January 8, 2010

New site is:

Site News: Moving? (update)

January 8, 2010

When I first decided to resurrect ADITMO, there were certain things I wanted to be able to do. While I have started regular posting again, I’m not even close to being at 100% of where I want to be and i’m already running into stumbling blocks.

That means that in the very near future I’ll be packing up my things and moving to a shiny new host complete with a new URL and everything.

I don’t know how long this will take, and how long, if at all, the site will have to go down to facilitate this. But I intend to continue posting regular up until moving day. Hopefully there will be a minimal interruption.

On the upside, when we come out the other end of the hiccup, I should be able to do a lot more than I currently am, including hosting some games right here on our own page. So sorry about the inconvenience and hopefully you’ll bear with me through the craziness should it come.

UPDATE: It’s done. Well, it’s not done, but the beginning is done. I mean, I have just purchased two whole years on a hosting server, so aditmo will be making the move to the new server (and dear sweet freedom) as soon as possible.

For a while there won’t be much different, but when all is said and done, the url will be So I’ll keep you informed when I’m informed. or whatever.

Review: Mystery Jigsaw

January 7, 2010

Genre(s): Hidden Object Game/Puzzle/Jigsaw Puzzle/Mystery
Link: Candystand
Difficulty: Medium
Warnings: None
Control Scheme: Mouse
Sherlock Holmes references: Sadly, not nearly enough
Paul and Jenny are your average adolescent siblings. One catch, though. The family home is so big that Paul and Jenny’s parents have allowed a number of friends and family to live in the giant manor as well. Such an arrangement would be tricky enough on holidays, I’m sure, but lately someone’s been sneaking around and committing petty thefts and crimes all about the house!
For each case our young heroes are faced with, you’ll help them first solve a jigsaw puzzle (piecing together the scene of the crime, natch), employ your object finding skills to hunt down clues, and then use your keen prowess of observation and deduction to match the clues with the suspects and finger the true criminal.
So on with our deer stalker caps and magnifying glasses, the game is… ahem… afoot!
Most Hidden Object Games available are typically downloaded games that you have to shell out some change for. That’s why I always get excited when I see a HOG available for free and, even better, playable in your browser. To be fair, many online distributors such as Big Fish Games, have stripped down demo versions of their games available to play online, but it’s just not the same thing.
And along comes Mystery Jigsaw, a free browser based HOG brought to you by Candystand. And I’ll be honest, I’ve paid money for HOGs of lower quality (granted, not that many, but still). Before now, Mysteriez! set the standard for browser based object finding, and in most categories, Mystery Jigsaw outpaces the old numbers based HOG easily.
The visuals are nice and the story is minimal but acceptable, but what really makes Mystery Jigsaw a joy to play is the pacing and gameplay itself. Mystery Jigsaw is set on a standard rhythm: first you build the scene by completing a jigsaw puzzle. Then you find a modest amount of objects. Finally you pinpoint the crook using descriptions of the suspects and the clues you have found. The fascinating thing at work here is that the formula, though repetitive, does an excellent job of keeping the experience fresh. This is clearly a result of constantly switching up between three totally different styles of gameplay where at least two of them have stood the test of time. People like jigsaw puzzles and they like HOGs and switching back and forth works incredibly well.
The final stage of each case is actually somewhat new, but Candystand has done a good job of coming up with a mechanic that is definitely fun and gives you at least a sense of mystery solving. In a way, these final stages give this an almost Clue type feel, which is far from a bad thing.
Mystery Jigsaw has some issues though. For one, I would love to have seen more scenes (see what I did there?). I like what I see and the settings are very done, but this is definitely an area where more is better. Incidentally, this is one area where the Mysteriez! series has a leg up–Mysteriez! and Mysteriez! 2 each have a tone of settings.
Also, being browser based, you’re working with a small area here. This is, obviously, of particular importance given that you really have to scrutinize every detail in a Hidden Object Game. What makes matters worse is that all too often the items that need finding are of the really small variety that could give your peepers a bit of a strain. A full screen mode would do absolute wonders here.
The final bit of criticism is the hint system or lack thereof. In fact, this might be the biggest fault in the game. There is no hint system in Mystery Jigsaw. That in and of itself isn’t terrible, but instead of having a hint system, the items yet to be found will sparkle periodically as time ticks by. This could lead to situations where the location of an object is revealed before you wanted help finding it.
Flaws aside, though, I have every bit of confidence in saying that this is easily the best browser based Hidden Object Game I’ve played, full stop. Indeed, I could probably dig up a few downloaded HOG’s that could take notes from Mystery Jigsaw.

Review: Hoshi Saga Ringo

January 7, 2010

Genre(s): Point and Click/Puzzle/Experimental
Link: Developer’s page
Difficulty: Low
Warnings: None.
Control Scheme: Mouse (point, click, and drag)
Shiny Happy Stars To Put A Smile On Your Face: 25
How magnificent stars are that they should capture our imaginations so. For the thousands of years we have walked this planet, those bright pinpricks of light in the night sky have held us rapt, acting as avatars for ancestors and deities in our folklore, guiding seafarers to home ports, and serving as the backdrop for daring adventures in galaxies far from our own. That these distant suns are in fact stranger and arguably more wondrous than our most fanciful myths is only part of the gravitational pull they hold on our dreams and fancies.
Hoshi Saga Ringo is the latest and most colorful edition to Ishii-san’s beautiful love poem to the stars. For those of you that have never played one of the Nekogames developer’s Hoshi Saga installments before, these games are collections of diverse and varyingly challenging mouse based puzzles. In each one, your goal is to uncover the five pointed star by any means necessary.
It is the goal of uncovering said star that stands as pretty much the only unifying aspect from one mini-puzzle to the next. Beyond that, each puzzle you meet is it’s own entity complete with different visual styles, rules, and of course solutions. While this might not be the best Hoshi Saga to date, it’s definitely a great place to start if you are just getting indoctrinated to the series.
With the advent of Ringo, the Hoshi Saga series now boasts 100 unique puzzles which is an amazing feat and speaks volumes about Ishi’s impressive creativity and ability to innovate. To create 100 individual puzzles is one thing, but to make each one as fun and engaging as the last is something else that really makes this series stand out in the world of alternative gaming.
Part of the success of the Hoshi Saga series is the sheer cleverness of the puzzles, how the mechanics and solution come together in a technical but organic way. In a way, it’s like the admiration you might feel for a well built machine in much the same way guitar players might covet a high end Les Paul or car enthusiasts will gaze in awe under the hood of a 1965 Shelby. It is, perhaps, the appeal that the Hoshi Saga has towards puzzle enthusiasts, therefore.
And then there’s the magic that Ishi is able to conjure in each puzzle, the way the solution builds in an instant with the chime and the revelation of the star to create that single moment. Once the puzzle is solved, there is a completely different level of appreciation that comes into play, one that is not unlike watching the finale of a fireworks display. Time and time again the Hoshi Saga games offer this special, nearly intangible magic.
In Ringo, the puzzles stand out in an all new way as well. In the past, the series has been rendered in black and white. This time Hoshi Saga explodes in in a starburst of color, adding to that sense of discover and wonderment that is a part of the Hoshi Saga experience.
Unfortunately, the puzzles offered in this outing are notably easier than they have been in the first three games. With only maybe one puzzle providing even a little bit of a challenge, those the levels here are clever, they are over far too quickly, meaning the game as a whole is cut unfortunately short leaving you wishing for more. On one hand, this isn’t all bad, and the game’s relative level of ease makes it more accessible to newcomers. Still, veterans may walk away from this episode feeling perhaps a little jilted, or unsatisfied.
Aside from the drop in difficulty, though, Ringo does a fine job in upholding the good name of the Hoshi Saga series. While not exactly challenging, the puzzles are still quite clever, and as always, the game remains itself a work of art that one would be sorry to miss.

Jay is Games Best of 2009 and Listicles

January 6, 2010

Over at Jay is Games, voting has opened up for their Best of 2009 with tons of categories and enough excellent games from browser based to freeware to literally melt your brain. Go vote NOW! Which brings me to the subject of listicles which has been weighing upon my mind lately.

I had myself prepared my own little “Best Of” list to celebrate the arbitrary passage of time given symbolic meaning by a shared social system. Then, as most bloggers have experienced some time in their career, Word Press ate my post. At first I was disappointed. I had put together thirty games, lovingly providing them with screen shots and 1-3 paragraph blurbs explaining why I thought these games were halmarks of a terrific gaming year. Then I found myself coming to peace with the mishap. After all, what difference do lists make, and besides, the last thing I needed was having to get into scraps with people who felt I shouldn’t have put this game on the list or I should have listed that game.

And then I started reading other listicles from sources I tend to enjoy, and a sort of frustration eased over me. Even as I go through the many solid games over at Jay is Games up for the running in their Best Of feature, there are some titles that aren’t up there that probably should, and some titles that will get knocked out of the running but I think still deserve recognition. And part of the frustration comes from the fact that I don’t really think it appropriate to say that these selections are wrong. I was a part of the selection process for JiG’s 2008 Best of feature and I can tell you from that experience alone that the process behind the scenes is intense and rigorous. As for the other online publications, I may not know what they went through to come up with their listicles, but I still respect their combined experience and processes.

So I’m sort of stuck. No, I probably won’t make my own “list”. Not in the same form as the one previously eaten by the internet and Word Press (part of this is because I have my suspicions as to why it was eaten in the first place). For one, the statue of limitations is already just about up when it comes to year end lists, and for another, I need to focus my time and energies on the present and the future as opposed to the past.

But the desire to still shine a spotlight on what I personally think of as the best games in 2009 persists and so I think I have found a happy medium. I have already decided that I wanted to regularly “Dig in the crates”. That is, I wanted to weekly go back and highlight older games (at least in part to help fill out my sparse archives). At least for January, I will make this weekly feature (to be posted on Fridays) focus solely on the best games of 2009.

So that seems to work out nicely, doesn’t it? No lists from me, but we’re still going to look at some of the best games available in 2009. Win win. Now go vote over at Jay is Games, and happy gaming.

Review: Endless Migration

January 6, 2010

At A Glance:
Genre: Mouse Avoider/Arcade/Action
Link: Kongregate
Difficulty: Variable
Warnings: Some cartoon blood. Can be traumatic if you were on that one plane flight brought down by geese. Or if you’re Fabio.
Control Scheme: Mouse
Number of Geese harmed for this production: Zero (thanks largely to special effects)
The Set Up:
Chances are, you don’t think much about geese. They are, for the most part, large ducks that hang around the water during Spring time, and then they are gone. But, oh, there’s so much more to it than that. Geese are big, and they are mean. They poop all over the place and if you get near them, they go straight for your fingers.
But, um, that’s not what developer Hot Air Raccoon was going for, so, scratch that. With Endless Migration, the whole point is to see what life is like from behind the beak so to speak. In fact, it might seem that geese have a reason to be vicious little buggers, given that every migratory season they have to deal with passenger jets, fighter planes, and UFOs (what? you think rednecks living out in Podunk, Nowhere are the only ones that got to worry about aliens?). And through it all, you’re supposed to grow and protect your flock. Good luck with that.
The Low Down:
I love game design competitions. Compos seem to do such a lovely job of focusing the creative juices of developers and surprisingly wonderful games almost always seem to result. The competition in this instance was the Long Lasting contest over at Kongregate and was sponsored by Stride chewing gum. The point behind this competition was to create a game that tested the player’s endurance by creating an experience that continued on in perpetuity. After a considerable number of entries, Endless Migration emerged the victor and for good reason.
Mouse avoiders are among the oldest, simplest, and frankly uninspired genres in the world of alternative gaming, but from this humble frame was born a game that is quietly beautiful while at the same time offering a level of depth not common in games of its type.
Visually, Endless Migration does what it has to. Elementary graphics would not do for such a game as the effect would collapse with the relatively simple gameplay, and overly complex aesthetics could either bog the game down or wind up coming off gaudy. Instead, Raccoon threads a needle, coming up with a visual style that is simple, but consistent and elegant, relying on classical lines to give the game the visual grace it needs.
As for gameplay, enough adjustments, concessions, and additions are made to give this game an added level of dimension that you don’t see in your common mouse avoider game. On the other hand, the core principles remain simple and therefore engaging and accessible. The flock gathering and protecting mechanic is one of the keys at work here because at once it makes the game more challenging as the larger the flock, the harder it is to protect. Yet at the same time, it also makes the game easier, since each goose in your flock acts essentially as an extra life.
The contour of gameplay is further shaped by a series of upgrades and achievements. Upgrades usually make the game easier, and subtly change the dynamics, though it should be said that some of the upgrades will actually make a few of the achievements a little trickier to get. The achievements, meanwhile, give you goals to work with beyond merely seeing how far you can go.
In the end, I find games like this incredibly fascinating. That is to say, I am usually intrigued when I see stale old formulas being resurrected with a breath of new life. Is Endless Migration one for the ages? Hardly, but it does a fine job of injecting a little vitality into a tired genre and providing a pleasant surprise in one of those places one would be least likely to look.

Review: Merry Gear Solid 2

January 6, 2010

Where is that voice COMING FROM?!

At a Glance:
Genre(s): Stealth/Action
Link: Announcement here. Download here.
Difficulty: Medium
Warnings: None really, unless you still believe in Santa in which case… oh damn!
Control scheme: [arrow] Keys to move, [shift], [ctrl], [z], and [c] for everything else.
Gifts that turn out to be a pair of socks: More than you’ll ever know
The Set Up:
Christmas has come and gone, and if you’re the type to celebrate such things, you’re probably glad it’s done and over with. No more shopping and dealing with holiday traffic. No more Christmas songs played on permanent loop everywhere you go. And egg nog. Yes, egg nog is nice right until you get to the point where just the thought of it makes your stomach juices curdle.
Still, I submit that if you haven’t experienced Christmas as a highly advanced paramilitary operative with a specialty in stealth tactics, you have yet to experience Christmas at all. In Mr. Podunkian’s (AKA Arthur Lee) nod to the famed Metal Gear Solid franchise, you reprise the role of Solid Snake (now “Cold Snake”) as you descend upon a mall with your trusty partner, Otacon, a simple radio call away. You’re mission? In the finest tradition of Metal Gear games through the ages, that can be a little complicated but we know for sure that it involves the “Ghosts of Christmas Past” and something called “Merry Gear.” Just don’t, uh, you know, quote us on that…
The Low Down:
Lee’s stealth title is one of those rare jewels that succeeds equally well as a form of heavy parody, heartfelt nostalgia, and as its own game, in a way proving the strength of the MGS series as well as giving a generous nod to Podunkian’s own talent.
As a parody/homage, few fans of the Metal Gear Solid series will walk away from Merry Gear Solid 2 unsatisfied. So much of what made the source franchise great is packed in this download with SNES style visuals. You have the well executed stealth gameplay that rests at the game’s core, along with the radar perched in the corner, and the rapid fire in game selection menus that exude that trademark MGS ergonomic sparkle. Of course, the technical is only where the similarities between games begins.
Like virtually every Metal Gear ever made, Merry Gear Solid 2 boasts an exhaustive and overtly complex plot. This is exacerbated by the fact that Podunkian sometimes injects into the Merry Gear story aspects from Metal Gear, sometimes to a dizzying effect. Further, the cast of characters on display sport Metal Gear’s classic level of complexity mixed with melodramatic flare. While most of the enemies you see on screen exhibit Storm Trooper levels of individuality (and intelligence), the bosses and main characters rightly are buoyed by eccentricities and seemingly novels worth of back story.
Oh, and the voice of Snake. WELL DONE! You would seriously think that David Hayter leant his voice to this effort.
All of this would make for an entertaining but hardly impressionable experience, a comical stroll through Metal Gear Solid memory lane. That there is actually a respectable game underlying all of the homage and parody at work here means that this is a game you can really curl up with and get into. The stealth system at work here is brilliantly done, and remains faithful (to a degree) to the Metal Gear formula. Indeed, had there been a Metal Gear made for the Super Nintendo, this would be it.
The basic system comes together with smooth graphics and even smoother overall execution to create gameplay that is silky with few hiccups. Further, there are plenty of mechanisms throughout the game that gently steer you to your final goal, from the growing inventory list to Otacons regular hints and directions. Sure, this creates a rather linear experience, but not so much that you really stop to care.
The control scheme can be a little awkward at first. [Shift], and [ctrl] are you primary keys with [z] and [c] coming in third and fourth respectively, meaning that you’re playing with your pinky tucked in a bit and if you lift your hand for any reason, it’s a crapshoot whether you find the right keys without looking again or not. Unfortunately, as of the time of this writing, you can’t change the controls to suit your needs which should be a standard feature for most action type games these days. But to my delight, I found that you do eventually grow accustomed to the controls and as time goes on they get in less of the way.
My only other complaint here is that sometimes the game can wade out a little too deep, going a tad overboard with what one presumes is sarcastic convolution.
But don’t let minor flaws deter you. Merry Gear Solid 2 is very well polished and exceptionally well delivered. From aesthetics to gameplay, this one is a winner all around, and would be quite at home among the Metal Gear series that served as its inspiration.