Cast Puzzle Reviews

Hanayama cast metal puzzleI’ve been a huge fan of Hanayama’s cast metal puzzles for several years and own about 30 of them.

Although I’m not an avid puzzler, I first discovered these in a book store’s “puzzles and games” department and bought a couple (Cast SQUARE and Cast SPIRAL).

I was attracted to them for several reasons. I had seen lots of metal puzzles before, but none quite like these.

First, the boxes show the puzzles inside and I could see the simple elegance and beauty of each one. Even if they weren’t meant to be taken apart, they could easily be mistaken for small works of art — I like displaying mine on my bookshelf.

Some are shiny (e.g. Cast  RING), some bi-colored (e.g. Cast TWIST), some in the shape of animals (e.g. Cast SHARK), some look like jewelry (e.g. Cast HEART), and others look mysteriously ancient (e.g. Cast DUET).

Most are simply great to look at and admire for the workmanship and exquisite design by puzzle artists such as Oscar Van Deventer. All are unique and typically unlike other puzzles you’ve seen before.

Picking up the boxes revealed the heavy cast metal construction. It suggested high quality and durability that I later confirmed. I have never had a puzzle that broke, failed, or wore down in any way. And the finishes are incredibly hard and scratch resistant. They simply feel good in the hand.

Each puzzle has a name and “theme” which, in many cases, is a clever clue to its solution, although never quite enough. On the back of the box is an image of the “solved” puzzle with the pieces shown separated but nothing about how they can be separated.

The box also indicates its level of difficulty which ranges from Level 1 (least difficult) to Level 6 (most difficult). Level 1 is not always easy and Level 6 is incredibly challenging.  I don’t know how they decide on the levels but I’ve found that all Level 4, for example, are not the same. Some are harder, some are easier than others at the same level. And, for some, I disagree with their rating, as you’ll see in some of my reviews.

Unlike many metal and wooden puzzles that are often copies of one another, the Cast products are unique and different from anything else you might have experienced before. They are designed specifically for Hanayama by a number of talented and respected puzzle designers from all over the world.

Now, let’s talk about other characteristics that make these cast metal puzzles so great.

Some are easy to take apart but difficult to put back together. Some can be “figured out” after some experimentation. Others are too complex and not so easy to decode. A few have a “secret trick” that makes solving them easy once you know it or discover it.

My favorites are those that only have two relatively large pieces (e.g. DOLCE, KEYHOLE), which makes it easier to handle. I have a great appreciation of the designer who can take two relatively simple pieces of metal and make it very challenging to separate them and then put them back together again.

I prefer the ones that are real puzzles and don’t require knowledge (or discovery) of a special “trick” to solve (e.g. NEWS, NUTCASE), although those are the ones that are the most fun to show to family and friends.

None of the puzzles come with “cheater” instructions, unless the seller includes or offers them.

If you find yourself in a bind and can’t seem to make any progress (as I have, many times), there are independent YouTube videos for almost every puzzle but don’t expect them to help in every situation. Often, there are several ways to a solution and the YouTube video might not show the best way. Or the person making the video is simply showing off his ability to solve without actually showing how. There are a couple of web sites that also provide solutions but require you sign up for their mailing list.

See our Reviews of Selected Hanayama Cast Puzzles.

- The Review Guy