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