Puzzle Dimension is an incredibly simple game at heart, with balls to roll and sunflowers to collect. Don’t let the videos and screenshots trick you, however – this is a force to be reckoned with. Tricky solutions are at hand, and storming straight into a puzzle without carefully thinking it through first will most likely end in your demise.
Yet while Puzzle Dimension brings some lovely ideas to the table, it’s hard to shake the fact that you’re still rolling a ball around a maze, and that actually it’s all a bit dull. It feels a little harsh to say it, but this game could quite easily have been a tech demo showing off a new physics engine.
On each of Puzzle Dimension‘s 100 levels, your job is to roll a ball around a series of platforms, collecting sunflowers along the way. Once every sunflower has been collected, a portal opens through which you can complete the level and move on.
Apart from moving in four directions, the ball can also jump over a single platform. This is a key element to many of the game’s puzzles, as certain platforms can only be rolled over once. Hence, you’ll be leaping over these platforms so they can be used at a later, more convenient point.
Just to put a (quite literal) spin on this rather sedate formula, platforms can spiral through 360 degrees. The ball uses the platform it is currently on as its direction of gravity, and so can roll upside down – however, if it rolls off the edge of a platform, it will continue to use its previous gravitational direction and fall. This idea is used in many of the later puzzles, allowing you to roll on both the top and bottom of a platform.
Initially the game slowly lets you dip your toe into the concept, but it’s soon hurting your brain. Some of the solutions are really quite clever, and provide a great deal of ‘ahh now I get it!’ moments. New concepts are introduced one by one, and the game will run with an idea before it has exhausted the premise before latching onto a new one.
You get the feeling, however, that the whole thing would feel a lot more fun if it wasn’t a boring sphere knocking around a rather dull-looking universe. There’s barely any personality to proceedings, and it definitely leaves a mark on the gameplay. Perhaps if there had been a theme surrounding the whole thing, it may have been more of a joy to play. Think how boring Super Monkey Ball may have been if it didn’t involve monkeys, and you get the idea.
The constantly rotating screen is also a bit of a turn-off. The camera does not spin smoothly and as you go around curves, will jolt into position. It feels very disorientating and my eyes certainly didn’t enjoy it. Note that I’m pretty sure a game has never disorientated me in such a way before – my eyes can usually put up with anything thrown at them – so I can’t begin to imagine how it may affect other players.
My final gripe is that puzzles are not unlocked quick enough. The next world is usually only opened up once you’ve nearly completed the previous world, which is reasonable, but it would have been nice to have the option to try other levels in case you find yourself stuck.
Puzzle Dimension has a great retro-to-HD vibe in play. Levels are initially pixelated, and as the ball rolls around, they burst into HD visuals. It’s a really interesting idea, and gives a great feeling of progression while looking rather lovely.
The soundtrack follows suit – 8-bit retro tracks slowly morph into clear, recently-crafted tunes. The games description describes the music as ‘adaptive’, and I really can’t argue with that – it’s a successfully realised concept.
It’s smoothly done, but as mentioned previously, the personality is missing. You’re rolling around a world made of platforms, with only generic backdrops for company. A more vibrant theme would surely have peaked my interest a little more.
With my moaning about the lack of personality, you’ll be unsurprised to hear that Puzzle Dimension features no story. This sort of game can really prosper from having a decent reasoning behind why exactly you’re rolling a huge ball around a maze, but alas, a missed opportunity.
I really wanted to enjoy Puzzle Dimension. There are some great ideas to be found, and some genuinely interesting puzzles that really get your brain working. Unfortunately, it’s all wrapped up in a rather generic packaging that helps to emphasize just how boring a premise it really is.
Hence, it’s difficult to recommend buying the game. However, you should definitely give the demo a try – perhaps you’ll be able to see past the outside and find some solace with the inner workings.