I was first introduced to the original Perplexus back when I was 10 years old or so. The Perplexus is a ball made of clear plastic with one, tiny ball bearing inside. There are also 100 stages of crazy obstacles that end up looking a bit like something from M. C. Escher. I had fun with the first 20 stages, but after that, there seemed to be a roadblock for me. No matter what I did, I could never get past stage 20, and it stayed the way for many years. Eventually, I found a way to maneuver it, and I used that newfound knowledge to eventually beat it from start to finish after a lot of practice. There have since been new Perplexi, one that is easier than the original, and one that is harder. I’ve actually never beaten the easier version because I never bothered to buy it, but I did get the Perplexus Epic (the hardest one) many, many years ago, and have still not beaten it legitimately to this day. Not only is it larger, containing, 125 stages instead of 100, but the stages themselves are much harder, even before they go above 100. I once got so frustrated with it that I threw it across the room, breaking it (this thing is fragile), and I had to buy a new one. I never got past stage 99, and I think I was only able to do that once, possibly twice. I eventually gave up on it without ever reaching stage 125. For many years, it lay on my shelf, shadowed by my framed picture of the theater cast from my first performance. But while I was rearranging my shelf, I came across it again, and decided to give it another go. Here’s how it went:

I set my timer for an hour and a half, and got to work. I decided that because I was on a time constraint, I should use the practice areas. A, B and C skip to 33, 56, and 91, respectively. Basically, they’re checkpoints. I never used to use these, because my mindset was that “what if I got to stage 125 using a practice area? I could have beaten it for real if I’d started from the beginning!” The problem with this, however, is that you are given very little practice on the later stages with this method, and the time that it takes to get back to them means that it is very hard to learn how to overcome them. However, I had to get to that practice area’s stage, first. With these rules in mind, I began my hour-and-a-half Perplexus Epic.

start- 20: Not bad for my first try after many years! I forgot that I could rest the bearing very lightly against the cone, making this maneuver possibly easier than the original Perplexus’ stage 20, which is essentially the same thing, but without the cone.

start- 5: Beginner’s luck, I suppose. This stage really isn’t all that tricky, but it is a tough maneuver for someone getting warmed up. The combination of a sharp right turn, slant down, and taking away a ramp is a tricky move for this early in the Perplexus (still single digits!), but it’s not that tough once you get the hang of it.

start- 5, accidentally skipped to 110, died at 116: Ah, yes. Sometimes, you will fall off and land somewhere completely different. If I was super serious about it, I would shake it off, but I wasn’t this time, and figured I’d just go with the flow if it happened on accident. 116 is a tricky little fella because it takes away the ramp when you need it most, when turning the ball. And for someone warming up after years of no practice? Forget it.

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start- 5: Sometimes, you just get stuck for a while. This was one of those times.

start- 5, accidentally skipped to 85, died at 86: This one prop is used for multiple stages, and often involves this lamp-shaped contraption in one way or another. For 86, you have to lightly tap the ball to get the moving part to slide along until you get to a hole, which the bearing will fall through. The problem is that while it is a short drop, there is little to stop the bearing from bouncing off, which is exactly what happened.

start- 5

start- 22: Finally, progress again! Granted, only by two. There are many variations on this sleek indentation for the bearing to travel across. It glides so quickly that it’s often difficult to manage, but once you master one, you master them all. I had evidently not mastered the one at this point, however.

start-5, accidentally skipped to 85, died at 90: Falling back into bad habits. Wow, stage 5 put me off course thrice! I did make progress past 86, but failed at 90, which is basically a harder version of 20 without the cone as a crutch. This was even harder than 20 from the original Perplexus.

start- 37: There we go, progress by 15 stages! This looks like a pretty standard ramp, but its awkward positioning down so low combined with the weird circle around the cone make this deceptively hard.

Practice A (33)- 53: And since I passed 33, I got to start from there from then on. Progress by 16! We’re getting close to my first run of 20. If you thought the blue indented ramps were bad, you ain’t seen nothing! These white indented ramps must have butter all over them, because they are far too slippery! Subtle movements are the name of the game, here.

Practice A- 50: Literally the same exact ramp on the other side.

Practice A- 63, accidentally skipped to End (125): Yep, you heard that right. I got to the end ON ACCIDENT!!! While this was super-cool, it was not legitimate, so I sadly had to shake it out. 63 is tricky because you have to make sudden sharp movements with the ball to make it go down at one stair at a time. Progress by 13, or 72, depending on how you look at it.

Practice B (56)- 90: Progress by 27, setting a new record! Stage 90 is, like 116, a harder version of stage 20. I swear they get harder as they go along, but I have nothing as proof. But look at where Practice C starts! If I had done just one more, I could have used Practice B only once!

Practice B- 62: Those stairs, man.

Practice B- 102: Progress by 12. That gosh-darn 180 degree curve on that paper-thin, elevated ramp is the bane of my existence. Also, I finally got to Practice C!

Practice C (91)- to 91: HERE WE GO. So, Practice C has its own special stage in order to catch up halfway through 91, labeled “to 91.” Great. What’s not great is that there’s this goddamn nail that blocks the bearing’s progress! I eventually found out that a few sharp beats on the ball like a drum would set it free, but until I figured that out, I was in for a world of pain. I would progressively make the shaking more and more violent, and by the time the shaking was enough to set the bearing free, it was flying across the entire Perplexus! And then sometimes, it wouldn’t get stuck at all! I don’t know what caused that, but it just worked sometimes. I think this is probably a problem with my own Perplexus and not a widespread issue, but I could be wrong. It’s luckily the only major manufacturing error I found on the Perplexus, and it wouldn’t even be a problem if I was going for a full run.

Practice C- to 91: Buckle up. We’ll be here for a while.

Practice C- to 91

Practice C- 99: This stage, man. I haven’t figured it out. Sometimes it works for me, and sometimes it doesn’t and I have no idea why that is. I got lucky on my first shot, but such was not the case on my second. You have to get the bearing across this ramp, but it’s like a see-saw. Once you get halfway through, it shifts, and once you get off, it shifts back. You have to go full steam ahead, but not too crazy, and then the bearing will be dropped into what seems to be this nuclear bunker where it is as safe as it ever will be. But getting into that bunker is pure luck, at least for me.

Practice C- to 91

Practice C- to 91

Practice C- to 91: *Sigh...*

Practice C- to 91

Practice C- 93: After doing “to 91" so many times, your brain starts to deteriorate.

Practice C- to 91

Practice C- to 91

Practice C- to 91

Practice C- to 91

Practice C- to 91

Practice C- to 91

Practice C- to 91

Practice C- to 91

Practice C- to 91

Practice C- 91: I think I got so excited that I quite literally dropped the ball.

Practice C- to 91

Practice C- to 91

Practice C- to 91

Practice C- 99: Hello darkness, my old friend.

Practice C- to 91

Practice C- to 91

Practice C- 99

Practice C- to 91

Practice C- to 91

Practice C- 102: I finally figured out how to bump the bearing out of the nail! Aaaaaaand I got back to 102, where I originally failed. Yay?

Practice C- 99: Ahem.

Practice C- 106: Oh thank God progress! I don’t care if it’s only by 4, I’ll take anything at this point! It was a stupid mistake, though. I just had to lean the bearing against the white barrier, but I didn’t because my brain was mush at this point.

Practice C- 91: OH NO, NOT THIS AGAIN!

Practice C- 102: AND THIS?!

Practice C- 99: PLEASE NO.

Practice C- 94: I forget how I even messed this up. Please send help.

Practice C- 99

Practice C- 99

Practice C- 102

Practice C- 123: WOAH! My brain finally had like a mental breakthrough and tore through this thing! Progress by 17 is not bad at all for this late in the game, and I’m only two away from beating this thing! It’s another tougher version of stage 20. I think the difficulty might come from the stress of almost being done combined with the quick maneuver required. 124 is basically a victory lap, and 125 is the bucket where the bearing goes, so this is pretty much the last challenge of the Perplexus Epic.

Practice C- 103: How?

Practice C- 99

Practice C- 99

Practice C- to 91: nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope

Practice C- 99, accidentally fell to 92- 99, accidentally fell to 92- 99, accidentally fell to to 91 (not a typo)- 99: I could make this sh*t up if I tried.

Practice C- 99

Practice C- 99

Practice C- 99

Practice C- 99

Practice C- 99: *screams*

Practice C- 102

Practice C- 103: Again?!

Practice C- 112: At least I’m progressively failing later into the game?

Practice C- 92: *Shrugs*

Practice C- ?: Okay, so at around 115, I hear the timer go off, and I know this is my last chance. I pour every ounce of concentration into making all of the perfect movements, and...

Thanks suspenseful people!

Swing and a miss. 123 again.

I’m sorry for disappointing you, statue man.

Oh well. There’s no way I’m going to put in the time and energy to beat the Perplexus Epic from Start to End, but maybe, one day, I will be able to conquer those last two stages and at least beat it on “easy mode.” If you want to pick one of these bad boys up for yourself, I think Toys R Us usually has them in stock. I don’t know about any other stores, however. I’d also suggest that you start with the original, or hell, even the easy version. I won’t judge. Probably.