A Shift in Puzzly Perspective

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I’ve had 3-D puzzling on the brain for a few days now, after a conversation about video games with a well-informed friend of mine.

What do I mean when I say 3-D puzzling? Well, I don’t just mean a puzzle that exists in three dimensions. I mean a puzzle where the solving experience requires all three dimensions.

Think about your average maze or a jigsaw puzzle. Although they’re three-dimensional objects, the solving is two-dimensional. Yes, there are certainly variations on these themes, like maze cubes where you navigate a marble from one place to another, or 3-D jigsaw puzzles that allow you to reconstruct famous landmarks. But these still rely heavily on two-dimensional solving.

Compare that with the iconic puzzle video game Portal, for instance. Portal requires you to accomplish different tasks, and you can only do so with your portal gun, a device that allows you to connect two different locations on the map.

[Image courtesy of Game Informer.]

That requires a complete realignment of your perspective, because you can walk in a straight line through one portal and emerge above, below, or at a 90-degree angle from where you started. This isn’t two-dimensional thinking anymore.

Between 3-D printing techniques and the constantly evolving engines behind video game systems, we’re seeing more and more examples of three-dimensional thinking in puzzles, and I’m perpetually amazed by what creators and designers come up with.

Check out this video of gameplay from the new puzzle game Etherborn:

Your character navigates elaborate three-dimensional landscapes, and gravity is wholly dependent on how your character is oriented at the moment. So you need to be clever enough to use the landscape in order to move your character in very unorthodox ways.

It’s fascinating, a step beyond some of the puzzles seen in previous games like Portal and Fez. (In those games, gravity still only worked in one direction, whereas Etherborn breaks even that fundamental baseline.)

I think this sort of puzzling appeals to me so much because the change in perspective that comes from solving in an additional dimension completely rewrites the rules we thought we knew.

Imagine for a second that you’re inside a corn maze. Now think about the paper mazes you’ve solved. See the difference? In the first scenario, you’re beholden to the meager information you get from following each path, whereas in the second, you can plan a route from above because you have much more information. You can see dead ends and avoid them.

The three-dimensional scenario is far more challenging than the 2-D solving you’re doing with the paper maze.

ThinkFun managed a similar feat with Gravity Maze, a puzzle game that required you to move a marble from the starting cube to the ending cube. The main challenge was that you had to build the path with only the given materials, and then just drop the marble in. All the puzzling happened at the beginning, and then you became a bystander as the marble traversed the solution you built.

This isn’t just plotting a path like in a normal maze, it was understanding a chain of events you were setting in motion, like cause and effect. It’s like building a simple Rube Goldberg machine and watching it go.

But whether you’re manipulating portals, shifting perspectives, dropping marbles, or solving corn mazes, you’re pushing your puzzly skills into new dimensions. And that’s just the puzzles we have now. Imagine what comes next.


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The Floor Is Not to Be Trusted.

We love optical illusions here at PuzzleNation Blog. They’re puzzles for the eye, mind-bending ways that our senses can be tricked by clever manipulators of color, angle, and perspective.

And if you’re looking for visual trickery in flooring, look no further than the tile wizards at Casa Ceramica, a UK flooring manufacturer that decided to kill two birds with one stone. (Well, more like many tiles than one stone, but I digress.)

Supposedly, they had a problem with people running down the hallway to their store, and wanted to dissuade such shenanigans.

So they created an optical illusion to make it look like the floor was more treacherous than it really is. That way, ne’er-do-wells would be forced to slow down for their own “safety.”

And not only are they making their place safer, but they’re showing off their impressive skills while they do so! It’s a win-win.

What do you think, fellow puzzlers? Will it work? Or is it just a clever marketing scheme to draw attention to their topnotch tile skills?

Although I firmly believe it’s just an ingenious way to get the word out about their company, they’re not wrong in thinking that this sort of thing could dissuade rambunctious types. Other designers and stores have employed similar trickery in the past.

I mean, if you were trying to get across this floor, would you risk running?

I think not.


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The Puzzly Art of Anamorphosis

Anamorphic illusions are all about perspective. Making the illusion work requires you to either be in a specific place (positioned a certain distance away and facing a certain direction) or the use of a mirrored cylinder or cone.

Using mirrored objects is called catoptric anamorphosis and using specific perspectives is known as oblique anamorphosis. It’s oblique anamorphosis we’ll be focusing on today.

Most of us have probably seen an example of anamorphosis recently, as it’s become a popular form of urban outdoor art. The ground is painted or colored to provide a fake perspective, and by standing in the proper spot, the illusion is formed.

This creates ample opportunity for some terrific photographs:

[Did you know we’ve got an entire Pinterest page dedicated to this?]

Having a hard time visualizing anamorphosis? Well, the folks at Brasspup have a fantastic YouTube page devoted to science and illusions, and they have several videos featuring some mind-blowing anamorphic illusions.

You can even use light to assist your illusion, as they do here:

What’s even more amazing is that these perspective tricks can move beyond two-dimensional works like paintings and photographs. If you know how to manipulate the viewer, three-dimensional illusions are within your grasp.

Check out this Escher-inspiring creation, built from pens and Jenga blocks! It looks positively impossible!

It really is baffling when you consider how many ways there are to trick the eye. From Necker cubes and shape illusions to forced perspective and anamorphosis, optical illusions are alive and well as a puzzly art form worth exploring.

Heck, look at what we can do with nothing more than black lines!

Imagine trying to walk a straight line in that room. Wow.


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You can also share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr, and explore the always-expanding library of PuzzleNation apps and games on our website!