Tuesday 10 May 2011

Hanayama Cast Key II

Cast Key II
I got the Cast Key II as part of a consignment from Puzzle Master in Canada. They rate it on their site as a level 6 out of 10 (Tricky) and Hanayama's own rating is 2 out of 6. I started with this one to get a feel for a relatively straight-forward one for a beginner (even though I have a couple of harder ones already).

There are two cast puzzles that look like keys and I got this version because I preferred the dark shiny chrome effect. It is also rated slightly harder than the original. As with all the Hanayama puzzles it comes beautifully packaged and no solution is provided (If you need one you can get it here). The size of the biggest key is 75x40mm. It is a pretty decent weight and feels quite solid to the touch. The instructions say you should be careful not to use any force and comments on the Puzzle Master page do say it can be easily broken. I have to say that I think it is MUCH more robust than that and you will need to use considerable force to break it (maybe levering it wrongly). The shiny surface may get scratched if you force things. This whole range of puzzles is very reasonably priced and all of them make really attractive ornaments. Any visitor will not be able to resist picking it up.

I found this Cast Key pretty easy - it took me only 3 or 4 minutes to take it apart and another 3 to reassemble - I personally would rate it only a 1 (Hanayama) or 5 (Puzzle Master). There are few places to go wrong and need a backtrack (there is a dead end at the beginning) but if you don't line things up perfectly then it will appear as if you have taken a wrong step (I did get lost once during the reassembly). The final release move is especially unexpected! This puzzle is perfect for novices or children and the sequential discovery of movements is very pleasant. Once apart I tried to reassemble it using a different approach and actually got it completely back to the beginning but with the horizontal key the on the other side! Looking at the individual keys it is really not clear how this works so well - the differences between the 2 interlocking edges are very subtle, this is a very cleverly designed puzzle!

2 separated keys
I reckon that a novice will spend 10-15 minutes on it - just the right amount of time to feel challenged rather than assaulted! Since my initial write-up I have given this to a few other friends and colleagues to play with and most have been fairly mystified for a while. In fact, I have had to provide a couple of gentle hints to most people about how the puzzle works - they all solved it with the occasional prompt. So maybe it is not quite as easy as I initially thought. I also noted that EVERYONE I gave it to really enjoyed it and felt a definite sense of achievement afterwards.

I am really quite pleased I have this in my collection - and may well get the other Cast Key just for completeness.

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