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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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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.