Penguins Parade

The story behind the creation of Penguins Parade

Raf Peeters, January 2015

Penguins Parade is a new magnetic travel game I designed for SmartGames this year. The object of the game is to place the 4 puzzle pieces on the game board, so that the 4 penguins are placed in either a horizontal, vertical or diagonal line.


The basic idea for this puzzle started (again) with my wish to make a puzzle with the minimum number of puzzle pieces. Especially with compact travel games, this is very useful, because despite the fact that the game board is magnetic, you still need to put your puzzle pieces temporary somewhere else when you are solving a challenge. And the more pieces you have, the smaller they get and the easier they got lost.

The main object of the game in almost all 2D packing puzzles I have created so far is to to fill up the grid with puzzle pieces. What makes each game different is the extra requirement that is unique to each game. In RoadBlock you need to make sure that the red car can’t escape. In Noah’s Ark you need to make sure that pairs of animals are placed next to each other. But of course there is no real reason why the main objective should always be to fill up the grid completely.

The only object of the game in Penguins Parade is to place the 4 puzzle pieces on the game board, so that the penguins are lined up (in any direction) without any blanc spaces or puzzle pieces in between them. Penguins should always be placed with their feet below, which means you can’t rotate the puzzle pieces with the penguins. Each challenge is made different by using 2 empty puzzle pieces, that need to be placed on a specific location during set-up. You are not allowed to change the position of these empty puzzle pieces.

Although it looks like you have a lot of empty space on the game board, the challenges are not very hard. That’s why we have put ages 5 to 10 on the packaging. Especially the fact that you are not allowed to rotate the puzzle pieces with penguins, limits the number of possibilities quite a bit.  There are only 22 different ways to put the 4 puzzle pieces next to each other so that the penguins line up in a valid way. Of course some ways can be used on different places on the game board. This results in 113 possible end positions for the puzzle pieces with penguins, still plenty to choose 48 challenges that are different for this game.

The theme is a request from my bosses, who wanted to have another penguin game, after the success of Penguins on Ice. The theme also fits perfectly with the concept of the puzzle. In my imagination penguins often form a line when they walk over the ice towards the sea. 

As a designer I always try to do more than what is really necessary for the game. So I made the puzzle pieces a little bit less square and flat. Although this is a completely different puzzle game than Penguins on Ice (it doesn’t have transformable puzzle pieces), both games are very clearly related. If you loved Penguins on Ice, you will probably also like Penguins Parade.


My colleagues and I also redesigned 2 existing products for the magnetic travel games of SmartGames: Tangoes Animals and Tangoes Paradox. Of course the idea behind Tangoes is not mine, but based on the ancient Chinese tangram puzzle. The original Tangoes brand was bought a few years ago by Smart, but so far we didn’t have the time to update this product. Tangoes Animals now finally features 48 challenges instead of 24. And all challenges are now in the right order from easy to hard and have a single solution, just like most other real SmartGames. 

For the other new Tangoes product, my input was a little bigger. Paradox also has 48 challenges, but they come in pairs. The object is also to recreate the image shown in the challenge using the 7 tangram puzzle pieces. But once you have solved a challenge A, there is always a challenge B that is almost identical at first sight. The only difference is that it looks like a piece is missing, although you need to use the same 7 puzzle pieces than for challenges A. How is that possible? Can you solve the paradox?

top: example of a challenge A (left) and B (right)  

Puzzles with solutions that seem to be impossible are not new, but as far as I know, nobody made a complete multi-level puzzle game based on this concept. Some challenges have multiple solutions. It was already very hard to design 2 x 24 challenges with this concept. If I only allowed challenges with a unique solution, I needed to leave out a lot of nice and interesting ones.

example of a difficult challenge/solution of Penguins Parade

example of an easy challenge/solution of Penguins Parade


Fit all of the puzzle pieces on the game board so that the 4 Penguins are placed together in a horizontal, vertical or diagonal line.

1) To set up the game place the 2 empty puzzle pieces on the grid as indicated in the selected challenge. These pieces cannot be moved. The early challenges also show the position of some puzzle pieces with penguins, making the solution easier to find. 

2) Attempt to fit the remaining puzzle pieces with penguins on the game board as follows:

• The 4 penguins must be placed in a direct horizontal, vertical or diagonal line, next to each other, without any empty squares between them.

• The 4 penguins must be upright, with their feet at the bottom.

• The puzzle pieces cannot overlap each other or the border.

3) There is only 1 solution, found in the back of the included challenge booklet.

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Products and images: © Smart