Let's Play: Jigsaw

I recall at the time of playing this when Jigsaw came out I assumed that the Pink Floyd reference was just because “Wish You Were Here” was recorded at Abbey Road, and possibly the title seems like an appropriate motif for the relationship between the protagonist and Black.

At least we aren’t treated to the worst excesses of prog rock in this section. While I can live with the game’s overall approach that we might as well stick with the history we’ve got rather than risk something worse, I could handle the risk of disaster in order to try to erase, say, Genesis’ “Return of the Giant Hogweed”, or similar nonsense!


@Draconis, I like when you post a save-file for the start of each vignette. It makes it very easy to play along with the game in the same state as you have.


Never fear, David: as a song, it is immune to all your herbicidal battering.


I originally found the romance awkward and forced because my first interaction with Black involves such a terrible murder, Because of this, I (the player) did not find Black attractive, and I (the player) regarded White’s attraction to them as fawning and unbelievable.

Only in the opening century park scene did I imagine White as myself (male) and Black as someone I would feel attracted to. By mid game, I had a vague notion of White as female and Black as male, but mostly didn’t think about it.


I really liked too much reading this thread. It is a pity I haven’t time to play Jigsaw along with you.
And I hope there will be more games I will be able to play together.


The Moon is currently winning, 4:3:2:1 (nice ratio!), so that’s where we’ll be going next! But first, the Land (dramatic music sting).

This time we’re arriving in…

Clouded Crags
A sharp, steep mountain wall rises to the north. Clouds gather and part with furious speed on the crags above.

A slowly-rotating, holographic projection hangs in mid-air beneath the churning clouds, in the shape of a torus.

The hologram slowly turns, now showing a Universe of stars and galaxies, exploded violently out from a point.

We’re coming from A2, so I believe we’re along the northern edge of the map. The hologram shifts turn by turn, showing “a laser beam striking a diffraction grating”, “the fission of an atom”, “a demonstration of the Doppler effect”, “the carbon-dating of ancient human bones”, “the industrial extraction of ammonia”. In other words, I think this hologram is Science (like how the pagoda is Art), showing the scientific and technological advancements of the 20th century.

>x hologram
The hologram is animated, and constantly changes, as if always saying its previous picture was wrong but this one is right.

So we’ve got the Platonic solid at each corner, and an…ideal?…and a river along each edge. The west side has Art and a river of milk, the north side has Science and a river of steel. They all meet at the center, at the Pyramid.

We also get this quote while exploring, though I’m not sure why.

I’m not totally sure about the rivers, because only two are described in the central area: the river of steel and the river of ash. (The milk river flows into a canal and then into the steel river.) The source(?) of the steel river (A3) and whatever river is hypothetically to the south (D2) are both hidden in the mist. But that’s how I’m imagining things for now.

So what Ideals are along the other two faces? At B4 we find the Toll Gate:

Toll Gate
Here, the eastern rock face meets the Ash River just to the south.

Cut into the rock face is a square-cut doorway, radiating cold and open only onto blackness. Above it is an adamantine plaque, bearing the simple word “TOLL” and a graph.

>x plaque
The vertical axis of the graph runs from 0 to 110 M, whatever M is; the horizontal axis, from 0 to 100 Y. Plotted on the graph is a rising curve, climbing slowly to M=20 at Y=20, then to M=40 at Y=40, and then a sudden rise to M=80 by Y=50: after that the curve gradually rises to M=110.

Y = years, M = millions of deaths? The sharp increase being WWII? Based on the themes of the scenes we’ve visited, I suspect this is War.

If we enter the door to the east, as you might imagine…

You stumble through the ice-cold blackness of the Toll gate, to emerge…

As an Indian, celebrating the annual tribal festival in your valley in the Brazilian rain-forest. Later, you will be married. For now, supplies are being dropped by a light plane, as you trade with outsiders for land. Here comes the plane… the crates must be coming down right on top of the wedding feast! All that ribald laughter… And the napalm, and the agony of the forest.

*** You have died ***

Or perhaps…

As a teenager, stooping in three feet of brackish cold water in a mud-pit lined with planks of wood. It is night, but sound and fury bursts across the sky unceasingly. Suddenly the barrage ends, and you slump against the trench wall for a moment’s rest, calmed by the scent of cut grass… And the phosgene gas blisters your lungs in a matter of seconds.


As a confused child running along what you somehow know is the Tiergarten, the green avenue of Berlin, full of marchers and bustle and noise. You catch sight of a pretty, shining toy dropped on the road and pick it up. It’s a gold badge, with a black four-armed sign on! You pin it to your old cloth jacket, just above the star your mother makes you wear… You wave to the marchers, and they soon see your pretty badge.

Horrifying. And appropriately so, for the wars of the 20th century.

The river, at C4:

Ash River Culvert
To the north, the Ash River, sick with grey sludge, drains into a culvert in the sheer mountain wall which runs along the eastern border of the Land.

The southeast corner has an Octahedron, and the south wall has…

Carved Faces
The southern mountain wall is carved here with a mass of faces, each on top of another: glaring, happy, bemused, tragic.

>x faces
As you peer into the faces, you realise with a start of surprise that a new face is being carved even now! You stand back a moment, but there can be no doubt: the face is yours.

So we have Art, Science, and War—what would this be? The people involved? Any river to the south, if there is one, is concealed by the mist, as is the southwest corner.

Here’s a map of what we can see (using features instead of the actual room names).

The pyramid is right at the center. And notably, the ash river is described as going under the west side of the pyramid, and the steel river under the east side. So I think they sort of spiral around it?

We’ll definitely have to come back here later once more of the Land is open and see what’s changed about it. Only three pieces remain—I wonder what will happen once they’re all placed?

14.txt (18.4 KB)


Returning from the Land, per the will of the voters, we’re going to be headed to c4, the full moon in a blue sky.

>press c4
The piece at c4 presses in smoothly, like a button, then releases. You are sucked up once again into the time vortex. As you slow down, you briefly make out Stravinsky’s ballet “The Rite of Spring” being broken up by riots in Paris and then everything begins to change…

[Press SPACE to continue.]

Chapter Nine - The High Point

Lunar Module
An early space capsule like the cockpit of a plane, bolted with banks of dials and analogue readouts like car milometers. A computer displays crude green digits; not far away is a sextant. Mass is so critical that there’s no panelling over the maze of wires and pipes, and the hull is eggshell-thin.

Two astronauts can just about comfortably stand by the control panel, either side of which is a triangular window. In the white ceiling, at the rear, is a hatch, shut tight; and down at knee-level, the entrance to an airlock.

A modern-looking book, Rukl’s “Atlas of the Moon”, sits incongruously beside a kind of hammock.

You are not altogether surprised to find out who the other astronaut is.

Black snatches the sparkler away and you lose sight of it. “That was a close one! We’re breathing pure oxygen here. It could have been the Apollo 1 fire all over again.”

Oh damn, we’re actually in the lunar module—without any of the proper training! Good thing Black extinguished the sparkler, that is exactly the sort of thing you don’t want to have in a spacecraft. (Though, didn’t they switch away from pure oxygen specifically because of the Apollo 1 fire?)

If this were Trinity, or even Curses, we would have just made the game unwinnable by losing our only light source. But this game has been relatively merciful about the order of vignettes, and there haven’t really been any darkness puzzles yet, so hopefully we’ll be okay.

Black is poised over the controls, wearing not a space-suit but casual clothes: black jeans and a T-shirt from the height of the Vietnam war protests, with a picture of men on the moon and the slogan “So What?” written underneath.

“Haven’t you ever wondered what would have happened if the last Apollo astronauts hadn’t been killed?”

Jeans and a T-shirt seem entirely inappropriate for a moon landing.

Also, wait a moment—the last Apollo astronauts weren’t killed. As far as I know, nobody’s ever died on the moon. Apollo 1 caught fire during testing, but I don’t think there were any other deaths in the entire Apollo program: they all made it back safely, including the famously disastrous Apollo 13.

I’m reminded of a Tumblr post that went viral a while ago:

“If I had time travel I’d kill Hitler” “If I had time travel I’d stop my favourite politician getting assassinated” you’re all thinking way too small. If I had time travel I’d stop Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin from dying on the moon due to Soviet sabotage, kicking off the Great Nuclear War and devastating half of the planet.

There have been a few places where Black doesn’t seem to quite understand the history they’re interfering with. But this casts those moments in a different light. What if they understand perfectly well—but they’re not from the same history as us?

It sounds like this time we’re going to be working together to save our history, the one where Apollo 17 made it back safe and sound. Or maybe it’s actually Apollo 16, and in Black’s timeline, NASA never tried again after the disaster. Given that Black has someone gotten hold of a lunar module (or the lunar module?), I think we’re firmly in alternate-history territory now.

According to the status line, it’s currently 11:17 am “Lunar Time”, but I admit I have no idea what that means. We’ll have to trust Black to have the scheduling figured out for us.

“So here goes!”

This has, to say the least, been a confusing evening. Killed? You don’t remember that, but then nobody at your school ever talked about Apollo.

Okay, so we seem to be from the real timeline. (Also, is this the first time the story specifies anything about the protagonist’s past? I don’t remember it happening before, except in the Proust reminiscence.)

>read atlas
There are entries on every named feature of the moon, and well-drawn maps. It’s really intended for astronomers rather than tourists, though it includes quite detailed features of the Apollo landing sites.

The view is extraordinary, flying over a bright white-grey cratered world from 70 miles up.

“And… burn!” says Black coolly. The capsule turns and thrusts briefly into a new elliptical orbit, arcing downward.

“Traditionally the astronauts get to name the Lunar Module, so, I hereby christen her… ‘Othello’.”

So what happened to the astronauts who were supposed to be in this module? I’m very curious how Black arranged this.

Also, the status line updates here to say Lunar Module “Othello”. Nice touch.

>x sextant
Used for navigational fixes, sighting against the stars, the way travellers have for four thousand years. Through it you can see only lunar surface.

Time passes.

“Let me see… the Littrow valley, that’s 20 degrees 48 minutes north, 30 degrees 10 minutes east…”

There doesn’t seem to be anything for us to do except wait and trust our pilot.

The “Othello” drops to a perilune of just 10 miles up, and Black kicks in the engines again to tumble it out of orbit.

The craft is on automatic pilot descent now, gliding down over the lunar surface.

At 2000m up, Black takes over the controls, chiefly a buttoned joystick. The “Othello” is braking steadily.

Only 100m over the lunar soil now, and Black is concentrating to avoid craters and boulders.

Sheets of lunar soil are blown radially away from the base of the craft by rocket exhaust.

Wires hanging from the four legs brush against the surface, and the “contact” light comes on. For an instant Black hesitates, then kills the engines, and the “Othello” settles without a bump, leaning just fractionally (one of its legs must be slightly inside a minor crater).

“I don’t recognise this! We’re in the wrong place! And there’s no fuel to take off and land elsewhere.”

Uh-oh! At this point the game seems to be over. I haven’t found anything we can do here. Leaving early doesn’t wreck history, but I think we’re in a walking-dead state.

So let’s restore back to the start of this segment, and double-check Black’s calculations this time.

“Let me see… the Littrow valley, that’s 20 degrees 48 minutes north, 30 degrees 10 minutes east…”

>look up littrow valley in atlas
South of the Littrow crater, a valley with a broken south wall named after Johann J. von Littrow (1781-1840), the Austrian astronomer. The Taurus-Littrow valley, landing site of Apollo 17, is located at 20 degrees 10 minutes north, 30 degrees 48 minutes east.

Aha. They switched their minutes around.

>show atlas to black
Black looks aghast at the entry you found on the Taurus-Littrow valley. “10 minutes north, 48 east!” Frantic manoeuvering of the capsule ensues.

History saved! Black can probably take it from here, right?

But there’s no way we’re leaving without taking the chance to walk on the moon. Who would give up that opportunity?

We can sit back and appreciate the view as we descend, until…

“Houston, Taurus base here,” says Black superbly to nobody in particular. "The Othello has landed.

– Welcome to the Moon, population 4."
The “Othello” shakes a little as its remaining fuel sloshes back and forth in the tanks.

[Your score has just gone up by one point.]

Population four, so that would be us, Eugene Cernan, and Harrison Schmitt, from the actual Apollo 17. Meaning Black somehow got a second lunar module into orbit without anyone noticing for the sake of this intervention. How in the world did they manage that?

I’m not sure where to go from here, though. The airlock and hatch aren’t implemented, and OUT doesn’t work. Brute force eventually reveals that the answer is DOWN, which does make some sense.

You change into the space suit, and wriggle out on your stomach through a hatch only 32 inches square. (Getting out of a lunar module has been compared to being born.) Clambering out onto the nine-rung ladder, you stretch with relief. The last step is actually quite a large one…

A Magnificent Desolation
As Buzz Aldrin put it. A ridged, furrowed plain of unraked powdery soil, dotted with pebbles and boulders of subdued grey and brown which gleam here and there with splashes of glass. Mountains rise like sand dunes from the overcurved horizon.

You have landed in the southeast corner of the Taurus-Littrow Valley, an embayment between two-kilometer high Massifs to north and south, which runs eight kilometers wide to the west until it climbs foothills bordering the Mare Serenitas. The valley floor ends suddenly with Bear Mountain to the southeast.

A ladder rises through the shade into the airlock of the squat and beautiful Lunar Module “Othello”.

The Lunar Rover, a stripped-down jeep, rests neatly here.

It seems Black won’t be joining us for this one. Disappointing, but the complexities of another character moving around would probably push the game past the Z-machine’s limits.

And that seems like a good place to end this update. What next? Exploration?

Continuing the same transcript file from last time, because I forgot to switch it out:
14.txt (28.7 KB)


Please do explore. Cernan and Schmitt should be around here somewhere and maybe you can drive the moon jeep?

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Which destination does the puzzle piece at A2 belong to? Is there a correlation between the puzzle piece and the ideal thing being demonstrated?

I never understood the Land at all before because I used walkthroughs. Your explanations help a lot!


Yay, more Jigsaw!

Hmm, society or social movements, maybe? This might be my biases showing again, but politics seems conspicuous by its absence from this list of the significant areas of history.

Hmm, so seems like we’re missing one solid and two river pieces?

This juxtaposition amuses me!

Looks like this is a real atlas, by a Czech astronomer.

This actually makes a ton of sense, and puts a clearer light on a lot of Black’s previous behavior – including why they picked some times that didn’t seem like turning points to us.

Hopefully this is for the board game rather than the narrative allusions, since I think this would make us Desdemona…

Ooh, this is a cool puzzle!

Indeed! Just strike blindly out driving across the lunar surface, what could go wrong.

(Er, you didn’t mention, but I assume there aren’t any jigsaw pieces or, heavens forfend, animals here, right?)


Oops, left that out of my post! One puzzle piece, no animals.


I thought so as well, but a look through Wikipedia shows this was only done prior to launch, and pure oxygen was used afterwards.

How does the text change if we deal with the sparkler before pressing c4?

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This story was told to me at the passing-the-port stage of a college dinner by the little boy, who grew up to be a distinguished professor of philosophy. (I was pretty much a boy myself, a bit wide-eyed at being allowed to dine at high table in my first academic job.) The story is all true except for the last sentence: he ran to show his mother, not the marchers. She was terrified, of course, and flushed the insignia down the toilet, telling him never ever to tell anyone. I’m sorry to say that I can’t remember what eventually happened to her, but it’s easy enough to guess. I think he was sent away on the Kindertransport to London in 1938, a very fortunate escape. Anyway, this is one of the few moments in Jigsaw which is, so to speak, first-hand testimony rather than found in a book.


Pete Conrad’s first words on the moon were: Whoopie! Man, that may have been a small one for Neil, but that’s a long one for me.

I wonder, is this the one that came down with Challenger (the Apollo 17 LM) or a different one?

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I was reading some old reviews of a game from the 90’s by Jim Macbrayne (who has recently been releasing new games again), I found this edition of SPAG Magazine with three different reviews of Jigsaw from contemporaries. Pretty interesting to see the viewpoint when the main points of Comparison were Infocom, Graham Nelson’s own other games, and Zarf’s early games:
(The Jigsaw reviews are just above the spot bookmarked on the page)


You got me ego-surfing, but in fact I’m not mentioned in the Jigsaw reviews. :) There are references to The Legend Lives, Timequest, and (unreleased) Avalon, though.

…at least one person posting to rec.games.int-fiction, having
noticed that both you and Black are able to pass yourselves off
successfully in masculine roles, argued that you and Black must
therefore be gay men.

Huh, I wonder if that was me? I remember reading both characters as masculine when I played Jigsaw. Not through any open-mindedness on my part! I just found it easier to assume primary queer characters in an adventure than primary female characters. (Sorry, I wasn’t very grown up yet back then.)

(The reviewer quite correctly remonstrates that it’s a flimsy argument to begin with – cross-dressing adventurers are a staple of history and literature.)


I mixed up the reviews; the Jim Macbrayne game Frustration said that So Far and a couple of other games had raised the bar on games since Frustration came out. I mixed that up with the Jigsaw reviews.


Poking in to say that I hope this thread finishes! The Land was always really confusing so it’d be cool to see how it ends up. Sorry if it’s pushy, I just really enjoyed reading this!


No worries! The past couple weeks I’ve started a new independent study and joined the opera, which has meant most of my time is dedicated to logistics. But I should be ready to pick this back up shortly—I have no intention of letting it remain unfinished!


I played Jigsaw in late 2020, over a long time, with heavy, heavy use of the walkthrough. I’ve just discovered this thread and have read through it with great satisfaction, and will look forward to seeing how everyone deals with the rest of it!