December 26, 2010


For Christmas, one of the puzzles I received from my parents was this cool 3D maze puzzle called Perplexus. (Thanks Mom and Dad!) Unlike most of the puzzles that I have where the goal is to either take it apart or put it together, this is a dexterity puzzle where the goal is to navigate a ball through an obstacle course.

Just reading that description doesn't sound all that interesting, but as you can see from the photo, the obstacle course is very elaborate! There are 100 different 'barriers' to overcome to reach the end, so it is quite a challenge. I'm saying obstacle course rather than maze since there aren't really any dead ends, it is a linear path. Here's a catchy promotional video from the Perplexus website that shows the puzzle in action:

The puzzle has a long story behind it: the concept was originally created in the late 1970's by Michael McGinnis, a 3D design teacher, who envisioned adapting his idea into a toy. 20 years later, Michael collaborated with Brian Clemens and Dan Klitsner of KID Group, a toy inventing group, to make the idea suitable for consumers. It was launched as Superplexus by Hasbro  in 2001 with an electronic timer and sound effects.

Recently, it was re-released by PlaSmart as Perplexus with no electronics, which is the version I have. No batteries to change! There are knock-offs for sale under the names Magical Intellect Ball, 3D Labyrinth IQ Puzzle, and Addictaball, but you should buy the licensed version to support the inventor. Check out a full article on Michael and the Perplexus by the San Francisco Chronicle with some photos of Michael and his first sketches of the puzzle.

Michael created a massive version of this puzzle that is currently for sale at Hammacher Schlemmer for $30,000. Pretty amazing! Considering how much that toy cost, I would think the kid in the picture would be more excited. I wonder how manipulating this massive version compares to the smaller handheld version. Here's a video of another giant Superplexus that Micheal created in action. Check out for more photos about the construction and history of this puzzle.

Back to the Perplexus: the puzzle has three starting points numbered 1, 2, and 3 that will start you at barrier 1, barrier 28, or barrier 59. This is quite handy because it is extremely difficult to solve the entire puzzle in one go. I've been working on it for the past two days and haven't had much luck. It took me about an hour to get all the way through it even using these 'save points' once I had made it past each one. Pretty challenging!

That said, the first third of the course in actually fairly easy. There are pretty high walls on either side of the path, so it is just a matter of navigating the ball in the correct direction. After the 2nd starting point, it gets quite a bit more difficult and will challenge even the most dexterous puzzler!

We had family over for Christmas and my cousins really enjoyed this puzzle. They were taking turns trying to get the whole thing done throughout the afternoon.  It really draws you in since you want to see what will come up next after the point where you just fell off. It feels a bit like a Revomaze in that you keep getting further and further before you fall off, which encourages you to continue.

I think the only downside to this one is that it is damn frustrating, but that just makes it all the more sweet when you finally get past a tough part. Even though you may get frustrated, I think most will be tempted to return to it and try to finish it. Also, the construction is plastic, which some people may not like. I liked the colors, and it seemed quite durable, though I'm going to be careful about preventing scratches on the exterior.

Overall, Perplexus is an awesome puzzle! Compared to the standard dull dexterity puzzle with a few balls rolling around randomly in a small plastic case, this one blows them out of the water! It makes me wonder if there are any other interesting dexterity puzzles like this that I'm unaware of. Let me know in the comments if you know of any must-have dexterity puzzles that are out there.

Definitely check this one out! Even if it doesn't quite seem like it is up your alley and you usually don't like dexterity puzzles, I think pretty much anybody will enjoy it. They also make great gifts for kids of all ages (3+) as well as adults.


  1. Thanks for the review! I've looked at this puzzle a few times and put it back because it didn't seem like the type of puzzle our family enjoys. I'll definitely purchase next time I see it!

  2. Awesome! Let me know how you and your family like it.

  3. This brought up a memory for me! I used to work in a retail shop several years ago and that the shop used to sell this puzzle. I remember that I'd spend around 10 minutes a day hiding in the stock room trying to gradually solve it. Then someone bought it one day and I never got the chance to finish it. I think I'll have to track one down now!

  4. Awesome, Oli! It really is an addictive puzzle. Good luck tracking one down! I heard that some new versions of this puzzle were going to be launched at the New York Toy Fair this weekend!


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