Puzzllotto Hands-On

We had a chance to try out United Lemur’s enigmatic nature puzzle game, Puzzllotto, after the company’s press conference today. Designer (and United Lemur CEO) Mike Lee was on hand to answer some of our questions about the game–and we had plenty. Puzzllotto is completely unlike anything we’ve seen on the App Store before, in conception, presentation, and gameplay.

The first thing to know about Puzzllotto is that it’s a manifestation of United Lemur’s larger plan to support worthy causes through App development. Lee has a pronounced interest in all things Madagascarian, and he has pledged to donate 10% of the proceeds from the game to the Madagascar Fauna Group and its campaign to save the lemur. That’s 50 cents out of the App’s $4.99 price.

The second important point is that there’s an actual Lotto aspect to Puzzllotto. Whoever beats the game first (and believe us, it won’t be easy) will win the Puzzllotto contest’s grand prize. Lee would not discuss this prize at all, except to say that it’s “very close to being illegal” and it isn’t from Madagascar. Your guess is as good as ours. Lee’s planning to offer more details in a week or two.

Puzzllotto presents you with a lush jungle scene. Multiple sets of glowing eyes peer out at you from the trees and undergrowth. When you touch on a pair of eyes, one of three animals pop up: a butterfly, a lemur, or a fosa (pronounced “foosh”), which looks like a small weasel. You need to collect these animals in a certain order to win the game. Which order? Nobody knows–that’s the puzzle aspect of Puzzlloop.

It seemed to us that the object may be to collect a certain number of butterflies; when you touch a butterfly, it flits to the bottom of the screen and lines up next to the others you’ve collected. From there, it’s possible that you move onto picking up lemurs. In any case, if you are unlucky enough to uncover a fosa, you lose all the animals you’ve gathered and have to start over. The animals move around the jungle according to some hidden schema, so the same place that contained a butterfly at one point may have a fosa the next. The game gives you no help or clues whatsoever–you have to learn the rules of the game through experience and pattern recognition. It’s very organic, highly abstract gameplay… almost like deciphering an alien communication. We don’t know how long it continues, whether there are multiple paths to the goal, or anything else.

There are some big artistic names attached to the Puzzllotto project, and it is indeed a gorgeous game. Renowned icon artist David Lanham came up with the whimsical animal designs, which have a touch of cartooniness to them but still appear realistic. The game also features fantastic ambient jungle sounds recorded in Madagascar byDr. Douglas Quin, who provided many of the sounds used in EA’s Spore.

According to Lee, Puzzlloop will be submitted to Apple in the next day or two, and will hopefully hit the App Store in the next few weeks. We can’t wait to spend more time with this unique game.

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