Puzzle video games make up a unique genre of video games that emphasize puzzle solving. The types of puzzles can test many problem-solving skills including logic, pattern recognition, sequence solving, and word completion. The player may have unlimited time or infinite attempts to solve a puzzle, or there may be a time limit, or simpler puzzles may be made difficult by having to complete them in real time, as in Tetris.
The genre is very broad, but it generally involves some level of abstraction and may make use of colors, shapes, numbers, physics, or complex rules. Unlike many video games, puzzle video games often do make use of "lives" that challenge a player by limiting the number of tries. In puzzle video games, players often try for a high score or to progress to the next level by getting to a certain place or achieving some criteria.
Puzzle games focus on logical and conceptual challenges, although often the games add time-pressure or other action-elements. Although many action games and adventure games involve puzzles such as obtaining inaccessible objects, a true puzzle game focuses on puzzle solving as the primary gameplay activity. Games usually involve shapes, colors, or symbols, and the player must directly or indirectly manipulate them into a specific pattern.
Rather than presenting a random collection of puzzles to solve, puzzle games typically offer a series of related puzzles that are a variation on a single theme. This theme could involve pattern recognition, logic, or understanding a process. These games usually have a simple set of rules, where players manipulate game pieces on a grid, network or other interaction space. Players must unravel clues in order to achieve some victory condition, which will then allow them to advance to the next level. Completing each puzzle will usually lead to a more difficult challenge, although some games avoid exhausting the player by offering easier levels between more difficult ones.
There is a large variety of puzzle game types. Some feed to the player a random assortment of blocks or pieces that they must organize in the correct manner, such as Tetris, Klax and Lumines. Others present a preset game board or pieces and challenge the player to solve the puzzle by achieving a goal (Bomberman, The Incredible Machine).
An action puzzle or arcade puzzle requires that the player manipulates game pieces in a real-time environment, often on a single screen and with a time limit, to solve the puzzle or clear the level. This is a broad term that has been used to describe several subsets of puzzle game. Firstly, it includes falling-block puzzles such as Tetris and KLAX. It includes games with characters moving through an environment, controlled either directly (Lode Runner) or indirectly (Lemmings). This can cross-over with other action genres: a platform game which requires a novel mechanic to complete levels might be a "puzzle platformer", such as manipulating time in Braid. Finally, it includes other action games that require timing and accuracy with pattern-matching or logic skills, such as the first-person Portal and The Talos Principle.
Other notable action puzzle games include Team Ico's Ico, a linear, story driven game with puzzles based around traversing puzzle environments while protecting a helpless companion. Also made by Team Ico is Shadow of the Colossus, a game in which the player solves puzzles that involve finding and exploiting the weaknesses of giant beasts in combat. Nintendo's The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is another example of an action puzzle game, the primary objective being to seek out and solve physics-based puzzles which offer helpful upgrades for defeating the final boss.
A hidden object game (sometimes called hidden picture) is a genre of puzzle video game in which the player must find items from a list that are hidden within a picture. Hidden object games are a popular trend in casual gaming, and are comparatively inexpensive to buy. Time-limited trial versions of these games are usually available for download.
An early hidden object game was Alice: An Interactive Museum. Computer Gaming World reported in 1993 that "one disadvantage of searching through screen after screen for 'switches' is that after a while one develops a case of 'clickitus' of the fingers as one repeatedly punches that mouse button like a chicken pecking at a farmyard". Other early incarnations are the video game adaptations of the I Spy books published by Scholastic Corporation since 1997.
Publishers of hidden object games include Sandlot Games, Big Fish Games, Awem Studio, SpinTop Games, and Codeminion. Examples of hidden object game series include Awakening, Antique Road Trip (both by Boomzap Entertainment), Dream Chronicles (PlayFirst), Mortimer Beckett (RealArcade/GameHouse), Mystery Trackers (by Elephant games), Hidden Expedition and Mystery Case Files (both by Big Fish Games).
A reveal the picture game is a type of puzzle game that features piece-by-piece revealing of a photo or picture.
A physics game is a type of puzzle video game wherein the player must use the game's physics to complete each puzzle. Physics games use realistic physics to make games more challenging. The genre is especially popular in online flash games and mobile games. Educators have used these games to demonstrate principles of physics.
In tile-matching video games, the player manipulates tiles in order to make them disappear according to a matching criterion. The genre began with 1985's Chain Shot!. It includes games of the "falling block" variety such as Tetris, games that require pieces to be swapped such as Bejeweled or Candy Crush Saga, games that adapt the classic tile-based game Mahjong such as Mahjong Trails, and games in which are pieces are shot on the board such as Zuma. In many recent tile-matching games, the matching criterion is to place a given number of tiles of the same type so that they adjoin each other. That number is often three, and the corresponding subset of tile-matching games is referred to as "match-three games."
There have also been many digital adaptations of traditional puzzle games, including solitaire and mahjong solitaire. Even familiar word puzzles, number puzzles, and association puzzles have been adapted as games such as Dr. Kawashima's Brain Training.
Puzzle video games owe their origins to brain teasers and puzzles throughout human history. The mathematical strategy game Nim, and other traditional, thinking games, such as Hangman and Bulls and Cows (commercialized as Mastermind), were popular targets for computer implementation.
The University of Tokyo's 1979 Heiankyo Alien for the PC-8001 and arcades was an early "trap 'em up" puzzle action game. It was a precursor to later puzzle action games such as Lode Runner. Another early action game with puzzle elements was Konami's Loco-Motion (1982), elements of which are seen in Pipe Mania from LucasArts (1989).
Blockbuster, by Alan Griesemer and Stephen Bradshaw (Atari 8-bit, 1981), is a computerized version of the Rubik's Cube puzzle.Snark Hunt (Atari 8-bit, 1982) is a single-player game of logical deduction, a clone of the 1970s Black Box board game. Sokoban's crate-pushing puzzles from 1982 have been widely cloned and its core mechanic incorporated into other games.
1984's Puzzle Panic for the Atari 8-bit computers specifically uses the word puzzle in the game's title. 1984 also saw the release of the action-puzzle game Boulder Dash, where the goal is to collect diamonds while avoiding or exploiting rocks that fall when the dirt beneath them is removed. It led to a number of clones categorized as "rocks and diamonds games."
In 1985, Chain Shot! introduced removing groups of the same color tiles on a grid, then the remaining tiles falling into the created gap.Uncle Henry's Nuclear Waste Dump (1986) has similarities to Tetris, though it was published prior to Tetris reaching the US, and the author claims he hadn't seen it.
Tetris is credited for revolutionizing and popularizing the puzzle genre. The game was created by Soviet game designer Alexey Pajitnov in 1985, who was inspired by a traditional puzzle game named Pentomino in which players arrange falling blocks into lines without any gaps. The game was a moderate success when released by Spectrum Holobyte for MS-DOS in 1987 and Atari Games in arcades in 1988, but it sold 30 million copies on the Game Boy alone.
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The 1990s saw the release of Lemmings. The game involves a series of creatures who mindlessly walk into deadly situations, and the player assigns jobs to specific lemmings to guide the swarm to a safe destination.
In a 1996 interview, Claude Comair recommended that budding video game developers start learning with a puzzle game. He elaborated that the genre provides a good beginning test of programming skill and creativity, since it does not allow the developer to substitute audiovisual impact for genuine imagination.
In 2001, PopCap Games released a graphically-enhanced clone of an obscure 1994 MS-DOS game, Shariki, where the player must touch groups of three or more jewels on a grid, causing them to disappear and new stones to fall into place. A decade later, the match three mechanic was the foundation for popular games, including Candy Crush Saga and Puzzle & Dragons, both from 2012.
By 2014, puzzle games had become the largest genre in the iOS App Store.
Hidden object games ... For example, you're a detective looking for clues in a picture ... they might be in monochrome on the wallpaper or peeping out from behind something.
Mystery titles, particularly hidden-object games, have become a hugely popular segment of the casual-game market.