Puzzle games and balls go together like pineapple and cheese. There's something immensely satisfying about rolling spherical objects through non-descript floating environments. That premise is at the heart of Puzzle Dimension — a bare-bones brain-melting puzzler available from the PlayStation Store.
The generic title does little to explain the concepts invoked in Puzzle Dimension. While the game is all about moving a ball through a series of challenging environments, Puzzle Dimension is not skill-based like Super Monkey Ball. The clue is in the name: this is a puzzle game, and things get pretty challenging as you progress.
Movement is sticky and without momentum in Puzzle Dimensions. Here one push of the D-Pad will roll you forward one tile on the gameboard. Your objective is simple enough: to collect a sequence of sunflowers before opening up an exit portal that completes the level. No justification is given for your predicament — this is a pure puzzle title and it's made all the more enjoyable because of its simplicity.
While moving through the gameworld wouldn't be much of a challenge on its own, that's where the developers get devious. Gradually introducing a series of hazards, you quickly find yourself needing to navigate through the environment in intelligent ways. The game first introduces tiles that crack once they are stepped on, and later includes switches, ice and fire plates. The challenge comes from finding the correct direction through the environment that doesn't block off your path. For example, it might be easy to pass over a cracked tile and collect the first sunflower on the stage, but once that platform breaks you'll find it impossible to get to the second sunflower. While you're given a jump ability at the start of the game, this only allows you to hop over one tile, so it's not like you'll suddenly be able to "platform" your way through the levels. Like all good puzzle games, Puzzle Dimension is bound by a series of rigid rules.
Trial and error becomes a key element of progression, as you attempt stages multiple times trying to etch out the correct solution. Thankfully the game has a lighting fast restart system, making it easy to jump back into a level each time you make a mistake. The restart system's necessary too. As you progress through Puzzle Dimension's hundred puzzles, things begin to get really tough. Levels twist upside down, and teleporters and switch add to the complications. Starting a new level can feel a bit like staring at a blank canvas, as the challenge of the task feels a touch overwhelming. Of course, masochists will enjoy Puzzle Dimension's difficulty.
The game looks and sounds amazing, boasting a modern retro style that compliments the action without distracting from the challenge of the puzzles themselves. The chiptune soundtrack in particular is a delight, and something you'll find yourself humming long after you've put the game down. Apparently Puzzle Dimension also includes support for three-dimensional televisions, but it's not something we were able to sample during the review. We imagine it could add a nice amount of depth to the image though.
Our biggest problem with Puzzle Dimension are the controls. Movement can feel a bit temperamental and sticky, with the camera locked to four static positions. We found ourselves rolling off the edge of a stage far too many times, and it didn't often feel like we were at fault for the error. Additionally, the game's scoring system can be a bit baffling. The game allows you to replay levels and aim for a higher points tally — in fact, this is key to earning a number of the game's trophies — but the game does a poor job of explaining how scores can be improved.
The core action itself is good though and the puzzles remain challenging and unique throughout the game's extensive campaign. A level editor might have added to the game's replay value, and leaderboards perhaps would have added more purpose to the game's scoring system, but what's on offer is well designed and predominantly moreish. If you're after a challenging three-dimensional puzzle title, then Puzzle Dimension should be in your shortlist of potential purchases alongside Creat Studios' Cuboid.