The Cold War was a strange time in America. The enemy was clearly identified. Even if some people didn't understand the reasons why, Russia was obviously evil. James Bond knew it. Rocky and Bullwinkle knew it. Dr. Strangelove could prove it scientifically.
Everybody did their part to combat communism - the young'uns played Rock and Roll at high volume and the old folks invented polyester pants. We built huge luxury cars to prove that the 'reds' had no sense of style. After an embarrassingly bad start, we won the space race by sending men to the moon. Next, the missile race was on, and by God, we were going to have bigger firecrackers than they did...
In the 80's, things looked especially rosy for capitalism. Reagan ruled the free world based on the results of his daily horoscope. The U.S. economy was barreling along like a juggernaut, while the USSR simply hunkered down and sulked behind the iron curtain. But then a clever commie named Alexey Pajitnov came up with an insidious weapon.
This weapon struck fear in the hearts of western leaders. It hypnotized children and adults without prejudice. It cut worker productivity in half. Within weeks, millions of Americans became slack jawed, glassy-eyed, and useless to those around them. It was called Tetris.
Comrade Alexey was quiet for many years after that. However, once MTV crushed Russian communism for good, capitalist corporations had an open road to the diabolical designer. Like Dr. Wernher Von Braun before him, Alexey switched sides easily, creating his next project for that most capitalist of all corporations: Microsoft. His latest product unleashed on the public has been branded with the sinister title: Pandora's Box.
Don't worry, this is no lame remake like The Next Tetris. This is a whole new game. Pandora's Box is a collection of 10 different kinds of electronic jigsaw puzzles. There are 350 of them in all, based on works of art from all around the world, and tied together with a plot.
It seems that when Pandora's Box was opened, seven ancient trickster gods escaped. Maui, Coyote, Puck and the others spread around the world wreaking havoc with their oddball sense of humor. It is your job to track them down and stuff them back in the box. To do this, you must travel around the world, solving puzzles to earn bonuses or catch the tricksters.
While there are 10 types of puzzles, they are all based on the same idea: unscrambling great works of art. In "Slices," for example, famous statues have been sawn into 3D chunks that you must piece together in their original form. In "Lens Bender" you must use a series of distorting lenses to align flat pieces of paintings or manuscripts together in the correct order. "Outer Layer" has you putting your puzzle pieces on the surface of 3D objects to recreate Ming vases or Romonov eggs.
Unlike Tetris, there is no time limit, no immediacy, and no stress. None of the puzzle pieces fly at you with increasing velocity. This is a game for people who want to sit back, relax, and take their time. It's a game for people who like... well... real jigsaw puzzles.
This may be Pandora's biggest drawback: it doesn't really improve on the jigsaw puzzle. Plus, you can't spread the pieces all over the coffee table and play with it while you 'watch' that lame TV show that your girlfriend/boyfriend/spouse likes more than you do. There's no tactile sensation of snapping those little pieces into place. You can't shoo the cat when it jumps up and starts batting the pieces. On the plus side, with Pandora's Box you can't actually lose any of the pieces.
Alexey's latest development is a pleasant diversion, but it's nothing like his original fiendish masterpiece. Perhaps the best part of it is the visual treat of being able to admire and play with many of the world's greatest art masterpieces (the Louvre always gets mad at me). It's the perfect game to play on your laptop during long flights in-between rounds of ginger ale and honey roasted peanuts, but when you're at home with all your toys you'll probably be diverted and forget to open Pandora's Box.
With beautifully rendered graphics and 3D puzzles, Pandora's Box is opened!
BACKGROUND - STORY LINE:
Seven tricksters have escaped from Pandora's Box. They have hidden pieces of Pandora's Box all over the earth. The Pandora's Box is the ONLY thing that can contain these tricksters. It is your mission to solve the puzzles, in order to gain or recapture the pieces hidden by the tricksters.
There are many cities to which you will travel. In each city or location, there is a set of puzzles that are to be solved, a piece from Pandora's Box taken and hidden by a trickster, and hidden "bonuses" for you if you solve certain puzzles within a certain amount of time.
Upon solving the puzzles from one city, or finding a piece of Pandora's Box in a city, you have the option of returning to the "Map", selecting another location and beginning your quest all over again for finding yet another piece to Pandora's Box and coming closer to attaining your ultimate goal, which is to regain possession of all the hidden pieces to Pandora's Box and recapturing the Seven Ancient Tricksters within the box forever!
When you have completely restored and replaced all of the missing pieces from ONE side of Pandora's Box, you are ready to capture a trickster. FFind and place all of the pieces from all of the sides of Pandora's Box to truly master the game, and recapture all of the Ancient Tricksters into Pandora's Box.
GAMES & PUZZLES:
There are basically 10 different 'types' of puzzles in Pandora's Box and among the various cities you visit in your quest to find the missing pieces to the Box. The puzzles include:
These are 3 dimensional pieces to one object. This object may be a statue, monument, artifact, famous person, etc. You manipulate one piece at a time, flipping it over, changing the angle that you view and moving the piece to fit another part of the whole. You stack the pieces on top of each other to form the object you are trying to rebuild. Paying close attention to the direction the piece is facing is key to solving these puzzles.
2. Jesse's Strips:
These puzzles involve looking at five (5) different pictures of the same scene, or article. Each is a different color with the same design. This is a 5-layered puzzle.
3. Image Hole:
Floating pieces of the puzzle are translucent so that underneath you can see the picture, or painting or tapestry. The goal is to highlight one of the translucent pieces and match it's location on the picture below. The entire screen is black, except what you see underneath the floating images. There are approximately 5-8 translucent pieces that fit each puzzle. You are allowed 3 strikes (meaning 3 wrongly placed translucent pieces) before the puzzle will "reset" itself. All of the translucent pieces must be placed correctly on the underlying picture or scene before you can successfully complete each puzzle.
4. Outer Layer:
A 3D image of a famous artifact stands on a pedestal. Most of the pieces for the article are missing and are on the side of the screen. On the left side of the screen are the pieces that need to be correctly placed onto the artifact. You rotate the 3D article East, West, North, and South and rotate/flip the pieces (about 20-25 pieces for each puzzle) in order to find their proper location on the 3D object.
A famous painting, or drawing is displayed with strips or square shapes on the left side of the screen. The object of these puzzles is to place the correct pieces on the painting, or scene. Many of the pieces must be rotated, flipped or moved before placing them on the canvas. The Image is revealed when the pieces are overlapped correctly onto the puzzle area. Very challenging!
6. Focus Point:
A rectangular shaped puzzles with various smaller rectangles inside the frame. Each rectangle contains a snapshot that will focus when placed in the correct spot on the frame. When all inner snapshots are placed correctly and in focus, there appears a photograph linking each of the smaller photos together.
AA 3 level concentric circle contains slices of one overall picture. By rotating the wheels of the circle, you place the pieces to the puzzle so that when it is completed the rings or wheels form an overall picture or snapshot or painting.
Seven pieces are shown. The object of these puzzles are relatively easy. Move the pieces by filling in the spaces so that none of the 7 pieces overlap each other.
9. Find and Fill:
There is a graphic picture on the left of the screen, different for each of the many Find and Fill puzzles. The objective is to use the different colored "paints" to properly and correctly fill in the silhouettes that appear on the puzzle screen overlapping one another. Silhouettes are rightside up, upside down, and sideways. Completion of one silhouette at a time causes the completed piece of the puzzle to disappear, leaving fewer lines and spaces to fill in order to complete the next silhouette.
10. Lens Bender:
Varying lens and magnifications are used to decipher where pieces fit in the overall puzzle.
Puzzle sounds when rotating, placing, moving, and putting pieces of various puzzles into place are good. The music that accompanies your journey from one location to the next and during gameplay, or puzzleplay while at a particular location are ethnically and geologically appropriate for the locations. If you shut your eyes while playing this game and right after having traveled to another location, you would know almost immediately the general location on the map you had traveled to when you listened to the music. Selections for locations such as Philadelphia, Rio de Janiero, Spain, etc., sound very good.
One of the most attractive aspects of adventure games for me are the graphics. When I first downloaded, setup and played the Pandora's Box demo trial version (Pandora's Box Trial Demo) I was immediately captured visually by the wonderful accuracy and colors in the graphics and puzzles. True photos, paintings, artifacts, etc., throughout the game attracted me to the purchase of 'the real thing!' I found that I was eager to solve one puzzle in order to advance to the next puzzle or location just to see the beauty in what I knew would be there! The graphics would receive an 8 if I were rating ONLY the graphics on a scale of 1-10, 10 being the highest and best of all.
If you enjoy puzzles, have played and enjoyed games such as Jewels of the Oracle, Jewels II: Gems of Darkness and the like, then I HIGHLY recommend The Pandora's Box. You will be astonished by the beauty of the graphics, the complexity of the puzzles, and the soothing music playing as loudly or softly as you would like. Although some of the puzzles were difficult (in particular the Find and Fill puzzles), I enjoyed the game. I took pleasure in 'taking my time' despite the fact that each puzzle is timed. This meant nothing to me as I fulfilled my own goal: to solve all 350 puzzles! Not an easy task, I might add! :-)
On a scale from 1-10, I would rate this game at a 7. This game is not for everyone. It IS, however, a game that you should definitely add to your collection if you enjoy puzzle-solving games, with no chance of "dying" in the game, and no time limit in which to complete the puzzles, or the game itself. This is also a game that you might want to reinstall, or reload whenever the 'urge' strikes you; sit back, relax and enjoy bending your mind with puzzles!!! :-)
Pandora's Box is a straight puzzle title that will be enjoyed best by those fond of games such as Jewels of the Oracle, Quest for Karma, Safecracker, or even Shivers or The 7th Guest. It also serves the purpose of being a game to take a break with for those who like playing more story-driven adventure games, but need a diversion for a little bit and just want to solve some puzzles for fun.
Microsoft hired Alexey Pajitnov, the guy that made Tetris, the ultimate time-waster game of the early arcades and consoles, and he definitely delivers a higher level of that same kind of playing experience here. The premise of Pandora's Box is as thin as any puzzle game - the player's purpose is to solve puzzles to repair "damaged" items, the damage having been done by spirits escaped from a box accidentally opened by Pandora. There are 10 puzzles per city, allocated in 35 cities all over the world. The final outcome is that the player has recovered pieces of Pandora's Box and trapped the seven escaped spirits back into the box. As the bits of the box are recovered, the player is given pieces of the stories of each spirit.
The puzzles are of the highly addictive "just one more, then I'm getting the hell away from the computer" sort. There are ten different kinds of puzzles, and they seem to be interspersed randomly in each area accessed. Each is made from a manipulated photograph of the country in which the current puzzle is "from" or from pictures of famous pieces of art from these same regions.
The fact that the puzzles are formulaic in that they are the same ten puzzles over and over, made different through the use of the photographs they are made from, gives the developers the ability to expand the package and increase the number of puzzles in the game for re-release as a "Puzzle Game of the Year" edition (a moniker gotten from having won a "best of" category at the 1999 E3), which increases the number of puzzles the game contains from 350 to 400. This also goes right to the edge of overkill, as the same 10 puzzles 400 times becomes 40 each, so you have to either love all of them or find some you love and skip the rest.
The design is extremely well-done. Each puzzle give the player a very basic walkthrough that explains, step by step, how it works the first time that kind of puzzle is played. This is pretty much unheard-of in adventure games, or puzzle games for that matter, which usually maintain that figuring out what they are talking about is part of the "fun." Personally, I like having things explained to me just fine.
Puzzles can be timed or played at leisure. On occasion, the game gives the player a bonus for completing a puzzle within a certain amount of time. A scorecard is kept of how many puzzles have been completed, and for each ten puzzles completed, the game gives the player a marker to be able to count a puzzle complete without having to finish it. (Clear proof, in my opinion, that they know darned well some of these become redundant.) There are also hint markers that can be earned randomly upon completion of some puzzles - these help the player with the next step in the puzzle she is currently on if she is stymied.
Background music in the game is so similar from place to place as to be almost game Muzak, if such a thing could possibly exist. Each area's music lightly maintains the air of the country that the player is working on, kind of like Culture Lite. It is not in any way intended to be a focal point in the game, but instead adds a never-ending dreamy background for the player that acts as an additional assistant in forgetting just how much time has been spent playing during any one sitting.
Pandora's Box is meant to be pure fun escapist fare. There's no stress or hurry in playing it, and its design is such that it is a relaxing activity, kind of like doing a jigsaw puzzle was before the advent of computers.
People who downloaded Pandora's Box have also downloaded:
Puzz-3D: Neuschwanstein Castle, Puzz-3D: Thomas Kinkade, Puzz-3D: Orient Express, Microsoft Entertainment Pack: The Puzzle Collection, Puzz-3D: Notre Dame Cathedral, Marble Drop, Lode Runner Online: The Mad Monks' Revenge, Lose Your Marbles
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