Monday, February 8, 2016

Cat Stax from Brainwright

Cat Stax Review

Today's Puzzle in the Spotlight is Cat Stax from Brainwright!

Cat Stax is a packing-style single player puzzle game.  Packing style puzzles are ones which require a given set of pieces be 'packed' into a container of some sort.  (You can find more info about packing puzzles at Rob's Puzzle Page.)  In Cat Stax, you get 12 cats of various shapes and colors and 48 challenge grids (which act as the containers).

 These are the cats that want packing...

And these are the grids.  Each challenge card shows the required cats, the grid, and the number of layers.  Cat Stax gets interesting when the challenges require more than one layer!

All the challenges come with answers.  Be careful with the answers, as interpreting the layered ones can be rather confusing.  There are cats floating everywhere!

So to tackle a challenge, pick a card and find all the cats you will need.  Also note how many layers that challenge requires.  Arrange your cats to fit the grid and, when all the spots are filled, you win!  No cat parts are allowed to hang out over the edges and all spaces must be filled.  These are the only rules!

Here is my solution to challenge #13.  You can see how the kitties stack on and in between one another!

Some thoughts on Cat Stax:

Observe the cats carefully!  The cats range in size and height.  Knowing which cats can stack vertically and which ones are too tall and thus must remain horizontal is important.  Also, examine how the various cats can fit together.  Some of the cats are a bit awkward.   Sometimes their legs are arranged so that it looks like other pieces will fit in between them, but they don't!  I graphed the sizes of the cats so you can take a closer look and see what I mean.

The colored shapes next to each cat above show the spaces that each cat will fit into on the challenge grids.  So the biggest cat is the green one and takes up 10 spaces.  Other cats can fit into the space under the green cat's tail and also into the space between his legs.  The next biggest cat is the teal cat at 9 spaces.  His legs hang down in such a way that it looks like there is space for another piece, but there isn't.  I've arranged the cats from biggest to smallest on the sheet.  The smallest cat is the 2 space cat.  He is in almost every challenge!

The cats are very cute, but the teal can't reminds me more of an armadillo than a cat.  He's a little disturbing!  I like that they've given the cats interesting tails and ears and body shapes, but when it comes to stacking them, that makes it more difficult.  For some of the taller stacks, it's more a challenge of dexterity to get them all to balance than it is a logic problem!

Some errors we found with this puzzle:

Challenge #6 bothers me.  Above you can see my best solution and it turns out that the answer card agrees with me.  My problem is that the pink cat has an open space between his legs so that the grid is not completely filled!  This doesn't follow the rules.  If you replace the pink cat with the yellow cat, it will fix this problem.

Challenge #24 shows that the yellow cat is used on the challenge card, but the solution uses the pink cat.  Using the pink cat leaves another open space.  I'd recommend sticking with the yellow cat for this challenge as well.

Challenge #33 in our set has no grid!  What's up with that?!  Clearly it's a printing error, but it seems like quite a large one.  You can look at the answer card and try to figure out what the grid should look like and draw it in yourself, if your set also suffers from this problem.

The last error is fairly minor, but could be confusing for some, so I thought I'd mention it.  The teal armadillo-cat and the glow-in-the-dark sitting cat have their colors swapped on several of the solution cards, including #5, #15 and #36.  Something to watch out for if you find yourself getting confused by the solutions!

Final thoughts:

I do like this puzzle!  But I love cats, and it would be hard for me to hate something with cats.  That said, it'd be great if they reprinted this one and fixed some of the issues.  These are things which would likely frustrate younger solvers.  So I would recommend only buying Cat Stax for older kids/adults who wouldn't mind dealing with these problems.

While Cat Stax is certainly fun, it is far from "purrfect."

Happy Solving!

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