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Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Dan Moren

Blackbox is an iOS puzzle game with no touching required

Note: This story has not been updated for several years.

There’s no joy for me like the joy of a good puzzle game. I’ll take Monument Valley or The Room series over a thousand Crossy Roads and Angry Birds. Because there’s nothing quite like that a-ha moment where your brain figures out the catch, the trick, and suddenly unlocks a whole new world.

My latest obsession is Ryan McLeod’s Blackbox, a devilishly clever puzzle game that’s unlike anything I have ever played. (That in and of itself is a singular feat, given the vast number of games we’ve seen since the iPhone debuted in 2007.) McLeod is perhaps best known for developing Gravity, the 3D Touch scale app that was pulled from the App Store last fall.

A fairly typical, if cryptic, Blackbox challenge.

But that rejection hasn’t deterred McLeod. Instead, he continues along that theme with Blackbox, which contains more than 50 puzzles–which can’t be solved using the iPhone’s touchscreen. Instead, McLeod focuses on the other sensors and features of the iPhone. After a quick demonstration, you’re thrown into the deep end, presented with a grid of puzzles, each of which requires its own unique approach to solve. The goal, with each puzzle, is to light up the requisite boxes, figuring out how to do so via the visual animations onscreen–but no touching!

I’m going to say this upfront, as someone who likes puzzle games: Blackbox is challenging. You’re going to get frustrated at times. As McLeod acknowledged to me in an email, some puzzles take time and require repeated viewings to really figure out. But that just makes eventually solving them that much more satisfying.

If you truly get stuck, there is a hint system–you’ll get a couple freebies at the beginning of the game, and you can get extra hint credits for 99 cents. (You can also earn more hints by referring friends to the game using a custom link.) There’s also an additional puzzle pack available for purchase, which comes with an additional hint credit, and McLeod is working on further expansion packs for the game.

So far, about two days in, I’ve solved thirty-odd of Blackbox’s puzzles1, but there are still a few that have me stymied. That’s exactly what I want from my puzzle games: I want to put it down and pick it back up again when I’ve had a chance to let my brain rest.

Should any of the above sound appealing to you, I beseech you to go download Blackbox immediately. On the other hand, if it sounds like the most atrocious thing you can imagine, and you’re wondering why anybody would subject themselves to that, well, maybe Blackbox isn’t the game for you…but you should still give it a try anyway.

  1. I’ve got one that I know how to solve but I can’t quite finish yet. That’s the kind of game this is. 

[Dan Moren is the East Coast Bureau Chief of Six Colors. You can find him on Mastodon at or reach him by email at His latest novel, the supernatural detective story All Souls Lost, is now available for pre-order.]

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