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The Grabarchuk Family are masters at creating slide puzzles. The Two Sliding Squares is a design by Serhiy Grabarchuk, and what a puzzle this is - One of the hardest sliding puzzles I've seen in a while.
The concept of the Two Sliding Squares is a bit difficult to understand at first, but it's actually pretty straightforward. The puzzle has two layers: one is made out of silver squares only and the other is comprised of blue fragments that are attached to some of the silver squares. The fragments, when placed at the right positions, will form two valid states: the first is relative to the start position and will show two blue squares, a small one and a bigger one. The other state is the end position, or if you will, the object of the puzzle, which is merging those two squares into a larger unique square. This task has to be done solely by sliding the pieces inside the tray and no piece shall be lifted from the playing field.
Now, regarding the presentation and overall quality of the puzzle... If I say Bits and Pieces, can you guess what my opinion is? - Well, it's not good. This one's in very bad shape, actually, and might be of the worse puzzles from them in my collection. You can get an idea of how bad it is by the pictures - Kind of looks like it has been in a war zone. The pieces are full of marks and blemishes, and have lots of excess glue used for the two-part pieces. It's pretty clear that no extra care went into the finishing touches or even by simply cleaning it to prevent the excessive glue from ruining the otherwise great appearance. You can see that the rough concept is there: anodized aluminum pieces and a black wooden tray make for a great combination, but they failed to produce a flawless puzzle. From what I've seen in other pictures from fellow collectors, it's not just mine that has all these problems. They are present more or less the same way. Sloppy manufacturing, plain and simple...
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So why would I get a puzzle from Bits and Pieces knowing beforehand that I shouldn't expect anything good from them? - Simple answer: because it's a Grabarchuk puzzle and I like to support talented designers. If you care more about the concept and are willing to overlook the manufacturing flaws, you're left with a fantastic puzzle. The idea is very original and nothing like I've ever seen in a slide puzzle.
Your task is to go from one position to another, but between the two there's actually about 50 different moves. The provided solution shows just 45 moves, but I reckon it must have taken me over 100. This is rated by PuzzleMaster as a level 8/10, although from my experience it feels more like a 9, as the sliding moves aren't as simple as you're used to in a classic slide tile puzzle.
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In this 4x3 grid puzzle, you start by removing any of the plain silver squares to make room for the others to slide back and forth. However, as you make your very first movements, you'll encounter the first setbacks: some of the pieces will only go to a certain position until they no longer can be moved any further. This is due to the configuration of the pieces, because the blue parts are glued to the silver squares and most of the times they overlap to the neighboring space, not leaving enough room for another piece to move past it. Planning ahead, as you can imagine, is crucial to keep the pieces moving albeit sometimes quite irritating and frustrating, but extremely satisfying.
If you like to collect puzzles for their beautiful presentation and overall appearance, this may not be the right one for you. Bits and Pieces have managed, again, to ruin what could have been great to a mediocre puzzle, to say the least. The concept by Serhiy Grabarchuk is beyond amazing, though, and if you like slide puzzle, give this one a try. It's worth it even if the presentation leaves much to be desired.
Availability: I got my copy of Two Sliding Squares from PuzzleMaster, but they are sold out at the moment. Check back again soon, as they restock regularly.