Thursday, April 11, 2013

Announcement: Brain Twirler for iPhone and iPad

Brain Twirler is now available on the App Store. It is my second game for iPhone and iPad, and the first to appear under the Nontrivial Games label.
The inspiration for this game came from Spin Mix by Ivan Vassilev, which I reviewed some time ago.
It is played on a grid containing some dots, and pieces resting on the dots. You have to rotate the pieces around their endpoints, avoiding intersections, until the red piece is at the top of the screen. The first puzzle is trivial, and acts as a tutorial:
There are three kinds of pieces. The red one is the shortest, and there's always exactly one, because it is the piece that needs to be moved to the goal position.
The yellow pieces are twice as long, while the blue pieces are something inbetween (sqrt(3)/2, to be precise). All pieces can turn by 60 degrees at a time, but the interesting thing is that while the red and yellow pieces can be parallel to each other, the blue pieces are offset by 30 degrees. This adds variety to the puzzle mechanics.
The dashed circles indicate the pieces than can be moved. This is useful while learning how to play, and gives a substantial help while playing. For an additional challenge, there's the option to turn them off.

There's support for unlimited undo/redo, which is preserved for all puzzles, even after quitting the app, and even after restarting a puzzle (after restarting, you can use the redo button to replay the solution step by step).

I'm particularly pleased by the style of the thumbnails in the puzzle list. They remind me of some abstract art paintings.

I wanted a clear progression throughout the game, and I didn't want to have too many puzzles, because the mechanics could get boring after a while, so the game has just 50 puzzles. Puzzle 1 can be solved in 1 move, Puzzle 2 in 2 moves, and so on; Puzzle 50 can be solved in 50 moves.

You get one star for solving a level, and two stars for solving it in the optimal number of moves.

It gets much harder to earn 2 stars in the later puzzles. How well you did is summarised in the puzzle list, using a "par" notation.
61 above par! I have to improve that one.

At the beginning, 4 levels are unlocked, and for every puzzle you solve, a new one is unlocked.

If you get stuck in a puzzle, there's a built-in solver which will suggest the best move from the current position. You are awarded an extra hint for every level you complete with 2 stars. If you run out of hints, you can get more through in-app purchases. I think limiting the number of hints should avoid the risk of spoiling the game by abusing them, while still leaving the option open when you are seriously stuck.

I tried to include the most possible variety across the puzzles, by changing the number of blue and yellow pieces. In most puzzles there's a combination of both, but there are also some with a single type, like puzzle 43:

If this game does well, I hope to also update Twin Beams in the future, adding new puzzles and switching to the Brain Twirler user interface style, with native iPad support.

©2013 Nicola Salmoria. Unauthorized use and/or duplication without express and written permission is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nicola Salmoria and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.