The Japanese company Hanayama Toys has released quite a number of metal puzzles to tinker with. Each is of excellent quality and most are fun to play around with. Some few of them can be exceedingly difficult and there will be no end to the frustration until it is finally solved. In this article I’d like to review three of the puzzles from this series.
The first is known as O’Gear and is a notched box and a flat pentagon with spade-like points, which are interlocked. The goal is to separate the two pieces. O’Gear is rated 3/6 difficulty. That is a reasonable rating, considering that there are a number of clues that begin to indicate how to solve it. Actually solving it is a bit of a challenge to maneuver the 5-pronged, flat piece. The feel of this puzzle and the design are simply ingenious. The way the pieces move and interact is fascinating, and it is fun to discover all the intricacies of the precise design and carefully spaced notches and grooves.
The second puzzle is named Chain and rated 6/6 for difficulty. That is probably close (a 5 might be better) as it does take a bit to determine how to work with it. It consists of three heart-shaped chain links that are all connected, and must be taken apart. As with the O’Gear, the Chain puzzle has some small details that can aid in understanding what needs to happen. This puzzle is certainly harder than O’Gear and makes for a great challenge.
Lastly, the cast puzzle Equa is only rated 5/6, but it really should be a 6. It is incredibly difficult, not only to solve, but actually moving it around is a challenge in and of itself, even if you know what to do. This is simply due to the incredibly small scale and the precision with which moves need to be made.
The difficulty is due to one small detail, which is almost invisible to the naked eye, even when you know it is there. Knowing the correct moves to solve the puzzle is utterly useless without this detail. There are roughly 24 ways to make the same moves, but only one of them is correct. Stumbling upon the right one out of sheer luck is nearly impossible. Also, if it isn’t put back on in the exact same manner in which it must be solved, it can easily get in a bind.
In summary, O’Gear and Chain are great puzzles and highly recommended. However, the Equa puzzle is far too difficult to maneuver, and solving it feels like an exercise in dexterity and patience, rather than mental prowess. I have found ordering these puzzles to be its own challenge; ThinkGeek seems to be the only reliable place to get them, but they don’t ever seem to have the new ones shown on the Hanayama website.