The gang at Thinkfun are darn good at what they do, and what they do is create games and activities that challenge kids’ brainpower, stretch their imaginations, and get them thinking in different ways.
Laser Maze Jr is just one of the latest in a long line of products that successfully manage to blend science with fun. The concept is rather straightforward: use mirrors to reflect a laser beam in various directions so it lights up and “ignites” a rocket.
In case it’s not obvious by the name, this game is appropriate for a slightly younger audience than Thinkfun’s standard Laser Maze, which GeekDad so ably reviewed a couple years ago. Not only are the puzzles less complex, but the game board and rules are also a tad more streamlined.
Inside the box, you’ll find:
- a sturdy 5×5 game board with integrated laser
- 20 double-sided challenge cards (for a total of 40 challenges)
- 2 rocket target tokens
- 5 satellite mirror tokens
- 1 beam splitter token
- 3 space rock blockers
If you’re familiar with other “laser games” such as Khet, you probably already know how this works. In fact, Khet and Laser Maze were both designed by the same person, so that might explain a few things.
An important difference between this version and the “regular” version of Laser Maze is with the game board. Here, the laser is integrated into the game board (i.e., you can’t pick it up and shine it in your eye) and the grid is surrounded by a short wall, which further prevents kids from getting too close to the laser.
Aside from the stationary nature of the laser, much of the gameplay is similar to Laser Maze. Kids choose a challenge card (labeled Easy, Medium, Hard, or Super Hard) and slide it into the base of the grid. Each card indicates the starting position — which tokens need to be place where. Once placed, these tokens cannot move.
Each challenge card also indicates tokens that the player should “add to grid.” These are the tokens the player must use to reflect and redirect the laser so it ignites (lights up) one or two rockets. These tokens can be moved and rotated at will, but if they’re included in the “add to grid” list, then they must be used in the solution.
Whereas Laser Maze is recommended for ages 8+, Laser Maze Jr skews slightly younger at 6+. After taking some time to understand the nature of the laser and how it interacts with the mirrors (cut her some slack, she’s only in kindergarten), my 6-year-old daughter breezed through the Easy cards.
I’ve not played the standard Laser Maze, so I can’t speak to the difficulty of the upper levels there (though Jonathan Liu called them “head-scratchingly difficult,” so there’s that). Either way, it’s probably an unfair comparison. Let’s not forget that this is Laser Maze JUNIOR. With that in mind, I found the Super Hard challenge cards to be relatively easy.
But then again, I’m not 6 years old. My daughter was stumped, and that’s the whole point. (Answers are provided in the instruction booklet.)
I can’t think of any Thinkfun products I wouldn’t recommend, but Laser Maze Jr is definitely a great one to challenge the little brains in your house. It retails for $29.99 and can be bought on Amazon, directly from Thinkfun, or at your local game or toy shop.
(Thinkfun provided me with a review copy of this game. All opinions remain my own.)