20 Small Mazes

PC, free

Let’s have another. Another completely free game that’s gained itself some attention on Steam, but been all but ignored since release by the gaming press. 20 Small Mazes is an absolutely brilliant little game, packed with original ideas, and should absolutely have charged $5 to everyone for the enjoyment within. Still, developer FLEB did not, so flipping grab it.

This is, as it suggests, 20 small mazes. However, despite this, it’s also a great deal more. Each of the 20 levels – playable in any order you choose by dragging them around the screen line scraps of paper – is in fact a unique puzzle, using a maze as its underlying structure. These incorporate surprising twists, fun secrets, and a fair amount of head-scratching.

One of mazes on top of the pile at the start requires you to concertina the “paper” as you move your dot around the paths, such that you jump from one side to the other. Another is about discovering secret numbers so as to unlock a safe. One delightful level is hand-drawn by the developer’s six-year-old, and it’s brilliant.

It’s all very beautifully presented, too – the clean, bold lines of a back-of-the-kids’-menu puzzle collection. Interaction is a combination of mouse and keyboard, which definitely could have been a bit neater and more consistent, but all works well. And the puzzles are a good mix of simple but fun to solve, or tricky and satisfying to figure out. There was only one maze I didn’t enjoy (found too hard), but given I couldn’t find anyone else kvetching about it on the Steam Discussions, I guess that was just me.

It’s this clean presentation that means I even looked at it at all. There are a dozen games with names like this that appear on Steam every week, almost always disposable crap that could have been created by a machine. I scroll past endless numbers of “100 Hidden Tortoises” or whatever all the time. 20 Small Mazes, thank goodness, is nothing like them, despite the terrible on-the-nose name. I say this in case you were worrying about it too.

So yes, another free game that’s a completely obvious pick-up. It’s a bunch of lovely ideas, each used just once, despite many being strong enough to be the basis of a game of their own. (The Snake puzzle especially.) I can’t wait to see what FLEB does next.

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  1. This game is fantastic and I can’t believe it’s free. Played through it a few nights ago and it was so fun (even with an evil sliding puzzle)!

  2. I fear this needs a correction: It _has_ been picked up by the gaming press, specifically your old haunts RPS, where Alice Bell posted about it some time ago. Which is where I heard about it and why I’ve already played it.

    But this all doesn’t matter because what you say is true: It is brilliant and great fun – especially the 6 yo’s puzzle – and it’s ridiculous that it’s free.

  3. The six-year old’s puzzle was my favourite. This was posted in the game suggestions channel on the Buried Treasure Discord as well! That place is a trove of excellence.

  4. I imagine the one you had trouble with was the sliding puzzle? I had to take a screenshot, print it out on a piece of paper, cut it up, and start rearranging it outside of the confines of the grid. What a game!

  5. What a great game, thanks so much John — and yes you’re right (of course) the snake one has so much potential for a full game.

    The way I had to do the sliding puzzle was square by square, working back from the exit, to a square I could connect to the meeple, then ferry them back — did need pen + paper to keep track though…

  6. “many being strong enough to be the basis of a game of their own. (The Snake puzzle especially.)”

    Are you familiar with the two Snakebird games (Steam/Switch), John? If not, have a look, I am sure they would be to your liking.

  7. Hm — like a couple other commenters, I spent a while stuck on the sliding tile maze. It took me an embarrassingly long while to realize that I had the false assumption that, like the jigsaw maze, the explorer/circle would get reset back to the start of the maze if I moved a tile; I assumed I’d need to mess with the tiles until a complete path was visible all at once. Once I worked out that was in fact impossible, actually solving the maze was fairly quick and painless.

    The jigsaw maze and the untitled-DRAFT maze were the two I found hardest out of the full set, but neither one crossed my “this isn’t fun any more” threshold.

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