Game Review – Puzzler World

I don’t often return to things once I tire of them. However, one thing I find myself returning to a lot is Puzzler World, developed by Atari and released in 2009 for the Nintendo DS. Something about it just attracts my attention, even more so than my other collection titles. Perhaps it’s because I like puzzles, or I can play differently every session, or the fact that it can be played anywhere at any time? Whatever the case, it has this long-lasting quality to it that I so rarely find in other things, and so I’d like to review it here today.

Technically speaking, Puzzler World isn’t a game. Rather, it’s a collection of games, puzzle games to be exact. There is also no Story Mode, which comes as no big surprise. Instead, it has two modes: Challenge and Quickplay. Quickplay is exactly what it sounds like, you just pick a game type and play. It’s good for a quick brain-teaser, but you don’t unlock anything this way, nor do you get to play any of the bonus puzzle types. The real draw of the game lies in Challenge Mode. There are over 1100 puzzles, so you won’t run out of things to do anytime soon. They become progressively more difficult as you go down the list, so it’s a great way to challenge yourself.

It’s clear that a good bit of thought was put into puzzle distribution. The game types are scattered across the list, so you won’t often run into the same puzzle multiple times. Also, the puzzles don’t appear in equal measure: the inherently difficult types (Codeword comes to mind) are fewer in number, while the same is mostly true vice-versa. I do feel that there’s too much Sudoku and not enough Silhouette, but that may just be personal preference. Of course, a puzzle collection is nothing without puzzles, so let’s look at what it has to offer!

Word Puzzles

  • Wordsearch
    • You already know how this one works: you have a grid full of jumbled letters, and a bunch of words to search for. It’s a quintessential addition to any puzzle pack.
  • Crossword
    • Ah yes, the classic puzzle where you fill in a word grid using definitions and/or similes. I’ve never been a fan of crosswords, since a lot of them require knowledge of obscure and/or outdated trivia facts. Thankfully, you can stock up on hint tokens (more on that later), which will be of great help in the likely event you get stuck.
  • Fitword
    • Fitword is kinda like a mix between Wordsearch and Crossword. In this puzzle, you have to figure out where each word fits on the empty grid. It’s not especially difficult, but if you accidentally put a word in the wrong row/column, you’ll have to start again from scratch.
  • Hangman
    • Another classic, one where you stop your friend (AI in this case) from executing an innocent man through the power of guesswork. Once you understand the trick to filling in the blanks, it’s a lot easier to solve them, but it’s still a fun bonus puzzle regardless.
  • Chain Letters
    • Chain Letters is also a bonus puzzle, this one on a time limit. You’re given a web of letters, with 30 seconds to link them all and form a coherent word. Though simple in concept, this one can be pretty hard to solve in a single attempt, especially with the longer words.

Number Puzzles

  • Sudoku
    • One of my personal favorites, Sudoku is a grid-based game. It’s usually 9×9, but this pack also includes a 6×6 version in the easier areas. Each line, column, and section needs exactly one instance of each number filled in, using the few numbers already present as clues.
  • Codeword
    • Codeword is like Crossword, but without the definition list. Instead, the grid is full of numbers, and you have to decode their corresponding letters. I’d argue that even though it’s just as (if not more) difficult, Codeword is more satisfying to solve because it doesn’t just boil down to “you either know the answer or you don’t,” there’s also a skill component involved. It’s entirely possible to solve this without using hints, as helpful as they are for pointing out your mistakes.
  • Link-a-Pix
    • A rather unique addition, Link-a-Pix gives you a grid with colored number pairs. You must link these pairs together in that specific number of moves (connect 2 brown 14’s in exactly 14 moves, for example), resetting previous moves to clear the way as necessary. Upon linking everything, you’ll be rewarded with a nice bit of pixel art.
  • Equate
    • Equate is a bonus timed puzzle… except it’s really not. It’s just a math equation, but you fill in the symbols instead of the numbers. They’re all elementary-level questions, so you’ll be fine as long as you understand the fundamentals. It’s okay for what it is, but it’s a strange outlier for a puzzle collection.

Image Puzzles

  • Silhouette
    • This one is a simple coloring game. You shade in the indicated sections, and if you did everything right, the silhouette will transform into a wacky colored image. Your accuracy with the DS stylus is pretty much the only thing holding you back here, as this puzzle clearly wasn’t designed to be difficult.
  • Spot The Difference
    • As the title indicates, Spot The Difference asks you to spot the differences between two images. Attention to detail is key with this puzzle, as there’ll always be a few subtle differences mixed in that can’t be caught upon first glance.
  • Picture Quiz
    • Exclusive to Spot The Difference, this is a bonus. You have 30 seconds to examine the details of the original, and then you must correctly answer all three questions given. It’s a good test of memory, but like Equate, it’s not really a puzzle.
  • Missing Piece
    • In the bonus game Missing Piece, you have a broken picture, 6 similar-looking pieces, and you have to find the right piece to fit the gap in 30 seconds. The additional pressure from the timer makes it harder to solve first try, but the answer order isn’t scrambled after every failed attempt, so you’ll be able to narrow it down soon enough.
  • Jigsaw
    • You likely already know of jigsaw puzzles, but this isn’t quite the same version you know. In this bonus game, you get an image with panels that are then scrambled in front of you, and you have to sort them all back into their proper places within 30 seconds. It’s relatively easy when it’s a 3×3 grid, but the 4×4 grids can be really hard to solve in time.

As with most games that rely on the touchscreen, Puzzler World runs into character recognition issues. The system sometimes confuses 1/3 and 4/9, as well as B/D and U/V. It also has trouble recognizing the characters 8, E, and H. Thankfully, there’s an option that lets users overwrite the system’s handwriting with their own. This is also one of those titles that requires you to flip your DS system onto its side, which can be a bit awkward to hold. Once you get used to it, though, the interface is easy to understand.

After every game in Challenge Mode, you’ll win either 5-10 hint tokens or one of 7 PUZZLER letters. Upon gathering all 7, you win a jackpot of 100 tokens, and there’s always a 1/3 chance to win a letter. This jackpot is repeatable, but you can’t go back to win tokens from a puzzle you’ve already beaten. As long as you don’t use them in excess though, you’re not likely to run out of hint tokens. As for Quickplay Mode, you get an infinite amount of hints, giving up the aforementioned bonuses. I don’t know if there’s a 100% completion reward, but I’ll update this section once I eventually find out.

Overall, Puzzler World has a good mix of things to do at your own pace. The word puzzles give you the opportunity to learn new words. For instance, I learned that teetotalism is the practice of abstaining from the consumption of alcoholic drinks, which therefore makes me a teetotaler. The number puzzles improve your critical thinking skills, while also improving your efficiency in organization. The image puzzles ask you to think more creatively, and you get to see neat art pieces.

As a collection, I quite like Puzzler World. It has a solid set of puzzles, with a good bit of variety and an easy-to-understand interface. As for the puzzles within, I won’t rate them all individually. Instead, I’ll leave off with a ranking list, in order of greatest enjoyment:

Wear and Tear
  1. Link-A-Pix
  2. Sudoku
  3. Wordsearch
  4. Fitword
  5. Codeword
  6. Silhouette
  7. Chain Letters
  8. Picture Quiz
  9. Spot The Difference
  10. Hangman
  11. Crossword
  12. Jigsaw
  13. Missing Piece
  14. Equate