Review: Pixel Puzzles: Japan

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There have been a few times that I’ve been out shopping for something and felt myself strangely compelled to buy a jigsaw puzzle to do at home. I had a 1500-piece puzzle of a meticulously-detailed cartoon space station when I was a kid that probably messed me up for life, dooming me to an eternity of sifting through little cardboard pieces. Pixel Puzzles: Japan has managed to sate my hunger for puzzles for a good many hours, and for that I am grateful.

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You get a total of 21 puzzles to assemble, most arranged in a series of levels to unlock. Once you complete a couple in your current level, the next level unlocks, with higher levels having more pieces. The smallest puzzles are 60 pieces, and the largest is only 350, so don’t expect any marathon jigsawing here. Each image is a filtered photograph of some quintessentially Japanese thing, with your loose pieces floating around in a koi pond and the frame for assembly a sort of zen garden. The presentation is lovely and soothing, with peaceful music playing over the animated monk and fishes. You can even poke a few things in the background if you need a little break from puzzling.

Pieces snap into place once you get them in roughly the right spot, so you can do a little guessing to fill in harder parts. Sadly you cannot snap individual pieces together before finding their place on the board, but with puzzles this small that’s generally not a problem. What is a problem is how difficult it can be to grab the piece you want from the pond on the larger puzzles. Something about the mouse selection is terribly random at times, which can be a bit frustrating if you’re trying to nab an elusive corner piece. It’s no dealbreaker, but does hint at the budget nature of the title.

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Beyond that there’s a nice variety of scenes, and the pieces for each puzzle have different and unique connections that make them distinct. I don’t think there’s a real high bar to clear for a jigsaw game, and wherever it is Pixel Puzzles manages to clear it. I certainly burned nearly 10 hours snapping little scenes of Mount Fuji and torii gates together and don’t regret a minute of it. If you want a simple, relaxing set of puzzles to keep you busy, this will not disappoint.

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