I really shouldn't open it… well maybe just a tiny crack.
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.