Puzzle Dimension Review

   23/08/2010 at 14:28       Tom       3 COMMENTS. - Score 4/5
 - Puzzle Dimension, PC, Puzzle Game, Rolling ball, Doctor Entertainment

I love a good puzzle game. For me it's not just the satisfaction of figuring out the solutions, but also the fact they can be so abstract. A fair break from my normal video game diet of shooting, violence and racing. You certainly don't get much more abstract than a ball rolling around blocks floating in a void, collecting flowers while turning said blocks from pixelated to high-res.

Because that's what Puzzle Dimension is all about. Each level is made out of an assortment of different types of blocks. At the start they're all in a cool faux-retro style very reminiscent of 3D Dot Game Heroes. Guide the ball around the level to collect all the flowers to open the portal that acts as an exit. However the level isn't properly complete until all the blocks in the level are transformed in to high-res versions. This is achieved simply by moving around as any blocks adjacent to the ball will automatically change. The faster you do all this, the higher the score multiplier goes for bragging rights on the online high score tables.

Moving your ball around the levels is done one block at a time. It's not like Marble Madness or XBLA title Marble Blast where the ball will freely roll if on a slope or otherwise affected by momentum. You can also make the ball jump, which covers a 1 block difference, so gaps and traps can be jumped over. In a way Puzzle Dimension reminds me of a sliding block puzzle. Roll 3 blocks left, jump up 1 block, then back right one block.

For added difficulty after a few starter levels Puzzle Dimension adds different blocks to the mix. Crumbling blocks disappear after you move off them, ice causes the ball to slide in the direction it moved on to the block - and often off the side of the level if you're not careful. Spring blocks are like ice only they catapult the ball 2 spaces and so on and so on.

Gravity is also a factor. Roll off the edge of a block and you will fall downwards, either hitting a lower block or just plummeting into the nothingness that surrounds the level. However there are curved paths that the ball will stick to. As long as there's solid ground under the ball then that counts as "down" so you can end up at an angle or even on the flip side of the level. If you do fall, then nearby blocks do not pull you in, so cheeky jumps between surfaces at different angles do not work unless sometime is directly in the path of your ball. Spatial awareness rapidly becomes important as the levels twist around themselves like a pixelated Gordian knot.

Then about mid way through the game, invisible blocks are introduced and this changes the way you have to play significantly. These blocks come in two flavours – ones that are only visible when the ball is next to them and ones that work the other way round, turning from visible to invisible. Sadly all this really adds is unnecessary frustration as forward planning becomes impossible until the level is committed to memory. Instead you're forced to react on a move-by-move basis, this can mean that on the completion of the level may feel more like luck rather than the satisfaction of a puzzle solved.

Where Puzzle Dimension does stand out is the graphics. While it won't tax your graphics card Doctor Entertainment has created a visual style that is simple and clear. It's always obvious what each block is and while it's possible to lose your sense of direction while around at different angles that's all part of the fun. Extra graphical themes are unlocked as you play, with four distinct styles in total. My particular favourite is the third, a lush green forest which actually feels quite serene as you guide the ball around the next head-scratcher. The sound effects don't really graduate beyond simple spot effects, but in a nice touch the tunes are altered alongside the graphics as you progress through each level. Each of the 10 level cluster has a theme which starts out in a chip-tune style, but the bleeps rapidly change to a more modern sound as the level is filled in.

On the negative side, there doesn't appear to be any further incentives to better your scores; extra level clusters and graphical themes are only unlocked by collecting flowers and since levels can only be exited once all flowers have been picked up, everything becomes available as you just work your way through the game for the first time. You may find that once each of the 100 levels are done, there's no real reason to return to them beyond the high-score tables.

However with it's coherent audio and visual style complimenting solid game play ideas and execution, Puzzle Dimension comes across as a very polished title. The difficulty curve is well tuned, so even puzzle beginners will feel comfortable as it introduces more blocks and concepts before properly foxing you with some spacial trickery later on. At £6.99 you're looking at some good value for money, and there's even a free demo so unless you're the type of person who has such a bad sense of direction that you get lost on roundabouts there really is no excuse.

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