I was very fortunate to have received a prototype copy of the Dot, the latest Hanayama cast puzzle from their good folks during IPP37, which took place last weekend in Paris, France.
The Dot, as far as I can tell is presently only available to the market in Japan via Japanese retailers and several (Japanese) Ebay sellers. But I am sure it will reach the other puzzle and online stores outside Japan pretty soon. (Edit-now available via online from various sellers)
My “beta”Hanayama cast puzzle is not the black and silver version presently in the market. My copy sports a brassy and copper steam-punk look instead. Physically (aside from the colour scheme), I don’t think there is any difference in the design between my prototype and the production version packaged under Hanayama’s Huzzle brand.
The Dot was designed by Akio Yamamoto, who was also behind the designs of a dozen or more other cast puzzles and the multi-coloured series of Naked Secret Boxes. My prototype is made of zinc alloy (I think). For an early version, the quality of my copy is very good and the puzzle functioned as intended.
The object is to take apart the puzzle into two separate pieces. My initial impression was that the Dot is similar to the Cast Diamond, designed by Scott Elliot. (I don’t have the Hanayama Cast Diamond but I do have Scott’s 3D printed IPP37 Exchange Puzzle version reviewed here). In some ways it is, but the solve in my opinion is harder than the Diamond. It took me a bit of fiddling before I managed to split the two pieces. I tried to remember the moves for later re-assembly but the latter was a tad more difficult than I expected.
The name DOT, according to one Hanayama insider familiar with the puzzle stands for (D)-Direction:(O)-Orientation:(T)-Twist. Seems to me very appropriate since you need to employ all three to solve the DOT.
The Diamond requires a “one-move” sort of motion” to “fuse” the two separate parts together once you have found the precise point of entry. The Dot requires a few more steps. The way the design has been carried out seems like you have to link the parts initially through a sort of mini maze. There are several twists and turns until you hit a certain “sweet spot”; and wah-la , the two parts suddenly come together and fit (just) so precisely and nicely. Get the orientation wrong at the start and you will remain stuck. Again, because you can see everything that you are doing, so long as you persevere, you will eventually solve it at some point.
Repeat solving becomes progressively easier as you memorise the moves. But my second and third attempts at re-solving took me almost as long as my first time, even though I knew how the pieces were suppose to interact with each other.
The parts of the Dot are very precisely cut and does look a bit delicate. While it is robustly made and can probably stand up to some rough handling, the Dot does not require any force whatsoever. You may damage the puzzle if you force any move by overly twisting or turning. This particular Cast puzzle does require a bit more delicate handling during play than some of the other Cast puzzles in the series.
Like every Hanayama cast puzzle, the Dot has a nice (very pocketable) 5.7cm x 4.7cm x 1cm size. Just right on the challenge scale for some quick puzzling while on the go, for example during a commute or just to pass some casual time. I played and solved mine on the flight from Paris back to Singapore. It is rated 2 stars in terms of difficulty by Hanayama but I personally think it should be at around 2.5!