There’s been a neat trend of story-focused digital jigsaw puzzles over the last few years. Instead of a random assortment of pictures, or a collection of thematically linked but otherwise standalone illustrations, we’ve seen games use the sequence of puzzles to tell a story—like a picture book, only you have to complete a puzzle to see the next page. How Buddy’s Parents Met is a charming addition to this movement, using its collection of puzzles to spell out a heartwarming little story about two people falling in love.
Across six puzzles, How Buddy’s Parents Met tells a simple, but sweet tale about a chance encounter that turns into true love, much to the delight of a little cat called Buddy. It’s a wordless tale, unfolding entirely through the images that you piece together, but that doesn’t prevent it from having its emotional ups and downs. There’s nothing overly deep or boundary-pushing here, but that’s not the intent, either: it’s just a nice, feel-good love story to tie a collection of jigsaw puzzles together.
What makes this tale pop—as you’d hope, given the jigsaw puzzle framing—are the beautiful illustrations by Katia Nakamura. The characters are expressive and unique, with a playful energy that comes through to really drive home that picture book aesthetic. Each piece is bright, colourful, and emotive, detailed enough to let the story unfold while retaining the simplicity that gives it its weight. That balance of detailed-but-not-too-much makes for good puzzles, too, with enough distinctive features to work with, but none of the overwhelming minutiae you get in something like a Wasgij. There’s a nice, relaxing soundtrack to accompany your puzzle-solving, too.
There’s not a whole lot more to it than that, really. You’ve got six jigsaws to puzzle through, with five different sizes for each, ranging from 135 to 735 pieces. It all works about as well as a digital jigsaw puzzle can: you can never replicate the tactile feeling of the real thing, but instead you get the convenience of being able to carry your works in progress in your pocket and the benefit of some handy digital shortcuts. The touchscreen controls work well enough, though screen size inevitably makes things a bit clumsy as the pieces get smaller on harder puzzles. Controller inputs are available too, but a mouse-style cursor controlled with the left stick makes that an unwieldy choice—but such is the nature of adapting a jigsaw puzzle to a gamepad control scheme.
How Buddy’s Parents Met comes packed with all the usual conveniences that come with a digital jigsaw puzzle: options to highlight edge pieces or overlay a ghost of the target image over the game board; an instant shuffle of loose pieces at the press of a button; pieces that lock into place if you place them in the right spot, even if they’re not yet connected to any others; autosaves; and so on. One of the more uncommon (but very useful) features is a highlight function for pieces in each quadrant of the puzzle—the same concept as the edge pieces tool, but to isolate all pieces that fit into one quarter of the final picture. Obviously, how much you make use of such features is up to you—I’m sure some would call these things cheating—but the beauty of these optional help tools means everyone can play the way they want, and enjoy the sense of relaxation that a good jigsaw puzzle can bring.
Ultimately, that’s what How Buddy’s Parents Met is: an enjoyable collection of jigsaws that come together to form a sweet little picture book tale of two people falling in love (and the cute cat who gets to bask in that love). It’s simple, relaxing fun—nothing more, nothing less. Sometimes, that heartwarming comfort food is all you really need.
How Buddy’s Parents Met
Developer: Mens Sana Interactive
Publisher: QUByte Interactive
Platforms: Nintendo Switch (reviewed), PC
Release date: 27 August 2021 (Switch); 14 Feb 2020 (PC)