Monday, August 27, 2007


Title: Tiltor
Authors: HÃ¥kan Carlsson and Andreas Gustavsson
License: Freeware

Tiltor is a really simple puzzle game. There are two controls, left arrow and right arrow which rotate the board 90 degrees clockwise or counter-clockwise. After rotating, your square, the bright red one on the screen shot below, falls. The object is to get your square to the exit, the whirlpool. The only added twist is the gold "bad squares". They also fall after each rotation. If one falls on your square, your square is crushed and you have to start over. The red square is allowed to fall onto the gold squares.

There are more 150 levels in adventure mode which must be played in order. I have to admit that I did not finish the game. The levels get a bit repetitive after a while. The interesting levels are those that require the gold squares to block for you.

Tiltor was created using the Adventure Game Studio. The levels are grouped in sets of 20 or so. The authors put in a fun little back story for each group, first "moon", then "mars" and so on. There are cut sceens between groups. The audio and visual quality is quite high for a game with 320x240 graphics.

The controls take some time to get used to. After a while, the rotation direction for each arrow becomes second nature. Until then, it can be frustrating. The menus use only the four arrow keys and are bit confusing. Also, I could not figure out how to exit the game and resorted to a Ctrl-Alt-End.

There is also an arcade mode which I did not play much.

The default downlaod is compressed using the proprietary .rar file format. I wish people would not do this. I have ranted about .rar before, so I will not say more here. A .zip version is available at Caiman.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Zen Puzzle Garden

Title: Zen Puzzle Garden
Author: Lexaloffle
License: Commercial

A few months ago when I purchased Chocolate Castle, I noticed that if I purchased two games from Lexaloffle at the same time there is a 20% discount on the whole order. I had played the Zen Puzzle Garden demo a few years back and thought it was ok, but not worth $20. Now it would only cost $12; so I went for it. I am glad I did. It is a better game that I expected. It has the staples of any good puzzle game: simple rules, simple interface, good puzzles.

The inspiration for the game is a Japanese Rock Garden. In such gardens, a person rakes simple patterns into a box of sand. Obstacles such as rocks are often placed in the sand.

In the game, the goal to rake every square of sand without getting trapped. You control bald raking guy. You can start him anywhere on the edge and send him on his raking way. The main constraint in the game is that he keeps raking in a straight line until he hits an obstacle or a square that has already been raked, at which point you can pick a new direction to send him. Once he exits the sand garden, you can move him to any point on the edge and start another path. You must finish with him on the edge so that he can admire his work, not trapped in the middle somewhere.

The interface is simple, use the arrow keys or mouse. It keeps track of your paths and has unlimited undos. There are 64 levels which can be played in any order. They gradually get harder. The last couple are quite tough. There is a level editor. Zen Puzzle Garden is a nearly perfect game.

This might be a little cliche to say, but did find this game relaxing. I would play it for five or ten minutes when I wanted a break. For whatever reason, it did the job, and I felt better.

The puzzles are trickier than I first thought. I do not have any great advice for solving them. There are certain local configurations which implies that the puzzle cannot be completed. The simplest is

X .
X .

where X denotes an obstacle or already raked square and O is a square still in need of raking. There is no way to rake this O without getting stuck. A slightly more complicated example is

X . .
O X .
Building up a list of these configurations in your head helps you avoid some simple mistakes.

Writing a program to solve these puzzle should be straight forward. With some knowledge of dead configurations like the two above a program should make short work of these puzzles. The search space is not that big, I think.

Saturday, August 11, 2007


Title: Bobitos
Author: drakon
License: freeware

Why does this little browser based shockwave game deserve its own blog entry? Shouldn't be mixed in with two other games like last week's entry? On its own, it does not deserve a whole entry. However, it came up at a party last weekend and caught my interest. Someone gave one of the puzzles from this game as a challenge, and it got me to write a program to solve Bobitos puzzles. You are probably thinking, "that sounds like one dull party."

The goal of a Bobitos puzzle is to get the king to the center square of the 5 by 5 gride. Helping him out are five slaves. You choose which piece to move and a direction. That piece keeps moving until another piece, king or slave, blocks it. If a piece reaches the side of the board, it falls off and you lose. There is no sacrificing of slaves.

The interface to Bobitos is a little clumsy. First you click on a piece to move. Then four large arrows appear, and you select the direction. There is no way unselect the piece other than restarting the level. Also, there are no undos; you have to restart. Another interface complaint is that the pieces move painfully slowly. Finally, you have to go through the introduction every time you start the game.

Bobitos contains 18 levels. They can be played in any order by selecting the tile in the lower left corner. The top tier are very easy, and they get harder as you work your way down. For me, the game did not keep track of completed levels between sessions. One other minor complaint, the game does not record the number of moves made. This is a shame because of the additional challenge of finding the minimal solution.

The level that came up at the party is the leftmost one in the bottom tier.

S . S . S
. . . . .
S . . . .
. . . . .
S . . . K
One party-goer threw it out there and said it can be done in 14 moves. He actually called the game by a different name, rambling robots or something. I had remembered playing Bobitos a while back. The next day, I wrote a quick and dirty search program to solve these puzzles and found that this position requires only 13 moves to be solved.

Interestingly, if a position can be solved, it can be solved in 14 moves. Here are nine positions, unique up to the symmetry of the square, which require 14 moves.

K . . . S . . . . S . . . . S
. . . . . K . . . . K . . . .
. . . . . . . . . S . . . . S
. . . . S . . . . . . S . . .
S . . S S S . S S . S . . S .

. S . . . . S . . . . . S . .
K . . . . K . . . . K S . . .
. . . . S . . . . S . . . . S
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
S . . S S S . S . S S . . S .

K . . . S K . . . S K . . . S
S . . . . S . . . . . S . . .
. . . . . . . . . S S . . . .
. . . . S . . . . . . . . . S
. . S . S . . S . S . . S . .

I could not come up with a mathematical argument for why no position takes more than 14 moves. All I have right now is that the computer says so. If you see why 14 suffices, let me know.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Browser Games 7

Time for another set of browser based puzzle games. Each of these can be played in your browser using Adobe Flash. There are many sites which host such games. One such site at which I think I learned about this trio is FreeGames News.


Bloxorz is an amazingly simple puzzle game designed and written by Damien Clarke. You control a 2x1x1 block. Using the arrow keys, you roll this block with goal of getting it to fall length-wise into the exit. This must be done without falling off the edge of the board. Some levels contain special switches which activate bridges. The 33 levels make for a good challenge. The levels must completed in order with passcodes to write down. A list of passcodes and a walkthrough can be found at JayIsGames. For an added challenge try to solve the levels in the same number of moves as in the walkthrough. A similar game is Tumblin' Dice which is part of the Smart Games Challenge 3.


Phit is essentially the classic puzzle of fitting polyominoes into a rectangle with no overlapping or gaps. The twist is that the pieces are not picked up and placed down. Instead, they are slid about. The hard part is that pieces block other pieces. This requires careful planning to make sure the path is each piece is open. On the other side, no rotation or flipping of the pieces is allowed. There are 100 levels which can be played in any order. The pacing of the levels is very good. A similar game is Puzzle Quest.


Another simple game similar to Fire. You control the blue ball. The goal is to pass the blue ball through all the yellow balls. Once you send the blue ball in motion it keeps going until it hits a wall or the 5 square object. The interesting feature of this game is that you can switch the position of the ball and square by hitting the space bar. This allow you to use one to block for the other. The game is kind of short, and the puzzles are not too hard, but I still enjoyed it. Simple and effective graphics and interface made this game better.