Ian Hook
1985
Puzzle
£1.99
English
ZX Spectrum 48K
None

12,13
Chris Bourne

The Thinker is a sliding block puzzle but comes complete with a warning from the publisher, 'If you value your sanity, don't buy this game it makes Rubik's Cube look simple'. Having failed to crack Rubik's Cube, my front door AND The Thinker, I really don't feel qualified to make comparisons.

On loading, the user is asked to select a level of difficulty from 1 to 5. After you have answered the prompt, the game board is drawn. You are confronted with a large square outline, at the bottom of which there is a gap about two thirds the width of the square's side.

The gap corresponds to the smaller red square positioned at the back of the box which in turn is surrounded by nine other blocks of different sizes and colours, each block being numbered. The object of the puzzle is to move the red block out to the front of the box, but to do this the other blocks have to be rearranged, within the confines of the box, to allow the red block free passage.

Sounds easy.

To move any of the blocks simply requires the user to input the number of the target block and then, by using the cursor keys, to show where you would like it moved to. Should you make an illegal move then you will receive the first of three warnings, persist and you are in for a nasty but witty shock.

Should you fail to crack The Thinker then you will be able to write to the publishers for the solution. I can confidently predict that Atlantis will be getting some extra post.

CRITICISM

'It's always a bit difficult to know what sort of criteria to use in commenting on a game like this. Certainly the computer is ideally suited to this type of puzzle game, and in the end people who enjoy difficult puzzles will no doubt enjoy this as a computer game. A big advantage is the price, which makes it well affordable even if you are not sure whether you will like it or not. Graphically it is unexciting, as you might expect, but the moving routine is friendly enough and the puzzle provided is a great deal harder than it looks at first glance. I 'm still trying.'

'The Thinker is a slight advance on the plastic slide puzzles you had when you were little kids, the only difference being that the blocks are not just square, they are all different shapes and sizes and very difficult to move about in the right order. One thing that irritated me was the beeping, buzzing and chirping - it got on my nerves and wasn't conducive to thinking; and it slowed the game up considerably. Apart from that l found the game enjoyable, which is most unusual for me. l don 't know whether it is more difficult than Rubik's Cube, but with only one face instead of six I think it must be easier, although the time limit can become quite drastic.'

'How, you may ask, can you have a level of difficulty with a program like this? It's all rather cunning, should you be foolish enough to select the hardest IeJel, five, you are allowed very little time to decide on your move, if you take too long then the computer will force a move on you, but it will be a bad one. At the highest level your time expires after about 8 seconds, level 2, the lowest, allows you plenty of time. Since this puzzle is hard to solve at any speed (until you've done it once of course) I can't quite see the point of a time limit at all. Still, it proves to be quite a brain-teaser and therefore worth it if you like this sort of thing.'

COMMENTS
Control keys: cursors and zero to 9 (the red block number 10 is actually zero)
Joystick: cursor type
Keyboard play: simple enough and responsive
Use of colour: very simple
Graphics: very simple
Sound: loads of entry beeps, etc
Skill levels: 5
General Rating: A tough puzzle.

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68%
69%
85%
79%
79%

Screenshot Text

Getting the red square out from the back is the brain-teasing puzzle here.