Zen Benders Review
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Players: 1 (ages 8+)
Playing Time: a few minutes per game—though it really depends on your skill level


When I was a kid, I had a pile of those little square slidey puzzles—you know, the ones with eight squares that you were supposed to slide around to make a picture of a puppy or a house or something like that. Looking back, I’m not sure if I ever actually had the patience to complete one of those puzzles—which makes Zen Benders even more challenging for me.

Zen Benders is built on the same concept as those square slidey puzzles: you have eight pieces that you move around to create a picture. But instead of just one picture, there are all kinds of options. They’re all printed on Challenge Cards (which are color-coded to distinguish between the three different levels of difficulty) that can be stored inside the game’s amazingly portable little case. And instead of eight little squares, they’re cubes (like dice)—which means that you have a whole lot of options (and a much greater challenge). You can also choose from four different Zen Benders designs: dachshund, dragon, quilt, or race track.

  
 
To get the cubes into the right position, you can slide them or flip them—as long as you’ve got the room to do so. But you can’t pick them up and turn them. And that means you’ll have to learn a few tricks to get your cubes to go the right way.

For an extra two-person challenge, my husband, the puzzle guy, recommends picking up two Zen Benders in the same design—so you can go head-to-head with an opponent. Just select the same card out of the deck and see who can finish the puzzle first.

If you love a good puzzle—and a challenging one at that—Zen Benders is sure to keep you busy for hours, flipping and sliding away. And since it’s compact and portable (and, if you’re a gifted puzzler, it only takes a few minutes per game), you can easily pack the hockey-puck-like case in a bag and pull it out when you’re waiting for an appointment—or stuck in traffic.

If, however, you couldn’t do those slidey puzzles as a kid, Zen Benders will drive you completely crazy. It takes patience and concentration, so if you’re lacking in either of those, you might want to stay away—because you may find yourself tossing the game aside in anger and frustration.

Still, even though I’ve been known to growl at the game and toss it aside, I’ve also been able to finish a puzzle or two. And I can tell you from experience that as soon as you manage to finish that first puzzle, you’ll be hooked.

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