Remember those choking-hazard-tastic plastic maze toys you would get as a kid, usually as a dinky prize for something? How you'd squint your beady little eyes as you rotated the thing? How it usually ended with you chucking the thing at the head of a sibling? Relive those happy memories in Sand Trap, a puzzle where you rotate a box to pour the sand trapped within into a pail. It's another fine HTML5 game from Gopherwood Studios, and a runner up in our Casual Gameplay Design Competition #8.
You have two control options: [arrow] keys or mouse. [Up] or [left] rotate the box of sand counterclockwise, and [down] and [right] rotate the box clockwise. You can hold a key to spin the box in that direction, or just tap it to get a tiny and precise shift. With the mouse, click on the box and hold, and then move the mouse in the direction you want it to spin.
You may find that your ability to enjoy this game is hampered by your browser. On my machine, I have three browsers. On Firefox, the game runs like a dead turtle, and there's no music. On Safari, the game runs fine, but there's still no music. On Chrome, the game runs fine, and there is music! So before leaving a "THE BOX TURNS ABOUT AS FAST AS MY GRANDPA'S HIP 0/5" comment, try it in a different browser.
Analysis: Using the mouse control, you can flip the box almost instantly, whereas with the arrow key control, there seems to be a steady top speed. This is a significant drawback to using the arrow keys, because some levels you need to spin faster than the arrow keys allow; otherwise the level is literally impossible. So the mouse would seem to be clearly superior. But the mouse control can be unpredictable and difficult to gauge (since it's easy for the mouse to go off the game window or accidentally skid across the center of the box and cause it to flip), and it's not very good with tiny movements. So the arrow keys are still useful.
I really feel like the levels would have been easier if I could have used [WASD] with my left hand and the mouse with my right, using both together. Difficulty in puzzles should always come from the puzzle, not from the controls. The controls should be smooth as silk; the player shouldn't even need to really think about them. Anything else is a recipe for frustration, especially because the amount of sand you can waste without losing is so small.
If you're playing in a browser where the game runs at the correct speed, then the control issues are usually minor and only really rankle in a couple of the levels that require both speed and accuracy, since the mouse is fast but not accurate and the keyboard is accurate but not fast. In most of the levels, you usually can stick with one control scheme the entire time, and the most important quality is the patience to let sand grains trickle to the place you want them before moving the box again.
Since this "genre" of the turning maze is so firmly entrenched in the Happy Meal and Crackerjack prize, and since so many of us (including myself) have such idyllic/frustrating memories of playing with same, I'm surprised that I can't think of many other online games that do what Sand Trap is doing. Despite the control issues, I really enjoyed the trip back to a simpler time, and I loved the variety of the levels, from simple mazes, to balls that block exits, to moving parts. Summer in the northern hemisphere is over, and the southern hemisphere still has some months to go. No beach vacation this year? Sand Trap contains all the best elements of an ocean vacation: relaxing music, blue water, lots of sand, a happy pail, and a giant floating labyrinth. Time for a little staycation!
Note: At this point in time considering the spotty browser support for HTML5, for best results use Chrome to play this game.