With all the hype about 3D gaming recently, it's somewhat appropriate to see a game that actually gets you thinking in three dimensions in the way that Puzzle Dimension does. It doesn’t make us want to don stereoscopic glasses and gasp at our TV screens like Sony and Nvidia’s ads tell us we should be doing, but it is interesting. Kind of.
Puzzle Dimension’s gameplay fits pretty snugly into ye olde ball-rolling puzzler. It presents you with a series of 100 3D structures that are floating in space and tasks you with moving a ball to the level exit. It sounds basic, and on the surface it is, but Doctor Entertainment has given their world a twist: gravity is entirely relative.
At a higher level the concept of relative gravity is a bit tricky, but what it really means in terms of the gameplay is that levels often flip around on you, moving your ball onto the ceiling…um, we mean floor. Or do we? Essentially, the puzzles rotate with you - you can never be upside down in Puzzle Dimension, which makes for some very challenging and exciting 3D confusion.
The levels are abstract, but beautiful
For each puzzle, you start on a certain block, and are tasked with weaving your way around the level, collecting the flowers scattered about the map. Once you've rolled over every flower, a portal will activate that opens the way to the next level, which is usually much harder. Annoyingly, there’s no checkpoint system – so if you fall off the map or get caught in one of the numerous traps then you'll need to start the level over. This can seem unfair at first, but it does keep the game challenging, moreish and tense.
Controls are as simple as they come: arrows to move, space to jump, and WASD to rotate the camera around you as you play. There's also a separate camera mode that can be activated at any time, enabling you to pan around the level at will, but it’s only really useful for exploring the dangers ahead. You have unlimited time for each level too, which is handy as some of the puzzles can be tricky to master and require a steady hand and quick thinking. The slightest finger-slip or wrong assumption could force you to start over, so not being forced to rush is a realy boon.
Collect the flowers and find the exit
Puzzle Dimension’s main appeal is that it has a simple premise, but is by no means a simple game. The puzzles are split into clusters of 10 and, though the first few levels give you a basic feel for whatever the cluster's theme is, the third or fourth groups really ramp up the difficulty. The learning curve is fair, however. Puzzle Dimension introduces new challenges at a reasonable rate and the difficulty curve never climbs to a level that will alienate most players. Challenge you, yes, but not alienate.
Variety is woven into the levels with different types of block that alter the properties of the ball you control, of which there are enough to keep it interesting. Roll onto an ice block, for example, and you'll roll until you reach an unfrozen square. These slippery foes inhibit your ability to change direction, and without due planning you'll find yourself pathetically rolling to your doom at edge of a level.
Most of the puzzles in the game are built around these different types of block. There are teleports, blocks that appear and disappear at the press of a switch and sand blocks, which force you to jump out of them. Death traps are an ever-present threat too, with certain blocks bursting into flames or simply crumbling away once you've rolled on them once. Often, you'll pick up the last flower before coming to the tragic realisation that you can no longer reach the portal thanks to a wall of fire you previously activated. Levels which seem simple at first can quickly becoming damnably devious and difficult.