Every so often, after a hard day at school or work, you desperately need time to unwind. An antidote to all the frantically crazed arcade-style adventures out there, leisurely-paced jigsaw puzzle challenge Jig Art Quest serves as just such an opportunity to chase the blues away. Despite a few minor setbacks – e.g. eccentric backdrops, a slightly cumbersome interface and curious New Age styling – it’s a fine way of catching your breath between everyday emergencies, and idly passing the hours.
Appropriate for all ages and skill levels, the game’s underlying premise is simple: Faced with a screen full of jumbled pieces, you must fit all together until they form a coherent picture. Each puzzle is selectable from a main map divided into portraits (original works by commissioned artists) categorized into classical themes like water, art, snow and science. The more you complete, the more additional challenges you’ll open for play, with at least two different options to choose from available at any time.
While there’s no cohesive storyline tying everything together – and certainly, one’s presence would’ve added extra charm – the setup never frustrates, and encourages you to proceed at your leisure. What’s more, obstacles such as time limits or caps on the number of incorrect guesses one can make aren’t a problem here. This is an outing meant to be savored and enjoyed at a slow, pleasant clip. Expert-level gamers can always up the challenge factor too. Optional features let you enable piece rotation, show a ticking timer (so you can compete against yourself to clock in faster finishes) or literally divide puzzles into 700+ pieces instead of the standard 48.
Provisions are further offered for replacing the soft, soothingly ethereal soundtrack which plays in the background with music of your own. Access any digital audio track stored on your hard drive you want – support for common song formats such as MP3 is built right in. Like a custom puzzle creator, which allows you to turn photos and personalized pictures into homemade level designs, snazzy extras (which include single-piece or whole-row hint functions as well) simply add extended replay value.
Oddly though, the designers make some strange choices that may prove off-putting to both beginners and those opposed to fantasy or modern-day mysticism. For example: Instead of picking intuitive subjects, portraits exclusively focus on imaginative scenes of undersea parks or robe-clad druids walking darkened forest paths. As jigsaw fans are aware, trying to piece together fragments of everyday imagery is tricky enough. Doing so here, using otherworldly scenes – none of which are displayed in their entirety, as would be a real-world tabletop counterpart on its box – is unnecessarily troubling.
That’s not to say you can’t persevere, or eventually enjoy these beautiful works of art in their entirety. But the process takes a great deal more time than it needs to. Alas, no options are offered to automatically alert you when a piece has been inserted in the right slot, or lock it in place, either. Tiles placed with help from integrated hint functions only indicate they’re in proper position when highlighted with your cursor to boot. Needless to say, this makes keeping track of even correct choices a chore when facing a screen filled with obscure, yet similar-looking individual parts.
Complaints are largely subjective, though. You may appreciate the title’s singular aesthetic more than the next enthusiast or, for that matter, be well-versed in jigsaws to the point that automated helping hands are unnecessary. All of which conspires to make Jig Art Quest a tricky one to judge. Some will adore its spiritual nature and glacial pacing; others, wish a more intuitive interface and hipper presentation was offered.
Either way, like featured challenges, it’s up to you to noodle this one out. Happily, the current availability of a free, downloadable demo makes sampling (and sorting through dozens of virtual playing pieces) a breeze.