This is an Early Access Review and as such opinions are based solely on the state of the game at the time of review and subject to change as development progresses leading up to final release.
Twenty years ago I reviewed Jigsaws Galore 4 on the PC, a fantastic little puzzle game that let you turn any of your own images or photos into these awesome jigsaw puzzles. That was the last time I ever assembled a puzzle on a computer until now. Mosaic Chronicles is currently out on Steam Early Access and I was immediately curious, not just because I enjoy solving puzzles but because of the unique nature of the puzzles being offered. Originally, jigsaw puzzles were painted on wood then broken up into small pieces. Now imagine those same pictures being painted on glass then somebody dropping the glass turning it into dozens of randomly shaped slivers of glass.
Mosaic Chronicles plans to offer up more than 50 such puzzles, all beautifully crafted with charming art and vibrant, colorful imagery, and all telling part of an overarching story; two stories actually. With each puzzle taking anywhere from 30-60 minutes (based on skill and your choice of three difficulty settings) there is plenty of meditative gameplay waiting for you in this fantasy-inspired puzzle game. This is perhaps one of the hardest reviews to write because this really is just a puzzle game and you either like puzzles or not. Mosaic Chronicles does offer some interesting features that might mix things up a bit.
Prior to solving each puzzle you are given a small image of what the completed picture will look like, and at any time while solving you can Preview a full-screen image of the completed puzzle. As often as I used this function I would have liked a single-click icon much like the Hint and Tidy buttons. Pieces are presented in a scrolling vertical strip along the left edge, so you don’t have an overall view of available pieces. You can rearrange and manually sort the pieces by color and such as well as bringing pieces into the actual puzzle and grouping them together, and if things get too cluttered you can click a button to tidy things up. You also have a hint button that will indicate piece placement if you get stuck, but there is a lengthy cooldown timer for this function so you can’t abuse it.
You’ll use similar strategies to solving real-world puzzles in Mosaic Chronicles such as starting with the edge pieces, which aren’t always as obvious as you might think since the border of these puzzles are actually designed to fit inside a window frame with slanted sides and a curved top edge. Also adding to the difficulty are the unconventional puzzle pieces that do not have the standard tabs and slots we’ve come to expect from real-world puzzles. These are truly images recreated from simulated shattered glass with very odd shapes and no obvious connection. You can’t even rely on colors crossing over as most of the time there are extreme color-shifts on neighboring pieces. Thankfully, pieces do snap/lock into the puzzle when properly placed, even when not touching another piece, and I’ve had several unintentional “snaps” just moving a piece across the screen.
The controls and interface are simple and functional; the entire game can be played with a mouse where you select pieces with a left click and rotate them with a right. There is a gallery where you can view completed mosaics, but in this stage of development there is very little incentive to replay the game or individual puzzles. Perhaps completion timers and a leaderboard for fastest solvers would add a competitive element to the game.
Visually, the game is quite stunning to the point where I wanted to see my completed mosaics come to life in some sort of animated storytelling experience rather than just reading the paragraphs of text that bookend each puzzle. There are only a few tracks of music at this point; hopefully there will be more as these tracks will loop and recycle numerous times per puzzle. Thankfully the music is pleasant and even a bit soothing, but you’ll likely turn it down or off long before you complete all the mosaics. You can always play your own music – I found the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit soundtracks fit nicely. And lastly, the game has low system requirements so nearly anyone with a functioning PC or laptop can play this game and have a great time.
I had a blast with Mosaic Chronicles. The colorful fantasy art and complex nature of the puzzle pieces really make this stand out in the world of puzzle games. The story is a bit disposable if not downright unnecessary, because people are coming here to solve artsy puzzles and storytelling has never been part of that genre, but some might find it endearing so enjoy this added flavor. The Early Access version offers 14 mosaics with a total of 51 images planned for final release sometime in the next year. The devs seem to be interacting with users in the forums to tweak the interface and game options based on feedback, so Mosaic Chronicles should only be getting better as it nears final release. Until then, for only $7 you can get an early taste of a clever and original puzzle game that is shaping up to become something really special in 2022.