Sierra's Hoyle Puzzle Games is an inconsistent but generally enjoyable collection of word, strategy, and twitch-game conundrums designed primarily for those who enjoy single-player puzzle solving. Hoyle Puzzle Games is an entertaining interactive alternative for those times when you just don't have the extra hours or the desire for a long session with a more time-intensive game, and it's highlighted by the enclosed version of Sierra's own The Incredible Machine: Even More Contraptions, along with several other games you may have seen before.
Hoyle Puzzle Games differs from Sierra's three other recently released Hoyle titles in a number of ways, not the least of which is its focus on solo play. Unlike Hoyle Board Games or Hoyle Card Games, Puzzle Games does not feature the standard Hoyle gallery of AI opponents such as Harley the bear or Roswell the alien. Furthermore, although you can invite a friend or connect to the Internet for a quick multiplayer match, most of the games are best played alone. The game is also unique by virtue of its heftier system requirements, broader range of subjects, and tendency toward virtual pastimes rather than adaptations of the classic card and tabletop games in Sierra's other Hoyle products.
Certainly one of the most intriguing and welcome items in the package is the fully operational, complete version of The Incredible Machine: Even More Contraptions, a fun game to pass the time, if you haven't already played it. Released as a stand-alone product just one year ago, The Incredible Machine: Even More Contraptions is one of the latest in a series of Incredible Machine games inspired by Rube Goldberg, the celebrated cartoonist who sketched overly complex, multifaceted contraptions, often pieced together from common articles such as drainpipes and rope, that accomplished astonishingly simple tasks
Hoyle Puzzle Games itself includes gravity tiles, an intriguing hybrid of mahjong tiles and Tetris; placer racer, a simplified adaptation of the classic arcade game Break Out; and star collector, a grid-based affair in which you capture certain squares by joining multicolored objects. Time breaker is yet another variation of Break Out in which you use your keyboard and cursor keys to propel a bouncing ball toward a legion of multicolored objects. If you keep the ball moving, you'll eventually eliminate all the objects. If the ball slips past your paddle, it's game over. All the while, you're inundated with a variety of power-ups, additional balls, and even the occasional flying saucer.
Hangman is identical to the word-guessing game you probably played in elementary school. Anagram and solitaire are much like their tabletop equivalents, and crossword offers a generous helping of 1200 crossword puzzles from Dell Magazine. Tile aficionados will be right at home with nearly a half dozen tile-based games, some of which are definitely superior to others. Maze racer and maze raider are forgettable timed maze challenges. Though some games are extremely similar, Hoyle Puzzle Games delivers a total of 15 separate pursuits.
As in other games in the Hoyle series, in Hoyle Puzzle Games, you can create your own custom onscreen character using Sierra's "facemaker" utility. With facemaker, you can construct a customized mug completely from scratch, selecting virtually every feature you'd find on a real face (and some you wouldn't). However, while you might enjoy building a virtual identity, there's really little use for facemaker in a game that doesn't have any computer players from which to distinguish yourself.
The only problem with Hoyle Puzzle Games is that many of its games have already been seen elsewhere. Solitaire can be found in Hoyle Card Games, gravity tiles and a variety of other tile-based games are included in Hoyle Board Games, and The Incredible Machine: Even More Contraptions is still on retail shelves. Moreover, most of the games have a somewhat dated 2D appearance that doesn't compare favorably to newer games. Nevertheless, Hoyle Puzzle Games does gather them all into one neat, user-friendly package that's easy to access and operate. The game does not offer many rule variations apart from a trio of difficulty settings, but some may consider that part of its charm.
The Hoyle Puzzle Games package includes a comprehensive instruction manual, a nifty booklet describing eight classic parlor games that don't even need a computer, and two titles (placer racer and mahjong tiles) that you can upload and play on your Palm- or Microsoft-based handheld. If puzzles are your thing, and if you don't need to play games with advanced computer graphics, and if you haven't played through most of these games before, Hoyle Puzzle Games should keep your gray matter busy and your reflexes sharp.