My favorite toy as a 7 year old was a slider puzzle. One of those 4×4 grid things made of plastic, and I played it until I wore off the images printed on the tiles. My grandmother would buy me a new one of them every once in a while and I had quite the collection of the stuff. At 7, I could solve a new 4 x 4 slider puzzle in around 30 seconds. Eventually, the grown-ups bought me bigger ones. Eventually, I developed a puzzler’s intuition – at a glance I could tell exactly which part of an image the tile came from.

Now, before I go on, I must mention that I find jigsaw puzzles fun. When I was pregnant with Curtis, I spent some days (when I was just too big to move around) doing jigsaws. I could finish a 1000 piece puzzle in less than 4 hours.

The above history makes me feel that I might not be the best person to review Zoombook. After reading the reactions of some gamers on the gameboomer forums, and having tried the game, I can say that my gameplay experience is probably atypical. I’ll try to concentrate on the parts that wouldn’t require a jigsaw maverick, so to speak.

First thing first: Zoombook – The Temple of the Sun (ZB-TTOS) is a beautiful game. All the panels that you would be playing are hand-drawn especially for this game. Other jigsaw and tile swapping games uses stock images, photographs, or modified art. The issue with that is, of course, that most of these images aren’t meant for puzzling. Some parts of the images might contain too much detail and hence be too easy; some parts would have no detail at all and practically indistinguishable from another part of the image. Not so for ZB-TTOS – each of the panels are designed to be full of life and detail as well as being richly colored. There’s usually no mistake in which part of an image the puzzle came from.

The core gameplay is very simple. Zoombook is a jigsaw puzzle game at heart, without a reference image. There are 4 images (levels) to each chapter, and at the beginning of each level you’ll be presented with a whole image. Once you click on play, it is sliced into grids and scrambled in steps. As you progress later on the chapters, the images get sliced more and scrambled more – the difficulty is progressive.

There are 5 modes to the game that are unlocked as you progress in Story mode. There is the original “Story” mode where there is no real pressure – there is no loss condition, since all you have to progress in the game is to finish the panel. You can make as many mistakes as you like and take as long as you want; you may lose points, but there is no “game over” condition in Story mode.

Puzzle mode is my favorite one. You are allowed a certain number of moves to finish off the puzzle, but no time constraints. Sometimes you simply cannot finish a puzzle unless you remembered how it was scrambled. Then there is timed mode, which adds a timer to the top right, and chaos mode, which adds a “chaos” meter. In Chaos mode, the image will keep splitting and scrambling as you play, so both speed and accuracy is paramount. Lastly, there is a “Gauntlet” mode where you can access all of the images. They are color coded to each of the 3 modes, and you can keep playing the same images as it gets higher and higher in difficulty.

There are a number of power-ups that allows you to stop the clock, stop a piece from moving, swap a piece automatically, etc, but they are pretty self-explanatory. There are also 3 difficulty settings ranging from EASY to HARD. These settings don’t affect how many tiles are in a puzzle, however, just how “scrambled” it gets.

ZB-TTOS doesn’t save mid-level, which is a shame in the later levels as it takes progressively longer to solve each puzzle. However, the earlier puzzles (up until 77 or so) shouldn’t take more than a couple of minutes each on the Normal difficulty setting. It also doesn’t save after every puzzle, which is unreasonable – the last 10 puzzles could take 5-6 minutes each, and I’d rather not have to do one over simply because the game saves every chapter, not every level.

Zoombook – The Temple of the Sun is worth the admission price for a well-written, adventure game worthy story and gorgeous hand-drawn illustrations. The varied puzzle modes are just icing on the cake, that should satisfy even the most skilled of puzzlers, and Story mode easy enough for those who aren’t. Even if you’re not a jigsaw puzzle fan, this might be worth picking up if you’re into a good Indiana Jones style story.

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