After staring for some considerable time and with ever-increasing bafflement at Von Doogan’s Puzzle Number 1 – Impossibility Level 2 out of a maximum of 5 – I was left with two thoughts. The first of which was: how on earth can a ten-year-old brain grapple with such complexity? And, the second was: wow, my ten-year-old brain would have loved this, absolutely loved it!
My theory of cognitive development, up to this point, has been based on the premise that, put simply, you know more stuff when you’re older. Of course, there is a certain point where mental capacity tips into decline but, all being well, there is a broadly upward trajectory from conception, through the embryonic stage, past adolescence and then on at least until early middle age, or at least until parenthood and the moment where sleep deprivation induces massive mental regression (I lost my wallet for a week after leaving it in the salad drawer of the fridge).
This theory, however, is thrown into chaos by Von Doogan and the Great Air Race. If this is the kind of thing that ten year olds do for fun then I’m badly wrong. They – the pre-adolescent puzzlers – are the intellectual giants of the modern age, and it is upon their shoulders that we should clamber.
Von Doogan is new to me. Devised by Lorenzo Etherington, he appears weekly in the Phoenix Comic. This extended version of over 30 puzzles is a brilliant combination of comic book excitement and fiendishly difficult challenges. There are codes and clues and all sorts to perplex and intrigue. It’s all mixed in with stacks of dashing comic-book adventure and whizz-bang illustrations. I’ll certainly be looking out for more of the same and the Phoenix Comic sounds just the ticket for school libraries and book corners.
If comics are your thing, then this is for you. If puzzles are for you too, then you’ll be in heaven.
Oh, by the way, I did eventually solve Puzzle Number 1. It took dedication and the full wisdom of my many years and…OK, I confess. I got a small child to help. They cracked it in under a minute.
A copy of Von Doogan and the Great Air Race was provided by the publishers.