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Thinkfun Rush Hour - Traffic Jam Logic Game Review

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Rush Hour from Thinkfun replicates a traffic jam in the form of a toy and puzzle with the challenge being to escape from the traffic jam scenario and exit the board. The game consists of toy vehicles that can be pushed along a grid of squares that are on the board and the vehicles can only be moved in straight lines backwards or forwards. When a vehicle is moved a new space appears on the grid and another space disappears this allows the player ultimately to create a path to guide their vehicle through to complete the task. The vehicles used in this game are either a car or a lorry with the cars taking up 2 squares each and the lorries taking up an additional grid space with 3 in total. The challenge no matter the scenario presented is always the same which is to get the red car out of the traffic jam scenario and off the board through a gap or exit point that is on one of the sides of the board which the car will always be facing and that is at the end of that cars lane. The 40 scenarios to be solved are found on picture cards with a top-down view of how the board should be set up and the level of difficulty stated at the bottom of the card. The grid has 36 squares in total which means each lane is 6 squares in length and therefore there is not much room for the vehicles to move and few spaces available to move into when the vehicles are all or most of them placed on which mirrors the experience of an actual traffic jam or gridlock. The golden rule that must be abided by is the player can't lift the cars or lorries off the board but they can, of course, reverse the moves they have made if they are incorrect by just moving the piece back to where it came from and trying another move.

The board the game is played on is not actually that big in size but it will need preferably a table to lie it on or some other sort of flat surface and that there be clear space around it to put and keep track of all the parts it contains as well as the scenario cards. The board is light to carry for its size even with all the vehicles placed on it which is helpful as you may at times want to lift up the board to get a different more beneficial view. It is easy to turn the board around on a flat surface to get a look at the puzzle or the board setup from another side or angle which may help to come up with an answer or see something you had missed.

The game has been built with storing it away in mind and has also included a Game-Go bag which is sealable for containing all the vehicles that are loose parts of the game. The scenario cards which are also loose parts of the game can be stored easily as well but this time inside the board in the form of a retractable tray when they are not being used or when the game is packed away. The board can also hold upright the scenario card that is being played so that you can see it easily as you set up the board. As the game can be packed up so well and in combination with it being light in weight and smallish in size it makes it suitable also for travelling or going on holiday with. Because it has a lot of smaller pieces it would be best practice when finished playing with it and storing it away to count up or check off all the pieces to ensure everything is packed away.

The game could help to test and develop a multitude of skills such as problem-solving, thinking ahead and spatial awareness that are all transferable skills that can be used in many different areas of life but are very common puzzle-solving skills. Acquiring and improving these skills should aid in coping with more complex and difficult challenges presented by other puzzles. Developing these skills whilst having fun is a winning combination but this puzzle might not engage and be to everybody's taste as not everybody is a car enthusiast. A puzzle that involves both thinking and physical actions as this one does may engage somebody more than just a thinking puzzle and may help them understand and learn better.

The board and the vehicles are made from plastic which makes them light in weight and potentially long-lasting with the board, in particular, very robust and would need to be dropped for there to be damage done to it or a great force applied to it which is not necessary for the way the game is played. The vehicles are definitely more vulnerable to damage but shouldn't break or snap when used as they are intended and stored away safely as it will be using them in an incorrect manner or perhaps accidentally standing on them if they have been left on the floor that will break them. The cards I would say are the most vulnerable to damage so shouldn't be bent at all and will last if used as intended and reasonable care is taken with them and that they are stored away when finished with as there is even a place inside the board to store them in the form of a tray to keep them safe. The key message is to use the game based on the instructions and store it away after use somewhere safe and the game should remain playable for years to come unless an unforeseen accident occurs.

The vehicles stay in position and don't move about by themselves on the board when the board is placed flat on a horizontal surface. Guiding the vehicles along the grid is pretty smooth even factoring in the cars don't have conventional wheels that spin and there is really little chance of vehicles getting stuck or jammed in the tracks they use. It would be a smart idea though to keep the tracks and board clean as not doing this might lead to the tracks getting clogged up with dirt or gunk and the vehicles becoming stuck or moving less freely which would ruin the game. Storing the game away properly and cleaning it before doing so will help with keeping it clean and therefore playable and should be an easy task to perform. The board is easy to get a good grip of and turn if you want to get a look at the configuration of the pieces from another angle as this may help to solve it as there are 4 sides to the board which give 4 different views plus there is also the birds-eye view. The best view might be directly from above which is a bit tricky to achieve as you have to bend right over the board which is an uncomfortable position to hold or you could tilt the board at an angle by holding one side up so that you get the same view as is on the playing cards. The vehicles are easy to grip and move with the fingers when placed on the board and can be moved without any real danger of knocking or displacing the other vehicles on the board.

The replayability is quite high as there are plenty of traffic scenarios to keep the game interesting with 40 challenge scenarios in total that are from easy to hard in difficultly level with the more difficult ones presenting a challenge for even high-level puzzlers. It is a shame though the game doesn't have more challenges especially the higher-level challenges that take longer to think through as it won't take that long to go through all of the challenges for some people. Doing the challenges without any false moves and in the fastest possible times could be additional challenges if you want to master the game and extend its lifespan. The game can be just used as a toy when the challenges have been completed and more fun could be derived from it that way for some people and in the form of a toy is perhaps where it will really get the most repeated use.

The game is a single-player challenge but could easily be done with friends or as a family activity by either taking it in turns to do the challenges or the challenges done together by giving each other advice to help complete them if one person is stuck. Doing this activity with other people could be good a way to make friends or strengthen relationships or just relieve boredom. The game can also be done competitively in which the participants try to complete a challenge quicker than the other participants or complete the most challenges within a certain time limit.

The appearance of the game is very colourful with the vehicles being different colours and this does help to set them apart from each other and from the board itself. The vehicles are pretty basic looking but do have key details such as windows, wheels, headlights and doors so that they do actually look like cars and lorries. The cars look and are all the same apart from the fact they are all different colours and the same applies to the lorries. This is where the game could be really improved by having more variety in terms of the looks and styles of the vehicles and them being not so basic and plain looking. The game would look better and be a more immersive experience if the vehicles had drivers and passengers even if this was achieved by stick-on pictures. The grid doesn't really look much like a road juncture that it is supposed to represent in my opinion and could do with some road markings and maybe traffic lights to make it more realistic looking as the traffic scenario puzzle game it is.

Rush Hour is very straightforward to use that comes with easy to read and short instructions which means learning the rules and how to play the game won't take long. The difficulty level will increase as there are 4 levels of difficulty starting from easy when the cards are done in a particular order which allows the player to improve as they go along and not be dropped in at the deep end right away unless that is what they wish. If you are somebody who has a high-level ability when it comes to puzzles it will likely only be the high-level challenges that would interest you and even these you might find unchallenging. These high-level traffic scenarios should be quite difficult for most users of the game and should be beneficial because being tested is how one improves and more satisfaction is derived from completing difficult challenges. This type of challenge forces you to think and visualize a few moves ahead but trial and error will sometimes be needed when stuck and it may take several successful completed attempts of a scenario before it is understood fully how it was solved. The answer to the challenge is on the back of the card the challenge is presented on but this can give the temptation to cheat and look at the answer too soon before giving it a proper go. The easier challenges can take a few minutes to complete but the more difficult ones with complex solutions might take hours of deliberation and trial and error to solve as there can be so many possible moves to try but all challenges, of course, are solvable so are worth persisting with.

In conclusion, this game has managed to make a puzzle game about traffic jams fun and challenging and would be particularly ideal for a parent looking for an activity to keep their child (over 7 years old) entertained but that could also help to test and develop their problem solving and logical skills at the same time and obviously could be also ideal for somebody who likes cars.




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