Neil's Puzzle Building Blog
11Jun/151

Revomaze Copper

This entry is part 11 of 11 in the series Revomaze

It's been quite a while since I've sat down and written anything on my blog, and I'm sure many of my readers had given up on me. I am still here, I'm still puzzling, and still making more new puzzles, so nothing has really changed. Life sometimes just gets busy, and the time to sit down and write something worthy of reading is the thing that slips through the cracks first. That said, today I'm looking at the newest puzzle to come from Revomaze, which they kindly sent me a copy to review for you. This is the Copper V1 puzzle.

The Revomaze R1 Copper

The Revomaze R1 Copper

The newer puzzles coming from Revo HQ are showing up in these nice new boxes, which give the puzzle a little extra padding during transit, and leave you with a good looking box to keep the puzzle in when you're not solving it or displaying it somewhere else. There's still a little work needs to be done on the box to prevent the core from taking a knock during transit but this is a good step forward from the old fish net and plastic bag wrapping we had seen. Much more fitting of a puzzle in this price range, and quality.

New Boxes

New Boxes

As with all the Revo puzzles I've had in the past, the initial look and feel is great. These are still high quality puzzles, made with an attention to detail. The Copper, like it's predecessors weighs in around the 600g mark and certainly put a strain on my hands again.

It had been over a year since I'd worked on a Revo R1, and the familiar sore hands and fingers were back. It's recommended to work on the puzzle in short sessions, and I can't agree more. If you've not played with one for a while, your hands are going to thank you for taking a break. Fortunately there are convenient spots in the puzzle where you can put it down and not lose progress.

The Copper is a move back to the original static maze style, such as the Blue and Green puzzles, which I and many other puzzlers really enjoyed. There's no moving sliders, or free floating ball bearings in this puzzle to confuse and confound you. Just a traditional maze, with Chris' own devilish traps and pitfalls to navigate. That said it's not all old and familiar stuff in here. There's been a couple of modifications to the pin that are going to catch the unwary puzzler, so be warned, this isn't simple by any measure.

As a regular reader you'll know I own (almost) all the available Revomaze puzzles, and have successfully opened all of them with varying solve times from a few months to a few days. They're all challenging puzzles, and all for different reasons. I enjoy the puzzles that either make me think or are just enjoyable to solve. Bronze still ranks as my favourite in the series, with Blue being a close second. The reason for those choices comes down to two things. Bronze was a significant challenge to understand the dynamic features, but wasn't so difficult to be frustrating. Blue is just a really fun puzzle. While initially difficult to understand what was going on, once you understood the principles of the puzzle, it was both repeatable, and enjoyable to solve. Now add to that the Revo Mini which is a tiny scaled version of the blue maze, and there's a lot of positives from those two designs.

The Copper claims to "Triple the fun", and I'll agree to some extent with that statement. The internals are unlike any of the static mazes to have come before, and there's certainly more in there. As far as the fun, the initial part of the puzzle contains one of my least favourite features in a hidden maze puzzle. The dreaded bridge.

Much like the Green, the bridge frustrated me more than provided fun, and Copper has that same frustration level for me. Don't take that as a negative on the puzzle as a whole, just that it's not one of my favourite challenges. The dexterity sections can be overly difficult and if you fail near the end, restarting can be quite off-putting. That said, the satisfaction when you complete it is certainly well earned.

Personalised Serial 'Number'

Personalised Serial 'Number'

Given that Chris now has many of the machines in house, personalised engraving is possible as you can see from the serial number on my puzzle. I certainly didn't request this, and it was great to have this reveal as I started working on the puzzle.

One thing of note, at least for me is the strength of the spring in the copy I have. I'm not sure if this is across the board or not, but I feel that the movement of the puzzle is quite "stiff". The power of the spring along with the modifications to the pin made the navigation more challenging than I remember. There's a lot packed into this puzzle, and with sore fingers I found it quite the task to keep making progress in a single session. Taking regular breaks is the only way to get through this one. I don't think we'll see anyone doing speed runs to get the fasted solve time in the near future. I think most will be happy to solve the puzzle, and see the work that went into the core when they're done.

If you're on the fence about getting a Copper, and want a serious challenge, without the worry of ball bearings running awry, or dynamic devices to confound, then go ahead and pick one up. There's a lot to like about this puzzle.



26Feb/143

Revomaze R2 – Mercury

This entry is part 10 of 11 in the series Revomaze

If you've read my posts on the Revomaze puzzles, you'll know the first generation of puzzles ended with the release and solving of the Gold Puzzle. There are a few special editions out there, but for me solving the Gold, was the end of the journey on the R1 puzzles. Chris Pitt, has come out with an entirely new design of puzzle, a second generation of Revomaze puzzles, the R2's. The first in the series is Mercury.

Revomaze R2 - Mercury

Revomaze R2 - Mercury

This second series is based on the planets in the solar system, and the closest to the Sun, Mercury, is the first to be released. The series has had a difficult birth, with the company trying to raise funds to buy CNC machines to bring all the production in-house, and move away from the reliance on engineering companies to produce the limited run puzzles they wanted. To that end, "Voyager Status" was created. This was an up front payment to guarantee the price of each puzzle in the series (up to 10 puzzles) for early adopters. For that you'd receive a limited edition coin (stored inside the puzzle of course), your puzzle would be part of the initial limited edition run of 100 puzzles and would be engraved with a serial number to set it apart from other general release puzzles to be released later.

So back on the 12th March 2013, I sent Revomaze £50 of my hard-earned cash, and sealed myself a place on the voyage to the R2. At some point over the course of the next 8 months there were a few changes to what Voyager status meant, and a decision was made at Revo HQ to limit the R2 run to only the 100 puzzles from the Voyager sign-up. The result of this decision is that the puzzles would only be made to meet the Voyager demand (100 max) and no more would be produced or sold until the Voyager members have ALL of their puzzles from the entire series. So at this point, if you missed out on Voyager status, expect it to be 3 years before you get your hands on a Mercury, or any other puzzle in the series. Note that this assumes a release schedule of 3 puzzles per year.

Not long after the Voyager announcements, the option was given to the first 20 people who wanted to pay for the puzzle to receive the puzzle ahead of the main batch, and be part of a 'Beta Trial' to allow Chris to sort any issues, and make sure the puzzle worked perfectly. Since I'm always happy to help bringing a new puzzle to life, I agreed to be one of the first batch. On the 1st May 2013, I paid for my puzzle, and began the wait for the R2.

Mercury #24

Mercury #24

Background covered, I should probably start talking about the puzzle, as I'm sure that's why you're here. I received my puzzle on the 14th February 2014 and eagerly opened the package when I got home from work, to start playing with the new puzzle. My plan was to take it to the California Puzzle Party on the 15th, and let people play with it there. In fact Chris had express shipped the puzzle to me to ensure that I had it for the Puzzle Party. (Note: He'd done the same for a puzzler on the East coast, and also to some of the puzzlers in the Midlands) Before taking it to the party though I wanted to have some time to play and understand the puzzle. Foolishly, I'd hoped that I could open it before the party. I spent 2-3 hours with it on the 14th trying to understand what was going on, and start mapping out the paths inside the new maze. Most of that was just spent getting used to how different this puzzle is to the original series. It's a completely different animal that needs a very different touch to be able to solve it. And yes, I did take my wife out for dinner that night... I'm a romantic at heart.

The raw maze before it's finished

The raw maze before it's finished

The puzzle itself is made from a couple of solid blocks of aluminium and measures 4-1/8" in diameter by 1" tall. Including the knob for the draw bar the puzzle is 4-5/8" and weighs in at 800g. Now I'll be honest, despite being heavier than the original R1's, the puzzle feels lighter. Perhaps just the weight being spread over a larger diameter helps.

Unlike the R1 where the pin was in the sleeve, and the maze on the central core (or draw bar if you like) requiring you to twist, push and pull the core to navigate the maze, the R2 is a little different. The pin is attached to the draw bar, and the maze is etched onto the titanium coloured disk which rotates inside the black outer case. To navigate the maze you need to both push and pull the draw bar while simultaneously rotating the disk. This requires a lot more coordination than the original maze, and is a very different experience. Any skills you may have learned from solving an R1, will be of little use to you here.

Despite my best efforts and a very crude map, I certainly didn't solve Mercury before the Saturday puzzle party. One issue which did arise as I played with it was that the silky smooth rotation that the puzzle exhibited on the Friday night, wasn't quite as smooth by the time I arrived at the puzzle party. I wish I'd realised before going as the puzzle was mostly unusable given the amount of friction between the maze plate and the case. We required two hands on the disk to turn it in any direction, and really any chance of playing with the puzzle or solving it were gone.

Talking with Chris, he suggested WD-40 would help. Skeptical as I was, I took the can of WD-40 to the puzzle, giving it a good coating, and spin it did. The friction issues were completely resolved, and it moved better than it had when it arrived. Over the course of the next week, I didn't have a great deal of time to spend with the puzzle, but I dabbled on and off mapping as I could and trying to understand what I was 'seeing'.

Mercury during solving

Mercury during solving

Mapping the R2 is a completely different challenge to an R1. With the R1, you can think of unrolling the maze to a flat plane (since effectively that's what it is - wrapped onto a cylinder) but the R2 is already flat, and is circular. Some Polar graph paper may be useful here. Fortunately, the centre of the disk has 24 notches, and the dimples on the outer rim match to 15 degree increments. Handy for reference! I started out with regular graph paper making a very crude attempt with a compass. Let's just say it wasn't elegant, but it worked. A couple of people pointed me to that wonderful invention - the Internet - to download some polar paper, and I transferred things to there.

One thing you'll find in Mercury is that it's full of curves. Actually it's full of circles! Chris claims that the design of the maze is meant to represent the cratered appearance of the planet itself, and I guess I can see that. As I mapped, I found that there was a chunk of the map which I couldn't get to , just a little clockwise of the serial number, and part around 10pm. Now knowing that nothing would be wasted in here, I knew that's where I had to get to, but finding how was proving challenging. The other very concerning aspect I discovered was a trail leading through ~25% of the maze, where everything I had was trap. This was starting to look a lot like a Green. And I hate Green.

After a good few hours trying to find how to get to these new areas, find it I did, and my fears were confirmed. The puzzle becomes a serious dexterity challenge, needing the lightest of touches, and an excellent map. To get there, is a challenging section that I am sure will cause a lot of frustration (it did for me), assuming you can find it. The entrance is very challenging to find, and needs some very careful exploration of the maze.

Given that I have one of the first copies, there's a few issues in the puzzle which Chris is already solving, as quickly as they are identified.

  • The Spring is a little light, meaning that it's possible (and even easy) to hug the walls a little tight, and as a result get to parts of the maze through a route which was not intended. That's fixed with a stronger spring in the draw bar.
  • There is a slight amount of play in the draw bar, meaning that it can rotate a fraction while you're solving. It's not a problem that affects the maze, and it certainly won't help you, but that will be tightened up in the later releases.
  • The last and biggest issue with the early release is that the pin has a fairly rounded profile as you'll see in the photo below. That means that in some areas where there are ledges in the puzzle, the pin won't stay on the ledge, without applying some pressure to the wall. That's being fixed with a different profile for the pin head.

As a result of these issues, a number of people have managed to open the maze very quickly having taken a path which was not intended. I didn't find these shorter paths, and completed the maze as intended. The benefit of having produced this short run is that Chris is learning how the puzzle is used by someone who doesn't know what's going on inside, and by the time these get into general production for the remaining 80 in the run, they will all be perfect. It was a very sensible decision by Chris, and one which I hope he is aware was the best way to launch a new design, and make sure it's exactly the way he intended.

Mercury #24 - Open

Mercury #24 - Open

From start to finish it took me around 8.5 hours to open the Mercury, and I'll be honest, it's a challenging puzzle, not for the faint of heart. It's difficult from start to finish, and darn right evil from 50% through to the end. I'd even go so far as to say that the very last few millimeters of the puzzle are Satan incarnate. This is perhaps one of the most challenging static puzzle that Chris has released to date, and to my mind is far too challenging for the first puzzle in the series. Yes, you can argue that it took me less than 10 hours to open it, so it can't be that difficult, considering how long it took me to open Silver from the R1 series, however I go back and re-solve Bronze and Silver. I never go back to Green, and I'm unlikely to want to ever go back and re-solve Mercury.


As a small aside, when the puzzle was opened, I found some small flakes of metal sitting in the case of the puzzle. Presumably from the grinding as a result of the friction between the two large plates of aluminium. It doesn't affect the puzzle, and I certainly don't see any damage to the maze, but clearly there is some wear as a result of using the puzzle.

Metal shavings in the case

Metal shavings in the case



6Jan/133

Revomaze Gold Extreme

This entry is part 6 of 11 in the series Revomaze

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.

The Gold Revomaze

The Gold Revomaze Puzzle

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.

Revomaze Gold Open

Revomaze Gold Open

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.



30Dec/124

Revomaze Sleeve Project

This entry is part 9 of 11 in the series Revomaze

As many of you know, I've owned and solved all of the Revomaze Series One puzzles released, including the Gold puzzle, which I'll write about soon. For a long time on the Revomaze Forums, a clear sleeve which would allow you to see the maze as you solved it has been talked about and many people have asked for one. Well having added the lathe to my list of tools, I thought I'd have a shot at making one.

Since getting the lathe, I've made a few pens, some bowls, all just learning how to use the tools, and get the shapes I want made. I mostly work with wood, as that's where my real love is, however I have played with a few acrylics as well. I find the acrylic to be a pain to work with, since it tends to create thin streamers of plastic which just wrap around whatever you're working on, and obscures your view of the work. Still, there's no way I could make a clear sleeve from wood.

Clear sleeve starting point.  A 2

Clear sleeve starting point. A 2"x2"x8" block of Acrylic.

It all starts with a block of clear acrylic. This piece is 2"x2"x8", which will be enough to make two sleeves. I got it from Tap Plastics here in the bay area. They'll custom cut sheets while you wait, and their prices are pretty good. I'm no expert with the plastics, but I can certainly recommend them.

The block turned to a cylinder.

The block turned to a cylinder.

First up, I need to take this perfectly clear block, and make a complete mess of it; otherwise known as turning it round. Doing that removes the beautiful clear finish, and turns the whole thing a rather cloudy opaque grey colour. When I'm working with Acrylics, I need to wear my respirator, as the smell created when working it tends to give me a headache. Not bad practice anyway, but something I have found I have to do. As it turns out, I'm also somewhat allergic to the material too. When I'd finished turning the block into a cylinder, and brushed all the tiny shavings off my arms, I found that I'd reacted rather badly to it. Time for a shower and some anti-histamine!

The initial shape of the sleeve

The initial shape of the sleeve

Having cleaned up, and put on long sleeves, I came back and shaped the outer surface of what would become the sleeve. Using the sleeve from my bronze maze as a template I matched the dimensions as closely as possible, including the ridges along the main body of the sleeve, and of course, making sure that the length was exact, since the intent is to make a fully functioning sleeve.

At this point, I've kept the sleeve attached to the main piece of perspex as I still need to drill out the central hole where the shaft will be. Before I go and drill that out though, I want to get the clear finish back so that I can see what I'm doing when drilling things.

Outer surface sanded to 12000 grit.

Outer surface sanded to 12000 grit.

After around half an hour of work, I end up with the finish above. This is wet sanded all the way up to 12000 grit to give a finish close to how the block arrived.

Ready to start drilling

Ready to start drilling

With that done, and the cylinder being transparent again it's time to change our the tail stock on the lathe for a 15/16" forstner bit to drill out the hole in the sleeve. Given the length of the hole I was drilling, the drill bit alone wasn't going to be long enough to make the cut. I had bought a bit extender so that I'd be able to drill the length I needed.

Starting to drill

Starting to drill

Ribbons of acrylic as the drill bit cores the sleeve

Ribbons of acrylic as the drill bit cores the sleeve

As you can see, with a sharp bit, the cut creates long streamers at the beginning of the cut, but before long, the heat almost melts the acrylic, and you have to be careful to eject the shavings before they solidify behind the head of the drill bit, and make it impossible to remove the drill bit.

'Bubbles' on the inside as the drill cuts

'Bubbles' on the inside as the drill cuts

The internal reflections are stunning

The internal reflections are stunning

Even though the drill leaves a rough surface on the inside of the sleeve, given the work sanding it earlier, it looks really good. Once the entire core is drilled out, it will be sanded up to 12000 grit the same as the outside, before being polished to a high shine.

The Finished Sleeve

The Finished Sleeve

Having completed the drilling of the core, I parted off the sleeve, and finished sanding the ends to get the same finish as the rest of the sleeve, things are just about ready. Some plastic polish is applied, and then a coat of Ren Wax to really finish the shine. As you can see, the inner core isn't perfect, but with more sanding I could get things back to a perfect finish. In fact I've gone back and made a second sleeve without the ridges which is far clearer than this sleeve.

A comparison with the original sleeve

A comparison with the original sleeve

Both clear versions side by side.

Both clear versions side by side.


So the real test is left. Can you see the core? Well the answer is a resounding yes. The core is easily visible in the sleeve, and everything fits perfectly. I'm pretty happy with the results.

The Sleeve with a maze in it

The Sleeve with a maze in it



6May/112

Revomaze Black Extreme

This entry is part 5 of 11 in the series Revomaze

Continuing the Revomaze series, available from Revomaze and also in limited numbers from PuzzleMaster.

The Black Revomaze

The Black Revomaze Puzzle

I've already covered the basic puzzle in my earlier reviews of the Series I puzzles, so for general information on the Revomaze puzzles, I'd suggest reading that post here.

The Black Revomaze, available in both Plastic and originally Metal (although only 20 metal puzzles were produced and are very rarely available for sale from their current owners) was the first Revomaze which was not part of the main series of puzzles, incorporating Blue, Green, Bronze, Silver and Gold. When the engineering company was working with Chris Pitt on the puzzles, they produced the Black as a way to show Chris what they were capable of, and, so the story goes as a challenge to Chris to open a puzzle that he didn't know the route through maze. Chris like the design they created so much that he added it to the line of puzzles to be produced and sold. The reason why, I'll explain later.

Similar to the Blue and Green puzzles, the Black is a static maze, however it is much closer to Bronze in execution as the orthogonal lines from the Blue and Green seem to be non-existent leaving only curves and sharp corners. This makes for a very interesting challenge, as some of the sharp turns create very thin ledges to be navigated, increasing the chances of clicking into the ever-present trap lines. The curves also add a challenge to mapping as anyone who has tried to map the Bronze will know already.

The real beauty of the Black is the reveal you get either when mapping the puzzle (if your map is accurate enough) or in the metal puzzle when removing the core, and seeing the maze for the first time. I was fortunate enough to be able to borrow one of the few metal versions from a good friend, however due to the way I create my maps, I didn't see the hidden secret in my map until I opened the core (although I had my suspicions!). Once open not only are is the stunning engineering to create the curves revealed, but the maze also contains a the company name! Now it's obvious why Chris liked the black so much, and decided to produce it and allow the public the joy of solving the puzzle as well.

As a note on mapping the mazes, the map you create depends on how you view the puzzle. Either the pin can move through the maze, as though it were a person walking inside a huge static maze, or as though the pin were hanging from the ceiling, and the maze were navigated around it. In the puzzle, the pin is fixed in the sleeve, and the maze moves around it, not the other way around. This has two effects, your directions are inverted and also your start and end points are reversed. If you think about the maze itself, the start is actually in the middle of the core, and you work toward the end of the core (the leftmost point is the end). When most people think about a maze, the start at the outside and either work to the other end or the centre depending on the maze, so starting in the middle may not be natural for most.

Personally I map from the viewpoint of walking around inside the maze, and as a result all my maps are mirror images of the real maze. At one point when creating a map for the Silver, I took a wooden dowel, and carved the maze onto the dowel, using my excel map as the source. Of course this meant that my map is back to front compared with the real maze, however it did let me think around the problems I was trying to solve!

Black is a great puzzle, and really fun to solve. If you're lucky enough to own, or be able to borrow a metal version, the core is really the highlight, but if not, don't pass up the chance of trying a very fun puzzle with the plastic version.



3May/111

Revomaze Silver Extreme

This entry is part 4 of 11 in the series Revomaze

As promised previously, here's the fourth review in the Revomaze series, available from Revomaze and also in limited numbers from PuzzleMaster. The last few of these puzzles are currently being made, and it's unknown whether more will be made of the Silver puzzle, so if you want one, get it now!

The Silver Revomaze

The Silver Revomaze Puzzle

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 fourth puzzle from Revomaze is the Silver. This puzzle, like the Bronze isn't available as a plastic puzzle, as it's not possible to create some of the internals in plastic.

The Silver is rated by Revomaze as having a difficulty of 90/100 (extreme) and an estimated opening time of 160 hours. (Yes, 160 is correct, it's not a typo!) It is described as a dynamic maze and is the hardest puzzle to be released to date from Revomaze. This is a big jump up from the Blue and Green puzzles, and is a big learning curve from even the Bronze.

While the Bronze puzzle had a trap that you couldn't get out of very early in the puzzle, Silver seems even worse. When you start, there is a tiny 'L' shape you can explore, one trap and nothing else. It seems that Chris has this puzzle locked up tight. The new elements added to Silver are numerous, and understanding each of them takes time. New in the Silver is the added difficulty that how you orient the puzzle while solving it affects things in the maze.

The biggest kick in Silver though is what is lovingly referred to in the forums as the "not-a-canyon". You'll know it when you get to it as the shaft will freely spin 360 degrees, with no seeming obstructions at around the half way mark on the shaft. Short of growing wings, there seems to be no way of crossing this gap. The puzzle gives you no feedback as to what's going on, and at this point the only way over is to put the puzzle down and Think (c) Allard.*

There is a web clue on the Revomaze website which if you can figure it out might help you across. There's nothing about the clue that is simple, so deciphering it may take as long as crossing the gap itself. (yes, that was a hint for the Silver clue but it's all I'm giving you!)

Worse than this is that the SWAMP awaits you once you cross the not-a-canyon, and it's even stranger. The spinning canyon is the easy bit! Once in the SWAMP, you'll find walls appearing and disappearing and no obvious way out. It's time to put the thinking caps on, and figure out what could be going on to cause the strangeness you're experiencing. Only when you truly understand it will you be rewarded with progress. There be crocs in there!

Having eventually found your way out of the SWAMP, you'll see that glorious dot on the shaft. You've made it. Your hands are shaking at this point, and you're excited. Wait, no, what the? The dot stops a centimetre from lining up with the dot on the sleeve. What could Chris have possibly done to leave you so close yet so far from the end? The final twist to the Silver really shows you just how cleverly built these puzzles are, and just how evil Chris is.

It took me around 150 hours to open the Silver. It's an amazingly tough puzzle, but when you finally open it, and see the beauty of that maze inside, it's all worth it. Not to mention that you can stop swearing at Chris and his ingenious mechanisms.

I'm asked fairly frequently whether you need to have solved one of the other puzzles in the series before opening Silver. The only answer I can give is that no-one so far has opened Silver without having previously opened another puzzle. With only approximately 36 Silver puzzles opened since their launch in October 2009 it's not an easy puzzle, and truly deserves its name as one of the most difficult puzzles in the world.

You may remember me mentioning back in the first post in the series of reviews that the puzzle was pretty tough and hard to break. Well Silver when initially released had a small problem. Something inside didn't quite work the way it was supposed to, and as a result a number of the original Silvers were un-openable. When Chris realised the issue, he sent all the people who had a V1 a free replacement for their puzzles. So V2 was issued which had a couple of small tweaks inside to fix the issues, and ensure they worked the way they were intended. Now that's what you call good Customer Service. All Silver's sold now are V2, and although they no longer have the double dot on the sleeve to confirm they are V2, it's safe to say that when you buy one it will be the V2. The V1's are with their original owners in most cases, or still with Chris in a few.

The one word of warning I'll give is that if you do decide to buy one, and I highly recommend you do, this one will take its toll on your fingers and your sanity. You have been warned. This is a brilliant puzzle, but it's by no means easy.

* If you want to know who Allard is and why he Thinks a lot, then join the Revomaze forum!