Although video games are my preferred form of entertainment, I’ve found myself branching out during lockdown. Escape-rooms-in-boxes and choose-your-own-detective-adventures have provided a nice break away from the screen after working from home all day.
Jigsaws have also featured since completing the Space Observatory version of Ravensburger’s Exit Puzzles last April. The twist with these is that the game doesn’t end when you’ve managed to fit the 759-pieces together: the picture you’re trying to create is slightly different to the one on the box and contains symbols and numbers. Figure out the answer to the clues and you’ll come up with a way to ‘escape’ the situation depicted in the puzzle, such as meteor hurtling towards the planet.
When my other-half and I chose to stream The Witch’s Kitchen version in February, we soon discovered that our cat Zelda wanted to get involved. This made for several relaxed evenings on Twitch because we were able to sit back and talk to our friends in chat while she rolled around on camera. It therefore seemed like a good idea to line up a few more jigsaws for our 90-days of streaming for GameBlast21, and we’re currently hosting a weekly Cat & Chat segment every Friday.
Unfortunately, my decision to start with Murder on the Nile from the Classic Mystery range by University Games wasn’t the best one. I made the silly mistake of not checking whether the jigsaw would fit out our puzzle-board before the stream and it turned out to be too big. We had to move the 1000-pieces to our dining-room table the following day where I continued to work on them over the next couple of weeks, so I could finally complete the picture and solving the murder-mystery.
Like the Exit Puzzles series, these aren’t your standard jigsaws and the three-stage premise will appeal to anyone who likes detective narratives. The first stage is to read the booklet that comes in the box to find out about the case and the villain you’re trying to catch. You next put together the puzzle, which is harder than it sounds because you aren’t provided with an image. Then you can unleash your inner private investigator (PI) and discover the clues within the picture to piece together the evidence and solve the crime.
The story for Murder on the Nile is written by Bruce Whitehall and features Hercule Poirot, the fictional Belgian detective created by author Agatha Christie. After being hired to investigate the disappearance of silver cutlery at the home of Lady Nancy Stuart in Stratford-Upon-Avon, he is invited on a trip to Egypt to celebrate her 60th birthday. Disaster strikes when her body is found on the floor of a steamboat saloon. It’s up to you to piece together the puzzle (pun intended) and figure out whodunnit.
This is probably one of the most difficult and, despite the added narrative element, most boring jigsaws I’ve ever attempted. The setting means that two-thirds of the image is taken up by wood-panelled walls so there are plenty of straight lines and many shades of brown. Although most of the pieces are unique in shape unlike the Exit Puzzles range, it took longer to fit them together because there’s very little in the image other than a few objects mentioned in the story.
This is unfortunately where Murder on the Nile’s biggest problem lies. I remember having one of these murder-mystery puzzles when I was a lot younger and not being able to figure out who the killer was, because I couldn’t connect the clues in the image. That kind of challenge was what I was expecting to have now and with all the knowledge I’ve gained from playing various detective games over the past year, I was looking forward to putting my newfound PI skills to the test.
But the jigsaw only contained one real clue and this pretty much names the criminal for you immediately – and that’s if you can’t figure out who it is from reading the story alone, because it’s far too apparent. I was hoping there was something I’d overlooked or that I’d fallen into the classic trap of finding a red-herring because the evidence was so obvious it felt like a trick. But no: as I held the back pages of the booklet up to a mirror to read the reversed conclusion, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed.
It’s highly unlikely I’ll bother picking up another entry in the Classic Mystery series. The image created and clues revealed just weren’t good enough to make the length of time it took to complete the puzzle worthwhile. If you’re a person who likes difficult jigsaws and isn’t so interested in there being a narrative, you might find some enjoyment in it; but if it’s the detective angle which interests you, there are better experiences out there.
If anyone has any suggestions for better puzzle ranges we could use for our Cat & Chat streams, please do let me know!