Developer / Publisher – Realities.IO Inc
Price – US $14.99 / CA $17.99 / EU €14.99 / UK £12.99 / AU $19.95
Release Date – September 02, 2021(Oculus)
Control Method – 2 x Tracked Motion Controllers
Play Area – Seated, Standing, Room Scale
Reviewed on –Meta Quest 2
Store Links – Oculus, PlayStation
With all the craziness available in VR from killing zombies, soaring through the air, bowling with friends, riding roller coasters or any other immersive activity, it’s easy to forget about the more passive experiences available. Puzzling Places is exactly that, tasking you with completing 3D jigsaw puzzles at your own pace while enjoying some melodic tunes in a relaxing setting.
With 17 base puzzles to choose from, you simply pick the setting you would like to build, choose the level of difficulty (25, 50, 100, 200 or 400 pieces) and begin to build. The pieces are arrayed in the distance as if on an invisible wall and can be selected by either hand using a laser guide to highlight them. Once selected they fly toward your hand and can be moved as you see fit. Should that piece not be to your liking, you can simply grab it and flick the thumbstick up to place it back in the distance. A few tools let you look at the puzzle in a new way, temporarily making pieces invisible so you can view inside more complex puzzles or let you group pieces together should you know they’ll be used in sequence later on. Lastly would be the ability to move about by dragging yourself throughout the puzzle area, though admittedly, this feature isn’t really needed but better to be here than not I suppose. You can quit a puzzle and at any time with your progress automatically saving with the level selection menu indicating just how much you have progressed on each puzzle. That’s really all there is too it and it works fantastic allowing anyone to easily combine pieces and assemble the setting with the 25-piece puzzles taking only a few minutes with the 400-piece ones taking substantially longer.
Puzzling Places advertises it’s puzzles as “hyper-realistic miniatures” and that description is apt as each one contains tons of finer details thanks to photogrammetry which basically take multiple 2D images and converts them to 3D. Whether it’s a cathedral, castle ruins, city streets or space station (available in the MRDS DLC) each one contains fantastic levels of realism that had me wishing I could shrink myself down and visit them closer in VR. What makes these puzzles a little cooler than your average 3D jigsaw is that some of the puzzles contain smaller elements that just wouldn’t be possible with standard 3D pieces. A city street littered with crates and barrels or a seaside cliff with not just a lighthouse, but a plethora of trees or bushes or even just the inside & outside of a shack. The variety of the puzzles, as well as the differing scale of each of them makes each one its own unique treat and regardless of the level of difficulty you play this one, each puzzle completed is a satisfying experience. The space you play in is rather barren save for a few reeds and plants nearby though should the background palette not be to your liking; you can change it using one of the menu options above you.
Matching the puzzle building action is some light music that plays during each puzzle, but the standout is the thematic sound effects that occur when you successfully connect certain pieces together, so lean in close to a completed window or fixture and you might hear some additional effects, made even better by some great 3D audio. Whatever you are trying to build, like the lighthouse setting, will have matching audio so while you assemble the puzzle, you’ll do so to the sounds of the tides and seagulls flying overhead adding a next level to the puzzle building experience.
Puzzling Places is a relatively simple concept that is executed near flawlessly, so much so that I really can’t find anything to complain about. The attention to detail is greater than I ever expected and the options from 25 to 400 pieces ensure anyone can hop on and have a relaxing time trying to put together these miniature set pieces. With DLC there are only 20 puzzles to get through but considering that each one can take up to a few hours to solve, there’s plenty of content in here assuming you want to challenge yourself. For those who think they might enjoy building 3D jigsaw puzzles in VR, I can pretty much guarantee you will, just make sure if you play this on the Quest headsets you have a full battery because on the harder difficulties, you’ll need it!
What would I pay? This is $15 US which puts each puzzle at roughly a dollar apiece which is an absolute steal! With new free and paid for DLC coming soon and multiplayer planned for this year, there is so much bang for your buck here I can’t recommend this enough…assuming you like puzzles in the first place.
Realities.IO Inc provided The VR Grid with a press code for this title and, regardless of this review, we thank them for that!