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Jamie John

What do you think of when you read the term 'puzzle game'?

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I've always thought of 'puzzle games' as games like The Witness, The Talos Principle, Fez, The Swapper and Myst - relatively linear narrative-led single-player games with limited to no combat or threat and with a heavy focus on solving puzzles, typically of the spatial or lateral-thinking variety, and where the player character is very often alone in the game world, or at least has only occasional interaction with other characters.

 

I differentiate these sorts of games from 'Adventure' games - LucasArts' output, Beneath a Steel Sky, Machinarium and so on - games that are often referred to with the synonymous term 'Point and Click Adventure', and which feature more logic-based puzzles, lots of dialogue and interactions with other characters, and (often) an emphasis on humour.

 

However, from many years of reading about games and listening to people talk about them, some of the time when people refer to 'puzzle' games, instead of the types of games I've mentioned above, they're instead referring to games like Tetris, Lumines and Puyo-Puyo, games that typically involve a timer, high-scores, a growing sense of urgency, and which are obviously very different from The Witness and the like. This seems to be a generational thing: my dad, for example, really enjoys what he calls 'puzzle games' and plays loads of them on his phone, but he wouldn't go anywhere near a game like Fez, partly because he can't deal with a controller that uses analog sticks, partly because he despises Mario and any game that even bears a passing resemblance to it, but mainly because he doesn't see those sorts of games as 'puzzle' games and they're therefore of no interest to him.

 

If this is the case, and if Tetris et al are the original 'puzzle game', how should we refer to these other sorts of puzzle games to separate the two genres?

 

As it is, I really enjoy what I call puzzle games - The Witness and Fez being two of my GOATs - but my first console was a PS1 and I was always a bit too young to appreciate Tetris on the Gameboy, so that genre I'm not especially fussed about (although I appreciate that some people, like my dad, love it).

 

Anyway, this is just a random thought that popped into my head, but I'd be interested to hear what other people think.

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When someone says "puzzle game" to me, the first thing that pops in to my heads are grids of things dropping or moving in some way. Tetris, Puyo, etc, or things like Grindstone on iOS.

 

Witness and Fez I'd categorise as puzzle adventures maybe

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I think of a puzzle game as something like Picross, that presents an abstract challenge to be solved by following its own rules. The important thing is that each challenge has a specific solution and is completed when you've found that solution. So to me, things like Tetris or Puyo aren't puzzles because, although they share the abstract, blocky visuals, they aren't solved, they just get harder/faster until you lose (or win if you're playing multiplayer and your opponent loses first).

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3 minutes ago, Darren said:

I think of a puzzle game as something like Picross, that presents an abstract challenge to be solved by following its own rules. The important thing is that each challenge has a specific solution and is completed when you've found that solution. So to me, things like Tetris or Puyo aren't puzzles because, although they share the abstract, blocky visuals, they aren't solved, they just get harder/faster until you lose (or win if you're playing multiplayer and your opponent loses first).

 

What do you call games like The Witness, then?

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Tetris / Puyo Puyo etc are puzzle games. Even though they don't have an solution you are constant solving them throughout. The gameworld is totally abstract.

 

Meanwhile Witness / Day of the Tentacle / Myst are all adventure games that happen to have puzzles as a mechanic within the world. Same as Resident Evil.

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2 minutes ago, Darren said:

I think of a puzzle game as something like Picross, that presents an abstract challenge to be solved by following its own rules. The important thing is that each challenge has a specific solution and is completed when you've found that solution. So to me, things like Tetris or Puyo aren't puzzles because, although they share the abstract, blocky visuals, they aren't solved, they just get harder/faster until you lose (or win if you're playing multiplayer and your opponent loses first).

 

 

I don't think a puzzle needs to have a specific solution.

Portal is a nice example of this.  It fits into your original description, it's an abstract challenge, there are strict rules, but there can be many answers.

 

In Tetris, you use are solving a puzzle.  You have to stop the box filling up.  You do this by clearing lines, that's the solution.  You are constantly solving lots of mini puzzles against a clock, and you fail when you can't handle the pressure, speed etc.

Similarly things like Overcooked or Conduct Together - abstract challenge, have their own rules, and against the clock, with a clear goal.

 

I think the clock and dynamic elements are just what them being video games can bring to the puzzle genre, otherwise, we'd be stuck with a bunch of puzzles (like Picross) that really you can do on paper.

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Years of reading games magazines and websites has ingrained the "puzzle game" as a Tetris-like affair, all dropping blocks and whatnot, even when the term "puzzle" is extremely loosely applied. There are traditional puzzles in this group, games like Puzznic or Sokoban have genuine tasks with a limited solution space, but so often I still see it as infinite game of push the block against the clock. 

 

It was daft then and it's daft now, but it is what it is.

 

Although there are convincing arguments to the contrary above.

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8 minutes ago, Jamie John said:

 

What do you call games like The Witness, then?

 

I dunno, I've never played it.

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28 minutes ago, Darren said:

I think of a puzzle game as something like Picross, that presents an abstract challenge to be solved by following its own rules. The important thing is that each challenge has a specific solution and is completed when you've found that solution. So to me, things like Tetris or Puyo aren't puzzles because, although they share the abstract, blocky visuals, they aren't solved, they just get harder/faster until you lose (or win if you're playing multiplayer and your opponent loses first).

Well, they’ve come to be known as puzzle games and I don’t think there is really any other way to categorise them. 

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Puzzle game is a very broad term that covers all these examples. It probably could do with some other terms ot differentiate the types, but as far as I know, no one's come up with those.

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I tend to say "arcade puzzler" for Tetris, Bejewelled, Puzzle Bobble. As in: the game in question is something that wouldn't need a lot of explaining if it was in a machine and you spent £1 on it to kill a few minutes.

 

Although I don't have a term for the Braids and Witnesses. They're just puzzle games without the arcade disclaimer. :P 

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Even though they've been called 'puzzle games' my whole life, I don't consider Tetris, Puzzle Bobble, Klax, Columns, Puyo Puyo etc to be puzzles at all.

 

If anything, they're... 'Reaction games'?

 

When I think of puzzle games now, and they're probably my favourite kinds of games, I include compilations like Picross and Slitherlink, the phone-driven evolutions of point & click like room escape games, and absolutely games like the Witness.

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49 minutes ago, Qazimod said:

I tend to say "arcade puzzler" for Tetris, Bejewelled, Puzzle Bobble. As in: the game in question is something that wouldn't need a lot of explaining if it was in a machine and you spent £1 on it to kill a few minutes.

 

Although I don't have a term for the Braids and Witnesses. They're just puzzle games without the arcade disclaimer. :P 

 

Yes, 'arcade puzzler' works well for those sorts of games, I think. I might steal that.

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I think of people like me saying "...but...Ikaruga is really a puzzle game...aaahhhh... "

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Tetris, Puyo Puyo etc are probably more accurately called action-puzzle games. But then you have stuff like Portal, where that fits I'm not sure. 

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I've not really thought about this before this thread, but the games I'd consider puzzle games would have the problem solving as the main gameplay mechanic and would have solutions/endings to any given puzzle.

 

So I would include Monkey Island, the Witness and Portal as different types on puzzle games. But Tetris, Bejweled and Puyo Puyo aren't as while there are strategies to perform better at them, you can't really solve them. Which is why many of them have dedicated 'Puzzle Modes' where the pieces are the same each time.

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I use "puzzle game" interchangeably to describe on one hand stuff like Tetris, Puyo Puyo, Mr Driller etc.

 

Then on the other hand games about experimenting and refining solutions to physical or abstract systems. Sokoban, Portal, Baba is You, Zachtronics games, Boulderdash etc. 

 

They're almost entirely unconnected genres with some slight crossover at the fringes of each one. For some reason though they're both "puzzle games" to me.

 

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3 hours ago, therearerules said:

Portal, Braid and Fez- puzzle platformers?

 

I'd probably use 'puzzle platformer' to describe games like Braid and Fez, also Inside and Limbo, but not Portal, although I'm not sure why, seeing as it's very much a puzzle game that entirely revolves around platforming, of a sense, anyway.

 

Who bloody knows! I just find it irritating when people refer to 'puzzle' games but don't make it clear which type they're referring to.

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Tetris, Puyo Puyo, Droplitz, Puzzle Fighter and the likes

Picross, Slitherlink, Sudoku, etc

Fez, Braid, etc

The Witness, The Talos Principle, etc
Professor Layton

 

All puzzle games. Just different sorts. 

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Just now, bradigor said:

Tetris, Puyo Puyo, Droplitz, Puzzle Fighter and the likes

Picross, Slitherlink, Sudoku, etc

Fez, Braid, etc

The Witness, The Talos Principle, etc

 

All puzzle games. Just different sorts. 

Arcade Puzzle Games

Puzzle Games

Platformer Puzzle Games

First Person Puzzle Games

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1 minute ago, therearerules said:

Arcade Puzzle Games

Puzzle Games

Platformer Puzzle Games

First Person Puzzle Games

 

Arcade Puzzle
Logic Puzzle / Pen and Paper Puzzle
Platformer Puzzle
FPP
Layton-like

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Just now, bradigor said:

 

Arcade Puzzle
Logic Puzzle / Pen and Paper Puzzle
Platformer Puzzle
FPP
Layton-like

I'd put layton in with Picross etc. Phoenix Wright is pretty much a point and click/virtual novel puzzle game.

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Puzzle games: Tetris, Pipe Mania, Picross, Zenji, Deflektor, Klax, Atomix.

 

All puzzle games. People who argue against Tetris because it has no solution miss the point that it is constantly about finding solutions. 

 

More modern games involving walking around around solving puzzles need their own term; 'puzzle games' is already taken, sorry :P

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I was just thinking many can trace lineage to point and click games, their own genre but full of puzzles. Layton is like a point and click but with a heavy emphasis on puzzles.

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On 25/06/2020 at 23:01, MW_Jimmy said:

Tetris / Puyo Puyo etc are puzzle games. Even though they don't have an solution you are constant solving them throughout. The gameworld is totally abstract.

 


I always figured they were puzzle games just because of jigsaw puzzles. Putting pieces together.

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17 hours ago, bradigor said:

Tetris, Puyo Puyo, Droplitz, Puzzle Fighter and the likes

Picross, Slitherlink, Sudoku, etc

Fez, Braid, etc

The Witness, The Talos Principle, etc
Professor Layton

 

All puzzle games. Just different sorts. 

 

Agree with this. Puyo Puyo Tetris and The Witness both sit in my Puzzle folder on the PS4, I think Puzzle Game can cover a wide range of stuff

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Yeah puzzle games can really encompass anything. But it’s weird to hear someone saying they don’t think Tetris, Yoshi’s Cookie etc type games aren’t puzzle games. That’s what they were always referred to, from back in the day! Still, evolution of language and all that.

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Arcade Puzzle games - Super Puzzle fighter, Tetris, Puyo Puyo - anything with garish colour.

Sim Puzzle games - everything else

FPPG (Portal, that one on Steam - Talos or whatever it called).

Oh yeah

Shit puzzle games - those fucking look at the screen and find a clue fucking games. 

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