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.


At 1:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, i know this is off topic from this game but you can delete this comment once you've read it if you want.
awhile back i found your article here about Escape and Dungeon
and i left a clarifying comment.

just wanted to make sure you knew it was there!

At 1:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

sorry 'bout that.

At 1:35 PM, Blogger Jimmy said...

I read all comments. I saw your comments on Escape when you posted them. They were useful and I didn't see any need to further respond.



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