Indie Quickie: Pixel Puzzles 2: Birds

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PixelPuzzles2_Birds_1

What is it? The latest installment in the Pixel Puzzles series of video game jigsaw puzzles which includes previous releases Pixel Puzzles: Japan and Pixel Puzzles: UndeadZ.

Who made it and where can you get it? Decaying Logic put all the pieces to this jigsaw game together with publisher backing from KISS ltd. It’s available for Windows PC on Steam starting today for $9.99, plus a 10% discount until February 27th.

How much did we play? Close to three hours, enough to fully complete 7 puzzles and get the border pieces sorted on a couple others. The puzzle selection menu shows a total of 25 puzzles (sizes range from 60 pieces to as high as 350), up from the 19 puzzles offered in the two previous Pixel Puzzles games. More puzzles is good!

Any technical concerns, hardware requirements or other details you should know about? No bugs or anything like that, but like the previous titles the game could benefit from custom resolution settings and a better windowed mode.

Poor little guy!

Poor little guy!

Why should you play it?

    • 2 Makes All the Difference: I’m not sure if you noticed it or not, but this Pixel Puzzles games has a 2 in its title, and there’s a reason for that. While a lot of the core functionality remains the same, a number of tweaks have been made to improve the UI and bring the gameplay closer in line with putting a real jigsaw puzzle together. The most important update is the much-requested addition of auto saving. Now when you quit a puzzle that isn’t finished, progress is preserved so you can pick up right where you left off. Saves are kept for each individual puzzle as well, which means if you’re having a hard time with one puzzle you can switch around and start on others while maintaining progress across multiple puzzles. Another notable improvement is the new rotate function. Instead of having pieces that are already in the proper orientation as soon as they are picked up, you now have to grab pieces and right click to rotate them around until you spot how they fit into the scene. This makes solving the puzzles more challenging, which also means you can expect to squeeze more playtime out of the experience since more involving puzzles naturally take longer to figure out.

    Additionally, the interface has been expanded to include a tray area which can be opened and closed along the bottom of the screen to help with storing and sorting pieces, depending on your jigsaw method. Personally, once I get the border complete, I tend to sort pieces by like color or that belong to a specific quadrant of the image. Having the tray helps with this a great deal, as opposed to the previous games in which any unused piece had to be returned to float in perpetual motion in the selection moat. And speaking of the moat, its territory has grown to surround all fours sides of the puzzle board, effectively reducing clutter and making it so that there are far fewer inconsistencies when it comes to clicking the correct piece. Previously pieces crowded on top of one another to the point selecting the one you wanted was a bit finicky. Problem solved!

    • You’ve Got Crabs: Like Japan and UndeadZ, Birds has a unique power-up gimmick to liven up traditional jigsaw puzzling with a gamey twist. Here, little crabs spawn on the puzzle board as pieces are moved around and placed, and by grabbing and dropping them into a cage on the right side of the screen, you can build up towards various hint powers. 5 crabs allows you to briefly display an overlaying ghost image of the completed puzzle. 10 crabs automatically rotates the current piece into the proper orientation to fit the puzzle. And 20 crabs outright tells you exactly where a piece goes on the board. Some players may find the moving crabs a bit distracting, so it probably would be a good idea for the developers to patch in an option to toggle them off for those who would prefer to solve puzzles without power-ups or dancing crustaceans. But they didn’t get in my way, and I liked having a hint in reserve if I was having a difficult time getting a start on a particular section of a puzzle without a lot of color or pattern variation.

    • Fowl Imagery: Look, birds! Yes, as the title explicitly states, this is a jigsaw game consisting entirely of bird images. Beautiful red-breasted birds in full flight or perched on a fence post. A flock of birds huddled together on a rock getting crashed and splashed by waves. And, of course, lots of pictures of penguins frolicking on the shore and doing other cute penguin things. The images are quite lovely. Well, except for one picture showing a bird of prey standing over the corpse of penguin that just had its eye and a nasty gash pecked out of its face and neck. That one’s kind of gruesome and seems like it belongs more in the UndeadZ version than what is otherwise a peaceful celebration of the avian kingdom. Even the pieces tie in with the bird theme, as instead of typical jigsaw shaping the pieces are cut with edges in the shape of bird heads, beaks, talons, and feathers. To complete the theme, the sounds of water and birds chirping play quietly in the background to create a relaxing, zen-like atmosphere. Or you can mute the volume and play tunes from your personal music collection. Whatever puts you in the proper jigsaw state of mind.

Parting Thoughts: Pixel Puzzles 2 reinforces and expands upon the foundation established by the previous Pixel Puzzles games in all the right places. However, a few little details do still need to be addressed, and fortunately they are minor enough that I don’t think it would take a huge effort to correct. For example, there are these little UI icons floating in the puzzle moat which can be clicked to do things like shuffle the pieces, change the board color, or zoom in the camera. But since these functions all have hotkeys it only seems logical that there should be an option to toggle these icons off so they aren’t blocking the view of puzzle pieces that float underneath them. For me, having memorized the hotkeys, the buttons are superfluous and just cause unwanted clutter. It’d also be nice to have an option to turn the table background a flat surface with no pattern. Even after cycling through various color options, the rocky textured board currently in place occasionally disrupts visibility to the point where distinguishing piece connections can be difficult. I’d prefer the choice to play on a plain white (or really any flat color) board. Again, these aren’t critical flaws, but having them ironed out certainly would make for a cleaner, smoother experience. Overall, I love pretty much everything developer Decaying Logic has done to update its jigsaw puzzle engine and look forward to seeing what the next Pixel Puzzles 2 theme will be. It sure is refreshing to see that at least one developer is committed to the jigsaw cause, because if you ask me the world needs more jigsaw puzzle games.

Disclosure: A free Steam key for Pixel Puzzles 2: Birds was provided to VGBlogger.com by the game’s publisher.

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!