Overall Score 69%
Top Hat Puzzle
I am always surprised by the breadth of games in the indie market. At one end we have high-powered 3D worlds filled with a plethora of content. At the other end we have simple one-screen puzzle games that download in less than a minute with modern Broadband connections. In between we have a riot of games, from the sublime to the absurd, from the coffee-break quickies to the hours-long RPG epics, from one-man projects done alongside a "real" job to small teams of experienced developers.
This week's review, Top Hat Puzzle, is very near the smaller sized end of this spectrum and is best described as a variant strain of the Sudoku species. Given the (inter)national craze over Sudoku in recent years, it is perhaps no surprise that there have been several such variant strains appearing, including the particularly difficult "Killer" Sudoku (though I believe no deaths have actually been apportioned to it) and those 16x16 massive Sudokus for the especially masochistic. Having been infected with the Sudoku bug in the past I couldn't resist a peek at Top Hat Puzzle.
Take a look at the first screenshot and you'll see what the grid looks like. It's a rough square made up of diamonds, each diamond containing a number in the range 1-6. The aim (like in Sudoku) is to arrange them so that all six digits appear in each section and each diagonal, without repetition, and to do so as quickly as possible. In this case the patterns to watch for are the four diagonals, the four "corners" and the four "top hats". Aim to complete the puzzle more quickly than anyone else on the leaderboard to gain the coveted first place.
And that's about all there is to it. There is no mathematics involved in Top Hat Puzzle (or indeed in Sudoku). The numbers 1-6 are simply symbolic. Depending on how you feel about Sudoku and similar puzzles, you're either thinking "sounds great, I'll have a go," in which case you'll already have stopped reading and I may as well be talking about horticulture or whether a polar bear with two heads could be called a bipolar bear, or you hate Sudoku and don't understand what the fuss is about, in which case you probably stopped reading two paragraphs back. For the benefit of the three people on the planet still reading I will endeavour to continue some semblance of a review!
No downloads are required for Top Hat Puzzle, except perhaps a few codecs/controls for your internet browser. Just visit the Top Hat Puzzle website, choose today's, yesterday's or a practice puzzle and a difficulty setting. Then you're away. Controls are also easy - click on a square and then click on a number or a blank space to insert same in the grid. Hold down Shift when clicking on a number and you'll add a note, allowing you to work out anything you aren't sure about. Complete the grid and you'll be prompted for your name for the scoreboard.
At this point I normally comment on a game's graphics and sounds. In this case sound is nonexistent and graphics are minimal, which could make this a brief topic! The main page is pretty basic but works well enough - though I was not the only person that needed to check the help. There is a fair amount of animated webjunk on the page, fortunately confined largely at the bottom out of sight - a look at some of the related websites meant I encountered some far worse (epileptics beware!).
With a new puzzle every day, there's no reason why you can't come back again and again - and it's free to play! Top Hat Puzzle is a little experimental, so I suspect new ideas and puzzle formats may appear (certainly a massive version of THP is in the pipeline, though whether it is mathematically feasible I couldn't say). So pop along, take a peek, try a puzzle, stick your name on the leaderboard. And remember: a line of numbers in front of a vending machine isn't a sudoku - it's a soda queue! Sorry, sorry. I'll get my coat...
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