What’s in a Game: Puzzle Games
As a genre, puzzle games are an interesting bunch. While all of them have the same objective–solving puzzles–the various formulas required in each individual game differs slightly. Basically, puzzles in games exist to make you, the user, think outside the box, recognize and analyze sequences/patterns, abstract, use logic, and think critically.
The most common form of exercise, as well as the first kinds of puzzles we’re first taught about, thinking outside the box allows for much more complex ways of thinking. The Professor Layton series does a great job of this, with many puzzles that, while seemingly easy to do, are actually more complex than they let on. Pattern recognition and analysis is another simple puzzle tactic, and is frequently seen in games such as Tetris or Bejeweled. Simply put, all you have to do is find a group of shapes, colors, or objects and put them all together in a specific sequence, usually to gain points or get to the next stage.
Abstracting your thinking is yet another method of solving a puzzle. Instead of trying to memorize a long string of data, you could simply assign a color or letter to it. This way, you don’t get distracted as much, such as when you’re doing a puzzle from a game like this. Take-Two Interactive’s 1996 PC adventure game Ripper, had many puzzles like this, which required lots of difficult thinking for almost all of its puzzles. Abstracting these puzzles down only made it less difficult, but still a nice challenge.
Logic, of course, makes up for a large percentage of puzzles in any such puzzle game. For example in Scribblenauts, where you can summon literally anything, from God to a gun, it is continually important to use the logical solution in solving puzzles. For example, one level presents you with a switch you have to press in order to get the Starite. Since you can’t reach it yourself, what can you do to access the switch? As you can summon anything, why not a bird? As luck would have it, the bird flies over and hits the switch for you, allowing you to complete the puzzle. Alternatively, you could use a tractor beam, or shoot it down with a gun. As long as you can come up with the logical conclusion “Oh, there’s a Starite, just out of my reach! I should summon a bird that can fly up there,” you’re set to play Scribblenauts.
Critical thinking, closely related to logic, forces us to look at what’s presented. One common example is in the Professor Layton series. Let’s look at this puzzle, for example:
Using the facts provided, you need to figure out which cows are lying and which are telling the truth. So, let’s walk through this one. Assume that A is telling the truth. If A’s statement is true, then D’s statement is false, making E’s statement true, making B’s statement false, making C’s statement true. This then leaves us with three cows who tell the truth, and two that tell lies. Right? Well, look at the facts again. It says that there are two cows that tell the truth, not three. So, we can say that A is a cow that tells lies. Now, run this again, assuming B tells the truth. If you do it right, you’ll find that both B and D tell the truth, and that A, C, and E tell lies. I find these types of puzzles to be incredibly stimulating and fun to work out with, and they also give me a sense of accomplishment when I finish them.
In conclusion, the types of puzzles in these kinds of games are there to make the player think in new ways and provide a unique challenge for all ages. Thinking outside the box widens our horizons on thinking, while other types of puzzles might make us look at details more. It’s a great genre, and one of the few educational ones.
Tags: Professor Layton, puzzle games, puzzles, Ripper, Scribblenauts, Tetris, Tyler Thomas