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Puzzle by Nikoli W Masyu Review

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Surely Puzzle by Nikoli W (whoever they may be) are running out of puzzles by now?  At what point do they get desperate and release Spot the Difference? Or Puzzle by Nikoli W Pop Up Pirate? 

They’re not running out any time soon. Give them a grid of squares and they can whip up a dozen puzzles and – in all likelihood – you won’t have encountered them before. They are clearly talented people, to the degree that they have been cooking up a new game on the Xbox at a rate of once per month. Their library is starting to look sizable. 

Puzzle by Nikoli W Masyu is the latest, and – again – it’s just different enough from their other games to sidestep fatigue. Out go Nikoli’s love for numbers, and instead we have black and white circles. It’s all they need to get a puzzle going. 

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Okay, here’s our attempt at describing the rules of a Masyu puzzle. On a grid, you have black and white circles. Your aim is to join them all up with a path. Now, the colours of the circles have different meanings. A black circle means that a path takes a right-angled turn within it; every black circle contains, effectively, a corner. Not only that, but the path into and out of a black circle is always a straight line, and that line cannot criss-cross any other lines. So, you’re always getting a longer, unbroken, protracted corner in every black circle. 

That’s a large amount of information. A black circle needs a lot of space to make that large right-angle fit. So, you can normally start eliminating options. Walls and other circles get in the way, so you will have some guaranteed placements based on the black circles. That’s job one. 

Job two is the white circles. Now, these are effectively the opposite of black circles. They do not contain corners: they always contain a straight line. So, the path will pass through a white circle without making a turn. The complicated part (and the bit that got our heads in a twist on more than one occasion), is that on at least one side of the white circle, the path will turn. The path might turn either side of the circle, or on just one side, but it cannot continue as a straight line on both sides. 

That’s less information, making the white circles less useful than the black. But if a white circle is nestled against a wall, then you can be sure that the path is not ploughing into that wall – it will be running parallel. White circles next to other white circles also tell you something. You can’t have a straight line running through three or more white circles, because – and this takes some visualising – the middle white circle would have two paths, either side, where the path isn’t turning.

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Tying the rules up in a bow is the common Puzzle by Nikoli W stipulation that there must be one, long, unbroken path, and no widowed ‘islands’ of path. Everything must connect up for a path to work. Equally, paths can’t cross each other, and a circle can only have two paths passing through it. Any more and it’s a fail. 

This is technically all you need to complete a Puzzle by Nikoli W Masyu. You may question that statement – multiple times in fact. Even on the Easy setting, we were staring at the screen, wondering whether we did, actually, have enough information to finish things up. Of course, you do, but of all the Nikoli puzzles, Masyu is one of the hardest to learn and hardest to master. 

The tutorials are as spotlessly good as usual, so there are no issues there. It’s just that the nature of the puzzle is a little more abstract, a little more visual, than the others in their locker. For example, understanding whether you are creating a widowed path, away from the main path, means switching to the other half of your brain. It can be hard to see whether you’re heading for a dead-end. This rule can twist your melon. 

It’s less at-a-glance as their other puzzles, too. In Puzzle by Nikoli W Heyawake and others, it’s immediately clear if something is in the wrong place, or if a number doesn’t have the right amount of squares around it. Cluing into what’s right or wrong in Puzzle by Nikoli W Masyu takes a bit more work, and that makes it a difficult one to pick up and comprehend immediately. We’d say that this is one of the more difficult puzzles they have to offer.

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But, as with almost every Puzzle by Nikoli W, you will eventually get there, and once you have clear skies and a full understanding, well, it’s a minor epiphany. You can chew through puzzles much faster than before, and the joys of Puzzle by Nikoli W Masyu are absolutely evident. It’s another winner, and we’re almost taking it for granted with the Nikoli games. It must be incredibly hard finding these puzzles and making them frictionless, but they’ve done it again, By Jove. 

Oh, there’s the usual snark that they haven’t changed the music, and the presentation is the same as it’s always been. It’s humourless and clinical, etc etc. If you’ve been reading these reviews, you will know that it’s criticism that we’ve chucked at Puzzle by Nikoli W every single time. But it bounces right off, and most of their players don’t care. In fact, we wonder whether the familiarity is a positive for them. 

So, bravo, Puzzle by Nikoli W, you’ve done it again with Masyu. We don’t know what bargain you’ve struck with a puzzling demon, but you’ve delivered yet another fresh-feeling, devious puzzle onto the Xbox, and barely weeks after the last one. We’ve never had our asses so thoroughly kicked by black and white circles before. 

You can buy Puzzle by Nikoli W Masyu from the Xbox Store

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