Friday, October 28, 2005

Liquid Crystals Puzzle

Title: Liquid Crystals Puzzle
Author: Puzzle Lab
License: Freeware

A crystal has been broken in seven pieces, and you have to put it back together. All you have to work with is an outline of the original crystal and the seven pieces. You have to determine the placement and rotation of the seven smaller pieces. Often, the toughest part is figuring out the scale from the small outline.

There are 37 crystals to repair. The interface is simple and nearly flawless. I like their use of the mouse wheel to rotate the selected piece. The only rough spot is that you have to manually save your game to a file before exiting, and load it the next time you start.

Liquid Crystals is the freeware sampler which Puzzle Lab gives away. They have several other versions for sale. If you are looking for more puzzles along these lines, here are three. jTans is a nice implementation of tangrams. Here is a Java applet where you reconstruct figures using pentominos. Lastly, Fulfillment is a flash based game where you have to place polyominoes in a square within a time-limit.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Star Wars: Pit Droids

Title: Pit Droids
Author: Lucas Arts
License: Commercial

I recently played through Rocknor's Donut Factory. After starting RDF, I thought to myself, "Hey this is just like Pit Droids." Once I finished RDF, which is a fine game, I went digging through my closet and found Pit Droids. I reinstalled it and gave it a another whirl. It is a great game, and better than Rocknor's Donut Factory.

Pit Droids was released about six years ago. It was not a commercial success, due largely to the fact that it was marketed towards kids. I purchased my copy at a Zany-Brainy, a now defunct children's toy store. It should have been marketed at adults. It is a good tough puzzler which you can still get on-line.

The goal of each level is to route 48 pit droids to one of the exits. Each level comes with various routing tiles. The simplest tile, the arrow, causes every pit droid which passes over it to change direction. There are tiles which cause the first so many droids to change direction and rest continue straight on. Another causes every other droid to change direction. You have to figure out where to place these tiles so that all of the droids make it to an exit.

Each pit droid has three properties: body color, helmet color, and tool carried. There are tiles which only cause blue bodied droids to change direction, tiles which only cause green helmeted droids to change direction, and tiles which only cause droids carrying ladders to change direction. There are also barriers which only allow certain types of droids through, and exits which only allow certain types of droids to exit. Often some interesting Boolean logic is needed to make sure that every type of pit droid can make it some exit.

One of the fun aspects of the game is timing. There are often multiple launchers of pit droids resulting in different streams with one space between each droid. If you need to have two streams cross, you have to time it right so that they do not collide. Imagine a (American) football marching band doing their half-time show.

Pit Droids comes with a nice tutorial. Once you the mechanics down, you can play through the "game" or select any level to tackle. In the game mode, there are eight locations from which you have to advance at least 144 pit droids. You advance upto 48 droids from one location to another by getting them to the exits in randomly selected levels. I would suggest you play through the game in "Easy" mode to further understand the rules and various tiles, and to watch all the cut scenes. Then goto the "Choose Puzzle" section and play the levels on their own. It is a bit of pain to keep track of which ones you have completed, but you will get many repeats in the game mode.

The game comes with a level editor, but I was not able to find many levels out there. The manual is quite good. My only complaint with the game is that there is a bit trial and error necessary where you have to learn what type of pit droids each of the launchers produces. I wish you could double-click on a launcher and have it tell you what type of droids it produces.

Getting Pit Droids to work on a Windows XP machine takes a little work. I had to run in the compatibility mode for Window 98/Windows Me. Also, in the options within the game, I would suggest turning automatic scrolling off. And when playing a level, I would suggest turning off the scenery and turning on the grid markers.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Browser Games 2

This week, I want to mention three browser based logic games. They can be played right in your own web browser. This is my second trio of browser based games. Here is the previous entry. A good source for more is Good Experience Games.


Discovery Kids has several web based games aimed at kids. However, one of them, WhizzBall, is a lot of fun for us adults. It is a flash based game similar in spirit to The Incredible Machine. To solve a puzzle, you have to place the various items at the bottom of the screen on the grid so that when a ball is released from the funnel, it hits the target. The items include rollers, tubes, and catapults. Each has a different predictable effect on the ball. The puzzles are user designed. WhizzBall was released about two years ago, and there are now over 11,000 levels. The levels are rated in both quality and difficulty, which makes it easy to avoid the clunkers. I have had some trouble with this game in some browsers.


Cubeoban is another flash based game. The objective is to move each block onto a square with a dot of the same color. When you move a block, it keeps moving until it hits a wall or another block. You often have to be smart about using one block to provide the path for another block access to its dot. There are only thirty levels. If you want more, there is PC version called Blox Mania.

Hyper Frame

This one is a shockwave game. You have to connect pairs of like colored end points. The problem is that the paths cannot cross. Sometimes, you have to loop paths in strange ways to make room for other paths. There are 40 levels which get increasingly more difficult.

Friday, October 07, 2005


Title: SnakeSlider
Author: Bas de Reuver
License: Freeware

SnakeSlider is a fun little puzzler. In each level, you have to guide your buddy, the green snake, to the exit. Standing in your way are yellow snakes, wooden crates, and locked doors. You control the snakes, both green and yellow ones, by moving their head or tail into a vacant spot. The rest of the snake then slithers along freeing up the space formerly occupied by its other end. Snakes can push boxes out of the way and pick up keys to unlock doors. In the end, you have to figure out how to get the head of the green snake to the exit.

SnakeSlider comes with two puzzlesets. Each contains 25 levels. You can work on any puzzle at any time. Although there are a couple of tough levels, most are fairly easy. Still, I enjoyed working through the levels. This game has a certain cuteness to it. I know this might be the kiss of death, but this is a good game for the kids. And after completing all 50 levels, you get a little prize.

A level editor is included. It is a little clunky, but functional. One additional puzzleset with 20 levels is included.

One hint. There is a tricky rule which you need to be aware of, if a snake's head is adjacent to its tail, you can move the head into the spot occupied by the tail and essentially rotate the snake in place. This is quite useful in many levels.

There is a website listed on the "About" screen for the game, but I have never been able to connect to it. You can get the game at NoNags if you are a member. Otherwise, you will have to search for The current version is 1.1.