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Show HN: I wrote a symmetry game with a daily puzzle

80 points12 hourshidden-mirrors.com

I’ve been working on a puzzle game for a few years as a side project.

The game is based on a small region of tiles in a grid that is mirrored, modified, and mirrored again. It’s based on a novel phenomenon I noticed where, once these mutations happen a few times, the original region can be hard to recognize. You have a feeling there are symmetries in the image, but they are just out of grasp. Going further, if only part of the region is visible, such as mirroring off the edge of the board, it adds to the feeling and it becomes a satisfying puzzle to solve.

I originally published this on the app stores, but after spending some money on marketing, I didn’t have line of sight to something people would pay for. I had built it around a hosted level API to tweak levels between version releases, making it prone to software rot over a few years. SSL certs would expire, credit cards would expire, App Store agreements need to be renewed, etc.. Without a continual drip of effort I wasn’t motivated to put in, it defaulted to broken.

With that software rot in mind, and hoping to make something that would be around for a while for my friends and family to play, I started making a web-only, client-side only version. Still prone to rot, but not nearly as many moving pieces. It’s missing some of the polish of the original and the puzzles aren't hand curated with a graduating difficulty, but it’s playable on many modern devices. The generated puzzles are good ~75% of the time. I’m still working out how to detect the dud puzzles- they are playable, but not fun. I’ve got ideas on what defines a “good” puzzle, but haven’t formalized them into a fitness function yet.

One other note– while there are almost definitely UI bugs (please report!), if it says the puzzle can be solved in X taps & flips, it can. Those numbers are derived from how the puzzle itself renders, so it’s (thankfully) not prone to producing impossible to solve puzzles. Merely ones that may appear so at first-- hence the name.

Today’s puzzle is a good difficulty to start with, a new one generates daily at midnight EST. There's no cookie or tracking, so let me know if you're playing!

stevage44 minutes ago

Just some feedback: the training bit of the first few puzzles just confused the hell out of me.

Puzzle one, I see a grid and what looks like a piece. There's a message that says swipe right, so I click-drag right with the mouse, and suddenly I get 3 stars and a congratulation message. What did I even do?

The same thing repeats for about 5 puzzles. Each time I just swipe left or diagonal or whatever, but I'm not actually learning anything about what these gestures do. I don't see anything move, I don't learn anything about the mechanics of the game.

Then I'm on a puzzle that says swipe -> tap -> swipe and...I have no idea what to do.

EDIT Oh. Once I understand the mechanic, all the puzzles feel trivial, because there are so few things you can do at any time. Each swipe/tap is either correct, or instant loss.

untech10 hours ago

I’ve definitely enjoyed working out today’s puzzle. Thanks!

However, I am not sure about the daily aspect. I doubt I’ll remember about the puzzle tomorrow, and in any case, I like to do puzzles in larger batches, like for one hour in the evening.

Re: visual design: I think showing the actual line of mirroring would be nice. Also, the numbers of taps and swipes were too small for me to notice, I’ve discovered them quite late.

james_marks8 hours ago

Thanks– Good idea re: batches & line of mirroring.

lilyball7 hours ago

I think my feedback has already been captured by others, but I'll say it anyway just to help you get a sense of how widespread this feedback is.

I first opened this on my laptop with a trackpad and was confused at how scrolling did not work on the "scroll down" section. I ended up reopening it on my iPhone in order to try it. I see from a comment here that you're using this in order to get rid of the floating address bar. Your solution does not work, because if I tap to bring up the address bar once I'm in the game, there's no way to make it go away again and it covers up the bottom bar. So either you need to just live with the idea that the address bar will be visible, or you need to find another solution. [Edit: trying again, bringing up the address bar reverts it back to the "scroll down" screen. The first time it didn't though, so whatever you're doing here isn't reliable].

I also notice that if I add it to my home screen, the icon just opens it in Safari again. You don't have the metadata set up that allows it to be a PWA. Even without taking advantages of any of the extra capabilities of a PWA, it's still nice to support so that way I can have a home screen icon that opens it as its own thing (and this also gets rid of the bottom bar entirely). Every other daily puzzle I play is either in its own app (like NYT Games) or is a PWA.

The tutorial sequence should have some indication of how far along I am. I was starting to wonder if it was going to go on forever when it finally dropped me in the real game. It also should have a step telling me that I'm done with the tutorial and that I'm about to play the real game. This step would be a good place to point out the bottom bar with the tap/swipe counter because I completely missed that until I came back to read the comments.

The "Copy Stats" button should probably be a "Share" button instead that triggers the share sheet (at least on mobile; I don't know what other daily puzzle games do on desktop, maybe they still use the share action there too?).

Overall it's a fun game though! I can see myself adding this to my daily puzzles.

james_marks7 hours ago

This is great– I didn't realize PWAs could launch without the address bar. That changes my whole approach to the layout and can likely solve many of the bugs being described.

lilyball6 hours ago

I don't know what the experience is like on Android but on iOS a PWA opens in a completely separate process, without any browser chrome at all. It feels exactly like a native app that renders to a fullscreen webview.

ejang010 hours ago

I enjoyed this a lot. Thank you.

Feedback: Desktop with trackpad, I swiped and my pointed ended out of the grid and it doesn't let this swipe occur.

Echoing others: - "the numbers of taps and swipes were too small for me to notice, I’ve discovered them quite late" - "The scroll down section felt odd." - on desktop I couldn't figure out what "swipe" meant for a bit (just click-and-drag)

Thank you again for this gift.

james_marks10 hours ago

Glad you're enjoying it, thanks for playing.

Great comments and some new bugs on my list.

The "scroll down" is definitely odd, I haven't quite decided how to handle that.

The reason for it is the floating address bar on mobile browsers- the only way I can find to minimize them is an authentic scroll of the page body. window.scroll() methods or anything I try to do that doesn't literally display an overflowing body requiring a scroll, and it won't retract.

To have the address bar full height while I'm trying to play just kills it for me. I've got some great animations from the original version I haven't brought in yet; the scroll down might "reveal" the puzzle with an animation that feels more natural.

wonger_7 hours ago

The fullscreen API might help you rid the address bar. Or as another comment said, implementing as a PWA.

pimlottc11 hours ago

Took me a while to figure out how to swipe on desktop, it doesn't work unless you both the start and the end of the swipe lie within the grid. So it's sort of less of a fast "swipe" and more of a "click-and-drag".

anonu11 hours ago

I like it. Took me a good moment to figure out the controls and concept but it's fun. Nice work.

The midnight puzzle feels like Wordle style. I'm not sure that's going to pickup in this case. I would just open up all the puzzles. My 2 cents

james_marks10 hours ago

Definitely some Worlde influence!

wonger_12 hours ago

I like it! The tutorial levels were quick and effective. It's a new game mechanic I haven't seen before. And today's puzzle is a nice intermediate difficulty. Some other thoughts:

- I always wish daily puzzle games like this had an archive of past puzzles.

- The scroll down section felt odd. Maybe an HTML #anchor tag could jump the user to the game screen

- Settings button wasn't working for me. Not a big deal tho

- some extra UX polish always feels nice. Like animations, sound effects. Maybe some color and spacing tweaks. Maybe making the taps/flips numbers more noticeable.

james_marks10 hours ago

I... forgot to implement or remove the Settings button, it's literally just a piece of text. Sorry!

There's a nice 3D animation where you can see the region come towards you as it "flips" in the original, I'll look at bringing it back at some point.

Archive of past puzzles is a good idea.

MourYother10 hours ago

Mobile Firefox Bug: I cannot swipe down, it scrolls.

james_marks10 hours ago

Added to the list, thank you.

tarentel9 hours ago

This doesn't appear to be working on Safari desktop either.

carlsverre10 hours ago

This was fun to figure out! Nice job!

For today's daily puzzle, there are two solutions that give different rankings but are effectively the same in terms of moves. You can solve it with 3 taps 4 flips or 2 taps 5 filps. It's not clear why one solution is more efficient than the other since the first two taps or the first tap+flip cover the same amount of the board.

Perhaps a scoring system that was based more on how efficiently you cover the board would allow for different solutions to be equally valid?

james_marks10 hours ago

The scoring system gives 2 points for taps 1 for flips. Lowest score wins.

Generally, the only time you'd be penalized for an "alternate" solution is when a flip adds a single tile, like you're describing. Any other scenario the flip is the most efficient way to solve the puzzle.

One fun thing– because of this edge, you can occasionally "beat" the generator and solve a puzzle with a tap left over.

TheGRS7 hours ago

Pretty fun! I would recommend looking up "juice" in gaming and adding some spicier animations just to make it a little more satisfying to play. The idea is pretty fun though!

james_marks6 hours ago

New vocab for me, perhaps not surprising :)

bubblebeard10 hours ago

Very nice work! I really enjoyed playing it. One little thing I noticed, at one point I wanted to exit the page and doing so on my Iphone was a little tricky, maybe adding an exit btn would help. Really fun game though, great effort!

james_marks8 hours ago

Exit button to release the UI controls is a good idea. Thanks!

dave33311 hours ago

Got stuck on the first swipe diagonal example - tried about 25 swipes but not the correct one. Need a hint or even solve button until I get how these work. Then after I went to the daily puzzle I couldn't get back to the training examples.

dave3331 hour ago

Bumping my thread since it got hijacked by the downward swipe vs scroll business.

SamBam10 hours ago

I simply can't trigger a downward diagonal swipe on my phone. It starts immediately as a horizontal swipe, and then the downward component scrolls the whole game area downward, while not affecting the swipe angle.

Even if I start with a downward swipe, it treats that as a scroll action, not a swipe action.

This is in the tutorial. FF on Android.

OP, have you considered making each level a non-scrollable page?

james_marks8 hours ago

Sorry, that sounds awful. I'd prefer non-scrollable but so far have optimized for causing the address bar to retract. Obviously haven't nailed it yet across all devices.

aradox669 hours ago

Having this problem also, swipes with a vertical component are simultaneously scrolls, which messes up the angle. FF on android.

james_marks8 hours ago

Have not tested the FF x android edge, thanks for the heads up.

ballenf11 hours ago

Is this only for mobile devices? On safari, I can't scroll down to the game and in a chromium browser I can't get a swipe gesture to register. MacOS.

On phone it works perfectly and is very cool! Nice work.

anonu11 hours ago

Works on desktop

jpeggtulsa11 hours ago

How do you do the "Swipe out of bounds" one on desktop?

pimlottc11 hours ago

The swipe itself doesn’t need to end out of bounds, it just needs to be in the right direction.

james_marks10 hours ago

Click and drag. You have to start and end within the grid, which is probably what's throwing you off (and kinda dumb... on the list to fix).

ThomW9 hours ago

Safari in MacOS just shows a screen full of "Scroll down" after the initial "Let's Go" is clicked. :/

LudwigNagasena9 hours ago

Yeah, you have to scroll down using your arrow keys. The swipe aid in the game is still bugged though.

james_marks8 hours ago

I think it's specifically scroll-wheel on a mouse that doesn't work in Safari, which I can't readily explain.

Adding to the list.

Can you elaborate on the swipe aid being buggy?

munchler11 hours ago

Fun game. Here's a small bug report: If you reset the puzzle while a flip is active (but incomplete), the flip UI remains active after the board is cleared. (Desktop user.)

james_marks8 hours ago

That's a good one, thank you.

acheron9 hours ago

This is good. Worked fine in desktop Firefox once I got the hang of it.

carom11 hours ago

On Safari iOS this somewhat trapped me on the game screen. I had to close the tab.

lovegrenoble11 hours ago

I like minimalist puzzles, especially addictive ones, like this https://brainteaser.top/knot/

drhodes37 minutes ago

This knot game is really great, thank you for mentioning it.

closetkantian10 hours ago

I liked it, but I found it too easy.

aaroninsf10 hours ago

Very clean. Great effort to crack the Wordle daily-game space. Has potential.

Suggestion:

- make it very explicit that interactions have a mandatory ordering

- make it very explicit that you cannot un-select pre-selected tiles

- make it very explicit that you cannot select "background" tiles

- differentiate phases, "prep / setup" vs "reflection"

Bonus ideas for v1.1:

- track "interactions" accumulating, and provide a mechanism for replaying them (eg "scrub the timeline back and forth").

- help mode: as you "consider" a swipes and the "compass" is shown, have an assistance mode which indicates provisionally the impact of a swipe in each direction as they are selected (but not executed)

Re: differentiating "phases," AFAICT you must always FIRST do any "selection tapping"; and then you must do ONLY one or more "reflection swipes." This was confounding to my way of thinking. I found myself repeatedly making the "wrong" move because while I saw the solution, I was attempting to execute it in a different order.

Or thought I did; because "tapping to fill" ("that's one way...") is allowed, the fact that it is a degenerate solution is not clearly expressed; nor is the fact that there is (I assume) always an "optimal" solution which always involves "prep" followed by one or more reflections.

james_marks8 hours ago

There are many correct sequences and often (not always) more than one solution. The sequence matters only matters when:

- It changes the region that reproduces - If a Tap and a Flip produce the same result, scoring prefers the Flip

If you feel like a sequence is being forced that doesn't fit one of those, I'd be curious to see what it is.

tonetheman12 hours ago

[dead]