Baker Street

“Baker Street is a game of logic and deduction,” says the web site, modestly. It is more than that, though. Baker Street is a life-destroying timesink of addiction and pure puzzle-solving pleasure.

I rave about Everett Kaser’s games about once a year, and it’s about time for this year’s installment. Kaser makes essentially two types of games: logic and deduction games (where you are given a set of clues and from them must deduce each position in the board), and a bunch of other games that I don’t play. In the deduction class are his classic Sherlock (which by my reckoning I’ve been playing since the early 1990s), Dinner with Moriarty, Honeycomb Hotel, Watson’s Map, and now Baker Street.

Baker Street includes the best aspects of Honeycomb Hotel – deducing the positions of walls and paths as well as tiles – without the irritating “what ifs” – guessing long chains of possible solutions to find the right one. The frazzled layouts of Watson’s Map are eschewed here for a more regular grid pattern. Despite this, Baker Street manages to be more challenging than Watson, while simultaneously feeling like a much fairer game. In Watson I was constantly making errors because my eyes played tricks on me. When I screw up in Baker Street, I can blame nothing other than my own brain.

The twist in Baker street is that on the harder levels it is impossible to fill in the tiles without simultaneously making progress on the walls and paths. Once you exhaust the obvious clues, it takes effort to winnow down the possibilities such that you realize that there is only one possible set of positions where Fat Sort-Of Hercule Poirot Looking Guy is three steps away from Stupid Blue Hat. (By the way, beware discussing Kaser games with other aficionados. You’ll quickly discover that the difference in nomenclature will convince you that the other players are all crazy. How could they possibly call that one guy anything other than Martin Van Buren?)

Kaser games are, regrettably, only available for Windows. They play fine under Parallels, and Kaser has a long explanation about how he was tired of Microsoft jerking him around so he wrote his own VM and all you have to do to port his games is to port his VM to your platform. I wish he’d port his games to Mac OS X so that I didn’t have to run them under emulation. Seriously, Everett: there are fewer of us, but we buy a lot of games. Give us a shot.

You can download a free demo of Baker Street here. The full game costs less than 20 bucks. It may be the best $20 you spend all year.