Published By Out of the Box Games
Zen Benders fills a niche that I call “commercial puzzles”. I call it that because I love having a quick puzzle to pick up and play while commercials are on for whatever show I’m watching on TV. even with a DVR I still find myself watching a lot of commercials so it’s great to have a puzzle beside the lazy boy to play with. These puzzle games are obviously built to be portable for road trips too.
When I was a kid I used to get these little dime store (Do any of you know what a dime store is these days?) slider puzzles and play them like crazy. Basically you’d have something like a grooved picture frame with tiles that feature icons or letters that can be slid around inside the frame to spell words or create some final image that is the solution to the puzzle. Zen Benders is an almost 3-D re-envisioning of those old classic puzzles. Instead of tiles in a frame you get cubes in a sunken box. Here you not only slide these cubes around but you also flip them inside the box adding a whole new layer of gameplay, actually several layers. On the under side of the game box are a stack of cards with various puzzle solutions ranging from beginner to advanced that offer not jsut one solution to the puzzle but many solutions at varying levels of difficulty.
Otb has done a fantastic job here with taking a classic puzzle game and modernizing it without making it overly complicated. The basic mechanic is still fairly simple and quick to pick up but this redo offers a ton more variety to the puzzle. There are four different puzzles with each basically just offering different imagery on the cubes. If you like pick up and play puzzles Zen Benders is a no brainer. The container houses the cubes and cards in a small convenient package making it easy to keep on a desk at work or like me next to the lazy boy.
The presentation here is a bit of a mixed bag. The puzzle overall feels well made and for a puzzle to keep on a desk it’s great but as a portable game to take on a long car trip it’s not perfect. First of all the sunken box is full of cubes. One of the cubes is a marker that has to be removed so you have to keep up with that while you play and ride in the car. So far I haven’t seen a reason that this extra cube is necessary.
The cubes themselves feature crisp and clear artwork as do the cards that feature the puzzle patterns making the game easy to play. Now the stickers on the cubes are laid on a bit inconsistently with some centered on the cubes and some not. That’s a minor quibble believe me but it’s worth noting.
Overall this is another solid feeling and looking game from Otb. It’s just not quite as close to perfect as most of their other games.
Overall (Not an Average)
Zen Benders are fun pick up and play puzzles, If playing with puzzles is relaxing to you then prepare for a break and pick one of these up and feel the zen.
Overall (Not an Average) 8/10