Over the last month or so, Dev.Mag has published five interviews with indie developers discussing puzzle game design. In case you have missed the series, here are links to the articles:
In this article, I give you my take on the info we gathered in our five puzzle design interviews; a kind of distillation of the various ideas the designers presented. The discussion below is terse with almost no examples; to see how these ideas play out in the design of actual games, you will find the original interviews more helpful.
Everything about Use Boxmen says ‘happy.’ The music sparkles in the background, what simple narration exists in the game is silly and smile-inducing and the characters ooze charm out whatever wazoo they might have in their deformed crayoned bodies. It would be such a great setup for a bit of coffee break relaxation. Such a pity then, that it isn’t. What we have here is a deceptive little piece of software designed purely to lure in unsuspecting gamers with its friendly demeanor, and then savagely drop them into some of the most challenging puzzles ever to involve mass stickman slaughter.
If there’s one thing that I take pride in when I offer humble slices of gaming pie to oh-so-hungry colleagues, it’s my ability to carefully consider the difficulty level. Whether I’m making a run-and-jump platformer or a purely cerebral puzzle game, I always live by the same basic mantra: give the player a helping hand.