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The Cast Laby is another fantastic puzzle from the 19th century Britain, revived by Nob Yoshigahara in 1997 for Hanayama's Cast Series.
The Laby is a fascinating concept where two different labyrinths need to be navigated simultaneously. Sounds mind-boggling, right? - And the truth is it's actually a very difficult puzzle, so expect pretty frustrating moments when you're attempting to solve it. If I didn't know it was Nob's work, I'd say it would be something Oskar van Deventer would've designed. His Cast L'œuf has a rather similar concept with the same "two opposite mazes need to be navigated simultaneously" approach.
In the Cast Laby you're faced with a ring that has an opening and two pins at different positions, which will be used to navigate through the labyrinths' paths. The ring starts at the center of the maze and by choosing one of three possible entering points, you have to find the right path to free the ring. The other two openings will only lead you to a dead end, so be careful.
Hanayama rates the Laby as a 5/6 and this time, I actually agree with them (rare occasion). It took me approximately an hour to finally see the ring out of the maze... While you may think an hour to solve a puzzle is not so bad, try doing it when you start feeling frustrated by falling into the same dead ends over and over again, and after a while 10 minutes seem like an eternity.
Solving the Cast Laby is like trying to coordinate, at the same time, two teams walking into different directions, while having to reach the same exact destination. There will be times when you need to go back in one direction to make the other pin advance forward. The hardest part is to keep track of where you are at all times in both mazes, which is easier said than done... The most frustrating part is when you need one pin to move forward and the opposite maze doesn't let you go any further - That's when you know you've hit a dead end and you need to go back and try a different route.
More often than not I found myself trying to understand which pin I was navigating with, because I was constantly flipping the puzzle up and down. Later, I found that there's an easy way to tell them apart by looking at the grooves on the edge of the ring opening or simply by having the "Laby" or "Hanayama" engravings facing you, depending if you're left-handed or right-handed.
After you successfully remove the ring from the maze, you need to put it back in its original position, so if you don't remember the exact path you took, it's going to be a tough task. This is a nice puzzle to go back to after a while, because you probably won't remember the maze and the right path.
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As I said in the beginning of the review, this puzzle is fascinating. The genius behind this concept is so brilliant that it's hard to grasp the true effort that went into making this puzzle. Thanks to Nob Yoshigahara we have now the opportunity to experience this fantastic puzzle in its full glory, which otherwise would be very difficult to come by.
In all fairness, the Cast Laby is only a maze and if you keep insisting you'll eventually solve it, but will you keep your patience and cool through the end? - Have a try and find out...
Availability: You can get a copy of the Cast Laby at Sloyd.fi, and if you're into the Cast Series you can find there all the others as well.
Hanayama Cast (in English) - Very useful website in English, with plenty of information on all things Cast.
Hanayama's Factory Visit (Many thanks to Roxanne Wong for sharing these pictures)