I Fall Asleep To Puzzle Games And For Some Reason I Am Not Better At Puzzles

Illustration for article titled I Fall Asleep To Puzzle Games And For Some Reason I Am Not Better At Puzzles
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One of the poorer habits I have is playing handheld games in bed before I fall asleep. It’s not the best move—even with the brightness set all the way down, light has a way of messing with your sleep cycle—but sometimes it feels like the best way to slow my brain down after a long day of writing. (Something I do a lot of in my free time outside of work. I’m a delinquent and don’t recommend this.)


Usually I would play a JRPG I’m neutral on, something pleasant and low-stakes that I don’t unabashedly love or loathe, like Octopath Traveler. But this led to problems over time. I’d fall asleep and forget dialogue or story bits or how I ended up in one town or another, and if I wanted to play earnestly during the daytime, I’d spend a solid 20 minutes reorienting myself. So lately, I’ve been playing puzzle games at night.

Inspired by Mike Fahey’s return to Puzzle Quest when the remastered version came to Switch, I started playing Puzzle Quest whenever I felt like a 20-minute game session was what I needed to wind down for the night. Puzzle games, it turns out, are superior games to fall asleep to.

In Puzzle Quest, you have one-on-one battles against enemies via match-3 puzzles. Matching gems of different types lets you accrue power, experience, gold. At higher difficulties, a battle can be a cerebral contest of wills that’s tense and engaging. At lower levels, it’s low-stakes and just forgiving enough that, while I love playing Puzzle Quest, I don’t care that much?

That’s not a bad thing. I love having a low-investment game that’s as deep as this. It’s nice to dial back, disengage, and spot patterns on a match-3 board while also doing some light strategizing. And if I lose? So what. Every battle is essentially the same, just harder or easier, with a few variable rules based on enemy skill sets.

To me, the ease with which you can walk away is an underrated aspect of a good video game. Like a lot of people, I want most of my games to be engrossing, to hold my attention and linger in my mind when I’m not playing them. But sometimes I just want something to fall asleep to. Sometimes I want to just screw around in Puzzle Quest, or stare at a Baba Is You puzzle until I fall asleep, so I can wake up and wonder why I’m no closer to a solution.



I havent changed the difficulty settings on puzzle quest, and it feels alot easier than the original PC release. Back then the AI was mericless and could see what felt like 10 moves into the future and prioritized match 4s ans 5s, which was complete horseshit. Now, it seems like it can only see 3 moves ahead and misses alot of those match 4s and 5s. I feel like it's made a much better experience.