Another week, another vat full of independently produced game sludge to dip the critical sieve into, pulling out hopefully only the juiciest chunklets of freeware goodness. On the menu today is a Bejewelled tribute with knights, a Tron tribute without Bruce Boxleitner, a Gibbets tribute without any arrows and finally an East India Company tribute with more tea leaves.
Some of those were just made up for the sake of the faintly amusing intro paragraph, but that's not true of King's Guard, which is indeed a Bejewelled homage. On each level, you've got to protect your town from invasion, which is naturally done via the medium of coloured block matching.
Your foe approaches down three horizontal paths, protected by three different coloured guardians. One's red, one's green and the third is purple. Your town is also guarded by six pieces of wall in each row and if these are knocked down, game over.
Your heroes will need healing after being attacked, which is done by matching three of the same colour blocks. Match more and you get access to their special abilities. Yellow buildings give you money, which you can use in-between missions to open treasure chests (surely it's money you get when open them, rather than the other way around? - Ed).
Special abilities include charging forward to eliminate all that stand in your way. Once you've finished a level, you move onto the inventory and levelling up screens. Each hero has three skills, which can be improved the more they fight in the main game. You can purchase weapons for them to be equipped, which should help them out a bit. As you progress through each level, more elements are added, like guard towers and bigger grids.
Obviously Bejewelled-type games are incredibly popular, so adding RPG elements works – as it did in 'for money' releases like Puzzle Quest and such. Here it's free and less sophisticated, but it does give you a glimpse of what you might be getting in the more extensive 'proper' releases. It's not mind-blowing by any means, but what it does, it does well. Except that the angle of the matching board is such that it can occasionally be easy to miss potential scoring opportunities.
Collapse It comes from the same mind that created the grisly and addictive archer-'em-up browser titles Gibbets. Smirdis has moved on from the bow and the arrow, now focusing on crushing people with blocks of masonry.
Your task is to use explosives to ensure that all the human characters die in the rubble created. Certain parts of the structures can't have bombs attached, so you've got to figure out how to annihilate the people using only the requisite bricks.
The fewer bombs you use, the better your score. It's very similar to the physics-based puzzling from Gibbets and is equally compelling. As you continue, more bomb types become available, some falling from the sky, for example.
The humans are quite fragile and can be killed by anything, even just by being nudged by a toppling corpse, which is something to bear in mind.
With the recent atrocity that was the latest Tron game, perhaps you can bury your sorrows in this tribute game. Lightspeeder uses the Z, X and Space keys to mash crappy mobile classic Snake with the visual style of the aforementioned Tron.
All you have to do is keep yourself alive and not crash – you have a jump button to help you in a pinch – and you'll be rewarded with progress to the next level. There are a few other coloured lines or snakes that need to be eliminated also, which is where the challenge comes in. Lightspeeder can also be played by two players for that added bite of human competition.
That's about it, really. There's not that much to it, but get another player involved and it can be quite challenging. Because of the zoomed in third person view, it can also be tricky to keep your distance from opposing lines, but generally it's easy enough to control, and you do get a good sense of speed.
Finally, High Tea is a trading game set in the 19th century, where you have to exploit the Chinese by trading them opium for their delicious, refreshing cha.
As in reality, prices of commodities vary due to political or economic conditions, so you'll need to maximise profit by not over-spending and then finding the market's slumped and you're stuck with a load of rotting tea leaves nobody wants.
Your goal is to expand your trade empire from the measly one you'll start off with into a veritable fleet of vessels. Watch out for the filth getting wise to your smuggling act though, as you'll likely lose everything if they catch you.
It's actually a little confusing when you first start. Things are popping up all over the place and it's not entirely obvious which bits are selling tea and buying opium, or vice versa. The best thing to do is to study the tutorial section carefully before playing, don't just rush in and click Done before reading every part of it.
If you can get the hang of what's going on, there's a mildly diverting trade game here, though of course if you really love this sort of thing, you'd be best heading off to the bank to get some money for East India Company or its follow-up.