It’s difficult – if not downright impossible – to explain exactly how Ji Ga Zo works. You have to try it for yourself, and you’ll understand. (Which is why I asked Hasbro to send me one – I couldn’t figure it out from the literature and now I know why.)
Here’s what Ji Ga Zo (worst. product. name. ever.) is:
1) A puzzle that you create from your own photo.
2) A game in which you (or your kids) have to find pieces with specific icons on them and locate where they go using a grid (the “acorn” goes on A-15).
3) A game that teaches “orientation” since every piece can be fitted into the puzzle rightside-up, upside-down or sideways—and only one of those options is correct for each piece.
It’s a little hard to believe, isn’t it? I’ll try to explain it.
First, you choose a photo you’d like the puzzle to be. It can’t be just any photo—faces work best, and even they need to be close up and high-contrast. You put the Ji Ga Zo (how I hate that name!) in your computer and follow the very simple instructions to create an “icon board” for your specific photo.
You print out the icon board, which is a grid containing 300 one-centimetre squares. Each square contains an icon: it could be a house, a duck, an exclamation mark.
Then, you create the puzzle by finding the appropriate icons and fitting them onto your puzzle space according to the icon board… this sounds ridiculously difficult. In fact, it’s very easy—it’s just really, really hard to explain.
Ji Ga Zo (seriously, Hasbro, you couldn’t have called it Re-puzzler because it’s reusable or Griddle because it’s a puzzle with an icon grid? And these are just off the top of my head!) is very addictive and quite soothing. Harkens you back to those days when you and your mom would sit in the kitchen doing a puzzle, something we rarely take the time to do these days. And because it’s a puzzle of your child’s face, you’re more likely to want to continue making it until it’s done. And so is your kid.
The puzzle pieces are very sturdy and fit nicely together. There’s none of the wiggle-wobbling and coming apart so common to cheaper puzzles.
And you can make it easier for younger kids by sorting the puzzle pieces according to colour. Really young kids can simply help you find the pieces, which they’d find really fun. Slightly older kids can find pieces that are sorted by colour and try to find them on the grid. Older kids can do the whole thing, with or without your help.
The image itself is going to be sort of abstract. It’s not going to be a great representation of your child’s face, because it’s actually made up of shadow and light. Again, you have to see it to understand. And if you don’t have a photo you want to use, the game comes with a few including the Mona Lisa.
So here’s what I recommend. Don’t hesitate to buy Ji Ga-whatsit. It would be good for a birthday present for a party your child’s going to, or a present from gramma for your own kid. And it’s definitely got some great learning components. And it’s fun.
Once I find out from Hasbro how much it costs and where to buy it, I’ll let you know. In the meantime, I’m thinking of offering a contest to rename this thing…
Update: Hasbro got back to me… $24.99. Name’s staying.