Cast Medal (伝)

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This is Hanayama's Cast Medal, released in February of 2009 and designed by James Dalgety, the founder of Pentangle Puzzles. It was first introduced at the 2003 23rd IPP Design Competition, at the time by the name of St Mungo's Fish.

The Cast Medal is comprised by two medals that are linked together and a ring. Basically, you have to remove the ring, but to do that, you must work with the two medals at the same time. You start with the medal that has a salmon in a flowing river and a ring in its mouth (it's this ring that you have to free). Then, you must join the two medals, as if they were one, to allow the ring to get across the two paths and out. On the other medal there are six holes scattered between the "rocks" that will make your journey through the river, a little bit more complex. The challenge resembles the one found in the Cast L'œuf, because of its two different paths that must function as one and, although a bit more complicated, is plays like the classic Cast Plate, for its similar design with holes.

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The puzzle is just a level 2 (out of 6), rated by Hanayama, but besides having a simple goal that shouldn't take too long to figure out, it may be still a bit tricky to get that ring out of the medals... And returning it to the starting point is also a challenge, because by the time you solve it, it's hard to remember the exact path you took to do it again without facing a dead-end first.

I can't stress enough the fact that, design wise, Hanayama's puzzles are among the best looking you can find in the market right now. Each puzzle has its own identity and this one is no different. Metal is always used, but not the same type, making each one look different and have various colors. Have a look here and see for yourself.

Closing Comments:

I liked the Cast Medal. Not a tough challenge, but an enjoyable one and given the fact that its concept is a bit similar to the Cast Plate, I loved the extra twist of having the two medals joined together to complicate your task.

The Cast Medal is available at PuzzleMaster, as well as other Cast Puzzles.

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Links:

Hanayama's Factory Visit (Many thanks to Roxanne Wong for sharing these pictures)

Cast Hook (鈎)

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Hanayama's Cast Hook was the 3rd release of 2009 and was designed by Vesa Timonen. He is also the designer of the Cast Loop and Cast Square.

The puzzle consists of two identical pieces (hooks) that are entangled and you have to find out how to separate them. There's actually several Cast Puzzles that have this similar challenge. The Cast S&S and the Cast Baroq are just two examples of this, however they're harder to solve.

I love the design of the Hook. It's so simple and yet very classy. It's amazing how the designer came up with this shape. The spiraling effect of the hooks is actually the key to separate them. The finish applied to the metal is also pretty cool, making it look like an older object, although I'm not exactly sure which type of metal they used. Update: I now know, thanks to Roxanne Wong, that the puzzle is made out of Zinc, so you can take it with you on the plane, if you like...

The puzzle is rated at Hanayama's easiest level (1 of 6) and as expected it's quite easy to solve it (between 5 and 10 minutes). A great introduction for someone trying the Cast Puzzles for the first time. With just a little observation, you came to realize that the only way to separate the two hooks is by slowly rotate them, when joined at the thinner part of their spiral, from inside to outside. After you separate the spirals, you can now do the final step by twisting each hook in an opposite direction.

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Solution: It's a little hard to explain this process into words, but if you still have trouble to solve the puzzle, you can download the solution here, or watch a solution video here.

Closing Comments

I really liked the Cast Hook. It's not a tough challenge or anything of the sort, but that wasn't the designer's goal... It fits perfectly on the line of Cast Puzzles and their Philosophy, which is to present you with a unique piece that can sometimes challenge the sharpest minds, but also can captivate anyone with its fantastic designs.

The Cast Hook and other Cast Puzzles are available to purchase at PuzzleMaster.

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Links:

Hanayama's Factory Visit (Many thanks to Roxanne Wong for sharing these pictures)

Xmatrix - Quadrus & Cubus

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The Xmatrix are a new type of Dexterity 3D maze puzzles, invented by the designer Jeremy Goode and are available for purchase since November 2010. The Xmatrix Quadrus was entered at the 2010 30th IPP and the Xmatrix Qubus was later entered at the 2011 31st IPP Design Competitions.

First Impression

Right out of the box, I was very impressed by the Xmatrix design. The golden and silver frames look extremely elegant and the mazes on both puzzles seem a little complex, especially the larger version. The packaging used is different for each version: on the Quadrus you're presented with a nice card drawer box that can be used for display purposes and on the Cubus, you have a gold plated clear plastic box, however it can brittle very easily due to the nature of the material and doesn't have much use after you open it. Other than that and besides looking very pleasing to the eye, both puzzles are of great quality and should withstand the more careless handling of the younger puzzlers.

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*Packaging*

Description

There are two different size versions, the Quadrus (large) and and the Cubus (small), with both having two color choices for the mazes (yellow and blue). If you can afford the two designs, I recommend the Quadrus in yellow and the Cubus in blue - For being larger, the Quadrus will look much nicer with a complete golden appearance and the Cubus, because it's smaller, will accentuate the contrast between the blue labyrinth walls and the golden and silver frames.

The Challenge

Your task is to guide the ball from one side to the opposite one and return it to the starting point. You'll usually start at the golden frame and only one of the four openings is large enough to let the ball pass through - This is also true for the silver frame, where you have just one way in, which proves that there's only one correct path. The Quadrus is supposed to be slightly harder than the Cubus, but to put it mildly, slightly is an understatement... It's frustratingly tougher and you're gonna have much more trouble to complete it, not just because it's bigger, but also for having a lot of dead-ends. I found myself walking around in circles on several occasions, without finding the right path to the middle of the opposite frame. The Cubus, on the other hand, is a joy to play. The overall size of the maze is much smaller, which ultimately will facilitate the memorization of the labyrinth for faster solving times. If you get easily frustrated by a hard puzzle, then I recommend starting off with the Cubus to get used to the nature of the puzzle. However, if you like a real challenge, then you won't be disappointed by the Quadrus.

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*Solved Golden Sides*

Both puzzles are classified, in terms of completion time, as "Genius!", "Bravo" and "Well done", with 4, 10 and 20 minutes respectively for the Cubus and 5, 15 and 30 minutes for the Quadrus. ...Well, I'm not a "Genius" with the smaller puzzle, as my first completion time was around 10 minutes for both journeys and I didn't count the time for the larger one, but it was way more than the 30 minutes... The trick is, if you're stuck on the big maze without any real progress, just put it down for an hour or so, and you're gonna return with a fresher mind for another session.

Design

As I said in previous reviews, presentation is everything when you launch a new product in the market. The Xmatrix puzzles do this in great style, as the overall visual appearance is very attractive in both puzzles, capturing your attention right away. The designer didn't leave anything to chance and you can witness this even in the logo, where an Ambigram is cleverly used to read Xmatrix from both sides.

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Closing Comments

After almost two and a half years of collecting, I have acquired a lot of different Dexterity puzzles, but none of them can be compared and don't come close to the Xmatrix puzzles. Not only do they look good, but the level of complexity put into them is astonishing. As I first looked into them, they seemed pretty hard and after I played with them for several hours, I can say that each of them provide a very satisfying level of challenge for everyone. Like everything, practice makes perfect and if you play with the Xmatrix long enough, perhaps you'll be able to aim for that "Genius" score.

You can buy the Xmatrix Puzzles on the official website.

Youtube Video - Demonstration of both puzzles

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*Solved Silver Sides*

Cast L'œuf (玉)

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The Cast L'œuf (The Egg) is another great contribution of Oskar van Deventer for Hanayama and it was released in March 2004.

The L'œuf has a similar concept of the Cast Laby and Oskar's Cube/Maze (another Oskar's creation), in that you face multiple paths and in order to solve the puzzle, you have to think of them as one single labyrinth. You may think that, because both labyrinths are made of only one continuous path, without dead-ends, that it's not really a labyrinth or a maze. Well, you'll find out soon enough that it may actually be considered a maze, after you solve the puzzle...

The goal couldn't be simpler... You have to separate both "eggs" by guiding the two pins along their paths. Now, doing this can be a bit trickier than it looks. Both paths are different, and this is where the beauty of the puzzle is: you'll need to flip the puzzle constantly to look at the paths and see where your next move takes you. The overall path (the combination of both paths) will not be linear, so there'll be occasions where you need to go backwards a little on one of them and try to move the other a bit more forward. This is what I was saying earlier about the maze classification, where you can consider these back and forth motions the dead-ends of a labyrinth. Pretty clever...

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The difficulty on the Cast L'œuf is rated by Hanayama at 4 (Fairly Hard) out of 6, although I think difficulty 3 would be more suited. The puzzle is not that easy, but when you look at it for the first time, you'll probably know  exactly what you're supposed to do in order to solve it, so it'll be just a matter of time with some trial and error. However, this is not true for other difficulty 4 puzzles, like the Cast Rattle or Cast Marble, where you need to do a more thorough close inspection, before attempting a solve.

The design of the puzzle is very elegant, and that's what distinguishes Hanayama's Cast Puzzles from other metal ones. Presentation is everything and the utmost attention for detail is superb. There are two egg-shaped metal pieces, one golden and the other silver, and on the upper side of the golden egg there's a chicken carving. In terms of size, it's a little bit bigger than most cast puzzles. Not sure if it's the bigger Cast Puzzle, but definitely the biggest I own so far (for size comparison, it's just slightly bigger than the Cast Duet).

The Cast L'œuf can be purchased at PuzzleMaster, as with most of the Cast collection.

Hanayama Curiosity (courtesy of Roxanne Wong)

Hanayama tries to release a new Cast Puzzle four times a year. Check out their website and you can get an estimate of when the next one could be out.

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Links:

Hanayama's Factory Visit (Many thanks to Roxanne Wong for sharing these pictures)


Pilled Logs - Random Pick #15

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This is my fifteenth Random Pick from My Collection.

This puzzle was purchased several months ago from Georges Helm's puzzle shop, but I have no information about its designer or the year that was built.

UPDATE (22 Nov.) - Thanks to the information provided by Brett, I now know that the puzzle was designed by Jean-Claude Constantin. You can find more about his puzzles at his website.

'Pilled Logs' has nine identical wooden pieces with holes and six aluminum rods intersecting them in a symmetrical way. Each piece has two holes cut perpendicular to one another, following two distinct cutting patterns: one has six pieces with a hole in the center and another adjacent to it, and the other has the remaining three pieces with the two holes in the piece's extremities. You have to assemble a cube so that the six rods can intersect, from one end to another, the entire cube. The solution is unique and the only way to it is to get two rods, equally separated in each of the three possible directions (x y z).

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The cube is similar to the 'Albert's Cube' or Stewart Coffin's 'Corner Block', both interesting examples of the use of this nice concept. The main difference between 'Piled Logs' and 'Albert's Cube' is in the way that is solved. By having an exact way of placing the rods, contrary to the asymmetrical solution of the 'Albert's Cube', makes it a bit more easy, because you can exclude right away, any possible configuration that doesn't apply to this symmetry.

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One of the things that I most like in wooden puzzles, is the use of different wood types or colors. It gives the puzzle a more professional finish and it's much more visually pleasant. This puzzle, not only does that, but also uses two different materials: wood and aluminum - a perfect combination, indeed. In this case, the wood that was used is the same, as it seems and the pieces were only colored, but it doesn't change the fact that it looks a lot better, had it been used only one color of wood. Another cool design feature is the stand that has an oblique cut in its base, to display it in a desk or shelf with a bit more style.

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The store where I bought this doesn't have any more in stock unfortunately, but you can check regularly John Devost's Puzzle Paradise, and see if you can find it in one of the new puzzle auctions.

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Links:

Dael 'O Ring (Easy Yellow)

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Invented by Cor Vissers and Gert Santman, and on sale since September 2010, the Dael 'O Ring is a Hidden Maze puzzle with six different difficulties. From "Easy Yellow", the easiest and only version on the market right now, to "Terrible Black", the hardest. The objective of the puzzle is to guide the pin on the shaft through the hidden maze of the ring, so that you can separate both pieces.

The Dael 'O Ring is actually an improved version of the classic Dool 'O Rinth. First released fifteen years ago, also by Cor Vissers and Gert Santman, the Dool 'O Rinth had the lack of possibility to return the ring to its starting position, once it was separated from the stick. This prevented the puzzle to be easily reset in order to start over from the beginning (read this for more details about its history). I actually see a silver lining here, in that after you successfully separate the ring from the stick, you have another challenge in your hands, which is to solve the maze backwards to its starting position.

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Now, the Dael 'O Ring is presented to us with this new feature, a straight path across the maze that allows the ring to be clicked in placed to its starting position again, and a couple of nice finishing touches as well. If you own a Dool 'O Rinth, then you'll notice that the new version feels much heavier than its predecessors. The stick or shaft is now made of a single piece of hard plastic, which feels much better to hold, contrary to the hollow stick on the Dool 'O Rinth. Another cool design feature is the contrast color between the ring and the shaft, which is black in all six versions. Now, only the ring changes color according to its difficulty, emphasizing its nice glossy and shiny finish. Maybe it's just a matter of personal taste, but I actually prefer the contrasting colors, instead of a unique one for both pieces. Besides these minor tweaks in the presentation of the puzzle, its overall design remains unchanged.

With six different levels of difficulty, it's only natural to start with the easier one, to get used to the maze's features and to train for harder levels. On my first try with the "Easy Yellow", I took around 20 minutes to separate the ring from the shaft. It was more like a lucky solve, because I had encountered numerous dead-ends and after a while of going around the maze unsuccessfully, the ring was finally freed from the stick. I was far from having the maze memorized to do it in one flawless attempt, though in my second and third tries, I only needed  just a little more than 5 minutes. I have now solved the puzzle several times and although I can do it in just a minute or two, I'm yet to completely memorize the maze to solve it without running into a dead-end. The reason for this may be that you spend so little time opening it, that when you do, you're not sure of the exact path you took. This will probably change with harder levels, because you'll need more time to solve them, which allows you to get more accustomed to the right path, so by the time you succeed, you already know how you got there. It's actually great that after you complete the maze, you still have a replay value. You can solve it multiple times to try and beat your previous records, until you finally memorize it to do it in one go.

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The only version available right now is the yellow. The others are being released one at a time, with the orange being the next in line. It's understandable that the company chose not to release all versions at once, because it wouldn't be prudent after what happened with the original game fifteen years ago. They have to see if the product is widely accepted in the market first, to provide a safe release of harder levels and to create enough expectation, so that each new version can surpass its predecessors. The "Simple Orange" is just a few weeks away, and I'll be reviewing it here also once I have it, so check my Blog regularly for updates.

Closing Comments


I didn't have the opportunity to play with the original Dool 'O Rinth, but I can say that I was impressed by this new updated and improved version. To my knowledge, the Dael 'O Ring are the cheapest puzzles of the "Hidden Maze" category (by cheapest, I mean in price, as their quality is anything but cheap), and at €10 a piece you can enjoy this affordable addictive puzzle, that even a non-puzzler will find it intriguing enough to try his luck. It's the perfect puzzle for the masses, because it's the kind of puzzle that everyone knows exactly what they're supposed to do, so they'll keep trying until they manage to solve it.

UPDATE DEC./2011 - I have now a new review for the two new colors from the set (Simple Orange & Silly Green). Click here to read it.

Youtube Video

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Bicone 2 by Vinco

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The Bicone 2 is the second of ten different Bicone versions, designed and built by Vinco (Václav Obšivač). You can read a bit about him at the end of the post. It was entered at the 30th IPP Design Competition.

Perfectly crafted, the Bicone 2 is a beautifully shaped four-piece Interlocking puzzle (or Take-Apart and Put-Together), made with cherry and maple wood. Although it's built with two different wood types, you can clearly see tree different colors, which makes for a wonderful contrast on the checkerboard pattern. As a nice finishing touch, the puzzle is polished and waxed for a nice clean and smoothing surface, making it a visually stunning piece of craftsmanship.

 
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For an interlocking puzzle, the Bicone is quite difficult to take apart. It's rated as difficulty 5 out of 5 and classified as a coordinated motions puzzle, meaning that you can't use a sequence of movements to open (or close) the puzzle. You need to carefully manipulate its pieces simultaneously in a certain way, so that you can separate all the parts at the same time. There's no need to use excessive force, also because you can break the inner pieces that make the "key" of the puzzle. These key pieces are four triangular prisms that are glued into the inside structure on each of the main pieces and together, they interlock to close and maintain the puzzle in a locked state.

When you're trying to solve the puzzle, you can think about those triangular prisms to figure out how they keep the puzzle from opening. Since they're triangular, there's only one way to separate them: by sliding the four pieces together, each in an opposite direction. Once you have accomplished this "simple" task, you face another big challenge, which is to put the puzzle back together. Now that you know how the puzzle works, this should be easier, right? - Well, not quite, because as I said above, you need simultaneous movement on all four pieces and it also requires a lot of visualization and dexterity to manipulate every part of the puzzle, and slide the pieces back together.

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As mentioned before, there's six different versions for the Bicone, each with its own design. The solution is the same for every one of them, though. One cool thing about the Bicone is that a particular version may have different wood types used, giving them a slightly distinctive look. For example, the Bicone 4 has at least four of these looks, each with a different wood combination. This is great for a puzzle collector: even though the puzzle is the same, the appearance is different and therefore, highly collectible. The design you own may become rare, because they're produced in small quantities and after they become out of stock, it could be a long time before they're available again. If you really like a particular design, grab it while you can...

Closing Comments

When it comes to wooden puzzles, you can't get any better than this. Vinco's attention to detail and presentation is incredible and his craftsmanship is one of the most outstanding you'll find in the  puzzle market. For €50, you'll get a very high quality handcrafted puzzle, polished and waxed, that will look great in any collection. Vinco's puzzle offer changes quite often, so if you want more puzzles to choose from, check his site regularly, because when he has new puzzles available, they sell like hotcakes...

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A bit about Vinco:

Václav Obšivač is from the Czech Republic and started to build puzzles in 1999. He often participates in International Puzzle Parties, where you'll get a chance to see some of his exciting new works. He uses a lot of different wood types to build his puzzles, which allows him to make a lot of interesting color combinations and patterns. Some of his puzzles are available in several online stores around the world, including his own website, of course. Below is a list of such stores:





X Marks the Spot - Random Pick #14

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This is my 14th Random Pick from My Collection.

This time, I present you the 'X Marks the Spot' puzzle. Although the original idea is around since the beginning of the 20th century, the modern version was created by Japanese puzzle designer and inventor NOB (Nobuyuki Yoshigahara), back in 1981. NOB is also responsible for the design of several Cast Puzzles for Hanayama.

You can think of the 'X Marks the Spot' as a wooden version of the Cast News puzzle. If you solved it, then you know the mechanism is exactly the same. What differentiates the two puzzles however, besides the material used, is their presentation . The Cast News is more pleasant to the eye, looking like an ancient piece of art, but the 'X Marks the Spot' looks much more intriguing and harder to come up with a solution. How can one take the X apart with that frame in the middle? - At first glance, this task seems impossible, but it's not what it looks like. The goal is simple: Take the two interlocking pieces apart and remove the square frame.

NOTE: If you don't want to know anything about the solution, don't read the italic paragraph below.

A close inspection to the puzzle will reveal that it makes a rattling sound when it's shaken. This proves that the mechanism inside has loose pieces that somehow lock the two pieces of the X together. So how do you separate it? - The answer lies in a physics principle called, the centrifugal force. After you figure how to move the loose mechanism, you just have to slide the two pieces out and remove the square frame. Solution here.


Closing Comments:

I love puzzles like this one, that have a hidden mechanism and makes you wonder for quite some time, looking as almost impossible to solve. Such a simple and easy to explain mechanism, and yet so complex that puts experienced puzzlers scratching their heads. Great for when you have friends over and see their frustration as they try to figure it out.

The 'X Marks the Spot' is available at Puzzle Master for CAD $9.95 (approx. €7).

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Revomaze Obsession & New Design (Blue)

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The Revomaze Obsession is a new line of plastic puzzles, from the inventor of the metal series (Revomaze Extreme), Chris Pitt. They were launched in the beginning of 2010 and are aimed at a wider audience, mainly because of its reduced price, which is a quarter of the metal ones, and their lighter material, only a third, making them much easier to handle. All the Obsessions have the same internal maze as their metal counterparts and available right now are three levels of difficulty: blue, green and black (red was a limited edition). They also come with a very nice carry pouch.

 
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Here for review, I have two Revomaze Obsession puzzles. One is the classic design, also used in the Extreme versions, and the other has a completely new look and sleeve design. The inside maze is exactly the same on both puzzles.

First, I'll start with the basics and with the classic design: The Revomaze is a 'Hidden Maze' or a 'Sleeve-on-Cylinder Maze' puzzle, where you have to guide the central shaft out of the internal maze. Note that, unlike the Extreme, it isn't possible to actually remove the shaft from the puzzle. You still have your certificate at the end to register your puzzle, though. The maze found on the Revomaze puzzles has all the same characteristics of a classic maze, with dead ends and traps and the harder levels will introduce you to some new unexpected features. Navigating your way through the maze, you'll often hear a click sound, meaning that you fell into one of these traps and have to guide your shaft to the beginning and start over. It's very easy and intuitive to reset the puzzle, thanks to the ingenious design that lets loose the shaft and return it to the starting position in no time.

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The look and feel of the puzzle is incredible. You know you have in your hands a fantastic piece of engineering marvel, with such great care for detail and functionality. It's made of plastic, but don't let that stop you from getting one. It still feels sturdy as it is and the build quality is perfect without a flaw. The black outer sleeve has the same design lines of the Extreme, as well as a bubble badge with the puzzle's logo. Right now, all the puzzles in the plastic range are being sold only in a black color, although they were launched with the correspondent sleeve color for each different level. I would prefer if these colored versions were still available. It was a nice feature that helped distinguish them from each other like the metal ones. The shaft also has a bubble badge in each of its ends with the "R" logo in blue (different for each level), and has a great feature that helps to get a better grip on it, by having a rougher texture rather than smoother, which helps a lot after playing with the puzzle for a while...

The Revomaze is rated in difficulty at a scale of 100, with the blue being 50, the easiest one. By easiest, I mean from the three levels available. The puzzle has nothing easy about it, and requires an average of 6 hours to open. I took around 8 hours total, to finally crack the maze and I was thrilled when I could see the certificate for the first time. With my right hand and arm a bit sore from the experience, I still tried to solve it right after and only took me about a minute or so to do it again. It's amazing how I've spent all those frustrating hours trying to reach the end, and hear those clicks over and over again, just to reopen it in a matter of minutes. The maze is now printed in my memory, but it will be interesting to return to the puzzle after a while without touching it, and see if I can still solve it without falling into a forgotten trap.

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One thing that you'll notice different from the metal series is that after you solve it, you can't remove the shaft completely from the sleeve. It would have been great to see that evil maze and compare it to the one I've imagined in my head. I do understand that they had to leave something exclusive for the Extremes, otherwise people would just see the difference in material and wouldn't bother spending four times more for an identical puzzle in metal. 

The New Revomaze Design

 
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Soon to be released, is the new version of the Obsession series. The internal maze isn't changed and the shaft remains the same as the old version. The only difference is the design and appearance of the sleeve, which was completely redesigned into a nice smooth and plain surface. The sleeve is protected with a transparent plastic sheet, giving it a fantastic shiny look and now, instead of the bubble badge sticker, there's a big "R" logo with "Revomaze" and "Classic Challenge" beneath it.

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Another welcome new feature is that the bottom of the sleeve was flattened, and you can now place your puzzle in a desk for display, without the risk of rolling over to the floor. On this flattened surface you can also read the Revomaze website with "Made in England" beneath it and the UK flag with the CE marking, present on each side as well.

This new design facilitates the use of custom made images to change the overall appearance of the Obsession, and this potential is now used for brands to promote their business, by printing their company logo onto the puzzle. It would be nice to see this feature spread into the general public, for a small fee, which will allow for new cool designs to emerge and this way, help to spread the word about this amazing puzzle. Designs competitions could also be a possibility to win nice prizes. It's a real marketing mine gold...

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Closing Comments

The Revomaze is one of the most brilliant puzzles I've had the pleasure to solve. Its professional and pleasant outer look, alongside the addictive hidden maze challenge, makes a perfect match for an ingenious puzzle. Often described as a true test to your mental and physical capacities, the Revomaze is a tough challenge that will put your patience to the limits. When you own such a great puzzle like this, you feel like you belong to an exclusive club, perhaps too exclusive on some occasions. Since the launch of the first Extreme puzzle, there have been a few limited editions that are no longer available. It's a shame that newcomers like me, won't have a chance to own one of these rare puzzles. If you still want to try one of these unavailable limited editions, go for the Obsession - Black (3rd level), as this one is based on the Extreme Limited Edition - Black.

These two puzzles were my first experience with the Revomaze and I must say, I'm addicted. Now that I've solve the Blue Obsession, I want to try the other levels as well. I don't own a metal one right now, but that may change very soon, as I want to know how they feel compared to the plastic ones and of course, because they look much nicer on a shelf. Nevertheless, the Obsession series serve a purpose in which you can experience the sensation of playing with a Revomaze challenge for a much affordable cost... And if you're just into solving, you can get the three levels of the Obsession for less than a price of one Extreme.

It's hard to choose between the old and new design. The first has a much simpler and classier design (I love that middle bubble badge logo), and the new one has this cool and stylish look, more modern and definitely has more potential for customization. As of right now, if I had to choose between one of them, I think I'd still go with the old version, although I could change my mind when/if the custom images for the new design, become available for everyone. What about you? Which one do you prefer?

Links:

Youtube Video (solving)

Revomaze Forum (very interesting post about the history of the Revomaze)

Lexomino Puzzle "Gabriel M P F"

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The Lexomino Puzzle is an invention of Eric Harshbarger. It's a unique custom puzzle, made specifically for you, so what you order will be one of kind (unless you have a really common name). You can have the configuration you like, as there's no limit in the number of letters you can choose. If you wish, you can use numbers on your puzzle as well. Your goal is to pack all the letters inside the box and close the lid. Not an easy task...

The letters are all laser cut from thick acrylic, and for now, are only available in a translucent gray color. Most of the letters have a dimension of 3x5 units, although some have to be a bit bigger (R, M). It's also a nice twist to have different size letters, to make the puzzle a little more complex.

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The box has a dimension of 5x5x5 units (the smallest possible for this configuration), and it's laser cut from 0.20" plywood and glued together. The name of the puzzle, your name configuration and the designer's website is engraved on the box's sliding lid. There are several box sizes available, depending on the number of letters you choose,  so check the Lexomino's website for more information on that.

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Each puzzle is unique in terms of packing and solutions available. The "Gabriel M P F" puzzle has 2 unique solvable solutions and will occupy a volume of 110 voxels out of 125 (88%), for 10 letters. Each puzzle will also have its own degree of difficulty. Some might have just one solution, others just a couple, and some could have even hundreds of solutions. Ultimately, it will depend on how well your puzzle can be packed into a cubic box. Note that for some puzzles, it might not be possible to fit into a 5x5x5 box or if you choose a larger box, it could leave many empty spaces, therefore it will be better to choose one size that fits all the letters as tight as possible. Be sure to check out with Eric your puzzle configuration, box size, available solutions, etc. I tried several different configurations with him before choosing the final one, as some of them would be too easy or would leave many empty spaces.

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The final version of all those failed configurations, resulted in a great puzzle with only 2 solutions, and hard ones, by the way. As of now, I only managed to find one solution and it took me about a week to solve it. The other solution appears to be completely different, because I've tried to swap just a couple of pieces around, and it wasn't possible, so plenty of replay value with this one.

Other interesting fact about the possible solutions for any given puzzle is that, no matter how many solutions it has, just one or a hundred, the level of difficulty is not directly proportional to the number of available solutions. A puzzle with a unique solution could be very hard or very easy, and a puzzle with hundreds of solutions could be hard or easy as well. It all depends on how the pieces interlock with each other.

You can buy a Lexomino Puzzle by contacting Eric at the e-mail address found in his page. Each puzzle has a base cost of $25 + $3 per letter + $10 shipping. No solution included, although the puzzle comes in its solved state inside the box. If you want a solution engraved on the box, that's another $10).

Eric also designs other types of puzzles and makes use of old CD cases in a very original way.

Closing Comments:

Suffice to say, this is now my favorite puzzle. What more could you ask for, than a puzzle made just for you? It makes you feel rather special, to know that you're probably the only person in the world that will play with this particular puzzle configuration. I urge everyone with a passion for puzzles, to get one of these... It's also a perfect present for someone that's into puzzles.


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