Crossword Jigsaw Puzzle [Review]

Crossword Puzzle Puzzle

Location:  at home

Date Played: June 30, 2019

Team size: we recommend 3-5

Size: 550-piece jigsaw

Price: $18

Publisher: Babalu Inc

REA Reaction

The Crossword Jigsaw Puzzle was exactly what the name suggests: a jigsaw puzzle made from a crossword grid. It played out in two distinct phases:

  • Solve the crossword puzzle
  • Assemble the jigsaw puzzle using the crossword puzzle as a guide

As a crossword, it was solid and approachable. It wasn’t too easy or particularly difficult; there wasn’t anything wrong with it.

Loose jigsaw pieces surrounding a paper crossword puzzles.
Image by Ryan Byrne.

As far as 550-piece jigsaw puzzles go, it was quite challenging. A black and white letter grid was certainly solvable, but it didn’t provide any of the color, size, and texture clues that are typically helpful in jigsaw puzzling. It also wasn’t much to look at.

The Crossword Jigsaw Puzzle was puzzling for sport. I would never break this out with my family after a holiday dinner. With a small group of dedicated puzzle people, however, we had a remarkably fun time pushing one another and inventing different techniques to increase our effectiveness.

Play this if you love puzzles for their own sake. Make sure you have the right people at the table. There is a second Crossword Jigsaw Puzzle sitting on our shelf and we will solve it.

Who is this for?

  • Crossword & jigsaw puzzlers
  • Best for groups
  • You have to love puzzles

Why play?

  • The intrigue of a mash-up of two familiar puzzle types
  • Solving works best as a group

Setup

First solve the crossword puzzle. Then you’ll have the “picture” for the jigsaw puzzle.

Jigsaw pieces scattered around a crossword puzzle.
Image by Ryan Byrne.

Gameplay

Crossword Jigsaw was a mash-up of two puzzle types: crosswords and jigsaws. Both were standard. In combination, however, Crossword Jigsaw had a high level of difficulty.

We found that this was best experienced with a group to facilitate the piece searching and keep the pace up.

Closeup of loose jigsaw puzzle pieces.
Image by Ryan Byrne.

Analysis

➕ Crossword Jigsaw combined two common puzzle types to create a puzzle that looked and felt familiar, but exhibited unique challenges.

➕ It’s rare to find a jigsaw puzzle that can actively engage 6 people. While we found it worked best as a group of 3-4 people, when we opened the box, 6 people actively participated… until dinner was ready.

A pile of jigsaw pieces beside a crossword puzzle.
Image by Ryan Byrne.

➖ Crossword Jigsaw was not approachable. We knew to start by solving the crossword puzzle and the frame of the jigsaw. Beyond that, it took some trial and error to find a technique for forward momentum.

➖ A large part of the experience was trial and error. We could narrow down by the letter on the piece or the shape of the piece, but solving was less strategic than in most jigsaw puzzles that we’ve solved to date.

➕ We played Crossword Jigsaw with friends. Jigsaw puzzles are individual experiences. Even when you solve them with friends, each person works largely independently on different sections of the whole. Crossword Jigsaw worked better as a group communication game to find the right pieces and assemble the puzzle.

❓ The image is a crossword puzzle, and not a particularly attractive or interesting one. If you’re doing this, it’s purely for love of puzzles.

Tips For Player

  • The finished jigsaw puzzle measures 24” by 18.”
  • The jigsaw has 550 pieces.
  • The same crossword can be downloaded so that the puzzle can be shared with someone else and they can enjoy the same level of challenge.
  • We recommend group solving this one.

Buy your copy of Crossword Jigsaw, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Babalu Inc provided a sample for review. 

(If you purchase via our Amazon links, you will help support Room Escape Artist as we will receive a very small percentage of the sale. We appreciate the support.)

Ravensburger – Vampire’s Castle Escape Puzzle [Review]

That last bite sucks…

Location:  at home

Team size: We recommend 1-4

Duration: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Price: $25

Publisher: Ravensburger

REA Reaction

We really wanted to love this puzzle. From a jigsaw puzzle standpoint, this was comfortably our favorite of the 4 Ravensburger Escape Puzzles.

Unfortunately, once we’d assembled the jigsaw puzzle, the “escape room” puzzles were a mess. There were multiple broken or ambiguous puzzles. While it all came together well enough in the end, the mistakes were too numerous and inexcusable for us to recommend this product.

A portion of the puzzle including a few suites of armor.

Pretty much all of the issues could be fixed in a future printing, if Ravensburger gets around to it. I hope that they do.

In the mean time, I’d recommend passing on this one unless you’re keen on doing the jigsaw or you’ve played Space Observatory, Witch’s Kitchen, and Submarine and want to complete the set.

Series Overview

This review only covers details specific to this individual Ravensburger Escape Puzzle.

For a detailed explanation of the concept, mechanics, and a general analysis of the entire product line, check out our Ravensburger Escape Puzzle Overview.

Closeup of Dracula emerging from his coffin.

Story

While vacationing in Romania, we’d decided to take a hike. Along the way we’d found an old castle; we couldn’t turn down the adventure. As we entered the castle, the door had locked behind us. We slowly realized that we weren’t alone. What could we do to survive?

A portion of the puzzle including vampire bats.

Analysis

➕ From a purely jigsaw puzzle standpoint, Vampire’s Castle was our favorite of Ravensburger’s Escape Puzzles. The image was vibrant, with a lot of color and texture variation. The design kept our momentum going from start to finish.

➕ The puzzle was filled with all sorts of cute oddities and amusing details.

The Vampires Castle Escape puzzle box.

➖ Too many of the puzzles within the puzzle were problematic. A third of the puzzles worked well. A third of the puzzles were too ambiguous for my liking… and a third of them were a total mess.

➖ There was a counting puzzle that was far too fuzzy.

➖ The puzzles that didn’t work properly were baffling, I’m really confused as to how they went to print.

➕ The final puzzle was satisfying.

BUY IT NOW

Buy your copy of Ravensburger’s Vampire’s Castle Escape Puzzles, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Ravensburger provided a sample for review.

(If you purchase via our Amazon links, you will help support Room Escape Artist as we will receive a very small percentage of the sale. We appreciate the support.)

Ravensburger – Submarine Escape Puzzle [Review]

Puzzle shark, doo doo doo doo doo doo

Location:  at home

Team size: We recommend 1-4

Duration: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Price: $25

Publisher: Ravensburger

REA Reaction

With a vibrant look, Submarine stood out aesthetically among the first wave of Ravensburger Escape Puzzles.

From a puzzle solving standpoint, this installment pretty much nailed it… except for one noteworthy issue: a puzzle that didn’t quite resolve correctly. While this didn’t break the game, if this were your first attempt at an Escape Puzzle, it would be a harsh and confounding ending.

If you’ve already enjoyed an Escape Puzzles or 2, Submarine would be fantastic. Just watch out for a bit of confusion near the conclusion and you’ll have a good time.

An assortment of unconnected jigsaw puzzle pieces.

Series Overview

This review only covers details specific to this individual Ravensburger Escape Puzzle.

For a detailed explanation of the concept and mechanics, and a general analysis of the entire product line, check out our Ravensburger Escape Puzzle Overview.

Story

While wandering the harbor in San Juan, Puerto Rico, we’d happened upon an old man and his submarine. He’d previously used the boat to explore wrecks, but he’d grown too old for sea adventures and had offered the sub to us. We’d accepted and he explained its inner workings to us… but we’d been bored by this.

As soon as we’d pulled away from the dock, something broke and we sank to the bottom of the sea. We had to figure out what to do to survive.

Portion of an assembled jigsaw puzzle featuring a shark, and fish swimming around a wreck.
Submarine

Analysis

➕ The jigsaw puzzle was vibrant. It featured great art.

➕ It was a moderately challenging, but fair assembly. There was a lot of blue, but there were also lots of fish and details to help pull everything together.

Ravensburger's Submarine Escape Puzzle box art. depicts the 759 piece count and an undersea view filled with fish and a shark.

❓ We found most of the “escape room” puzzles to be a touch easier than those in the other Escape Puzzles released in Ravensburger’s first wave.

➖ The story in the instructions featured a choppy English translation.

➖ One of the puzzle solutions was at best lacking a significant clue… but it was probably just an incorrect inversion of the numbers. This was disappointing, but it wasn’t game-breaking… especially if you’ve played other Escape Puzzles and have a sense of how they work.

Closeup of a puzzle element depicting three different types of fish.
If you’re struggling on this puzzle… you’re probably right and the game is wrong.
Broken Puzzle:

The actually correct answer to the above fish puzzle is 846.

For unclear reasons, the game reports the correct solution as 462. We stared at this thing with a few really experienced puzzlers (including 2009 US Sudoku National Champion, Tammy McLeod) and we couldn’t imagine a way to get 462. I have to believe that this was a typo.

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➕ The concluding meta-puzzle was another clever solution. Ravensburger pushed this game mechanic considerably farther than we’d expected.

BUY IT NOW

Buy your copy of Ravensburger’s Submarine Escape Puzzle, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Ravensburger provided a sample for review.

(If you purchase via our Amazon links, you will help support Room Escape Artist as we will receive a very small percentage of the sale. We appreciate the support.)

Ravensburger – Witch’s Kitchen Escape Puzzle [Review]

Cat and a hat.

Location:  at home

Team size: We recommend 1-4

Duration: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Price: $25

Publisher: Ravensburger

REA Reaction

Witch’s Kitchen Escape Puzzle was playful and colorful. It offered solid puzzle play throughout all phases of the game.

While we think that this puzzle would have benefited from a just a touch more vibrancy in its coloration, this was without a doubt our puzzle group’s favorite Escape Puzzle.

If you’re thinking about attempting a Ravensburger Escape Puzzle, Witch’s Kitchen would be an enchanting place to start.

Series Overview

This review only covers details specific to this individual Ravensburger Escape Puzzle.

For a detailed explanation of the concept and mechanics, and a general analysis of the entire product line, check out our Ravensburger Escape Puzzle Overview.

Portion of an assembled jigsaw puzzle featuring a kettle over a fire surrounded by magical ingredients and books.
Witch’s Kitchen

Story

While wandering through the woods, we’d decided to sample some of the local mushrooms, as one does. The wild mushrooms had had unexpected effects, as they often do, and we’d felt faint and stumbled into a hollow.

As we came to our senses, we’d realized that we were in the home of a witch… and if we were ever going to get out, we’d need to find the antidote for the poison shrooms.

Portion of an assembled jigsaw puzzle featuring a a witch's hat and a rat.

Analysis

➕ As a jigsaw puzzle, the image was entertaining with a lot of details to enjoy.

➖ The image was pretty brown. It felt like the box art was more vibrant than the puzzle itself.

➕ The variation between the box art and the jigsaw puzzle was fantastic. We found the differences in this puzzle more playful than in the other escape puzzles in the series.

Portion of an assembled jigsaw puzzle featuring a magical books and ingredients.

➕ The “escape room” puzzles were clear and solved cleanly.

➕ The culminating meta-puzzle was clever.

Buy it Now

Buy your copy of Ravensburger’s Witch’s Kitchen Escape Puzzle, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Ravensburger provided a sample for review.

(If you purchase via our Amazon links, you will help support Room Escape Artist as we will receive a very small percentage of the sale. We appreciate the support.)

Ravensburger – Space Observatory Escape Puzzle [Review]

The Death Star

Location:  at home

Team size: We recommend 1-4

Duration: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Price: $25

Publisher: Ravensburger

REA Reaction

Space Observatory offered a slightly more challenging jigsaw than the other Ravensburger Escape Puzzles, but concluded with a softer series of “escape room” puzzles.

If you’re more of a jigsaw puzzler, Space Observatory is the smart place to start. It worked well from beginning to end. Its meta-puzzle was a little easier to grasp than those in the other Escape Puzzles.

Whether you’re new with the series, already a fan of these, Space Observatory put on a strong show for the Ravensburger’s Escape Puzzle series.

Series Overview

This review only covers details specific to this individual Ravensburger Escape Puzzle.

For a detailed explanation of the concept and mechanics, and a general analysis of the entire product line, check out our Ravensburger Escape Puzzle Overview.

Portion of an assembled jigsaw puzzle featuring a beautiful telescope in a warm book-filled study.
Space Observatory

Story

While exploring an observatory, we’d happened upon a letter from a professor warning us of an impending cataclysm. The professor had build a device capable of saving the world, but couldn’t activate it. It was up to us to save the world.

Portion of an assembled jigsaw puzzle featuring a map of the planets.

Analysis

➕ When it all came together, the jigsaw puzzle’s art was delightful.

❓ While we were assembling the jigsaw puzzle, a whole lot of it felt really similar… especially the many shelved books. Whether this is wonderful or annoying really comes down to personal preference.

➕ One of the “escape room” puzzles featured a really clever twist that was a bit confounding for more experienced puzzlers.

Portion of an assembled jigsaw puzzle featuring a microscope and a quill pen.

❓ The concluding meta-puzzle was considerably easier than those in the other 3 Escape Puzzles. This would be great if Space Observatory was your first Escape Puzzle… and may be less interesting if it was your fourth.

Buy Now

Buy your copy of Ravensburger’s Space Observatory Escape Puzzle, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Ravensburger provided a sample for review.

(If you purchase via our Amazon links, you will help support Room Escape Artist as we will receive a very small percentage of the sale. We appreciate the support.)

Ravensburger – Escape Puzzle [Overview]

Jigsaw puzzle mixed with a tabletop escape game.

Location:  at home

Team size: We recommend 1-4

Duration: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Price: $25

Publisher: Ravensburger

REA Reaction

We really liked this series of puzzle hybrids: famed jigsaw puzzle producer Ravensburger applied an escape room-esque twist to their core product.

The cover of Ravensburger Escape Puzzle, Witch's Kitchen.

We enjoyed ourselves so much that we solved 3 of them while our friend, the wonderfully talented puzzler Tammy McLeod, spent a weekend visiting us.

In the first wave, Ravensburger has released 4 separate Escape Puzzles, each containing 759 puzzle pieces and incorporating 6 or 8 puzzles within the assembled image.

We love jigsaw puzzles. The Escape Puzzle twist was delightful because it added more purpose behind the assembling of a jigsaw puzzle.

An opened jigsaw puzzle box filled with pieces.

Not all of these puzzles were created equal. Some had more interesting art; others had better puzzles. We will discuss each in an individual review.

If this concept sounds like fun, begin with Witch’s Kitchen or Space Observatory for reasons that will become more clear in subsequent reviews.

Series Installments

Presented in order from our favorite to least favorite:

Portion of an assembled jigsaw puzzle featuring a kettle over a fire surrounded by magical ingredients and books.
Witch’s Kitchen

Who is this for?

  • Jigsaw puzzlers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • They are good jigsaw puzzles
  • The added twist of an additional system of puzzles
  • The meta-puzzles

Setup & Gameplay

We’re going to publish short reviews of each puzzle in the series. For the sake of simplicity and repetition reduction, we’re covering the basics in this overview.

Portion of an assembled jigsaw puzzle featuring a beautiful telescope in a warm book-filled study.
Space Observatory

While the individual Ravensburger Escape Puzzles each offered a unique picture and puzzle set, they all followed the same structure:

1. Jigsaw Assembly

We began by assembling the 759-piece jigsaw puzzle. This progressed normally with only two deviations from traditional jigsaw puzzles:

First, we had to remove the extraneous rectangular pieces. These appeared to be a byproduct of Ravensburger’s production process. They were a minor annoyance.

A pile of junk rectangular pieces.
Not part of the puzzle… but included anyway.

Second, the edge of the Escape Puzzles was a bit strange. There were only 3 piece shapes and any of the pieces could interconnect with any other. Edge assembly relied completely upon the pieces’ colors, patterns, and textures.

Mismatched, but connected edge pieces.
All edges connect.

Additionally, many of the edge pieces had 2, 3, or 4 digit numbers printed on them. These became relevant later.

Edge pieces with numbers printed on them.

2. Puzzles Within the Puzzle

After assembling the jigsaw puzzle, we identified and solved the 6 or 8 puzzles within it. Some puzzles were obvious; some were more concealed. They were all embedded within the jigsaw puzzle image.

Each puzzle resolved to a number. Once we derived a correct answer, we’d find the piece with the corresponding number printed on it around the edge of the jigsaw puzzle. Then we removed that piece.

If we got stuck, we could reference a hint website for help. The hints were tiered, but usually only had two tiers.

3. The Meta-Puzzle

Each escape puzzle concluded with a meta-puzzle, or a puzzle made from the solutions of other puzzles.

We had to take our collection of numbered edge pieces from the previous step and determine what to do with them. I won’t say anything else about this, but it was our favorite part of these puzzles.

Portion of an assembled jigsaw puzzle featuring a shark, and fish swimming around a wreck.
Submarine

Analysis

➕ The “escape room” puzzles at the end were a delightful addition to the traditional jigsaw puzzle. It was exciting to finish the jigsaw and then receive an entirely new challenge to cap things off. This game component was a welcome dynamic.

➕ Ravensburger makes high quality jigsaw puzzles that are printed well and fit snugly. They also have a beautiful blue backing that doesn’t add much from a functional standpoint, but looks more elegant than the traditional grey or brown backings that are common on most cardboard jigsaw puzzles.

➕ 759 pieces was a good piece count. It was serious enough to present a challenge without being so large that we were reluctant to dive in.

➕ Ravensburger cleverly included differences between the box art and the puzzle art. These changes were part of the environment itself and felt logically grounded. They also ensured that we couldn’t solve the puzzles without first solving the jigsaw puzzle.

Portion of an assembled jigsaw puzzle featuring suits of armor, and a burning candle.
Vampire’s Castle

➕ Ravensburger puzzles don’t have a crazy amount of puzzle dust. There’s still dust, but we’ve seen so much worse.

➖ Each Escape Puzzle’s box contained numerous square frame pieces that had nothing to do with the puzzle itself. They were garbage. These appeared to be an artifact of the production process. While it was not a big problem, it was a bit annoying to have to sift these junk pieces out of the box.

➕ Each Escape Puzzle had its own quirky story to set up the “escape.” The story was relevant to the final meta puzzle.

➕/➖ The “escape” puzzles were static print puzzles, akin to the kind of thing that one might find shared on social media or within a puzzle book. For the most part, these were executed well (detailed, non-spoiler analysis to follow in the individual puzzle reviews). While there is a limit to how much a designer can achieve with this format, Ravensburger did more with this structure than we were expecting.

❓ Some of these puzzles got a bit math-y. It never involved anything beyond basic computation, but I know that there are some escape room players who are allergic to mathematics in any form.

➕/➖ The web-based hint system was adequate. It did a great job of highlighting the individual puzzles… and an ok job of providing granular, incremental hints. This system could benefit from the inclusion of more dropdown menus to allow the player to better control the flow of hints.

❓ The edge pieces were unusual in that they all fit into one another. This made the edge considerably more difficult to assemble. It was completely doable, but required a lot more attention to detail and effort. For some, it may be easier to start from the middle.

➖The puzzles within the image all solved to a number that we’d find printed on an edge piece. This meant we could get most of the way to an answer and hack our way to the proper solution based on the available numbers.

❓We spent considerably more time solving the jigsaw puzzles than solving the “escape room” puzzles.

➕ Some of the numbered edge pieces ultimately culminated in a final meta-puzzle… and this mechanic was really cool. Ravensburger used it in clever ways in all instances. It was a delightful way to conclude the experience.

Tips For Player

  • Space Requirements: You’ll need a flat surface. The puzzles all measure 27 x 20 inches (70 x 50 cm).
  • Required Gear: None. We like to assemble our puzzles on a large piece of foam core in case we have to move them.

Buy Them now:

Disclosure: Ravensburger provided a sample for review.

(If you purchase via our Amazon links, you will help support Room Escape Artist as we will receive a very small percentage of the sale. We appreciate the support.)

Zen Puzzles – Great Horned Owl [Review]

A jigsaw puzzle with a strange puzzley twist.

Location:  at home

Date Played: January 8, 2019

Team size: we recommend 1-4

Piece Count: 297 pieces

Price: $95 (prices vary based on size)

Publisher: Zen Art & Design

REA Reaction

Zen Puzzles’ Great Horned Owl was a beast of a ~300 piece puzzle. With an almost monochromatic aesthetic, a clever but cruel puzzle within the puzzle, and many similar looking pieces that fit together, but didn’t go together… this was far more challenging than I was prepared for when I opened the box on a whim.

The assembled puzzle with a fierce looking owl face.

I’m glad that I gave it a shot. It offered something unique. Once I realized what the puzzle was and adjusted my mindset, I came to enjoy the experience.

This is a pricey puzzle that would make for a great gift for the serious jigsaw puzzler in your life. It was small, but it put up a fight.

Who is this for?

  • Jigsaw puzzlers who want to see something strange

Why play?

  • Challenging
  • Cruel but clever twist

Story

This laser cut wooden puzzle featured a great horned owl. It included whimsy pieces in the shape of owls and critters that owls eat.

Closeup of an owl whimsy piece set within the assembled puzzle.

Gameplay

At first glance, Zen Puzzles’ Great Horned Owl seemed like a fairly typical jigsaw puzzle. It quickly revealed a couple of layers of complexity.

Analysis

➕ Zen Puzzles added a crazy dynamic to the Great Horned Owl puzzle that I’ve never seen before. I was a bit bewildered for a few minutes while solving this puzzle. That’s a feeling that I cannot recall a jigsaw puzzle inspiring in me before.

Spoiler - The Surprise Twist

Closeup of an image showing the presence of internal edge and corner pieces.
This thing has multiple internal edge and corner pieces.
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➖ There wasn’t enough shape variation among the pieces. Entirely too many bits with similar patterns fit snugly together.

Closeup of of a piece that fits but is incorrect.

➕ The whimsy pieces were funny and helpful. If they hadn’t been there, I wouldn’t have enjoyed solving this puzzle.

➖ Great Horned Owl wasn’t a visually exciting puzzle, even though the image itself was quite nice when complete.

Tips For Player

  • Space requirements: a small table
  • Be careful when assembling pieces; many incorrect pieces kind of fit together
  • This puzzle was deceptively challenging and will likely take longer than most ~300 piece puzzles.

Buy your copy of Zen Art & Design’s Great Horned Owl, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Thank you Amanda Harris & Drew Nelson for loaning us this puzzle.

Nervous System – Radial Puzzle [Review]

A snowflake.

Location:  at home

Date Played: November 24, 2018

Team size: we recommend 1-3

Piece Count: ~80

Price: $65

Publisher: Nervous System

REA Reaction

Nervous System’s Radial Puzzle was a fairly quick solve at 80 pieces. The unusual piece shape, however, made for an interesting puzzle.

The colorful, circular, assembled puzzle.

Each Nervous System puzzle is programmatically generated and laser cut, meaning that each is unique.

It’s a lovely gift for a jigsaw puzzler, but at $65 for less than an hour of puzzling, it’s probably not an everyday purchase.

Who is this for?

  • Jigsaw puzzlers looking for something a little different
  • Laser cutter fans

Why play?

  • It’s beautiful
  • It’s strange
  • It’s a quick yet satisfying solve

Story

The Radial Puzzle was a generatively created jigsaw puzzle “based the simulation of dendritic solidification, a crystal growth process similar to the formation of snowflakes that occurs in supercooled solutions of certain metallic alloys.”

Additionally, this colorful puzzle featured whimsy pieces that were inspired by microscopic lifeforms.

The entire puzzle inverted showing the unusual cut pattern.

Gameplay

Nervous System’s Radial Puzzle was a small but unusual jigsaw puzzle with a higher degree of difficulty when compared to other similarly sized puzzles.

An assortment of pieces, with two whimsy pieces flipped. One is signed by the artist, the other is marked with the Nervous System brand.

Analysis

➕ Radial Puzzle, like everything we’ve seen from Nervous System, was a work of art.

➕ The strange, organic-looking pieces required a mindset shift when it came to puzzling approach. I enjoyed working with pieces that had so many little variables.

➖ The many tendrils of each individual piece were fragile and required more care than most puzzles.

❓ I enjoyed a quick an interesting solve… and part of me even preferred a quick challenge. If you’re looking at value specifically as a function of time / money, however, then you’ll likely find the Radial Puzzle wanting.

Tips For Player

  • Space Requirements: A small table
  • Be gentle with the pieces; the tendrils can be fragile
  • It’s not a difficult puzzle, but it will require far more effort than your average 80-piece puzzle

Buy your copy of Nervous System’s Radial Puzzle, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Thank you to Amanda Harris & Drew Nelson for loaning this puzzle to us.

Nervous System – Geode Puzzle [Review]

As difficult as it is pretty.

Location: at home

Date Played: April 6, 2018

Team size: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯; we recommend 1-2

Price: $60 per puzzle

REA Reaction

Geode Puzzles by Nervous System are beautiful, intricate, and remarkably challenging for compact, approximately 180-piece jigsaw puzzles.

If you love jigsaw puzzles and don’t balk at the price, I highly recommend putting one of these on your table.

Geode puzzle mostly assembled.

Who is this for?

  • Experienced jigsaw puzzlers
  • People who like beautiful, well-created things

Why play?

  • Beautiful and challenging design
  • Incredibly intricate laser cut wooden pieces
  • Impressively challenging for its size

Setup

Nervous System’s Geode Puzzles are programmatically generated, laser cut wooden jigsaw puzzles made with quarter-inch birch plywood.

Nearly all of the pieces have thin, asymmetrical tendrils that interlock in wildly unpredictable patterns.

The backs of 7 geode puzzle piece with long tendrils.

Nervous System offers 23 different styles, each with a different color pattern and shape. They all have irregular edges.

Because these puzzles are programmatically generated, there is no definitive piece count, so they are all “about 180 pieces.” The pieces came together in a compact 8.5 inch puzzle.

Geode puzzle fully assembled.

Analysis

+ I love odd jigsaw puzzles with unusual pieces. These thin tendril-like pieces were incredible. They dramatically amplified the difficulty.

+ The unusual shape of the puzzle added a good challenge.

– While none of my pieces broke, I am confident that it would be easy to accidentally snap limbs off of the puzzle pieces. I wouldn’t give this to brutes or children.

? Nervous System’s website offers an ever-changing selection of variants on the Geode puzzle. I have no idea if the fact that they are computer generated and unique offers any tangible benefit to the puzzler.

– While each one is unique. A palette swap or minor shape variation won’t be enough to bring me back to this particular product line.

+ While solving this Geode Puzzle felt like a worthy challenge, it wasn’t a massive commitment. It required less than 2 hours of my time. There weren’t thousands of pieces for me to flip, collate, and manage.

Tips for Playing

  • Be gentle with the pieces. If they don’t fit, wiggle things gently. If that doesn’t work, try a different piece.
  • You don’t need a lot of space or time, but Geode Puzzles are more difficult than you’d expect, given the size of the puzzles.

Buy your copy of Nervous System’s Geode Puzzle, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Thank you to Amanda Harris and Drew Nelson for lending us their Geode Puzzle.

 

New York Puzzle Company – New Yorker Coffee Break [Puzzle Review]

Pour over the details.

Manufacturer: New York Puzzle Company

Puzzle Type: Jigsaw Puzzle

Price: $19.95

Puzzle Overview

Coffee Break is a 500 piece jigsaw from the New York Puzzle Company’s New Yorker line. This is an entire collection of beautiful New Yorker magazine covers, not just the illustration, but the entire cover (date, price, and magazine name).

This particular puzzle is an intricate satire of complex modern coffee brewing trends illustrated by Christoph Niemann and originally published on November 16, 2015.

Puzzle close up shows an intriacte series of pipes, and Neimann's signature.

Materials & pieces

New York Puzzle Company puzzle pieces are a thick, durable cardboard. The pieces interlock well. For the most part, it’s clear when pieces do and do not go together.

Additionally, the cardboard is 100% recycled and the inks are soy-based.

An assortment of 6 puzzle pieces flipped over so that the viewer focuses on their irregular shape.

The pieces themselves are fairly irregular, making this a less predictable puzzle to assemble.

Why this puzzle?

Having recently watched the Netflix series Abstract: The Art of Design, I was pretty enthralled with Niemann’s episode (S1E1).

I loved the idea of having to puzzle through an almost entirely black and white jigsaw puzzle.

Should I buy the New York Puzzle Company’s Coffee Break?

Niemann’s Coffee Break illustration is incredibly intricate. Jigsaw puzzling through this image was both a beautiful and challenging experience.

Piecing this image together required me to visually interrogate every little intricacy of the illustration. By the time I was finished, I had gotten to know every reference and joke in the image.

It was challenging and occasionally frustrating because it’s essentially a black and white puzzle loaded with false leads and rapidly changing patterns. As soon as I had a handle on one section of the puzzle, it was finished… and suddenly there was a new section to learn. As a result, this took me about double the time that a 500-piece puzzle usually requires.

In the end, Coffee Break was a fun, yet fair challenge. It’s a wonderful illustration to spend some time exploring.

Buy Coffee Break today.

(If you purchase via our Amazon links, you will help support Room Escape Artist as we will receive a very small percentage of the sale).