Overall Score 90%
Zen Puzzle Garden
"Even in an empty forest a master finds joy because he wants nothing" said the narrator of 1978 T.V. series "Monkey". Others do want something and if that thing is a truly enlightened puzzle game then you are in luck, because Zen Puzzle Garden is a delight from far eastern New Zealand.
From the website and the animated company logo as the game started I expected this game to be high quality, and it was.
The idea is very simple. Guide your raking Buddhist around a Japanese rock garden (a sand pit with rocks in). You can't rake across your path, that would mess up the nice looking trail. Rake all of the sand and the level is done. You can't stop in the middle of a line though. On later levels you get leaves that should be raked up in the correct order.
The presentation is very good and it is clear that a lot work has gone into getting the game to look, and work, just right. The boxes that represent levels on the level select screen spin and flip when the mouse pointer moves over. As well as looking good, this has a practical purpose because you can see the level inside the box.
The game screen has blossoms gently falling from the trees and in the winter levels the main character leaves footprints in the snow.
The controls are easy to use and instinctive, like using Esc for cancel and F1 for help. There are instructions in the game, as well as a detailed ReadMe.txt file.
There are 64 levels which is a lot for this game. The game is very challenging but not frustrating by being too difficult because the basic idea is so simple to visualise. It's almost like the solution is inches away. There is an undo button and the expected level restart, but no random levels unlike many puzzle games nowadays.
Sound is used well and has an oriental feel. An authentic koto glissando initialises the game and each scene with perfection. There is no music or ambient sound while playing which enhances the complative monatastic mood. Some title music might have made the game even better though.
One advantage of having just two reviewers here at Bytten is that we each review many games and can draw upon that experience for comparison. About half of the games we review are some sort of puzzle game and of those I've so far reviewed, Zen Puzzle Garden is the best to play, and the best presented too.
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