Friday, May 30, 2008


Title: Nimuh
Author: Canino Studios
License: Creative Commons

Nimuh is one of the oddest games which I have played in a while. The game play is not that unusual; I get to the puzzles below. What is odd is that the game is sort of a promotion for the autonomous community Andalusia in southern Spain. But not in a bad way. Between levels, the history, sights, and food of various cites and provinces of Andalusia is presented in a monitor. Below is one of the screens for Huelva. I could not help but read it. I do not know if this game was funded by the tourist board of Andalusia. If it was, it is a brilliant form of advertisement.

In some ways the puzzles are less interesting than the cultural information. You play the roll of an alien crashed landed on earth. You have to avoid capture by the evil human scientists. The goal of each level it make it to the exit without being caught by the humans. Each turn you move one square, then the humans move. There are three types of humans; each with different movement rules. The key to the game is understanding how the humans move, enticing them into a corner or other trap, and then making your way past them to the exit. The basic human movement algorithm is that they move towards you. Some move one square per turn, others two squares per turn. You have to learn whether they move horizontally or vertically first. However, the humans are not real smart. If there is wall in the way, they will just sit there. Also, if they run into each other, one will destroy the other.

As always, there some additions items. There are trays of food. If a human stumbles upon a tray, they will start eating for some number of turns and not notice as you slip by them. Leading hungry humans to food is good tactic. Ninuh also contains locked gates and keys to unlock them. The old standard teleporter is presented. The final item is special grate tiles which only humans can walk across. If you walk onto one, you are captured.

The production qualities in Nimuh are very high. The graphics, audio, controls, menus, and help are very professionally done. My only complaint is that the isometric view sometimes obscures some tiles making it hard to click on them. I did find one bug: if you minimize the game, it will not reopen when you click on the task bar. You have to use the Task Manager to kill it.

Unfortunately, the quality of the puzzles is not great. They are ok, but not as good as the rest of the game. There are 40 levels which must be completed in order. They get repetitive, but I found myself wanting to complete them just to read more about Andalusia. The rules of the Nimuh just are not deep or dynamic enough to give rise to any great puzzles. That is damning thing to say, but I still encourage people to download and play Nimuh. It is free after all.

There is a nice level editor, but no additional levels on their website.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Quadrax IV

Title: Quadrax IV
Author: Jozef Kreutzer
License: Freeware

Quadrax IV should have been a great game. Unfortunately, it is marred by several small but critically bad design choices. The first, and most deadly, is the using of passcodes to keep track of a user's progress. You have to write these down as you complete levels. When you return to game later, you have enter a code. Additionally, the passcodes are machine dependent. I had the additional unfortunate mishap of retiring the computer on which I had completed first 60 or so levels. My carefully recorded passcodes were worthless on my new computer. I did not actually have the energy to redo those levels. I did resolve a couple of levels for a screen shot.

Before mentioning other flaws, let me quickly describe the game. Quadrax IV is a simple game. The goal of each level is to get both characters to the exit. Each character can move about, but being two spaces high they cannot fix through a one high space. They can climb up on ledges and stones if not too high (one or two spaces). They can jump down off ledges if not too far (three or fewer spaces). The characters can also push certain stones around.

There are special tiles which can only be walked over or under once. There are elevators. There are switches to throw. There are caves which teleport you to another cave. I am probably forgetting something. The rules are simple, and there are in game help messages to explain new items as they arise. The key to most levels is getting the characters to work together.

The interface is simple, arrows, tab to switch characters, space to throw switches and enter caves. One oddity, if you want to climb up a ledge or block, you have to press both the up arrow along with either the left or right arrow. One problem, if you press the left arrow first, even a split second sooner, you might end up pushing a block instead up climbing up on the block. So, be sure to press the up arrow first, then hit left or right. A minor flaw.

A bigger flaw is the effect of caves and switches. When a level first appears up, you cannot tell to where a cave will teleport you. Similar with switches, you do not know just by looking at the level what they do. This results in unnecessary trial and error. This is very frustrating and exasperated by a lack of undos and saves.

Quadrax IV contains 90 levels. I only completed about two thirds of them before my new computer problem. The levels which are not frustrating trial and error are quite good. The level design on those is very good.

The artwork and audio in Quadrax IV are great. Combined with good level design, this should have been a great game. Very sad.