I play an awful lot of puzzle games that look like Polimines. In my endless quest to find something else to fill the hole left in my life by the end of Hexcells, (and indeed SquareCells and CrossCells), I am met with such frequent disappointment. But not today! Polimines, brief though it is, is a whipsmart puzzle game that fuses Picross with Minesweeper.
I get very fed up of people conflating Minesweeper with a puzzle game. It isn’t. It’s a game of random luck, with some moments of deduction scattered within. Games don’t have contiguous pathways of logic from start to finish, but instead rely on the player clicking and hoping. However, inside it there are nuggets of ideas that others have used to splendid effect. Of course, Hexcells is the best of the bunch, but there’s also the sublime Tametsi (a game whose 150-ish puzzles I have played through perhaps ten times), Hexceed, Geocells Quadcells, and various other runners up. Polimines, and its very brief set of 25 puzzles, belongs in their number, if only it would carry on.
Polimines begins with the familiar rules of Picross – a grid of tiles with numbers to the left and above the rows and columns. Each number indicates how many consecutive “bombs” there are in that line of tiles, and from this information, you deduce which must be marked, and which can be deleted.
This game then mixes things up by having numbers appear behind deleted tiles. These represent Minesweeper rules, where they indicate how many adjacent tiles are to be marked (where diagonal is considered adjacent). Things then get further interesting when you learn that gaps in the grid mean the external number rules don’t carry over, which in turn allows clues for, say, two rows to also be the rule for the column beneath. OK, look, this stuff gets too complicated to type out, but it makes sense as you’re playing.
Remembering that rules don’t apply over gaps is definitely the trickiest aspect here, especially if you’ve played as much Hexcells and Tametsi as I have. But it’s a great idea, and it really changes how the puzzles work. I especially love how you apply the two sets of rules together to deduce solutions, considering that if that column has to have a row of three mines, but that “2” tile already touches one other, so therefore the row of three must touch the 2 only in one place, which means you can delete the extremities of the column, which in turn… Yeah, that sort of chaining logic is what I crave, and this really delivers it, solutions depending upon spotting such details. (This gets even better when the “?” are introduced.)
What’s not such a good idea is how similar the yellow colours are for an untouched tile and a deleted one. It’s very odd that this scheme was chosen, adding unnecessary confusion, and I dread to think what it might be like for anyone with any colour-viewing issues. I hope this can be patched, or better, some proper options added letting players pick their own colour schemes.
My other complaint here is that numbers don’t fade or get crossed out once all their requirements are met. That’s pretty standard for puzzles like this, so it feels lacking for it.
My unfair complaint is I want so much more of this. I think it really gets going around puzzle 19, and then you’re just six from the end! However, this is £2, and a really lovely collection of puzzles, so at this point I’m just being greedy. Yet, by puzzle 25’s fantastic sprawl, I really felt like it had found its groove. Perhaps if everyone just buys this, it’ll incentivise developer Molter to make some more! I thoroughly recommend you do.