Chroma Cube Review

Chroma Cube is a table-top deductive reasoning puzzle. Timberdoodle includes it in the 11th-grade curriculum kit but it is suitable for a wide range of ages.

My 11th grader has spent hours solving other popular puzzles involving cubes. So I thought it would be fun to give this one a try.

11-year-old girl solving a Chroma Cube puzzle.

Of course, since it just seems like the kind of item you should leave on the coffee table I showed the kids what it was, left it out, and watched to see who would play. Then I collected feedback and played through the puzzle cards myself in order to give a thorough review.

My 11, 13, 14, and 16-year-olds all pulled out the puzzle cards and played several times. My 14-year-old got the farthest, which was puzzle 11. The puzzle comes with 25 cards to solve which increase in difficulty as you go.

14-year-old boy solving a Chroma Cube puzzle.

The cards also build upon each other, sometimes introducing “rules” so you need to complete all the cards in order or you may pick one up and have no idea what some of the clues mean. But if you go in order the meaning is taught through the clues.

My 16-year-old was bored with the cards at the beginning of the game and upset that he couldn’t just skip through to the more difficult puzzles. He claimed that is was just a ‘following directions’ activity and there was no thinking involved.

16-year-old boy solving a Chroma Cube puzzle.

He is not correct. There is thinking involved. But I think the first several puzzles were so easy for him that he didn’t have to think. Believe it or not, he was so frustrated that the puzzles weren’t forcing him to think harder that he didn’t want to do more. I tried to explain to him why the first several cards were not just following directions but all I got was that gaze of disbelief teenagers sometimes bestow on their foolhardy parents. 🙂

Chroma Cube is a deductive reasoning puzzle. This means you have certain clues and rules and you use that information to solve the puzzle. To my son, deductive reasoning seems like the same thing as following directions. He worked with me on the last several puzzles and still sticks to his argument that it is just following directions.

The other kids seemed to enjoy it for a time. I do wish it came with an actual storage box so you could put it away. The box it comes with has a window cut out of it so you can see the cubes before you buy. This means if you use if for storage you will have dust all over the actual puzzle and the cubes will fall out if you don’t carry the box perfectly flat. (There is a removable plastic cover that is fitted to the cubes I suppose you could reuse with the box, but I still just see all these crevices that dust will fall into…thoughts of mom.)

I can imagine other 11th graders enjoying the puzzle, perhaps this is just not a good fit for a kid who has spent hours of his free time memorizing which algorithms allow you to solve a Rubik cube the fastest.

I think it would be a good exercise for people who struggle with memory issues or have not developed good deductive reasoning skills yet.

We do not feel the answer given on card 22 adequately followed its own rules. Puzzle 23 also seemed to breach its own code. Puzzle 25 has some awkward/unclear wording that threw us off. The other puzzle cards were well-written and clear.

Color Problems

While the concept of these puzzles is fun and unique there was one thing about the puzzle that drove all of us nuts. It is a problem of colors. Perhaps if the colors truly matched their names it would not be so confusing. But they do not match well, and some colors are just too similar.

Now, the game uses the names of these colors in many different ways in the clues. I can understand if more ordinary and highly contrasting colors did not work for these clever clues. But more care should have been put into getting the shades of the colors correct and providing as much contrast as possible.

You might think I am nit-picking and in a way, I am. Many others love this game with the colors as is. But I am also just being honest. And, honestly, most of my family stopped solving the puzzle because it was annoying to have to refer back to the color sheet constantly to remind yourself that ’emerald’ in this case means the slightly olive green, and not the brighter green, because the brighter green is referring to teal, not to be confused with a lighter shade of teal, because that is really mint.

From left to right, Emeral, Mint, and Teal.

Now, I am all for working the brain but I do not see much point in having to rewire learned colors in order to complete deductive puzzles. This just creates an unnecessary load on working memory.

Mustard and brown are at least good enough colors but the shades chosen are just too similar if the mustard was more yellowy and the brown maybe a little darker you could easily tell which color to grab, even on a cloudy day. It really is hard to work this puzzle if you are not in a brightly lit room.

Brown and Mustard, just a little to close for comfort.

We want to save our thinking muscles for the puzzles we are going to solve, not figuring out which color is which.

My husband also commented that he thought 25 puzzle cards were not nearly enough and that more should be included. He also did not like how the cubes sit at a diagonal in the puzzle box, he said this made it difficult to quickly grab and move them around.

As I worked through the puzzles I only put the cubes all the way into their slot if I knew they had to be in that position, I set the cubes that may or may not have been in places flat over the hole. This made solving a bit faster because I could easily see which cubes were open to being moved. I ended up liking the diagonal position as a sign of permanence within the puzzle.

2 Responses

  1. Karla Cook says:

    I agree, the colors are weird! And I did the flat vs diagonal the same way you did, so maybe that’s the purpose of that aspect of the design.

  2. Kristen says:

    Very well-thought out review. I wonder if they choose the colors they did so it wouldn’t be so bright and elementary-looking? Like bold colors would appeal more to a younger crowd and they thought this colors were more sophisticated?
    I wounder how hard it would be to create one’s own puzzles and cards to family and friends to complete.

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