ThinkFun has always specialized in games that educate as you play, from the optics and angles of Laser Maze and the chain problem-solving of Gravity Maze to the coding-for-kids gameplay of Robot Turtles and the mental agility challenges of their Brain Fitness line of puzzles-for-one.
Two of their newest products bring the best of those puzzles-for-one brain fitness games into the realm of head-to-head competitive solving for two players aged 8 to adult. And while All Queens Chess and Rush Hour Shift focus on two different styles of puzzle-solving, they both highlight the pluses of two-player puzzle games in their own unique ways.
Rush Hour Shift
There have been numerous variations on Rush Hour in the past, all of which center around the same tile-shifting mechanic: moving a series of cars around the board in the proper order to allow your car to escape the traffic jam.
Rush Hour Shift adds a new wrinkle to the puzzle by pitting two players head-to-head in a race to escape the traffic jam. But not only can players shift a personal car (known as the hero car) and the many cars in the way, they can also shift entire sections of the board in order to maximize their efforts to escape or thwart those of their opponent.
[Sometimes, you end up literally head-to-head.]
Your moves are dictated by the cards you draw from a small deck of options. You can either move a certain number of spaces, slide a vehicle as far as it will go before hitting an obstacle, or shift one side of the board or the other in order to create openings for yourself and further obstacles for your opponent. So not only are you solving an ever-evolving maze for your own car, but you’re trying to make your opponent’s maze more challenging.
My one caveat when it comes to Rush Hour Shift is that the game is incredibly dependent on which cards you draw. Between shifting the grid and moving both your hero car and all of the other cars, you have lots of options.
But if your opponent is drawing high-number cards and you’re not, there’s only so much you can do to slow them down or maneuver yourself in the hopes of staying in the game. A few good cards in a row can form a nearly insurmountable advantage.
That being said, Rush Hour Shift is a clever spin on a familiar formula, and a terrific way of introducing kids to the tile-shifting style of puzzle solving.
All Queens Chess
Many of the best games have extremely simple rule sets that still allow for major replayability and inherently complex gameplay, and All Queens Chess absolutely fits that bill.
You’ve got a 5×5 playing field, six queens each, and you’re trying to place four of your queens in a row Connect Four-style while preventing your opponent from doing the same. Each queen moves according to standard chess rules, except there’s no capturing of your opponent’s pieces. This puzzle game is all about placement and strategy.
And when you consider that the game pieces occupy nearly half of the playing area, it’s remarkable that there’s so much maneuverability and tactical potential in such a confined space.
Moreover, my expectation that, after a few games, the inability to capture and remove pieces from the board would prove tedious or frustrating was completely misproven. Six pieces is enough to strike a strong balance of offense (trying to place four in a row) and defense (preventing my opponent from doing so). I never felt locked into a few token moves.
This is a rare open-the-box-and-go puzzle game, and it’s an absolute treat.
Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! You can share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on Twitter, Pinterest, and Tumblr, and be sure to check out the growing library of PuzzleNation apps and games!