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Are you a big fan of the classic Rush Hour by ThinkFun? If your answer is yes, then the Roadside Rescue is perfect for you. The theme is simple: you're stuck on a highway jam and you have to make way for the emergency vehicles to get on the rescue site. It's a very original sliding block puzzle, invented by Hank Atkins and challenges developed by Serhiy Grabarchuk.
The puzzle consists of 12 vehicles, including the three emergency ones that will serve as the main tokens. There are also six blockers that can be placed in the tray and these will not be movable, they're just there to limit your movements. The frame is a 3x5 grid, so it's not your typical sliding puzzle, but the solving process is pretty much the same. At the start of each challenge you'll always have only one empty space to move your tokens, and even though sometimes it appears there are more empty spaces, the blockers ensure you will not be using them.
The tokens aren't all the same and you'll soon notice this as you try to solve your first challenges. Some of the vehicles are neatly placed at the middle of the token base, but these are the simpler ones. You'll also see a few vehicles that overhang the front or back of the token bases and even front and back, like the Fire Truck. The different sizes of tokens will add a higher complexity level to the challenges, as you'll sometimes be limited to only one valid move, instead of multiple path choices.
There are 42 challenges - Odd number, might as well been 50 - and they start quite simple, but soon it gets rather complex. The first set of challenges rotates between one of the emergency vehicles, but as you progress you'll start seeing combinations of two and then all three special vehicles in the same challenge. You play a specific challenge by sliding the pieces in the four main directions until the emergency vehicles are on their designated positions. It won't suffice to just have them reach the right side of the tray.
I haven't solved all 42 challenges, but I did enough of them, even the harder ones, to have a good grasp of the difficulty level. All I can say is that they're not at all difficult, even when you're using all three special vehicles. If you're good at sliding puzzles, Roadside Rescue won't cause you much frustration, but it can still be fun to play through all of the challenges.
I still think Rush Hour is the best ThinkFun puzzle game, but after playing with Roadside Rescue I reckon they're pretty close in terms of fun factor. As for difficulty, I also consider Rush Hour to be much more challenging, but here it's just a question of personal preference, whether you're more inclined for harder puzzles or more accessible ones. The design is quite clever and while I've played with lots of different sliding puzzles before, it's the first time I've seen this concept. Definitely recommended for puzzle fans of all skills.
Availability: You can get a copy of Roadside Rescue at Sloyd.fi. You can also take a look at other puzzles by ThinkFun here. For the Deal of the Week, you can get a 15% discount on ALL ThinkFun puzzles by just mentioning the name of my blog. Offer valid until November 15.
(Click to Enlarge) - Easy (1 emergency vehicle)
(Click to Enlarge) - Medium (2 emergency vehicles)
(Click to Enlarge) - Hard (All 3 emergency vehicles)