Saturday, June 25, 2005

Pyva Lights

Title: Pyva Lights
Author: Pyva Net!
License: Freeware

You have 5 minutes to kill and are really tired of freecell... what do you do? I would suggest you play a game of Pyva Lights. In this puzzle game, you start with a hexagonal grid of lights and some broken connections between neighboring lights. By clicking on a light, you rotate its half connections 60 degrees. Any light connected to the central one becomes lit. Your goal to light all the lights. Here is a typical starting position.

Your job is to figure out the correct rotation for each piece so that the lights are all connected. The solution contains no loops (a spanning tree for you mathematicians out there). This helps a great deal in deducing the required rotations. Here is the solution.

I tend to work from the outside in. But sometimes you get stuck, have to backtrack, and try something else. There is a nice pleasure derived from solving one of these puzzles. It is a good way to waste five minutes.

There are five levels of difficulty. Each has a larger starting grid size. Here are my best times for each of the levels in minutes and seconds.
Normal 0:23
Hard 1:49
Expert 1:50
XXL 22:28
Because the initial configurations are randomly generated, the actual difficulty of a game can vary a great deal. On the other hand, this means Pyva Lights has almost infinite replay value.

I have one minor complaint/suggestion. I wish there are was a way to lock pieces which you "know" are in the correct orientation. Maybe a middle click on a light would lock that piece and its edges would show up in a slightly different color to indicate this.

They also have a 3D version. In this version, the lights are arranged on the surface of a sphere. While this is an interesting idea, it does not work as well as the 2D version. The controls for spinning the sphere around to see the other side are not intuitive. The fact that you do not have edges makes getting started on a solution more difficult. But, it just is not as much fun.

Another game along the same lines as Pyva Lights is Links. This version is played on a rectangular grid. It is also fun way to kill a few minutes, but Pyva Lights is better.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Zep's Dreamland

Title: Zep's Dreamland
Author: LoomSoft
License: Freeware

Zep's Dreamland is a simple puzzle game. The goal of each level is to get Zep (the goofy-looking guy with big eyes) to the exit (the red circular tile). To help get Zep home, you can add and remove teal colored blocks, but there are some rules and restrictions (the red blocks). There are also various special tiles like teleporters and tunnels.

The game comes with a 4 level tutorial and 40 puzzle levels. The level design is good. They increase slowly in difficulty. Some of the levels are tricky, but none is overly hard. The methods you learn in one level to get around certain obstacles are useful in later levels. This results in a pleasurable learning process as you work through the levels. The number of special tiles (teleporters, etc.) is small, and they are introduced gradually (opinion: a good game design feature). You must complete each level before moving one to the next one (opinion: a bad game design feature). My only complaint about Zep's Dreamland is the rules concerning whether you can make blocks while in a tunnel are unclear. Sometimes, you can do it; sometimes, you can't. It is not a big deal.

The game also comes with a level editor. The author has provided an additional 10 levels which are a bit harder than the first 40. A few levels designed by others are also available.

The game was developed using the Allegro Gaming Library. This library is a great source of freeware games. I am sure that more of my blog entries will come from here.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Logical Stones

Title: Logical Stones
Author: Face5 Team and Neszt Tibor
License: Freeware

My first post is on a puzzle game called Logical Stones. This game has everything that a puzzle game should have: simple rules, unique idea, crisp graphics, clever puzzles, and the elusive a-ha effect.

The goal of each puzzle is simple enough. You have use your ship to push each of the blocks onto one of the "x" tiles. There are four types of blocks. Blue blocks can only be pushed. Red blocks can be used to push another block. Green blocks can be lifted (if there is space). Crystal blocks are delicate and will break if dropped too far. There are also the usual transporters, convey belts, and elevators.

The game includes 100 levels of increasing difficulty. The first set of 10 levels basically form a tutorial. The last set of 10 are quite hard. The level design in this game is wonderful. On several of them, I thought the level was impossible, but each had that eureka moment where I realized how to solve the level. Each time, it was a very rewarding feeling. There is a forum on their website in case you need a hint.

The levels are timed. However, you do not have to solve a level within the time limit in order to advance. You get extra credit for doing so.

The only thing missing is a level editor.

There is a newer version called Logical Stones 2004. It introduces a fifth (yellow) stone which can be dragged. It also includes an in-level save feature. A demo is available on their webpage.