Blackbox: seeking accessibility feedback for outside-the-box puzzle game

App Developer

Hi AppleVis community! My name is Ryan McLeod and I’m the designer and developer of Blackbox: an outside-the-box collection of over 70 mind puzzles that generally don’t require touch to solve. Since the game currently relies on minimalistic colorful visuals and animations to play it's never been very accessible to anyone with visual impairment. Over the last month I’ve worked closely with my friend in sound engineering to re-think all 71 current puzzles to design ways for them to be playable via alternative sonic interfaces and Voice Over (and haptic feedback on devices that support it). These sounds compliment the current visuals but hopefully serve as their own stand-alone and satisfying way to figure out and solve the puzzles. With your help and feedback I hope we can make them even better!

A word of warning: these aren’t fast, casual puzzles but they are extremely satisfying to solve. The game is tough to describe without spoiling its “ah ha!” moments so I won’t say too much but I would love to hear what you think and get your feedback (nothing is too small!) so I can make my game as accessible as possible. Feel free to reply here or email me at

Note: 75% of the game is free but there are two paid expansions and hint credits, which can be bought or earned by referring friends via sharing in the game (helps keep things ad-free). That said, please email me at for promo codes and I'll provide as many as I can!

Blackbox on the App Store

Blackbox's website


Feel dumb

You asked if there was any I was stuck on, Dan. Well, I feel like an idiot, but I've been stuck on the six string one for a week. I know it has guitar connotations and I know it has something to do with the microphone. I've tried humming the notes of a guitar, I've even tried using my keyboard to make a guitar sound. Lol. But, there are lots of them that I've been stuck on for a week. That's just the one that makes me feel silliest. I'm resigned to the fact that I will be doing a lot of waiting for my own brain during this game I thank everyone for the hints on 9, by the way

Solved Puzzle 2, Need Help with A Few More

Club AppleVis Member

Thanks Dan for the hint. I just solved, I believe, light 3 of puzzle 2.



Turns out I had to blow into the microphone.

Now that that's done, I'm trying to solve puzzles 5 (I solved light 2 somehow, but not 1), 10, 11, 14 (light 1 is somehow solved), 17, 18, and 22 (I've just about got all the strings, but can't get light 1 to come on no matter what I do). There are some others, but this will be fine for now.

Some assistance

Club AppleVis Member

Kelly, I will try to help. I hope I don't spoil things too much.

Challenge 5 - We have a white circle which is slowly disappearing from right to left. Do you know anything in the real world that is doing the same thing right now?

Challenge 10 - You need to change the bars. How would you normally do that?

Challenge 11 - I emailed the developer and explained that the VoiceOver clue is not sufficient to describe what is happening visually. He seemed to agree, so this challenge may be updated in a later version. Until then, think of what 12 wedges might mean. The number 12 is very significant.

Challenge 14 - The glowing circle moves as the day goes on. What in the real world is doing the same thing?

Challenge 17 - Wow, I just figure this out myself, and it's very nasty. You hear a sound effect when opening the puzzle, and the meaning of the sound was very unclear to me. I don't think I am spoiling it too much when I say that the sound represents the light turning itself off. That's right - the light is initially on, then turns itself off right after you open the challenge screen. Once I understood that, I was halfway there, but the second half is just mean. I can't give a hint without completely ruining the puzzle, so I won't say any more.

Challenge 18 - I only have two of the four lights, and I won't be able to get the others until I go on vacation (big hint).

I haven't started challenge 22 yet, so I can't provide any help there.

Still Having Trouble With Type 2

I'm still having trouble with turning on the third light in Type 2 after using the hints that were suggested! I managed to solve another puzzle today!

Challenge #22

For challenge #22, just think of guitar strings. How do some get those puzzles that are not visible? I know an earlier post talked about #17 and that is one I don't have yet. I know that I also have #12 and #13 that are not listed either. I would like to make sure that I have all of them but I am guessing that some puzzles only appear after you've solved other ones?

Different ways to reveal puzzles

Club AppleVis Member

Different puzzles are unlocked in different ways. Some you have to purchase, some require granting permissions to the app, a few show up after solving other puzzles, and a few show up after finding secrets buried somewhere. Just keep playing around, and don't worry if there are gaps in the numbers. You may fill them in, or you may not.

It is also possible you might not be able to access certain challenges, depending on the capabilities of your device. A challenge that relies on GPS would naturally not work on devices that don't have GPS capabilities. I personally have an iPad, not an iPhone, and I'm sure I am missing out on some challenges as a result of that.

Regarding challenge 17 specifically, I cannot tell you how to reveal that challenge without spoiling another puzzle.

Box Colors

Thanks for making the game accessible and willing to listen to our feedback. Would it be possible to also have Voiceover tell us the color of the squares for the challenges? For example, Voiceover could say Type 6 Yellow. Many of the sites that provide clues refer to the colors instead of numbers and from what I here, the color can assist in solving some clues.

RE: Different ways to reveal puzzles

@dvdmth: No need to reveal the puzzle itself, I would prefer figuring it out myself at first. Could you let me know which puzzle number it is though? I have loved this game so much that I have purchased all the addons so far. I believe that I have granted access to most items the game needs access to. Thanks!

Revealing number 17

Club AppleVis Member

You need to solve puzzle 20 in order to get puzzle 17, if memory serves me right.

Numbering confusion

App Developer

Hi everyone,

I recently realized there's been some confusion with the challenge numbering. The numbers used to identify the challenges are actually internal numbers I use to keep track of things. There are some gaps in the numbers due to challenges that had to be removed or changed before the game launched, etc. Until I can think of a better solution remember there are 71 total discoverable challenges at the time of writing this!

Revealing challenge 20

Club AppleVis Member

I knew that question would be asked after my previous reply.

Challenge 20 is one of those special challenges that have to be unlocked by doing something special. The action you need to perform does not involve any of the other challenges. You'll have to experiment or search around in order to find the trigger. I won't tell you what the trigger is, because it's part of the puzzle.

To the developer, when you say there are 71 challenges, are you counting the total number of lights to be turned on, or are you referring to the number of challenges you can select from the main screen? I currently have access to 38 scenes and 67 lights. Also, how many of the 71 challenges will I not have access to because I have an iPad instead of an iPhone?

Love It

hello Ryan.

What a fantastic game. I have to admit that I did end up seeking the help of a podcast initially, as I just couldn't figure out what on earth this was all about. However, following that initial help it's safe to say I'm addicted now. I've had no issues regarding accessibility (I rely solely on VoiceOver) and up to now I'm finding all the audio cues are working well for me as well.

Many thanks, and keep up the fantastic work.

re: dvdmth

App Developer

Sorry for the delay—was without internet for a week. Nice job finding that meta challenge and thanks for not spoiling it :)

There are 71 challenges maximum that can be found and solved. If you have an iPad, depending on the model etc this may be a bit fewer but not by much. I'm not quite sure how to handle this situation since you could technically have another device syncing via iCloud that can play more and I wouldn't want to throw anyone off by giving a different number on those difference devices?

re: rachel

App Developer

Glad you were able to get off the ground after the podcast! I'll work on that onboarding experience… it can be kind of a sink or swim situation for all players sighted or otherwise but could always be improved.

Challenge 17 is a stumper some one give me a little light please

Hi everyone, haven't been on here or playing blackbox in a while. I now have 69 challenges showing and just revealed challenge 20 and 17 in that order. These other challenges have me really stumped, can't solve anymore of them. Anyone able to shed a little light on challenge 17? As far as challenge 20, hmmm, I don't really want to give this away, so what can I say about challenge 20? Remember, another person said you do something outside of the blackbox app, so think where you might go other than the blackbox app if you want to make a change, adjustment. Hope that will be of some help for revealing challenge 20.

Another hint for challenge 17

Club AppleVis Member

As I said before, challenge 17 is really mean. I managed to figure out what to do, but only after completely destroying my brain trying. I guess the reward was worth it? Not sure.

The light on the screen is your only clue. It is initially turned on, but it turns itself off right after you enter the puzzle opens, as if it were a light bulb that burned out right after you turn on the light switch. You need to figure out how to get the light back on. And no, there is no spare light bulb lying around that you can screw into the socket. You must get the burned-out bulb back alight. It was working a second ago, but now it's not. How can you bring the light back into its previous working state?

I don't think I can say more without completely giving away the solution.

re: Another hint for challenge 17

App Developer

Great hint dvdmth :) Thanks for not giving it away. I can't remember if the current version has a VO clue too but if not it's coming in an update!

Buying hints that don't work?

Hi. I decided to buy more hints. After I bought them and tried to use 1 hint it still says I'm out of hints. I closed the app and then tried again with the same results. Help.

Re: MsHollyWeezy

App Developer

Oh no! Mind visiting blackbox://receipts in Safari? It should open Blackbox and prompt you to send me an email with some additional information about any past purchases so I can figure out what might have gone on.

Unlocking challenge 20

Club AppleVis Member

As I said before, you do not unlock challenge 20 by solving any particular puzzle. The trigger that unlocks the challenge is hidden somewhere, so you'll have to find it. It is not part of any other challenges, so if you're spending any time in the other puzzles trying to reveal number 20, then you're wasting your time.

The same goes for challenge 12, by the way.

RE: Unlocking Challenge #20

Alright, thanks. I'll keep exploring and hopefully will unlock #20. I managed to unlock #12, don't know how as it just appeared one day. Ah well, will have to wait and see if I can ever manage to coax #20 to show itself. Thanks again!

Puzzle 20 hint given again

Hi, I gave a small hint for puzzle 20 as well, I'll give it again, but phrasing it differently. Puzzle 20 hint:
Making a change, or adjustment can sure be helpful.
As far as puzzle 17, I am still stumped, I can't fugure out how to solve the hint you gave, I think your name is dvd something? Also dvd, how in the world did you figure out how to unlock all these puzzles? 27? 12? I'm not sure what else one can do to their iPhone that hasn't been done. The problem is I can't list what I've done without spoiling things, but I just need two more challenges unlocked so I think I've done most of the things. Maybe I'm wrong of course.

Re: Puzzle 20 hint

App Developer

Make sure your have permission to solve it ;)
Unlocking puzzle 12 requires something special… It's a different mechanic when Voice Over is enabled if that's helpful at all (not saying you need to disable Voice Over to find it).

Challenge Types that don't exist

App Developer

I'm really sorry for anyone I've needlessly driven mad hunting down numbers that don't exist. The VoiceOver numbering is based on my internal numbering of challenges so it may get confusing if your device doesn't support a particular challenge (slightly older iPhones, iPads, etc), or if it's a challenge I had to remove at some point, etc.

For the record here are the challenge type numbers that at the time or writing this do not correspond to a playable challenge type:

Puzzle 12

I solved puzzle 12 and I enjoyed figuring it out amongst the more challenging puzzles! I definitely enjoy the game! Keep up the great work!

Missing challenge numbers

Club AppleVis Member

On my iPad, I am missing the following challenge numbers:


I have all other numbers from 1 through 46, and a total of 67 individual challenges available. Assuming 71 is the maximum, that means I am only missing four challenges, yet I am missing eight challenge types.

You said that 15 and 43 are unplayable, but that leaves six numbers unaccounted for. How can six numbers equate to four missing challenges? Something isn't adding up here.

A question regarding future updates

The following question is just part of my curiosity:
Ryan, is there a chance that new puzzles will be added in future versions?
I hope so because, to tell you the truth, I just can't seem to get enough of this game. It is A great game. I am sure that we all would like to see more challenges being added in the future. Keep up the great job, Ryan. Blackbox rocks.

Puzzzle Swipe Order

Hi Ryan, I've updated the app to the latest version and have found a minor glitch. When swiping from the top through the list of puzzles, they are no longer in order. For example, when starting from the top left and swiping to the right, I get Challenge Type 29, 25, 21, 30, the Store button with my Hint credits, 22, the Rating button, 2, 12, 5, 16, 41, 1, 11, 4, 40, 37, 34, 42, 39, the Push Notification button, 35, 48, 10, 7, 24, 38, 33, 36, 28, 3, 6, 8, 18, 45, 19, the Share button, 14, 44, 46, the GameCenter button, 9, 26, the Credits button, 31, and that is all she wrote. Sorry for writing the entire list, but I thought perhaps having the swiping order may be useful. Now I am not sure if the swiping order is the same for everyone, but this is the order that I get when swiping. Just thought you would like to know. Thanks!

Re: Puzzle Swipe Order

App Developer

I mentioned this in the release notes but should have mentioned it more explicitly in the app. I changed the swipe order to reflect the spacial positioning of the challenges rather than numeric order since it was confusing players who both swipes and felt where items were. Now swiping should move through challenge types and special buttons from left to right, top to bottom. Sorry if this was disorienting but I think the change will be good in the long run. I'm experimenting with adding additional ways to navigate the grid using rotors and am very open to ideas and feedback!

VoiceOver bug in latest update

App Developer

Also there appears to be a bug with Challenge Type 2 and 22 that causes Voice Over to somehow be silenced when those challenges are open. I'm investigating how this is happening and hope to have a fix soon. I know the bug doesn't happen on iOS 9 but appears to happen on iOS 10+. Would be great to know if more people are experiencing and what OS they're on.

RE: Puzzle Swipe Order

Ah ok, but wouldn't it be better to keep the buttons perhaps at the bottom and not have them intermixed between all the challenge types? I personally thought it was simpler the way it was set before, just swiping through the challenges by numerical order. But that's alright, I'll just have to get used to the new way of navigating. Thanks!

RE: Puzzle Swipe Order

App Developer

It's a tough balance! The buttons are visually intermixed and low vision players probably expect Voice Over to not skip over them when swiping or dragging.

Once thing that could help is adding names to the numbers like "22: lavender purple challenge".
Another idea is adding a rotor to swipe through incomplete challenge types, and another for Buttons?

Challenge order

Club AppleVis Member

In my opinion, as a low vision user, I think it is much better to have the challenges sorted numerically, as they were in the previous release, and to have the other controls grouped at the end of the list. I know this is not how the elements are arranged visually, but it makes a lot more sense when playing the game strictly through audio, as I suspect the majority of people on this forum are doing.

Suppose I want to access challenge type 18. Before, I could simply swipe right a bunch of times, without having to listen to the VoiceOver feedback after every swipe, until I think I’m in the vicinity of number 18. If I overshoot and find myself on number 24, then I can swipe back to the left a few times, eventually homing in on the one I want. When the challenges are presented in an arbitrary order, then finding challenge 18 is trickier, because I cannot tell if I overshoot the challenge if I swipe quickly through the list. Instead, I must listen to every challenge number as I traverse the screen, which ultimately takes a lot more time to find what I’m looking for. If I happen to know the challenge’s positioning on the screen in advance, then I can get to it faster, but this requires memorizing the layout, which can be a challenge in and of itself.

That said, I do like the idea of adding descriptions to the challenges, such as their colors, so that one can more easily talk about the app with other users who are fully sighted.


I find it makes it easier for me to navigate the puzzles on the home screen by using vertical navigation with Voice Over. Then I can flick left or right to a certain puzzle when I reach the general area of the puzzle I'm searching for. I like exploring the screen for the puzzles too!

Regarding arranging order of puzzles

To me, it is just a matter of getting used to the new arrangement. You can always touch and explore and just memorize where the challenges are. I am totally blind and, in my modest opinion, The new arrangement doesn't bother me at all. The only thing I have to say is, thank you, Ryan, for this awesome update.

Re: puzzle ordering

App Developer

Thanks for the comments everyone. Seems like there isn't a clear answer on this one… I think the VoiceOver ordering should match the visual/spatial ordering but completely understand the desire to sort and navigate another way; I'll look into adding alternative ways to navigate. Hang in there!

just heard about the game

I just heard an interview on Sero about this game, have downloaded it, tried it for about 3 minutes, and already love a game like none that I have previously tried. Also, out of curiosity, are you related to a former Phoenix Suns coach? I ask because of the spelling of the last name. Thanks for this extremely interesting game.

Re: Charles / Sero

App Developer

Hey Charles! I haven't heard this podcast but will go listen. So happy you're enjoying the game :) Always here for feedback too (or at if you prefer). Don't know any Suns coaches but "Hold Fast!" clan McLeod! ;)

New Challenge (#13)

App Developer

Hey all,

I released a few new features recently including physical shirts and stickers in the in-game store, Smart Invert support, some new rotors for navigating the home grid, and a new challenge. As always if you check them out and have any feedback or advice to share my inbox is open! Also if you like improving apps or finding bugs I have a few spots open for beta testers – fair warning though, sometimes it's not as fun to play the puzzles when they're in development so no hard feelings if you'd rather wait to play the polished, finished puzzles.

Re: Autumn

App Developer

Thanks Autumn! Stay tuned for the next beta and please email me if you need any assistance getting things set-up.

Re: Autumn

App Developer

Not quite yet but stay tuned!

Blackbox wins an AppleVis Golden Apple in the gaming category

App Developer

Thank you everyone who's contributed their comments and who voted in the Golden Apple awards!! It's hard to believe I didn't know about AppleVis at the beginning of the year; through talking to all of you so many of my thoughts and notions of app development and accessibility have evolved so much—understandings I hope I can continue to share with developers and players alike.