America’s New Favorite Pastime
Web gaming in the spirit of Halloween
Candy comas, pumpkin guts, costume-clad kiddies, spooky movies—Halloween is here again, meaning a night of totally interrupted nonrelaxation when the trick-or-treaters come a-knocking Tuesday night. Seems like the perfect time for my first round of web game reviews. Casual gamers, come out of the closet and proclaim your love of gaming. You’re in the majority now.
Here’s a game with a message: Never go trick-or-treating alone and/or enter a mad scientist’s house. Didn’t we learn that in grade school? Little Jinx didn’t and he got stuck in a scary mansion with no way out. Jinx is a point-and-click adventure game geared more toward children, but it has a serious adorable factor that will keep adults hooked. Guiding Jinx through a creepy (but well-lit) house, carrying his pumpkin candy holder in his ghost costume, is like watching It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown for the ninth time. It’s cute and fun, but there’s no surprise in what comes next.
The World Wide Web has changed the nature of advertising. There is no captive audience online. Users can point and click at their whim, and getting them to stay at one particular site is the new goal. One clever solution is free, product-related Web games to keep browsers stationary. A Murder of Scarecrows is such a game in that it’s part of an online shop for artist Vincent Marcone. Marcone’s artwork is dark and whimsical, part Edgar Allen Poe, part Alice in Wonderland. In A Murder of Scarecrows, Marcone’s creations have to fend off their mortal enemy, the crows, with some provocation by you, the ADD-afflicted Web user. The game play is extremely simple, but the visual effect is exquisitely detailed. It’s worth a visit during your next surf session.
Here’s the simple, candy-filled scenario: Dr. Strangemitten’s Head Shrinker 5000 has gone berserk and you—the supreme puzzle master—must help keep his nougat-filled heads from wreaking havoc. Shrunken Heads follows in the same vein as other popular puzzle games such as Zuma or Snood, but with the physics reversed. The object is to drop a shrunken head onto the rising pile below to form a group of three or more of the same color and facial expression. Maybe the most entertaining part of this game is the “horror” noises the heads make when they disappear—grunts, groans, growls. They’re cute. Cute little shrunken heads. For the puzzle fiends, this game is perfect to get into the Halloween spirit.
H.P. Lovecraft made his mark on the world of scary stories; just check out this week’s feature and you’ll see why. His tales of the re-animated (also known as the undead) have inspired more than chills. De-Animator is based on the stories by Lovecraft, and the game has only one point—to destroy zombies. It's simple yet maddeningly difficult at the same time. The game starts slow, with only a few zombies, but soon the infestation is upon you and ready to eat some brain. You start off with only a six-shooter, and the only way to reload is to use all the rounds, so timing is important. Here’s a helpful tip: When you pick up the shotgun, use the shift key to switch between it and the handgun. It’s common knowledge shotguns are the weapon of choice against zombies.