It's been a while since I reviewed a Revomaze puzzle, and since the last time I talked about them, there's been a couple of new puzzles released from Ashton Pitt. We've had a couple of special editions in the form of an Orange, and a Lime, and the final puzzle in the Series 1 set was released. That puzzle was the Gold, and was shipped almost exactly a year ago.
I've already covered the basic puzzle in my first review of the blue, so for general information on the Revomaze puzzles, I'd suggest reading that post here.
The fifth and final puzzle from Revomaze in the Series 1 is the Gold. This puzzle, like the Bronze and Silver isn't available as a plastic puzzle in the Obsession line, as it's not possible to create some of the internals in plastic.
The Gold is rated by Revomaze as having a difficulty of 100/100 (extreme) and an estimated opening time of 250+ hours. The fastest opening so far is listed as 400 hours. It is described as a dynamic maze and is the hardest puzzle to be released to date from Revomaze. Only part of the puzzle is listed as being mechanical. There is also an algorithm, which needs to be solved in order to be able to open the mechanical puzzle. Each Gold is listed as being unique, and I'll talk a little about that later.
If you've read the Silver review, you'll remember me talking about the "not-a-canyon", which was an area where the core was able to spin. Something we'd not seen in a Revomaze puzzle previously, and certainly had many of us scratching our heads as to how that could happen. Well Gold starts that way, and really doesn't get much better.
Very early on in the puzzle, you'll find yourself going in circles, with the occasional notch you can drop into. You may even find that from time to time that notch isn't a notch, and becomes a path further into the puzzle. At first it doesn't seem to make a lot of sense, and if you're lucky, within a short time, you'll find yourself with the core as far out as you've seen it with any of your other puzzles, but there's no dot, so you know you're not finished. And let's be honest, if the puzzle is rated as the hardest to date, you'd be a little upset if it was that easy.
So you've now got the core as far out as you can, but it's not done much for you, and really at this stage you have little idea what you did to get it here. So you decide to go back to the start, and spend some time trying to figure things out. Of course, getting back is almost as much of a journey as getting to where you are!
The challenge here is to figure out what's going on and understand what allows you to move from one 'ring' to the next. Like any other Revomaze, this puzzle can be mapped although you probably think that's not true initially. As with any other Revomaze puzzle, I had to sit and map things out, and although it seemed like I'd need to do something special for this maze, it does map out the same as any other and I resorted to my usual Excel based map.
Now as I mentioned previously, the mechanical puzzle is only one small part of the Gold, and that is where many people on the Forums have expressed disappointment, myself included. The reason is that in order to open the puzzle, you need to solve an algorithm, in the form of a set of cryptic clues to be able to get a code which can then be applied to the puzzle to let you open it.
Sound complicated? Well the clues are certainly cryptic, and will need you to think so far out of the box that as of writing this a year after the puzzle was released, no-one has solved the algorithm to the satisfaction of Chris Pitt. That alone tells you all you need to know as far as I'm concerned.
For me, I found the algorithm to be very off-putting. I have loved the Revomaze puzzles from the first one I played with as they are challenging mechanical puzzles. Sadly the Gold is not a mechanical puzzle. It's a combination lock. You get a code, enter it, and the puzzle opens. That may be over simplifying things, but at the bottom line, it's exactly what we have.
Chris tried to create a puzzle which could not be opened by cheating, and wanted to have a puzzle were each and every copy was unique. The algorithm allowed him to do that, and with a minimum number of internal parts, each puzzle in the 250 puzzle run could be made unique. Sadly for me, and I know I'm not alone, that also took the Gold away from the original spirit of the puzzle.
When you receive the puzzle, and get the algorithm clues, you'll also get a three letter code with the puzzle. When you register your puzzle with Revo HQ, you'll need to send this code as part of the email. From there, you'll receive another three letter code in return. These are the starting point for solving the algorithm and getting the solution code you'll need to open the puzzle. Of course without understanding what's going on in the puzzle, and how you'd apply the code to the puzzle you're not going to get very far.
You'll also get a warning that excessive use may damage the puzzle. Given that this was expected to be the most challenging puzzle, with over 250 hours of puzzling expected, what exactly is excessive use. It turns out that the warning was issued because there was some discussion about brute forcing the puzzle by trying every possible combination (in theory 25^3 or 15,625 combinations). I don't think you're going to damage the puzzle by trying to solve it, but perhaps trying 15k+ combinations is excessive!
There are clues and useful markers inside the puzzle for the observant puzzler, and there is a lot to learn in the puzzle. I lost track of how long it took me to open the Gold, however I finally opened my copy in August 2012, after playing on and off (mostly off) for eight months. I was number 7 to open the puzzle and there have been only 15 puzzles opened in total so far. Strangely enough the puzzles being opened are a little like busses. There are none opened for ages, and then four come along at once.
Having opened it, I think it's fair to say that it is a challenging puzzle, and may well be the most difficult Revomaze released to date. There are certainly fewer people have opened Gold than any other Revo. I don't think it's my favourite in the series, and for me Bronze still holds that spot.
Oh, and there is no dot on the shaft if you were looking for one.
The review wouldn't be complete without me mentioning a few of the issues that have been discovered since the puzzle was released. There have been a few puzzles which had to be returned to HQ for repair, and it is possible to get the puzzle in a state where it is jammed, and you can't navigate through the puzzle. In most cases, this can be easily fixed without having to return the puzzle, but as with anything that may not always be the case. As with any of the Revo puzzles, excessive force is not required, and could damage some of the parts inside the maze.
I've spoken with many other people who have been working on the Gold puzzle, and many people have expressed opinions about their experiences. This puzzle is not for the faint of heart, and will test you far beyond any other puzzle in the series. Just be sure that you're willing to spend a lot of time thinking and working on the algorithm before you take the plunge and get one. My personal feeling is that the Gold was a let down, and not the pinnacle of an excellent series of puzzles as it should have been. Chris I know has learned a lot from this, and will go on to bigger and better things I'm sure.
If you're still working on the puzzle, and don't want to know more, then I'd stop reading now. The remainder of the review is rather candid, and may reveal a few things about the puzzle that you might not want to know.
Ok, before I continue here's one last warning. If you don't want to know some possibly revealing comments on the puzzle then please don't read the rest of this post. You have been warned. Twice.
Earlier in the review I commented that Chris was trying to create a puzzle which was unique and couldn't be opened by cheating. So how well did he do?
Well, instead of 15k combinations, it turns out that in reality with some knowledge of what's going on inside the puzzle, with some careful mapping, you can narrow this down to just 25 possible combinations. Not really the complexity that we thought to start with! At just 25 possibilities, it's entirely possible to brute force the puzzle, and not have to worry about the algorithm at all.
You could argue that without solving the algorithm then you've not opened the puzzle. In fact that's exactly the stance that Chris has taken. To his mind no-one has solved the algorithm to a level where he considers the puzzle to be opened, so for the 15 people who have opened the puzzle, we haven't been credited with an open puzzle, and as such we don't have the final part of the series code. At this point, to the best of my knowledge no-one is still working on the algorithm and we're all pretty happy that the puzzle is done. We've opened the mechanical part and that was what we wanted to do.
In terms of the mechanism itself, it turns out that not all puzzles are equal. Depending on the solution code you end up with, some puzzles are harder to open than others. How can that be I hear you ask. Well it turns out that due to the way the puzzle is designed, when solving certain combinations will cause a 'ring' to move once you've set it. If this was the case for all rings/puzzles/solutions, then I'd consider it part of the design, however it only happens for certain combinations, and as such I have to consider it a design flaw. Depending on the combination you have the puzzle could be more challenging to open than someone else's puzzle. Hardly a fair playing field!
I hinted in the main review that it was possible for the puzzle to become locked up. Well this can happen if you accidentally (or even intentionally) solve the puzzle, but don't take the exit, and drop back into the puzzle. When you do this, the rings will no longer move, and it is possible to get all the way back to the start of the puzzle from here. Sadly once you've done this you can't navigate the maze any more. A quick tap will normally resolve it so at least it's not permanent. It does leave me thinking that this is another design flaw though.
The final thing I have to say on the puzzle is on the goal of creating a puzzle which couldn't be opened by cheating. Sadly, when I opened the puzzle I found a route which would allow the puzzle to be opened by cheating, and in fact could be opened very quickly. I have managed to use this method on my own puzzle, so I know it's possible. For me this is the biggest let down.
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