Electron Dance

Puzzleworks, 4: Secure

Here's a short, clever PuzzleScript game called Secure by "Toombler". It's one of those PuzzleScript games that asks the player to work out the mechanics with no guidance. Zarawesome (Guilherme Töws) thrust it into my Twitter feed.

Nutshell: A clever twist on Sokoban, but you might get lost along the way.

It's a Sokobanlike, for sure: it's all about pushing blocks, but to what end? Each level will shine a little more light on the rules but also make you realise you didn't understand it all. Eventually, everything falls into place. Ohhhh, that's what I'm doing.

Secure is a great idea which leads up to a genius final level, effectively inverting the concept. It was difficult to figure out the final block configuration, even though I knew immediately what kind of solution I was gunning for. But it's beautiful when it's done.

Unfortunately, it's possible to become detached from the learning curve. I got the wrong impression at times but I was able to soldier through the bits I didn't understand correctly. Others on Twitter reported they had found it confusing and felt the level design was not up to the task of conveying the mechanics.

It's a diamond in the rough with just 17 levels in total. I don't know if any more could have been wrung from the concept but if you're looking for a short brain workout, why not give it a try?

Previous Puzzlework: Akurra

Next Puzzlework: Tres Undos

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  1. for me the genre is more sokobandislikes *omnes: groans* — but something about the way joel talked about this one on twitter made me give it a go regardless.

    it is beautifully clever. i thought i had it figured out in the first few levels, but then as i kept going, i kept getting less and less sure of what i was doing, even though i was making progress through trial and error.

    eventually i reached a level with a whole lot of blocks and threw in the towel: i felt like i had no idea what the rules i was supposed to be playing by were, and the number of blocks seemed to rule out even trial and error anymore. i closed the game, and went back to tweet my failure to joel.

    halfway through writing the tweet, it suddenly clicked. i knew what was up. of course! it was so obvious! went back to the game and raced through to that beautiful fullstop that is the final level.

    so yeah: congratulations, joel! this one has been upgraded to a sokobangrudginglylike :)

  2. Thanks Andy. I hear sokobangrudginglylike is all the rage with kids these days.

  3. Excellent! I played enough levels to get the mechanics and then read this, which of course was a mild mistake, because I had not got quite all the mechanics and this helped me see the idea of the final level quicker than I would have, and it’d have been nice to have the lightbulb click of my own accord.

    I agree with Andy that the one with all the blocks in a checkerboard pattern is a misstep, in that you look at it and think ugh, too many things, and though bashing things into things worked in the end there were still too many things. This reminds me that there are still a few long-cape Puddle Knights levels I haven’t done.

    It seems like this has something of the quality of The Flames where sometimes the polarity of what you want to do reverses but I feel like I shouldn’t say much more!

  4. A little too opaque for me I’m afraid. I got stuck on level 6 with no idea what I was supposed to be doing.

  5. And again on level 9. Felt like I’d managed… something… by getting one of the bottom left blocks to the top right section. But no clear idea how to progress from there. Trying to brute force the solution seems like it will only get more onerous as the levels progress, so I’m closing the tab.

  6. And level 13. *Frowns*

  7. And the penny finally drops. Your comment on the itch page was what gave the game away.

  8. Got it! Clever idea, although there’s definitely a uncomfortable tension between the Big Mystery and designing levels that will eventually give up the secret, while still allowing progress to the mystified player until they do. I’m not sure it quite succeeds there – I really do think without your hint I would have either gotten fatally stuck and/or frustrated before the end, and for the first 13 levels I wasn’t having fun at all. Last two levels are great fun though. 16 being recognisable as the universal Level 3 Of A Sokobanlike got a big smile, as did the solution to 17.

  9. Sounds like my comment on the itch page is giving the game away, maybe I should delete it :)

    Reactions to Secure are interesting. When you don’t get it, you hate it, but once you’ve got it, there’s a warm glow of appreciation. I like how the concept is taken further than I expected in the last few levels (chggvat oybpxf bhg bs lbhe ernpu, abg whfg chfuvat gurz hc ntnvafg n jnyy).

    Oh man, I remember The Flames. Tough cookie but clever as hell.

    Matt – good luck with long cape levels in Puddle Knights. Have to say they weren’t my favourites either.

  10. I think it’s the problem with moon logic boiled down to its essence. I honestly found the game a hateful thing until it clicked. And it won’t click for everyone. Strip away the charming characters, environment, story, and voice acting from an adventure game, reduce it to a series of riddles almost bereft of contextual clues, and challenge the player to find the common thread that makes all the solutions something other than arbitrary. It’s like those abstract shape sequences on an IQ test, or a less helpful version of The Witness (a hypothetical construct if ever there was one).

    I do wonder whether, retrospectively, the satisfaction of being among the cognescenti lends a warm glow of unearned goodwill to such games. My feelings are pretty mixed on this.

  11. It’s really interesting to me to see all the varied reactions to this game – some people never figure it out, while others seem to get it very quickly.

    I don’t think I set out to make a game of this form. I had the idea for the concept, and then in the course of figuring out as many ways to satisfy it as I could, I found rules which were subsets of each other – theories which satisfy all previous levels but are not the complete picture – and I couldn’t resist structuring it this way.

    Honestly I think the concept is the best thing about it. I could include a spoiler in the description for people who aren’t enjoying it, and then they can play a slightly different game, where instead of using the levels as clues to figure out the rule, they’re exploring all the different expressions of the rule. But I don’t want people to give up too easily either.

    I’d say it’s also limited a bit by puzzlescript – it might be nice to allow easier viewing of past solutions, as well as let the player skip some levels without solving them.

    But as a first attempt at this sort of rule discovery (although I did release another somewhat opaque game called Mortar), I’m pretty happy with how it turned out – and mixed reactions are at least better than no reactions.

  12. I can definitely understand that. You had the choice of making two games, one where you explained the rules, and one where the piecing together the mystery of the rules was part of it. I do respect both what you were going for and that you accomplished it. I’m just ambivalent regarding the potential of this approach to frustrate, having only a common-or-garden intelligence on the best of days :)

    I agree that if there were some way for the player to reference all their solutions to previous levels, that might be the best/least-spoilery hint for cracking the nut. As it is, replaying prior levels is an option for the dedicated sleuth, but any player like me would baulk at the idea of resolving solved puzzles ;P

  13. What I really like about the concept is gur jnl vg gheaf n tnzr-qrfvta ceboyrz ba vg’f urnq. Jung qb lbh qb vs gur cynlre trgf fghpx naq pna’g znxr nal shegure zbirf? Znxr gung gur jva fgngr! Lbh fgvyy unir gur hajvaanoyr fgnyrzngr fvghngvba jurer lbh pna chfu oybpxf onpx naq sbegu ohg pna ab ybatre trg gurz vagb gur jvaavat fgngr, juvpu vf jung lbh arrq gur haqb sbe. Naq V guvax lbh cebonoyl arrq gung bgurejvfr lbh’q or noyr gb xrrc enaqbzyl chfu oybpxf hagvy lbh jba jvgubhg xabjvat jul.

  14. this is my third day playing this game and i’m stuck on this one: https://imgur.com/a/vRIKjsH
    i’ve taken many breaks and many returns and can’t figure this out. arghhhh

    i haven’t been shutting down my computer at night because i don’t want to mess up my progress. i’m kinda mad that you posted this HM because your writing is making me really want to stick this one out, and i’m terrible at puzzle games (even though i love them).

  15. Daniel, if you’d like some advice, I’d say that (rot13) vg zvtug uryc lbh gb tb onpx naq ercynl gur cerivbhf yriry hfvat gur yriry fryrpg (Rfpncr) – vg’f tbvat gb or ernyyl qvssvphyg gb svther bhg jung lbh unir gb qb onfrq bayl ba gur ynfg yriry.

    Also, under normal circumstances the game should save your progress.

  16. I sort of Monte Carlo’d my way through the first 12 levels without much issue, then 13 took a while before I got it (and it was a bit awkward to solve it even when I knew the trick). From there I thought it was pretty obvious as the penultimate level sets up the trick to getting the last one so I was expecting it. Always nice to see some more unique puzzlescript games though.

  17. Daniel, I hope you finished that level in the end. And, yes, the game should save progress – unless your browser is purging cookies. I wonder if it is my life mission to make people play games they expect to hate and discover, yes, they do hate it :)

    Johan – yes, I guess it’s clear now we all seem to flounder a bit. And perhaps that’s okay? Maybe the lesson here is that maybe we can make games where not every level has a teaching moment, but in aggregate we achieve understanding. Like life I guess.

  18. Joel – it turned out that Firefox was preventing saving progress. The level select was blank even after finishing a puzzle. I moved to my secondary browser, and consequently, keep on forgetting to go back to it :OP

  19. daniel, did you try turning off Enhanced Tracking Protection (the little shield to the left of the URL bar?) I find that that often helps with sites that are being weird in Firefox.

  20. Also I realized something about level 12, which is that it is mathematically impossible to fail. As long as you keep pushing things you will get a solution. Which is a pretty good joke. BUT! Joel talks about Agoraphobia, when you have giant levels that don’t break down into nice pieces, and I feel like that’s fatiguing even when the solution turns out not to be difficult! Andy said “the number of blocks seemed to rule out trial and error” and that wound up not true–except there was no error–but still, doing this where you don’t know what’s going on can be offputting.

    that’s a lot of complaint about a game I really enjoyed! Level 11 had a lovely use of Schmuck Bait–lbh pna chg sbhe bs svir oybpxf va unaql fybgf ba gur rqtr, juvpu vf fb boivbhf vg pna’g or gur fbyhgvba, naq vaqrrq lbh arrq gb chg bar oybpx va bar bs gubfr naq hfr gur erfg gb znxr gur vasnzbhf fbxbona gjb ol gjb fdhner oybpx–and at the end, when you can have the cebgntbavfg jnaqrevat rgreanyyl va gur oybpx sbeg, vg erzvaqrq zr n yvggyr bs Whyvnaar Zbber ybpxrq va gur qnexarff ng gur raq bs gur zbivr Fnsr? I’m pretty sure that was unintentional, and I suspect it’s unintentional that you can keep pressing X–there’s no secret message if you press X enough times, is there?

  21. Matt – Indeed, that zngurzngvpny vzcbffvovyvgl bs snvyher jnf bar bs zl ovttrfg punyyratrf va gelvat gb znxr npghny chmmyrf (naq yrnq zr gb vagebqhpr gur sbhe qbgf). V rkcrpgrq cynlref gb nyernql unir n jbexvat zbqry bs gur ehyrf ol gung cbvag – rt. pengrf zhfg unir pengrf be jnyyf ba gjb nqwnprag fvqrf – ohg rivqragyl vg qbrfa’g jbex bhg yvxr gung sbe rirelbar (vg jnf nyfb n ybg rnfvre jura V unq srrqonpx ba juvpu pengrf jrer fngvfsvrq ng nal gvzr).

    Regarding the ending – it is intentional, but no there is no secret.

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