Puzzle Chasers is a new jigsaw-themed puzzle game for Facebook, published by Konami and developed by Hibernum. The title combines elements from jigsaw puzzle games, “blitz” puzzlers and hidden object adventures to create a distinctive and well-presented social game.
Basic gameplay in Puzzle Chasers is a high-speed twist on the jigsaw puzzle genre. Rather than having to find the appropriate piece and slot it into the correct location, players are presented with an unfinished puzzle board with all of the pieces’ outlines marked. Players must then click on an empty space and then select the appropriate piece to fit into that slot from a selection of up to five at the bottom of the screen. The pieces are occasionally not rotated to the correct orientation, so players must also take the pattern on the piece into account when selecting one to put into the slot. Correctly selecting pieces in rapid succession builds up a “streak” meter, which leads to higher scores, and correctly selecting glowing spaces on the board causes multiple other spaces to be automatically filled in. At the end of a puzzle, the player is given a rating of up to three puzzle pieces according to how quickly they solved the puzzle and what their longest streak was. In order to complete the puzzle faster, a limited number of powerups are available to automatically fill in a whole row, column or adjacent spaces.
Wrapped around the puzzle action is a poorly-written and unnecessary story concerning the inexplicable theft of the Great Wall of China and the antagonist’s equally bizarre desire to use Tesla’s technology to break it into puzzle pieces. The ongoing narrative merely serves as a device to justify the visual themes that tie the various chapters’ puzzles together — players begin their quest in New Zealand, for example, so find themselves completing puzzles based around the islands’ distinctive scenery and Maori imagery. The character art and presentation of the story sequences is good, but the writing and plot itself are woeful to an almost comic degree, and simply serve to get in the way of the otherwise fast-paced gameplay.
Alongside the narrative-led puzzle action, players have a mansion to build up similar to that seen in popular hidden object games such as Zynga’s Hidden Chronicles. Like the titles which this gameplay element is drawn from. constructing items in the mansion (which costs both soft currency and time, the latter of which can be bypassed with hard currency) provides the player with “Prestige” points, which are used to unlock later story content. Various quests (also with flimsy narrative justifications seemingly completely unrelated to the main story) provide players with simple objective such as putting a certain number of different chairs in the same room. Some of these quests also require that players achieve a certain score in specific story puzzles to complete, though all objectives may be bypassed with hard currency if the player desires.
As well as these two gameplay elements, Puzzle Chasers also incorporates a Blitz puzzle mode where players are given a time limit to complete as much of a puzzle as possible. Instead of selecting empty spaces manually, gaps are automatically highlighted and the player must simply match the correct piece to the hole. As in the main story mode, pieces are not always in the correct orientation, so both shape and pattern must be carefully observed to succeed. The Blitz puzzle changes every week, and players are ranked against their friends on a leaderboard. Powerups are available for use in Blitz mode — these are unlocked by successfully progressing through the story or spending hard currency, and are activated by expending soft currency.
The biggest barrier to enjoyment of Puzzle Chasers is its somewhat stingy energy system. Ten energy points are expended every time a player takes on a puzzle, whether it is a story mode puzzle or a weekly Blitz challenge. It then regenerates very slowly, and there is no experience point/leveling system to allow players to restore their energy through strategic, efficient gameplay. Some other puzzle games on Facebook that incorporate both level-based challenges and a Blitz mode do not require the player to use energy to play the Blitz challenge, thereby giving them something to do while waiting for their energy to restore. This is a more player-friendly implementation that will encourage players to stick around; as it stands, some players may find themselves running out of energy then simply not returning to the game in frustration. Energy may be restored in small quantities by visiting friends’ mansions and clicking on glowing objects, but for solo players this will be little consolation.
Laughable narrative and stingy energy system aside, Puzzle Chasers is actually a very good game. It is presented well, with excellent visuals and music, and the fast-paced piece-matching gameplay is an innovative and original take on the usually ponderous jigsaw puzzle genre. It could do with a little balancing to make it a little more friendly to non-paying players, but is otherwise well worth checking out.
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While the story is poor and the energy system is less than generous, a good-quality, fun puzzle game shines out from beneath these flaws.