April 16, 2011

Cast Disk

Cast Disk is another maze-type puzzle designed by Oskar van Deventer for the Hanayama Cast Puzzles series. Thanks to Puzzle Master for sending me a copy of this puzzle to review!

It wasn't obvious to me how it would work based on the picture, so I was interested to see how it worked. When you're actually holding it, you'll quickly notice that the two disks slide away from each other along the axis where they intersect (similar to Cast Keyring), but stop just before they separate.

Depending on where you are in the "maze" you can rotate one disk or the other, restricted by the shape of the square-ish holes in each disk and the shape of the lip around the outside of each disk.

With a puzzle like this, you could come up with a map of the different states the puzzle could be in, and the paths between those states to exhaustively find the solution, as George Bell did in an article on his webpage.

This is useful for really analyzing the design of the maze: a good maze will give you a number of opportunities to go wrong direction and either get stuck or go in a circle, and you can see those circles in George's map. It can be all the more tricky for puzzles like this, where your location in the maze is not obvious.

I fiddled this one for about 5 minutes before solving it, though I wasn't entirely sure what I had done. I could tell where the end point in the maze was, so it was just a matter of blundering in that direction until I finished. This is the way I usually solve puzzles like this, and usually with repetition I can figure out what it was that I was doing, though I haven't done that with this one yet. I thought that Oskar did a good job of adding loops to tempt you into taking the wrong path.

Interestingly, George also noted that you can flip the orientation of the pieces after disassembling them, and still be able to return to the starting position where the disks slide together, though the solution path will be different. I'll have to try that sometime!

Esthetically, this puzzle felt a bit less sturdy than some of Hanyama's other puzzles, mainly due to the thinness of the disk. I also found the squared off edges a bit less pleasing in the hand than a nice curvy puzzle like Cast Baroq (one of my favorites!).

This is a fun design that is worth trying out, but I'd go for some of the more interesting of Oskar's maze-like designs first: Cast O'Gear and Cast Cuby are both quite nice and have very unique movements and a bit more difficult.

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