Puzzle Games Bundle – Six Great Games For Your Brain

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Recently I’ve been playing a bunch of things probably best describedas minimal puzzle games. You know the type: games that focus on one sort of readily-grasped abstract puzzle, usually without story or characters, often dressing up a very simple interface with minimal but attractive graphics and sound. But not all minimal puzzle games are created equal.

Here’s my take on the six I’ve spent time on most recently.

LYNE

It is probably the bestall-around game on this list. It presents a more complex variation of the old pen-and-paper puzzles that asked players to connect all the dots with a single line but pass through each dot only once. LYNE spices up the old formula with multiple lines of different colors, and dots that must be passed through more than once, but the core concept is still tremendously simple. This might sound easy, and to be sure it starts off that way. But the game is loaded with content. There are 650 puzzles broken into sets corresponding to the letters of the alphabet (not to mention 50 new daily puzzles any time you want them). And even if you find A and B easy, the difficulty will have ramped up considerably by the time you reach O.

LYNE

LYNE puzzles are satisfying to complete. Also, unlike many games of this sort (including Kami, Strata, and Chip), there’s no reason to start over. If your solution almost works you have the option to fix it at no penalty rather than beginning all over again. You’re trying to figure out the solution here, not memorize it. The visual presentation is minimal geometric forms in muted color palates. Play is accompanied by a very pleasing set of sounds, making it seem your clicking has a wind-instrument soundtrack. All this combines with an intuitive interface, perfect for a finger on a touch screen, to make playing the game pleasantly relaxing. (I’ve played LYNE a bunch on both PC and Android. It is perhaps even better on a touch screen device.)

Strata

It is another take onthe colored lines over colored dots puzzle. Here colored nodes are arranged in a grid. Your task is to interlace colored bands so that the second band to cross any individual node matches its color. Much like LYNE it has a pleasant instrumental soundtrack and abstract geometric graphics, though both are more upbeat than LYNE’s spacey aesthetic. Thus Strata too is very pleasant just to interact with.

Strata

However, I have a mixed reaction to the puzzles in Strata. Response to the game seems split in-general: out of twenty people who like this sort of thing it seems that nineteen will enjoy the puzzles, and one will complain that they’re too easy. This disparity seems to come from something a few players notice early on which removes the puzzling and replaces it with a fairly simple process for arriving at solutions. I played the game for around thirty minutes before noticing. In that first half-hour I would have given play un-qualified high-marks. But, once things clicked for me, I was able to do puzzles in around a minute each. This ability to just churn out solutions without much thought made play a lot less fun.

So should you play this game? I’d still recommend it. You might be one of the nineteen who loves it. And, even if you’re in my group, the game still was gratifying to solve and pretty, just disappointingly easy after a certain point.

Hook

I’d say to skip this one. Itis a game in which one must press buttons to trigger mechanisms which retract interlocking lines. These lines are set up so that if they are retracted in the wrong order they will collide with one another, causing an error. Your goal is to retract everything without causing more than a certain number of errors. In later puzzles switches are added so that what each button triggers must be adjusted by the player.

Hook

From a distance Hook excited me because its levels looked circuit-like and reminiscent of my all-time favorite SpaceChem. Sadly that is not at all what gameplay is like. I found it to be much too easy to figure out the proper order of operations. This done, the only thing to make levels difficult is confusion about what button leads to what mechanism. The game makers did add some of this, but it comes not so much from puzzles into which one must have insight as it does from a jumble of lines which is simply hard to follow with the eye.

Thus I would know what I wanted to do but still had to trace lines on the screen with my finger to make sure I was doing it. Even so I completed the game in around 54 minutes of actual play. For most of that time I had the sound turned off because I found it irritating. Aside the visual elegance of the levels, there just didn’t seem to be a lot to recommend this one.

Chip

It has an odd visual style.Do you remember “robot hell” from Futurama? Chip looks like that, and is the only game on this list to have anything like a story attached to it, even if that story is provided by just a few panels of comic. Chip’s puzzles involve rearranging objects on a grid in order to shoot the protagonist with an electric cannon (robots…).

Chip

The mechanics of these puzzles are quite good. There is real figuring out to be done. There are bouncing mechanics, block sliding puzzles, and a variety of other parts to add complexity. Also, a perfectionist has an incentive to solve some puzzles in multiple ways, as light bulbs (in a non-robot game they’d be stars) are awarded for solving a puzzle in a certain number of moves or within a certain time, and it may require a different solution to do each of those things. I think I’ll be playing this one for a while. My one big complaint with Chip is the interface. Like all the other games on this list Chip is mouse only. But the control of components on the board is clunky and sometimes frustrating. The element of timing in this game adds to the frustration—you need to rearrange components while your projectile is in the air, and there is no full pausing. Thus getting things to go where you want them to quickly is important to game play, and so it’s doubly irritating when the game is recalcitrant about it.

Kami

A bunch of people have recommendedthis one to me recently. And, after playing it, I can see why. Kami has surpassed everything else on this list in terms of the elegance of its puzzle mechanics. Kami puzzles could literally be played in a paint program; you are essentially “dumping” colors into colored regions in an attempt to make the entire board a single color. This would be trivial, if not for a move limit.

Kami

Trying to figure out how to unite the board in just a few color changes is challenging and can look impossible until you have the needed insights. The packaging of the puzzles is pleasant but forgettable. The graphics are made to look like folding origami and everything on-screen has paper grain. I enjoyed that aspect, but did not care for the rather repetitive sound effects. This is a great game to play while you listen to music (and, in general, just a very good puzzle game to play).

Chime

This one is a bit of astretch; it might properly be classified as an arcade game since it is essentially a variant of Tetris. However, it has a lot in common with other minimal puzzlers, especially the combination of simple mechanics with austere but beautiful aesthetics.

In Chime’s case, while the visuals are not lacking they are also barely worth mentioning. You are slotting Tetris pieces into a geometric form, trying to create completed box shapes and cover as much area as you can within a certain amount of time to maximize your score. The graphics are about the minimum needed to get the job done attractively plus some light effects. The real strength of Chime, though, is its audio. Each level is themed around a piece of music. This includes tracks from Philip Glass, Moby, and even Jonathan Coulton. These pieces are mostly beautiful on their own, though mixed in a very sparse way. The sounds made by the game as you complete shapes harmoniously compliment and add to the underlying music. The sounds this game makes are beautiful and hypnotic. This is one where you absolutely want to have the sound on—it’s the sound that keeps me coming back.

Chime

The puzzle element of Chime is that play is essentially a timed and randomized geometry puzzle. Different stages offer you a different play area, but more interestingly a different selection of parts. Shapes you rely on to fill gaps in one stage don’t exist in another. Also, while left-over bits won’t make you lose before the time runs out (as they would in Tetris), they do interact with scoring in an interesting way. Thus clean solutions that do not leave any blocks left over are better.



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