Posts Tagged ‘puzzle’

Kitty Cat: Jigsaw Puzzles Review

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Developer: EnsenaSoft
Publisher: EnsenaSoft
Platform: PC – Steam

Casual games are great. For me in particular, they grant an escape from playing other games which require more attention, strategy, and skill. Because of this habit, I’m increasingly aware of which games have serious effort into their releases versus those that are simply re-skinned releases.

Kitty Cat: Jigsaw Puzzles falls into the latter category. This developer has a handful of puzzle games and they all appear to vary purely by theme. That might not be so bad if not for the fact that the underlying mechanics and interface are totally lacking. There’s also no music! I’ll admit, it’s not quite as awful as the Pixel Puzzle series.

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At the very start, it seems like Kitty Cat: Jigsaw Puzzles is painfully easy. You actually get to see outlines of all the puzzle pieces on the game board! These disappear after a few levels, though, leaving players to deal with the digital puzzle much like a real one. Unfortunately, it can sometimes be confusing to tell if a puzzle piece sticks to the board (meaning it is in the right position) or not.

There is also no easy means of organizing your puzzle pieces prior to solving the puzzle. Instead you must click and drag them to areas outside the board to organize them as you see fit. The margin is not large enough to make this particularly enjoyable, though.  The cat photos per puzzle are cute – and they don’t appear to be stolen wholesale from various sources. But that’s basically the only good thing about Kitty Cat: Jigsaw Puzzles.


Score: 1

1 out of 5 alpacas


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Barnyard Mahjong 3 Review

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Developer: EnsenaSoft
Publisher: EnsenaSoft
Platform: PC – Steam

“Mahjong” is a term which is typically used incorrectly in English-language games. Many use it to refer to the familiar tile-matching concept, which is not the same as traditional mahjong. Real mahjong is a much more strategic, multiplayer experience. In any case, Barnyard Mahjong 3 is of the matching variety.

As the name implies, everything is doused in a barn theme. This includes the backgrounds and the tiles themselves, which feature depictions of fruits, farmers, and farm animals. There are in fact so many different visuals that it often proves tough to quickly survey the screen for potential matches.

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Each level in Barnyard Mahjong 3 features a timer. The amount of time left on the clock determines what you’re graded once finished with a puzzle. These stars are meaningless, though, as even ending with no time left still unlocks the next stage. I appreciate the game’s supremely casual attitude.

What doesn’t work is that the experience is barely enjoyable. The widescreen presentation makes it tiring to click back and forth between different ends of the screen. It’s also quite easy to fail puzzles (the remaining tiles just reset) even on easy. The music is so droll that you barely even notice it exists, and effects are incredibly anemic. Presentation is a huge part of making a mahjong game stand out and Barnyard Mahjong 3 simply doesn’t.


Score: 1

1 out of 5 alpacas


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VOI Review

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Developer: Yunus Ayyildiz
Publisher: Yunnus Ayyildiz
Platform: PC – Steam

Puzzlers have really taken over my life as of late. It’s just really enjoyable to chill out with games featuring one specific thing that makes their puzzles stand out. In the case of VOI, it’s the concept of 1 + 1 = 0. What does that mean, exactly? It makes sense in the concept of the game.

Each stage of VOI features a small stage, a few shapes (triangles, squares), and asks you to use them to create a certain shape as shown onscreen. These shapes require you to move the pieces logically on top of and around each other to create the shape. Where the 1 + 1 bit comes in is in overlapping objects. Once two are on top of each other, they “disappear.” This is a pivotal part of solving puzzles.

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Despite grasping the concept in theory, I still found it challenging to complete some levels. On others, I let my lizard brain do the work as it appeared to magically guide me to solutions with ease. VOI is definitely better suited to folks looking for a challenge based purely on logic rather than twitch reflex or hints.

It’s because of the surprisingly tough nature of the game that I came back to it less and less while in pursuit of a completion. One smart gameplay tweak would’ve been the ability to specify which piece to move when clicking on a space with multiple overlapped pieces. As is, things get a bit muddled and you often end up having to pull everything apart and restart from there. Frustrating bits like this lessen – but don’t extinguish – the challenging appeal of VOI.


Score: 3

3 out of 5 alpacas


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Phrase Shift Review

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Developer: Hyper Hippo Games
Publisher: Hyper Hippo Games
Platform: PC – Steam, Mobile – Android, iOS

With so many puzzle games out in the world it often seems like there’s no way to create something new. Well, Phrase Shift does exactly that. At first, it looks like someone cut out a small segment of a word search. Each puzzle offers one vertical column and multiple horizontal columns with words intersecting it. You’re also given a clue.

Unlike a word search which has you fill in everything, the horizontal words are already set per puzzle. So your goal is actually to shift the horizontal words left or right until the letters which intersect with your vertical bar form a word which fits with the given clue. It might sound confusing, but all you need is to play a level or two to grasp the concept.

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Once you do, get ready for a ton of enjoyment playing Phrase Shift. The game includes level batches of twenty in different categories: Food, Science, Animals, etc. For the most part, I knew all the vocabulary (even if it took a bit of guessing to bring them to mind). Some sections, such as Movies, might be tough for folks who have absolutely no interest or awareness of American pop culture.

Phrase Shift is a perfect game to come to after a long day at work. It allows you to both turn off your brain as well as give it the reward of solving (mostly) simple puzzles. I’ve enjoyed my time slowly working through the sections one by one. Unlike most games, I desire to play this one to 100% completion.


Score: 4

4 out of 5 alpacas


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The Time Warp of Dr. Brain Review

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The Time Warp of Dr. Brain Boxart

Developer: Sierra On-Line
Publisher: Sierra On-Line
Platform: PC – Windows 3.0, Mac

Once upon a time I played games purchased from the Scholastic Book Club. One of these was The Lost Mind of Dr. Brain. At the time I believed it to be the only one of its type out there, only to later learn “Dr. Brain” was an entire series. Unfortunately, it looks like by the time The Time Warp of Dr. Brain came around that the developers had all but run out of good ideas for puzzling minigames.

There are ten minigames this time around and little else. You’ll find absolutely no story wrapping any of it together. Each puzzle comes with three difficulty options and an unknown (to me, anyway) amount of levels per game. The big issue is that some games are given too much instructions while others receive no instructions at all. Oh, and the fact that it’s just not any fun to play the vast majority of them.

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A few of the included puzzles are simply rehashes of existing mental games people play. It’s in these modes based on well-known logic exercises that are at all enjoyable. The rest, such as one which simply requires players to swim without running out of air, aren’t even worth the edutainment moniker. This is disappointing because both The Lost Mind of Dr. Brain and Castle of Dr. Brain were fairly interesting to fuss with.

The graphics and audio are just fine and certainly appropriate for the mid 90s gaming scene. Outside of one or two stand out minigames, however, the game is a total flop. Even Dr. Brain himself acts like he doesn’t care one bit about the player and their success/failures. Anyone looking for a good edutainment title should steer clear.


Score: 1

1 out of 5 alpacas


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Pokémon Shuffle Review

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Developer: Genius Sonority
Publisher: The Pokémon Company
Platform: 3DS, Mobile – Android, iOS

It’s funny how much I’ve begun to embrace the idea of mobile gaming (though I obviously still vastly prefer consoles and handhelds). I used to be extremely against mobile games for a variety of reasons, but I finally caved sometime in the last year or so and begun playing several different ones. Pokémon Shuffle is my most recent mobile game obsession, and for a good reason.

Basically, Pokémon Shuffle is a match 3 puzzle game. You must match the same Pokémon in order to deal damage to your opponent and beat the stage. Pokémon Shuffle keeps things interesting by allowing you to use a bevy of different Pokémon on your team. Furthermore, you must keep in consideration the attack power, types, and skills of your Pokémon in order to assure victory and high stage rankings. Some stages are pretty simple and easy, especially in the beginning. However, they eventually become more complex and require a bit of critical thinking due to opponents creating “disruptions” that can make things quite hectic. There are also “expert stages” that are timed, and as such, really test your puzzle skills and dexterity!

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Now, I tried to play the original version of Pokémon Shuffle on the 3DS, but I just wasn’t feeling it after trudging through the initial tutorial stages. I decided to give Pokémon Shuffle a second chance when it released for mobile devices, and boy did I instantly like it much more on my phone than 3DS. Maybe it’s because of the vertical one-screen layout, or it could be because it’s easier to use a mobile device’s touchscreen versus the 3DS’s. It’s also way more gorgeous and vibrant.

Unfortunately, the mobile version of Pokémon Shuffle retains some of the same annoyances that were present in the 3DS version. For one, the wait time between regaining hearts (or energy) is ludicrous at 30 minutes. Another issue includes absolutely ridiculous stages and capture rates that pretty much require you to spend your precious coins on power-ups and great balls. Alas, this is a freemium game, so such problems are expected and have to be tolerated.

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Even weeks after release, I’m still fervently playing Pokémon Shuffle. It’s just too addicting and fun, and has me hopeful for Nintendo’s future on mobile platforms.


Pink Score: 4
4 out of 5 alpacas


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Lexica Review

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Developer: d3t
Publisher: Merge Games
Platform: PC – Steam

Games revolving around creating or uncovering words are usually just my thing. After all, much of my free time is spent reading or writing thanks to a love of written language. That’s why I finally snapped up Lexica, and expected its semi-hybrid of sudoku and Scrabble to be perfect. As it turns out, I am totally awful at playing it.

My struggles come from the design of the game itself, which apparently are not as easily understandable as other word puzzle games that came before. Each stage presents a crossword-looking screen which you fill with letters until words form. However, each letter connects to a specific row, meaning you can’t place a letter anywhere at all. This is what makes it puzzling, as players must logically determine where to slide letters with few overt clues.

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In Lexica’s tutorial you’re basically told that puzzle solutions require word logic. Players themselves need to imagine what words could be made with the given letters and remove certain letter combinations which make absolutely no sense. The concept is very cool, but when given the almost total freedom of a blank board my mind fails to focus. Instead it just makes up words that fit without considering potential ramifications.

So, for me, Lexica is a serious disappointment. I recognize that some folks out there will absolutely adore it, as the challenge is better than most word games. There are 100 puzzles and 3 difficulties in all but chances are only the most diehard fans will see the game through to completion.


Score: 2

2 out of 5 alpacas


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Pixel Puzzles: Japan Review

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Developer: Decaying Logic
Publisher: KISS ltd
Platform: PC – Steam

Back in the day I used to really be into jigsaw puzzles. At one point, it even morphed into an interest in those 3D puzzles before realizing those were completely out of my league. Still, 1,000+ piece puzzles were a great way to unwind and build toward something over a few weeks. Pixel Puzzles: Japan is a digital jigsaw puzzle collection themed around Japan. Each puzzle has a nice Japanese vista, soft background music, and puzzles which increase from small sizes to larger.

Pixel Puzzles: Japan offers 21 puzzles (unlocked by playing from easiest to hardest). Unfortunately, gameplay issues become more apparent as you engage in more difficult puzzles. The main problem is that all puzzle pieces float around in a pond prior to being placed in the puzzle space. Instead of organizing pieces by color as you see fit, you’ll need to do so within the puzzle space (but that small area is quickly filled up and inconvenient).

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Letting pieces drift about is annoying because you may need to search a long time for that “one piece” you know you need. Big blobs of puzzle pieces cluster together as they move, making it harder to find the right thing. Similarly, even after you spot the required piece it’s often challenging to actually grab it – Pixel Puzzles: Japan regularly selects a nearby, but incorrect, piece. Frustration doesn’t even begin to describe my reaction to these common incidents.

And, really, when you’re trying to relax with a jigsaw puzzle frustration should be the last thing on your mind. Pixel Puzzles: Japan is an excellent concept but its execution adds too much unneeded “gameplay” into the picture. I’ve yet to play other Pixel Puzzles games (Birds, UndeadZ) but hopefully future renditions provide more enjoyment.


Score: 1

1 out of 5 alpacas


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Numba Deluxe Review

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Numba Deluxe Boxart

Developer: Cobra Mobile
Publisher: KISS ltd
Platform: PC – Big Fish Games, Desura, Steam

Fans of puzzle games are absolutely spoiled for choice on Steam – or really, any digital games marketplace. While looking for match-3 puzzle variations I came upon Numba Deluxe. The game presents players with a grid of numbers and simply asks you to line up three or more in some sort of order. As such, it’s a match-3 title which utilizes numbers instead of colored blocks to allow for “patterned” paths.

This means you’ll be able to create paths by linking together multiple of the same number but also match sequentially increasing values (1, 2, 3, 4), even ones (2, 4, 6), odd (1, 3, 5), or even multiples (2, 4, 8). Each can also be matched in backwards order as well. Despite the simple concept I often found myself sticking to the most basic of routes (repeated numbers or even). Of course, to succeed you must utilize all linking styles.

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Numba Deluxe comes with three modes: Classic, Timeless, and Puzzle. Classic and Timeless are the same except, well, the first is timed. Considering the general relaxed nature of puzzle games, Classic isn’t an ideal play style. Puzzle presents a board which requires careful solving to clear. No matter what mode you select there are some issues inherent to the title.

Sure, the music is wonderfully calming but the board itself is lacking in flair. All numbers are the same color, leaving you to “read” each instead of get into typical puzzle flow. Special blocks (fire, ice, etc) change after a certain number of turns but don’t actually tell you how many turns are left. Finally, there’s little pushing folks to keep playing. Numba Deluxe is a competent little time waster but it doesn’t offer much staying power. If you’re in desperate need for a casual puzzle game allow me to suggest Puzzler World instead.


Score: 2

2 out of 5 alpacas


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Letter Quest: Grimm’s Journey Review

Letter Quest Grimm's Journey Featured

Letter Quest Grimm's Journey Logo

Developer: Digerati Distribution
Publisher: Bacon Bandit Games
Platform: Mobile – Android, iOS PC – DirectSteam

Words rule. As someone who writes all the time it makes sense that I’ve got at least a passing interest in the English language. That’s why games like Letter Quest: Grimm’s Journey appeal to me most. It’s an RPG of sorts completely focused around Scrabble-like mechanics. You’re provided a small selection of letters and must create words with them in a short period of time. The bigger the word, or the rarer letters used (Q, X, etc) and little Grimm will release a stronger attack! Yes, the concept is simple, but quite effective.

Each stage is quite small and features Grimm walking from left to right in a cartoony 2D world. Firing off a word uses up your turn, although players can choose to utilize potions and the like instead. As you progress the enemies grow much tougher which demands more of players. Luckily, Letter Quest never makes slow typers (or clickers) disadvantaged thanks to its turn-based approach. What it does do though is offer really slow character progression.

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Upgrades to Grimm’s health, attack, and such are unlocked via gems. Gems are awarded upon beating persistent quests or levels. They’re certainly easy to get but accumulating enough for upgrades is surprisingly slow going. As such, it can be tough to defeat later stages without a lot of grinding. Really, I was just disappointed my awesome Scrabble skills weren’t enough to keep me powering through.

The concept and execution of Letter Quest: Grimm’s Journey is spot on aside from its artificial gatekeeping measures. It looks cute, has a pretty responsive interface, and is an enjoyable puzzle game. If you’re looking for more in the same vein then check out Words for Evil. Although imperfect in its own regards, skilled players are rewarded without restrictions.


Score: 3
3 out of 5 alpacas


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