ThinkFun Gravity Maze Marble Run Brain Game and STEM Toy for Boys and Girls Age 8 and Up – Toy of the Year Award Winner
|Item Dimensions LxWxH||9.38 x 3 x 10.5 inches|
|Number of Pieces||75|
About this item
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- Trusted by Families Worldwide - With over 50 million sold, ThinkFun is the world's leading manufacturer of brain games and mind challenging puzzles
- Develops critical skills – Playing your way through the challenges builds spatial reasoning and planning skills, and is partly an engineering and building toy that provides a great stealth learning experience for young players
- What you get – Gravity Maze is a combination logic game, marble run, and STEM toy that's one of the best gifts you can buy for boys and girls age 8 and up It contains 60 challenges from beginner to expert, a game grid, 9 towers, 1 target piece, and 3 marbles
- Clear instructions – Easy to learn with a clear, high quality instruction manual You can start playing and solving right away
- Comes with multi-level challenges - Gravity Maze comes with 60 beginner to expert challenges that become increasingly difficult as you play through them
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CHOKING HAZARD -- This toy is a small ball. Not for children under 3 yrs.
CHOKING HAZARD -- Toy contains a marble. Not for children under 3 yrs.
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Gravity Maze is one of ThinkFun's most popular stem toys for boys and girls, and was a Toy of the Year Award winner in 2017, in the Specialty Category. It's a gravity powered maze game that comes with 60 challenges of increasing difficulty, from beginner to expert, and makes a great birthday or holiday present for kids who like puzzles, smart games and challenging activities. Gravity Maze is made with high quality components, and comes with a very clear and easy to understand instruction manual - you'll be able to play within minutes of opening the box. Like all of ThinkFun's games, Gravity Maze has an educational aspect - it's built to develop critical thinking skills and tie into STEM subjects like science and engineering. Playing through the increasingly difficult brain teaser style challenges will sharpen your mind by improving logical reasoning, spatial reasoning and planning skills, all through fun gameplay. Like all of ThinkFun's games, it also makes a wonderful addition to any homeschool curriculum.
Warning choking hazard due to small balls. Not suitable for children under 3 years.
Top reviews from the United States
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But we were forever losing pieces and I just don't have any of them left any more.
Laser Maze is a puzzle like that, only since it is more "game-like" as far as size, I think we'll have an easier time keeping track of it. The basic idea is that you have various pieces with mirrors and angles, and one piece that emits a laser-light. The cards tell you where you must place various pieces (and sometimes exactly what direction the piece must be in, sometimes you have to figure out the direction to face it), and you set those up that way. The card also tells you how many and which other pieces you need to put somewhere on the board. You need to then position the pieces in such a way that when you depress the laser, it will light up the appropriate target.
It is far more straightforward than that description sounds, at least at the easy levels. Once you work up to the harder levels, you definitely need to be really thinking. Especially for spatially challenged individuals like me. Once you figure out a solution, you can flip the card over to see if you are right. So far, none of us have found a different solution than what is on the card.
As you work up in difficulty, you are introduced to different piece types. The base of the pieces are color-coded, so it is always pretty easy to figure out which one is which.
The only real complaint I have about this is with the storage. The box has a plastic insert that allows you to safely store all the pieces, and every tall piece fits into any of the little compartments. One compartment is a little bit deeper than the others, and that is where you are supposed to put the laser piece. The laser piece, however, will fit into any of the other compartments, but just sticks up a bit.
Which isn't all that noticeable if you are, say, an 11-year-old. (The game is for ages 8+)
If (hypothetically speaking) you are 11, and you put the pieces back any old way, put the cover on the box, and put the box back on the game shelf... then the next person to come along and play with it is going to find that the laser piece needs a new battery. Because it has been stored with the laser-activator-button pushed down.
Hypothetically speaking, of course.
I do really wish that either a) all of the little wells in the plastic were just a smidge deeper, so it wouldn't matter which piece was put where, or b) the spot where the laser-piece goes would be far more blatantly obvious, such as the plastic being colored to match the piece types.
The good thing is that we discovered that it is really easy to replace the battery in that laser-piece, and it is a fairly common watch battery. At least, it is one we already had around the house, and we don't have all that many of the watch battery types around.
The concept is terrific. It presents challenges both in logic, and basic electronic circuitry, at the same time. The challenges become increasingly difficult. Do not think that this is easy kids' stuff. I have puzzled over at least one of them for 45 minutes or more. The challenges are not just about figuring out the circuitry--how to get electricity to flow to where it is needed, how to set up both parallel and series circuits--but also about spatial relationships. You must use all of the pieces specified, and you must not have any loose ends. So in many cases, it is possible to come up with a solution easily, but you don't use all of the pieces, or you have a loose end. Then you have to tinker and experiment and (if you're really smart, which I am not!) picture in your mind how it should be.
Conceptually, this is one of the best learning toys I've ever seen. I would have simply *died* to have this as a kid. You would have needed a crowbar to pry me away from it. I should add, though, that I think it needs a bit of adult guidance, particularly guidance that has some knowledge of basic electronics. I discovered that there is no way you can light up all three of the LED pieces in series, and that is by design. It forces you, in challenges when all three LEDs must be lit up, to use parallel circuits. The instructions explain (and how) what series versus parallel looks like, but at no point do they say that you can't light up all three in series. This leads to a subtopic, the fact that the LED pieces have resistors built in, and this is exactly why you can't have all three in series. No mention of this, and to genuinely understand even the basics of circuitry, you must understand resistance.
So, as good as the learning is, it is even better if an adult is around to explain these things, when and as needed.
Now on to the flaw. The execution of this toy is lacking. In many, I might even say most, cases, there is no problem. You put the pieces in as they should be, and things light up as they should. In too many cases, however, there are one or two basic problems:
1. Pieces pop out. Just as you are pushing that last piece in, one of the already-placed pieces pops out. You push it back in, and yet another (or two, or three) pops out. This is worst when you have many pieces all placed into a small area, with no open spaces between them.
2. The contacts can be frustratingly weak. The pieces are in place, as they should be, but one or more of the LEDs won't light up. You have to push and squeeze together various pieces to close the contacts between them. Sometimes you see barely a flicker; sometimes a weak glow; sometimes, just the right push will get all of them to light up brightly. But other times, you have to press firmly on two or three different places to get any light at all.
These are relatively minor frustrations for me as an adult. They can confuse and turn off a kid, who may look at the solution, find out that she or he did everything right, but the stupid thing won't work. My freakishly gigantic Frankenstein hands* make it easier to push and prod at several spots on the board at the same time than it would be for a kid.
I have tried to tinker with the pieces. On some of them, you can try to bend the contacts out a little, at the risk of damaging the piece. This seems to help temporarily. But the contacts on the LED pieces are installed in a way that you simply cannot adjust them, short of tearing the piece apart and breaking it.
So, with these limitations, I would advise yet again that an adult be available for help and advice if trouble like this crops up. If a kid is the determined type, s/he won't need or want any help, and will figure out how to deal with the product's limitations. And will probably chase you away from the table, "Mom, Dad, leave me alone! I'm doing science!" Otherwise, a little encouragement, and a little, "Don't be frustrated, you got it right" would go a long way toward making up for the missing two stars in my review.
*No really, they're like lobster claws from some sci fi movie where radiation makes the lobsters hideously huge, and they go bald and have spare tires and why don't these glasses work any more, what's that, speak up, why are you whispering, oh right, now I remember, I'm destroying Tokyo, has anybody seen my glasses, oh wait, I'm wearing them.
Top reviews from other countries
Basically these are 'simple' electrical circuits, using LEDs in series and parallel (and sometimes both) to complete a circuit whose layout is shown on the puzzle card. The puzzle is both to illuminate the LEDs as shown and complete the layout with the pieces given. Usually there's only one right answer and there are a number of wrong answers where the LEDs won't light up as requested.
Reading the instruction, although brief is recommended as there's a few things that you might miss otherwise such as the plus sign on the LED connects with the plus sign on the battery and not the other way around.
The puzzles range from the elementary to very tricky. Puzzles with switches are normally and bit harder but a bit more satisfying when they work. How tricky? Well one of the hard puzzles too two people, one studying electrical engineering at University over an hour to solve.They also look good as well and I came away thinking that having a few more components such as resistors or transistor switches would make it even more fun.
The big downside, and why it doesn't get five stars is the actual board. I'm not sure if mine was faulty. There seemed to be a rubber foot missing and I made a substitute that improved thing. But even with that there's a real issue that plug one component in and another will pop out. Once you had some practice this can be overcome, but I would consider that child - or even some adults - would find this frustrating and give up or return the product as faulty.
I notice on ThinkFun's website, and in US reviews the issue with the board is mentioned a number of time and ThinkFun have responded by saying there's an updated board that solves the problem. I have no idea if this is the improved board or the old one. I did email, tweet and FB ThinkFun about this issue when it arose. But I have had no reply in two weeks.
So my review is "brilliant, but flawed".