Laser Maze Jr

Laser Maze Jr is a fun single-player game that combines playing with lasers with the opportunity to improve deductive reasoning and spatial awareness. An all-around win! Best for ages 5+ (and adults can have fun too). Buy now from Amazon: http://amzn.to/2giNJGT (affiliate link)

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We love adult board games. I’d assumed board games for kids kicked in around eight years of age, probably off the back of what I remember from my own childhood (a totally faulty assumption). So until Beth reviewed Robot Turtles I hadn’t given it too much thought.

That inspired me so I went hunting for other great games for kids. I didn’t find too many awesome-looking options. There are a million versions of snakes & ladders, which I never much liked, and memory games which are great for little people but not terribly exciting. But ThinkFun (the Robot Turtles people) have some other really cool games.

It’s a bit too optimistic to think that my 2.5-year-old could follow through on rules, so this isn’t ideal for our family yet, but it was too enticing for me to ignore (i.e. I wanted to play with the laser myself).

Laser Maze Jr
  • Kid rating
  • Parent rating
  • Value for money
  • Usability

Summary

A super-cool way to engage little minds, build logic skills and spatial awareness, and (best of all) play with lasers! A cleverly-designed and robust single-player game that will appeal most to school-age kids but might even entertain the whole family.

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Laser Maze Jr is more a challenge than a game — but it’s really cool.

The concept is this: there’s a laser set into the side of the game board. There are challenge cards, rated by difficulty, which slot underneath the transparent board. These show where on the board to place the rockets and other fixed tokens. They also show the other tokens to be used. The player has to work out where the extra tokens go, and which way to orient them, to make the laser hit the rockets.

There are three kinds of tokens – space rocks, which the laser is not allowed to hit; satellite mirrors; and beam splitters. You have to use all the tokens specified to solve each challenge.

The challenges suit a broad range of abilities. There’s only one solution for each, and the easiest are very easy indeed, but I’m 15 minutes in on the hardest one and haven’t found the right solution yet (it’s not weird that I’m playing it myself, is it?).

Though it’s a single-player game, because the challenges are so specific you can have competitions based on timed rounds of play. A family scoreboard could record each player’s time to complete each challenge. I would have relished the chance to try to beat my parents’ times when I was a kid. If everyone is playing it’d need to be run on honesty (or maybe each player takes a photo and they all get checked at the end?). If it’s just the kids a parent can check each child’s solution against the answers in the rule book.

The board and tokens seem pretty durable. Our Little Monkey, though not yet able to understand the rules, likes to play with it. Though the board might not stand up to being thrown (so we won’t leave him alone with it yet), it’s fairly robust and should stand up to many years of use. It’s also relatively compact — for a kid into this kind of game it would be ideal for a long plane trip.

Laser Maze Jr is intended for ages 6+, but I reckon a logically-minded four- or five-year-old child would be able to solve the simpler challenges.

Drawbacks

The laser isn’t very bright, so in daylight it can be hard to tell where it’s going. It works (my test game was at 9.30am in a sunny room) but this game will be even better on a dreary day or in the evening (which, let’s face it, are better times for board games anyway).

It’s pretty pricey (for us Amazon, even with shipping, was definitely the cheapest way to buy). But I anticipate years of use so I think it’s worth it.

And it does need two AAA batteries, so if you’re giving it as a gift grab a couple of those to go with it to avoid disappointment. (Aside: am I the only one who thinks games and toys like this should ship with batteries in the box? I guess maybe that limits storage and shipping options)

Laser Maze vs Laser Maze Jr

There is also a non-junior version, aimed at ages 8+. It has hand-held challenge cards (so slightly more spatial reasoning needed), a moveable laser, and no shield around the board. It includes 60 challenges, versus the 40 provided with this one.

I think Laser Maze Jr is probably the better option. As I mentioned above, I’ve had a go and there’s still some thinking required for me. Admittedly I’m operating on seven months of sleep deprivation, so factor that into your judgements — of both me and the game. But even though the junior version is workable for slightly younger children I reckon it’s still great for bigger kids, and that makes it more versatile.

And the red guard around the perimeter (designed to protect little eyes from the laser) is quite helpful to show where you’re failing (especially in a bright room — see below).

 

Overall, Laser Maze Jr is a great single-player game, with challenges that vary in difficulty to suit a range of abilities. An excellent way to develop deductive reasoning and spatial abilities for kids and big kids alike. And pretty darn cool.

Awesome or Average: Awesome

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