IQ link pieces and board on a table

Review: IQ Link, A Brainy Road-Trip Game


 6 years & up
 1 player
  30 minutes
Travel Games, Puzzles
  Pattern Recognition
  Spatial Orientation
  Instructions PDF

Are you planning a trip? Or perhaps there’s limited space at home or in your classroom? IQ Link is a tidy, compact, very portable little package of fun for everyone who likes logic puzzles. Each puzzle takes just a few minutes on the beginning levels. Or, just one challenge can last an entire cross-country car trip for the “Wizard” levels. Read on for our full review of this tiny, enjoyable game. Want to see numerical summary ratings? Skip to the conclusion for our detailed criteria breakdown and final review score.

What’s included & how to play IQ Link

In the box you’ll find:

  • Game board that doubles as a case and instruction holder
  • 12 brightly-colored link pieces
  • Instruction booklet with 120 different challenges
An easy (starter) level of IQ link
An easy (starter) puzzle

To win IQ link, you just have to fit all 12 pieces on the board at once by linking each of them together and laying them flat. Sounds easy, right? In the lower numbered levels, it certainly can be. Fortunately, IQ Link includes many challenges on the easier levels, with 24 puzzles on each of 5 progressively-harder categories, ranging from Starter to Wizard. On the early levels, the instructions give you most of the pieces already laid out, so you’re only adding a handful to complete the puzzle. The biggest challenge in these levels is noticing the subtle distinction in the orientation of the pieces you’re placing. The very similar colors don’t help, either. Since it’s difficult to notice the difference between lavender and purple, you have to watch the shapes, colors, and orientations closely.

The biggest challenge in these levels is noticing the subtle distinction in orientation of the pieces you’re placing.

Image showing a difficult (wizard) level of IQ link
A hard (wizard) puzzle

The challenging levels are very easy to set up because the manual only tells you where a few of the pieces belong. You may only get two or three pieces to start, which are quickly laid down. Now the easy part is over. The challenge comes when you’re tasked with finding all the critical links needed to make sure those two pieces fit in with all the remaining pieces you have to place. According to the instructions, there is only one correct solution to each puzzle, which is rather daunting. Prepare to remove and replace your attempted solutions many, many times as you puzzle out which link goes where.

Is IQ Link fun and educational?

This puzzle is very clever. We actually own two of its predecessors by the same genius Belgian, Raf Peeters, and IQ Link is the culmination of all that came before it. The shapes of the pieces and the satisfaction of getting the linkages just right are both very appealing. I appreciate the bright, transparent-colored plastics used, which are quite beautiful and make the whole game bright and cheerful. It’s fun to move through each level as you progressively get better, but like similar logic puzzles (such as Rush Hour), the upper levels can be frustrating and will quickly become more error than trial.

For the educational aspects of the game, the “IQ” in the title says it all. Here’s a quick run-down of all that you’ll learn, which I refer to collectively as Rich Skills:

  • Pattern recognition is an obvious one. You need to carefully notice subtle details in the challenge diagrams and remember patterns of what has worked in the past to connect these particular pieces. A close companion skill is spatial orientation, which you’ll learn as you move the pieces around in your mind to do a trial fit before actually laying down and disturbing a crowded board.
  • Both of these skills are accompanied by heaps of logic and problem-solving as you must think about the sequence of pieces on the board and how to fit all remaining elements while maintaining the proper links.
  • Finally, as you progress through the levels you’ll flex your concentration muscles and gradually train your brain to focus for longer and longer periods of time.

Helpfully, these skills apply equally well to children and adults. So despite the bright, translucent resin pieces, puzzlers of any age will find IQ Link an amusing way to while away the hours and enhance their mental acuity.

Complete Insanity, CandyChess, and Time2Play

IQ Link falls flat on our critical Complete Insanity metric. If you lose one of the small pieces, the game is substantially impacted because all of the different levels utilize every piece. This is in contrast to other games like Rush Hour, where not all the cars are in use for every scenario. Given that you also have to reassemble the board flat to close the lid, I’m sticking IQ Link with a harsh 1.5 out of 5.

If you lose one of the small pieces, the same is substantially impacted because all of the different levels utilize every piece

Our CandyChess Strategy Score, at 4.5 out of 5, means Chess players will probably enjoy this game. You’re missing the aspect of a second player (taking out the response-based if-then element of strategy), but overall IQ Link forces you to plan ahead so that you make all the links come out exactly right.

While logical thinking skills are critical in both games, Chess and IQ Link, there is an important and subtle difference. One thing I never thought I’d say about Chess is that it forces you to be creative and provides plenty of room for innovation and quick thinking. In contrast, IQ Link forces you into one correct answer. You’ll end up brute-force solving a lot of these puzzles if you just keep trying, but it’s not very “creative.”

Time2Play completely depends on the level you choose. Set aside 5 minutes for the first 20 or so levels, and add a few minutes for each successive level. The time you spend will vary greatly depending on your skill and patience, so my advice with for the harder levels is to try 30-45 minutes at a time and then snap a photo of your progress so that you can easily resume later. We use this same technique with marathon board games like Risk or Monopoly as well.

What ages of kids will enjoy IQ Link?

Chart showing enjoyment level by age for IQ LinkThe DistribuFun graphic for IQ Link trends somewhat older than the manufacturer’s recommendation of “6 years & up.” I would argue that there’s limited enjoyment for kids under 10, who will quickly get frustrated by the difficult puzzles. This is mitigated to a great degree, however, because there are so many of the beginning levels. Ultimately, the value of this game will remain in its ability to grow with you over time as you get smarter. But, you have to keep all the pieces throughout the years!

Alternatives to IQ Link that teach similar skills

Any of the games in this same series, with as IQ Focus, IQ Steps or IQ Blox, will teach many of the same skills and appeal to a similar audience. Here’s a good link to the whole IQ series. My advice is that if you have multiple kids, get a different version for each. They’re small and cheap enough to be used as stocking stuffers. We bought our original versions–we have 3 total–as surprises for an airplane trip. Whenever we remember to plan ahead and provide activities for trips like this, we can then reserve the tablet/phone time for those unplanned periods of extended boredom, like a long doctor’s visit or traffic jam.

ThinkFun also makes a series of games that teach “Logic” as a skill, so check out some more of their products on our site.

Value, durability, and longevity: Is IQ Link a good buy?

It’s amazing how inexpensive these puzzles are, at only around $10 each. As long as you don’t lose the pieces, they should last quite a long while. The replay value is extremely good, with 120 puzzles that you can play quite often. Keep one in the car or a backpack and take advantage of the portable, lightweight brain booster that doesn’t rely on a battery.

Conclusion & Overall Score

Fun for kids & adults
Value, durability, longevity
Rich Skills
Complete Insanity


IQ Link is a solidly fun game and a strong value. We wish it had a better system for storing the small pieces, but it's still an easy choice for a highly portable little game.

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About Steve McIrvin