Showing posts from April, 2013

Review: Combination for iPhone and iPad

+Christopher Jefferson wrote me some time ago to remind me about his good puzzle game Combination, which is one of my favorites. Unfortunately, after whetting my appetite with news about an upcoming new game, he disappeared into a void. So reviewing this game is all I can do for now.
Combination is played on rectangular boards of various sizes. The pieces you control, when placed on the board, fire colored beams in 4 or 8 directions. You can also think of them as Rook, Bishop, and Queen chess pieces. The goal is to place all pieces on the board, avoiding that any piece is hit by a beam of a different color.
The pieces must be placed on the white squares. The gray squares allow beams to pass, but you can't put pieces on them. The walls block the beams.
So the solution to the above puzzle would be this:
One thing that isn't visible above is that the beams don't cross the pieces they hit. This property often needs to be taken advantage of to solve a puzzle.

Solving the puzzles is…

Review: ON/OFF for iPhone and iPad

1Button is an indie studio that develops apps and games with a very distinctive, minimalistic style. Their latest puzzle game is called ON/OFF, and it has been downloaded over a million times, so you might know about it already.
At the time of writing, there's a promotion going on: by tapping a button on the developer's website, you can unlock all available levels for free.
At the core, this is a tile sliding puzzle, where each row/column scrolls at once, wrapping around at the sides of the board. On the App Store there's a gazillion of apps using these mechanics, so nothing new so far.
One novelty when compared to similar puzzles is that instead of reconstructing a picture, you have to connect coloured "switches" on the sides of the board, using tiles of the same colour.
Another novelty is that the playing area is not necessarily square or rectangular, but can be any shape, as one of the first puzzles illustrates.

Early on, another puzzle element is introduced: black…

April 14th-20th, 2013

4 Winds Fantasy Gaming Updates
First up for new releases is Sean O'Connor's next contribution to the Paths of Power II: Paths of Blood.

Player's Options: Elves [PFRPG]

Every era and every culture has legends, long believed, of a fairy folk that lives long years, collects knowledge like sweet acorns, and possesses a casual magic beyond the greatest efforts of men. Elves.
Tall, graceful, beautiful, skilled; creatures of the forest, occasionally visiting the realms of lesser races. And while most (with notable exceptions) hold to the standards of good and the preservation of nature, there are those who become jaded with the weight of long life, and seek purposes somewhat less noble, pursuable only by those of their eldritch otherness. For their ways are not the ways of other races, and their power is the power of ages, with no limits.
Presented here are several options for your elven character, including two variant races, and numerous feats, flaws and equipment, to revitalize an …

Review: Fields for iPhone and iPad

Fields by Kevin Langdon is a restyling of the classic Fillomino logic puzzle, which is published by many magazines.
I like when developers take their time to rethink how a classic puzzle is played, in order to make it work better on a touch screen.
On paper, Fillomino is typically played by filling with lines and numbers a white grid, like this image taken from shows.
This works on a magazine, but it would look pretty boring on an iPhone screen. Fields adds colours, by associating each number with a flower (except for 1 which becomes just rocks).
To fill an empty cell, you just drag from a populated cell nearby. The goal is to completely cover the grid with flowers, in such a way that the size of each area matches the numbers given. So in the image below, we want to have 4 sunflowers and 2 violets.
One thing that isn't immediately apparent is that the dragging you make doesn't need to be a single motion; so in the case above you can drag right from the 4 to colour two cel…

Update: Brain Twirler 1.0.2

A small update to Brain Twirler has just been approved by Apple.
The only significant change is to what happens when you tap a solved puzzle. Previously, it would just go to the next puzzle, but this was confusing many people. Often times, people would select a solved puzzle, and then tap through a number of solved puzzles before reaching the first unsolved puzzle. So now tapping a solved puzzle jumps right to the first available unsolved puzzle.

The state of the puzzles is persistent between sessions, so if one wants to play again a solved puzzle, it needs to be explicitly restarted using the restart button.

There's also small changes to the graphics.

Have fun and thanks to all the people that downloaded Brain Twirler!

©2013 Nicola Salmoria. Unauthorized use and/or duplication without express and written permission is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nicola Salmoria and with appropriate a…

April 8th-13th, 2013

New Dungeon Crawl Classics Support
This week we returned to the dungeon with David Pryzbyla's AL 4: The Waystation for the Dungeon Crawl Classics Roleplaying Games.

The Dwarves of Upanesh were prosperous and widespread; their transport/mining system was efficient and admirable.  Their ancient downfall was tragic, but not without its heroes. Minoc Manshield and his mystical hammer Stone Fist, tools of the great god Upan saved many of his people and took many invaders with him, in the humble battleground of a Waystation… can you pierce the subterranean depths and recover Stone Fist?  Who or what still remains in that desolate domain of death?
The Waystation is a DCC adventure designed for four to eight third level characters, that can easily be dropped into your campaign for a short ‘detour’, or be part of further adventures in the realms of the Upanesh. Stone Fist awaits! 
All products in the Adventure Locale line present one or more dungeons that can be quickly picked up and used for …

Announcement: Brain Twirler for iPhone and iPad

Brain Twirler is now available on the App Store. It is my second game for iPhone and iPad, and the first to appear under the Nontrivial Games label.
The inspiration for this game came from Spin Mix by Ivan Vassilev, which I reviewed some time ago.
It is played on a grid containing some dots, and pieces resting on the dots. You have to rotate the pieces around their endpoints, avoiding intersections, until the red piece is at the top of the screen. The first puzzle is trivial, and acts as a tutorial:
There are three kinds of pieces. The red one is the shortest, and there's always exactly one, because it is the piece that needs to be moved to the goal position.
The yellow pieces are twice as long, while the blue pieces are something inbetween (sqrt(3)/2, to be precise). All pieces can turn by 60 degrees at a time, but the interesting thing is that while the red and yellow pieces can be parallel to each other, the blue pieces are offset by 30 degrees. This adds variety to the puzzle mech…

Thoughts on Bioshock Infinite

So I just finished Bioshock Infinite and I feel I need to write something about it. There is a lot that is really good about the game, but the way it all comes together seems like a wasted opportunity. This does not mean it is a bad game, far from it. I played the entire game in a couple of days, a rare thing for me, and had (mostly) fun doing so. What really stuck to me, though, is how it abuses its own premise. The capability for true greatness can be seen throughout, but is constantly hindered . This is also why it is so interesting to talk about it. By taking a closer look at Bioshock Infinite we can perhaps learn to harness its dormant potential.

Before we get into it all, I need to clear up a concept. When I talk about the narrative in a game, I see it as the totality of the experience. It is not just cut-scenes and audio-logs that make up a narrative, it is also the shooting, jumping, and all other actions that I perform as a player.

While not that many talk …

Review: Subway Shuffle for iPhone and iPad

Subway Shuffle is a classic. It was first released in August 2008, just a few weeks after the App Store opened. It is so old that people didn't consider an outrage its initial price of $2.99 (don't worry, it's $0.99 now). It's impressive how much things have changed in these 5 years.
The web site linked to by the App Store,, doesn't even exist anymore, though we can still look at it on the Wayback Machine.

The game was created by +Bob Hearn, an MIT graduate whose thesis is suitably titled Games, Puzzles, and Computation. It's full of interesting material and well worth a read for anyone interested in complexity theory.

The play area is a graph with colored edges, which represents a subway map. Some nodes of the graph contain a colored dot, which represents a subway car.
The goal is to move the red car to the big red circle. To do that, you move one car at a time, with the constraint that cars can only move along edges of their same color.

The …

Review: Simon Tatham's Portable Puzzle Collection

Often, puzzle collections aren't very good. I prefer games that are focused on doing a single thing in the best possible way.
Simon Tatham's Portable Puzzle Collection, however, is a different story. It is more than a classic: it's a piece of history. The "Portable" in the name doesn't refer to mobile devices, but rather to software portability. It was initially created in 2004, before the iPhone even existed, and initially it ran only on Unix and Windows. I used to play it 8 years ago, on a Palm Tungsten E2, using a stylus.

The portable collection consists of good logic puzzles, some well known, other less known, and it's still growing and being maintained. Currently it includes 36 different puzzles.

The collection was actually already present on the App Store, under various names, both as a whole and as single games; as far as I know, in most cases this was done without acknowledgements to Simon Tatham. At long last, Greg Hewgill has done a "legit&q…

Review: Sia Sola / Ratio for iPhone and iPad

Sia Sola is a board game invented by Oliver Schaudt and produced by Clemens Gerhards KG. It is a sequential movement puzzle with clever mechanics, and on the App Store there is not one, but two versions of it:

Sia Sola ($0.99) / Sia Sola Lite (Free), developed by Feuerware;
Ratio - the puzzle ($1.99), developed by Pantorix.

Neither of the apps seems to be an official port, but they both credit Oliver Schaudt for the idea.

During gameplay, Sia Sola looks like this:
and Ratio looks like this:
Ratio is clearly better graphically, but let's talk about the puzzle.
The board is a 4x3 grid, containing two large stones and up to 8 smaller stones. As you can see, the large stones are placed inside the grid squares, while the small stones are placed over the grid intersections.
You only move the large stones. At the beginning, they are placed on opposite sides of the board. The goal is to swap their position.

The clever part of the mechanics is the role that the small stones have on the moves you c…

Second Look: Perfect Tiling

After publishing the review of Perfect Tiling a few days ago and making some criticism on the apparent inability to solve its puzzles through logic, I realized that one of the puzzle modes is, on the contrary, perfectly suited to logic deductions.
I solved a few dozens puzzles in that mode and I couldn't stop playing.
Interestingly, despite the puzzles being randomly generated, they all had a unique solution, and the solving process was varied and fun. The difficulty seemed to be more or less the same for all the puzzles, until I stumbled onto this one:
Here it was easy to start by putting a red tile in the bottom right corner, but soon enough things got trickier and there didn't seem to be an obvious way to move forward through logic. Eventually, however, I figured it out, and completed the puzzle using only rigorous deductions. It was challenging and enjoyable—exactly what these puzzles should be.

Therefore, I updated the review to reflect my new discovery: just one of the ten a…

Legendary Classes: Covenant Magic !

I'm just going to get out of the way an let David talk about this.

A medium is willingly possessed by a raging ghost to lure it into a magical trap. An occultist bribes a satyr lord into granting him mastery over stormy skies and hardened hearts. A queen makes bloody sacrifices to fiendish masters for perpetual life. All use covenant magic.
Legendary Classes: Covenant Magic from David Nicholas Ross introduces covenants, secretive bargains allowing characters of any class to draw on the supernatural gifts of spirits such as fey, outsiders, and undead. This book also introduces mediums, true masters of covenant magic who can contact spirits, call on a spirit guide for supernatural attacks, empower allies and hinder foes with spell-like abilities, and enter a trance that unlocks covenants without a price and enhances their toughness and magical might. This book contains the following: The medium base class, specializing in one of 11 influences such as Angelic Choirs, Restless Souls, or t…