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I can't seem to get enough of Puzzle/Trick Boxes lately. These puzzles tend to be frustrating at times, but the fact that you have to discover the secret that keeps them locked makes them all the more fascinating for me. The box that kept me puzzled for a while is Siebenstein-Spiele's Fragezeichenbox (or simply, Question Mark Box), designed by Jürgen Reiche, who else?
The Question Mark Box, like all puzzle boxes, has a hidden locking mechanism that prevents you from simply opening it. Instead, you have to figure out, other than using visual clues, how the mechanism works, the required steps, and ultimately open the box. The concept is quite clever, using some of the usual tricks, but sort of in a different way, which keeps its design new and unpredictable.
The design is quite interesting, but the build quality of the box is somewhat below average, especially for Siebenstein-Spiele, and that was quite a surprise for me. Most of their puzzles are very affordable, but they never compromise on quality. In this case, the wooden used is not very good - it looks and smells cheap - and the finish of the puzzle seems...well, unfinished. It looks as if it wasn't properly sanded around the edges. A coat of glaze could've been a nice touch and actually make quite a difference.
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Other than the rough build quality, the puzzle works well as it should. The mechanism is a little challenging to figure out at first, and if this is your first puzzle box you might struggle with it a bit. On my first attempts I tried the usual methods of tilting the box in various angles, always pulling at the lid to see if would slide off. No matter what I tried, the only thing that I seemed to accomplish was pulling it enough to see a few millimeters inside the box.
One thing that intrigued me a lot was that three of the panels were able to slide back and forth a couple of millimeters, hinting at the fact that they could all be removed. After many failed attempts and in a frustrating bid to get the box finally open, I started to tap on the box at different spots - Eureka! - The top lid slid off a little more to the left, but enough to remove the side panel and finally I was able to open the box completely. I found that, just like I previously thought, the three panels that moved could in fact be removed. Definitely didn't see that coming when I first saw the puzzle.
Solution: Click here if you need the solution.
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The Question Mark Box's build quality seemed a bit sloppy and poor for Siebenstein-Spiele's standards. Nevertheless, if you can look past this and still decide to buy one, you can count on an original and creative design, challenging and maybe frustrating.
Availability: You cab buy a copy of the Fragezeichenbox at PuzzleMaster for $28 CAD. You can also get many other interesting designs by Siebenstein-Spiele.