Ages 8-Adult
January 25, 2007 4:40 AM   Subscribe

Rush Hour is a sliding block puzzle invented by Nob Yoshigahara and manufactured by ThinkFun. The goal of the game is to get the red car out of a six-by-six gridlock of vehicles by moving the other vehicles out of its way (youtoob). There are several online versions in Java/Flash (bottom of link)- my favorite has the first 2 complete sets from the board game. It's a gentle warm-up for your brain.
posted by MtDewd (19 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
a good game, I often play it at toy stores since it is frequently on display -- thanks for the online versions. sometimes, though, I wish that any other metaphor besides a traffic jam had been chosen -- I drive a lot and sometimes it is less than ideal to be reminded of this in my downtime.
posted by cubby at 5:18 AM on January 25, 2007

This is one of the few games I've seen that I really regret wasn't around when I was a kid. Seriously, you will never go wrong buying this for your parent friends (children of any age -- the puzzles go from really easy to really hard, as in too hard for your friends.)
posted by escabeche at 6:02 AM on January 25, 2007

I got this game for Christmas this year. It's a lot of fun (I leave it set up on my livingroom table), and yet it's such a simple concept that I can't believe it took humanity this long to come up with it.
posted by Prospero at 6:13 AM on January 25, 2007

It's a good game. Both I and my 7-year old son enjoy it. It's VERY portable, too. The only problem for me is that it relies on a finite set of problem cards, so you have to keep buying more.

(If you try to re-do a problem card, you don't remember the solution, but there's a nagging sense of familiarity to it which doesn't make it as much fun).
posted by unSane at 6:34 AM on January 25, 2007

Someone gave me this, and it's fun to watch people see it and say "oh, you're playing with kid's toys now?" and then a few hours later they're compulsively going through the whole deck of problem cards.

There was an update to the plastic toy that consisted of a single, longer bus token, and a new set of problems including it.
posted by StickyCarpet at 6:41 AM on January 25, 2007

I am going to break the rules and extensively self-link in this comment. I actually studied the mathematical properties of Rush Hour fulltime for months, and the results that I published received a fair ammount of attention because of the surprising details.

Here's the main result in a nutshell: Rush Hour is a type of problem comuter scientists call PSPACE-complete. What does this mean? Intuitively, it means that in a perverse way, Rush Hour computes like a general purpose computer. For any problem that you would want to write a program to solve (with memory requirements that can be bounded in advance), there exist big-ass Rush Hour game that effectively emulates the program if it is to be solved. Thus, if the answer to the question "does my program give this type of answer?" is the same as "can this Rush Hour configuration be solved?"

The way that I proved this result is that I showed how to effectively build a general purpose computing device in Rush Hour using dual rail, reversible logic.

I wrote a gentle introduction to this result many years ago, which is archived at my personal site.

The deprecated technical report giving much of the math can be found at citeseer. I don't have a link to the version that appeared in Theoretical Computer Science but if you are inclined to actually read the technical report I highly recommend that you grab the TCS version, as the proofs are much shorter, cleaner, and bug free.

Science News wrote about my results sometime later. And Bob Hearn and Erik Demaine worked out a nice generalization to my proof technique. Basically, they showed that the proof technique that I developed helped to solve some long standing open questions in the field of motion planning complexity.

All of this is to say: Rush Hour is an amazing little game.

Here's the punchline: when I met the woman that I would later marry, and she asked me what I did, I told her that I was working on this childrens' game. In fact, I spent several all nighters on it at that time. To this day, I am still surprised that she dated me at all given those circumstances.
posted by dr.flakenstein at 6:53 AM on January 25, 2007 [9 favorites]

I wish that any other metaphor besides a traffic jam had been chosen
I got Safari Traffic Jam the xmas before last. All the comments about the simplicity yet challenge + fun apply & the termite mounds are a nice touch.
posted by morganw at 7:27 AM on January 25, 2007

dr. flankenstein: thanks for those links - very interesting.
posted by creeptick at 8:53 AM on January 25, 2007

There's a nice freeware implementation of this game for the palm platform by Philip Cheng. Available here.
posted by Pliskie at 9:11 AM on January 25, 2007

dr flakenstein: Out of curiousity, have you talked to the games designer? I'm curious to know what he thought of your results.
posted by empath at 9:14 AM on January 25, 2007

Ditto creeptick's comment, dr. flankenstein

I've long been puzzled over Rush Hour's complex- actually, that's a total lie...I've just known - in a dumb liberal arts way - that it's a weirdly brilliant design.

I also didn't really follow your comment - but loved the energy and pleasure you put into writing it.
posted by Jody Tresidder at 9:19 AM on January 25, 2007

Jody, in one sentence: He proved that any program that can be run on a computer can be translated into a Rush Hour puzzle.
posted by empath at 9:38 AM on January 25, 2007

Isn't this really old? I played this on an old PDA literally YEARS ago...
posted by tadellin at 9:44 AM on January 25, 2007

Here's a much better link for Nob Yoshigahara who died a couple years ago. The man was a puzzle legend in his own time.
posted by vacapinta at 9:53 AM on January 25, 2007

Wiki says it was invented in the 70's and came to the US in '96
posted by MtDewd at 9:55 AM on January 25, 2007

I first saw this game on the web a few years ago. My daughter (only 7yrs old -- sorry, kid you're too young for this game) was given the toy version for Christmas and absolutely loves it.

I thought, hey, cool. This is the first time I've seen a computer puzzle game turned into a toy. How clever, using cards to set up the levels since you don't have the computer to do it.

I'm kind of disappointed it was actually the other way around. It does seem like it's naturally easier to implement on a computer than as a toy.
posted by straight at 10:03 AM on January 25, 2007

I remember puzzle 38 being the only one from the original set that reeeaaally frustrated me as a kid.

After playing through it again online, I must say that it seemed much easier. Sure, it still took me like 10 minutes to get it, but that pales compared to the hour it took back in the day.

Maybe there's only a finite number of "tricks" to the game, and after you've seen them all there's none that can stump you (as long as you're thinking about it).

(Also, why did I recently buy the 4th pack when I saw it in the store when I could just get it for free online?)
posted by mikeweeney at 10:07 AM on January 25, 2007

I see lots of links to online versions you can play on the computer. Does anyone have links to a bunch of starting configurations for the puzzle you could print out and use with the toy version? I could just play a bunch of the online versions and write down the starting config for each one, but it seems like there ought to be an easier way...
posted by straight at 10:10 AM on January 25, 2007

morganw - sweet, maybe now I will cave and get one of these. also - I really like the actual, holdable versions of this game. for puzzles it just seems to make thinking easier if I can hold it in my hand rather than stare at it on a screen.
posted by cubby at 9:04 PM on January 25, 2007

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