All Features


  PlayStation 3
  PlayStation 4
  Wii U
  Xbox 360
  Xbox One


Kingdom of the Blue Whale HD

Score: 70%
ESRB: 4+
Publisher: I-play
Developer: I-play
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Family/ Edutainment/ Puzzle

Graphics & Sound:

Around this time of year, during the holidays, people gather in groups and end up doing jigsaw puzzles. Puzzles tend to be vacation activities, or rainy-day fare, for the most part. It's a "stuck inside" kind of thing, but that's because puzzles haven't traditionally been very portable. Kingdom of the Blue Whale HD solves that issue by providing a compact package containing a nice amount of puzzle goodness. You can enjoy the classic card-table activity in places the card table just wouldn't fit in... like a park bench. What makes this game a cut above the rest is the National Geographic branding for photographs that make up the game's content. You can also substitute your own for variety, but the theme of Kingdom of the Blue Whale HD is the scenery from ocean settings that surround these animals, and some great pictures of the whales alone, in pods, and with their young. The appearance of each puzzle can be edited by selecting one of two puzzle-piece types, traditional or a sleeker version with a seriously sculpted profile. The nouveau puzzle-piece style was cool, but impractical for younger players. The end result is the same, but matching different size pieces and these variant shapes keeps things interesting for replays.


Because this is a game with National Geographic content, you get the benefit of some awesome photos that become the foundation for each puzzle. Choosing a pre-loaded photo is just one option, since you can also load your own photos to create custom puzzles. The benefits of using pre-loaded is that they fit perfectly within the framed space for the puzzle, where your personal photos end up being cropped. It isn't a big deal, but it may come as a surprise if you aren't prepared. The options for play beyond selecting a photo are to choose how many pieces you'll play with, and some deeper settings around the way the board is set up. Once in play, you drag pieces together to form the finished puzzle, which magically joins together once solved. You get some little snippets about the scene depicted in the puzzle, and how each photo connects to the theme of the Kingdom of the Blue Whale. Replays will mostly come from a desire to be more challenged, or if you like the idea of loading up personal photos. Other than the puzzle-building, there's not much to do in the game, so once the puzzles are all built, you'll be moving on.


Choosing a puzzle with a higher piece-count automatically increases the difficulty. This is true not only because you have more pieces to fool around with, but because the variations between pieces aren't as pronounced. Blue water plays a pretty big role in this game, and when you're talking about tens of pieces upon tens of small pieces, those little bits of blue start blurring together. Graduating from lower levels of difficulty is a good feeling, but what about when you've succeeded in every variation Kingdom of the Blue Whale HD has to throw at you? For these moments, there are two little tricks, both effecting the individual pieces. Changing settings causes pieces to lose their proper orientation, meaning you'll need to rotate them to fit in place. The other shift is in the shape of each piece, from a more traditional layout to a very smooth and organic coupling. As attractive as this seems at first glance, those curvy sides all start to look the same when you've been squinting at a large patch of the same color. Advanced modes and modified puzzle shapes are not for amateurs, but they help to keep older gamers and parents interested. At heart, Kingdom of the Blue Whale HD is fundamentally a game that kids will enjoy, but a few features that increase challenge create some potential interest for adults.

Game Mechanics:

Jigsaw puzzles were the original "touch" interface, right? The translation to the iPad is smooth as you would expect, and there are some added bonuses included with this format. One is the default setting that creates a "virtual table" where you can stash puzzle pieces while forming your actual puzzle. This is a helpful, if somewhat unintuitive mechanic. Sliding pieces off the screen border is confusing at first, because you expect that that border defines the edge of the puzzle. What's happening here is a smarter use of real estate, but it takes some getting used to. You can toggle this setting, along with the setting for puzzle-piece shapes. There's an optional setting for rotation of pieces, plus a nice warning when you change the setting, to explain that you're about to make the game much harder! It's true that having default orientation means you only have to think about placement and matching, but for more advanced play, the option to turn on rotation takes the entire experience up a notch. We can't say that doing jigsaw puzzles on iPad feels superior to sitting around a card table with your family, but think about this as a game for people that want to have fun with jigsaw puzzles in unconventional places, such as in the car.

-Fridtjof, GameVortex Communications
AKA Matt Paddock

Related Links:

Nintendo DSi CSI: Crime Scene Investigation: Unsolved! Nintendo Wii Reload

Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated