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Last Day of June Is Beautiful, Touching And Emotionally Draining – Kotaku

2013 was a trying year. That August, two months after losing my job, death took my favorite uncle. Weeks later on Labor day, it came for my mild-mannered orange tabby. I think about mortality often, more so as my parents grow older. Given these thoughts, playing Last Day of June was more difficult than I anticipated.

In a premise born from UK rock musician Steven Wilsons song and video for Drive Home, Last Day of Junes narrative is built around a tragedy. In the first moments of the Italian indie studio Ovosonicos interactive puzzle game, a couple share a quiet moment by a lake. Its a picturesque scene draped in gorgeous orange and purple hues. Carl, the games protagonist, leaves his wife Junes side to fetch her a blanket from their car. Its chilly as Junes shivering puppet-like body indicates. Autumn is in the air, and the oncoming storm signals that their peaceful lives are about to be disrupted.

The game is marketed as a love story about loss, and the curious power Carl receives in the aftermath of his wifes death. Its one that grants him a chance to rewind time to defy fate. And so, knowing a car crash will take Junes life isnt a spoiler. But the dread I felt leading up to the tragedy was painful. Last Day of June isnt a game thats meant to be rushed. The charactersincluding the small cast apart from June and Carlmove purposefully, slowly, and although theres a point in the story where players can control their actions, it always felt as it was on their terms.

Theres no need to rush because Carl lives in a world where a quiet life is the norm. The games intentionally slow to allow for exploration even when theres nothing game-like to findat most theres a flower to pick in that opening sequence. I looked for other things to do as I was hesitant to grab her that blanket, knowing full well that every action to progress the game would bring about Junes inevitable fate and edge Carl into despair.

Prolonging the accident also gave me a sinking feeling. All of Carls steps felt methodical and heavy. Carl may have had no need to move at warp speed but I agonized over the fact that each footstep trudged ever closer to misery. I felt stressed. I had Carl roam around in the grass but soon landed us back on the path to the car. Although I could have explored further, the world felt too small. Death awaited. I had no choice but to see it through.

When my colleague and I spoke with the games director earlier this summer, Massimo Guarini expressed his desire to make a game that everyone could emotionally connect to, regardless of whether or not they played games before. The idea of losing a loved one fit that mold and the process of coping is something of a shared experience weve all had to deal with. Even if, as humans, we manage our sorrow in our own ways. When I booted up Last Day of June, I didnt think itd give me memories from 2013, my parents health, and subsequent thoughts about my siblings well-being and my own life at the forefront of my mind. But its clear the game had other plans for me.

Carls quaint village with its creaky iron gates, cute apple-filled trees, and charming houses plays host to an impressionist art style. It also gave cover to the more sinister emotions of hopelessness expressed by darker tones and shades of blue for the games more somber moments as Carl dealt with his grief. Last Day of Junes puppet-style characters and unintelligible languagea made-up one that relies on inflection and body language to convey emotionadded to the fairy tale-like atmosphere where hope to achieve the impossible mixed with that ever-present uneasiness I felt.

With this storybook town as a backdrop and its secrets to uncover as a motivator to undo destiny, I took control of Carlalong with his increasing anger and frustrationthrough multiple groundhog day scenarios to prevent Junes demise.

In the game, there are other villagers players get to control. Each are integral in helping Carls attempts at altering fate. Over the course of four hours or so, Carl and I used them to redirect the course of history in hopes of a favorable outcome, by rewinding time to specific points in the hours before the accident.

I noted how different the games pace felt to me once I set Carls journey to save June in motion. Nothing had changed save an option to put more of a spring in the characters steps which could be triggered by holding down a button. But even so, they still walked at speeds relative to their quiet lives. With Carls time traveling abilities, and that glimmer of hope, I felt pressed for time to try and reunite June and Carl. But it didnt mean some of the characters shared my urgency.

In a way, it was cruel being restricted to adhere to these characters movements. And they were simply living out their days unaware of the events to unfold, and without being bound to my urgency and nervous energy. As a trade off, I could manipulate a slice of time in their life, replay their private dilemmas, problems and insecurities and readjust certain actions in their lives to attain my end goal. I found it sort of weird, invasive and intriguing but also oddly satisfying given I had the chance to affect their individual stories in the process. Often times, it was for a positive result in their backstories even as Carl and I struggled with this death on our hands.

There were moments where I found myself agitated by having to abide by the games pace. I felt a few moments of frustration seeing solutions to puzzles I already had answers to but couldnt do quickly due to the games insistence that I play by its sequence of rules. Despite these small grievances, Ive found myself mulling over Last Day of June. Theres a lot to unpack and days later, my thoughts keep returning to how it crafted its various partseach thread interconnected to Junes and Carls lives resulting in an effective overall execution for an emotionally charged ending I wouldnt dare spoil here.

I came away with a simple, clear life message. One I think players will come to understand, as I did, long before the credits roll.

Last Day of June is beautifully told. The game gave me pause whenever Steven Wilsons emotionally-driven music was expertly weaved into the games stop-motion animated-like style. And although I figured out much of the games story before it finally unraveledand acquired a bit more anxiety as I worry even more about the lives of my loved ones and my ownexperiencing and sharing in the journey was worth the time and reflecting on my sorrowful memories.

All images via PS4 screenshot.

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Last Day of June Is Beautiful, Touching And Emotionally Draining – Kotaku

Knack 2 review – Polygon

Big is best, especially if youre small. The transformation from teensy to towering is a common fantasy among children, a microcosmic representation of the magical process theyre actually going through.

Kids love dinosaurs, monster trucks and gargantuan robots. In adults, rapid growth is a useful metaphor for the revenge of the powerless. The little guy who makes it big.

So Knack 2s core concept of a tiny little chap who can grow into a giant is attractive.

For those who care about such things, the game also comes with an interesting development story. The first Knack was rushed in development for the launch of PlayStation 4. It was a disappointment. Many criticisms at the time were levied against how poorly it exercised the central character’s biggest attraction of being, well, big. It was also repetitive and soulless.

Director Mark Cerny is an old hand at cartoon platform-combat-puzzle games. His resume includes Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Crash Bandicoot, Spyro the Dragon and Ratchet & Clank, as well as the original Knack. Allocated a decent development schedule for Knack 2, hes avoided many of the problems that plagued Knacks design. This time around, Knack gets to spend a lot of his time being the big guy.

In Knack 2, bad goblins are energizing long dead robots in order to conquer and destroy the world of humans. Knack and a small band of human sidekicks set out to thwart the goblins.

This quest takes them on a journey to a variety of locations, from lush forest to modern city to factory complex. Geographic diversity is standard fare for the arcade platform genre. Its pretty clear why such lavish variety is deemed necessary. In practice, each level is really much of a muchness. Knack 2 does not entirely avoid the problem of repetition, but its made a good fist attempt of at least trying to mitigate this generic problem.

Heres the general rhythm of the game: Knack, at around human size, enters and fights low level guards. He makes himself small and penetrates the inner workings of an installation via pipes and platforms. He goes back to being normal size fighting his way through rooms and corridors. He solves physical puzzles. He smashes crates in order to find junk (relics) that make him gradually grow to 20 and 30 feet tall. Previously onerous enemies are swept aside with ease. At some point, he encounters a giant boss, or lots of smaller bosses, or both.

He also seeks out raw materials that he can use as defensive shields, or as currency for combat upgrades and new moves. Along the way, he’ll transform back to smallness where necessary, usually to get through some barrier. Puzzles present themselves on a regular beat. They often involve moving a box from one place to another to create a jumping point.

Weight puzzles are also common, complexified slightly by Knacks ability to incorporate other materials into his body, like ice and iron. These give him special abilities that mix up the puzzle mechanics. Generally speaking, the puzzles are fun, if slightly repetitive.

This is a world of moving parts, and so Knack often finds himself facing platforms that wheel through nasty impediments, like noxious gas blasts, stomping vices and giant rolling rocks. These are all realtime exercises in watching kinetic patterns, something I enjoy. There is a smooth exactness about his movements, an essential element in platform games.

As I play, I have no control over the camera, which reels and pans according to the developers direction. I seem to have spent the last few years playing games with camera control, so this took me a bit of getting used to. On some occasions, the camera is placed weirdly, making platform moves frustrating. But on the whole, it seems to work.

Knack 2s platform-puzzle formulas are an amalgam of decades of evolution in platform games. Yes, they are familiar, but their familiarity is also manifested in the variety of things to do. This game is a bit like those old compendiums of board games, like chess, checkers and dominoes. You know what you’re getting, but it’s still kind of neat to have them all in one package.

Knack 2 is a scripted, linear experience. I work my way through its puzzles the exact same way as any other player, seeing all the same things. On the other hand, the combat system offers plenty of individuality.

At the beginning of the game Knacks moves are basically punch, kick, swerve and block. Over the course of the game, these are augmented considerably. Via an upgrade tree, or through narrative gifts, he learns to body slam and to hook enemies. The swerve adds a punch. The punch adds multiple punches, which are later improved further into ultimate punches.

Individual attack moves are two-button affairs, easy to pull off, but powerful when combined with defensive moves, or the ubiquitous swerve, which is the most essential move, by far, especially on more difficult modes. Quite often, the best way to defeat an enemy is to literally get around it, and kick it in the ass.

Knack 2s best idea is to offer four different levels of difficulty. Easy and normal will find favor with younger, less experienced players, who ought to be able to get through even the toughest battles without too much trouble. I found the middle sections of the game spiked slightly in difficulty, as Knack encountered tougher enemies before he has won better moves, but not to the point of frustration.

Enemies come in a steadily ratcheted variety of difficulty, combining among themselves to create a varied palette of challenges. Ultimately, my health regenerates, while theirs does not. This is the case with the big bosses, whose patterns are pleasingly readable after a few false starts.

Despite these big set pieces, Knack spends a lot of time coasting through levels, swiping small posses of enemies aside. Although this offers little challenge, it’s also satisfying.

He is at his best when he’s huge and just smashing stuff up. This is what I’ve come to see and to be, a giant who stomps his way through life. It wouldn’t do to make a whole game focus on this one pleasure, but Knack 2 delivers enough of these moments to balance with challenging fights and restful periods of puzzle solving.

Once the game is complete, I go back and try different levels at different difficulties. I can also replay the whole game with all the powers I’ve earned in the first play-through, which is great fun.

And there’s a neat co-op mode in which two players combine to deliver special moves, like creating explosions or launching one another at the enemy. I played this mode with one of my kids and we had a blast.

Its interesting to me that Cerny is an engineer at heart. He worked as lead architect on PlayStation 4. So it’s no surprise that the best parts of Knack 2 are those that are specifically systems-based, such as the exactitude of its platforming sections and the quality of its combat mechanics.

Combat moves and platform sequences are all delivered, shining and smelling agreeably of grease. I found one gameplay bug, but other than that, Knack 2 is polished and highly competent.

But the story is a different matter. It’s atrocious. No cliche is left alone; all are dragged into the sunlight, screaming for mercy. The dialog comes at me like a 1930s sci-fi short. Villains actually rock back their heads and declare that you are about to “meet your doom.” If it’s supposed to be ironic, it’s not ironic enough, especially for a generation of kids saturated in irony.

The human sidekicks spend most action sequences literally standing in the background. As the game moves on, they are given narrative roles that augment two-dimensional personalities and trite relationship conflicts. One character is there to provide comic relief, but he’s not funny.

The whole story feels like it was written by a bunch of scientists who crammed “The Hero With a Thousand Faces” and binge-watched Spielberg movies.

The plot slings itself forward through more works of engineering. Problems are solved by building things. More problems are provided when more things are built. It gets a bit tiresome.

Knack himself is a work of engineering, an amalgamation of nuts and bolts. He’s a conundrum. Both his parts tiny and huge have entertainment value, but as a duality, they don’t make much sense. They fail to come together and very little of the games story takes advantage of his split personality.

The baby Knack is mute and cute. The big Knack is aggressive and humorless. His eyes constantly have the quality of a man in a TSA line, absolutely certain he’s not going to have time to grab that latte on his way to the gate. It’s not that I don’t like Knack. He has moments of charm. But he’s certainly not a classic character. Hes a bit of a dull fellow, really.

Knack 2 is an entertaining platform game like those of yesteryear. It’s been created with due care and attention. Sure, its old fashioned, and its story is appalling. But its a reminder that the character-led platform combat game is still alive and well. Despite its good looks, its more a work of engineering than it is a work of art. But, as my kid said to me after we’d mashed our way through a co-op level, it’s kinda fun.

Knack 2 was reviewed using a retail PlayStation 4 disc provided by Sony. You can find additional information about Polygons ethics policy here.


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Knack 2 review – Polygon

Go head-to-head in Capcom’s new free ‘Puzzle Fighter’ mobile game – Digital Trends

Digital Trends
Go head-to-head in Capcom's new free 'Puzzle Fighter' mobile game
Digital Trends
Fans of the classic Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo have reason to celebrate, as Capcom announced the Puzzle Fighter mobile game at PAX West.
Capcom's Recently Announced 'Puzzle Fighter' for Mobile was …Touch Arcade

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Go head-to-head in Capcom’s new free ‘Puzzle Fighter’ mobile game – Digital Trends

Steam’s rules about adult content continue to baffle – PC Gamer

Valve opened the floodgates to any old rubbish appearing on Steam a long time ago, but the store still occasionally acts like a draconian gatekeeperspecifically when it comes to adult content. Steams had a turbulent relationship with pornographic games, and currently doesnt permit graphic nudity or games that could be considered pornographic onto the store. The problem is that its a bit inconsistent.

As Kotaku notes, games like House Party and Strangers in a Strange Land have been pulled from the store, others continue to be sold there, and probably will until somebody complains. In July, House Party reappeared, with the naughty bits censored, and late last month Strangers in a Strange Land reappeared as well. Its part puzzle game, part porn romp, but this new version tweaks the latter part, censoring the nudity and sex.

The censored scenes can be easily unlocked by downloading a patch from the developer, however, so ultimately Steam is still selling a pornographic game. And what isnt censored are the themes and tone of the gameits just the sex.

Its worth noting that, not only are other porn games still being sold, games like The Witcher 3 contain fairly graphic sex scenes, but they seemingly get away with it because the games themselves are not overtly pornographic, despite the content. It really seems to come down to how the game is marketed, which doesnt seem like a great basis for deciding which games are acceptable and which are not.

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Steam’s rules about adult content continue to baffle – PC Gamer

‘Tiny Bubbles’ Is a Puzzle Game That’s Way More in Depth Than We Were Expecting at PAX – Touch Arcade

We first posted about Tiny Bubbles early last month, and I think it was easy to be skeptical about the game, particularly on mobile where it feels like there’s every iteration of color matching games has been explored ten times over. Well, after watching a demo of the many different puzzle types found in Tiny Bubbles, I found myself blown away with the level of depth such a seemingly simple color matching and bubble popping game has. Check out our video:

Considering the number of awards Tiny Bubbles has won, it’s not much of a surprise that it turned out this way. It really seems like the game has a winning combination of a clever physics mechanic, color mixing (and matching), and challenges that grow over time as each new set of puzzles throws more twists your way. Tiny Bubbles definitely went from a game that originally I was like, “Oh cool, a matching game” to one of the titles from PAX I’m most excited to play when it finally comes out.

Definitely a pleasant surprise.

‘Tiny Bubbles’ Is a Puzzle Game That’s Way More in Depth Than We Were Expecting at PAX – Touch Arcade

Review: The Bridge – Nintendo Life

Puzzle games by their very nature are designed to deceive and delight. Regardless of console or dimension, a good puzzle game has to strike a perfect balance between challenge and attainability.

From making lines to jumping through walls, lateral thinking, logic and reflexes have been put to the test for gamers everywhere, and there’s a universal appeal to puzzle games that have frustrated and intrigued generations for years. Art vs Science.

The Bridge is the byproduct of a computer science project from American two man team Ty Taylor and Mario Castaeda, and it’s the bringing together of such a striking, hand drawn art style with gravity and perspective-based conundrums that is the main hook of the game. As an ambiguous and bearded figure, you navigate a series of hand drawn lithographic dioramas that challenge perception, progressive thinking and defy the laws of physics.

Recreating an iconic moment in scientific history, players are introduced to a few of the game’s key mechanics in a cute mini tutorial. Using the right and left trigger tilts the world, while the left stick moves the character. It isn’t long before the penny (or apple) drops and you are either sliding down or labouring uphill towards the game’s central hub.

Presenting 3D shapes and architecture in a 2d space reminiscent of the work of artist MC Escher, The Bridge requires a skewed angle of perspective and an articulated thought process to solve its 48 levels, split between several chapters located throughout an isolated yet increasingly expansive farm cottage.

From a permanently fixed viewpiont, your task is to navigate your way through a series of increasingly mind bending dioramas consisting of a door, a key, and a few other obstacles. The objective of The Bridge’s puzzles is to use a combination of rotation and character movement to tilt, drop and spin yourself and other objects to reach the exit. Switches alter gravity or the colour of our protagonist, floors become ceilings, and sinister ‘menace balls’ can be both an advisory and ally. The most difficult of areas can seem intimidating – with multiple switches and hazards interwoven into intricate and layered labyrinths.

Luckily the puzzles aren’t too reliant on any sense of urgency or quick reflexes. Sure, it is possible to try and succeed by constantly using the ‘rewind’ feature (holding B at any point) to play back your movements (indebted to indie hit platformer Braid), and this will prove useful in experimentation in order to progress, but there is a real sense of satisfaction when the moves are executed in order andeverything falls (flips or rises) into place.

Upon understanding the game’s various physics-based rules, it rewards planning and observation rather than the frustration that comes with trial and error. The difficulty does spike in a few puzzles; while features such as veils mayinitially seem confusing in their function and vortexes serve as booby traps, further investigation demonstrates their integral role in solving puzzles that initially appear impossible, and after an extended play session there can be a sense not so much of a euphoric epiphany, but more of dogged triumph.

The Bridge is ultimately an enchanting and rewarding experience thanks to its beautiful handdrawn art style. While it would be slightly unfair to call the game bleak, there is a sense of melancholy and insular contemplation woven into the journey of the main character and his manipulation of literal and psychological space. The character is drawn at the start of each stage, the world flickers and everything moves as if it were an old black and white animation. Although the story is mostly a series of text boxes philosophizing the nature of existence and never really reaches its emotionalpotential, the mood andworld created are constantly enthralling.

Despite being previously available on various home and portable consoles, both in handheld and docked mode the Switch version of The Bridge’s presentation and aesthetic instantly captivates. The scratches and metallic sound effects add atmosphere, but its soundtrack is nevertheless limited and – although fittingly low key and ambient – becomes repetitive.

In an attempt to not make any particular scenario outstay its welcome, or any idea become stale, the game ironically comes across as a little lacking regarding a fleshed out narrative or steady learning curve. Each new twist or setting is introduced, utilised sparingly, then it’s onto the next.

With the lack of analogue controls, the rotation of the dioramas themselves (and moving the player for that matter) also feels slightly sluggish, especially when attempting to manipulate multiple objects at once. In addition the loading times are awkwardly noticeable; to some this might be forgivable, but nonetheless they slow the pace and interrupt the flow.

An endearing combination of influences from art and science makes The Bridge a valuable addition to the Nintendo Switch library, especially if you’ve never played it before.

Sometimes bogged down by showing off its aesthetic strengths at the sacrifice of fully exploring the puzzle ideas and mechanics, The Bridge does suffer slightly due to slow controls and a story/ character that deserves a little more nuance to back up its ambitious and academic influences. What it does do, however, is reward players’ patience, calculation and observation with moments that rival some of the best in the genre.

A genuinely interesting and challenging experience that, despite a few small flaws, will stretch mental as well as physical muscles.

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Review: The Bridge – Nintendo Life

Pax West 2017 The Gardens Between – DVS Gaming (registration) (blog)

From indie developer The Voxel Agents comes The Gardens Between, whichwill draw in new players with its enchanting soundtrack and vibrant, lush environment.

The Gardens Between is a surreal puzzle adventure that follows best friends, Arina and Frendt, as they fall into a mysterious world of beautiful garden islands. The player can traverse back and forwards in time to discover each gardens secrets and, along the way, reveal a story about friendship, childhood and growing up. Watch the entrancing trailer here

The Gardens Between will embark on a thought provoking and emotional journey, said Simon Joslin, co-founder, The Voxel Agents.

Puzzle games allow the player to use parts of their mind that they do not typically use on a daily basis which is very useful in maintaining healthy cognitive behaviors.

About The Voxel Agents

Headquartered in Melbourne, Australia, The Voxel Agents are an indie game developer that was founded in 2009 by Simon Joslin, Matthew Clark, and Tom Killen to create games that kindle curiosity with a passion for highly focused gameplay.

Previous achievements include their hitreleaseTrain Conductor, followed byTrain Conductor 2 USAandPuzzle Retreat, totaling over 7 million global players for The TrainConductorfranchise.

The game is expected to release early 2018 and can be acquired on Steam here.

Let us knowin the comments below and join us onDiscord, on ourFacebook page, orTwitter.

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Pax West 2017 The Gardens Between – DVS Gaming (registration) (blog)

Capcom is finally releasing a new Puzzle Fighter game, and it’s coming to Android later this year – Android Police

It would appear that Capcom has been listening to its most die-hard fans as it’s finally bringing us a new game in the Puzzle Fighter series. Capcom Vancouver is developing it, and it’s going to be a mobile only release. If you’re worried about a western studio developing what was originally a very Japanese looking and feeling game, or the fact that this is strictly a mobile only release, well, I am sad to say that your fears are warranted.

First off I would like to point out that I’m a huge fan ofSuper Puzzle Fighter II Turbo and its subsequent HD remix. I’ve been saying for years that a new game in the Puzzle Fighter series would be perfect for mobile. But of course, my largest concern was that Capcom would take the tried and true gameplay of this puzzle battler and ruin it by inserting a slew of free-to-play mechanics. Sadly it would appear that my worst fear has come true.

If you take a look at the trailer above, you’ll clearly see two types of currencies being used in the game. One is coins, and the other is gems. You will also see cards being used to represent each of the game’s characters, where each card is marked with the text “LVL 1.” So not only will you be collecting these fighters as cards in order to build your team, but it appears that you will be leveling up these cards as well. Then, in another segment of the video, you’ll see that there’s a clear loot crate system where you unlock new heroes and coins. Immediately after that, it’s revealed you can also unlock new costumes for your fighters.

When you consider all at once the two currencies, hero card collection and leveling, loot crates, and unlockable outfits, the picture starts to become pretty clear that this is not going to be a traditional Puzzle Fighter title. Instead, we’re getting an amalgamation of Puzzle Fighter gameplay mixed heavily with umpteen easily recognizable free-to-playmechanics.

And even if you ignore the fact that this release is going to be yet another lame free-to-play title, the art direction leaves quite a lot of questions in and of itself. First and foremost, what in the hell were the artists thinking? The 2D pixel art found in the original and HD remix would have been perfect for this mobile game. But frankly, I don’t know what to make of these weird westernized chibi looking 3d designs. The game obviously has a very odd look that doesn’t mesh with the precedent already set by earlier titles in the series.

Short of what can be gleaned from the trailer, details are still light. What is known is that this will be a multiplayer title with real-time battles where you compete for the top spot on its leaderboard. Single player content is also included, which is good news for those that don’t want to compete with real people head-to-head. A soft launch is expected sometime soon with an official release before the end of the year. Oh, and unlike the original game that only had characters from the Street Fighter and Darkstalkers franchises, this new mobile version will have a wide selection of Capcom characters includingRyu, Ken, and Chun-Li fromStreet Fighter, X from theMega Manseries, Morrigan ofDarkstalkersfame, and Frank West and Chuck Greene from theDead Risinggames.

So it would appear this release is going to be at best a mixed bag. The art is, in my opinion, atrocious and the free-to-play mechanics are most definitely going to ruin any kind of ranked competitive multiplayer gameplay. But the expanded roster of characters and the fact that we will finally have an online multiplayer Puzzle Fighter on Android still gives me a feeling of excitement, albeit a tiny one. I hope that Capcom Vancouver can come up with something that’s still fun to play despite how it’s monetized, but seeing that the release isn’t that far off, let’s just say that this hope is probably wasted on what will inevitably be the ruination of a once great game.

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Capcom is finally releasing a new Puzzle Fighter game, and it’s coming to Android later this year – Android Police

Can you solve it? Riddles inspired by card tricks – The Guardian

Ladies and gentlemen,

Today, three magic tricks. I mean three riddles.

Chess Boxing

A hustler and a chess grandmaster are playing the following game. All the pieces from a chess set are in a box. The two participants take turns reaching into the box without looking, picking out two pieces at a time and placing them onto the table. If the two pieces are white, the grandmaster gets a point. If the two pieces are black, the hustler gets a point. If the colours dont match, no one gets a point. They will take turns removing pairs until the box is empty. If, exactly halfway through the game, the score is 4-2 in favour of the grandmaster, who will ultimately win the game and by how many points?

Tunnel Traffic

A boulder falls onto a mountain road, temporarily blocking access to a tunnel. A few drivers get out of their cars to help move the boulder. After they successfully clear the entrance to the tunnel, they notice some unusual traffic has accumulated on the two-lane road behind them. The traffic jam consists of eighteen white cars and eighteen black cars. The first car in the left lane is white and the first car in the right lane is black. The colours of the cars behind them in each lane alternate perfectly.

When passing through the narrow tunnel, the two lanes of traffic merge into one, and when they come out the other side the single lane branches to two toll booths. Assuming that the first car through the tunnel is a black car and the last car through is a white car, and that the cars reach the toll booth in pairs meaning that the first two cars exit together, then the next two exit together, and so on what is the greatest possible number of exiting pairs that will match in colour?

Family Bike Race

At the Froome family reunion, five sets of twins from five different generations decide to have a bike race, with two teams and one sibling from each set of twins on each team. Each team sets off with all five cyclists in a line behind their captain. At any point in the race, the last person in the line can cycle to the front of the line to become the new captain. All five team members must cross the finish line to complete the race.

Both teams line up in age order but Team A starts the race with a little kid as their captain and Team B starts the race with an elderly woman as their captain. During the course of the race, the captains change six times between the two teams. When the teams cross the finish line, what are the odds that their captains will be the same age?

You may have noticed that each of these riddles involve two different kinds of the same thing: black chess pieces and white chess pieces, black and white cars, members of Team A and members of Team B. Thats because the mathematical principles behind the riddles are taken from card tricks, in which cards are either black or red. With a bit of thought, you can probably figure out just how the tricks work. Compared to the usual level in this column, todays puzzles are relatively easy, but the mathematical patterns they reveal are interesting, satisfying and surprising, which is why magicians have plundered them.

The puzzles were devised by this columns favourite cardsharp, Adam Rubin, who works with many internationally-known magicians. He is also Director of Puzzles and Games for the site Art of Play, on which you can buy beautiful playing cards.

Ill be back with the answers at 5pm UK time. UPDATE: The solutions are now up here.

NO SPOILERS. Please converse about cards.

My latest book is out this week! Football School Season 2 is the follow-up to Football School, a book series aimed at 7-12-year-olds which TalkSPORT called a Horrible Histories for football. The new book explains why every stadium has a vomitory, the physics of why footballs are NOT round and which international goalkeeper used to pee on the pitch before penalty shoot-outs. As well as lots of maths, English, history, geography and more. The perfect gift for a football-mad boy or girl! More info at

I set a puzzle here every two weeks on a Monday. Send me your email if you want me to alert you each time I post a new one. Im always on the look-out for great puzzles. If you would like to suggest one, email me.

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Can you solve it? Riddles inspired by card tricks – The Guardian

Challenge to end stalemate over $1 million maths puzzle – The Courier

Computer programmers are being offered a $1 million prize for inventing a system to crack a simple chess puzzle.

The eight queens puzzle, which has been solved by humans on a regular chess board, sends computer programmes into meltdown.

A team of St Andrews academics concluded that devising a computer programme to solve the problem could reap immense rewards.

In a paper published in the Journal of Artificial Intelligence Research, Professsor Ian Gent from the universitys school of computer science said it could be the key to tightening up internet security.

If you could write a computer programme that could solve the problem really fast, you could adapt it to solve many of the most important problems that affect us all daily, he said.

This includes trivial challenges like working out the largest group of your Facebook friends who dont know each other, or very important ones like cracking the codes that keep all our online transactions safe.

The Clay Mathematics Institute in America has offered a $1 million reward for whoever solves a similar conundrum called the P vs NP Problem.

Professor Gent and his colleagues, Dr Peter Nightingale and Dr Christopher Jefferson, first became intrigued by the puzzle after a friend challenged Professor Gent to solve it on Facebook.

The team found that when the chess board reached 1000 squares by 1000, computer programmes could no longer cope with the vast number of options and sunk into a potentially eternal struggle akin to the fictional super computer Deep Thought in Douglas Adams Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, which took seven and a half million years to provide an answer to the meaning of everything.

Dr Nightingale said: In practice, nobody has ever come close to writing a programme that can solve the problem quickly.

So what our research has shown is that, for all practical purposes, it cant be done.

Dr Jefferson added: There is a $1m prize for anyone who can prove whether or not the queens puzzle can be solved quickly so the rewards are high.

Devised in 1850, the queens puzzle originally challenged a player to place eight queens on a standard chessboard so that no two queens could attack each other.

This means putting one queen in each row, so that no two queens are in the same column, and no two queens in the same diagonal (see below).

There is more than one potential solution.

The reason such problems are so difficult for computer programmes is that there are so many options to consider that it can take many years due to a process of backtracking an algorithm used in programming where every possible option is considered and then backed away from until the correct solution is found.

Chess has long provided the source for puzzles such as the traditional fable of the servant who, when asked to choose a reward by his king, asked for one grain of rice to be placed on the first square of a standard 88 chessboard, doubled in the next and so on until it was found there was not enough rice in the entire world.

The fable indicates the huge numbers involved when using just a standard sized chess board. When the board size increases the numbers become vast.

See the article here:
Challenge to end stalemate over $1 million maths puzzle – The Courier

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