Level of the Month
Each month, we take a closer look at excellent Enigma levels. Excellent levels are those with the highest average user ratings and the greatest number of ratings altogether. Thus it is your vote that determines the Level of the Month. So please rate the levels you play and do not forget to submit your ratings together with your scores at the end of each month. You can find all previous Levels of the Month in our archive.
April 2009: “Plan Ahead” by Jacob Scott
This month we are presenting to you another level designed by Jacob the Buil … Sorry, by Jacob Scott. This author has become a legend not only among Enigma players, but, as we already know (see LotM 7/2008, Gods Of Enigma II) in the world of marbles as well. He produces new excellent levels at such an astonishing speed that some Enigma connoisseurs started to doubt if he were a human at all (see LotM 7/2007, Elaborate) and I should say their arguments sound rather convincing.
Enigma V # 21
To tell the truth, initially we were at a loss as to how we should write an article about a level like this. It seemed to us it was next to impossible to write an article that wouldn't become one huge spoiler for the level. But then we thought: why write anything ourselves if we can offer the readers the first-hand experience of a person who saw the level from within?
Puzzled? We mean Henry Blackball, of course. Yes, you are right, the very Henry Blackball, the famous traveler, the marble who ventured into more worlds of Enigma than any marble who lived before or since. Already during his lifetime he became a legend. And when at the beginning, at Age 1.0 he published his book “Against the Four Elements and Other Adventures” which became an instant bestseller, he truly became a household name. His mysterious fate only strengthened the public interest in him: soon after the book was published he forsook the fame and wealth that came to him as a bestselling author and embarked on his second journey to the World of Gods, leaving behind his fiancé, the beautiful Anna Whiteball. As constant readers of our LotM section must have guessed, he never returned. Neither did Anna Whiteball, who, anxious about Henry, soon left her house too, intent on aiding him in his journey.
Those readers who have solved the level will probably notice that Henry Blackball was not the most accurate narrator. In his book he mixed truth and fiction, and many years after his disappearance marbles still argued how much of his book he actually experienced and how much he fabricated. The readers will notice that sometimes Henry's narrative does look rather improbable. Some of the things he describes in this chapter have never been seen by other travelers who ventured into that world after him, which probably means that he'd made those things up. Or hadn't he? The worlds of Enigma are known to mysteriously change sometimes. Short and easy ways to the oxyds sometimes unexpectedly disappear, and new obstacles arise. Maybe the world in question has undergone some changes as well since the time Henry visited it. Nevertheless, we had to omit some parts of the chapter, for they would be too much of a spoiler for the readers who have not yet solved the level.
For our article we used the definitive edition published by Marble Press. The first edition of Henry's book was heavily censored by the marble government who did not want to make the information about some of the Enigma worlds public. Later on, when struggle for white marble rights began, passages that were not 'politically correct' were cut from his book as well. Even his hilarious remarks about smallballs, little insect-like creatures who travel from world to world through special types of holes in the floor, were omitted, though up to now no one has managed to prove that smallballs have even the slightest interest in what marbles think of them. This edition, based on a manuscript found in Henry's attic years after his disappearance, is the first to contain the complete text of his famous book.
Against the Four Elements and Other Adventures
by Henry Blackball
Chapter 23: How I Excelled in Planning Ahead
Slowly I opened my eyes. The narrow escape from the rotor was still vivid in my memory. I had touched the last oxyd in that crazy place just a moment before the damn creature would have broken me. I was lucky to transport myself and Monday1 in time.
It was a rather
beautiful place …
Monday … Where is he? Ah, there, on the other side of the … Pond? Yes, there's a pond here, and … For the first time I really saw the place. It was a rather beautiful place, small, with lovely dark red floor and grey walls. There was a pond there, blocked by yellow walls on two sides, two one-way passages (I noticed that the floor there had started to crumble. I need to take that into account if I actually have to use it), a few seeds were scattered on the floor and next to them lay an old worn-out bag. “I wonder what happened to the poor soul who abandoned it”, I thought. But I decided that it's better not to dwell too much on that.
And to the right were the oxyds. The oxyds? So easy to reach? The gods who made the multiple worlds of Enigma were rarely so benevolent. Is there a hidden oxyd somewhere? I looked around. There were a few other oxyds on Monday's side of the pond. Now we'll just have to open them in turn, and then Monday will come here through the one-way passage and open the last one behind the white-hemmed stone. So easy? I felt relieved and disappointed at once. Relieved, because I'm not likely to get stuck in that place for a year, trying to solve some hard puzzle, or risk the valuable extralives, fleeing from rotors. Disappointed, because you will hardly gain any fame, exploring worlds like this.
As the world seemed rather easy, and there was no immediate danger there I decided that I had time for research. I took from my pocket a book I never parted with: “Which God Has Made This Particular World?” by William Whiteball2. For a millionth time I wondered why I kept on consulting the book. How can we possibly be sure that the gods of Enigma existed at all, let alone know what elements each of them preferred when creating worlds. But on the other hand — the old marble is said to have delved into many forbidden mysteries, to have visited strange places and read the writings no marble has cast an eye upon for millennia. Maybe there is at least a grain of truth in his book.
The stupid creature
had lost its Yin-Yang!
Okay, question 1: “Have you been trying to solve the puzzles in this world for months, in spite of the fact that there's nothing hidden here? If it is true then go to question 2, if it is false go to question 5.” Ha, no, the world is much simpler than I would like it to be. Question 5: “Are you being chased by a crazy clock?” Gods, of course I'm not! If I were, I wouldn't be reading your bloody book, stupid old fart. Question 10 … Question 11 … Question 39 … Finally! “Your world has most likely been created by the legendary Jacob the Builder”. Okay, and now will you please give any proof that Jacob the Builder existed at all? No, you won't, 'cause you don't have any. But enough of that! Let's open the oxyds and move on to a more interesting place. “Hey, Monday!”
But suddenly a frightening thought occurred to me. The stupid creature had lost its Yin-Yang! Well, you can't expect someone whose last name is Whitebrush to be particularly bright, but that's a little too much even for him3. Fear gripped my heart with its cold icy fingers. I'm stuck in this place forever! No one will come to my rescue! But then I told myself, “Well, Henry, don't panic! Sooner or later you'll be able to think of something”. I slowly looked around one more time. What do I have at my disposal? One—two—three—four—five seeds, a bag, two dynamite sticks behind one-way stones over there. Not that bad. There must be some way to put them to use, there must be …
Suddenly I saw what I could do. Great! The creature on the other side of the pond doesn't have seeds, but he needs them. I've got seeds, and a bag as well. So I can send him a few. The one-ways are crumbling, so most likely I'll have only one opportunity to travel across the pond and back. So how many seeds do I need to give Monday? Do I need to take anything with me from the other side of the pond? I pondered a little more. [..]
“Mr Blackball, you haven't
got any of these umbrellas
from Bizzaro World
on you, have you?”
I entered the one-way passage, carrying just the necessary number of seeds in my bag. I couldn't but admire what a clever idea I had. Any other marble would get stuck in this place forever. But I found a way out even without a second Yin-Yang. When I entered Monday's half of the room I turned back and saw the last remnants of the floor crumble down. Just as I had already guessed, I wouldn't be able to use that passage anymore. Quickly I rolled to Monday, gave him the bag, and told him about my plan. His eyes widened in wonder at my cleverness. The poor creature must have already lost all his hope to get out of here and been silently bemoaning his fate4.
Leaving the bag behind, I rolled to the dynamite stick behind a one-way stone. Suddenly something clicked. Gods, no! An invisible trigger! I madly looked around. A floor tile near the place where Monday lay had disappeared. Just that? Well, even for Monday it wouldn't be that difficult to avoid the abyss. But suddenly I saw a flicker of movement there. Oh, no! A rotor jumped from the abyss. Then another … And another. They immediately directed towards Monday. I ran to intercept them. Just as the first of them was a hair's width behind Monday I was there. I pushed the white ball so that he rolled beyond their attention span. Now I need to entice them back to the abyss where they came from. I turned to the right. Then to the left. Then right again. Quickness and dexterity. That's what you need when dealing with rotors. I had to be careful. A little too slow, and they would break me to pieces. A little too fast, and they would loose sight of me.
Here it is! The abyss! Suddenly I swerved to the left and ran as fast as I could. The slow-witted creatures didn't notice it at first and continued to run to the abyss. Delighted, I saw them falling down one after the other. Done! Now let's take that dynamite. But suddenly I saw another flicker of movement in the abyss. Are they coming back? No, it's something different. Crazy clock! Again it directed towards the helpless Monday. I rolled as fast as I could and hit it when it was just one step behind Monday. It turned its face to me. I left the tile just a fraction of a second before it was there. Then I guided it to the wall, praying to gods that it doesn't turn by itself until we are done opening the oxyds.
“Pardon me! Do you have
the correct time?”
I took the dynamite and ran back to my half of the room, hearing the tiles crumble behind me. Suddenly I heard something else. I looked back. The clock! It started moving! [..] I pushed the last box into the water just when the clock was one step behind Monday once more. Another moment, and it will be on the same tile where Monday is! But thankfully, the creature decided to change direction. I gave a sigh of relief and released the control of the place to Monday. Now, friend, don't let me down! I believe in you! [..]
I watched Monday finish the bridge, wondering how cleverly he avoided the crazy clock while faithfully sticking to my plan. I had definitely underestimated him. Soon all the oxyds were opened except the one behind the white-hemmed stone. Just then I saw the crazy clock turning to me. “Monday! Quickly!” I prayed. I doubted he could hear me. It's not easy to communicate in a place where there are closed oxyds without a Yin-Yang. But I saw him quickly moving to the oxyd. Another moment, and the oxyd emitted beautiful light. I didn't wait any longer. Immediately I left the place, taking Monday with me. As the room blurred in front of my eyes I wondered for a millionth time what the next world that I saw would be like, what beautiful or horrible things I would see there.
Annotations by the editor:
1) A white marble whom Henry met on one of his journeys. His real name was Jeremy Whitebrush. He traveled with Henry a lot and was a great help in many of his adventures. No one knows why Henry called him Monday. When asked about it in an interview he replied, “I called him Monday because I first met him on Thursday”. That's about all the information we've got.
2) Probably the most famous scholar of his time. His works, among which one could name the definitive treatise “On the Multiple Worlds of Enigma”, a questionnaire for travelers “Which God has Made This Particular World” and the bestselling “Item Transformation for Dummies”, are widely known in the world of marbles. He was the father of Anna Whiteball who later became Henry's fiancé. After his daughter's disappearance he took to drinking and was often seen in the street with an open bottle, mumbling to himself, “It's all my fault, only mine”. Suddenly he stopped appearing in the street. When his neighbors, worried by his long absence, broke into his house they saw that his papers and books were scattered around on the floor. Their owner never appeared again. Some marbles claim they have spotted him in some remote corners of the Universe of Enigma, but their credibility is widely doubted.
3) Let us forgive Henry his prejudices. He was a marble of his time, and in the age when the book was written the struggle for political correctness has only started to stir. In his defense we can say that his love for the beautiful Anna Whiteball changed him a lot and in the last years of his life he became a well-known and influential champion of white marbles' rights.
4) As Jeremy Whitebrush later explained in his interview, actually he had found a way out long ago and was just waiting for the moment when Henry would deign to talk to him.
Okay, and now — last but not least — the time has come to comply with Henry Blackball's request which he had uttered earlier on in his account and to give proof to him - all our regular readers certainly will not have questioned the fact - that there is more than just a grain of truth in the book by William Whiteball, and that Jacob, the Builder, of course really exists! Some days ago we received a writing by him in which he describes further details about the construction of this masterpiece, which — not too surprisingly — sound a bit different from Henry's tale.
But very much to our surprise, Jacob the Builder seems to have met Henry Blackball at a later time somewhere on his journeys through the worlds of Enigma (probably in one of his own creations), at least the final sentence of his reflections on Elegance — which can be found on the Yang side — leads us to assume so.
“Plan Ahead” is actually one of my more recent levels.
I designed it kind of in the spirit of my “Seed Puzzle” (and related) levels, but with a little twist: now there are two marbles to control, but only one yin-yang. As much as I enjoyed creating the “Seed Puzzle” levels (and similar ones, such as “Versailles” and “One-Way Streets”), and as much as I hope people enjoyed completing them, I thought they were missing something. Their puzzles were (in my opinion) fairly hard and good, but the levels had little variety, essentially containing just seeds, water/abyss, one-ways, and occasionally bombs. For “Plan Ahead”, I took the opposite strategy: use more than a few different level elements that all relate to seeds and that can all come together to form a cohesive landscape. In my opinion “Plan Ahead” is easier than most of my other seed puzzle levels, but the concept is much less obvious, in that the solution is not simply deciding which grates to destroy with seeds, but rather involves interacting with a bunch of different items. This may not increase the difficulty of the puzzle at all, but I think it certainly makes it more interesting.
Looking back, “Plan Ahead” seems to contrast significantly with most of the other puzzle levels I've designed. The majority of them tend to involve either searching around some sort of labyrinth (like “Labyrinth of Puzzles” or “Almost There” or even “Map it Out”, for a few representatives) or a complex, single-themed puzzle (the “Alien Glyphs” series, “Now What?”, or “Open Path”, for example). Some are larger conglomerations of these, but relatively few have the diversity “Plan Ahead” does in proportion to their size. They also generally have darker color themes and less-inviting atmospheres about them; instead, “Plan Ahead” has a much fresher feel to it, which I believe reflects its change in puzzle design. “Plan Ahead”, I hope, provides a refreshing take on the theme of seed puzzles, this time set in a colorful and peaceful world that will challenge but reward all adventurers who choose to play within it.