Mit Schwung

Posted on Jan 30, 2018 by Gabriel | 0 comments
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I'm fascinated by the sheer variety of packing puzzles. The possibilities are near infinite when it comes to designing a packing puzzle. Your imagination is the limit. No wonder then that Jürgen Reiche, from Siebenstein-Spiele, makes so many of them, as his imagination is apparently limitless. Proof of that is his latest design Mit Schwung. A gorgeous and mesmerizing little packing puzzle that looks harder than it actually is.

This is a puzzle that is cheap and easy to produce, because it uses laser-cut wood, but it's also quite versatile. The designs you can do with this type of material can be much more detailed and precise. The results are stunning, as you can see, with a pattern that is not only great to look at, but also interesting to solve, because of the irregular pieces.

Sixteen round pieces make this impressive checkered design. The corner pieces in the frame are not part of the puzzle, since they're glued in place. It does make a nice effect, though. The shape of the pieces and the decision to make the design with checkered or contrasting colors makes a big difference between an otherwise bland puzzle and a great-looking puzzle. This proves that you not only need a good design, but also a nice presentation.

This is a difficulty level 5/7, rated by the manufacturer, but I'm not sure it's that difficult. Because you have a checkered pattern, no two identical colors are touching, which is going to simplify your options when trying to solve it. Each piece can be flipped on either side, so it does add some difficulty, but ultimately a very enjoyable and moderately difficult puzzle.

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Closing Comments:

Mit Schwung is a beautiful and unique puzzle, filled with character. The design is complex enough to produce a great effect with a pattern that looks simple and yet fascinating. It's a great decorative object, but even more satisfying as a puzzle.

Availability: Mit Schwung is available at PuzzleMaster for just $17.99 CAD. Check out others designs by Siebenstein-Spiele. For an even wider variety, check out the packing puzzles section.


Posted on Jan 22, 2018 by Gabriel | 0 comments
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Inside3 (formerly known as Insidezecube) is an intimidating and very challenging 3D maze, even for the most seasoned puzzlers. Embark on a journey to the unknown through the darkness, as this maze won't need your visual sense to be solved. Instead, you must rely on your other senses, adding a pinch of patience and large amounts of persistence.

Inside, as the name suggests is a play on words (or better, a play on numbers, as the 3 is represented as the mathematical exponent "cube", hence the name Inside "cube"). Invented by the French Romain-Guirec Piotte, this 3D maze promises to test the puzzle solving and orientation skills of anyone courageous enough to try his puzzles.

The first of six planed seasons, each with six difficulty levels, features the same number of cubes with a different color for each level. The cube you see presented in this review is the third level, or as it's called the Mean Phantom. Be sure to not underestimate these puzzles, as they will certainly prove to be quite the challenge.

(Click to Enlarge) - Both sides of the Journey

Hidden mazes or blind mazes are not a novelty in puzzles. We've seen them most prominently featured in the Revomaze puzzles, and they're popular for a reason. Puzzlers like a tough challenge, especially when you can't see what's going on inside - It deals with our imagination. The feeling of being lost, but still in control.

The Insidepuzzles have their own features that make them unique. While you're on your own to try and figure out where the small ball is at all times, you have some clues to rely on that help you on your journey to the other side of the cube. Engraved on two opposite sides of the cube are seven 2D mazes, each corresponding to a different plate or layer that's inside the cube (the sixth and last difficulty level doesn't have any maps). Each plate has a maze that connects with the other plates and so on, which in turn links the front of the cube to the back.

The engravings also show indentations that represent holes in the surface of the plates. Your task is to study and visualize all these levels working in tandem as a unique 3D maze and guide the small ball from one side of the cube to the opposite side, all of this without ever seeing the ball, except for when it reaches any of the opposite windows on the cube. There's another small ball inside the cube, and its main goal is just to confuse you (as if the maze itself wasn't enough to confuse you). The puzzle is solved when you see the ball from the narrow window of the other side of the cube. However, your journey is not complete until you return the ball back to the starting point. On the way, you'll encounter traps and dead-ends to make your journey that much more interesting. I warned you this was a hell of a challenge...

(Click to Enlarge) - The six layers (The lid functions as the seventh)

If you get stuck while trying to solve your cube, don't despair. You can open it up (only the first four difficulty levels allow for this), remove the layers and replace the ball back to the beginning. Another interesting feature about opening the cube is that you can swap and re-arrange the layers to form a whole new maze. If the original wasn't hard enough already, you can put a whole new spin to it and make it even more challenging - Now, not even the 2D maps of the layers will help you.

So far, all I've accomplished was the first part of my journey, which was to reach the other side of the cube. This wasn't done in one sitting, though, but through the course of several days. Since there are two balls in play, I'm not even sure which one reached the first half of the journey. At this point, All I care about is that one ball made it to the other side and now I have to return it to the beginning of the maze.

Closing Comments:

Inside3 is everything I want in a puzzle. It's frustrating, almost to the point of throwing it out the window, but it's also fascinating, intriguing, intimidating and rewarding. It's all of these things and more. It's because of puzzles like this one that I write about puzzles and collect them. If you're a serious puzzler, I strongly recommend trying one these cubes. But if you're a casual, no problem. You can start with one of the easier difficulties and go from there.

Availability: You can get any or all of the puzzles in the Inside series through the official website @ www.inside3.space.

Cast Infinity

Posted on Jan 16, 2018 by Gabriel | 0 comments
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Here's a puzzle that even its name is scary. Hanayama's Cast Infinity is as difficulty as it appears. Designed by the Finnish Vesa Timonen, you're lucky to solve this one before eternity...

Named after its appearance, the new addition to the Cast family has the shape of the mathematical symbol for infinity (also called lemniscate - probably not a good name for a Cast Puzzle). Inside the frame are two discs that seem fused together and impossible to remove. There's a way to separate the two discs, however, although it requires quite a dedicated and persistent mind. This one is not for the faint-hearted.

The puzzle is beautifully made, although I would've liked to see the two discs with a golden color contrasting with the silver frame, as we sometimes see in other Cast puzzles. It's quite a small puzzle also, measuring only 5.2cm x 3.1cm (2.1" x 1.2"). The holes in the discs are quite practical actually, since you can use your fingers to try and rotate them, provided you have some room to maneuver them. Inside the frame there's a protrusion that blocks some of the movements. Because the discs also have grooves strategically positioned, it's up to you to find the correct positions to move the discs and solve the puzzle.

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All of this is easier said than done. Unfortunately, this is one of the few Cast puzzles that I wasn't able to solve on my own so far. This is rated as a difficulty level 6/6, and this time, I have to agree with Hanayama. It's really a very challenging puzzle - maybe a 7/6. Sometimes you're able to rotate one of the discs, but it's difficult to see if that movement put you closer to the solution or even further. I'm going to keep trying, hopefully not for an infinite amount of time.

Solution: If you find the puzzle too difficult, you can download the solution here.

Closing Comments:

Even though I'm disappointed to not have solved the Cast Infinity, I'm still hopeful to solve it, and for now, I have an excuse to keep playing with it. It's a beautiful puzzle and despite its difficulty it manages to encourage you to keep at it until you finally break that infinity.

Availability: The Cast Infinity is available from PuzzleMaster for $15.99 CAD. The entire Hanayama collection is also available. Check out more puzzles from Vesa Timonen, as well.

Cast Dial

Posted on Jan 3, 2018 by Gabriel | 0 comments
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Vesa Timonen is one of the most represented designers in the Cast series, with at least 8 different Cast Puzzles in his name so far, including the beautiful Cast Square and the intriguing Cast Hook. His latest contribution to the Cast family is another interesting design, the Cast Dial.

Design-wise, the Cast Dial is absolutely gorgeous. It consists of a triangular shape comprised of two main pieces interlocked together, and two dials that rotate independently back and forth. The dials can also be rotated in any direction as one, which provides a satisfying feeling for anyone that likes to fidget with objects to keep the hands occupied. The goal is to separate all four pieces and return the puzzle to its original form. It's rated as a difficulty level 4/6.

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The triangular pieces are identical and have indentations that suggest a sliding movement, so you have a pretty good idea on how the puzzle should be solved. However, there's a world of difference between suspecting how it can be solved and actually solve it... And here lies the difficulty of the puzzle, which by the way can be a bit more difficult than what Hanayama might suggest.

Solving this puzzle proved to be a little frustrating, to say the least. The two dials can rotate independently, but it's very difficult to find a correct position for them to even get past the first step. Once you manage to have some progress, the frustration is not over yet. You still have to keep guessing as to which direction to turn the dials (or dial, since after a certain point only one dial can turn, while the other is locked in position). It's a game of trial and error until you can finally separate all four pieces. Here, you will be able to see exactly how the mechanism works, which is a plus, as getting the puzzle back to its original state is much easier.

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Solution: You can download the solution here.

Closing Comments:

Even knowing that the puzzle is rather frustrating to solve, I can still recommend this one. I like its movement and its design. Not a fan of the solving process, but two out of three is not bad. Looking forward to see what Vesa Timonen does next for Hanayama.

Availability: The Cast Dial is available from PuzzleMaster for $15.99 CAD. All Hanayama collection is available as well.

Cast Chess - Rook

Posted on Jan 2, 2018 by Gabriel | 0 comments
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Continuing my journey of reviewing all six Cast Chess puzzles by Hanayama, my next subject is the beautiful Rook. The Cast Chess puzzles were all originally designed by Marcel Gillen before Hanayama put their touch and turned them into a special edition Cast series. These puzzles are as good as their main Cast brethren - or better, so you're in for a great puzzling experience.

Slightly bigger than the Chess Pawn, the Rook features a completely different concept and solution, so whichever puzzle you choose to get you'll have something unique and different to play with. That is why it's imperative to have all six puzzles, so you get to experience what each one offers.

Since the solution is different in each puzzle, previously solving any of the others won't help you much here. Like any other Cast Puzzle, there's not many ways to go about it when it comes to discovering how its mechanism works. Few parts move and visual clues are basically non-existent. You'll have to rely on your other senses - maybe even a sixth sense - to have any real progress.

At the top of the puzzle there's a five-point star that rotates freely back and forth, but apparently it does nothing, at least at first glance... The circular piece just below the star also moves slightly, but gives the feeling that there's something locking any further movement. And that's it! You'll need to use your creative thinking to advance any more beyond this point.

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Closing Comments:

Just like the first puzzle, the design of the Rook is rather clever and gives you an Eureka moment when you finally solve it. It certainly lives up to Hanayama's standard of delivering a unique experience with each and every one of their puzzles.

Availability: The Cast Chess Rook is available from Brilliant Puzzles. You can find there the others in the Cast Chess collection.

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