Sunday, 20 May 2012

Hanayama Cast Chain

Cast Chain
Next up for review today is yet another of the seemingly never-ending series of Hanayama cast metal puzzles. This company seems to be so prolific - I must have reviewed dozens of their puzzles and I never seem to get bored with them and keep coming back to my older ones to repeat the solution. They are always interesting and always beautifully made. This is the Cast Chain. As with the rest, it came from Puzzle Master who sell the whole range - this one costs a very reasonable $13.

I had left this one until last (amongst my last delivery) because of the difficulty rating and because the last time I had a play with a friend's copy, I managed to completely confuse myself and gave it up after making only one move (which may well have been a wrong one!) It is rated as a level 10 (mind boggling) by Puzzle Master or the top level 6 out of 6 by Hanayama themselves. It was designed (yet again) by the great Oskar van Deventer and won an honourable mention at the IPP 22 in Antwerp (very fitting since Oskar comes from Holland). It comes packaged in the usual nice Hanayama black box, its' dimensions are 7.6 x 3.9 x 3.9 cm. Made of cast tin (galvanized with gold and copper), it has a nice weight and looks like a cast iron chain that you might find on a ship. The individual pieces are numbered 1 to 3 and look identical. Closer inspection reveals that each of them is very slightly different from the others and these differences are obviously key in the solution. The other nice feature of this puzzle is that it can be solved in three different ways depending on which piece is the centre of the trio. Talking of solutions - if you need it (you might!) then it can be downloaded from here.

Other bloggers have reviewed it before: The great Brian Pletcher reviewed it and really enjoyed it - he initially solved it using some force and when he looked up the solution realised that he had gotten it wrong - As always DON'T USE FORCE! This puzzle is smooth as butter. He says:
"the mechanics are interesting and the solution is simple and logical but not trivial to discover"
It was also reviewed by Oli on his blog and I am sure he will be mortified to be reminded that he needed to look up the solution (I am sure that now he is so much further along in his puzzling career then he would have no problem with it now!) Much more recently Moises also reviewed it and had to resort to dreaming techniques to solve it! The feedback reviews on the Puzzle Master product page are almost all 4 and 5 star reviews.

So what did I think? I had been expecting a really difficult challenge based on my previous 10 minutes of play with it. Also I think I should embarrass my friend by telling the whole world that despite owning it for about 4 months now, he has still not solved it! That is terrible Neil!! You know who you are!!!

I sat down one evening with it and jingled away for a while, much to the annoyance of Mrs S! Within a few minutes I had seen how to change which link locks to each other. The movement is very sweet and requires absolutely no force whatsoever. I was able to make the chain into any order of links that I wanted but every time I tried to remove the first piece, I was blocked! At this point, I figured it was time to actually study the pieces and establish what could be done with the different features. A lightbulb went on and immediately off again as one attempt failed due to an incorrect orientation. I returned it to the starting point and tried again but moved things in different directions. All of a sudden, I was able to do something unique to two of the pieces and then the exit was immediately revealed - the first piece slid off! It is trivial to remove the last piece.

3 links in the chain
I was amazed! I had solved this one in about 20 minutes! Despite it taking Brian nearly an hour (and, as I constantly remind the world - he is a puzzle solving machine!) The interesting thing about this puzzle is that it really requires proper use of the brain and planning to achieve the solution. It is essential to just fiddle with it for a while to get used to the movements that are possible and then just LOOK at the pieces and make a plan of what you want to achieve to prevent the lock-ups and allow the release. It is unusual for one of these to require such planning without actually fiddling with it constantly. I really like the thought process that went into this one. I can now open it in under 10 seconds and put the pieces into any configuration I want.

Should you buy it? Absolutely yes! It is rather attractive in an industrial way and provides a mixture of thought and fiddling to solve. It is certainly pretty tough but I personally would have rated in one point lower on the difficulty scale. However, the experience of other bloggers and friends belies that. I have been handing out to a lot of people and all enjoy trying (none have solved it). Definitely buy it for you collection or for a challenge.

10 comments:

  1. Interesting puzzle. Try these coin puzzles
    http://www.squidoo.com/coin-puzzles

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    1. They do look interesting! Thank you

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  2. And for clarification, the Neil mentioned here is not me. I do not own this puzzle. ;)

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    1. Absolutely! It IS a different Neil. But you should try this puzzle!

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  3. When deciding which should be my first Hamayama puzzle, I chose Cast Chain after reading several of your reviews. It arrived yesterday and I'm delighted to say that I solved it this evening after approx. 3 hours of "in-hand" time. It's a fantastic puzzle and I enjoyed it very much. Working out the solution was very satisfying and as I was progressing I could relate very strongly to elements of your "journey" - the "incorrect orientation" stage took me the longest to overcome but I got there in the end! Thanks for the excellent reviews, now to decide on my next puzzle...

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    1. Thank you for the feedback Geraint. I love the community of puzzlers and am really pleased that I am able to help someone. It is particularly nice to know that I have made a good review!

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  4. I don't know if I'm getting better or what, but this one was pretty simple, surely simpler than RADIX or VORTEX, and I wouldn't give it 6 of 6 in Hanayama's ranking. I've solved it in approx. 15 minutes, and that wasn't by accident; I got the basic move quickly and then it was completely obvious how to use it to solve the puzzle.

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    1. I think that some puzzles you click with and others you don't! I also saw the solution to this very quickly but I still find it an enjoyable one to play with.

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    2. Yeah, you're right. But still, I don't think this one deserves 6 of 6. Anyways, Enigma is waiting :) and the Rubik's cube as well, I just have to resist looking at the standard solutions!

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    3. I'd agree! Probably a level 4 or 5 but others have struggled with it! I also found the Enigma fairly easy but others really found it tough.
      Now the Rubik cube - I will be very impressed if you can solve it without looking up any algorithms!

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