Wisdom Balls

Posted on by Gabriel | 0 comments

(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

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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

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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

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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.


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