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Advanced Shapeshifter Guide

by htamale


Hi, I’m htamale and I’m here to try and help you get past some of those rather irritating later levels in Shapeshifter. For those who haven’t played this interesting (but at times deeply frustrating) puzzle game, it simply involves placing pieces on a board which “flips” the signs on the board. If you end a level with all the correct signs, you move on to the next level.

Sound easy? Well, with only a little brainache it’s not too bad at first! Completing level five gets you a prize and this can be done without using this guide – just have a go and you should get there. However, as you move through the levels the following points become significant.

1. Every few levels the board gets bigger. It starts 3x3, then 3x4, then 4x4... and I’m hoping you are detecting a pattern!

2. At level 26 the board stays the same size (4x4) but the number of pieces you have to flip through increases. On the first 25 levels a crown becomes a sword becomes a crown becomes a sword etc. Level 26 a crown becomes a goblet becomes a sword becomes a crown. This is a major complication and why many people stall at level 25 (assuming you even get that far). Later levels get bigger and have more flips.

3. After a few levels you have to work on the puzzle offline as they are just too complicated to solve playing directly in the game. To do this, you need a way to track where you placed the pieces and what it did to the board.

4. Probably the biggest problem of all is there are so many permutations. If I have a 4x4 grid and 14 pieces then depending upon the size of the pieces I’m going to have at least 268,000 ways of placing those pieces and probably a lot more.

In response to the above I have developed a strategy. It's by no means foolproof and it still requires thought and frankly, some luck with the pieces, but it has taken me through level 26 and I am sure will take me further. Here it is broken down. I strongly recommend you use this guide at the same time as playing the game. It is a visual game and the words will make more sense that way:

Sort the pieces

Each level gives you certain pieces to use. Maybe a 3x2 square, a 2x1 rectangle, a few L shapes, the piece that looks somewhat like a spaceship (well, it does in my mind). On the Shapeshifter screen you have to place these in the order you get them. However, I found it far easier to rearrange the pieces into the largest first and smallest last for the purposes of solving the puzzle. If you want to follow this guide, then you have to do this, or the next step will not work.

Build Your Boards

I have developed a strategy of drawing out the grids in a spreadsheet. For example, if I have a 3x3 grid, draw out lots of 3x3 grids next to each other running left to right. Pick a colour and fill in the squares in the first grid to match your starting Shapeshifter grid (so if the top row was a crown and the bottom 2 rows the sword, fill in the top row and leave the bottom 2 white). In the second grid, draw in your biggest shape by filling in boxes. Leave the third blank, fill in the fourth your second biggest shape, the sixth your third biggest and so on. Don’t worry where you place them at the moment - just get them in place; choosing where to place them comes next. You should end up with a row of grids, your starting position in the first grid and your pieces placed on every other grid. The blank grids will be filled in when we start working out where to place pieces. When you get to level 26 you have 3 different tile types so use 2 colours to represent the wrong tile types.

There are other ways of doing this; cut out pieces of card and use tokens to track the changes, draw out the above freehand to name but two. The above works for me, but it doesn’t matter exactly how you do this. As long as you can track what pieces you have placed where and what is happening to the board, then you are good to go. The spreadsheet approach allows you to go back and change piece positions easily – if you use a different method, try to make sure it can cope with you making changes easily to avoid frustration.

Where to place those pesky pieces

The aim is to reduce the size of the grid you are working in, essentially reducing the number of piece placements we have to worry about. So if we have a 4x4 we want to reduce it to 3x4 (ie get one side all the correct sign), then 3x3 (the correct sign on another side) until we end up working in as small a space as possible reducing the number of possibilities as to where pieces go. This is why we sorted the pieces in descending size order. If you reduced your working area to 3x2 and then had to place a 3x3 piece, it’s not going to work.

Go to the first grid with your largest piece and decide where to place it, aiming to reduce the playing area to the size of your next largest piece (if you can), filling in those squares on that grid. Go to the next grid and compare the piece you placed with the starting position to its left and change the colour on tiles which would have been flipped by that piece. Look at the position – have you cleared a side? If so, place your next piece in the restricted playing area trying to clear another side, update the playing area grid and so on. Hopefully you end up placing pieces maximum 2x2 in a space which is 2x2.

Now unless you are either uber-brainy or mega lucky it’s not going to work the first time. You may find you have to go back and change some pieces. When you do, all the playing grids to your right will be impacted, so you will need to update those and see where you get to. You may find after developing a migraine that you simply can’t solve it. Well, just place pieces on the Shapeshifter game board, fail the level, and it will give you a new puzzle (you do not lose points for failing a level). Some are much easier to solve than others. Purists may frown on this approach, but I’m all for making life easy! You want a puzzle with as many small pieces as possible; this will allow you to shrink your playing area more quickly and gives more placement flexibility.

Make your moves in Shapeshifter when you solve it

You have done the hard work and solved it, well done! But at this stage please be careful. Check that you have converted the grids correctly. If you have, then compare your workings to the Shapeshifter game page and write down next to the grids the order you need to place them on the grid. For example, your first large piece you placed may actually be the fifth piece in your Shapeshifter game, write 5 next to it on your workings until you have a number against each shape. Then follow the numbers to place on the grid and you will have passed that level! Give yourself a pat on the back and move on to the next puzzle.

I hope this helps you in solving some of the harder levels. I’m not sure how far this strategy is going to take me - but it has earned me a bronze trophy. If it is the trophy you want there are a couple of things to note. You have to complete a level in the current month for it to be registered for the high score table. Your score is equal to the level you completed. If you are tied with others, the first person to get that score comes first on the table as for other games.

Your level does not get reset every month, you always pick up from where you left off (unless you choose to start over). The levels go up to 100 (yikes!). You don’t need that for a trophy (phew!). If you can get past 26, you are in with a good chance; take a look at the current hi-score table and judge for yourself.

Feel free to neomail me, I’ll be very interested to hear about whether you find this helps, any flaws or any refinements you make. Good luck!

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