Top 20 list, excellent cinematics and puzzles.
House of 1000 Doors: Family Secrets = Best in a series of four games, all well done and long.
Inception of Darkness: Exorcist III = Superb inheritor of the Adventure mantle.
Lost Lands: Four Horsemen = One of the Top 3 HOs I've played. Excellent in all respects.
Lost Lands: The Wanderer = Same as above. On my Top 10 list, complex, challenging.
Margrave Manor: Blacksmith's Daughter = Again, one of the best HO games I have played, and I've played a lot of these. “Severed Heart” is almost as good, too.
Mystery Case Files (MCF): Black Veil = Of this game series, one of the Top 3. Superb, creepy, more Adventure than HO.
MCF: Dire Grove = Again, more Adventure-like than HO.
MCF: Ravenhurst Unlocked = Exceptional game, long, tricky puzzles, good Bonus game
New York Mysteries: Secrets of the Mafia = In my Top 10 because it is long, complex, original. Others in the series also good.
Nightmare Adventures: The Witch's Prison = I'm not a big witch fan, so this recommendation says a lot. Great puzzles all through it and no HO that I remember.
Portal of Evil: Stolen Runes = Fabulous game although a bit “easy,” very Adventure-ish
Reflections: Equilibrium = Terrific, long, great graphics, unusual HO scenes, tough puzzles.
Riddles of Fate: Into Oblivion = Superb detail, challenging, long play.
Riddles of Fate: Wild Hunt = Very “large” game, tough puzzles, fine graphics.
Sable Maze: Norwich Cave = Another “big” game, long and challenging.
Sable Maze: Soul Catcher = Same as above. (Other games in this series too easy to be fun)
Shiver: Moonlit Grove = Best game in the series, although others are fine, too. More Adventure than HO.
Surface: Strings of Fate = Best game in the series, although a bit wonky at times.
Phenomenon: City of Cyan = Best game in the series. I don't remember any HO scenes.
Vermillion: Order Zero = Best game in this series for challenge, unusual puzzles, complexity.
Posted By: Taintedfury

Re: Your Favorite Casual Games - Reviews and Recommendations - 05/23/18 09:40 AM

Here are my favorite's: Sable Maze Sullivan River (Touching) cry , the Drawn Series which I really got stuck into (Loved it) haha , Redemption Cemetery Bitter Frost (Loved the Story) dance , Haunted Manor Queen of Death (Great Music/Sound) whistle : , Mystery Case Files: Escape from Ravenhearst (Scary and Creepy) witch and the 9 Clues series which made me feel like a detective. sherlock

All off these I highly recommend. joy
Posted By: 8dognight

Re: Your Favorite Casual Games - Reviews and Recommendations - 05/24/18 09:54 PM

Exorcist II

Deep Shadows, 2011

This tricky adventure game with HOS was cleverly and deviously designed; many "real" adventure games I have played were not as challenging but then I'm easily fooled. The standalone puzzles in Exorcist II are a snap. Difficulty is not the point of them. There was one I solved in about 3 seconds that I could not figure out the consequence of so I ignored it. Come to think of it, that happened a few times, which brought my progress to a perplexed halt. I admire that.

The opening screen of the game is clumsy and gives an unpromising impression as if it were tacked on after the rest of the game was done to better explain and frame the story. Try not to be put off. The real action gets going when you tootle off to the house you can see in the distance beyond the 1905 to 1915 or so automobile parked in front of the church gate. The visuals improve rapidly and show exemplary attention to detail, for example, the fabulous circus posters in the barn and the mare herself. I'm avoiding using examples with important hotspots.

Exorcism and the supernatural aren't my favorite genres. What I like about this one are the care taken with many of the screens and the way this little adventure combines simplicity with difficulty. Use a coupon or play the demo.

Posted By: Reenie

Re: Your Favorite Casual Games - Reviews and Recommendations - 05/30/18 10:06 PM

Secrets of the Dark: The Mystery of the Ancestral Estate (Henceforth: MOAE)
I played the CE version of this game, and would recommend it. The bonus game is long, complex, challenging and worth the extra. I played on the Medium setting of difficulty, because, if you play on Expert, you have no access to Hints. (See below for why you might want that option). "Medium" removes all sparkles and doesn't give anything away unless you ask for a Hint.

What made this game terrific is that it is more Adventure-like than HO, although there were a few HO scenes. So, I became a fan almost at once. This isn't to say it has no flaws, however.

One problem with the HO scenes is that most of them pop up where you already have been and gone, so you don't know they are there and when you get stuck for a piece of inventory, you have to go back hunting all over the entire game world to see where a new HO scene might have appeared. Since there is no Map for teleporting, I found that search irksome. After a while, I just clicked on the Hint to have it tell me where the bugger was (which is why you might not want to play it on Expert mode). It is up to you how much time you want to spend mindlessly roaming around and searching versus whether you want to get a Hint and go on with the game.

There are "morphing" scenes in MOAE. This is a magic world, after all. smile When you find a way to trigger the scene change, an entirely different room presents itself, with puzzles, Inventory and the rest. You will go back and forth several times in these rooms.

I lost track of all the different scenes, and definitely had to take copious notes, probably the most of any recent Casual I have played. To me, this makes for a great game because you really are "solving" a mystery.

MOAE is one of those games where you do a lot of shagging around in order to find out what needs to be done, what you need in the way of Inventory, and where that Inventory is to be found. You come to a new scene and find eight things to do, and all eight Inventory items that you need are scattered throughout eight other scenes. I found myself wishing the game had had a Map, because it would have made it easier to get around, but you have to admit it is more realistic the way it is (Note: Only if you play on the easiest setting do you do get a Map).

For those who like a helping companion, at one point you get control of a flying horse. You use him to reach an alternative location. You will have to go back and forth with him several times.

The puzzles in this game varied from dead easy to quite difficult. There is a tangram puzzle (one of my favorite types) late in the main game that has only ONE acceptable solution. Generally with tangram puzzles, as long as you fit all the pieces into the space, you are successful. In MOAE, alternative solutions to the one the game demanded were not accepted. People who don't like a challenge might end up wanting to skip it (or have a Game Manual to consult ~ another reason to go for the CE version of the game). There are a couple more toughies, one in the Bonus Game. All the rest were just hard enough to be great fun. I never Skipped a puzzle.

One last thing is that I found the mouse a bit picky. At multiple points in the game, I clicked on an object or clicked a piece of Inventory on it, and got rejected, so I went off and tried other things. However, I had been correct the first time. This can be counterproductive if you don't realize it is happening. Eventually, I did. So, when I got stuck, I would resort to the Hint, and it would send me back there and tell me to use that piece of Inventory the way I had tried already.

There is nothing timed, no stressful fighting, no music puzzles, a few easy sliders but not that horrid kind (none of the old hand-held numbers slider type). There are no Collectibles, hence, no annoying pop-ups. Another reason I enjoyed MOAE.

I loved this game. A few years back, I had played SOTD: Temple of Night and was sorely disappointed by it. I don't think I would have tried another without a push from 8dognight. MOAE is now in my Top Ten, and pushed another game off that roll. I now am going looking for more games in this series. happydance

Posted By: 8dognight

Re: Your Favorite Casual Games - Reviews and Recommendations - 06/04/18 03:41 PM

Shadow Shelter

Nevosoft, 2014

You play as a detective or possibly specialist demon-catcher. Your exact role as hero or dupe is never explained other than with the musing this is a strange case because your client believes that the heir to an estate in Scotland still resides there despite the fact the owners disappeared 40 years ago.

There are no pop-ups or collectibles whatsoever that I remember so if there are some they can't be too bad.

The graphics are precise and detailed. The opening cutscene and the first HO do not live up to the care that went into the rest of the scenes, puzzles, and HO screens.

The final puzzle is timed but you only get thrown out then start again. It's a simple puzzle. I did it on the second try, and I avoid timed puzzles because I can't beat them 99% of the time. The only other one that is timed merely throws you out but retains your progress. Several other puzzles require some thought and most of them are visually pleasing.

The last cutscene dangles the possibility of a sequel and at the same time is a satisfying "Twilight Zone" type twist, not a cliffhanger.

There is a transport map; however, even using the map be prepared for longish loading times. The game is worth the waits.

The main creative force behind the game seems to have been its producer, Alexandra Ryabchikova, who also got a writing credit in Vampireville. Shadow Shelter's designer was Svetlana Verevkina. I am hopeful Nevosoft and Ryabchikova and Verevkina will make a sequel that is worthy of Shadow Shelter, particularly in terms of the visuals and the writing.

ETA: I liked the supporting character whose sleight of hand guides the structure of the game. On reconsideration, I think reprising his role would be difficult without turning him into just another gimmick.
Posted By: 8dognight

Re: Your Favorite Casual Games - Reviews and Recommendations - 06/06/18 03:11 PM

Echoes of the Past: Kingdom of Despair

From: Orneon, 2013

Orneon has made many games I like.

"Kingdom of Despair" is the fourth or so in the "Echoes of the Past" line and was my favorite in this series until I replayed "Revenge of the Witch" for the third time.

The bones of the quest structure are similar to "Portal of Evil: Stolen Runes" from 8Floor Ltd except that in "Kingdom of Despair" you are finding amulets that unlock a passage home while in "Stolen Runes" you are relocking the gates of hell. "Kingdom of Despair" is a more complicated game than "Stolen Runes." One pleasant feature is the emotional strength of "Kingdom of Despair" in that the goal is helping adversaries, even minor ones, to be their better selves and being kind plays out in various ways with NPCs. This comes at the expense of ugly and old shaming in terms of physical characteristics. I forgive that because the goal is to bring people together, not separate them through the fear of the other premise that animates so much of fantasy and horror fiction.

The artwork is good. Characters' lips do not move during voiceover, which is fine with me.

I gather from the credits that Natalia Milkevich was the main creative force behind the game but I can't be certain.

Echoes of the Past: Revenge of the Witch

From Orneon, 2012

I played this for the third time recently and got just as lost as I did the first and second times. The game follows its interior logic well. I'm the one that never learns to make notes when playing casual games. "Revenge of the Witch" is now my favorite in the series.
Posted By: Mad

Re: Your Favorite Casual Games - Reviews and Recommendations - 06/08/18 05:23 AM

I've posted in the past on this board about the "Vampire Saga" series :

Break Out
Pandora’s Box
Welcome to Hell Lock

I really enjoyed all three. But they might not appeal to everyone as they are a "no frills" type of production where you dive right in and get straight to the business laugh
Posted By: 8dognight

Re: Your Favorite Casual Games - Reviews and Recommendations - 06/08/18 10:16 PM

Mountain Crime: Requital

From: Alawar Stargaze, 2011

This is a noir murder mystery whose developers also made the Twisted Lands games.

Mountain Crime: Requital starts with the usual car wreck leaving your vehicle teetering on the edge of the usual abyss. You play as Dr. White called to an emergency at the remote White Wolf Hotel. Once you cross the chasm the game, a take on “Ten Little Indians" by Agatha Christie with a tongue in cheek nod to the board game Clue, gets good.

For comments on the setting, NPCs, and a tad of back story on the player character, you can click on many objects in different screens that are not highlighted either by a change in the wolf paw cursor or by a hand. That indicates to me developers put some thought into the ambience and immersiveness of the game. Among White's nonessential to the story quirks: He likes lava lamps and is a little afraid of horses although he rode as a child. He has a girlfriend who is a brilliant pianist whom he hopes to live long enough to see again.

You get a journal and map; in addition, scattered throughout the hotel and grounds are relevant newspaper articles, diaries, bank records, and a few other documents included for the sake of back story, for example, different price lists for horseback riding and skiing. White also makes notes on the numerous characters encountered along the way, mostly as bodies, sometimes as soon to be victims.

This is not a gross-out game, and the artwork other than in cutscenes is good.

The HOs use an annoying wheel technique. The dialog leaves something to be desired but isn't the worst I've heard, and I only mention this to forestall disappointment.

A few of the puzzles were hard for me; most were easy.

ETA: If you want a non-cliffhanger ending and have figured out the twist, skip the final cutscene confrontation. I did the first time I played in part because the cutscene was technically dreadful.
Posted By: 8dognight

Re: Your Favorite Casual Games - Reviews and Recommendations - 06/15/18 03:05 PM

Mystery Murders: The Sleeping Palace

From: @Casual Arts, 2013

In a 19th century European country, all five members of the scheming and dysfunctional Laroche family have plummeted into comas. They are the hereditary rulers of an unnamed nation, which I hereby christen the Grand Duchy of Larochebourg.

The player character is Sophia, a commoner engaged to one of the king’s sons. Sophia awakens with amnesia that gradually fades as she locates clues to the cause of the malady while restoring a magical steampunk AI that runs the palace. Noni Lewis credibly and artfully voiced Sophia. I liked listening to her as she uncovers a gold-plated soap opera of love triangles and thwarted ambitions. From the diaries and letters scattered around, I speculate the snoozing monarch wasn’t much of a reader; otherwise he would have known his palace is a hotbed of scandal.

The designer who planned the hotspots and structured inventory use is humblingly smarter than I. However, Mystery Murders: The Sleeping Palace is not an intrinsically hard game if attention is paid to surroundings and to the possibility of misdirection. I didn’t do that, so I forgot where to use inventory and missed hotspots both times I played. I always like that kind of challenge, which is not a pixel hunt but rather a gauntlet stitched with the words "stay alert" heaved into my corner.

Most of the screens are attractive although all are flat; visual unity is marred by too much scene to scene stylistic variation in the artwork. The Laroches' taste is already eclectic enough without that. A palace tour would range from harmoniously lavish rooms to a Smithsonian wing to catacombs. The stables are a treat, very old-school European. Unfortunately, Sophia only visits them once.

Downsides: It is not always possible to back out of puzzles, and don’t expect the amusingly Baroque tangle of Laroches’ lives to be resolved.

Mystery Murders: The Sleeping Palace works as a timely cautionary tale whose point I did not catch as other than a cliché the first time I played.
Posted By: Reenie

Re: Your Favorite Casual Games - Reviews and Recommendations - 06/21/18 08:23 PM

I just finished playing the CE version of Secrets of the Dark: Eclipse Mountain. This game was a HUGE hit with me, for so many reasons. The graphics are excellent, clear and add a great deal to the feeling of each scene. The sound track is not overdone, although the musical theme was repetitious. The game designers left out the annoying pop-ups and searches for useless Special Items. The puzzles are delightfully pesky; I don't think a single one was a gimmee.

The game has a few unique features that I found engaging. First, it has scenes that you learn can be “morphed” into an alternate reality, once you find the necessary Inventory to effect the morph. This is not only fun but increases the number of scenes to be explored, and adds complexity to the puzzle-solving and to the game overall. Second, there are spirit gurus (I don't know what else to call them) who offer to accept certain objects that you find and transform them into useful Inventory, a novel way to acquire those miscellaneous crowbars, puzzle pieces or grappling hooks. Third, half the puzzles themselves are the usual rotation/fill-in/slider type and but at least half are novel to this game. I didn't regard any them as groaners, looked forward to and enjoyed solving them all, and had no need to Skip any. Fourth, the game is not linear at all, but is interlaced with side quests and necessary actions and development of Inventory that required you to explore and examine the entire game world before completing some tasks that arise at the very beginning. (For example, I encountered a bucket at the beginning of the game that knew I could use, but I was not able to retrieve it until I almost was finished with the game.)

I played this game over a period of four days, for a few hours each time. I found it absolutely necessary to take good notes, especially because of the morphing rooms and because you did a great deal of back-and-forth in the game. Also, you will forget where the three spirit gurus are, if you don't make a note of where they stand. I don't believe there is a single location that you visit only once in this game; more likely, you will return to each location (whether morphed or not) multiple times.

There are no action scenes, no combat, nothing stressful or timed, nor any need for agility or hand-eye coordination. Some of the HO scenes involved finding very small items, indeed, and I did sometimes have to resort to a Hint to find the final item.

If we still were allowed to give grades in game reviews, I'd give this game a solid A. The only reason it wouldn't get an A+ from me is that the game had no Map (unless you play on the very easiest setting). I have SOTD: Flower of Shadow waiting in the wings, and can't wait to start it!
Posted By: 8dognight

Re: Your Favorite Casual Games - Reviews and Recommendations - 06/25/18 05:17 PM

Secrets of the Dark: Eclipse Mountain


This post is a brief second of the post above from Reenie. I had forgotten this one. Eclipse Mountain is far and away better than Flower of Shadow. In addition to the puzzles being wonderful, the environmental sounds are brilliantly handled and the deftly rendered setting is South East Asia, not a place these games often take us.

Posted By: 8dognight

Re: Your Favorite Casual Games - Reviews and Recommendations - 06/25/18 05:46 PM

The Agency of Anomalies: Mystic Hospital

From: Orneon, 2011

The graphics are precise and detailed. Clicking on many items not hotspots or not highlighted by a cursor change yields a remark. The gameplay is adventurish. For me, the HO screens are a downside in that once you find an item another one appears in its place; some of the HOs require replacing items.

The protagonist is male. He has taken on the job of neutralizing several now out of control victims/subjects of a World War I military experiment using paranormal beams to create perfect soldiers. You don't have to be a hardcore science fiction or horror fan to know mixing soldiers with paranormal beams is as bad an idea as splitting up to search a haunted house.

The screens tend toward medical grunge, which is not one of my favorites. "Mystic Hospital" has a lot of offsetting good qualities that allowed me to relinquish distaste and settle into the game. Among them, this is not an easy game; although many of the puzzles are a fast solve, the final one still confounds me because you can replay mini games only if you completed them in the main game, a disappointment I have managed to forget twice.

Other info:

The collectibles are period wartime photos.

Doesn't cover the screen on my computer, and I use the system cursor.

The layout of the setting reminds me of "Charles Dexter Ward."

The main creative forces behind the game seem to have been Sergey Bigas and Olexander Komarov.

Bonus adventure moral: Be sure your paranormal beam is in good repair before setting foot in a parallel universe.

Enigmatis: Mists of Ravenwood

From: Artifex Mundi, 2013

I liked this game best in the screens that are precise and detailed, for example, in parts of the dungeon and some of the puzzles. Most of the establishing shots are too clunky and ill-defined verging on slapdash. That said, the story is not run of the mill in spite of starting off with a kidnapping. In "Mists of Ravenwood" we team up with an archangel imprisoned below a redwood forest roadside attraction to rescue victims of a demonic cult whose powers arise from illusions, brainwashing, and the supernatural.

"Mists of Ravenwood" also has an unusual and creative evidence board.

Enlightenus II: The Timeless Tower

From: Blue Tea, 2010

This normally is not my kind of game because it is a series of HOs but these are extraordinarily clever HOs. The adventuring is minimal. The first Enlightenus has the same format and is enthralling, too.

Haunted Hotel: Charles Dexter Ward

From: Specialbit, 2012

Don't expect a hotel at all or much Lovecraft except in the names and a bit of the story. Not getting too entwined in following the Lovecraft namesake is a good thing.

The protagonist is male in this standout casual game with some tough puzzles.

The Others

From: Paprikari, 2014

I've played this through twice. The Others is science fiction with mystical "Chariots of the Gods" underpinnings. There is no map that I recall and a lot of ground to cover as you try to figure out why all the workers in a toy factory disappeared. One very adventure game type puzzle drove me nuts. The ending is a bit unresolved. That's okay when a game is this good.

Stylistically the artwork took some getting used to; however, it's good and appropriate to the subject. The appearance is detailed Disney-esque any town and citizens meet Art Deco.

Shiver: Poltergeist

From: Artogon, 2012

The theme of Poltergeist is similar to Death and Betrayal in Romania, reunite spirits separated in life. Poltergeist is the better game and in my estimation is up there with Nutcracker, Mercy of the Gallows, Mystery of the Ancestral Estate, Charles Dexter Ward, Stolen Runes, Turning Thorn, and a handful more.

Timeless: The Lost Castle

From: Boolat, 2013

Opening line: "My journey began as a whisper in the night."

In a dream we are instructed to go to Europe, find a mysterious masked figure in a glyph embroidered red robe, and aid an innocent soul. The screen fades to a shot of an airliner angling east through clouds into sunrise. The player character may be impulsive but notice the good auguries here. The action starts without having to pack a suitcase or find keys and a passport or any other typical story stalling impedimenta. Lost Castle ably fulfills that early sign of narrative competence.

As you probably already know, this is a long and wonderful game with some tough puzzles and beguiling artwork.

No violence or gore. No manual dexterity based puzzles. I almost never play games that include the latter. When replaying "Lost Castle" I did come up with a small caveat. While "Lost Castle" is not a fairy tale, it does share a quality with many fairy tales in that the basis of the story is grisly.

True Fear: Forsaken Souls

From: Goblinz, 2014

The first two times I tried True Fear: Forsaken Souls I didn't get past the opening sequence shown as a view from a bank of security camera monitors, so be warned. While the brutality is toned down by lack of detail and the brief use of black and white instead of color, the scene is off-putting and very nearly kept me from ever exploring this ably crafted tale. The third time, I skipped the beginning. Thereafter the game itself eschews graphic horror and plays out as a psychological thriller undergirded by a supernatural premise. As I recall, there is only one scare screen and it is bloodless. In defense of Goblinz's choice of opening, the sequence does work and sets up the action well.

Immersive casual games with this much story are few and far between, and I have played through to the end twice. My only gripes are that most of the screens aren't as crisp as I like and the cursor is too large and clumsy in appearance.

Posted By: Reenie

Re: Your Favorite Casual Games - Reviews and Recommendations - 06/27/18 09:46 PM

If you are familiar with the Secrets of the Dark series, you'll know what I just experienced playing SOTD: The Flower Shadow. It is another large game that requires several days to play, is chock full of great puzzles of many kinds, and is a game that necessitates generating copious notes. It includes a Map. As is my usual preference, I played the CE version in the Custom mode, so I can't speak for any differences that might occur in playing the SE version. The graphics and sound were not exceptional but still above average compared to other casuals.

This game has Collectibles and Morphing Objects, so those who want to collect while playing will be happy. You can ignore them all and it won't change anything. If you find all of the Collectibles, there is a very pesky mini-game reward at the end. It was dead easy to spot every Collectible in each scene, and I wanted to play that mini, so I dutifully went along. I ignored the Morphing Objects.

Most of the puzzles and mini-games are dead easy, but it didn't spoil the game for me. Most were sort of in the middle of the pack. A couple were the challenging kind that you have to pull out paper and pencil (and even colored pencils) to help you solve them. I was happy with those!

Quibbles: 1) If you get stuck and ask for a “Hint,” the direction it gives does not always help. It is the same with some “Clues” that are inexplicable. I don't understand why this should be the case unless it was a cultural thing (the game, as with so many, is of Eastern European origin). 2) Some of the mini-games required a lot of experimentation to get going. Dealing with attacking birds in one scene is an example. You obtain a crossbow with which to shoot them, but you spend time looking around for arrows before you realize that the crossbow came invisibly supplied with them! This is so counter to how most games play out that you don't expect it (BTW, it is dead easy to shoot the birds; not really a “game” at all). 3) One of the puzzles malfunctioned and could not be completed (some of the pieces that were supposed to rotate failed to do so); and twice I had to bail out of non-working puzzles. The rest were terrific.

There is no arcade play, no fighting, no jumping and no timed stuff that I remember.

I found the end of the game to be a bit truncated, after the days of playing. No real “ending” sequence, as with many other games. The Bonus Game (CE version) was shorter than most, and predicated on your having not quite polished off the evil entity after all. Hmmm. It utilized most of the same scenes the game started with originally. It was only moderate in length.
Posted By: Reenie

Re: Your Favorite Casual Games - Reviews and Recommendations - 07/01/18 01:06 AM

The Secret Order: Shadow Breach. I would recommend this to folks who are looking for a loooong game (with an equally satisfying Bonus Game if you buy the CE) that isn't too difficult. The graphics are among the best I've seen in a while and the animations (gentle wind blowing the trees, water flowing, etc) are lovely.

The game has Collectibles and Morphing objects (hence Pop-ups) but can be ignored. If you are into them, most of them are not difficult to find, but if you miss any, the game doesn't let you go back at the end and pick them up like some of the new games are doing.

The game involves a lot of going back-and-forth from one scene to another, so don't expect to enter a site and clean it out before moving on to the next scene. Ain't gonna happen. ha ha Take good notes or be ready to ask for a Hint or check the Map, frequently. Yes, you can "teleport" with the Map. There are a few of those “Simon” puzzles (repeat-a-sequence). There are no music puzzles except one, but you find a walk-through for it. There is no combat or timed stuff, per se, except at the very end and that one was laughably easy. In fact, all of the puzzles in the game but one are dead easy, so don't look for a challenge with this game.

Quibbles: There were no surprises and no real challenges. It has a couple of bad puzzles. One had those rotating rings where you have to sort the colored marbles to fit a given pattern. I don't enjoy those much but I do them. This one was a 3-ring circus and took forever. Second bad puzzle was near the end, where you have to rearrange puzzle pieces ~ but if you start off wrong, the puzzle has no Reset button! Since there was no way to restart it and you couldn't back up within the puzzle, I had to Skip the darned thing. Inexcusable.

I bought the CE, which comes with a Game Manual. I actually resorted to it a couple of times (see “Take good notes” above ~ha ha), but the main reason I go for the CE is for the extra play in the Bonus Game. This one definitely was worth it! Hours of extra play.
Posted By: Reenie

Re: Your Favorite Casual Games - Reviews and Recommendations - 07/04/18 07:47 PM

Shadow Shelter: I bought Shadow Shelter and played it this week. This is one helluva game, although it does have its quibbles (see below). It is available as an SE only, but still was long enough to be satisfying. It takes a lot of patience and thoroughness to get the most out of the game and not be frustrated. Definitely not for “game butterflies” who want an easy coast through a game. Fair warning!

The game takes place in an abandoned mansion: quiet, gloomy, dark, ruined, haunted. The artwork is fantastic. There was a lot of effort put toward setting and scenery. Even in a scene where you spend only a few minutes on an HO, the artwork is terrific. And as far as HO scenes go, this game has LOTS of them. There are no Collectibles and Morphs to seek. This is the kind of game where you explore and return to various rooms repeatedly; none of that going into a room, "doing" it, and not going back.

There is a music puzzle with three dancing dolls in one scene and it is just terrible, if you don't like them. I understood I was supposed to set the music to some theme, but no clue at all what that theme was ~ times three. Fortunately, the Big Fish Game Forums all still are accessible even though no longer active, so you can get either a hint or a big push, whatever you want. You also can Google the game title for more help elsewhere if you simply want the answer.

There are a variety of mini-games, some with quite clever new ideas. I enjoyed every one. There is a disembodied “hand” that is a big help throughout the game, and you'll come back to it repeatedly. You can't get anywhere without learning how to use it.

Near the end, there is a puzzle involving re-assembling two mechanical door guards (easy to do) and then setting their bodies and arms into designated positions to open a gateway (not easy). I had not encountered the usual clue for this during the game, so I was stuck, but good. Even when I went to the Big Fish forums and looked for help, their advice did not work (I was supposed to have found the key during the game, but did not, and when I went back with their directions, it wasn't there). I had to search the Internet for an image showing this puzzle's answer. Grrrr. I would rather have solved it, so I guess this would be considered a "Quibble," as well.

At the end of the game, there is a “Boss,” but he is easy to defeat if you understand that you just need to find and click on all the runes in the scene before he strikes you the first time. If you fail, you are bumped out of the room and have to re-enter. No biggee. It took me three tries, but I did it, and I don't like timed scenes like that at all. There also is a pesky assemble-the-clock puzzle, but it is more of an HO and not timed.

Quibble: The navigation in the game was very tiresome, and the Map contains no labels for the many rooms! (Who gives you a Map with no labels?) When you first enter a room, it tells you what the room is, but after that, nothing. You will go back and forth among the many rooms frequently, and if you don't draw and label your own map as you go along, you'll have to remember or guess which room to enter or click in the game Map. Why is this a problem, you ask? Because, each time you pass from one room to another, there is a delay while a graphic plays, showing feet moving from one room to another. At first, this is cute, but after hours of navigating this way, you REALLY are tired of it. So, I strongly suggest you draw your own Map as you go, and label it.

I enjoyed this game very much. It is closer in feel to an Adventure game than most HO-type games. It is kind of unique in its quirkiness and ingenuity, and I forgive it for its two annoying puzzles. I definitely will play it again!
Posted By: Marian

Re: Your Favorite Casual Games - Reviews and Recommendations - 07/05/18 12:34 AM

League of Light: Dark Omens Collector's Edition

The developer is Mariaglorum.

I am in the middle of a second replay of this game at the moment and it is just as good as ever. While nothing new in the story department, I think this is an excellent game: beautiful graphics, interesting HOP scenes, inventory neither dead obvious or obscure in terms of figuring out where it can be used, good soundtrack, a journal/diary, and a generous length. The bonus game is easily another one to two hours and is very good. There are collectibles, but you will not find banners popping up all that often; it's kept to a relative minimum. This game was released in 2013 and I find it just as entertaining now as it was then.
Posted By: Reenie

Re: Your Favorite Casual Games - Reviews and Recommendations - 07/07/18 12:07 AM

I just finished two days of playing Mystery Murders: The Sleeping Palace. 8Dognight already has given a review on this one, so you know the story and the graphics. I will only add comments that she did not.

This is one of the more “Adventure” type HO games I've played, but there still are a lot of HO scenes. There are no Collectibles, but there is a lot of Inventory to collect. (I had so much stuff tucked into my bodice that Mae West would be outclassed.) The thing is, I often was in the position that “What I have I don't need, and what I need I don't have.” I carried around a miner's pick for most of the game and finally used it in almost the last scene.

Particulars: This is an SE version, so no Bonus Game and no Game Manual comes with it. There is a good Map for navigation/transporting, and all rooms are labeled. The musical sound track is monotonous in the extreme. I turned it off completely. There is a Music Puzzle but you are guided through it; not really a “puzzle.” There is a Magic Square sort of puzzle, but one of the easiest I've encountered. Start with the four corners, because there is only one solution for each, then move to the middles of each side. After that, simply rotate the center until it gives you the "All Done!" There are Pipe Puzzles and they are dead easy; in fact, all of the puzzles are. Mostly, what you do is locate the items you need to activate the next puzzle or the next zone.

Caveats: Fist, you'd better take good notes of what is available in each scene, and what remains to be done. The Map does not indicate where something needs to be done. Clicking on "Hint" in a given scene will not always be rewarding. That is one thing that made it Adventure-like. I got so stuck at one point that I looked up a WT to see what I had missed. A second caveat is related to this: Some hot spots are very small. Third, when you complete a puzzle, the game may bounce you out and you think that is it, you're done. Don't believe it for a minute. Go back in and look. Reward Goodies are often waiting.
Posted By: Reenie

Re: Your Favorite Casual Games - Reviews and Recommendations - 07/12/18 12:32 AM

Rite of Passage: Hackamore Bluff. Rite of Passage is a checkered series, of which I have played eight and would recommend only a few. I'm underwhelmed by this one. The graphics are decent and varied, the sound quality is good, and the acting fine as far as it goes. It is an OK game but not great, always just about there but not going the extra mile.

Also, it is odd that the game hangs onto the title intro, "Rite of Passage." We all know what a Rite of Passage is: It is a time in young people's lives when they must succeed in a mental or physical challenge posed by their culture that is a ritualistic demarcation of the boundary between childhood and adulthood. Succeeding in this challenge literally is a "Passage" to adulthood. The first game in this series utilized that plot line. Succeeding stories in the series only nodded at it or ignored it totally, and this game was one that had no essence of any "passage" ritual in it. It starts from nowhere and ends there again.

The game is VERY easy. Even the sliders are easy. There are rotation puzzles; again, easy. There is a repeating “Simon” type puzzle and even that is not difficult. Still, the puzzles are not all a snap because, once in a while, you can't figure out WTH you are supposed to do, and if you can, it isn't clear how to do it. Maybe this would make it more “puzzling” to some gamers. There isn't any real combat and nothing arcade-like or timed. With the CE, there were Morphing Objects and Collectibles; I don't know if the SE version would have those.

As usual, I played the CE version, but the Bonus Game was not very long and basically invalidated your success in banishing the troublesome entity at the end of the Main Game by having you do it all over again in the Bonus round. So, I would not say it was worth the extra CE cost.

I guess I'm giving Hackamore Bluff a lukewarm recommendation. I would recommend other games in this series, instead. The older Child of the Forest was better, with an original story, beautiful artwork and some challenging mini-games. Even Sword and Fury was much better, with great art, good mini-games, long playing time and a decent Bonus Game. I recommend it, as well.
Posted By: 8dognight

Re: Your Favorite Casual Games - Reviews and Recommendations - 07/27/18 08:02 PM


JetDogs Studios: 2017

Cursed, which I have played twice, is a standard edition without collectibles. The heroine is a young woman determined to find her fiance, the devoted and hapless Albert, who failed to return from what she discovers was a difficult job, building a gate to hell for a demon with a penchant for multiple and complicated NDAs, er, soul buying contracts. The setting is a decaying stately house and grounds. The interiors are sparsely furnished yet carefully detailed, a stylistic choice I vastly prefer to fuzzily rendered.

The voice acting for other than the two main characters isn't great by any stretch. The writer or translator went to some trouble to create amusingly plausible 19th century prose in Albert's undelivered letters as he becomes earnestly and increasingly dismayed that the love of his life has not written back. The voiceover of these letters, which some players may think a bit lengthy although I did not, adds sufficient characterization to give me the faintest glimmer of two people who care about each other, an achievement rare in the genre.

The puzzles are on the easy side. I don't remember any that were timed or required manual dexterity. Most of the HOs are reasonably attractive if a bit blah. All are handled in a manner that avoids making list items teeny-tiny, not that I care. I'll take eye candy over easy to spot display any day.

Small caveat: Two places require you to kill Lovecraft inspired creatures. The first is close to bloodless where early in the game you dispatch Cthulhu's ugly cousin; the second, much later in the action, could be problematic for some people because it is part of an arcane--aren't they all?--ritual with a pentagram that must be filled with monster blood in order to save dear Albert, so fair warning here.

JetDogs also developed Alchemy Legends: Prague Mysteries, Dracula's Legacy (as a casual), and the flawed but enjoyable Frankenstein: Master of Death. All of these are worth looking into. Skip the insoluble slider in Frankenstein: Master of Death, chuckle at the hilariously bad monster, and wonder how a derelict VW Beetle came to share a path with the reanimated tiger.

1 Moment of Time: Silentville

From: 2 Monkeys, 2012
Posted By: Starcom

Re: Your Favorite Casual Games - Reviews and Recommendations - 07/28/18 06:20 AM

I am currently replaying Mystery Case Files (MCF): Black Veil and I totally agree with Reenie's comment re: Of this game series, one of the Top 3. Superb, creepy, more Adventure than HO.
Posted By: 8dognight

Re: Your Favorite Casual Games - Reviews and Recommendations - 07/30/18 01:52 PM

9: The Dark Side


9: The Dark Side of Notre Dame

From Play Favorite Games, 2012 and 2013

Of these two games the first, 9 Dark Side, is the superior. It is one of the few games employing runes and an amulet to find them with not runed by the mechanic. The overarching concept is deceptively simple. You play as the last descendant of an ancient order. Your goal is to find the 9 amulets belonging to ghostly council members who bestow their power upon you so that you can defeat the dark side. Dark Side is complex; the graphics are beautiful with carefully laid out screens; some of the puzzles are tough to crack. I've played three times and never solved the bell tower puzzle, which is a move the blocks with another block devil. I am terrible at those although I always spend hours trying.

Notre Dame is also for the most part beautiful and deliciously tricky in terms of game play; however, I think someone messed with the structure and threw in elements to make the setting more relatable, annoyingly so, like the mime in a park who wants his picture taken, that while not necessarily intrinsically dull are made so by mediocre graphics. The out of gas chainsaw behind the mime is inherently boring padding. The screens inside the cathedral are stunning. You get a bullied gargoyle as a helper. I almost quit playing the first time over that then decided to give the developers plus points for originality in presenting an additional character with a unique personality. I don't remember having to find any runes with an amulet as in the first game, so I'm speculating designers wisely realized that glasses for magical myopia were only going to work once. Too bad other game companies did not reach the same conclusion.

ETA: I take it back about the amulet. It's there. Wishful thinking on my part. I did replay it fairly recently and only went back to check for the device today. It's not oppressively employed.

Haunted Manor: Queen of Death

Top Evidence Studio, 2011

Queen of Death is a tale of sibling rivalry set apparently in mid Victorian Great Britain, judging by the railroad car, but I'm not certain. There’s a mine, so maybe the family were coal barons in Wales. Away at school, Christie gets a letter from her invalid sister. Their parents are dead; Christie should return home at once.

The artwork is good, and the numerous HO screens are visually pleasing. The items are small which doesn't bother me when the art is this attractive. The audio sections with a classical music score are a welcome contrast to the music in most games. The game covers the whole screen on my most recent laptop which is not Windows 10. No map but you don't need one. Some sparkles.

Elena and Alexey Tugaenko were the main creative forces; Peter Lysenko was the artist.

Witch Hunters: Stolen Beauty

Top Evidence Studio, 2012

Alexey Tugaienko (presumably the same person as in Haunted Manor: Queen of Death, just a different spelling) and Peter Lysenko again teamed up and provided a compelling game that doesn't rely on a kidnapping as such.

HOs have some repetition of objects.

Posted By: Reenie

Re: Your Favorite Casual Games - Reviews and Recommendations - 08/06/18 08:37 PM

I finished Hidden Expedition: Altar of Lies today, and with it, Eipix finally put out a great game in this series that I wouldn't hesitate to recommend. Seriously, the three I tried previously were so simplistic and so short that I left myself a note: "The games in this series are too short and too easy/simple. Targeted at children? No more of these!"

I played the CE version and felt the Bonus game was worth it; it finishes the story. I played with all the aids turned off (Sparkles, Hints, etc.) except for the right to Skip a puzzle; I learned the hard way on that option in previous games.

The game predominately takes place in a South American jungle, (with a diversion into an urban area headquarters) and the landscape is lushly presented. The graphics within the game are clean, sharp, well balanced and contribute to the story and atmosphere. It is Indiana Jones-ish, including falling off cliffs and dealing with collapsing pillars, plus a competing bunch of archaeological-pillagers-cum-Rule-the-World types who wouldn't mind causing you to have an unfortunate and permanent accident.

There are pop-ups every time you find any of the three "Collectibles" scattered throughout almost every scene and most of the HO scenes, but there is no need to pursue them. They gain you nothing. The HO scenes themselves tend to be creative, not just Find-the-Hockey-Stick. They are relevant, for the most part, but there is the odd piece of inventory that has nothing to do with where you are. There are a few HO scenes of the type that don't give a List of items to search for but show the name of only ONE object at a time. Until you find it, you don't get another object to search for in the scene. That can be a pain and I chafed at the restriction. Why design it like that?

The puzzles vary from childishly easy to real head-scratchers that you'd be best advised to pull out the paper and pencil in order to keep the parameters straight. One puzzle at the very end was bad enough (a horror of a rotation puzzle) that I was glad to Skip it. Nasty thing! ha ha Once or twice, I could not decipher the constraining mechanics of a puzzle in order to begin solving it. If you are supposed to sort things in a 1-2-3-4 way, is that symbol of a snake curling around and biting its own tail in a roughly 4-sided shape meant to be a 4 or a zero? Does an "X" with a vertical line through it mean the total should be the Quantity 3 or is it an "X" crossing out the Number 1? ~ and so on. Still, the game included some of my favorite kinds of puzzles and I was happy with it.

There isn't any arduous shooting or timed stuff. There are a couple of "pursuit" scenes but they aren't serious threats and there is only one simple arcade-ish sequence that is so easy to do that even I had no trouble with it.

Overall, I enjoyed the game and marked it to Replay. There is something in it for everyone.
Posted By: Reenie

Re: Your Favorite Casual Games - Reviews and Recommendations - 08/09/18 07:21 PM

I finished Witch Hunters: Stolen Beauty today, a game I would not have purchased without 8dognight's recommendation, I am that tired of the witch trope. It was excellent, for a number of reasons. It also had its less-than-perfect moments. I played the game on the hardest setting, so my experience would differ from someone's who played on the easiest setting. (For one thing, you'd have all the glimmers telling you where to find stuff.)

The game is large enough to keep you probing and interested. It is not one of those games where you enter a scene, do everything in it, and move on, for good. There are always things you will have to come back to finish, sometimes more than once. There is no Map (for instant Transport), which means you have to do a lot of running around, but the scene changes are short and it isn't a pain. At times, I could not figure out what to do next, usually because a hidden HO scene had generated spontaneously, so I had to keep clicking on the Hint button until it guided me back to that scene where there was something new to do there.

While you are doing all that back-and-forth, you'd better be taking notes (to remember where it was you saw that gate that needed some counterweights to open it, etc.). I had to chuckle when I reached the last few scenes of the game and found two missing inserts for a plaque I encountered at nearly the very first scene in the game. One aspect of the game that was fun was acquiring magic skills as you solved problems. Each of the five people who need your help bequeaths you a magic ability after you have freed them. These range from seeing through things to taming wild creatures.

There are no voices in this game. You “speak” to people by reading the text of what they have to say. This felt retro, but didn't bother me. There is a repetitive level to the background music that made me turn it down nearly to zero. There are no “Collectibles,” hence no Pop-Ups. There is one set of objects you need to complete as you progress through the game, you can't miss them, and the game keeps a tally of them for you; they are used in the last scene/puzzle.

There is a music puzzle, but you can do it easily, without knowing music. Just watch the order the keys are struck. None of the rest of the puzzles is difficult except for one stinker that was a combination of a rotation puzzle and one of those 9-square numbers puzzles (as if one or the other were not pesky enough, they had to combine them?). It occurred near the end and is the only thing I skipped in the entire game.

A Couple of Quibbles:
1) There is a slight offset of correspondence between the Inventory item you are using and your game cursor. It was awkward. Even late in the game, I was still having some difficulty clicking an Inventory item on the right pixel. The hot spots are much smaller than in most other games, and you have to get pretty close to get that “Click” to register.

2) When I finished and wanted to start the Bonus Game, I couldn't find it. Usually, the Bonus Game is located in “Extras.” Not in this case. You find it by opening “Change Player” option (?). Then you look down on the bottom right of the screen to find the Bonus Game button. I almost deleted my progress by clicking on the wrong thing.

Two thumbs up on this game. Thanks, 8dognight.
Posted By: 8dognight

Re: Your Favorite Casual Games - Reviews and Recommendations - 08/15/18 04:04 PM

Detective Quest: The Crystal Slipper

Elephant, 2012

You play as a French detective, I'm guessing patterned on Eugene Francois Vidocq, whose renown has reached the ears of a prince in a fairy tale kingdom. From there, the story is a take on Cinderella.

The artwork is good and reminds me of Nutcracker, particularly in the royal kennel; that is a big positive in terms of overall quality. The puzzles are far easier than in Nutcracker although there is a simple slider with over 20 tiles at the end of the bonus. I promise it is doable because I managed it without taking so much time that I forgot what the rest of the story was. I tend not to finish bonus games; I completed this one. In terms of adventuring, Detective Quest: The Crystal Slipper is, for me, a bit trickier than Nutcracker.

The game universe isn't huge but is plenty large enough and locations must be revisited, which I like. I often think less of a game's design and narrative structure if the pattern is three or four screens, then a wall slams down and I am forced forward with previous locations blocked because unnecessary.

You get a transport map. I rarely used it because the screens are inviting so I didn't mind revisiting them and figured backtracking would help me remember what was where, which it did with varying degrees of success all three times I've played. If you've turned the music way down or off, you might want to turn it back on at the frozen steps guarded by two creatures, possibly yetis.

To enjoy this game, I had to get over riding the expletive-deleted unicorn; I was relieved when my transportation mode switched to a griffin. I have a soft spot for griffins and even for regular medievally caparisoned chargers. A game has to have a full panoply of redeeming qualities to cancel out my feeling like an idiot on a unicorn, and Detective Quest: The Crystal Slipper more than compensates.
Posted By: Reenie

Re: Your Favorite Casual Games - Reviews and Recommendations - 08/31/18 12:26 AM

The latest installment in the Lost Lands series, Mistakes of the Past, holds up the franchise well. It is a large game with a lot to do (and to Collect, if you're into that) over multiple scene changes and times in the story world's history. You may already be familiar with the characters if you played the previous games in this series: You'll play as your intrepid contemporary gal and meet up again with the main magician from the past, Maaron. You will find yourselves working at cross purposes.

There are lots of things to be fixed and gotten running again, plenty of reasons to flee pursuit, potions to collect ingredients for and prepare, and puzzles up the whazzoo. In short, my kind of game! happydance Some of the puzzles are real stinkers, but that will depend on how Easy or Difficult you choose to play the game (I played will all hints and aids turned off). There are a couple of puzzles whose “Directions” made little sense at all, and figuring out what to do was part of the puzzle. I solved one without ever figuring out what the directions were trying to say. (I still didn't understand, even after solving it.) The CE gives you a Bonus Game that is well worth it, as it continues the story meaningfully, and brings the entire episode to a close.

You'll play blacksmith, doctor, mechanical engineer, chemist and astronomer. You'll get arrested and escape, be pursued and saved by rebels, and be faced with a giant Arachnoid bent on using you in ways you would not prefer. All in good time. The play involves going back and forth in time, encompassing five major sub-worlds/times, and half a dozen locations within each. You'll want to take some notes.

Graphics were excellent without being overdone or relying on super-saturated color and flashing nonsense. Voices were effective and not histrionic. Music was incidental to the play, and not annoying. By and large, people did not do really stupid things in order to advance the plot, meaning you could identify as the main character and not cringe at what she did.

This series has set a level for originality and an immersive, cinematic feeling that few HO series have attained. I was looking forward to it and I was NOT disappointed.
Posted By: Marian

Re: Your Favorite Casual Games - Reviews and Recommendations - 09/25/18 12:46 AM

A Gypsy's Tale: The Tower of Secrets

Released in 2011. From the creator of the Aveyond RPG series, but this game is a HOPA.

Beautifully drawn and with a good storyline, this game does not have hidden object junk piles to sift through; rather, the hidden object scenes have items that are hidden within the scenery itself. It's of the type where you have circles showing what items you need to find and put into the circles in order to get an object. If you haven't played that kind of HOG before, it's because it was popular back when this game was released but appears to have been dropped for the most part now as a game mechanic. There is a nice assortment of puzzles within the game as well. There are many, many things to accomplish in this game and it definitely requires some thought on the part of the player. At some points I found it reminiscent of an old Sierra King's Quest game and for me this was a positive rather than a negative; I would be surprised if the designer did not mention that series as one of her influences.

I was not initially that impressed with the game and the first few screens took some getting used to. I stayed with it, though, and discovered a fun and rewarding game that is not all that easy. One drawback I should mention is that it is not a good game for people with poor eyesight, as some of the items are quite small. A good game for an observant and patient gamer.

Recommended by me as an original and entertaining game from yesteryear. It came out as a standard game at the time; there was no Collector's Edition version. There are no collectibles. It's all game and nothing superfluous.

Posted By: Meems

Re: Your Favorite Casual Games - Reviews and Recommendations - 09/27/18 05:47 AM

Hello all,

Thank you Marian for that reminder (Gypsies Tale). I distinctly remember going blind looking for all those incredibly tiny objects. Annoying as they were did not in any way deflect from the overall enjoyment of discovering the twists and turns of the story line. Story telling being one of the great strengths of Amaranth and much loved and admired by her many RPG fans.

However, though I enjoyed struggling through a Gypsy's Tale, I truly loved her second game, Curse at Twilight: Thief of Souls Collector's Edition. This too is a HOPA with a wealth of cunningly hidden coins which become jumping map pieces for many of the beautiful scenes. There are a lot of conventional hidden object scenes with listed items to either find or match up, many fractured hidden objects of critical items and some very original puzzle layers. A few of them made me lay my head down in defeat while I reached for the skip or hint button. This is a lengthy, robust and somewhat thought provoking game in the line of just how does a fishing rod fit together correctly?

This game may not appeal to everyone but thank goodness you can try before you buy.
Posted By: 8dognight

Re: Your Favorite Casual Games - Reviews and Recommendations - 11/15/18 03:49 PM

True Fear: Forsaken Souls Part 2

Goblinz, 2018

True Fear: Forsaken Souls Part 2 (TFFS2), a sequel to the casual stand-out True Fear: Forsaken Souls Part 1, is the brainchild of Dimmie Azu and Goblinz Studios; Dimmie Azu and Boris Zhevlakov both directed. Maria Verson also co-designed, was a team director, and along with Azu localized. Svetlana Mironets was a lead artist and her work is brilliant as is that of Vladimir Kukhar and Vera Melnik. Mironets was also lead artist in TFFS1. Her skill is unsurpassed. For example, in TFFS1, take a careful look at
Click to reveal..
the first graveyard screens and the deceptively simple William Morris inspired cat wallpaper.
The music, done by Lyell Evans Roeder, Artem Putilov, and Eric Los, is several cuts above that in most games of any genre. The voice acting is flawless.

Without qualification, I recommend playing both Part 1 with the bonus game and Part 2 now, instantly.

As of 11/15/18, TFFS2 is available on Steam but not yet BFG and does not have a bonus adventure. Not to worry. The game has cleverly hidden figurines with text fleshing out characters. Even without a bonus episode TFFS2 took longer for me than most games with one. Not counting starting over after deciding the story was worth savoring in close detail, I estimate the game lasted around 12 to 14 hours for me. I used hints numerous times. If you are a racehorse, the length might be around nine assuming you are not playing on casual and skipping. Also as of 11/15 the bugs, like the shattered mirror puzzle that more or less fixed itself, are ironed out.

Part way through before beginning with a new profile, I checked out IMDB. Dimmie Azu has a "special thanks" credit in Phenomenon: City of Cyan, a game I liked although it in no way approaches this one or the first TFFS in quality. Further investigation of credits yielded Pavel Vesnin, a 3d artist, who did screens for Mountain Crime: Requital and Twisted Lands: Origin, two others I liked.

TFFS2's graphics surpass those in the first game by several powers, and the adventuring is more complex. The set-up is reminiscent of an MCF whose opening I particularly enjoyed where a television paranormal investigator preceded the protagonist's arrival. In TFFS2, forgive the all too familiar automobile accident. The sequence provides back story from Part One and reintroduces our heroine, Holly Stonehouse, one of triplets, who is continuing to plumb the secrets surrounding one of her sister's existence, the other's death, and their mother's life. The setting is an ostensibly long abandoned Art Deco asylum. Medical grunge did not slow me down. That is saying something; in general I favor beauty over poking through detritus in and around a derelict institution, never mind that architecturally the buildings have good bones. Plenty of real bones here, heh, heh, heh.

Most of the time, I played on advanced, not expert. I did have expert set for part of the game. My judgement is that it's safe to play on expert if you don't mind some minor click and drag and don't want either map hints or the ability to skip. My only quarrels with the puzzles are not enough that are logic based and too many jigsaws. The star levers are a delight. The visually lovely compass puzzle isn't a puzzle at all but that's okay. I may be wrong about that because in the middle of the game for half an hour or so by mistake I had a casual difficulty setting toggled. That reminds me, you can set adventure difficulty and puzzle difficulty separately but pay attention if you take a sliding button off expert or advanced. I hope any Part 3 compass challenge incorporates a more complicated version of the moderately intricate logic problem format in Part 1.*

While the journal is a marvel of organization and depth, I still took notes which is rare for me.

There are no annoying banners or, for that matter, HOs. For the BFG release, I hope banners are not included but gather that HOs will be. There are appropriate places to insert them. I didn't miss them. One of the unique elements of Part 1 was the use of a grainy screen to indicate simultaneously an HO screen and "Time present and time past/ Are both perhaps present in time future./ And time future contained in time past."** In TFFS2, the same grayish areas indicate
Click to reveal..
similar temporal shifts (or perhaps minor dimensional blurring as opposed to actual travel) but with puzzles and back story instead of HOs. Time travel or some sort of metaphysical temporal looping is
the cleverest mechanism rationalizing within the four corners of plot embedding objects and journal pages in caches for an entire game that I have come across. In other games, I suppose some of that HOPA convention could be attributed within the game's world to credulity stretching absent mindedness. For the most part, until quotidian object caching, HOs, and even morphing objects (the last mercifully absent here although many players feel an expensive edition is incomplete without them) reach wearying absurdity I accept them much as I do metered forms in poetry, and I would never want to eliminate engaging and incrementally filled in journals complete with notes from third parties for the sake of realism.

If you haven't played Part 1, you are in for a scary treat, and you need to play it before Part 2. Part 1 stands on its own as a complete game with a Twilight Zone type twist ending regardless of the "to be continued" inter-title message at the conclusion. Buy the Collector's Edition so that you can play the bonus game as prequel to or interlude before Part 2. The bonus doesn't fit seamlessly into Part 2 but is integrated well enough and is worth the extra cost in terms of length and play.

In Part 1, for some breaking the fourth wall humor be sure to examine the titles of Grandpa David's DIY books on the mantle in the dining room, and if you can read the title that starts with "Life of," I am curious about what the rest of it says. On the exposed side of the cover is a snapshot--that looks to me as if pasted on--of a woman with short black hair; on the spine, a portrait that reminds me of Modigliani. In the extra episode of Part 1 behind a desk is an Art Deco poster thematically identical to a mural in Part 2; on the poster something hard to read is printed, I think in English, that I can't be sure I have deciphered along the bottom in a similar font to the book's spine. It's probably not significant but is intriguing because
Click to reveal..
in the poster someone in medical scrubs is holding what might be part of a brain in a jar and in the mural, the central figure has a small, shiny, two-pronged object in the crook of his elbow. I think but am not positive the poster says something along the lines of: Let me give that which nature has denied you.

In addition to suspense, Part 1 has a sense of poignancy. For example, I thought the return of Cheshire, the aptly named cat, might have been the work of a lonely girl or some portion of her psyche who missed her kitty. Also the estrangement of Holly's grandparents highlights both the central mystery and, oversimplifying here, missed opportunities caused by time. ETA: Part 2 has a bit of that with
Click to reveal..
the teddy bear and the sad little addendum "me no cry" either or both of which may or may not be of ominous import.

TFFS is planned as a trilogy so don't expect the ending of Part 2 to wrap things up in a tidy package. From a lengthy discussion elsewhere, I discovered that what is going on could be
Click to reveal..
supernatural, the result of some scientific advance independent of the supernatural but not believed to be so, a combination of those, or a combination those along with psychosis that may or may not have been produced by the machinations of an evil cabal.
Those conjectures in no way exhaust the possibilities. My personal theory,
Click to reveal..
the tripartite goddess witch slapping the patriarchy,
may yet have a role. It's possible although, sadly for me, unlikely.

The third episode will be the hardest to make to the same high standards. Part 3 will have to address what Stephen King in Danse Macabre calls opening the door: "Nothing is so frightening as what's behind the closed door. The audience holds its breath along with the protagonist as she/he (more often she) approaches that door. The protagonist throws it open, and there is a ten-foot-tall bug. The audience screams, but this particular scream has an oddly relieved sound to it. 'A bug ten feet tall is pretty horrible', the audience thinks, 'but I can deal with a ten-foot-tall bug. I was afraid it might be a hundred feet tall'....You can scare people with the unknown for a long, long time but sooner or later, as in poker, you have to turn your cards up. You have to open the door and show the audience what's behind it."

Azu has mitigated this issue by the use of actual doors, partial revelation techniques, and for a game an unusually large number of characters mostly introduced through flashback and epistolary means. However, whatever is behind the door still looms in the darkness, so don't wait for Part 3 to play. You don't need to know a definitive ending exists beforehand. In fact, it's a good bet you'll interfere with immersion in Part 3 by waiting because absorbing the size of the story in all three games for the first time in one fell swoop may overwhelm some of the fun.

If players have forgotten details of the first two games by the time third is released, a vague sense of familiarity or deja vu will heighten the overall impact, of that much I am positive.

True Fear: Forsaken Souls Part 2 is the best casual adventure in several years, maybe ever. TFFS2 alone and TFFS1 & 2 taken as a unit are the top of my top five and likely to remain there in spite of my not having the least certainty about the intended basis of the plot.

*I am basing the potential for increased compass complexity on
Click to reveal..
an uncorroborated supposition of mine that it may be possible to set time and place in addition to direction. Certainly someone or some entity could at the entrance to the director's office, and the tunnels in both games probably indicate travel of some kind unrelated to the fixed shift in the office.

**T. S. Eliot quote from "Burnt Norton". Eliot concludes "If all time is eternally present,/ All time is unredeemable" thus
Click to reveal..
coming down on a side of the time travel paradox that I suspect some of the characters in TFFS are desperately taking issue with.

Posted By: Reenie

Re: Your Favorite Casual Games - Reviews and Recommendations - 12/03/18 04:11 AM

Vermillion Watch: London Howling
Raves: This is the fourth game in this series that I have played and loved. All of them are on my Replay list. It is a LONG game and engaging all the way. The mini-game that comes with the CE version is a bit short, but still well done and presents additional plot. There is an interesting function to the game in which, at several points, you choose one of the "team" members to help you with a specific quest. This diversion felt realistic. I think this is one game where the CE is worth the extra because you won't want it to end.

If you play for graphics, you'll love the scenery and multitude of environments. If you play for good music and sound effects that feel tailored to the game and not tacked on to fill the silence, you'll enjoy this game. If you play for puzzles and mini-games, this is your game; there are lots of puzzles, and they vary from childishly easy to some that are real head-scratchers. There are no music puzzles, no horrible sliders and nothing that requires advanced math. There are a couple of puzzles that require to you to use some timing, but they are quite simple and aren't at all arduous. As for the "plot," it is the usual evil character wreaking havok and it is up to you to save the world, but there are very few casual games that don't employ that trope. It still carries you forward.

The game gradually ramps up from an odd disturbance in town to a grand quest for the reason behind the werewolf's presence. Locations enhance this, varying from a cozy pet shop to a subterranean secret base. There are no desperate, timed moments and no real fighting. My character never died, nor was he seriously threatened.

Peeves: I played the CE version, so it came with a Game Manual. It was a good thing. There were a couple of mini-games that, even though you solved them, the puzzle did not end nor reward you. Being puzzled by what seemed like the correct solution not working, I looked up the Game Manual. Sure enough, I had it right; it just didn't "finish." I even tried replaying the puzzle, to see if it would turn out differently. No dice. Still no "finish." So I ended up having to Skip those puzzles to move forward in the game. Seems there is little excuse for this.

Unveiling of the evil character behind all the ruckus occurs very near the end of the game and is less than satisfying because it brings nothing at all that is new to the genre. Just the usual greed and the clichéd villain's sneering laugh at the moment of triumph (just before you easily finish off said villain). I'd like to see a game develop some other motivation once in a while.

Extras: There are Collectibles, Morphing Objects and the like as is usual with the CE version. They are not intrusive and I don't remember any game-breaking Pop-Ups. You can skip them, anyway, and I mostly did. I did not see the usual Reward for finding them at the end of the game, in any case. (Sometimes, you get an extra puzzle or other such item. Not this time.)
Posted By: SharonB

Re: Your Favorite Casual Games - Reviews and Recommendations - 12/21/18 05:50 AM

I didn't realize TFFS had a part 2 till I read your recommendation. What an excellent game. I had been long wanting a continuation of this story and came to believe it was never going to happen. The story is very gripping and very confusing, in that I'm never certain what's really going on.
Click to reveal..
Now I find this will be a trilogy. I hope I get to play the final chapter.
- Just wanted to mention that I saw parts 1 and 2 on GOG.

My recommendation at this time would be the Fear for Sale series. I had forgotten how good it was and I started a new playthru of the entire series. Almost finished the bonus chapter of Nightmare Cinema. I can't describe why I like it so much, but it keeps me going. Also doing a playthru of the MCF series. Still working on the first
Ravenhearst game.
Posted By: Taintedfury

Re: Your Favorite Casual Games - Reviews and Recommendations - 01/26/19 11:05 AM

Mystery Case Files: Escape From Ravenhearst SE & CE

Amongst my favorite's these two I would highly recommend.

I absolutely loved the storyline along with the Graphic's, Morphing, Puzzles and Soundtrack.

But at the end Now that I loved the most when they showed the actor's having fun whilst filming..Fantastic!

I wish they remake the original Ravenhearst uhm just a though.

Enjoy Boomers who wish to Replay or Play for the first time. thumbsup
Posted By: Leeana

Re: Your Favorite Casual Games - Reviews and Recommendations - 02/15/19 03:09 PM

The Emptiness ...was spooky Great for me I liked it ... tomato
Posted By: Reenie

Re: Your Favorite Casual Games - Reviews and Recommendations - 02/27/19 12:25 AM

Just finished playing the CE version of this game and liked it enough to recommend it. It is a recent game, so you have all the up-to-date choices for customization. You can turn off Pop-ups, adjust difficulty, tweak the sounds and penalties, etc. You can enable Hints and ask for help whenever you need it. Pretty much make the game what you want it to be, then enjoy.

The story line is typical. A kidnapping starts things off. By the middle of the game, you pretty much have forgotten who it is you are after, though. It is all about the game play and not much about the story. The thinnest of "plots" eventually is explained, and poorly at that.

All found Inventory items have to be "fixed" or made complete before you can use them, of course. If you find an axe, the handle will be missing, etc. Same old same old. What I liked about this game was that you didn't find everything you needed in the same scene. So you needed to keep notes concerning where something needed to be done and with what, and often come back hours (and half a dozen succeeding scenes) later with what you needed to complete that task. Also, many Inventory items were used in unique ways and that makes you think outside the box.

Navigation is easy; the Map lets you skip from one locale to the next. Voice acting is decent although there is not a lot of it. I have no sense of the contribution made by the music sound track; it wasn't a big thing for me. As for your character, you are on your own 95% of the time.

If you like to collect things as you go along, there are Morphing Objects, Souvenirs and Collectible items in every scene. You can ignore them completely and it makes no difference to the story. (BTW, once you finish the game, you can go back and look for all the Collectibles and Souvenirs, if you so desire.)

I play these games for the puzzles and mini-games, and the quality of the puzzles in this game made it fun. It has the usual HO scenes, but it plays with the genre in novel ways. I had to scratch my head a couple of times, trying to figure out how to play each one. So the HO scenes almost felt like mini-games at times. The mini-games and puzzles, themselves, were darned good. Part of the time, you have to figure out what you are supposed to be doing before you can begin to solve a puzzle. There are inventory-based puzzles, mosaic style ones, Rube Goldberg contraptions, a couple of (easy) sliders, and some puzzles of a type new to this game genre and hard for me to explain. There is one math-based puzzle but it was dead easy. There is only one music puzzle and you don't need to read music. No combat or timed stuff.

Game play lasted a long time ~ which is great if you like a game, and I enjoyed this one. I felt like I got my money's worth! I'm playing the Bonus Game now, which feels tacked on but still is engaging. I have no hesitation in recommending this game, and I'm glad I tried it after playing Danse Macabre: Florentine Elegy and rating it only "so-so, and with poorly constructed puzzles." I will definitely replay this one in a year or so.
Posted By: Marian

Re: Your Favorite Casual Games - Reviews and Recommendations - 03/20/19 03:54 PM

Nightmares from the Deep: The Cursed Heart Collector's Edition

Released in 2012

Developer: Artifex Mundi

I am replaying this game right now after having played it once in 2012, and it more than holds its own after seven years. The visuals are wonderful, the music is very appropriate to the theme (pirates in the Caribbean in the 1700s), and the gameplay is solid. There are more HOP scenes in this game than we are accustomed to seeing now in HOPAs, but the HOP scenes show great attention to care and to detail and are largely period appropriate. There is also a really nice journal with notes and objectives. It all comes together to make a very compelling experience and also a lengthy one.

This game was really ahead of its time and is still very much worth playing. Definitely worth checking out if you haven't already. It is also the first part of a trilogy, the second and third games being Nightmares from the Deep: The Siren's Call and Nightmares from the Deep: Davy Jones.
Posted By: Reenie

Re: Your Favorite Casual Games - Reviews and Recommendations - 04/01/19 07:45 PM

I just finished playing Nevertales: The Abomination, the seventh in eight episodes that I know of to date. This is a series that is a bit uneven. Some are pretty good but the puzzles are too easy or the ideas too cliché-ridden (I bailed on the Demo for Nevertales: Smoke and Mirrors). Abomination is darned good, right up there with Beauty Within.

The game is about a writer who has created fantasy worlds that have become "real" in another dimension. Now, that alternate reality is going out of whack, and you have to help save it from annihilation. Not terribly original, but at least there are no kidnappings of family members to spur you on quest.

The game is seriously long and even the Bonus game (CE version, for me) was better than average. There are multiple "worlds" to explore, each with its own culture or environment. There are some innovative puzzles and character interactions (the talking, disembodied heads that helped my character at one point are an instance of the latter).

Pros: The voice acting is far above normal for these games. It has fine and detailed art work that is colorful without being cartoonish, complex, and it all contributes to the mood. Puzzles are challenging most of the time. Oh, there are a couple of mini-games that were sheer agony. I'm not a big fan of the flashing lights whose order you have to memorize and duplicate (the old "Simon" game from the 70's).

Cons: Huge pop-ups. Some aggravating and repetitious puzzles. VERY difficult to find Morphing Objects. And if you like to find CO and MO objects, you'd better find them all before you leave a scene because you can't always go back. At the end of the game, you have no option to go back and find any you missed.

As with all these games, I wish the bad guys were given a more complex motivation and personality. Over and over again, it all comes down to wanting to rule the world, have all the power, etc. Cue the Simon Legree sneery laugh. It gets tiresome.

Still, I loved this game and marked it for Replay.
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