(Click to Enlarge)
The Moeraki puzzles are an invention of Kasimir Landowski in colaboration with Ivan Moscovich, and are distributed by Casland Games. They were first shown to the public at the Nuremberg's International Trade Fair in 2008. Their curious name was chosen after the Moeraki Boulders in New Zealand, for their unusual shape and placement.
The Moeraki is a Sliding puzzle with colored beads, consisting of a certain number of intercepting rings. The goal is to randomly mix the beads and return them to their original color position. There are 5 versions with different bead arrangements, ranging in difficulty from simple to complex, although only two have been released into actual physical puzzles (no.3 and no.4). All 5 versions can be purchased as downloadable windows games on the Casland Games website, with iPhone, iPod and iPad versions as well. You can try a demo version here.
The first version that I will be reviewing is the Moeraki 3 (stay tuned for my Moeraki 4 review or in the meantime, check out Neil's review). This is the easier of the two physical puzzles and actually, from all five. It has two oval rings intercepting perpendicularly and the beads have five different colors: 16 white beads in the middle and 8 green, 8 yellow, 8 red and 8 blue in the four extremities of the rings.
The beads of the Moeraki resemble the classic Orb-it puzzle, although the Moeraki ones are about double the size, and the concept resembles the Hungarian Rings, except it has the rings intercepting at an horizontal plane and has two intersecting points (the Moeraki 3 has four intersecting points). These are the only similarities, however, as the Moeraki has its own original features and characteristics.
I was positively very surprised by its size, compared to other puzzles in this category, measuring about 13,5cm in length (5.31"). I was also very pleased by its presentation and premium quality. Each Moeraki puzzle comes with its protective transparent case and the actual puzzle itself is heavy and has a very sturdy feel, even though it's made of plastic. Not cheap-looking, at all.
(Click to Enlarge) - Moeraki w/ protective Case
Each puzzle is accompanied by a free CD-ROM with its correspondent PC version, which can prove to be very useful indeed. With the computer version, you can train all you want before attempting and adventuring yourself with messing up the puzzle. The virtual game comes in 3 versions and has 17 types of balls and backgrounds. The first version has two colors: one for the middle balls and the other for the rest, and the objective is to only get the central beads in the correct place. The second version has three colors: one for the middle and the other two, one for each ring. Finally, the third version is the real deal and after you easily solve the second version, this won't be that much harder.
(Click to Enlarge) - Left - 2 Color Version; Middle - 3 Color Version; Right - 5 Color Version
I found the PC version very accessible and easy to play. I actually played it before solving the plastic puzzle and I think it can be very useful for practice. It sort of ends your fears of messing up the puzzle and not being able to solve it afterwords. If there's something I hate in my collection, is having unsolved puzzles just lying around.
After I was able to solve the Moeraki 3 in the computer, I was ready to finally have a go in the actual physical puzzle. Being able to touch and feel the beads is so much better... I have to mention, the movement of the beads is very smooth. I was expecting something very noisy and jamming of the beads, but again, I was very satisfied by another pleasant surprise.
A unique feature of the Moeraki 3 is having the rings intercepting at a 90º angle. What does this have to do with solving? - Consider an imaginary line passing through the middle of the puzzle. This will create a mirror effect, so what you do on one side of the ring, will affect the opposite symmetrical side, thus when you're solving the blue color, for example, the opposite color, yellow, will be automatically solved on its own. The same applies for the other ring. If you solve the red, then green will also be solved. So, as you can see, you only need to manipulate two adjacent colors to solve the entire puzzle.
Note: To ensure a proper random starting position for a good solving experience, be sure to shuffle the puzzle so that no two of the same colors are touching.
(Click to Enlarge) - Perfectly Shuffled
I have solved the Moeraki 3 several times already. Sometimes it can take only a couple of minutes and others, up to 10 minutes. In most of these times, I can manage to solve it and leave only one colored bead off place (two actually, but seeing as they are mirrored, if I get it in the right place, the other one will be too), needing several tries to fully solve it. I'm yet to come up with a solid method and strategy to solve it in one go, but I'm getting there...
VIDEO - Here's a YouTube video to better show the movement of the puzzle and its characteristics. Since I have yet to fully master a proper solve in sufficient time, I didn't solve it in the video, as it could be longer and just plain boring...
Suffice it to say, I loved everything about the Moeraki 3. It's a joy to play with. The presentation is fantastic and the quality is flawless. From the size of the puzzle, to the smooth bead movement, and also the extra PC version, it's everything a puzzle lover could ask for. I can highly recommend it to anyone, not only experienced puzzlers, but also casual puzzlers that like the occasional challenge and puzzle collectors for its beautiful appearance.
(Click to Enlarge) - Left - Bottom View w/ CD; Right - Bottom View w/o Case