Sliding solo puzzle games like Rush Hour can be great fun, challenges that require you to plan long sequences of moves, along with an element of physical playing piece manipulation. It’s very satisfying to solve a level and move to the next one! About a year ago, I had a chance to review a prototype of an entirely new entrant in this category called Relics of Rajavihara, a shifting blocks puzzle. I really liked it [read My Review of Relics of Rajavihara]. In Relics, you’re not just sliding things around, however, but stacking them, pushing stacked items back onto the ground, and having to visualize the interrelations between different elements as game components become more complicated.
Thematically, imagine Indiana Jones in a Mayan temple, trying to figure out how to acquire a specific treasure by manipulating only what’s already in the room and you’ll have the basic theme. The game components, unveiled in a gradual process of increasing puzzle complexity, are crates, boulders, flames, water, ice, and, of course, gems to collect. Your nemesis who has set up all these obstacles is none other than the nefarious Professor Montalo.
Relics of Rajavihara ended up as a Kickstarter campaign and game designer Joe Slack knocked it out of the park, with 1,539 backers pledging CAD $63,360 to help bring the project to life. Now Joe’s got a fun expansion on Kickstarter called Montalo’s Revenge with three ingenious new components and 30 new levels to solve. You do need the base game for the expansion to work – and to understand what the heck’s going on! – but not to worry if you missed the chance to back it; you can either add the base game to your Kickstarter pledge or, if you prefer, buy the Kickstarter deluxe edition through Amazon.com. Just do it. It’s a great solo puzzler.
THE MONTALO’S REVENGE EXPANSION
In the interest of keeping some surprises for Relics fans, I will only reveal the first of the three new components in the expansion: Snakes. As Indy would say, “it had to be snakes.” They are particularly interesting obstacles, though, because you can’t move them and no other component can co-exist in the same space as a snake. Here’s a typical level setup for Montalo’s Revenge:
On the lower left is our meeple: That’s us standing in the room, trying to puzzle out how to get to the gem atop that pile of boulders. The components visible here are crates (brown wood), boulders (green with boulder images), water (blue with a big water drop), fire (orange with flames), and, just barely visible, the light green head of the snake. We can only climb up a single level at a time so you can see the challenge immediately: We need to be able to jump up one level to then get to the second level and the gem, but the three adjacent spots are fire, fire, and that darn snake, none of which we can safely climb onto for assistance.
Quench the fire with water and we have to push something there to climb up, but boulders are immovable, so we can’t slide a boulder or any of the distant crates to the spot. The crates can slide over boulders, however, and you can smite the snake by dropping something onto it, so a few moves into the puzzle level, I’m poised to smite the snake. Okay, I don’t really need to “smite” it, but doesn’t this sound like some Biblical passage? 🙂
Notice that once I’ve killed the snake by dropping the crate onto it, I can then easily walk onto the crate…
From this point, it’s a breeze to climb on top of the boulder and grab the gem. Puzzle solved!
Worth noting is that the playing board, all the cubes, and the gem are from the base game, which includes a total of 38 blocks of various types, two gems, our adventurer meeple, and a meeple for Professor Montalo, who occasionally shows up to stymie our best puzzle solving efforts. The expansion adds three new components (none of which are blocks!) and thirty puzzles, split into three levels:
I do need to mention that I’m playing with a prototype of Montalo’s Revenge, so images are subject to change, meeples and components might be tweaked or redesigned, cards will be crisper, and more legible, and the above boxes will definitely have better production values.
I have no idea if this is an accurate prototype of the final box or not, but it does highlight the bright, colorful, and evocative graphics that add a lot to this puzzler. Check it out:
If you’re going to back the expansion and the required Relics of Rajavihara base game, you’ll really want to start out by going through at least a few puzzles per level in Relics of Rajavihara before you crack open the Montalo’s Revenge expansion. This will help you learn the nuances of each component, as they’re added level-by-level in the base game. The very first puzzle is made up of just crates and the objective gem and will quickly get you into the spirit of the game. After a few days of playing, I am sure you’ll go back to puzzle 1-1 and laugh at how easy it is.
You’re learning, Young Indy!
RELICS OF RAJAVIHARA COMPONENT QUALITY
There are a lot of games where I dream of having a handy 3D printer to upgrade components after a few plays, but the components in Relics are really good. There’s a splendid kinesthetic pleasure to moving, sliding, and stacking the blocks on your way to puzzle solutions. Some of the puzzles are pretty easy to work out, but there are definitely some stumpers in both games that might have you try a half-dozen times (or more!) before you land on the solution.
How about this one, to exercise your analytic neurons:
I created the above scenario myself – which you’re also free to do and submit to the busy Relics of Rajavihara Facebook group – but in this scenario, how would you get to the gem given that you can’t jump onto the same spot as the snake and can’t slide crates diagonally from one stack to another? Hmm…
Relics of Rajavihara: Montalo’s Revenge is currently live on Kickstarter, where you can pledge to get just the expansion if you already have the base game, or get both the expansion and the base game as a bundle. Check it out: Relics of Rajavihara and Montalo’s Revenge on Kickstarter. It’s already funded, so there’s zero risk; you’re buying a game and expansion, not hoping it’ll be funded.
If you’re a solo puzzle enthusiast, I really do highly recommend Relics of Rajavihara. It’s a really fun set of puzzles with a terrific kinesthetic aspect that is lacking in the endless parade of smartphone and computer puzzle games. Check it out!
Disclosure: I received a prototype of Montalo’s Revenge to play in return for this writeup and review. Thanks, Joe!