Monday, October 31, 2011


(Today's Halloween, don'tcha know, so this entry seems fitting. Enjoy your national candy day, folks.)

I have waited, for ages, for a good zombie-based RTS game to come out. And while Rebuild doesn't quite fit the bill - it's a Civ-style, turn-based strategy game - it's good enough.

Rebuild's premise is a little different from your average zombie game. Rather than trying to survive and escape the zombies, you're trying to survive and, uh, rebuild. There are few titles more succinct than this.


Rebuild sticks you right in the middle of a city that's been overrun by zombie hordes. Your goal is to retake the city, block by block, by sending fellow survivors into danger zones to wipe out the 'zeds', collect food, find more survivors and, ultimately, extend the fence of your fortress around the entire city. You also have to defend your walls from zombie attacks by appointing your troops to keep watch and fight back during battles.

What makes Rebuild a little more complex than your average browser-based game is the juggling of resources and survivors. Your survivors need certain levels of happiness and food to thrive, and so you need to have lots of people on board - but at the same time you don't want so many that you become overwhelmed. What's more, your survivors all have specialties, so you need to maximize your chances of survival by deploying them properly - and since Rebuild runs almost strictly on percentages, paying attention to specializations is very important.


Rebuild is a point-and-click strategy game. So long as your mouse is working, you'll be able to navigate the (pleasantly simple) menus with ease.


Rebuild is not the most attractive browser-based game in the world, but it's hardly offensive. The maps are a mixture of commercial puns and gaps of sinister black, and the occasional battle scenes between the survivors and the zombies are cartoon versus cartoon. Not spectacular, but the visuals aren't the important part of Rebuild anyway.

Though I do find All-Mart amusing.


Meh. Rebuild has appropriately sinister/industrial music befitting a zombie game. It gets a little irritating after a while, especially since (successful) games of Rebuild can take a REALLY long time, but it's far from the worst I've heard.

Challenge Rating

As far as browser games go, Rebuild is pretty bloody hard. Even with a helpful tutorial at the beginning of a new game, you're almost always going to lose your first city... and maybe your second. And third. This is exasperated when you take into account that there are five difficulty settings, and when you fail you're probably at... the second lowest. (Maybe lowest.) It only gets worse from there.

The saving grace of the difficulty is that cheapness doesn't usually factor into your losses; generally it's just a run of bad luck and worse decisions on your part. You need to play this game wisely and pay heed to warnings of incoming zombie hordes, as survivors can be scarce and you don't have many turns to adapt to increasing numbers of the undead.


Rebuild is a lot of fun. Granted, you'll basically be playing the same thing over and over again, but the randomization of the city blocks and the contents of the buildings - not to mention the outcomes of all your forays into danger - make it a replayable experience. Just, ah, get used to seeing this screen a lot:


(And stay tuned for a review of its sequel later in the week!)

Friday, October 28, 2011

Concerned Joe

Of all the fictional creatures to inhabit our fair planet, few have such cruel lives as video game characters - and of them, few are so constantly tortured as Joe. He's right to be concerned.

Joe is just an unassuming little green blob. He doesn't talk much, and all he seems to want in life is to be left alone. Enter the creator, who, as a disembodied, mocking voice, inflicts Joe with a dangerous virus that constantly saps his vitality. He then forces Joe through a series of brain-busting levels, taunting his little creation the whole way.

Joe's life sucks.


Concerned Joe is a platforming puzzler. You need to guide Joe through 20 agonizing levels filled with puzzles, each more difficult than the last. There's a catch, however: because of the disease coursing through his veins, Joe can't stop running, save on a few safe spots scattered between (and sometimes in) the levels:

Look at that happy face.

If you stop running, or go on a square that saps Joe's vitality no matter what you do, you'll eventually see this at the bottom of your screen:

And when that tiny bit of blue runs out, Joe will explode and you'll have to start at the beginning of the level again. (Which isn't as bad as it sounds since the levels are fairly small, but when you do it over and over...)

Needless to say, you can't let Joe stop. Which, coupled with some fairly ordinary (but clever) puzzles, makes for a solid concept.


Joe is simple. He runs, he jumps, he pushes, he occasionally rebounds off sticky walls. Not much more to it. Joe has a slight tendency to float when he tries to stop, which can be a little annoying when you skid into death traps, but given the tightly programmed aspects of the rest of the game, that's probably intentional.


Decidedly industrial, Concerned Joe features a lot of grey - so much so that, on its on, the colour scheme would probably suck the life out of the game. Fortunately, however, there are enough signs and little easter eggs spread throughout the levels to keep your eyes from lingering on the aesthetics too much. (And you don't exactly have time to stop and enjoy the view.)


Surprisingly, it's the sound that makes Concerned Joe really shine. Not the music itself - that's repetitious and a little annoying after a while - but the voice of the bloody creator. Seriously, he mocks you throughout the entire game, chiming in every time you die or complete a level, and never with praise for Joe's survival skills. He's both hilarious and exasperating, and makes the game totally worth playing... mainly because you want to see him get his comupence when Joe makes it through the last level. Gah!

Challenge Rating

Though it's not terrrribly long, Concerned Joe will probably take the average player an hour or two of utterly annoyed playing to complete. The puzzles are far from impossible to solve, but figuring out the solution and acting it out are, often, two very different things. The sheer number of secrets in the game are also likely to keep players coming back to search out every nook and cranny of Concerned Joe.


Concerned Joe is fun, funny and frustrating as hell. If you have a poor temper, not to mention a bad head for puzzles, skip this game. It will drive you crazy. Otherwise? Play away. Lots of fun to be had.


Thursday, October 27, 2011

Kit and the Octopod

Y'know, it just ain't right when somebody tries to separate a pair of loving octopods. (Octopids?) So when mean ol' Bad Mood Bear tries to ruin the fun, Kit comes to the rescue and aids Octopod in saving his girlfriend.
Yep. That's Kit and the Octopod. Beat the crap out of a douchebag polar bear. Doesn't get much better than that.

Kit and the Octopod is your standard side-scrolling, running-jumping-hitting-stuff kinda game. The polar bear somehow has an army of flunkies, and Kit and the Octopod need to plow through them on their way to the bear's lair. To do so you must employ Kit's crazy ninja skills (whether or not he's actually a ninja is up in the air) and the sticky might of Octopod, both of whom are clearly very serious about their mission.



Clean-cut brainless fun. There's no story grander than what you'd find in a Super Mario Bros. game: the bear's a jerk, you take him out with ninja moves. That said, the game's ability to tell a story with no dialogue whatsoever is surprisingly brilliant, and combining cheery fun with lots of bloodshed (the enemies fly into chunks when you kill 'em) works nicely.

There's also the side missions of gathering coins, freeing inexplicably trapped old men and knocking chickens around with your wrench, but, eh, they're not as fun as assaulting legions of soldiers with a tiny invertebrate.



A side-scroller is only so good as its control scheme, and Kit and the Octopod is smooth sailing on this front... after some practice anyway. The default button layout is A-S-D for attacking, jumping and tossing Octopod, which can cramp your fingers a bit and cause some confusion - but only at first. Once the game picks up the pace, after the tutorial section (which is much appreciated, especially given my occasional confusion between jumping and wall-climbing), you shouldn't have much trouble getting around.

It should also be noted that you can fling Octopod at enemies,

which never gets old.


Bright, bold, beautiful. Kit and the Octopod looks great. The animations are smooth and engaging, and the character designs, while simple, are a lot of fun to watch in action. There's personality to be had in this game. Of particular note is the layered effect of the levels, where you can see other areas in the background - very neat.


Though the soundtrack on Kit and the Octopod isn't incredibly robust, it's solid enough to keep you grooving throughout the game. A little techno for my tastes, but most players should go unoffended.

Challenge Rating

Kit and the Octopod is not TERRIBLY difficult. There are multiple difficulty levels, true, but it's hardly impossible at any of them. It's also a little short, though for a free browser game it's robust enough to waste an hour or two of your time. Fortunately, this makes it a more accessible experience overall, rather than one that hands victory to you on a silver platter.

Just, y'know, avoid the worms.


If you like side-scrollers and you can appreciate cartoony graphics, Kit and the Octopod is a great game. It's got enough polish that it could, with enough expansion (kinda short as it is), make a decent download on a console system.

Oh, and did I mention that you can access a pirate mode if you beat the game? Yeah. You even get a parrot.


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A Mother in Festerwood

Perhaps even more so than console games, indie games come in all shapes and sizes. The average game is still geared towards an obvious objective, true, and the player usually has complete control over the proceedings... but not always.

Enter A Mother in Festerwood. Created by Austin Breed, Festerwood is one among many 'artistic' games with a purpose above and beyond sheer domination. In this case, you're playing the role of a mother, living in the woods, who is obsessed (or not) with keeping her newborn son safe from the dangers of the world.

No place like home. Your house is in the middle of a tiny clearing, and surrounded, if it's not obvious from the screenshot, by hordes of vicious monsters who want to kill your kiddy - but they can't as long as he stays within the circle around your house. And at first it's easy to keep him there, but as time passes and he ages it gets harder and harder to restrain the tyke, and eventually he'll run out into the forest and get into all kinds of mischief.

Fortunately... your little boy can level! He starts as a baby...

Turns into a teen...

And, if you're lucky, you'll see him transform into a full-fledged adult.

Or, uh, if you're not, he'll wind up here:

Which means Game Over, please try again. (Unfortunately, this is the way most sessions of A Mother in Festerwood go.)

The trick? Your boy will level as long as he's allowed to wander around on his own, which means he might get in trouble. You can push him back towards home as the mother, but if you do, he loses experience. Get it? Over-protective mother robs child of life experience? You get it.


The concept of A Mother in Festerwood is where the game's real value lies. It's a thinking game, and not in the puzzler sense: you're meant to sit in a mother's shoes as her child takes his first steps into the world, fretting over the fact that, as he gets older, you can't control his actions. Not incredibly deep, but profound enough to make most players consider their own families, their own mothers. Well done.


What can I say? You move the mother around with your mouse. If you're not fast enough - and mama doesn't level, so don't expect any speed boosts - the kid will get away, likely running off into the forest. The mother does tend to get stuck from time to time, so be cautious.

And, yes, you never get to control the kid. Weep as he wanders into a flock of monsters he can't kill.


Simplistic, but sweet. You can't expect a hell of a lot from a game like Festerwood, and trying to pump up the artistic direction would probably take away from the message. Thumbs up on this front, even if your little boy is nothing more than a tiny dot when he's first born.


Not as sweet. The two songs played in Festerwood are nice and calming, but the constant repetition of the second song gets pretty grating. Though it sets the mood of your forest dwelling, if you plan on playing this game a couple times, you'll probably turn your speakers off.

Challenge Rating

Uh... hard to say. Once your boy grows up enough, he'll do what he wants, and you'll have a tough time stopping him. You need to balance between penning him off from the forest until his teens with not pushing him back to the house too vigorously. Once your son gets into the forest, it's a crapshoot...

... though, yes, he CAN survive. Don't give up!


A Mother in Festerwood is fun, thought-provoking and, uh, a little frustrating. It gets its message across rather nicely, though, because you really do start to worry for your kid after a while - which is exactly the point.


EDIT - Because the Internet can't just appreciate a game without some form of control, there's now a hacked version of A Mother in Festerwood where you can artificially raise some of your son's attributes. Oi.


Layout... blues...

I've been fiddling with the background and the title image and iehidlheliwhwdkneksqijblargh for hours, and the end result is so... so... bleh. I'll have to screw around with it more.

Anyway. First post. Welcome to Browser Rousers, the one-stop-shop for browser-based games, mostly run in Flash. From Monday to Friday (hopefully each of those days, anyway) I'll play and review one browser-based game I find online, or otherwise provide some tidbit of gaming news.


Because I like browser games. Why else? Indie developers do some good work.

The reviews will begin shortly with a sweet little art game called A Mother in Festerwood. Keep your eyes peeled!