Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Chocolate Castle

Title: Chocolate Castle
Author: Lexaloffle
License: Commercial
Website: http://www.lexaloffle.com/choc.php

120 wonderful, challenging puzzles. That is all you really need to know about Chocolate Castle. A simple set of rules yields a diverse set of challenges. The level design is excellent. I am amazed at the variety of the puzzles. The levels are divided into three categories: easy, medium, and hard. One review said the 40 easy puzzles were "for kids". I have to say a few of these easy ones caused me more than a minutes thought. The 40 medium puzzles form a good challenge. The 40 hard ones are hard. They took me a couple of weeks to finish. The pacing of the levels is great.

Chocolate Castle does everything right. You can play any level at any time. The interface is so good, you do not even have to think about it. Unlimited undos. The graphics are simple, but effective. The audio is minimal and helpful, but does not get in the way. There is a level editor. I have no complaints about this game.

Oh yeah... the game. The goal of each level is to eat all of the chocolate squares. There are four types of chocolate and four corresponding types of eaters. By moving an eater to a group of chocolate of the same color, it eats all of the chocolate in that orthogonally connected group. The restriction is that each eater can only eat once. After eating, it disappears along with the chocolate. The heart of the game is moving around groups of chocolate so that they become connected and can be removed at once. Once one group of chocolate is moved next to another group of the same color, they become connected and must be moved together from that point onward.

There are only a few other game items. There are blue groups which get in the way but do not stick together. They give rise to some Rush Hour like puzzles. Purple groups which can only be moved once. Clear tiles which once move keep moving until they run into something. Snakes wind about. There are bombs and cats to explode them. That's all.

Again, the levels make this a great game. Each of the game items is fully explored through the 120 levels. Chocolate Castle is well worth $20.

One last thing, check out the Lexaloffe's BBS. It contains all kinds of good stuff including optimal scores.

Monday, May 21, 2007


Title: Mindfields-2204 and Mindfields 2 - The Russian Tundra
Author: GameSheep
License: Freeware
Website: http://www.gamesheep.com/game/mindfields-2204/

Mindfields 1, called Mindfields-2204, and its sequal Mindfields 2- The Russian Tundra are two fun albeit short SWF games. Both can played within a browser or downloaded and played within a SWF player.

The object of both games is to successfully guide your tank to the exit, the yellow circle. Each level comes with several tool tiles which you place on the board. Once the "start engine" button is pressed, the tank proceeds forward until it hits a wall, rolls into water, gets hit by turret, makes it to the exit tile, or is redirected by one of tool tiles. Those tool tiles are the key to the game. The arrow tiles cause the tank to change to that direction. There are two fire tiles. One causes the tank to fire projectiles in all four directions; the other causes the tank to fire forward only. These projectiles destroy opposing turrets and clear the path. There are also teleporter tiles and shield tiles that protects the tank for three steps.

Some levels such this first level come with some tiles already sprinkled about.

This level also has one four-way fire tile and a pair of teleporter tiles. Here is a placement of these tiles which solves the level.

The tank starts heading left and takes out the bunker when it passes over the four-way tile. Then it turns around at the arrow and destroys the turret on its second pass over the four-way. Finally, the teleporter gets the tank home. A trickier first level than in most games.

Both games comes with only 18 levels. There are some tricky levels, but most are pretty easy. Keeping an eye out for sneaky use of the diagonals, you should complete the levels in short order. I wish there was a level editor.

Other flaws? You have to complete the levels in order. There are passwords to remember. If you fail, all of the tiles are reset and have to be replaced. There is a little trial and error in figuring out which teleporter leads to the next. There is one level with the annoying "X" tile. The tank stops on it and you have to "start engine" again at just the right time to pass through a toggling force field.

There is some scoring system, but it did not make any sense to me. On the solution above, the score is 820. The clearly inferior solution below, with a longer path, yields a score of 1002.

So, I stopped trying to maximize my score and just finished off the 18 levels.

Both are fun games and I encourage everyone to give them a play. If you enjoy mindfields, I would suggest you play my own Puzzle Bunnies (version 0.4 has 72 levels).

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Swistakowy Klopot 2

Title: Swistakowy Klopot 2
Author: Projeckt Siedem
License: Freeware
Website: http://pe7.aspweb.cz/ShowGame.aspx?id=14

As I have said many times, puzzle games are all about the puzzles. Good puzzles make for a good game. Bad puzzles make for a bad game. The great puzzles in Swistakowy Klopot 2 makes for a great game. The level design here is phenomenal. Many of the levels seem impossible at first. After some thought, a spark of insight comes along. At times, it seems as though the level designers are toying with you. They include an extra item about to lead you down the wrong path. Do not take my word for it. Even though SK2 has only been out for about a month or two, the Caiman Games help forum is already 5 pages long.

Swistakowy Klopot 2 is the worthy successor to the original. You control the little badger-looking guy. Your goal is to safely guide him to the exit. The main constraint is that he can only step up one level at a time. So, to get around, you have to move the crates to create staircases. You can carry one crate at a time. Pick 'em up, drop 'em elsewhere. The little guy cannot swim. The crates also make nice bridges when dropped in the water.

There are a couple of other items. Teleporters are one; warp from one to the other. Keep in mind that you can carry a box through a teleporter. This move is often useful. There are doors and corresponding colored triggers. Drop a box on a trigger and the door opens. There are a couple of new features in SK2. One new item is fires. You cannot walk into a fire, but you can drop a box on it. The other new feature is floors that can only be walked on once or twice.

The heart of Swistakowy Klopot 2 is the levels. With these simple rules, the level designers came up with 50 wonderful, tricky levels. They force you to use the various items in new ways. Your thinking is constantly being pushed and stretched. Oh, when you get trapped on a level, hit the ESC key and use the arrow key to rotate between "Resume", "Restart", and "Menu". Actually, I could not figure this out on my own and emailed the authors knowing that there must be some way to restart a level. They quickly responded. It is good sign when people support their game, even a freeware game. I hope everyone reading this, plays SK2.

As with any game, SK2 is not perfect. The music is a little annoying, but it can be turned off with with the "M" key. You are supposed to play the levels in order, and there are passwords to remember or write down. However, all of the passwords available at the Projeckt Siedem site in case you get stuck and want to move on. The controls take a little getting used to. My last complaint, since they used the free version of the Games Factory, there is a splash screen when exiting.