Friday, May 26, 2006

Dungeon 2.0 & Escape

Name: Dungeon 2.0
Author: Peter Hellmuth & Flynn Burklin
License: Freeware

Name: Escape
Author: Tom 7
License: GNU Public License

Escape and Dungeon 2.0 are the same game. They have the same rules, same tutorial levels, and similar graphics. The odd thing is that neither one credits the other. There are a couple of people listed in credits for both as level designers. I do not know which one came first. I am curious if there is some history here.

Escape/Dungeon is a normal top down puzzle game somewhat in the spirit of the classics Chip's Challenge and CyberBox . The goal is to get the character to the exit. Standing in your way are variety of blocks with different movement rules. There are lasers to avoid, holes to fill in, and teleporters to jump into. Most levels also contain a bunch of switches, the circular tiles. Once you push a block onto a switch, another tile will flip to its alternative type. As an added challenge, certain special switches can only be flipped by certain special blocks. There is some trial and error necessary to figure out which switch flips which tile and what its alternative is.

Some levels contain robots (Escape) or knights (Dungeon). These guys follow you around. On some levels, you need to have the robots/knights push blocks and throw switches. They can also be used to block the lasers. Sometimes, you just have to make sure they do not trap you. Other levels, the robots/knights are "bad", and you have to avoid them. Their movement is turn based. You move once, they move once. It takes a little time to learn their movement rules.

Dungeon 2.0 comes with 75 levels. The early levels are easy, tutorial levels. They get progressively more difficult. After failing a level some number of times, the game allows you to skip it and move on to the next level. I wish more games would do this. On the downside, Dungeon 2.0 is a little buggy. If you hit the escape key, it minimizes and freezes. Also, there are some small graphic flaws (the odd vertical lines).

Escape introduces several additional items. One interesting item is the barriers. They come in three colors: red, blue, and green. There are other tiles which allow you to toggle all of the barriers of a given color or combination of colors. To open up a path through all the barriers, you have to do a little mod 2 linear algebra.

Escape comes with a set of 21 tutorial levels. There are also 990 levels contributed from fans. Each level is rated for difficulty, style, and rigity. Despite the ratings, I found it hard to find good levels to play. I wish the Escape authors had put together a good set of 50 to 100 levels to be the official levels. They have a very nice interface for downloading new levels and updating the game.

Being the same, both games suffer from the same flaws. Learning the effect of the switches takes some time. Also, you have to learn where the teleporters teleport you. There can be some annoying trial and error. Sometimes you have to restart a level because you guessed wrong. Another problem is that the maps are often larger than the visible area. It sucks when you get shot by a laser which you cannot see. And, learning the movement rules for the robots/knights takes a while.

Which is better? Tough call, but I would go with Dungeon 2.0. I liked the sense of completion from finishing the 75 levels. On the other hand, Escape has better documentation of the various items and their effects.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Mensa Challenge Your Brain Math & Logic Puzzles

Name: Mensa Challenge Your Brain Math & Logic Puzzles
Authors: Dave Tuller & Michael Rios
License: Commercial Book
Website: Amazon

Suppose you are on a trip with no laptop. Hmm... That is never going to happen. Ok, suppose there is a blackout, and you have no working computer and want to work on a few puzzles. What do you do? This week's entry is my suggestion if such a disaster ever happens.

Mensa Challenge Your Brain Math & Logic Puzzles is an excellent collection of logic puzzles. It contains 71 pages of challenges. If you are a Games Magazine regular, you will recognize many of the puzzle categories such as Battleships, Dominoes, and Nurikabe. There are also several puzzle types which I had not seen before. A couple of these new ones are described below.

The best thing about this book is that the quality paper and ink hold up well under erasing. At $7.95, this is a must add to your emergency disaster kit. In case that there are two blackouts, you might want to also get The Ultimate Clever Puzzle Book.


Draw a loop or corral around all of the numbered squares so that the number of squares within the corral which can be seen horizontally and vertically from each numbered squares equals that number.


Places lines between neighboring nodes in such a way that the number of edges coming out of each node equals the number within the node.

Square Routes

Find a path which passes through each square such that it travels straight through the gray squares and makes a turn at every orange square.

Spiral Galaxies

Divide the grid into regions so that each dot appears at the center of gravity of a region.

Friday, May 12, 2006


Name: Triogical
Author: Jérémy Routier and Alain Decayeux
License: Freeware (donations requested)

This is the second straight week with a game from France. This week's entry is on Triogical, a freeware game inspired by Tower of Babel. Their tagline is "Because your brain needs work" which it delivers on.

Triogical is played on a 20 by 15 grid. To complete a map, you have to capture all of the klondikes (green cone shaped things) and destroy all of the flags. At your beck and call are three types of robots: the green grabber robot, the red zapper robot, and the blue pusher robot. Each has different powers. The grabber robot can grab or capture a klondike if one is directly ahead without any other objects blocking its line of sight. The zapper robot can blast a flag. The pusher robot can push objects such as klondikes around.

The key to solving a map is figuring out how to get the robots to work together. You might have to use the pusher robot to move a klondike into a position so that the grabber robot can collect it. But you might need to first have the zapper zap a few blocks so that the pusher can get into position to push. The interplay of the three robot types results in some great puzzles.

There are a hand full of other objects in Triogical. These include blocks, mines, ice, time bombs, mirrors, rotating lasers, teleporters, and indestructible monsters. Each robot interacts differently with the objects. There are not too many items, but it takes a little while to learn all of the rules. There is a tutorial which carefully introduces the various objects.

Triogical comes with 99 maps divided into 11 groups of 9 each. You have to complete all of the maps in each group in order to progress to the next which is a bit annoying. The quality and pacing of the maps is very good. The authors have put a great deal of care in the maps. Some of the later maps are quite challenging. There is a forum for hints if you get really stuck.

The graphics and audio in Triogical are a bit weak, but who cares? The biggest flaw is that many of the levels require quick fingers and careful timing. This can get very frustrating. You do have the ability to save one partial solution while solving a map. Use it wisely. To be fair, there is often a way to approach these situations which minimizes the tricky timing. It often pays to look for an alternative approach.

All in all, Triogical is a very good game. It boasts an active community of map makers. Once you finish the initial mapset, there are plenty more for you to chew on.

Friday, May 05, 2006


Title: Fire
Author: Stéphane Mitermite
License: Freeware

I want to get one thing out of the way. This week's game, Fire, has a slightly dirty behavior. When you exit the program, it starts a web browser directed at the author's homepage. This is a bad thing. Besides the minor privacy issue, by automatically loading a webpage you can lose information if you already have a web browser running. The current version of Firefox opens this page in a new tab. However, previous versions of Firefox would open it in current window. This could cause you to lose data. This is a stupid thing for any game to do and right at the line of what I consider acceptable behavior for a program. Of course, many program do this. Others with stricter standards might want to skip this one. Some firewalls allow you block this sort of thing.

That aside, Fire is a simple and fun puzzle game. The objective is to put out all of the fires by having the ball roll over them. The game is played on a rectangular grid. You control two objects: the ball and the create. When moved, the ball or the create will continue moving until it hits something: a wall, the other object, or in the case of the create a fire. That is it. You cannot ask for simpler rules.

The interesting aspect of Fire is using the create and ball to block for each other in order to gain access to various parts of the maze. For the most part, the puzzles are not difficult but very enjoyable. There are some tricky ones but not many. You can often determine which fire or fires need to be put out last. This cuts down the search significantly. I found the most difficult levels to be those in which you have to use a fire to block for the create. This is something to keep in mind when you hit a tough one.

Two level sets containing 45 levels come with the game. There is an addition download containing 152 levels spread across 12 levels sets. If this is not enough, there is a level editor. In each level set, you have to complete level i to gain access to level i+1. In Fire, this is not as bad a problem as in other games due to the 14 level sets. If you get stuck on one puzzle, there are 13 other puzzles to work on.

Fire does have a couple of flaws besides the biggie mentioned in the first paragraph. First, every time you start the game, it asks you for a video resolution. It does not remember your selection from last time. It also does not remember which of the seven views you prefer. I prefer four, by the way. Second, the controls are a little awkward. The space bar is used to switch between controlling the ball and the create. Which one you currently control is displayed in the upper-right corner. However, it is easy to forget and send the wrong one off and have to start over. It would also be nice if there was an undo feature.