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Puzzle Dimension (Mac) artwork

Puzzle Dimension (Mac) review


"Roll forward, carefully now... get that goodie... this is all according to the plan. Oh dear god, I think I just took a wrong turn there! Quickly, remember what happened the last time you tried this. Do I jump once and then twice to clear the gap or is it once, roll a step, jump again, and then Iím free? Wait, why am I still rolling? Is that ice Iím on? Oh, Christ, itís a pit coming up. Jump jump aw please jump. Is that a spring or a switch? Spring or a switch? Spring or a... oh, phew, itís a switch. Okay the goal is there, right in front of me, roll towards it... agh, I forgot about the fire tile!"



Puzzle Dimension operates on a very simple premise with very simple controls. You control a ball, moving it in four directions with the arrow keys, rolling around a precarious environment trying to collect all the goodies before you return to the starting point. You can jump over gaps and obstacles, which is nice because most of the tiles you roll across have been designed with your ballís death in mind. Mess up even a little bit and youíre going to die.

It seems the goal of the modern puzzle game is to be very demanding in terms of concentration. Here, each puzzle has a very specific solution that requires you to first look at a map and try to conceive of a safe route through it, then fuss around a bit with some trial and error, and finally execute a dexterous master plan without screwing it up. It goes a lot like this...

Roll forward, carefully now... get that goodie... this is all according to the plan. Oh dear god, I think I just took a wrong turn there! Quickly, remember what happened the last time you tried this. Do I jump once and then twice to clear the gap or is it once, roll a step, jump again, and then Iím free? Wait, why am I still rolling? Is that ice Iím on? Oh, Christ, itís a pit coming up. Jump jump aw please jump. Is that a spring or a switch? Spring or a switch? Spring or a... oh, phew, itís a switch. Okay the goal is there, right in front of me, roll towards it... agh, I forgot about the fire tile!

If that last paragraph sounded awesome to you, then youíll love Puzzle Dimension.

Even if puzzle games arenít your thing, though, you have to give credit to a product well-made. Puzzle Dimension calls to mind the same kind of ďmental dexterity under pressureĒ feel that classics like Lemmings brought to the gaming scene. The mazes here are a ďone-true-pathĒ thatís been twisted around in knots and complicated by three-dimensional physics. Your goal is to separate that path from all the twists and zig-zagging turns that are there to lead you to your doom. Itís not the kind of game you sit around and waste hours of your free time on. But it probably is the kind of game youíll spend hours on at work or during a graduate lecture series.

Yeah, that last line is spoken from experience.

One point of contention is that there is a fair amount of reused tiles with new skins on them. For instance, pitfall traps fall away the second time you go over them, leading to a long drop and usually death. Fire traps also activate the second time you cross over and also lead to a death, albeit a more heated one. But even so, no two levels are the same and many require wildly different ways of thinking about the problem to solve them. A pitfall block may do the same thing, ultimately, as a fire block, but when one is featured as an obstacle in a fast paced stage meant to test your finger dexterity and the other shows up in a multi-storied affair where you have to roll your ball over the correct pitfall to land on the correct platform below, the similarities between tiles becomes moot.

Puzzle games arenít my favorite thing in the world but even I was able to get sucked into Puzzle Dimension. Itís hard to beat good level design, no matter what the genre is and this is an example of classically good design with enough twists thrown in to feel consistently fresh.

Rating: 8/10

zippdementia's avatar
Freelance review by Jonathan Stark (October 16, 2010)

Zipp has spent most of his life standing in an open field west of a white house, with a boarded front door. There is a small mailbox there. Sometimes he writes reviews and puts them in the mailbox.

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