Feb 27, 2015

Cast Vortex

One of the most difficult Hanayama Cast puzzles is "Cast Vortex". Personally, I find it to be in Top 3 of the most difficult from the series so far.
My first encounter with this puzzle was when one roommate of mine got it for his birthday. At that point I did not have any puzzles in my collection (i.e. my collection had not yet been started). It was rated at difficulty 5 (out of 6) by Hanayama and I gave it some tries. At one point it seemed that the three pieces could not move to any direction and I thought the puzzle was stuck. But my roommate managed to solve it and with few more tries he was able to do it very fast. Then, I gave it no more tries, but I wanted to get some of these puzzles for me as well.
Some years later, when I bought this puzzle, I still found it very tricky. There are several places where one can have difficulties in moving the pieces, there are few dead-ends, although they are not so tough. If one is cautious, they can realize in time that these are dead-ends and can go back to try something else.
So, it took me a dozen of tries to remember the path and to solve the puzzle relatively fast. But still, sometimes I am not able to do it immediately. The puzzle is very tight, the solution is very precise and the pieces are very stubborn. Maybe that is why when Hanayama made re-evaluation of their puzzles (I cannot remember when exactly, but it was after 2010), they promoted "Cast Vortex" to level 6. And I agree with them. It is very difficult to apply the solution even after knowing it.

I also cannot deny that the design of this puzzle is perfect. It was very important to make the pieces precise, to put the obstacles on the correct places and to make the features fit properly to only those parts of the solution, where they are really needed. What I mean is that every one of the three pieces has two protrusions and one hollow on its surface. For each piece these are situated on different parts of it. These both help in finding the solution and torturing when one reaches a dead-end. And one common thing about all three pieces is that they look like the number 6 (but not closed 6 - there is a small opening on the pieces which the number 6 does not have at that place). This is the reason why I call "Cast Vortex" a devil puzzle - having three 6-like pieces and being tough enough, it should really stand for a devilish puzzle.
My ratings for "Cast Vortex" are the following:
Idea: 6
Implementation: 6
Experience: 6
Difficulty: 6
Overall: 6
This puzzle was not only hard to solve, but hard to rate as well. I think the rating is higher than I expected I would give it, but considering everything, I cannot give less in any category than this. Maybe in time, when I do my own re-evaluation of the puzzles, I will update this review, but for now this is how I rate "Cast Vortex".

Feb 21, 2015

EZ Galaxy & Great Collision

Great Collision

EZ Galaxy

"EZ Galaxy" is the third puzzle I know from the "EZ" series by Doug Engel. And it is my least favorable from the group. "Great Collision" is actually representing the same idea (and is designed by the same person), with a few differences. But due to the fact that I would say one and the same things for both puzzles (I am always comparing them), I decided to review them together.
First, I would like to share my ratings for both puzzles and then explain why I like one of the two more than the other.

EZ Galaxy:
Idea: 4
Implementation: 2
Experience: 3
Difficulty: 2
Overall: 2.75

Great Collision
Idea: 4
Implementation: 5
Experience: 3
Difficulty: 2
Overall: 3.5

You can see the difference between these two - the design. Although "EZ Galaxy" seems to be more complex, because of the fact that the ball in the center has some spiral attachments to make it more attractive, I am not fancy of it. The only thing I like about its design is namely the ball and its attachments. The other three pieces are not appealing to me. While, "Great Collision" looks extremely great. I like its color, material, design and everything about it. The only "bad" thing I would say about this puzzle is that it is so tight and the solution must be executed very carefully, that one might think it could break any moment. (Hopefully, mine has not, and I hope it will never do.) But this is part of the fun in some puzzles, so not a big cons after all.
Everything else about these two puzzles seems to be almost the same. The solution is the same with one difference for "EZ Galaxy", which is not enough to make me like it more. The fun I had when solving these two puzzles was almost equal. In fact, I have solved these two pretty close in time - it was just a few days between working on each of them. I don't know if I have solved them with a big pause in time it would make any difference. But I definitely find "Great Collision" to be the better one.

If you happen to choose which one to buy, I would propose to go for "Great Collision", unless you do not care for the looks of the puzzles that much. Of course, this is my vision about the puzzles. You can share yours in the comments.
Finally, both could be found in PuzzleMaster, so, if interested in any, take a look at the information about them here:
EZ Galaxy
Great Collision

Feb 13, 2015

Cast Rattle

"Cast Rattle" is a very interesting puzzle. I got it as a gift from a friend, who was impressed by the design. When I first saw it, I was not that impressed by it, but in time my overall opinion changed.
The puzzle consists of four equal pieces. Each of them has a strange shape (not very appealing to me). They all four form that weird object, which is symmetrical on both sides (if you turn it upside down you can see the same structure). Once you have it in your hand and move any of the pieces, you will think that they are about to get separated. But the next moment any further movements do not allow it to happen and the puzzle stays assembled.
The concept for this puzzle is excellent! I solved it easily, because I have already solved "Cast Quartet" and I found one similarity. That helped me a lot, although some people might not agree with me that these two puzzles have anything in common.
The solution to "Cast Rattle" is very precise and... yes, there is a solution. All four pieces could be separated, scrambled and then put back together in any order - they are just identical in shape. Finding that solution is a matter of thinking. If you come up with the idea how to separate the pieces, it is a matter of time to apply it and succeed. I don't think it could be solved accidentally, unless you have great deal of luck.
My rating for "Cast Rattle" are:
Idea: 5
Implementation: 3 (personally, I don't like the shape of neither the puzzle nor each pieces separately, that is why so low rating; but I can't deny that the design is clever and intriguing; also, the used material is very pleasant - it seems to be the same as the one used for "Cast Quartet" but with different color outside, although I am not familiar with the real deal about these materials)
Experience: 4
Difficulty: 4
Overall: 4
Finally, I would recommend this puzzle to people who already have few easy puzzles in their collection. Say you have experience with solving 5 or 6 similar puzzles and you wonder what the next one to be - you might want to give this one a chance then.

Feb 8, 2015

Two Lovers

In December 2014, a fellow blogger Gabriel Fernandes organized  a puzzle photo contest. I won a gift certificate for BrilliantPuzzles.com with the picture I was participating with. "Two Lovers" is one of the three puzzles I chose to buy with this gift certificate. I was going for something classic, which I had not yet had in my collection.
Idea: 6
This puzzle is one of the many interpretations of a very famous concept. Before buying it, I have seen similar puzzles on other sites, but when choosing what to buy with the gift certificate I have won, I was wondering which version of this idea to get - there were three at that time in BrilliantPuzzles.com. At the end, I chose this one.
The goal is to put one of the two beads (or rings, or whatever based on the model) next to the other. I.e. they should come on the same side/loop/half of the string.
Implementation: 3
The puzzle consists of a string, an wooden stick and two beads. The two ends of the string are grounded to the two ends of the stick and they cannot be taken out. There is a hole in the middle of the stick. The string comes through that holes, twists around itself and then goes through the hole again. Thus, it makes that knot on itself. Two loops are formed on each half of the string and they come together in the middle, which keeps them locked between the stick and themselves. Each loops has a bead on it and the beads are bigger than the hole on the stick.
Experience: 4
At first I though that there is no solution to this puzzle. I considered it one of those which were created as a joke (I have heard of such) to be unsolvable. But then, when reading the description to this puzzle*, I was convinced there had to be a solution.
So, my initial idea was that the string should be un-knotted until one big loop is created and then knot it again by keeping one of the beads next to the other.
Difficulty: 3
It did not take me long to find the solution. It is truly an original idea, very clever and fun to figure out. The puzzle is pleasant to play with. I should definitely share it with my friends and family to see if they will be confused or not by it. It is suitable for beginners and if you happen to solve it by chance, you must be very lucky. Should you solve it with logic, though, then you have really mastered it.

Overall: My final rating for this puzzle is 4. I recommend it to everyone - be it a new or advanced player (who has not already solved a similar puzzle).

* The African ring puzzle was once used as magic by tribes living in the jungles of the Ivory Coast, and even today is still used for amusement in this part of Africa. However, the puzzle was not restricted to Africa. Variations were found in China where the most beautiful and elaborate puzzles were made.

Feb 6, 2015

Cast Horse

"Cast Horse" represents one classic puzzle idea. There are two horse-shoes linked with chains, forming a closed structure, and one additional horse-shoe should which is closed. The closed horse-shoe seems to be put around the other structure, but cannot be taken out by just sliding it on one direction or the other. The solution to the puzzle is not complicated, but it requires some thought.
I got this puzzle relatively late in my collection (for Christmas two or three years ago, by my sister) - I already had other Hanayama Cast puzzles of higher level of difficulty ("Cast Horse" is rated at level 2 out of 6 by Hanayama). And although I already had "Cast W-U", which is a bit more complex than "Cast Horse", and an idea about how to solve "Cast Horse", I still had some difficulties in finding out how it works. That is because Hanayama did what they do best - making the puzzles so tight that the solution is very precise. Don't be mislaid by the size of "Cast Horse" - the solution is tight to get. It took me several tries (and I would say a lot of tries, as they were more than I expected) to get the correct solution. But it was very rewarding. It was my first level 2 puzzle at that point, but I did not regret it. Later I would find that level 2 puzzles have some very attractive features.
My ratings for "Cast Horse" would be the following:
Idea: 5
Implementation: 3 (if it was not a Hanayama Cast puzzle, I guess the design would be less interesting and precise)
Experience: 4
Difficulty: 3 (it would be 2, but again, being a Hanayama Cast puzzle, I give it 1 more, just because they do make their puzzles look unique, even if you find something similar somewhere else)
Overall: 3.75
If you are a beginner to such puzzles, you should start with this one. Give it a try and have fun!