Indie Time: Jelly No Puzzle

Do you find that sometimes you must perform boring, repetitive tasks, that don’t really require much thought? Do you need to take an occasional break from such activities to exercise your brain a little? If so, Jelly no Puzzle provides an excellent means.

It has an extremely simple premise: each single-screen level is populated by different color jellies, which can be moved left or right. When jellies of the same color meet, they merge into a larger jelly. The goal is to bring all the jellies of the same color together. That’s it. But don’t think that it’s going to be easy. Jelly no Puzzle is actually one of the toughest puzzle games I’ve played in a long time. My elation at solving a level was followed immediately by disbelief that any human could actually have designed it. Ordinarily, I would have found the game quite frustrating, but a few simple design choices prevented this, and kept me coming back for more.

The high difficulty ends up working in the game’s favor, because it stretches out the playtime. With some puzzle games I’ll sit down and work through all the puzzles in a single sitting, but that was impossible with Jelly no Puzzle. At any given time, I could only access three unsolved levels (with a new one appearing if I managed to solve one) and I was almost certainly stuck on all of them. I’d mess around a bit, but eventually give up. Which is good! Because there were some repetitive tasks I had to get back to. But I’d still be thinking about the puzzles. I’d think about them throughout the day, and every once and a while I’d fire the game up to mess around some more. And then, eventually, I’d figure one of the levels out, and then marvel at how simple the solution was.

That the solution always seemed to simple in hindsight is a testament to the excellent puzzle design throughout the game. Even as I was constantly learning new ways to ferry jellies around, nearly every level was a stumper, due to an exquisitely balanced difficulty curve. If I look back at an early level now, it looks easy, but at the time I was just as baffled as I was by the final levels.

I think that playing Jelly no Puzzle in spurts is key to enjoying it fully. I think it was designed with this in mind. Because if you want to play for a longer session, you will be tempted to look up solutions. I was tempted to look up solutions. I managed to resist this temptation for a long time, before finally succumbing for some of the later levels. To be fair, one or two of those I never would have figured out on my own. But the others I would have, if I’d just given it a little more time. That’s very important: if you’re stuck, just quit and come back later. Don’t look up solutions. Even if you’ve been stuck on the same three levels for several days, don’t look up the solutions. Just go do something else for a while. Because you will eventually figure it out yourself, and it will feel amazing. Trust me.

This amazing feeling is made possible because the puzzles are never overly complex. There aren’t tons of things to keep track of, irreversible paths to plot out, or timings to memorize. Each level has only a few moving parts, and your task is finding the correct order to move them in to achieve your goal. It will not overwhelm you, it will just stump you. The puzzles aren’t mind-boggling, they’re just really tricky, and figuring out the trick is what’s so satisfying.

Jelly no Puzzle is not always fun. Sometimes you will really wish you could see more than three levels at a time, because you just need something new to look at. This is worst when, halfway through, the game decides to stop letting you access new levels until you’ve solved all the current ones, as a sort of gating mechanism before the second half begins. The controls are a bit odd, using left- and right-clicks to move jellies left and right, respectively. It certainly works, but when all you want to do is move a jelly across the screen, it feels slow and clunky. And the undo button only goes back a few moves, which is unnecessary and annoying. But the joy in solving the puzzles is so great that these things don’t matter. Because every level in Jelly no Puzzle made me feel like a genius.

Except the ones for which I looked up the solutions. Do not look up the solutions.

(You will look up some of the solutions.)

Jelly no Puzzle is free, so grab it here and give your brain a good workout. It will thank you later.

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