Polimines

PC, Mac

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.

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6 Comments

  1. Hi!

    Developer here, thank you so much for your honest review! I enjoyed every word of it. This is the first game I release to the public, and with such an amazing feedback it won’t be the last.

    The initial plan for Polimines was to release a lot (and I mean a LOT) more puzzles, but as I continued designing more and more of them I thought I didn’t want any puzzle to feel samey or boring. That led to maybe fewer content that many would’ve liked, myself included. There’s a good chance I’m not over with Polimines just yet though 🙂

    As far as the other complaints… Yeah, they are totally fair too. I’ve been designing puzzles for years, but this is my first time actually developing a videogame. I’m surely lacking a lot of experience in that field.

    Thanks once again for your review, it really helps seeing that someone is enjoying what I do.

    Molter

  2. In my mind Hexcells is like a vision of Heaven : absolute serenity coupled with puzzle perfection. It is indeed hard to find a replacement for such puzzle-based divinity.

    £2 is a bargin for this – purchased!

  3. John, have you tried RYB? It’s my favorite Hexcells-like (though I haven’t tried this one, Molter!) The formal innovation is mostly that the playing fields are irregularly shaped instead of being consistently square or hexagonal, and that there are three states (red, yellow, blue) instead of two (filled/unfilled), but the big thing for me is just that the puzzles are elegant.

    Might be a new one to scratch your itch now that you’ve finished this collection! It was in the Racial Justice Bundle on itch.io so I believe you have access to it.

    Caveat: I don’t think it has anything like row mechanics (since it doesn’t have rows) which might make it less appealing–our tastes in Hexcell-likes aren’t quite the same. And it wouldn’t be accessible to people with color vision issues.

  4. “Tametsi (a game whose 150-ish puzzles I have played through perhaps ten times)”

    Whelp. Tametsi took me 50 hours to complete, I hope you got faster on repeat plays! Also, sorry, it’s all my fault, I recommended Tametsi to you in the RPS comments.

    Honestly, I thought some of its later levels were a bit of a slog. They were convoluted more than complicated. Too often you’d be hunting for the one available move rather than having to apply the rules in clever new ways.

    If anyone’s after more Hexcells, Hexcellence is back posting user made levels. The Walnuts pack in particular is (h)excellent.

    1. You have no idea how grateful I am for that tip! This game has been my go-to happy place for years since, played as I watch TV on the other monitor, and it’s hard to imagine how I’d have gotten through the pandemic (so far) without it! Thank you!

      1. I have 212 games* in my various libraries on the back of your recommendations, not least the wonderful Hexcells series, so I’m delighted to have been able to even slightly repay the favour.

        *I initially wrote “at least 100”, then I decided I wanted to know for sure, so I wrote a script to scrape RPS for your reviews and went through them to check which I’d bought. That was 169. The other 43 were from Buried Treasure. The number doesn’t include the many more that are on my wishlist. This was definitely a worthwhile use of my time!

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