Posts Tagged ‘puzzle’

HuniePop Review

Untitled-1

1878405518_huniepop_mangagamer_boxart

Developer: HuniePot
Publisher: HuniePot
Platform: PC – MangaGamer*, Steam

I never would have thought that HuniePop was going to be a game that I’d be playing for over 11 hours until 2 in the morning. At a glance, it looks like your typical mediocre anime dating sim. There are plenty of those floating around, so why bother with HuniePop?

Read more »

Hexcells Review

Hexcells Featured

Hexcells Logo

Developer: Matthew Brown
Publisher: Matthew Brown
Platform: PC – Steam

Every single year tons of new puzzle games launch – and I play a great deal of them. So many fall on established styles and therefore fail to draw my attention. Hexcells, on the other hand, provided a fairly unique experience and has captivated many. Now there’s a whole series of games for fans to enjoy. So how is this very first puzzler?

Simply phenomenal. The concepts at play are incredibly simple, which is almost necessary for a good puzzle game. Each stage presents players with a variety of hexagons laid out so they touch one another. Some include numbers on them. Your goal is to activate adjacent cells equal to the number on a hexagon. It might sound a bit weird at first but the quick tutorial stages make the goal understandable.

Hexcells Featured

With a bit of knowledge under your belt Hexcells throws a handful of increasingly difficult puzzles your way, adding more considerations along the way. Mistakes are allowed but if you make to many you won’t get enough points to continue on. There aren’t a ton of stages in all, which is the biggest letdown. Then again, the game is only $2.99 to begin with.

Hexcells excels at providing a fun and simple puzzle game that requires some careful thinking along the way. By the end I didn’t quite get the hang of it, but it was still enjoyable to work through each included puzzle. If you absolutely love the game then check out its sequels: Hexcells Infinite and Hexcells Plus.


Score: 4

4 out of 5 alpacas


About our rating system

Polyology Review

Polyology Featured

Polyology Logo

Developer: Gridlock Interactive
Publisher: Gridlock Interactive
Platform: PC – Humble Store, itch.io

Sokoban (block pushing) games are deceptively easy. If you’ve never played one, their name basically defines the goal of pushing blocks together or to a certain spot. In Polyology, your goal is to smush together blocks which bear the same number. You’ve also got to ensure that the number matches the amount of blocks touching. It sounds simple enough but as the game unfolds you discover all sorts of twists.

Polyology grades you on how many “pushes” it takes to complete any one puzzle. Meet the minimums and you have a chance at up to three stars. If you can’t, well, you’re still awarded one star for simply completing a puzzle. Stars are important since they unlock later stages. Eventually you will have to retry previous tough stages to collect more stars.

Polyology Featured

Many levels also tweak the expected sokoban formula in interesting new ways. For example, switch blocks will switch places with the player rather than moving in a regular direction. Sometimes blocks even come in distinct, Tetris-ish shapes. There are a lot of variations which are fun, challenging, and occasionally frustrating. Controls (keyboard and gamepad) are good and you can even undo moves but I still would’ve appreciated a hint function.

The game might not have the fanciest visuals around but they’re serviceable for what’s going on. The colored sphere is cute as its face actually changes depending on what you’re pushing. Polyology also has some fantastic, low-key music for solving puzzles to. There are not an outrageous amount of puzzles but they should keep you busy for a couple hours.


Score: 3

3 out of 5 alpacas


Review code provided
About our rating system

LYNE Review

LYNE Featured

LYNE Logo

Developer: Thomas Bowker
Publisher: Thomas Bowker
Platform: Mobile – Android, iOS, Windows PC – Direct, itch.io Steam

What makes a puzzle game enjoyable? Usually, it’s a heavy focus on one very simple concept that takes skill to master. LYNE follows this principle perfectly thanks to an easy to grasp component of drawing lines. All you have to do is make connecting lines between shapes of the same color. The tricky part comes in thanks to limited spaces in which to draw these lines, as well as the requirement of connecting multiple colors without crossing pathways. Things quickly get challenging, but in a way that facilitates continued play.

I won’t lie, my first attempt at LYNE was superbly pitiful. After barely being introduced to the core components I found myself completely stuck. After frustrated fumbling I closed the game and came back to it later. Lo and behold, that brief time away allowed me to think about the problem from a different angle and solve it. Many puzzle games are like this and it’s that moment once you first start to really “grasp” the core mechanics that you can feel smart while whizzing through puzzles. The more I played, the better I became. Eventually there were even periods that I entered into the “puzzle zone” and seemed to solve many in a row with no issue at all.

LYNE Featured

LYNE is a game for people who enjoy these types of experiences, and simply want a playful title to mess with. The price is super low at $2.99, but the amount of puzzles included is frankly astronomical by comparison. Beyond the main selection of hundreds of puzzles there are also daily puzzles. These procedurally-generated puzzles come in different difficulties and are all still quite fun. Although I’ve yet to complete it, there’s probably at least six hours of main-game puzzles to work through. It would be nice if hints were available though to help in those moments where you feel impossibly stuck.

Beyond the enjoyable, and sometimes super difficult puzzle gameplay, it just looks good. The calm colors, paired with some really stylish design, helps it stand out from the puzzler pack. It also functions well, although a few tweaks could help a lot. My biggest gripe is not being able to partially redraw lines on my own terms instead of being forced to undo on their terms. Really, what needs to be emphasized about LYNE is the incredible wealth of solid gameplay you get. This is an excellent puzzle game and players get a huge value for their money.


Score: 4

4 out of 5 alpacas


About our rating system

Words for Evil Review

Words for Evil Featured

Words for Evil Boxart

Developer: Dylan Loney
Publisher: Dylan Loney
Platform: PC – Desura, itch.io, IndieGameStand

RPGs usually seem a bit too unwieldy for me to play. I can’t help but view them as such long journeys with a requisite amount of dull grinding. Words for Evil, although a bit of an RPG itself, is much more my speed. This 2D pixelated adventure lets you and a band of adventurers explore new lands and vanquish enemies in your path. However, it does so with a Scrabble-like mechanic rather than turn-based actions.

You begin with a lone adventurer as they battle through countless enemies. Each battle presents a board of letters on the screen. Your goal is to make as many words from it as possible, by string adjacent tiles together in 3 or more letter words. There’s a wrinkle to all this. Certain letters are colored. Only breaking these special tiles allows your side to attack. So it quickly becomes a game of not only finding any word on the field, but making sure you get in a lot of attacks as well.

Words for Evil Screenshot 1

There are two control schemes: One designed for keyboards and one for mice. Of course, the mouse clicking and dragging one seems to emulate a touch screen control concept. Using the mouse was my preferred play style early on until enemies became stronger. When it became necessary to string words together super quick, mouse play bogged me down with errors. On the other hand, keyboard controls work quite well. Just start typing out a word you see and Words for Evil immediately finds where you are to clear that space. One issue I did notice were certain words were not recognized by the game’s dictionary. Those moments were unexpected (and frustrating).

Although there’s not much story, you’ll spy a lot of other RPG genre conventions. Monsters drop loot, player stats increase over time, and there’s even room to stock a few potions. A few minigames also crop up from time to time. While still word-based, they offer a varied form of gameplay. Words for Evil is a pretty simple, fun way to spend a few hours. It might even teach you a few new words along the way.


Score: 3

3 out of 5 alpacas


About our rating system

Snake Blocks Review

Snake Blocks Featured

Snake Blocks Logo

Developer: Spooky Cat
Publisher: Spooky Cat
Platform: itch.io

As a fan of snakes, I could never pass up a game called Snake Blocks. The name might be initially confounding, but it all makes sense once you see this is a puzzle title. Every stage includes 2 to 5 snakes and your goal is simple: Move snakes from their starting position to a goal. However, each snake can only be extended a certain amount of blocks. That’s where the puzzling element comes in. How can you organize snakes so they all reach their destinations?

It’s a lot harder than you might think! At first, only stages with 2 snakes are available and turn out to be fairly easy. Sometimes you must work snakes through blocky obstructions and other times work them around each other. In any case, once those stages are completed you enter the 3 snake arena (then 4 and 5). With more snakes comes far greater challenge. Sometimes you might think a puzzle is easy only to realize every snake but one can reach its goal. Thankfully, there’s no time limit or other factors forcing players into annoying conditions.

Snake Blocks Featured

 

Snake Blocks is full of visual personality. The color combinations between snakes and the striped backgrounds just pops in the best way. Similarly, the stylized block snakes are far more adorable than they have any right to be. I found myself taking screenshots simply thanks to the great aesthetics. An included puzzle editor offers creative players full power to create new stages (and tweak visuals as well).

The biggest issue I had while playing was moving snakes. Although you can move the camera it snaps to certain positions. Often, these angles obscure snakes. As such, I had to click and drag where I assumed a snake’s head was to get it moving into view again. Due to the isometric perspective there were also times that dragging a snake moved it to locations other than intended. Issues like these didn’t destroy my ability to play but did cause moments of frustration.

Check out Snake Blocks if you’re looking to give your mind a workout in short bursts throughout the week. It’s not perfect from a control standpoint, sure, but puzzles are still smartly designed. Beyond all that there’s the aesthetic which is simply too cute to ignore!


Score: 3

3 out of 5 alpacas


Review code provided
About our rating system

PixelPics Review

PixelPics Featured

PixelPics Logo

Developer: Stompy Blondie Games
Publisher: Stompy Blondie Games
Platform: itch.io

If you’re a puzzle game fan then chances are you’ve come across a nonogram game or two. The most prevalent series utilizing said logic puzzles is Picross. Basically, you utilize listings of numbers to discern where to color in blocks. With all the blocks completed you have a nice “pixel” image. PixelPics is, as you might guess, a neat nonogram game.

Now, it’s been a while since I dug up Picross DS, but PixelPics seems like  a marvelous package for the price ($11-ish). The game comes with 200 puzzles divided into chunks for various difficulty settings. At first it seemed I was powering through stages as I advanced through beginner, easy, moderate, and tricky… then I realized a ton of difficulties still laid ahead! In any case, puzzles definitely ramp up in difficulty and the grid grows larger.

PixelPics Screenshot 1

You’re only allowed a set amount of mistakes before “losing.” Unfortunately, there’s no hint engine built-in for getting out of a bind. Once you’ve over-exerted your brain power you can check out the in-game puzzle designer. Select a difficulty and size, draw in pixels, avoid invalid positioning, and you’re good to go! PixelPics can then send these to an online puzzle bank. Theoretically, you can download tons of user made puzzles as well but unfortunately I was unable to get this to work. Having reached out to the developer, I’m hoping to see this aspect fixed up soon!

PixelPics is an enjoyable way to burn some free time and get some mental gymnastics in at the same time. The massive amount of included puzzles means you can play for at least 10 hours! If downloading user-made puzzles worked right off the bat this would definitely become my go-to puzzle game. In any case, PixelPics is a lovely rendition of a classic logic game on PC.


Score: 3.5

3 1/2 out of 5 alpacas


Review code provided
About our rating system

Back to Bed Review

Back to Bed Featured

Back to Bed Logo

Developer: Bedtime Digital Games
Publisher: Bedtime Digital Games
Platform: Mobile – Android, iOS PC – Steam

After delighting in puzzler RUSH, my attention shifted back toward puzzle games. Back to Bed first intrigued me thanks to an incredibly distinctive art style but it were the mechanics that sold me. Just like RUSH, you guide something (in this case a sleepwalker named Bob) to his bed. And, in a more similar twist, Bob walks in one direction and turns right when running into objects. On its own, is Back to Bed an excellent new puzzle game?

Unfortunately, I feel it falls short of its promise. Perhaps it’s more that the tremendous focus on artistry kept it from becoming a truly engaging experience. After all, the art is lovely as an obvious homage to M.C. Escher, Salvador Dali, and Rene Magritte. When a game looks this great, though, you expect equal parts greatness within the product itself.

Back to Bed Featured

To be fair, Back to Bed delivers a serviceable puzzle game on a first playthrough. The biggest issue was that it was surprisingly simple and fast (taking under two hours to beat). The difficulty complaint is addressed by nightmare modes of the same stages. Completing nightmare stages is tremendously challenging, but rewarding!

My biggest issue was that the game attempts to play with perspective, but does so only sparingly. As such, when it happens you don’t expect it and may fail many times by not being aware of the weird perspective being integral for puzzle solving. Of course, beyond this the puzzle controls themselves are a bit borked. Sometimes you simply can’t place objects where you want them. As some puzzles are very time-limited this leads to annoying failures due to the controls. Problematic controls in a puzzle game are a huge problem.

Back to Bed is an imperfect game with a lovely aesthetic. If they had pushed creativity further it would be worth rewarding those attempts. However, beyond the visual artistry, everything about Back to Bed feels tepid.


Score: 2

2 out of 5 alpacas


About our rating system

The Room Review

The Room Featured

The Room Logo

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

In 2012, The Room launched on iOS and quickly gained attention. There was something about this puzzle game that attracted players. Without access to an iOS device, I sat dejected and waited for an eventual Android port. And yet, when that came, my attention was elsewhere. It is only now, with the Steam release, that I’ve finally gotten to spend time with The Room.

I think it was well worth the wait. The Room begins in a room with a large, ornate box at the center. There’s a letter on top of the box which is more than a bit cryptic and taunts the player into action. Can you solve the puzzles of this box and whatever lies within it? As such, you set to work by examining every keyhole, button, and doodad in hopes of figuring out its mysteries.

This puzzle game keeps things fresh by providing a host of puzzles all across the box. Once you solve them all then it’s time to move onto a new chapter. With new features of the mechanism to solve your brain is constantly being stressed to solve every last aspect. Many puzzles just require paying attention. Some require a bit more thought, though they rarely become a huge annoyance. If so, there’s a hint function available to save players from stressing out. Personally, I felt quite comfortable with the difficulty setting and imaginative puzzle types.

The Room Featured

The biggest difference between The Room’s mobile beginnings and Steam release are the visuals. Now every facet of the mysterious box looks absolutely stunning. Puzzles have also been tweaked to suit mouse controls. Still, a few puzzles felt obviously geared toward touch screen functionality. For example, one puzzle requires the player to click and drag for a fair bit of time to solve it. If you let up for even a second then the puzzle resets. It would be much easier to accomplish this constant “dragging” by touch controls.

The Room on PC costs $3 more than its smartphone brethren. If beautiful graphics are of most importance to you then it’s definitely worth the additional fee. However, if you don’t mind and want the best puzzle interactivity then it really seems mobile is the way to go. In either case, The Room is a great puzzle game. I wish it didn’t end so soon.


Score: 4

4 out of 5 alpacas


Review code provided
About our rating system

RUSH Review

RUSH Featured

RUSH Logo

Developer: Two Tribes
Publisher: Two Tribes
Platform: PC – Steam

Puzzle games are both my favorite and least favorite genre. There are always excellent titles to choose from, but some just end up being too convoluted. I wasn’t sure what to expect from RUSH since people don’t really talk about it… After playing it for hours I don’t understand how it was overlooked.

RUSH starts off simply. The basic gameplay concept boils down to making colored blocks reach a destination of the same color. Each block moves across a 3D cube surface and its path is controlled by signs. Signs allow players to make them move up, down, left, right, pause, and the like. If a block hits a wall it will always turn right and continue trekking along.

Tutorials explain all these rules of block locomotion. As you progress through other puzzles harder difficulties eventually open up. Puzzles are a ton of fun because each has its own design with the 3D cubes. Some look like mazes and one even looked like a big crocodile head! I really enjoyed the simple visual aesthetic of the game. Unfortunately, there is no zoom function so sometimes the camera can’t be placed just where you need it.

RUSH Featured

The soundtrack in RUSH is phenomenal. It sounds like nothing I’d ever expect from a puzzle game which makes it all the more memorable. Perhaps jamming to the tracks helps my mind better process puzzles? In any case, when something is tough just call upon a hint or two. One hint option shows whether signs are in the right spot or not. The second hint does that but also highlights where additional signs must go. Of course, it’s up to you to decipher which signs specifically go where.

Playing RUSH is not without moments of frustration but fun definitely overpowers it. A few tweaks could have made the game even greater but as it stands more people simply must nab RUSH.


Score: 4

4 out of 5 alpacas


About our rating system