Ever heard of Ballance? It's a puzzle game that came out on the PC several years ago in which players guide ball through a labyrinth rife with traps and platforming gameplay mechanics, with the ultimate goal being to get safely to the other side. Puzzle Dimension from Doctor Entertainment is a lot like that, although with higher quality graphics, less gameplay mechanics, and a lot more sunflowers. First released on Steam eleven months ago, Puzzle Dimension has now made its way to the PSN, packing 100 challenging levels.
Puzzle Dimension is easy to get into, but very hard to master. That's a hallmark trait of any good puzzle game I suppose. As the player, you control a bright orb, or ball. Your goal is to roll over sunflowers and then roll through the exit. Doing so requires a lot of planning and careful balance.
Controls are simple -- either the d-pad (which I recommend using) or the left stick moves your ball relative to the current direction the camera is facing. It's important to remember that movement is camera relative; one false move will either leave you stranded, unable to complete the puzzle, or you will simply fall off the level and will have to start all over again. Restarting is something you can expect to do a whole lot if you do not have the patience to plan every move. That said, the right stick controls the camera. Players can also jump over a single tile with X.
Sounds simple enough, but even within the first ten levels, the challenge starts to become evident. The first hazard players face are cracked tiles; you can only touch these once before they crumble and disappear. If you are on the tile at that time, it's game over. Knowing when to roll over or jump onto a cracked tile is key, but more often than not the solution lies in jumping over it completely. By jumping over a cracked tile, you're saving it for later use, which you will likely need it for with some level designs being sort of 'T' shaped (meaning you have to cross the center line more than once). Other hazards include ice tiles that are represented in blue. These tiles can be touched once, but after that, they turn to ice and will send you sliding to an adjacent tile if you touch it again. Spiked, fire, and invisible tiles are also here to ruin your day as you unlock later levels.
Playing Puzzle Dimension is challenging and if you are not patient, it's not really for you. Solving a level is rewarding, but the game does ask you to put up with a lot of frustration along the way. Completing a difficult level was more often than not a feeling of exasperation ("finally!") than one of joy, but then again I'm not really a puzzle gamer, especially not one where an innocent false move means starting over.
The instant deaths in Puzzle Dimension are one of its most grinding aspects. There are no extra lives or forgiving gameplay elements included, except for the fact that the levels (at least the ones I have unlocked) are pretty short. They do not, for example, get as long as ones in Ballance. Still, there's nothing worse than barely mis-timing a jump or pressing 'up' when you meant to press 'left' and seeing the FAILED message appear. Fortunately, given that you unlock a ten pack of puzzles at a time, you can skip a challenging level and try another one very easily.
It's also worth pointing out, although it may be obvious, that movement in Puzzle Dimension is restricted to the four cardinal directions. There are no diagonal movements to be made. However, there are a variety of other three dimensional motions, which is one of the cooler parts of Puzzle Dimension. There are curves, circles, high/low tiers, and other three dimensional areas that you will have to navigate. The camera does a great job of following the action and giving you a good view of the challenges ahead, too.
As for the presentation, Puzzle Dimension looks and sounds pretty good, although it's not as memorable as something like Shatter, for example. The soundtrack is very retro like, and in fact the graphics are too in a way. Levels have an intentional pixelated look, kind of like 3D Dot Heroes, until you roll over the tiles. When you do, the pixels break off and reveal a smooth texture. Other than providing some visual appeal, this design also lets you know where you have been. For each level, you can challenge yourself extra hard by trying to un-pixelate the entire level, which nets you more points. However, without a leaderboard or multiplayer of any kind, there isn't much of a point to doing that. Anyway, the graphics are smooth, no technical issues noted, and the music does okay for itself but it can get its drone on sometimes, especially when you're stuck on a level. On the other hand, given that one false button press could send you back to the start, I suppose it's a good thing that the soundtrack is relatively subdued.
To the summary...