I’m a sucker for a good puzzle game. There’s something meditative about sitting down and unraveling the best laid traps of a designer eager to test your smarts. Doubly so when it involves bringing order to chaos, as you do in the likes of Picross and Tetris or non-games such as jigsaw puzzles, and when there’s a visual element to please your sight while it challenges your mind.
Patchworkz’s twist on tiling — well, tangram, to be precise — puzzles had me hooked from beginning to end. Featuring gorgeous mosaic canvases and more than a hundred puzzles, it packs just the right degree of difficulty and modes to suit both the laid-back and race-the-clock style puzzle gamers.
Put Humpty Together Again
Patchworkz offers a straightforward interface and main goal. To complete a puzzle, just grab the pieces in the sidebar and use them to fill the gaps in the image. Each piece will click and briefly gleam when it’s dropped in the right place. You’ll start with only one piece to worry about, but there’ll soon be over a dozen oddly-shaped objects to snap onto the incomplete designs.
Early puzzles are a bit too easy, even for learning the ropes. But it gets harder.
There are six puzzles to a set, and four sets to a pack. Every time you complete the final puzzle in a set, you’ll be asked if you want to play the Speed Challenge. Complete all six puzzles again — with slightly different pieces missing — under a strict time limit in order to earn three stars.
The packs are themed. Wood, fabric, stone, metal, paper, glass, and two bonus packs each provide a different visual aesthetic and brain-bending challenge. Some are abstract; others appear as stylized paintings and collages of famous landmarks or animals. The swirling, curling decal pieces in the metal pack proved a particular stumbling block for me.
Later puzzles are much harder. Especially this one with the lizards, shown here around half-done.
One bonus pack gets unlocked upon completing all six main packs, while the other requires that you sign up for a newsletter. There’s also a “secret” novelty pack, with eight simple puzzles that you unlock through in-game achievements. I’ll let you discover these for yourself.
Puzzles are seldom as hard as they look; many of them rely on symmetry — so once you know where a piece fits on one side, there’ll probably be a mirror-image version of the same piece on the other side. The trick is to figure out where the line of symmetry is — top to bottom, left to right, or on a diagonal (or perhaps all three). This is no easy feat, especially on the more complicated stages that feature intricate patterns and a few dozen pieces all designed to trick you.
There’s some symmetry in here. Can you see it?
Patchworkz is a game of pattern recognition, then, and in Speed Challenge stages or Fever Mode it’s also a game of speed. Patchworkz often throws you red herrings in its initial puzzle layouts or little bits of subtle asymmetry, and it’s easy to trick yourself with the first few moves.
You’ll get into a state of flow eventually, able to spot precisely where a piece should go at a mere glance. This is where the game is at its most joyous — the rush of plopping pieces down one after another in rapid fire magnified by the strain of hours learning how to identify the telltale lines and shapes that give the puzzle away.
You Give Me Fever
This is most pronounced in Fever Mode, which eschews the take-your-time gameplay of the main game in favor of a frenetic arcade-style test of speed and skill. You’re given a time limit with which to score as many points as possible. Points are awarded for successful piece placement and level completion.
Fever Mode looks much the same, aside from a few bits and bobs at the bottom of the screen, but it feels way different.
But where it really grips you is in how, unlike with Speed Challenge, your time gets extended each time you advance a level. Then it ranks you on a leaderboard, tells you how far you got, and teases you to do better — to be faster, more precise, and more strategic. Fever Mode taught me to play the big pieces first; to fill out the broader strokes of the picture before tackling the fine details.
Even though it is ostensibly the same tile-based puzzler, Fever Mode feels like an entirely different game. And it’s where the real replay value sits. You’d be well advised to play through the entire campaign, mastering its mechanics and unlocking all the levels, but the real game is in this feverish dream of shapes and puzzles all blurred together as you focus on the world beneath the pretty pictures.
There’s a wild world of shape-based mayhem beneath the pretty pictures of Patchworkz.
I was so enamored with Patchworkz that I had to pull myself away from the game in order to write this review. It’s horribly addictive, and it’ll keep you busy for hours. Most puzzles can be completed in a few minutes or less, too, making it ideal for short sessions on the move.
Beautiful graphics, relaxing music, soothing sound effects, and almost zen-like puzzles stand off against the palate-cleansing speed of Fever Mode in a brilliant package. You’re likely to finish Patchworkz wanting more. Puzzle fans — casual and hardcore alike — should consider this a must-have.