PuzzleNation Product Review: Domino Maze

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[Note: I received a free copy of this game in exchange for a fair, unbiased review. Due diligence, full disclosure, and all that.]

What is it about dominoes that makes watching them fall such a satisfying experience? Is it the meticulous prep work required for a domino display? The balance and hand-eye coordination required to place each one? The danger of upsetting the whole thing before all the pieces are in place? The potential energy harnessed and ready to be unleashed as soon as the last domino is set up?

Whatever it is, it makes for one heck of a conclusion to a logic puzzle.

The creative minds at ThinkFun have conjured up a delightful twist on their traditional complete-the-path brand of logic puzzles, incorporating not just gravity, but the click-clack cacophony of a chain reaction in a new challenge for younger puzzlers and more experienced ones alike.

In today’s product review, we’re taking a look at Domino Maze.

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[One Challenge Card’s preset pieces in place. Note the three gates, each already balanced to topple over when the domino path crosses through.]

Domino Maze builds on the usual domino-stacking skills and tricks — splitting the path, making sharp turns, redirecting kinetic energy — by adding sequential gates that your domino path must pass through in order to complete each challenge.

The gates are numbered one through three, indicating the order in which you must hit your targets. (The gates are carefully balanced, so when a domino hits the target, the weight on top flips over, raising the numbered flap high AND knocking over the next domino in your chain.)

Similar to other ThinkFun games, the puzzle includes Challenge Cards, which increase in difficulty as you work your way through the deck. Beginner and Intermediate Challenges give way later to Advanced and Expert puzzles that will have you wracking your brain to employ the required number of dominoes, build your path, and hit the gates in precise order.

Note: Be aware that you need a completely flat surface for this game. The grooves will hold the domino, but the slightest mistake could send them tumbling. That’s particularly true when the staircases are involved. There’s no need to add a level of frustration beyond the natural challenge of the game by fighting gravity AND the designers’ puzzles.

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The Beginner-level cards are your introduction to the puzzle, taking you through the motions of how to place the dominoes, utilizing the numerous grooves in both the base and the elevated platform. As you proceed, the game adds new wrinkles to the game, like using the two pivot pieces (allowing you to change direction in a single move), splitting your path with the diagonal grooves.

That elevated platform is an especially devious and clever addition, since it not only requires more dominoes (to traverse one or both of the staircases that connects the platform to the base), but requires multi-dimensional thinking, like starting your path underneath the platform versus atop the platform. In this manner of solving, Domino Maze echoes other top-down logic puzzles in the ThinkFun library like Gravity Maze and Roller Coaster Challenge.

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[Two different angles of the same Challenge Card, mid-solve.]

You also slowly develop a sense of what I call “domino math,” the ability to look at the number of dominoes you have to work with, and immediately limit your choices and potential solutions based on what you know. For instance, three dominoes in a straightaway can cover half the board, but it costs three dominoes to make a 90-degree turn in one square, so you begin to recognize where resources MUST go vs. where they COULD go.

That’s a huge benefit down the line, when your dominoes (through splits and other maneuvers) must maximize their usefulness. It seems daunting when you look at a Challenge Card and see that you have to place 18 dominoes, but honestly, that’s less intimidating than looking at a card with gates scattered all over, and seeing you only have seven or eight dominoes to work with.

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But whether you’re a younger puzzler just getting started with logics, an experienced puzzler who likes the idea of combining a little hand-eye coordination with your solving, or a domino enthusiast looking for a new challenge, you’re bound to find the ever-escalating gameplay of Domino Maze to be a treat. (And just imagine the challenging pathways you could construct with two sets. Or a Rube Goldberg device made of ThinkFun puzzles.)

Watching those dominoes fall and those gates flip with the push of a single fingertip is a very fun and satisfying way to confirm that your puzzling skills are up to snuff. Plus there’s the sound, and the tactile sense of accomplishment with a path well-deduced and well-built.

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Very few puzzles offer that kind of fanfare for a proper solve, and the logical foundation behind cause-and-effect is rarely as enjoyable as it is in Domino Maze.

Domino Maze is available from ThinkFun and other participating retailers.


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Behold: The Lemonade Machine!

A Rube Goldberg machine, for the uninitiated, is a device designed to accomplish a simple task in as many unnecessary, ludicrous steps as possible. The name comes, appropriately enough, from Rube Goldberg, a cartoonist and inventor most famous for his cartoons featuring singularly silly and elaborate machines like the one pictured below.

We’ve posted videos of Rube Goldberg machines in the past, because they’re a perfect example of a mechanical puzzle in action. Only when things happen in a precise order does the machine complete its task.

But it turns out that an old friend of the blog — domino master Lily Hevesh, aka Hevesh5 — is now venturing into the world of Rube Goldberg machines.

And her first attempt was a doozy.

Teaming up with five machine-building YouTubers — essentially, videomakers who specialize in chain-reaction mechanical devices — Lily and the group descended upon an AirBnB in San Diego to build a Rube Goldberg machine that would span the entire house!

The Lemonade Machine, as they call it, travels from room to room, utilizing items commonly found in those rooms (silverware and a teapot in the kitchen, for instance) to construct an epic-length chain reaction with everyday household objects.

The end goal? Pouring a glass of lemonade for each member of the build team.

So, how did they do?

They constructed a real mechanical marvel here. It took three days to build, and another day to execute a complete successful run of all of the machine’s components in a single take. The end result was the largest Rube Goldberg device constructed in the United States this year.

Not only that, but Lily documented the entire process, so you can watch both the construction and the many MANY attempts on Falldown Day to achieve a successful run of The Lemonade Machine.

It’s a mind-blowing feat, combining puzzly skill, creativity, patience, and determination, and there’s no denying that they built something truly unique and pretty cool.

I’m gonna go watch it again.


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5 Questions for Domino Artist and YouTuber Hevesh5!

Welcome to 5 Questions, our recurring interview series where we reach out to puzzle constructors, game designers, writers, filmmakers, musicians, artists, and puzzle enthusiasts from all walks of life!

It’s all about exploring the vast and intriguing puzzle community by talking to those who make puzzles and those who enjoy them! (Click here to check out previous editions of 5 Questions!)

And I’m excited to continue this series with Lily Hevesh (aka Hevesh5) as our latest 5 Questions interviewee!

[Image courtesy of Eagle Tribune.com.]

Lily Hevesh, better known as Hevesh5 on YouTube, is a professional domino artist, a Rube Goldberg machine master, and an advertising whiz who uses skill, patience, and creativity to design wonderfully transfixing works of kinetic art.

She has appeared on The Today Show (auditioning for America’s Got Talent), helped set Guinness World Records — setting up 200,000 dominoes in group displays, as well as 22,000 dominoes on her own for certain projects — and her videos have accumulated over 200 million views on YouTube.

Hevesh5 was gracious enough to take some time out to talk to us, so without further ado, let’s get to the interview!


5 Questions for Hevesh5

1. What is your process when creating one of these ambitious works of kinetic art? How much planning goes into them before the first domino is laid? How do you know if you’re heading in the right direction or if you need to stop, reassess, and try something else?

Planning time varies a lot depending on the type of project. Sometimes I do absolutely zero planning and just start building and see where things go. I think of ideas while building which keeps me going. Other times (especially for live events) I have to plan out the whole setup by digitally drawing out the domino path from start to finish.

[A video thank you posted when Lily reached 2,000,000 views on YouTube.]

First I have to decide what I am going to build — whether that be a logo, an image of something, some sort of text, etc. Then I have to figure out the best way to build this as a domino trick. Dominoes can be built in many ways: lines, domino fields, walls, 3D structures, and other creative tricks, so I have to decide which technique is best for each individual project. Then it’s a matter of connecting every trick with domino lines and figuring out the position on the floor.

If I’m heading in the wrong direction, I’ll usually realize something is wrong — maybe it doesn’t look like what I envisioned, the structure looks risky or is becoming too difficult to build, it looks sloppy, etc. In those cases, I will make the best of the situation and try to correct the mistakes, sometimes even knocking it down and starting over if I feel like it doesn’t live up to what I’m picturing.

[Lily and several other domino artists craft a 30,000 domino masterpiece at the
Brattleboro Museum and Art Center for the 9th annual Domino Toppling Extravaganza!]

2. On your YouTube page, you answer the question “How did I get into dominoes?” with “I searched ‘dominoes’ on YouTube.” Was that the spark of all of your kinetic art (like your Rube Goldberg devices) or were you into mechanical puzzles before that?

The reason I searched dominoes was because I loved to play with the classic dotted dominoes and set them up for fun. I was intrigued by the knock down and wanted to find out if there were others who set up dominoes like I did as a kid. Searching dominoes certainly fueled my love for kinetic art an extraordinary amount though.

3. You have helped set world records and amassed over 200 million views on YouTube. Amongst all those awesome, mind-blowing projects, which are some of your favorites? And what’s the best part of collaborating with fellow domino artists and kinetic sculptors?

Amongst all the projects I’ve been involved with, 2 stand out: “The Incredible Science Machine” (new American domino record with 250,000 dominoes and world record for most dominoes in a circle field) and working on a domino segment for the upcoming feature film Collateral Beauty starring Will Smith.

The best part about collaborating with other domino artists is finally being able to talk to someone who understands your “domino language”. Meeting new people is always exciting, but it’s even more exciting when they share the same passion for such a unique art form. It’s always fun learning from other builders and seeing different styles of building.

[A stick-bomb chain reaction.]

4. What’s next for Hevesh5?

Right now I am just starting my gap year to do dominoes and YouTube full time. I plan to make as many domino videos as possible and create an inventory so that I can post them periodically when I go to college (I won’t have time to make videos in college, so I’m making a lot now to save up for the future).

I plan to post a video on my channel (YouTube.com/hevesh5) every week while also doing side projects for companies, ad agencies, and others who may need domino art.

5. If you could give the readers, writers, puzzle fans, aspiring YouTubers, and kinetic art enthusiasts in the audience one piece of advice, what would it be?

Don’t give up on what you love. Patience and perseverance are key, even in the most challenging times.


A huge thank you to Hevesh5 for her time. Be sure to visit her YouTube page for new videos and updates on her latest projects. I cannot wait to see what she has in store for us next!

Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! Be sure to sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date on everything PuzzleNation!

You can also share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr, and explore the always-expanding library of PuzzleNation apps and games on our website!