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Information Warfare: 3D Puzzlers

Puzzle games are designed to test our knowledge skills most of all. By obscuring information or coding the solution with game rules, puzzles encourage players to think and read the challenge in specific ways. Reading a 2D puzzle game can be a lot like reading text or looking at an image. Reading a 3D puzzle fundamentally changes how the information is presented adding a new, more engaging layer to the obfuscationg/coding. 

Instead of simply looking at a 2D puzzle and taking the presentation of the information at face value, one must always consider perspective when solving a 3D puzzle. The angle at which you view the puzzle changes the appearance of the elements on screen while simultaneously obscuring the view of other areas/elements. Piecing together the information of a 3D puzzle is most comparable to constructing a mental 3D model.

The following are examples of how 3D space is used to make reading more engaging and presentation more complex. 


Majong Dimensions (video 1video 2)

  • Break down 3D structures by making matches of 2. Every match removes blocks. Also, matches made in a row of the same design net more points. Only blocks with at least two of its sides exposed (not tops or bottoms) can be clicked for matches. Some structures are very dense and small, while others are very large and shallow. Rotating the view/structure takes up precious time. 
  • Reading Majong Dimensions well involves finding matches in the 3D structure that can be made quickly in succession to keep up the multiplier. As you remove blocks with matches, the structure will gradually become simpler. As you remove blocks, your view of underlying blocks opens up. Building a 3D mental map helps players keep track of possible underlying blocks and obscured blocks as you reduce the structure and/or rotate the camera. These parameters really support the 3D reading (3reaDing?) and visualization of the game.  




  • Eliminate blocks from the 3D structure by shooting blocks to make matches of 4 or more. Every block you shoot that doesn't result in an elimination sticks to the structure adding to its size/shape. You cannot control the view/orientation of the structure aside from shooting blocks into it, which causes the structure to rotate in the appropriate direction. When blocks are eliminated a 3D gravity pulls the shapes inward to the core.
  • Reading Cubello well first involves visualizing the 3D structure. Knowing how like colors are grouped is key. Next, the player must plan ahead anticipating building the structure with every shot or collapsing the structure with eliminations. Finally, the player must alter their approach considering what order of bullets (colored cubes) are in the magazine and how each shot will rotating the structure. 
  • As a side note, Cubello is a puzzle shooter, which means there is a degree of timing and dexterity skills required. Just because a you set everything up doesn't mean you'll be able to get a clear shot. 



Picross 3D

  • The same deductive gameplay of Picross 2D is back. Now instead of each square influencing the code of a row and column, each cube influences 2 rows and a column (one for each axis). Keeping track of this dynamic requires 3D visualization. The coding system is simpler compared to the 2D Picross (fewer numbers per axis), but each move is more dynamic and engaging.




  • Being a first person puzzle game, players have to look through the eyes of Chell and conceptualize each area into a mental 3D map. Each puzzle can be read according to the rules of momentum, height, timing, where you can and cannot place portals, only 2 portals out at a time, and the view from Chell's perspective. Portal, the 3D game, is far more engaging than the inspired 2D flash version. The 3D portal is more engaging because there are more surfaces to shoot (creating 50% more space folding possibilities axis-wise) and more ways for 3D objects to obscure your sight/aim. First person aiming already compresses 3D space into 2D space. But in Portal specifically, shooting the portal gun also compresses space by folding the space between each portal. That's a double space compression that is limited and creates multiple perspectives!  


Mighty Flip Champs! (see video here)

  • The punctuated 3D of this puzzle game is presented in 2D layers. Navigating the levels requires players to put together a mental 3D map of the level. This is much more difficult and engaging than simply looking at a 3D space in first or third person. Because players can only move through the pages of the level in one cyclical direction and only the current and next page in the cycle are displayed, building the 3D space in ones head requires significantly more knowledge skills. 




  • As blocks fall from the sky, it's your job to avoid getting squashed. At the same time, you can climb on boxes and push them around the field. Blocks are illuminated by walking on top of them. Only by lighting up a full row of blocks are the big points awarded. The more rows illuminated at one time the higher the multiplier. 
  • The limitations of mechanics for the player avatar set the field for reading. You can only climb over block structures 1 block high. You can only pull a block backward if you have room behind you. You can push blocks off the sides of the 5x5 stage, but you can't push more than 1 block at a time. Every 30 seconds or so, the bottom floor of the stage drops away into the abyss. Reading involves seeing the 3D stacks of blocks and figuring out how to illuminate and flatten the blocks for mega points. The verticality of the blocks can easily obscure the view of the stage. Rotating the camera helps, but it's best to create a 3D map in your head to avoid making mistakes when time is of the essence.  


Boom Blox (see video here)

  • Observe the 3D structure. Rotate the camera to line up a clear shot. Throw a physics based projectile to start the chain reaction. Because the trajectory of the projectile is determined by the camera view, engaging with the 3D space is essential. 


When reading the field is the only thing that will bring success and the 3D design of the challenge gets in the way of reading the 3D structure/space/level, you're locked in a never ending battle of information warfare. 

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