Ok, I’ve been playing around with the idea for a few weeks. Now’s the time I like to look through prior art to see what’s out there already and to get inspiration.
I google “block slide game” and similar. The closest match is an old browser game that pops up with various names on various flash-game hosting sites. Red Block Rescue is one.
A fun little game. Compared to my dominoes puzzles, this game packs the blocks in tighter, with fewer degrees of freedom. And it leverages more single-square blocks requiring more “micro” movement tactics. Qualitatively, the gameplay reminds me of those old tile puzzles where you unscramble a picture.
On the iOS side, I found a number of games with a wooden block-slide aesthetic. I don’t know which one is the original and which is the clone, but here’s a sample:
Despite surface similarity, these games are quite different from Red Block Rescue and my dominoes puzzles. Key difference: each block only slides in one direction. Vertical blocks only slide up or down; horizontal blocks only slide right and left. As a result, the gameplay is very different. The problems feel less spatial and more about sequencing moves in the right order.
Further searching led me to a gem of an iOS game: Puzzle Retreat. This is really a high-quality game. It has similar wood block aesthetics, but the game play is very different. There are different block types (ice, fire, etc.), and goal is not “escape” but rather filling the floor with blocks.
I was really impressed with Puzzle Retreat’s online forums. Each level has a facebook thread where people ask for help and give tips. I poked around these forums and ended up following a link to a game I had never heard of, but won some awards in 2014: A Good Snowman (is hard to build).
I really like A Good Snowman’s 2.5-D aesthetic. It’s sort of brilliant. The gameplay is strictly a top-down, 2-D grid. There’s no perspective (and this is not “isometric”). But the graphics give an illusion of depth and height.
Inspired, I quickly sketched some mocks of my dominoes puzzles using this 2.5-D aesthetic. The pawn is maybe a giraffe, maybe a panda. Side boundaries are bushes, and the blocks have the illusion of height.