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!

Apr 10, 2015

Internal Combustion

I understood what "combustion" means not until I was about to write this review. Now I am happy to know what the English term "internal combustion" stays for.
This puzzle is very interesting. It is one of my first of that type - fitting objects into another object or whatever the type is called (I am not that into the terms of puzzle types). The thing is that the four pieces inside the "box" or "frame" are only partially visible and one has to use their other senses to understand what the internal structure is. It is like cracking a safe or a combination lock. With the difference that the combination here is not that complex and you can find it with a few tries only.
I was surprised to find out that the intended solution was not what I have found. It appears that there could be different solutions to "Internal Combustion", depending on how the four pieces are put inside. Mine copy of the puzzle arrived with different initial setup than intended. And I think the solution I had at first was the most interesting and the most difficult. The intended one is fairy simple and discoverable. So far I have found only two different solutions, but who knows - there could be more as well.
With this feature (having different possible arrangements), I think "Internal Combustion" is an useful toy with time. Especially if you have forgotten the solutions which you have found so far. You will re-experience the joy of solving it.
Here are my ratings for "Internal Combustion":
Idea: 4
Implementation: 3
Experience: 5
Difficulty: 3
Overall: 3.75
This seems quite low, depending on how I really feel about this puzzle. But in time I might re-review it and change the ratings to higher.

Apr 2, 2015

Cast U&U

I have one word for this puzzle: remarkable! (Well, with all the synonyms of the word, there could be more than one in this case.)
Idea: 6
Implementation: 6
Experience: 6
Difficulty: 4
Overall: 5.5

"Cast U&U" turned into a favourite of mine only after seeing a picture of it when it was released in March 2014. Then, it was a period of desire to own this clever little puzzle. And at the end of October 2014 I got it in my collection from PuzzleMaster Canada. After that, it became even bigger favourite of mine.
The idea of "Cast U&U" is to separate the two Us. When looking (just looking) at the puzzle, one might think that moving the two pairs of nuts away from each other would make enough space for the two Us to be relocated and thus separated from each other. But when you have it in your hands, you can easily find that there will not be enough space to do that action. The six (to be honest, they are six - two pairs of three not separable) pieces are made so accurately that the solution is very, very precise and only that solution works and nothing else. No force, and - for those who count on it - no luck would help you in this one. You have to think what could be needed in order to separate the two pieces - that is, what the exact order of steps are necessary. Or, if you can't think that much - you have to look.
I really don't want to go into that much superlatives about the concept, the implementation and everything else about this puzzle. You have to own it to get it. I would just like to add that I solved it faster than I thought (I suspected a long time of torture), but still not that quick to just do it and leave it afterwards. I also think, on the contrary to other people's comments which I have read so far, that this puzzle is very pretty. I love the looks, the design, the grace and fineness it offers. For me, looking different than the rest of the Hanayama Cast puzzles makes this one outstanding.
Finally, if you are into puzzles for quite some time, you should try "Cast U&U". It would provide great experience and I hope you like at at least as that much as I do.