November 26, 2022

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Grindstone and games that balance luck and skill

Here’s an embarrassing confession: when I was a student, I got too far into Bejeweled Blitz. Facebook was new, everyone was on it, and this was the perfect “one more round” game to endlessly procrastinate with. It was a habit that worried me enough to make me become more conscious of my screen time, but now and then a strategy or puzzle game will hit exactly the same notes for me. Might and Magic: Clash of Heroes. Into the Breach. Slay the Spire. Grindstone. Each of them offer me the same satisfaction of surprise chain reactions and the equal possibility for winning and losing.

Some people are saying about Grindstone that any puzzle based on a simple gameplay idea, in this case colour matching, stretched over several hundred levels, ought to get, well, grindy at some point. I’ve never played any of the games I’ve just mentioned with finishing them in mind, or getting somewhere. I just enjoy seeing what will happen, as if I have little to do with it. All these games have something beyond the perfect amount of challenge that’s supposed to be conducive to flow – it’s the sheer variety of gameplay options that stumps me. By mixing and matching just a handful of obstacles and some well-crafted gadgets, developer Capy made sure that I have a myriad of ways to solve each level in Grindstone. What’s not to love about flexible game design like that?

Of course elements will start to repeat, but I’m constantly in awe of how different a level feels when it uses, let’s say, both moving enemies and moving bridges, instead of just one of the two. Add to this that through its many levels, Grindstone gives you enough time to figure out how each obstacle works before it raises the difficulty by using it in a different way, and I’m just constantly looking forward to what’s next.

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