Review: Puzzle Dimension (PSN)

Puzzle Dimension arrives on a PlayStation Network Store which isn’t exactly undernourished with decent puzzle games. Doctor Entertainment have chosen to bring their critically acclaimed 3D ball-rolling PC puzzler to consoles during what is traditionally the quietest time of the year for game releases. It could be considered brave to enter a packed market with a game that hasn’t had much hype – and during the summer months – but with Puzzle Dimension, it might just be a strategy that pays off.

The game has a single, simple premise: Collect all the sunflowers and return to the portal. Such a simple goal belies the intricate nature of some of the puzzles but that intricacy is nothing to fear because the game is gentle with you to begin with. Soon enough you will be navigating through complex puzzles like it was second nature.

[videoyoutube]The puzzles themselves take the form of 3D areas of pathways, consisting of square tiles, which form shapes suspended in space. Your avatar through these puzzles is a simple rolling sphere which rumbles along in four directions (no diagonals) and can jump one square at a time. The laws of gravity are altered slightly in this space – your ball is able to roll around curved surfaces and stay fixed on the paths, almost as if the tracks were moving and the ball staying still.

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There are obvious comparisons to Kula World (Roll Away in the US) to be made and, in fact, the founders of Doctor Entertainment previously worked on that title so the similarities are clearly intentional. One thing that sets this modern realisation apart from that early PlayStation classic, though, are the visuals. It runs at 60 frames per second in full 1080p and can even make use of your TV’s 3D functionality, should you be so lucky. It is perhaps an odd thing to comment on in a review of a puzzle game but the crisp, clear and consistently rendered appearance of the game world really is something that leaps out from almost every level.

There are a range of extra hazards and mechanics that are presented to you as you work your way through the game too. From crumbling tiles and fire pits that can only be rolled over once to ice sheets which prevent your ball from stopping and switching tiles that only appear after a button has been pressed. In truth, it’s a simple game and even the diversions from the core principles are simple enough but it all just works together exceptionally well, with each new element adding to the complexity and working with previously introduced mechanics.

The visuals are fantastic and even the thumping, pseudo 8-bit, soundtrack is solid and entertaining enough, without ever making itself the star of the piece. What really matters though, is the puzzle design. Here is where Puzzle Dimension’s real strength lies. Early stages are simple affairs, designed more to guide you through the basic controls and introduce some of the hazards. Fairly soon, levels become complex to the point where they seem baffling until that ball starts rolling. Often a level will have no immediately apparent way to solve it until you start rolling that ball around and almost exploring the landscape.

[drop]You also get a points bonus for visiting every tile through a level – converting it from a kind of imagined pixel art style into fully rendered textures – before rolling through the portal. While this is compulsory in early levels, it becomes something you will only really want to aim for when revisiting some of the tricky later stages. You also earn a score multiplier for visiting tiles quickly so you might want to revisit levels to improve your time but the unfortunate omission of online leaderboards means that there is no strong incentive to do so.

The fact that this game was created from a hobby project, worked on in the spare time of the accomplished men behind it, is inspirational. There isn’t a narrative or any need for characters, scripting or much of the other peripheral work that goes into so many modern video games but what this kind of game absolutely requires is finely balanced difficulty levels and well designed puzzles. That’s exactly where the focus lies with Puzzle Dimension and the result is probably one of the best puzzle games available on the PlayStation Network today.

Pros:

  • Simple premise guiding your hand through puzzles with amazing complexity.
  • Visually resplendent and consistent throughout.
  • It doesn’t try to do too much but what it does is so finely tuned.

Cons:

  • Needs online leaderboards and a level editor to complete the package.
  • It’s not a wholly original idea or implementation.

Puzzle Dimension, like its spiritual predecessor – Kula World – is a simple idea that is acted upon with great focus and substantial ingenuity to produce a complex and compelling puzzle game. It’s not an entirely original concept for 2011 but it is completed and presented so well that it’s easy to recommend this game to anyone looking for a bit of cerebral acrobatics from a PSN game. Inclusion of online leaderboards and a level editor would make this the best of its kind.

Score: 8/10

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19 Comments

  1. looks fantastic!

  2. As a fan of the original Kula World, I picked this up cheap on Steam a while ago. It’s great, I’ll be getting it for the PS3 too (since I actually play stuff on the PS3 far more often…)

  3. Looks good, my kind of thing. Any idea when it’ll be released?

    • Agreed. Really looks lovely and is there a specific release date?

      Lovely little review, Peter. Pitched perfect for some relaxed gaming when I need a break from bashing zombie heads together.

      • Release date is this week’s store updates in the EU and US, I think.

      • If not, I’m popping ’round your house with promises of whisky and candy in return for a game or three. ;-)

      • oooh, you bring the whiskey and I’ll charge the controllers!

  4. It reminds me a little of SwitchBall, another PSN game i like. Great review and definitely a game i’ll be picking up.

  5. Awesome more great games from Sweden :P

  6. lovely review :) Kula World was a great simple game which ive had some good fun on and this looks kinda like cuboid too, which is too challenging for me :) tempted to get some money in my psn wallet now :/

  7. Sounds like my kinda game! Was a bit disappointed with Switchball, but think I picked it up when it was on offer? Can’t remember!

  8. *Like*

    What’s the price?

    • €9.99/$9.99 so probably either £9.99 or £7.29 in the UK. Under a tenner, anyway. And there’s like a hundred levels or something, it’s quite lengthy.

      • $9.99 and €9.99 has been £7.99 of late.

      • 75 Norwegian kroner, then. Nice :)

  9. Looks great! Will check it out when it is released.

  10. Uh oh, another PS3 game (after Shatter) where the backgrounds would make beautiful music visualisations (for PS3).

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