December 21, 2009

Nemesis Factor

This is a great electronic puzzle that I first heard about during my trip to a puzzle dinner down in New York. In fact, the inventor, Ron Dubrens, was there! I wasn't familiar with the puzzle at the time, but the next day when I visited Brett Kuehner's house, Brett showed it to me. I thought it was very cool and asked if they could be purchased any more. He wasn't sure, but he was kind enough to loan me an extra copy that he has! I enjoyed it so much that I bought my own copy from Amazon (so yes they are available).

Nemesis Factor (instruction manual) is an electronic puzzle with 100 different levels that you progress through sequentially. Each puzzle involves interacting with the puzzle in some way. There are five lighted buttons on the front of the puzzle and the solution frequently (but not always!) involves pushing these buttons in the right order and/or at the right time.

Sometimes the buttons play sounds, musical notes, or words. Sometimes the puzzle just says a string of numbers or words and you need to react appropriately. I don't want to give away too much, because discovering the unique interactions yourself is one of the most delightful aspects of the game.

If you find it hard to believe that the designer could have created 100 different puzzles using this system as a base without getting repetitive, don't worry about that! This game definitely keeps you guessing and kept me entertained for quite some time.

In fact, I never really got bored with it: usually I stopped playing because I had to go to sleep or because my poor girlfriend was sick of being neglected in favor of a somewhat annoyingly loud puzzle. A volume control would have been nice!

There were a few spots where I got stumped, and was very thankful for the built-in hint feature. When you push the hint button you are given the first of two hints. If you are still stuck, you can press it again for another hint.

I would suggest not being too shy about using the hints: sometimes the solution is something you would be highly unlikely stumble across on your own (particularly when a new type of interaction is used). Usually these hints are enough to get you going, but on the later levels the hints can be fairly obtuse. Most puzzles took between 1-5 minutes, though some took me 30 minutes or more.

I worked on this puzzle over the course of about two weeks and lost track of how long I spent on it. I think it was definitely above 5 hours, probably closer to 10 to finish all 100 levels. In terms of difficulty, I would say that this puzzle is quite difficult. It is definitely doable, but some of the levels are very tricky.

The puzzle remembers what level you were on when you stopped, and can keep track of up to four players individually (each is associated with one of the colored buttons with the fifth reserved for a 'guest' player). It also keeps track of your cumulative score, which is ten or less for each puzzle. You lose points for taking hints or taking too long to solve the level.

I didn't much care for the points: after struggling for 20 minutes to solve a tricky puzzle it was annoying to be given zero points for my hard work. I guess it does serve as a deterrent from taking unnecessary hints, but it would have been nice if the minimum was 5 points, just so people don't feel too bad.

There wasn't much that I didn't like about this game, though there were a few somewhat annoying design issues. I would have liked to see a volume knob (as I mentioned earlier), though I guess that runs the risk of somebody accidently turning the volume down and not realizing that the sounds are part of the puzzle.

Also, a power button would have been nice: if somebody accidently chooses the wrong player color, they need to wait 2 minutes for the puzzle to auto-shut-off and then turn it back on, which is a bit annoying. You can't even quickly pop the batteries out, since the cover is screwed in place.

Overall, though, this is an awesome puzzle that I'm very happy that I got the chance to play with. Thanks to Brett for loaning it to me!


  1. Thanks for the great review!
    Need to get my hands on one of these.
    Which level are you on now?

  2. Thanks Jonas! It is a very cool puzzle, not too pricey either from Amazon. I actually finished all 100 levels, I updated the entry to make that more clear. The last few levels are quite devious!

    There should be a few updates coming soon...I like to finish a puzzle completely before I write about it and there are a number of them in the works :)

  3. I have went through these puzzles very fast except for puzzle 81 that I couldn't get to do anything for hours and skipped it now on puzzle 1100 and can't. Get past level 3. Never played chess though. Any help out there would be greatly appreciated , before I end in a second divorce.

  4. This game is very cool, Found in a thrift store, the only complaint I ever had with it is the colors. Green looks teal, yellow looks green and blue is purplish. It is a very fun puzzle and I would recommend it. I love it. Many suprizes and the levels are very different.


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