Completing our collection of Puzzle By Nikoli reviews is Puzzle By Nikoli W Slitherlink. We’ve played them all, but none of them has sent us into mental convulsions as much as Slitherlink. Of all of the puzzle games released by Puzzle By Nikoli W Slitherlink, this is the one that sends us running to a corner shaking at the prospect of playing it.
Much like all of the other Puzzle By Nikoli W games, everything starts with a grid and some numbers. But that’s where the connection largely ends, as Puzzle By Nikoli W Slitherlink takes its lead from games like Boxes or Squares which you might have played on square paper back at school. In those games, you might remember, you are adding lines on the outside of each square in the effort to make boxes before your opponent.
The pertinent difference here is that you are aiming not to make boxes, as that would break the unbroken flow you are looking to create. Instead, your aim in Puzzle By Nikoli W Slitherlink is to add lines on the outside of the boxes to create a large unbroken river. By the end of a puzzle, your meandering river will conform to all of the numbers that are written on the page.
Each number refers to the number of lines around it. A 0 has no lines around it, so you should avoid them like the plague. A 3 has three lines around it, in any permutation, and the rest you can probably figure out yourselves.
Initially, it doesn’t feel like enough information to complete a puzzle. We will be honest, we didn’t grasp the nuances of Puzzle By Nikoli W Slitherlink for a very long time – there’s a reason that this, of all the Nikoli puzzles – was left till last. It’s not that the tutorials are poor, as they do a sterling job, it’s just that applying them to the grid, and having the right mindset about doing so, took a bit of a mental switch.
There are tricks that you need to learn. Two 3s next to each other might seem like useless information, but it’s not. You can’t create a closed circuit, so the two 3s mustn’t make a box together. That means, guaranteed, there is a line between them. There are so many little assumptions that soon become second nature, but on the first few levels take an absolute age to learn.
0s are your godsends. More often than not, they will be where you start, as they inform all of the numbers around them. A 3 next to a 0 is gold dust, and will tell you precisely where three lines should be placed. Better still, you can veer away from the 0 at the end of those lines, and know exactly where your path is going to lead next.
And that’s the secret of Puzzle By Nikoli W Slitherlink. It’s about the unbroken path that you create, and what will lead to a line that doesn’t double back on itself, doesn’t cross the other lines that you are creating, doesn’t stray into a 0, and doesn’t beeline for a corner of the grid. With all of those avoidances, you start following the line you are creating like a puppy, hoping that it will give you just enough information to continue.
More so than other Puzzle By Nikoli W games, there’s a bit of leeway to guess. As long as you keep hovering over that undo button, you can see where the line takes you and if it makes sense within its chain. The blank squares in Puzzle By Nikoli W Slitherlink can have any number of lines around them, so there’s a degree of joining up isolated lines and seeing if things work. That occasional trial-and-error can make it feel like the loosest of all the Puzzle By Nikoli games.
We’re not afraid to say that it bakes our noodle more than the others too. In one sense, that’s down to us. We think we’ve gained bad habits from playing the other games. This requires a different part of the brain – the shape matching part – and it can often be about where a line couldn’t possibly go, more than where it can. The mental recalibration was real.
But in another way, it’s down to Puzzle By Nikoli W Slitherlink. To complete the hardest puzzles, you have to have a visual understanding of where the line is snaking, where the outside and inside of the river or island that you’re creating happens to be. But the path of that river is so meandering, and the size of the grid so large on later levels, that we suspect that few human beings could hold the shape of it in their heads. You can have such a mess of lines and numbers on the screen that untangling your mental thread can be like finding your wired earphones in a long-unused bag. How did it get in such a knot? And how are you going to unravel it?
On occasion, and it really is only on occasion, we found our resolve shaking. We couldn’t be bothered. The mental contortions made our pathetic little brains hurt, and that’s not what we necessarily wanted from a Puzzle By Nikoli W game. At least, not all the time. You have to have limbered up for the mental gymnastics, and part of the joy of the other games is that we could switch off to a degree. They are lazy back-of-the-newspaper puzzles.
The rest of the game is the usual bang-up Nikoli job. It’s incredibly sterile in its presentation, but it’s fifty puzzles, well tutorialised, with the most frictionless gameplay that you could. It does everything you could possibly hope for, outside of giving you situational hints (it’s not that friendly), including mid-game saves, exhaustive Undo function and highlights of where you have gone wrong.
When we reviewed Puzzle By Nikoli W Heyawake, we said that it was starting to make the series feel a little familiar, and it was likely the weakest by a very small margin. We’d like to revise our statement, as Puzzle By Nikoli W Slitherlink is very different from all the other games, and has also staked a claim to being the least satisfying of the series.
Be prepared for Puzzle By Nikoli W Slitherlink: you will need to be firing on all mental cylinders to get the most out of its Boxes-based puzzling. We’d go so far to say that it’s got a problematic core – a winding path that you somehow have to keep a visual reign on – that makes it occasionally an unpleasant challenge, rather than one that gets your stimuli fizzing. Only one for the true mental gymnasts.
You can buy Puzzle By Nikoli W Slitherlink from the Xbox Store
- Drab but crisp and clear presentation
- Each puzzle will take you yonks
- Greater difficulty and depth than other puzzles
- Perhaps too much difficulty…
- Holding a path in the head is painful
- Still drab and lifeless
- Massive thanks for the free copy of the game go to - Purchased by TXH
- Formats - Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One
- Version reviewed - Xbox One on Xbox Series X
- Release date - 9 November 2022
- Launch price from - £3.99