Review: “Castle of Horror” by Jean-Jacques Loup, Heye, 9.75/10
"Castle of Horror" is an absolute masterpiece of a puzzle. The art by Jean-Jacques Loup is outstanding. Dozens of scary movie tropes are included in this image in a humorous way, from Frankenstein to ghosts, witches, and vampires. This is a moderately difficult puzzle, mostly due to its size, so prepare to buckle in and enjoy a long puzzling experience. There are dozens of funny scenarios going on around the puzzle, which you'll discover as you assemble it. The Heye quality is good with a gorgeous triangular box, large poster, thick and sturdy pieces, and excellent image reproduction. This is a grid-cut puzzle with a good variety of piece shapes. This puzzle was originally produced in 2003 and was out of print for a number of years. Don't miss a chance to get this classic while it's back in print. Highly recommended!
Publisher: Heye (Germany), published 2003 and reissued 2015
Title: “Castle of Horror” by Jean-Jacques Loup, 2000 pieces
Finished size: 37 13/16″ x 26 3/4″
OUR RATING: 9.75/10
This week at Jigsaw Junkies we’re featuring one of my favorite puzzle artists, Jean-Jacques Loup He made puzzle images for Heye from the 1970’s up until his recent death in 2015. Our reviews this week are of “Ballooning” and “Castle of Horror” (it is almost Halloween, isn’t it?) This weekend, we’ll have a retrospective of Loup puzzles from the early days to today. Hope you enjoy our coverage of this awesome cartoonist.
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“CASTLE OF HORROR” REVIEW
The History of this puzzle
“Castle of Horror” was originally released in 2003 but was recently reissued in the traditional Heye triangular box. It’s currently available at retail so grab a copy while they last! Once it is out of print the price skyrockets on ebay.
Box Quality: (10/10)
This is a gorgeous example of Heye triangular box. The original Heye triangular boxes had plastic tops that were easy to lose, but the latest incarnation has a fold down top. The front of the box features a closer view of the puzzle and the back of the box shows the puzzle image in its entirety. You can see the front in the photo at the top of this review.
The sides of the box in this case are really the top and bottom of the triangular box. The top has the Heye logo, artist and puzzle name, and some pull-out details from the design. (Note: This is the 2003 box. The 2015 box currently on the market is a bit different in design and actually nicer I think.) I love this top design for shelving top-out, because you can recognize the puzzle at a glance.
The bottom of the box has the bar code, final puzzle dimensions and the year of manufacture, which is wonderful to have when you are trying to organize a collection.
The back of the box shows the entire puzzle image in a smaller size and has a short bio on the artist.
Here’s a close-up of the bio portion of the box. (click for a closer view)
Inside the box we have the bag of puzzle pieces and a very large poster. The poster is nice to work with. Not only is it quite large, but you can put the box away and the poster folds neatly over your puzzle when it is covered. Again note this box is the 2003 edition. The current 2015 edition has a poster, but I’m not sure if it’s exactly the same size and the back of it is indoubtedly changed.
The back of the poster has a mini catalog of Heye puzzles that were out the same year. Since this box is from 2003, the puzzles on the back of the poster are mostly out of print now. Look–it’s Berlin in 8000 pieces! Good luck ever finding that one for sale.
Here’s a closer view of the verbage on the poster if you care to read it. Click for a closer view.
I’ve given the box a perfect 10 score. Heye triangular boxes my absolute favorite in the puzzle world and I really love the included poster.
The Image: 10/10
If I could give this image higher than a 10, I would! This image is a favorite of mine because I love Loup’s cartoon puzzles, I love Halloween and gothic puzzles, and I love larger puzzles. So I admit I’m biased on this one.
But bias aside, this is indubitably a fantastic puzzle image. It’s got a lot of detail but isn’t so “busy” that the details get muddled. There are a dozen or so little vignettes around the scene that stand alone, like the witches on the cliff or the graveyard in the lower left. The colors are just gorgeous, and the execution of every line of the art is perfect.
(Click on any of the images in this review for a closer look.)
Take a look at the detail below from the lower right side of the puzzle. We have a carriage racing through the castle gate. It’s right out of a Dracula movie. The couple in the coach looks terrified while the driver is urging on the horse. There’s an Igor type character holding the gate open, ghosts running from the carriage, and a vampire with his victim in the grass. The characters are fun and expertly drawn. The palette is colorful while still working with the night time theme.
I love that there are so many little scenes going on around the puzzle image, like the little scene below on the balcony of the castle where a couple faces “Death”.
Loup always impresses me with his great use of theme. Sports-themed cartoon puzzles, like a “busy” puzzle on a tennis court, are not too hard to find. But a puzzle that has a theme that’s really unique, thoughtful, and hilarious are not common. I loved Loup’s Apocalypse for its very unique theme and Castle of Horror is also super creative and different. You’ll find a lot of horror movie tropes here. In the close-up below you can see a Frankenstein type scene, a slasher movie theme, prisoners left to rot in jail ala Count of Monte Cristo, and a classic Dracula .
I simply love everything about the “Castle of Horror” image. Its obvious that so much care and time went into it, from conception through final polish, that it just blows my mind. So many puzzle images are fairly hasty pieces that look similar to a lot of other images that came before (such as the pets-with-holiday-decoration puzzles). I like those puzzles just fine too, don’t get me wrong. But when you get a unique masterpiece like this one, it’s really impressive!
Puzzle Quality: (9/10)
Heye is a premium German-made puzzle. You can see our full brand comparison on Heye here.
I really enjoyed the quality of this puzzle while I assembled it. As you can see from the detail below, Heye is a grid-cut puzzle with a good variety of piece shapes and more of a matte finish. Their boxes and pieces have that German board game feel, with heavy, sturdy materials and impeccable art reproduction. I never had any issues wondering if a piece fit or not. The pieces, out of the bag, were fully separated and without blemish. However, I still got some light glare at night that made the blues in the sky difficult to distinguish between. I found that section easier to work in the daylight.
The unit I reviewed here is from 2003. The Heye piece cut has improved slightly with the use of more slanted edges, as you can see in the 2016 Heye puzzle below.
Earlier this week I reviewed Heye’s “Ballooning” and noted the piece fit was on the loose side. I did not see that in this 2003 puzzle. The interlock was tighter and I was able to move joined pieces around without them falling apart. For another take on a 2016 Heye puzzle, you can read my review of “Happytown” here.
Overall, I’m giving this puzzle a 9 score for quality. The only reason it didn’t score a 10 is because the pieces are standard in shape and I prefer a random cut puzzle or even the more creative shapes of the 2016 Heye.
I’d set the rating of this puzzle as moderately difficult, mostly due to the size of it. At 2000 pieces it is quite large. And while there are good, strong colors in the puzzle, there are some colors that appear throughout, such as the beige and gray of the castle walls and other stones. There’s also a pretty good area of sky to piece together. This puzzle took me five solid evenings to complete.
I assembled the border first and then worked on the green grass. The green color is rare in this puzzle and the grass texture made it easy to see and pull the pieces.
The other area that has the most unique colors is the area of bright red and blue at the top of the castle. The stained glass window pieces are easy to find and assemble and there’s a very bright blue which is on the castle roof. I also did the tall, vertical dark green hedges. This puzzle is so large it feels like a vast blank area to fill! Which can be good or bad, depending on how much of a challenge you like. Since I have been looking forward to doing this puzzle for a long time, I was happy it would take me awhile.
DAY THREE AND FOUR:
The next eight hours or so were spent picking an area in the design to tackle, looking through my sorting tray for the pieces, and then piecing them together. There is a lot of brown, beige, peach, and gray pieces in the puzzle. At first glance many of these pieces seem similar, but on closer look they are not. The brown cliffs on the right have slight different colors and textures than the brown wall of the castle, for example. There are various bits of white and/or light stonework that go all over the puzzle.
Above and below: the brown cliffs have strong vertical lines. The castle walls can be distinguished by the hash brick lines (below).
At this stage I also did all the windows in the castle and most of the characters in the puzzle. For the characters, it was useful to check the poster and see what piece went to which character and where they were in the overall design. Most of the windows have brighter colors, like oranges and reds and blues, which make the pieces easier to find.
There are a number of little male vampires with the widow’s peak hair that appear throughout the puzzle, but upon close examination, you can tell what vampire a piece belongs to because they all have slightly different expressions or body positions, like the vampire on the stairs below.
Another of my favorite little scenes in the image is the evil monks leading a woman prisoner off to some nefarious end. The use of the repeated costumes in this one make the pieces easy to find.