Xyzzy "Best Individual Puzzle" winnersRecommendations by Nusco (Bologna, Italy)
All the games that won the Best Individual Puzzle award, year by year. I'll avoid giveaway spoilers in my comments, but I'll still comment on the type and difficulty of the puzzle.
I'll describe the puzzles by my own categories. Categories are fuzzy, and a puzzle can belong to multiple categories.
In the typical manipulation puzzle, you usually experiment with the game's items until you get enough feedback from the game to finally nail the right sequence of actions. If you cut a tree with an axe, then use the wood to build a raft and sail to the pirates' island, that's a manipulation puzzle.
You solve a logic puzzle by thinking about it rather than by trial and error. Once you find the solution, you'll probably know it's going to work even before typing it in. The Enigma machine in Jigsaw is a logic puzzle.
A combination puzzle is IF's equivalent of a quasi-mathematical puzzle like Rubik's cube. To solve a combination puzzle, you usually experiment until you understand the logic behind the puzzle, and then you apply that logic to get to the right sequence of actions. Many puzzles that involve unknown machinery and devices work like this.
You solve a lateral thinking puzzle by thinking out of the box and doing something that might not come natural by reading the puzzle's description. Lateral thinking puzzles tend to surprise you with unexpected solutions.
A language puzzle requires you to play with words, or learn and apply an in-game language.
A worldview puzzle is based on your environment and the game's map. Mazes and other puzzles where you need to understand your environment are examples of worldview puzzles.
A multiplay puzzle requires multiple attempts to get right (they're usually combination puzzles), and failed attempts usually mean starting the game anew. You're expected to play the game again and again until you've pieced together a solution. "Eliminating your opponents" in Varicella is a good example.
An investigation puzzle involves a lot of observation and piecing information together to come to a final conclusion or twist in the story - for example, the identity of a killer or finding out the details of a backstory.
I didn't comment on all games, because I didn't play them all. I'll update this list as I play the games.
1. The Life (and Deaths) of Doctor M
by Michael D. Hilborn
Average member rating: (25 ratings)
2. Last Day of Summer, by Doug Orleans (as Cameron Fox) (2011)
Average member rating: (17 ratings)
3. Playing Games, by Kevin Jackson-Mead (2011)
Average member rating: (16 ratings)
4. Cold Iron, by Andrew Plotkin (as Lyman Clive Charles) (2011)
Average member rating: (32 ratings)
by Matt Wigdahl
Average member rating: (43 ratings)
6. Byzantine Perspective
by Lea Albaugh
Average member rating: (39 ratings)
The game itself is a very nice diversion for a lunch break or two. Being centered on a single good puzzle, it's short but satisfying to solve. I suggest you play it without looking at the map feelie first, to get a bit of an extra challenge.
by Jeremy Freese
Average member rating: (258 ratings)
The puzzles are of generally high quality, just difficult enough to keep you going without being frustrating. The game was also a nominee for the "Best Puzzles" award. However, none of the puzzles really stands out on its own. Having to pick one, people awarded the "Best Individual Puzzle" 2008 to "Disconnecting the Internet/Getting rid of the key". This is probably one of the best puzzles in the game: like the others, it's consistent with the game's slightly twisted logic, and it will probably take you a few amusing failed attempts. However, the rest of the puzzles tend to be just as good, and Violet is strong enough that you shouldn't play it for this particular puzzle alone.
8. An Act of Murder
by Christopher Huang
Average member rating: (62 ratings)
9. Delightful Wallpaper, by Andrew Plotkin ('Edgar O. Weyrd') (2006)
Average member rating: (61 ratings)
by Roberto Grassi, Paolo Lucchesi, and Alessandro Peretti
Average member rating: (37 ratings)
As a puzzle, I found "following the murderer" very linear, unchallenging and generally unremarkable. The game is also pretty heavy-handed in letting you know that you cannot exit an area because there is still evidence left to uncover, which adds to the railroaded feeling. In the end, most of the investigation boils down to an EXAMINE-fest and selecting every possible conversation menu item.
If anything, the "puzzle" is satisfying because it gives you plenty of opportunities to piece together the story and make your own hypotheses. The game has a very strong backstory that's involving enough to keep you going. If a "Best Individual Puzzle" is perplexing, Beyond definitely deserved its "Best Story" award.
(This is not a critique of Beyond as a game. The game was widely acclaimed, and it definitely deserves playing. If you expect a great puzzle, though, you may be disappointed.)
11. All Things Devours, by half sick of shadows (2004)
Average member rating: (64 ratings)
12. The Recruit
by Mike Sousa
Average member rating: (8 ratings)
On the whole, the game offers good puzzles in a variety of styles, so the winning puzzle fits with the general tone. The puzzles get better as you move through the rooms, so don't let the first couple of lackluster puzzles put you off.
13. Lock & Key
by Adam Cadre
Average member rating: (59 ratings)
14. The Gostak
by Carl Muckenhoupt
Average member rating: (46 ratings)
15. Rematch, by Andrew D. Pontious (2000)
Average member rating: (57 ratings)
16. Hunter, in Darkness, by Andrew Plotkin (1999)
Average member rating: (100 ratings)
The winning puzzle itself feels a bit tired these days, but the game is still a must-play because of its original approach to puzzles, wonderful writing and systematic challenging of IF conventions.
17. Spider and Web, by Andrew Plotkin (1998)
Average member rating: (207 ratings)
18. The Edifice
by Lucian P. Smith
Average member rating: (66 ratings)
19. So Far, by Andrew Plotkin (1996)
Average member rating: (62 ratings)