Slot Together Wooden Insect Models In Zen Build

Why won't the head go on? I must be missing a part.

“Enter the exciting world of insects with Exciting World of Insects, a new biweekly magazine about the exciting world of insects. Build one of the insect kingdom’s deadliest hunters issue-by-issue with real wood parts for a praying mantis! The first issue’s only 50p!”

The TV commercials downplayed that later issues cost far more than I could ever afford, leaving my childhood shelves covered in jigsaw-cut wooden mantis limbs, T. rex skulls, stag beetle carapaces, and Eiffel Tower crowns. Twenty years later, I might finally complete one, thanks to Zen Build. It’s a free puzzler about assembling wooden models, and I cannot finish this mantis.

Zen Build’s presentation is a bit scrappy but hey, you get to build wooden models. You’re given a brief glimpse of their finished form then they explode into a cloud of swirling parts for you to assemble by clicking two parts that go together.

It automatically slots pieces together when you pair them correctly, which I’m somewhat glad for as I’d grow mighty frustrated if I had to try every piece every way. That said, the experience would be more faithful if it let me put a part in the wrong slot the wrong way around then end up complaining that it’s broken because I can’t attach the antennae anywhere.

And no, despite the similar name and tone, it’s not related to wood-wrapping puzzler Zen Bound.

Zen Build’s only got arthropods right now (‘insects’, it says, with its tarantula and centipede!), but creator Grigor Todorov is holding a poll to decide whether he’ll next add ‘animals’, vehicles, or buildings. Who knows where a horse-drawn wagon would end up?

You can play Zen Build in your browser on on or Game Jolt. For an authentic nostalgic experience, listen to whatever music you’d have playing as you fussed over your first issue parts (or enter my childhood). Arachnophobics, be warned that this video has a big wooden tarantula, but it does explode so perhaps this’d be cathartic:


  1. Harlander says:

    Is the name meant to reference Zen Bondage, another game involving things made of wood? I don’t think it’s the same guy…

    • Llewyn says:

      I can’t decide whether you mean Zen Bound (2), or whether there’s something entirely different out there.

      • Harlander says:

        Haha, yeah, that’s it.

        Freudian slip, I guess.

        • Llewyn says:

          Perhaps that could be Secret Exit’s next project. Looks like the two are completely unrelated, Zen Build is apparently Grigor Todorov’s first game.

      • Dilapinated says:

        Zen Bondage was the name of the original free flash (iirc?) game. It was many years ago now, so my memory is hazy, but I know for certain there was a game called Zen Bondage, that came out before Zen Bound 2, that was free on the PC. I assume it was by the same developers.

    • Alice O'Connor says:

      Ah! Yeah, I meant to mention that it’s not related. Which makes the name a bit weird.

      • grigtod says:

        Hey, thanks for writing this article.
        In the future the game might (if enough people want) receive updates with additional puzzle packs, that’s why I couldn’t call it Zen Insects (or Zen Arthropods). I called it Zen Build because it’s easy to remember.

        Also the poll choices are categories. I will see what models are available and pick a subcategory. For the animals it will either be dinosaurs and mammals

  2. Neurotic says:

    I worked at the WH Smiths in Swiss Cottage for a year or so (at the time Star Wars: Galaxies debuted), and I was in charge of the customer subscriptions filing cabinet. This was a filing cabinet STUFFED full of part-works, comics, and hard-to-find magazines about obscure hobbies. It was a paradise for wooden animals, metal soldiers, plaster fossils and plastic everything. It was a real bastard to maintain, too.