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.

» Read more

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.

» Read more

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.
» Read more

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!
» Read more

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.
» Read more

Agent A: A Puzzle In Disguise

Agent A

Ruby La Rouge’s cat meets Agent A

Agent A is your typical point-and-click / escape room adventure game. It’s lifted above the average by nice graphics and a great selection of puzzles with few moments of frustration or tedium.

The basic plot is that Ruby La Rouge, an enemy spy with an awful accent, has killed your boss and several of your fellow Agents. You’re Agent A, the best in the business, and it’s up to you to confront Ruby in her hideaway. No sooner have you found your way through the front door, then Ruby turns the tables and traps you inside with her vicious cat.

What follows is a short but charming homage to spy films as you crack safes, reveal secret rooms hidden behind bookcases, and put oversized precious jewels to good uses.
» Read more

The Room and Other Computer Game Puzzles

room logo

The Room

The Room came out back in 2012 and won enough awards to get its own Wikipedia page. I decided to give it a whirl to see what the fuss was about. It can be picked up cheaply as a mobile game, or for a few pounds on Steam in a revamped desktop incarnation.

It’s a short game, possible to complete in an evening. It’s also easy to see why it’s popular as it’s beautifully presented, accessible and contains nothing taxing enough to cause severe frustration.

But all the way through I spent more time thinking about other games, and the numerous problems with computer puzzle games as a genre. Problems that have rarely been solved.

» Read more

Having fun with Pokemon Go

pokemon go logo

Pokemon Go

It’s difficult to justify writing a blog about treasure hunting without mentioning the biggest treasure hunt of the last 12 months: hunting Pokemon with Pokemon Go. You gotta catch ’em all!

For some, catching Pokemon is an obsession. Others dimiss the game as childish nonsense. As usual, the best option in life is to find a happy medium between two extremes. It’s a digital treasure hunt, not something to get worked up over, and hunting Pokemon can be a lot of fun.

This post is about finding the fun in Pokemon Go if throwing red balls at weird Japanese monsters isn’t your cup of tea.

» Read more

The Bus Game

Bus Board Game

The Bus Game final prototype

UPDATE! The Bus Game has now been released for Android on the Google Play Store. Please check it out and let me know what you think.

The Bus Game is a children’s board game of my own design.

My other half and I made a prototype (for my nephew’s birthday) by buying bits of wood off the Internet, painting them with acrylics and tester paints intended for when we finally redecorate the bedroom, then spray-varnishing them.

Players try to get the four coloured buses through the village, from one bus depot to another, before bed-time. The game is co-operative so everyone wins or loses together.

» Read more