I'm puzzled. Help puzzle me more!
November 10, 2013 10:56 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for some good puzzle games, preferably for iOS and based on words rather than numbers or physical pieces.

I stumbled upon this Wired article about The Game and wonder there are virtual versions of this kind of puzzle hunt. What games are similar, at least in the puzzle-solving aspects? (I know it's hard to reproduce the real-world breathless rushing hither and thither or the nemeses appearing from the shadows, but I'm less interested in those bits anyway.)

I'm curious about anything you think fits the general spirit of this kind of puzzle game, though I have some preferences:
  • iPad and iPhone would be best, but I'm open to Mac, web, and even (watered down) real-world versions of this kind of thing. I know about Real Escape games, and I just read about octothorpean.org.
  • I'd especially enjoy word-based puzzles of the kind described in the Wired article (rebuses, pattern recognition, codes, ciphers, etc.). I'm not well-versed enough in puzzle vocabulary to know whether I'm using the right word, but I don't much care for what I'd call "physical" puzzles: e.g., sliding puzzles, Tetris-like games, or any other kind of puzzle whose objective is to get pieces to fit together or to move around in a particular way. That said, it's okay if this kind of puzzle is part of a larger endgame.
  • I'm fine with having to search around for clues, but I'd rather spend more time solving the actual puzzles. Case in point: I found The Room for iOS, and I think it's masterfully done, but so far a lot of it has been just searching around for physical objects and then trying to fit these objects into the rest of the physical world. (Well, the physical world of the game, anyway.) A lot of "escape" puzzle games seem to be heavily focused on clicking around (sometimes indiscriminately) until you find clues or pieces, but then it's not that hard to figure out to do with the clue once you've found it. It'd be cool to have more of the experience of getting a puzzle and then having to think about it for a while before you understand what to do with it or how to solve it.
What games should I try?
posted by lettersoflead to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (8 answers total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
Myst is available for iOS, as is the sequel Riven. If you aren't familiar with them, they're deservedly classic adventure games, for PC originally. I would say Myst is the better game overall, but the puzzles in Riven are fantastic, and they seem like what you're looking for. A lot of the game involves piecing together alien symbols and number systems.
posted by vogon_poet at 11:25 AM on November 10, 2013

You might enjoy games from Amanita Design. Samorost is a good way to find out if you'd like them, though it is mostly the piece-things-together style of puzzle. Later games have a much more pattern and 'word' puzzles in them.
posted by carsonb at 11:55 AM on November 10, 2013

Device 6?
posted by juv3nal at 12:58 PM on November 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

This is kind of an out-there suggestion, but have you played Planetarium? It's an incredibly inventive browser-based puzzle game/story that plays out over 12 weeks. Each week several new Minor Puzzles are unlocked, plus there's a near-impossible Major Puzzle that can be solved at the end, depending on how well you did on the Minor Puzzles and how good you are at "having to think about it for a while before you understand what to do with it or how to solve it." I recommend it highly not just for the puzzles (some of which would be familiar to word puzzle fans, and some of which are fiendishly difficult) but for the story and artwork.
posted by muddgirl at 1:35 PM on November 10, 2013

A totally left-field suggestion, but it meets your 'words' and 'pattern recognition' criteria: have you thought about diagramless crosswords? You get an empty grid and the clues and have to determine the pattern from the words. I like the Penny Press and Dell books (there's a couple of sample puzzles on that page) and this page has some freebies to print.
posted by goo at 1:46 PM on November 10, 2013

I've done The Game a couple of times, and while there are very few things quite like it, there are a few online puzzle hunts out there. But in terms of difficulty, these will be mostly an order of magnitude or so past any iPhone game you'll find. If you're in a major U.S. city and want to try a puzzle hunt in person, check out DASH, which is kind of like The Game-lite and can be lots of fun even for beginner puzzlers. For a totally online experience, there are Mark Halpin's excellent Labor Day extravaganzas. And then there's the granddaddy of all puzzle hunts, the MIT Mystery Hunt, which happens in person every year, but there are years and years of archived puzzles to explore online, although you'll lose some of the overall structure. As a competitive puzzler and non-competitive video gamer, I often gravitate towards classic adventure games for gentler challenges and a similar sense of discovery: The Secret of Monkey Island, Day of the Tentacle, etc. The more recent Professor Layton series is also a nice way to get a light puzzle fix, and Adventure Gamers is a great resource for getting the low down on this particular genre. The games aren't always super puzzle-oriented, but many of them are, and lots of older games are getting a new lease on life as iOS versions, so I bet you'll be able to find something in there.
posted by Diagonalize at 5:02 PM on November 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

You would like The Fool and His Money by Cliff Johnson. He's made several wordplay/puzzle games for the Mac, most of them way back in the 90's. TFAHM took him ten years to make, so the graphics are somewhat outdated, but the puzzles are all very innovative and challenging.
posted by Troupe of trained rats at 6:27 AM on November 11, 2013

Black Bar. It plays out like a puzzle story using documents that have been "censored" by a 1984 style government. You have to figure out what words were censored to advance.
posted by patrickje at 10:36 AM on November 11, 2013

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