Geek Gifts 2011: Perplexus Original 3-D puzzle toy

Based on a 30-year-old design by 3-D art teacher Michael McGinnis, the Perplexus Original toy is challenging for children and adults. Our Geekend reviewer only cites one issue with the 3-D maze toy.

The Perplexus Original is a new toy from Canadian toymaker PlaSmart. The designs were created by teacher Michael McGinnis as an art project in the late 1970s and faced several setbacks over the years before making it to market.

The Perplexus Original is based around an eight-inch, spherical ball that contains many plastic pieces. The pieces form a track that a small, metal ball travels along. The track has many pitfalls and danger zones that the player must overcome to help the ball progress from the starting point through 100 moves to the finish line. Depending on the method of play (from the suggestions on the box), the player can choose to restart the game from the beginning or from one of two mid-points along the track.

Product specifications and features

What I like

  • Challenge: This toy is challenging for children and adults.
  • Variety: There are several variations of gameplay that will keep you interested.
  • Inventive: The design makes use of 3-D space by requiring the user to rotate the sphere in order to properly move the ball along the track. In addition, the design makes use of both sides of the plastic track pieces at various points.

What I don't like

  • Sticky corners: In some places, the ball seems to stick in corners and against other obstacles. More rounded edges or other adjustments could make this better.

Geek bottom line

While designed as a child's toy, the Perplexus Original is challenging even to adults. Its various twists, turns, and drops take some time to master, and the suggested variations will keep the game interesting even after you have completed it the first time.

This spring two variations on the Perplexus Original are scheduled to come out: the Perplexus Rookie, a seven-inch ball that has 70 moves, and the Perplexus Epic, an eight-and-a-half inch ball that has 125 moves. The Rookie will have a difficulty rating of three, and the Epic will have a difficulty rating of eight.

Geek gift score (out of 5)

  • Fun factor: *****
  • Geek factor: ****
  • Value: ****
  • Overall: ****

For more reviews of tech gadgets, gizmos, games, and books, download the PDF of TechRepublic's Geek Gift Guide 2011.