Monday, August 15, 2011

TGD Toy Review & GIVEAWAY: Perplexus

When I was a kid, the Atari 2600 was the pinnacle of video gaming.  I defended castles, retrieved glorious treasure and slay dragons as a mere yellow square armed with only a pixilated arrow floating mysteriously at my side.  Soon Nintendo’s 8-bit graphics blew my mind as I plunged headlong into pipes and ate mushrooms to gain size and strength.  Obviously, I had no idea what was to come over the next few decades.

For the most part, the electronic gaming world was still new and innocent during my formative years.  Video games were not the epic adventures that they are now.  In the summer months, you still spent your time outside, pretending to attack one another’s woodland fort or looking for bugs, snakes and frogs.  In the winter months you played with action figures and reenacted your favorite scenes from the movie they were designed to market or pretended to attack your enemy’s woodland fort.  This often created noise.

On the other hand, certain toys and activities induced near perfect silence despite our heavily sugared systems and overactive imaginations.  I built with Lego bricks for hours by myself.  My older brothers would map out entire D&D worlds or fiddle with a Rubik’s cube.  Occasionally, we would sit quietly together around a board game, deep in strategic thought.

We didn’t exactly have to carve our own toys out of wood with a dull blade, but times were simpler.  With my sons near dependence on our iPad reaching a boiling point, I was beginning to think that nothing without a power source could possibly attract their interest.  Then, a few weeks ago, I happened upon an unusual looking toy that required not a single battery.  It was named the Perplexus and looked like Labyrinth in a ball.  It consisted of colorful plastic marble runs encased in a clear plastic globe.  The result was a spinning, three-dimensional maze.

I was intrigued to say the least.  Upon returning home, I reached out to Plasmart, expressing interest in reviewing their product and running a giveaway with my readers.  They generously obliged and sent me one of each of the three stages of the Perplexus (Rookie with 70 obstacles, Original with 100 and Epic with 125) for review (that is the disclaimer in case you didn’t notice) and told me that they would be glad to send an Original Perplexus to one lucky winner in a contest of my own design.

So, without any further ado, let me get to the review.  What?  You thought I’d start with the giveaway?  Calm your greedy selves down and I will get to that at the end.

The Plus Side: To start with, the Perplexus will challenge children and adults alike.  Even the Rookie will take an adult time to defeat.  Even after finishing the maze, there is no guarantee that the feat will be readily duplicated.  This goes double for the Original and infinity for the Epic.  You will keep going back, trying to prove you defeated it in the first place and will continue coming up short.  You’ll spend the day at your desk, wanting to get your hands on it again when you get home.  It’s addictive.

The Perplexus also promotes hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills.  The subtle movements necessary to navigate the precarious shifts, rolls and drops that the marble will take throughout the game require focus and a steady hand.  It absolutely requires patience, determination and perseverance, things we could all use more of and would love to see more of in our children as well. 

As an added bonus, the Perplexus is nearly a work of art.  When set on the included clear plastic display base, it creates a colorful conversation piece.  Just looking at the picture above of the entire Perplexus family should convince you of that.  It looks less like a toy that has been left carelessly lying out and more like something you are displaying in your home, just begging someone to ask what it is.

Finally, it will shut your kids up.  If you hand them any one of the three levels out of nowhere, silence is imminent.  You won’t hear from them for at least an hour in the first sitting, but it won’t just be a passing fad.  They’ll tell you they finished it and you’ll say, “Show me,” and BAM another fifteen minutes of silence guaranteed.

The Down Side: At $22.99 for the Rookie, $24.99 for the Original and $29.99 for the Epic, you would have to drop $77.97 to purchase all three and provide multiple levels of challenge to your clan.  That’s a major toy investment.  If you have more than one child in your household and said children are at all prone to not wanting to share or wait patiently for their turns, your attempt to provide them with fun quiet time might turn into a shouting match and the Perplexus from a constructive toy to a virtual football carried through the house by its possessor whose sole purpose is to keep it from anyone else.

If you only want to buy one, get the Original.  If you have little ones in the house, pick up the Rookie so that you can let them practice with it before moving up to the Original down the road.  The Epic is essentially a luxury purchase.  If you are so into the Perplexus that you want to move up to the highest possible level, or if you are intent on raising future surgeons with steely resolve and unshakable hands, indulge yourself and get it.  Otherwise the Original should suit your needs nicely.

Sadly, this is not a good road trip toy for in the car.  Even the slightest and smoothest turns on the highway will result in the delicate balance of your marble being thrown off.  If you’re looking to keep them quiet in the car during your journey, a pair of headphones for the handheld game might still be the better investment.

Also, prepare to swear in front of your kids.  You will play with this toy and the moment when you realize you are but three obstacles from completion and the marble drops to the bottom of the sphere, your reaction may not be able to be contained.  This is your fair warning.

The Wrap Up:  The Perplexus, regardless of which level of challenge you choose, is an instant classic.  Rarely does a toy come around that I will watch someone else play with, spellbound.  It is even far more rare that the toy does not require batteries.  Buying all three can be pricey, but a single level is within most people’s budget, especially considering its high replay value.

TGD Rating: 17/20 of a star.  I nearly gave this 4/5 but decided it deserved better.  It’s a dynamic, constructive, elegantly designed toy that you and your kids will love and keep around for a long time.

Now on to the giveaway…

With one Original Perplexus ready to be shipped out from the fine folks at Plasmart to our lucky winner, the onus is upon me to choose the most worthy.  So, what I ask is that between now and August 28th (that gives you nearly two weeks), you comment on this post or one of the several posts I will write to remind you all of the giveaway and:

Tell me about your favorite quiet inducing toy or activity as a kid.  What was it that could keep you sitting on the couch or lying on the floor on a rainy day, whiling away the hours while your parents enjoyed peace and quiet?

The most amusing, enjoyable, random or striking in a way that I can’t even fathom yet tale will be sent an Original Perplexus.

Good luck everyone and I hope to hear from you very soon.


  1. Books, books and more books, especially the classic fantasy series: Narnia, Redwall, Tolkien (heck, i read the Silmarillion in 6th grade and made a board game based on it). When i was younger (7 or 8) and the books i read had larger font and fewer words (think Hardy Boys), my sister and i would go to the library and checkout stacks of books a foot and a half high. My sister, always being a faster reader would often have the first one finished before we got home.

    That love of reading has been crucial to my success in life. I can recommend nothing more than encouraging that in your kids.

  2. In ancient times, the Silence game was the choice of parents especially on long car trips. No cost or equipment involved. All you did was make a challenge as to who can be absolutely soundless for the longest period of time. The best part was there was no prize involved, just bragging rights to being the quietest in the family.

  3. I grew up next to A park that back in the day flooded the whole center of the park to make a beautiful ice rink. The Chicago Park District employees did a fabulous job of consistently adding water, so it became an awesome place to skate. I learned to skate at a very young age. My favorite part was my Dad worked afternoons and on the weekends if I was still awake when he got home, which I learned to make myself stay awake, he would grab a schlitz, oh I am aging myself, sit on the park bench and let me skate for as long as I wanted. I had the rink all to myself, it was safe, fun, quiet and one of the wonderful memories I have not only of growing up, but with my Dad also.