We all love the satisfaction of finding where that last jigsaw puzzle piece goes, watching it slot neatly into place. But, did you know that this encourages the production of the chemical dopamine in the brain, which is a mood enhancer? This is one reason why completing a puzzle helps to release stress and tension. If you are feeling the pressure of modern life then you might like to try tuning out by playing Glass Masquerade on Xbox One.
In Glass Masquerade you solve jigsaw puzzles in order to reveal carefully designed stained glass Art Deco clocks. Basically, they are puzzles with pretty pictures. The style is very unique and not something I have seen before, and this certainly adds to the interest of the game and makes it more challenging than if the images were straight-up photographs or illustrations.
Each puzzle is based on the art and culture of a different country from around the globe, categorised by difficulty from two up to five. The difficulty generally matches to the number of puzzle pieces in play – anything from around 20 to 40+. The easier puzzles also have larger pieces.
On starting Glass Masquerade on Xbox One you get a few choices of different European puzzles and on completing them new pathways are opened up, allowing you to visit other countries, completing puzzles there. There are 25 puzzles in total to complete.
By choosing a puzzle you are presented with an empty clock frame and a selection of puzzle pieces scattered around it on concentric circles. The pieces are shown blank and rotated, but reveal their pattern and correct configuration when you select them. This does make the whole premise of Glass Masquerade more challenging, but the fact that you don’t have to rotate the pieces dials this back a bit.
On selecting a piece you can drag it to the frame to where you think it should be placed. If you are correct, or pretty close, it will snap into place. If not, then it will return to its starting position.
You are given a helping initial hand as some puzzle pieces have nodes which match up with places around the edge of the clock frame. You have the option to turn this off if you want more of a challenge but I personally found it a great help and stuck with it – it certainly helped with some of the more challenging puzzles that sprung up.
The fact that you can’t see all the puzzle pieces on the screen at once makes the game more difficult. Moving the circles of pieces means that as new ones get revealed, others are hidden. This is not something that you have to contend with when completing a traditional puzzle, and thankfully this problem disappears as the puzzle progresses, as fewer pieces are left to place.
Unlike a normal jigsaw puzzle, there is no image on the box to look at so you do start building your puzzle pretty blind. Some of the designs are more random than others too, which means that you are kept pretty much in the dark about what the image shows throughout, sometimes even up to and near-on reaching completion. However, this is a nifty feature that manages to keep each puzzle a challenge right up until the end.
Each clock has a different shape, which means you have to constantly change your technique on how to complete them. For example, for circular clocks you can hunt the puzzle pieces for those with a curved edge in order to complete those around the edge first. However, the game is designed to confuse, as sometimes these rules don’t work…
Each puzzle also has a soundtrack to accompany it. The music is all in the same style and only varies slightly; I would have liked the style to match more concisely with the country you are playing in, but this is a minor flaw. The music is fairly unobtrusive and adds to the relaxing feel of the game.
So, is playing Glass Masquerade going to help you to relax?
Concentrating on completing a puzzle does give your mind less opportunity to dwell on other more unpleasant things, so it’s a good way to practice a bit of mindfulness, which is a way of calming an anxious mind. Plus, it is satisfying to complete a puzzle and get that burst of dopamine.
However, there are a few things that I have found frustrating about the game, stopping me from becoming completely immersed. First off, some of the puzzle pieces on the more difficult puzzles are very small and without sitting a metre away from my TV screen I found it difficult to see what was on them. For this reason, it may well see Glass Masquerade feel better suited to a smaller handheld screen – perhaps with Nintendo Switch a perfect fit. It must be said that eye strain kicks in after a couple of puzzles, and this in turn will keep your game sessions short.
There are no time limits on the puzzles, which the developers claim results in less stress. However, after completion you are shown your time. Depending on your sensibility, this could easily become a source of frustration as some puzzles will get you stumped; the realisation that I had spent 45 minutes completing a jigsaw puzzle made me feel a little inferior.
Glass Masquerade is a fairly short game but I don’t see much incentive to return once you have completed it. You can replay each puzzle in order to beat your previous time but this will add an element of stress, which the game aims to avoid.
Overall, Glass Masquerade does deliver on its aims to a certain extent. It looks good, sounds okay and is a pitched at around the right level of challenge. If you like completing jigsaw puzzles it’s well worth a play, however, if you find them frustrating then my advice is to stay away – this game might just increase stress rather than relieve it.