Seven Star UFO

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The Seven Star UFO looks straight out of a sci-fi magazine. Maybe an alien device of some sort. It has quite a striking design and it's difficult not to be awestruck by it. It was designed by Leslie Le in 2017 and produced by VeryPuzzle.

The mechanism and movement of the puzzle is rather complex. No wonder, as it's made with seven independent spherical 2x2x2 and on top of that, they're embedded in a two layer shell. It's a very intimidating puzzle to solve. There are a few versions of this puzzle, but the ones available at PuzzleMaster are the clear body and black. Both featuring stickers.

The puzzle is somewhat difficult to operate, unfortunately. The individual 2x2x2 spheres are so small (about 2cm) that it makes its movement feel like you're operating a delicate machine, not to mention the top-bottom shell rotation, where the spheres need to be properly aligned to allow the layers to rotate freely. There's a magnetic positioning system, which does make the layer rotation a bit more satisfying and helps you know when all the parts are in place.

Knowing how a 2x2x2 cube works will help you in the solving process and will make the puzzle more fun and enjoyable. Even if the movement is not as smooth as you'd like, the design makes it really interesting to solve, which ultimately makes for a whole new experience.

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Closing Comments:

The Seven Star UFO is definitely a unique puzzle. While the movement can be a little frustrating at times, the peculiar design and interseting mechanism more than compensates for its shortcomings. Be aware though, this is not a simple puzzle for a casual puzzler. It's complex and it's challenging.

Availability: The Seven Star UFO is available at PuzzleMaster for $32.99 CAD. Check out other puzzles by VeryPuzzle.

Kyoto Cubing

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Kyoto Cubing is a puzzle by Vladimir Krasnoukhov which was presented at the IPP-36 Puzzle Exchange Party. This is a mixture of 2D and 3D puzzles with just 6 polyominoes (3 pentaminoes and 3 tetraminoes). This is harder than it looks, especially the 3D shapes.

The puzzles comes in a 7x7 tray with all six acrylic pieces and a sheet with many challenges. There are two main goals. The first is to use the pieces as a packing puzzle and make 2D and 3D shapes. The 3D shapes proved to be quite challenging for the first time with the puzzle. You can see the images for the first three 2D shapes. Any more would spoil the solutions for others, but you'll get an idea of what it can be done using just these pieces.

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I like packing puzzles, especially 2D, that come on a tray. However, when you need to build shapes without a tray it gets really challenging, since you don't have borders to guide you and limit your movements. Also, it's much more difficult visualizing the final shape, although you can see the contours in the provided sheet with the challenges.

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If 2D puzzles are already difficult without a tray, 3D shapes are even harder, especially because the pieces are really tiny and clear, which makes it difficult to see what you're doing from various angles. The 3x3 cube is the main shape you can make, but others are also possible.

The second goal, one which involves more creative thinking, is to make a symmetrical shape inside the tray with only one empty space. I haven't managed to solve this one yet, but will keep trying, since you can use the tray as a helping tool.

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Closing Comments:

Kyoto Cubing is a very nice puzzle with many challenges into one. Considering the $20 price tag, it's really good bang for your buck. The first challenges are easy, but the difficulty curve really spikes for the 3D shapes. A great puzzle for everyone.

Availability: The Kyoto Cubing puzzle is available at PuzzleMaster for $19.99 CAD. Check out other puzzles by Vladimir Krasnoukhov.

JP Lock Bronze

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Jean Claude Constantin has many creations to his name when it comes to lock puzzles. It's always fun to discover how to solve these unique puzzles, which most of the times don't even need a key to open. Instead, you need to figure out a way to open it by using other methods. One of these puzzles is the JP Lock Bronze, a new (easier) version of the JP Lock Holz.

The design is really nice, with sliders all over the surface with an acrylic covering. These sliders are the "key" to open this lock. The size is relatively small, measuring 9.2cm x 12cm (3.6" x 4.7"). The sliders feel a bit loose, but don't worry, the puzzle won't fall apart. They're screwed pretty tight. The movement itself is smooth, which is good considering it's a wooden puzzle.

I never played with the original version, so I can't compare them, but knowing the original had a cover that didn't allow you to see the internal mechanism, you can guess which one was more difficult. Having said that, this acrylic version feels way too easy to be rated as a level 8/10. I managed to solve this in two minutes, which is more like a level 5/10.

I can see why the original was a difficult puzzle, and probably worth a difficult level 8/10. The spheres you see in the puzzle would be hidden and you wouldn't know what was blocking your movements. Guided by intuition and feel, opening it would be a real challenge. Aas it is, half of the puzzle comes already solved by showing you what's happening inside. Is it still worth it? Depends on what you value in a puzzle, the challenge or the design.

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Closing Comments:

The JP Lock Bronze, unfortunately, is more like a collection item than a challenge. The acrylic cover kind of spoils the solution for you, but as a whole, it's still a nice looking puzzle.

Availability: The JP Lock Bronze is available at PuzzleMaster for $43.99 CAD. If you prefer the original version, it's also available here.

Oleo 10

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It's no surprise that packing puzzles are my favorite type of puzzles. They allow you to think in unconventional ways that even you didn't think you could. Oleo 10, designed by the Japanese Yuu Asaka, is a brilliant puzzle and a challenge for your solving skills.

A good packing puzzle is one that seems impossible and has a high rewarding value. That a-ha moment when you feel you've conquered something that you didn't think was possible. That's the beauty of packing puzzles, especially the 2D ones, since you're limited by a flat surface. Even though it looks extremely difficult, there's a way to solve it.

The puzzle comes in its unsolved state with 6 acrylic circles and 4 rectangle pieces with semi-circles. The goal is easy enough to understand: try to arrange the four rectangles in a way that they can accommodate all circles as well. The design of the puzzle makes you think in a conventional way at first. You have to go against the pre-conceived notion that arranging the pieces in that way won't work.

This is a difficult puzzle, no doubt about that. Depending on how good you are at solving packing puzzles will determine your success here. This is rated as a level 8/10, but I wouldn't be surprised if it was a level 10 for some people. I was able to solve it in about half an hour, but I didn't think it was easy. It took a lot of thinking to get there -  That kind of outside-the-box thinking I was talking above. The solution itself is quite elegant. You can see that it was a well thought-out design. Bravo, Yuu Asaka!

Solution: Click here to view the solution (as a last resort).

Closing Comments:

Oleo 10 is a magnificent puzzle. One that feels you with pride for having solved it and for making you think in ways that you didn't know you could. It's difficult, it's beautiful and it's one of a kind. I'll be curious to try other puzzles by Yuu Asaka in the future.

Availability: Oleo 10 is available at PuzzleMaster for $39.99 CAD. Check out other interesting puzzles by Yuu Asaka.

Revolver Puzzle

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Revolver Rotational Marble Puzzle, or simply Revolver Puzzle, is a very nice 3D-printed puzzle by Jared Petersen. As the name suggests, it resembles a cylinder from a revolver pistol with six holes. It has three layers, each in a different color and they rotate independently. The top layer has only five marbles, to create an empty space so the other marbles can move up and down from the other layers. The goal is to mix the marbles and then rearrange them in their respective colors.

For a 3D-printed puzzle it has a surprising smooth movement and the marbles move freely without any restraints from layer to layer. Only the body of the puzzle seems to be 3D-printed, as the marbles look like regular plastic. It's a very satisfying puzzle to play with, even though the difficulty level is not that challenging.

Whether you're mixing the puzzle or solving it, it's quite fun to play with it. As you solve it, you always need to be cautious not to drop an undesired marble to the empty space below. I found it was easier to solve it sideways and keep a look on both sides to see which colors can be moved from one layer to the other. It doesn't take more than a few minutes to solve it, but you can always "reload it" and go for another "round".

You can also try to solve other color combinations. Put the middle marbles on the top layer or vice-versa, alternating colors, etc. The colors you see in the photos can be completely different from yours, since there are quite a few color versions. There's no option to choose colors, so be prepared to receive what's in stock at the moment you order. Either way, you'll get a great puzzle, and that's what's important.

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Closing Comments:

What a pleasant surprise the Revolver Puzzle was. I wasn't expecting much, given the low difficulty level, but yet again I was reminded that a great puzzle doesn't always have to be crazy difficulty to be fully enjoyed. Give it a go and let me know what you think.

Availability: The Revolver Puzzle is available at PuzzleMaster for $33.99 CAD. Check out other puzzles by Jared Petersen.

Cast Cyclone

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First review of the year, and what else, another Cast Puzzle... And a mighty difficult one at that. The Cast Cyclone comes from an already known designer in the Hanayama family, Kyoo Wong, who also designed the Cast Rotor, the Cast Snow and the Cast U&U - All very nice additions to the series.

There's no deceptiveness in this one. It looks difficult just by looking at it, and it doesn't disappoint. It is indeed a big challenge. Four rings are interlocked to the point of having almost no room to maneuver them other than rotating them along their central point. Although the rings appear identical, there are in fact two groups: one with grooves and another without. Each ring has an opening, but there's not even a space between the extremities, just a couple of notches that will allow the rings to pass through each other.

Solving this kind of puzzles can be more frustrating than fun sometimes, but the rewarding feeling you get when you finally solve them will compensate for any frustration you might experience until then. Give it a try. You won't know if you can solve them until you take a chance.

How do you solve this then...? It's a good question, because I haven't been able to do it yet. To me, this is one of those puzzles that you need to spend some time with them to figure them out. It's not something one could solve in a few minutes... For most of us anyway. So, for now, all I can do is keep fidgeting with it and see if I can make some sense out of it. This is rated as a level 5/6 by Hanayama, but so far, I don't see any reason to think it's anything other than a level 6. It's really challenging.

Closing Comments:

The Cast Cyclone is a fiendish puzzle that only the brave ones can tackle it. It's as difficult as they get, but if you like a good challenge this is an ideal puzzle for you to test not only your skills but your patience as well.

Availability: The Cast Cyclone is available at PuzzleMaster for $15.99 CAD. You can also find many others in the Cast series with different levels of difficulty.

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