I always like to take a Puzzler magazine with me when I go on holiday and whilst adding a few things to my Christmas wish list at Amazon it popped up with a recommendation of Puzzler World 2011 for the Nintendo DS. I usually pay no attention to these recommendations but this time I was intrigued so I had a quick look at the product and decided to add it to my wish list.
On Christmas morning I was lucky enough to find a copy of Puzzler World 2011 under my tree. However I also received a copy of Professor Layton which I was really keen to play so this game was put in the drawer for a later time. After completing the Prof Layton game I got this one out and started to play.
My first impression as the game started was that it was bright and colourful but it looked very simplistic. I was a little worried that it would be too easy and that I would not enjoy it.
The first screen gives you the opportunity to set up your game slot. Using the touch screen you write your name in the appropriate place. There are three game slots which I always find useful as the children always seem to want to start playing a game once they see me with it.
To begin the game you click onto challenge mode.
There are 560 puzzles in the challenge mode section and each is represented by a coloured block with a number on it. There is a scroll bar at the side to allow you to see the whole screen and access any puzzle. I was obviously feeling a bit stupid when I started and it took me a couple of days to notice that the colour of the block determines the type of puzzle that it accesses ( I just thought they were different colours to look pretty!).
Whilst you are on the Challenge Mode screen the left-hand screen shows you the game data, the top box shows the puzzle number you have selected, how many puzzles there are of that type and how many of them you have completed, the bottom box tells you how many hint tokens you have and what percentage of all of the challenge mode puzzles you have completed.
When I first started playing the game I stated at puzzle 1 and just worked my way through them one at a time for a while. I started to regret getting the game because some of the puzzles were so easy they were literally taking me 30 seconds to a minute to complete and so were not very challenging and were really quite boring. However I scrolled down the puzzle numbers and realised that the puzzles gradually got more difficult and interesting as the game progressed.
What surprised me when I started this game is that there are no instructions for the game modes incorporated into the game so if you aren't sure how to play a game there is no on-screen clue, you have to refer to the instruction booklet.
There are nine main types of puzzle that the game offers in Challenge Mode:
Wordsearch (Blue) -A word grid appears on the touch screen and using the stylus you simply drag it over the letters that form one of the words listed on the left hand screen. The words are always on a theme and as the game progresses the number of words to find increases as does the size of the letter grid. I enjoy this game as it is easy to play with the stylus and if you want to make it more challenging you can disregard the list of words and just try to find words relating to the theme. There are 105 of these puzzles.
Sudoku (Red) -These number puzzles start with just boxes of 6 numbers before moving up to boxes of 9 numbers. The first couple were very easy but I soon found that they became very tricky and could soon take me about 15-20 minutes to complete. I usually manage Sudoku puzzles quite quickly and enjoy them but some of these seemed particularly difficult. You use the stylus to highlight a box on the grid and then you have to write the number in a large box at the bottom. I seemed to be forever trying to write straight onto the grid once I had highlighted the box which was my own fault but I found it irritating. You can use a note mode to add numbers to boxes in small writing whilst working it out which is helpful. There are 105 of these puzzles but I have only completed about 20 as I find the method of input of the answers quite tedious.
Hide & Seek (Yellow) -This puzzle consists of a picture on the touch screen and a selection of shapes on the left hand screen, you have to spot the shapes within the picture and touch the square that contains the shape. This is an apparently easy puzzle that is more difficult than it first appears as the shapes can be well hidden. There are 35 of these puzzles.
Link-A-Pix (turquoise)- Most of the puzzles in this game are reasonably self-explanatory if you are familiar with Puzzler magazine. This puzzle however stumped me completely. Once I touched the puzzle cube I was greeted by a grid with what appeared to be random numbers of various colours dotted around it. At first I thought it was a bit like Minesweeper but it soon became apparent that this wasn't the case. Eventually I had to give in and go and find the instruction book which said that pairs of matching coloured numbers had to be linked with a line of squares matching the number to form a picture. With these instructions appearing as clear as mud to me I had another go. Eventually I worked out what I was doing and the first few puzzles were very straightforward but they soon became challenging. Although I would say that I really like word puzzles I have found that this is definitely my favourite game of the whole selection. The grids have become really challenging and working out all the possible permutations of joining the numbers to form the picture correctly keeps me entertained for ages. There are 70 of these puzzles.
Crossword (Green)- I am sure everyone is familiar with what a crossword is. Playing it on here is a little like the Sudoku in that you write your letter in the box at the bottom and it enters the highlighted box in the grid. If filling in a whole word is automatically moves to the next letter but you have to be careful once the grid starts to fill up as it jumps over squares that are already completed so I have ended up with the letters in the wrong square as I have not been watching carefully as I fill it in. You use the up and down arrow keys on the screen (or the cross key on the DS) to move through the clues on the left-hand screen. After the first few levels I found I enjoyed these as they became a little more challenging but certainly not too tough. The only problem I found was that I had trouble getting the DS to recognise a couple of my letters and if I didn't notice I could end up with the wrong letter in a word. It works on uppercase letters and G was probably the most troublesome until I realised that I just need to write a C with a line going inwards rather than a separate line like I normally do. There are 70 of the puzzles.
Fitword (Pink)- This puzzle consists of fitting a selection of words into a grid to resemble a crossword. You simply scroll through the words and when you see one you wish to place you touch it with your stylus and move it over the corresponding space to drop it. These were very boring at first as the grid highlights which slots a word can fit in, so if you only have one 7 letter word it already shows you where it has to go, you don't even have to think. I found that I got bored with these long before they became challenging but looking at the higher number puzzles they are probably worth playing as they do look more involving. There are 70 of these puzzles.
Backwords (Lime green) -This puzzle presents you will a grid of letters and a set of crossword clues and you have to black out the squares that are not needed to form a proper crossword grid. This game works really well on the DS as it is easy to tap the squares to colour them in and even the early puzzles area good challenge and are fun to play band this is another one of my favourites. Unfortunately there are only 35 of these puzzles.
Pieceword (Orange) -This is a completed crossword that has been split into 3x3 blocks that have been mixed up and you have to slide them around to rearrange it back to a complete puzzle. The relevant clues are shown on the left hand screen. This is another game that transfers well to the DS as it is easy to swap and move the pieces as you think of new ways to complete the grid. There are 35 of these puzzles.
Silhouette (purple) -This is basically a children's puzzle and it seems a bit out of place in this game. You are presented with a series of shapes and to discover the hidden picture you have to tap on the shapes with a dot in them. When you have tapped all the dots the picture turns to colour, I really don't understand the point of this one and only completed them when I was in need of more hint coins!
After completing each game in Challenge Mode you are offered a Bonus Game, you can either play it immediately or at a later time by touching the square again. Challenge puzzles that you have completed show with a star on them and the star turns gold if you won the bonus game too. The bonus games are quick, they usually have a minute or 30 second time limit and successfully completing them lets you spin the bonus wheel. Spinning the bonus wheel gives you hint coins, any number from 10 to 75 depending on where the wheel stops.
The type of bonus game you are offered depends on the Puzzle game you played. Sudoku will usually give you number puzzles, word puzzles usually give you Anagrams or Hangman and Picture puzzles give you Jigsaw or memory puzzles.
I enjoy the bonus puzzles as the timer makes them challenging even though they are quick. You can go back and play them again if you need more hint coins.
After you have completed a certain proportion of games in Challenge Mode you get a message that puzzles have been added to your Master Mode. These are listed under the type of puzzle and they are more difficult versions of the puzzles you have already been playing. I have particularly enjoyed the Backwords and Link-A-Pix on here as they have taken me quite a while to complete. There appear to be 16 to collect for each puzzle type (even the ridiculous Silhouette)
When I first started playing this game I didn't realise there is a facility to save a puzzle to come back to later. You can only have one puzzle saved at a time but this is particularly useful when tackling a Master Mode puzzle. It is not very apparent because you have to press the Start key to leave the puzzle, it then asks you if you want to quit (at this point I was answering No), after you have answered Yes it gives you the option of saving the puzzle. You can then go on to play a different puzzle if you wish but only the one will be saved in the background. I often pop my DS in my handbag for the interminable waits that I have in the car whilst picking up the children from various activities so it is really useful to be able to play for a couple of minutes and then save the game easily.
At various points you get awarded Trophies which you can view on your trophy shelf, these are for things like completing your first Master Mode puzzle or collecting 1000 hint tokens. This does not interest me at all but it must appeal to some people, perhaps to monitor their progress.
As I mentioned earlier sometimes the game has trouble recognising my letters. I soon adjusted my writing but if it is a persistent problem there is an option to "teach" the game your letters, you can just choose the individual letter and rewrite it so the game recognises what you write.
As a rule I hate the sound on all DS games and always have my volume turned off. This game is no exception; it has the most mind-numbing tinkly music which is a complete waste of time.
As you progress through the game the puzzles get harder and occasionally you may be stumped. In this case you can use your Hint Coins to help you. You simply touch "Hint" on the screen and it will give you 3 options requiring 5, 10 or 20 coins depending on how helpful they will be. I have found when doing the Master Mode Link-A-Pix I sometimes have to opt for the 10 hint several times which is "Remove all incorrect lines off the grid".
As I said at the beginning when I started playing this game I thought I had made a mistake. However I have now been playing it avidly since mid-January and I am still only 30% of the way through the Challenge Mode and have completed about 15 Master Mode puzzles. This is certainly a game that I will be playing for a long time and also most of the games have great replay value as well.
The game is played by holding the DS upright, like a book and that struck me as odd when I first started playing but I have now got used to it and it seems perfectly normal.
All of the graphics are clear and bright and easy to read, I just think it is a shame that there are no on screen instructions available.
There is no age rating on this game as there is nothing to cause offence but it is really an adult game as most children would not find it entertaining. Having said that my son is 13 and was home from school ill a couple of weeks ago and knowing that he always used to like Wordsearches I gave it to him to play. He enjoys the Wordsearch, Silhouette and Hide & Seek and surprisingly he has also taken a shine to the Link-A-Pix and now every night when I go to bed I find my DS on the floor outside his bedroom door as he has taken it to bed to play a few more puzzles.
After a shaky start I would certainly recommend this game to anyone who enjoys puzzles and who doesn't necessarily want to be challenged with something as tough as the Times crossword. It is fun, easy to play, convenient to pick up and save and provides many, many hours of entertainment. It is currently on sale with Amazon at £12.99 which is a bargain price for the longevity of the game.