[Game: Puzzle Link 2, Yumekobo, 2000]
Integrated Game Goals:

On Yumekobo’s Puzzle Link 2, and the Potential Simplicity of Good Game Design

 

Introduction:

Puzzle Link 2 North American box art - Yumekobo, SNK - tile-matching puzzle game cardsYumekobo’s Puzzle Link titles are not well-known games in America (or maybe anywhere). Besides Puzzle Link having a Japan-only release for the original Neo-Geo Pocket, Puzzle Link and Puzzle Link 2 were released exclusively on a little-known handheld console called the Neo-Geo Pocket ColorPuzzle Link 2 - Yumekobo, SNK - tile-matching puzzle game cards, which was made by SNK. In fact, the North American release of Puzzle Link 2 preceded the console’s discontinuation in America by a mere two months. For today’s article, I’ll be discussing and recommending the sequel—because it is similar to the original, but with a few very important improvements (some of which I’ll detail below).

Although Puzzle Link 2—like its predecessor and like many other Neo-Geo games—was well-received by critics at the time, the combination of its timing and the Neo-Geo Pocket Color’s tiny little share of the North American handheld console market means that the vast majority of gamers in my country have never heard of it, let alone played it.

But I was part of that minority share of the market, and I played it quite a bit when I was younger. And I think more people should know about it, because upon reflecting I figured out what made the gameplay such fun. So I decided to write this article on how Puzzle Link 2 builds compelling puzzle gameplay simply by establishing three complementary, concurrent player goals.

Continue reading

[Game: Puzzle Link 2, Yumekobo, 2000]
Integrated Game Goals:

On Yumekobo’s Puzzle Link 2, and the Potential Simplicity of Good Game Design

was last modified: March 2nd, 2017 by Daniel Podgorski

[Game: Portal, Valve, 2007]
Thinking, with Portals:

Why Portal‘s Campaign is Superior to Portal 2‘s Campaign (in Tone and Design)

 

Introduction:

I think it’s fairly trivial to say that Portal is a significant and influential franchise, and that both titles in the series are excellent experiences well worth the time of any player. In fact, I would go so far as to say that the original Portal is such a cohesive and nearly flawless gaming experience that it should be remembered alongside such other towering encapsulations of solid game design and execution as Shadow of the Colossus, the original Half-Life, and the first entry of the Dark Souls trilogy.

But my praise for Portal 2, while still extensive and enthusiastic, is simply nowhere near as unmitigated or unending as my praise for Portal. In terms of its narrative, Portal 2 opted for a lighter tone, with a heavy emphasis on blatant comedy which marred the established atmosphere of Portal and the established character of GLaDOS. Meanwhile, in terms of gameplay, Portal 2‘s single-player campaign opted for easier puzzles overflowing with a large number of lightly utilized new mechanics.

Portal screenshot with companion cube incinerator - Why Portal is better than Portal 2 - Valve Continue reading

[Game: Portal, Valve, 2007]
Thinking, with Portals:

Why Portal‘s Campaign is Superior to Portal 2‘s Campaign (in Tone and Design)

was last modified: December 2nd, 2016 by Daniel Podgorski

[Game: Tricone Lab, Partickhill Games, 2015]
Salubrious Cells:

The Relaxing, Fluid Feel and Fresh, Stylized Design of Partickhill Games’ Tricone Lab

 

Tricone Lab screenshot with many chambers - Partickhill Games Limited

Introduction:

A few weeks ago, your Mid-week Mission was a review of a new indie puzzle game centering on triangles. This week, your Mid-week Mission is a review of a new indie puzzle game centering on triangles. Superficial similarities and kidding aside, Tricone Lab by Partickhill Games offers a totally unique and enjoyable tour through an alternate-dimension chemistry and biology. It is a logic-based puzzle game that I enjoyed enough that I finished its suite of 100 included levels in just three sessions.

Still, with the game in early access at present—and not having scratched the surface of the community-made levels on offer—I am by no means finished fabricating Tricones as of yet. And don’t be fooled by the screenshots in this article looking grey and lifeless, by the way; the levels are in constant motion, and the constituent elements feel lively and organic when playing. It’s not all peaches and cream, as you’ll find below, but overall I want to spend this article convincing you that playing Tricone Lab is a relaxing and fun use of your time.

Continue reading

[Game: Tricone Lab, Partickhill Games, 2015]
Salubrious Cells:

The Relaxing, Fluid Feel and Fresh, Stylized Design of Partickhill Games’ Tricone Lab

was last modified: July 1st, 2016 by Daniel Podgorski

[Game: Volvox, Neotenia, 2015]
A Natural Selection:

On the Strong Core Gameplay and Puzzle Design in Neotenia’s Volvox

 

Volvox, an indie puzzle game developed by the small Italian team Neotenia, was one of the bold (or unfortunate) few to have a release in the weeks directly preceding a Steam Winter sale, which seem every bit as capable of eclipsing new Steam releases as they were prior to the sales’ recent regrettable-but-understandable format changes.

Volvox‘s store page boasts 250 levels in its campaign (and accordingly 60 hours of entertainment), which had me both intrigued and wary. A promise of that much content makes me wonder if the quality keeps up throughout, and whether it strays at times into repetition. As you can probably tell from the title of the article, my concerns were laid to rest; let me tell you how and why.

Volvox screenshot with cutscene sequence - Neotenia - difficult puzzle game Continue reading

[Game: Volvox, Neotenia, 2015]
A Natural Selection:

On the Strong Core Gameplay and Puzzle Design in Neotenia’s Volvox

was last modified: January 14th, 2016 by Daniel Podgorski

[Game: Spacechem, Zachtronics, 2011]
Lost in Spacechem:

The Addiction, Atmosphere, and Exquisite Challenge of Zachtronics’ Spacechem

Introduction:

Last week was another slightly heavy entry into this series, focusing on the interpretation of pixel art, and pixel art as an artistic movement. So, just like my post on Offspring Fling! from two weeks ago, I will be making this post another lighter recommendation. The game which I would like to recommend, however, is hardly light, and it goes by the name Spacechem.

No true fan of puzzle games should go through life without having experienced this title. Spacechem is an amazing piece of software, elegant in its game-design simplicity and staggering in its gameplay complexity. But also like that Offspring Fling! article, it is not the primary gameplay of Spacechem which is going to the focus of this article: instead it is an aspect of the game that I haven’t seen many people mention: the game’s atmosphere and story. Yes, this game is a satisfying yet relentless challenge, but its virtues do not end there.

Spacechem Screenshot - Zachtronics - atmosphere, aesthetics, story

Continue reading

[Game: Spacechem, Zachtronics, 2011]
Lost in Spacechem:

The Addiction, Atmosphere, and Exquisite Challenge of Zachtronics’ Spacechem

was last modified: April 9th, 2017 by Daniel Podgorski