The story behind the creation of Alcatraz

Raf Peeters, January 2008

Who spends all day waiting around and so really could use a good puzzle to kill time? Fire fighters and prisoners, right? I already focused on fire fighters in Tower of Logic, so for Alcatraz I had prisoners in mind. And looking at the number of inmates who escape from Belgian prisons every year, I thought it would be a good commercial move.

Okay, but besides a slightly lame joke, both Smart Games have several things in common. Alcatraz is another game where I needed to create the challenges myself without the help of a computer program. And so for the time being, I can't play this game either because I still remember how I did everything. The game rules are more complex than most of my other puzzle games.


Although I can’t play this game, I did have some fun with it because for me, creating the challenges was a game between the player and me. In every challenge I tried to mislead the player and send them off in the wrong direction. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t. For example, in challenge 23, all the male game testers did exactly what I wanted them to do, trying the wrong thing again and again. But all the female game testers solved the same challenge in no time. Maybe they are better at the game of deception than I am?


The other thing Alcatraz has in common with Tower of Logic is that I wanted to add an extra dimension. Since I already had done 3D, I could only add the element of time, the fourth dimension. To escape from Alcatraz, your prisoner needs to be in the right place at the right time. If not, he or she will be seen by the security cameras and get caught. This makes Alcatraz maybe not my easiest game to understand, but definitely the most original. I am still thinking about how I could use a fifth dimension in a future puzzle. If you have any ideas, you can always send me a mail.

example of a solution of Alcatraz


Prison guards check the compound watching security cameras on monitors. But the monitors jump from camera to camera, so they do not see everything at the same time. As the monitors move between coloured zones, can you dodge between the cameras and escape before the prison guards catch you on their screens?

1) Put your prisoner on the starting position: a grey zone marked with the number of the challenge. Position the ladder on the second grey zone so it climbs up and over the wall. 

Click through the monitor indicator, located on the main watchtower, until the colour shown is red. 

2) First move your prisoner, then click the monitor forward a colour, then move your prisoner again. Watch out! 

• Your prisoner must never be caught on a colour zone that matches the colour of the monitor, or he’ll be captured on camera by the guards.

• Your prisoner may step forward 1, 2 or 3 squares each turn. He can move horizontally or vertically in any direction.

• After you have moved your prisoner, you must click the monitor onto the next colour, always turning in the direction of the arrow.

3) When your prisoner makes it to the ladder without being spotted by the guards, you’ve cracked the challenge!

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