Puzzle Pavilion

While I’m still insisting on solving every puzzle in room before moving on, I have noticed that Patrick’s Parabox is quite generous in letting you solve just a few before the next area opens up.

This is definitely my favorite song from the soundtrack so far (but I don’t think I’m even halfway through the game yet):

yeah that song is good! i also really like one from a further world but i won’t say the name since it’s the mechanic of the world.

also, yes, i actually main pathed parabox my first time through because i was so interested in what the mechanics would be, and the cleaned up everything else as a second pass.

1 Like

200-odd after 6-odd hours, though a good hour has been futzing around with Open 5 which I cannot do. really stuck on a stupid line of reasoning that 100% will not work

the optional extra puzzles are good, the regular puzzles are a bit autopiloty

2 Likes

Yeah, the main path is a little easier than I would like it, but I think that means it’s balanced pretty well for folks who don’t play puzzle games too much.

The engine is really impressive and I know there are a couple people trying to make level editors (the author is distributing a Unity project that lets you make levels too, but that’s a little heavy for most people.)

Hopefully all this means we’ll have a solid community pack of the levels in the future that ups the difficulty a bit.

If I compare Patrick levels to my level design in ghost game (which I’ll be releasing soon), Patrick’s puzzles are like if you deconstructed mine and made a separate puzzle from each step.

1 Like

made it to the appendicies, wow the prototype levels are hard to read! really appreciate the UX polish in the published game

I did it, had to reconsider 1 assumption. all the main-line puzzles solved in 11h (2 hours on Open 5)

the challenges are pretty alright!

A shameless plug for my ghost puzzle game that I finally released:

4 Likes

Man I haven’t posted in here in about six months, shameful. Still there is a Steam puzzle fest going on and that means it is as good a time as any to write about the puzzle game I’ve been playing for much of the past month…

Filament

Filament is a tricky game to write about as I feel I have to point out that it clearly was inspired in part by The Witness, but doing so I think will lead to misguided expectations both good and bad. It clearly doesn’t have the budget or ambitions of said game, nor the pretensions, but in terms of building various rulesets around a similar basic mechanic and how to lay them out across a larger containing space it clearly took several lessons. Let’s work our way through it and hope for the best.

The game opens with you arriving on a seemingly abandoned research spaceship, with most of the six person crew vanished aside from the pilot who ended up accidentally trapped in the cockpit. The only way to open the door to her and hopefully piece together exactly what happened aboard this ship is to deactivate all the “anchors” laid out all across it, and naturally the only way to do that is solve a few hundred puzzles.

The basic puzzle mechanic is you controlling a robot dragging a wire behind it so that the wire touches all of the pillars laid out in a given digital room, which causes the door to open. The wire cannot cross over itself and can seemingly be of infinite length so the challenge is basically picking the right route around the pillars to make sure that this isn’t an issue while also leaving a path open to the door (also the wire must stay in contact with the pillars for them to stay active). Once you sort out the initial set of puzzles that consist only of this you gain access to the vast majority of the ship’s three floors with only the bridge and a few select rooms locked away.

Each area of the ship has their own unique rules variant and you are free to tackle these in any order, and you only need to complete a certain percent of them to unlock the bridge/final set of puzzles (like in The Witness). These variants can involve only touching certain pillars and avoiding others, certain pillars having to be touched multiple times, multiple wires, color-coded pillars, following vague visual instructions, dealing with floor panels or "gates, there’s a bunch of them. Each anchor generally contains five puzzles that must be completed in order, completing one anchor activates the next one in the area but as noted you can go try puzzles elsewhere on the ship if you feel stuck or want to do something else for a bit.

While wrapping a wire around stuff in a specific pattern sounds like it could make for a kinda uninteresting repetitive experience the truth is that there are some legitimately well crafted puzzles in this thing, with the devs having a very firm grasp of the rules in play and all sorts of tiny quirks within them. With each new set they give you a couple gimme puzzles to make sure you grasp the new rules and then go to work putting you in situations where you have to both internalize them while making sure to pick up on the often small details in the layout that point to the only way things can possibly work out (although with effort one can come up with some elaborate unintended solutions). By keeping each rule set limited to only fifteen puzzles max (really a dozen or so once you get past the teaching ones) it keeps them limited to only the better ideas they came up with and mixes things up fairly frequently.

In addition when you solve a set of puzzles the trapped crew member generally comes on over the intercom to tell you something about themselves or what happened here, and you generally also get a card with a pattern drawn across a 4x4 grid that you can then enter into one of the computers around the ship to unlock a week’s worth of a crew member’s archived text messages. This is a fairly story-heavy experience for a puzzle game but surprisingly it is generally of fairly solid quality with a lot of the credit for that going to whoever voices the trapped pilot as as the sole voiced role she puts in a strong performance.

The thing is as you wander around the space ship between solving puzzles if you pay attention you start to notice… things. One in particular is fairly blatant in a “you need to see this” kind of way basically to prime you to keep your eyes open as separate from the actual puzzles there are some separate puzzle-esque things and details hiding in plain site across this almost hub space (like in The Witness) that are far from necessary but will reward those who interact with them with some additional details about the world and people within it. It’s also pretty neat in its own right!

Eventually you solve enough puzzles to get the door to the bridge open which is right outside the cockpit, at which point you are greeted with the final set of puzzles that start to mix & match various rules in order to truly test how well you understand them as they combine in some maddening ways (like in… you know) in addition to some truly out there “one-off” ideas. There was one set I had to walk away from as I just couldn’t wrap my head around what they were asking for, but otherwise they were a tough test but not an unmanageable one.

It took me about 34 hours spread out over a month to finally solve the puzzle that opened the cockpit door, which is a long time for this type of puzzle game; at no point did it feel too long or that my attention was drifting. I sometimes got stuck for a day on something, having to walk away and go “how can this even work?” before getting an idea that generally at least lead me in the right direction. I’m not sure it’d be my favorite puzzle game of the last few years but it’d definitely be near the top.

15 Likes

This actually sounds great and more like what I actually wanted from The Witness instead of what we got.

3 Likes

I think the actual puzzles themselves are a bit stronger here than the ones in The Witness, but the ones in The Witness have a lot more of the outside the box “oh that’s clever” kinda stuff going on with them.

FWIW Filament is currently at its historical low price on Steam for the next couple days at a bit over $5 in case anyone was curious to try, just sayin’…

1 Like

Nice. Imma play this!

1 Like

Played a bit last night and found it pretty difficult to think about but not in a frustrating way. The concept “feels” simple and approachable, but there’s a lot of complexity there.

1 Like

Worth noting is that I was always the type when zoning out that I’d look at like tiling or other patterned things around me and try to trace various paths through them, so pathing through stuff like in this game feels fairly natural if still often tricky.

I’ve tried each of these at least briefly, and the jewel of the collection for me is definitely Linelith. I played it to the end and then looked at the credits to find that it was created by Patrick Traynor (as in Patrick’s Parabox).

As for the other games in the collection,

  • Space Ducks is charming but I got stuck on the second puzzle and gave up after trying it several times. That shouldn’t count against the game, though, as I have become hopelessly stuck early in other puzzle games before.
  • IFO is intriguing. There’s no guidance at all as to even the nature of the puzzles. Which I like, though I didn’t yet figure anything out in my quick look.
  • Gordianaut I found kind of frustrating. As far as I can tell, if you get stuck (which can happen very, very easily) you have to close the game entirely and launch it again. That’s probably not really the case, but I couldn’t tell otherwise. Regardless, I think the game could use a little more work.
  • Triga is amusing and more polished than some of the others. I got a little impatient with the puzzles, though.
  • Aqorel has some nice weirdness about it, but the puzzles get tedious before they get difficult.
  • Frequency Dissonance is a one-scene game where you find different ways to end the (very short) story.
  • Tendy has a nice clay look that extends even to the UI. It took me a minute to figure out how to play, and then I realized that I probably wouldn’t find the puzzles all that compelling.
  • We Are Definitely the Baddies I might never have tried because of its name but I tried it just now since it was the only one I hadn’t. It’s not a puzzle game but a base-building and resource-gathering game. I lost because I couldn’t figure out how to activate my defense turrets.
5 Likes

Yeah I went back and forth on picking up the bundle and eventually decided against as there was only two, maybe three games that really stood out to me. Linelith was the one that from the outset seemed like the standout, glad to hear that it delivered.

The other one I was interested in was Frequency Dissonance but while I think it could be legit neat (and I dig the look) I’m pretty sure it very brief even by short game standards.

(The maybe was Triga as it is made by the Akurra folks and I’d like a better grasp of their puzzle design ethos.).

As a connoisseur of random game names I must say that Gordianaut is a legit chef’s kiss.

1 Like

I don’t like being too dismissive of all of the other games because some of them have things to like and it can also be fun to just run through a bunch of random creations like this, but you’d be fine just picking up Linelith.

Triga and Frequency Dissonance are worth a look as well, but FD is just as brief as you think it is.

YANKAI’S PEAK

Yankai’s Peak is a puzzle game spun off of a simple question: “What if sokoban was built around triangle-shaped blocks instead of square ones?” On the surface it feels like an odd notion but it turns out that the effect it would have is rather profound, basically replacing the potential problems that are traditionally there with an almost entirely different set. Let’s get way too into them.

In normal sokoban one maneuvers the blocks around onto their given spots, making sure not to put them against a wall or god forbid a corner unless they have to end up there while leaving open a path for the player character to maneuver from. Beyond that though movement is fairly straightforward, if you want a block to go left you push it left and that’s that.

In Yankai’s Peak while you still want the triangles to get to their goal places on a triangle-grid playing field (you also control a triangle that has to get to its own eventual spot) it is often harder to get one of them into a “stuck against a wall”-esque situation. This is because moving these triangles around is anything but straightforward. Picture a grid row of triangles-shaped spaces, alternating point-up and point-down to keep it horizontal. Now if a triangle-shaped block was to try and move from one of these spots to an adjacent one it couldn’t merely slide as a square would, one of the two triangle points touching the adjacent spot would have to serve as the pivot point around which the rest would rotate around to fit into that next spot over.

What this means is that any time you want to move over a single spot it can be done two different ways and while the game automates it when it has no effect on any other blocks when there is one say on said next spot over you can’t move until you select how the triangle you control will do so. This is because depending on how you rotate onto that space will determine how the triangle already on it will be moved , while perhaps not completely accurate it is handy to think of it in terms of clockwise and counterclockwise. Let me put the store video here, it gets a bit spoily but it at least gives a quick feel for the movement.

This quickly spirals out in a few ways. One is that since the playing fields are often fairly tight with multiple triangles being close enough to each other that moving one can cause chain reactions that can affect multiple others. The other way is that beyond directly moving a triangle from the spot next to it one can sort of nudge it from a spot away at times if while when moving its point catches the edge of another, which cause the nudged triangle to rotate over in different matter that can cut down on (or up) the number of other triangles it interacts with.

So yes, that’s a lot of ways you do something as simple as moving a nearby block and it takes a good bit to internalize all the weird aspects of it. Worse is that the control scheme at least on PC is complicated in its own right. WASD moves your triangle around while either the arrow keys control how it pivots (which hurt my brain) or you use the mouse to click on what you want the pivot point to be, which is at least manageable. It isn’t the least “pick up and play” puzzle game I’ve come across, but it is up there. Add in that the difficulty curve is fairly borked (part 2 is the hardest in the game with the possible exception of the 7th/last one) and it very easy to bounce off of.

That is a bit of a shame as while not a classic or anything once you get into the swing of things it is actually pretty well done. Each part brings a different element into play that makes you re-evaluate how to approach things until the second to last part which combines them all together (the last part is radically different to the degree one almost has to relearn how to play the game) and once you get past that early difficulty hump it is more than reasonable.

I also must mention that for such a generic puzzle game it has one or two jokes that it commits to fully, and both are wonderful.

7 Likes

This game gave me the experience everyone says they got from the Witness but I didn’t; that moment of seeing the environment in a new way and recognizing that it’s the clue to a puzzle. It’s the binary lights

Recognizing their significance actually made me utter aloud “Oh that’s really cool”

I think what works for me here is that the environmental puzzles go beyond just recognizing a certain shape to a more generalized pattern recognition, since all the passwords are input on a 4x4 grid

2 Likes

Yeah that aspect of the game ended up being surprisingly well done. I probably only found/did about half of them (some of them even if you have an idea what to look for are very involved or time consuming to decode) but it did a rather good job of taking the theoretical dead time between puzzle sections and giving you a reason/reward for staying aware during it. Plus as noted it is always neat when you walk across a bit for the dozenth time and slowly go “…wait a sec”.

1 Like

On top of that, and what I found most impressive, is that there are some clues that can be used to deduce two different passwords that both work!

And reading serial numbers on the back of a gift card and interpreting them as coordinates on a grid is so cool. The sheer variety of environmental clues really makes it work.

I have like a dozen post it notes on my desk that are covered in 4x4 grids because I find this part so basically satisfying in between the brain burning of the regular puzzles

1 Like