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Over the years, I've come to associate coin puzzles with Robrecht Louage. No wonder, as every year Robrecht participates in the International Puzzle Party and enters one or two new designs featuring coins trapped in mazes. This year, at the 34th IPP, and with the collaboration of Michel van Ipenburg, the Ladybird was added as the newest member of the coin puzzles' family...And what a member!
This is why I love Robrecht's puzzles so much. When I think he can't do better than last time, he outdoes himself time and again. It's difficult to choose one single puzzle as his absolute best, but at least Ladybird is up there as one of the best. Why? First, the design. You can't have a great puzzle without a proper and original design. Then, there's the actual puzzle itself. If it's too difficult, it may frustrate most people and they might give up on it. But, on the other hand, if it's too easy, people don't feel challenged enough or they don't feel they've accomplished anything. You gotta find the perfect balance.
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Speaking of design, the Ladybird is a great achievement in this department. Again, one of the best by Robrecht. Also, this is one of the biggest, if not THE biggest coin puzzle yet, with measurements of 13.2cm x 11.5cm (5.2" x 4.5") (without the antennae). The materials are pretty much the same as its predecessors, the main material being trespa, with a protective acrylic panel. Unlike previous coin puzzles, the back of the Ladybird puzzle was also decorated with the bug's red and black motif, for a truer large scale representation.
As for the puzzle aspect, two similar rotating mazes in two layers make this a very fun challenge to play with. There's a 1€ coin in the top layer that needs to be aligned with the hole in the acrylic in order to remove it. For that, you need to rotate each maze, independently, while pushing or pulling on the two antennae so you can navigate both mazes back and forth. Since each maze is slightly different from one another, you have to be constantly moving them so the two paths align with each other and thus, creating a path to free the coin.
This one took me a while to solve, and it's one of those puzzles that makes you think you're very close to the end, but blocks your very last couple of steps. There's a total of 160 moves necessary to solve the Ladybird, although I reckon it took me a bit more to reach my goal, and only after 20 minutes or so. Returning to the start position is a lot easier, though, so you can easily start from the beginning and try to solve it quicker the next time around.
(Click to Enlarge) - Start Position (Left) and Solved (Right)
Robrecht Louage's Ladybird is an incredible puzzle. It nails almost every requirement of what makes a great puzzle without compromising functionality. The mechanism is simple, but works flawlessly, and being a classic maze without a complex concept, it's a nice puzzle for anyone to try.
Availability: You can contact Robrecht directly at «rlouage(at)telenet(dot)be» to ask for a copy of Ladybird or any other of his original designs.