What is Pieces of the Galaxy?
Pieces of the Galaxy is a series of ten puzzles from HelloFish Creative Studio that is currently seeking funding on Kickstarter. Each of the puzzles blends precision laser cut pieces made from wood and acrylic into beautiful designs that are equal parts pieces of art and jigsaw puzzles, and each one hides many other fun features for you to discover as well.
What’s in the Box?
- 70 – 365 Puzzle Pieces (depending on the puzzle)
- Fact Booklet
- Picker Pen
- Tube of Glue
- Acrylic Backing for Display
- Building Board
How do Pieces of the Galaxy Puzzles Work?
Note: My review is based on an early production copy, so it is subject to change and may not reflect final component quality.
At the most basic level, Pieces of the Galaxy puzzles are jigsaws. Unlike with the majority of jigsaws however, these puzzles are laser cut from wood and acrylic making every piece unique. This also makes them surprisingly difficult for their size and piece-count. HelloFish sent me a first run copy of the Earth puzzle, and it was by far one of the trickiest puzzles I have ever worked on. However, there is much more to the Pieces of the Galaxy series than just regular jigsaw puzzles.
First, there are specially shaped pieces. Each of the ten puzzles contains shaped pieces based on astronomical symbols, mythology, and history connected to that planet or body. There are masculine symbols on Mars and water symbols on Neptune, maps of constellations that the planets belong to, and alien life hiding out too.
The Earth puzzle contained items including a mammoth, whale, seedling, aircraft, and the astronomical symbol for the planet. The booklet that comes with the puzzle explains the meaning behind each of the chosen designs.
Each of the eight Pieces of the Galaxy planet puzzles also contains a gear-shaped piece. These can be combined with the Sun (and a smaller, additional gear-shaped found within the Moon) to create a new, moving puzzle showing pieces from the whole solar system working together as a complex machine in a stunning piece of symbolism.
The only downside of this amazing idea is that it will require you to back at a level high enough to get all ten puzzles – and that doesn’t come cheap as I’ll explain below.
Next, there is the puzzle within a puzzle. Each of the Pieces of the Galaxy puzzles contains a second, hidden puzzle inspired by the mythos of that planet. Some of the hidden puzzles include Poseidon hidden within Neptune, the “Moon Rabbit” (an East Asian myth I had to look up) hidden within the Moon, and – my favorite – a little alien with his spaceship on Mars. The puzzle within the Earth puzzle is based on the Tree of Life and took me a solid half hour to put together, despite it only containing 16 pieces! Often, pieces will need to be flipped over from their position in the main puzzle, adding an extra layer of difficulty.
This is where the included Picker Pen will come in very useful. Because the pieces are laser cut and very intricate, getting a middle piece out from the puzzle is incredibly difficult, even for those of us with small fingers and long nails. The Picker Pen is slightly sticky and allows you to easily lift individual pieces out. You can see a gif of the pen being demonstrated on the project’s Kickstarter page.
Finally, there are High and Low sections in each puzzle. This means there are certain sections of the puzzles where the pieces have been cut from materials of a slightly thicker depth than the rest of the design. On the Earth puzzle, the two higher sections are the two poles. These sections can also be removed and combined together, symbolizing plate tectonics, and adding a second puzzle within a puzzle element as well.
Should I Back Pieces of the Galaxy?
Pieces of the Galaxy is a stunningly beautiful series. It will appeal to anyone who loves puzzles or astronomy, and the resulting designs are easily gorgeous enough to be framed as pieces of art.
The level of detail in these puzzles is unlike anything I have come across before. While I have seen and built laser cut wooden puzzles before, including puzzles with unique shaped pieces (British company Wentworth have been producing these in their Whimsies range since the 90s) the way the Pieces of the Galaxy range combines this with so many other features – including combining pieces from the entire puzzle series into a separate, moving puzzle, is totally new.
While the acrylic section of the puzzle is a fun and unique element, I didn’t feel it lived up to the description of why it was included. The idea behind these sections is to allow light to pass through sections of the puzzles, “giving life to coursing rivers of streams of gas”. While this works beautifully in the promotional photos, these are taken in environments with very high light levels (and, I suspect, the use of light boxes on at least one occasion) so when viewing the puzzle in an average room, the sensation of glowing light isn’t really there. For that, you’ll need to invest in the acrylic display stands on offer as add ons.
Because the puzzles are so beautiful, HelloFish has also opted to offer an add-on of acrylic display frames. These are custom designed to fit each puzzle (including the High and Low sections) so they can be shown off easily without the need to glue them together which would prevent you from being able to take them apart and do the puzzles within each puzzle again. The display stands cost between $8 and $14 depending on the size you need, which brings me onto one of the most important points I need to discuss. The cost.
Pieces of the Galaxy is not cheap. The least expensive puzzle in the range is the 70 piece Moon which will set you back $29. The medium (inner) planets will cost you $49 each, large (outer) planets are $85 each, and the Sun will deplete your bank account by a whopping $119. Those are eye-watering sums of money for jigsaw puzzles, no matter what the quality.
Of course, to get the most out of the series, for example, the moving gears puzzle, you’ll need the full set. Buying one of each does come at a discount (and you’ll get a bonus “mystery” planet included – gee, I wonder what that might be) but it will still set you back a whopping $549 and remember, all of these costs exclude shipping and display stands. Want to add those and you’re looking at over $650 within the US.
Are they worth it? Difficult to say. Pieces of the Galaxy is being marketed as art, not as a jigsaw puzzle, and art is subjective. For me, I couldn’t personally afford to buy the set and even buying one or two puzzles would eat up too much of my budget to be realistic, plus, once you have one, you’ll want more. Trust me, I know. I’m pretty sure that’s the case for most people I know, and I’d wager it’s the same for many of you reading this.
Don’t get me wrong. These are spectacular puzzles that have been made to incredible standards and I fully appreciate why they are being priced the way they are. I’m sure you would too if you got to play with one as well. I would deeply love to build them all and display them in my house, but the cost is just too high for something that serves no purpose beyond beauty. That’s most of a mortgage payment on jigsaws.
If you’ve got $550 burning a hole in your pocket then I’d push you towards these with all haste and say that you won’t regret pledging. These are the types of collector’s pieces that you’ll be passing down to your grandkids. For those of us with a little less disposable income, I cannot say – hand on heart – that they are worth it to you.
GeekMom received a prototype Earth puzzle from Pieces of the Galaxy for review purposes.