The Lost Mind of Dr. Brain Educational categoryPuzzle category

Title screen from The Lost Mind of Dr. Brain

Quick, name a great edutainment game.

No, not The Oregon Trail again. Think harder.

The game you just thought about probably taught a single subject really, really well. Classics like Carmen Sandiego, Math Blaster, or even Mario’s Time Machine all focused on a single topic – geography, math, history, etc. – and drove it into children’s skulls with the hawkishnses of a car salesman, hoping they’d retain at least a little bit of whatever subject.

The Lost Mind of Dr. Brain is a little more ambitious if generalized in scope. It tackles the subject of brain functions, trying to expand players’ minds in comprehension, logic, spatial cognition, and linguistics. Not only does it work, it’s fun, and I had just as good of a time playing it as a twentysomething as I did as a hyperactive kid. » Read more about The Lost Mind of Dr. Brain

Lighthouse: The Dark Being Adventure category

Title screen from Lighthouse: The Dark Being

The company Sierra On-Line was once a titan of the adventure game genre. Though their style of extra-difficult, character-driven, third-person adventure stories eventually fell out of favor to the first-person, contemplative solitude of Myst, they took one shot at that new genre mode with Lighthouse: The Dark Being.

On its surface, Lighthouse reads like notes from a committee meeting that tried to nail down what made Myst successful. You visit a bizarre uncharted world where you solve complicated puzzles in a open-ended locales with complex mythology and lots of journals to read. Almost in spite of that copycat-ery, Lighthouse leaves its own touches on how that sort of game can fill its setting with risk and conflict. Its twisted world delights more than its components suggest.

UPDATE: Lead designer Jon Bock shares some insight into the unusual art direction and story for this self-described “science-fiction folk tale.” » Read more about Lighthouse: The Dark Being

The Labyrinth of Time Adventure category

Title screen from The Labyrinth of Time

The bizarre and the mundane shine inseparably in The Labyrinth of Time, an adventure game by Terra Nova Development. Mainly the design of artist Bradley W. Schenck, the game throws mythology, retrofuturism, and art history together into an odd concoction that, rather than come out as a disparate mess, heightens the ordinary and grounds the imaginative. The titular labyrinth is a setting of enormous creativity bound into maze form. » Read more about The Labyrinth of Time

Duracell: Run the Bunny Other category

Title screen from Duracell: Run the Bunny

It’s understandable that Duracell would produce a game based on their mascot character. I don’t understand what Duracell: Run The Bunny was supposed to be, though. It’s barely coherent as a game, as an advertisement, or as anything. Duracell probably didn’t expect this either.

UPDATE: New unsettling information about Run the Bunny, straight from the developer’s mouth. » Read more about Duracell: Run the Bunny

The Journeyman Project Adventure category

Title screen from The Journeyman Project

Too many games look at the post-apocalyptic future. What comes after that? The Journeyman Project terrifically answers those bleak predictions with an upbeat one, where goodwill and a shared sense of purpose build past our darkest qualities.

Debuting earlier in the same year as first-person adventure trendsetter Myst, The Journeyman Project offers a more narrative take on the genre. Though it might emphasize inventive puzzles less than its contemporaries, the hopeful thematic strength of its setting helps its delicious sci-fi pulpiness grow into something whole and sublime. » Read more about The Journeyman Project

Span-It! Board category

"About" screen from Span-It!

Rarely does a game’s title explain its entire premise. In Span-It!, there is a board. And you must span it.

Even with the hilariously simple premise, Span-It! contains enough options and tweaks to stretch out its worth and replay value. But they also reveal a few major strategic shortcomings that makes the single-player mode wear thin quickly. » Read more about Span-It!

Wrath of the Gods Adventure categoryEducational category

Title screen from Wrath of the Gods

The Muses in Greek mythology glorified the spirit of the arts and history through poetry and song. None would have predicted that several thousand years later, a grainy adventure game with stilted, public-access-quality live-action production would take up their mantle.

In Wrath of the Gods, developed Joel Skidmore and the small team at Luminaria compellingly attempt to cram the entirety of the Greek myths into a digestible, entertaining, and educational format. In terms of raw effort, it’s hard to top. » Read more about Wrath of the Gods

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