The 8 Ball 12.18.12: Top 8 Puzzle Games
Posted by Marc Morrison on 12.18.2012
From Tetris, Bust-A-Move, and Lumines to Intelligent Qube, Elements, and more, 411ĺs Marc Morrison ranks his Top 8 Puzzle Games!
Welcome to another weekly installment of The 8 Ball. In this week's column I intend to count down the best-of-the-best 8 puzzle games when it comes to video games. There is an extremely blurry line between "Puzzle" games and "Adventure" games, where-in most (if not all) adventure games have some elements of puzzles within them. For the sake of this list, I'm going to generally limit my choices into the "casual" puzzle gaming realm. While Portal and Myst are puzzle games in their own right, I'm more talking about games with no story at all, and it being almost completely about the puzzles in the game. Let's get the puzzles started:
8. Mercury HG
Mercury HG comes from a long line of "guide the fluid around a level" game style, made popular by prior Mercury-maze games, dating back decades. I found Mercury HG to be the best of the digital lot though, with nicely detailed graphics, good controls, and a ton of puzzles for you to discover and best. With each puzzle having different goals, such as time, and amount of Mercury that you finish with, things like that. It's not the deepest puzzle game in the world, but it is relaxing to play, until you reach a level that you spend an hour on, because you just can't finish it.
Elements is a puzzle game few of you have heard of, but is an extremely solid game overall. It's in the vein of Bejeweled somewhat, with having to match things together, but is much more than that. Each level consists of gems on a board, red, blue, white, green, purple, etc. (each color represents a nature element). You have a goal on the bottom, let's say "complete 3 red pairs, 4 blue pairs, 2 green pairs", so you match up each element with each other, which creates a bigger element (creating a pair), which you must then match up with the same size/color element. It sounds simple at first, but later on becomes increasingly more difficult when you have 7 elements to deal with, trying to match them all up to each other to clear out the board in one go. The game really flew under the radar but is well worth a look, if you are able to find it.
6. World of Goo
While there are much deeper/complex structure building games out there, World of Goo combines simple mechanics, a good art style, and a pleasing atmosphere into making it a highly accessible game. The game just has you building structures out of Gooballs to the escape tube, where your extra Gooballs can escape. The trick is to not waste too many of your Gooballs building your structure or else you won't have enough to actually exit and complete the level. The game has a very nice difficulty ramp up though, so it eases you into the more complex puzzles later on.
Bust-a-Move has been around for nearly 20 years. Really try and think about that, and then probably get nostalgic about that time. Bust-a-Move was the first in the "aim gems at the ceiling" game that has become a genre unto itself since its release. My initial discovery of this genre was actually Snood, which was just a rehash of the game with a few power ups, Bust-a-Move is what started it. A game board has several colored bubbles on it in a pattern. You have a gun that shoots random bubbles, and you need to match 3 same colored bubbles in order for the grouping to go away. The only real downside to Bust-a-Move is that it sometimes feels random at points. Sometimes shots line up perfectly, and sometimes a bit of quirkiness kicks in and the shot misses. It's not a game-breaker, but it is something I've noticed as I've played through the years.
4. Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo
The first of our two block-falling games, Puzzle Fighter took the Tetris-style formula and added in a real competitive aspect by marrying it to a fighting game. The gameplay is Tetris-like, only instead of making lines disappear, you build different patterns for with your blocks (in four different colors), and you can only destroy them with crash gems (circle energy blocks), or with a diamond. A crash gem will erase all of the color it comes in contact with (only what it touches), while the diamond erases all of the color on the board. Getting rid of blocks allows you to put timed-blocks on your opponent's screen which can help screw up their strategies. Plus, Chun-Li looks absolutely adorable in this game.
I've never been very good at Lumines, but I've always admired it and had fun with it. The gameplay involves a square made up of four squares (of two different colors) being dropped onto the playfield. Every few seconds a line will pass through the playfield that will erase all the squares that are made up of four of the same colored little squares. Blocks will then drop down that were sitting above which can help create greater patterns. The game has a simple aesthetic but I really like how each new song introduces a new color mechanic, and the music is actually solid as well.
2. Intelligent Qube
Intelligent Qube, like Elements, is kind of an unknown to a lot of people. The game is about guiding your character around in a level trying to survive, as cubes roll on the level coming down on you. You can mark a single square on the ground and when a cube rolls over it, you can delete it. There are standard grey cubes, green cubes (which let you set a bomb where they got erased) and black cubes that shouldn't be deleted, else a row of the level gets destroyed. It has a real minimalist look to it, considering it was on the Playstation 1, but Intelligent Qube was an extremely fun and challenging puzzle game to try and pick up. It's also fairly rare and expensive at this point but is well-worth a look at.
One of the comments on last week's column was to not make Tetris number one, simply because of its popularity with casual gamers. It's number one because it's simply the best puzzle game to have been made. Everyone knows how to play it, and has a memory or two of it. My memories consist of using the original Gameboy's link cable to play with various school friends, a decade and a half ago. The game only continually speeds up as you play, making it more challenging, but more fun as you get through it. At least until you inevitably fail and the screen fills with garbage that can't easily be cleared. The pressure then is on, and you can either try to fix the problems that were created, or else you make more which puts even more pressure on you. This single game launched the Gameboy, not only as a console, but as a cultural icon.
I should preface this by saying I never owned a Nintendo DS at all. So I never played Professor Layton or the Brain Age stuff at all. I did play a little Phoenix Wright and Ghost Trick on my iPod, but those aren't the best gameplay experiences. Anyway, here's a short list of games people are likely to complain about not being somewhere on this list: Lemmings, Portal, Crazy Machines, Puzzle Quest, Bejeweled, Bejewled Twist, Mr. Driller, Every Extend Extra, Dr. Mario, Zuma, Snood, Hexic, and Braid.
The General Roundup
As far as last week's column goes, a number of you really liked Mega Man 2. I wasn't a huge fan of that one, but a number of you seemed to enjoy it. At least only one person said Mega Man 3 and my response to that is "Top Man". The biggest stumbling block to me for Resident Evil 3 is that Jill is dressed like a hooker throughout the game. "Ok, I'm in a city full of zombies, viruses and monsters, let's put on a mini-skirt and tube top and get to business!" No, thank you. I also enjoyed Rival Schools and Strider (specifically Strider 2 on the PS1) a lot, but they aren't really worthy to be on a Top games list. Also, in a few weeks, I'm going to try and add another part to this column, a secondary list done by another video game writer. Hopefully it can provide some more discussion about these topics.
What do you want the 8 Ball to be about next week?
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