One of the ways to make ‘virtual’ multi-state mazes is by using multiple moving figures. You will be in different parts of the maze depending on the combined position of all moving figures. I discussed a particularly nice example of such mazes in my previous post on Theseus. However, there is another puzzle of this kind in the app store: KinWits (there is also a free version of this puzzle to try it out). And if you wonder why this puzzle is a maze in the first place (it sure doesn’t look like one on face value), then read my primer on maze puzzles before you read the rest of this post.
In KinWits you have to guide a group of little creatures to the green finish-location. They have to reach the goal all at the same time. The trick is that they do not necessarily walk together. When they are all of the same color (as shown above in the start position), then they move as a group in any direction on the grid. When a white creature passed a blue tile, then it changes to blue (and vice versa when a blue one enters a white tile). Now the tricky thing happens: with one white and one blue creature, they both move in opposite directions (somewhat reminiscent of Oskar van Deventer’s counter-step maze).
The experience solving these puzzles feels definitively maze-like. The first level is easy enough, but later levels very quickly let you end up in a configuration where no movement is possible anymore: you have landed in a dead end. Unfortunately, there is no undo, so once you are stuck in a dead end, you will have to reset the level. In general the presentation of this puzzle could be improved a lot: unlimited undo, free choice of levels and remove the lines in the background are just a few easy improvements.
The somewhat more problematic aspect of this puzzle is that the route through the virtual mazes is often extremely confusing. Now, a good maze of course needs some confusion, but in this case I tend to say that it is too much. It is really hard to ‘look ahead’ and make a good guess in which direction to go next. Much too often, I just ended up in randomly trying different paths.
This problem of course boils down to level-design. Maybe some more basic levels would be in order to have the puzzler (me) get used to the special movement restrictions. Or maybe I should simply study the game more deeply to better understand the long-term logic of movement-decisions. If somebody has some good insights into strategies to keep track of the maze-structure in KinWits, try it out on the free version and please add you thoughts to the comments! This is definitively a puzzle to think some more about.