Next year the Rubix Cube turns 30, so the fact that I was working part-time in a retail department store to support school / books / music / games / friends/ etc when it came out means a couple of things. First it means that there is a certain nostalgia attached to the Cube. OK, so it also says I’m old! Anyway, when I had the opportunity to try out the SphereXYZ, a challenging puzzle that invokes the spirit of the classic Cube, I jumped! So let’s find out of the game lives up to the classic and if it is ready to inspire a new generation of puzzlers!
Designed to challenge the mind, this puzzle ball features two rotating hemispheres and two sets of colored tiles that move within canals on the sphere. Once the tiles are scrambled, the goal is to get them back into their original configuration, with one white tile at the north pole and the other at the south. There are several different strategies and approaches for one or more players
I really wanted to get a picture of the untouched still in the sealed package, but as soon as I opened the box my younger son descended upon it and started twisting and spinning … and eventually I grabbed it back and put it into the package to grab a photo. This is a puzzle that just yearns to be touched – and the packaging helps. It is clear and attractive and shows you nearly the whole puzzle with just enough flashy product info showing to make the package attractive.
Once you have the SphereXYZ out of the package, you notice that the play instructions are nicely illustrated at the bottom of the package. You can remove these if you plan to recycle the package, but it is better to just keep the whole thing together, as it will mean less wear and tear in the long run – maybe it will even still be around in 30 years for my kids’ kids …
The basics of playing are simple – the tiles are aligned in grooves that twist, and then the entire puzzle is on two hemispheres that rotate, allowing you multiple degrees of freedom – and ways to get yourself into a mess! At first, you will find yourself thinking linearly, making changes along both axes in one hemisphere, similar to how you’d work the Rubix Cube, only to realize that you are messing yourself up in the other direction. Frustration turns to determination, though – the puzzle is challenging but not impossible.
We’ve had SphereXYZ for just over a week now and everyone has played with it a few times, and we all agree – this is one seriously fun puzzle! I have used the comparison to the Rubix Cube repeatedly, and it works for a couple of reasons. First, because the SphereXYZ is easy to learn but difficult to master; second because it is the sort of game that you can pick up again and again and it will still be a fun experience. Not only that, as my younger son quickly discovered, the layout of the SphereXYZ is such that you can create your own objectives! SphereXYZ is a great puzzle and one that you should definitely consider getting for your family!
Update: SphereXYZ is now available at Barnes & Noble at an even better price than the list price!
Where to Buy: Barnes & Noble.com
What I Like:
– Great price
– Tons of fun and highly addictive
– Challenging without being impossible
– Solid build quality
What Needs Improvement:
– … can’t think of a thing!
And to end this, here is a YouTube video of the creators’ son working and solving the SphereXYZ![youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZpeXDwu6slM[/youtube]