Today I let my brother play the alpha version of the game as I watched. I noticed some areas he had trouble.
For one, if I taught him to do something early on, whenever he encountered a situation even vaguely similar, he assumed he needed to do what I taught him. Now, in most cases this is good. It forces the player to think in ways they hadn't previously, which is why its a puzzle. However, it wasn't like this. It was simply not clear enough what he had to accomplish. He could indeed overcome the obstacle the way that he was trying, but it is much more difficult than the way I expected players to do it.
He definitely had the skills to overcome the puzzle. In fact it is the very first mechanic I teach players about in the game. It just seems that after he learned it, he almost immediately forgot. Maybe the level was moving too fast for most players. I have somewhat foreseen this before the beta, and accommodated accordingly. However, the issue still remains.
My brother isn't much of a platform/puzzle gamer so maybe that had something to do with it. If one things for sure, I need to be clear in goals and design. It needs to be clear what the player can and can't do. This was just simply not clear enough.
I will continue to watch him in later puzzles and monitor his progress. After just watching him play for a few minutes on a single level, I have learned much about what I need to design for.
Thanks for reading.