Publisher: Doctor Entertainment
Developer: Doctor Entertainment
Release Date: 06/28/2011
The puzzle genre is one of rare opportunity. When you think about it, the number of gamers out there that don’t play puzzle games is probably very small. It is a unifying genre. Everybody has played games like Tetris and Bejeweled. And all but the incredibly cynical have enjoyed them. A good puzzle game, then, can be universal.
Puzzle Dimension might not be going for the block dropping/gem swapping pedigree of the giants of the genre, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a big aim. Instead, it hopes to tap into that part of the human brain that just can’t put a puzzle down until it’s solved. Feed that part of the brain, and it will begin to thirst for even greater challenges. Indeed, Puzzle Dimension intends to keep new puzzles coming at a brisk pace, taking us from simple minded challenges to complex behemoths that we wouldn’t dream possible before.
OK. Perhaps I’m taking this a bit far. However, PD is an interesting puzzle game because it doesn’t go for the quick and dirty money. It actually gives the player challenging puzzles. Tetris might be fun, but it ends up being more about reflexes and strategy rather than the ability to work out a solution. I love quirky puzzle titles, and I had no reservations about taking this game out for a test spin.
Like a lot of puzzle games, PD doesn’t have a story. It does, however, have a progression system designed to give the player a good curve to go through. You start out with a basic set of ten puzzles. In order to unlock more, you need to beat levels. It’s as simple as that. At certain intervals, you will unlock new tiers of puzzles. You don’t have to beat every puzzle in a tier to move on to the next one. Each of the ten tiers has a theme that it runs with, usually introducing a new mechanic. In addition, there are four different themes to unlock that change up the graphical display of the puzzle you’re on. These include an ice level, water level, forest level, and a basic one. The puzzle stay the same, but get a different skin.
Apart from the main mode, there isn’t much to talk about. You have a simple tutorial, rankings, and the ability to keep track of what trophies you have earned. The latter is a bit of a mystery. You can already check your trophies on the XMB, so this is just a slightly more convenient option. You also have the ability to fool around with the volume and language.
It’s a simple package that won’t turn too many head. The progression system works fine, and the lack of additional modes is neither surprising nor problematic. A level create mode would have been fantastic, but isn’t required. Puzzle Dimension doesn’t break the mold here, but it didn’t have to.
This game combines simple yet neat looking objects and sharp HD graphics to create a game with a great sense of style, even if all you’re looking at is a bunch of blocks and a ball.
Every puzzle is constructed out of rectangular blocks. That might sound like a recipe for disaster, but these blocks actually have a lot going for them. Firstly, they’re rounded, which softens the image up and makes it more pleasing. Also, they’re full of detail. With the original skin, you’re getting some nifty looking stone carvings in the blocks. In something like the jungle skin, each block appears to be made out of a piece of a rickety old wooden bridge. There are also a myriad of different block types to keep these puzzles looking fresh. I never thought that blocks could look so interesting. This game proves me wrong.
One of the niftier things about the graphical design is that the puzzle is suspended in space. This creates an almost dizzying perspective when looking down from a high spot and makes falling off the board an unwelcome outcome of a mistake. It really makes the game pop, especially when you consider the game has support for 3D. I didn’t get a chance to see the game as such, but I can imagine it would be very pretty indeed.
The reason for that prettiness is four fold. Firstly, the graphics are in HD, making everything pop just that much more. Secondly, the game has an excellent use of color. The differences between skins couldn’t be any more apparent. You’d think that water and ice would be too similar. I can assure you that is not the case. Thirdly, a lot of attention was put into texture and detail, making each puzzle feel almost as if it were carved from stone. It just looks great. Finally, there is a beautiful aesthetic touch to the game. Every block and flower starts off pixelated. As you move your ball near them, the blocks will de-pixelate in an explosion of color. I can honestly say that never got old.
This is one of the best looking PSN titles I’ve ever seen. The only two games off the top of my head that better it are Flower and Wipeout HD. That is some pretty darn good company, especially for a puzzle game!
I mentioned the cool visual effect of the blocks de-pixelating. However, the game doesn’t stop there. It does the same with its music. Not with pixels, of course, but through style. There are two versions of each song in the game. The first is an 8-bit retro version that would sound at home in any old NES game. Then, there is a clean keyboard version as well. As you progress through a puzzle, the music will slide form the retro to the modern. It is done so well you might not even notice it at first.
Several of the tunes were catchy, but they aren’t going to set the world on fire. I will say that they were near perfect for background music. They fit the game’s tone and theme to a tee. As far as I’m concerned, that is the most important thing music can do for a game. It compliments the experience, rather than overpowering it or even damaging it. PD has a nifty soundtrack.
The rest of the audio package comes in sound effects and these are pretty par for the course for this kind of game. There are plenty of chimes, thunks, and whatever else would fit. Especially nice is the sound of the ball rolling on the blocks, which is spot on. The sound effects didn’t have to be this good, but like the music they fit the game to a tee.
Thanks to some undeniably nifty effects and solid work all around, the audio is another high point for Puzzle Dimension.
The basic setup is simple. You control a ball. You need to move that ball around the puzzle in order to collect sunflowers. Once you’ve gotten every flower on the board, a gateway will open. Enter the gateway, and you’re home free. It’s a simple premise, but getting those flowers and making it out with your ball in intact is much easier said than done.
Movement controls are really simple. You push the analog stick or d-pad in the direction you want to go relative to the ball. You can go in any of four directions. For areas where there are gaps, a simple press of the cross button will jump you over one space. You can manipulate the camera with the right analog stick, but beware that this will change what direction you go when you move. For instance, if you rotate the camera a hundred and eighty degrees, what was once up will now be down. It can be confusing at first, and will likely cause some undue deaths, but you can get used to it soon enough. You can also use the shoulder buttons to look straight up or down.
Uh oh. You need to look up and down? That’s right. A great number of these puzzles require you to move in 3D. You see, when you follow an angled tile, the puzzle rotates with you. Thus allowing bottoms to become tops and tops to become bottoms. This greatly increased the complexity of the puzzles. For example, it might look like you can safely cross that crumbling path to a flower. However, once those blocks are gone, you could accidentally make it impossible to grab a flower on the underside. Also, there are tons of moments where you can tilt the puzzle on its side and then roll off the edge, only to fall on the opposite side of the puzzle. In a regular 2D field, such a thing is impossible.
Not content with just warping your perspective, Puzzle Dimension has plenty of nasty obstacles to throw your way. The most basic of these is the crumbling block. You can land on these babies once, but after you move off of them, they disappear. You also get fire traps that also only let you land on them once, ice that keeps you moving in one direction until you reach solid ground, springs that shoot you three spaces forward, sand traps that you can only jump off (and since jumping moves you two spaces, this can get tricky), spikes that have switches you need to hit in order to deactivate, and even teleporters that zoom you across the stage. Any one of these would be no problem to handle one on one. However, you’re often given several of them at once, as well as a 3D puzzle. It gets incredibly complex at times. It might sound daunting, but a true puzzle fan wouldn’t want it any other way. After all, the harder the puzzle, the greater the sense of accomplishment when the puzzle is solved.
One thing I thought was killer was that not every puzzle had only one way to solve them. You could look up an answer online and see that someone did it completely differently. Also, the puzzles lend themselves well to multiple play styles. If you want, you can start moving immediately and make it up as you go. You can also plan your whole strategy from the beginning, not making a single move until you’ve got it all mapped out. My preference was a little of both. I loved to wing it, looking for little tricks, but I often stopped to ponder my next move/moves. It made each puzzle fun to play.
That’s the bottom line right there. The puzzles are fun and they make you think. I wish the camera controls were a bit tighter, but as a whole, I am very happy with how this game plays. If you’re looking for a good brain teaser this can do it quite well.
I’ve got some good news and I’ve got some bad news.
The good news is that this game is fairly lengthy. There are a hundred puzzles in the game, and many of them will take you upwards of ten to fifteen minutes before you figure them out. There is enough here to keep you playing for hours.
The bad news is that once you’ve beaten those puzzles, the game is done. There is no need to redo puzzles unless you’re trying to go for a higher score. At that point, however, you’re just doing a speed run, and it isn’t nearly as fun as beating a puzzle for the first time. There are no other modes to mess around with.
So, while the game will certainly last long enough, you will run out of things to do before too long. I suppose you could wait a year or two and then replay the game. By then, you’ll have likely forgotten how to best some of the trickier ones.
This game has a really nice difficulty curve. You start off with easy puzzles. From then on, the game constantly introduces new obstacles and mechanics to mix things up. You’re given a puzzle or two to get used to them, and then they start turning the heat up. Before long, you’re plowing your way through puzzles that would have seemed ridiculous not that long ago.
With the way that the level progression system works, you never have to worry about getting stuck on a tricky puzzle. Unless you’re working on the last puzzle, there will always be more that you can try. This does a great job of avoiding brain fatigue and frustration.
The game is definitely challenging. You can’t brute force your way through it. As Professor Layton would say, “Critical thinking is the key”Â. For a puzzle game, you can’t ask for much more.
This is really hard to gauge. Most puzzle games these days are simply clones, cashing in on the successes of the big titles. Puzzle Dimension doesn’t really do that. Instead, it carves out its own path. Though I’ve been trying to come up with a decent comparison, the best I’ve thought of so far is Marble Madness. That doesn’t even work.
I’m sure I’m probably missing something, but PD is seeming to be a fairly original title. The combination of obstacles, 3D puzzles, and all of the nifty presentation tricks make it a game that sticks out.
You ever get one of those puzzles you just can’t beat? That happens a lot in this game. You know that it can be beaten if you just tried something a little different, and you end up playing the same puzzle for half an hour. This game definitely has that. If you fail to beat a puzzle, there is a strong drive to try again, simply because you can’t let the puzzle beat you. I must have tried one of the later ones a dozen times before I got it right. That’s how much I wanted to beat it.
On the other hand, once these puzzles get longer, it becomes harder to play more than one at a time. The brain needs to rest. What this means is that you’re likely to get half hour to hour long bursts out of the game. The game is most assuredly addicting, but there is only so much the human brain can take before it needs a rest. I found myself playing a few puzzles before moving on to more mindless fun. Usually a shooter. After I let my brain recharge, it was back to the world bending puzzles and their distinct charm.
This game has actually been out for the PC and Mac for over a year at this point. However, the price is the same no matter which version you get. Mouse control might help with the camera, but the experience won’t be largely changed either way. In addition, the PS3 version offers support for 3D. While that technology is far from huge, it is sure to help the game enter some homes. This version of the game stands up quite well with the others.
For ten dollars, you’re getting a pretty darn good puzzle game. It has great presentation and nifty gameplay concepts. It might seem a tad expensive, but the game is worth it. Everyone I’ve shown the game to has been interested in it, despite coming from vastly different video game backgrounds. Chances are, if you play the game, you’re going to enjoy yourself.
Basically, the game has some strong appeal.
There’s not much left to say really. I’ve already covered the optional 3D presentations, the intangibles of the game, and that it’s just as good a deal as its Steam counterparts.
I could go on some more about how the game is simply fun to play, but I’ll have to get to that in the SASS in a bit, so I don’t want to sound too much like a broken record. I’ll be brief.
This is a fun puzzle game that will get your brain working in ways you never thought it could.
Modes: Above Average
Gameplay: Very Good
Balance: Very Good
Originality: Above Average
Appeal Factor: Good
Final Score: Good Game!
Short Attention Span Summary
Puzzle Dimension is everything a puzzle fan could ask for. It has all of the complexity and brain teasing fun you’d want, combined with a fun soundtrack and killer visuals. The camera could have used a bit more work and an extra mode or two wouldn’t have hurt, but I can’t come up with a serious complaint about the game at all. That is rare. If you’re looking for a great puzzle game, you could do a LOT worse that Puzzle Dimension.