When the toy in your hands has an indicated age range from 7 to 99, a false sense of confidence can arise, especially if your a hair’s breadth from 40. These two puzzle games, the Gear Ball and Brainstring Advanced from Recent Toys, are exactly those types of fakeouts. At first glance they seem simple enough, but within one minute your confidence will waver and sink, and sink, and sink until you are nothing more than a bubbling mass of sorrow on the floor.
Try it, it’s fun!
Gear Ball is another in a long line of modern-day updates to the classic Rubik’s Cube. I previously reviewed a puzzle ball similar to this, but the Gear Ball sets itself apart through not only the intricacy of the interlocking pieces, but also the smoothness of the turning action. For all the variety of shapes on the ball, it moves with very little resistance. I took a photo when I got it out of the box so I could remember holding it in my hand as a solid-colored work of art, knowing it would likely never be that way again.
I let a friend of mine play with it for a while and he almost nailed it, but each time he was close there would be one tiny gear in each color ever-so-slightly out of place. Playful infuriation is the name of the game.
Brainstring Advanced is something I’ve never seen before: a clear plastic shape with eight playable sides, each with three holes. The holes are landing points for multi-colored rubber tips on the ends of strings stretched through the inside of the shape. Your goal is to get all the colors into common groups without tangling any of the strings inside.
Again, deceptively simple.
What I like about Brainstring Advanced is that being able to see inside the toy gives you a tiny mental boost, as if by seeing the inner workings you might be able to figure it out faster. It also allows you to just sit and look and figure out your next move or where you should begin to congregate each color.
Each of these games is fantastic for long car rides if you have young children or incredibly fidgety adults. As I mentioned before, both are rated for anyone age 7 to 99, but the Gear Ball would have to be broken to really present any danger, while the Brainstring Advanced is something I would keep away from the really young ones because they might be able to pull and snap off the rubber tips, if they really tried.
If I had to pick one to play myself, I would choose the Brainstring, only because I’ve never been good at the cube puzzles and I might put my head through a wall before actually solving one.
For parents and kids, the Gear Ball and Brainstring Advanced from Recent Toys are hours of fun, with a small chance of therapy bills after they drive you crazy.[amazon template=iframe image&asin=B003OZ1VOC]