Puzzle Pavilion


#41

This post just convinced me to give this game another try. I have a hard time with Increpare’s puzzle games. I love the aesthetics and experimental vibe of this and English Country Tune, but both games stretch my flimsy spatial reasoning skills to their breaking point. So I just re-entered Island 1 of Stephen’s Sausage Roll and did the lower-rightmost puzzle. It took me a solid half hour but I finally solved it. It was pretty satisfying! I just can’t visualize myself playing a whole game of this, but I’m going to try and pace myself and slowly get further, because I really want to see this Island 2 “revelation” you mentioned.


#42

FWIW, English Country Tune has a rather unusual difficulty curve where the (likely) second area is among the hardest seeming in the game simply because you are forced to wrap your mind around the odd way gravity functions in the game. Figuring that out is about as hard as any actual puzzle in the game, but once you do that no other mechanic the game tosses your way is that hard to come to grips with.

Also it is a legit tricky game and clearing all of it would be a bit much for some! I just feel bad because so many get tripped up by that initial difficulty hump.


#43

FYI, if you’re purely doing the first island to see the later game and it feels like work/punishment, then I would reconsider. Building up some revelation over several hours is guaranteeing disappointment (since I already spoiled its existence, I might as well tell you that what happens in Island 2 is definitely not as shocking as you think. The biggest shocks don’t really happen until like 50% into the game). While the game changes a bit as it goes on, you’re still exclusively moving sausages onto grills for the entirety of the playtime. The best part of the game is the puzzle solving itself, which you’re already doing. It’s the shock and satisfaction of thinking outside the box to solve probably 85% of the puzzles. Island 1 does have several instances of this.

Re: Riven, I think it is a game I appreciate more than I enjoyed, but I also played it under less than ideal conditions. A few dozen hard crashes work contrary to the mood the game is going for, I’d wager. I think being as “pure” as it is works to its disadvantage the few times things don’t work ideally. There are five “balls” you must find across the game in order to solve a mandatory puzzle. One of them is off the beaten path in a dense area that despite searching through multiple times I never found, and would have never found. Most games would cheat and find a way to work against such a thing happening; Riven will happily leave you stuck forever, or having to go through literally every screen clicking randomly. Again, appreciate it more than I enjoyed it.

Yes, that is the worst design decision in the game (along with the “close the doors” pathway). I imagine the creators wanted a super secret pathway as the rebels wanted to hide the ball, but it totally fails game-wise. I also think the creators legitimately expected players to spend months “living on the island” (there’s some interview where the Rand brothers say they designed Myst to take months to beat) and eventually you’d accidentally click on the secret path. It’s an instance where the point-a-click nature of the game turns a reasonable real-life secret into an impossible in-game secret (a free-movement version of the game would have solved the problem).


#44

So, I just played some more of Stephen’s Sausage Roll and got to the second island. Maybe I was in the right mood tonight or maybe my subconscious mind spent some teraflops on it during the day, but I found it much easier to grasp the puzzles. I’m starting to learn how sausages work. There was a little bit of a twist to the mechanics on the second island that I enjoyed as well. I’m definitely starting to get more into this game than I expected!


#45

Sokobond

It’s like Spacechem. Well technically it is almost nothing like Spacechem, but they are both puzzle games that use chemistry as a theme while actually having nothing to do with it. While Spacechem is more of a programming style puzzler, Sokobond is a “sticky” sokoban variant.

There are five elements in play: H(ydrogen), O(xygen), N(itrogen), C(arbon) and He(lium). These elements can form one, two, three, four or no bonds, respectively. A single bond is formed by any two atoms with an available valence electron (i.e. available bond to make) that come into contact. You control one particular atom on a given stage and maneuver it so that every atom is used to form a molecule that is not specified beforehand but can usually be figured out. The thing is that as you proceed instead of moving around a single atom you now have several stuck to you, reducing the number of places where you can fit in or move to.

As you solve more puzzles a table broken up into different sections is filled out that just happen to make up a periodic table (actinides and lanthanides are the post-game bonus puzzles), with further away from starting point sections having various modifiers in play. One point at the corner of four squares will allow you to form double or triple bonds, one will break bonds, and others will rotate that particular bond ninety degrees. As mentioned above helium will eventually be put into play, which is inert and hence cannot form bonds; it mostly exists to get in the way or be used to keep other atoms separate. It mostly gets in the way.

Beyond all that and at its core it is actually a fairly breezy sokoban variant that eventually ramps up to be a fairly stern test by the time the bonus puzzles arrive. Having the atoms stick to one another adds a solid extra degree of complexity when it comes to the puzzles themselves. As an example some atoms must be touched last as there is no real way to move them out of their location, the challenge being both to figure this out and often times to find a way to avoid touching them until that point. The intro puzzles are fairly basic and there is a solid stretch of puzzles that don’t push you too hard, but overall I think there is a nice difficulty curve in place.

If there is one critique I have it is that sometimes I felt like I was just pushing pieces around until something worked rather than figuring things out in my head. To a degree this was due to a good bit of design as it is very easy to take back as many moves as you’d like or even restart from scratch. This makes it very easy to just start pushing things around to see how it goes, and I’d often get lost in that rather than stopping to take a hard look at things and come up with more of an actual plan. That could just be me though, my mind sometimes works in its own funny way.


#46

I picked up this $2 puzzle game after seeing that Internisus had bought it.

At first, it seemed like mostly just Hexcells with a 3D gimmick, but it includes some new puzzle elements as it goes along that give it its own flavor.

Edit: I’ve finished the game, and I imagine that anyone who likes the Hexcells series would appreciate the directions that this game takes similar concepts.

Edit 2: This thread just reminded me that I bought Stephen’s Sausage Roll in a sale last year. After failing to solve any of the puzzles on the first island, I set the game aside. I suppose I should try it again at some point.


#47

“Let the number tell you what to do” is just about the best puzzle game description I’ve heard in ages. Gonna dump this on my wishlist for the next time I go looking for a PC puzzle game to play.

Also I did not forget about this topic, just the few puzzle games I’ve tried in the past half year or so were basically variants of stuff already talked about. Still…

The Talos Principle: Road To Gehenna: Is almost literally more of the same as the base game, except that it assumes you played the original first and starts at a hard level and stays there (it also doesn’t re-introduce anything, which can cause issues) (these puzzles feel more easily breakable though, so you can get around that). Despite starting at an advanced level it doesn’t really get much more difficult than the upper limit the base game established, except for the bonus stars which… well I don’t even have a notion of how you would begin to tackle some of them.

For those who liked the story of the base game, while the version in the DLC isn’t quite as well realized the framing device is a message board and its accompanying drama which… struck rather close to home.

Illust Logic + Colorful Logic: Another DS picross game, this one stands out because it has some color picross puzzles which I haven’t had the chance to play before. It is a neat variant in that while many of the rules are the same, enough of them are tweaked just enough to really cross one up for a while (there doesn’t have to be an empty space between numbers, for example). This version also controls very well which sounds odd but given how much you have to move the highlighted square in a given session when this is done poorly it can make a big difference.

The problem is that compared to the big known Picross titles on Nintendo handhelds the actual puzzle design here is a bit on the weak side. You are just too often given too much info for it to be anything more than filling in squares quickly as opposed to trying to figure things out. Pic-a-Pix Color for the 3DS and Wii U feels a bit rougher in execution (I actually passed on the Wii U version because of this even though the demo had bigger puzzles, blown up it looks so rough) but the demo had a few puzzles that were better designed than anything I saw here, so I may be trying that in the near future to see if it is a better example of this variant.

Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask: Ignoring the main game, which is fine but not the kind of puzzle game I like to write about here (all the puzzles are mechanically unrelated, hence there isn’t really anything to learn), it has a surprisingly decent daily puzzle mode. It released a puzzle a day for a year after release so if you log into this mode now you are instantly given 365 extra puzzles split across 20 different mini-puzzle games. Each of these is basically its own small traditional puzzle game roughly 18 puzzles deep. Each alone is fine but together it makes a really good collection of puzzlers for when you have some time to kill. It’s like a solid collection of 99 cent puzzle games, if that makes any sense.


#48

I’ve just got into Dissembler and it’s okay, I guess. It’s static match-3 puzzles where the objective is clearing the screen. Seems like there’s only one solution per puzzle. Hopefully the challenge picks up


#49

It does indeed pick up, so I’ve revised my opinion a bit. It’s better than okay. Maybe not great.


#50

This looks charming.


#51

My poor neglected baby of a topic. I actually have played some puzzle games these past several months, they just either aren’t great topic fits or are rather mediocre. Still I should write up at least a few of them, so let’s start with…

Roughly 28% of The Misadventures of Tron Bonne

I know, most of you are saying “you mean that Mega Man Legends game?” Yes, that’s the one! Without getting into details it is an odd duck of a game, but a fairly decent sized portion of the game is a block pushing (or in this case lifting) puzzle game. It’s a pretty good one too, so we’ll just ignore the rest of the game and focus in on this part of it.

There are 18 grid based puzzle stages in the game. The goal is to grab crates containing whatever it is you are stealing (it changes every three stages) and bring them back to your home “goal” square, where you will load it onto your ship and eventually abscond with it. There are a number of rules that make this harder than it may initially appear. Most importantly you only have a limited amount of lifts, a lift being defined as you picking up and then placing down one of the various crates that litter a given stage. Each green “prize” crate contains what you are trying to steal, there are four of them in each stage. Once you lift one of these into the air you can only move them a maximum of ten squares before you must place them back down on the ground (even robots get tired eventually). There are steel crates that are very heavy and that you cannot move while lifting up, although you can still turn and place them down on any adjacent square. There are also wooden crates that are very light and can be moved an infinite number of squares before they have to be placed down. The number of lifts you have per stage is initially fixed at eight, but eventually that number becomes much more varied.

The other key feature is that since these puzzles take place on docks, you don’t have a complete say 8 by 8 grid to work with. Much of said grid is either buildings you have to go around, or water squares. What is interesting about the water squares is that you can drop a crate into the water and hence make that square something you can walk upon. Doing this allows you to create alternative paths or bridges, often ones that place one of the green crates within ten squares of your home square. This expands the game from not just clearing paths for you to take the prize crates to the goal, but also figuring out where you can create new paths to more efficiently accomplish your goal. You can also jump over the blocks in your way, but not while holding a crate.

Along the way numerous little gimmicks are introduced. Some are basic like the addition of conveyor belts (you drop blocks on them and they move to the end, also if you step on them they take you to the end without you having to waste additional steps), but the most interesting is the occasional ability of your servbots to operate forklifts. In these stages you can mark prize crates and as long as there is a clear path the servbot will drive up to it and bring it to the goal square without you using up a lift. While that sounds basic in writing it can dramatically alter how you approach these puzzles, and it will force you to use techniques and strategies that are dramatically different from those required in the other stages.

The other last touch I like is the presence of bonus pink crates. These are bonus things for you to steal, but their importance lies beyond just that. What this means is that each stage gives you one extra lift above the bare minimum, so if you are struggling or aren’t that into puzzles it is basically a built in easy mode if you just ignore them. If you are into puzzles and do want a challenge, then getting the bonus crate as well requires you to perfectly solve the puzzle in front of you. Given that this isn’t solely a puzzle game (roughly 72% of it isn’t puzzle related at all!) it is a rather eloquent difficulty balance solution.

So, all that said… how are the actual puzzles? Overall they are pretty solid. They are separated into groups of three, based on what you are trying to steal and often focused on an individual mechanic or gimmick, and the difficulty level ramps up within the group from “getting the hang of it” to “…huh, that’s a pickle.” The third puzzle in each group is generally very clever, I consider myself above average at puzzles and while none of them were so insane that it took me an hour or two to finally get past them I would often get stuck for a solid period of time and have to work my way through move by move. It made me want to see Capcom try their hand at a pure puzzle game.

Also worth noting, while this is one of the rarer PS1 games and purchasing a disc would still cost you a pretty penny, it is available on the Playstation Store for about $6. That is a much more reasonable ask.


#52

BoxBoy

I generally tend to not consider puzzle platformers “true” puzzle games for personal reasons that no one should really care much about; the quick and dirty version is the presence of an execution barrier feels disqualifying to me. Still I make occasional exceptions (see Toki Tori 2) and would give this game that benefit of the doubt as it is probably tilted 90/10 in favor of puzzling over platforming. It is also rather good and worth writing about, so!

The central mechanic of BoxBoy is how your box-like character can cause some number of equally sized boxes to sprout from their person. The number of boxes you can create at a given time is generally between three and five, although on occasion the number can be a bit higher. You can leave the boxes attached to your being and walk around as a multi-boxboy, or detach them and maneuver them around separate from yourself. If you try to create a new batch of boxes, the old ones will immediately disappear. You can sprout the initial box in any direction except below your feet, then any subsequent boxes emerge from the previously created box in any directions except for the one it had just spawned from. Also if any box attached to you lands on a piece of the environment while keeping you lifted into the air (plus a few exceptions I won’t get into here), you can press a button to retract yourself up to that spot.

Thanks picture!

That pretty much summarizes the basics of what you do, with you using these abilities to get past a couple obstacles in each level on your way to the exit door. There are several levels in a stage, and twenty stages before the credits roll. While this initially seems like not enough mechanically to fill out that many stages, that is never a problem. The first few stages teach you the basics, and then pretty much every stage from around the fourth or so to the nineteenth is centered around a single unique obstacle. One is focused on moving blocks in the environment where you place your boxes upon them to function as platforms that allow you to traverse, one has you create block chains that connect positive and negative charge spaces in order to open doors, heck one is even laid out like a falling block puzzler where you must create shapes that fill gaps in lines that then disappear and allow you to fall further down.

What impressed me most during this stretch is how classically well designed it is. Each stage has an initial level that introduces the unique obstacle or mechanic, and then five or so more that gradually build up upon it and eventually require rather clever uses to bypass. It sounds basic, and in truth it is, but this is an example of this particular design ethos executed rather well. Calling it very professional feels right. If there was one thing I would ding the game for, it is that it generally did not combine these unique gimmicks, keeping them separate in their own stages.

…That is, until the last stage. And the bonus stages. This game has the seemingly increasingly common thing where it puts the ending a good deal before the end of the actual content, presumably because it is considered best practices to let people opt out via an ending before it gets too hard (I hate this approach, but that is neither here nor there). Regardless this game screws up that calculus a bit as the nineteenth stage is the hardest of the “one gimmick per” stages, and the twentieth “final” stage starts combining them all together and represents a fairly notable increase in difficulty level; surpassing it is a legit victory. The three bonus stages, containing a total of 24 levels, continue combining them all together and even introduce a new “block falls away a few seconds after you step on it” mechanic that is about the furthest the game steps into a timing/execution element.

It is a shame as the combining of these various elements is the logical endpoint of this kind of mechanical progression, and they are mostly stuck in the post-game. It also results in a notable difficulty bump-up when this occurs as it isn’t gradually introduced. Still that is about the only part that isn’t smoothly executed, and these final levels offer some really well crafted, legitimately challenging obstacles to overcome. Really all the levels are well crafted, it just stays a bit on the easier-to-moderate side until rather late. Then after you complete all the levels, and all the bonus levels it unlocks a pair of… I guess double bonus levels that introduce something that I am shocked wasn’t saved for a sequel, it is that much of a game changer. I won’t spoil what it is.

Worth noting is that there are either one or two crowns to pick up in each level. They are not hidden but are usually slightly out of the way. There is a box counter that ticks down each time you spawn a box, and if it hits zero any crown not picked up will fade away. This pushes you to optimize your box usage. When you finish every stage in the game it also unlocks game stats that rank you in terms of time spent, blocks used and times restarted in a given stage, for those who want to a particularly stern optimization challenge. That was a bit much for me, but the crowns were a very nice touch and I made sure to grab all of them.

Overall, it is just a really well executed game. I wish it would have ramped up a bit earlier and started mixing things up along the way as opposed to backloading it, but those nitpicks are overshadowed by the strength of its design. There is a demo available along with two follow-ups, I suggest those interested try the former while I examine the latters. Consider it strongly recommended.


#53

Cosmic Express was developed by Draknek who I recognized from the Puzzlescript community. In fact, the main mechanic of the game was prototyped in one of his earlier Puzzlescript releases. He’s also one of the creators of A Good Snowman Is Hard to Build and Sokobond, which were mentioned above.

The core concept is very simple. You have a train that travels on a track between biodomes floating in space. Each dome has an entrance, at least one exit, and any number of passengers trying to get to the same number of destinations. Your objective is to draw a single track that connects the entrance to the exit, and drops off all passengers to one of their preferred destinations.

Now that I think about it, it could actually be compared to the puzzles in the Witness, which are also about drawing a single path that satisfies specific conditions (although the path in this game has some internal state associated with it, in the form of the passengers and the size of the train).

Completing a level unlocks other levels connected to it. Levels are separated into galaxies, each of which focus on a different aspect of the rules of the game or add additional puzzle elements.

For example, the opening Andromeda galaxy focuses on trains with only one passenger car, while Ursa Minor focuses on trains with two cars. Later galaxies add more complications, or combine mechanics from previous ones. I should mention that these new elements don’t ever flip the game on it’s head; they’re often introduced in a very understated manner and it kind of swells as you progress through the galaxy, until you finally understand all the complicated implications of that seemingly simple introduction.

Some stages even feature multiple exits that unlock different branches on the map. These levels are usually fairly straightforward to complete with the main exit, and surprisingly convoluted when trying to complete it with the alternate exit.

I think the design of this game is superb. The rules are concise, the levels themselves fairly small, but the routing is surprisingly tricky. The mechanics of the game are never tutorialized or explained to the player; they are communicated through the level design. At first glance, levels will have seemingly straightforward solutions, but when you attempt them you quickly learn some detail of the mechanics that prevent that simple solution from working.

I’ve spent 8 hours playing this game and have completed 92 of the 128 levels total. I expect these final levels may take another 8. I’m not sure if I’m uniquely bad at this game, but it often makes me feel stupid. A lot of levels are hard for me to reason about, which seems strange, given the uniformity of the actions the player is capable of. It’s very easy for me to get stuck in a certain way of thinking about a puzzle, and have to challenge all my assumptions one by one until I finally find the solution, which is glaringly obvious in retrospect. That is to say, it’s a very good puzzle game!

A few levels also have secrets, and these recontexualize the puzzle and make you approach it in an entirely different way. Theoretically you could have solved this puzzle this way initially, but the solutions are so circuitous it’s extremely unlikely you’d accidentally do it your first time through.

The presentation is clean and inviting, the music is aptly ambient to avoid disturbing your deep concentration, and it’s extremely satisfying to watch your train take the most convoluted path possible to finally deliver all passengers to their destinations. Highly recommended if you’re a fan of puzzle games!


#54

Wow this looks great.


#55

I was hoping this would be his breakout; trains and puzzle games are one of nature’s perfect harmonies.


#56

I picked up Cosmic Express in the last Steam sale based on liking Sokobond and hearing good things about the Snowman game, glad to see that it seems to be rather worthwhile.

This describes my experience with the last run of levels in Sokobond rather accurately.


#57

If you have Twitch/Amazon Prime and are willing to install the Twitch desktop app, Cosmic Express, Sokobond, and A Good Snowman Is Hard To Build are all free this month!


#58

A Good Snowman Is Hard To Build

As noted above this is free for the rest of the month if you are an Amazon/Twitch Prime person, so I figured it’d be a good time to play it and see if it is worth bothering with for those signed up with that service.

It is.

The end.

Okay fine.

A Good Snowman is Hard to Build, which I will from here on refer to as AGSIHTB… no wait, that is dumb, I’ll figure something else out. Anyways! It is basically a sokoban-type puzzle game where you want to stack three snowballs on top of each other to solve a puzzle. The biggest one goes on the bottom, the medium sized one in the middle and the smallest one on top, just like any an ideal snowman and unlike just about any I’ve seen in real life.

This is the part in all of my puzzle write-ups where I say how that sounds easy, then add a “but!” right about here (the game actually is pretty easy, we’ll get to that later). It has the basic sokoban limitations how if you push a snowball against a wall it is pretty much stuck against it and if it ends up in a corner it is staying there as the little monster you play as can only push them, not pull them. Oh yeah, you play as a seemingly lonely monster who makes snowpeople to I guess be his friends, and there is a Steam achievement for hugging all of the snowmen and women after they are built.

The bigger mechanical hook in the game involves how the snowballs snowball. If you visualize the ground as a grid (mainly because it is one) a certain number of the squares are covered in snow. If you push a small ball onto a snow tile it becomes a medium one, and doing so again makes a medium one a large one. Large ones stay the same size no matter what. Once one of these balls is moved off of the snow tile it is then just a plain grass one and a small/medium ball can move onto it without increasing in size. As most puzzles start with three small snowballs (though not all) it generally becomes a game of figuring out which balls have to grow in size, which one stays small and how to manipulate the snow available to do so.

The other mechanical detail involves the stacking of snowballs. As noted the goal is to stack three of them up to form a snowperson, but it needs to be pointed out that you sometimes must stack them up not to solve the puzzle but to change their arrangement. Any smaller ball can be moved atop any larger one (small atop medium and large, medium atop large) and can then be shoved off in any available direction. Sometimes it needs to be done to momentarily free up space to ease movement, other times as a way to transport a ball without having it touch a snow tile and increasing in size. It’s handy!

As far as a puzzle game goes, it it pleasant but on the easy side and rather brief. My steam playing time was 91 minutes and I believe there are thirty puzzles so… you can do the math. A few of them stopped me for ten or so minutes, but even at its worse it won’t push you too hard (there is also a “but” here I’ll touch on in a second). This is mostly due to the fact that each of the puzzle areas are rather compact. By taking place in small “arenas” you often only have a couple legit opening moves and not a lot of extra space that can have you chasing false leads. A few of them do a legit good job disguising what exactly you have to do to solve them but again you will rarely if ever have a ton of potential options. Things do get mixed up a bit later as there are puzzles where you have to put together two and rarely three snowpeople in a single puzzle and hence have to figure out which of the 6/9 balls eventually go together, but while a bit trickier it isn’t dramatically so.

The caveat here is that there is a post-game grand puzzle of some sort that I assume is a bit harder and takes at least a little bit of time, but I honestly can’t make heads or tails of it. I legit don’t know what the goal is (I assume make snowpeople) or how to even start it, like I can’t even find a snowball to start with. Perhaps it is brilliant! Perhaps it is dumb! All I can say is that it exists and the game does not give any clue how to even start it.

That aside, this is a good snowman game to play around with, and there is enough there that I’d say it is more than just a distraction, but compared to Sokobond and what I’ve seen of Cosmic Express it seems like a minor work. I found it a nice way to do a bit of low stress puzzling over a few sessions that totaled an hour and a half, and who wouldn’t like a game where you play as a monster making snow people that said monster can then hug? For free I say there’s no reason not to at least snag the license for it, for those who’d have to pay money I’d say it is worth the few bucks it goes for during a steam sale.

I give it a score of a full monster hug.


#59

image

Recursed is an excellent puzzle platformer made by a small indie developer, Shambles Software.

Each level has the protagonist pick up and move objects to traverse some platforms and reach the exit. The platforming is simple, there are no enemies to harm you, and dexterity is never the focus nor the solution to any of the puzzles. The early levels teach you how to manipulate objects – you carry and stack boxes to reach higher platforms or bring keys to open locked doors – but these are just the tools used to frame the puzzles, and the real meat of the game involves the use of magical chests.

These chests can be carried like any other interactive item, but jumping into them transports you to other locations. The game quickly introduces chests within chests, or chests that contain themselves recursively, as per the pun in the title!

The rest of the game is then sussing out exactly what the rules of these chests are, and how they interact with the objects around them. The puzzles get extremely tricky because the player can carry these chests around – take them in and out of each other – and effectively change the topology of the levels themselves.

To explain any more probably spoils the fun; the trailer below should give you taste of what it’s about. The game is very difficult, or at minimum mind bending. There are some very unintuitive and conceptually complex levels, but they all follow from the simple rules the game carefully teaches you. It took me about 10 hours to beat the main set of levels, but there are still some extra challenges and two sets of free expansion levels I’ve yet to complete.


#60

Yeah, Recursed is one of those games that I heard about and immediately dumped onto my Steam wishlist based on the concept alone, glad to hear that it mostly delivers on it.