Saving Puzzle Games for Posterity

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[Image courtesy of Medium.]

One of the coolest things about the Internet is how it facilitates the gathering of information. Not only does it connect you to valuable sources around the world — experts, researchers, scholars, and collectors — but it grants you access to libraries and repositories of knowledge unlike anything the world has seen before.

I mean, think about it. Looking for a famous text? Google Books or Project Gutenberg probably has you covered. A movie? The Internet Movie Database is practically comprehensive. Different fandoms and franchises have their own individual Wikis that cover episodes, characters, and more.

Although there’s no single repository for all things puzzly — though we here at PuzzleNation Blog certainly try — there are some online repositories of puzzle knowledge available, like XwordInfo, the Pre-Shortzian Puzzle Project, and Cube Index.

And other place online that’s helping to preserve puzzle history is The Internet Archive.

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[Puzzling out a jailbreak in The Secret of Monkey Island with a curious piece of equipment. Image courtesy of Final Boss Blues.]

The Internet Archive is a nonprofit digital library that archives computer games, books, audio recordings and videos. In terms of computer games, that means everything from text adventures to more well-known ’80s and ’90s games, and even early experiments with 3D modeling.

Recently, more than 2,500 MS-DOS games were added to the Archive. Adventure and strategy games were among the numerous entries included in the latest update, as well as a fair amount of puzzle games, both famous and obscure.

“This will be our biggest update yet, ranging from tiny recent independent productions to long-forgotten big-name releases from decades ago,” Internet Archive software curator Jason Scott wrote on the site’s blog.

In addition to Sudoku, Chess, and Scrabble games, there were loads of Tetris variants (like Pentix), a crossword-inspired game called Crosscheck, and even TrianGO, a version of the classic game Go played on a hexagonal field.

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[Image courtesy of Google.]

In this update alone, you can find virtually every kind of puzzle to enjoy. If you like building Rube Goldberg devices, there’s The Incredible Machine 2. If you’re looking for a puzzly version of the beloved Nintendo game Bubble Bobble, then try Puzzle Bobble.

You can building dungeon romps with The Bard’s Tale Construction Set or crack challenging cases in Sherlock Holmes: The Case of the Serrated Scalpel. You can find your way out of maze-like platforming traps in Lode Runner or enjoy the tongue-in-cheek humor and devious point-and-click puzzles of one of my personal favorites, The Secret of Monkey Island.

There are even iconic horror puzzlers like Alone in the Dark and I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream if you’re looking for something a bit spookier and more sinister.

This is a treasure trove of old puzzle-game content, and it’s all available with the click of a button. These games will be joining such previously archived classics as Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? and The Oregon Trail in the Internet Archive’s vast and ever-growing library.

And thanks to their efforts, more than a few puzzle games will be saved from obscurity or oblivion.


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Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Puzzly Delights!

Merry Christmas, fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers! (And if you don’t celebrate Christmas, then Happy December 25th, fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers!)

I’m a sucker for a festive event, so I’ve got a puzzly double feature lined up for you today.

First, allow me to present a delightful video concocted by friend of the blog Hevesh5. Lily is a domino master who has created numerous domino chains and Rube Goldberg-style machines with elements that fit a given theme. So naturally, given the season, she’s devised a marvelous domino chain with all sorts of holiday elements. Enjoy!

And since we’re on a holiday kick, there’s an anagram challenge for you too!

What are the longest common words you can make from the letters in the following phrase?

M-E-R-R-Y C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S

No plurals or proper nouns are allowed, and you can only use the letters in the phrase. (Meaning, for instance, you can use 3 Rs, but not 4, since there are only 3 in the phrase.)

We came up with one 10-letter word, four 9-letter words, twelve 8-letter words, and thirty 7-letter words.

Let’s see how you do!

Have a marvelous holiday (or day), and happy puzzling to you!


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The Puzzly Magic of Marbles!

As regular readers well know by now, I’m a huge fan of Rube Goldberg devices. They are my favorite form of mechanical puzzling, because they not only require innovation and creativity, but it’s immediately obvious whether the device actually works or not.

It’s amazing how many different ways people have concocted to move marbles, lift objects, circumvent physical obstacles, and span distances with everything from household items to living creatures.

An intriguing variation on the Rube Goldberg device has been gaining steam on YouTube, though, and today, I’d like to shine a bit of a spotlight on the crafty designers behind them.

Essentially, these devices are as complex as Rube Goldberg devices, but they use fewer materials. The goal is to simply get the marble from one end to the other.

But restricting themselves to marbles, wooden blocks, tubes, magnets, and so on hasn’t limited their creativity in the slightest. If anything, it’s made them more inventive!

As you can see, each device is built on a slightly tilted table, so that gravity does the work of moving the marbles. But everything else, from slingshots to moving parts and triggers, is activated through clever mechanics.

The combination of timing, positioning, and creativity is entrancing at times, leaving you dumbfounded at how they’d ever conceived of these delightful obstacle courses to begin with.

Some are set to music while others tell little stories of adventure and romance, but all of them are mind-bendingly entertaining, often taking several viewings to catch everything going on!

And hopefully, these puzzly creations by Kaplamino and DoodleChaos brought a smile to your face today.


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Behold: The Lemonade Machine!

A Rube Goldberg machine, for the uninitiated, is a device designed to accomplish a simple task in as many unnecessary, ludicrous steps as possible. The name comes, appropriately enough, from Rube Goldberg, a cartoonist and inventor most famous for his cartoons featuring singularly silly and elaborate machines like the one pictured below.

We’ve posted videos of Rube Goldberg machines in the past, because they’re a perfect example of a mechanical puzzle in action. Only when things happen in a precise order does the machine complete its task.

But it turns out that an old friend of the blog — domino master Lily Hevesh, aka Hevesh5 — is now venturing into the world of Rube Goldberg machines.

And her first attempt was a doozy.

Teaming up with five machine-building YouTubers — essentially, videomakers who specialize in chain-reaction mechanical devices — Lily and the group descended upon an AirBnB in San Diego to build a Rube Goldberg machine that would span the entire house!

The Lemonade Machine, as they call it, travels from room to room, utilizing items commonly found in those rooms (silverware and a teapot in the kitchen, for instance) to construct an epic-length chain reaction with everyday household objects.

The end goal? Pouring a glass of lemonade for each member of the build team.

So, how did they do?

They constructed a real mechanical marvel here. It took three days to build, and another day to execute a complete successful run of all of the machine’s components in a single take. The end result was the largest Rube Goldberg device constructed in the United States this year.

Not only that, but Lily documented the entire process, so you can watch both the construction and the many MANY attempts on Falldown Day to achieve a successful run of The Lemonade Machine.

It’s a mind-blowing feat, combining puzzly skill, creativity, patience, and determination, and there’s no denying that they built something truly unique and pretty cool.

I’m gonna go watch it again.


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Puzzles Come to Life!

A few years ago, I wrote about the world’s largest jigsaw puzzle, a 5 feet by 19 feet, 33,000-piece monster called “Wildlife,” which took a young puzzle enthusiast 450 hours to complete.

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That was a cool story in and of itself, but as it turns out, some other puzzlers have gone one step further, using the Wildlife jigsaw puzzle as their canvas for a stop-motion animation video.

This YouTuber, who goes by the name of Sky!, transformed the Wildlife puzzle into games of Tetris, Space Invaders, Pac-Man, and Mario Brothers, using completed sections of the puzzle as their gameplay elements.

It’s absolutely mind-blowing. Check it out:

Apparently, it took Sky! and a cohort over 400 hours to solve the puzzle and another 400 hours to animate the video. That is some serious dedication.

But that video got me thinking about other ways creative folks have used puzzly elements to tell stories.

And I was reminded of a video that’s been making the rounds on social media lately. It employs one of my favorite puzzle devices — a Rube Goldberg machine — to tell a story of three brothers who face danger and live to tell the tale. (They do use a bit of stop-motion animation at the start, but afterward, it’s all real-time motion.)

This is the story of a ball named Biisuke. Enjoy!

It’s adorable and even has a song! How could you not love that?

It just goes to show you there’s no end to the puzzly stories you can tell with a little creativity.


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“World’s Greatest Billiards Shot” is actually a feat of puzzly engineering!

I stumbled upon this video recently, and the bombastic headline caught my eye: “World’s greatest billiard shot spanned two floors and nine tables.”

As someone who enjoys pool and trick shots, I clicked on it. But, as it turns out, this isn’t the world’s greatest billiard shot.

It is, however, one heck of a Rube Goldberg machine made out of billiards gear.

A Rube Goldberg machine, for the uninitiated, is a device designed to accomplish a simple task in as many unnecessary, ludicrous steps as possible. The name comes, appropriately enough, from Rube Goldberg, a cartoonist and inventor most famous for his cartoons featuring singularly silly and elaborate machines like the one pictured below.

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We’ve posted videos of Rube Goldberg machines in the past, because they’re a perfect example of a mechanical puzzle in action. Only when things happen in a precise order does the machine complete its task.

And they’ve been around long enough that we’re starting to see fun variations on the concept. Beyond simply accomplishing a task, many Rube Goldberg devices tell stories or center around a given theme. (We even featured one that was designed to take weeks to complete!)

This video fits nicely into that grand tradition of overly complicated mechanical devices that accomplish something simple.

So, without further ado, I give you the Allstars Sports Bar Rube Goldberg device:


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