Bram's Magic

Posted on by Gabriel | 1 comments
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Ever since the invention of the Rubik's Cube there have been countless toys that tried to replicate the success it had, all that enthusiasm around it. It's difficult, however, to replicate not only the success but also the era that made it all possible.

Today, we have many distractions, not only in the form of other toys, but other forms of entertainment as well. Many possible Rubik's successors may pass under the radar because not many people knew about them to begin with. This is, in my opinion, what may happen to Bram's Magic. A one of a kind toy/puzzle that may be a victim of today's many distractions and a saturated market.

Put Bram's Magic in the golden 80's and you could've witnessed a major icon being born. Unfortunately, we're in 2018 and Bram's Magic is just another novelty among others. Nevertheless, that shouldn't put you off trying one of the best puzzles I've had the pleasure to play with in the last 10 years. It's that good!

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Bram's Magic is the combination of the brilliant work between two geniuses in the puzzle community, Bram Cohen and Oskar van Deventer. If you love puzzles and you don't know who they are, you probably have been living under a rock for the past 15 years or so. They're two of the most prolific puzzle designers in the world, and this puzzle may be their best work yet.

This lovely invention has everything you could ask for in a puzzle: a challenge; fun to play with; easy to understand; flawless and smooth movement; and most of all, hard to master. And yet, once you pick it up it'll be very hard to put it down. Its mesmerizing twisting movement, combined with the shapes and patterns you can create, make for a very satisfying experience, indeed.

Like any other good puzzle, there's a main goal between all that fun, and that's to try and get one of the sides all white and the other all blue. Sounds simple enough, but that's actually as hard as a puzzle can get. You'll need to understand the puzzle's movements and patterns very well before you can attempt this daunting task. One simple movement and all your previous hard work can be undone in a matter of seconds. You have to predict what a specific movement will do - what shape you must go for in order to get the pattern you want. This is one really tough puzzle... But darn if it isn't fun!

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Closing Comments:

Bram's Magic is so good, a genius couldn't come up with it on his own. That's why it was invented by two geniuses. If you don't like a tough challenge, you can just play with it as a fidget toy... for hours on end. I know I've been having a great time with it. Highly recommend it to anyone, even non-puzzlers.

Availability: Bram's Magic is available at PuzzleMaster for $24.99 CAD. A similar and cheaper version is available for $19.99 CAD, made by ThinkFun.


5x5 Sudoku - Vol.1

Posted on by Gabriel | 0 comments
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It's been over one hundred years since the first 9x9 magic square puzzles started to be published in newspapers, though the name Sudoku has been in use for just about 30 years. Countless variations have been invented and refined - some crazy difficult, others much more accessible to the masses. The Sudoku variation I've discovered recently is definitely for the more casual puzzle aficionado, but can still offer some challenge for the seasoned puzzler.

5x5 Sudoku is just like what its name suggests. Unlike a classic grid of 9x9 cells, this new variation has a length of only 5x5 cells. The grid is divided into five subsections, or regions, with a central cross, resulting in a visually appealing symmetry.

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The paperback book, authored by Christopher Thomas, is nicely presented with 200 puzzles, each page containing one single large square with a puzzle. However, with a more economical approach, the book could've easily featured 800 puzzles in it. A suggestion for later volumes in the series. I can understand the design choice, though, as you are able to concentrate easily on one puzzle at a time. As this is the first of several planned books, you'll start slow and easy. Expect a higher challenge in the coming volumes. Solutions for each puzzle are provided at the end of the book.

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Like any other Sudoku puzzle, you start with a partially completed grid with eight numbers neatly and sparsely placed on the grid. A well-trained eye will surely notice the well planned symmetry of the starting numbers, as if a beautiful mathematical dance was being carried on between the puzzle and the solver. Only one solution per puzzle is possible.

I've solved almost half of the available puzzles, so far. Even though they're easily solvable within 5 minutes or less, this variation is really fun. With less numbers to think about (you only use numbers from 1 to 5), and with a less crowded grid, you'll breeze through the 200 puzzles in no time. Maybe those 800 puzzles wouldn't be so bad, after all...

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You'll find on the photos that I've not written on the book. I personally don't like to write on the books. I've even made an Excel file on my phone specifically for this book so as to not spoil it. You can also do the puzzles on a paper notebook or something, if you also don't like to write on your books. In the end, you'll find that you can reuse the book and solve all the puzzles again whenever you like, since there are no marks on it that prevent you from doing so again and enjoy it a second, or third, or how many times you want. You can even lend it to a friend. Just don't forget to tell them not to write on it...

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I have no specific strategies to solve a Sudoku puzzle. But then again, I'm a casual when it comes to Sudoku. I like to take my time and discover how to solve the puzzle on my own without thinking too much about special tactics and strategies. I've been playing it for years, and that's how I intend to keep doing it.

Closing Comments:

I was pleasantly surprised by this new Sudoku variation. It's a simple and yet addicting puzzle, great for a short break from your daily life. If you like the classic Sudoku, you're gonna love the 5x5 Sudoku. Can't wait for the next volumes.

Availability: You can find the 5x5 Sudoku vol.1 on Amazon for just £6.99.

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Magnetic Match Rings

Posted on by Gabriel | 0 comments
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If there's one thing that most of us find fascinating and intriguing at the same time, is magnets. One way or another we marveled at how two seemingly uninteresting objects can attract or repel by way of an invisible force. How can a small object have so much force that it can easily win gravity, the force that keeps all things on Earth from falling into space? This fascination transcends all age groups, and whether you're 4 or 104, the "attraction" we feel by this subject won't get weaker as we age.

Thinking about this topic, Popular Playthings created a game that shows us how fun playing with magnets really is. Packed with 40 different challenges, Magnetic Match Rings is an educational tool that teaches how magnets work, but also how to manipulate them in order to show a specific pattern, improving hand-eye coordination and visual matching skills. If you're a seasoned puzzler and you're looking for a challenge, this is not for you, though. There's no actual difficulty here, just plain science.

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The game is rated as a difficulty level 7/10, but to be honest, I don't know how it can even have a difficulty rating. In order to solve any of the 40 challenges you always have a 50/50 change of getting it right. If the rings are not snapping together, they will absolutely repel each other. There's no other possible outcome. This is supposed to be a fun and educational game, not a puzzle. That's why I don't agree at all with the rating. If you approach it with the correct mindset, you're in for a treat. Otherwise, you're going to be disappointed.

With the rating out of the way, let's get snapping.

The game features 10 colorful ring magnets and a stand with a post that helps keep the rings in place when stacking them. Just choose one of the 40 challenges and start stacking. If the magnets attract, they're going to snap together as a unique object. But, if they repel each other, they will produce a nice effect, as they will float above the other magnets. You can also try to create your own patterns, since the possibilities are way more than just 40.

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Closing Comments:

The Magnetic Match Rings game is a nice and fun way to play with magnets. There are a lot of magnet gadgets on the market today, but this is the first time I've seen one like this. And it definitely deserves your attention. Just don't expect to get challenged by it and you'll have a great time. It's just a fun game to play with.

Availability: You can get a copy of the Magnetic Match Rings at PuzzleMaster for just $16.99 CAD. Check out other interesting games by Popular Playthings.


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