Burger Shop (Bigfishgames.com)

When mysterious blueprints show up in the mail, you use them to build the ultimate burger machine.  Will you finally become a huge success or will your shop fail big time?

The plot’s actually quite simple, you’re a small-time business owner trying to make it big.  In the first story mode, you go from town to town making burger machines.  In the second story mode, you check up on your shops to see that the people in charge desperately need your help.  Let’s just say that the way they screwed up had me laughing a little bit.

During the game, you gather the ingredients on the conveyor belt, assemble them in the correct order and give what you assemble to the customer who orders it.  You can also make drinks, fries and ice cream to give to your customers.  Later on, you can combine different machines to make various items.  You can also use certain ingredients on the conveyor belt to receive power-ups.  Oh, and if you feel stressed, ask BurgerBot to fill a customer’s order.

This game is addictive and funny.  I give it 9 out of 10; it made me laugh a few times.

The Royal Trap (Hanakogames.com)

When Prince Oscar and his companion, Madeleine go to Gwellinor in the hopes of making Oscar the groom of Princess Cassidy, a mysterious kidnapping takes place and Madeleine is the prime suspect.  Now she must clear her name and discover a terrible family secret.

In games like these, you would normally take on the role of Princess Cassidy and pursue each potential suitor.  Instead, you take on the role of Madeleine and choose which character’s route you wish to take between Oscar, Gaston, Nazagi and Callum.  Did I mention that Callum’s route also comes with a secret path? I have to say that playing as Madeleine is a nice change of pace from the usual heroine you play in these types of games.  Not only is she a strong character but the story isn’t all about her.  Madeleine is just a servant who unintentionally got involved in a huge mess.

The game play is your standard visual novel.  You make choices that determine which character route you want to go on.  Each one has a good, bad and normal ending depending on the choices you make.  Not only will playing the game unlock pictures for the CG gallery, it will also unlock songs for you to play on the jukebox.

This game is fun and intriguing.  I give it 8 out of 10; an original take on a common genre.

Frozen Essence (Unbrokenhours.com)

Mina has been sleeping for years in a crystal prison.  Now that she’s awake, it’s time for Mina to unlock her true potential as the Death Orb.  Whether she finds romance or corruption is all up to you.

What personality Mina takes is based entirely on what path you pursue.  You can go on Rune, Cauis, Aurelius, Varian, a secret character or the alone path.

Each character has a minimum of two endings and only one of them is the true ending of the game.  Some paths Mina tended to be annoying while on others she was a very strong character.

The game is pure visual novel form.  In the first part, you make choices to determine what character you’ll pursue.  In the next part, you make choices to determine what ending you get.  As you complete each ending, you unlock new pictures for your gallery.

This game is interesting and fun.  I give it 6 out of 10; not a bad way to spend your time.

Pet Store Panic (Bigfishgames.com)

Professor Alstein just invented machines that can produce and tend to any pet.  Polly agrees to use them in her pet store in the hopes that it will save her failing business.

The plot is just that, completely ridiculous and not funny in the slightest.  As for the game play, you produce pets from a machine and then accessorize them for the requested person.  You can put a collar on the pet, give it a bow, give it a paint job, a new pattern and other things.

Sometimes people will drop their pets off with you for cleaning or accessorizing.  You can’t advance to the next level until you reach the required goal but try for expert if you feel lucky.  In between levels, you can purchase upgrades for your shop.

This game is stupid yet addictive.  I give it 3 out of 10; it felt less like a pet shop and more like a stuffed animal factory.

Yousei (Sakevisual.com)

Kangai joined a group of psychic teenagers who are under the watchful eye of the government.  Now a murder has occurred at a college campus that he and his new friends will have to solve.

The story is a mystery and it delves deeper into a couple of the characters’ pasts.  One ending will even reveal the truth about said characters.  The story introduces new characters and one character from the first game returns.  When you unlock the epilogue, you find out that the story’s not quite over yet.  I’m not sure what they’ll do with the next game but I have seen Winter Wolves and Sakevisual talk about a Jisei in Fairbrook game on twitter.  I’m not sure if they’ll go through with it and I don’t think it’s going to be the next game.

The game play is the same as the last two.  You pick a response for Kangai and then you travel through the area asking questions.  You can review your cell phone for hints or review the information you’ve gathered on your notepad.  You also have the option of giving Kangai glasses, which doesn’t really affect the plot.  Getting certain endings will unlock other such extras and pictures for your gallery.  It will also allow you to view the epilogue.

This game is fun and intriguing.  I give it 9 out of 10; I choked up a bit on some parts.

Sally’s Salon (Bigfishgames.com)

Sally dreams of opening her own salon chain.  Right now, she has one small place in the mall.  Can you help make Sally’s dream a reality?

Not much to say about the plot but the game play makes up for it.  You seat customers in the stations they request.  The different stations are hair washing, hair styling, hair drying, eyebrow plucking, and polishing their nails.  In the case of hair washing and hair drying, you can hire people to do that for you.  As for the rest, they come with a little mini-game where you cycle through different styles until you find the one that makes the customer happy.  Between levels, you can purchase upgrades to make the game easier.  In order to advance through the game, you have to reach the target goal.  Try for expert if you feel lucky.

This game is addictive but not very intriguing.  I give it 6 out of 10; it gives you something to do when you’re bored.

Natalie Brooks: Secrets of Treasure House (Bigfishgames.com)

Natalie just received an inheritance from her grandmother.  Unfortunately, the city wants to tear it down to construct a highway.  Not only that, but her grandmother’s debt prevents the banker from signing her petition and the chief of police refuses to sign it whatsoever.  Now she has to collect enough money to pay the debt, convince every member of city council to sign her petition and discover the true intentions of the chief of police.

The story is not deep but it’s fun.  You interact with a cast of colorful characters and help some of them out of a few jams.  You can also read Natalie’s diary to discover her thoughts on the situation she’s in.

The game play is what I love most.  Natalie travels through the city and you can’t really control where she goes.  You find items through a scene and use them to advance the story.  If you get stuck, use a hint.  In order to collect more hints, you have to enter a hidden object mode where you find a certain number of items before the timer reaches zero.  You can also find question marks hidden in various scenes and collect those.  Oh, and be sure to gather the ripped pictures in each scene in order to complete the extra puzzle.

This game is fun and simple.  I give it 7 out of 10; a good start to an addictive series.

Potion Bar (Bigfishgames.com)

A note leads you to a mysterious place in an alley.  Now you have to make potions for all the creatures that frequent there.  Your only guide is a talking cat who not only shows you how to make the potions; he also teaches you how to travel the world through magic.

The plot is simple but fun.  Not only do you have to find the person who trapped you in the bar, you also have to stop an evil plan.  At the beginning of some levels, a character will talk to you, revealing the plot little by little.  Sometimes they even give you items you can use to further the plot.  As for what the plot is, I don’t know how to reveal it without giving away spoilers.  I can say that although it is simplistic, you can bet that it’s not boring.  The only thing I can tell you is that part of the plot is trying to find the man that led you here in the first place.

The game play is just as simplistic.  You make potions by grabbing a glass and filling it with the right one.  Then you put it on the boiler and wait for it to heat up.  You then add the proper ingredients and heat it some more.  If a customer wants a decoration, you add one and give it to the customer.  You can also purchase supplies from a visiting merchant to help you complete your goal, such as a self-boiling glass.  Collect enough silver to reach the minimum goal.  You can go for expert if you’re up to it.  In every stage of the game, you participate in a hidden object mode in order to create a new potion after you’ve completed three levels.  When you’re finished with one stage, you put the items in the correct slots on the door to move on to the next one.

This game is simple and addictive.  I give it 7 out of 10; a time management game with a mystical twist.

Heileen 3: New Horizons (Winterwolves.com)

Heileen is shipwrecked on a mysterious island with Robert and Ebele. They are saved by a ship called the Morning Star led by the pirates Morgan and Juliet.  Not only does Heileen use this opportunity to find her friends, she also needs to discover her destiny.  Will Heileen find love or will she find her true calling?

At first, the story is about Heileen searching for her missing friends and family.  After everyone’s found, the story changes depending on which character you pursue or which colony activity you partake in.  In the original game, Heileen can choose between Morgan, John, Jonathan and Sebastian.  Purchasing the female romance expansion extends her choices to Lora, Marie, Juliet and Ebele.  My favorite of the guys is Sebastian (though I hate to admit it) and my favorite of the girls is Juliet.  With Sebastian it might be more out of relief that Elias was going to be the romance option but he was voted out by Celso Riva‘s followers.  He also had no intention of adding Juliet to the mix but popular demand changed his mind.  I much prefer the plots where Heileen partakes in colony activities because at first she’s clueless about what she wants to do with her life.  As she continues, she realizes that she found her true calling.

While the first two games were pure visual novels, this one is a dating/raising sim.  During the game, you can do basic activities on the ship or colony activities on land.  You have to raise attributes from the former in order to participate in the latter.  You can invite one of the characters to do the colony activity with you and if you raise your stat high enough, you can qualify for the profession attached to it as long as you have the right sin or virtue.  There will be some cut scenes in the game where you have to make a choice that affects your alignment with good and evil.  It also affects your relationships with certain characters.  Some cutscenes are story-driven while others are just you inviting someone out or vice versa.

This is definitely my favorite of the Heileen series.  I give it 8 out of 10; it ended with a bang.

Heartstring Bugs (Unbrokenhours.com)

Elly has just finished her first year of high school and hasn’t really accomplished anything.  Fortunately, a baby virus from another planet wanting to study humans gives her the ability to see other people’s emotions.  Will this help Elly blossom into more than what she is?

Other than the cute baby virus, this is your typical slice of life dating sim.  Elly has five potential love interests in Huang, Chase, Lucas, Dimitri and Blaze.  Huang is a socially awkward geek who gets English slang confused.  Chase is the smart arrogant jerk trying to get rid of his legions of fangirls.  Lucas is the happy go lucky prankster.  Blaze is the egocentric rock star.  Dimitri is the easygoing boy next door.  Elly can also form a friendship with Tamera, Naomi, or Alice.  Tamera is the outgoing cheerleader.  Naomi is the insecure bookworm.  Alice is the shy withdrawn girl.  She also has another love interest she can pursue that you need to discover on your own.

One factor I absolutely love about this game is that it doesn’t take itself seriously.  It’s ridiculous and the writer knows it.  The game is so funny that there were times I had to stop playing so I could control myself after laughing so hard.  I was just lucky I wasn’t drinking anything at the time.  There’s one plot that draws inspiration from Twilight and as much as I hate that series, I actually enjoyed the storyline.

The game play is very similar to Lucky Rabbit Reflex.  You can date a character to help them raise their impression of you.  Some of the ways you can do so is by entering the same club they’re in, raising your scores in charm, fashion, academics and athletics enough to get good marks and experiment with different clothes to get the style the guy you’re pursuing absolutely loves.  One aspect of this game that separates it from others is that you also have to raise your impression of the people in your life.  All you have to do is click the emoticon that best accomplishes your goal.

This game is addictive and hilarious.  I give it 10 out of 10; I consider uncontrollable laughter a strong emotional response.