December 14, 2009

Blue Revomaze

This Friday I received a Blue Revomaze, courtesy of John Devost from the puzzle library over at Needless to say, I was quite excited: I had been considering purchasing this puzzle for almost a year, but never made the leap. I was worried that if I liked it, I'd end up really wanting to buy the rest of the series which would get pretty expensive at $120 each. The puzzle library is a great idea: borrow a puzzle from the library, solve it, and send it on to the next person who wants to borrow it.

I had played around with Rob Stegmann's copy of it a bit at Brett's house, but this is a very difficult puzzle and I didn't have nearly as much time as I needed. In fact, I didn't even figure out how to start the damn thing: I was just wandering around in one of the chasms that you can fall into.

Basically, it is a cylindrical maze that you navigate by twisting and pulling the core in and out of the blue sleeve. There is a spring-loaded pin that you navigate through the maze. Unlike your standard maze, thanks to the spring loaded pin, the maze has different heights. Once you fall off of a ledge, you have to return to the beginning to restart the maze.

Think of it as wandering blindfolded around a two story house with holes in the floor. If you fall through the hole, you need to walk back to the bottom of the stairs, climb back up, and start again. Of course, due to the mechanics of it, there aren't really is more like a crevasse that leads back to the start.

If this sounds completely uninteresting to you, you are right in thinking that this could be a very stupid puzzle if it wasn't well designed. The designer could force you to balance the spring loaded pin across a randomly winding pathway with chasms on both sides, but that would be way too hard. It is very well designed with just the right amount of tricky features.

It took me about 4 hours to solve it, though part of that time was while some friends were over at my place for dinner. Since I wasn't giving it my full attention, I screwed up a lot more than I should have. I got about 90% of the way finished before I had to go to sleep. This puzzle really requires concentration, dexterity, and patience, which I was running out of at 1:00 AM.

I woke up the next day at 8:30 in the morning (which is quite unusual for me on a Saturday), haunted by dreams of Revomaze. I scurried out to the living room in my pajamas and played with it for another 45 minutes or so and reached what appeared to be the end of the maze.

I expected it just to slide open once I reached the end, but there is an additional locking mechanism in place that keeps you from opening it accidentally, since it is easy to loose the small pins. You need to register the puzzle to receive instructions on how to disengage this mechanism, but I didn't have the patience for that (and it is John's puzzle to register, after all). I figured that as a puzzler, I should be able to figure it out. After a bit of fiddling, I was able to get it to open. (Note: be very careful when you open it, the pins are small and will fall out easily.)

It was very cool to see a physical manifestation of the maze that I had spent hours visualizing in my mind. I could see that damn spot that I fell off repeatedly. In addition, seeing the puzzle helped me understand better some of the tricks that the designer, Chris Pitt, used. It really plays nicely on the assumptions you start to make as you solve the puzzle. Very well designed!

I also really liked the way the maze had a fairly linear flow. There were dead ends, but they weren't too deep, so you didn't spend forever exploring and falling into traps just to find out that you were at a dead end. This makes it pretty easy to tell that you're making progress toward the solution, which makes the frustration much easier to bear. In fact, it makes it all the more addicting because it is very exciting when you progress to the next part of the maze. Each time you figure out how to move past a spot where you are stuck, you get a mini-"A ha!" moment (this is the drug that keeps puzzlers addicted).

I would be remiss to mention that the construction of this puzzle is exquisite! It has a very hefty weight to it and is milled out of solid metal, not cast. This makes it a very precisely crafted puzzle that will last forever.

I think my only complaint is that my fingers started to hurt after a while of manipulating this puzzle. You have to grip the hexagonal end of the shaft in order to manipulate it, and due to the tricky nature of the maze, a good grip is necessary. I pinched it between my thumb and the middle segment of my index finger. The joint on my right index finger got a bit sore.

I think the only solution to this would be to have a larger knob for gripping, which would have been nice. In addition, a larger knob would provide more leverage and let you control the pin more precisely (a larger motion of the knob would be required to move the pin and equivalent distance).

Unfortunately, I think this was not done for a number of reasons. It would require that the shaft be machined out of a larger diameter metal rod resulting in more waste and higher cost. Also, it wouldn't look quite as cool if it wasn't symmetrical. The left hand side needs to be small enough to fit through the hole in the shell.

The company does sell a plastic cap that you can push on to help you grip it, but I think I'd still end up squeezing the hell out of it and making my hand sore. I might buy one if I decide to purchase these puzzles for my own collection.

There are four more puzzles in the series, each harder than the last. This one is supposed to be more of a trainer to get you accustomed to how this type of puzzle works. I think the next one is supposed to be quite a bit more tricky! In each one it sounds like there are new elements to discover, such as one-way paths, it isn't just a more complex and frustrating maze.

I had a great time with this puzzle and would highly recommend it! A big thanks to John Devost and his puzzle library for making this review possible!


  1. I was looking for a great set of instructions to give to my friend who is borrowing my blue (plastic version) and came across your fantastic review. I am an active member on the Revomaze forum and have one of the fastest initial solving times at 4.5 hours. since you finished it faster than that, you are a damn good puzzler and highly suggest you join our forum and get a bronze or silver!

  2. Thanks RevoRabbit! Indeed I have lurked on your forums a bit, good stuff!

    I've actually green, bronze, and silver as well! Check out my reviews:


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