May 6, 2015

Cast Donuts

Designed by Vesa Timonen, who is also the designer of "Cast Cylinder", which I have already reviewed here, "Cast Donuts" is one beautiful, original and unique puzzle! As its description says:
Cast Donuts has beautifully shaped rings that look like 2 donuts intertwined together.
Try solving the puzzle by imagining the inner structure and using each of the rings' division lines as a hint.  You will be pleasantly surprised by the unique movements needed to separate the rings. This puzzle is a masterpiece in design and concept. 

I could not disagree at all. The first time I saw this puzzle in real, I thought it was so small. Surely by looking at the image only, be it online or somewhere else, one cannot get a full idea of the puzzle. Not until they have it in their hands. Well, I imagined this one a bit different, but when I saw it on a stand in a bookshop, I was amazed for the second time (the first being when seeing it online when it was published in 2012). Then, I had no doubts - I should have this marvelous piece of art.
As per Hanayama's rating, "Cast Donuts" is level 4 out of 6. Its difficulty is 2, while its design and inspiration index* is 5, which gives this average of 4. My personal ratings in these are the same:
Idea: 5
Implementation: 5
Difficulty: 2
Which leaves the experience. Having the freedom to implement the solution in your way makes "Cast Donuts" very pleasant and fun, achievable and solvable by anyone. I mean that there are some steps which are needed to do the solution, but it is not mandatory to do them in any particular order or way. It is not like "Cast Quartet" or "Cast Vortex" for example, which are very precise and strict in the way the solution is done. This makes the puzzle suitable both for beginners and advanced puzzlers.

What I like most about the puzzle is namely the assembled version of it. It is very appealing and attractive. And the material is great - that black color which is present only on a few Hanayama puzzles is my most favourite. I think all 5 puzzles, which have it so far, are among my most favourite Cast puzzles (if not all in Top 10, then maybe in Top 20). I wish there were more great puzzles with this color/material.
The rest of my ratings for "Cast Donuts" are:
Experience: 4
Overall: 4

* Hanayama assess puzzles in these two indexes and gives one average level based on them

May 1, 2015

Deja Vu

"Deja Vu" is an "open-the-box" puzzle. It is indeed like a box - inside there is small space between the two pieces, where you can store something not to be visible. Opening this box is very fast, but requires a lot of knowledge to do. Of course, don't keep the most valuable thing you have in there, because a thief could come up with the idea of checking it and ruining the puzzle for you in search of the hidden.  Or they might even know how to solve this puzzle.
When I solved it the first time, I got a "deja vu". It means I already had a similar puzzle before it and solving this was like encountering that concept inside again. I think it fulfilled its purpose for me being a "Deja Vu". And yes - a small hint for those interested - I have already made a review of the other puzzle in my blog.
To be honest, I like "Deja Vu" more than the other puzzle I have, which represents the same idea. And it is not because it is more intuitive or easy, but because when you solve it, you are able to see with your bare eyes how and why the solution works. Then you will be amazed by the idea and certainly will remember it for good. With this, I am not referring only to the hidden trick inside for opening, but also for the way the two pieces could be separated once the first half of the solution is applied. Yes, you might come up with the idea for the second part of the solution without even knowing what the first should be.
What I got to know also about this puzzle is the fact that there are other puzzles like this, with the same outer shape of the two pieces, but different colors. I can't tell if the inside is the same, or even the solution, as I don't own the others, but if they were different, I would definitely try some of the rest. Some are known as "Dovetail", I suppose because of the shape of the middle of each side of the two pieces - they look like bird tails. And they seem to make the two pieces impossible to pull aside, although they must have been pushed together somehow. I will leave this up to you.
Finally, here are my ratings:
Idea: 6
Implementation: 3 (in general, the wood seems pretty basic and I think no special instruments or measures were needed to make this one)
Experience: 4
Difficulty: 4 (it is rated by PuzzleMaster only at level 7 from 6 to 10, which I think is low)
Overall: 4.25
You can get "Deja Vu" from PuzzleMaster. Check it here.

Apr 27, 2015

Alcatraz - The Puzzle

"Alcatraz - The Puzzle" is one extremely difficult puzzle, which is unsolvable, unless you already know the concept inside.
Many people state that this is not a puzzle, but rather a magical trick or something like that. Personally I think it is a puzzle, although not a regular one.
So, there is a cage with a ball inside. There are six columns around the ball, two of them keeping it tightly inside, while the other four could be rotated around their center axis, but cannot be removed from between the top and bottom of the puzzle. There is also a website devoted to this small little puzzle, and I am sure you will check it before you solve it by yourself. There, you will find more information about the structure of the puzzle and the solution.
To be able to solve a very difficult puzzle you need usually luck the first time you try it. Then, you have to see how the solution works and apply it the next time. For "Alcatraz - The Puzzle" this is not the case. Here, you cannot solve it at all accidentally the first time. Well, unless you see someone do the magic trick and then by observing their movements, try to do something similar. Then, and just then, accident could happen and you may solve it by chance. And I think this is how you should become acquainted to this puzzle. Otherwise, you have to cheat.
This is what I did - I cheated for this puzzle. And it is the puzzle I never regret I cheated. It is also the puzzle I never what to solve again, as it is not very pleasant for me. I do admire the idea and implementation, though, but this is not enough to make me like that puzzle at all.

This is my personal opinion for "Alcatraz - The Puzzle". It is suitable to see someone else take the ball out of the cage and then try to find out how. But if you are going to buy it for your collection with no demonstration about it - then I suggest you just don't do it. Spare yourself and get something much more interesting and fun.
My rating are:
Idea: 4
Implementation: 4
Experience: 1
Difficulty: 6
Overall: 3.75 (too high, after all)

Apr 23, 2015

Cast News

"Cast News" is a wonderful puzzle. Consisting of only two identical pieces, it is rated by Hanayama at level 6 (out of 6). Which means that despite the two pieces, it is very difficult to solve. Well, unless you are already familiar with the concept or are very lucky. To be honest, the first time you will indeed need some luck in order to separate the two pieces. After that, if you examine the inner structure of them, you have the task to find out how you can solve it faster and why the potential solution would work every time. Yes, it takes less than 10 seconds to separate the two pieces once you know the trick behind.
I myself did not manage to find the correct solution. I had something and thinking it is the true one, I checked on the internet if I was right. Well, I was not. This is one of the puzzles which I failed at. And it made me feel not happy with it, resulting in this puzzle not being in my top favourites. Most of the others I have, which I have failed at, are my most favourite, but not this one. I don't mean that I don't like it, I do, but not that much that I can boast with it. Don't get me wrong - I think the idea is more than great, the solution is very knowledge-requiring, the design is very precise. It's just not in my heart, if you know what I mean.
Mentioning design, there is something I noticed and it is worth sharing. If you have not seen it yet - it would be nice to know it. The puzzle is called NEWS, which has an anagram EWNS, which stands for East, West, North and South. These are situated on the surface of the puzzle in the corresponding order. So, if you need to know if you have put it properly back together, just take a look at the four directions and if they are displayed correctly. Not that you cannot put it back wrongly (WENS), but it would not make sense and will not be that nice.
Associating the puzzle with the four directions of the world, when I was trying to solve it the first time, I thought there is something like a compass inside, which, when pointed to north, would lead to position of the inner structure that allows separation of the two pieces. Well, I was wrong, but I think such an idea for a puzzle would be great, wouldn't it?
With all these, I am giving "Cast News" the following ratings:
Idea: 6
Implementation: 4
Experience: 4
Difficulty: 6
Overall: 5
You should have this puzzle is your collection as the idea presented is very popular and a must-know.

Apr 19, 2015

Jacob's Ladder

"Jacob's Ladder" is the last of the puzzles I ordered from BrilliantPuzzles with the gift certificate I won in December 2014 in Gabriel Fernandez's puzzle competition. The other two puzzles were "Two Lovers" and "Moon Walker".

To be honest, I enjoyed this puzzle one level less than "Moon Walker". The two have identical idea, only the position of the elements of the puzzles are different. This one has the sticks with the opening arranged next to each other, horizontally, each pointing vertically. I believe that if you have not solved any such puzzle before (in terms of the idea), either puzzle would present a good challenge at familiarizing you with it. But if you already know any of that type, the next one would be easier and less fun. That is what happened to me. Adding that fact that I had them together and solved them one after the other, I think it made me get the idea pretty well and implement it on "Jacob's Ladder" very quickly, with no trials and errors. I can't even remember if I have ever had any errors on doing the solution of this puzzle. Of course, if it was completely new concept for me, I would have many difficulties, but now I am sure I got it more than perfectly.
Anyway, one thing that caught my attention for "Jacob's Ladder" was that on the picture on the site it looked differently than actual. When I got it, I found out that the holes through which the sticks pass, are smaller that the ones on the picture. That made moving the string through that holes tricky at some points. Also as per the puzzle's description, it is enough to remove the string from the sticks (it cannot be taken completely from the rest of the puzzle), but in fact you can remove afterwards the bead from the stick. Not that it matters that much, but it is something I noticed that makes reality different from the information about the puzzle.
Finally, here are my ratings for "Jacob's Ladder":
Idea: 6
Implementation: 3
Experience: 3
Difficulty: 3
(The last two - because of my copy of the puzzle; otherwise they might have been higher.)
Overall: 3.75
I have seen other similar puzzles with the same structure, and I would not strictly recommend this one, but let the choice to you. What I would recommend indeed is the idea and the concept - if you are not already familiar with it, you should get it.

Apr 15, 2015

Cast Coil

I am having mixed feelings about "Cast Coil".
First, the design. The material (or at least the look) is so strange. I both like it and dislike it. I like that they made it look this way - a few Hanayama puzzles are looking like this, although "Cast Coil" has this blueish/grayish color which I have never seen used for the other Hanayama puzzles (although "Cast Plate" might be similar - I don't own it to say for sure). But then, it looks so dark in general, that I associate it with something unpleasant.
Indeed! Moving to the difficulty of this puzzle and finding the solution in general - this has not been a joyful task for me. I first encountered this puzzle when I bought it for a friend of mine for his birthday. Of course, being his first puzzle, he separated the two pieces, but did not how and was not able to put the back together. Then, I tried to help, but, going for the assemble of "Cast Coil" without even experimenting with the disassemble, was a hard job. Anyway, I looked up a video solution on internet and put the pieces back together. My friend did not want to separate them any more.
Some time later, I got "Cast Coil" in my collection. At that time I have already forgotten what I have seen on that video, so it was a new challenge for me. However, having experience with a lot of (Hanayama Cast) puzzles, I found the solution relatively easy. After that, I was determined to memorize the solution (after all, I was going to make a video solution for it for PuzzleMaster Canada). It took me some time. And, finally, after seeing the intended solution, it took me a lot more time to experiment with doing it from a different angle. What I mean is that there is only one solution to the puzzle, but you can do it by looking at the puzzle at different sides. Sometimes I use this method to challenge myself further in solving a puzzle. It is very interesting and fun, especially if I have memorized particular moves. And it is like solving a new puzzle!

My final ratings for "Cast Coil" are:
Idea: 3
Implementation: 4 (only because it requires a lot of brains to come up with the structure of two identical pieces, IMO)
Experience: 3
Difficulty: 4
Overall: 3.5
I would not recommend it to everyone, but people who like challenges should try it. Every move is unexpected - keep this in mind and don't limit yourself to the x or y axis only!