It's been the buzz of the indie world - a puzzle game so fiendishly difficult that people pass it to one another like an illicit material. But I eat and drink puzzle games! They occupy a frightening amount of my waking life. A rare day goes by without my attempting a cryptic crossword, a killer sudoku accompanies my every early-morning sit-down, and my phone, tablet and DS offer me a limitless supply of puzzle distractions. I would like to meet the Slitherlink player who could outdo me. I eat puzzles like the hungry man I am. So bring on Jelly No Puzzle! Here's wot I think.
I got stuck on level 3.
So stuck that I began to wonder if this was a twist in the game. You can skip a couple of levels ahead at any point, and since level 4 had me equally stumped, I wondered if skipping to level 5 would reveal the game's secret - they ARE impossible, and here's where the game goes next! But no, level 5 is another puzzle that makes my brain cry. And there are 40 of them.
The game involves moving coloured, friendly-faced gel blocks left or right. The goal is to bring all blocks of the same colour together. That's it. Short of reading it as some sort of polemic against mixed-race marriages, this is pure puzzling simplicity. Except, wow, it's tough. And the reason for that is it demands you take your brain an extra step forward.
Let me try to explain that. Try. So you know how the most basic puzzles (although certainly not necessarily the easiest) require you work out the route to the solution, yes? And then there are those that ask you to think an extra stage, an extra dimension, perhaps apply some lateral thinking, or push you to work backwards from the solution. They're the sorts of things we usually champion here, those that demonstrate genuine smarts from the creator, and demand genuine smarts from you. Jelly No Puzzle (the "No" in Japanese game names indicates possession, so that's "Jelly's Puzzle") takes that an extra step forward. So you see the "Ah, that's clever" solution, try it, and it still doesn't work. You have to "Ah, that's clever" again, which I think becomes "Ah, that's clever"².
Look, I cheated. I found a YouTube video of someone solving level 3. I should have been able to figure it out. Level 4 I thought of cheating again, saw the very first move in a video, and figured it out from there. I am determined not to cheat on level 5. I am getting nowhere on level 5.
And now I've lost the hope that it's an elaborate prank. I'm just not being good enough at it.
Oh my goodness, I just solved it!
Immediately after shouting, "BUT THERE'S NO WAY TO CROSS THAT GAP!"
It turns out shouting at the screen is the most effective method of jolting your brain into action. Oh gawd, level 6.
And so on.
It's a really superb thing - madly difficult, revealing a truly brilliant mind behind the puzzle design. The mind is Japanese developer Qrostar. He responds to players' questions here. Although the only question should be: "Why? Why are you doing this to me? I've got other things I should be doing." That stops being a question after a while.
I do fee a bit naughty thinking it'd be better on a touch screen. The controls are the one weakness - you click click on a block to move it left, right to move it right. That's not entirely intuitive, but fortunately there's an undo button for misclicks. Despite that, it's impossible not to think you'd have a much easier time swiping them about with your finger on a phone or tablet - it seems born for touch controls. However, it's PC only, so we shan't complain unnecessarily.
It's a free downloadable, so you'd be mad not to give it a go. And then you'll go mad when you do.