Another A-maze-ing Visit to Animal Crossing: New Horizons!

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There are plenty of terrific video game puzzles out there. Whether you’re talking about video games where the vast majority of the gameplay is puzzle solving (like Myst, Portal, The Witness) or games in other genres that still use puzzles in creative ways (Resident Evil, Silent Hill, Uncharted), puzzles are part of the fabric of video games.

But sometimes, it’s almost more interesting when people introduce puzzly elements to non-puzzle games, because it shows off the creativity, cleverness, and skill of the designer.

People have designed escape room-style puzzles in Super Mario Maker (not to mention working calculators!) and Minecraft is known for its user-generated puzzly challenges.

But I don’t think I ever expected Animal Crossing: New Horizons to end up as a refuge for puzzly minds.

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For the uninitiated, Animal Crossing: New Horizons is a game where each player gets their own island, on which they can build a house, create their own paradise, and interact with fellow players. You can collect animals, plants, fruit, and other resources to craft items. There are tasks to complete, and more characters will arrive to explore your island.

We previously reported on Animal Crossing back in May of 2020 when guest blogger Jen Cunningham discussed their May Day event. During the event, game designers created a special island with a maze and a series of tasks for players to complete as they solved the twisty turny path before them. It was a big success, one of many for the game in 2020.

But as it turns out, that’s not the only maze to be found if you go island-hopping in this popular game.

No, a user named Avery Monsen spent about two weeks turning his island into a diabolical labyrinth of his own design. After deep diving into the game, the creation of Avery’s maze was driven by two factors:

1. It was more fun than the traditional game play
2. It would make the game virtually unplayable, which would make it easier to put down for a while.

And it looks like his plan succeeded. Once the maze was finished, he put the game away. (He recently returned to the game to check out a programming update.)

Apparently, the maze is complex enough to cause travel from any key location to any other key location to last ten minutes. And for a game where you’re free to explore wherever, ten minutes to get from place to place is an eternity.

“I wouldn’t say I forgot about my maze, but I definitely forgot how much of a hassle it is. It’s a nightmare,” Monsen said. “So, I took a few screenshots and posted them to my Twitter. I was very quickly flooded with people who were impressed by my dedication and terrified by my obsession. Both of these reactions are valid.”

He has shared the address code so that other players can visit his island and try their hand at his now-famous labyrinth. “I hope people enjoy my island and I hope it doesn’t make me look totally nuts,” he said.

Who knows what other puzzly works are lurking out there in the world of Animal Crossing: New Horizons, just waiting to be revealed?


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A Puzzle Game That Lets You Change the Rules of Puzzles!

[Image courtesy of Linux Game Consortium.]

Solving puzzles through different mediums can lead to unexpected and challenging solving experiences.

One advantage that video game puzzles have over their pencil-and-paper counterparts is that, while the paper puzzles are a one-stop shop for a puzzle experience, there’s no adaptation, no evolution, no development for the solver or chance to build upon what they’ve learned through multiple solves or repetition.

In video game puzzles, on the other hand, repetition is the name of the game. New skills and techniques are immediately tested by clever twists on established puzzles, so you’re never resting on your puzzly laurels.

For example, while discussing the classic puzzle platforming game Portal, my friend once described it as a game that reprograms your brain with each puzzle you solve, transforming alongside the player. (This is also a hallmark of many of the puzzle games offered by our friends at ThinkFun.)

[Image courtesy of Game Informer.]

That sort of reprogramming is at the heart of the puzzle experience in a new game called Baba Is You.

In Baba Is You, the gameplay consists of objects to move and manipulate, as well as word blocks that form rules for the game itself. You start off by being able to move Baba, a small rabbit-like creature, around obstacles, with the goal of reaching a golden flag. So, the word blocks read “Baba is you” and “flag is win,” which both tell you the starting rules and the goal.

[Image courtesy of Kotaku.]

By changing these word blocks, you change the rules, effectively reprogramming what you can do in each level.

Kotaku explains this concept well:

One clump might say “Baba is you,” which means Baba is the character you control. Another might say “Rock is push,” which means you can push rocks, or “Wall is stop,” which means you can’t walk through walls…

You rearrange individual words to solve the puzzles. There are usually multiple options, depending on where the words are placed. In the above example, you could remove “stop” from “wall” and pass through the barrier. You could attach “wall” to “is push” instead of “is stop” and push it out of the way. You could make yourself the wall by pushing the word “wall” before “is you.” Or you could make the wall the win condition and touch that instead of the flag.

[Image courtesy of Kotaku.]

So, essentially, you solve each puzzle by obeying the rules, changing the rules, and then obeying the new rules. And since puzzles are all about figuring out how to accomplish tasks by adhering to certain rules, this creates a fascinating new style of puzzle. It’s almost like improvisational comedy or Calvinball, except it’s not played for humor.

I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a puzzle game that lets you alter HOW you play as drastically and as simply as this. You literally make and break the rules here, depending on how clever you are.

Baba Is You is available for PC and Switch, and I look forward to seeing more diabolical puzzling like this in the future.


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