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30 Cubed

As a parent, I'll admit, I have occasionally let my iPad do the babysitting. I'm not proud to say so, but there are times when it's just the most effective tool at my disposal: waiting rooms, mainly. To go some small way in redressing my lack of character, I decided early on to only put educational and puzzle games in my son's folder, so at least he'd learn something when playing. One of the puzzles I bought was Flow Free: Bridges (Big Duck Games LLC), in which you are tasked with connecting pairs of nodes on a square grid, from a measly 5x5 up to some beastly 19x19s: it can be really hard, believe me. So, when I got 30 Cubed for review, Bridges was immediately what came to mind.

30 Cubed is another well-produced puzzler from the Happy Puzzle Company, designed by Ivan Moscovich and Gavin Ucko. In its large tuckbox are 30 chunky cubes reminiscent of old-school wooden building blocks, a black plastic tray with spaces in a 6x5 grid, a multilingual rule book, and a good plastic insert which hold the components tight. Each of the cubes has faces in six base colours; on those faces are straight lines, corners and nodes in some of the ten line colours. The rules detail 45 Challenges, including 18 aimed at Junior players.

Level One Challenges are simply to fill the grid with joined nodes using each colour face at a time. Level Two Challenges restrict the line colours that may be used; while Level Three Challenges task you with using just two base colours per puzzle. Level Four is where things start getting taxing: restricting the puzzler to making each line with different base colours with prescribed numbers of colour lines (yes, just understanding what you need to do is darn tricky!). Level Five's dastardly duo take 30 Cubed into three dimensions, instructing you to build a tower and a cube with specific requirements; while Level Six returns to two dimensions as each of the base colours must appear just once in each column and no more than once in each row; also, every line must start and finish in an individual colour. Phew! (And, no, I haven't completed it.)

There's plenty here to keep you busy for some time. Whether it's your kind of experience will be down to your puzzling predilections and propensity for preternatural patience. Much like board games, you soon begin to work out the heuristics of the face/line colour combinations, and how many node-line-node sets you'll need: but that's the fun of discovery. If you do get stuck, there are clues for Levels Two to Four in the rulebook, and solutions for all.

While the production is excellent throughout, with great tactility in the cubes themselves, after a while I did find the clack of them hitting the hard plastic a little irksome. I know it would likely push the cost of the game up, but felt squares in the bottom of the grid would add greatly to the experience (and is one reason I keep old casino felt around - yes, I'm a geek, I know).

In line with many puzzles derived from mathematical roots, 30 Cubed is going to strongly appeal to some and be an interesting diversion for others. The Junior levels are a sensible addition as there is a substantial toy factor here, and any sort of lure to exercise fledgeling brains is a plus. As for me, I like the sound of the tower puzzle: now, where's that pink node with the black face gone...?

(Review by David Fox)

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