The city building / puzzle game hybrid Puzzle Craft is a cruel mistress. She knows how to push my buttons, keep me invested. I look into her eyes every time I come in contact with her, wondering what secrets she holds, and she knows it. Content to tease me with little hints of brilliance I’ll never be able to experience for myself. While I may be interested in Puzzle Craft, I don’t think she’s very much interested in me.
Anyway, Puzzle Craft tasks you with building a village (as you’ll see in the screenshots Meekindonia is a quaint little serfdom), acquiring materials, and eventually transforming your tiny little village into a sprawling city. You do this by amassing resources. How do you amass resources? By puzzle solving your butt off.
Solving puzzles is pretty addicting and involves matching like tiles with like tiles. When farming, If you need a bunch of lumber, you want to match all the tree tiles. If you need chickens for food, match up all the chickens. If you need bread, match all the wheat. If you match a bunch of wheat / chickens / trees in a row, a more prestigious tile will drop, be it carrots or pigs or more wheat. You have a limited amount of time to amass as many resources as possible before the season changes.
Once time runs out, you can then use those resources to build structures that make farming easier, build tools that make farming easier, or hire villagers that, you guessed it, make farming easier. Then, if you get bored, you can attack the mining, which is exactly the same thing as mining but with ore, stone, and precious metals standing in for trees, chickens, and wheat.
This is all controlled well, as the tap and drag interface provides no issues, there’s no bugs I’ve been able to find, and the graphics are bright and colorful. There’s a deep sense of satisfaction that occurs when you match, say, 8 chickens in a row, or have a particularly fruitful farming or mining session. Puzzle Craft certainly knows how to entertain, initially at least.
But here’s the thing. I made it to roughly level 10 in the game and the *only* puzzles were the aforementioned mining and farming games. That are no other gameplay elements beyond these two very similar gameplay mechanics. You eventually upgrade your settlement to a village, a village to a town, and so on and so forth, but there’s no reason to really want to do this, because all it means is that you’ll be farming and mining over and over and over and over again. It’s literally a snake eating it’s own tail, with the complexity of the city building mechanics attempting to mask the annoying fact that there’s only *one* sort of puzzle.
Ultimately, playing Puzzle Craft is a lot like being friendzoned by a pretty girl. For a time the largely platonic happenings are fun, colorful, and something to look forward too, thinking to yourself “Well, it’s not what I want, but it’s better than nothing”. But, as time passes, the same experiences become dull and mundane, frustrations grow, and you let it all out in a seven paragraph e-mail that you forgot to spell check. I mean you stop playing the game because it became repetitive. But, for 99 cents, it’s certainly a worthwhile experience, just don’t be surprised if you get proverbial gaming blue balls.