The fool and his brain village

There's a planetary alignment of interesting puzzle games coming out this year.

Professor Layton and the Curious Village for the DS is already out, and looks interesting. Apparently, while it does have a lightweight mystery-solving theme, it's mainly a collection of puzzles, in the classic meaning of the word. The game packaging wisely calls them "brain teasers" so that you won't be expecting to play Bejewled. Penny Arcade made fun of it the other day, but that strip's writer makes clear in his blog that it was done out of love.

What really caught my eye was the promise of downloadble content, which as far as I know would be a first for any Nintendo-system game, even though they've been running an online service since 2005. I've heard tell of some server-side hiccups with it, but I'm confident enough they'll sort it out that I went ahead and tossed a copy on top of an Amazon order yesterday. (I recall how the very first game to use the online service, Mario Kart DS, managed to pound Nintendo's servers far more than they had originally prepared for.) I'll let you know how it is.

Speaking of the DS, Eidos has announced Brain Voyage, a digital game with puzzles designed by Reiner Knizia, of all people. It's slated to come out sometime this year.

Knizia's surely the most rockstar tabletop game designer alive today, by which I mean if he created a board game about, I dunno, pancakes, the game would be titled "Reiner Knizia's Pancakes" and that's all you'd need. It's not clear from the press release whether his name'll be on this box, or even what the nature of his relationship with the game content is. If the game doesn't stink, it'll be an interesting crossover between the digital and analog gaming worlds.

Finally, Cliff Johnson appears to be maybe actually we-hope poised to release his long-delayed puzzle epic The Fool and his Money this year. Originally slated for release in - gosh, I can't remember anymore, late 2003 maybe? - he kept bumping forward the release date until finally doing the right thing and promising no release date at all. He's been spending the last year or more laboriously repairing the game's content so that it runs consistently well in all implementations of Flash, and according to the counter on his site's front page he's accounted for 187 of 197 puzzles.

Money is the story-sequel to The Fool's Errand, a Tarot-themed puzzle extravaganza Johnson designed and had commercially published in 1989. That game, as well as its first (and differently themed) successor 3 in Three, are available as free downloads from Johnson's website. Because they're for ancient computers, you'll need emulator software to play them on your modern machine, but the author goes into careful detail on the download page about what works best on different computers and operating systems. Both games have my highest recommendation to those who enjoy a good puzzle!

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6 Responses to The fool and his brain village

  1. Andrew Plotkin says:

    Technically Cliff Johnson's second game was "At the Carnival". (I nitpick only because I care.)

    And, I'm starting to think I need a DS. (We hear that there's a port of Myst -- the original -- to the DS, with Riven perhaps coming. It's been a *long* time since I played Riven.)

  2. I passed it over because (unless I'm mistaken) it's not a story-driven metapuzzle game. But, yes, and it's right there among the downloads too.

  3. Andrew Plotkin says:

    Well, it's true: "At the Carnival" doesn't have a story and it doesn't have metapuzzles. But that still leaves 90% of the game content which is the same sort of thing as his more-complex games. And the underlying code and interface were the same; you'd recognize it as "the same thing" before you recognized the differences.

  4. Anthony Suarez says:

    I got Professor Layton and the Curious Villiage last week, and it's a very challenging puzzle game; there's some logic matchstick puzzles, some math riddles, and even that riddle about moving 3 chicks and 3 wolves across a river without the chicks getting eaten.

    The content is cool too. For most of the puzzles which can't solve the first time, I misread the objectives and I end up doing the opposite of what I'm supposed to do. It's worth getting a DS.

  5. says:

    I Freakin' LOVE FOOLS ERRAND!!1!one!

    Not only was that game part of my introduction to the Mac Classic, but it was so different from every other video game I had played until then. Great fun, great design. Simply breath-taking.

  6. Matt Walker says:

    Hi, while waiting for the game to come out I decided to make a new forum dedicated to Cliff Johnson’s games. It has areas where persons can discuss them, give hints, etc. You can check it out if you need a diversion at: See you there!

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