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Wot I Think: Pythagoria


Pythagoria [Steam page] is an awful lot more like maths homework than it is a regular puzzle game. But if you're a giant weirdo like me, then you might secretly have rather enjoyed maths homework (the only homework I ever did). In fact, if you're a colossal weirdo, you might have spent a good proportion of a sabbatical a couple of years ago sitting under a tree in a park with a pad and pen, re-learning algebra from a mobile app. So yes, Pythagoria does rather appeal, despite that. Except, oh dear, my brain. Here's wot I think:

The puzzles are based around working out the width, length or area of a particular portion of a shape. So you need to know that area is width x height to start with. With just that knowledge, the first bunch of puzzles can be solved. Although, I realised a way in, you're supposed to solve the puzzles using only whole numbers, no fractions. The "supposed to" part being rather representative of the disappointingly slapdash nature of the presentation.

It looks perfectly pleasant, as if it's taken a cue from Hexcells, but with no introduction, no proffered tutorial, and only a very crude, scrappy option for making notes on the puzzles, it's instantly unfriendly. The rule about whole numbers is in fact hidden behind the "?" icon, which rather than offering clues as I'd assumed, instead brings up a rudimentary and poorly written three-step guide, in which this rather key information is buried.

So rather than solving one puzzle by multiplying out "3(15-14/3)", it seems I was supposed to have approached it from another, apparently "simpler" angle.

Another strange aspect of the presentation is the seemingly deliberate lack of representation of accurate lengths. So two apparently identical widths by necessity are entirely different. Of course that's a large part to stop solutions being given away visually, but when you're then solving puzzles based on the knowledge that two rectangles with the same area and same height must have the same width, well it's jolly confusing on the eye.

It eventually became apparent to my slow, slow brain that approaching these as maths puzzles often isn't the solution. The main nudge for this is when realising you're dealing with a width that's 35/9 or similar - see that and you know there's likely a solution from another direction.

And then almost immediately, I was stuck. Turns out it was common factors. Awesome, I've added that to my repertoire. Except, two puzzles later, completely stuck again. I can see routes to solving them using fractions and a calculator, but that's not the spirit of the game, so instead I stare in confusion, then ask others for help.

The help comes, and I don't get it. The explanations come, and I sort of get it. And then I remember how tired I am and how horrible this cold is, and what a miserable couple of weeks I've had, and well, yeah, another puzzle I'm not going to quite get appears. Which means: this game is not for me. What it certainly doesn't mean is: this game is at fault. In fact, if you've looked at the screenshots, read this, and thought, "Goodness me, John's an idiot," then this is the game for you! I can't tell you where it goes in the later puzzles (there are 60 in total), as they unlock one at a time. It might just become pictures of kittens. What I need is someone to sit next to me, holding my finger and gently pointing it at all the numbers as they patiently explain it step by step. I'll smile and nod, and then eventually it'll be time to go play outside.

So yes, should the maths homework weirdoness be part of your make-up, and in your case be matched by ability, then this is a snap at £1.59.

Pythagoria is out now for Windows via Steam.

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