Puzzles of Aesthetics

A few weeks ago, I complained about the casual game Home Sweet Home that it wasn’t a very entertaining game, being asked to decorate a house to client specifications. (I ragged even more on the “construction” part of the game, which manages to be easy and annoying at the same time, and to bear little or no resemblance to the real-life activity that it is supposed to be simulating.) Other people evidently liked the game more than I did.

Since then, though, I’ve been thinking about this question: how do you design a puzzle or goal-oriented interaction in which the player’s job is to make aesthetic judgments?

I’ve seen a number of different gestures towards this kind of puzzle in recent games.

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It’s Not All Chocolate

After my recent good times with Chocolatier 2 (and, I have to confess, a string of stressful working days that left me too brain-dead to want to work on IF in the evening), I decided to try some demos for other games being sold by Big Fish and PlayFirst. Sadly, none of them were nearly as cool as Chocolatier 2, though not all were quite as maddening as Mystery in London, either. The run-down, for people who enjoy reviews no matter of what:

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Chocolatier 2

Or: In which I make 630 million dollars.

Some time ago, I tried Chocolatier, a game about running your own chocolate factory. Overall, I thought the game play fell short of what it wanted to be, but I had fun anyway because of the chocolatey goodness of it all. (See also Sushi Go Round.)

A few days ago, JayIsGames announced the existence of Chocolatier 2, and I downloaded the demo, figuring that I probably wouldn’t purchase the full version this time around. But in fact, they’d fixed quite a few of the things I thought were underwhelming about the original, and the second episode is considerably better rounded as a game; by the time I finished the demo hour, I was hooked. Again.

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