A Couple Of Hours With: Puzzle Dimension

By John Walker on July 13th, 2010 at 12:10 am.

Sunflowers - the favourite gaming flower.

Last month a puzzle game appeared from Jesper Rudberg (16th century bishop of Skara, Sweden) and Anders Pistol (Swedish latinist and medievalist), now working under the name Doctor Entertainment, and Jim told you this. It’s called Puzzle Dimension. I was reminded of it by GameTrailers, as they sometimes do, peculiarly posting the “debut trailer” a month late. I’m glad they did, as it led me to play it, and it’s rather good.

It is a very traditional puzzle game in many ways. But blimey, it’s a good one. Concept: You have to roll a ball around a maze of tiles, avoiding obstacles, negotiating paths, and collecting flowers. It reminds me of a dozen games, noticeably elements of Monkey Ball, a chunk of Q*bert, the infamous iPhone game Edge, and so on. And Marble Madness – a game I had for the Atari ST in which I don’t think I ever got past level 5. What’s particularly of note is that despite being a ball, this isn’t a game about physics and balance – your sphere rolls one tile at a time, and isn’t much troubled by Newton. Apart from when deliberately rolling off a ledge, either to death or a tile below.

You must collect all the flowers in the level, which unlocks the exit portal. The trick is, of course, there still being an available path to get out of there should you have managed to fathom routes to the flora. Because tiles will crumble away, catch fire, be covered in ice, and all those other things tiles tend to do during puzzle games. And the similarities to gaming past is beautifully referred to in its presentation.

Each level begins with pixelated tiles, but contact with the ball redraws them into shiny modern graphics. This is especially lovely when rolling near the flowers, which switch from endearingly retro blocks to a lovingly rendered 3D object swaying in the breeze. See how you’re updating a classic concept, just like they are? Eh? Eh?

The learning curve is especially well judged. Themed levels introduce new notions quickly, and without being patronising, and then ramp up the challenge nice and quickly. Sometimes, when you’ve got flowers on either sides of tiles, spikes, fire, ice, crumbling blocks and switches to press, they can appear especially daunting. But each reveals a good deal of thought in the design, as you begin to pick out potential routes, either by careful planning or determined elimination. It’s a lot of fun to start thinking in the necessary double-sided three dimensions to be able to get anywhere.

The keyboard controls are a bit wonky – a bit too much need for holding Shift to reuse controls, etc. However, with a 360 pad it’s pretty great, beyond a frustrating inability to rotate the view more than 90 degrees at a time. The only real issue I have with this is the awful name. They may as well have called it Puzzle Game #7320.

There’s a lot of it. Very many levels. For £7/€10/$10. There’s also a demo via Steam, at that link. Which you should definitely give a go.

Here’s the trailer once again:

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20 Comments »

  1. Jonathan says:

    Wah! Too many puzzle games to play. Damn you, Walker. I don’t need this crap.

    (yes I do, more please)

  2. Doug F says:

    Do you gentleman have a permit for all these title-colons?

  3. Peter Radiator Full Pig says:

    I have only one question:
    Are there puzzles that require timing, or are they all sit back and think affairs?
    Cause if they mix the two, thats a deal breaker, ladies.

    • John Walker says:

      No timing required. Certainly as far as I’ve got.

    • Sharkey says:

      There are some spots where you (the ball) have to “jump” while the ball is rolling, and it has to be timed correctly. But the ball rolls slowly enough that I can hit the jump even if I’m unusually drunk. So, it probably doesn’t count as a timing puzzle.

  4. Spacewalk says:

    Just the kind of prescription I needed.

  5. Daniel Calcei says:

    They’re all sit back and think affairs which is great. Obviously there is some twitch needed to time jumps but other than that, nothing.

  6. monkeyhat says:

    Tried the demo, liked the soundtrack but not the game enough to pay for it.

    Soundtrack’s available here with a pay-what-you-want type deal: http://doctorentertainment.bandcamp.com/ (in FLAC, even!)

  7. Janxer says:

    Kula World? Is that you?

    • vanarbulax says:

      That’s the first thing I thought.

      So not inspired by a dozen games really, just one. Still looks like an entertaining reboot.

    • Lars Westergren says:

      As Thermal Ions said in the comment thread to the previous RPS article:

      “Puzzle Dimension reminds me of Kula World for PlayStation. Are both games made by the same developer?
      No different companies but Jesper Rudberg who designed Puzzle Dimension co-founded Game Design Sweden AB, the developer of Kula World.”

      I had a beer in Uppsala at one of the student nations with one of the guys who created Kula World… I think it was Södermanlands-Nerikes, some 13-14 years ago. Damn, time goes fast.

  8. Ricc says:

    I would have bought it after playing the demo, if it wasn’t for that Steam Sale. (Toki Tori, Winterbottom, Cogs and Shatter are all in a similar vein, I feel…)

    I loved the presentation. Just like Cogs, it can really elevate a puzzle game. And looks solid, too.

  9. Sharkey says:

    Good write-up. I’ve bought this game and have logged some hours. There’s a lot of levels, some are really easy (but helpful). I kind of like the title. Welcome to the “Puzzle Dimension”, or something. Using a 360 gamepad, and I do NOT have a problem with any “inability to rotate the view more than 90 degrees at a time.” You can press the “B” pad button to switch to camera mode which is very helpful! So really, no reason not to buy. In some ways reminds me of the “classic” Tomb Raider puzzles. Also, it’s a bit like Obulis (which I prefer) in terms of relaxing, and rewarding when you figure out a tricky one. Both games have an utter lack of story, but that’s standard for puzzlers.

  10. Jake says:

    I bought this based on the last article here, and it’s got the worst interface I’ve seen in a game. Maybe I’m hitting a bug because I saw other complaints about this, but rotation is really wonky. The shift-left and shift-right controls do not even work for me.

    There’s an aggravating moment at the beginning of every round where the camera rotates in, and then you think the round has started so you move the pad only to have the camera rotate another 90 degrees and your action be registered immediately after.

    It would be better if they had just stuck to right stick controlling the camera and left controlling the ball. Incomprehensible and frustrating control scheme.

  11. pulchr says:

    Jake, it sounds like you’ve encountered a problem that some other players have had too, as you mentioned. If you are playing with a gamepad try to disconnect it and see if you get the 90-degree turns with the late action. There’s also an update coming that will let you map the controls yourself.

  12. Pete says:

    I do enjoy puzzle games that are JUST hard enough to make me feel clever rather than stupid. Lovely little game, thanks for the tip chaps!

  13. Da5id Jaz says:

    Am I the only one who hates the music they put in Puzzle game trailers.
    Awful

  14. Caiman says:

    I normally don’t like puzzle games that much, but this one is excellent. The brilliant learning curve is probably responsible for that, and now I’m about halfway through the game and having fun doing puzzles that – had they been foisted on me too early – I’d have given up on too quickly. Recommended.

  15. Noumenon says:

    I did buy this based on this post and I’m not sorry. Portal made me feel like I was on the verge of being declared stupid all game, this one is just right.