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It's The Sims meets magnetic refrigerator poetry! In this quirky IGF 2008 finalist, you begin with a blank world -- a deserted window of whiteness -- then right click anywhere to conjure a dialogue menu that lets you add single words or "genetically spliced" combos with periods. You then have to feed and care for your roaming lexical creations with food and companions. Feed them vegetation composed of apostrophes, slashes, carets, and asterisks and they'll mate, giving birth to neologisms that'll boggle the trendiest dictionary.
Words can become friends, lovers, enemies, even spawn entire families as you add food units and shepherd breeding practices by introducing impassable obstacles. Or you can always let your words starve and watch as they cannibalize each other (it's up to you). At some point, you'll want to save your progress and read your entire poesysteme in full, preferably out loud and in the company of others.
Download Poesysteme (Freeware)
IGF 2007 prizewinner RoboBlitz comes powered by the Unreal Engine 3.0 and looking like it. It's a visually striking third person physics-driven puzzle game about a technician robot, Blitz, who has to save the world by powering up a Space Cannon to blow an evil invader out of the sky. He'll accomplish this by visiting six space stations in any order and getting all the obligatory equipment primed and powered up.
Blitz rolls around and somehow balances on a uni-ball, has little jets that let him jump short distances, and can grab barrels, boxes, and pretty much anything that isn't nailed down with his pincer-like arms. You'll need to use all of his basic abilities and others added by finding "Upgradium" to solve the game's crafty puzzles.
Of course it wouldn't be complete without physics-derivative combat, which RoboBlitz dishes up in spades. Bash enemies with objects at hand, or swing those objects in 360 degree arcs to bash them backwards. And that's just for starters. Eventually Blitz gets a hovergun that causes whatever it's blasting to float in the air, and a point-to-point gun that crams two distinct objects together, forming a bond. Recommended for fans of puzzle games that reward freeform experimentation.
Download RoboBlitz (Price: $14.50; Feature-limited demo)
Bit Blot's Aquaria won the IGF 2007 Seumas McNally Grand Prize and clearly deserved it. It's arguably the most visually stunning 2D side-scroller you've ever seen, full of lush hand-drawn art that's like falling into a Disney cartoon, only darker and more densely textured. The game's luxurious ocean world consists of labyrinthine tunnels connecting rooms that vaguely resemble the insides of a geode, occasionally opening out into vast chambers that show off complex underwater ecosystems.
Controlling a greenish web-footed amnesiac named Naija who's searching for her family, you hold the left mouse button to swim, or move it away from Naija to make her cling to rock wall or bound off and speed away. Right-click and you can brush a ring of colored symbols with your pointer that correspond to musical notes that play harmoniously with the graceful background music. Matching specific note-colors to like-colored objects hatches collectible objects like recipes that can be employed to "cook" dishes that boost Naija's abilities like speed and defense.
Eventually you'll learn to transform into Naija's darker offensive alter ego and fire projectiles to attack enemy creatures. But while combat is both satisfying and essential, the best parts of Aquaria may just be the most downtempo ones, as you glide along secret underwater currents and explore hidden areas in search of clues to Naija's storied past.
Download Aquaria (Price: $30; Feature-limited demo)
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