Beware the Minotaur, my son…
Puzzle/Riddles are something of an oddity in the world of browser based gaming. There’s no fancy controls, animations are rare if they exist at all, and while most designers seek to make their games accessible to a wide audience (there are exceptions to this rule of course, especially among those designers who pride themselves on making the most difficult platformers ever conceived), these games let it be known up front that only an elite few are welcome.
While there are many variations and many different flavors, the basic set up contains little variation. You are presented with a single screen. This screen will usually have a title, and some sort of picture or other conveyance of information that will likely not make much sense. Through logic, guesswork, reasoning, and wise usage of available resources you are supposed to hash out from the information provided a simple answer.
If you are right, you move on to the next one, if you are wrong, well, you keep trying.
I know, I know, it doesn’t sound like much, but trust me, these brain breakers can grow on you, first becoming an addiction, and then devolving into an outright obsession. On any given level for any given game you can find yourself spending hours scouring the source code for clues, manipulating the offered image in photoshop, and googling until your eyeballs get sore.
All to just find that one elusive answer.
In a vast world of puzzle/riddle games, I count the two offerings from the Puzzle Files to be among the very best. Unlike many puzzlers which will rely too heavily upon fancy photo suite programs, and an eye for html, the Labyrinths make themselves at least accessible to nearly everyone.
That doesn’t make them easy, though.
As a complete entity, Labyrinth goes the extra mile for those unfortunate enough to find themselves caught within its taunting twists and turns. The entire game is self contained in its own dedicated real estate on the internet, complete with a little control panel that never leaves you, even if your sanity and sense of direction do.
From here you have access to levels that you’ve already completed, as well as the forums which are an absolute must for anyone who actually hopes to see the light of day.
The puzzles themselves are notable primarily for the fact that they don’t rely upon fancy software or technical expertise that you may not necessarily have. Sure there are a few where you may have to push your technical know how to the limits, but for the most part the challenges that are presented to you can be solved just as easily with a pad of paper and a pen as they would be using computer programs.
Indeed, I remember when I was still working on the first Labyrinth solving one of the levels by sitting there with some home made isometric graph paper and a box of cigarettes. Yes, that’s exactly the level of gaming that I’m talking about here.
Before is all said and done, you will become a master at translating binary, have counted more pixels than you would care to think about, and have become versed in so many different forms of cryptography that you could probably hand in your proof of complete of this game as a resume and get a pretty good job working for the CIA.
I know it sounds impossible, but the support system to help you work your way through is incredible. The forums are stocked with tips from fellow travelers who have been where you are, and there’s nearly always someone around who is kind enough to give you a little one on one help if the proferred hints just aren’t getting you there.
Even better, and this is relatively unique to the Puzzle Files, you can put a team together and have your very own forum established so that you and your partners can brain storm freely.
Thus, the seemingly impossible becomes possible, as long as you are willing to put the effort and brainpower into it. Not for everyone, if you love a mental challenge, the Labyrinths will be pure bliss for you, I guarantee it.
(NOTE: Out of respect for the designers of the Labyrinths, I will not accept hints or produce hints openly here. I have completed the first Labyrinth a very long time ago, and still remember some things, so if you email me a question I might be able to help, but for the most part I truly encourage everyone to use the forums to their maximum potential. If you do, you’ll not likely need me at all.)