The IQ Fit - The L Challenge

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The IQ Fit is a series of colorful puzzles by Mi-Toys. Each puzzle presents you with many challenges using different color combinations. These puzzles are designed by Y. Gong, but knowing his shady practices of altering the designs of other renowned designers ever-so-slightly in order to avoid copyright violation, I wouldn't hold my breath as to the authorship of these IQ Fit puzzles as well. Maybe I'm being a little unfair, but once you go that road you can't ask for respect from the puzzle community.

Design authorship apart, The L Challenge looks interesting enough, and the bright colors make it stand among other more bland colorless puzzles.  The pieces are made of hardwood and painted in four different colors. The build quality is satisfying, considering its low price. Each color represents a different shape, so you have four identical L-shaped pieces for each of the four colors (green, yellow, red, blue).

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The puzzle comes neatly packed in a tray, but unfortunately it's made of paper. In this case, a wooden tray would've made a bigger difference in the presentation. In the end, you have to keep the paper tray, because otherwise you don't have anything to keep the pieces organized.

The L Challenge comes with 24 "different" challenges, but from what I've seen, they're not that different from each other (difficulty wise and in variety). Essentially, there are five different shapes you can build with the pieces. There are various solutions for each shape with distinct color combinations, but they're quite easy to solve and don't seem challenging at all. Honestly, I don't understand why it's rated as a difficulty level 10/10. I managed to solve several of the 24 challenges within 5 minutes, and the rest is just more of the same, so the variety and novelty factor wears off pretty quickly. You can try to solve four shapes at a time with all 16 pieces, like the photo below.

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Closing Comments:

The L Challenge proved to be a bit of a disappointment. Yes, it looks cool with all the colorful pieces, but it leaves an underwhelming feeling for a packing puzzle fan like me. The challenges can be an incentive to keep playing, but bear in mind that they won't get harder as you try to solve them all.

Availability: You can get a copy of The L Challenge at PuzzleMaster for about $11 CAD. The others in the IQ Fit series are also available.

Challenges:




Funzzle - Kappa (Noncsi)

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Funzzle is a collection of interlocking puzzles made of bamboo and designed by Y. Gong. Each puzzle is regarded as extremely challenging, but you should half expect this for most of interlocking puzzles...At least, that's what I've been experiencing for years.

In fairness, Mr Y.Gong didn't come up with the Kappa design. The original (Noncsi) is made by Tamás Vanyó, as Mr Gong only made a couple of modifications to avoid it being an exact copy of Tamás' design. It's not a very honest practice, in my opinion, but I hope the original designer is ok with it.

Bamboo puzzles have a completely different feel from their hardwood counterparts. For one, they are much lighter in weight, since bamboo is less dense, but their appearance is a little different as well, due to the lighter color shades of bamboo. It all comes down to preference, or as I'd like to call it, diversity in one's collection. I like to have a mixed bag of different materials in my collection.

(Click to Enlarge) - Partially Taken Apart
Any good interlocking puzzle has it's internal mechanism cleverly hidden and even the first piece is tricky to remove or to find out which piece really is the first one to remove. It should be a nice balance between clever design and difficulty. Well, such is not the case in this Kappa puzzle. The first piece to be removed is clearly visible miles away and it can be removed in one simple move. For reference, the original design by Tamás needs two moves to release the first piece.

What does this mean in terms of difficulty, you might be wondering? A lot, since it makes the puzzle much less challenging than it should be. The eight pieces slide along a square frame, in sequence, and they can only be removed one at a time. As you remove piece by piece, you must constantly slide the pieces back and forth to make room for the next piece in line to be released. The reassembly didn't much time or was it that challenging, but only because I didn't shuffle the pieces and had them placed in the correct sequence out of the frame. If you like a real challenge you can mix the pieces once removed from the frame and try to figure out which pieces should go first and which ones should go last.

(Click to Enlarge) - Taken Apart
Closing Comments:

I ended up with mixed feelings about the Kappa puzzle. On the outside, it looks great with an unusual design for an interlocking puzzle, but the execution of the idea leaves a lot to be desired, since it's a cheap copy of the original and it doesn't even work as it was meant to be. I still have a couple of the Funzzle puzzles to review, but judging by the quality of the first one, I don't expect much from the others.

Availability: The Kappa puzzle and all the others in the Funzzle series can be purchased at PuzzleMaster.


Flexi Cube

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George Miller is best known in the puzzle community as a puzzle prototyper, helping designers to transform their ideas into something real and palpable. However, he doesn't just make other people's ideas come true, he also does this for himself with his own designs and he's pretty good at it. One of such puzzles is the Flexi Cube, a versatile puzzle with six different challenges made by Brainwright.

What I really liked about the design of the Flexi Cube was its bright colors and the unusual shape of the pieces. The ability to build the cube into different color patterns is a very welcome bonus for those of you that are not satisfied with just one solution - Mind you, there's only one solution for each of the six challenges.

The Flexi Cube basically works like the classic Elastic Cube (seen here from my collection). Each of the 12 pieces is connected to two others by an elastic string, allowing you to bend them in any direction. When solving one of the challenges, two pieces can be joined together to form one of the six faces of a cube, much like a jigsaw puzzle. The idea is to turn the flat pieces (2D) into a cube (3D). The cube is small, about 4.7cm in diameter (1.85"). The pieces are made of thick and durable plastic and the string is of very good quality - won't break unless you really stretch it to ridiculous lengths. When a cube is made it will hold together quite firmly until you disassemble it again.

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I didn't solve all six challenges, but was able to make three of them in a relative short time (10 minutes). Overall, I didn't find it very difficult. The challenge that was probably harder to make was the one that asks you to get each side of the cube with different colors. I'm just not sure if my interpretation of "all sides different" is the same as them, because what I ended up with was each side with two different colors, but opposite sides have the same color combination. Now, if that's not the solution, then I guess I found a seventh challenge, since it doesn't match any of the others. The easiest challenge might be getting one single color on each side (there are six different colors). Here, you just need to find a way to join two pieces of the same color together and then work your way until you have all six sides with a solid color. The third challenge I solved was more like a random solve, ending up with four different sides and two of the same color.

(Click to Enlarge) - Challenge "All Sides Same"

Closing Comments:

Even though I didn't find the puzzle that much challenging, I honestly thought it was really fun to play with. I like how the pieces fit together with their curved inside shapes, and the possibility of multiple solutions is an added incentive to keep playing for a bit longer. By being a simple design devoid of any complexity, anyone with a curious mind can easily pick it up and try to solve any of its six challenges. You can also fold it into other shapes other than the cube - Thanks for the tip, Pantazis!

Availability: The Flexi Cube is available at your favorite Canadian puzzle store, PuzzleMaster. Check out more cool puzzles by Brainwright.

Additional Challenges:

(Click to Enlarge) - Challenge "All Sides Different"

(Click to Enlarge) - Challenge "4 Sides Different 2 Sides Same"


Houdini - Under Lock and Key

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A few years ago I reviewed the first of the Houdini Lock Series, a collection of trick locks, each with a different trick and mechanism. It took me a while to get the second puzzle in the series, Under Lock and Key, but better late than never...

The build quality of this lock is very similar to the first one: sturdy, made with solid metal parts, quite heavy and works exactly as it should - well, not exactly as you'd expect, but that's a given when it comes to a trick lock. Always deceptive, but quality is very good. The size of the lock is roughly 4.8cm in diameter (about 1.9").

The look of the puzzle is identical to any other ordinary padlock, but the similarities are merely aesthetic. Look closer, and you'll find it's much more than a simple lock and key. The main feature of the puzzle is a rotating disc with eight numbers engraved on it. The numbers have an alternating pattern, which may or may not have something to do with the solution.

The provided key fits on the keyhole, but it doesn't seem to produce any effect, whether you turn it left or right. Like any good puzzle lock, there's a couple of clever red herrings that will try to get you off track. Is the solution finding the correct sequence of the disc? Or is it trying to make the key work? Is the key even necessary? Are there any hidden clues? All these questions and more will pass through your head during your solving process, but that's part of the fun, isn't it?

The difficulty of the Under Lock and Key is a tad more challenging than the Dead Lock, but if you keep at it, you'll eventually discover its secret. It has that a-ha moment when you finally get it. I've seen many different mechanisms on trick locks and this one was new to me, which is always welcome in any puzzle.

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Closing Comments:

Puzzle locks are always a good choice to trick family members and friends. They're an excellent source of entertainment in any social gathering, but also an object of admiration and fascination for its clever tricks and ingenious mechanisms. The Under Lock and Key from the Houdini Series is a very nice puzzle at an affordable price.

Availability: You can get the Under Lock and Key puzzle at Brilliant Puzzles for $19.95 USD. The others in the series are also available.


Galop

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Continuing with themed puzzles, this week the horse lovers get a treat with Galop, a packing puzzle from the family of Picture Frame Puzzles, designed by Jean Claude Constantin from Germany. What seems like a simple puzzle at first sight, is actually a very difficult challenge, trying to pack all five pieces in the frame.

The puzzle is beautifully made with different shades of laser-cut wood (plywood), each piece designed with great detail, and complemented with a horseshoe-shaped tray. The horses are cut in different poses, adding extra complexity to an already difficult puzzle. It comes unsolved and without a solution, so you're on your own to try and find out how to neatly pack all the pieces in the frame. The puzzle is a bit small, measuring 12.2cm x 8.4cm (4.8" x 3.3").

I love Picture Frame Puzzles but they're usually quite challenging. What I find fascinating about this type of puzzles is how you need to study each piece, its curves and indentations, and trying to figure out how they can interact with other pieces in order to save the most space in the frame. It's a very immersive process, which few other puzzles are able to offer.

The difficulty of the puzzle is rated as a level 8/10, but this is very subjective. I agree with the difficulty, but it can be even harder if you've never solved one of these. It took me about 20 minutes to find a solution, and even so I'm not sure if it's the ideal solution, as the pieces seem too tight. One thing to be aware of is that you can only use the top side of the pieces - no flipping allowed - because the engraved marks are on one side only. Also be careful not to chip the pieces, since many of the edges are very small and fragile (e.g. the horses' hooves and ears). This happened to me on a couple of pieces, unfortunately.


Closing Comments:

Galop is a nice little puzzle, a bit challenging for a beginner, but its cute design will surely captivate the attention of any horse lover. If anything, it's a Constantin puzzle, which in itself is a guarantee of quality.

Availability: Galop is available at PuzzleMaster for $19 CAD. There's a wide selection of Constantin's puzzles, all great choices.

Links:




Fauler Hund

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You you're "fauler" you'll have a hard time solving this puzzle by Jean Claude Constantin. Fauler Hund (German for "lazy dog") is the perfect puzzle for all you canine lovers out there, but I'm sure it will also delight any packing puzzle aficionado.

Made with two contrasting wood tones, the pieces and the frame were laser-cut with plywood, a low quality type of wood, but necessary to achieve the precision seen in its design, since it's a softer material to work with laser-cutting machines.

Design-wise, the puzzle looks great. The shape of a dachshund is seen at the top edge of the frame, and the pieces, at first looking identical, are actually distinct from each other, having slightly different shapes. When solved, all the four bone-shaped pieces lie tightly in the frame without much wiggle room, even though there's a lot of empty space left.

I found the solution is very similar to the classic The Four T puzzle. The shape of the pieces in the two puzzles, despite appearing very different, are actually pretty similar when you analyse both puzzles. With this in mind, I didn't have much difficulty finding the right solution. On The Four T puzzle all the pieces are identical and therefore only one solution is possible. However, since the Fauler Hund puzzle has different pieces, it's possible to pack the pieces in a different order or orientation, but always in the same kind of arrangement, just rearranging and swapping some pieces. Only one side of the pieces shall be used, since the backside has the cut lines less pronounced.



Closing Comments:

Being a packing puzzle fan, it's always a pleasure to solve any of these puzzles, even more by being a design made by Constantin. It's a shame about the resemblance to The Four T puzzle, since I didn't find it as challenging as I would've liked.

Availability: Fauler Hund is available at PuzzleMaster for about $19 CAD. There's also many other interesting puzzle by Constantin there.

Links:




Nur Mut

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Siebenstein-Spiele doesn't make many interlocking puzzles - most of their catalog is packing puzzles or slide puzzles - but the ones they do make, end up being quite impressive designs. Nur Mut (a German term meaning "Be brave!" or "Have courage!") is a tough interlocking puzzle, designed by Jürgen Reiche,  that will surely get you some frustrating moments.

I was very surprised by the size of the puzzle, which is not noticeable from the photos. This is actually one of the tiniest puzzles on my collection right now, measuring only 3cm in diameter (about 1.18"). It looks like a sample of another puzzle, but it's quite functional and surprisingly well made, considering the small size of its pieces.

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Nur Mut consists of six interlocking pieces. There are only three distinct pieces: one group has three congruent pieces; the other group has two; and there's one single unique piece. The design is charming, with four acrylic pieces and two wooden, both in the middle of each layer. The pieces are laser-cut with precision, otherwise the puzzle wouldn't work so well at this size.

As expected from interlocking puzzles, taking it apart is not so difficult. I was able to solve it within a couple of minutes. The real challenge in these cases is returning it to its original shape, which is something that I always dread. From the photos, it's easy to see how the puzzle should look like when solved, but the correct sequence of moves is extremely difficult to figure out. I've tried to solve it with the help of the solution, downloaded from PuzzleMaster, but I found it very confusing. It's not a step by step guide, only a brief description of the solving process. It's also unclear whether the solution shown is to take it apart or to reassemble it. As of now, the puzzle is yet to be completely solved.

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Closing Comments:

Nur Mut is a must-have for interlocking puzzle fans, but it's not recommended for beginners, or it will be a very frustrating puzzle. The design is what captivated my interest at first, and I'm glad to add another Siebenstein puzzle to my collection. And this one doesn't take much space, something very welcoming right now.

Availability: Nur Mut is available at PuzzleMaster for $12.99 CAD. Other puzzles by Siebenstein-Spiele are also available.


Jigzle by Team Green

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Team Green is a Hong Kong based company that produces environmentally friendly and safe products. They have an impressive range of puzzles called Jigzle, made with plywood (thick paper models are also available), which will sure bring back memories from when you were younger and building those 3D plastic models.

I will be reviewing two of the company's wooden models, a Biplane and the Himeji Castle, both quite complex models with lots of pieces, especially the castle. I'll start by describing the Biplane, then continuing with the Himeji Castle.


The Biplane comes in a recyclable paper envelope - another proof of how environmental conscious the company is - and inside you'll find three wooden panels with all the pieces neatly arranged and pre-cut for your convenience. This process requires a somewhat careful approach, as many of the pieces are small and fragile, and you may end up breaking them if you don't push them out gently. Thinking of that possibility, the manufacturer made sure to include a few spare parts, the ones that are most likely to break in the assembly process.

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There are a total of 50 different pieces (not counting identical pairs), and assembling them took me approximately one hour. The instructions are very easy to follow, with detailed depictions of every major step in the assembly process. Each piece has a different number assigned to it, which makes your task quite pleasurable and enjoyable - like painting by numbers. The difficulty level is 3/5.

After you have finished your model, it makes for a great decorative object in a shelf or a desk. The propeller in the Biplane actually works if you spin it. The finished model measures about 18.1cm x 22.9cm x 11.5cm (7.12" x 9" x 4.52").


Compared to the Himeji Castle assembly, the Biplane was a walk in the park. If you thought building a biplane would be tricky, wait until you build something this large with a whopping 240 different pieces (including identical series of pieces, the number ascends to 300+), which took me about 6/7 hours to build, in three different sessions. The difficulty level for the castle is 5/5, the highest in the manufacturer scale.

You might be wondering, how accurate is the model of the Himeji Castle when compared with the real thing. Well, I've never visited Japan, so I can't say with 100% certainty, but from what I gathered from several photos of the castle, I found it's actually pretty close in configuration from the real castle, considering it's just a wooden model.

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The pieces come packaged in a sliding paper folder, the same material as the Biplane's package, and inside, the pre-cut pieces are presented in eight panels. Actually, the first panel doesn't have any pre-cut pieces to push out. This one will be used as the base for your castle. When complete, the castle will measure 28cm x 22cm x 21cm (11" x 8.66" x 8.27").

With a project this size, it's understandable that you feel a bit overwhelmed at first. However, like the Biplane, the instructions are very well made and will make you feel confident as you progress further into the assembling of the castle.

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I have a pretty good collection of 3D models and I'm not a newbie on this kind of puzzles, but I've never built something as complex as the Himeji Castle model. Usually, all the models I have took between 1 and 2 hours to complete, which is a far cry from the 6/7 hours of assembly time for the castle.

Most pieces are close together (in number) in clusters and are easy to find, but there are a few that are scattered around in different panels. The reason was simply to save space on the panels and have an optimal usage of wood without wasting too much materials. When you push the pieces out of the panels, it is best to keep them laid out in the same configuration as seen from the instructions, for convenience. Sometimes it did took me a while to find a specific piece, especially in the first part of assembly, when most pieces were still unused, but after a while it got easier and easier to find them.

The assembly process is divided in two main parts: The first keeps you responsible for building the perimeter walls around the wooden panel and far side stories; the second part lets you build the higher stories, which will fit nicely with the rest of the model when all is finished. No glue is necessary for the assembly, but you can still use it in some parts, as in some cases the pieces may feel a bit loose, but won't actually fall off.

A nice finishing touch that you might find interesting is to paint the completed model. Painting before assembly would be impractical, though, since the paint could make the joints thicker or make the pieces swell, thus rendering it impossible to assemble. Since I don't have any painting skills, I better leave it with its natural look, which is rather nice, as well.

Closing Comments:

The two 3D models by Team Green were quite a joy to build. These puzzles are very fun and easy to do, even if you've never attempted to build 3D models before. While it took me a while to build them, especially the castle, I found the experience quite rewarding. To see the final model completed is indeed a great feeling, after so much time building it.

Availability: You can explore the Green Team website at GreenTaNet.com, and find all kinds of models. With animals, buildings and other interesting objects, I'm sure you'll find something to like here.

Gallery (Assembly Process):

Biplane









Himeji Castle

















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