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Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Review: Gravity Maze

Rekha and Roberto gave Bowen Gravity Maze for his birthday, and this was immediately the most played toy in his birthday present set this year. Since he liked both Rush Hour and Laser Maze, this was probably predictable.

The idea behind the puzzle game is that you have a source tower and a target location, and a certain number of pieces with which to build a series of connections such that a ball dropped from the source tower will end up in the target location from the correct direction (the target tower is opened on only one side).

The concept is simple, but the game has several flaws that make it less than perfect:

  1. The pieces are finicky, making it easy to dislodge them while placing other pieces. This is true even for an adult, let alone a 6 year old.
  2. Some of the solutions are dependent on the height from which the ball is dropped. This has a couple of problems: first, there exist solutions which occasionally solve the puzzle, but don't do so all the time (an indication that this is not the solution the puzzle maker wants you to reach), but there are also solutions which are finicky, meaning if the pieces are not placed firmly or the ball is dropped a bit too low you will not consistently get the ball to hit the target.
  3. The colors chosen are very annoying if you're partially colorblind, as I am. The orange/green pieces are not distinguishable, and the subtle differences on the printed cards that differentiate purple and black are so subtle that I frequently have to ask Bowen what the colors are whenever he asks me to setup the next puzzle for him. Fortunately, he's soon reaching the age where he can setup puzzles for himself, but some of the setups involve one puzzle tower on top of another, and he doesn't quite have the coordination to do it yet. This is yet another example of how the world of UI designers just doesn't seem to have enough color-blind people for people like me.
Bowen likes the game a lot, and plays with it a lot. But this is one clear case where the user experience would be improved if the physical pieces were all thrown out the window and replaced with a computer simulation/app instead. Computer reality is much more well-behaved than this finicky design. Avoid if you or your child is clumsy, and avoid if you or your child is even a little bit color-blind.

Nevertheless, it's a great concept that maybe someone else will refine and execute better than ThinkFun has.

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