Measuring 4cm all round, the Shift at first glance looks somewhat like a 4-piece interlocking board burr made of metal; and there are a couple of other such similar looking wooden designs such as the Lattice and Four Frames designed by Andrey Ustjuzhanin. The Shift is cut from sheet metal (thanks to fellow puzzler/collector Michel van Ipenburg who pointed this out) and chrome plated to a glossy shiny surface. The 4 pieces consist of two congruent pairs with slots and corner triangles cut into them. If it's any help, let me say the triangles are cosmetic only and doesn't affect the solve. For better grip perhaps.
The Shift was designed by Russian designer Kirill Grebnev who, together with Dmitry Pevnitskiy, was also behind the Cast Harmony puzzle. Apart from physical appearance, there is no other similarity between the Shift and the type of wooden board burrs named above. Certainly not the solving! Quality wise it's up to the usual Hanayama standards which is very good. Takeshi-san, the Sales Manager was telling me that Hanayama has a stringent quality control programme particularly for their puzzles that are manufactured outside of Japan. I don't own many Cast Puzzles but for those that I do, rarely have I encountered any real quality issues. The tolerances for the Shift is just nice and the pieces slide and move smoothly.
|Kunihiro Kobayashi (right), President of Hanayama Toys, Japan with Sales Manager Takeshi Onishi (left)|
The Shift is rated 3 stars for difficulty, meaning it is of average difficulty. Give the Shift to an experienced puzzler and the difficulty quotient would probably be, well, average. But to a pure novice, it could mean "damn difficult" or impossible. IMHO, I think the rating here is about right. It's not too difficult, but certainly provides a fair measure of challenge. It took me a good 10-15 minutes before I figured out how the pieces interacted to unravel them. Oh, Burr Tools won't work here for sure, cos you can't solve it the normal burr way.
Once the prices came apart, to put them back together again was just the reverse procedure. Just make sure the right pieces are slotted against each other or you'll find yourself getting a bit stuck. With practice, the puzzle can be easily repeatedly solved. Like most of the Cast Series puzzles rated 3-star for their difficulty, the Shift is good for both the casual and experienced puzzler alike. For me personally, I like the Shift because I can see all the pieces and nothing is hidden from view, and the solution is pretty elegant. A fun solve no less.
And for the very reasonable price of the Cast Series puzzles, typically around US$11.50 to US$12 each, you would be hard pressed to get better value elsewhere, both in terms of overall quality and puzzle experience.