Labyrinth : Puzzle
Synopsis of Toy
“The Solitaire Game of Skill”
It’s heartbreaking to lose a game you’re playing with other people. Your giggling and triumphant opponent may rub it in verbally, he might even perform a victory jig around the table while you clench your teeth and clean up all the scattered dice and cards and game pieces—the rule going in was ‘losers clean up’ and what really hurts is, you were the sap who made that rule.
But what about the sting of losing when you’re matched up against a one-man game? Flying solo, in other words…the star of your own show, the only player on Team You. With a man-to-man defeat, you can channel some of your frustration toward your jig-dancing opponent. When it’s you vs. the inanimate, you don’t have to suffer any horrible victory taunts, but you’ll be faced with the knowledge that you lost to a toy.
Enter the Labyrinth. Since the 1940’s, this wooden game has bedeviled everyone who sits down before it. It was designed as a floating wooden maze, housed in a wooden cradle. On either side of the cradle sat a control knob to tilt of maze—one for left and right movement, the other up and down. Inside the maze were various walls and corners to navigate through and around, but the real killer was the array of sixty pits your poor steel marble could plummet through. And once gravity started the marble on an ill-fated course to the pit and momentum kicked in, there wasn’t much you could do to stop it.
Of course when it did plummet, the official rules instructed you to take your marble right back to the start corner. Sure, you could place your marble right smack in the middle of the Labyrinth and give yourself a hearty head start, but a victory gained under those cheatin’ circumstances never felt as good (but on the plus side, wooden labyrinths can’t rat you out).
Throughout the decades, little has changed about Labyrinth’s form and gameplay (although a circular version did shake things up a bit). It still takes patience, hand-eye coordination, and a dexterous right and left hand. For concentration’s sake, it also helps to breathe deeply, hum, or stick your tongue out the corner of your mouth.
You’ll lose a few before you win. And be prepared, because the sound of those marbles crashing onto the cold, dark cradle floor is among the more insulting of toy sounds—ranking right up there with the electric buzz of the Operation board and the awful drone that Simon makes when you get the pattern wrong. As if just losing weren’t bad enough, these games have to stick it to us audibly. Maybe the jig-dancers aren’t so bad after all…