Puzzle Dimension Review

By on July 20, 2010

Ingenious? Devious? Both!


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First Impressions
My reaction is

Indie games have started to make rapid appearances nowadays, and for the most part, have shown a steady growth in terms of quality, innovation, and enjoyment in the genre. Iconic games like World Of Goo and Crayon Physics ushered in a new era of physics-driven gameplay, while titles like Osmos and Blueberry Garden proved that there is joy to be found in the simplest of game mechanics. And now, we have a new contender in the form of Puzzle Dimension – a 3D puzzle game by Doctor Entertainment, designed to test your ability to visualize solutions before you make your move, as also your sense of direction in environments that blatantly defy the laws of gravity.

I shall stop right here for a moment to point out that the strongest point of this game is the very same thing that holds the potential to put you off it altogether if you’re the kind of gamer who hates to have his/her gray cells exercised to any degree during any sort of gameplay. While the objective of every puzzle is identical and unbelievably simple, figuring out the right path to reach said objective is nothing short of being wickedly mind-bending and brain-twisting. Clearly this game isn’t for the casual gamer looking for a few minutes of entertainment in the midst of a boring, busy schedule – it’s aimed at the exact opposite type of people, those who have time on their hands, an affinity for puzzle-solving, and the ability to overcome the frustration of being met with defeat multiple times as they embark on several trial-and-error attempts in their quest for glory. But should you choose to persist in your endeavours, glory is exactly what you will bask in, as the sense of achievement that is derived from beating the puzzles (the later ones, especially) is highly gratifying.

All the game requires you to do through all the levels/puzzles is guide a little ball across a series of platforms in an attempt to collect flowers, by ‘rolling’ it in one of four directions. Collecting all the flowers in a level activates a portal which you must then guide the ball through to exit that level. Extremely simple concept, as I earlier mentioned, so where do the “puzzling” bits come in? Let’s take a look…

The platforms that make up each level come in a variety of forms and exhibit all sorts of “behaviour”, and this is one of the first challenges you’ll face early on into the game. Apart from your standard metal platforms, there are cracked ones which’ll give way after one use, icy ones which send you sliding in a particular direction, sandy ones which don’t allow you to roll, spikey ones which destroy you on contact, and so on. Add to this the fact that your range of motion is limited to 90 degree angles (no diagonal movement) and you can only jump over one platform space, and navigation gets much trickier than you would expect.

The next hurdle that awaits you is the fact that the game doesn’t care for the real world definitions of “up” and “down”. Your perception of these terms/directions will be changed several times during gameplay, as the camera rotates the world around you as you roll off edges and sides of certain platforms. These mechanics may be familiar to those who have played or caught a glimpse of And Yet It Moves a few years back, but frankly speaking, it will take a while to get used to how it behaves in Puzzle Dimension. Often times, you’ll find that flowers are placed on both, the top and bottom faces of platforms, and this’ll have you racking your brains trying to figure out what “pivot point” you should choose so as to flip everything around to your advantage. Luckily, there’s a handy “Camera Mode” at your disposal to help you visualize much more than the standard 3rd person camera allows for. In this mode, you get near-limitless rotation and some restricted zoom in/out capabilities on the scene, to help you figure out your next set of moves, and although this can get totally confusing if you use it at particular angles, it forms an absolutely essential, highly critical part of the game – you’re not going to get very far without tearing at your hair and yelling vile obscenities if you don’t use it every now and then.

There are a hundred puzzles in total, divided into “clusters” of ten each, so you can be assured that this game will keep you busy for a good number of hours. You start off with just the first cluster available, and unlock new ones by collecting a certain number of flowers. All ten puzzles within a cluster are made available as soon as that cluster is unlocked, and so if a particular one is really messing with your head, you can push it aside for the time being and move on to solve any of the other ones available in any order you see fit. Playing through all the puzzles does have its rewards, though, and I don’t just mean the satisfaction of knowing that you have an IQ level above 10. There are a total of 21 achievements to be earned, and 3 themes to be unlocked. These themes do just what you would expect them to: they alter the appearance of every single object present in the levels, save for the ball and the flowers. You can switch themes at will at any point in the game, and although some will shrug this off as nothing more than added eye candy, it’s a neat little bonus to have, and it does indeed make the already-splendid visuals stand out more.

Ah yes, the visuals. Brilliantly done in a way that not many have thought of before, the game starts you out with everything made to look like the retro games of yesteryears, if you can just imagine each of those pixels actually being tiny little 3D cubes. As you move through the environment, the “pixels” give way to full-blown 3D graphics in a plethora of colourful explosions, accompanied by some fantastic lighting and high quality textures. It’s a unique art style rarely seen before, and it works very well indeed.

A similar mechanic is in place for the audio as well, as you’ll hear the game blend classic 8-bit tunes with modern day digital music. The music itself is quite praiseworthy, and sound effects are crisp, clear, and realistic.

Puzzle Dimension is a solid new entrant, both, into the world of indie games and the puzzle genre in general. The learning curve associated with mastering the game’s mechanics combined with the general fiendishness of the puzzles themselves may turn off some folks, but are also the main areas from which the patient, perseverant lot will derive immense satisfaction. Few other games are capable of twisting your mind in such deliciously devious ways, so if you’re an existing or wannabe Newtonian of sorts, get this little devil right away and let the gray cell marathon begin!


The Scorecard
GAMEPLAY
8.5
Extremely simple mechanics deliver a fun and challenging level of complexity that will give your brains a real good workout. The difficulty may discourage some people, but those who stick with it will have a blast.
GRAPHICS
8.5
A fantastic mix of retro-style pixelated graphics and modern high quality 3D visuals, complete with great textures and lighting.
SOUND
9
Music is very well-suited to the levels, and sound effects are well done and realistic.
VALUE
7
A hundred puzzling levels of varying difficulty and the ability to unlock and choose different themes will keep you occupied for quite a while, but there’s not much else to look forward to.
FUN FACTOR
9
Very high, if you can overlook the steep learning curve and be a little more patient than usual. The sense of achievement to be had upon beating some of the levels is phenomenal!
OVERALL
8.5
Great puzzle game. Great indie game. Great indie puzzle game. Need I say more?

About

Loves video games lots, but loves video game development even more. Has a Bachelor's degree in the field, yet the technical complexity behind those billions of interactive pixels boggles his mind. His brain will either conjure up the next best game or turn into gravy in 5 years time.

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