Back in the days of the PlayStation One, a little puzzler by the name of Kula World was an underrated classic. It featured a beachball that you needed to manoeuvre around a platform that was suspended in the air, Monkey Ball style. In the game you need to collect various treasures while avoiding spikes and other nasty traps.
Puzzle Dimension is a spiritual sequel to that game. With heaps of levels, a vibrant aesthetic and some truly nasty challenges, this is a game that just like Kula World before it, manages to be both frighteningly addictive and incredibly frustrating.
The main aim of this game is to roll the ball over to collect a series of flowers around the level (flowers rendered in that gorgeous 3D miniature block style that makes the likes of 3D Dot Game Heroes so compelling) and then reach the exit goal. There’s no time limit – a marked improvement over Kula World, where the arbitrary countdown made some levels too tense. This is a more relaxing puzzler on the surface, though scores are also tied to how quickly you complete levels, so getting those top scores still requires fast thinking.
That in itself shows the modern puzzler has grown up and realized that shoehorning people into playing it one way is a bad strategy. This way, people who just want to experience the stunning level design of Puzzle Dimension can do so; making their way through the levels in a leisurely pace, but the more committed players can also aim for high scores. It’s an elegant set up that means the game can easily appeal to just about everyone.
To help draw people in, it starts easily enough with stages existing on a single plane with solutions that might as well be lit up with neon signs. You’ll be feeling pretty good about yourself for that first hour or so as you fly through the initial stages. That good feeling doesn’t last long after that though.
Soon enough you need to start dealing with icy floors that you can’t slide over the edge, rock platforms that disappear after you use them once, and winding passages in three dimensions that can make basic orientation a puzzle in itself. There’s a huge range of levels split by visual theme, and the difficulty makes a habit of spiking at some strange moments, and spiking regularly enough that if you’re not a committed puzzler fan, you’re probably not going to finish this one.
|The more difficult levels can send you mad|
But it does look and sound good. There’s a strong, faux retro vibe in this game. The aforementioned 3D dot flowers are a nice touch, but everything from the psychedelic backgrounds to the elegantly animated ball itself is smooth and classy stuff. The music is a little too much like elevator soundscapes, but it’s not offensive in the slightest either.
The puzzle genre is a difficult one to get excited over, and it’s an over-saturated genre making it difficult to stand out, but Puzzle Dimension deserves props for having a very strong aesthetic sense, and being a spiritual sequel to one of the most underrated puzzle games of all time.