Thursday, July 10, 2008

Open Doors

Open Doors is a fairly straightforward Flash puzzle game -- not very heavy on frills and fancy things, but there's an interesting enough concept to keep you entertained throughout its 25 levels.

The puzzle is quite simple: you have to move your character (represented by a box) to the exit of each level. Each level is set on a square blueprint-like grid. There are, of course, walls and doors, the latter of which (as you might be able to guess from the title) are the main source of trickiness in solving the puzzles. The doors follow very simple rules -- each door has two possible positions. If you're directly in front of a door, there are two possibilities for how you can move it: if it opens away from you, you can walk through it, pushing the door to its other position. If it opens towards you, moving away from the door in the direction parallel to the door towards the hinge will pull it to its other position. This probably sounds more complicated than it actually is; once you try you'll pretty readily pick up the rules. It's possible for two doors to occupy the same edge, if they're hinged on opposite corners. If two (or three) doors are hinged on the same corner, then attempting to move one into the edge occupied by the other will cause the other door to also move. This can set up some pretty tricky chain reactions in later levels.

I'm going to go off on a seeming tangent here and talk about how much I hate Sokoban. Sokoban is probably my least favorite widespread puzzle game (unless you count Sudoku in that category, which I don't). Why, you ask? Because it requires so many layers of precise planning ahead. You do an incredibly long sequence of moves to get a bunch of stuff done, and then once you get to the end you realize that no, actually, you had to move that block one space left at the beginning, and so you have to start all over again. (And that assumes you can do everything perfectly every time! It's even more fun when you've finally figured out exactly what you need to do [for real this time], and then two-thirds of the way through your finger slips and you move that one box one square too far and you're completely screwed!) That's why I don't enjoy playing Sokoban -- the cost of failed experiments or wrong guesses is so punitively high. Anyway, around level 12 (I forget exactly where) Open Doors showed signs of drifting into that territory -- you would go one way, through a pretty complicated sequence of doors, and then you'd get to a point where you realized you actually had to go the other way and open one door first and then do all of the things you just did. This made me sad and afraid that the rest of the game would be a horrible slog. Much to my relief, however, it didn't continue to develop those tendencies -- the rest of the levels remained reasonable and manageable.

The blueprint graphic theme is a nice look, although it is pretty basic. There's no music, and the sound effects are also pretty simple. The game also falls prey to one of my pet peeves for puzzle games, in that it marches relentlessly onward -- once you've completed a level, you can't go back and look at it again (short of resetting the whole game). Beating all 25 levels unlocks a special new mode where you have the same puzzles but only a limited number of moves to solve them; since trial and error was my most popular method of solving, I suspect this would rapidly drive me crazy.

Anyway, this isn't a bad puzzle game, but there's not really anything special about it, either. It will definitely provide a challenge for a little bit, but there's better puzzle games out there.

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