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It's a quarter to midnight on New Year's Eve, 1999, and you're at Century Park, avoiding the crowds that have gathered there to celebrate the incoming millennium. On a whim, you decide to follow a mysterious and attractive stranger... and wind up on a journey through time, collecting puzzle pieces and foiling the plans of an adversary who is trying to change the outcome of some of the most important events of the 20th century. Complicating matters further is the fact that this adversary is the very attractive stranger you encountered earlier...

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Jigsaw is a work of Interactive Fiction by Graham Nelson and can be found here.


This work provides examples of:

  • Author Appeal: The level of actual historical significance of certain cultural events, as opposed to scientific and military ones, is highly debatable and we'll leave it at that. But the Enigma fragment is ridiculously detailed.
  • Bittersweet Ending: On the one hand, the world has been saved, and if you did everything right, you are now in a relationship with Black, with a jewel that you should be able to sell for enough money to live comfortably. On the other hand, you are now trapped in the year 1900 and almost certainly won't live to see the twenty-first century.
  • Been There, Shaped History: Or kept it from being changed, in any case. You:
  • Butterfly of Doom: If you fail, history crashes.
  • Contrived Coincidence: The key to the drawer in Sarajevo somehow finds itself in Century Park, decades later.
  • Dating Catwoman: Later in the game you dance a veritable spy tango with Black.
  • Enemy Mine: The player and Black aren't always on opposite sides.
  • Featureless Protagonist: The player character.
  • Gender-Neutral Writing: In regards to both Black and the player, for the explicit purpose of hooking them up without implying anything about their respective genders and/or orientations. It's almost flawless.
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  • Golden Ending: It's not enough just to save the universe; you also have to complete a second extremely difficult collection quest perfectly to get a remotely happy ending.
  • Gratuitous Latin: Latin quotations abound. For example, on the ormolu clock it says "tempora mutantur, nos et mutamur in illis" translation , and Kaldecki's motto is "felix qui potuit rerum cognoscere causas" translation .
  • Guide Dang It!: Enigma. In Real Life, that took not one, but two bunches of very good mathematicians. Almost as difficult here.
    • Some of the puzzle solutions are a little... esoteric. Because we all would climb a monument in the park and blow it up, wouldn't we?
  • Instant Expert: You learn to play mandoline by doing it a couple of times, which takes minutes of game-time.
  • Instant Illness: If you're bitten by a mosquito in the Suez Canal chapter, you'll drop dead from malaria within a few turns.
  • Intangible Time Travel: The beginning of the Enigma chapter.
  • Jigsaw Puzzle Plot: Yes, in the figurative sense as well as the literal.
  • Newspaper Dating: Used in many of the chapters, often to give a general idea of what the chapter's about as well as for the actual date.
  • New Year Has Come: The story begins and ends on New Year's. Specifically, it begins on New Year's Eve, 1999, and ends on New Year's Day, 1900.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Black's mentor, the eccentric Hungarian (despite Slavic-sounding surname) inventor Kaldecki, who in no way resembles Nicola Tesla.
  • Our Time Machine Is Different: It consists of a puzzle board, an ormolu clock and the "curious device" - all of these have distictly steampunk flavour. Also, you will sooner or later end up in the Land.
    The Kaldecki Effect needs an enormous temporal potential to work, you see. You can't just travel from anywhere to anywhere. Time flows downhill like water, he said. If you want to go from event T1 to event T2, you have to ride the wave. So much for Einstein.
  • Permanently Missable Content: Nearly everything in the game if you aren't careful, including those vital jiggies.
  • Programming Game: You get to program a robot in the Moon chapter.
  • Rummage Sale Reject: The statue of Kaldecki is wearing:
    an air-raid warden's helmet, a sickle in one hand, a soldering iron in the other: an old-fashioned cavalry officer's tunic and a pair of miner's trousers, then Indian sandals.
  • Set Right What Once Went Wrong: What Black is trying to do, and the player is trying to prevent Black from doing. Usually.
  • "Shut Up" Kiss: ... is actually the solution to one of the puzzles.
  • Sliding Scale of Collectible Tracking: Pegs the needle at the 'difficult' side.
  • Temporal Mutability: The PC is sort of a one-person Time Police who keeps time on the right track, because history seems rather fragile.
  • Terminator Twosome: Black tries to make history better - your goal is to keep it the way it is.
  • Time Travellers Are Spies: Both Black and the player in the Enigma chapter, and Black in the B-29 chapter.
  • Trapped in the Past: The fate of Black and White in the end.
  • Undercover as Lovers: In the Suez Canal chapter.
  • Viewers Are Geniuses: Some of the puzzles may force the player to do research in order to solve them — one, for example, requires at least a basic knowledge of Proust's A la recherche du temps perdu, and the episode with the Enigma machine doesn't explain quite as much as one might hope about how said machine works.
  • White and Grey Morality: Black (and Black's late mentor) is less of a villain than a misguided idealist who is willing to use questionable means to achieve the desired ends.
  • You Already Changed the Past: This is the case with the Cold War episode. It starts with you and a thoroughly confused Black in a mysterious white space instead of a black one, hinting that you're the one influencing history this time. Your actions are already part of the timeline, and now you need to actually perform them or else the timeline will change. This enables the game to include a Prevent-World-War-Three episode without the meddling Black trying to cause it - Black wants to change history, not end it.
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