Wisdom Balls

Posted on by Gabriel | 0 comments
Labels:

(Click to Enlarge)
It's been 20 years since the first Wisdom Ball was mass-produced by Dr. Toyz. Invented by Yang Ju-Hsun, the Wisdom Ball is a sliding puzzle with a moving hole mechanism. This type of puzzle is probably the most popular among sliding puzzles for its simple and easy to understand design, which can appeal to a broader range of puzzlers, both beginners and experts alike.

But why am I talking about a 20 year old idea, you might ask? Well, because Mr. Yang Ju-Hsun has decided to revive his beloved puzzle with a new and improved design, completely changing the inner mechanism so it has a smoother movement. In this new process the designer created two additional variations, both of them more challenging than the original, but also quite addictive to play with.

I've known the mechanics of the Wisdom Ball for some time now - maybe from the early days of my collection which is about 7 years - so I was quite familiar with the new designs. The original Wisdom Ball was a little smaller and the sliding mechanism wasn't that smooth, since it jammed frequently whenever you tried to move the tiles from one disc to the other. This doesn't happen with the new versions, or at least much less frequently (you do have to align the discs for the tiles to move smoothly). Also, with a slightly bigger size, the new Wisdom Balls feel much better to hold in your hands. The tiles are bigger and look brighter. In short, everything seems better and improved from the original design, which is in itself quite a big incentive to acquire these new versions.

(Click to Enlarge) - Comparison (the original design is in the middle)
I'll write next a brief description on each of the three new versions and their unique characteristics.

Wisdom Ball - Inspiration

(Click to Enlarge)
This is basically the same design as the original Wisdom Balls, but with an improved mechanism and overall appearance. This time, the body of the ball is white instead of black, which gives it a sense of simplicity and easiness. The ball comes semi-solved, and what I'm trying to say is that, even though it seems solved (the numbers are in sequential order), the colors of the tiles don't actually match with the discs'.

This is you goal: rearrange all eight tiles in each of the six discs so that tiles and discs share the same colors. All you have is an empty space at a time which you have to constantly be moving across the ball to get each tile to where it's supposed to be. You can move a tile from any of the four adjacent discs relative to the disc you're seeing. The sequence of the numbers is up to you. They come with a counter-clockwise order, but while solving it I preferred to do it clockwise. You have to watch out for parity problems or tiles that are upside down. Note that the numbers should always face you and not inwards to the center of the discs.

(Click to Enlarge) - Mixed
It took me about 20 minutes to solve this easier version. I really liked it, because despite being easy to solve (in theory), it's still challenging but never frustrating - just pure fun. The movement of the puzzle is smooth as butter and when solved provides you with quite a rewarding feeling. After you've solved it you can go for another challenge and do it with a different sequence - Maybe alternating colors or numbers.

(Click to Enlarge) - Solved


Wisdom Ball - Advanced

(Click to Enlarge)
The Advanced is the intermediate level, and prepares you for the most difficult challenge, the Wisdom.

The body of the Advanced is black, contrasting with the Inspiration version, and the colors of some discs are also different. This mostly serves as a way to distinguish between versions, but for me, as a collector, I also appreciate the subtle differences that makes each version unique.

To make it more challenging, the Advanced features four tiles in a row across the middle on opposite discs. The tiles that located in this line don't interact with the tiles within the same disc. If, for example, you want to swap a tile from the middle line with one from the edges on the same disc, you need to move it through an adjacent disc and again though another in order to place it in its correct spot. Again, you need to make sure it has the correct orientation (facing you).

(Click to Enlarge) - Mixed
When solved, the Advanced ball will show the numbers from 1 to 8 in sequential order on four discs, and the other two opposite discs with numbers from 1 to 4 on the edges and the rest in sequential order from 5 to 8 (or 7, counting the empty slot).

Because this one is much more difficult and needs more patience, I haven't been able to solve it yet. From my experience, this can be done within an hour, but I'll have to test it to see if it requires more time.


Wisdom Ball - Wisdom

(Click to Enlarge)
This one is quite an intimidating puzzle. The Wisdom version has a straight line of tiles across the middle of all six discs. This is quite a challenge and one that needs to be tackled when one feels confident enough to spend (or waste - depending on your skill level) a couple of hours without too much stress (if that's even possible).

The Wisdom version has a purple body and a mixture of colors from both of its predecessors. It also comes semi-solved, so you have to reorganize the tiles into their respective disc colors. To move the tiles in the middle across the whole perimeter of the ball, you have to align all four discs from top to bottom and rotate the entire line of tiles. This requires a bit of dexterity, but can be easily done.

(Click to Enlarge)
When solved, the Wisdom ball is pretty much the same as the Advanced for two of its discs: numbers from 1 to 4 on the edges and 5 to 8 (or 7, because of one empty slot) on the middle lines.

If the Advanced version is already a pretty good challenge, you can certainly imagine what this one really is when it comes to solving it. Even the process of mixing the tiles is a challenge in its own right, but quite fun, I might add. After that, though, the fun stops and frustration settles in... If you're a beginner, this one is not for you. But you can always practice with the other two and eventually you'll be able to do it on your own. Are you courageous enough?


Closing Comments:

The new and improved Wisdom Balls are a great addition to any collection or to any puzzle fan who likes a good challenge. This is what the improvement to an old version looks like when done right. Everything behaves and looks as it should be. As for me, I'll continue to have lots of fun with the other two Wisdom Balls until I'm able to solve them.

Availability: The Wisdom Balls will soon be available at HKNowStore and PuzzlesdeIngenio.com. The official Wisdom Ball website will also be live in the next few weeks, so stay tuned for it.

Funzzle - Beta (Quadripole)

Posted on by Gabriel | 0 comments
Labels: , ,

(Click to Enlarge)
Funzzle is a collection of four bamboo interlocking puzzles, quite challenging and affordable. These puzzles are made by Y. Gong, and even though it says on the box that he is the designer, I have to warn you that they are based on original works by Stéphane Chomine, Yavuz Demirhan and Tamás Vanyó. They were made without the consent of their original designers, so it's up to you to decide if they are worth it, because these are cheap copies.

Leaving the copyright issues aside for a moment, I'll move on to the actual puzzle. The model you see above is called Beta and it's based on Stéphane Chomine's Quadripole. It's made entirely from bamboo wood, which gives it this lighter color and makes it lighter in weight as well. I like the appearance of bamboo in some puzzles, but in all honesty, it does make them look cheap and low quality.

Made with just four pieces and locked tightly inside a wooden frame, the puzzle is as hard to solve as they come. To solve the puzzle you need to remove the pieces one at a time by shifting them around the tight space of the frame. You also have a hole at the bottom to help you move the pieces. Rotations will be needed, as you struggle to find the correct arrangement to remove just the first piece. As soon as this is accomplished, the other three pieces will, more or less, be easily removed.

(Click to Enlarge)
I spent some time to solve the first part of the puzzle (taking it apart), but so far the reassembly has taken the best of me. The process is just the reverse of the first part, however it has to be done with more planning and a good analysis of each piece. I'm not very good at interlocking puzzles, so this will probably be left as is. It's definitely not a puzzle for beginners. If you like them extremely challenging, this one's for you.

(Click to Enlarge)
Closing Comments:

The Beta puzzle by Funzzle is an average puzzle at best. The quality is not very good and the fact that it's a copy of the original by Stéphane Chomine is enough to stay away from it. If you don't care for any of this and like difficult puzzles, then it's an affordable way to get a good challenge.

Availability: The Beta puzzle is available at PuzzleMaster for $15 CAD.


IQ Blox

Posted on by Gabriel | 0 comments
Labels: ,

(Click to Enlarge)
IQ Blox is the latest addition to my favorite logic game series, the IQ by Smart Games. Designed by Raf Peeters, these are convenient pocket-sized games that you can bring with you anywhere, as they're presented in a plastic box that closes and keeps the pieces from being lost. What's more, these puzzles will give your brain a boost and put your skills to the test.

The IQ Blox uses a clever new feature: small U-shaped walls that block some of the pieces from being placed at certain positions. With these restrictions, you'll have to find alternative ways to find the correct solution which, like most other games in the series, have only one solution per challenge.

(Click to Enlarge) - Starter Level, Challenge 20

Besides the inclusion of the four walls, the game contains seven distinct pieces, each in a different color and shape. There are two types of pieces, tetrominoes and pentominoes. When a challenge is complete, all the pieces will occupy the entire area of the game board. There's a stationary piece of a single unit that sits at the top left corner of the board, since it wasn't possible to fill the board entirely with the seven pieces. You can use both sides of the pieces interchangeably.

(Click to Enlarge) - Expert Level, Challenge 58

To start any challenge you will have to place in the tray one or more walls, depending on the difficulty of the chosen challenge (the harder the challenge the less walls are used). The board has numbers on each spot to easily set up a challenge. Also depending on the level (Starter), there could be some pieces already in place when you start a challenge. You complete a puzzle when all the pieces fit neatly inside the game board.

Although a bit different from other games in the series, the IQ Blox is not much harder than its predecessors. The walls give it a slight increase in difficulty, but at the same time it tells you right away if a piece will fit in the board or not. You will constantly rearrange the pieces as you go until you find the correct solution, but in the end it's on par with any of the other games by Raf in terms of difficulty.

(Click to Enlarge) - Wizard Level, Challenge 105

Closing Comments:

The IQ Blox is a challenging game, but it never reaches levels of frustration capable of making you give up on it. The inclusion of the walls give it that bit of originality and novelty that will satisfy any packing puzzle fan. With 120 challenges and five levels of difficulty, there's something for everyone, beginners and experts alike.

Availability: The IQ Blox is available at Amazon and other major puzzle stores around the world.

Links:



Quadstair

Posted on by Gabriel | 0 comments
Labels: , , ,

(Click to Enlarge)
I love Philos' puzzles. This German company always manages to manufacture nice puzzles at affordable prices, and each one offers a different challenge. They are mostly built from hardwood, which enhances their natural look and high quality. The company works with many international puzzle designers and with the Quadstair, this is no exception. Designed by Oskar van Deventer, one of the most prolific puzzle designers in the world, the Quadstair is a superb puzzle that few will be disappointed with.

Made from four identical pieces, each in a different wood color, this interlocking puzzle is quite an intriguing object when you first try to solve it. The pieces seem to be all glued together in a spiral with a square shape and a hole in the middle. Whichever way you pull on the pieces, they just won't budge a millimeter. However, there's a way to separate the four pieces. You just have to keep trying until you succeed. Be careful not to apply too much force, though. It's not needed for the solution, and even though the pieces are glued together at key spots, you might end up breaking the puzzle.

Usually, interlocking puzzles are quite a challenge for me. Even more when I try to reassemble them. Fortunately, even though it looks intimidating at first, the Quadstair is not that difficult. After spending about 10-15 minutes to separate the pieces, I'd say this is about 7/10 in difficulty. Reassembling it is actually easier, which is not common for an interlocking puzzle. I guess the fact that the pieces are all identical makes it easier to visualize it solved and connect the pieces in the right way. Once you know where to pull, the puzzle is very easy to disassemble and reassemble.

What I really liked about Oskar's Quadstair is that its simplicity and perfect harmony among the pieces makes for a surprising and rewarding feeling when you finally discover its secret. This is a great puzzle for any puzzle fun, since there aren't any special tricks involved, just clever designing and utter brilliance.

(Click to Enlarge)
Closing Comments:

When you combine a good puzzle company and a genius puzzle designer like Oskar, the result will certainly be amazing. This is an affordable puzzle that any collection should have and any fan, beginner or expert, should try.

Availability: At the time of writing, the Quadstair is unavailable at PuzzleMaster. You can keep checking regularly or try the other great puzzles offered by Philos.

Links:



Redstone Box (Hide the Redstone)

Posted on by Gabriel | 7 comments
Labels: , , ,

(Click to Enlarge)
Bernhard Schweitzer is a German puzzle designer with lots of great puzzles under his name. The Redstone Box is a fine example of his ingenuity and, coupled with Creative Crafthouse's high quality manufacturing and polish to their products, is sure to satisfy even the most demanding collectors and puzzle enthusiasts alike.

The Redstone Box is a 3D Packing Puzzle where the goal is to hide an extra piece (the red block) inside the already apparently filled box. You need to reassemble the pieces in a way so that the volume of the extra piece can be accommodated in the box and still be able to slide the lid and close it. To my knowledge, there's only one solution for this, excluding rotations. This is definitely not a puzzle for beginners and can be extremely challenging.

(Click to Enlarge)
It comes unsolved in its box, with the red block placed in its special slot. The lid slides off, so you can store the pieces in the box without worrying about losing them. The box measures 11.6cm x 7.8cm x 6.6cm (4.6" x 3" x 2.6"), so it's a nice sized puzzle, made with hardwood and very well built.

The puzzle consists of eight pieces with different sizes and shapes, plus the red block. Some of the blocks have the same height, but besides this there are no two identical blocks. This packing problem is, in a way, quite similar to the classic Calibron 12, except the latter is in 2D. But the different sizes of the pieces and the solving process is somewhat similar.

What I did find similar is that both puzzles are among some of the most difficult puzzles I had the pleasure to play with, but not the satisfaction of solving. To solve a puzzle like this, one must have a mathematical approach to it, which I don't have. There's no way you can solve these puzzles by trial and error, at least in a timely manner, or you'd be the most lucky person in the world.

To get the puzzle back to its original state you have several ways to do it, although I found none so far. It's still a difficult puzzle, whether you do it with the red piece or not. It's good that there are various solutions (without the red piece), so you can enjoy it many times over.

(Click to Enlarge)
Closing Comments:

The Redstone Box is a superb puzzle. Yes, I can enjoy and appreciate a puzzle that I failed to solve. I love puzzles, both easy and difficult alike, and this one deserves a chance, even if you think you won't solve it. It's a great addition to any collection.

Availability: I got the Redstone Box from PuzzleMaster, available for about $20 CAD. More from Creative Crafthouse can be found there as well as some others from Bernhard Schweitzer.

Links:




Pillow Dino

Posted on by Gabriel | 0 comments
Labels: ,

(Click to Enlarge)
The Pillow Dino by Calvin's Puzzle (designed by Evgeniy Grigoriev) is an interesting color variation of the well-known Dino Cube, invented by S.Y. Liou back in 1995. Since the original is so rare nowadays and currently fetches hundreds of dollars whenever a copy is available for auction, most of us will have to settle for a more affordable option, like Calvin's Dino and others. I also have a very nice variation by Smaz, with a very original sticker design. But, today's review is all about the Pillow Dino, so read on.

(Click to Enlarge)
A nice thing about Calvin's Pillow Dino is that it's parts are stickerless, except for the designer and manufacturer's transparent stickers on two white pieces. The puzzle features three colors (black, blue and white), which are great to form patterns, aside from the main one. I'm not sure how many you can create, but it depends on what you call a pattern, if it has to be symmetrical or not. Nevertheless, it's good to have more than one option.

The movement of the puzzle is smooth, but I'd say it's too lose. The pieces often get stuck on top of one another, making the puzzle difficult to turn sometimes. In terms of movement, I prefer the Smaz Dino Cube, which is much more stable.

(Click to Enlarge)
The mechanism has an 8-armed ball core and the puzzle moves by rotating its corners. Solving the puzzle is not difficult, but there's more to it than the apparent lack of challenge it offers. Its simplicity, with the three colors, which by the way, in my opinion, are a great match, is nice for just fiddling with it, trying to come up with different patterns. It doesn't need to be challenging to be appreciated and enjoyed.

(Click to Enlarge) - Different Patterns

Closing Comments:

Calvin's Pillow Dino is definitely a nice addition to any Twisty puzzle collection. Also, because it's easy to solve, anyone can try it and have a feel for what Twisty puzzles can offer. It's not the best Dino Cube variation, but definitely not the worst.

Availability: The Pillow Dino by Calvin and Evgeniy is available at PuzzleMaster for about $20 CAD.


Dial and Turn Lock

Posted on by Gabriel | 0 comments
Labels: , , ,

(Click to Enlarge)
Another great design from the IQ Locker Series by Mi-Toys, the Dial and Turn Lock is a relatively easy puzzle lock for anyone interested in this type of puzzles, but not yet ready for the more advanced and demanding designs that Trick Locks can offer.

I've previously reviewed other puzzles from this series and, without exception, I was pleasantly surprised by the originality of their designs. They are mainly made from various types of wood, a material that is not very commonly seen in trick locks, but even so they are nicely built, and unless you apply excessive force they won't otherwise break.

(Click to Enlarge)
The Dial and Turn Lock has an odd and intriguing design. Unlike the traditional padlock design, the shackle is a straight bar that stretches across most of its length, and scattered through its wooden body you can see five dials. These dials can be turned in any direction, but only one position is the correct for each of them. To release the shackle you have to pull on the handle that is located on one of the sides of the lock, but unless you have the right combination for the dials, it won't budge. There's also a key and a slot to fit the key at the opposite side of the handle. It's up to you to find out the use of the key.

(Click to Enlarge)
At first, the lock seems quite intimidating with its five dials, all with its unique position. Nevertheless, with careful manipulation of one dial at a time, you'll sense when you've hit the right spot where it may release the shackle. Without much effort, I was able to open the lock within a couple of minutes. A bit disappointing for the lack of challenge, but also quite satisfying to be able to open it quickly.

(Click to Enlarge)
Closing Comments:

I was left with some mixed feelings about the Dial and Turn Lock, but in the end it's still a nice and interesting puzzle to have a go, especially if you're a fan of trick locks and hidden mechanisms. It's a pretty affordable puzzle, so you can easily get the whole series and experience different levels of difficulty between all the designs.

Availability: You can find the Dial and Turn Lock, as well as the IQ Locker Series, at Brilliant Puzzles for $10.95 USD.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...