A few months back, while I was revisiting a game I’ve written about previously on this blog, Lighthouse: The Dark Being, I had to think once again about 15 puzzles. If you’ve played an older adventure or puzzle game, you’ve probably run into a 15 puzzle. It’s a 4-by-4 grid of numbered tiles that have been mixed up and need to be slid back into their starting positions. It’s a stock puzzle type that gets repeated frequently in these types of games, and it’s almost never interesting. Solving a 15 puzzle is more of an endurance test, or a sponge meant to soak up the player’s time.
Even though it’s not an inspiring puzzle format, 15 puzzles do have a hypnotic sort of logic. If you want to slide a specific tile back into place, you need to move the pieces around on the board in a circular motion, making a long chain that you can slip another tile into, like a car merging into traffic, and gradually circling them into place. It’s surprising how quickly your brain can slip into these patterns, making and breaking loops as you try to finesse that one last tile into position.
Playing Clockwiser reminded me of 15 puzzles again, but for a positive reason! It’s a puzzle game built entirely around the idea of moving tiles in a loop, and it shows what else can be done with that basic idea. » Read more about Clockwiser