Beneath a Steel Sky Review and Analysis

Beneath a Steel Sky PDCs
Beneath a Steel Sky PDCs

This was supposed to be an analysis of Beyond a Steel Sky, Revolution Software’s newly released sequel to their 1990s cyberpunk thriller Beneath a Steel Sky. But BeyASS is a buggy mess. And though it has now been patched enough that I could play it beginning to end, it’s not yet sufficiently fixed to warrant playing a second time or do a full analysis. I’ll wait for a few more patches come out.

In the meantime, I went back to BenASS to see how it compares. Is Beneath a Steel Sky really the classic it’s held up to be? I’ll be analysing its structure using four Puzzle Dependency Charts that map out the whole game.

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Xmas Matchup

Click to play Xmas Matchup

And so this is Christmas!

Another year, another Christmas game to enjoy. For 2019 it’s “Xmas Matchup“, a Match Three Blast style game.

Click on groups of matching symbols to clear them and to collect the stars shining overhead. Collect enough stars to reveal the hidden image and unlock the next level.

The trick is that there aren’t enough stars on the screen to win the level. You have to collect large groups of stars in a single click so you get bonus stars. As the levels get harder, you’ll need to select symbols carefully to create large areas of stars. Good luck with all 9 levels!

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Detective Di: Review and Analysis

Detective Di PDC
Detective Di with Puzzle Dependency Chart

Detective Di: The Silk Rose Murders is a Kickstarter-backed point-and-click adventure game. After reaching its funding target in March 2015, the game was finally released in May 2019.

Unusually for me, I picked up a copy almost immediately after release. It was on offer on Steam and looked interesting, with the promise of a detective adventure requiring the player to deduce the identity of the killer.

I didn’t get what I was promised, the deduction mechanic obviously being shaved down to almost nothing over the 5-year production cycle. But Detective Di is an otherwise well-polished game, with engaging story and characters, and a few interesting puzzles to while away a couple of long evenings. Overall: 3 out of 5.

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Puzzle Dependency Charts

The Dig PDC crop

Shame on me for failing to post anything for over a year. I’ve been working on some puzzles and ideas of my own, but have nothing to reveal yet. As part of that work, I’ve been expanding my knowledge of Puzzle Dependency Charts so will instead share some information about them, including two full charts for LucasArts flawed masterpiece, The Dig.

Puzzle Dependency Charts (or Graphs, or Diagrams) are an excellent tool for designing and refining interconnected puzzles. Online discussions usually focus on their use in the classic LucasArts adventure games since Ron Gilbert of Monkey Island fame developed them to help design his games. But they are not limited to computer games and would be helpful for designing physical Escape Rooms or any multi-stage puzzle.

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Elvenar and Guest Races

Elvenar header

Human or Elf in Elvenar

Every once in a while I try a new free-to-play, massively multiplayer online Flash game. You know, those games advertised by clickbait, starring Kate Upton’s cleavage. Games that are free to play, but offer endless opportunities to buy in-game currency to speed things along or get a fancy orange shield.

Many of these MMOs are completely interchangeable. They feature inconsequential, badly translated plots and throw in random mini-games to keep you occupied as you wait for your stamina to recover so you can click through another encounter. All in the hope that the incoherent story might, one day, come to an end. The sheer quantity of artwork some of these games contain is astounding, with thousands of weapons and individual pieces of armour available to buff your chosen warrior.

Once in a while, though, a game is interesting enough to capture my attention for a year or more. At the moment, that game is Elvenar by InnoGames. This is fitting since InnoGames’ Tribal Wars was my first MMO back in the early noughties.
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Unlock! Escape Games and Free Demos

Unlock box

Unlock! Mystery Adventures

I recently picked up a copy of Unlock! Mystery Adventures. So far I’ve only played the tutorial adventure, so don’t worry about spoilers or solutions in this post.

I’ve tried some real life Escape Rooms over the past few years, and they’re usually fun, though I was so disappointed with Breakout Manchester, that I couldn’t even be bothered to blog about the experience! But as we and our friends get to that age where young children start interfering with the adults’ playtime opportunities, organising a group outing gets harder.

Unlock!, Escape The Room, and the critically acclaimed Exit: The Game series offer the chance to try out the Escape Room phenomena in the comfort of your own home and are more suitable for smaller groups, or even solo play.
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The Bus Game app for Android

the bus game

the Bus Game

I’m delighted to report that I’ve just released The Bus Game as an Android app to the Google Play Store.

I first developed The Bus Game back in 2016 as a prototype for my nephew. You can read about its development here: The Bus Game.

There’s also a print and play version that you can test out here: The Bus Game: Print out and Play.

And, finally, you can get all the graphics, resources and code for the app from the Unity Asset Store for $5, here: The Bus Game – Asset Store.

I hope you have as much fun playing it as I did creating it. I’d love to receive some feedback and suggestions for improvements.

Xmas eXcavation – a game for Christmas

game screenshot

Xmas eXcavation

A merry Christmas to all, and to all a good 2018.

In celebration, and to give everyone a fun, indoor activity away from the cold, I present Xmas eXcavation (click to play). There’s also a quick Javascript tutorial below!

The game will be familiar to any Minesweeper players, but with one key difference: you’re trying to locate and uncover presents hidden under the snow, while avoiding the dirty lumps of coal. Double click (or double tap) to uncover a patch of snow. Single click to mark a suspected piece of coal. Good luck!
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Multiple Puzzle Solutions in The Witness

The Witness

Perspective tricks are all over The Witness

The Witness is a computer puzzle game from 2016. It’s great to look at, with challenging but satisfying puzzles and a few moments of genius.

Despite its high points, it has to be said that I was massively underwhelmed by the game overall and bored before I reached the end. The attempts to make the game deep by throwing in an assortment of philosophical sound and video recordings sits somewhere between lazy and insulting. Wired have already done an excellent dissection job, though I would choose the adjective “hollow” to describe the experience of playing The Witness, rather than “empty”.

The distinction is subtle, but the game really does look great on the surface. Its desert island setting is covered with perspective tricks and puzzles requiring you to be standing in just the right place so you can trace paths between separate buildings or across vast landscapes. The design of the puzzles in general is great, with LOTS of them, and a minority that are pure frustration. It’s a worthwhile reward at the centre of it all that’s missing, and the game falsely implies you’re going to receive one with its enigmatic wrapping suggesting questions to be answered come the end. Instead, the only reward for solving puzzles are more pretty graphics and more puzzles.

But if you want a challenge, I’d still recommend picking up a copy of the game. Just don’t expect to find meaning, or plot, or satisfying conclusions in it. Most importantly, if you get bored, walk away and come back when you feel in the mood again. Pushing through the game because you’re expecting something to happen rather than because you’re enjoying solving the puzzles will just suck the joy out of the experience.
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Trippples: Strategy and Combinatorial Mathematics

trippples game box

Trippples

Trippples (with three “p”s, p-p-pick up a p-p-penguin fans) is a chess-like strategic game from the 1970s. I found a copy in a Sue Ryder charity shop for £4. Bargain!

Two players, or two teams of two, try to get their transparent marker from one corner of the board to the other. Every square on the board has arrows pointing in three directions. These arrows tell you which directions the pieces can move each turn. The genius touch of Trippples is that your available moves are determined by the arrows under your opponent’s (or opponents’) marker(s). To win, you must force your opponent to move to a square that allows you to move to your destination.
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