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Laser Maze, by ThinkFun, has captivated my curiosity ever since I first saw it, a couple of years ago. It's easy to get me excited about any type of logic games, but by adding lasers, my interest has increased even more. Now, I have finally got a copy, and it has far exceeded my expectations so far.
Invented by Luke Hooper, the concept of the Laser Maze isn't entirely new to me. I remember playing with something similar on the PC several years ago, which consisted of bending light with mirrors. There's also an interesting iPhone game called Reflection Connection that uses the same principles. Nevertheless, playing with the real thing is much more fascinating. Without going into any inaccurate facts, I believe this is the first electronic logic-game (multi-challenge), but if it's not, I will say that this is the best one I've ever played with...
I was actually surprised when I first heard about the Laser Maze. I thought, "how can they commercialize a toy with lasers?", "is it safe for kids?" - Well, as it turns out the laser can't harm your eyes or skin, under normal circumstances, because it's a class 1 laser - Not enough power to do any damage, whatsoever. Any kid aged 8-99 can safely play with Laser Maze without worrying about safety precautions.
The game comes packed with all sorts of cool light-manipulating objects: a laser, mirrors, beam splitters, a double-mirror , the works... To get you started, a collection of 60 challenge cards is included, divided in four difficulty levels, from beginner to expert (15 per level), but even after you run out of challenges to solve, you can try to create your own ever-more-complex light-bending displays.
I'll be honest. Understanding how the game works and interpreting the symbols in the challenge cards can be a little discouraging and frustrating at first. I suggest you read the instructions that come with the game and start with the first challenges, so you can familiarize yourself with the concept. After doing that, I was breezing past the first difficult level. It gets harder as you progress, but not immediately, so you can proceed at your own pace.
(Click to Enlarge) - Challenge 8 (Left: Start; Right: Solved)
The goal of the game is to place the tokens as indicated on the chosen challenge card. Each card will tell you how many tokens and targets you're supposed to add to the game grid. This is where it becomes tricky at first: to determine which tokens to use, where to place them and figure out their orientation, which is sometimes undisclosed. When you think you have all worked out, just activate the laser and see if all your targets are light up. If not, you need to make some adjustments in their placement or their orientations. Note that you can only see the laser when it hits one of its targets, and never its path, as it's suggested on the game's package photo. But you already knew that if you know how lasers work, right? Anytime you get stumped in one of the challenges, you can always flip the card and see its solution.
The game works like any other type of light were to be used. The mirrors and double-mirrors will bend the light in a 90º angle, although the beam splitters have a really cool effect where one beam is split in two: one is bent like any other regular mirror and the other goes straight through it in the same direction that hit it. The checkpoint is simply a transparent piece of glass that lets the light go in a straight line.
(Click to Enlarge) - Challenge 50 (Left: Start; Right: Solved)
Playing with lasers has never been more fun! The Laser Maze game has easily climbed to the top 3 of my favorite logic games of all time. It's one of the absolute best games by ThinkFun, and it shouldn't come as a surprise that it has won the Best Toy Award by the Oppenheim Toy Portfolio. If you're remotely interested in logic games and/or lasers, you should definitely give this one a try.
Availability: I got the Laser Maze from the Spanish online puzzle store PuzzlesdeIngenio.com. Worldwide shipping available. You can also browse other games by ThinkFun.