Thursday, March 02, 2006

Infinite Jigsaw Puzzle Review

Infinite Jigsaw Puzzle, developed by MediaResearchGroup and published by Alawar Entertainment.
The Good: Can import your own pictures, custom puzzle settings
The Not So Good: Piece rotation makes it so HARD!
What say you? Entertaining if you enjoy jigsaw puzzles: 6/8

Jigsaw games have gone the way of the dodo and the ichthyosaur: relative extinction. Ever since computers have come around, people have been drawn to their warm glowing warming glow, casting aside the jigsaw puzzle and its thousand pieces of frustration. But what if we could meld the two media? That’s exactly what MediaResearchGroup (no time for spaces!) and Alawar Entertainment have done in Infinite Jigsaw Puzzle, offering up some jigsaw fun on the personal computer.

The graphics are what you would expect for a puzzle game: dominated by the puzzles themselves, and they are of high quality and look good. The backgrounds have a calming effect with their soft blue hue. The graphics are sharp and defined, but the menus could have been better designed: there is too much clicking involved to access certain aspects of the game (such as puzzle deletion). The sound consists of the background song that is also relaxing (and short and on continual repeat). The game also indicates that you’ve connected two pieces correctly with some kind of munching sound. Overall, the graphics and sound in Infinite Jigsaw Puzzle are exactly what you’d expect.

Obviously, the goal of Infinite Jigsaw Puzzle is to solve jigsaw puzzles in the shortest amount of time. The originality of Infinite Jigsaw Puzzle stems from the fact that you can import you own pictures and customize each puzzle. If you install the free puzzle pack, you’ll get over 200 puzzles, which should keep you busy for a while. If that isn’t enough, you can also import any picture that is of BMP, PCX, PNG, TGA, TIFF, JPEG, or GIF format easily: you don’t even need to copy and paste it into the directory, just select it from within the game. This works pretty well, although the bottom of a lot of the pictures gets cropped in order to make the pieces fit correctly. In order to access this option, you need to first select “fun mode,” which for some reason if off by default. It took me a while to figure out that this is the key, so hopefully I have saved you some time. Each of the 200 included puzzles has default settings concerning their difficulty (more detailed pictures have more pieces), but you can customize any of the included and imported puzzles. You can change the piece shape and piece count (from 15 to an insane 1200 or so), which is the main way to up the ante. You can also turn rotation on, where the initial pieces may not be right side up, just like you dumped them out of the box. In addition, you can turn color rotation on, which may cause some pieces to become more green, blue, or red than usual, and you must adjust their color back to normal before fitting them in place. Color rotation works well on multi-colored puzzles and adds an interesting element to the mix. You can also apply some special effects, such as oil painting or sharpen. Despite the slightly confusing menus, playing the game is easy enough: you can move the pieces around the board by dragging them, and rotate them by double clicking on them. The game can offer hints if you are stuck, remove all the pieces that don’t lie on the border, and even put a ghosted image in the background (just like you’re looking at the box) to ease in identifying which piece goes where. Sometimes, pieces get hidden underneath a completed portion of the puzzle, but you can move stuff around by dragging it, so that problem is easily averted. The variation in piece shapes coupled with the ability to create both small and large puzzles from the same picture adds to the longevity of the game. In addition, the game keeps track of your best times for each rule and picture combination, so you can challenge your friends to heart pounding, action filled jigsaw clashes.

Infinite Jigsaw Puzzle has pretty much everything you’d want in a single play jigsaw game. Not only does the game ship with over 200 puzzles, but also you can import your own pictures and customize the difficulty of each puzzle. The game provides several avenues to assist you in solving each puzzle (showing the solution in the background and offering hints) as well. I’m not that huge a fan of jigsaw puzzles, but I had fun tying the included pictures, importing some of my own, and then solving the puzzles. The easy controls should appeal to beginners, and the ability to ramp up the difficulty with more pieces (and including piece rotation) will draw in the expert players. If you’ve been searching for a respectable jigsaw puzzle computer game, you don’t need to look any further than Infinite Jigsaw Puzzle.