An Easy One

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If you get a puzzle which goes by the name "An Easy One", you should be very suspicious. It might be the designer wants to have a laugh at your expense. Don't say I didn't warn you...

Designed by the German Jürgen Reiche, An Easy One is a great packing puzzle to test your solving skils, or just to keep your brain in good shape. Similar in concept to the classic Four T's, which has had countless versions over the years (here's one), An Easy One by Siebenstein-Spiele has a different approach, but if you solved the Four T's you can easily solve this one.

With a diameter of 7.8cm (3.1"), the puzzle is rather small, which is perfect if you want to take it with you on your travels, or show it to some friends to torture them. There are five pieces, four identical L-shaped ones and a small square. The idea is to fit all four pieces plus the square inside the frame.

As mentioned above, if you have experience with this kind of puzzles, you already know how the solution should look like. Accomplishing this won't be difficult, but the final pattern is always nice to see when you finally put it all together. This is rated as a level 7/10, but I think in all fairness, it's not that difficult.



Closing Comments:

This turned out to be "An Easy One", after all. Well, maybe for a seasoned puzzler. But if you are new to packing puzzles, don't dismiss it. I really like this type of puzzles, even if it's just to add them to my never-ending collection.

Availability: You can find this "Easy One" at PuzzleMaster for just $14.99 CAD. You can also browse many others by Siebenstein-Spiele.


Svetnashki - Blue

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It's been 8 years since I first reviewed the original Svetnashki and its other versions, the puzzle that uses polarized light. A simple explanation just doesn't make it justice, though. It was already one of my favorite puzzles back then, and eight years on, it's still an absolute favorite, probably in my top 3. It was invented by Vladimir Krasnoukhov.

What fascinates me in this puzzle is the simple process in which a clear or transparent tile can be transformed into a dark tile by what appears to be a magic trick. When a tile passes through one of the polarized filters in the back of the puzzle, it appears as clear or dark. There's no magic involved, though, just pure science. If you want to know more about the science behind this concept, check out this link.

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Over the years, as I gathered more and more puzzles in my collection, I always found myself returning to this simple puzzle time and time again. The fact that there's no right or wrong solution is also quite appealing. You make your own patterns. There's a couple of simple challenges, though, like having all the tiles appear as clear or all as dark. When you master these two challenges, you can make any type of pattern the 4x4 grid allows. Think the 4x4 grid is too small? You can also get it bigger, in a 6x4 or 6x6.

I already had in my collection the white 4x4 (my first Svetnashki), the bigger 4x4, the double-layer 4x4 and the larger 6x6. Each, a blast to play with. Since blue is my favorite color, I had to have this one as well, and because it's small, it's great to take it with me anywhere. It's a great puzzle to relax.

(Click to Enlarge) - All my Svetnashkis in one place
Closing Comments:

If you still don't have a Svetnashki, please consider your collection incomplete. This is an absolute must-have in any respectable collection. I promise you, you won't be disappointed. Playing with light has never been as fun as this.

Availability: You can find the Svetnashki Blue at PuzzleMaster for just $17.99 CAD. For other versions, check out this link.


Cast Chess - Queen

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If the King is the most important piece in the game of chess, the Queen is without argument the most powerful. This statement is also true in the Hanayama Cast Chess, as the Queen is, by far, the most challenging one in the small collection of six. If you're solving them one by one, I recommend leaving this one for last.

Although the mechanism in each of the six puzzles is unique, the designs are somewhat similar and differ slightly from one another. This is what makes this Hanayama series so compelling and rewarding. Each puzzle will offer you something different. However, the slightest variation can sometimes mean a different approach when it comes to solving a puzzle...And the Queen stays true to this concept.

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Also, in my opinion, the Queen is one of the most beautiful puzzles of the Cast Chess collection, alongside the Knight. The detail in the crown is simple, but stunning. The shiny silver color makes the design stand out even more.

Compared to the King, the mechanism of the Queen is closer to it than the other puzzles in the series. It also has a spring mechanism, but instead of pushing, you need to pull. There's a couple of extra movements, which is what makes this puzzle much more difficult than the others.

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Closing Comments:

Being harder to solve than any of the other puzzles in the Cast Chess family also means that it's that much more rewarding when you finally solve it. With the collection now complete, I can safely say that these are now my favorite Hanayama puzzles. They're a masterpiece by both Hanayama and the original designer, Marcel Gillen.

Availability: The Cast Chess Queen is available at PuzzleMaster, together with all the others in the Cast Chess series.


Cast Chess - King

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The King - It's the most important piece in the game of chess. Guarding it at all costs is a must if you want to be a great player. But what about as a puzzle piece? Is it also the most important one?

Hanayama has created a superb collection with these six chess puzzles, each representing a different piece of the original game of chess. As a series, the Cast Chess puzzles are all equally impressive and important, as each one has its own secret to discover and open it. Hidden inside, a special coin awaits for you to release it, but only after you find out how the hidden mechanism works.

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Surprisingly, the King is one of the easiest to solve out of all six puzzles. Maybe not that surprisingly, as analogous to the simple movements of the King in chess. Could just be that the designer, Marcel Gillen, wanted to stay true to what each piece represents. Also true to their counterparts in chess is the relative size of the pieces, as the King sits comfortably as the tallest piece in the series.

Without revealing too much about its solution, the King has a spring mechanism that you manipulate by pushing on the top of the puzzle. It's, in fact, one of the first things you notice about it. The rest is just a simple movement and the puzzle is open. Be careful not block your mechanism, because there's a real chance of that happening.

Solution: If you're having trouble with the solution, you can download one here.

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Closing Comments:

As far as puzzles go, the Cast Chess King is not very challenging. But, because it's part of a collection that you don't want incomplete, it's still worth getting. It's a great puzzle for beginners and a great gift for any chess lovers.

Availability: PuzzleMaster is the place to get anything puzzle related, whether it's the Cast Chess King or any other in the Cast Chess series.


N-5

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Jean Claude Constantin makes very good sequential puzzles, many of which require hundreds of steps to solve, and aren't for the easily frustrated puzzlers. However, since not everybody has the patience of angels to solve unending sequences, Constantin made the N-5, a sequential movement puzzle that only require a couple dozen steps to be solved.

Made with four sliding laser-cut wooden plates, the N5 is a small puzzle, measuring just 8cm in diameter. The plates are placed in pairs perpendicular to each other. The top plates have four small mazes that have different paths, navigated by four pins. The goal is to slide the plates until you can free the small metal sphere trapped under them.

The puzzle looks a bit complex at first, but you'll soon find out that it's actually quite easy to solve, especially if you're used to sequential movement puzzles. I counted 22 moves until I could remove the sphere from the puzzle, but it could be even less. It can be solved within five minutes, and within one minute when you know the moves by heart.

I found it a bit more difficult to put the puzzle back to its original state, but I believe it was because I didn't know the moves by heart. Once you do, it's as easy to solve as it is to put it back. The difficulty level is 8/10, but I reckon it should be more about 7/10. The sequential movement is classified as 3-ary, or ternary (three states, as opposed to the binary's two states).

(Click to Enlarge) - Solved Position
Closing Comments:

I really liked the N-5 by Constantin. It's an easy puzzle to solve at any time without frustration, but still very fun to play with. Also, with just 20+ moves you can easily set it up for someone else to try it. This is recommended for beginners to practice, because there are bigger versions of this puzzle with much more moves (hundreds of moves).

Availability: You can find the N-5 puzzle at PuzzleMaster for $23.99 CAD. Check out other interesting puzzles by Jean Claude Constantin.


Cast Chess - Bishop

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With half the Cast Chess puzzles already reviewed, it's safe to say that this is becoming my favorite Hanayama series. The Bishop is my latest acquisition, and I absolutely love it. Each of the six puzzles is unique in its design and mechanism, and that's exactly what gets me excited whenever I try another one. My only disappointment so far is that there's only six of them and I'll soon have tried them all. These puzzles were all designed by the French Marcel Gillen.

The Bishop is just as impressive as any other in the Cast Chess series. It's made with polished and shiny metal, which makes it look like a piece from an expensive set of chess, except this one is just a puzzle - A gorgeous puzzle at that.

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From what I experienced so far, the Bishop has the most elegant solution. The top of the piece has a pin attached to a spring, which of course is part of the solution, but I won't give it away. You still have to find out how that pin works with the rest of the mechanism, and it's not as easy as you'd expect. However, when it comes to hidden mechanisms, you shouldn't expect an easy puzzle anyway. There's always something that will surprise you...in a good way.

As far as difficulty goes, the Bishop is the most challenging Cast Chess puzzle I tried so far (I have 4). Even though that pin gives part of the solution away, it's still difficult to work out how it relates to the locking mechanism. The base of the puzzle rotates, but the effect is useless on it own. When you finally solve it, it gives you a rewarding and satisfying feeling that only hidden mechanism puzzles can give you.

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Solution: To download the solution, click here.

Closing Comments:

What can I say? Hanayama never ceases to amaze me. With each puzzle I try from the Cast Chess series, I become more excited for the next. The Bishop has exceed my expectations and it's equally as wonderful as any of the others in this special Hanayama collection.

Availability: The Cast Chess Bishop is available at PuzzleMaster, as well as all the others from the Cast Chess series.


Cast Chess - Knight

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Hanayama certainly knows how to make great puzzles, and the latest Cast Chess series is proof of that. Six puzzles, each representing a chess piece, and all in silver, make up this exquisite collection. Originally designed by Marcel Gillen, Hanayama hasn't disappointed in their version of the French designer's puzzles.

The Knight is yet another wonderful puzzle made by the talented craftsmen at Hanayama, with a clean and polished surface. This is possibly the most beautiful and elegant of the Cast Chess series, in my opinion. It is so well made that it could be mistaken by a decorative object, which only the most astute could find out that this is even a puzzle. It's like a well disguised small safe, as the interior hollow allows you to hide a small coin or any other object of the same proportions.

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The mechanism is similar to the other Cast Chess puzzles, but has its own unique way of opening it. It's like having identical locks, but you need different keys to open them. And there lies the beauty of these puzzles. You might suspect how they are locked, but you have to study them in detail to really find what distinguishes them from the others.

Difficulty-wise, the Knight is about the same level as its brethren. It's difficult enough to have you guessing for several minutes, but not as difficult to provoque a frustrating feeling. It actually has the right amount of challenge that might leave you satisfied once you solve it.

Solution: If you get stuck, click here to download the Solution.

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Closing Comments:

The Knight is my favorite Cast Chess puzzle so far. It's beautiful and challenging, and the hidden mechanism is very well designed. If you like Cast Puzzles, then it's a safe bet you'll love this or any other from the Cast Chess series.

Availability: You can find the Cast Chess Knight and all the others in the Cast Chess series at PuzzleMaster. For more Cast Puzzles, check out this page.


Edelweiss 4.0

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Here's a puzzle that looks as intimidating and difficult as it actually is. No deception - What you see is what you get. A perfect example of simplicity turned into complexity. This is puzzle designing at its best and, when it comes to great puzzles, Jürgen Reiche from Siebenstein-Spiele knows what he's doing.

Edelweiss 4.0, as its name suggests, is made with just four different pieces, but don't let the low number of pieces fool you. This is quite a difficult puzzle. Made from laser-cut wood - wouldn't be possible otherwise due to the size and complexity of the pieces - the puzzle has each of its four pieces in a different natural color to differentiate between them, as they're quite detailed, with their edges filled with bumps of different sizes and spacing. The frame is small measuring only 9.1cm in length (3.6").

As with most packing puzzles, the Edelweiss requires some trial and error to be solved, but since the edges of the pieces are so different you'll know beforehand that some combinations aren't possible. This is also an edge-matching puzzle, since all pieces must match their adjacent neighbors in two ways. The pieces must also match the corners of the frame.

This has a difficulty rating of 8/10 from PuzzleMaster and 4/7 from the manufacturer. The manufacturer's, however, makes it look like an average difficulty puzzle and I don't agree. I reckon PuzzleMaster's rating is more accurate, as it shows how challenging this puzzle actually is.



Closing Comments:

I love puzzles like the Edelweiss 4.0. It challenges your way of thinking, without making it completely frustrating. There's a logic to it, you just have to find it. If you think this is too easy, Siebenstein-Spiele also has a 9-Piece version, appropriately called the Edelweiss 9.0.

Availability: Edelweiss 4.0 is available from PuzzleMaster for just $15.99 CAD. Check out other great puzzles by Siebenstein-Spiele.


V-Sphere

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The Rubik's Cube was the first puzzle in my collection. Ever since, I collected an assortment of puzzles with different shapes, sizes and colors. Once you start realizing how many different puzzles are there, you'll certainly feel overwhelmed and spoiled for choice. Over the years, I developed a preference for sliding puzzles, but never forgot which type of puzzle got it all started.

So, it's not difficult to understand why I was so excited when I first heard about the V-Sphere, a combination of Rubik-like solving with a 3D sliding mechanism. It's the perfect combination. Now, all that was needed to prove was if the mechanism was good enough to provide a pleasurable and satisfactory experience, which many puzzles fail to deliver.

Fortunately enough, I had nothing to fear. The V-Sphere is manufactured by one of the most respectable and dedicated companies that produce twisty puzzles, the V-Cube by Verdes Innovations. Their flagship V-Cubes are some of the most appreciated and high quality twisty puzzles you can find, and so, the V-Sphere is not any different. The puzzle was invented by Greek designer George Chronopoulos.

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So, what is the V-Sphere anyway?

The V-Sphere is an intimidating puzzle with 8 spherical triangles fixed to the internal frame and six rows of tiles that cross the entire perimeter of the sphere. Each triangle has a different color and is surrounded by 12 moveable tiles, except for one triangle (blue), where it has only 11 tiles surrounding it. I would've preferred to have another color with the missing piece, like the white one for example, since I like the blue color most, but it's just a minor annoyance. The missing piece is so that there is space to move the tiles around to mix and solve the puzzle. Since the blue triangle is the one with one piece missing, you should leave it for last, as it will be solved automatically when you solve all the other seven triangles.

This is quite a fun puzzle to mix, I should say. Well, most puzzles are fun to mix and scramble, but the V-Sphere, with its smooth mechanism, adds another layer of fun to the experience. You should try and have all the colors well mixed and not have more than two identical colors adjacent to each other. Only then should you try and solve it. And that is when the real challenge begins...

The V-Sphere is hard to categorize in terms of difficulty. It will depend much on your skill level. If you've been solving twisty puzzles for a while, especially the higher difficulty ones, like the V-Cube 4 and upwards, then this should be a walk in the park. If you struggle to solve a 3x3x3 cube, then this will definitely be an interesting challenge, to say the least. Don't despair though, because I still think the V-Sphere is a little easier to solve than a 3x3x3 cube. Patience and persistence will, in the end, be rewarded.

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Closing Comments:

The V-Sphere is a superb puzzle, even if it's just to mix and play without worrying about solving it. It's a great stress reliever, and most importantly a great exercise for your brain. It is among my favorite 3D sliding puzzles, and that's saying a lot. I would definitely recommend it to anyone with an interest in puzzles, albeit a bit difficult for newcomers.

Availability: You can find the V-Sphere at JWS Europe.

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Cast Dot

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Akio Yamamoto is one of the most prolific puzzle designers when it comes to Hanayama. At least, 13 of the 70+ Cast Puzzles available are from the Japanese designer, all of them rather unique puzzles in their own way. The latest to join the family is the Cast Dot, an intriguing but fun puzzle to play with.

The Cast Dot comes in two identical pieces, one black and one silver. Quite honestly, I would have preferred to have the combination of silver and gold, like many other beautiful Cast puzzles. Nevertheless, it's a stunning puzzle. The idea is to disentangle the two pieces by figuring out how the dots interact with each other.

This is one of those puzzles that's easy to take apart, but quite a whole different story to put back together - well, most disentanglement puzzles, actually. Think of the pieces interacting with each other as folding paper. It's like doing Origami, but without the possibility of messing up the paper...

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This is a level 2/6, rated by Hanayama, but I half agree. You see, you have two tasks: one is to take the pieces apart, which is fairly easy and accomplished within a couple of minutes; the other part, however, not that easy, and definitely not a level 2. I'd say it's more like a level 4, which is already a rather difficult challenge.

I found there are multiple ways to solve this puzzle, both by taking it apart and by putting it back together. To ease your task of getting it back together, I suggest taking a photo of the solved puzzle, so you know where you should go. Since there are multiple ways of getting there, just keep trying until you reach the final position. The ride is pretty fun and not at all frustrating.

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Closing Comments:

The Cast Dot was a very pleasant surprise. I was expecting an easy puzzle, as suggested by Hanayama, but what I found was a much more challenging puzzle - in a good way. It just goes to show you that you shouldn't tackle a puzzle by underestimating its difficulty. It just might surprise you. Whether you like it or not, that depends on how you like your puzzles...

Availability: The Cast Dot and all of its Hanayama brethren are available at PuzzleMaster.


Mit Schwung

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I'm fascinated by the sheer variety of packing puzzles. The possibilities are near infinite when it comes to designing a packing puzzle. Your imagination is the limit. No wonder then that Jürgen Reiche, from Siebenstein-Spiele, makes so many of them, as his imagination is apparently limitless. Proof of that is his latest design Mit Schwung. A gorgeous and mesmerizing little packing puzzle that looks harder than it actually is.

This is a puzzle that is cheap and easy to produce, because it uses laser-cut wood, but it's also quite versatile. The designs you can do with this type of material can be much more detailed and precise. The results are stunning, as you can see, with a pattern that is not only great to look at, but also interesting to solve, because of the irregular pieces.

Sixteen round pieces make this impressive checkered design. The corner pieces in the frame are not part of the puzzle, since they're glued in place. It does make a nice effect, though. The shape of the pieces and the decision to make the design with checkered or contrasting colors makes a big difference between an otherwise bland puzzle and a great-looking puzzle. This proves that you not only need a good design, but also a nice presentation.

This is a difficulty level 5/7, rated by the manufacturer, but I'm not sure it's that difficult. Because you have a checkered pattern, no two identical colors are touching, which is going to simplify your options when trying to solve it. Each piece can be flipped on either side, so it does add some difficulty, but ultimately a very enjoyable and moderately difficult puzzle.

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Closing Comments:

Mit Schwung is a beautiful and unique puzzle, filled with character. The design is complex enough to produce a great effect with a pattern that looks simple and yet fascinating. It's a great decorative object, but even more satisfying as a puzzle.

Availability: Mit Schwung is available at PuzzleMaster for just $17.99 CAD. Check out others designs by Siebenstein-Spiele. For an even wider variety, check out the packing puzzles section.


Inside3

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Inside3 (formerly known as Insidezecube) is an intimidating and very challenging 3D maze, even for the most seasoned puzzlers. Embark on a journey to the unknown through the darkness, as this maze won't need your visual sense to be solved. Instead, you must rely on your other senses, adding a pinch of patience and large amounts of persistence.

Inside, as the name suggests is a play on words (or better, a play on numbers, as the 3 is represented as the mathematical exponent "cube", hence the name Inside "cube"). Invented by the French Romain-Guirec Piotte, this 3D maze promises to test the puzzle solving and orientation skills of anyone courageous enough to try his puzzles.

The first of six planed seasons, each with six difficulty levels, features the same number of cubes with a different color for each level. The cube you see presented in this review is the third level, or as it's called the Mean Phantom. Be sure to not underestimate these puzzles, as they will certainly prove to be quite the challenge.


(Click to Enlarge) - Both sides of the Journey

Hidden mazes or blind mazes are not a novelty in puzzles. We've seen them most prominently featured in the Revomaze puzzles, and they're popular for a reason. Puzzlers like a tough challenge, especially when you can't see what's going on inside - It deals with our imagination. The feeling of being lost, but still in control.

The Insidepuzzles have their own features that make them unique. While you're on your own to try and figure out where the small ball is at all times, you have some clues to rely on that help you on your journey to the other side of the cube. Engraved on two opposite sides of the cube are seven 2D mazes, each corresponding to a different plate or layer that's inside the cube (the sixth and last difficulty level doesn't have any maps). Each plate has a maze that connects with the other plates and so on, which in turn links the front of the cube to the back.

The engravings also show indentations that represent holes in the surface of the plates. Your task is to study and visualize all these levels working in tandem as a unique 3D maze and guide the small ball from one side of the cube to the opposite side, all of this without ever seeing the ball, except for when it reaches any of the opposite windows on the cube. There's another small ball inside the cube, and its main goal is just to confuse you (as if the maze itself wasn't enough to confuse you). The puzzle is solved when you see the ball from the narrow window of the other side of the cube. However, your journey is not complete until you return the ball back to the starting point. On the way, you'll encounter traps and dead-ends to make your journey that much more interesting. I warned you this was a hell of a challenge...

(Click to Enlarge) - The six layers (The lid functions as the seventh)

If you get stuck while trying to solve your cube, don't despair. You can open it up (only the first four difficulty levels allow for this), remove the layers and replace the ball back to the beginning. Another interesting feature about opening the cube is that you can swap and re-arrange the layers to form a whole new maze. If the original wasn't hard enough already, you can put a whole new spin to it and make it even more challenging - Now, not even the 2D maps of the layers will help you.

So far, all I've accomplished was the first part of my journey, which was to reach the other side of the cube. This wasn't done in one sitting, though, but through the course of several days. Since there are two balls in play, I'm not even sure which one reached the first half of the journey. At this point, All I care about is that one ball made it to the other side and now I have to return it to the beginning of the maze.

Closing Comments:

Inside3 is everything I want in a puzzle. It's frustrating, almost to the point of throwing it out the window, but it's also fascinating, intriguing, intimidating and rewarding. It's all of these things and more. It's because of puzzles like this one that I write about puzzles and collect them. If you're a serious puzzler, I strongly recommend trying one these cubes. But if you're a casual, no problem. You can start with one of the easier difficulties and go from there.

Availability: You can get any or all of the puzzles in the Inside series through the official website @ www.inside3.space.


Cast Infinity

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Here's a puzzle that even its name is scary. Hanayama's Cast Infinity is as difficulty as it appears. Designed by the Finnish Vesa Timonen, you're lucky to solve this one before eternity...

Named after its appearance, the new addition to the Cast family has the shape of the mathematical symbol for infinity (also called lemniscate - probably not a good name for a Cast Puzzle). Inside the frame are two discs that seem fused together and impossible to remove. There's a way to separate the two discs, however, although it requires quite a dedicated and persistent mind. This one is not for the faint-hearted.

The puzzle is beautifully made, although I would've liked to see the two discs with a golden color contrasting with the silver frame, as we sometimes see in other Cast puzzles. It's quite a small puzzle also, measuring only 5.2cm x 3.1cm (2.1" x 1.2"). The holes in the discs are quite practical actually, since you can use your fingers to try and rotate them, provided you have some room to maneuver them. Inside the frame there's a protrusion that blocks some of the movements. Because the discs also have grooves strategically positioned, it's up to you to find the correct positions to move the discs and solve the puzzle.

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All of this is easier said than done. Unfortunately, this is one of the few Cast puzzles that I wasn't able to solve on my own so far. This is rated as a difficulty level 6/6, and this time, I have to agree with Hanayama. It's really a very challenging puzzle - maybe a 7/6. Sometimes you're able to rotate one of the discs, but it's difficult to see if that movement put you closer to the solution or even further. I'm going to keep trying, hopefully not for an infinite amount of time.

Solution: If you find the puzzle too difficult, you can download the solution here.

Closing Comments:

Even though I'm disappointed to not have solved the Cast Infinity, I'm still hopeful to solve it, and for now, I have an excuse to keep playing with it. It's a beautiful puzzle and despite its difficulty it manages to encourage you to keep at it until you finally break that infinity.

Availability: The Cast Infinity is available from PuzzleMaster for $15.99 CAD. The entire Hanayama collection is also available. Check out more puzzles from Vesa Timonen, as well.


Cast Dial

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Vesa Timonen is one of the most represented designers in the Cast series, with at least 8 different Cast Puzzles in his name so far, including the beautiful Cast Square and the intriguing Cast Hook. His latest contribution to the Cast family is another interesting design, the Cast Dial.

Design-wise, the Cast Dial is absolutely gorgeous. It consists of a triangular shape comprised of two main pieces interlocked together, and two dials that rotate independently back and forth. The dials can also be rotated in any direction as one, which provides a satisfying feeling for anyone that likes to fidget with objects to keep the hands occupied. The goal is to separate all four pieces and return the puzzle to its original form. It's rated as a difficulty level 4/6.

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The triangular pieces are identical and have indentations that suggest a sliding movement, so you have a pretty good idea on how the puzzle should be solved. However, there's a world of difference between suspecting how it can be solved and actually solve it... And here lies the difficulty of the puzzle, which by the way can be a bit more difficult than what Hanayama might suggest.

Solving this puzzle proved to be a little frustrating, to say the least. The two dials can rotate independently, but it's very difficult to find a correct position for them to even get past the first step. Once you manage to have some progress, the frustration is not over yet. You still have to keep guessing as to which direction to turn the dials (or dial, since after a certain point only one dial can turn, while the other is locked in position). It's a game of trial and error until you can finally separate all four pieces. Here, you will be able to see exactly how the mechanism works, which is a plus, as getting the puzzle back to its original state is much easier.

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Solution: You can download the solution here.

Closing Comments:

Even knowing that the puzzle is rather frustrating to solve, I can still recommend this one. I like its movement and its design. Not a fan of the solving process, but two out of three is not bad. Looking forward to see what Vesa Timonen does next for Hanayama.

Availability: The Cast Dial is available from PuzzleMaster for $15.99 CAD. All Hanayama collection is available as well.


Cast Chess - Rook

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Continuing my journey of reviewing all six Cast Chess puzzles by Hanayama, my next subject is the beautiful Rook. The Cast Chess puzzles were all originally designed by Marcel Gillen before Hanayama put their touch and turned them into a special edition Cast series. These puzzles are as good as their main Cast brethren - or better, so you're in for a great puzzling experience.

Slightly bigger than the Chess Pawn, the Rook features a completely different concept and solution, so whichever puzzle you choose to get you'll have something unique and different to play with. That is why it's imperative to have all six puzzles, so you get to experience what each one offers.

Since the solution is different in each puzzle, previously solving any of the others won't help you much here. Like any other Cast Puzzle, there's not many ways to go about it when it comes to discovering how its mechanism works. Few parts move and visual clues are basically non-existent. You'll have to rely on your other senses - maybe even a sixth sense - to have any real progress.

At the top of the puzzle there's a five-point star that rotates freely back and forth, but apparently it does nothing, at least at first glance... The circular piece just below the star also moves slightly, but gives the feeling that there's something locking any further movement. And that's it! You'll need to use your creative thinking to advance any more beyond this point.

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Closing Comments:

Just like the first puzzle, the design of the Rook is rather clever and gives you an Eureka moment when you finally solve it. It certainly lives up to Hanayama's standard of delivering a unique experience with each and every one of their puzzles.

Availability: The Cast Chess Rook is available from Brilliant Puzzles. You can find there the others in the Cast Chess collection.


Cast Cake

Posted on by Gabriel | 0 comments
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If you have a sweet tooth, this will be a good one for you. Hanayama's latest offering is a sweet beauty, the Cast Cake. Designed by Bram Cohen, who also designed two of the most beautiful puzzles in the Cast series, the Cast Marble and the Cast Galaxy, the Cast Cake may not be as impressive-looking as its predecessors, but its concept is just as ingenious.

With a quarter of its circumference "eaten", the Cast Cake is comprised of three identical layers. These layers can rotate independently from each other, although rotating them may prove to be a difficult task for someone with sausage fingers, since the puzzle is very small (4.1cm in diameter = 1.6"). The whole puzzle is made of a metal that looks like bronze, but aesthetically I reckon it would have been nicer to see some contrasting colors, like we've seen before with other Hanayama puzzles. Other than that, the puzzle looks pretty enough.

As you may suspect, the goal in the Cast Cake is to remove its three layers from the outer frame. You won't be able to remove them all at once, so you have to find a way to do it in a sequence. I couldn't come up with a strategy other than using simple trial and error while rotating the discs back and forth. It may not be an optimal solution, but it does get the job done.

Hanayama rates the Cast Cake as a level 4/6, and while having a hard time with it, I do think it's an appropriate rating, which is not without surprise, since Hanayama does tend to miss the mark when it comes to properly classify their puzzles in terms of difficulty level. Putting it back to its original position is way easier, since you can see the grooves on the pieces and how they fit together.

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Solution: If you get stuck, you download a solution guide here.

Closing Comments:

Being designed by Bram Cohen, my expectations towards the Cast Cake were completely fulfilled and I wasn't disappointed. Sure, the design could've used a couple of different colors, but that's merely a matter of taste and opinion. I can easily recommend this one to anyone interested in Hanayama puzzles.

Availability: You can find the Cast Cake along with the whole Hanayama collection at PuzzleMaster.


Cast Padlock

Posted on by Gabriel | 2 comments
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When you think of a puzzle lock and how it should be solved, the first think that comes to mind is probably: how do you unlock it? What's its locking mechanism? It's a fair assumption, given how puzzle locks have been presented before. However, designer Jin-Hoo Ahn (who also designed the Cast G & G) takes a completely new approach and makes us think of puzzle locks in a whole different manner with the Cast Padlock. The theme for this puzzle is "obstinacy".

Although it appears like a regular puzzle lock, the Cast Padlock doesn't have a functional keyhole. You won't be unlocking it, but rather taking it apart. Four pieces make up this intriguing design, but in order to solve it, you'll definitely need some "obstinacy". What's more, the solving process is not at all straightforward, so be prepared for a tough challenge.

One aspect of the puzzle that stands out immediately is its tiny size. This a puzzle that measures only 4.3cm x 3.3cm (1.7" x 1.3"). IT's a tiny devil, is what it is...

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The four pieces that comprise the puzzle can rotate freely around the common central point. But, alas, rotating the pieces alone won't get you anywhere. You need to find an exact position that lets you separate the round semi-circles, but for that the two elliptical pieces in the middle need to be positioned correctly as well. It's a discovery journey in itself, as you learn how the inner mechanism works and keeps the pieces interlocked.

I found this puzzle extremely difficult to solve. It took me a few days to completely understand how the pieces interacted with each other. As if taking it apart wasn't a hell of a challenge, putting it together again is no small feat. This is rated as a level 5/6 by Hanayama, but in my opinion it's definitely a 6/6. If you like your puzzles crazy difficult, I can highly recommend this one, and you won't be disappointed.

Solution: If you need the solution for this one, you can download it here.

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Closing Comments:

The Cast Padlock is unique. There is no similar design out there and so, nothing to compare to or take hints from. It's a beautiful and awe-inspiring design, and therefore another worthy member of the Cast family.

Availability: You can easily find the Cast Padlock and all the others in the Cast series at PuzzleMaster.


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