Turn Your Smartphone Into a Rubik-Solving Sidekick?

I just can’t resist a bit of Rubik’s Cube news.

We’ve covered Rubik’s Cubes a lot on this blog. We’ve seen them solved underwater, while being juggled, during a skydive, and one move at a time by strangers on a world tour. And yes, we’ve seen them solved in increasing faster times, both by humans and machines.

The human record hovers around the five-second mark, while the machine record stands at .38 seconds, which is brain-meltingly fast.

Now there’s a new tool on the market to up your Rubik-solving game like never before. It’s called GoCube, and it’s on Kickstarter right now.

GoCube is a Rubik’s-inspired twisty puzzle that is Bluetooth-enabled in order to interact with a phone or tablet. It offers real-time updates on your solving progress — which corresponds to areas of the physical cube that light up — as well as carrying a whole host of other features.

You can use it as a training tool to teach you the tricks of the solving trade, whether you’re just learning how to solve a twisty puzzle or you have aspirations of being a speed-solver.

GoCube’s connectivity even allows you to compete in head-to-head solves with other users. Plus you can use the cube as a controller for mini-games, in dexterity challenges, and more.

This seems like an impressive step forward for twisty puzzles. Although the price tag is pretty hefty — the basic Kickstarter package starts at $69 (although the creators claim it will retail for $119) — the campaign has already blown past its initial goal of $25,000. It currently sits at over $400,000 in Kickstarter-backed funds with over a month to go.

Puzzles continue to grow and adapt to the modern technological revolution in unexpected and fascinating ways. I can’t wait to see what tech-savvy puzzlers cook up next.


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The 2017 New York Toy Fair!

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The 114th New York Toy Fair was this past weekend, and I joined several fellow puzzlers from Penny Dell Puzzles on an excursion to the Javits Center to check out everything the toy, puzzle, and game industries are bringing to the table in the coming year.

In short, it was fantastic. Dozens and dozens of companies, from the titans of the industry to small outfits utilizing the crowdfunding model to get their feet in the door, were there to show off their creations.

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Although it’s a four-day event and we were only attending that Saturday, I suspect you could spend all four days exploring the complex and still miss out on some incredible stuff.

Like a giant singing LEGO Batman made of LEGOs.

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But I digress.

My chums and I were on a mission: to check out what puzzle and game companies were bringing to market in 2017. After picking up our ID badges, maps, and guides to the Fair, we dove right in.

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We started off in the Launchpad section, a place where first-time and developing exhibitors from all over the world could introduce themselves to press, buyers, and other reps in the toy industry.

I’m a huge fan of seeing what newcomers have cooked up — hence how often I’m on Kickstarter and other crowdfunding sites — and the Launchpad was loaded with intriguing puzzles and games.

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For instance, the team at Floss & Rock focused on puzzling for kids, with balance, pattern matching, and memory games, while the crew at Brixies put their own spin on the LEGO model with specialized pieces designed for making intricate models of animals, famous landmarks, and more.

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From there, we ventured into the Puzzles and Games section, and we were immediately awash in every style of puzzling and gaming imaginable.

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Vintage puzzles were represented, with deluxe versions of Clue and Scrabble on display, as well as retro metal brain teasers and mazes from Meridian Point.

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The folks at Orbet International were pushing the boundaries of what you can do with Rubik’s-style Twisty puzzles, and the team at Twizmo! Games put a Boggle-inspired spin on Rubik with their letter-filled take on the classic cube.

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From dice games to deduction games, from puzzles that fit in your pocket to ones that require the entire dining room table, seemingly every form of puzzling and gaming you can think of was under one roof.

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3-D jigsaw puzzles were well-represented by models like this one of Hogwarts in all its glory by Wrebbet 3D Puzzles

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… as well as wooden models like this Eiffel Tower from IncrediBuilds

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… not to mention this elaborate display celebrating 25 years of building fun with K’nex.

And, naturally, you couldn’t help but run into some familiar faces at the Toy Fair.

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Looney Labs was out in force, with their Loonacy, Mad Libs, and Looney Pyramids brands on display.

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And not only were they touting their latest edition of Fluxx — Math Fluxx, review coming soon! — but they’ll be celebrating 21 years of Fluxx games with Drinking Fluxx later this year!

(Plus, when I inquired about the Better With Bacon expansion pack to their Just Desserts game, an actual doctor told me to eat all the bacon I want. Now THAT’S how you hook someone.)

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The team from Bananagrams also had a strong showing at Toy Fair, with the company’s line having grown to letter-tile sets in seven different languages! Between that, their inflatable Bananagrams banana balloon, and their terrific tote bags, the Bananagrams brand was everywhere!

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All in all, the event was an absolute blast. The future of puzzles and games has never been brighter, and we here at PuzzleNation look forward to being a big part of that promising future.

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[A LEGO model of the Javits Center.]

You can check out our full gallery of photos from the event on Facebook by clicking here, and be sure to come back Thursday for a closer look at some of the puzzles and games that really caught our attention at this year’s New York Toy Fair!


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It’s Follow-Up Friday: Rubik’s Race edition!

Welcome to Follow-Up Friday!

By this time, you know the drill. Follow-Up Friday is a chance for us to revisit the subjects of previous posts and bring the PuzzleNation audience up to speed on all things puzzly.

And today, I’d like to return to the subject of Rubik’s Cubes!

You know, every time I think I’ve seen it all when it comes to Rubik’s Cube, some enterprising solver proves me wrong yet again. I mean, in writing three blog posts a week here for years, I’ve seen a LOT of cool things done with Rubik’s Cubes.

I’ve seen the world’s largest Rubik’s-style cube being solved, a building turned into a solvable Rubik’s Cube, a new speed-solving world record of 5.25 seconds, and a Rubik’s Cube solved one move at a time by strangers across the globe.

And now, we’ve got our first cross-disciple Rubik’s race. Anthony Brooks, a Rubik’s speed solver, pitted his twisty puzzle skills against the speed of Usain Bolt from his 9.81 second run in the 100 meters at this year’s Summer Olympics.

So…how did he do?

Granted, I think it would have been a fairer fight if Brooks was running on a treadmill or something at the time, but it’s still a funny comparison. Apparently, not all contests of speed are created equal. (Says the guy who just ate eight chicken nuggets in the time it took Bolt to run 100 meters. I don’t know if that means I won or I lost.)


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It’s Follow-Up Friday: Rubik’s Explosion edition!

Welcome to Follow-Up Friday!

By this time, you know the drill. Follow-Up Friday is a chance for us to revisit the subjects of previous posts and bring the PuzzleNation audience up to speed on all things puzzly.

And I’d like to return to the subject of twisty puzzles.

I’ve written before about the 3-D printing revolution and its effect on puzzling; now creators can customize puzzles like never before, designing mind-blowing puzzles and games unlike anything you’ve seen before.

And twisty puzzles like the Rubik’s Cube are a favorite of many 3-D puzzle designers.

You may remember last year when I wrote about the world’s largest Rubik’s-style puzzle, a 17x17x17 twisty puzzle known as the “Over the Top” Rubik’s Cube, created by Oskar van Deventer.

Well, Oskar’s masterpiece has been one-upped by the folks at Coren Puzzle, who have created a 22x22x22 Rubik’s-style cube!

Composed of 2,691 individual 3-D printed pieces, they’ve had some difficulty bringing their new puzzle to fruition, as you’ll see in the video below, posted a few months ago:

Yes, the first attempt to assemble this monstrous puzzle literally exploded in their hands. (Twice!) But they persevered, and now, please feast your eyes on the new record holder:

And here I sit, having never solved an actual Rubik’s Cube. This one might be a bit too much for me.


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PuzzleNation Product Review: Tak•tak

When it comes to strategy puzzle games, no matter how complex or how simple the actual game mechanics, the game itself hinges on the two players involved. After all, two extremely tactical puzzlers can make checkers look like chess.

Now, imagine a game that combines the pattern-matching of Uno, the strategy of chess, and the mechanics of Upwords, and adds a scoring element to boot. It might sound complicated, but I promise, it’s as simple as checkers.

Tak•tak is a two-player strategy scoring game designed by the folks at Twizmo Games, and it’s another puzzle game brought to life thanks to a successful crowdfunding campaign. Although Twizmo Games is best known for twisty puzzles (or Rubik’s Cube-style puzzles), they’ve taken a strong step into the traditional board game market with Tak•tak.

Each player starts with 12 tiles, each tile bearing a different score (10, 20, 30, or 40) and a different color (green, blue, or yellow). The two rows nearest the player form that player’s safe zone. The three rows in the middle are the war zone.

Your goal is to get as many points as possible into your opponent’s safe zone by stacking your tiles, crossing the war zone, and either capturing or maneuvering around your opponent’s tiles. You can only move forward (either straight or diagonally), so this is a game about tactics and initiative.

You build your stacks by matching either point values or colors. For instance, you can stack a yellow 20 and a yellow 40, or a yellow 30 and a green 30, and either of those new stacks would represent 60 points. This enables you to move more tiles around the board quickly. (But careful: once you’ve stacked tiles, they stay stacked for the rest of the game.)

But those matching rules also apply to your opponent’s tiles! When you and your opponent cross paths in the war zone, you can stack your tiles onto theirs and steal those points for yourself. (The stacks you make from your own tiles can only go three tiles high, but stacks made from your tiles AND your opponent’s tiles can go as high as you want! Heck, a stack might change owners several times and tower over the game board!)

The game ends when one player has no more available moves. (There are other ways to end the game if you choose to use the advanced game play rules, but we’ll stick with the basic rules for now.) And then it’s time to count your tiles.

You earn points for all of the tiles you’ve moved into your opponent’s safe zone (including any of your opponent’s tiles that are in stacks you control), plus points for any tiles your opponent never moved into the war zone. (Meaning they were never “in play.”) Highest score wins!

Tak•tak builds a lot of versatility and play possibilities into a game with checkers-simple mechanics, and the more you play, the more fun it is to delve deeper into tactics and strategy. It was worth losing 50 points for keeping a few tiles in my safe zone when they prevented a stack of my opponent’s tiles from scoring.

The clever mix of classic game-play elements not only makes Tak•tak so easy to dive into, but also ensures new players can more time actively playing and less time worrying about learning the rules (a common downfall for more complicated strategy games).

The designers claim the game is appropriate for ages 8 through 108, and I think they’re right on the money.


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!