Friday, September 16, 2005

MisAdventures of Sir Randolph Doogleberry, British Explorer

Title: MisAdventures of Sir Randolph Doogleberry, British Explorer (MASRDBE)
Author: acoders
License: Freeware

Every now and then, I run across a game which I like despite its obvious flaws. MASRDBE is just such a game. It is not a particularly original idea for a puzzle game. There are not many levels, and they are fairly easy. As an added bonus, the game is a little buggy. Despite all of this, I really enjoyed playing MASRDBE. There is something about playing this game which is pleasant. I cannot explain it.

The goal in each level is to visit all of the yellow tiles exactly once. When you move off a yellow tile, it depresses, and you cannot return to it. You have to find a path which visits each one once. There are also white tiles which you can visit as often as you like or skip entirely. Sometimes, there are red and blue tiles which come in pairs. Stepping on them teleports you to the other tile of the same color. You may use these teleporting tiles as often as you like.

The tough part about the game is that you cannot take back a move. If make a misstep, you have to restart the level. And, the game keeps track of how many tries you make on each level. So, you have to think ahead. That said, the levels are quite easy. There was only one (level 23) which gave me any trouble. On few other levels, I had D'OH! moments when I made minor missteps, immediately saw what I had done wrong, and had to restart. There are only 45 levels in the game. Experienced logic gamers can finish this one off in two or three sessions.

MASRDBE is a little buggy. Nothing serious, but on few occasions it would not register my mouse click. Worse, when I completed the last level, it cleared my scores for all the levels. But, I was done, so who cares.

The levels in MASRDBE convert nicely in a mathematics problem: finding a Hamiltonian path in a graph. The yellow tiles correspond to the vertices of the graph. The allowed steps, properly taking white, red, and blue tiles into account, correspond to the edges. Here is the graph for the level shown above in the screen shot.

The Hamiltonian path which visits each vertex once corresponds to the path you need to take to complete the level. In general finding Hamiltonian paths is an NP-complete problem. However, due the relatively low degree of the vertices and the nice local structure (nearly planar), finding Hamiltonian paths in these graphs is not hard. The low degree keeps the number of options limited at any point. The local graph structure makes it easy to notice when a partially completed level is impossible. This is why MASRDBE is not a super challenging game.

There are several other games based on the same idea as MASRDBE. Here are three. First off, acoders has made a 3D version of MASRDBE. The same basic idea but from a third person 3D perspective. They also threw in a time limit.

Next is Sensitive. It is very similar to MASRDBE except its analogue of the yellow tiles disappear after a second or two. So, you cannot stand on a yellow tile thinking about what to do next. Also, if you hit one too many arrow keys, you fall off and die. Sensitive requires slightly more nibble fingers than MASRDBE.

The last is Comboling. This is a flash based game which you play in your browser. Your goal is to find a path which passes through each square once. Be sure to "change interface" to make diagonally related squares easier to detect.


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