Blueprint 3D — A Magical Puzzle Game

Blueprint 3D is one of those things that makes you stop and go, “Huh? How’s that work?” It plays with optical illusions and geometry in the most wonderful, magical ways, time and again wowing you with its clever, delightful puzzles.

There’s lots to like about it, with inventive mechanics, cool presentation, three difficulty levels, and loads of puzzles, and little to dislike. Its one noteworthy fault almost undoes it at times, though, frustrating and testing your patience whenever it pops up.

Turn, Rotate, Be Amazed

Each level presents you with a bunch of squiggles. There are lines strewn all over the place, with some dots and shadings thrown in for good measure. Within this chaos, however, resides order. By rotating the figure every which way, you start to uncover that order. Two tiny squiggles align perfectly, then more follow.

Believe it or not, this is the Eiffel Tower.

Believe it or not, this is the Eiffel Tower.

Eventually, with a bit of fiddling, the whole thing comes together. It’s a statue, or a dog, or maybe a car or Christmas Tree. You work your way through 12 level packs (including the tutorial), each filled with two to three dozen puzzles centered around a theme — Instruments, Animals, Architecture, Space, Tech, Medieval, and so on. These packs are self-contained; you don’t need to complete one before trying another, although the puzzles within each must be completed in order.

Build a landmark, go to war, or float in a most peculiar way — there's a puzzle set for almost every taste.

Build a landmark, go to war, or float in a most peculiar way — there’s a puzzle set for almost every taste.

Dragging one finger around the screen rotates the figure in three dimensions about its center, while twisting two around in an arc turns it in a 2D plane. It’s intuitive, which is especially important if your spatial reasoning skills aren’t great. Figuring out which direction to rotate figures in, and by how much, takes quick thinking and plenty of concentration.

Help or Hinder

On beginner (Normal) difficulty, Blueprint 3D helps you out. It shows you which way is up, displays labels while you’re rearranging the squiggles, and provides very generous auto-completion aids. If you’re vaguely close to the result, it says well done and sends you on your way.

Topical.

Topical.

Not so at the other end of the scale. Pro, the highest of the three difficulties, not only leaves out the orientation and label hints but also the auto-completion and the simplicity of working with a single layer. Yes, that’s right, Pro difficulty introduces multiple layers of squiggles that need to be independently rearranged, with the layers all together forming a complete structure.

Layers complicate matters.

Layers complicate matters.

It’s brain-bending stuff, certainly not for the faint of heart. You work with either two or three layers, tapping between them until you’ve got something beginning to look almost right. Once there’s some semblance of order, you can manipulate them all together at once. (You can do that earlier, of course, but I wouldn’t recommend it.)

Pro adds tremendous depth and challenge to a game that on the lower levels soon starts to get easy, as you have more bits to juggle, more false positives to combat in your pattern recognising, and a whole lot of stuff in the way at the start of the level when it’s hardest to spot the patterns. It’s the right way to play, not because it’s harder but because it utilizes all of the mechanics.

Where on the lower levels it’s rather like a magic eye — except when you spot the shape you can actually flick your finger about and make it tangible — on this highest difficulty it’s a full-on puzzle, a battle of wits between you and the designer. Only here do you genuinely need to think in three dimensions, and only here can you not get by with random sweeping gestures.

You get a buzz when you first turn the squiggles into something resembling an object.

You get a buzz when you first turn the squiggles into something resembling an object.

Demanding Precision with an Imprecise Control Scheme

Blueprint 3D lets itself down, though, by reducing its auto-completion radius too far. Pro difficulty almost requires pixel precision, yet the gesture-based controls provide a margin of error several times higher. And it’s not just with the squiggly bits lining up neatly with each other.

I found myself on several occasions getting my figure to look perfect, after much fine-tuning, then twisting it around in circles, never quite able to find the sweet spot where up is up. If I persevered long enough to finally solve the puzzle (or if I used a solution), I often found that I was several pixels off the mark — or about half the distance the smallest gesture (that I could consistently manage) produced on my Nexus 7.

This one in particular frustrated the hell out of me. It's a wheel; it shouldn't matter how it's oriented.

This one in particular frustrated the hell out of me. It’s a wheel; it shouldn’t matter how it’s oriented.

It gets too fiddly, basically, and that saps the fun right out. An otherwise brilliant game sinks into tedium. You can work around it easily enough — if you get stuck, just back out and lower the difficulty so that you can complete the puzzle in question and move on. But you shouldn’t have to. Blueprint 3D becomes a slave to its own vices, and it drags you along with it.

You’ll follow, with a hint of reluctance, because the payoff is worth it. But there’s no reason there should be a “but” here. Someone dropped the ball and let a fantastic, beautiful, delightfully-rewarding game be marred by accuracy and precision issues. Sometimes the magic shows itself to be an illusion.


Summary

Blueprint 3D is a beautiful, magical, delightful puzzle game about twisting and rotating lines and dots to form a picture, although it suffers at times from the limitations of its touch and gesture-based input.

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