Dinosaurs Mystic Islands

The story behind the creation of Dinosaurs - Mystic Islands

Raf Peeters, January 2016

Dinosaurs is a unique shape matching puzzle never seen before…or at least not the last 70 million years! It might surprise you, but this puzzle game evolved from a game concept featuring cute little rabbits. Strange how evolution sometimes goes in a unexpected direction. This time meteors of outers space had nothing to do with. Blame “marketing” for this... poor little bunnies ;-)


I started from the idea to make a puzzle game where the right position of a puzzle piece depends on the position of other pieces. So you can never tell if a puzzle piece is placed correctly, until you placed other puzzle pieces on the game board. I have already explored this idea a few times. For example a similar idea is also used in Airport Traffic Control and the BoosterPack of Camouflage North Pole. You have to place all puzzle pieces on the game board so that the shapes of the islands match what is shown in the challenge. When you start, this is not so easy, because the islands are angled 45° and the same circular shapes come back everywhere, both in the water and the land parts. But once you get used to the puzzle pieces, it’s not that hard either. 


DIG IN THE WORLD OF DINOSAURS

Island parts can only be placed adjacent to other island parts and water parts only to other water parts. This reduces the number of combinations in half. The puzzle pieces are not that different from each other:

• 2 puzzle pieces have a big and small island part. The only difference is the color of the dinosaur on it. These puzzle pieces have both a second puzzle piece that looks identical, except that they are mirrored.

• there is one puzzle piece with only 1 big island part (and a green dinosaur)

• there is one puzzle piece with 3 small island parts (and a red dinosaurs)


AVOID THAT THE GREEN DINOS GET EXTINCT PREMATURELY

There is one additional constraint: Meat-eating dinosaurs cannot be placed on the same islands as the plant-eaters. So this is how the original idea is used. You can never tell if a puzzle piece is placed correctly, until you complete the rest of the island. For most islands with dinosaurs you need at least 2 puzzle pieces. Solutions can include empty islands or islands with several dinosaurs of the same species. To help you, the easy challenges give extra hints about the shape and position of  some puzzle pieces. Because of the limited number of combinations, this is more a game for children of age 6 to 12. The hardest part is not the challenge but the unusual shape of the islands. It’s also a very good exercise in visual discrimination, because the islands in the challenges often look very similar, but are solved completely different.


ISLAND THE T-REX 

The computer program to calculate came up with 148 possible challenges with only 1 solution. But in reality only about half of them were usable, because most challenges came in pairs, where the only difference was that everything was mirrored. Compared to many other games this was quite a limited source to start selecting final challenges. For that reason I even included a few challenges with multiple solutions. Because I always want all challenges to have only one solution, I solved this by using these challenges for the STARTER level, where I give hints by showing the position of some puzzle pieces with white outlines. Without these hints, most challenges in this level would have several solutions.


In the end I think the dinosaur version looks cute. We had to find a balance between realistic and stylish. Making them too realistic would make them look very cheap, because they are so tiny. We made them from TPR (thermoplastic rubber), the same material we also used for Three Little Piggies and Little Red Riding Hood. It makes manipulating the puzzle pieces a nice tactile experience.

example of a Starter challenge/solution with hints (white lines indicating puzzle pieces)

example of an Expert challenge/solution

GAME RULES DINOSAURS MYSTIC ISLANDS 


1) Choose a challenge.


2) Place all puzzle pieces on the game board so that the shapes of the islands match what is shown in the challenge:

• Red Meat-eating dinosaurs cannot be placed on the same islands as the green plant-eaters.

• Solutions can include empty islands or islands with several dinosaurs of the same species. 

• Easy challenges give extra hints about the shape and position of some puzzle pieces.


3) There is only 1 solution, which can be found at the end of the booklet.

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