When do elements that are individually passable become insurmountable or too convoluted when stacked together?It's a great question, and I think the answer depends on a few factors: how many options plays have at each step, which options players are likely to actually notice, and what players typically think about each option. Every player is different, but that doesn't mean you can't estimate the qualities of a puzzle without players.
|How many options does a player standing in the center of the room have?|
|Why should the player press the pedestal button on the left at this point?|
|Should you put the cube on the button, or take it somewhere else first? What's a safer assumption? Why?|
|This ramp just leads to a bottomless pit, but it isn't there for decoration or aesthetics.|
|Quick, use logic to solve this maze on your first try without running into any dead ends or loops!|
|Not only does this map present no challenge due to high contrast, it is possible to become trapped.|
|Although this map is logically challenging, it is overly punishing. Here the player needs enough velocity to get to the exit, but the most intuitive way to gain velocity gives the player too much, resulting in their death.|
|In this map, the button opens the exit, so naturally the player spends most of their time trying to get a cube into this area to place on the button. But unless they first get blue gel underneath the angled panel and in certain other key locations, getting the cube in this area is just a massive amount of negative progress that the player believes to be positive progress.|
Having options that never change between puzzle states can make the puzzle feel cluttered. For example, a cube that only needs to be put in one place and then never moved from that position is effectively clutter. Either the cube and its requirement should be removed, or new requirements should be added so that the cube must be used more than once. If the challenge is simply to get the cube there in the first place, then it could probably be replaced with a button for the player to press.
|Every time you change the puzzle state in this puzzle, you have to carefully re-evaluate the surprising number of options again, making it difficult to plan ahead at all.|
|An example of high contrast.|
|Being able to disable the barrier blocking the star requires some extra steps that first-time players wouldn't try.|
Of course, ninjas know that many of these principles apply to more than just puzzle games, but you're totally not a ninja, so I guess you'll never find that out.