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"Your 'reality', sir, is lies and balderdash and I'm delighted to say that I have no grasp of it whatsoever."
— Karl Friedrich Hieronymus, Freiherr von M√ľnchhausen

Friday Free Game: The Tall Stump

Regular readers of The Red Bull Diary will recall that I'm a big fan of jayisgames for being a general distributor of Flash game goodness (for example, a fine little game called S3QUENC3R was once mentioned on the site). Jay has just wrapped up his Fourth Casual Gameplay Design Competition, and announced that the winner is a truly excellent puzzle-platformer called The Tall Stump. And it is this game that I would like to spotlight as the latest Friday Free Game, because it's so damn well-done.

I described it as a puzzle-platformer, but what does that mean? It's a game that appeals to the curiosity of the user, and it will suck you right in if you're the "Explorer" type of player. The Bartle Explorer Play Type describes a player whose primary motivation is in discovering as much as they can about a virtual world. Did you love classic Super Mario Brothers? Tomb Raider? Then you're likely an Explorer-type, and you're bound to love Stump.

Much like many classic games, the story here is simple: the bad guy in black turned your girlfriend into a square and ran off, and you must give chase. Really, this is just the proverbial kick in the pants to start you off. Use left and right cursor keys to move; up to jump; down to pick up items or cycle through your inventory; use the space bar to use your currently selected item. You explore the world, traveling from screen to screen, picking up items that you find along the way and solving puzzles to further your progress.

The game succeeds on a number of levels, most importantly because it's got lots and lots of charm. The music is atmospheric and not distracting, the cartoony graphics are simple yet stylish, and the gameplay is challenging without becoming frustrating. Much of the gameplay centers around using a bazooka-looking device that shoots bouncing balls. Use the ball gun to activate levers that open doors and introduce new elements that will help you move from one screen to the next. While you make your way through the game, you will also find several different kinds of hats, from the newspaper hat right at the beginning to a ninja suit later on. It's easy to see why Jay Bibby and his audience loved The Tall Stump; I think you will, too.

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The Red Bull Diary is the personal pulpit and intellectual dumping-ground for its author, an amateur game designer, professional programmer, political centrist and incurable skeptic. The Red Bull Diary is gaming, game design, politics, development, geek culture, and other such nonsense.