How to improve the Nurikabe experience for new players


Our team has been working on making Nurikabe easier for new Pixel Traveler players 🎮.

We can describe most grid based puzzle games with a simple sentence. Few examples?

  • Sudoku: fill rows, columns and squares with the numbers from 1 to 9
  • Nonogram: fill groups of cells according to the given numbers located on each row and column
  • Numberlink: connect equal numbers without intersecting paths

Problem statement

Nurikabe is not that easy: the game rules are hard to grasp and remember and most of the times new players struggle to apply them to solve even simple levels.

You don’t believe me? Have a look at them 📃:

  • You must form islands of the given size
  • Islands cannot touch orthogonally
  • There must be a single river
  • Water cannot form pools (2×2 water area)
Meme: trying to understand nurikabe rules

Not that easy, eh?

Current solution (bad)

To help new players, Pixel Traveler currently has a set of tutorials (more like slideshows) that cover the following:

  • Rules
  • Basic strategies
  • Basic step by step level resolution
  • Advanced strategies
  • Advanced step by step level resolution

From our analysis most players just skip the tutorials and jump straight into the game, playing puzzles without understanding what’s going on ⚠️.

This leads to them uninstalling the game after the few first failed attempts 😢.

Another solution (good?)

To make players understand Nurikabe without any form of tutorial/lesson is probably impossible, but we can still try.

After analyzing the problem, our first idea was to improve the tutorial by making it interactive and by forcing players to learn the rules the hard way. But that doesn’t fix the problem, does it? Nurikabe’s rules are hard to remember even for those that are actually interested in mastering them. Also, if you force the players to do something they don’t want, you just make the situation worse 😠.

What if, instead of fixating on improving the tutorial, we make the process of solving the puzzle easier without compromising the game experience?

Check this prototype!

The idea is to always show a summary of all the Nurikabe’s rules and their current state. This way, the players are always reminded of them and they can see how each action affects the game, thus leading them to make the right moves 🪄.

This has been implemented with the following:

  • Adding the rules summary, updated in real time with every action
  • Displaying the correctness of islands size with a color
  • Displaying the current island size, next to the target size
  • Adding icons on each square that is breaking a rule

These are the icons we designed:

Pixel Traveler new rules icons

Clockwise from the top left:

  1. Pool detected
  2. Connected islands
  3. Wrong island size
  4. Multiple water streams detected


This new feature is going to be released with the next update both on Google Play Store and Apple App Store 📱.

We really hope you are going to enjoy it and new players can have an easier time learning how to play Pixel Traveler.

Have comments and/or suggestions about this or other features? 💡 Join our Discord and drop us a message there!

About the author

Davide Della Casa Venturelli