CITY MAZE - GPS PUZZLE GAME

 

THE STORY BEHIND THE CREATION OF CITY MAZE


City Maze is my favorite new SmartGame for 2014. I had the basic concept for this puzzle game already many years ago. But I never managed to translate this idea into a product until now. And the resulting challenges are even better than what I anticipated.


YOU HAVE REACHED YOUR DESTINATION

The original idea was to make a route finding puzzle, with a figure that had a start and end position. The movement of the figure would be limited to a few “instructions” he could use only once. Such an instruction could be: “go straight forward until your path is blocked and than turn left”.


The problem with this concept was that players could easily make mistakes. Because left and right are “relative” to the position of the figure. This is something that not only children but also many adults find difficult. I remember for example that my wife always needed to rotate the map when she was giving me directions in the car (in the days before we had a GPS).


For many years I tried all kind of different ideas and finally I solved this puzzle by reversing the concept: instead of moving a figure using “virtual” instructions, I made the instructions “physical” and the movement of the figure “virtual”.


CAN YOU FIND THE RIGHT PATH?

The object of City Maze is to create a route between a starting point and a destination. You do this by placing arrow shaped puzzle pieces onto a grid (that represent the streets of a city). You always follow the path of the street, until your route is changed by an arrow. So puzzle pieces don’t need to touch each other in order to create a route. It’s something I learned many years ago during driving school: If the teacher doesn’t give any new instructions, just follow the road in the same direction.


As always I wanted to create as much variation as possible between the different challenges. To do this, there are two options you have as a designer. The first option is to start with a large grid and to use extra blocking pieces to alter this basic layout for each challenge. People who are familiar with my other designs for SmartGames know that I seldom work this way. One of the disadvantages is that the more pieces you need for a puzzle, the more pieces you can loose or place wrong during setup. To create enough variation between challenges with fewer puzzle pieces, I needed to use them smarter.

The 6 arrow shaped puzzle pieces are double sided. One side is red, the other side is blue. Each side can only be used for one colored route. But the options you have for blue routes are different than the options for red routes. For example blue routes have 2 left turning arrows, but no right turning ones. For red routes, it’s exactly the opposite.


The grid is compact and has a few curves on very specific places. This makes it possible to create a lot of completely different challenges, only by changing the position of the start and destination pieces. It also makes setting up a new challenge something simple and quick. Finding the right layout of the grid with the right balance between possibilities and limitations was the most time consuming part of the design process.


TOO MANY GOOD CHALLENGES

Long after we decided which game rules, grid and puzzle pieces we were going to use, something unexpected happened (I always like that). The computer program created too many good challenges. Originally I planned on using only challenges where you needed to create two routes (one blue and one red) at the same time. These seemed the most interesting, because for each puzzle piece you had to decide which side you were going to use. So although you only have 6 puzzle pieces, you have 12 options to choose from.



top: example of a Wizard challenge (left) and solution (right) of a challenge with two different colored routes.


But the challenges with a route in just one color also proved to be interesting, especially if that route had two destination. What makes these challenges hard, is that you don’t know in which order you need to pass both destinations.


Instead of trowing away something good, I decided to keep both kind of challenges. That’s why this game includes 2 booklets, each with 60 challenges from easy to expert. Booklet A (“on the double”) has only challenges with two different colored routes, booklet B (“Delivery Express) only challenges with either red or blue routes.



top: example of a Wizard challenge (left) and solution (right) of a challenge with one route and two destinations.


The only downside of this is that the game was designed to store just 1 booklet, not for 2. So when you travel, you will need to decide which booklet you will take with you or need to use a elastic band to keep the lid closed when you want to include both booklets underneath the lid. But the upside of this is that you get 120 challenges, much more than what other SmartGames in this price range offer.


REVIEWS AND OTHER LINKS

  1. City Maze on the official website of SmartGames

  2. http://www.sjovforborn.dk/familiespil/visspil.asp?n=&ID=107


AWARDS

  1. Seal of approval Winner Spring 2014: National Parenting Center (USA)

 


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Raf Peeters, January 2014

2017

TEMPLE CONNECTION

SNOW WHITE

JUMP IN’

IQ-FOCUS


2016

LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD

PENGUINS POOL PARTY

PARKING PUZZLER

IQ-XOXO

DEDUCKTION

DINOSAURS MYSTIC ISLANDS

WALLS & WARRIORS

SMARTCAR 5x5

HIDE & SEEK PIRATES JR

HIDE & SEEK JUNGLE

NORTH POLE EXPEDITION

GHOST HUNTERS

ANTI-VIRUS MUTATION

2015

THREE LITTLE PIGGIES

BUTTERFLIES

IQ-BLOX

IQ-CANDY

PENGUINS PARADE


2014

QUADRILLION

BRAIN CHEESER

CITY MAZE

IQ-STEPS


2013

BUNNY BOO

VIKINGS BRAINSTORM

BACK 2 BACK

IQ-LINK

AB UNDER CONSTRUCTION

AB ON TOP


2012

TEMPLE TRAP

BILL & BETTY BRICKS

BEND-IT

IQ-FIT

NOAHS ARK

AQUABELLE


2011

PENGUINS ON ICE

TRUCKY 3

TROY

IQ-TWIST


2010

CHICKEN SHUFFLE

ANACONDA

CANNIBAL MONSTERS

SMARTCAR

SMARTPHONE


2009

TITANIC

DAY & NIGHT

2008

ROADBLOCK

METROVILLE

ALCATRAZ


2007

CAMELOT JR

CASTLE LOGIX

GOGETTER 4


2006

AIRPORT TRAFFIC CONTROL

HIDE & SEEK PIRATES

TOWER OF LOGIC INFERNO

DUOPUZZLE


2005

CAMOUFLAGE

HIDE & SEEK SAFARI


2001

GOGETTER 1, 2 AND 3