Games contributor Robert Abbott is a pioneer in the genre of logic mazes, which add layers of complexity to the standard linear point-to-point maze. One of his most durable designs is Theseus and the Minotaur, which has evolved over several iterations, including pen-and-pencil, computer, Java, and the game Mummy Maze (PopCap), which belatatedly acknowledged its debt to Abbotts original concept.
The picture on my home page shows Theseus battling the Minotaur in the Labyrinth. It was taken from an illumination in a 12th century manuscript. Here is , and here is .
It’s like an interactive video game on steroids, only it’s LIVE, and you’re right there in the middle of it, down and dirty, fighting for your life against Cutting Edge’s massive horde of rabid zombies! Can you survive? Can you find extra lives? Can you distinguish friend or foe in time to react appropriately? Do you have what it takes to make it out alive?
Throw a backyard zombie barbecue, complete with brain-burgers, slabs of ribs and deviled eyeballs. Instead of flag football, consider a good old fashioned game of zombie tag. Carve jack o’lanterns out of watermelons and bob for peaches and nectarines. Then after the sun goes down, have everyone light the tiki torches and run through the neighborhood screaming, “He’s headed for the castle!”
Disney World producer and LVC Alumnus Don Frantz and LVC student Joanne Marx teamed up with Adrian Fisher of Minotaur Designs in England to design a maze, based on the UK’s popular country garden variety. Fisher had designed some 70 mazes including one in the shape of a dragon, but nothing of the size and complexity envisioned by Frantz.
In December of 2007, a new version of Theseus and the Minotaur was published. It is a download for your computer screen and has 87 levels, most of them new. The picture below shows level 55 (which you might recognize, because its the same as Maze 9 in the applet above).
The key to solving these mazes is to realize that the Minotaur follows a rigid program. He doesnt do what you would do if you were a Minotaur. He doesnt look ahead more than one turn. And, most importantly, he will choose a horizontal move before a vertical move.
Other features of the game are an unlimited undo facility and solutions for the levels. It also has an that lets you design your own layout. You can then have the program test your layout and indicate the solution. I had a lot of fun with that feature, and I used it to create two new layouts. They were added to a later release of the program and became levels 20 and 85. By the way, when you buy the game you are entitled to all further releases for free.
I decided to code my way past the Minotaur. I soon had a solver written in C++ that spewed a list of text directions to solve a maze: "left 3; right 5; up 1...". In early 2010 I decided to resurrect the solver, except I wanted to integrate it with a playable version of the game, and I wanted it playable in a web browser. This version was developed using , a sort of programmer-centric way of creating Flash apps that looked interesting enough to try.
will take you to a page on the iTunes App store where you can buy Theseus and the Minotaur (for $3.99). The link may be a little slow because it takes you through a lot of Apples software. If you go directly to the iTunes app store, you can search for the game. Its title is . And will take you to the page where you can download , the free version with a sampling of levels from the full version.
A fair amount of the code deals with the boring details, like and . I originally planned on giving Theseus and the Minotaur flickering torches, which would dynamically light a stone textured and normal mapped floor and cast long soft shadows from the maze walls. Maybe someday. For now, the rendering code remains squarely in the boring category.
By the way, I noticed that Bob Hearns collection of puzzles is on the iPhone, and I heard of other projects to put puzzle games on the iPhone. This might be a trend. In general, puzzle games may be moving from computer screens to small hand-held devices. And the preferred devices seem be the iPhone and iPod. I would welcome this trend, because puzzle games work well on a small screen. The usual dumb shoot-em-ups do not work on a small screen. To read more about this trend, see .
First, click on the diagram to get the program started. Then, use the arrow keys to move Theseus (the red circle). The idea is to get Theseus to the exit without him being eaten by the Minotaur (the black circle). For each move that Theseus makes, the Minotaur makes two moves. He always tries to get closer to Theseus. It he can move one square horizontally and get closer, he will do that. If he cant move horizontally, then he will try to move vertically.