Game Length: Varies
Thinkfun’s new magnetic cow-grabbing puzzle game Invasion of the Cow Snatchers adapts a common puzzle design into a modular, interactive 3D board, thanks to a little magnet-magic. A deck of 60 puzzle challenges with five difficulty levels ensures a hefty amount of replayability. The components and gameplay are simple enough for kids to enjoy, and engaging enough for teens and adults.
Beam Me Up
As a visiting UFO armed with a magnet, the player’s job is to abduct magnetized cow discs from a 3D farm field littered with obstacles, such as silos, hay bales, and barn doors. The puzzle is set up according to the challenge card, then a clear plastic cover placed on top, allowing the UFO to fly over and capture the cows one by one.
Four different colored fence pieces come in specific sizes, allowing only a certain number of cows to pass over once abducted. Once magnetized, the cows stick to the underside of the UFO, making it increasingly difficult to maneuver around the board. Puzzles are set up to allow only one or two possible solutions. The backside of the card reveals the exact movement and order of abductions that players need to make in order to catch ’em all and complete the puzzle.
It’s a simple puzzle system brought to life with the tactile quality of the plastic pieces and board. My seven year old was delighted to pick up cows, and equally flummoxed when she realized she was trapped behind fences that were suddenly too high. Thankfully puzzles are easy to reset. With a few minor hints and tips (“You don’t have to pick up this cow first; how can you reach that one over there?”) she was able to blaze through all 10 easy challenges and begin making her way through the medium level.
As a single-player series of puzzles, Invasion of the Cow Snatchers isn’t a typical competitive game, yet I witnessed a group of kids excitedly deduce how to approach each puzzle, and set up the next layout for one another.
The deck of challenge cards includes 60 total puzzle layouts, including Easy, Medium, Hard, Super Hard, and Genius. Genius actually features a few extra rules involving dropping off cows at certain drop-off points, creating some advanced brain teasers that teens and adults can enjoy.
The only snag we ran into was in one of the fence heights. The green barrier (crop field) is supposed to allow for one, and only one cow disc to pass overhead. Unfortunately we constantly struggled to get one cow across. Not sure if it was a defect with my particular copy or if the size of the fence is slightly off but it was enough to cause some frustration when playing, even with adults.
Invasion of the Cow Snatchers has a suggested minimum age of six. Younger kids would be prone to quick frustration and may lack the dexterity of operating the UFO. Puzzles come in five different difficulties, allowing for multiple age ranges and skill levels.
Using only a handful of plastic pieces, a modular 3D board, and a deck of cards, Invasion of the Cow Snatchers provides an impressive array of puzzle designs. The pick up and deliver gameplay is simple but effective and multiple difficulty levels allow for proper scaling as kids master each puzzle layout. A lovely puzzle game for kids and families.