September 30, 2011

Little Game Hunter Puzzle Box

I recently acquired the latest box by Robert "Stickman" Yarger: Little Game Hunter Puzzle Box (Stickman #24). Robert is one of my favorite puzzle box designers, so I'm always quite eager to see his latest creation!

Little Game Hunter has quite an unusual appearance with a kumiki elephant standing on top of a rectangular base. Through a combination of sliding moves, two compartments are revealed.

This puzzle has an interesting background, here's what Robert had to say about it:
The origin of this particular puzzle started years ago, but an unexpected expense required me chop off their poor little interlocking feet before they were done and merely sell them as Kumiki style puzzles.  A limited edition status was never placed on those elephants because I had always planned to eventually come back and finish them correctly, which I finally did. 
If you were fortunate enough to get one of the original elephant puzzles, then you know what a fun puzzle it is.  These particular puzzles are identical in mechanics to the originals with the exception of the added trophy stand, which now adds two secret chambers, increases its complexity by 15 moves, and provides false progression paths.  The trophy stand also comes apart, and upon solution you will find yourself with 26 individual pieces that are quite challenging to re-assemble.

These puzzles are all hand crafted from quality exotic woods and require a minimum of 25 moves to solve.  The Little Game Hunter puzzle measures 7” x 7”x 3” and comes with its own 10-page illustrated instruction booklet.  These are limited edition pieces, and only 38 of them will ever be made.
When the package arrived, I noticed the cute little detail that each of the elephants is named. Mine is named Patience (#3 of 38), which seems appropriate! As Kellian started cooking dinner, she graciously said I could go ahead and start trying to solve it. Much to my dismay, as soon as I had started I was immediately stuck. I had figured that it wouldn't be too challenging, but one of the moves near the beginning stopped me in my tracks for a good 20 minutes. After I finally figured out how to proceed, it moved along fairly rapidly.

The move sequence is generally fairly logical, but as Robert alludes to in his description, there are a few little false paths that can trip you up along the way, which I really liked. The base has an interesting movement that I enjoyed as well. I was very careful to keep track of where the pieces came from so that I wouldn't have too much trouble getting it back together. I think it ended up taking me about 30-40 minutes to get it completely apart. As you can see from Robert's photo, it has quite a few pieces!

It is at this point that Kellian's delicious dinner was ready, so I started to eat, but then I realized that I may have a really hard time getting it back together if I didn't do it right away. So I ended up working on putting it back together while I ate my dinner (being quite cautious, of course). Don't I have the most understanding wife ever?

Another 10-15 minutes later and I had the puzzle back together. Woo hoo! Following dinner, I took it apart and put it back together a few more times just so I could get the hang of it. I haven't yet tried scrambling up the pieces, but I'll probably try that at some point in the future when I have a bit of free time.

The craftsmanship is quite good, I really liked his selection of woods for the base. A few of the moves on the elephant stick a bit, I think it is due to the finish: it makes a rather disconcerting snapping noise as the piece breaks free for the first time after sitting for a bit, but there's no harm done. It does require a bit more force that I think my guests will (hopefully) want to exert, so I'd probably want to loosen it up before I hand it to somebody to solve. Perhaps my apartment is a bit too warm in the summer, it may be better in the winter.

Overall, Little Game Hunter is a fun puzzle! I really liked the unique appearance, and it took me a decent amount of time to figure it out. Also, there's some replay value, since you can try assembling it with the pieces scrambled. I'm definitely glad to have purchased one!

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