Puzzle Castles

There is nothing more delightfully steampunk than a castle made of gears and levers that changes shape when you press the right buttons. Myst is probably one of the originators of this theme, seeing as how steam-powered puzzles are their stock-in-trade. But they are far from being the only ones. While we’ve yet to have anyone build a real castle with moving corridors, secret passages, and rotating staircases, we can enjoy them in television shows and games.


Myst: Mechanical Age

The Mechanical Age of Myst consists of a round fortress that turns to connect to bridges to three different islands. Each island holds part of the key to unlocking a final vault. Despite the fairly simply floor plan of the fortress, it is easy to get turn around trying to remember which side of the circular building is which, keep track of the secret passageways, and unlocking hidden doors to get the mechanism working again.

Another rotating tower in Myst worth mentioning is the on on the main island. When the single window in the tower is aligned with a particular feature, a key to that particular puzzle is carved into the stone and visible through a slit on the opposite side of the tower.

And for the serious fans, who can forget the amazing moving labyrinth puzzle in the Book of D’ni?

This room was longer, thinner, the ceiling higher. There was a door in the ceiling, but no doorway to her right. Yet even as she took a step towards the facing door, the floor beneath her seemed to move–to turn, though how it could turn she did not know. There were faint noises in the walls. Feeling slightly dizzy she made her way across to the door facing her. Or was it the left hand door now? She double-checked, the counting in her head warning her that fifteen seconds had already passed.

Straight ahead, she told herself, pushing the door open. But what if the room had turned? Was she still heading in a straight line?

–Myst: The Book of D’ni, by Rand Miller and David Wingrove


Doctor Who: Heaven Sent45511222153894887874

The penultimate episode of Season Nine made Doctor Who history by being the first episode to feature the doctor as the only character (apart from the antagonist.) To achieve this remarkable feat they locked the Doctor in a puzzle castle–a place of moving corridors, contradictions and mysteries far out in the middle of a sea, with no possible escape in sight.

While we didn’t get to see as much of the moving corridors and other mysteries of the castle as we would like, what we saw left us amazed and wanting more which, some might say, is exactly the right amount.

Monument Valley72dpi_Waterwheel16x24_copy

There is a beautiful mobile game available for both iPhone and Android called Monument Valley. It’s a puzzle game that basically incorporates everything we’ve talk about so far–plus some delightfully Escher-esque illusions. It has moving staircases, illusory passage ways, puzzles, magic gear powered elevators, puzzle boxes, puzzle towers, and puzzle windmills. It’s basically a love letter to geometry and puzzle lovers.


Katie Lynn Daniels is the author of Supervillain of the Day, and the mastermind behind Vaguely Circular. She blogs about science and things that are peripherally related to science. You can read all her posts here.

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