Monday, 25 January 2016

8 Stars Labyrinth

8 Stars Labyrinth

Robrecht Louage. The 8SL was also Robrecht's entry to the IPP35 Puzzle Design Competition.

Manufacturer & Availability
Manufactured and sold by Robrecht himself. He may still have some copies available. 

Type & Classification
Route finding/Maze

12cm x 8cm x 2.5cm

Materials & Construction
The puzzle is made of Trespa (a very strong and durable composite laminate made of resin reinforced by cellulose fibres generally used for interior table tops) with a translucent covering made of frosted acrylic. Construction, fit and finish is superb with very tight tolerances and everything accurately cut (especially the maze channels). A very high quality and solid puzzle.

Robrecht Louage is very well known for his "remove the coin" puzzles such as his € Labyrinth and Remove The Yolk. And of course who can forget his IPP31 award winning 4 Steps Visible Lock. Then he has designed several of the more typical maze style puzzles like the Larva and La Cerradura Doble

The 8SL seems to be a bit of a departure from both of these styles. Instead what we have here is a puzzle which requires you to navigate a little ball bearing (7.5mm diameter) through a series of channels fraught with a number of traps and obstacles along the way. 

Object is to put the ball bearing in the hole "IN" and get the ball through the maze and its obstacles and then exit the hole marked "OUT". Take a look at the photo and you will know what I mean.

Difficulty Level
The 8SL is a bit beyond moderate difficulty. Quite a number of traps along the way. While some of the obstacles are visible through the translucent cover and its obvious what needs to be done, some are not and requires a bit of trial and error. And in some cases, dexterity is required. There are also four traps that are hidden from view (the blacked out areas on the cover) and these require some thinking as to how to pass the ball through them. 

I had previously designed a couple of puzzles involving moving ball bearings (see my BIC#1 and BIC#2) and so had some inkling of how the traps might work. But despite this, I still took nearly 45 minutes to solve the puzzle. Gabriel Fernandez took just 10 minutes! I guess I spent the most time on the bottom hidden maze. Its almost right next to the finish point but because its hidden and the ball is only visible through some of the holes at the bottom plate, I made a number of unsuccessful attempts before getting the ball back out to the top channel.

Overall a nice, fun and more than sufficiently challenging puzzle; not the most difficult by any means of course. And at times, you have to navigate blind. But a great concept in puzzle design, no less. What I like about the 8SL is that you get the "a-ha" moments as you successfully tackle each trap/obstacle. You can feel your progress and can take your time to finish the solve in stages.

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