Sunday, June 6, 2004


Ma Ni Ki!

Ma Ni Ki!

by Dominique Erhard

Rating: A

This is a simultaneous puzzle solving game in the spirit of Ricochet
Robot, though the puzzle itself bears essentially no resemblance to
Ricochet Robot. The basic idea is you have three animals on two
platforms and you are trying to change their configuration by issuing
commands like "Ma", which moves the bottom animal on one platform to
the top, or "Ni" which swaps the top two animals on the two platforms.
As a result, the game is a race to shout out multi-syllable commands
such as the eponymous "MaNiKi", or "LoNiMaSo" or the like.

The game is a blast, and the components are absolutely beautiful
rectilinear wooden animals, along with cards showing the 24 possible
target configurations. No individual puzzle is very hard, but the
speed element makes it appropriately challenging. My only concern is
that it may get a little repetetive after several plays.

The game suggests an "advanced" variant of excluding the "Ni" command
from the options. Another advanced variant that I expect to try is
requiring all solutions to be four syllalbles or fewer, with one
exception. If the current puzzle is a stack of 3 animals and the goal
is to move that stack wholesale to the other platform, the shortest
possible command to do so is five syllables. All other
transformations are possible in four syllables, although some of them
are subtle and a lot easier to find as five or six syllable commands.

Overall, a very entertaining and clever game. It also has the
advantage many puzzle games have of easily allowing a virtually
unlimited number of players and easily allowing the introduction of
new players mid-game. Highly recommended.

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