Archive for the ‘2. Action’ 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).


More movement-until-blocked puzzles

18 March 2009

IMG_0002In an earlier post I introduced movement-until-blocked puzzles. The idea of such puzzles is that there are various objects to be moved towards a goal. Each object can be moved separately, and in any direction possible. However, the catch is that the movement will continue until it is blocked by a wall or another moveable object. In that earlier post and the follow-up I presented six different iPhone puzzles that used this principle. In the meantime two more have become available: Atomix and D-Star. Both are remakes of earlier games known under the same names.


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):


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.


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.


Knight’s jump mazes: nothing really there yet

14 December 2008


By using special rules for movement, simple mazes can become complex multi-state maze-puzzles. A well-known special kind of movement that can be used for such puzzles is the knight’s jump from chess. There are two puzzles available in the app store that use this kind of movement, but neither of them offers really nice puzzles yet. However, this could easily be changed for the better.


Tilt mazes: replacing dexterity with logic

13 December 2008


One of the fascinating possibilities of the iPhone is to use the accelerometer to guide objects through mazes. This can be done with mazes in a literal sense, like in Labyrinth, or in a somewhat less maze-like setting, as in Super Monkey Ball. In these apps, the problems have to be solved through dexterity: a steady hand and smooth movements are necessary reach the goal.

In contrast, the principle of tilt mazes is to only use logic to reach the goal. The basic idea of such mazes is that the maze can be tilted, but the movements of all objects in the maze continue in the direction of the tilt until a wall (or hole) blocks the movement. As far as I know, Andrea Gilbert was the first to propose such puzzles in 1999.

There are three implementations available in the app store that use this principle (links redirect to iTunes):


Riddle racing until blocked

11 December 2008

IMG_0001.PNGIn my previous post I discussed various puzzles that used the principle of “movement-until-blocked” to transform a simple grid into a more or less complex maze. In a comment to that post, Bob Hearn drew my attention to another such puzzle in the app store that I had missed (iTunes link): Riddle Racer (a free version to try it out is also available). The goal of this puzzle is to move the car to the centre of the board with the help of the orange pylons. Both the car and the pylons can be moved, but only if they are blocked at some point by the car or another pylon.


Movement-until-blocked mazes

10 December 2008

IMG_0002.PNGA regular maze is good, but a concealed maze is better. By allowing only particular kinds of movements, a simple grid suddenly can become a twisted virtual maze. A recurrent trick is to only allow straight movement that continues until blocked. Various puzzles in the app store use this approach. And to give away my conclusion, I find Q Touch (shown here to the right) currently the most interesting of them.

The following five apps all are this kind of “movement-until-blocked” mazes:


KinWits: more multi-state by paired movement

9 December 2008

IMG_0002.PNGOne 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.


Theseus: a multi-state maze by paired movement

8 December 2008

IMG_0001.PNGIf you can get hold of a copy of Robert Abbott’s books Mad Mazes and Super Mazes you should immediately buy them. Unfortunately, they are out of print now. These books really redefine what mazes are all about. They contain various ingenious variations on the multi-state theme: your position in the maze is actually different depending on how you got there. Although there are many ways to make such mazes (see for example my previous posts), Robert Abbott’s designs are as good as it can get. Now one of his multi-state maze designs (or ‘mazes with rules’ as he likes to call them) has hit the app store: Theseus (iTunes link).


Thing that roll: Rolling Block puzzles

2 December 2008

IMG_0006.PNGAs argued in my previous post, maze puzzles get more interesting when the actual maze is concealed. A really nice concealment of a maze puzzle are rolling block puzzles. In such puzzles a block (larger than 1x1x1, typically 1x1x2) is rolled around a grid of squares. What is so special about that, you might ask? Well, the effect is a multi-state maze, which can result in really nice puzzles.