The Oli Morris ROLLER-COASTER CHALLENGE from THINKFUN via RAVENSBURGER
ROLLER-COASTER CHALLENGE is not truly a 'game' it is actually a series of logistic puzzles set out on 40 cards, one card per puzzle with its solution on the flip-side.
The pieces are roller-coaster rails of varying lengths and in five colours which fit together by a simple click-in system. The rules are basically 'if it doesn't fit easily then it isn't supposed to go there' which means don't try to force pieces together.
The rails are strong and durable but not particularly pliable, especially the 'T' parts of the click-in fix. The previously mentioned rule really does apply. One wrong attempt at joining two pieces will result in a strain on them and you get to see the white of the stretched plastic appearing within the colour of the piece. It is very easy to think you have it right, especially when several people are all 'helping' at the same time and you are all positive (except the 6 year old) that the piece will fit, and of course it doesn't.
There are 40 cards, each with one puzzle and solution, that form the deck of challenges, 10 Green based cards that are 'Easy' to do, 10 Orange cards that make you think a little more - we took between 2 minutes to 8 minutes on each puzzle in the Easy & Medium decks, taking more time as each got a little harder. This led us up to the the Blue cards which are marked as 'Hard' and indeed the time taken to do these in general is greater than the previous 20 cards, 8 minutes onwards to complete each card (and never once did we look at the reverse side before we were content we were successful)..
Finally we have the Red cards and like most things 'red' this is a warning that these are indeed Very Hard puzzles; these took us 15 minutes plus per puzzle and a lot of head scratching, trying to fit the pieces as given.
Each card shows the grey base, the position of a number of column pieces and the Start and End Orange pieces. On the lower part of the card you are shown what pieces you are to use, the rails having dots on them to show their length, so a four length rail will have 4 dots etc. If the Yellow looping-rail is required then that will be shown both in the parts list and on the pictogram showing the position it has to occupy. It is up to you (any number of players from one upwards aged 6 upwards) to engineer the components into the correct position.
Amongst the column pieces and rails is a ball-bearing loaded Roller-Coaster carriage. You put this on the Start rail and give it a gentle push then watch it zip around the rails until it ends up safely in the Orange catcher end-of-track piece. It really motors along and when it goes round the loop it is moving so fast you barely see it go round - I like Roller-Coasters but I wouldn't want to go round a loop that fast (relative speed to reality) it's amazing.There are two 'U' shaped card pieces which are supposed to be tunnels. They don't look as impressive as the plastic rails but they do have the purpose of helping players to realise where to put the columns and the height required - columns are made up of single pieces click-stacked on top of each other. These columns have slots down the sides for the corner and Start/End pieces to clip into - these fittings are different than normal rail-fixings.
Once you have built all 40 tracks you will know exactly how the Challenges work, gravity runs the carriage and not all pieces fit together - you will have learned this by now. So it is up to the player/s now to create their own Roller-Coasters and this is where the fun continues and multiplies.
Although 6 year olds can join in, you need to keep their minds focused as unlike other games there is not a lot for them to do. You need adult supervision for younger players because they will always try to fit pieces together that aren't meant to fit together. However their younger eyes often see the obvious while the 'adults' are trying everything to join the Coaster rails together. The 40 cards give hours and hours of fun - we played over 3 days as the game is very addictive and frustrating and then you have infinity time to play, making your own designs, the more creative the better. The grid base is 5x5, twenty-five positions for column placing but the Roller-Coaster doesn't have to stay within the confines of it, though it is extremely difficult to design a ride that goes out over the lake (I like to imagine the area surrounding the Roller-Coaster as an area of water).
This is a good set for younger players to learn the very, very basics of engineering and design. It is not sold as an educational toy but it does have similar qualities and will be of great assistance to the children in school - in fact I could see infant schools using ROLLER-COASTER CHALLENGE as a teaching implement.
There are lots of pieces in the box for the building but unfortunately only one Coaster Carriage. As this is a small object and little hands like to play around while the adults are working hard solving the puzzle and building the Roller-Coaster, it can easily be misplaced, lost, or simply roll unnoticed under a sofa. From a Grandfather's point of view (a granddad that struggles to crawl around on the floor looking for Coaster Carriages) it would have been nice to have had a space carriage. From a gamer's viewpoint it would have been fun to have had 2-3 carriages that fit together, now that would be a truly difficult challenge, making a safe track that 3 carriages can traverse.
Perhaps the publishing company might think of bringing out new challenge cards and maybe even support my theory of the longer carriages, one can only hope.
As I said at the beginning I don't class ROLLER-COASTER CHALLENGE as a true game, the same way I don't think of Jigsaw Puzzles as games. Thinking about it and remembering back to when my children were younger, I suppose this could be considered as an updated version of 'MouseTrap' which was considered a game even though it was really just a bit of fun building the same construction over and over; this has similarites - the constructing, the Carriage/Mouse rolling down the track etc - but in most ways it is also as different as Chalk and Cheese. It also has some of the properties of the 'Master Builder-Roller Coaster Marble Run' but ROLLER-COASER CHALLENGE is much stronger and does not have the limitations of that 'game'.
ROLLER COASTER CHALLENGE sells from £27.00 - £35.00 online. If you only do the 40 challenges from the cards that's less than £1.00 per challenge. Of course as it's a 'challenge' you can always time yourself for each puzzle and then once you get round to number one again you will have 40 construction times with the next challenge being to beat them all. Like an athlete in training you have to aim to beat your time/s for each challenge continually so that it is perpetually goading you to do better.
Very clever idea that gives a lot of hours amusement.