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Ich Bin Ein Bärliner - a mouthful - is a very interesting packing puzzle by Marcel Gillen that plays very well with the concept of Picture Frame Puzzles (one of my favorite types of puzzles). It is manufactured by the German company Philos, which specializes mostly in wooden puzzles.
If you're fluent in German you'll probably notice right away that there's something wrong with the name of the puzzle. It should read Berliner, not Bärliner, but actually, the name is a clever play on words with the design of the puzzle, featuring bear-shapes pieces (bär = bear). Comprised by 9 bears and a rectangular piece, the puzzle consists of two challenges, one easy and one hard. The first challenge requires you to place the 9 pieces flat in the frame; the second challenge is to add the extra piece, the rectangle to the already tight frame. Can you solve these two challenges?
At first sight, the puzzle looks like it's made of plastic, but a close inspection reveals that it's in fact painted wood, both frame and pieces. In my opinion, it's not the best choices in terms of presentation, especially the chosen colors, which look a bit pale and washed out. Other than that, though, the puzzle is nicely built and the pieces are well cut, despite not being laser-cut. The oval frame measures about 14cm x 12.5cm (5.5" x 4.9").
The first challenge is quite easy to solve, with the pieces being placed a little haphazard inside the frame. I believe there's multiple solutions for this one, since there's more space for the pieces to move around. The second challenge requires a little more finesse playing with the pieces in order to find the extra space to pack the rectangle. If you've played other Picture Frame Puzzles before, you'll certainly love this one.
The solution to the second challenge may be unique, excluding rotations or flipped pieces, and it's somewhat symmetrical, more elegant. The puzzle is rated by the manufacturer as a difficulty level 3/4, but considering how the pieces should be packed in challenge 2, I reckon it's a little harder than that, maybe a 3.5/4.
Ich Bin Ein Bärliner is a great packing puzzle and a welcome addition to my Picture Frame Puzzle family. The presentation could've been better with natural and contrasting wood colors, but it's still a worthy purchase.
Availability: Ich Bin Ein Bärliner is available at PuzzleMaster for just $13 CAD. You can also find other puzzles from Philos.