A New Gaming Opportunity for Opportunity?

[Image courtesy of Wikipedia.]

Last month, the world collectively mourned the loss of the Opportunity Rover, as NASA declared that the incredible machine’s marathon body of work on Mars had officially ended.

Its mission was meant to last 90 days. Opportunity vastly overperformed, delivering photos and data for a mind-blowing fifteen years of service. The Little Engine That Could has got nothing on the Opportunity Rover.

The outpouring of sadness and affection for the Rover surprised many, serving as a heartwarming reminder of the amazing things we can accomplish. It also represents our almost magical ability to come together as a people in appreciation of an icon, one we’d come to adore and anthropomorphize into a plucky, inquisitive adventurer.

[Image courtesy of Tom Gauld.]

As you might expect, a character with this much esteem couldn’t pass into history without the game community immortalizing it in some way, shape, or form.

Thanks to WalrockHomebrew, an independent content creator for RPGs like Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition, the Opportunity Rover can now be part of your roleplaying campaigns!

Creating not only full stats for Oppy as a neutral good construct but a plausible explanation for how this real-world scientific device has found itself in a magical universe, WalrockHomebrew has crafted a fun fictional legacy for the much-loved rover.

Understandably, Oppy isn’t much of a fighter, though it can use its rock abrasion tool to scratch at any potential foes. It’s far more capable as an observer, seeing through magical illusions and glamours.

It can even see invisible creatures and creatures in the Ethereal Plane. As far as we know, the actual rover couldn’t.

Though, if it could, I suspect its reports to NASA would’ve been front page material every single day.

[WalrockHomebrew even offered rules for how to restore the rover in-game to full operational capacity. Pretty cool!]

This is a wonderful tribute to one of the most amazing devices ever conceived. Thank you, Oppy, for all of the wonders you revealed.

And thank you, WalrockHomebrew, for letting us hold onto that magic in an unexpected and delightful way.

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Stopping at the McDonald’s on Memory Lane

I mentioned last month that I’ve been doing a bit of late-Spring cleaning, and the process continues. This weekend, I was poring through some McDonald’s toys my mother had saved over the years (and when you’re one of six kids, those toys add up quickly).

(One section of the counter absolutely covered with toys.)

And as I was organizing and sorting an egg box full of these silly little gems, I couldn’t help but find the puzzliest among them to share with my fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers.

It seems appropriate to start with toys that resemble the brand’s signature food items.

When it comes to puzzle toys, you really can’t go wrong with something that transforms. Figuring out the proper steps to reveal the hidden character or form inside can be simple or complex, depending on the toy. Obviously McDonald’s kept it simple with these Happy Meal handouts, but it didn’t make them any less weird or delightful.

These faux foods are from two different series of McDonald’s toys — the fries and hot cakes & sausage from 1986/1987, the burger and hotcakes from 1990 — and each transforms to reveal something unexpected.

As you can see, the late ’80s toys become robots (keeping in line with the whole Transformers mentality) while the 1990 toys become curious food/dinosaur hybrids.

1992 brought us these stackable circus characters, testing the balance and dexterity of younger minds to see what diabolical human towers they can cook up. In my house, this quickly became a Jenga-like game of each person selecting a piece and taking turns to stack them, often with disastrous results.

(My tower…just before it collapsed.)

But by far the puzzliest of the toys I uncovered was also one I’d completely forgotten about.

Back in 1991, McDonald’s partnered up with NASA to spark interest in space exploration with a run of Happy Meal toys all about astronauts, space technology, and more.

One of the best and most challenging sets was this small space module, complete with two astronauts, logos, and flames.

If memory serves, there were also a lunar rover and a satellite, all built with these wonderful double-sided cardboard pieces.

It was a blast to rediscover these puzzle-fueled delights amidst a plethora of TV and movie tie-in toys, animated characters, and other nuggets of fast-food childhood fun.

Did this post remind you of any puzzly toys you found in cereal boxes, fast food orders, or the like? Let me know in the comments section below!

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A New Dimension of Puzzles

[A 3-D printed puzzle from Instructables.com.]

3-D printing is the next big technological leap forward, and although the technology is only a few years old, it’s already responsible for some amazing advances.

You may have seen the story in the news recently that NASA “emailed” a new wrench to the International Space Station. For the first time, plans originating on Earth were sent electronically to the ISS and built in a 3-D printer, giving an astronaut the specific tool he needed while saving literally thousands upon thousands of dollars. That’s mind-blowing.

Every day, new stories are emerging from the medical field about the benefits of 3-D printing. A close friend of mine recently had brain surgery, and they used a 3-D printer to manufacture a new piece of skull specifically for her. That is a phenomenal thing.

And puzzles aren’t immune to the march of progress. Enterprising designers are creating new puzzles with increasing complexity, allowing them to build on existing models and add previously impossible variations and details into their designs.

I’ve previously featured the specialized twenty-sided die created by the folks at 64 Oz. Games, which were made with 3-D printers and feature braille renderings beneath every number.

One of the fastest growing fields in 3-D printed puzzles is known colloquially as the twisty puzzle, the numerous variations, expansions, and extrapolations from the Rubik’s Cube twisting/turning style of puzzles.

Check out this article about George Miller and Oskar van Deventer, who are pushing the envelope of twisty puzzles with some ingenious designs.

Meticulously designed and realized through 3-D printing, these puzzles have set world records — one is a 17x17x17 Rubik’s Cube with over 1,500 parts! — and taken twisty puzzles to unexpected places.

As 3-D printers become more affordable and more puzzlers embrace the technology, there’s no telling where puzzles will go next. But I cannot wait to find out.

Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! You can share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr, and be sure to check out the growing library of PuzzleNation apps and games!