Saturday, March 31, 2007

Browser Games 6

I doubt there is anyone out there who reads my blog, but does not know about jay is games, one of the best gaming blogs around. Just in case, I want to mention three browser based puzzle games which I learned about from jay is. All three can be played inside your browser. Each is original and tougher than average.


The goal is to link all of the diamonds as I have just done in the above screen shot. The problem is that each diamond starts out sized 1x1. When you click on a diamond, it expands to the next size. However, once two or more diamonds become linked, they cannot be expanded any further. One last restriction, you cannot expand any particular diamond twice in a row. As the its name suggests, some careful PLANning is necessary. You can download PLANned from ArcadeTown and play off-line if you prefer.


When you hit the go triangle, the first ball starts rotating. Then in some crazy version of Newton's cradle, when one ball hits another, it stops rotating the new one starts. The one thing you control is the length of the arms. The goal to have a ball pass over each of the way points (20 in this first level) in order. But, you do not know exactly where the way points are, just their direction from the previous one. It requires some trial and error. Notice the handy stop square. A new version Clack2 played on squares instead circles is available, but I did not like it as much.

Rings and Sticks

The last one is an interesting game where you have to grow a tree so that so that a limb passes through each ring. At the bottom are moves, extend, split 45 degrees, split 90 degrees, extend left only, extend right only. In the screen shot, one more extend will finish it off. The numbers indicated how many of each move are left. Some levels contain additional obstacles like the red bomb things. This game could really use an undo one move button. If you mess up, you have to start over. Check out Komix Games website for more browser games.

Saturday, March 24, 2007


Title: Hexy
Author: Vadim V. Anshelevich
License: Registration Required

I recently found the book Hex Strategy Making the Right Connections by Cameron Browne in my local library and decided to work through it. To monitor my improvement, I played many games against the computer Hex program Hexy. I had never really played Hex before and learned a lot, both from this book and from playing Hexy.

Hex is a simple abstract strategy game invented by Piet Hein in 1942. Players take turn placing stones on a hexagonal board. The objective is to form a path connecting your opposite sides of the board before you opponent forms a path connecting their two sides. Typical board sizes are 11x11 and 14x14. It easy to prove that the with perfect play, the first player can always win. However, at present, the actual winning strategy is only known for 9x9 and smaller boards.

Hexy is a nice program and plays a strong game of Hex. It has a simple interface, just click on the hex where you want to play. All of the usual features, 4 skill levels, hints, and take backs (use the up and down arrow keys) are present. One suggestion I have is to use the "randomization" option to vary the games a bit.

While Hex programs perform poorly against top human players, Hexy is one of the best. When I started Browne's book, I could not beat Hexy even on the first level. Eventually, I was able to hold my own against level two, but I never beat level three.

My biggest complaint with Hexy is that it requires registration in order to play more than 20 games. It is free, but you have to email the author for a registration code. I actually put off doing this for a long time. Instead, using process monitor, I figured out where Hexy stores the registration information in the Windows registry, in another company's namespace. Tweaking these registry keys, I could reset the counter to 20. When I finally emailed the author, he promptly responded. Still, freeware should be free.

My only other complaint with Hexy is that the largest board size is 11x11. Given that 14x14 is a standard size in human competitions, it would be nice to have this size in the program.

There are many resources on the game Hex. The wikipedia entry for Hex casts some doubts on the soundness of the strategies in Browne's book. This might explain why I was never able to beat level 3. Hex has its own wiki. The strategy articles are worth reading if you have never played before. Thomas Maarup has a great website for the more mathematically inclined. The author of Hexy has a great paper on the inner workings of his computer program.

Hex is just one of many connection games. Two that come right to mind are Y and Havannah. If you own Zillions of Games, here are several connection games which can be played within ZoG.

Monday, March 19, 2007


Title: Linx
Author: Maurice Zarzycki
License: Freeware

A quick one this week. The goal of each Linx level is to connect all of the similar colored bases with paths of their color. Left click on a base to select that color. Then left click on the grid to place a path of that color. Right click to delete a path. Each level has a limit on the number paths which can be placed.

Paths of different colors cannot cross. To make all the connections, paths often have to routed around in odd ways to leave access for paths of other colors. A little topological thinking goes a long way in this game. There is one odd rule. If there is only one base of a given color, you have to form a loop connecting that base to itself.

Linx contains only 40 levels. Most levels are pretty easy. You can shoot through them in a couple of hours. There are about ten tricky levels. There is a level editor, and 15 additional levels are available.

The read me file claims, "Linx is an unique logical game." Not true. There is a shockwave game called HyperFrame which is very similar.

Saturday, March 10, 2007


Title: Gruntz
Author: Monolith Productions
License: Commercial

Last month, there was an interesting thread on the CaravelNet Forum on "What are the best puzzle games ever?". I read through with interest as I am always on the look out for puzzle games. But the suggestion that struck me most was for Gruntz, a commercial game which was released in 1999. I had played through it way back when, and still had a copy in a bin, in a closet. So, I dug it out, dusted it off, and gave it another go. Ah, my pack rat ways paid off!

Gruntz did not make a strong impression on me the first time I played it, but it did this time. It has an atmosphere that is lacking today's games. It has an intro movie, cute graphics, funny voices, and a touch of humor. It is easy to say that all that matters for a puzzle game is the puzzles, but Gruntz shows that a bit of polish can really improve a game. It also made me sad that commercial game companies do not produce puzzle games any more.

Gruntz is a slightly complicated game. It is part puzzle game, part adventure game, part strategy game, and part action game. The basic goal of each level is to find the warp stone piece and return it to the king. You control the gruntz and can order them to pick up tools such as gauntletz (which break rocks), shovelz (which fill in holes), and springz (which allow gruntz to jump over things). There are also a variety of switchez which toggle various barriers and bridges. Then there are enemy gruntz. You have to evade or kill them. Here is where the strategy come in, making sure your gruntz have the right weapons to slay their foes.

Gruntz comes with 32 levels, and there are two ways to play each level. The simple way is to pick up the warp stone piece and deliver it to the king. The hard way is to also collect all of the coins, find the secret portal, activate the secret switch, and get the warp letter. There are special rewards for collecting all the extra items. I like this two tier approach. I actually played through twice. The first time through, I just collected the warp stone pieces. This only takes a couple of hours of game play. Then I went back and tried doing all of the extras. This way is very hard. I had to cheat and look on-line for the hints on a couple of levels.

I had great time replaying Gruntz, but it does have it flaws. There are too many items for the number of levels. They are slowly introduced which means that the key to most of the levels is understanding how the new item works. My other complaint is that to solve the extras on some levels, you have to search the map for the secret portal. This does not require a whole lot of thinking.

A minor thing is that the controls do not seem intuitive to me. It took me a while get used to them. I sent more than one gruntz to its death by right-clicking when I should have left-clicked.

There are some good sites for Gruntz. seems to officially associated with Monolith and contains a patch among other things. However, the link to purchase Gruntz seems to be broken. The fan site Paul's Gruntz Page contains a lot of info including screen shots showing you where all the secret portal and swichez are located. There are also a bunch of fan made levels here.

Friday, March 02, 2007


Title: WAtomic
Author: ironfede
License: GNU Public License

WAtomic looks harder than it is. The goal is simple: reconstruct the molecule shown on the right somewhere in the field on the left. You slide the atoms around to form the molecule. Once an atom starts moving, it does not stop until it hits a wall or another atom.

The mechanics are very similar to that of OrbitZ and Fire. One difference, though, is that the molecule can be formed anywhere that it fits. At first, this makes the game seem a lot harder. To solve a level, I first choose where I am going to form the molecule, and then I work on getting the atoms there. Until I finish level, I am not quite sure if my choice of location will work or not. In the back of my mind while moving the atoms, I am usually wondering if all these moves are for naught. In practice, it is rare that a given location does not work for some deep reason.

Oddly, the more complicated molecules are actually easier because there is often only one or two places on the screen where they would fit. In screen shot, there are only two places where Malic Acid can fit: the lower-left corner or the lower-right corner. This makes solving a level much easier.

WAtomic has 85 levels with the last one being a bit different. The levels can be played in any order. The levels are definitely not ordered by difficulty. The game keeps track of your best score (fewest moves), but I could not find a list of best scores in world or par scores on the Internet. There is a level editor, but I did not see any user made levels, however 85 is probably enough.

One fun thing in WAtomic is the "about" button. By clicking on it, it opens the Wikipedia page for that molecule. I always enjoy reading Wikipedia articles. A word of warning: I did notice that the Malic Acid molecule in the game is not correct. It should be C4H605. I didn't notice any others that were wrong, but you should not use WAtomic to study for a chem exam.

My only complaint about WAtomic is that it always crashes when I exit. It never crashes during the game.

WAtomic is a fun game, everyone who reads this blog should give it a play if you have not done so already. If you enjoy WAtomic, you will also like the web-browser flash game TubesMix.