[Note: I received a free copy of this game in exchange for a fair, unbiased review. Due diligence, full disclosure, and all that.]
Mechanical brain teasers can be incredibly complex, requiring many steps all taken in a particular order to achieve a goal. They can be devious, hiding components from sight and forcing you to deduce or luck your way into maneuvering the brain teaser in a certain fashion or from a certain angle.
But they can also be fairly simple in design and still retain a level of challenge and difficulty that makes the a-ha moment when you solve it just as sweet.
One of the traits that most ThinkFun puzzles or brain teasers have is accessibility. There’s nothing hidden from the solver. What you see is what you get, even if the path forward isn’t exactly clear.
The only thing that separates success from failure with a ThinkFun brain teaser is patience and puzzly skill. From age 8 to age 80, everyone starts on the same playing field.
This is exemplified by their latest brain teaser, Block Chain.
The concept is simple. You have three linked four-sided blocks. You can rotate each one independently of each other to show different faces.
You can also tilt the outside blocks in the chain up or down so that they slide over the center block, or swing the outside blocks so that they slide into the center block.
By swinging one block in and tilting the other block over, you create a single cube with different images on each face. Your job is to spin, swing, tilt, and tinker with each block chain until you form a cube that fulfills a certain condition.
And each package contains three different challenges for solvers to tackle.
One simply requires you to make all six sides match to fit one of two possible themes. For instance, this pirate-themed one could be all gold coin patterned, or all treasure chest patterned, depending on which side you twisted, swapped, and slid into place. So there’s two puzzles here, one on each side.
The second follows a more Rubik’s Cube-style solve style, as you have to manipulate the block chain so that a different color appears on every side of the cube.
The third involves multiple paths on each four-sided block, so you have to twist and maneuver the blocks so that the paths line up properly along each edge where the paths “meet.”
This was the most difficult of the three, because the patterning required much more attention from the solver. After all, you aren’t just matching a side — like the colored or themed ones — so the positioning of each block in the chain is more exact and deliberate than it is for the other cubes.
Block Chain brain teaser sets come in different themes — pirate, robot, and unicorn, for instance — adding a really fun visual aesthetic to what could be a fairly bland-looking puzzle. And their relative simplicity helps them serve as marvelous introductory puzzles for new solvers.
Although older solvers will blow through these fairly quickly, I definitely found myself returning to them more than once, enjoying the simple tactile joys of maneuvering the blocks around and over each other to make different shapes. They’re essentially a puzzly little fidget cube you can idly toy with as you solve!
Once again, ThinkFun has managed to walk that tightrope and balance simplicity of design with satisfying solving to create a delightful puzzling experience. Block Chain brain teasers have already become a welcome addition to my desk, keeping my hands occupied while I puzzle over the day’s obstacles.
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