Review: Puzzle Dimension

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There are about a jillion ways to roll a ball around on Steam, so it really matters how clever the challenges of rolling them are. Puzzle Dimensions starts out simply enough, tasking you with rolling your ornate ball into flowers and portals without plunging into the abyss. But the puzzles amp up quickly, pushing your comprehension of the mechanics to their limits before then introducing new ones. It’s a straightforward game with clear mechanics, but succeeds in making the most of them as any good puzzle game does.

Despite being a big proponent of narratives in games, I really appreciate that puzzle games specifically do not require any world-building. This leaves the developers free to craft a wholly unique setting for their puzzles, like the yawning cubist void found here. Your gilded sphere tumbles around on square platforms suspended in this place, turning their appearance from pixellated to high-resolution when it gets near. I have no idea why it does this but it’s a neat touch that helps you keep track of where you’ve been, and also adds the optional challenge of completely de-pixellating a puzzle before solving it.

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Solving said puzzles is as simple as collecting all the flowers and reaching the exit gate. Your ball is locked to the grid of squares so don’t worry about tight maneuvers or twitch reflexes here, all you need is extensive planning. You can only roll and jump, so everything past that is going to depend on the features of the level and there a lot. I’ve had to contend with frozen blocks, collapsing platforms, springboards, fire traps, and switch-activated spikes, all just in the first few dozen levels. There’s nothing really unique among those hazards admittedly, but they’re used in devious combinations that have stumped me more than once.

What is (more) unique is how gravity works. Some platforms are slanted up or down, and when you roll onto them your view rotates to match. This also rotates gravity, and it stays in its new bearing until you traverse another incline. That means if you roll your ball up a 90 degree slope and then hop off the side, the world stays turned on its edge. You’ll be using this in the vast majority of levels to collect flowers on the tops, bottoms, and sides of platforms, and some of the transitions can be pretty tricky to find and use.

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I keep mentioning it but the real appeal of Puzzle Dimensions is that it’s actually pretty hard. Even with just the most basic mechanics in play, the puzzles challenge you to work out optimal paths and three-dimensional solutions. And if you don’t struggle to beat the stages, there’s a whole scoring and multiplier mechanic tied to de-pixellating platforms that adds an extra layer to puzzle over. Honestly I’m only about halfway into the game but almost every level has me spending minutes just staring at the layout, planning my moves out a dozen rolls in advance.

As solid as the puzzling is, keep in mind that’s all you’re getting. There are no customization options, no unlocks, no secret stages, nothing but your brain versus a hundred devious puzzles. The graphics at least are incredibly sharp, with bold colors and incredibly detailed textures. The interface is nice and clean as well, and the audio design features rich, immersive effects that bother to get the sound of metal on stone or ice correct. Overall it reminds me a lot of the early titles on Xbox Live Arcade, simple, no-frills games polished to a mirror shine. That’s exactly what you’re getting here, a clean-cut puzzler that delivers on challenge in a big way.

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