Thursday, April 24, 2008

Browser Games 10

This is my tenth entry on browser based puzzle games. The best new puzzle games seem to be coming out more and more in this format. These flash based games lend themselves to simple interfaces, simple graphics, simple audio, and good puzzles. All it takes is a good idea for a puzzle game and a game designer/programmer can have a good game up and running in no time.

The downside to these games is the ads. To monetize these games, sites embed ads at the beginning of game while it is "loading" and around them on the web page. Some of these sites are quite garish. The web page ads can be dealt with using adblock plus, but you have to put up with the in game ads.

I do not really understand the economics behind this industry. The same game will appear at several sites with different ads. My understanding is that flash gaming sites such as addicting games and pay little or no money for non-exclusive use of a game. The sad part is that designer/programmer do not get much money. Of course, these sites probably are not a making a fortune either.

The other downside is that it easy to make flash based games. For every good game, there are several bad ones. Here are three good ones.

Puzzle Boy

This game is similar to Crazy Boxes. The goal is to get to the exit. Blocking the way are holes and turnstiles. The turnstiles pivot when pushed so long as nothing is blocking them. The holes can be filled using the yellow boxes which can pushed around sokoban-style. There are 30 levels which are divided into easy, medium, and hard. The levels are well designed and well paced.

Open Doors

Again, the goal is to get the exit. You are the square; the exit is the x. The doors move according the circular arcs similar to an architect's blueprint. You can open doors by pushing on them (walking into them). The twist is that you can also close doors behind you. The mechanics of closing doors takes a little getting used to. Whenever to step from square to another which share a pivot point and the door for that pivot point was next you, but not blocking the path you travelled, then you will pull the door behind you. There are 25 levels. After you get used to the mechanics of opening and closing doors, they are not too hard. But, that is not a complaint. This game shows how one simple idea results in great game which I really enjoyed playing.


Once again, get to the exit (the checkered tile). There are several special tiles. The simplest are the blue tiles. If you have clear shot to one, you can use your magnetic powers (i.e. hit the space bar) and be teleported there. Next up are the purple tiles which you pull towards you character to form bridges. In total, there are 50 puzzles which much complete in order. Every couple of levels a new tile type is introduced. Stepping on a question mark tile gives a brief description of the new tile. Later opposing robots are introduced which require some quick finger work and distract from the game. I wish I could have skipped those levels, but there are some good puzzles in here which make up for them.

Saturday, April 19, 2008


Title: Chouffy
Author: Zoglu Productions
License: Freeware

I found Chouffy while scanning through the puzzle games at Caiman Free Games. It is a simple puzzler. The goal is to get all the little red guys to the exit (yellow circle) while avoiding the purple baddies. You also have to make sure that none of the bad guys gets to the exit first.

Each character heads straight until it hits a wall. If it is a dead end, it turns around. If it is a corner, it turns. If both directions are available, it turns right. You can override these rules by placing the green arrows on the board.

Both the red and purple characters will follow those arrows. Your job is to place the arrows so that the red guys make it to the exit. On most levels, you also have use some of the arrows to direct the bad purple guys out of the way. However, the arrows are a scarce resource, choose wisely.

The mechanics are pretty simple, click to place arrows. Once you are ready, hit the space bar and watch. Hold down the space bar to speed things up. If you see things are not going your way, right click to stop the action and return to editing.

The biggest flaw with Chouffy is that the red and purple characters move at different speeds. Most levels cannot be solved with thinking alone. You have to try something, run it, see where things are wrong, change things a little, repeat. It is not very satisfying.

There are only 30 levels. The level design is uninspired, but I still enjoyed working through them. At any time, only the next three levels are available. So, you can skip one or two hard ones. If you really get stuck, the solutions to all of the levels are available on the Caiman page for Chouffy.

One trick is that you can use an arrow to turn guys into a wall. They will then "turn right" upon hitting the wall. In effect, they will turn around. This is quite useful.

Chouffy is similar to my Puzzle Bunnies. I know that I am biased, but ... the puzzles in Puzzle Bunnies are better, much better. I will grant that Chouffy has better graphics and audio. Still puzzle games are about the puzzles.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Hoyle Puzzle & Board Games

Title: Hoyle Puzzle & Board Games
Publisher: Encore
License: Commercial

Every year or two, Encore comes out with a compendium of games under the title Hoyle Puzzle & Board Games. It is huge collection of puzzle, logic, board, and word games. Each version adds a few new items. The big add in the 2008 version is The Incredible Machine. If you have not played TIM, this one alone is worth the price of the collection.

A word of warning to Mac users. On the box, it claims to have both a Windows and Mac version. However, a few games, TIM being one of them, only come with the Windows version.

This is a well done collection. Each game has simple but pleasant and effective graphics. The interface is well done. The audio and music is well done. There is an interface to create an avatar for yourself, and the opposing computer players have a bit of personality which you can turn off. The whole package has a professional look and feel to it.

I have played previous versions on my travel laptop for years. They had always a good way to kill a few in flight hours. Sadly, the Windows version of the 2008 version requires the DVD to be in the drive in order to play. This limits the collection appear. The Mac version does not require the DVD.

A new fun twist is the 2008 edition is "Hoyle Bucks". By winning games and completing levels, you earn Hoyle Bucks. You can then spend this hard earned money to buy additional features such as different background music.

One interface flaw in the collection is the lack of in game help. When you click on help, the program minimizes and brings up a 138 page pdf file. You then have to hunt through to find help for the game you are currently playing.

Here is a quick run through the games included in the collection. For some games, due to trademark and other legal issues, Hoyle uses a different name. I am going to use the common name such as Scrabble instead of their name Wordox.

Board Games: Backgammon, Checkers, Chess, Chinese Checkers, Othello.

Nothing special here. The quality of play is quite low, but still probably challenging for kids learning the games. Adults should stick to Zillions of Games.

Logic Games: MasterMind, Sudoku, Mahjong, Blackbox.

The basics, again nothing special. Better version of each are available elsewhere, but it is still to have them. I hope some day someone would a include a version of Grand MasterMind.

Family Games: Battle Ship, Dominoes, 2 Maze games, Parcheesi, Yahtzee, Sorry, Rummy Squares.

Computer versions of some standard family board games are included along with computer opponents. Some of these I haven't see computer versions of else where.

Word Games: Anagrams, Crosswords, Hangman, Word Search, Scrabble.

The collection of crossword puzzles is quite nice. The puzzles were taken from Dell Magazine. They are pretty easy, and give a nice little ego boost to logophobes like me.

Time Wasters: Tetris, Solitaire.

Like you need more time wasters.

Others: The Incredible Machine, Pool, Runes of Avalon

These are new in 2008 version. TIM is a puzzle game classic. It is one of the best games I have ever played. I enjoyed playing it again here. Pool is a simple virtual pool game. It is not bad. Runes of Avalon is odd mix of match 3 and role playing. I would put it in the same genre as Puzzle Quest not nearly as good.