After reading puzzle blogger Kevin's Sadler's latest post on twisty puzzles, I was encouraged to try my hand at one. I have only several twisties in my collection, of which one is the ubiquitous Rubik's Cube and the rest of my minuscule collection have been mentioned in one of my blog post quite a while back. I have not ventured to the 'dark side"!
I headed for my puzzle cabinet and took out my (very) menacing looking Darth Maul. This puzzle came to me courtesy of puzzle blogger Roxanne Wong when I met her at IPP33 Puzzle Party last year in Japan. (Oops! sorry Rox, I just remembered that I still owe you money for some puzzles).
Darth Maul is produced and sold by Hasbro, under licence from Rubik. The puzzle is about 10cm tall and 7 cm wide; feels pretty large in the hands. It is very well made and high quality. Although plastic, it feels solid and sturdy. The twisting is snug but smooth and there is no "play" during rotation.
I am not a big fan of Twisties. But I do enjoy Star Wars movies. So I duly picked this one off Roxanne. I was hoping to get the rest of the characters of the cast, but to my surprise, Darth Maul is the only Star Wars character that is a Rubik's cube style puzzle of its kind in this sort of packaging today. Around 2002, there was also a range of similar Star Wars figures produced as promotional premiums for Kelloggs (Thanks to Rob Stegman for this info). For anyone interested, this Darth Maul can be bought off Ebay at very reasonable prices.
Darth Maul comes in a nice packaging with a Solution Hints booklet. Given that this is a high level twisty (for me, I think anything more than 1x1x2 is high), I was sure I would need the booklet. New words like "Diagonal Swapping" "Shunter" and "Shifter" entered my puzzle vocabulary...how come there is no "Parity"...whatever it means?
I wrongly assumed that a 2x2x2 couldn't be that difficult. I casually scrambled Darth Maul for a minute or so to make sure it was all properly mixed up...and promptly regretted it! I started to have problems right from the start - Darth Maul's two eyes couldn't come together and his jaw was at the back of his head. Suddenly a level 17.5.2 burr didn't seem so difficult after all.
After quite a bit of struggling, I finally got Darth Maul's face to what it is suppose to be, but the back of his head was still looking funny. Not properly solved yet!
This twisty is much harder than your standard 2x2x2 because each of the "blocks" of Darth Maul's head is an odd shape, not a normal cube. So if the orientation is wrong, it is very obvious, eg part of the back of his head sticking out sideways. Whereas in a standard 2x2x2 you can have the orientation wrong for one or more of the cubes, but still get the same colour.
Hardcore twisty puzzlers would probably not find this challenging but for casual, novice or non-twisty folks like me, this one can be real handful. As the packaging states, Darth Maul is truly a galactic challenge.
Happy Puzzling and May The Force Be With You!