Puzzle Reviews

Kaleidoscope

Kaleidoscope is a new puzzle by ThinkFun based on the concept of color mixing. It comes in a small box which contains 6 transparent tiles and 40 challenge cards, split into 4 difficulties. The tiles have beautiful snowflake design and are colored in yellow, blue, and red. By placing them on top of each other, you can create three additional colors - green, purple, and orange. The goal is by overlapping 2 or 3 of the tiles, to reproduce each of the 40 patterns depicted on the cards. Even though most of the challenges are on the easier side, they still provide a good mental exercise and are lots of fun to solve. The best feature of Kaleidoscope is the way it masterfully combines attractive design and interesting gameplay. It is also very compact, which makes it easy to store and carry around. Considering its low price, I find the puzzle to be of great value. Highly recommended!

Kalei-1522-HiResSpill.jpg
  • 40 puzzles, 4 difficulties
  • innovative concept
  • compact and attractive design
  • highly recommended

Moving Room

Moving Room is one of the easier disassembly wooden puzzles offered by Siam Mandalay. It consists of three pieces which must be arranged into a cube frame. Moving Room has the usual high quality of all products made by Siam Mandalay, featuring well-polished hardwood and a stylish engraved logo. Just like the previously reviewed Hoopla Cube, Moving Room's pieces are a bit thinner than optimal, which slightly compromises their fit. However, this does not create any unintended solutions and therefore does not impact the solving experience. I enjoyed a lot this product and think that it is a great introductory puzzle for people interested in this type of toys. It is highly recommended, especially for children and for beginners!

Moving Room
  • good quality hardwood
  • easy disassembly puzzle
  • pieces do not fit perfectly
  • highly recommended

Cat Crimes

Cat Crimes is a logic game by ThinkFun inspired by classic deduction puzzles. It consists of 40 challenges split in four difficulty groups. Each challenge presents the player with a cat crime which they must solve. One of six items on a carpet has been ruined, and several clues written on a card point towards the cat which is responsible. The player must analyze each of the clues, as well as the models of the cats and the carpet (included in the box), and find the perpetrator. Even though the puzzles can be completed just as easily with pen and paper only, the inclusion of cardboard models makes the solving process much more fun. The beautiful artwork of the set and the sturdy cardboard additionally improve the experience. In terms of pure logic, the puzzles are best suited for students in primary and middle schools, but older people can enjoy them as well. Overall, Cat Crimes is a wonderful twist on a traditional type of puzzle, which I highly recommend.

Cat Crimes
  • fun variation of a classic puzzle 
  • 40 challenges, 4 difficulties
  • beautiful artwork
  • highly recommended

Gravity Maze

Gravity Maze is one of the most famous and accoladed products by Thinkfun. The premise of this unique puzzle/game is to create a 3D structure of blocks and tunnels which allows a small marble to travel the distance between a designated start and end points. Gravity Maze comes in a large box and includes a plastic 5x5 grid, 11 colorful blocks of varying sizes, 3 marbles, and 60 challenge cards. The blocks are composed of small cubes and contain short tunnels passing through them. They can be placed on the grid either horizontally or vertically, and can also fit each other, just like LEGO blocks. This allows the solver to design an extended system of tunnels, essentially creating a maze for the marbles to travel through. The challenge cards are split into 5 groups by difficulty, ranging from simple beginner puzzles (involving just a few blocks) to expert puzzles (involving up to ten blocks). Solving each of the puzzles requires careful analysis of the given pieces and all the possible ways in which they can be combined. When the structure is completed, the solver must drop a marble into one of the pieces and watch it find its way to the destination. Testing the final solution is arguably the best part of the puzzles, and it is probably what makes Gravity Maze such a fun game. Even though the recommended age is 8 years and up, many of my academic friends enjoyed spending time with it as well. I am sure that middle and high schoolers will like it even more.

Gravity Maze
  • 60 challenges with varying difficulty
  • unique and fun concept
  • the challenge cards are a bit flimsy
  • highly recommended

Hoopla Cube

Hoopla Cube is one of the many wooden puzzles offered by Siam Mandalay. It consists of 3 pieces which need to be maneuvered around each other until they create a cubic shape. The task requires strong imagination, focus, and patience. In order to get a sense of what to expect from this type of puzzles, you can try the online game Interlocked. However, no video game can replicate the experience from solving a puzzle toy in real life, especially when it is well made. Siam Mandalay’s products in particular seem to offer very high quality. The wood is well-polished and pleasant to touch. There is a subtle logo of the company, engraved on one of the pieces, which enhances the look of the toy. One major remark which I have is related to the fit of the pieces. I feel that the space between some of them is a millimeter or two larger than optimal. This allows the pieces to jiggle around and makes it possible to solve the puzzle in unintended ways*. However, despite this flow, Hoopla Cube is still an entertaining and challenging puzzle. Its cost is a bit higher than the cost of comparable products from other manufacturers, but for me the premium look and feel justify the price difference.

* - This puzzle is meant to be solved using only horizontal and vertical moves, i.e. without rotating the pieces.

Hoopla Cube
  • good quality hardwood
  • medium disassembly puzzle
  • pieces do not fit perfectly
  • recommended

Follow Finn

Follow Finn is a large format, hardcover activity book, targeted towards very young children. The story follows the adventures of Finn who travels through a world of various mystical places with his companion dog Sep. Each illustration is drawn in a specific color theme - purple, red, blue, etc., and filled with intricate details. There are two basic tasks for the child to complete on every page - go through a maze which is incorporated into the picture and/or find several hidden objects in it. To get an idea of the overall difficulty of the tasks, you can see one of the mazes in our Casual Puzzles section. If your child likes this book, we also recommend you to check Peter Goes' other bestseller "Timeline", which has both a regular and an activity book edition. We personally love all of them and think they are great reads for children in pre-school and primary school.

Follow Finn
  • activity book with a story, mazes, and hidden objects
  • easy tasks, appropriate for young children
  • beautiful illustrations 
  • highly recommended

Myths and Monsters

Usually, mazes are split into two categories - easy, colorful, targeted towards younger children, and complex, with little to no art, targeted towards older people. In that case, what do you do when you have a gifted child which enjoys cute art but also is looking for some real challenge? Well, you could introduce them to Joe Wos' popular MazeToons series which the artist regularly updates on his website. After receiving lots of recognition and accolades for his work over the years, Joe finally decided to publish some books, starting with "A-maze-ing Animals" and "Myths and Monsters". Both books are medium size, have high-quality paper, and vibrant colors. Each of them includes 50 mazes sorted in increasing difficulty with solutions provided at the end. We like them so much, we even asked the artist to create one special maze for Puzzle Prime which you can find in our Casual Puzzles section. Joe Wos' books are highly recommended, especially for kids in primary and middle school.

Myths and Monsters
  • colorful, cartoonish style
  • well designed mazes
  • gradually increasing difficulty
  • highly recommended

Euler’s Disc

What would happen if you spin a (near) perfect disc on a (near) flat surface? This is a curious question studied first by Leonhard Euler during the 18th century. When observed, the behavior of the disc feels almost paradoxical. Its speed is seemingly increasing more and more as time passes by. The sound produced by the disc is also very unusual, especially at the end of the spin when its frequency gets very high. Now add to all of this some cool visual effects, and suddenly a serious scientific experiment transforms into an interesting gadget, both for children and adults. Euler's Disc may not be an item you will spend too much time with overall, but something you will surely take for a spin once in a while. It is highly recommended, both for its educational value and fun factor.

Euler Disc
  • educational toy
  • cool sound and visual effects
  • highly recommended

Fidget Cube

Have you ever been solving hard problems and felt the need to fidget during the thinking process? Most of us use to click pens or spin keychains around our fingers, and this usually helps us to maintain our focus. However, with the introduction of the Fidget Cube, Antsy Labs raises the fidgeting routine to a whole new level. The Fidget Cube is a novelty mechanical toy which has a different object to play with on each of its faces. One face has a (non-)light switch which clicks, another has a joystick which glides, a third one has a little disc which spins, and I personally love all of them.

The Fidget Cube comes at a somewhat hefty price of $20-25, but as a toy you will find yourself constantly playing with, I think it is definitely worth the money. You can also find cheaper knock-off versions on Amazon and other retailers, but they usually provide inferior quality.

Fidget Cube
  • fidgeting toy
  • good quality
  • novel idea
  • highly recommended

Pierre the Maze Detective

When I first saw "Pierre the Maze Detective: The Search for the Stolen Maze Stone", I instantly felt regret I was not 20-30 years younger, so that I could fully enjoy what the book has to offer. Drawn by the talented IC4DESIGN team, this hardcover follows the adventures of Pierre and his nemesis Mr. X over a series of highly detailed mazes. Each maze takes place in a unique environment - sometimes you need to navigate your way through the streets of a crowded city, other times times through an intense sea battle. As an extra challenge, the artists have placed on every page a set of hidden items which you must find in order to complete the mission.

Even though "Pierre the Maze Detective" is targeted towards younger children, I feel that adults can also appreciate it for the beautiful artwork and attention to details. If you want to see an example of the book's amazing illustrations, check this maze which we have included on our website (with the kind permission of the artists). I am sure you will love it just as much as we do!

UPDATE: There is a new title in the series - "The Mystery of the Empire Maze Tower".

Pierre the Maze Detective
  • amazing artwork
  • background story
  • hidden objects
  • easy difficulty
  • highly recommended

Perplexus Miniature

Perplexus Miniature is a small replica of the original Perplexus. It features the same layout, barriers, and colors, but measures just 2-3 inches in diameter. The marble's movement is decently smooth, and the maze works surprisingly well despite its small size. That being said, this version is definitely more frustrating and less fun to play than the original one. The marble gets regularly stuck midway the path or in the corners, so you often need to tap on the sphere to make it move. Overall, the product feels more like a novelty item than a fully functional puzzle. It is not a bad toy, but if you are looking for a cheaper, smaller version of Perplexus, I would recommend you to try the Q-Bot model instead.

Perplexus Original Miniature
  • medium difficulty
  • 100 barriers
  • very small size
  • recommended

Perplexus Q-Bot

Q-Bot is by far the smallest Perplexus, both in terms of size* and number of barriers. Unlike the other Perplexus mazes, Q-Bot has cubic shape, which gives the impression of some futuristic Sci-Fi gadget. With just over 30 barriers, it is relatively easy, comparable to Perplexus Rookie. Q-Bot is also almost completely static, and I found its overall design to be somewhat less imaginative than the other Perplexuses (Perplexi?). While playing with Q-Bot, I stumbled upon several sections where the ball was not clearly visible, which made passing some barriers a bit frustrating. Even though this maze is not one of my favorites, I still had some fun with it. Q-Bot may not be the best Perplexus to start your collection with, but it will be definitely a good addition.

*Not counting the miniature version of Perplexus Original.

Perplexus Q-Bot
  • easy difficulty
  • 33 barriers
  • pocket size
  • recommended

By the Book

Brainwright is a company known for its colorful, innovative puzzles, and "By the Book" is not an exception. The puzzle comes in a sturdy box, in which you will find small replicas of 2 shelves, 12 books, a cat, and a vase. You will also get 40 cards with various challenges, ordered in terms of difficulty. Each challenge requires that you arrange some subset of the books (and possibly the cat) on the lower shelf, so that the upper shelf can be placed flatly on top. This task is just as fun to do as it sounds, and the cute design of the miniatures makes the toy hard to put down.

Unfortunately, despite the interesting idea and masterful execution of the puzzle, the challenges themselves are rather poorly designed. Most of them have multiple solutions, and even the hardest ones occasionally can be solved by using very simple logic (find two books with the same height and place the others in-between). Also, the constraints which are included in some of the challenges, e.g. book A and book B must not touch each other, are often unnecessary and frustrating. Considering the low number of problems to solve and their overall easy difficulty, one can go through all of them within probably an hour. 

Ultimately, it is very hard to rate "By the Book". It scores high in terms of originality, design, and sheer fun, but scores pretty low in terms of logic, which is crucial for puzzles. Overall, I think it will be a good addition to your collection, especially if you have younger children around. However, do not expect any considerable amount of challenge from it.

  • great aesthetics and built
  • interesting idea, fun to solve
  • few and poorly designed challenges
  • recommended

Houdini: Master of Escape

Houdini: Master of Escape by ThinkFun is a disentanglement puzzle consisting of 40 unique challenges, mostly difficult ones. Considering the low price, this is a brain teaser of great value. For each of the 40 challenges included, there is a diagram on which it is explained how to attach Houdini to the trap cage using various ropes, locks, and rings. After you do this, your task is to help the great magician "escape" via some clever manipulation of the provided objects. Houdini: Master of Escape in its core is a collection of classic, mostly well-known puzzles. The fresh presentation however makes it feel very original, and also much more fun to solve. This is a highly recommended toy, especially at its low price of about $10-20.

Houdini Brainteaser
  • disentanglement puzzle
  • 40 challenges
  • great presentation
  • amazing value
  • highly recommended

Manifold The Origami Mindbender

In an age of video games and noisy high-tech toys, Brainwright's Manifold is a very rare find. I got truly delighted by the idea of folding little papers into origami, trying to achieve some easy to understand task. The goal is simple - you start with an 8x8 paper which has 16 black, 16 white, and 32 empty squares printed on its front. You must make several folds, so that it ends up as a 4x4 paper with all black squares on one side and all white squares on the other.

For under $10 I was able to get a set of 100 puzzles, many of them quite challenging, which translates into several hours of gameplay. The difficulty of the puzzles gradually increases, which makes Manifold appropriate for all ages. Despite my highly positive impressions, I have to point out several (minor) flaws. First - the paper, despite being high quality and glossy, may not be the best choice for making origami. Second - there is too much empty space left at the edges of the papers, which may get in the way when one needs to make many folds in one puzzle. Finally - since the creases on the paper may reveal the solution, each manifold can be generally solved once. Despite these few gripes, Manifold receives my highest recommendations.

If you want to try some sample puzzles from the set before buying it, you can print them from this PAGE.

  • fun, simple gameplay
  • various difficulty levels
  • highly recommended