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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

MatrixLines: free puzzle app game for iphone, ipad

iPhone Screenshot 4
MatrixLines looks very similar to another puzzle app from about a year ago.  LaserBox is the title.
Back to MatrixLines: there are only 20 levels and I polished them off very quickly. I should note that the user-interface is terrible.
What's different: the last few levels have clear squares: they act both as a reflector and as being transparent. Therefore, when the light hits it, two rays emerge.  Also, some squares add color to the beams which then means that some targets are red or green and must be hit with a matching ray.

The moral of the story: even bad puzzle apps that seem awful at first may end up being half-way decent.

Monday, June 29, 2015

MonoMerge: free point scoring puzzle app

iPhone 스크린샷 1       iPhone 스크린샷 2
MonoMerge is a point scoring puzzle app game. The object is to connect adjacent tiles - 1 at a time - if they are identical. For example: two 4's will merge to form a single 5.

MonoMerge looks like Threes! and 2048. It's really not because all the tiles stay in place, except for the merging ones.

Blank spaces are filled with only 1's & 2's.

This is where the game should be more interesting: the grid should be 5x5 and the blanks should be replaced with 1's, 2's & 3's.

The highest tile I got was 10. My high score is 3060 which places me 8th out of only 45 players.

MonoMerge is a decent game and should definitely be play-tested. Can Gulbol 제작 is the author.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

SubaraCity - crazy high score

Robert Canogar @RCanogar tweeted on June 20 his high score of 232,788,070.  Beyond amazing.

My hats off to him! And now a challenge: try to beat my high score in Tripevo and NineOut.

guess is that game took about 5 hours.

Embedded image permalink

Friday, June 26, 2015

SubaraCity: point scoring puzzle game for iphone, ipad

iPhone Screenshot 1  iPhone Screenshot 2
The object in SubaraCity is to increase your city's population by merging smaller houses into bigger houses and really big houses into skyscraper apartment buildings.

Look at the bottom of the first image. See the brown apartments? The one on the left is an '8' and the one on the right is a '9'. Merge them to form a 10. Once a building becomes a 10, it then turns white.

Suppose you combine 10's: two of them will form a yellow 11.  However, you cannot combine any building over 10.  The key strategy to scoring BIG, is to get a super cluster of 10's and then merge them all at once.

SubaraCity was created by Ryuji Kuwaki. A typical game for me is getting 2,000,000 points and that takes about 15-20 minutes.  My high score is 32,927,440 which ranks me  at 4268 out of 144,509  players.  I got by combining fifteen 10's. It led to a level 24 building.  That particular game took over an hour.
So now I'm trying to beat my top score. Extremely difficult. Here's what's been happening: I get a cluster of twelve 10's and then am forced to merge them. The resulting 21 building (I know - why isn't it a 22 building?) becomes a dead space on the board. So I end up restarting the game. Which makes me despair a bit.

SubaraCity is in the running for a PAGY Award. (Nominations: check back on December 30th.)

Other Point Scoring Games Worthy of Your Time
Four Straight Lines
BeeCells Lite
Kindly Colors

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Zobrist Cube and Caviar

Al Zobrist, creator of the Zobrist Cube puzzle set, has another kickstarter project underway. Essentially, Al wants to raise money so he can send 100 copies of his puzzle to 100 different schools. You'll be spreading the joy of puzzling to middle schoolers.  At the very least, watch the video:

iPhone Screenshot 1

The folks who run Caviar were passing out free meals at Bryant Park the other day. I particularly like getting free meals, especially when I'm about to purchase one.

As a small token of gratitude, I'm spreading the word for them!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Less Than 8: free puzzle app for iphone

iPhone Screenshot 1  iPhone Screenshot 2
The object in Less Than 8 is to place the 16 numbers in the grid so that each row & column adds to exactly 8.

The 16 numbers are given to you randomly. So there's a little guessing that must be made.  I only played this 3 or 4 times and did not succeed.  On my last attempt, I got 3 columns and 3 rows to be 8 and 1 column and row to be 7. Which means I played it perfectly, but still could not solve it.

I think there's something more to this puzzle app, but I don't have the patience for it. Nevertheless, the concept has potential.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

30 Years Ago Today

30 Years Ago Today, I was part of a group of 14 Peace Corps Volunteers whose flight landed in Matsapha Airport in Swaziland. We came together 4 or 5 days earlier in Philadelphia for orientation and pre-training. We spent the next 11 weeks in training at the base of Sibebe Rock. That was followed by a 27-month contract at our appointed jobs. Most of us were math/science teachers. I was assigned to St. Paul's Secondary School in Manzini.

I admit that I sometimes go weeks and months without ever thinking about Swaziland. And yet, it was a transformative experience for me at 22: my first real job, teaching 200+ students and living abroad.

Some memories.....
My students broke the school record for the most number of A's on the J.C. exam.
Did some hikes with the Prince Makhosini Award Program.
Traveled in Southern Africa, East Africa & West Africa.
Attended the coronation of King Mswati III in 1986.
Finagled my way to become a judge for the Miss Swaziland Beauty Contest in 1987.
At a Peace Corps party, I remember thinking that Reed Hastings would go very far in life. He's now the founder of Netflix.

Nonhlanhla Dlamini, my former student, is now a member of parliament.
In 2008 I saw Without the King at the Film Forum. It's a documentary about Swaziland and its king and the leaders of a rebel group called PUDEMO which wants to overthrow the king and establish democracy. On screen, my old friend Mphandhlana Shongwe said 'I don't want my bombs to blow up buildings. I want them to kill people.' For the record, he & I never discussed politics.
In 2008, my former colleague Dan Mavuso, was visiting America as a representative from a sports organization in Swaziland. When he got to Philadelphia,  I told him to get on a bus, then gave him the fastest 5 hour whirlwind tour of Manhattan.

The Peace Corps Recruitment Motto is The Toughest Job You'll Ever Love. So true.

Monday, June 22, 2015


iPhone Screenshot 5

ODMO is a die rolling puzzle app. The objective is to roll the die to match certain numbers on the grid.  I downloaded the Lite version and solved about 18 of the 25 levels. I've done a lot of cube-rolling puzzles in the past. This one is fine - especially if you've never done one before.

Other Cube-Rolling puzzle apps
Cubot - really great
Dice Jockey
Qvoid - one of the best puzzle apps ever
Cubler - fantastic

Friday, June 19, 2015

Cube Escape: The Lake

iPhone Screenshot 1

I'm not a big fan of Escape the Room - type puzzle apps. But I recently played Cube Escape: Seasons and was very impressed with the story: you're in one room at 4 different times. Part of the solution is to go back and forth through time.

Cube Escape: The Lake is similar but a lot shorter. You're in a cabin with 1 open window for fishing. The game took me about 1 hour to play, which I really appreciated.

Did I mention that Cube Escape: The Lake is free? You have no excuse for being bored.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

HexAgony: point scoring puzzle app

iPhone Screenshot 1  iPhone Screenshot 3

HexAgony is a fine point-scoring puzzle app. The objective is to place the colored card symbols in the grid to score points.  Placing a diamond next to a cluster of diamonds scores one set of points. If your diamond is blue and is next to some other blues, you'll score points for that too.

Each time you place a symbol, a new one will pop up at the bottom, randomly.

The game ends when the grid is complete.

The game has 3 grid sizes. I've played the smallest grid a handful of times. 

There's a lot to like about HexAgony: good graphics, a leaderboard, the game cannot go on forever. However, there's something missing: an element of fun. It could be me of course, I've played so many games, I may be hyper critical. If more people play it, as evidenced by the leaderboard, I'd be more interested.
According to the leaderboard today: on the small grid, I'm #5 out of only 24.  The large grid: only 7 people are on the leaderboard. That's kind of shocking. This game definitely deserves more attention.

Other Point Scoring Games Worthy of Your Time
Four Straight Lines
BeeCells Lite
Kindly Colors

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Alcazar Puzzle - free puzzle app for iphone, ipad

iPhone Screenshot 3  iPhone Screenshot 4
My friend Nicola Salmoria has a strong interest in puzzle apps like this. The object is to create a path that passes through each cell and uses only 1 exit and 1 entrance. There are a handful of free levels at each 'chapter' of difficulty.  I've done most of them. The free ones, that is.

When I reviewed Blogic, a bunch of people commented that it was a ripoff of Alcazar.  Could be. These days, it's almost impossible to keep track.

Check out Rod Kimball's version!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Can You Escape - free puzzle app for iphone, ipad

iPhone Screenshot 1

Kaarel Kirsipuu's Can You Escape is another 'Escape the Room' puzzle. I know what you're thinking: why play test this one? The only reason: it's been rated over 32,000 times.  4.5 stars too. Popularity must mean something right?

There are 8 rooms and getting out of each room was kind of easy. No more than 5-10 minutes per room. One of the mini puzzles: find the handle to a jack, then lift the car to retrieve something. Yeah, real simple.

iPhone Screenshot 3
The harder puzzles involved weird mechanical locks like in the second image.

Can You Escape is good for kids who've never done one of these Room puzzle apps. If you're a Loyal Blog Follower, skip this and finish the levels from Go to Gold.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Go to Gold

iPhone Screenshot 1  iPhone Screenshot 3
My introduction into the world of Sokoban type puzzles: Box World. I needed a couple of months to solve all 100 puzzles.  That was in 1995.
About 15 years ago was a fantastic site where folks could upload their own puzzles.  Some of the designers were extremely clever. Unfortunately, that site, and all its genius puzzles are gone.
Recently, my puzzle app friend Nicola Salmoria told me about Go to Gold. There are only 64 levels, but they rock. Not a single one is easy. Okay, maybe a few are easy.
The first image shows a standard sokoban puzzle: push the pieces onto the target squares.  The second image shows a different objective: push the mirrors so they direct the laser to the target.

A third objective is to move specific tiles onto specific squares. Sorry, no image.

The fourth objective is to push any single yin/yang tile onto the dark yin/yang square. When a tile lands on the blue dot, the corresponding blue square goes down.

There are 15 puzzles in each category.  PERFECT!  I did them all, but I swore, that some of them were impossible.
Go to Gold easily earns a PAGY Award Nomination.

Loyal Bog Followers: I know it's impossible to play all the puzzles I recommend. My tip: do try the ones I post on Fridays. Because I don't post on the weekend, the Friday puzzle apps get the most time at the top - deservedly.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Harry Nelson: puzzle designer extraordinaire

I know Harry Nelson from our mutual attendance at the annual International Puzzle Party. 

Some of his puzzles:

Gravity Well - I was able to take it apart, but could never put all 3 pieces back together. I still have no idea how I disassembled this. This puzzle was made in China for Bits & Pieces and I can imagine that at their factory, there was only 1 person who put them together.

Lunar Lockout - brilliant design. Another version was called Pike's Peak. A lot of puzzle apps have incorporated some of this game's features.  One that comes to mind is Fling!

Cool Circuits - I have not played this, but want to!

Click on the link at the top to see a chess puzzle that took him 10 years to design. How crazy is that?

Monday, June 8, 2015

Doublo - clone of Duet Game

iPhone Screenshot 1
A friend and colleague showed me Duet Game. It's a dexterity game where the object is to move your red & blue dots in a fixed circle to avoid the rectangles that stream downward.

Duet Game is $2.99, so I did the non-kosher thing and downloaded the clone: Doublo, which is free.

This concept is original, fun and challenging.

I"ve said this before: we should all be playing these types of games to ward off Alzheimer's.

Friday, June 5, 2015

RGB Express: puzzle app game for iphone, ipad

iPhone Screenshot 1 iPhone Screenshot 2
RGB Express is a terrific route-finding puzzle app. The object is for the red truck to pick up the red packages and deliver them to the red houses. Same for the other colors.

iPhone Screenshot 4      iPhone Screenshot 3
Some interesting features:
1. A red truck can pick up a blue package, but must drop it off at some chosen intersections for a blue truck to pick up.
2. A white truck can pick up and deliver any color.
3. No truck can carry more than 3 packages at the same time. Along with this, say a white truck picks up first a red package, then a yellow one.  Since the yellow one is on top, the truck must pass a yellow house before a red one.
4. A skateboard is like a white truck, but can travel on the grass.
5. Switches along the roads will open and close the drawbridges.

Right now there are 360 levels. More may be added. A lot of them are very easy. And a bunch are hard. If you are a loyal reader of this blog, you know that I want to solve as many as possible (ideally all of them) to truly evaluate the game.  But 360 is far too many! At the moment I've solved about 240 levels.

Bottom Line: RGB Express is highly polished, has easy levels for kids and very difficult for the pros too. RGB Express is a likely contender for a PAGY Award (Puzzle App Games of the Year).

Thursday, June 4, 2015

HackBeam: free puzzle app for iphone, ipad

iPhone Screenshot 2    iPhone Screenshot 3
HackBeam is another 'laser with mirrors' puzzle app. Or is it?

The object is to hit the purple targets. Duh.

Here's what's different:
1. You get to choose the starting point along any point along the perimeter.
2. On some levels there is a dexterity element, which we've never seen before in a laser puzzle app. Look at the second image. There are 2 targets, but you first must activate them by passing through the red things.  Solution: The start point is somewhere on the left edge.  Then, when the beam gets almost to the right edge - tap the screen. The beam, heading east, will split into 2, one going up, one down.

There are 25 free levels and I've done 24 of them. After that, you can buy more.

I like this puzzle concept. I'm not crazy about the graphics.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Mr. Rubik speaks

Erno Rubik created an excellent museum exhibit at the Liberty Science Center in New Jersey.  I saw it back in August/September.  It's now in Cleveland, Ohio.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Galaxy Hopper: puzzle app game for iphone, ipad

iPhone Screenshot 1  iPhone Screenshot 3
Boris Brock recently contacted me: 'Hi! You seem to be THE guy when it comes to puzzle apps....'
Thanks Boris.  I'll take that as a compliment. Though it also may indicate that I have NO LIFE.

iPhone Screenshot 4  iPhone Screenshot 5
The objective in Galaxy Hopper is to get your lost spaceship to the galaxy. The ship can travel along the grid vertically & horizontally until it hits an obstacle. Very much like Lunar Lockout.

What's different? The asteroids can travel, but the suns are fixed in place.  Also, on some levels, the spaceship must pick up the green gas tank before getting to the galaxy. Some levels have wormholes, naturally.

One of the bad things about being a puzzle app blogger is that one often plays the earliest version 1. I was stuck on level 18 for a while. Sometimes the undo and refresh buttons didn't work. But the exit button did. However, the program would not let me do 18 until I redid 17 again. I ended up doing level 17 about 5 times before I figured out 18.

The same thing happened to me on level 51.  I contacted Boris to check it. He confirmed it to me: it was impossible. Meanwhile I solved level 50 about 10 times.
However, Loyal Blog Follower, Boris has fixed all of that! The new level 51 is solvable. Alas, I asked Boris for a hint. Then I rapidly completed the rest (58 levels altogether). I think I noticed that level 57 is the same as 51.
The graphics are crisp & clear.
If you're a fan of Lunar Lockout, I think you'll enjoy these new challenges. I did.

Monday, June 1, 2015

More About that game Dots Tails......from 2 Loyal Blog Followers. Also, watch this PUZZLE video 3 times!

Loyal Blog Follower Shy Hong Konger wrote probably the lengthiest and best comment in the past 6 months.  It deserves its own blog entry.


I tried out your game based on your recommendation. I found 2 solutions for Level 98 (the level you are stuck on). Here is a screenshot showing one of the solutions (the other solution is just a trivial variant):

I agree with you that the game itself is not very engaging. The puzzles seem derivative, lack cleverness, and require excessive trial and error. A reason for the derivativeness is that it is trivial to generate extremely complicated puzzles because both the values of all of the numbered tiles and the starting values of all of the chains are entirely arbitrary. Consequently, you can simply start with an arbitrary layout of numbered tiles, draw out arbitrary paths for an arbitrary number of chains, sum up the values of the numbered tiles each chain crosses, and then set the starting value for each chain to each sum. The design of this game mirrors many design properties of Sokoban. It is trivial to work "backward" to derive the initial layout of the puzzle once you have a solution in mind, but it is not trivial to work from the initial layout to discover the solution.

Andrew Juell  also chimed in via email: Thought I should let you know this appears to be a blatant clone of 'Sum Tracks' which I first saw on kongregate some months ago.


Watch this puzzle video 3 times!  Michael Karas made it. He's a serious juggler. About 3 years ago I saw him in a juggling show with Jen Slaw, another fine juggler. The show was called Perfect Catch.

One more thing about the video: it didn't work on my ipad, but did work on my laptop.