Putting together animated video puzzles of Japanese women is a weird thing to do

It's Japanese Gaming Week here at PC Gamer and I'm keen to contribute, not due to knowledge of Japanese gaming—I have essentially no knowledge of Japanese gaming—but rather due my knowledge that if I don't contribute I'll have to work on other things like updating best mods lists which takes endless hours and always seem to result in angry reader comments like "How could you leave out the 'Marginally Better Glove Textures For That One Pair of Gloves' mod you damn idiot, you suck, I've subscribed to the magazine for 13 years but I'm cancelling my subscription because of you."

So. Where does someone who doesn't play Japanese games look for an entry point? There's only one logical place, and that's a game called Japanese Women - Animated Jigsaws. It's a jigsaw puzzle game that uses stock video footage of Japanese women sort of doing things, like standing and smiling, or looking at something while smiling, or eating while smiling, or dipping their hands in a pool of water. While smiling.

Some highlights from the feature list:

  • each piece snaps into place for stress-free experience
  • ability to snap individual pieces together
  • and more!

I'm definitely interested in a stress-free experience. Jigaw puzzles shouldn't leave you grinding your teeth and shaking with rage, I don't think. And a good way to reduce stress when designing a puzzle is to ensure that pieces snap together. Ever done a puzzle where the pieces don't snap together? It's terrible. You just end up with a bunch of unconnected pieces in a big mess on the table. You might as well not even have opened the box.

'And more!' also caught my eye. That's an instant buy, in my book. I prefer seeing 'And more!' on a feature list instead of 'And nothing else.' It gives you something to look forward to.

Unfortunately, I immediately discover the puzzle game is gated: you don't have access to all the puzzles when you begin, only three, and you must unlock the rest by completing starter puzzles first. This is a let-down: after viewing the puzzle choices in the menu, I'm quite keen on putting together the puzzle I've decided to name "Japanese Woman Eats Large Slice of Watermelon While Gazing Happily Into The Sky."

Alas, I have to begin with "Japanese Woman Seems, In My Opinion, A Little Too Pleased To Own An Umbrella."

In fact, I'm detecting a certain amount of smugness from this umbrella-owner. Like, we get it. You have a really nice umbrella. No need to rub it in to those less fortunate who have no umbrella, or perhaps those who have substandard umbrellas. Is it even raining? I don't think it's even raining. Get over yourself.

Anyway, to the puzzle, and some thoughts on one of the promised features:

Is it really stress-free? I suppose it's not particularly stressful, once I switch off the music (which is a little irritating after a few minutes) and turn off the almost comically loud clonking sounds that play when I snap pieces together. Playing in complete quiet, the puzzle game is quite puzzle-like and doesn't stress me out.

It is a bit unsettling, however, to put together a puzzle that consists of a human face, moving, blinking, and smiling while in pieces, especially since the features often drift from one piece to another. See above, as at one point I select a nose and a mouth, but as I'm dragging the piece around two eyes appear on the, I don't know what you call them, puzzle prongs? Let's call them puzzle prongs. The eyes appear and stare at me, somewhat hauntingly, as if I'm the villain who cut the face into pieces instead of the noble hero trying to reassemble it. It's just a bit weird.

I do eventually put the smug umbrella woman together, as well as the next puzzle, which I will call "Japanese Woman Standing In Street Barely Moving At All Which Is A Weird Choice For An Animated Puzzle Since I Would Think Movement Is Part Of The Selling Point Here." 

It's not as unsettling, since her face fits on just two or three pieces so there are no disembodied, accusatory eyes, but at the same time it's not especially satisfying since nearly everything in the puzzle is completely static. If I want to see a puzzle only sort of move, I can just do a standard puzzle after having a few drinks, or maybe hire someone to wobble the coffee table a little while I'm putting it together.

The next puzzle is one I call "Japanese Woman Does Her Best To Pretend That Ringing A Bell—I Think It's A Bell, Anyway—Is An Entertaining Activity For An Adult."

I know how she feels. Putting together slightly moving puzzles, quite honestly, isn't all that entertaining either. There's nothing wrong with the game, it's just that I personally feel puzzles are more fun with two people working on them, and work better in real life on the coffee table than in a video game.

In fact, after doing the edges of the I Think It's A Bell puzzle, I pretty much call it quits. Sorry, Japanese Gaming Week, I failed in my intended goal to make my way to the puzzle of a Japanese woman eating some melon. If there truly is 'And more!' to this game, I'm afraid I'll never find it.

Christopher Livingston
Senior Editor

Chris started playing PC games in the 1980s, started writing about them in the early 2000s, and (finally) started getting paid to write about them in the late 2000s. Following a few years as a regular freelancer, PC Gamer hired him in 2014, probably so he'd stop emailing them asking for more work. Chris has a love-hate relationship with survival games and an unhealthy fascination with the inner lives of NPCs. He's also a fan of offbeat simulation games, mods, and ignoring storylines in RPGs so he can make up his own.