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Can You Solve The Code Lock Puzzle? Sunday Puzzle

I got this interesting puzzle by email. A safe has a code lock that unlocks if you input the correct four digits, in any order. The lock has a keypad the digits 0, 1, 2, …, 9.

For example, suppose the unlock code is 1000. The safe will open for any order you input the digits:

1000
0100
0010
0001

Or consider the unlock code 1234. Then the safe will open for any permutation of the same digits (1243, 1342, etc.).

How many different unlock codes are there? (Two unlock codes are different if they do not contain exactly the same digits.)

Watch the video for a solution.

Can You Solve The Code Lock Puzzle?

Or keep reading.

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Answer To The Unordered Code Lock Safe

I will present the long way to solve this problem and then I will show a clever approach that solves the problem nearly instantly!

Method 1: count all possible permutations

In an ordered code lock, there are 10 possible digits for each of the 4 possible entries, making for a total of 10(10)(10)(10) = 10,000 codes.

In this unordered code lock, codes that involve the same four digits are equivalent, so we have to avoid double-counting codes.

One approach is to directly count the codes. The 4 digit code can have 1 unique digit, 2 unique digits, 3 unique digits, or 4 unique digits.

For 1 unique digit, there are 10 possible codes (0000, 1111, …, 9999). In other words, there are 10 choose 1 = 10 ways to pick the digit which is repeated all four times.

For 2 unique digits, it is a bit more complicated to count. There are 10 choose 2 = 10(9)/2 = 45 ways to select 2 digits. Now we have to consider how they can be ordered. If the two digits are marked a and b, then either one digit is repeated three times (aaab or abbb), or each digit appears two times (aabb). Thus, there are are 3 patterns for each of the 45 ways to select two digits. There are 45(3) = 135 codes to check involving 2 unique digits.

For 3 unique digits, there are 10 choose 3 = 10(9)(8)/[3(2)] = 120 ways to select 3 digits. Now we have to consider how they can be ordered. If the three digits are marked a, b, and c, then one of the digits is repeated, so there are three possible code patterns (abca, abcb, or abcc). Thus, there are 120(3) = 360 codes to check involving 3 unique digits.

For 4 unique digits, there are 10 choose 4 = 10(9)(8)(7)/[4(3)(2)] = 210 ways to select 4 digits. Since each digit has to appear exactly once, there is only one possible code pattern abcd. Thus, there are 210 codes to check involving 4 unique digits.

The total number of codes is found by adding up each of the possibilities:

10 – 1 unique digit
135 – 2 unique digits
360 – 3 unique digits
210 – 4 unique digits

715 – total codes to check

This is a direct method to count the total number of codes. But notice there are many calculations to make, and if you make a mistake in any step then your final answer will be wrong. So it is useful to solve this problem in another way that involves fewer calculations.

Method 2: solve an equation for the number of non-negative solutions!

Let’s write xi to be the number of times that digit i appears in the code. Each digit has to be a non-negative number between 0 and 4. Furthermore, a valid code involves 4 digits, so the sum of all of the variables must be 4. We have the equation:

x0 + x1 + … + x9 = 4

The number of valid codes is equal to the number of non-negative solutions to this equation.

This sounds like a hard problem, but there is an elegant combinatorial proof method! I described it in a video puzzle about distributing coins to individuals.

The idea is this: the equation has 10 variables that need to sum to 4. We can visualize this as having 4 identical stars that are divided into 10 groups. The 10 groups can be created by using 9 bars to divide the stars. The first group is to the left of the first bar, then each subsequent group is in between two bars, and then the final group is to the right of the last bar. Here is one example of a star and bar division.

|||*|**||*|||

The first three groups are 0, the next group has 1 star, then the next group has 2 stars, then there is another group with no stars, then another star, and then the final three groups have no stars. This corresponds to the equation:

0 + 0 + 0 + 1 + 2 + 0 + 1 + 0 + 0 + 0 = 4

We could also use this solution to translate to the unlock code 3446, as there is one instance of the digit 3, two instances of the digit 4, and one instance of the digit 6.

How many solutions are there to the stars and bars problem? We have a total of 13 items (4 stars and 9 bars) that need to be arranged in some order. We have 13 spots, and once we place the 9 bars, the remaining spots have to go to the 4 stars. So we have 13 choose 9 = 13(12)(11)(10)/[4(3)(2)(1)] = 715 ways.

This gives us the number of non-negative integer solutions, and therefore this is also the number of unlock codes. It’s the same answer obtained in just one calculation!

More generally, in such an equation, if there are r variables that sum to n, the total number of non-negative integers solutions is (n + r – 1) choose (r – 1). You can derive this formula by counting how to arrange n + r – 1 items consisting of n stars and r – 1 bars.

We get to the answer of 715 without all the steps of counting out unique digits and code patterns!

Proof of number of non-negative solutions

To see why the formula works generally, imagine we have n objects and we want to distribute them to r people. If we write xi for the number of objects person i gets, then we want to solve for the number of non-negative integer solutions to the equation:

x1 + x2 + … + xr = n

We can count the solutions by thinking combinatorially. Let us draw the n objects as “stars”:

*******…*** (n stars)

To distribute the items to r people, we can place r – 1 bars in between the stars. Then, the number of stars person k gets is the number of stars between the bars k – 1 and k, except the the number of stars for person 1 is to the left of the first bar and the stars for person r is to the right of the r – 1 bar. The r – 1 bars create a total of r divisions. If two bars are directly next to each other, then that person gets 0 stars.

||*|**|****…*|** (n stars, divided by r – 1 bars)

How many divisions are possible? There are a total of n + r – 1 positions for a star or a bar, and we can place the bars in r – 1 different positions. Thus the number of divisions is (n + r – 1) choose (r – 1). This solution then corresponds to the number of non-negative integer solutions to an equation with r variables that sum to n.

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Can You Solve The Code Lock Puzzle? Sunday Puzzle

3 steps that may boost brain health in old age – LaSalle News Tribune

WASHINGTON Are you seeking steps to keep your brain healthy in old age?

There are no proven ways to stave off mental decline or dementia, but a new report says there are hints that exercise, controlling blood pressure and some forms of brain training might offer help. Without proof, the government should not begin a public health campaign pushing strategies for aging brain health, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine said in a report released Thursday.

But the public should be told the evidence is encouraging, though inconclusive, the report concluded. That way, people can use the information in deciding whether to invest time and money on different interventions.

The three highlighted strategies do no harm, said neuroscientist Alan Leshner, chairman of the National Academies committee.

At least two of them are really good for you even if the brain link doesnt pan out.

Scientists know that risky changes in the brain begin decades before symptoms of Alzheimers and other dementias become apparent, suggesting theres a window when people might bolster their cognitive health. But the report says Americans face a bewildering array of products and strategies promoted for brain health despite little if any rigorous science to back them up.

The National Institute on Aging asked the prestigious National Academies to review the field. The committee said three interventions should be more closely studied to prove if they really can help:

– Getting high blood pressure under control, especially in middle age. People with hypertension need treatment anyway to prevent heart disease and strokes.

– Increased physical activity. Similar to the blood pressure advice, whats good for the heart has long been deemed good for the brain.

– Cognitive training, specific techniques aimed at enhancing reasoning, problem solving, memory and speed of mental processing. While immediate task performance may improve, the committee said its not clear whether theres lasting, meaningful benefit.

This is not merely brain games on your computer, Leshner said. The committee isnt backing those costly computer-based programs. Indeed, the government fined one brain training company last year for misleading consumers.

Instead, the best study to date included training done in groups, providing social engagement too. And cognitively stimulating activities include such things as learning a new language, the report noted.

Since generally keeping intellectually active appears to be good for you, do that, Leshner advised, and if youre considering a commercial program, ask the company to see studies backing it.

The Alzheimers Association had been awaiting the recommendations, and agreed that more research is needed to determine what the optimal interventions should be, said chief medical officer Maria Carrillo. In the meantime, we recommend that people challenge their brains to maintain brain health.

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3 steps that may boost brain health in old age – LaSalle News Tribune

Best puzzle adventure games like The Room for iPhone, iPad and Android – Recombu

The Room trilogyis a brilliant series of puzzle-based adventure games for iOS and Android devices. If you’ve already finished all three titles, here’s our pick of the best puzzle games for iPad, iPhone and Android devices which are similar to The Room.

The Room 3 came out well over a year ago now and there’s still no sign of a successor in the App Store or Google Play store. That said,developer Fireproof Games has promised that a new game in the series (nicknamed The Room: Old Sins) will be released towards the end of 2017, to sate our appetite for complex multi-structured brain-ticklers.

To tide you over until then, we’ve compiled a selection of our favourite adventure games that are similar to The Room. Expect unforgiving, sprawling and imaginative puzzles, as well as gorgeous presentation throughout.

If you want more great adventure games for iOS and Android, check out our round-up of the best mobile point n’ click adventure games.

The House of Da Vinci seems to take direct inspiration from The Room, offering a similar presentation, control scheme and intricate puzzles based around complex mechanisms.

Like The Room, you have to work out how to progress in each location by opening up boxes, tracking down keys and so on. You can glance around by swiping, zoom in and out ofhotspots with a pinch and interact with the environment at will, to find secret hiding places and manipulate puzzles. Items which you pick up can be closely examined and played with, while you also collect some objects which grant special powers.

Sofar, so familiar, although The House of Da Vinci shouldn’t be viewed as a straight-up homage. This is a great game in its own right, offering a near perfect difficulty level to keep things challenging (yet not frustrating). You get a built-in hints function too, if needed.

Chances are pretty good you’ve heard of classic adventure game Myst. This brain-stretching puzzler has been released on pretty much every platformsince its initial release 25 years ago. Now you can grab it on your smartphone or tablet, as it’s out on the App Store and for Android devices also.

If you haven’t had the pleasure, Myst is a complex point and click adventure game that won over audiences with its beautiful visuals and complicated puzzles. Many of the challenges must be tackled after taking in your entire surroundings, with tasks that have to be completed in order for eventual success – just like The Room. We recommend taking lots of notes, to give yourself the best possible chance of emerging victorious.

On mobile, you get the remastered ‘realMyst’ version of the game. This includes built-in hints and a whole new age to complete, so you’ll be occupied for quite some time – but never stuck.

Riven is actually the sequel to Myst, offering an even more complex challenge. While Myst was separated into self-contained ages, see, Riven is one massive open world. In order to finish the game you’ll need to explore every square inch, decipher alien languages, break through cultural barriers and much more besides.

This game is notoriously difficult, so thank the deities above (or simply the mobile developers) that a hint guide is included as standard.

Agent A offers a different kind of presentation to The Room, withcartoony graphics and a fun spy plot that sees you chasing down a master criminal in their own home. However, we recommend Agent A to fans of The Room as the smart puzzles are well integrated into the environments, while the difficulty level is just right.

If you’re after a point n’ click adventure game to while away a journey, we recommend this one fully.

Although Machinarium is a different style of adventure game, this game and The Room share many qualities. The lack of speech throughout beingjust one of them.

In this title, you must steer a cute robot fella to freedom, solving all kinds of complex puzzles in order to progress. Difficulty levels are definitely up there, yet the detailed and attention-grabbing presentation mean you’ll rarely want to quit before solving the next brainteaser. Some of the puzzles are tricky multi-layered beasts, similar to the sprawling efforts in The Room (and the other games here).

Read next: Best hidden object games for iPad

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Best puzzle adventure games like The Room for iPhone, iPad and Android – Recombu

Puzzle Solving in the Beautifully Oppressive Dark Train – GameIndustry.com

Once in a while a game comes along that is uniquely creative and a mastery of artistic achievement while still be an entertaining gaming experience. A game that brings about human imagination and personal storytelling rather than being told every detail. Using ingenuity and brain power to solve puzzles with minimal assistance from the game gives this game a more intellectual quality while feeding curiosity and connecting the player to the environment. This game is Dark Train, a hauntingly beautiful, oppressive, and macabre world made of paper. Yes, paper as in all the elements inside the game are actual paper cutouts put into a digital gaming environment.

At first the game felt familiar and then when I was in a room with a giant knife and apple, it dawned on me, shadow puppet theater. The ancient form of puppetry that uses cutouts to tell a story between a light and translucent screen. Instead of a hidden puppet master you the player are the puppet master telling the story.

Without dialogue the movements, strange rooms, and situations, create a unique opportunity for the player to come up with a story about what is happening beyond the written prologue. Haunting music sets the mood for the experience and makes this oppressive industrial macabre world feel more bizarre and dark. The surreal feeling of the game gives way to a puzzle challenge that makes for a not so easy going game. Let us now dive into the artistry and challenge that is Dark Train.

The game has players take control of a mechanical squid called Ann 2.35f who is chained to the train. A train according to the story on the Paperash site is a self-contained model of the human world with different environments and places. Each environment is in a wagon and there are four wagons: a forest, city, graveyard, and pool. These are marked on the train with icons. Our mysterious train was created by an inventor named D. W. Tagrezburg and is to be delivered to a mysterious client. The game takes place at the beginning of this delivery journey following the death of the inventor. Its up to our Ann; there are multiple Anns that the player encounters throughout the game, to see the train delivered to its patron.

Ann 2.35f, here on out I will just refer to her as Ann, is a simple mechanical being in the shape of a squid. She is chained to the train but can operate it and explore the different wagons and areas of the train. When it comes to these wagons they all have specific riddles to solve that moves the player to the next environment. There are many different environments that become available throughout the game. One of the tasks is to first make them available as all entrances are initially blocked by a barrier. Upon solving the riddle the chain will break and Ann can enter the new wagon.

Now some riddles cant be solved at first. For instance in the first graveyard there is a church, when entering the church players will notice a missing cogwheel for the bell. This has to be forged but the foundry is not available until a button changing instances is unblocked. Changing instances changes the original wagon to a new environment so the forest becomes a foundry with a cog mold. Throughout the game Ann can pick up other molds that are used to forge items used to solve other riddles. Also she can pick up collectibles that are stored in her nest. We see the nest in the opening scene were we first meet Ann.

Once all the wagons are uncovered and the initial environments and instances explored then the wagons can be moved around changing the environments with a new set of puzzles. If you like puzzle games you would like this game. So many different environments to explore plus the rooms in the background city can keep players occupied for hours.

Beyond the environments that range from a forest, forested church, graveyard, city, holiday winter city, clock tower, forge, room with statues, raining city, a octopus cog room, and many more there are rooms behind the train and situations that Ann can interact with. I found a room with an electric chair that had to be activated, and the inside of a large industrial forge. Also what appears to be a giant apple in a room, but Ann can appear in different sizes. At one point there was a fire that I could extinguish by flipping the rain collector control to a fire hose.

On the train there are different controls that activate a lightning rod to start the train, a rain collector for the fire hose, and a fire button that releases a wedge that creates fiery sparks and can turn on candles. These can be flipped to activate other train functions or in situations. For instance during the journey other engines will come to stop the train if you can fend them off by adjusting the fire control they can back off. One time I was stopped and found some new rooms. Starting the train just requires lightening to hit the rod and you can also stop the train yourself or let it run out of electricity. Refilling fire, water, and electricity is done using the corresponding buttons. There is a lot more going on in this game then perceived at first. Still all created from real paper cutouts.

The thing I noticed was the game is set in a very industrial dark setting. This is where the game gets its oppressive nature. It is oppressive. I can just imagine this world clogged with smog from the industrial factories, depressed humans living their lives among the industrial complex, which goes beyond just the industrial revolution of steam engines and factories. Everything is mechanical even Ann.

However, Ann is unique among the depressing backdrop. Even in the winter scenes and lighted church with falling flowers it was oppressive. Ann stands out as a personable being, as hope in the dark place. She may be tied to the train but she has a personality all her own and I couldnt help but become attached to this little character. She is also not very industrial looking but rather more living then the other Anns with a heart and maybe even a soul. Though not living she moved and flowed in her environments with grace and she felt alive in this dead quiet world. Humans are seen as silhouettes walking around train stops but it still feels dead with industry ruling the world.

Moving on to gameplay, its a very simple mechanic. Move Ann around with a mouse or controller and click for interactions when necessary. The gameplay is smooth and Ann moves very nicely in her environments. Clicking can interact with objects but many times players will need to move objects, which is simply aligning Ann with an object and pushing it. However, it can get more creative and you may need to carry something like light, electricity, or flowers to a destination. Collecting items is achieved by activating lights and clicking, which brings down a giant mechanical arm that picks up the object. Sometimes the object goes to Anns nest other times it will release the object at a new destination to solve another riddle.

Its a game that anyone can play with the only real challenge being the riddles. These are difficult riddles that require the player to observe the environment and know how the train controls work. Observation, trial and error, or really good puzzle solving skills can beat this game. Even for those who are not the best at solving riddles its a great way to challenge the mind and in the end you will be a better puzzle game player. Well, that was my case at least.

Looking back at Dark Train and the creativity that went into it, the beautifully haunting industrial world with a touch of science fiction, oppressive music with musical cues when Ann interacts with objects, and the challenging riddles to solve, this game is at this moment one of the best puzzle 2D games I have played. The game is so unique with a character that is different from other games and a story that is as puzzling as the puzzles themselves. I highly recommend this game and would like to see more games made in this style that goes beyond just creating things digitally but goes back to an old form of storytelling with paper cutouts.

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Puzzle Solving in the Beautifully Oppressive Dark Train – GameIndustry.com

Study Finds Good Reason to Keep Having Sex Over 50 – Newser


Newser
Study Finds Good Reason to Keep Having Sex Over 50
Newser
For older people for whom sex isn't an option for whatever reason, the Toronto Sun reports exercise, managing blood pressure, and some brain games have been shown to help maintain brain function. (Two ways video games affect a man's sex drive.).

and more »

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Study Finds Good Reason to Keep Having Sex Over 50 – Newser

Game Day: Newton – MacStories

Casual puzzle games that you can pick up and play for a few minutes are a great way to kill time when youre bored. Since the earliest days of the App Store, games have taken advantage of the iPhones sensors to create puzzles with realistic physics. Newton, by Binary Games, is a fun and challenging addition to the genre with unique mechanics and gameplay that Ive enjoyed playing this week.

The goal in Newton is to maneuver a ball through a maze and into a hole avoiding obstacles along the way. What makes Newton unique, is its playing field and obstacles. Each puzzle is circular. To navigate the ball to the goal you rotate the puzzle by swiping along its edges like youre turning a knob.

The games 60 levels start out easy to acquaint you with the mechanics but soon introduce obstacles that make Newton tougher. The first obstacle introduced is spikes that shatter your ball if you collide with them. Later levels add blocks that slide through the puzzle in response to gravity, spiky balls, rotating blades, switches that trigger obstacles, and more. Each new obstacle adds another dimension that requires different strategies. The YouTube trailer below does an excellent job demonstrating the interaction among the games many elements.

Newton requires thought, concentration, and planning to make it through each puzzle. At the same time, there is a simplicity to its reliance on gravity that makes it immediately intuitive so there isnt a steep learning curve. The puzzles are also self-contained and short, which makes Newton a great choice for commuters, people stuck in waiting rooms, and anytime youre bored and have a few idle minutes to play.

Newton is available on the App Store.

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Game Day: Newton – MacStories

Explore ancient ruins and solve clever puzzles in After the End: Forsaken Destiny – Macworld

These days, keeping up with games can be a full-time job. So how do you separate the signal from the noise, the wheat from the chaff, the Temple Runs from the Temple Jumps? Allow us to help by regularly selecting a gameYou Should Play.

I wasnt even looking for new games on the App Store when the trailer for After the End: Forsaken Destiny caught my eye. Despite its clunky, somewhat clich title, the game immediately piqued my interest with its smooth, perspective-based puzzles, constantly-evolving landscapes, and low-poly artistic style thats reminiscent of an all-time favorite, Monument Valley.

After the End: Forsaken Destiny is a linear adventure puzzle game that follows the parallel journeys of two little black horned creaturesa father and sonwho are traveling the same path at different times. You play as both the father and the son at different points in the game, sometimes swapping roles mid-level.

The father and son are traveling at different times, but occasionally their paths will intertwine.

In order to progress through the game youll need to forge a path by solving puzzlesyoull flip switches, pull levers, and look at problems from all angles, while simultaneously dodging enemies and avoiding dangerous obstacles.

The game features classic obstacles, like moving walls and spikes.

After the End: Forsaken Destiny is a premium title, but its well worth the $4 price tag. It has beautiful graphics and an immersive soundtrack that will make you feel like youre wandering through a dream. The puzzles are well-crafted and the game has a nice, easy pacenothing is too difficult, but you wont feel like youre breezing through them thanks to the games minimal direction. If you enjoy similarly evocative solo-adventure games like Monument Valley and Lumino City, heres why you need to check this one out:

Its a mash-up of everything you love: Ill be honestAfter the End: Forsaken Destiny isnt wholly original. The game clearly takes style cues from other popular games, including Monument Valley and the 2012 PlayStation 3 game Journey.

Okay, its actually surprisingly similar to Journey: This game also takes place in a sun-drenched desert studded with ancient ruins and mysterious geometric symbols; it also features a wordless, poignant sound-based storyline; and the main characters even have fluttering scraps of fabric that look a heck of a lot like the Journey characters magic scarf. Like Monument Valley, After the End: Forsaken Destiny features puzzles that depend on perspective and dynamism in the landscapethough its not quite Monument Valleys Escher-esque experience.

But this isnt a bad thing. After the End: Forsaken Destiny may have taken notes from these (and other) games, but the result is an informed, well-made puzzle game with a unique identity. The game captures the vastness of Journey and the cleverness of Monument Valley and combines the two with subtle, yet intentional, sense of direction.

Its beautiful and immersive: Most mobile games arent very immersive, and they arent trying to bedevelopers know youre playing on a 4.7-inch screen while youre waiting in line at Starbucks. The good news is that this makes the truly immersive mobile games (like this one!) stand out even more.

Its easy to fall in love with After the End: Forsaken Destinys beautiful graphics and detailed, dynamic landscapes and backgrounds. The game is rendered in an artistically low-poly style, which allows for smooth, high-quality movement and offers the same minimalist retro charm as other similarly-rendered games like Monument Valley. The smoothness of the graphics is important because one of After the End: Forsaken Destinys primary game mechanics is the ability to rotate the camera 360 degrees around your character for puzzle solving and path-finding.

The game lets you rotate your camera 360 degrees around your character so you can see the puzzles and pathways from different angles.

Whats especially impressive about this games graphics is the detailed background and visual depth in each landscape. As you sweep your camera around your character, youll see an accurate representation of future pathseven those beyond any checkpoints youve yet to reach. These visual details arent really necessaryyoud still get a great experience if there was a veil beyond each checkpointbut they do make the world appear impossibly vast and unexplored.

The games landscapes are impressively immersive.

The game also features a haunting, mesmerizing soundtrack, complete with sound-based puzzles and hints throughoutits definitely a headphones-on kind of title.

Theres something for everyone: While most puzzle games rely on one type of puzzlefor example, Monument Valley plays with spatial twists, yet Spry Fox is extremely dedicated to combining objectsAfter the End: Forsaken Destiny serves up a mix of puzzles. The game starts out with perspective puzzles (youll need to flip switches and rotate the camera to open up paths and collect artifacts), but quickly moves on to puzzles that require you to play with timing, obstacles, and musical cues. Halfway through the game youll have to fight a boss-type character by tossing rocks at it while dodging spikes and seeking shelter from powerful fans that will blow you off the platform and into a bottomless chasm.

This isnt just a puzzle gamehere the character fights a boss while dodging spiked walls and industrial fans.

After the End: Forsaken Destiny doesnt offer a ton of direction. Youll get a couple of tips when a new puzzle pops up, but otherwise youre mostly left to fend for yourself. Occasionally a question mark icon will appear in the upper left corner of your screen, and if you tap on it the game will point you toward your destinationbut wont give you any info on how youre meant to get there.

The developers occasionally throw you a tip, but for the most part youll just need to figure it out.

While the main goal of the game is to move forward through each level, theres more to the game than just completing each chapter. Throughout the world youll see collectible artifactsglowing cubes that, when collected, combine to make a series of statues. You dont have to collect these cubes to get through the game, but you will need those statues to complete the final level. Collecting the statue parts gets very tricky as the game progresses, as the pieces are tucked away in areas that are increasingly difficult to access (or even find). But its kind of nice that the game offers no hints for these optional statue pieces, because youll feel particularly accomplished when you finally manage to grab them.

Developer:Nexon M Platform:iOS(iPhone and iPad) Price:$4

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Explore ancient ruins and solve clever puzzles in After the End: Forsaken Destiny – Macworld

Roundup: The best escape room games for a breakout party – Ars Technica

Enlarge / Some typical escape room componentsplus a “Chrono Decoder”from Escape Room: The Game.

Spinmaster

I don’t know CPR. I can’t tie a tourniquet. But I can work my way out of a locked, puzzle-stuffed room in 60 minutes or less.

I’ve been honing this vital skill over the last year as the current mania for physical “escape rooms” has made its way to the tabletop. In an escape room, a team of players works together to solve codes and puzzles that will eventually provide a means of escape. Usually this requires organizing a group, traveling to a physical location, and paying a significant per-person fee.

The tabletop versions are cheaper, of course, but our testing found that they are generally high-quality productions that deliver a good puzzle-solving experience. And because they lack the long rules explanations common to many strategy games, they can appeal even to families and non-gamers.

Want to host an escape room evening of your own? Here’s our look at five leading titles. (We’ll try to avoid spoilers by avoiding talk of any specific puzzles.)

Some escape room games are simply collections of linked puzzlesjust get out of the room, quick!rather than narrative experiences. (The Unlock! series, for instance, has almost no story; the adventures and little setup and simply come to an abrupt end when you solve the final puzzle.) But ThinkFun’s “Escape the Room” series layers some nice narrative icing drizzled across its delicious puzzle cake. If you want a story-driven experience, these are terrific choices.

The series so far consists of two games, Mystery at the Stargazer’s Manor and Secret of Dr. Gravely’s Retreat. Both feature a colored code wheel for solving puzzlesline up the right colors and symbols to see if you’ve solved a particular puzzle correctly. Each adventure is setup with a character- and location-driven introduction, and puzzles often advance the plot by providing notes, letters, lab diaries, etc. Winning (or losing) the game also results in a narrative conclusion. By the time you’re done, you feel like a real adventure has unfolded.

The one possible downside to the series is its level of difficulty. Stargazer’s Manor was extremely easy; played in a mixed group of kids and adults, the adults backed off from engaging with the puzzles because they were too often solvable by the kids alone. Though well done, the game felt too easythough it might work with brand-new players. Because of this, I played Secret of Dr. Gravely’s Retreat with my kids rather than with other adultsbut the game stepped up the difficulty significantly and would have been terrific with a mixed group. (Finding an escape room game at just the right level for your play group is one of the challenges of the genre.)

The newest entry in the escape room craze comes courtesy of the biggest board game company in the world, Asmodee, which is known for high production values and strongly thematic designs. The company’s Space Cowboys unitpublisher of games like Splendor and T.I.M.E Storiesis producing the new Unlock! line, so expectations have been running high. After playing a short “sample” adventure and two full-length ones, however, I’m not sure that the Unlock! series quite achieves greatness.

As expected, the production values and graphic design work in the Unlock! adventures are excellent, though unlike the other games on this list, each adventure is literally just a deck of cards. These cards can represent objects, machines, codes, or “other” items (rooms, penalties, obstacles). Each card is numbered, and new cards are revealed from the deck whenever its numbers appears on some other visible card.

The name of the game here is manipulation. Red and blue object cards can be combined; join the right pair, add up their card numbers, and you can then reveal that card number from the deck. Green machine cards can be manipulated through adding various numbers (at which point they often become red cards which can be joined with other blue cards). Yellow code cards require you to enter a four-digit code into the accompanying digital app. So far, so good.

Unlock! also features a “hidden pictures” element. Sometimes, the numbers and letters of unrevealed cards are hidden on revealed cardswritten in tiny or unusual fonts in hard-to-read color schemes. Finding them doesn’t require the puzzle-solving part of your brain; it requires you to squint very closely and in good light at small pictures. And these hidden elementsare easy to missby designwhich means that you and your friends might sit at the table for ten minutes, trying to puzzle out what to do based on the collection of revealed cards, only to find that you don’t even have one of the cards you need because you didn’t spot the number. This is frustrating, not fun.

Card-driven puzzles from the Unlock! series.

Asmodee

Because the system limits itself to certain kinds of cards, the puzzles feel a bit more mechanical than in other escape room games. Part of this feel might also be due to the fact that the narrative is essentially nonexistent. Each adventure starts with a paragraph of throwaway text and ends by entering a final door code into the app; there’s little attempt to tell a story or set up a compelling situation beyond, “You’re locked in a room! Find a way out!”

If you want to try Unlock! for yourself, Asmodee has made a short print-and-play scenario available for download.

Follow this link:
Roundup: The best escape room games for a breakout party – Ars Technica

Top apps: Games for Kids – Post-Bulletin

The following games for kids encourage artistry, language skills, motor skills and imagination.

Alphabet Puzzles Games Kids & Toddlers free puzzle (Free) This app uses sound cues and visuals to help your child complete puzzles while learning the alphabet. (Mobilewalla Score: 96/100)

Coloring book: games for kids boys & girls free 1+ (Free) This app contains a coloring book and a screen on which kids can draw their own pictures. (Score: 94/100)

Baby Flash Cards Games & Kids Animal Sounds Free (Free) Toddlers will love this app, which teaches them about animals and vehicles using sounds, words and images. (Score: 93/100)

Little Kitten – My Favorite Cat (Free) No room for a kitten? Get your young child this virtual one to start. Little Kitten is adorable and loves to play with your kids. (Score: 91/100)

Little Dentist – kids games & game for kids (Free) Your child can have fun being the dentist with Little Dentist — even if he or she is afraid to go to one him- or herself. (Score: 85/100)

Rooplay (Free and Premium) A large quantity of engaging games are available, free, for kids with Rooplay; the whole catalog of 500 games comes with a subscription. (Mobilewalla Score: 94/100)

Toddler Kids Puzzles PUZZINGO (Free)* This app was designed to help toddlers (including special-needs kids) learn words and increase their dexterity. (Score: 93/100)

Preschool basic skills, shapes (Free) Your child can use this app to learn shapes, colors and numbers in English, Spanish, French and Italian. (Score: 91/100)

Toddler Animal Sounds (Free)* The developers of this app encourage you to use it with your young children to help them learn about animals and the sounds they make. (Score: 85/100)

My Town : Museum ($2.99)* Kids can explore beloved themes with this virtual museum, including space, dinosaurs, jousting knights and mummies. (Score: To new to rate)

* Available on both platforms.

Top apps are ranked by Mobilewalla, a search and discovery engine using technology to rank apps to help consumers navigate the mobile application marketplace.

Continued here:
Top apps: Games for Kids – Post-Bulletin

What Rime does better than anyone else, and how it led to me crying in a busy caf – GamesRadar

I found myself crying in the middle of a crowded cafe the other day. Id been trying to explain Rime to my girlfriend, and in summoning its final scenes I inadvertently hit a wellspring of lachrymosity. The look of polite bemusement she gave me matched my own utter surprise: I was physically weeping over a puzzle game, for goodness sake. In the two years prior, shed seen me cry exactly twice: once for good reason, and a second time towards the end of Titanic when the strings and images of people trapped in steerage got a bit too much. And now, suddenly, this. Rime is a powerful game.

Its also a very unusual, slow-burning, and I think, a misunderstood game. For the first two hours, a considerable passage of play, it runs the risk of losing the player completely by offering only occasional prosaic puzzles to complement its painterly Mediterranean looks. Without those clear blue skies, impossibly tall whitewashed towers, Salvador Dali landscapes and the growing sense of enigma all those elements create as you skip and leap around in them, there wouldnt be much to entice you further forwards. Certainly in my case, early on I was basically playing because it looked nice, and because the puzzles seem to be gradually building in complexity.

But something else is happening during that phase, too. Developer Tequila Works is deftly letting you know that all the symbolism in Rimes visual language isnt just art for arts sake. The dark figure. The fox. Those looming towers. The cape… Its all going somewhere. This is where Rime sets itself apart from the predominant school of thought in modern game storytelling, by simply trusting that youll notice and care about those motifs rather than making them explode or kiss each other in front of a forced camera.

Its a brave approach, because in Rime the story is the game. Hunting for lore tidbits in Dark Souls is an enjoyable diversion, but its far from the focus – theres always another oversized medieval knight to swear at just around the corner. Conversely, Rime exists to tell its story first and foremost. Its puzzles, really, exist to propel you along that story.

Environmental storytelling is quite literally as old as the hills, of course, and Im not suggesting Rimes the first video game to implement it. Dishonored 2 and What Became of Edith Finch are both fine recent examples of environmental storytelling. Closer to home theres Portal, a similarly wonderful puzzle/adventure game which says a lot about Rime by comparison. Valve uses narrative in Portal as connective tissue between puzzles which, once again, are the main attraction. They do so in a way that completely shatters expectations and transcends the trad puzzle game experience completely – but theres never any confusion as to why the game exists. Its so you can shoot portals into walls, and at floors, and do impossible jumps. Rime is the polar opposite: the puzzles exist only to entice the player further, and to tell the story.

But that still doesnt blow the dust away completely and expose Rimes singular quality. To do that, I must call upon M. Night Shyamalan. Please welcome him to the stage.

Shyamalans 2002 thriller Signs weaves a series of unusual character traits and unlikely happenstances into its main arc about a rural family under siege from an unknown invader, and as the movie progresses youre given to understand that theyll all become vitally important in the final acts grand reveal. 15 years on, and knowing Signs – knowing Shyamalan – cinephiles are now once bitten, twice shy about that technique and the likelihood that the grand reveal will be disappointingly on-the-nose, the unusual traits and unlikely happenstances too contrived.

Rime is not Signs, but there are parallels. It doesnt exist simply to shock you with a twist ending, but it does sew a lot of seeds early that dont come to fruition until the games almost over. And it certainly doesnt fall flat when it reveals itself, but by placing such enormous emphasis on its conclusion it runs the same risk Signs did. Thanks, M. Knight – youre dismissed.

With that first couple of subdued hours behind it, Rime finds a more confident pacing. Puzzles do grow in complexity, but they peak relatively early and never really reach that note-scribbling, alt-tabbing convolution of, say, Fez, or The Witness. The latter is an important distinction, actually: both games want to tell their story using their surroundings, but Jonathan Blow is very clear that the puzzles themselves are centre stage.

What Rime does instead is fold its symbolic elements increasingly into its puzzles, demanding strange, abstract rituals to be performed with light and darkness, and delighting in creating huge diversions. If there was any danger of leaving you unsatisfied with a lower difficulty level, its sidestepped in those moments you realise the door youre now walking through is the one you couldnt get past an hour ago.

The effect that has, I think, particularly for the brazenly stupid such as myself, is that it allows more brainpower for considering the surroundings. The synapses that would ordinarily in the genre be preoccupied with setting clock faces in a particular order to move water through some pipes, or some such Machiavellian nightmare, are freed up in Rime to keep asking the big questions: what is this island, and why am I on it? Who is the cloaked figure? Can I trust the fox? Are those moaning orbs on spindly legs sentient? The answers arent forthcoming, of course, but youre given plenty of time and space to ponder them.

Rime to keep asking the big questions: what is this island, and why am I on it? Who is the cloaked figure? Can I trust the fox?

In that way, its more like a walking sim played at running speed. Walking sims are, after all, games about the absence of something, and the search for meaning in that absence. Their imposed meditative pacing allows for a keener eye on the surrounding world and forces the narrative into sharper focus. Its just that walking sims usually dont give you much to do while the dour voiceover plays.

What if Rime isnt an adventure game, then, or even a puzzle game, but an extension of the walking sim which solves the genres problem of passivity? Theres no voiceover here, but that only serves as a strength: now the environment does all the talking.

Ive spent this whole time trying not to spoil the ending for you, and Ill mention it only in the broadest terms now: only after finishing Rime does it become clear that Tequila Works was absolutely counting on you to see the game through to completion. What an unusual and brave stance for a game developer. And what a shame it would be if the game wasnt rewarded for it.

Rime finds a way to tell you a story in a way that few have attempted and almost none have successfully realised, and it might make you sob in public places afterwards. Goodness, Im welling up even now – play me out, Mr Shyamalan:

So ‘The Last Airbender’ ‘s philosophy and culture feels like a beautiful idea to me: That we inherently have connections to the elements and what they teach us, and to each other.

Read more:
What Rime does better than anyone else, and how it led to me crying in a busy caf – GamesRadar


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