Pros: Software is easy to use. Very good quality. Interesting
Cons: Not quite worth the effort.
Ji_Ga_Zo is a new puzzle idea from Hasbro.
Unlike other puzzles, this one does not come with a picture. It comes with software that creates the puzzle picture from a photograph that you provide. The idea was interesting enough that the Ji_Ga_Zo puzzle won a prize for best toy idea of the year. Not all "best of" winners prove out in practice. This new puzzle idea may not quite live up to the prize.
The puzzle comes packaged with a software installation disk, brief instructions that are easy to follow, a puzzle grid upon which you build the puzzle, and 300 puzzle pieces with different shading on each piece, and a matching coded image on the back side of each piece that helps you build the puzzle.
The software is relatively easy to install. The software requires the installation of a software product from Adobe called AIR. The installation of this software hung for some reason and I had to cancel the installation. I uninstalled the AIR software and tried again. The installation was then successful despite one small error.
The software is very easy to use and behaved flawlessly. There are preloaded puzzles of common images that can be used to create your first puzzle. But the real fun is in creating your own. Once you select to create a new Ji_Ga_Zo puzzle, you must load a photograph into the software. Once you select and load the picture of your choice, you can zoom into the portion of the picture that you want to create a puzzle from. Once selected, you give the new puzzle a name and select Create to make a new puzzle. As you watch, the software arranges the shaded puzzle pieces to match the photograph and displays the back side of the pieces that are used to construct the puzzle. The software is rather clever in how it does this. The strategy behind putting together the puzzle is no less clever.
The graphics on the back side of each piece are coded in four colors and the graphic images are grouped into obvious categories. For example, there are images of tools, insects, vehicles, etc. The clever design of this coding technique is very helpful in constructing the puzzle. When the software renders the puzzle, it does not display the final image. The software displays the back side of the puzzle pieces that comprise the puzzle. The image of the back side of the puzzle is to be printed out and used to construct the puzzle. This is where this puzzle idea diverts from other puzzles.
The pieces of a conventional puzzle are matched up with the image on the box when the puzzle is constructed. The Ji_Ga_Zo puzzle is constructed by matching the code on each puzzle piece with the corresponding code on the diagram created by the software. The puzzle piece is then placed right side up on the matching coordinate on the puzzle grid. This technical approach to building the puzzle removes the enjoyment that is typically found in building a puzzle from a picture. And the final result is not quite worth the effort.
The completed puzzle is a mosaic of shadings that resemble the original photograph if seen from a few feet away. Interesting, but not something you would frame and hang on a wall. The software must use each of the 300 puzzle pieces to form the image. If the photograph is too dark, or too light, the software cannot cope and the image is either too dark or too light and vague. If there were more puzzle pieces to choose from, the software could select as many dark or light pieces it needed. The photographs selected for the puzzle must contain an even match of dark and light areas. I found that photographs of faces are rendered more successfully. This is probably because people naturally see faces in vague images.
I found this game on sale for less than 20% of its retail price. I suspect it was not very successful due to the issues I described. The game might be improved if there were more puzzle pieces and the pieces were in color. An option to print the resulting puzzle image directly without building the puzzle might have been a good option. It might be more fun to build the puzzle from a printed image, rather than from the coded grid. I discovered that the images used to construct the encoded image can be replaced with other images of your choosing. The results are somewhat entertaining, but not quite worth the price of admission, or the work involved to do it.
The game might not be a success, but I give Hasbro high marks for a well executed idea.