Introduction to everything
Please note that I really do like Enigma, and I have mad respect for everybody who designed its levels, since the levels are an essential part of the game. As you read, please try to keep this in mind, even when my review sounds negative or occasionally sarcastic.
There is a puzzle game called Enigma. The player controls a black marble and rolls it around a top-down view to try to hit coloured blocks called Oxyds and match them in pairs.
Well, that's what the game is ostensibly about. The actual gameplay involves Rube Goldberg machines and obstacle courses between your starting position and a trivial number of Oxyd stones at the end.
If you haven't heard about Enigma before, you really need to see this explanation/review from The Obscuritory, which explains what the game is much better than I ever could.
So since The Obscuritory has already done it, I'm not here to write a review of Enigma the game itself. I'm here to review Enigma I, which is the game's first level pack, and the landscapes in it. ("Landscape" is Enigma's term for a level.) Turns out 100 levels is a lot to write about, so I'll just see how far I get before I get tired of naming all of them. Finally, it's worth noting that since Enigma I is the first pack (apart from the tutorial), the levels here are generally easier, less abstract, and more focused around a particular concept compared to the later level packs. It is absolutely possible to create levels aimed at Enigma newcomers and have them be fantastic, but I expect many of Enigma's truly outstanding levels are hidden in the later packs.
How my ratings work
Enigma's built-in rating display goes from 0 to 10, and here is how I will award them:
- 0: The level is intentionally malicious, and it
- 1: The level is intentionally malicious, but it's not the worst.
- 3: It's a poor level.
- 5: "Average," according to the manual.
- 6: At this rating and above, I would replay the level for fun.
- 8: Very solid level. The equivalent of high A tier. It has a good design, a good hook, is constructed well, and values my time.
- 10: Reserved for any god-tier fantastic level that blew my mind and raised my expectations for the rest of Enigma. Must-play!
At the end of this post I will link a level pack I created of all the levels in Enigma I but having removed all the ones that I think suck.
If a level could potentially be improved with the help of some constructive criticism, I will do my best to provide that constructive criticism, rather than mere criticism.
Here we go!
This level is trivial, so I'm not rating it.
Uh oh - not off to a great start. This level has some doors, which alternate opening and closing at a snail's pace. There aren't any obstacles in this landscape, so the only challenge lies within your own mind: Are you patient enough to sit through 3 minutes of the doors? If you are, there's no emotional or in-game reward at the end of this level, only a sense of relief that you can at last have some action again. 2.
You must push the wooden boxes into the water in order to bridge to the Oxyds. There are two screens here - if I roll right a little from the position in the screenshot, the screen will scroll, and I'll be on the very left edge of the second screen.
There's a little challenge here - I had to take 2 or 3 attempts at it - but pushing ALL of these boxes from the first screen ALLLL the way over to the second screen where they're needed takes a lot of time and is frustrating to do over again if you make a mistake while playing the level. The level could have been much improved if the boxes were closer to where they were needed, and I don't think it would have diminished the value of the puzzle.
Since the level spans across 2 screens, it's also harder to plan a solution on paper or in an image editor, since you can't see the whole level at once. 3.
There is an item that looks like an umbrella, and after you activate it, you can roll above the void for 10 seconds until the invincibility wears off. It's a trivial level. Nothing here to rate.
The black snake-like voids actually move around very fast in a random pattern. Each snake has a fixed length and wanders all over the stage, leaving its tail behind it, and if it slithers under you then you fall down and lose a life. You have three lives, and if you lose them all, the level including the Oxyds resets and you have to start from scratch.
I like the concept, but this level has some critical flaws that make it disappointing. First, when you are respawning, if there is a snake underneath you then you fall in again and lose another life. To put it another way, the snakes can randomly spawn camp you. It's more likely than you'd think.
Second, the snakes can overlap themselves and each other, making it really hard to tell where the "head" of the snake is, so you can't predict their movements as easily because you don't know which part is going to extend.
If this level was fairer and easier to play around, I would have given it a better score, but those factors bring down the enjoyment so much that I have to give this a rating of 1. The snakes spawn camping you kinda sucks.
Welcome to the Machine
You have to hit the switches to make the blocks rearrange so you can navigate closer to the Oxyds, but if you hit the wrong switch, you get trapped in the middle and have to restart the whole level. Which switches are the wrong ones? Who knows!
This is one of the few levels from Enigma I that I haven't completed, and I've given it a fair go, but I just do not understand how the blocks move. Being trapped and it resetting my progress from a single mistake is so demoralising. It might be a fine puzzle if I can figure out the logic to the block movements, but I can't. I guess I won't rate this one as I might just not be smart enough for it??
Sok It To 'Em
I'm a big fan of Sokoban clones - hell, my best online friends are from the forum community of a niche Sokoban clone - but Enigma is different from Sokoban. In Enigma you control a rolling physics object with the mouse, bounce off anything you touch, and can only move blocks if you hit them hard enough. This is scientifically the worst possible control system for playing a box-pushing puzzle game.
Now, I still like box-pushing puzzle games, even in Enigma!
Level designers have got to consider the control scheme when designing levels like these for Enigma. It's important to have a floor material that isn't frustratingly slippery, and it's important to not waste the player's time by having them push boxes allllllll the way across the level when they've already solved the puzzle in their head.
Sok It To 'Em has twelve boxes, which must be pushed all the way down and to the right side onto the buttons. It is not a difficult level. After spending under a minute and pushing just one box into the end location, the level can now be trivially solved:
But I still have to execute this obvious solution from here. I have to push ALL the ELEVEN! remaining boxes all the way to the end. This is a chore. 2. Alone, it doesn't totally suck, but it's more tedious than most of Enigma's 1000 other sokoban levels. (Not exaggerating. There are really one thousand other sokoban levels.)
Oh my god, speaking of other Sokoban levels...
This level is an absolute masterpiece. You have to move all the grey blocks onto the blue dots, and as the title implies, it is nowhere near as easy as it first appears. The entire level is in this screenshot.
This level is a masterpiece because it is the polar opposite of Sok It To 'Em. It has a fascinating and engaging puzzle that makes incredible use of the small space of the level. Retrying is quick because I don't have to push the blocks very far. The rough floor is also ideal for box-pushing levels since it's harder to apply too much force to the marble and hit blocks that you didn't intend to.
There are no flaws in this level. This level is mind-blowing. 10/10. This is one of the best levels in Enigma I. Play it.
Moving close to the Oxyds, onto the grey tiles, spawns more of the remaining Oxyd stones in the same pattern.
Nothing too special to see here. The level has a bit too much stuff to be called trivial, but doesn't have much challenge. You roll around and you hit the Oxyds and you win the level. Pretty average. 4. I took away a point because there isn't a challenge, but it's certainly not a bad level. It's relaxing!
The first of the "Meditation" levels. You control all the small balls at once, and you have to get them into the dents. There's no way to fail in this level. It's trivial so I'm not rating it.
At this point, we've passed the opening of Enigma I and we're into its typicals levels. And all in all, the typical levels are not too bad.
The outer ring leads you around the level counter-clockwise, the inner ring leads you around the level clockwise. Most Oxyd stones on the shared wall between the rings, but some Oxyds can only be hit while in a specific ring. You can switch between the rings once per rotation. There's no way to fail. The level is fine, but not interesting. 4.
Hanging In The Balance
It plays like what it looks like. The floor is one of the more slippery types. I'm glad that it's not actually too hard - it's certainly not malicious! - but it's not the most interesting level. I'm giving it a 4, which is better than you might expect, because at the end of the day it is very fair.
The maze is randomly generated every time you enter the level. There is nothing in the maze. This level is not interesting. I haven't even moved the marble yet, but I already know nothing in here is going to please me.
I don't think I've completed this one before, so I'll just check now how large the level actually is, because it's larger than the one screen in this screenshot. If it's stupid large than that'll be another point against it in the rating. Let's see...
Okay, it's like 3x3 screens. Oh, and there's the other Oxyd in the top right corner! I guess while I'm here I may as well solve the level and tick it onto my completed list. Alright, just gotta head down into the bottom left corner now, and...
...wait, why isn't that the end of the level? Where are the other Oxyds??
...my god, there's four of them.
The maze is EMPTY, so the only reason I am playing this level is for the sake of the maze. But it's not even a good or an interesting maze. It's an algorithmically generated maze. I feel the same way about algorithmically generated levels as I do about algorithmically generated text: If you didn't take the time or effort to write the text (design the maze) yourself, then it's not worth my time to read it (to solve it). The level has no point. 0. I think this level shouldn't be in Enigma.
All the grey tiles with gradients are steep slopes, and the skulls kill your ball if you touch them. You have 3 lives.
Based on my previous ratings, you might think I'd hate this level for being pointless, but it's actually pretty funny. Also, the level does have a point, it is a dexterity challenge, and it's a short and sweet dexterity challenge at that. While the level is not an innovative concept, I do actually enjoy playing it. And with only 6 Oxyd stones to pair, it doesn't overstay its welcome. 5.
Trivially easy Sokoban level, but at least this one only has three boxes (the plugs), so like the last level it also doesn't overstay its welcome. Just in case you have trouble with this one, there is an easy mode variant, which is exactly the same but with two boxes in the starting room instead. 4.
Is It Easy?
Far from reaching the brilliance of the level simply titled "Easy?", this level is a single room with no obstacles and the Oxyds hidden in the walls made out of look-alike stones. The real Oxyds are all hidden in the corners of the room. 3.
You start in the middle of this closed room and have to push the brown blocks out the way to get to the outside. Then you have to teeter around the edge of the level on the very very slippery ice, making sure you don't fall into the black abyss.
In case you were wondering, the blocks do not have ice physics. They have no physics at all in any of the levels. The only things with physics are "actors", which is usually the marbles.
It's not a maliciously bad level, but like... ... there's nothing about it that interests me. 3.
This level has two rooms, so four Oxyds in total. After you go through the frictionless chute at the bottom of the screen, you reach the second room which is a vertically flipped version of the first room.
The rotors move towards you at a decent speed to try to kill you, adding some tension and excitement to what would otherwise be a lame matching puzzle. Also, if you move in the right way, you can make the rotors bounce against the Oxyds for you, meaning you don't even have to go into their areas and can try for a better time on the level.
It's short, basic, but engaging. 5.
The Big Swamp
It's a maze made out of swamp tiles. The level is 4 screens large. The maze is surrounded by deadly water.
Swamp tiles slowly suck your ball in and make it more difficult to move. If you spend about 5 seconds above swamp tiles without touching solid floor, you'll be sucked up completely and lose a life, respawning at the start location.
To add insult to injury, the maze is randomly generated. But at least the gameplay is more engaging than Desert Ruins! 1.
Do Not Dive
Trivial spring tutorial. There are two kinds of springs. You pick them up into your inventory, then click them to spring and cross hazards. The wide spring gets dropped on the floor when used, the narrow spring stays with you and can't be dropped. Going for fast times on this is one is funny.
You enter the spring ring and then wait until you win the level. You cannot control your ball while in the ring. You just have to wait until the springs throw you into matching blocks. 1.
The skulls swing around the level in arcs at a decent speed, leaving frictionless space tiles behind them. As more and more of the level gets turned into space, you have to quickly match the Oxyds without dying to the skulls once.
Without any room for error, this level can be frustrating, but with only four pairs of Oxyds to match it's not that hard to get it within a few tries. You have to keep an eye on what's going on in the whole level to make sure you don't launch yourself into the patch of a skull. On the plus side, the fast-paced action and quick retries combined with the need to think before you launch into the frictionless space makes this one enjoyable for me. 5.
Over the Ditch
Another spring tutorial, this time with 6 Oxyds and a par time that is virtually impossible to surpass.
The ground breaks after rolling over it. Play well and don't fall in. My criteria for a rating of 6 is that it's good enough for me to replay it, and I have replayed Brittle Planks, so... 6!
It seems like your average skull-avoiding level designed for beginners, but those same beginners will find this level surprisingly frustrating. The spawn point in the empty passageway on the right edge of the screen means you'll have to travel the whole length of the level again if you slip up and collide with a skull (compared to if the spawn point had been near the middle of the level and allowed access to several paths like spokes). The section with the arrows is nastier than it needs to be since the arrows hide the ball underneath them. Look at the screenshot, do you see the ball peeking out the left side of the arrows? Since it's hidden, while you're going through it you don't know whether you're about to slam into the top or bottom line of skulls. You just have to move the mouse and pray.
While this isn't so hard for me now with the experience I've gained, it was fairly frustrating when I was going through the level pack for the first time. The arrows section covering over your ball is malicious, and dying there means weaving your way back through the entire level again. 1.
It certainly took revenge on me.
Wait, no, what happened! The level just called Lissajous was fine! Why would you go and make this!
This one sucks. The whole floor is swamp, which slowly drowns your marble and messes up its movement. All the stones are next to deadly water, and there are no extra lives. A single death resets all the Oxyds. Finally, there is gravity which switches direction every half second, making you constantly fight against an invisible ever-changing force to try to stay away from the water, while being close enough to the water to get those edge Oxyds. The easy mode is tolerable, but the regular mode is sadistic. 0.
Another empty maze level, exactly like Desert Ruins, with SIX!! Oxyd stones. Nothing personal against the author of Mossy Paths, but I've already had my fill of maze levels in this pack. 0.
No Jumping Necessary
This one is pretty cute, with a fantastic mix of puzzle and execution. The physics gameplay of Enigma does pay off in this level. You have to map out a route which visits every bridge at most once, which allows you to deposit all floppies and keys into the bottom right corner. Not quite as easy as it looks.
After you place all the keys and floppies in this room, a bridge opens up that allows you to travel into the second screen:
Here's the Oxyds, also with disintegrating paths between them. They're all blue coloured so you can visit them in any order without having to match them, which makes sense since there's brittle floor. The route that I used here actually doubled back on some of the paths very quickly before they fully broke. Not sure if that's intentional! Good puzzle, good execution challenge, solid level! I rate it a solid 7.
This meditation level is trivial. You put the balls in vaguely the four corners, and the ramps push them into the dents.
Where am I?
There are about 10 rooms that look exactly like this. Going in the wormhole in the bottom left teleports you to the next one in the sequence, which eventually loops back around to the first room again. Pairing the Oxyds is tricky if you don't know which room you're in, which is why each room includes these movable blocks, which retain their positions when you re-enter the room later.
The solution to the level is to move the blocks into your favourite pattern to signify which colour Oxyd it is, and then keep heading through the wormhole until you see the pattern you made earlier for the matching colour.
Fair level, though not especially engaging. 4.
The Grim Reaper
2 rooms stacked vertically and 6 Oxyds. The white floor inverts your controls, and the rest is frictionless space. Aim carefully to hit the Oxyds. That's all there is to it. Some skill is required to fling yourself into the Oxyds given the inverted controls. It's a completely fair level, but I'm taking away a point for it not being very imaginative. 4.
This is basically two levels in one: easy mode and regular mode both simulate different mancala games. Mancala is a category of physical games from Africa, which are played by moving stones around a regularly shaped board made of holes. Easy mode is the game Awale (also known as Oware, Wari, or Warri) and regular mode is the game Katro from Madagascar.
I don't understand this level's recreation of Katro, but I really like the recreation of Awale. If you haven't played it before, this is a video showing the rules and an example game. The screenshot above shows the state of a new game. My stones are on the left and the opponent's are on the right. I have to capture more than half the stones to win. I can use the top bank of switches to try out a choice, and the glass blocks indicate which new places the stones will move to. I can use the bottom switch to confirm my choice. Then the computer opponent on the right side immediately makes its move.
It took me quite a while to get the hang of this (including having to look up the previously linked video) but now that I know it, the game is enjoyable to play in this Enigma recreation, and it's awesome that the Enigma engine is capable of doing this at all.
The community ratings absolutely shafted this level, giving it a mere 2.5 average, which is why I'm rating it 10 to get those numbers up. And also because it fits my criteria for a 10!
This is cute! Within the frictionless void of space are two gravitational wormholes, and you have to carefully move the marble at just the right speed to fling off them around the skulls into the destination area. That's the whole level! It's a fun concept, fun to play, and doesn't overstay its welcome one bit. 7.
I can't say anything about this level without spoiling the puzzle, sorry! It's good and unique and not too hard - I was able to work it out all by myself. 8.
Each wormhole takes you to one Oxyd, and each destination has a corresponding wormhole that takes you back to this hub. There's no obstacles, it's just pure memorisation. Or, it would be pure memorisation, but even that is thwarted: the wormhole destinations randomly change, so sometimes you just have to brute-force it until you find the Oxyd you wanted. I can't find any skill or strategy here. 2.
You are given a spring and you must jump between the floating islands. There are 6 Oxyds.
No matter which level they appear in, I really really want to like the springs. But every time I find that they're just too unforgiving. Missing a jump respawns me at the start of the level with one fewer life, and landing the jumps consistently is surprisingly difficult. Having the right velocity at the moment you click the mouse button to jump is what separates life from death.
This level at least has large platforms that interconnect in many ways, and the only obstacle is jumping properly, which is better than some of the levels in other packs where I get through most of a long linear level and then fail a spring jump at the end.
That said, I still don't like the springs. 4, which is higher than it could be because they did the best they could with the springs.
There are two horizontal screens. When the blue blocks appear, you get stuck in them and can't move, but they appear and disappear every second. So it's a match-the-Oxyds level with no obstacles, except you can't move half the time. I don't like the concept, but it's mostly harmless. 3.
The springs threaten to bounce you into the water as you roll around the level.
Looks gross, but it's actually more than fine and fair. The floor has a suitable amount of friction, the springs don't bounce you too hard, and the level isn't totally covered in them, so it doesn't condemn you to certain death like you might expect from looking at it. There's a lot of spots where you have more freedom to move around. 5.
There are some invisible springs and the wormholes put you in a variety of random places. With gentle movement you can solve it in seconds through trial and error until the wormholes put you where you want to be. 3 - I wish it allowed for more strategy.
Another simple introductory level. This one wants you to use the boxes to build bridges so you can turn off the laser and get to the left side for the Oxyds. I'm surprised this level is so deep in to the pack, since it's too trivial for me to give it a rating. I'm also surprised that this is the first level to use a laser, since the lasers are so versatile and can make lots of levels interesting in different ways. It's fine!
I don't know why, I don't know how, but this level has atmosphere. It feels like you're not supposed to be here. It feels dark. It feels constructed. It feels like the level tiles aren't quite right. It feels like a basement.
6 for atmosphere, though the gameplay is nothing special.
I love the layout of this one. I swear I've seen it in something else, maybe it was in an official Sokoban game, I can't quite remember. It's still a great layout! The ball feels a little too bouncy for the close-quarters box pushing, but the level does its best. I like it! 7.
Dead Ball Walking
... Dead Ball Walking ...
On the one hand it's not a very imaginative idea, and I wouldn't give it a good rating, but... the fact that it so brazenly embraces what it is... look at it... It's so ludicrous that it loops around to being good again? I don't know. I can't rate this. This level cannot be rated. It can only be experienced.
Now for my favourites
I'm tired of explaining ALL the levels, so from now on I'll just show some of my favourites so I can publish this blog post.
The Enigmhanoi Towers
There are 3 blocks of different sizes and you have to move them around the enclosed space so that they all stack on top of a blue circle. This opens a gate. The rules are that smaller blocks can be moved under bigger blocks but not vice versa, and when moving stacked blocks the smaller one is moved first. Yes, it's like the Hanoi towers.
This is actually so fun to puzzle out. Fair and fun and great. The quotes messages at the top (which I already collected in that screenshot) are the cherry on top. Play this. 10.
Another Jacob Scott bridge-building level. You have to build a bridge to the Oxyds on the right side. Every block is needed, and several of them have to be used in clever ways. I especially like the use of the left side and the one-way stone. It took me a few attempts, and I enjoyed the process of gradually figuring out the level! Nothing groundbreaking, but it is good fun! 8.
The big brother of Islands, this one has smaller areas and more boxes. You don't need to use all the boxes, so it's less elegant in that regard - it feels a little less like puzzle solving and more like trying to find something that works. It's still good fun. 7.
The last of Jacob Scott's bridge-building levels that I'd like to highlight. This one is tough. You don't need to use all the boxes, but the challenge is figuring out which ones you do need. It's also worth noting that many boxes must be sacrificed into the water to access other boxes, for example the pairs of boxes along the top-middle and bottom-middle cannot be pushed sideways; one of them must be sacrificed vertically if you want to push the other one horizontally and use it. The symmetry of the level makes it much more interesting to understand compared to Island Paradise. This was really good fun to solve and I found the answer quite amusing. 8!
This is the FUNNIEST level ever. So, the grey tiles are just normal, but the white tiles invert your controls while the ball is over them. It's... it defies comprehension. It defies being rated.
Here's how this one works. There are 4 balls which need to go in the 4 dimples. All the balls are trapped in cages. If a ball hits its cage with enough force, the whole cage moves one block over. So, it's not possible to get all the cages in place for all the balls to go in the dimples... without using the wormholes. When a ball goes in a wormhole it gets teleported to the yellow tile at the top left of the landscape.
So now there are two balls in the top left cage. One catch is that once a ball has left its cage, that cage cannot be pushed again by the other cages. In this screenshot, the top right cage is now stuck there forever. Also, be careful not to crush a ball under the cage when the cage moves.
This is creative, and doesn't make things too complicated beyond this core concept! 7. Very solid.
This is the last level in the pack, and it's the largest by far. It appears to be several simple areas put together, including bridge building and some space floor - but the true part of the puzzle is hidden a little deeper.
Without spoiling the exact details, you have to get the correct order of operations to travel between different parts of the level without blocking yourself off, and to do that, you have to find an extra movable block.
This was extremely satisfying to solve when I finally managed to get it, but the journey to solving it was extremely tough.
The level is not forgiving. You have to navigate around many hazards like bottomless pits and rotors without making a single mistake, since this level only gives you one life to work with. If you mess up during the 15-minute-long level (that's my completion time) you have to do it all over again, and the start is quite fiddly.
If I could improve this level, I would make the bridge building sections shorter, I would make the critical part of the puzzle a little less obscure/easier to execute, and I would let the player do small bonus challenges to obtain extra lives in some sections (as well as setting ConserveLevel=true and AutoRespawn=true). This would make the level a lot less tedious because the player wouldn't have to redo the same starting actions as many times if they mess up.
Overall, while this level was satisfying to finally complete, I'll just give it a 6 because of these issues that would be pretty easy to improve on.
Overall feelings on the pack
Enigma I does have some fantastic levels in it, but they're sandwiched between an equal number of levels that want you stone dead. I think the pack could be a much more enjoyable experience for beginners if some of the levels were tweaked to be more welcoming and encouraging, and some other levels were removed from the game entirely.
While I haven't attempted (yet?) to improve any of the levels myself, I have curated a little level pack of everything that doesn't totally suck - so I've kept all the amazing levels, good levels, and mid levels. Hopefully this will be a better starting point for newcomers than Enigma I itself!
You can install these level packs by placing the XML file into
~/.enigma/levels/cross (Linux) or into
AppData/Roaming/Enigma/levels/cross (Windows). Note that if you're using the Flatpak (Flathub's distribution) version on Linux, you'll need to use Flatseal to allow access to
filesystem=home, since this distribution doesn't have the correct permissions by default.
Once you've copied the XML file, restart Enigma, and you can find my packs in the menu by clicking Level Pack > User > (Name of pack).b
If this blog post excited you enough to download and try Enigma for the first time, you'll also like my Starting level pack, where I've curated a smaller section of levels to introduce some mechanics, show off what the Enigma engine can do, and also include a couple that are just funny. If you don't like a level from my pack, please do skip it, and if you need a more exhaustive introduction to the game, you could check out the full built-in Tutorial pack, especially Jacob Scott's Advanced Tutorial level at the end of that pack.
P.S. To any Enigma developers reading this, I hope I haven't upset you too much! As I said at the start, I do like the game, and the levels are a very important part of the game! I don't know if Enigma's levels get updated or not, but if it is possible to update a level, I'd love to work with you to contribute some improvements to the levels for the next version of Enigma! If you'll have me, of course. You can get in touch with me here!