I’m always on the lookout for a good puzzle game. There’s nothing like one to while away the time on a commute, kill dead time between meetings, or avoid drooling down your shirt during a boring speech while looking (if no one is too close) like you’re doing something very important and productive.
So when I ran across Glyphos, the latest release from award-winning developers PDAmill, I had to check it out. The name sounds Greek, the color scheme is 70s sci-fi, and the puzzle works like a cross between Kakuro and paint-by-numbers. For details on the game, you’ll have to click the jump.
Details on the Game
The object of Glyphos is to figure out the design encoded by the numbers around the board. Each number means that there is a run of that color of that length in that row or column. For example, the 2, 2 in the top row means that somewhere in the row there must be two black squares together, a gap, and then two more black squares together. The puzzle is solved when all of the colored squares are placed correctly.
Puzzles come in a range of difficulties, from 6×6 black and white boards to 12×12 brainteasers that use all four colors. The logic used for solving is a little bit like in Kakuro, where numbers are placed along rows and columns to add up to certain numbers, but Glyphos is not as hard. However, it’s definitely addictive.
Menus and Interaction
One of my favorite parts of the game, which I unfortunately was not able to get a screenshot of, is the puzzle picker, accessed by the "Map" button. Glyphos comes with 50 each of 6×6, 8×8, 10×10, and 12×12 puzzles for a total of 200. Each size gets its own screen in the puzzle map. Puzzles are arranged roughly in order of increasing difficulty, and those you haven’t finished are displayed as a questions mark while the ones you have solved are shown as an icon of the solution. This is a fun way to visually keep track of your progress, and sometimes it’s easier to see the picture that the solution makes in miniature.
Interaction with Glyphos is very intuitive and user-friendly. The mechanics of filling in the puzzle are so intuitive that explaining them would be an insult to your intelligence. Loading a game and choosing a puzzle is a breeze as well. The only hard part is figuring out the solution!
The game asks you which of four slots you would like to save your progress to every time you exit. I would like the saving process to be automatic, since you choose which slot to load every time you open the game. Also, there is never a downside to saving what you have done, unlike in, say, an RPG where you can back yourself into a corner without realizing it.
Graphics and Music
As you can see from the screenshots, while the graphics are not exactly elaborate, they are very polished. One nice touch from PDAmill is the zoom frame. While I am blessed with good eyesight and a PDA with a VGA screen, not everyone has these advantages, and the zoom frame makes the numbers (which are getting pretty small by the time you reach the 12×12 puzzles) easier to read.
I’m not a huge fan of the color and font scheme. All of the individual elements are arranged logically and appropriately, but it is as if PDAmill had a great idea for a game but didn’t know exactly how to package it. What sort of atmosphere is Glyphos trying to create? I’m not really sure. Personally the puzzle design makes me think of Roman mosaics, but that’s definitely not the vibe I get from the rest of the interface (or the title, for that matter — it’s called Glyphos but there are no glyphs!). Similarly, the music is perfectly fine, but it doesn’t seem to have a real identity that adds anything to gameplay.
Time Attack Mode
So far I’ve mostly discussed the regular mode, but it’s worth mentioning that there is a second way to play Glyphos. Time Attack is accessed directly from the home screen. It puts up a random puzzle and starts counting down from 15:00. How many puzzles can you solve before time runs out?
While Time Attack is a nice idea, all of the puzzles are the same ones from the regular mode. Seeing them again is not terribly exciting. I wish Time Attack generated new, random puzzles. As it is, it did not give me the replay value that I had hoped for.
The puzzle at the heart of Glyphos is a pretty good one. It’s fun and addictive with a nice range of difficulties, and seeing the picture when the puzzle is solved is very satisfying. Aside from my artistic issues with the packaging, my biggest complaint with Glyphos was that it was over too soon.
Glyphos plays on Windows Mobile Classic, Professional, and Pocket PC devices. It’s available from PDAmill for the very reasonable price of $9.95.