Penguins Pool Party

The story behind the creation of Penguins Pool Party 

Raf Peeters, January 2016

Good things come in threes. Since I already invented two puzzle games with penguins, it was no surprise to me that Smart asked me to design a third one for SmartGames. But apart from the theme, these 3 games are very different from each other. Penguins on ice is a bigger game, Penguins Parade is a small, magnetic travel game and this new game is a compact game somewhere in between, similar in size to Temple Trap.


Penguins Pool Party is a very good example of making something new, by changing a few key elements of existing products:

The two existing games had penguins on the ice, so this time I wanted the penguins to be in the water

Penguins on ice used 5 puzzle pieces made of 5 squares (pentominoes), so now I used 4 puzzle pieces made of 4 hexagons (tetrahexes). There are only 7 possible tetrahex shapes to choose from. The shapes I didn’t use are too symmetrical to make them interesting enough for a game with only four puzzle pieces.

Basically this is a “fill up the grid” puzzle, similar to the IQ-Puzzles, but with a penguin theme. Sometimes it takes years to finalize a game, sometimes it’s straight forward. But although Penguins Pool Party might not be the most original concept, it still makes a very good puzzle game that looks great. Especially for puzzle games, simpler is often better. A simple concept doesn’t mean that the design process is easier. Complexity is often used to camouflage problems with the concept or design. If something is very simple, every detail needs to be right.

A simple concept doesn’t mean either that the challenges are easy to solve. Although this game never gets really hard, the hexagonal shapes of the puzzle pieces make it less obvious than packing puzzles with a orthogonal grid. What makes this game a little different from many other puzzles, is that places on the grid sometimes remain empty. Easy challenges show you the position of 4 penguins. The ice puzzle pieces should cover everything else. As soon as you create a separated area of less than 4 hexagons, you know that you have to start over. But harder challenges show you only 2 or 3 penguins. So at the end some hexagons will remain empty, but you don’t know where.

Of all versions we tried only a few sets of puzzle pieces offered enough variation and enough interesting challenges. The ice puzzle pieces were the parts that took us most time. They are made from 1 part (not two like in Penguins on Ice). They are transparent blue and painted on the bottom side with white paint, to make them look like ice. And the different heights of the ice puzzle pieces make it easy to lift them up.

Penguins Pool Party example 1

top: example of a Starter challenge/solution with 4 penguins in the water

Penguins Pool Party example 1

top: example of a Master challenge/solution with only 2 penguins in the water

Game with penguins and ice puzzle pieces
Puzzle Game with 60 challenges invented and designed by Raf Peeters


1) Choose a challenge. Make sure the game board is placed in the correct direction and place the penguins in the water as indicated. Easier challenges use more penguins than the more difficult ones.

2) Try to place the 4 ice blocks on the game board, without covering any of the penguins in the water. Some places on the board will remain empty when in challenges where less than 4 penguins are used.

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

Website ©2016 Raf Peeters

Products and images: © Smart