The original World Mosaics title was a decent "picross" title, brimming with loads of puzzles and a mildly interesting story that wove the main game together. Its sequel, World Mosaics 2, returns with the plethora of puzzles of its predecessor, improves on some aspects of the first title, but strangely addresses none of the issues.
The story picks up after the first World Mosaics. As soon as you discover the secret to the Pelasgian civilization – and the secret to the city of Atlantis – you encounter a strange hourglass artifact which has suddenly thrown you back in time to the age of the dinosaurs, shattering in the process. Once you come to your senses, you stumble upon a diary entry from your old friend, Dr. Remington, along with a bag of Time Tiles. The goal of World Mosaics 2 is to solve each of the 98 puzzles using the Time Tiles to find out why you are being tossed about through time, repair the Pelasgian artifact and make your way home.
While the story sounds a little hokey, it is actually a great draw. New information is revealed after each level in the form of a diary entry. Some of them have interesting scientific facts, while others make reference to great literature. Some of them are quite funny if you know the joke (for instance, when you encounter the Greek writer Homer, the entry says that Homer was thinking of using a Trojan Rabbit rather than a Trojan Horse, but didn’t think it would be taken seriously; if you know your Monty Python or have seen the musical Spamalot, you’ll understand). Since story often takes a back seat, it’s refreshing to see it treated with respect here.
For those who have never played them, picross puzzles are logic-based image puzzles played on grids. It’s kind of like a cross between Gemsweeper and Sudoku. Numbers on the side give you clues and indications as to which squares to fill in, and if you follow the rules, you should end up with a picture. You can also block squares which you know you shouldn’t fill in. If you have enough of those, you logically also know which squares should be filled in.
For instance, on a 5×5 grid, if the number of the left side of the top row is five, then you know that all five of the squares in that top row are to be filled in. Or, you might see a one, then a three. This means that there is one square filled in, a space, and then three more to be filled in. (If it sounds difficult, the game’s excellent tutorial will graphically illustrate this. It is very easy to get the hang of quickly.) Be careful to fill in squares carefully, for if you make too many mistakes, the hourglass will shatter, and you will lose the level.
To help you solve the puzzles, the game has a helpful hint system. If you uncover enough tiles, you can earn a hint which, when clicked, fills in some tiles for you. These hints are helpful, especially when you realize that, after you finish the game’s second world, there are a further 150 puzzles to play.
The graphics and sounds are vastly improved from the first title. The level of detail and polish is higher. Even the musical compositions are better. It looks like there was a lot of care put into World Mosaics 2.
However, it is a mystery why they chose not to improve upon the major faults found in the first game. To mark a square to be filled in, you left click. If you want to block a square you right click. But if you want to cancel a move, you use the opposing mouse button at the same time (i.e. cancel a left-click move with a right click). This cost me many times, especially in later levels.
Level design in the later stages often is ambiguous in terms of how to start. Usually, if there is a large number, you can get a rough idea for where to begin. But in a 15×15 grid puzzle where the biggest number is five, it starts to get needlessly difficult. And speaking of 15×15 puzzles, the higher level of detail makes accurate clicking on larger puzzles very difficult. Even in full-screen mode, I had difficulties.
There isn’t any variation to the gameplay. While there are well over 200 puzzles to play, they’re all the same basic idea. Though this isn’t a fault with the genre necessarily, with so many puzzles, adding a twist or two would have been nice.
In the end, though, World Mosaics 2 brings more of what made the first game fun – a lot more. It’s not without its quirks, but the demo is worth the download. If you like logic puzzles and enjoy a well-written story, pencil World Mosaics 2 into your gaming timetable.