Neil's Puzzle Building Blog
1Jul/110

The Svetnashki Optical Puzzle

While browsing the Puzzle Master store, I came across this interesting puzzle by Russian inventor Vladimir Krasnoukhov. The Puzzle is a variation of the classic fifteen sliding tile puzzle however instead of trying to create an image or sequence of numbers, you play with light. Thanks to Puzzle Master for sending me this puzzle to review.

Svetnashki Optical Puzzle

Svetnashki Optical Puzzle in the bag it arrives in.

The idea behind the puzzle is quite simple. Using perspex which has been polarised either up/down or left/right, an invisible grid is formed. The back of the puzzle is a 2x2 grid where each alternate quarter is polarised differently, and then the fifteen 1x1 sliding tiles are polarised in alternate orientations. As the pieces slide across the back grid, their colour will change from transparent to opaque.

The challenge is made somewhat more difficult due to the top sheet of perspex which holds the pieces in place but also restricts your ability to touch any of the corner pieces and the four centre pieces. As a result you have to tilt and rotate the puzzle to move the pieces around instead of just pushing any individual piece where you want it to go. It's a nice idea, and the pieces move around freely enough that you don't feel frustrated.

One possible solved state

One possible solved state with all tiles clear

One possible solved state

One possible solved state with all tiles black


Given the nature of the puzzle, there is more than one 'solved' state possible. You can make the puzzle entirely clear or entirely opaque, there really is no right or wrong answer, and as such it gives it far more flexibility and replay value than a standard sliding tile puzzle with a fixed picture printed on the surface.

Creating patterns in the Puzzle

Creating patterns in the Puzzle

A Checkerboard pattern

A Checkerboard pattern


Add to that, the ability to create as many patterns using the light and dark as you care to imagine, and the possibilities, while not endless are certainly large. Creating the checker board pattern on the right is just one example, but there are many more just waiting to be discovered.

Puzzle Master rates the puzzle as a Level 7 - Challenging (out of 10), however I don't really see it being quite as difficult. Perhaps the amount of fun you can have with this puzzle makes it seem less difficult. I was able to move between each of the solved states in a few minutes, and was able to create a number of simple patterns quite quickly as well. To my mind this is a case where fun outweighs difficulty and is less important.

Puzzle Master sells a number of colours including both the larger and smaller versions of the 4x4 puzzle and the double layered version, you can order different sizes and custom colours from the manufacturer directly. Svetnashki Optical Puzzle On their website, they have 4x6 and 6x6 versions available if you're looking for an added challenge, or to be able to create more patterns.

Overall, this is an excellent little puzzle/toy and I highly recommend it for all ages and skill levels. I've had a lot of fun just randomly spinning it and seeing which patterns are created. While I'm not normally a fan of sliding tile puzzles, this one really has caught my attention, and I have to say I really enjoy playing with it.

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