Ladybird

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Over the years, I've come to associate coin puzzles with Robrecht Louage. No wonder, as every year Robrecht participates in the International Puzzle Party and enters one or two new designs featuring coins trapped in mazes. This year, at the 34th IPP, and with the collaboration of Michel van Ipenburg, the Ladybird was added as the newest member of the coin puzzles' family...And what a member! 

This is why I love Robrecht's puzzles so much. When I think he can't do better than last time, he outdoes himself time and again. It's difficult to choose one single puzzle as his absolute best, but at least Ladybird is up there as one of the best. Why? First, the design. You can't have a great puzzle without a proper and original design. Then, there's the actual puzzle itself. If it's too difficult, it may frustrate most people and they might give up on it. But, on the other hand, if it's too easy, people don't feel challenged enough or they don't feel they've accomplished anything. You gotta find the perfect balance.

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Speaking of design, the Ladybird is a great achievement in this department. Again, one of the best by Robrecht. Also, this is one of the biggest, if not THE biggest coin puzzle yet, with measurements of 13.2cm x 11.5cm (5.2" x 4.5") (without the antennae). The materials are pretty much the same as its predecessors, the main material being trespa, with a protective acrylic panel. Unlike previous coin puzzles, the back of the Ladybird puzzle was also decorated with the bug's red and black motif, for a truer large scale representation.

As for the puzzle aspect, two similar rotating mazes in two layers make this a very fun challenge to play with. There's a 1€ coin in the top layer that needs to be aligned with the hole in the acrylic in order to remove it. For that, you need to rotate each maze, independently, while pushing or pulling on the two antennae so you can navigate both mazes back and forth. Since each maze is slightly different from one another, you have to be constantly moving them so the two paths align with each other and thus, creating a path to free the coin.

This one took me a while to solve, and it's one of those puzzles that makes you think you're very close to the end, but blocks your very last couple of steps. There's a total of 160 moves necessary to solve the Ladybird, although I reckon it took me a bit more to reach my goal, and only after 20 minutes or so. Returning to the start position is a lot easier, though, so you can easily start from the beginning and try to solve it quicker the next time around.


(Click to Enlarge) - Start Position (Left) and Solved (Right)

Closing Comments:

Robrecht Louage's Ladybird is an incredible puzzle. It nails almost every requirement of what makes a great puzzle without compromising functionality. The mechanism is simple, but works flawlessly, and being a classic maze without a complex concept, it's a nice puzzle for anyone to try.

Availability: You can contact Robrecht directly at «rlouage(at)telenet(dot)be» to ask for a copy of Ladybird or any other of his original designs.


Quadrillion

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Packing Puzzle fans rejoice! Meet Quadrillion, a wonderful new puzzle game for one player, from the genius mind of Raf Peeters from SmartGames, which might be the best packing puzzle I've ever tried. With millions of challenges available and a stunning presentation to go with it, Quadrillion is the ultimate game for a bored puzzle fan.

The premise of the Quadrillion game is quite ambitious, to say the least. Four magnetic grids that snap together in countless different ways can provide you with a whopping 4+ million DIY challenges to solve - That's enough challenges to last about 7 and a half years while doing one challenge per minute. It hurts your brain even just by thinking about it. With all these incredible facts, it's easy to understand why this game is so fascinating.

(Click to Enlarge) - Challenge 6 (Start and Solved)

Each of the four grids has a diameter of 4x4 units. They can be arranged in any way, as long as they are joined side by side at half their diameter or at the same height. This is due to the magnets inside the grids that only snap at those positions. When you have your desired configuration, all you have to do is to fit the 12 pieces on the board. Most of the pieces are pentominoes (5 units), but there's a piece with four units and another with only three units.

There are a few obstacles that will make your task a bit more difficult, though. Each grid has one or two (black or white) dots on either side that cover the empty spaces. You cannot put any piece on top of these dots, but all the remaining empty spaces need to be occupied by puzzle pieces. Also, any given piece can occupy empty spaces on multiple grids. In other words, you don't need to place a piece exclusively within the limits of one grid - Think of any board as a unique frame without inside edges. Just an exterior contour to define its shape.

(Click to Enlarge) - Challenge 50 (Start and Solved)

The pieces of the Quadrillion game are what makes it visually so appealing. Each of the 12 pieces have a distinct color, and their round shapes are easy to handle. They're also rather big and made from strong and durable plastic, almost indestructible. When you solve any of the countless challenges, the colorful effect is quite beautiful.

If millions of challenges weren't enough for you already, included with the game is a booklet with 60 challenges divided in five difficulty levels, to get you started. When you manage to master all of these, you can create your own challenges, since there's still over 3999940 available challenges. The difficulty ranges from easy (Starter) to extremely difficult (Wizard). The first challenges have most of the pieces already in place at the board, but the harder ones have only one and even zero pieces, so you have to figure out where each piece goes. Also, an interesting fact to take into account: every single one of the 4+ million challenges have at least one possible solution, and many of them, the custom (DIY) challenges can reach thousands of solutions. The ones included in the challenge booklet, however, have only one solution each.

(Click to Enlarge) - My Own Challenge (Start and Solved)

Closing Comments:

Quadrillion, for all the incredible facts stated above and some more, can be easily considered a masterpiece. With a dynamic game board, with millions of challenges to last for a lifetime, Raf Peeters' Quadrillion is indeed the ultimate packing puzzle. Probably the best logic game by SmartGames yet...

Availability: You can get a copy of Quadrillion or any other SmartGames product at Amazon.

Links:

SmartGames Official Website


Alles Für Die Katz

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Picture Frame Puzzles are among my favorite type of Packing Puzzles. Yes, most of them are quite difficult to solve, but they're also the type of puzzle that gives a lot of room for creativity. You can do just about anything with a laser cutter and any theme will make a perfect Picture Frame Puzzle. Jean Claude Constantin, once again, does not disappoint and gives us, cat lovers, a stunning puzzle with nine of these lovely felines in all sorts of cute positions, the "Alles Für Die Katz", which literally means "Everything for the Cats". Can you put a stop to the chaos and rearrange all of the cats in the frame?

The design, starting by the frame itself, is in the shape of a cat's head. The contours of the frame are irregular, which makes it even more challenging, and the area is just enough to pack all nine cats inside with almost no wiggle room left. Each cat shape is made from a different kind of wood, so the end result is a colorful mix of cat breeds that just stands out from many other wooden puzzles. The size is a little small for a Picture Frame Puzzle standard, about 16cm x 13.8cm (6.3" x 5.4"), but still big enough to comfortably play with it.

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Like every Picture Frame Puzzle, there's all sorts of subtleties in the design of each piece that should get the most out of the little space you have in the frame, by joining the pieces at specific positions. These little tricks are what makes Picture Frame Puzzles so fascinating. It's the way the pieces seamlessly fit with one another - Like a perfect harmony between design and functionality, that so few craftsmen can achieve. What do you get from this fine art? A gorgeous puzzle, but also a devilishly difficult one.

As far as difficulty goes within the Picture Frame Puzzles I've tried so far, and there have been a few, Alles Für Die Katz is among the most challenging ones. I've dedicated about two hours now, trying to solve this one, but so far no luck in succeeding getting all cats in the frame. I'd like to warn you that the puzzle comes already solved out of the box - or wrapper - so I'd advise you to unwrap it upside down or just ask someone to do it for you. Honestly, it doesn't matter much, because once the cats are all outside the frame you'll have trouble to remember all of their original positions. And if you attempt to solve it a few hours or even days later, you'll be wishing to remember how they were arranged in the first place, because it will be one very tough nut to crack - or to pack...


Closing Comments:

If you know someone that loves cats, you can't go wrong with this puzzle as a present. It's a wonderful puzzle, although extremely challenging, but a perfect center piece in any coffee table or desk...or collection.

Availability: Alles Für Die Katz can be found at Brilliant Puzzles for $25.95. If you fancy Constantin's puzzles, you can check out other designs by him here.

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City Maze

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With today's technology surrounding us everywhere we look, it's only natural that logic games will evolve to more modern themes as well. To tackle that need, prolific designer at SmartGames, Raf Peeters, invented a very clever single player puzzle with 120 different challenges to play, the City Maze (The GPS Puzzle), to put your orientation skills to the test.

The idea behind City Maze is very simple. The concept is based on the principles of GPS directions used on modern devices - One destination and a starting point. What you see is a grid with an overhead map of a city with streets and highways. To guide you around, colorful arrows, red and blue, placed strategically around the grid, will make sure you will get safely to your destination without getting lost.

The game consists of 10 double-sided pieces, made from slightly transparent plastic, which creates a stunning visual effect: two crosses (used to signal the destination), two straight arrows (used to signal the start of your journey), and six arrows of varying shapes to help you navigate around the grid. You will be using either the blue or the red sides of the pieces in some challenges, or both. Not all pieces will be needed for all challenges, though. Some will only need a couple of pieces, others will make use of all of them. The game board also comes with a lid so the pieces don't get easily lost, which also makes for a great travel companion.

(Click to Enlarge) - Set A (Challenges 20 and 56 Solved)

You start by choosing one of the challenges provided, and here is where things get interesting right away. You are provided with not one set of challenges, but actually two, each one with 60 challenges. These two sets are called A and B, and they're only different in the colors they use. The A set, for example, consists of challenges that use the two colors at the same time, whereas the B set only makes use of one color at a time - You can either have a challenge with only the blue side of the pieces or the red side. Neither set is more difficult than the other, in my opinion, just different approaches. You could argue that deciding which side of any particular piece to use would be a tad more difficult, but I reckon they both start easy enough for you to get the hang of it. You could start with the B set for the simplicity of it, but it's not a requirement. I personally liked the A set more for its diversity and fun factor.

Understanding the dynamic of the City Maze can be a bit overwhelming at first, but that's why the first few challenges are very basic - to help you better navigate the city in those more demanding challenges. The first piece is where your journey begins (the straight arrow with a circle). If you're playing with two colors it doesn't matter which color starts first. What you need to do next is follow the path in a straight line right until you encounter a piece signaling the changing of direction. By strategically placing the pieces around the game board you create the path to your destination. A path can only be created by pieces of the same color - Two colors mean two paths and two destinations.

Like any other puzzle by SmartGames, the challenges provided are divided by five levels of difficulty. It goes without saying, the level 5 (or Wizard) is a hell of a challenge, but that's why these games are so popular. It caters to any skill level from 7 to 99 y/o.

(Click to Enlarge) - Set B (Challenges 5 and 46 Solved)

Closing Comments:

City Maze by SmartGames is a great tool to exercise and keep your brain healthy. It has plenty of variety in the form of a whopping 120 challenges, which is a rare sight in multi-level games, and it's challenging enough for even the most experienced puzzler. Definitely among the best by Raf Peeters.

Availability: You can get a copy of City Maze or any other SmartGames product at Amazon.

Links:

SmartGames Official Website


Beziehungskiste

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Jean Claude Constantin has a tradition of naming his puzzles with German words, and the 'Beziehungskiste' puzzle is no different. If my German doesn't fool me, 'Beziehungskiste' means 'relationship crate' and, judging by the presentation, it can be used as a perfect gift for your better half. Even better, you can hide a nicer surprise inside and ask that special someone to try and open it.

Note: I've come to the understanding that there's a second meaning to the word Beziehungskiste, which is when a couple is hitting a rough patch, or a tricky moment,  in their relationship - Thanks Goetz, for the help!

The puzzle is a simple Trick Box, which basically means there's usually one or two not-so-straightforward moves necessary to open it. In this case, you'll only need one move to unlock the box, but the mechanism is a bit tricky to figure out at first. The design is stunning and uses two wooden colors for an enhanced effect. There's an engraved floral pattern that makes it look like a jewelry box and in the center, an aluminum plate with the name of the puzzle. The box measures 11cm x 8.5cm x 4.4cm (4.3" x 3.3" x 1.8"), so there's enough room to put some jewelry or other similar small things inside.

The mechanism, unfortunately for me, is not new. One of the Trick Boxes in my collection, albeit with a different design, uses the same exact trick to lock the box. Because I already know how some Trick Boxes are opened, I tend to try those tricks first, and got lucky with the first couple of moves.

The mechanism itself can be very tricky if you don't already have some experience with this type of puzzles. The way to open it is very specific and you need to use both hands, so don't think it's a walk in the park. The puzzle is rated as a level 3/5, but in puzzles like these, I think the difficulty level is very relative. It depends very much on your cunning, your ingenuity, and stuff like that. Some people might be able to open it within a couple of minutes of studying it, others might take hours. Once unlocked, the replay value is basically zero, because you will always remember how it's opened, but you can always trick others into try it for themselves, as seeing them struggle with it can be quite fun as well...

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Closing Comments:

In the end, whether you spend minutes or hours with this box, your a-ha moment will always be guaranteed. It's a great feeling when you finally discover how the mechanism works and using it as a gift box for something special can be even more satisfying. Highly recommended for curious minds.

Availability: You can get your Beziehungskiste box at Brilliant Puzzles for $28.95 USD. Also, you can check out other interesting puzzles by Constantin.

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6 Bottles

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Jean Claude Constantin is among a small group of elite designers that make the best n-ary puzzles currently in the market. Very popular among experienced puzzlers, n-ary puzzles are some of the hardest puzzles you can attempt to solve, especially if said puzzles require hundreds of steps to be solved.

Why are these puzzles so hard, you might be asking? Simple. You need lots of concentration, and that's very hard to do when we're talking hundreds of steps that need to be performed in a specific order. Lose your train of thought for a moment and you'll struggle to resume the solving process. Add that to the fact that most puzzles lack a simple way to be reset, and you're left with a hell of a challenge.

6 Bottles is my latest n-ary acquisition. The puzzle has a very original and interesting design. I haven't seen anything closely resembling it in the n-ary family. There are six identical bottle-shaped pieces that slide vertically and a bar that moves horizontally. The movement of the bar is restricted by the position of the steel balls that allow only one bottle at a time to move freely up and down. The bar itself has two slots, one deeper than the other, which also allow two bottles to be moved down at different lengths. The idea is to get five of the steel balls in the lower left slot of the five leftmost bottles, and the sixth ball in the special slot located at the far right. Once all the bottles can be pulled at the same length outside the frame, you'll be able to slide the bar all the way and remove it.

This puzzle belongs to the 3-ary, or ternary group. The number in the "ary" word refers to the states a puzzle has in its solving process. For example, the binary puzzles, which are the simplest - but not necessarily the easiest - have only two states (on-off). The difficulty, besides its n-ary group, is also given for the number of steps the solution has - the more steps, the more difficult it is.

Fortunately, the 6 Bottles puzzles is not that difficult because it doesn't have a large number of steps - still, 252 is challenging enough. The puzzle is rated as a level 9/10, but honestly, I don't believe it's that hard. It's an 8 at the most, and that's being generous.

Putting it back in its original state can prove to be equally challenging, if not more, since you'll have to perform all the steps backwards. This is why I'd love for this type of puzzles to have an easy way to be reset...

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Closing Comments:

6 Bottles can be a great puzzle to train for harder and demanding n-ary puzzles. It's not overly difficult, so you can easily understand how these puzzles work and know the logic behind them. As a Constantin fan, I can easily recommend this puzzle to anyone, collector or not.

Availability: The 6 Bottles puzzle can be purchased at PuzzleMaster for about $50 CAD. Click here to browse many more Constantin's interesting designs.



πano (Piano)

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πano is a really interesting design by Jean Claude Constantin. It's not a perfect representation of a piano, because of the arrangement of the keyboard keys, but nevertheless it can be instantly recognized as such. The name makes a play on words with the mathematical constant π, but I'm not entirely sure the solution has anything to do with it. It's still a nice design touch, though.

πano is comprised of 17 pieces (not to be confused wit the representation of 32 keyboard keys), each grouping two or more keys at a time in a single piece. The pieces can be divided in two types, the white keys and the black keys - No piece consists of a mixture of both.

Design-wise, and besides the not so perfect representation of a piano, the puzzle is very well done. The colors used make a distinct contrast between the two types of pieces, which are laser-cut. The photo is a little deceiving, because the puzzle is a little shorter than I was expecting, measuring 26.1cm x 6.2cm (10.3" x 2.4"). It's still a nice puzzle, but I would've preferred a slightly larger one.

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The puzzle comes unsolved and no solution is provided, not in the package nor on the website. To solve it, you have to remove all the pieces from the tray and rearrange them so all pieces stay within the boarders of the piano's frame. You can use both sides of the black pieces, however, the white pieces are only marked on one side, so you can only use them that way.

The puzzle is rated as a level 9/10, but after solving it within 10 minutes, in no way I find it that difficult - It's a 7, at the most. Don't try to make sense of the arrangement of the pieces compared with a real piano, because you'll fail miserably. The only think you need to worry about is to make sure the white pieces are placed in such a way they always create an empty space large enough for the black pieces. From there, you just need to make slight adjustments as you try different combinations. I don't know how many different solutions are there, but judging from one comment on the store's website, at least three different configurations are possible. Can you find one?



Closing Comments:

Constantin's πano is a real treat for music lovers. I used to play the piano when I was younger, and when I saw this, many great memories came flooding back. It's a great puzzle for any collection, especially if you're fond of keyboard instruments.

Availability: PuzzleMaster is the place to find the πano and other great designs by Constantin.

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Up & Down

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What I like most about sliding puzzles is how versatile this type of puzzles can be. I lost count a long time ago how many different concepts using sliding tiles I currently have in my collection, let alone the ones I know about but don't own yet. Jürgen Reiche from Siebenstein-Spiele is a master at designing these amazing sliding puzzles, and Up & Down, released in 2010, is a great example of his genius.

The design is a little different from the traditional 8-Puzzle, or 9-Puzzle, or 3x3, where the 9 is usually absent, but not always. In this case, the 9 is indeed absent, and instead of the usual single empty slot there's actually two empty slots, one in each side. The frame slides up and down - hence the name - and whenever you push the frame to the top or the bottom you can slide one tile to the available free space. There's a catch, though, since you can only have one tile occupying one slot at a time. Also, when you have one of the side slots occupied you can't move the frame, only the tiles in the middle.

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The goal of the puzzle is to reorder the numbers from 1 to 8 as seen in the photo below. The logic required to solve any slide puzzle is basically the same, no matter how different they may appear. However, even if you know the logic, it can still be quite challenging to solve a sliding puzzle until you know how the mechanism affects the movement of the pieces.

The Up & Down puzzle is rated by the manufacturer as a 7 - the hardest on their scale of 1-7. Honestly, I didn't find the puzzle that challenging. I'd rate it as a 4, tops, since it took me about 5 minutes to solve it. The idea to solve it is to get the first set of numbers (1-3) in their corresponding positions. The rest becomes easier, as you'll only have five tiles to worry about afterwards. I believe it's possible to arrange the tiles in other configurations - like the first three numbers on top - but I haven't tried it yet.

(Click to Enlarge) - Solved
Closing Comments:

Up & Down is a nice change from other more traditional designs. It's not as challenging as they put it, but it can still bring you some fun. If you're like me and you're crazy about sliding puzzles, give this one a try and I'm sure you won't regret it.

Availability: You can find the Up & Down by Siebenstein-Spiele at Brilliant Puzzles for $36.95 USD.


Fifteen Puzzle

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The Fifteen Puzzle is, to this day, one of the most recognizable puzzles of all time. With its origins dating back to 1880, the original designer is still a topic of debate, although many say it was invented by Sam Loyd, one of the greatest American puzzle inventors.

The version you see in the photo, by ThinkFun, is actually a remake of an old puzzle called "The IMP" from 1933. Made from stainless steel and decorated with enamel (melted powdered glass), the puzzle keeps the original design intact and true to its origins. The result is a retro-looking puzzle, and due to its small size (6cm - 2.3") it's perfect to take with you on long travels. It comes with a travel case and an instruction booklet with over 30 challenges to solve.

The sliding movement of the tiles, contrary to what's advertised on the package, is not very smooth. In fact, the small sliding squares keep getting jammed and stuck all the time with each other, which is a little frustrating and distracting, when you're trying to solve a specific pattern, needing to concentrate and try not to lose your train of thought.

Despite the fact that it was a bit difficult to move the sliding tiles, it didn't deter me from solving several challenges that came with the puzzle. I love sliding puzzles, and whenever I get the chance to play with one, it's always a pleasure. The challenges vary slightly from one another, with variations in order of sequence from top or bottom, etc... They don't differ much in terms of difficulty, though.

If you know how to solve a classic sliding puzzle - whether it's a 9 or a 15 puzzle or any other combination - you won't have much trouble to solve any of the 30+ challenges available to you. It's the first time I've seen such challenges compiled for a sliding puzzle, actually, so I had a blast solving many different patterns and sequences.

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Closing Comments:

The Fifteen Puzzle is the real deal when it comes to sliding puzzles and a classic in its own merit, which was responsible for so many other variations you see today, with images and symbols and many other designs. If you want the original with a touch of modernity, the ThinkFun version is the way to go.

Availability: The Fifteen Puzzle is available at PuzzleMaster for just $16 CAD. You can also get a comprehensive study on the puzzle by purchasing the book by Jerry Slocum - The Fifteen Puzzle Book.

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Magic Domino

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Vanishing puzzles have been around for over five centuries, but they weren't so popular until one man came around and change that completely. His name was Sam Loyd (1841-1911) and he created one of the most recognizable Vanishing puzzles ever, called Get Off the Earth, which was invented in 1896. He also created other interesting designs, and since then other designers followed in his footsteps. One of this designers is Jean Claude Constantin and the puzzle is called Magic Domino.

The principle behind the vanishing puzzles is quite simple and deceiving. Each puzzle is divided into smaller pieces that compose a picture. When you rearrange the pieces in a specific order it's possible to make some objects in the original configuration disappear. This trick seems like pure magic, but it's far from that. It's merely a well designed puzzle with every little detail carefully thought out to play with your mind.

The Magic Domino are exactly like the above description. There are two sets of domino pieces, one with eight white pieces and another with seven dark brown pieces. The goal is a little more complex than the vanishing puzzles, but still similar. The idea is to swap the brown domino pieces in the tray with the bottom white pieces. Since there's a difference between the number of white and brown pieces, you need to rearrange all the square pieces inside the tray so they can accommodate the eight dominoes.

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The puzzle is way more difficult than I thought. It is rated as a level 8/10, and while I expected some challenge I didn't think it was that hard. It took me a few sessions and the total time must be around three hours, more or less. You might not notice this right away from the pictures, but the white pieces are slightly smaller than the brown ones. This is a key to solve the puzzle and I didn't notice it at first.

Rearranging the brown pieces at the bottom was relatively easy compared to the challenge at the top. You just need to make a slight change to the rectangular. The 12 square pieces at the top, however, seem much more complicated to swap around. It's only 11 pieces actually, as the piece that reads "Magic Domino" doesn't have any indent cut into it - Could've been even harder, but the slight easiness was more than welcome. Still, finding a correct arrangement was a pain, but the result is very rewarding.


Closing Comments:

Constantin's Magic Domino is the first puzzle of this kind - not a picture, that is -  that I know of, so far. It's a brilliant puzzle and I really recommend it to anyone that knows Sam Loyd's puzzles. It provides a great challenge and, of course, it's a must-have in any collection.

Availability: You can buy a copy of Magic Domino at PuzzleMaster for $31 CAD. For other Constantin's designs click here.

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MetroVille

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If you're like me and you love multi-level logic games, I bet that sometimes you feel overwhelmed with so many choices the market has to offer. It's a great time to be a fan of these games right now, with their increasing popularity. The reason for this, in my opinion, lies in several factors, like the user-friendly rules, the decent number of challenges available, and of course, the most important one, they're very addictive and fun to play, wherever you are, since they're great travel companions.

MetroVille by SmartGames is my latest addiction, from the mind of - who else? - Raf Peeters. With so many designs currently available, I'm yet to find a multi-level game I dislike. This type of games is so fascinating by the fact that there's endless designs possibilities, and whenever I try a different game, I always experience something different. MetroVille is unlike anything I've ever tried. With a dynamic board that's always changing from challenge to challenge, it'll be a while before you find yourself tired of it.

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The concept, I must confess, was a little harder to understand than other more traditional multi-level games. The challenge cards, for example, is one of the main differences. MetroVille has only eight challenge cards, but actually contains 64 different challenges and four different levels of difficulty. How come? It's simple, since each card features a different city and on each side of the card there's four distinct challenges (two for each difficlty). So, in total, each card has actually eight challenges. Multiply by eight cards, and there you go, 64 challenges.

The game board is where the concept really shines. Each of the nine track counters is easily removable and you can rearrange them according to each challenge card. When you pick a card and all nine counters are placed on the board, you can then twist them in 360º into four different positions. By twisting the counters you'll allow the metro to go from station to station, not necessarily all five in one challenge.

(Click to Enlarge) - One of the Starter and one of the Junior challenges solved

Each challenge has a specific order for each station the metro should pass. The metro can only go in one direction at a time and can't make sharp turns, like turning left at a crossroads. You can pass through the same path more than once, but once you start you cannot change the disposition of the tracks anymore until you reach the final station.

The challenges, like usually, start out quite easy, but as you progress to harder levels it becomes increasingly more challenging. At harder levels it's very hard to find a continuous path that passes through all the stations indicated in the challenge. You'll find yourself twisting the tracks quite a lot in an effort to find the only possible solution for each challenge. I did several of the harder levels and never found the game overly frustrating. Some challenges did took over 10 minutes to solve, but it's never boring and you'll get a great rewarding feeling once you solve one of the "master" levels.

(Click to Enlarge) - One of the Expert and one of the Master challenges solved

Closing Comments:

MetroVille by SmartGames is yet another great logic game. It promotes logical thinking and strategic planning skills as well as visual and spatial perception. It's great for kids, but also quite useful to keep your adult brain healthy. This kind of games is awesome and I can't stress enough how great they are. Highly recommended, whichever logic game you end up choosing.

Availability: MetroVille came from PuzzleMaster, but unfortunately it's out of stock at the moment. Check back soon, because they're always updating their stock. In the meantime, check out other great designs by SmartGames.

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Swing Lock

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Why do Trick Locks arouse so much curiosity in us? Why are we so attracted to these intriguing objects? Is it because they have the power to lock away secrets? Is it because they offer the possibility to be unlocked by alternate methods other than the traditional turn of a key? Or is it simply because everyone, puzzler or not, are in the same playing field, since it's up to each one's intuition and cunning to unlock its secret. Whatever it is, one thing is certain, Trick Locks are here to stay and challenge our most inner curiosity.

(Click to Enlarge) - Burgh Lock (in orange)
The object that recently attracted my curiosity and demanded to be explored and discovered is Splinter Spierenburgh's Swing Lock, his second contribution to the Trick Lock family. After Splinter's Burgh Lock (seen above), which was made from 3D-printed nylon, a material not entirely recommended for trick locks, the designer wanted to try something different...and what better way to make a Trick Lock than in stainless steel. The result is a near perfect presentation with a stunning and very well polished design, accomplished after some trial and error, also seen by the accompanied .pdf where we can witness the various stages of design and prototyping (from the LEGO concept to the first prototype in fiberboard) that took place before the final stylish version you see here.

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Metal Version:


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The puzzle has an extraordinary feel to it, much due to its heavy weight that lets you perceive the tiniest of the movements inside the mechanism which are extremely precise. This was not at all possible with the Burgh Lock, as the material was much more fragile. The puzzle measures about 8cm in diameter and 2.2cm in width (3.4" x .9"), and weighs about 625g (1.38lb) - for its size, you can see how heavy it really is. The puzzle has three screws in one of the sides, but I'm sure I don't need to tell you that they're not part of the solution...and not part of the problem either...

Like many Trick Locks, you are provided with a key - A very stylish key, I might add. How the key belongs in the solution is for you to find out for yourself. Sometimes they're necessary, sometimes they're not. One thing you'll immediately notice though, is that the key interacts with some kind of magnet (or magnets) inside the puzzle. As you push the key inside one of the two keyholes and turn it, you can feel it being attracted to something and interacting with some parts of the mechanism. You'll also be able to hear some parts rattling inside, as if there were parts moving freely around the puzzle. You need to feel the shackle's movements with your hand at all times, to know when or if you've made any real progress. The shackle has three positions: neutral, half down and fully down. When you manage to get it fully down you have solved it, and you just need to pull it up and remove it.

When you finally open the puzzle you're not all done, though. You're still half way there. Now, you need to reset the mechanism and be able to close it again. After you've successfully closed it and opened it again in a matter of seconds, thus understanding the mechanism, you can finally say you've solved it. I recommend now to remove those screws and take a look at the mechanism inside - It's a thing of beauty. You'll see the clear window that will let you peer inside, but still protects the mechanism to be accidentally tampered with. You can also put the lid back at a 33º angle so the keyhole allows you to see just a tiny portion of the mechanism. You can use it as a hint for someone struggling with the solution.

Plastic Version:


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Unlike the Burgh Lock, where the only option was the 3D-printed version, the Swing Lock has two version, the metal one and the plastic one. They're basically the same puzzle, but since the two materials are so distinct there's bound to be some differences. The most obvious differences (not counting the price) are the look, as the plastic (PMMA, perspex) is colored black and, of course, the weight, with the plastic version weighing only 114g (.25lb). The dimensions are about the same for the two versions.

As for the solution, there's no major differences from one version to another. I was able to solve the metal version first, in about 20 minutes or so, although it took me much more time to figure out how to close it and ultimately, understand its mechanism. Once I knew what to do I was able to replicate it without any problems in the plastic version. If you ask me what version do I prefer, I'll tell you without a shadow of a doubt, the metal version. But, if you ask me if the plastic version suffers in any way on how the mechanism behaves, I'll tell you absolutely not. It's just a matter of affordability.

Difficulty-wise, I found the Swing Lock slightly easier than the Burgh Lock. The metal surely made me more confident to maneuver it without worrying about breaking it - although you still need to worry about not breaking other things if you drop it on the floor. You need three steps to solve it, but to reset it I found that only one move is necessary. There are at least a couple of different ways to close the lock, but none of it involves doing the steps required to solve it in reverse. You have to be creative.

Quality-wise, the Swing Lock is two steps forward from the Burgh Lock, no question about it. It looks and feels professionally made, and while I don't have something similar to compare it to, like a Popplock, it's certainly worth its high price.

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Closing Comments:

Any Trick Lock collector and enthusiast will love the Swing Lock. I have solved many locks over my years of collecting and I can say that the mechanism is completely unique and original. Both puzzles function as they should, there are some good red herrings along the way to keep you from discovering the solution too soon, and whichever version you end up choosing I'll guarantee you you'll have an amazing experience with it. A must have for any puzzle collector.

Availability: You can get both metal and plastic versions at MFAVE. If at any time there's a shortage of stock, you can be placed on a waiting list by contacting Splinter directly here.

Links:

Another review and discussion about the Swing Lock

Yet another review for the Swing Lock


Euro Krise

Posted on by Gabriel | 0 comments
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With all the current economic situation in Europe, Siebenstein-Spiele's Euro Krise seems like an appropriate choice to spend some free time. You won't need a doctorate in economy to solve this one, but it might be harder than you think. Can you solve, at least, this small crisis and put some order back in the provided tray?

Designed by Siebenstein-Spiele's main designer Jürgen Reiche, and made from laser-cut wood in two colors, the circular tray measures only 10.5cm in diameter (about 4.1"). Inside, it holds 12 coin-shaped pieces cut in different ways. With the exception of two perfectly round coins, the other ten pieces all have distinct shapes that can only be arranged in one unique solution. This makes for one rather challenging puzzle, and since this is a packing puzzle, be prepared for a lot of trial and error.

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The design of the Euro Krise is fantastic. The cuts in the pieces give the illusion of a 3D effect, as if the pieces overlap each other. Each coin is engraved to look as close as possible with a real Euro coin, although the diameter is slightly bigger on the wooden version (27mm, as opposed to 23mm on a real coin). The width is also thicker in the wooden version.

Rated as a level 8/10, the difficulty of the puzzle is right at the limit of what can be considered a frustrating puzzle. Because the pieces are round, there's a lot of possibilities when you're placing a certain piece. It took me over an hour and a half to finally solve the puzzle, and even then the pieces didn't move as loosely as they did before I took the pieces out. It requires a little adjusting to get the pieces in the right places, at first giving the impression that it's not the real solution you've just found. The pieces are only engraved on one side, so they can't be flipped - It can be a positive thing, since there's less possibilities to place a certain piece.

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Closing Comments:

Euro Krise is a cleverly designed puzzle, very challenging, but also quite rewarding when you finally solve it. It's not among the best by Siebenstein-Spiele, but certainly above average for a packing puzzle, especially how well presented it is - Something that this company excels at.

Availability: You can find the Euro Krise puzzle at PuzzleMaster for about $19 CAD. For others designs by Siebenstein-Spiele click here.


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