Thursday, December 12, 2013

Announcement: Zen Garden Puzzle for iPhone and iPad

My new game, Zen Garden Puzzle, is now available on the App Store!
You've probably already seen the video, so let's talk in more detail about the mechanics.

The play area is a square grid containing a few delimited areas and an equal number of stones. The goal is to put one stone in every area.
The catch is that, while you can move the stones freely all around the screen, every time you move one stone some other stone moves by itself in the opposite direction. This is done so that this fundamental rule is respected: there is always exactly one stone in every row and every column.

After moving the stones in the rightmost two columns, here is where I was:
This is beginning to show why the game is called "Zen Garden Puzzle". When an area contains exactly one stone, it disappears and reveals that below it is a zen garden, with its characteristic rake patterns resembling water ripples. The patterns change while you play, to match the current position of the stones.

When you eventually reach the solution, the whole garden is exposed.
It is interesting to note that from every position of the stones, the solution can always be reached in no more than just 3 moves. So even if you move at random, you will never be farther away than you were at the beginning. Warning, though: solving a puzzle in 3 moves is very, very hard and requires full concentration.

As a reward, after solving a puzzle you get a quote to meditate over. In this case, it was a haiku poem by Kobayashi Issa.
Usually at this point I would say how many puzzles the game contains, but this isn't how Zen Garden Puzzle works. It focuses on providing an immersive, endless experience, so there is no puzzle list and no definite number of puzzles. Instead, after solving a puzzle, there is a seamless transition to the next one. The stones remain where you left them, but new borders are drawn around them, forming a new puzzle to solve.

The difficulty of the puzzles changes depending on your Dan rank, which will increase as you play the game. Initially, to advance to the next rank you just need to solve puzzles. Later, you also need to solve them in a limited number of moves. But don't worry: there's no penalty if you don't do that, you will just not advance to the next rank until you are ready.

In an attempt to avoid cluttering the user interface, there is no credits screen in the game, so allow me to list them here:

Design, programming and graphics by Nicola Salmoria
Merriweather font by Eben Sorkin
Marimba instrument samples by University of Iowa Electronic Music Studio
Big bell sample by Jojikiba

Last but not least, I'd like to thank the beta testers, who have been invaluable. Everything good in Zen Garden Puzzle is thanks to them; everything bad is my fault. In alphabetical order:
Roberto Canogar
Tom Cutrofello
Glenn Iba
Raf Peeters
Eric Wolter

©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. 


Unknown said...

Looks good, bought it, but can't figure out how to progress through the tutorial. There's no "Next" button or other way to move to the next speech bubble. I can move the stones around, bug I'm stuck at the same point in the instructions.

Nicola Salmoria said...

Hi, thanks for downloading the game.

You just have to move the stones around a bit more, after 2 or 3 moves the tutorial will advance automatically.

cognominal said...

Beautiful puzzle with a clean beautiful design, a great attentionto details and very progressive difficulty.
Like many great ideas it is obvious retrospectively.
Take the 8 queen problem and replace the diagonal constraint by another : the board is partioned and each "queen" must be in a different partition. I am curious to know if you came to it by that path or a different one?

An original game in the app store filled by me too crap apps with ugly designs. The buddhist quotes are a nice addition too. I gave it 5 starts on the French app store where it has no reviews.

And thx also for the blog that helped me to find nice puzzle apps including this one

Nicola Salmoria said...


Variation of the N queens problem is one way to see it, though I think it's more fitting to think of it as a variation of the N rooks problem.

However, the path that led me to this was actually the attempt to simplify the rules of the Star Battle puzzle, on which my previous game Twin Beams is based.

cognominal said...

Thx, I did not know Star Battle Puzzle. Now, I understand how you came to design Zen Garden Puzzle.