Labyrinth, or Marble Inferno

Gather around, let me set the scene: you are a gamer. You are a player of all things physical and digital. You have built the entire Hogwarts castle out of LEGOs, twice. You have beaten the fastest track records and finished all the side quests. You think you’re hot stuff? You think you know games? You think you have what it takes to best the most ruthless, the Darkest of Souls?

Well then, buckle your seatbelt, because out comes this infernal torture device.

 

Picture taken from Amazon.com: https://www.amazon.co.uk/recreation-CAR190-Wooden-Labyrinth-Puzzle/dp/B00000ISLL

This may look like a children’s toy but I’m warning you now: stand back if you value your sanity. This medieval laxative posits a simple (but not easy) challenge. The goal is to navigate the marble from start to finish by tilting the board and avoiding all traps. If you fall into a hole, the marble will be spit out the side with a mocking ka-chink! for you to pick up again. And again. And again. And again, and then a couple more times.

Since its original release in Sweden in 1946, many variations of the puzzle have emerged ranging from relatively user-friendly to what would be marked with four red hot chili peppers on a restaurant menu. Some versions, such as the one pictured above, let the player control the board’s orientation on two axes with two knobs, while others rely solely on the player’s balancing skills. In any case, the horrid task remains.

This pain festival on a board will spare no one regardless of age. Certainly, if your board does not look entirely like raw spaghetti and only has some 10 or so traps, it might only take a couple of tries – or even just one – to safely escort the marble to the finish line, but let that not lull you into a false sense of security. When you bring out the big guns with, say, 30 traps, victory will require far superior tactics. You will be tempted to speed up, to take shortcuts by going over a trap fast enough only for the momentum to have you swan dive directly into the next one. Your only chance to succeed at this point is to be the ball. Become one with the ball. Ignore people telling you to stop rolling around on the ground. There is no time. There is no war. There is no suffering. There is only you and the ball.

This satanic trial can only be passed with patience, steely resolve, and a pinch of luck. Children – or indeed anyone – whose attention span is fleeting will not enjoy this rigorous routine of drop marble – focus – fail – pick up marble – drop marble. Each attempt will take long, winding minutes, and if you have the misfortune to fail close to the finish line, may God have mercy on your surroundings.

However, when you do get that sweet, sweet revenge and succeed, it is nothing but satisfying. If you seize victory, you may rest calm with the knowledge that few have trodden this road before you. You become a champion of the arena, the Undying, the Unshakable. From that point on, you are able to walk with pride again.

And then, y’know, you put the board back and wonder who your loved ones were before you picked it up.

10/10