I recently wrote up a guideline on how to review a puzzle game. It’s now time to put it to the test with a puzzle game review of one of the first games given to me by a user on Reddit. The game is called PathSlider: https://pathslider.com/. Without further ado, lets see his game through the eyes of my new and soon-to-be improved guideline.
Just as mentioned in my guideline, not all of the aspects needed to be taken into consideration. For example, I didn’t include 12.Secrets in this review because I don’t believe there were any or if there were I didn’t have the skill to find em *shrugs*.
1. Puzzle Genre:
The type of puzzle in this case was a logic puzzle. You are tasked to the golden square at each level of the game by sliding either up, down, left or right. Then, you interact with different blocks in the world differently, such as blue squares (disappear every other turn) or sideway blocks which throw you in a different direction. The goal is to maneuver to the golden square in as little turns as possible while obeying the games rules and not falling out of the world.
Honestly, I really did! The puzzles were just challenging enough to make me go back for more. I had a lot of fun struggling with the harder ones and a lot of fun also just breezing through the easier ones. The solution paths were smooth once you knew how to do it and you really felt smart for figuring it out because they sometimes were a little out of the box.
I believe the creator did a truly good job trying to subvert expectations. I totally thought I had some levels in the bag before realizing that I would get stuck at different parts had I gone through it that way. This game is a good short example of what a good logic puzzle can be. However, I do have a few comments for improvement in later aspects.
This is as simple to say as it is to see. It definitely was a minimalistic game with a small state space at first, but of course that keeps increasing with the number of moves you have to take. However, most of the time, the number of moves you would want to take is very small (3/4 on average). This allows us as the player to keep our mind focused on the puzzle at hand and not get overwhelmed.
The only frustration I felt really was when I assumed that I had to make around 4 moves to get the golden status (basically the minimum number of moves for completion). I just stared at the screen wondering how on earth it was possible but it turned out that the golden status was awarded at 6 moves.
Suggestion: Show the player how many moves it’ll take to get the golden status.
I wrote before about the structure of puzzle games in my previous essay. In the article, I mention how important it was to have learning levels that allow the player to fully explore a new concept. I believe this game does this well! The concepts are simple and easily understandable at first glance. Plus, the introductory levels give you a good space to explore the mechanics.
My only suggestion would be regarding the different phases of the game (where you introduce a new mechanic). The level structure for the beginners section looks like this:
Suggestion: Add a way to distinguish between the different mechanics that will be introduced (eg: green squares, blue squares, etc).
5. Puzzle Solving:
As for the puzzles themselves, I believe they were really well constructed. Each of them were fun to play around in. Only through experimentation would you be able to catch yourself from making a fatal error that you would not otherwise have seen. The logic was all solid and you know immediately why everything in this world works the way it does.
Sometimes I felt like I got lost in my own head. It felt like I didn’t know the way out or that I had gone in a loop. However, I’d argue that it may be a good thing. It puts into perspective that you need to think harder to really solve the puzzle.
6. The Creator:
This may be a little contradictory to my previous posts. I have previously said that you want the game to be working with you. However, in this genre of puzzle game, the opposite may be equally as fun. For example, in this game, I sometimes come across a roadblock when I play in the way I usually do. I go back to old habits and am punished for that with a roadblock. This makes me feel like the creator was really smart for leaving that there because it causes me to think outside the box.
It’s like what Game Makers Tool Kit expanded on when talking about Lara Croft Go. In that game, the creator left something in the way just so the players would see that they have to do things differently. In a way, I guess, this makes me as the player feel connected to the creator. So I’m actually changing my mind, thumbs up! I really do believe this is hard to do, you really have to be in the players mind to know what they are anticipating their next moves to be. Good job!
I believe the game slowed me down a little due to the speed the character was moving. Its not incredibly slow by any means. However, I found myself stopping completely just to think about all the possible moves I could make. This is good for a player to do sometimes, just to sit back and think about smart moves to make instead of just bullet firing their way through.
That said, I think they should be given the option of moving fast just to test out the games limits. Even if they do end up completing the level quickly, they will most likely not have the golden status which is personally leagues more important to me as a player.
Suggestion: Make the player character move faster, hence making it easier for the player to attempt as much trial and error as they’d prefer.
I mentioned earlier at point #4 that I’d like to see a distinguishable difference between phases. Personally, I felt like I needed this only because I skipped some levels in between an old mechanic and a new one because I felt like I understood what it was by some point and didn’t want to continue repeating the same mechanic. Maybe I’m impatient but you could consider the following.
Suggestions: Mixing it up (with maybe more difficult levels in between) or cutting down the levels before a new phase.
The puzzles in this game are accessible to anyone. A kid could stumble upon it and understand it quite quickly. The game itself doesn’t require a lot of working memory due to its simplicity. Plus the puzzles allow any player to get through levels without having a golden status (not as satisfying but still winning) and it allows players to skip whichever levels they prefer. For the hardcore, getting the golden status on every level is still challenging and definitely feels like an accomplishment. Overall, the game can be played and enjoyed by anyone.
This is an easy one. Even the day after playing the game for the first time, I found myself coming back to it. It’s definitely difficult in games like these to remember all the patterns for completion even from levels you just completed. Plus the game awards you for coming back to puzzles that you may not have completed in full (with golden status) previously. I think the game is very replayable, especially for those who’d like a little casual puzzle game here and there.
- Show the player how many moves it’ll take to get the golden status.
- Add a way to distinguish between the different mechanics that will be introduced (eg: green squares, blue squares, etc).
- Make the player character move faster, hence making it easier for the player to attempt as much trial and error as they’d prefer.
- Mix the structure up (with maybe more difficult levels in between) or cutting down the levels before a new phase.
Overall, I had an amazing time playing and reviewing PathSlider. It has personally helped me understand the aspects above better and I hope it helps everyone reading this do the same. I think the creator has put a lot of effort and brains into making the lovely small gem. If you are seeing this game for the first time, I’d definitely suggest getting it! Once again: https://pathslider.com
Please leave any comments you may have on the review below, I’d be glad to answer any inquiries or suggestions here or through email or facebook. Thank you!