Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Well Played – The aMAZEing Puzzle Box

I was amazed when contacted to do a review of the aMAZEing puzzle box.  Someone wanted me to review a puzzle that they had developed AND BLOG ABOUT IT!  This was a first.  Normally when people send me puzzles, they specifically request that I NOT blog about them.  I’m perfectly fine with this arrangement BTW.

Unless you’re new to the puzzle community, you’ve seen the recent trend of producing puzzles using LEGO ® bricks.  As a designer of puzzles, I perfectly understand the appeal of the LEGO media.  It provides easy access to expressing puzzling genius creativity with quick turn-around times and can produce attractive products without investing in a lot of tools and manufacturing knowledge.  And who doesn’t really like LEGO?

Having said that, you still can’t just throw a bunch of LEGO bricks together and expect a winning product.  There is an art to it and a well-designed LEGO puzzle should be robust as well as intriguing.  I have to admit I was a little intimidated by receiving this puzzle.  I was more than a bit concerned about breaking it.  And by breaking, I mean separating pieces that shouldn’t be separated.  And by concerned, I mean putting myself in a situation where I wouldn’t be able to figure out how it goes back together.

aMAZEing Card
The aMAZEing puzzle box is QUIZBRIX’s debut Sequential Discovery (SD) puzzle constructed from LEGO bricks (the use of the term bricks here does not necessarily mean rectangular).  It either comes in black with white highlights or white with black highlights.  The QUIZBRIX website indicates that the black color is a little more difficult due to lighting differences.  After working with the black one, I can see how it may be easier to peer within a lighter colored version, but it doesn’t really impact the solving process.  There is also one lonely round gray highlight on the side.  

The cryptic highlights promise future knowledge for the worthy.  There are also many openings of various shapes and sizes that look like they would accommodate the insertion of a some type of tool if one could be found (hint: many puzzlers support the requirement of tools that are found and utilized in solving a puzzle if it is to be called a sequential discovery puzzle).  Lastly, there are a few windows where you can peer into the puzzle for visual feedback.  My favorite is the one I refer to as the teaser window.  You can see what has to be done; you have an idea of what needs to happen; but you just don’t know yet how to make it happen.  It was my favorite part of the puzzle.

aMAZEing Instructions
The puzzle arrives with a business card identifying the puzzle and providing guidance for starting. The advice included on the card indicates that you should Pay close attention to what you do.  This is the type of advice usually scoffed at - Duh!  However, it is good advice and I would have included it here even had it not been included on the card.  The puzzle provides many clues on how to proceed.  There are some things that you can just muddle through or you can do it with style.  If you find that you have completed a section without knowing exactly how, it is worthwhile to take a moment and figure out the clues that were to be followed.  There was one section I didn’t fully appreciate until the second time through.

Golden Bar
Having read the warnings on the card, the journey was on.  The objective: find the Golden Bar.  The website promised 30+ steps to completion and all I had to do was find the first one to get started.  The 3 step opening sequence was well-hidden and well-implemented.  Aside from being rewarded after the first few moves, I learned something about LEGO brick movements that I could look for and exploit in other places. I was now completely engaged and on my way to becoming an official LEGO SD explorer.

For the solving process, I view the puzzle as consisting of 3 main sections, with each bringing something new to the experience and the final section culminating in the release of the Golden Bar.  The puzzle box is very well-thought-out, architected, and constructed.  Use of friction was very well implemented.  There are a couple of steps where you just have to trust the designer and go for it.  As for the construction, I needn’t have worried.  LEGO bricks are well-designed and meant to hold together – especially when they are new and haven’t been worn in with repeated assemblies and disassemblies.  LEGO even has a special tool to help separate the bricks.

aMAZEing Reverse Side
Resetting is simple and straightforward and does not require backtracking through all the steps.  However, it is possible to get the puzzle in a state that looks completely reset but would bypass a couple of the steps.  Of course, it’s entirely possible that the next person would be moving in the wrong direction and be resetting instead of solving the puzzle.  Most importantly, it doesn’t appear that you can brick this puzzle with an improper reset.

I had originally thought that the QR code for the reset link would be inside the puzzle box, but was surprised that it was included on the card that came with the puzzle.  In retrospect, it makes sense to add the information on the card to provide the ability to reset at any time prior to completing the solve.  The card also has a QR code for the solution as well.  And yes, you get the reset QR code with the Golden Bar as well in case you need it and can’t locate the card.

QUIZBRIX has done an aMAZEing job with their first LEGO puzzle box.  It’s clever and fun but not difficult.  I believe that the stated 7/10 level of difficulty is a fair assessment.  I’m looking forward to seeing what types of features get added in future QUIZBRIX puzzle boxes.

Was I worthy?  Not entirely.  There was one aspect of the puzzle I wasn’t able to decrypt.  It didn’t impact the solve at all but left me wondering.  I won’t mention it here to avoid taking anything away from your own experience.  -  Yes, I’m worthy!  As I was finishing up this post I finally decrypted that final piece.  I’m still not going to mention what it was.  You’ll have to figure it out for yourself.

The aMAZEing puzzle box is currently available directly on the QUIZBRIX website as well as from NothingYet Designs.

Leg Godt - Play Well!

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