PC Gamer

Good news, god game fans: Maia has reached its Kickstarter target of £100,042, with just under three days to go. Things were looking a bit hairy for Simon Roth's impressive sci-fi god/management game for a while there, as only a few days ago there was still around £30K left to achieve. Thankfully, two things happened in the last couple of days that seem to have made all the difference: TotalBiscuit stepped in to make a recommendatory video, and several other indie devs gathered round to launch the Indie Hug Bundle.

In an act comparable to crossing the streams in Ghostbusters, an indie bundle met a kickstarter page as The Indie Stone (Project Zomboid), Terry Cavanagh (VVVVVV), Puppy Games (Revenge of the Titans), Rob Fearon (Death Ray Manta) and Dull Dude (of unreleased game Battle Cave) stepped forward to donate copies of those games to Simon, who then promised them to anyone who pledged £56 or above. (Incidentally, the GLaDOS tier is now sold out.) Thankfully for Simon, for fans of god games, and even for fans of 70s sci-fi, like me, the move has paid off - at the time of writing, Maia's now raised £101,444 and counting.

The next stretch goal, at £101010, adds cats and dogs. "Aid your colony's defenses with some fluffy dealers of death."
PC Gamer
scribblenauts unlimited

Scribblenauts Unlimited - the third in the charming puzzle series that asks you to create on-screen characters and objects by typing their names into a magical notebook - was released on Steam a little while ago to coincide with the Wii U version. Well, in North America at least. The game's still not materialised over here - in fact, it's been pushed back to 2013 - and nobody seems to be able to say why.

Unlimited came out in the US around a week ago, and was expected to hit Europe on November 30th, to coincide with the launch of the Wii U. Well, that's no longer happening. Developers 5th Cell broke the news via a tweet that reads "EU launch is not until 2013, unfortunately," with CEO Jeremy Slaczka elaborating on the situation over on NeoGAF, by stating that the delay is "due to things outside of development," and has nothing to do with localisation issues, as is often the case when it comes to Europe (The US version already has multiple languages).

Publishers Warner Bros will only say that "details on the European distribution of Scribblenauts Unlimited are coming soon." (That was in a statement to Joystiq). In the meantime, the game is sitting there, on Steam, but bureaucracy means we're not allowed to purchase it in Europe. Ridiculous.
PC Gamer

Valve is still working on polishing the last bits of Dota 2 before a full release, including the completion of the tutorial for the game. But we haven't got all the heroes yet, either. A total of sixteen heroes from the original game, at the time of writing, are unreleased.

They range from the stompy Tauren Chieftain to the mechanical Goblin Shredder, and are in various different states of development. Here are the three that are closest to release.

Goblin Shredder
Rizzrak the Goblin Shredder is a nasty combination of a tank and a ganker. He's a tiny little goblin in a huge suit of armour, equipped with everything necessary to cut down trees. Wait, did I say cut down trees? I meant rip your flesh apart.

As such, his skills are generally about causing as much damage as possible across a wide area. His Whirling Death tears apart anything organic standing nearby. His Timber chain lets him latch on to a tree and pull himself towards it. His reactive armour gives him better regen and armour when attacked, and his ultimate - Chakram - fires a spinning saw blade at an area, disintegrating anything inside in a mess of wood and blood.

Troll Warlord
Some heroes are ranged, and some are melee, but Jah'rakal the Troll Warlord is both. His basic power, Beserker Rage, lets him swap between hurling his axes at distant enemies or using them at close quarters. Close up, he gains bonus damage, HP, and movement and attack speed.

He rewards players who like to stick on one target, too. His Fervor passive increases his attack speed with each continuous blow on the same target, and his bash skill gives him a chance to stun. Whirling Axes changes depending on whether he's in ranged or melee mode, and his ultimate, Battle Trance, is a global 10-second power to gives all allied heroes a hefty bonus to attack speed.

As you might imagine, Medusa the Gorgon is an archer with the ability to turn enemy units to stone. Sort of. Her ultimate, Stone Gaze, means that any enemy with line of sight of her will lose any status buffs and have their movement and attack speed reduced to zero for five seconds. Nasty in a team fight, though you can still use abilities while affected.

Elsewhere, her Mana Shield ability is a toggle that uses mana to absorb incoming damage, and her Mystic Snake steals mana by jumping from target to target. She's a neat pusher too, with Split Shot - an ability that splits her arrows into multiple shots, targeting five enemies at once.

More heroes waiting for their time to shine include Tuskarr (who rolls allies in a snowball towards an enemy unit and launches victims into their air with a Walrus Punch), Tauren Chieftain (whose ancestral spirit mirrors his movements), Goblin Techies (who deploy invisible traps and can commit suicide dealing massive area damage), Bristleback (who, disgustingly, can cover an enemy in snot) and the Legion Commander (who can call in an enemy hero for a duel, disabling abilities and forcing them to only attack each other).

Who do you want to see Valve add next? Tell us in the comments below.
PC Gamer
Bridge Project

Having retired from world-saving heroics, Christopher Livingston is living the simple life in video games by playing a series of down-to-earth simulations. This week he takes a job as a bridge planner, but will he wind up building bridges or just burning them?

Bridge Project has maps, and those maps have gaps, and those gaps need something that unfortunately doesn't rhyme with maps or gaps: bridges! There are essentially three stages to Bridge Project:

Planning, where you stare at the map and think, "Huh, this doesn't look so hard."
Building, where you click on the map and think, "Huh, this doesn't seem so hard."
Testing, where your bridge explodes.

I start with a city map, where I need to build a small bridge across a narrow river, which doesn't look so hard. I click and drag some wood from left to right, filling in the gap, which doesn't seem so hard. I click the test button, and watch as my wooden platform immediately collapses into the water below.

Huh. I see this simulation has cleverly included physics. Well played, video game. Forcing me to build with non-magical wood that doesn't just float in the air when I stick it there, eh? I take another crack at it, this time trying to hold up my bridge using cables. Somehow, this makes my bridge collapse even faster.

Okay! Clearly, I need more of a secure structure on top. I add some wooden beams, crisscrossing them to support the road, and then crisscrossing them again to support each other. When I run out of wood, I start using iron beams. When I run out of iron beams, I start using cables again. When I've run out of everything, I assume that means I have built the most stable and secure and awesome bridge ever. That's how professionals design bridges, right? Just take a giant pile of materials and cram them together haphazardly until there's nothing left?

The cables lose tension, the wood crackles, the iron groans, but my bridge doesn't collapse in a big splintery pile in the water. Sure, it's ugly as hell, but it serves several functions. First, terrorist bombers looking for a tasty target will assume it's already been hit. Suicidal jumpers will take one look and decide they'd rather kill me than themselves. And, as an added bonus, cars can actually drive across it without it falling apart, as I discover when the game runs tests on the bridge by sending across some automobiles and a couple buses. My job here is done, provided my job was "Construct Needlessly Huge Shuddering Eyesore."

I move on to a new map in another city unwise enough to hire me. This time, I use iron girders and cables to construct a bridge across four lanes of traffic. Amazingly, it doesn't fall over, even as the game tests it with several buses and an earthquake. Okay, part of it falls over. I would say... a fair amount of it falls over. But most of it doesn't! Plus, as you can see below, I've cleverly placed the bridge's supports directly in the traffic lanes below, meaning I'm encouraging visitors and tourists to admire the majesty of the bridge as they fly through the windshields of their ruined cars. You're welcome, unnamed city!

I should point this out: one of the best features of Bridge Project is that in addition to the prescribed tests for each bridge, you can also run your own manual tests. So, even if you build a simple wooden bridge on a rural map that only needs to withstand a few three-ton buses...

...you can still enjoy a pleasant wave of wanton destruction when you decide to test it for a hundred-ton train.

If trains aren't your thing, run a half-dozen military tanks across your bridge, or subject it to earthquakes or hurricanes. And why even wait until your bridge is complete before you start testing it? I mean, how do you even know this town needs to spend millions of dollars on a bridge unless you test the situation out first?

Okay, I think they might genuinely need a bridge.

Another note: even if your bridge collapses during a test, you can just go back into edit mode and it's made whole again, allowing you to tinker with and improve your design rather than build it over from scratch. This means that despite my constant failings, I never really get discouraged. Heck, failing is actually a lot of fun. In fact, why don't we dispense with the screenshots and enjoy two and a half minutes of my bridges failing on video! (Though I consider the final clip less of a failure and more of a creative success.)

Something else worth pointing out: three days after buying Bridge Project, I'm still playing it, which is unusual for this column, as you may have noticed. Also, I am actually getting better at building bridges as I play. I finally figured out how bridge pistons work: I'd been placing them under the bridge, trying to lift the entire structure up, instead of just lifting a portion so the boat can pass underneath. Also, it helps if you unlock the joints so the portion of the bridge can actually, you know, be lifted.

Though they'll never be tourist attractions or make an appearance on a postcard, my bridges start working, inasmuch as they don't immediately collapse when driven on. I'm getting the hang of suspension bridges, too, and I've probably unlocked about 40 of the 48 maps the game comes with. A couple of mt bridges even look sort-of-almost-kinda nice.

Conclusion: I am a bridge builder! A terrible one, but still, I haven't enjoyed being this terrible at a game in a long time. There's also an expert mode which I have not tried for obvious reasons, a map editor for creating your own levels, and a real-time stress analysis feature that turns the portions of your bridge bright red if they are under undue pressure, allowing you to easily spot your bridge's Achilles heel, or in my case, Achilles heel, elbow, wrist, femur, ribcage and spine:

You should be a bridge builder too. I definitely recommend you give Bridge Project a try. There's a demo that gives you a handful of maps to play with; the full version is $20. Worth it!
PC Gamer

Minecraft will soon be coming to David Braben's clever £30 computer, the Raspberry Pi. The game will be a port of the Pocket Edition, but will come with a few new features which dovetail with the Pi's educational remit, allowing you to crack open the game code and manipulate Minecraft itself.

Announced today in the midst of a wonderfully chaotic Minecon 2012, the project aims to add further encouragement to people looking to pick up some programming skills.

Demonstrating this on stage, Mojang's Daniel Frisk wrote out some simple code that immediately conjured giant words to appear in the Minecraft level on screen. No doubt there are even more dramatic possibilities waiting to be explored by inquisitive minds.

It'll support multiple programming languages and be completely free. It's not available for download yet, so it's wise to keep an eye on Mojang's blog for the latest details.
PC Gamer
wot my little pony

I was surprised enough to see a World of Tanks advert on primetime UK telly, but thanks to this latest WoT development my face is now perma-frozen in shock, like those poor unfortunate souls out of Ring. PCGamesN bring news that someone has made a My Little Pony mod for World of Tanks. Well, actually it's a number of existing mods bundled together into a whopping 5-6gb collection that adds pony skins and decals, among other things. Full, terrifying details here.

Together, the mods form a complete overhaul of the game, replacing standard voices with shrill pony ones, and stuffing rainbows into every available crevice. It's almost cute, and kind of funny, until you remember about bronies and you never, ever stop screaming. There's an exhaustive forum post courtesy of creator RelicShadow, which details the included mods, and will guide you through the installation process, if you fancy ponying up. The mod itself can be begotten here.

The following video, of one of the mods, should give you an idea of what to expect.

PC Gamer
super shock bundle

If you can tear yourselves away from the Steam sale counter for just a minute, we bring news of a different sort of countdown, for the perhaps aptly named Super Shock Bundle. You're probably rolling your eyes right now at the presence of yet another indie bundle, but here's why you should consider rolling them back, as painful as that might be: the Super Shock Bundle will feature thirteen games, including VVVVVV, Home, Thirty Flights of Loving, Probability 0 and Cortex Command. The other thing to consider is that the offer's only open for seven of your Earth hours, starting today at 5PM UK time (that's 12PM Eastern Standard Time).

The site itself shows only a counter and thirteen question marks, but there's details of the actual games featured here. The list was originally going to include Hotline Miami and Pid, but last minute changes mean they've had to be replaced. Still, thirteen games for $12.99 (couldn't they have just rounded it up to $13?) is nothing to sniff at. Here's the full list:

Deepak Fights Robots
Little Gardens
Puzzle Bots
Starseed Pilgrim
Probability 0
Captain Foraxian
Cortex Command
Thirty Flights of Loving
Offspring Fling

Moreover, each game will be DRM free, and come bundled with a Steam key, where applicable. If that's not enough indie sales news (this seems to be the weekend for it), GamersGate have launched their own series of countdown bundles leading up to Christmas, the first offering Aeon Command, Space Pirates and Zombies, Gentrieve 2 and Waveform for £2.50.

Also of note: Jonas Kyratzes' dreamlike adventure game The Sea Will Claim Everything is on special offer, with an oddly specific 42% being shaved off the asking price. That makes it £3.75 in old money.
PC Gamer

Every week, Richard Cobbett rolls the dice to bring you an obscure slice of gaming history, from lost gems to weapons grade atrocities. This week, there's only one language some people understand - the language of fear. Welcome to the ESL course Frank Miller would approve of.

Mean City. Don't worry, they said, it's just a name. Not necessarily promising mean streets. Maybe they're just proud of their mean population density, or they make a mean curry. What did they mean? There was was only one way to find out, and while nobody had specifically said it would be an idea to bring a fedora, I figured a fedora would be appropriate. If only to cut a mean style...

Mean City. Nice place for a relaxing holiday. If you're, you know, Batman or someone.

Her name was The Jinx, or so the television said. Terrorist by trade, and that was a first in my line of work - professional troubleshooting for the edutainment industry. You may have heard of my work. The capture of Carmen Sandiego? That zombie invasion from a few years back? You're welcome, you and your delicious brain. Let's forget that whole BlobJob incident though. That one was weird.

An outright terrorist though? That was the big leagues. I knew this would take more than rudimentary English language skills, just as I knew without the slightest doubt that it would, in fact, not. But would this challenge be? What fresh hell awaited in this decaying dump of the damned?

Aside from that, obviously. That kinda went without saying.

Arriving, I saw my first friendly face - a taxi driver, holding up a sign to let all who saw it knew that he was a driver, and had a taxi. This and more, but mostly this, did I permit it to be obvious that I had successfully deduced. My cover for this assignment involved pretending not to speak English, it would not have been... appropriate... simply to wander up and saying "Good morrow, sirrah, please could you see your way to providing swift conveyance throughout your fine metropolis?"

You think these mirrors are good? Got one on the left that lets you see right up my anus, if you like.

"Do you want a taxi?" he asked. I did want a taxi. I didn't want to blow my cover, or at least, wanted to save such blowage for any femme fatales who happened to be around. To cover, I reached for my phrase book and in my most stilted pronunciation confirmed "I want some chocolate."

"I can't help you, I'm a taxi driver. Do you want a taxi?"

"I want... a hotel."

"I can take you to a hotel in my taxi."

Well, this was going swimmingly. I could tell from his eyes that he was completely fooled, and he happily took me to a hotel. He said it was cheap. Cheap in Mean City apparently meant $100 a night, without so much as a minibar or vibrating mattress. Honestly. Some slums have no standards...

"Is this your first time in Mean City?" asked the taxi driver, as we stopped briefly at a police cordon and headed into the dark city narrows proper.

"Yes," I confirmed, because it was my first time in Mean City, and that was therefore both the correct answer and my answer; the answer I gave.

"Well, good luck buddy," he shuddered. "You need to be clever to survive in Mean City.'

On the plus side, we have some of the best hat shops in whatever country Mean City is in.

Mean City was all that had been promised; a wretched hive of dark alleys, tight streets, the fragrant aroma of society's detritus and (checks phrasebook) poo. This late in the probably afternoon, nobody was around. Or so I thought. Barely had I started navigating its twisted streets of mystery though when a very unfriendly face decided to put in an appearance and say hello...

What a strange person, I thought. When it came to evil, she seemed somewhere between a school bully and the last bad baronet of Ruddigore. Was this really the face that was tormenting the city?

If her crime was wearing those trousers of course, I fully understood. Shudder...

Around the corner, I encountered someone much friendlier - a journalist recording a piece to camera in front of what was the best hotel in the area for reasons of being the only hotel in the area. His fedora spoke of good moral fibre, even if he was just another rat amongst the gutter press. For the sake of cover and because we were wearing the same outfit, I tried to lay low, but when he saw me approach...

Somehow, it appeared that I had pulled. I hoped he wouldn't be too disappointed when he found out that I was not, in fact, Marilyn Monroe, but merely the greatest liar ever to secretly have a penis.

The basic message of Mean City is 'stay at home, foreign places are terrible'.

The Angel Hotel was nothing it promised, but everything I expected. Unable to get any money from my apparently infinite supply of traveller's cheques until the bank opened tomorrow, the clerk rudely took my passport for security and ushered me upstairs. My floor had one of those white chalk outlines that only fictional cops use because they don't have to worry about things like contaminating crime scenes. This didn't bode well, but I was too tired to care. I barely noticed that if I knocked on the wrong door, the baaing of sheep came out of them. Didn't judge. Just wanted to sleep. Goddamn perverts.

Crawling into bed, I was surprised to have a weird bondage dream about the journalist outside. Apparently I wasn't simply the girl of his dreams; he was the guy of mine. Literally, rather than in that sense, but still proving that the fedora is the sexiest of all hats. He was strapped to a bomb in a weird surrealistic world, begging me to save him. That seemed a little rude though. We'd only just met, he hadn't even bought me a drink, and also it's very rude to barge into someone's sleep when they don't know they have psychic powers, which apparently I did now. Waking though, my objective was clear.

I really wanted some lunch.

Free immune booster with every meal! Because the chef never washes his hands.

Al's Diner, which everyone called Al's Restaurant in one of the most pathetic examples of urban redevelopment since someone set up a petition asking Wetherspoons to actually move into their town, was a building sized blob of grease held together by gristle. The waitress seemed friendly enough, but my new psychic powers suggested I'd better be careful here. In vision form...

Yes. I ordered spaghetti instead. That seemed safe enough. Certainly safer than putting a word like 'faggots' into an educational game, or giving students the impression that crappy diners serve champagne in plastic beakers as willingly as cola. Speaking of which, where exactly was Mean City? I was getting confused. It was clearly English, with the voices and the fish and chips and everything. Everything was in dollars though. Strange. Strange, and mysterious...

The meal ended up costing a hundred dollars. "Here's a newspaper, compliments of Al's Restaurant," grinned the waitress. I took it. For $100, I wanted my complimentary newspaper outright fawning.

Ah, today's readers. If it's not on the front page, it doesn't matter.

I was getting a picture of Mean City now. It wasn't the kind of place where you'd get mugged in every alley, though every single person would be out to screw you at every chance. A bank teller 'accidentally' getting conversions wrong, giving you a fraction of your Traveller's Cheques' worth. A policeman seizing on the chance to jump on foreigners and make them identify criminals, in a way that suggested he'd heard of profiling but hadn't quite mastered this finest of the douchebaggery arts.

Even the currency seemed cynical. There were two. Mean City Dollars, and Tourist Dollars, and a bank teller constantly trying to screw tourists out of the correct exchange rate.

Welcoming place, Mean City. Not unfriendly at all.

And speaking of unfriendly...

I had no care for such things though. There was a mystery to be solved, and exploring, my only clue was that mayoral candidate George McGrath, the head of the local TV station, had been seen in my hotel giving the Jinx a vast amount of money before running lots of news stories on her activities. Truly, I was baffled. Who could be behind all this? I wondered if mayoral candidate George McGrath, the head of the local TV station, had been seen in my hotel giving the Jinx a vast amount of money before running lots of news stories on her activities could shed some light onto the matter.

How would I get a meeting with this powerful man? I figured that if you don't ask, you don't get.

"I want to see Mr. McGrath," I told the guard.
"Do you have an appointment to see Mr. McGrath?" he replied.

Well played, sir. Well played...

"I want an appointment to see Mr. McGrath," I tried instead. This worked, despite the fact that it quite clearly shouldn't have, and less than two minutes later I was in the man's office.

Damn it, if you don't have pictures of Spider-Man, what are you doing in my office?

McGrath looked a bit like a German John Malkovich, without the sense of humour or IMDB profile. "Hold my calls," he growled. "What do you want?" Malkovich, Malkovich, Malkovich...

"I want to find Harry Childs," I told him. "Harry is a friend of mine."

McGrath stared. Slightly. "It is dangerous to look for Harry."

I paused. "Mr. McGrath, I'm afraid of you," I confided, for no reason.

"Good!" he snapped. "Goodbye. Don't return to MCTV."

Well, I figured that probably counted as a good day's work...

In Mean City, a good meal is a meal you can walk away from. This is haut cuisine.

My sleep was broken by my phone ringing; on the other side, a strange woman. The Jinx? I wasn't sure. Possibly. "How is your English?" she demanded. Do you speak good English? I don't think so! Write these letters down! D! N! O! C! E! S! Y! T! N! E! W! T! E! H! T! Put them in reverse order! By the way, our systems say that your Windows Mac has been downloaded with a virus."

Okay, she didn't say the last bit. That would have been too normal. Instead, she kept babbling, ultimately conveying a date and time of day in the most confusing way fubeg bs qbvat vg va EBG13.

Ah, Mean City. Putting the 'nuisance' into 'nuisance calls' since 1602...

You're Harry's girlfriend? Pfft. I bet you don't own a single fedora.

With the help of the newspaper, I tracked down Harry's girlfriend, Thelma. By 'help', I mean 'they printed her address' - 7 Lewis Lane. We didn't immediately hit it off. She answered the door in a gown and asked "What do you want?" Completely accidentally, I replied "I want to pay."


Once that was cleared up though, she was happy to help the investigation. She pointed me to a notebook that he left behind, and after running around for an hour trying to figure out what bloody trigger would let me ask about it and after that, handed a videotape. Unfortunately, it turned out the only video player in the entire city was the one in George McGrath's office, and he wouldn't see me again. What to do?

Well, first, call a cab. "I'm in Lewis Lane," I explained over the phone, being very careful to pronounce that correctly in case Superman was listening and in a jealous mood. Can't be too careful.

Lost for ideas, I headed back to Al's to check the day's newspaper. The top story seemed relevant. "Police now believe that the Jinx has kidnapped Harry Childs and put him somewhere nasty." Oooh, er. Somewhere nasty. That does sound unpleasant. Also, it turned out that McGrath's mayoral campaign hinged on getting rid of the Jinx, despite him giving her money in secret meetings. Hmm.


The newspaper also explained the Jinx's motivation. "In the last week, twenty three language students from all over the world have disappeared in Mean City," it read. "Police believe this may be the work of the Jinx. Detective Bill Forks thinks that a long time ago, the Jinx was a language teacher. He says that her language students made her mad several years ago, and that she is seeking revenge."

Ah. Very common amongst language teachers. More than a few have been driven to split their students' infinitives after having to explain 'avoir' and 'être' one too many times.

Start humming the Mission: Impossible theme tune, everyone. This is going to get... edgy.

Clearly, I had to infiltrate Mean City TV. The security guard was gone when I got back, but there was still a big metal door in my way. I had neither ID card, nor passcode. Luckily, I was there just in time to overhear this message landing on the answering machine...

"Tony. It's Janice Grey. Listen, I've lost my ID card. I think I left it at the Angel Hotel. I was there with George last week..."

This was turning into a really weird bit of edutainment, I thought, as I went to collect the lost card from what conveniently turned out to be the top of my room's TV. The villain takes his employees to sleazy hotels just down the road, and directly funds terrorism? I miss the good old days when an edutainment detective just had to know how to type words like 'cat' and 'dog' and 'quit'.

Luckily, the receptionist is sworn to secrecy. Unless anyone asks, obviously.

So, here's the most convoluted security system ever. All the employee names are listed in anagram form, which is probably okay for "Grainy Ace". Poor "Jean Crying" and "Nice Gay Jar" on the other hand probably aren't quite as into the system. The latter, of course, being Janice.

With the anagram decoded, you then have to put all the items on screen into the correct places in order to get a passcode. This makes perfect sense, and is not unbelievably ridiculous at all. On the plus side, it's coded with some leeway, so doesn't have to be the pixel-perfect madness I initially groaned in anticipation of after seeing the instructions.

Or, y'know, use a password...

Breaking into McGrath's office using the date and time sent from the machine gun informant, I easily found a VCR to play Harry's mysterious tape. "I don't have much time," he stammered, finally exposing the shocking secret of Mean City. DO NOT SHARE THE SHOCKING SECRET OF MEAN CITY!

Oh. Hang on. You don't know it yet. The big secret is that George McGrath was paying the Jinx to commit crimes so that he could film them and boost his crappy ratings. He's like the anti-Spider-Man. With ratings this good though, McGrath could go beyond mere TV megalomania. He could take over the entire city and... if the newspaper was anything to go by... lower the tax rate on cigars! Gasp!

I'm not sure why that was my problem exactly, but apparently it was. So there.

All the vocab essentials are here. Getting around. Booking a hotel. The dark arts...

With the help of assistance from a creepy gypsy type who decides that the best way to say 'ask the receptionist' is to produce a deck of tarot cards, it wasn't not hard to track down Harry's location to a place called Dead Man's End. Well, except for continuing to try to convince everyone that I didn't speak English, leading to instructive little conversations like...

"You're a stranger here, aren't you?"
"I haven't been here before."
"I mean to help you. You are in trouble."
"I'm frightened of bulls."
"Listen carefully. I said I want to help you. You are in trouble."
"I thought I was in Mean City."
"...please check your phrasebook. I said you are in trouble!"

The only big catch though, aside from having to use her crystal ball to decode a guide to the tunnels of Dead Man's End, and that crystal ball quite clearly not being crystal...

Seriously, you're not even trying, lady.

...was getting there in the first place. The taxi wouldn't go there. The train?

"I want a ticket to Dead Man's End," I told the clerk.
"Single or return?"
"I'm sorry," he shuddered. "We don't sell return tickets to Dead Man's End."

Oh. I think I was supposed to be creeped out. Really, I just wanted to know why he'd asked.

Thank Christ! I've been tied to this thing for three days! And I have an itch!

Finding Harry was easy enough, thanks to not having any... y'know... guards, or anything. He was just standing there, strapped to a bomb with full information on how to defuse it. Coupled with a code I'd found, I freed him without even breaking a sweat. Finally, the city had its slightly gawky saviour back. But this was a big problem. Would he be able to shut down the conspiracy once and for all?

And would the Jinx really go down without a proper fight?

Oh. Turns out the answer is yes. You've got to love conspiracies with all the resilience of a souffle. Still, Mean City was saved. And nobody knew that I'd done it with the most powerful weapon of all... the power to speak English. Once, it made an empire and trounced the French. Now it had saved a bunch of jerks who I'd come to loathe, and unravelled a scheme so shadowy, mysterious and riddled with complexity, my phrase book had no word to fully explain it. Luckily, as a native speaker, I did...

I think we all learned something today. Specifically, English is best. Lesson over!

If you enjoyed this, please hit the social buttons to let your friends know, or simply tell them the old fashioned way. This week's Crap Shoot was brought to you by the letters A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O, P, Q, R, S, T, U, V, X, Y and Z, but not W. W didn't chip in, the blighter.
PC Gamer
Call of Duty Black Ops 2 akimbo pistols

How's your brain? Is it full of thoughts of the weekend and exciting upcoming things like DINNER and CHRISTMAS? Good, you might be pleased to know that thanks to action games like Call of Duty, your brain is probably better at juggling multiple thoughts of dinner and Christmas better than the average non-gamer brain. It's also good at tracking happy and sad children as they bounce around a circular playground, and is better at picking grey objects from a grey background. We can thank Gears of War for that. Cognitive researcher Daphne Bavelier can do a much better job of explaining it all than I, so I'll give up the stage to her TED performance, which you'll find embedded below.

You can find plenty more talks on all sorts of topics on the TED site. For a more amusing turn, TED has been perfectly parodied by The Onion as well.
PC Gamer
webgame roundup 12

This week's round-up would be awfully empty without the incredible Fuck This Jam, the game jam centred around strawberry, raspberry, and controversially even marmalade, which - oh. *Coughs*. It's about making a game in a genre you hate. Well, after playing some of these offerings, I'm thinking that perhaps The Beatles should reconsider their stance that 'love is all you need' - hate seems to be pretty inspirational too. Hate (or, in some cases, mild dislike or unfamiliarity) has resulted in a game about orc-punching, a real gem of a game, and a game with a very important message to get across. Read on for those things I just said, plus city-building and a larcenous ball of snot.

MegaCity Deluxe HD by ColePowered Play it online here.

Despite the name, it's got nothing to do with Judge Dredd. Drokk!

ColePowered's novel city-building game plays out like a streamlined, squished down version of SimCity, but with an added random element that might feel more at home in a match-three puzzler. In MegaCity, you don't get to choose which building/tile you lay down; they appear automatically in the sidebar. Thankfully, as with most versions of Tetris, you can see what's coming a few steps ahead, so you can plan your building placement somewhat carefully. The goal is to fill each square in such a way that (for example) houses don't go up next to prisons or dumps - once you've filled up your city, you're given a score based on how well-designed it is.

This leans more toward the casual side of the gaming spectrum, so I'm not sure how satisfying it will be to SimCity fans, but if you're looking for an innovative match-three rather than yet another Columns/Tetris/Bejewelled clone, then you've definitely settled in the right place.

Crystal Crashers by Sos Sosowski and Zoe Quinn Play it online here.

The voiceover is by far the best bit of the game.

From match-three to match...one in this joyously silly game (spotted on Free Indie Games), created for the inspirational Fuck This Jam. If you make it past the 300 years of pre-game credit screens, you'll find a crushing pisstake of so-called casual games which come loaded with insidious 'freemium' elements. You don't need to match anything; just click at random and you'll be rewarded with lashings of cash, and patted on the head with exclamations such as "Incredible!" and "Capital!", as read in a perfect tone of voice by (I presume) Sos - the creator of McPixel - himself.

Fuck This Dungeon by rylgh Play it online here.

If you can pat your head and rub your stomach at the same time, you'll stand a fighting chance at Fuck This Dungeon.

I'm not sure what this Fuck This Jam game is a reaction to (perhaps Punch-Out!!) but I am sure that it's absolutely brilliant. Using the WASD keys to move, punch and block with your left hand, and the arrow keys to do the same with your right, you have to face a procession of mean orcs and goblins, and take out as many as you can before you die. It's hard. It's hilarious. It's brutal. It's wonderfully crude. It's backed up by a ridiculously excited rock/metal soundtrack. It's the only way to legitimately punch an orc without getting stinking drunk at a LARP event. Play it NOW. (Thanks to Free Indie Games.)

Swindler 2 by Nitrome Play it online here.

Hands up who remembers Boogerman. No, hands in the AIR, not up your nose.

Leaving the title screen was hard enough, thanks to the catchy soundtrack, but not as hard as the Swindler has it when he has to leave his stretchy umbilical cord. Indie Games bring word of Swindler 2; you're a disgusting green blob (and in the game), relying on an endlessly stretchy cord to navigate a series of obstacle-strewn environments. The goal is to grab the treasure in each stage, but early on you gain the ability to detach yourself from the rope-like substance and roll around instead. However, the unattached Swindler soon runs out of air, which needs to be refilled from yucky plants.

Exquisite pixel art, a great physics engine and a decent challenge make this a game worthy of anyone's time. (Unless you're using Firefox, on which it runs quite slowly for some reason.)

The Message by Jeremy Lonien and Dominik Johann Play it online here.

I dunno - maybe Gmail was down.

The Message advises you to absorb its...message while listening to some appropiately spacey music, and this makes the final reveal that much more impressive. As with other Fuck This Jam games, I don't think there's any genuine malice towards the interactive fiction genre here, but some might see it that way. For me this is just a really quite accomplished short story, livened up with some lovely bits of art. (Ta, IndieGames.)