Before we talk about Pete’s Pike and some of the other delightfully new puzzle/games from ThinkFun, answer me this? Have you ever tried River Crossing? If not, stop reading now, click on the ThinkFun, answer me this? Have you ever tried River Crossing link, and try it right now, on-actual-line. How about Rush Hour? Tipover? Go ahead. Click away. You can play all three. It is to sing the puzzle electric.
Of course, you’d be missing the feel of the puzzle/games themselves, the well-made, cleverly designed, intelligently portable, box-throw-out-able packaging of it all. But you’d get a good sense of what these puzzle/games are all about – how they involve moving pieces on a board, pieces with different properties, boards with different layouts. And how each layout is really a new puzzle. And how the puzzles range in difficulty. And, most importantly, from a major fun perspective, how they invite kibitzing.
The different levels of challenge allow you to challenge yourself as much or as little as you want to. Go ahead, start with the the first card. Be a beginner. Enjoy your competence. Feeling feisty. Skip a card or two. Try something intermediate. Because you can challenge yourself as much or as little as you want, the puzzle/games are especially fun – you never feel yourself overwhelmed or bored (unless you want to be).
Then there’s the kibitz-attraction – because the puzzles are visually attractive, and because what you’re trying to do is generally easy to explain (see, I’m trying to get this goat (Pete) to the top of the mountain (OK, the middle of the board), and I can move Pete up or down or across from where he is until he’s right next to one of his Goats. And I can move the Goats the same way.) So, if you’re feeling social, and you want that wonderfully collaborative experience of thinking together with somebody, well, then, you’ve got a game fun enough to play at a party. And if you’re not feeling so social, you can just sit on the sofa, all by yourself, and still have significant fun.
So the very design of these ThinkFun puzzles is the very kind of design that lends itself to Major FUN-ness. And when you have a bunch of these puzzles together (in addition to Pete’s Pike, we had HotSpot, Cover Your Tracks and Treasure Quest – all new, each fun), you can amaze yourself and friends at how darn clever these puzzle/games really are, how each, similar in all the good ways, is so different, in similarly good ways.
Take Hot Spot. Very, very similar to Pete’s Pike, you might say, except with “Bots.” Only, Bots can jump over each other. In fact, a Bot can jump over two Bots, if it feels so compelled. Not diagonally, of course. Very different. You have to think a different way. Not like your Pike’s Pete thinking, oh no. Not at all.
And then there’s Treasure Quest and Cover your Tracks. Not quite as self-storing, perhaps, but with a significantly adequate drawstring storage bag, for those who seek portability and boxlessness. But very different from Hot Spot or Pete’s Pike. Cover Your Tracks, with its four, large, asymmetrical pieces that fit on the board in only certain ways, and its slide-under puzzle cards, very, very different from Treasure Quest, with its sliding gate and four kinds of square tokens (you gotta love the Gold Masks that you push/side along the board), and your statuesque, token-pushing Hero – and yet, in a way, remarkably similar to all the other ThinkFun puzzle/games. Similarly well-made, similarly ingenious, similarly fun, differently puzzling.