I’ll let you know straight away that Puzzle Arcade is not something the average gamer will just pick up and enjoy. You’re going to have to like puzzles and I mean really like puzzles. Perhaps even love puzzles to such a degree that paying 800 MS Points to put together a puzzle on your console seems totally worth it.
Maybe I am being cruel because when you really look at Puzzle Arcade the presentation is actually very slick. The menus are quick, smooth and stylish and everything feels clean and upbeat. There are a large variety of Puzzles to choose from and you can quickly scroll through them in categories as well as download new puzzle packs and use your Xbox Live Vision Camera to take a photo.
There are a variety of puzzle building modes to choose from that range from the simple art of just putting together a puzzle, building a puzzle that changes or even going through levels of a puzzle. There is even a challenge mode where the pieces are being flipped around making it harder to see what piece goes where. None of these modes really change the fact that you are doing the same thing each time, nor really give you any exciting pace to work from.
One of my main gripes with Puzzle Arcade is the fact that if you are using classic mode the pieces are everywhere and you would have to constantly move around your main puzzle to get it all together. You also have to be very precise in sticking pieces together and sometimes I’ve had the piece in the right place but it not ‘clicking-in’ until you keep fiddling around. Then when you decide to change it up and go for turbo mode which takes all the pieces and pops them to the side, giving you a new piece automatically, which feels quicker and cleaner but also end up spelling everything out for you and removes any challenge as the full puzzle is displayed slightly transparent in the background so you don’t really have to think about what piece goes where.
The other problem is that as soon as you start building large scale puzzles that are over 500 pieces, you have to constantly zoom in and out to certain areas to fit it in properly. While this is not as frustrating in classic mode, Turbo mode creates a huge problem due to the fact the slightly transparent puzzle is not transparent enough to tell the difference between the hint puzzle and then one your building. I honestly got confused with many pieces believing I had already put them down when in fact it’s just the background playing tricks on me.
Getting into a multiplayer match was the toughest challenge, no one seems to be interested in the multiplayer aspect of Puzzle Arcade so I had to grab another controller and play offline. The co-op classic mode was just classic mode with 2 cursors, I could see it becoming frustrating if you are both going for the same piece and seeing that the cursors move so slowly there is no real chance of speed puzzle building.
The game does well with offering such as changing the shape of the puzzle pieces, how many pieces in a puzzle and even saving a puzzle midway to play later on. There is even a trophy cabinet to keep all of your achievements, while pointless it is at least a nice visual display each time you unlock a new achievement.
Sadly nothing changes the fact that Puzzle Arcade falls short for the simple fact that the hand on experience of building a puzzle is completely removed from the game. Using a controller does not feel comfortable at all and that the whole process is laborious and slow. There is no gratifying accomplishment for completing the puzzles and sadly nothing that keeps you going back for more.