The family coffee table this Christmas saw many retro toys and puzzles come and go across it's veneered wooden top; table-top crazy golf, rubber band cars, a plastic miniature Connect Four and even a couple of Transformers Robots with realistic firing missile launcher bits!
|Tetris jigsaw, and, if you look closely - PacMan Socks!|
A family Christmas wouldn't be a family Christmas without my brother and I wading through some of the latest video-game releases. Between Assassin-pirate pilfering, heist holding hooliganism, Roman risen revenge and zombie apocalypse antics you would think there to be little time for much else. Except a rather nice puzzle game named Fez that, despite my best efforts, took up a rather large chunk of my holiday time. We'd recently watched "Indie Game: The Movie", in which the development of the game features heavily, and where curious about what it actually entailed. Running around a 2D-3D puzzle world searching for yellow cubes mostly. The puzzle element of the main game was entertaining, with a particularly nice art style and some really stunning mind-bending puzzle/lateral thinking/realisation moments. However the game also featured it's own set of meta-game puzzles, necessary to find the blue "anti-cubes". As a child I would have loved transcribing and translating the in-game language to solve these elaborate puzzles. Unfortunately now, as a time limited, cynical adult, I could appreciate their beauty, depth and execution, and could also reflect on the fact that I no longer have to have solved said puzzles by myself (or call up some extortionate tips hot-line while my parent's weren't looking), because there's a million YouTube videos and web-based walk-throughs to save me from having to work out things that "I know how to work it out, but guess what, I don't need to!".
Finally, there was one other puzzle that occupied a lot of my time. To go with the plastic miniature Connect Four, there was also a mini Draughts, Chinese Checkers and, most interesting to me, English Peg Solitaire. I spent quite a few hours click-tap-clicking away at the pieces of this latter game, trying to understand the patterns and the dance the pegs and holes could form. Eventually I realised that it'd require a fair amount of thought (or days of trial and error) to get to a solution. Plus, I think I was starting to drive my family mad with the constant click-tap-click-tap-click, "oh grrr" coming from the sofa. So, on Christmas day, after finishing the jigsaw (and celebratory vodka-truffles), I broke out the laptop and knocked up some code to find and then draw out step-by-step instructions. Once followed and the game solved, I did a bit of reading up on Wikipedia, the problem has a lot of interesting properties including memonics for helping to remember a nice solution based around composite moves.
My step-by-step graphical solution follows, though it's not an intelligent or minimized one, just the first that my naive solving algorithm spat out. The Haskell code to do this is on-line for the really interested.