Rating: ESRB – Everyone
After John Spilsbury, a British mapmaker and engraver, used his jig saw to create a hardwood puzzle back in 1767, he should have realized that here was the potential for a lucrative business. Alas, the technology back then was not good enough to mass produce jigsaw puzzles and it wasn’t until much later in about 1880 when Milton Bradley released the very first jigsaw puzzle for kids. With a history that has spanned almost 250 years, we have been fortunate to see jigsaw puzzles of all shapes and sizes. In fact, they have even transitioned into 3D jigsaw puzzles where you could theoretically take the pieces out of the box and build say, a spherical globe.
In today’s world, many things get digitized, so why not jigsaw puzzles? Digital jigsaw puzzles have been around for quite a number of years now, but its dominance on the PC has not truly gotten a strong foothold probably because the target audience is limited in size and also there’s only so much screen estate you can have.
Nevertheless, there has been one company who has consistently been releasing jigsaw puzzle games like hotcakes; and that would be eGames. They had recently culminated their Puzzle Master franchise with the addition of 1,000,000 to the title. The collection is based on the Jigsaws Galore engine from David Gray.
So, do you truly get a million jigsaw puzzles to play with? Is this game any worth it? Let’s find out…
|Happy 4th of July greetings!|
First things first, you are not going to get a million jigsaw puzzles with this release. I don’t know why eGames would adopt such an advertising slant, but for the record, you will get a total of only about 1200 pre-defined jigsaw puzzles. As for the rest of the puzzles leading to a million, they don’t exist at all in this purchase; I guess eGames expects you to manually import your own photos and create the missing 998,800 jigsaw puzzles.
That aside, the best thing about this title is that you can take any photograph from your own digital albums and import them into the game. Or, you might just head over to those free wallpaper websites and download several wallpapers of your own to import into the game. Either way works just as well.
|Jigsaw puzzles to last you the rest of your life|
There is however one other important thing you must note. This is not just one single game release. It is actually a compilation release of several Puzzle Master games. Here are the titles you get in Puzzle Master 1,000,000:
- Puzzle Master 3 (with 200 photos)
- Puzzle Master 4 (with 250 photos)
- Puzzle Master 5 (with 550 photos)
- Puzzle Master Amusements (photos based on theme parks)
- Puzzle Master Autumn (photos based on that wonderfully dreary season)
- Puzzle Master Beach Party (photos based on beach fun)
- Puzzle Master Holiday Edition (photos based on the holiday theme)
- Puzzle Master Hotrod Edition (photos based on hot rods and muscle cars)
- Puzzle Master Spring Fling (photos based around springtime)
- Puzzle Master Variety Pack (photos with no clear theme)
The last seven titles are expansion packs of about 30 photos each. They use the Puzzle Master 4 engine. If you already own several of these, it may not be worth the money to buy this collection.
|Me and my mean machines|
Once any of these games load, you get to choose to play with a pre-defined picture or to create your own. You can import pictures having BMP, JPG, PCX, TGA, WMF, EMF, and ICO extensions. Once imported, Puzzle Master pictures will use the JSM extension across all versions of the software. You could try cross-application loading, but it is not advisable unless you are doing a backwards compatible type of load – that is to say you are using a newer version of Puzzle Master to load a picture from an older version (and not the other way round).
You can also select the Difficulty Level and Piece Size before you click on the Open button. Difficulty Level determines the number of pieces in a level with Easy, Medium, and Hard giving you about 35, 100, and 250 pieces respectively. Custom allows you to choose from 4 to 64,000 pieces. I don’t know who would want to play such a huge puzzle, but the feature is there.
|Let’s try the bougainvillea bush|
The Piece Size option allows you to scale the picture to fit your screen; Default roughly gives you a 1024 x 768 fit, while Small, Medium, and Large is suitable for pictures of about 640 x 480, 800 x 600, and up to 1600 x 1200 in size respectively. The Custom settings for piece size allows you to select from 20 to 300 percent (see screenshot above).
If you choose too large a piece size, the picture will not be able to fit into the window. Here is the game’s biggest catch – you can’t scroll the window to see the rest of the puzzle. On the contrary, if you choose too small a piece size, you will need a magnifying glass to see all. Fortunately, Puzzle Master provides you with such a facility – known as a loupe, you can use it to zoom from 2x to 5x. It’s not the most elegant of solutions, but it will have to do.
After a puzzle is generated, you can choose to create trays to dump like color pieces into them, or to pre-arrange pieces around the edge or in a grid fashion on the main window. You can also do this on any of the trays you create.
|My very own imported picture with about 5000 pieces|
More interestingly though, is that you can also opt to change the size and shape of your pieces. I have already discussed about the size settings, whereas the shape settings allow you to choose from six different styles of jigsaw pieces:
- Classic – The standard style for a jigsaw piece.
- Blip – These jigsaw pieces have straight edges and rounded tabs.
- Squares – You might prefer straight edges and no tabs; just trapezoids of all shapes and sizes.
- Stars – Similar to blips but they have pointed triangular-shaped tabs.
- Bubbles – You will get curved edges and no tabs with this choice.
- Mixture – Finally, a concoction of all previous choices awaits you with this last choice.
You could also make a piece more distorted by increasing the Oddness bar. This will give you some weird looking pieces to solve in your jigsaw puzzle.
If you can’t take the heat in solving your puzzles, there is the hint button, as well as the right way up and auto-solve entries in the main menu. You could also click on a piece and get an auto-solution for the piece as well as fetching a neighbor piece if you so desire. Clicking on an empty space of the board also nets you some other auto-solving function for that missing piece.
Most of the pictures used in the game are pretty attractive. If you look further though, they are mostly 850 x 620 in size, although there are some exceptions like 1296 x 816 (in Puzzle Master 5) and smaller ones like 332 x 500 (especially in Puzzle Master 3). The pictures are very tastefully taken and can be in either portrait or landscape style. A few of the pictures look like vector clipart. All pictures are sorted into folders containing about 10 pictures usually under one common theme. You can also do likewise for your own imported pictures by organizing it in a similar manner.
|Usage of trays and square pieces|
The music provided in the game are all MIDI pieces. However, you can also place MP3s and WAV files into the Puzzle Master folder and modify the Play List under Options->Advanced. The sounds effects are really rudimentary stuff and nothing spectacular to talk about. You could always add your own WAV files if you don’t like them.
If there is one thing I hate is that the packaging misleads you into buying the software by laying out tempting sentences like “Create and play over 1,000,000 jigsaw puzzles…”. Sure, it’s factually correct, but I feel that it is an advertising campaign of misdirection that may serve to anger some gamers who already own older versions of the game. I have seen similar comments elsewhere, so I can’t be wrong about this. eGames could at least have stated on the box the constituent parts of this compendium of Puzzle Master software included within. Anyway, I won’t be penalizing my final score just based on this alone.
|More! I want even more pieces|
The underlying Puzzle Master engine is not too bad, although I feel there are some with better features out there and that those features should have been incorporated here. The chief gripe I have with Puzzle Master is the inability to scroll the puzzle board around, which constrains the game to teeny tiny pieces if you want to solve a huge puzzle of 10,000 pieces or more.
- You can customize your puzzles with up to 64,000 pieces.
- Tons of pictures to load with the ability to import your very own. Backward compatibility is built in.
- Useful Auto-Solve function that solves everything for you in seconds. There also Hints, Find piece, Fetch piece, Show neighbor, Fetch neighbor, Show solution, and Solve piece for solving that troublesome solitary piece.
- Pick your own music (including MP3s) and sound effects to play while you solve the puzzles.
- Puzzle Master is capable of exporting a picture as a gift. Your friend receives an executable file that allows him to play only that puzzle. At the end of it all, he is tempted with a nag screen to buy Puzzle Master for himself.
- A custom-built screensaver and wallpaper options complete the package.
|Give you friends a gift (or a headache!)|
- The game does not allow you to pan the puzzle board. It is not feasible solving a 64,000 piece with this constraint (but not completely impossible since you can move the solved pieces around).
- You can’t select the piece shape from the start if you want to deviate from the default settings. You must allow the game to generate the puzzle before you access the feature.
- Similarly, you can only rotate pieces when the game has been loaded.
- There is no volume setting for the music and sound effects. You must rely on the Windows control panel.
|A clip art waiting to be solved|
I hope this review will serve to inform others of what is contained within this compendium of Puzzle Master software. If you can’t get enough of Jigsaw puzzles, then I heartily recommend this software. I have seen other versions of jigsaw puzzle games out there, but I’d say the engine featured in this is not too bad after all. If you can bear with the problems I cited, then I think this game serves as a worthy investment of your hard earned cash for hours upon hours of jigsaw puzzling fun.
|A incomplete jigsaw puzzle of me in Cambodia|