Pixel Puzzles: Japan
Gameplay 8
Graphics 8
Sound 8

Pixel Puzzles: Japan offers an interesting twist on the traditional Jigsaw puzzle without the hassle of finding out that you are missing pieces. Things start off very calm but as the pieces multiply the challenge increases considerably. The constantly moving puzzle pieces also make it tricky, but there is no time limit to worry about. About the only annoyance is that you cannot save your progress during a puzzle.

Gameplay: Calm and relaxing, but can become quite challenging as well.

Graphics: Nothing particularly outstanding but decent enough.

Sound: Calm music and the soothing sounds of a Shishi-odoshi (which can be disabled.)

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Pixel Puzzles: Japan

Developer: Decaying Logic | Publisher: Kiss ltd| Release Date: 2014 | Genre: Casual / Indie / Simulation | Website: Official Website | Format: Digital Download

As the proud owner of quite a few jigsaw puzzles, I was rather intrigued to see what Decaying Logic had to offer with their digital take on the format. Pixel Puzzles: Japan is actually the first jigsaw game on Steam and adds a few nice twists that would not be possible with a physical jigsaw puzzle. As the title suggests, the focus is on beautiful Japanese scenes that are revealed as you progress through the nineteen puzzles that are available.

I would assume that everyone knows what a jigsaw puzzle is, but seeing as were are living in the digital age, I guess it is possible that someone somewhere is oblivious to the concept. The basic goal is to assemble a picture by fitting together the puzzle pieces. The puzzle pieces come in all shapes and sizes so you have to pay attention to the image and the shape of each piece to figure out where it fits into the picture. Puzzles in this game range from ones with 60 pieces to one with a whopping 350 pieces. Traditional puzzles can have thousands of pieces and take weeks to complete so luckily the ones in this game are a bit more manageable. Don’t think it is going to be easy though, this is a relaxing game, but it can still be challenging.

Instead of using the box cover as a reference as you would with a traditional jigsaw puzzle, this game gives you a blank slate to work with. You can view a small picture of the puzzle before attempting it, but after that you are essentially working blind. As you put together the pieces an “I Ching” meter is filled which, when completely full, allows you to view the full picture for a few seconds. If you are quick you can figure out where some of the pieces fit in before it disappears and get a general idea of the puzzle layout.

The actual puzzle pieces float around in a Koi pond (complete with Koi swimming around) which surround the canvas you work on. Pieces can be picked up or thrown back in the pond, but they are constantly in motion which makes things tricky. As with a traditional jigsaw puzzle the most efficient way to complete the puzzle is by finding the edge pieces first and then working your way inward. If you place a piece correctly, it locks into place and cannot be removed again by accident which is useful.

Each puzzle in the game not only has a different image, but the actual shapes of the pieces differ as well. Some of the puzzles have pieces with very strange shapes that you won’t see in real-life and it adds another layer of challenge. You don’t have to worry about time limits or objectives though. The game simply lets you get on with completing the puzzles on your own time.

Depending on the amount of puzzle pieces and how keen your eyesight is some puzzles can take quite a while to complete. Unfortunately you cannot save a puzzle that is in progress so if you have to stop playing in the middle of a puzzle your only option is to minimize the game. This is something that might be rectified in an upcoming patch so I won’t complain about it too much.

The visuals are rather nice for a casual game and I quite liked the Japanese scenes of bridges, pagodas and cherry blossoms. You cannot import any of your own images to use in the game, although the developers have promised to add another 220 piece puzzle with the next update. It remains to be seen if there will be future DLC for the game which adds different themes as you are currently limited to Japanese scenes only which might not be everyone’s cup of tea. Due to the nature of the game there aren’t a whole lot of animations, but the developers still managed to include a few humorous touches like being able to pick up the Koi fish and place it on the board from where it will flop its way back into the pond.

Like the gameplay, the audio is very relaxing with some soothing tunes and the sound of a shishi-odoshi (a type of Japanese water fountain.) Not everyone finds the sound of the shishi-odishi very soothing though so the developers have promised to add a way to disable it in a future update. (*Update: The developers made good on their promise and you can now stuff the poor fish into the shishi-odishi to prevent it from making a noise.)

If you are looking for a nice relaxing game where you don’t have to worry about quick reflexes then you can’t go wrong with Pixel Puzzles: Japan. Being a fan of jigsaw puzzles obviously helps, but the game has enough unique touches to make it appealing to all fans of casual titles. It is the type of game that you can just keep open in the background and play for a few minutes at a time while your mind wanders. It is also very competitively priced and features Steam trading card which is always a bonus.

*Review originally published April 2014.

System Requirements

  • OS: Windows 7, Vista
  • Processor: Core 2 Duo
  • Memory: 1 GB RAM
  • Graphics: DirectX 9.0 Compatible
  • Hard Drive: 85 MB available space
  • Sound Card: Generic Sound Device
  • OS: Windows 7, Vista
  • Processor: Core 2 Duo
  • Memory: 2 GB RAM
  • Graphics: DirectX 9.0 Compatible
  • Hard Drive: 85 MB available space
  • Sound Card: Generic Sound Device

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