METRO PLUS

This puzzle hooks you

After the sudoku wave, more games and puzzles are being unearthed. However, this particular one — Kaleidoscope Classic — has apparently been around long enough to have become the largest selling puzzle in organised toy stores in India.

At first glance, it's a red-and-white checkerboard. But it breaks up into 18 pieces, each unique in colour and shape. You remove the 18 pieces from the frame and reassemble them to create patterns and designs. It seems simple enough, until you go beyond the simple red and black and try to make a baby elephant, earth zones, a swimmer or a spacecraft. Even if you're stuck with half the board done, and can't figure out how to finish, it's hard not to start all over again and keep trying. Really, they're not kidding when they say it's addictive.

"The greatest drawback of common puzzles is that the game is over forever once you piece it together," says Vishal Mehrotra, Global CEO of Kaleidoscope marketers, Mind Challenge Ltd. "This game has infinite solutions." A jigsaw puzzle, for example, is great fun, but once you make the final picture, then what?

It all started 30 years ago, when Mark Wood, a psychologist, wondered if he could make an absorbing, intelligent puzzle that would last more than just one game. He realised there was always more than one way to solve a puzzle, and that egging players on to find every single way to solve the puzzle was the key to hook them. He met mathematician Frank Dyksterhuis, and they put their heads together to invent Kaleidoscope. Together, they created 101 unique challenges, each with more than one solution. They called it "the challenge that everyone can solve but no one can conquer". In 2004, it was awarded Puzzle of the Year by the Australian Games Association for being "the game that never ends".

"People are often afraid to do puzzles," says Mehrotra. "But after one easy game, you want to try a tough one. Then, if you don't crack it as easily, you think `This nonsense board! It thinks it can make me give up. I can take a dumb bunch of puzzle pieces on... ' And that is what a puzzle is supposed to do: raise your self-esteem while making you think."

Now, Mind Challenge has stepped up the challenge with Krusade, a multiplayer strategy board game, to be launched for the Indian market soon. Krusade is a combination of the luck of the dice, the Kaleidoscope Classic puzzle, and strategic skills. Like the Classic puzzle, this is for anyone above six years of age. The game will be available in all leading retail stores at Rs. 395.

ROHINI MOHAN

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