A Mixed Bag
Location: at home
Date Played: June 14, 2020
Team size: we recommend 1-3
Size: two 500-piece 13 x 10 inch puzzles
Price: about $15
This puzzle packed two gimmicks into one box.
Even as an avid jigsaw puzzler, the prospect of 2 different 500-piece puzzles mixed into the same box was a bit intimidating. As it turned out, that worked a lot better than I’d expected. In fact, this was easier to assemble than most of the 750 – 1000 piece puzzles that I’ve solved. The clever trick here was the different depths of field in each image.
As an added twist, the story booklet set up a mystery that we could solve using the evidence we observed in the puzzle pictures.
So, how did this all come together? Well… it was a mixed bag.
The jigsaw puzzles were fine, even if the puzzle pictures were inelegant. (The box art was way more interesting.)
As a mystery game… it was also fine. The mystery was solvable, although some clues were a bit hard to read on account of the image quality.
The biggest stumble in A is for Arson was the narrative, which substituted cultural and ethnic stereotypes in place of actual character development.
A is for Arson was conceptually brilliant; I wish that it had stronger execution.
Who is this for?
- Jigsaw puzzlers
- The unusual design of 2 different 500-piece puzzles mixed into 1 box
- The additional story/ mystery content
Investigators had been summoned to the charred ruins of a local Indian restaurant to investigate the origins of the suspicious fire.
It turned out that there were quite a few people with a motive for torching the place.
We cracked open the puzzle box and read a few pages of story. It was written in a noir-ish detective story tone, establishing the investigators as well as the suspects and their potential movies.
From there, we assembled the 1000 pieces into 2 different 500 piece puzzles.
Once assembled, we considered the clues we found in the puzzle pictures alongside the plot to suss out the guilty party.
Mystery Jigsaw Puzzle Game: A is for Arson was a hybrid jigsaw puzzle and murder mystery. Given the 1000 pieces in the box, it had a low level of difficulty, but considering that the high piece count, it certainly wasn’t a cakewalk.
Core gameplay revolved around jigsaw puzzling, observing, and making connections.
➕ It’s unusual to see 2 separate 500-piece puzzles mixed together in one box. At first, this seemed daunting, but it turned out to be approachable and fun. The images of each puzzle had a different depth of field, which worked really well.
➕/➖ Looking at this product purely as a jigsaw puzzle, there were some ups and downs. There wasn’t much puzzle dust in the bag, and the piece variety was solid. However, these pieces didn’t stick together all that well. They lacked the snap-and-stay that I prefer in jigsaw puzzles.
➖ The images weren’t aesthetically pleasing. In fact, the box art (which differs from the puzzle) was more interesting. The puzzle pictures felt too fake and Photoshopped for my liking.
➖ The images were barely clear enough to read. The poor photo quality detracted from the experience of both the jigsaw and the mystery.
➕ The added layer of solving, upon completion of the jigsaw, gave the experience added depth. We liked having this reason to thoughtfully consider the image.
➖ The story was long and the writing wasn’t engaging. Furthermore, the story leaned into some cultural stereotypes that felt dated at best.
❓ One puzzle is landscape and one is portrait. For some reason, this really irked us. Others probably won’t care.
Tips For Players
- Space Requirements: a small table
- Read the story first and then solve the jigsaw. That way you can try to solve the mystery as the images come together.
- You’ll need to forgive the writing to enjoy the full experience.
Buy your copy of Mystery Jigsaw Puzzle Game: A is for Arson, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.
Disclosure: TDC Games provided a sample for review.
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