I have a puzzle for you…
The puzzle game is one of my favorite genres of all time. I enjoy shooting bad guys and jumping on platforms as much as the next guy, but sometimes I just want to relax with a game focused on using your brain rather than reflexes. Puzzle games come in many forms, from the puzzle-FPS Portal to puzzle adventure games like Myst. Today, I’d like to focus on a few puzzle games on Steam. Steam’s methods of digital distribution are excellent for small, indie puzzle games. There’s quite a number of puzzle games that cost next to nothing and are good for the gamer who’s looking for a short but brain-taxing experience. So if you want a quick puzzle game for five bucks or less, here’s eight games you can grab on Steam right now.
10,000,000 (pronounced “ten million”) is a puzzle game in the vein of Bejeweled or Candy Crush with a bit of a twist. This game is also an action game and an RPG. The main gameplay involves you shifting tiles around on a board in order to match three or more of the same type of tile. But in this game, the tiles correspond to different actions for your character as he crawls through a dungeon. If there’s an enemy, match either the sword or staff tiles to attack. Come across a chest, match the key tiles. It’s a very interesting combination, and it really works. There’s also a base-building mechanic that you can do in-between adventures which upgrades the strength of your tiles. Your ultimate goal is to reach ten million points on one run, which is an enticing and challenging task. If you’re looking for something just a little bit different, this is one game to check out.
Chip’s Challenge 1 + 2
Cost: $5 for both games + level editor
Here’s a classic game brought to Steam – Chip’s Challenge is probably very familiar to you if you owned a Windows computer in the late 90’s. It was packaged in one of the Windows Entertainment Packs and quickly became the most notable title in the package. There was a sequel developed by its creator Chuck Sommerville, but he could never release it due to trademark issues. Those problems were finally resolved in 2015, where the original game, the sequel and a level editor were released on Steam. You play as Chip McCallahan as he collects computer chips inside deadly labyrinths, avoiding monsters and solving puzzles. It’s a hard game to be sure but one that is incredibly well-designed. And hey, if that wasn’t good enough, you can also get the spiritual successor, Chuck’s Challenge 3D, for another four bucks. That’s quite a deal.
This is a game I’ve already reviewed on this site (you can check that out here) but also one that I think deserves more attention. It’s a short-but-sweet puzzle game with an interesting gimmick where you control two characters at once on two sides of the screen. You have to guide both characters through various puzzles in order to proceed. It’s not a very long game, but it’s one that I think has a lot of potential. It was developed by one person, Italian game developer Claudio Bozzotta. You can read my review for more details, but the bottom line is that this is a fun, challenging, and well-designed puzzle game that more people need to be made aware of. And hey, it’s really cheap, too, and well-worth the price tag.
Let’s talk about another game from the Windows Entertainment Pack – ever played a little game called Minesweeper, the game about disabling mines and avoiding blowing up? Hexcells is like that without the element of danger. You have to mark certain tiles based on the number on “safe” tiles that indicates the number of dangerous tiles it’s touching. It’s a bit weird to explain, but it’s the same principle as Minesweeper, and if you haven’t played that game, it’s still easy to figure out once you start playing. It’s also a more minimalistic puzzle game, with simple graphics and a very relaxing atmosphere. It’s a common theme among indie puzzle games (in fact, the next three games in this list also follow this style), and it’s nice to both look at and listen to. It’s relaxing to look at something that isn’t incredibly flashy or in-your-face.
Hook is the kind of game that you beat in one sitting and then put down for a while before picking it back up again. It can be beaten in around an hour, and the only thing you have to figure out is how to beat each puzzle to move on. And for just a dollar, it works really well. Hook involves you pushing buttons to retract hooks that are caught in each other. But if the hook can’t retract because there’s another one in the way, then you have to try again. Like any good puzzle game, it’s simple to understand and leads to some incredible puzzles. That’s all you can really ask for in a short, one-dollar game. Like Fearful Symmetry, this was also developed by one person, this time being the Polish develor Maciej Targoni. He has two other $1 puzzle games on Steam called klocki and oO (weird titles, I know), which you can also get in a bundle that I recommend wholeheartedly.
This is one I’ve always heard of but never played until writing this article. Lyne is focused on creating lines that pass through shapes without crossing over each other. Again, simple concept leads to great puzzle design. But this one is absolutely loaded with content – about 650 puzzles plus a few daily puzzles that add even more content. This is definitely the puzzle game you want to go to if you want the absolute most bang for your buck. Even disregarding that, though, it’s still a good puzzle game in its own right. This one seems to have more of an emphasis on its atmosphere than other puzzle games. There’s text in the game that explains what you have to do as well as name the puzzle, and strangely, they tie into the theme of calming you down. And like a good puzzle game does, Lyne does calm you down while also testing your brain.
Another puzzle game focused on making lines, Unium is inspired by classic Nonograms, also known as Picross, which I heavily enjoy. Your goal is to draw a line through every single black tile in a picture in the shape of a distinct object. This is one that works a lot on trial-and-error, but the game does have a hint system in the form of a recommended tile to start drawing your line on. But on a lot of puzzles, you don’t have to follow it, which I like. This game also has something the other games in this list don’t have that increases its replayability, and that’s Workshop support. The Workshop is full of user-made puzzles for you to sink your teeth into after you finish the main game. A lot of puzzle games suffer because of the finite amount of puzzles that put a damper on enjoying multiple playthroughs. Unium, thankfully, doesn’t have that problem.
The Zup! series
Cost: $1 each
The games in the Zup! series are known essentially for one thing – tons of achievements. For games that take less than an hour to complete, they have an assload of achievements. Let’s take Zup! 2 for example – you get an achievement for unlocking a puzzle, opening that puzzle for the first time, and then finishing that puzzle. That’s a hell of a lot of achievements, but you know what? The game itself is really fun. It’s a physics-based puzzle game where you have to navigate a blue object onto a green platform by detonating explosive boxes. Some of the puzzles in the early game solve themselves, but slowly you get more thought-out puzzles that require expert timing. There’s currently four games in the series which essentially act as level packs, and they’re all in a convenient bundle for you to grab if you’re curious enough.