PuzzleMaster

Cast Love

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Hanayama has been giving us love through their puzzles for almost four decades. With 80+ Cast Puzzles in their catalogue, there's plenty of love and fun to go around. Their most recent design is the Cast Love, designed by Scott Eliott, and what a puzzle this is...

It's no surprise that Cast Puzzles have always captured the attention of so many people, even casual puzzlers. Their intriguing design combined with an elegant solution, sometimes so simple that it makes you smile, makes for a perfect puzzle that anyone can try to solve. The variety of difficulty levels means that Hanayama has a puzzle for everyone, whether they're new to puzzles or someone looking for a real challenge. The new Cast Love falls on the easy category, but don't expect to solve it immediately.

Two identical pieces, one silver and one gold, make up this simple design. It's actually quite a small puzzle, even for Hanayama standards, measuring 4.5cm x 4cm (1.75" x 1.5"). It comes unsolved, meaning the two pieces come separated in its packaging. It's actually better this way, since you'd understand the solution right away otherwise. As it is, it's actually, in my opinion, a little more challenging than the advertised level 5/10 (Hanayama Level 1).

It took me a while to figure out the solution for this puzzle, considering it's supposed to be an easy puzzle. Around 15-20 minutes. The two pieces should come together as a single piece, but it's not as straightforward as it looks. Since they are identical, it's difficult to visualize how you should do it. Looking at the solved picture won't help you much, since you can't see inside. The only thing that can be a hint is that it's clear, by looking at the pieces, that it's going to be a sliding movement. There was a lot of trial and error, but ultimately, it comes to carefully analysing the pieces and see how they should slide together. It's a beautiful solution, and of course, once you solve it, it looks easy. I still think this should've been rated a level above.

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Closing Comments:

The Cast Love is a gorgeous puzzle and what makes it so special is the solution, which is indeed very elegant and simple. I can understand how it comes in its unsolved state. It's a perfect puzzle for casual puzzlers, since it's challenging enough to have a rewarding feeling when solved. It's a Hanayama puzzle, so you don't need any more incentives to get it.

Availability: The Cast Love is available at PuzzleMaster for just $15.99 CAD. Check out the Hanayama Cast family for more metal love.

Companion Box

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Puzzles boxes are always a treat to solve, since the solution is not evident at first glance. It's a discovery experience which not many types of puzzles can do. This puzzle, called the Companion Box, was designed by Mr. Benno and produced by PuzzleMaster. A challenging puzzle that will surely get you thinking.

The companion Box is made from polywood (not the best of materials but quite affordable) and the puzzle has a nice and intriguing design. Measuring 9 x 9 cm (3.5"), it's a relatively big puzzle that has a nice feel in the hands. Each face of the cube has a disc and eight yellow pieces in the corners. Most of the puzzle doesn't move except for one part that gives the impression of a slight movement. It's this lack of moving parts that gives it an intriguing feel, since the solution doesn't look straightforward. You can hear something inside when you shake it, which is a clue for what the mechanism might be hiding. You almost feel like a detective trying to figure out what's going on.

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Rated as a level 8/10, you know this is a challenging puzzle. The solution itself is simple if you already solved other similar puzzles, but if you can't quite figure out what's happening inside, how will you know that? From experience. By carefully analysing every aspect of it, you'll find similarities with other puzzles. But, just because you might understand the mechanism, it can still be tough to open it. Finding the right way to close it again is also challenging, but not as hard as opening it. Half of the solution is hidden away, so once you see it, it's easier to do it.

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Closing Comments:

The Companion Box was a nice surprise and has a neat solution. Anyone familiar with puzzle boxes will surely like it even if the solution has a similar movement to other puzzles.

Availability: You can a get a copy of the Companion Box at PuzzleMaster. Check out other interesting puzzle boxes.

Rizal

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Free the coin puzzles are always interesting and fascinating puzzles. They usually have a hidden mechanism that you need to figure out in order to free the coin trapped inside. Rizal is a great example of such puzzle designed by Rex Rossano Perez from the Philippines.

This is a tiny puzzle, but don't judge it by its size. It has an elegant solution that will surely satisfy your puzzle needs. Measuring only 6.8cm x 5.7cm (2.7" x 2.25) and made in acrylic, it's a sturdy puzzle that will withstand the most frustrating puzzlers - Although its difficulty is not that hard. Inside there's a 1 Piso coin resting on a sliding platform that doesn't always move like you'd expect. It's here that the hidden mechanism comes into play and some outside-the-box thinking is needed.

The sliding mechanism is a clever addition to the design and even though it's not that difficult to figure it out, it's certainly an enjoyable experience. Another interesting aspect of the puzzle is the multi-layer platform that adds an extra complexity to the design and mechanism.

Solving the puzzle did take me about 10 minutes, so it's definitely not a straightforward solution. When the coin disappears from view, you'll be left with just the sound the puzzles makes when the platform moves - or tries to move. You'll have a nice "a-ha!" moment when the coin falls from the opening at the bottom. It's not as difficult to return the coin to its original position, but it can still be challenging if you haven't memorized how exactly the mechanism works.

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Closing Comments:

As far as coin puzzles go, Rizal is a great new addition to the family. Its pocket size is great to take it with you and show it to your friends to see how they do it. Highly recommended.

Availability: The Rizal puzzle is available at PuzzleMaster for $42.99 CAD. Check out other puzzles by Rex Rossano Perez.

Ten Penny Puzzle

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Most packing puzzles are made with polyominoes or custom-shaped pieces in its design, and we are so used to that notion we forget that everyday objects are just as good as the traditional designs. One fine example of this is the Ten Penny Puzzle by Creative Crafthouse. I've always been impressed with their designs, and this one is no exception.

The goal couldn't be simpler. You're presented with a small wooden tray and nine pennies already packed inside. Your task is to rearrange the pennies so that an extra penny can be packed along the other nine. Everyone can understand these simple instructions, but carrying out this challenge and solve it is another thing. It's a very nice puzzle that can entertain anyone.

At close inspection, it's hard to believe that an extra coin could fit inside such a small area, but if you think about all that wasted space by the nine coins, it's just a matter of finding the right arrangement that wastes less space. Symmetrical solutions are out, since you can't get 10 coins inside with that kind of arrangement. That leaves odd solutions only, and those are the most difficult to find.

For the record, all pennies are identical in size. There's no tricks involved in the solution or any particular order in which you should pack the coins. For me, it was more of a lucky find than logic. After so many tries, some of which by less than a millimeter short of a solution, I managed to solve it. Not sure if there's only one solution, but by looking at the one provided, it did match the one I had. It's not an extraordinarily difficult or frustrating puzzle to solve. It's actually quite therapeutic to be playing with coins. Rated as a level 7/10, the difficulty is just right for even a casual puzzler.

Closing Comments: 

Incorporating coins into puzzle designs is not that uncommon to see. There's even puzzles where you have to free a coin. This design however, while being simple, makes it all the more elegant, and the fact that you have to pack an extra coin adds to the curiosity factor and just makes you want to give it a try.

Availability: The Ten Penny Puzzle is available at PuzzleMaster for just $12.99 CAD. Be sure to take a lot at some other interesting puzzles by Creative Crafthouse.

Tresor

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Tresor (translated as "safe"), another superb puzzle by Siebenstein-Spiele that will put your safe-cracking skills to the test. With its captivating design and a challenging solution, Tresor has everything to keep you entertained for a while.

Made with a combination of acrylic and laser-cut wood, plus the metal pins that you'll be moving from place to place, this is a sturdy puzzle that won't break that easily. There are seven of these pins, four of them marked with dots to represent numbers. The goal is to move the numbered pins from the starting position to the numbered positions marked on the frame. This is a type of puzzle that requires heavy planning to be solved, since the inner wheel doesn't move as freely as you'd think.

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Once you get one or more pins inside the wheel to be transferred to another position, you'll be creating different blocking movements that you need to anticipate. This would already be a difficult puzzle without the movement constraint, but as it is, it gets very challenging, and frustrating at times. Even though the movement of wheel itself is smooth, it is somewhat a bit too tight when it reaches the edges. I tried to loosen it up a bit with a screwdriver, but was unsuccessful, since the screw is too tight and I was afraid I could break the puzzle. Nevertheless, the puzzle is perfectly doable as it is, and the tightness may vary from puzzle to puzzle.

Solving this is no easy feat, and the difficult of 8/10 may be a bit higher in my opinion. It took me days to solve this. There might a more efficient strategy to solve it, but I couldn't come up with one. Still, it's a nice challenge that will certainly not disappoint those who are looking for a good test to their skills.

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Closing Comments: If you've come to love Siebenstein-Spiele's puzzles, you know what to expect here. A polished design with affordable but durable materials, and above all, a well thought out challenge.

Availability: Tresor is currently unavailable, but will surely be restocked soon, so check back PuzzleMaster to see when it's back in stock. In the meantime, you can also check out other great puzzles by the German manufacturer.

Lighthouse - 3D Puzzle Box

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Puzzle boxes are always fascinating objects to play with. They carry a secret that you must unveil in order open them. Some are highly challenging, others are easier to figure out, but still great pieces of art. Such is the example of the Lighthouse Puzzle Box. A true masterpiece in terms of craftsmanship that will certainly delight any puzzle enthusiast.

These puzzle boxes are made in Vietnam and they each have a unique theme. The one above is a lighthouse scene, made from different woods (no coloring) using a woodworking technique called intarsia. With this, the result is a natural looking 3D box where the only finishing touches are the polish and varnishing work.

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To open these boxes you have to find out how its locking mechanism works. It's not a difficult puzzle, but still it has an elegant two-step solution. Inside, there's a small compartment lined with velvet where you can store your valuables - Maybe not so valuable, since this is really easy to open... Perhaps as a small gift that wouldn't frustrate the receiver.

Even though this is an easy puzzle to solve, don't let that stop you from getting one of these. These are unique objects that can light up a space as a decorative object, but also as an accessible puzzle for newcomers who might then graduate to higher difficulty ones. There's so many puzzle boxes out there where the real difficulty is choosing them.

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Closing Comments:

The company that produces these boxes, Jafsons, has a large variety to choose from. Whichever one you end up choosing, I'm sure you'll love it. They are carefully crafted with the utmost attention to detail, so you won't be disappointed. Highly recommended.

Availability: The Lighthouse Puzzle Box is available at PuzzleMaster for $39.99 CAD. Be sure to check out the other available designs.

Night Shift

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Night Shift is one of the most fascinating puzzles from Siebenstein-Spiele I've seen so far. It's visually stunning, it's challenging, but it's a real pleasure to play with.

Designed by Jürgen Reiche and made from a combination of acrylic, plywood and a number of different colors, Night Shift is a gorgeous puzzle to look at. The simple and yet elegant movement of the two platforms that move in perpendicular directions, shift a total of 20 small wooden squares back and forth. The small squares are divided into five different colors, which form five bigger squares, four pieces each. The goal is to mix all these squares and regroup them into their respective colors. Sounds easy, but rated as a level 10/10, you can be sure to have a great challenge in your hands.

With a puzzle of this nature, with moving and crossing platforms, smooth movement will be the key to an enjoying and fun experience. Fortunately, Siebenstein-Spiele knows how to make good and functional puzzles, which means this one is a real treat. The squares have round corners, to minimize being jammed against others, and each platform is held in place by metal screws that slide effortlessly in the wooden tracks. Everything works as it should to bring you the best puzzling experience.

I've been having a blast playing with this puzzle. Even though it's a difficult puzzle, and there's one official solution, you can always try other easier color combinations and keep playing longer. Maybe having each square with two colors instead of one; or having each square with just one of the same color. This kind of puzzle allows for more than one way to be played, which ends up giving you more bang for your buck.

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Closing Comments:

Night Shift is one hell of a puzzle. If you like good-looking puzzles with a real challenge to boot, this one's for you. Don't let its high difficulty put you off from a great puzzle. Try the other easier challenges I mentioned or just enjoy its movement and practice until you solve it. It's worth it.

Availability: Night Shift is available at PuzzleMaster for $47.99 CAD. If you like Siebenstein-Spiele, you should check other interesting puzzles by them.

Rubik's 40th Anniversary Metallic Cube

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For many of us, it's been there the whole time. It's been part of our lives and our childhood. To me, it's the puzzle that was responsible for all this - my love for mechanical puzzles. The Rubik's Cube has inspired a whole generation of puzzlers and has proved time and again that entertaining someone doesn't need to be done through a screen.

To commemorate the 40th anniversary of the first Rubik's Cube, they launched a new version with some tweaks that promises to take the Cube to yet another 40 years into the future and inspire another generation of young puzzlers. If you've liked the original, I'm sure you'll love this one as well.

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The first change you'll notice immediately is the metallic stickers, although they can't be called stickers per se, since they seem to be encrusted into the body of the cube. No stickers mean no peeling, no fading and makes it harder to cheat, unless you take the whole cube apart and reassemble it. But you don't want to do that, right? It's much more fun to actually solve it with your own skills.

Movement in the new cube is also smoother due to a new mechanism. Even though it's easier to move, I wouldn't recommend it for speedcubing, since it's still far from the flawless movement of the professional speedcubes you see on the market today. Other than that, it's still nice to play with this cube just for fun.

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Closing Comments:

Twelve years after buying the first cube, which started it all, I was really happy to add another version of the classic cube to my collection. The new metallic design gives it new life and it truly shines beside the original. Two classics that deserve their place in history.

Availability: The Metallic 40th Anniversary Rubik's Cube is available at PuzzleMaster for  just $21.99 CAD. Check out more cubes from PuzzleMaster.


Lattice

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Lattice, the last one in the anodized metal series by PuzzleMaster and designed by Jerry Loo. This time, I saved the best for last, which is to say, the hardest to last. It's a magnificent puzzle that should be played by anyone interested in puzzles.

Superbly presented in a beautiful chrome blue, the Lattice will surely capture the attention of even the most distracted. Consisting of just eight pieces, compared to the similar 12-piece Dirty Dozen, this puzzle is actually more difficult to solve, since the eight pieces are not identical like those in the Dirty Dozen. A true test to your solving skills.

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One of the coolest things about these puzzles is how they open (or stretch), so to speak, without having the pieces fall apart. You can clearly see how they interlock, but also carefully analyse where to remove the first pieces... At least in theory. In fact, it's not that easy to remove the first piece, since it involves a less straightforward movement than just sliding it off. After that, the rest of the puzzles can be disassembled pretty quickly without much effort.

As you may have guessed, the real challenge comes when you try to put the puzzle back together. Since you have different pieces this time, it's not as easy to assemble as the Dirty Dozen. You need some planning to see how to connect each piece, and in my case, some trial and error. Rated as a level 10, you should expect a great challenge, but also a fun one.

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Closing Comments:

Lattice is definitely a great puzzle that anyone should try. Even if it's difficult, the movement of the interlocking pieces is so satisfying that you'll want to play with it anyway. Still trying to put mine back together, but I'm in no rush, since it's fun to play with it.

Availability: The Lattice is available at PuzzleMaster for just $24.99 CAD. Check out the anodized series for more metal puzzling.


Denksport

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Denksport, a cleverly designed puzzle by Jean Claude Constantin for the sport enthusiasts. With multiple solutions, it will keep you entertained for a while. You won't be exercising your body, but instead your brain.

Denksport has a different twist on the 2D puzzle principle, where instead of just randomly placing polyominoes on a frame, you'll need to think ahead and strategize how each pieces is used. With eight pieces and a 6x6 frame, there will still be six empty units around the frame. With those empty spaces, you have to come up with a solution where after placing all the pieces, only identical images are shown. It's more difficult than it looks, but a very interesting concept nonetheless.

At the bottom of the frame, different images related to sports are shown scattered around. Each type of image has duplicates at different positions, so when you decide which image you're going for, the pieces have to cover all other images and leave six identical images. There are six different solutions, one for each sport represented.

This puzzle can be really challenging, since the area you can use for the pieces is always invisible and you have to picture it in your mind. You might want to actually draw the grid in a piece of paper and black out the squares that belong to the images you selected. That way you'll be able to work out better the solution.

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Closing Comments:

Denksport is a really nice puzzle with multiple solutions. Although challenging, it remains fun since there are many ways to do it. It makes for a great gift for the sports fan.

Availability: Denksport is available at PuzzleMaster for $26.99 CAD. You can also browse many other interesting puzzles by Constantin.


Victory

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Another member joins the family of the anodized metal puzzles, this time the Victory in its glorious emerald green. Despite its complex structure with four unique pieces, the puzzle is actually easier to solve than you might think. A lovely puzzle that will surely delight even the most casual puzzler.

The four pieces comprising this interestingly-shaped puzzle will move only up to a certain point, blocked by their own shapes. By carefully studying how the pieces are interlocked will allow you to remove them one by one sequentially. From what I've seen, there's only one possible solution, but don't let that discourage you. I found it quite easy to disassemble it, actually.

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One thing that I usually pay attention to when solving this kind of puzzles is the order in which they are removed and the orientation of each piece in relation to the puzzle. Doing this will get me into less trouble when trying to reassemble the puzzle back to its original state. You can even take pictures during each stage of the disassemble process, depending on the size of the puzzle. Since the Victory puzzle, in particular, is not that complicated you can easily memorize the position of each piece.

Being a relatively easier puzzle to solve was actually quite fun, since it gives you the confidence to deal with harder puzzles after this. This one is rated as a level 7/10 in difficulty, but I think a level 6 wouldn't be a wrong rating, given that it's easily solvable within 5 minutes.

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Closing Comments:

The Victory puzzle is a great starting point for those that aren't too familiar with this type of puzzles. With only four pieces there aren't that many possibilities to get it wrong and not discouraging you to try more difficult ones. If you've solved this one, why not go for a more challenging one in the anodized metal puzzle family, like the Lattice puzzle?

Availability: The Victory puzzle is available at PuzzleMaster for just $19.99 CAD. Check out the other puzzles in the anodized metal series.


Ella Propella

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I've reviewed so many puzzles by Jean Claude Constantin over the years that I ran out of adjectives to classify his unique designs. Probably one of the most prolific puzzle designers/manufacturers in recent history, each puzzle you try from him is bound to leave a positive impression on you. So, what to say about today's featured puzzle, Ella Propella? To put it simply, yet another impressive design.

Ella Propella - That's a pretty nice name right off the bat. And the design is something that catches your attention right away. Including a propeller, magnets and a metal sphere. What else to make this a very unique and interesting puzzle... You're gonna need some dexterity, a good amount of trial and error, but in return you'll get a high dose of fun.

The puzzle may seem confusing at first, as the movement is somewhat stuck by a pin that keeps the propeller moving. You can see what's going on below through the acrylic disc, but you have to figure out a way to make the pin drop and rotate the propeller so that the opening for the sphere can be seen. This movement is a bit of a hit or miss, because the two magnets below repel the natural movement of the puzzle. So you have to keep trying until the pin finally drops and the propeller is free.

Another good thing about the puzzle is that it has a high replay value, since you can't always solve the puzzle at your first try (you probably never solve it at your first try), so it's kind of a fun puzzle to keep around and play to release your stress. As far as difficulty goes, the level 7 is an appropriate classification, as it's challenging but not overly complex that would drive away casual puzzlers.

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Closing Comments:

Ella Propella is a really nice little puzzle (just 7.5cm or 3" in diameter), and it's an intriguing puzzle that will keep many occupied for hours. Puzzles and magnets always make for a nice combo, and this time is no different. A definite worthy choice for your collection or just to have a good time.

Availability: Ella Propella is available at PuzzleMaster for just $23.99 CAD. Check out the large collection of Constantin's puzzles also available to purchase.


Maze Puzzles

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This time I am venturing on an often neglected type of brainteasers - maze puzzles. These are sometimes viewed as a puzzle more geared towards the casual puzzler, but you'd be surprised by the sheer variety of mazes available right now, and they are the delight of both aficionados and casual puzzlers alike. Read on to find out more about the different types of maze puzzles and some of their history.

Mazes have intrigued and fascinated us since the dawn of civilization. In fact, the Egyptians are thought to be the first ones to come up with this incredible concept over four millennia ago (around the time of the first ancient pyramids). Mazes have come a long way since the era of the Pharaohs. They have evolved in countless different ways and have many different uses, but the approach is the same: to baffle and perplex anyone that witnesses this incredible feat of human inventiveness and ingenuity.

Many people use the terms Maze and Labyrinth interchangeably, and that's probably correct in most cases. However, personally, I prefer to use the word Maze when referring to puzzles. Why? Because a maze always has dead ends and other red herrings, commonly used in puzzles, and a labyrinth is not always used as puzzle, which implies a solving process with a beginning and an end.

Today you can see mazes everywhere in your daily life, but I want to focus particularly on the mechanical maze puzzles, the ones that you can touch and play with, the ones that make me glad I'm a puzzle enthusiast, collector, solver...and writer... There's an array of different types of mazes that can please even the most uninterested of puzzle fans. They can go from simple ball-bearing puzzles, like the popular money puzzles, for the casual puzzler, to more complex structures, like the Perplexus puzzles. Whichever type of puzzle you choose, a maze always has the ability to entertain and satisfy our needs for a good mental challenge.

With so many types of mazes available, how do you choose the best ones? It all depends on what you like most about maze puzzles. One popular type of maze, usually used as an original gift, is the money mazes. This type of puzzles have a wide range of shapes and sizes. The goal is to navigate a ball bearing through a maze and unlock the mechanism that opens the puzzle so you can retrieve what's inside. You can put inside the puzzle anything not thicker than a few sheets of paper, which can be money, gift certificates, event tickets, etc.

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Hidden Mazes have also been quite popular these last several years, mostly thanks to the Revomaze, although they weren't the first ones to appear, and there are certainly many other interesting designs. The hidden mazes, as the name suggests, have some part or the entirety of its mechanism hidden from view, forcing you to rely on other sensory skills, like touch or hearing. These puzzles are exceptionally harder than the more traditional maze puzzles, but they're quite a treat for the experienced puzzlers who are looking for a serious challenge.

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If you're a more adventurous type and sometimes feel like a kid on a toy fair, the Perplexus puzzles are a perfect way to immerse yourself with a really cool and fascinating 3D maze. These original and unique puzzles let you explore and navigate with a ball bearing within a large sphere full of contraptions and winding pathways, reminiscent of a roller coaster.

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If none of these are your thing, why not try a 3D maze with a classic feel but with a new and completely different approach in design. These examples below, from Jean Claude Constantin and Jez Goode, show what 3D mazes have achieved in recent years and how good they can be with a gorgeous but functional design. They are also quite challenging.

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Mazes that require a good dose of dexterity on your part are also a fun alternative to the previous, more demanding, examples. In these puzzles, perfect hand-eye coordination will dictate your success or your failure as you try to guide a metal sphere with the help of your steady hands and...Gravity.

Double mazes are also fascinating in the sense that you have to keep in mind your progress on both of them simultaneously. There are many good examples, and Jean Claude Constantin is a craftsman that knows very well how to make a good maze puzzle, especially when two, or more, mazes are involved. His puzzles have a great complexity, and are mostly appreciated among expert puzzle enthusiasts for their unique designs and mechanisms.

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There are still more types of mazes and unique puzzles to discover, but these are the most important ones within the realm of mechanical puzzles. There may be some missing ones here and there, but I believe I compiled enough for you to have a general idea of the subject and to encourage you to research further if some puzzles interest you more.

Final Thoughts:

Mazes have evolved so much over the centuries that it's unfathomable to even think of how they will continue to baffle us in the coming decades. Judging by what history taught us time and time again with new inventions, it's safe to say that mazes are here to stay for as long as civilization exists. It's part of we are, part of our curious minds, and it's essential to our development as an intellectual species. I sincerely hope that, after reading this, you'll be more inclined to try a maze puzzle - any maze - and see for yourself how fascinating these puzzles can really be.

Availability: Most of the puzzles above mentioned are available at PuzzleMaster.


Cast Rotor

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For someone who, up until recently, only had one Cast Puzzle design in his portfolio (Cast U&U), this last year has proven to be quite a good one, as designer Kyoo Wong saw two of his latest creations been added to the Hanayama flagship series. The first one, Cast Snow, was already reviewed by me a couple of weeks ago, and this time the Cast Rotor takes the center stage.

The Cast Rotor, as the name suggests, consists of two rotor-shaped pieces that are interlocked and need to be separated. From what I saw, both pieces seem to be identical, but that's not something to be happy about, since this is Hanayama's highest level of difficulty. The design is superb, and of course, the build quality is outstanding taking into account that these puzzles are rather affordable.

The puzzle makes justice to its name, as the solution requires you to rotate both pieces countless times as you try to find a way to solve it. It will need a lot of trial and error, but it never feels frustrating to the point of becoming boring. Quite the opposite, actually. The Rotor was super fun to solve and even though it took more time than I cared to count, it still felt rewarding and satisfying.

The solution requires a minimum of 35 steps to solve, but that's when taking the optimal path, which is very difficult to achieve. I most certainly made over 100 steps to finally separate both pieces, but I didn't mind. Apparently, there are multiple ways to solve this, and that makes it even more interesting, since it has a lot of replay value.

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Closing Comments:

The Cast Rotor is another magnificent puzzle by Hanayama and Hong Kong designer Kyoo Wong. It never ceases to amaze me how Hanayama can maintain such a high level of quality with its designs for decades. The Cast Rotor is definitely one of the best Cast Puzzles ever made... For its design, the elegance of its movement, and the multiple solutions combine to make a near perfect puzzle.

Availability: You can get a copy of the Cast Rotor at PuzzleMaster for $15.99 CAD. Many other Cast Puzzles are also available.


Cast Snow

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It's been a while since I reviewed one of my all time favorite puzzle series, the Hanayama Cast Puzzles. Taking the spotlight this time is the Cast Snow, designed by Kyoo Wong, who also designed the Cast U&U and Cast Rotor.

If you ever saw the shape of a snowflake, you know how unique and beautiful they can be. For that, the design of the Cast Snow alone is reason enough to get it. The Snow comes as a two-piece maze-type puzzle, where you need to navigate through multiple routes in order to separate the pieces.

This puzzle is simple enough to understand and despite being a level 2/6, considered pretty easy in terms of difficulty, I actually find it quite challenging. At first inspection, the holes at the extremities seem identical, but they can't be, because you need to separate the pieces through these holes. You'll find that each piece has a hole slightly larger in diameter than the others, but the trick is combining the only two larger holes with each other at the same time to solve it. Not so easy...

Surprisingly, I truly enjoyed solving this, as I was expecting a very easy challenge. It's not as frustrating as the higher difficulty Cast Puzzles, but you'll find it just as satisfying. It's one of those puzzles that even after you solve it, you can still do it multiple times, because it's not that easy to memorize the correct path. Just fidgeting with it is quite enjoyable.

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Closing Comments:

The Cast Snow is a really delightful puzzle. One of my favorites in recent years. Great design, nice challenge, smooth movement, very well built, just as we've come to expect from Hanayama. Highly recommended.

Availability: The Cast Snow is available at PuzzleMaster for $15.99 CAD. Also, check out many other interesting puzzle in the Cast family.


Chiasma

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The anodized metal puzzle family has a new member, and this time it's a VIP (Very Interesting Puzzle). Designed by Yavuz Demirhan from Turkey and produced by PuzzleMaster, the Chiasma has everything that makes a great puzzle, and some more. It's not a puzzle for novices, so be prepared for a serious challenge.

Surprisingly, the Chiasma is made from four identical pieces, which you might not notice until you disassemble it. It's made from a textured surface, which apparently is more is more resistant to markings and scratches, and from what I've seen, it is indeed much better in that department. The texture does feel more comfortable to the touch, so that's a welcome feature for future puzzles in this line.

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In its assembled state, the puzzle has this stylish and exquisite shape further enhanced by the contrasting metal pieces, which by the way come in five different color combinations that you can choose before adding it to your cart. It's indeed a beautiful design.

Given the unique design and shape of the pieces, the puzzle only allows for one solution, said to be 26 moves (16 for the first piece, 4 for the second and 6 to separate the final two pieces). I probably made way more than 26 moves to separate all the pieces, which indicate the high number of useless moves or wrong ones on my part. It's a really satisfying feeling to disassemble the puzzle, because of how the pieces move and the different moves, sometimes needing rotations. It's not just an elegant puzzle in appearance; the solution is nothing short of amazing and rewarding.

Still, any interlocking puzzle needs to be returned to its original shape, and that's when the level 10/10 comes kicking. At this stage, I always feel like those kids that have a knack to disassemble everything but then can't, for the life of them, return them to their former glory. It will take much more than 26 moves to put this back together...

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Closing Comments: 

Chiasma is a gorgeous puzzle, even more distinguished by its unique solution and overall feel of the puzzle. The different colored metal versions make justice to the original wooden version. And whichever color version you choose, you'll definitely find it very worth it of your time and money spent on it.

Availability: The Chiasma metal puzzle is available exclusively on PuzzleMaster.


Dirty Dozen

Posted on by Gabriel | 0 comments
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Dirty Dozen, a fitting name for a real challenging puzzle by designer Jerry Loo. This puzzle is part of the anodized metal collection, produced by PuzzleMaster and one of the most difficult in this series. Get ready to put your solving skills to the test.

The Dirty Dozen puzzle is made from 12 identical pieces, forming a 6x6 grid, which is quite surprising seeing as the pieces interlock in such a way that they look almost impossible to take apart. Made from bright orange anodized metal, it is a sturdy puzzle that will take your frustrations without a hitch. When assembled, the puzzle measures just 6.5cm x 6.5cm x 3cm (2.6" x 1.2").

I must admit, puzzles like this are quite intimidating to solve, especially when they're so visually attractive, because part of me thinks it's a shame to take them apart and then not being able to put them together again. But since this wouldn't be a review if I didn't "dirtied" my hands, I must tackle it without fear.

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As expected, this is a very challenging puzzle, even when trying to take it apart. Don't be fooled by the identical nature of the pieces, since they are very well interlocked. This is really a superb design. I was able to take the first piece relatively easy. Maybe in the first 5 minutes or so. Still, the next pieces didn't go without a fight. You need to constantly shift the pieces up and down until you find an opening and slide the piece off the grid. I was able to solve it quicker after removing the third piece. All this took me about 20-25 minutes.

The real challenge though, is putting it back together. That is still a work in progress as of writing this review. It's always a challenge to take it apart and pay attention to how each piece was removed and then try to reverse the process. The reassembling is as difficult as you'd expect in a puzzle of this caliber. But I must keep trying to get it back to its former glory.

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Closing Comments:

The Dirty Dozen is as good as they can get, as far as challenging puzzles go. Plus, it's a gorgeous design made from high quality materials. One of the best in the anodized metal collection (along with Lattice). Well done, Jerry!

Availability: You can get a copy of the Dirty Dozen puzzle at PuzzleMaster for just $24.99 CAD. Check out the other puzzles in the anodized metal collection as well.


Labylong

Posted on by Gabriel | 0 comments
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Jean Claude Constantin makes great maze puzzles and proof of that is in some of his earlier creations, like the Two Keys, the Blumenlaby, the Scheibenlaby or even the Labynary. Each one has its own unique characteristics which make them a joy to play with. The Labylong is another interesting design, made as a double-layer maze - Double the fun.

The Labylong is made from laser-cut wood and acrylic. Even though these are cheap materials, the puzzle itself is well built and feels sturdy. Measuring 10.4cm x 6.5cm (4.1" x 2.6"), the puzzle is small enough to carry along with you anywhere, and easy enough so that anyone can try it.

In this puzzle, a small metal sphere moves inside the two mazes, navigating through small holes that connect both mazes. Not all paths will lead to the exit, but that's expected in a good maze. Before making the sphere advance you should study the path ahead and see where it leads. Starting from the exit to the current position will help to avoid dead ends. To navigate the sphere you need to tilt the puzzle back and forth, since the mazes are stationary, and sometimes you need some dexterity to get the sphere where you want it.

Difficulty-wise, I was expecting a tougher challenge, since this is rated as a level 8/10, but I was able to solve it in just a few minutes. Or maybe I'm getting better at maze puzzles... If you've solved one of these, let me know how long it took you.

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Closing Comments:

The Labylong is a nice puzzle that even casual puzzlers will like it. If you found it too easy, try to solve it in a different orientation from the one you solved it, or try to go from the exit to the start. It's a fun puzzle to play with, but don't expect a difficult challenge here. Remember, not every puzzle needs to be difficult to be fun.

Availability: The Labylong is available at PuzzleMaster for $18.99CAD. Many more interesting puzzles from Constantin are waiting for you here.


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