HomeReviews2.5/5 ReviewAlice in Wonderland - A Jigsaw Puzzle Tale Review

Alice in Wonderland – A Jigsaw Puzzle Tale Review


Making jigsaw puzzles for a game controller should be easy. We live in a world where Microsoft Flight Simulator exists, after all. We can emulate the controls of a Boeing 747, but capturing the fiddly joys of a jigsaw while holding a pad seems to be outside of gaming’s sphere. Honestly, is there a game that does it well? We’d love to know about it. 

Hatsune Miku absolutely nailed Picross with Hatsune Miku Logic Paint S, and then turned their hand to jigsaws and stumbled. If they can’t do it, can Alice in Wonderland – A Jigsaw Puzzle Tale manage it? We threw down the gauntlet (where it will presumably shatter into 100 pieces): we didn’t think Alice in Wonderland – A Jigsaw Puzzle Tale could do it.

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Alice in Wonderland – A Jigsaw Puzzle Tale certainly looks top tier. Someone has clearly looked at the artwork of Katia Numakura and thought ‘this is too good to leave in a frame’, so they built a jigsaw puzzle game around it. They’re right, of course, because her dreamlike paintings of a chibi Alice in Wonderland are definitely eye-candy. There’s a wild-eyed wonder to Alice, and Lewis Carroll’s books have always adapted well to multiple art styles, since it’s so open to the imagination. What Katia Numakura has produced here is also well suited to jigsaws, as blooms of colour burst out of different corners of the picture, making the pieces easy to sort into themes.

There’s an amber flag upon opening the menu. There are twelve pictures in total, which is on the lower side. Ravensburger fans would probably point to the £4.19 price tag and say, well actually, that’s pretty generous, but we’re comparing it to the offerings from other Xbox jigsaw sims. Twelve isn’t going to last you long at all, regardless of how beautifully they are painted.

What the makers of Alice in Wonderland – A Jigsaw Puzzle Tale want you to value is the variety of puzzle sizes. You can turn each of those twelve pictures into 60, 135, 240, 375 and 735 pieces. There are achievements for doing 1, 2, 4, 6, 8 and eventually 12 of the puzzles in each size (no retroactive unlock if you start at the top end, either), so clearly it’s the way that Mens Sana Interactive want you to play. 

We’re not convinced. Most of us find our piece limit and stick to it, so the prospect of dropping down a division to play a smaller version of the same picture, for the lolz and the achievements, doesn’t tempt us. You may differ. 

But the proof is in the playing, and it’s here that Alice in Wonderland – A Jigsaw Puzzle Tale scores a few goals before it lets in some own goals. In terms of the sorting of pieces, Alice in Wonderland – A Jigsaw Puzzle Tale is surprisingly fully featured. You can filter out pieces based on the quarter of the puzzle that they appear in, and you can highlight purely the edge pieces. You may consider these options as cheating, but use them and they’re clearly beneficial. Suddenly, the 735 pieces come into focus and you can actually see what you’re doing. 

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A tap of the Menu button gives you a flash of the larger image, too, so you’re constantly given leg-ups to complete a puzzle. None of them sacrifice your ability to gain achievements, either, so have at it – fill your boots.

But it’s not the sorting of pieces in Alice in Wonderland – A Jigsaw Puzzle Tale that is its problem. It’s the manhandling of them. Try to pick up a piece, and you will see what we mean. Particularly on the larger puzzles, where the cursor is often much bigger than the piece (there are generous zoom functions here), and you will find a number of annoyances. While the cursor is a hand and a pointing finger, the pointing finger doesn’t actually pick up the piece. It’s the palm instead, and this feels like such an odd oversight that you question why it wasn’t caught. Pieces on top of other pieces become a problem, as the precision isn’t there. Your best option is to ‘tidy up’ the pieces with your cursor before you pick up the one you want. It’s enough to make Cheshire Cat’s smile droop. 

Pick up a piece and you have to hold the A button. Why this is the case we don’t know, since an A to pick up and A to release feels like it would have been a better option. The collateral damage of this is that you can’t hold a piece and move the camera at the same time, since moving the camera is done via the B button, and also needs the analogue stick. So you are picking up and dropping, picking up and dropping, to move across the board. You would also think that moving your cursor to the edge of the screen would automatically scroll it, but nah: the game looks back at you, unblinking, dumb as a Tweedle-Dee. 

But the clincher is the speed of which the cursor moves. By gum, it’s slow. In the opening three seconds of playing Alice in Wonderland – A Jigsaw Puzzle Tale we realised mobility was going to be a problem, and immediately ran to the Settings screen to see if we could change it. But no: you’re stuck with a cursor that moves at about the speed of one jigsaw-piece-length per second, and it’s nowhere near enough. Even completing a 60-piece puzzle becomes long winded, as you dawdle from one end of it to the other. 

We will say that the coding behind the placement of pieces is a pocket joy. Put a piece in the right place and a heart pops up, and that piece is locked forever. Snap a piece to its neighbour, even if neither of them are placed correctly on the puzzle, and they will be locked together too. It’s generous and well-designed, but – alas – that philosophy has not translated to the rest of the game. 

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Finally, there’s the big question: can Alice in Wonderland – A Jigsaw Puzzle Tale handle puzzles as big as 735 pieces? It’s one step forward and three steps back. For reasons we can’t fathom, the speed of the cursor is faster on the bigger puzzles, or at least feels like it is (perhaps it’s just because we’re zoomed so much further in), so it becomes less of an issue. But the pictures on the pieces are zoomed in to the point of blurring, so the picture becomes very hard to see. And the issues we’ve mentioned, including the ability to actually pick up pieces, and attempt precision with the cursor, are all made triply worse. 735 pieces doesn’t feel good, and we stumbled over the finish line of completing just one of them at this size, vowing never to do it again.

Don’t get us wrong: presentationally, Alice in Wonderland – A Jigsaw Puzzle Tale is gorgeous. Props to Katia Numakura, who has reimagined the Lewis Carroll masterpiece as a Manga that we would read and buy in a heartbeat. 

But it’s the feeling of picking up and moving the pieces that make us want to scream “off with their heads!”. Manipulating jigsaw pieces with a game controller in hand has always been a problem for game designers, and Alice in Wonderland – A Jigsaw Puzzle Tale not only fumbles that issue, but adds in a few of its own. It’s impossibly slow and imprecise to the point of making you howl with pain. We’d point you to investigate Katia Numakara’s art in the future, but you’d be mad as a hatter to enjoy it in this format.

You can buy Alice in Wonderland – A Jigsaw Puzzle Tale from the Xbox Store

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