Jigsaw puzzles never had an equivalent on the PC until Pandora’s Box. With an understated environment and compelling puzzles, Pandora’s Box might be nirvana for those with obsessions for visual brainteasers.
In Pandora’s Box, seven mythical tricksters have escaped to wreck havoc on the world. The player must capture the seven one at a time by solving many of the 350-plus puzzles. Puzzles fall into ten different types, each somehow shuffling or screwing up photos, paintings, sculptures or other miscellaneous art. Ultimately, your job is to put the art right.
It occurred to me that this may just be another way for Bill Gates to reap the benefits of his Corbis collection.
Microsoft touts Pandora’s Box as "A puzzle game from the creator of Tetris, Alexey Pajitnov." Do not let that draw you to this game. I like Tetris, but I’m not obsessive. However, my mother plays Tetris daily (she’s already destroyed two Game Boys and is on her third with nothing but Tetris play.) She found Pandora’s Box close to impossible.
But I was enthralled. I think visually, while my mother thinks more logically for puzzle solving. I could see how to put the art back together, although sometimes it took some time on the higher levels.
As a player, you visit destinations throughout the world. Each destination offers a series of 10 puzzles with a theme usually related to that location. I say "usually" because some locations had non-associative art. For example, when I was in Philadelphia, I put together the Lincoln Memorial statue, located in Washington, D.C. In Tahiti, it was the Easter Island statue. While solving the puzzles, there are items hidden behind some. The "hint" token, when invoked, gives the player help on getting one piece of the puzzle into the right place. The "solution" token solves the puzzle for the player.
The primary objective is to find the four tokens that lead you to finding the trickster. Once found, each trickster–like Shakespearean Puck and the Southwest legend Coyote–offers its own challenge–a particularly hard version of the puzzles.
On upper levels, the challenge puzzles are multi-layered, which means once one type of puzzle is solved, another type must be solved. These puzzles live up to the "challenge name." A couple took me more than an hour to complete.
Pandora’s Box plays smoothly with some amazing photographs and art from around the world. The game board complements the mood. Moreover, the ambient sound and theme music that plays along while you play is quite enjoyable and doesn’t detract from the play or make you feel if you should rush.
The one element that doesn’t fit would be the female narrator whose voice sounds terse and can get on one’s nerves. A more pleasant, soothing voice would have better suited the game.
Pandora’s Box, while fun, is not one I’d recommend just anyone run out to get. Go to www.microsoft.com/games/pandorasbox and download the trial version. If you like the trial games, pay the $17 to $30 for the game. [when I wrote this, it was on special at beyond.com for $17.]
Otherwise you might be left holding an empty box. Pandora’s Box tricks its way to a 4 GiN Gem ranking.