Grindstone and games that balance luck and skill •

Grindstone and games that balance luck and skill •

Here’s an embarrassing confession: When I was a student, I went too far in Bejeweled Blitz. Facebook was new, everyone was there, and it was the perfect “one more spin” game to procrastinate endlessly. It was a habit that worried me enough that I would become more aware of my screen time, but every once in a while a strategy or puzzle game will hit the exact same notes for me. Might and Magic: Clash of Heroes. Into the breach. Kill the arrow. Grindstone. Each of them gives me the same satisfaction of surprise chain reactions and the same opportunity to win and lose.

Grindstone Developer and Publisher: Capybara Games Availability: Available now via Apple Arcade on iPhone, iPad and Apple TV, also available on Switch.

Some people say about Grindstone that any puzzle based on a simple gameplay idea, in this case the color matching, spanning several hundred levels, should get grindy at some point. I have never played any of the games I just mentioned thinking about finishing them or getting somewhere. I just like to see what will happen, like I don’t have much to do with it. All of these games have something beyond the perfect amount of challenge that’s supposed to be conducive to fluidity – it’s the sheer variety of play options that puts me off. By mixing and matching just a handful of obstacles and well-designed gadgets, developer Capy made sure I had a myriad of ways to solve each level in Grindstone. Why not love designing flexible games like this?

Sure, the elements will start to repeat themselves, but I’m constantly impressed with how different a level is when it uses, say, both moving enemies and moving bridges, instead of just one of the two. Add to that that through its many levels, Grindstone gives you enough time to understand how each obstacle works before you raise the difficulty using it in a different way, and I always look forward to seeing what comes next. .

There are absolutely trash-safe levels that I wouldn’t replay if you paid me (leveraged puzzles! Yuck!), But trial and error even makes those levels magically bearable. At first it seems like I’m not going anywhere, and with a big sigh, I decide it’s time to stop. About half an hour later, I’ll be back, and this time it works – was it luck? It can only be luck, because the more you play, the more you will get used to the model by which the game lets go of its madness. Other times that little bit of luck is what makes a difference when things seem impossible after several turns. I don’t want my games to be skill-based, because I like to be surprised, and I really think Grindstone manages to strike a balance between systematic gameplay and luck. This also applies to a card fighter like Slay the Spire – although you have some control over your deck, I don’t think the game is any less reliant on the occasional stroke of luck, and that’s exactly it. which allowed me to continue. Grindstone even allows me to take my luck and make things more difficult if I want to – will I make another attempt to grab that treasure chest or should I just go? If things don’t work out I’m okay with that too. Grindstone makes the loss bearable since this loss remains confined to a single step instead of an entire race.

It’s all worth it for this grand tour of honor: seeing the potential of a huge chain of creeps, getting into position and then slicing them, a giant grindstone plunging at the end of it all for your reward. This is the right thing! It’s simple fun, sure, but as the saying goes, it takes a lot of effort to make something seem effortless.

(Work on this article was paused about halfway through, in order to play Grindstone.)

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