What is it
Puzzlescript games are very blocky and retro-looking, which may not appeal to kids used to the cinematic look of modern video games, but that is part of the price of having such a simple engine.
[typical puzzlescipt game screenshot]
Many of the games are good, however. Most are of the “sokoban” push-the-blocks around type.
Some games include the concept of bullets but most do not and none could be described as violent. The nature of the engine means games end up being logical puzzles.
Puzzlescript code looks like this:
[Enemy | Wreck] -> restart [ > Player ] [ Ship ] -> [ > Player ] [ > Ship ] [ > Ship | Iceberg ] -> [ > Ship | > Iceberg ] Sfx1 [ Enemy | ... | Ship ] -> [ > Enemy | ... | Ship ]
So, rather than lots of intimidating jargon, the code uses names and simple punctuation to set the rules.
Puzzlescript is completely free, and creator Stephen Lavelle deserves a lot of credit for opening his creation to the world. Even better, games made with Puzzlescript have the code immediately available, so if you want to see how something is done, just look at the code someone else wrote. For example, all the code used in the Flying Kick game mentioned above is here, open in the code editor no less, so you could start modifying that game.
Any good instructional system has to reward curiosity, and the Puzzlescript engine does that very well.
Who is it for
Most of the games I’ve seen written in PuzzleScript have been made by young adults, but the interface is simple enough that adolescents could learn it.
What Kids Like
Kids like making things they enjoy. They see a funny video, they want to make a funny video. They see a cool stop-motion animation, they want to make a cool stop-motion animation. They see a computer game they like, they want to make a computer game they like.
PuzzleScript is simple enough that a kid can make something playable very quickly, and since every game made in PuzzleScript has its source available (click ‘hack this game’ below the game) they can easily learn how others have achieved the mechanics of their games.
Also, becasue HTML5 runs pretty much anywhere, publishing your game and sharing with others is very easy.
What Parents Like
What the Critics Think
I have not seen any reviews of PuzzleScript. Because it is free, there are no advertising dollars that would lead to reviews.
Itch.io has lots of PuzzleScript games which is a sign that developers at least are taking it seriously.
If you look at examples of PuzzleScript games, you will see that they all have the same low-resolution look that may remind you of old Atari games. Kids today are used to photo-realistic graphics and the retro, old-school appearance of PuzzleScript may be a turn-off to some kids.
Who Made it
PuzzleScript is the work of Stephen Lavelle, who goes by the handle increpare. He is a prolific developer with many experimental projects on his site.
PuzzleScript began in 2013 and has been regularly updated since then. New games written in PuzzleScript are released all the time – every week if not every day
Where Can I Get it
Visit the PuzzleScript site for examples and full documentation. The coding interface is right in the browser window so nothing needs to be installed.
There is a Google Group where users compare notes, troubleshoot code, and share games they’ve made.
And there are books that can help walk your child through the process.
If you just want to play the games, the official archive has plenty to choose from, although it is not at all an exhaustive list.
Some of my favorites are
Heroes of Sokoban I, by Jonah Ostroff
Heroes of Sokoban II: Monsters
and Heroes of Sokoban III: The Bard and the Druid