Archive for the ‘1. Kind’ Category

Movin’ Maze: more paired movement

28 March 2009

IMG_0002In various earlier post I presented mazes which are made more difficult because different objects are moving at the same time, constrained by specific rules. Movin’ Maze 3D (and the free version Movin’ Maze 3D Lite) presents yet another variation on this theme (a screenshot is shown to the right here). It is a nicely made puzzle, though there are so many options and possibilities that the puzzling aspect is a bit lost in the joyful chaos.



Hidden Treasures: Cloning the clone

28 March 2009


Robert Abbott’s Theseus and the Minotaur is one of the puzzles on the app store with more depth (see my earlier post for more details). In 2002 the game was cloned by PopCap for their online game Mummy Maze (shown here to the right). This game explicitly credits Robert Abbott, although this did not happen automatically (see this post for more details on that history). Yet, PopCap actually did add some new aspects to the puzzle. Those new additions are now cloned by a new iPhone game, though without any credit (once again).


The T(ea)-puzzle: Tangram reinvented

22 March 2009

IMG_0002Four cardboard pieces were included in a box of White Rose Ceylon Tea distributed by Seeman Brothers of New York in 1903. On one of the pieces was written: “Arrange these four pieces of cardboard so as to form a perfect T. White Rose Ceylon is a perfect Tea.” This puzzle has been copied many times, mostly simply known as T-puzzle. When you see the solution (shown here to the right), then this puzzle seems obviously simple. However, when you are given the pieces disassembled, then the assembly appears to be really hard.


Tangram: a primer on assembly puzzles

21 March 2009

IMG_0002.PNGAmong the large class of Put Together puzzles, there is a subclass of puzzle that can be technically classified as non-interlocking 2D assembly puzzles. Probably the most well-known puzzle of this kind is Tangram, but there are very many different kinds of puzzles, also in the app store. The principle of such puzzles is that pieces have to assembled to form a particular configuration. This is just like jig-saw puzzles, though those are typically interlocking.

The following Tangram implementations are available for the iPhone:


Kim did it again …

13 March 2009

sliding.pngIn my earlier post on Vexed I mentioned the Vexed-clone by the korean developer Kim Byung Kwon. I was highly critical of that app because Kim did not refer to the GNU-license of the original game by James McCombe. Now, it turns out (as discussed in the comments to that post) that James McCombe was possibly not the true originator of that puzzle anyway.

However, Kim did it again, though this time with sliding block puzzles! He simply copied some of the best sliding block puzzles from Nick Baxter’s Sliding Block Page and now sells them for one dollar as Sliding Puzzle (iTunes link), without any mention of the originators! Let me rectify this at least here: the puzzles shown on the screenshot in iTunes are by Junichi Yananose, Serhiy Grabarchuk, Minoru Abe, and Ed Pegg Jr.

Kim’s webpage is difficult to decifer (neither my nor google’s knowledge of Korean is sufficient to really make sense of this page). If somebody know how to contact this person, please let me know. I find this unacceptable.

Nodes: advanced connecting dots

8 March 2009

Nodes.pngVery many interesting games and puzzle concepts are being developed by the flash-gaming community. An example of such an interesting puzzle is Nodes, developed by Eggy (Bradley Erkelens) with the assistance some not further clarified person named Frank. The goal of the puzzle is to position the nodes of a graph in such a way that the vertices cross through a set of small circles. This game is also available on the iPhone, though unfortunately not through Eggy, nor with his consent.


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.


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.


Planarity: why not multi-touch?

28 January 2009


In 2005 a mathematics student called Mary Radcliffe developed the concept of a puzzle she called Planarity. It was implemented as a computer game on the internet by John Tantalo. The idea is to take an undirected graph, and the puzzle is to place the vertices (‘nodes’) in such a way that the graph is planar, i.e. the the edges (‘lines’) do not cross. A graph (drawn in 2D) without crossing edges is called a planar graph in mathematics, and this suggested name Planarity. It is an old problem in mathematics how to quickly determine whether a graph is planer or not.

The game became somewhat of a craze among the flash-based gaming community under the name Untangle (just google for “untangle game” and you will find dozens of implementations). Unexpectedly, the game is also available on the iPhone.


TurtleFlip & Adiro: alienated peg jump

25 January 2009

turtleflip.pngWith this post, I will finally finish off the sequential removal puzzles, as far as I have found them in the app store (see all posts in this category). In a sequential removal puzzle, objects have to be removed according to some rules. By taking the wrong order of actions, you might end up in a dead end, so sequential removal puzzles can be seen as an abstract kind of maze (see my earlier primer on maze puzzles explaining this in more depth).  

In real-life physical puzzles, sequential removal puzzles are not so widespread, because it is difficult to find interesting rules for removal that are transparently executable while manipulating objects on a board. Peg jump is possibly the only physical sequential removal puzzle. In contrast, for computer games the principle of sequential removal is very widespread, because even rather unwieldily rules of removal can be easily implemented for a computer to consistently perform. No cheating or accidental errors can occur. Because the goal of removing things, viz. clearing the board, is so intuitively simple, many computer games use this principle (just look at the dozens of Bejeweled-like games in the app store). The differentiation between such games lies in the details of the rules of removal. Enter the twisted rules of TurtleFlip!


FLIP: nice try, but not yet ready

22 January 2009

IMG_0001.PNG The app FLIP is a combination of a Bejeweled-like match-three game, a tilt maze and a match-and-vanish puzzle. So in principle, there are many very interesting puzzle concepts combined into one neat little package. However, the execution leaves much to be desired, and the level-design is not very challenging. So, I really cannot recommend this app just now, but I will keep an eye on any updates.


Hiqup: peg jump on steroids

22 January 2009

IMG_0001.PNG Finally somebody reconsidered Peg Jump. The app Hiqup [link redirects to iTunes] is a sequential removal puzzle in which pieces are basically removed by jumping over them. So far nothing new. However, developer Moopf introduced various new twists into this classic puzzle principle, which make it an interesting puzzle-app, well worth the (low) price.


Lights Out: not straighforwardly sequential removal

17 January 2009

nightlights.pngIn a sequential removal puzzle pieces have to be removed in a sequence. Doing it in the wrong order will lead to a dead end. Lights Out is also a puzzle in which something has to be removed (all lights have to be turned off), and as a user you will perform actions sequentially. However, it turns out after some more pondering over the solutions that the order of actions is not important. So, strictly speaking this is not a sequential removal puzzle, but it definitively feels like one.


Match-and-vanish puzzles with limited moves

15 January 2009

IMG_0001.PNGThe match-and-vanish principle of sequential removal puzzles has taken off in the numerous Bejeweled variants, also en masse found in the app store. As a side-effect, as few of such arcade games have developed separate puzzle modes alike to Vexed. Different from Vexed, these puzzles all take the Bejeweled cue that you have to get three identical tiles together before they disappear (in Vexed also groups of two tiles disappear). Also different from Vexed is that these puzzles do not have any walls that block the movement of the blocks. The only constraint are blocks of other color that are in the way. This does not allow for difficult puzzles, so all these puzzles have to add an extra constraint, and that is that the number of allowed moves is limited. So, these puzzles are not so much about removing all blocks (which is easy), but to do so within a pre-set number of movements (which can become pretty difficult).


Vexed: the original match-and-vanish puzzle

14 January 2009

vexed.pngContinuing the series about sequential removal puzzles, this post introduces Vexed, which is probably the first puzzle to use the principle of automatic and immediate removal of tiles when identical tiles come into contact. This principle has become enormously popular in the wake of Bejeweled and its masses of clones and variants. Bejeweled turns this principle into an arcade-style game because removed tiles are replaced by new ones. Vexed has a clearer puzzle logic: remove all movable objects by bringing identical objects together.


Cubes: the SameGame with a twist

12 January 2009

IMG_0004.PNGThere is one more SameGame implementation (besides the numerous ones discussed in my previous post) that I think deserves a separate posting: Cubes. There is also a lite version with only four levels to try it out, and a free ad-supported full version – though this free version does not (yet) seem to be available in all iTunes stores. As one might figure out from the illustration, Cubes is a 3 dimensional SameGame implementation. Although this seems to be just a little step further, this turns out to be a really capturing puzzle with good clarity.


Chain Shot! – the SameGame over and over again

8 January 2009

reMovem.pngThe first kind of sequential removal puzzles that I will discuss is the computer game Chain Shot! and its derivatives. Chain Shot! was developed originally by Kuniaki Moribe in 1985 for the Fujitsu FM-8/7 series, and ported to UNIX under the name of Same Game in 1992 by Eiji Fukumoto. This puzzle is probably one of the most ported/cloned puzzle programs available for computers, known under many different names (see a list of pre-2000 ports on wikipedia). Later, it got ported to Windows Mobile where the same game is known as either Jawbreaker, Bubble Breaker, Bubblet or Bubblets. And now it has come to the iPhone, and again the same game is popping up over and over again. The basic principle is actually really nice (Biedl et al. 2001 is an analysis of its complexity is, showing that it is NP complete), but do we really need dozens of versions of this?


Peg Jump: a primer on sequential removal puzzles

26 December 2008

pegjump.pngContinuing my survey of sequential movement puzzles in the app store, I will take up sequential removal puzzles in the next few posts. In a sequential removal puzzle, pieces are removed one after another until a particular goal is met, typically the removal of all pieces, or all but one. All sequential movement puzzles, including sequential removal puzzles, can be considered to be mazes, including classic sliding block puzzles and more fancy “hidden” multi-state mazes.


Please acknowledge the designer!

18 December 2008

IMG_0003.PNGThe point of copyright and intellectual property for puzzle designs already came up in passing in my posts about to Rush Hour and Lunar Lockout. However, today an even more obvious problem arose in the app store: Blockade (link redirects to iTunes). This gives me the possibility to very clearly and forcefully explain to all developers out there:  

  • Puzzle-designs are intellectual property of the designer.
  • Even if they are available online, please ask the designer when you want to use the puzzle.
  • Don’t be afraid: most will be thrilled and extremely cooperative.
  • And most importantly: mention the name of the designer clearly alongside each individual puzzle!