RPS Feature The best free bananas this week
RPS Feature The best free bananas this week
RPS Feature On the joys of multiple solutions
There are many reasons why puzzle games designed by Alan “Draknek” Hazelden sit on top of the form. There’s the puzzles, for one thing. They’re pretty good. They explore seemingly simple rulesets and find in them huge and satisfying challenge, dragging you along for the ride. That’s as true for Cosmic Express as for all Hazelden’s games. (Actually, maybe that’s sort of literally true, since Cosmic Express is about drawing tracks to take aliens on little train rides.)
But there’s something else to his puzzles, something that opens up a sense of wonder at the depth of the little logical worlds that emerge from their rulesets and layouts. It’s also something that gives you a sense of involvement and discovery in a genre that can so often feel like jumping through a designer’s tortuous hoops. It’s that they have:
THE MECHANIC: Multiple solutions Read the rest of this entry »
RPS Feature Train talk
While out at GDC I spent a bit of time chatting to Alan Hazelden about Cosmic Express [official site], his train-themed logic puzzler. I was playing the preview build of the game at the time and was curious to know a bit more about how you go about sorting the levels for a difficulty curve and how you interpret good and bad kinds of frustration when playtesting a puzzle game.
It was an interesting chat, punctuated by the arrival of a little dog partway through, so I’m going to just pull out a few of the observations which inform the difficulty curve discussion. It’s nice to have it as an accompaniment to yesterday’s the review. Read the rest of this entry »
RPS Feature Chuffing good
Here it is! The space game review you’ve all been waiting for on this, Monday the twentieth of March, 2017: Cosmic Express!
Cosmic Express [official site] is an adorable-but-also-rock-solid puzzle game from Alan Hazelden. He’s working with Ben Davis who was his collaborator on RPS favourite, A Good Snowman…, and with Tyu of the Klondike collective. The result is a really satisfying puzzle game where you lay the track for a train in order to transport little alien blobs to their destinations. Read the rest of this entry »
The intergalactic planetary puzzling of Cosmic Express [official site] has pulled into the station. It’s a cute little puzzler about laying train tracks inside spacedomes to bring passengers to their destinations. It looks lovely and sounds simple but I’d expect fiendish puzzling as it’s made by folks from such fine head-scratchers as A Good Snowman Is Hard To Build and Sokobond. Have a gander at this trailer: Read the rest of this entry »
Oh yay! There’s a new game coming soon from the A Good Snowman Is Hard To Build folk and Tyu – an artist from the Klondike collective. It looks like they’re going all in on the adorable puzzler genre with Cosmic Express [official site]; a really lovely train route planning game set in the bubble of a space colony. Read the rest of this entry »
Skipping Stones to Lonely Homes is a new game from indie designer Alan Hazelden. It’s a puzzlescript puzzler, developed by Hazelden in the open-source engine, and it tells the story of a sailor – that’s you – whose ship is damaged and must be repaired using items found on nearby islands. It also ranks in the top five games that use lilypads as a comprehensive game mechanic.
Have You Played? is an endless stream of game recommendations. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.
Here’s a lovely game about building molecules correctly.
Sokobond is by Alan Hazelden (A Good Snowman Is Hard To Build) and Harry Lee (Stickets) and it is very much My Kind Of Thing.
RPS Feature The aesthetics of puzzle game design
I love puzzle games. But it’s not beating them that’s the exciting part: it’s understanding them.
Whether mulling over a cryptic crossword or somersaulting through Portal’s portals, there’s a moment of epiphany which, for me, pretty much transcends all other moments in gaming. But how do you design a puzzle to best provoke that eureka moment? What gives a puzzle its aesthetic, its pace and texture? Why does one puzzle feel thrilling while another feels like a flat mental grind?
I’ve asked three of my favourite puzzle game designers to demystify their dark magicks: Jonathan Blow, best known for the puzzle-platformer Braid and currently hard at work on firstperson perplexathon, The Witness; Alan “Draknek” Hazelden, creator of Sokoban-inspired sequential-logic games, including Sokobond, Mirror Isles and the forthcoming A Good Snowman Is Hard To Build; and Jonathan Whiting, a programmer on Sportsfriends and collaborator with Hazelden on Traal, whose own games are a regular Ludum Dare highlight.
There’s a press preview build of A Good Snowman Is Hard To Build by Alan Hazelden and Ben Davis which I’ve been playing this weekend. I was streaming it because it felt festive and I was trying to cheer myself up after I managed to smash nearly all of my glass baubles in a decorating incident. The puzzle game’s not actually due out until the “end of winter” but this should give you an idea of what to expect!
I don’t know what Alan Hazelden has against blocks. He’s always pushing them around, shoving them into unlikely places. Oh sure, they might be dressed up as adorable snowmen or chemicals, but he’s still barging blocks about. I bet he forces them to dress that way too. “You lot, get in these crates now,” he threatens, holding the block up against a wall by its lapel. “You! You’re dressing up as mirrors!” he demands, slapping a long, thin line of PuzzleScript against his palm. The quake, they quiver, and they slip on their mirrored jumpsuits.
You can see the results of his most recent sokobullying in Mirror Isles, a free web-based puzzler.
Now, let’s be clear. When I say “Hey, Sokobond has been out since September but now it’s on Steam,” I don’t mean to imply that you should refuse to buy games not on Steam, and I don’t want to encourage people who do. But a game being on Steam always draws more attention, and launching on Steam can reintroduce it to a larger audience. A Sokoban-y puzzler shifting and bonding atoms to form chemical compounds is a quiet and unassuming sort of game, after all. But a good one.
Hey, Sokobond has been out since September but now it’s on Steam.
I grew up in Texas. For reference, that means I didn’t actually believe in snow until age 14. I just thought it was freezer chilled flour adults mashed into the ground once every couple years to convince us Santa was real. Thus, I am either a) not A Good Snowman Is Hard To Build‘s target audience at all or b) the perfect person to melt in the face of its powdery wiles, given that my experience with truly good snowmen – god-fearing snowmen – is almost non-existent. Given how much I enjoyed its gently puzzly demo, I’m leaning toward the latter. There’s finally a trailer now, so you can better understand what I saw in it. And oh goodness, they’ve added the ability to hug snowpeople. That’s… diabolical.
RPS Feature It's True, Though
Being from Texas, I can count the number of snowmen I’ve built on one hand. Being from Texas, they were also about the size of said one hand. I did get the chance to slap together a bulbous yeti of truly epic proportions in college, though. I took so much pride in that dumb thing that I nearly tried to put a hit out on whomever kicked it down during that coldest of winter nights. I can identify with A Good Snowman Is Hard To Build‘s title, is what I’m saying. The game itself, however, is probably not what you’re expecting – a thing of snow-white relaxation and contemplation, not astute snowperson defense. It’s a simple yet wickedly challenging puzzler from Sokobond designer Alan Hazelden, with lovably, huggably soft personality to match.
Each snowperson has a name. A name! Awwwwwwwww.
Do you remember These Robotic Hearts Of Mine? It’s a puzzler with a narrative and even if it wasn’t entirely successful, the moments when the story and mechanics interlock were effective. The chap who created the puzzler has several other games available and even though it isn’t new, I discovered Traal last night, following its release on iOS. It’s a collaboration with Jonathan Whiting and while its chunky, murky pixels may be off-putting to some, it’s worth sticking around for the clever horror twist. In gaming, there are monsters that kill, monsters that make the vision go blurry, and, now, monsters that trigger an automatic flight response when the player sees them.