Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Review: Willa's Walk for iPhone and iPad

When I reviewed Sherlock by Everett Kaser, I checked the screenshots of his other games for PC and Mac and thought that the most interesting seemed to be Willa's Walk. I was therefore happy to see that it was precisely the next game that was ported to iOS.
My gut feeling was right: as a logic puzzle, Willa's Walk is excellent. As an iPhone app, however, it's horrible, featuring a sluggish and confusing interface.

The environment for the puzzles is the map of a house. The rooms have variable sizes, and many doors.
The goal is to build a closed path that passes through each room exactly once. Also, the path must not do a straight line through a room; that is, the two doors used must not be in front of each other. The latter rule is a stroke of genius and is fundamental to make the puzzles interesting.

Each puzzle has a unique solution, as every good logic puzzle should.
Note that in the above puzzle every room has doors in every possible position. It is beautifully elegant that the solution is determined only by the room layout and not by the exclusion of some doors. This only happens in a few puzzles, however; in most cases, some doors (but remarkably few) had to be removed to make the solution unique.
There is a good number of logic deductions that can be done to proceed towards the solution of each puzzle. They require good observation as the puzzles grow larger, and they are varied enough to keep the process interesting.

The basics of the user interface are good enough: swipe through a door to make the path pass through it. If you made a mistake, tap the path to remove it.
When you determine that the path cannot pass through a door, you can tap the door to keep note of your deduction. However, visually the door turns into a solid wall: that is, there is no visible difference between a real wall (one that was there at the beginning of the puzzle) and a door-turned-into-wall.

There are 10 grid sizes, from 6x4 to 12x12, and two slightly different difficulty settings for each.
The larger puzzles look like this:
It's very cumbersome to play those on iPhone, because even if the game does support zooming, I couldn't get that to work reliably. My touches were often misinterpreted, e.g. zooming out when I wanted to scroll. At the moment, I can only suggest to stick to the smaller puzzles, or play on iPad.

The rest of the user interface is pretty confusing and overcomplicated, and is in desperate need of a radical redesign. Just consider that the More button at the bottom cycles through two more lists of buttons, and the Options screen looks like this:
I don't know what half of those settings do. So much for simplicity in iOS apps.

Normally when I solve a logic puzzle I try to make strict deductions for every move, which means that when the solution is eventually found, I have also proven that it's unique. In this game, however, I found some of the puzzles hard enough that I often took advantage of the knowledge that the solution is unique. For example, in the following puzzle look at the room with a red dot.
The path through that room trivially cannot use the two doors on the right (otherwise it would form a closed loop with the other room), and it also cannot use one of the doors on the right together with the door at the top, because the two possible paths would be equivalent, so the solution wouldn't be unique:
Additionally, if the circled door was not used, the two doors on the left would be equivalent too, so any other path through the room wouldn't be unique:
Therefore, the path must go through the circled door, and the middle door on the opposite wall:
I enjoyed these kind of deductions, even if from a purist point of view they are "wrong".

There's not one, but four differemt versions of this game on the App Store. The only difference is the number of puzzles they include.

Willa's Walk FREE: 40 puzzles (free)
Willa's Walk PRO: 600 puzzles ($0.99)
Willa's Walk ULTRA: 7500 puzzles ($3.99)
Willa's Walk ZEN: 15000 puzzles ($5.99)

Definitely try this game, with all the flaws in its user interface, because the puzzle mechanics are great. They would deserve a more enjoyable implementation.


Logical Reasoning★★★★★
User Interface★★☆☆☆
Loading Time★★★★★
Saves Partial Progress
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©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.