Friday, April 16, 2010
Dig It and Oops!
Dig It is a bit like Pentominoes, using pieces of different shapes and size. In addition to these pieces (made of satisfyingly weighty, pleasingly colorful, translucent plastic), there are pieces shaped like bones. In each puzzle, the pieces are positioned over a bone or two. The puzzle is to figure out how to move the pieces around so as to reveal the bone(s). It's a bit like being a dog, digging for a bone. Hence the doggy graphics on the cover. In addition to the collection of pieces, there's a puzzle book, spiral bound, with its own stand. It's designed so that the solution to one puzzle is on the back of the previous puzzle, so all you have to do to get a hint or check your result is turn the book around. The puzzles are graded, one-paw puzzles being significantly easier to solve than four-paw puzzles.
Oops has a magician theme. There are 9 pieces. One is shaped like a hat. Another like a magician's head. The rest look a bit like sailor hats. There are 4 colors of sailor hat pieces: blue, red, green, and yellow. Pieces are set up according to a diagram - a different piece (or two) on each space - a different set up on each page in the puzzle book. You can move a piece one space either vertically or horizontally, as long as it lands on top of another piece. Which makes it a stack of two pieces. Which can only move two spaces, horizontally or vertically, as long as that stack lands on top of yet another piece. And so on and so on, a three-stack moving three spaces, a four-stack four, until, with your final move, the hat is on the bottom, the rest of the pieces are on top of the hat, and the head is on top of them all.
The carrying/storage/playing case for both puzzle/games is in itself magical. You slide the cover to the left or right, revealing a compartment. And, once the cover has been repositioned, you can turn it over to become the playing board. It's sturdily built of brightly colored plastic.
Each of these puzzles is an investment in fun. They're fun to touch, fun to try to solve. The more challenging puzzles are usually ingeniously so - offering unexpected variations that sometimes redefine your whole understanding of what this puzzle is about. You can cheat as often as you need to (just turn the book around for the answer). You can skip to more difficult puzzles, essentially designing your own curriculum of challenge.
Don't be fooled by the child-appealing design. As you progress through the puzzle booklet, even the mature puzzler will discover most definitely adult-worthy challenge.
As a teacher, these puzzles are a paradigm of good curriculum design - always inviting further and deeper exploration, always just as challenging as the student is ready for. As a player, they are invitations to mastery and delight. Well-made, cleverly-designed, continually fascinating, engaging the eye and mind, providing intelligent, functional fun.