Archive for February, 2009

Puzzles based on right-angled reflection

28 February 2009

IMG_0003.PNGIn my previous post I discussed puzzles in which objects have to be guided to a goal by using various forms of reflection. All those puzzles attempted (with more or less success) to present a realistic physical environment. In this post I will present another class of puzzles that also is based on reflection, but implemented in a more abstract manner. In these games reflection is only possible in right angles, and the puzzle consists of placing diagonally oriented mirrors in such a way that an object (balls, or a beam of light) will be guided to the goal (or goals).

The following puzzles in the app store implement this approach (links redirect to iTunes):


The puzzling physics of reflection

27 February 2009

IMG_0001.PNGThere are various puzzles in the app store that provide a realistic replication of physical reality and use gravity, momentum or friction to make puzzles (as discussed in an earlier post). Another physical phenomenon that lends itself to design interesting puzzles is reflection. Three puzzle games in the app store (try to) realistically represent reflection, and make nice puzzles in that surrounding.


Dr. Brain: Another tale of conceptual continuity

16 February 2009

drbrain.pngIn the 1990s, Sierra Entertainment developed a series of educational computer games called “Dr. Brain” (indeed, Dr. Kawashima was not the first one to use his doctoral title to sell edutainment). In the third installment of the series from 1994, called The lost mind of Dr. Brain, a puzzle called “Motor Programming” was introduced, apparently inspired by the Logo programming language. The goal is to guide the dog Rathbone towards a brain (Dr. Brain’s brain) by using simple instructions like ‘forward’, ‘turn left’, etcetera. In this game’s simplistic programming language there are no loops nor recursion, only subroutines. The challenge of the puzzle is that only a limited number of instructions are allowed, and only two subroutines (also with a limited number of instructions each).

This puzzle has now also reached the iPhone, in different guises, and through a twisted path of attribution and inspiration.


Bees, Bots and Rolandos: playful physics puzzles

10 February 2009

IMG_0001.PNGThe three games to be discussed in this post present in my opinion the most interesting game-developments on the iPhone. They are not puzzles in the strict sense as I tend to define it, because they all require a certain amount of dexterity. However, the balance between strategic planning and dexterous maneuvering is well thought through. You won’t solve these with only dexterity! Further, all these games are extremely well made, both visually and auditory. And they are all based on a very refined physical quasi-world, as I have discussed in my previous post. Interestingly, they all take a slightly different approach to which aspect of physics is highlighted: gravity, momentum, and friction.

Are you curious? The games I am referring to are the following (links redirect to iTunes):


Crayon Physics: A primer on physics-based puzzles

9 February 2009

crayon_small_02.jpgIn the development of computer games, one of the most important underlying developments is the refinement of the so-called physics engine. Originally, each developer would independently define all reactions of the program to each input of the user. Obviously, this is very labour-intensive, so already from the start of computer-games different solutions were developed. The basic idea is to frame the game into the surrounding of a quasi-reality, so that the game itself can figure out how to react. In this approach, the central problem was to build a suitable quasi-reality. However, the big profit was that the quasi-reality became to some extent independent of the game itself, so it could be reused. Eventually, the development of such quasi-realities (or physics engines as they are usually called) became an industry of its own (see the historical survey by Calen Henry and Jacob Karsemeyer for an in-depth analysis).

Most games using such engines are shoot and race games, but there are also various puzzles that use the power of a quasi-reality.