Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Picross 3D Review

This review was originally published on

Nintendo has a knack for creating simple yet absolutely addictive puzzle games. The original Picross on the DS was a clever play on Sudoku-style grid puzzling, with the added twist of pictures being produced by eliminating squares. Removing squares on the grid is based on a logical elimination based on numbers marking the rows and columns. For example, if a row of 5 squares has a number 5 attached to the end, then all 5 are safe and nothing is taken out. If the row were marked with a 3 then, naturally, 3 squares would remain and 2 must be eliminated. Finding out which squares, however, is the tricky part. The game continually adds levels of complexity, being sure not to overwhelm but still give players a challenge. Nintendo has taken things one step and one dimension further with Picross 3D.

No longer on a 2-D plane, the puzzles now have the added challenge of depth as players will chip away at a block of cubes, following the same rules of logic, to create little figures. It might sound confusing but thanks to a hefty tutorial the game is accessible and once you get sucked in there’s no going back. The game is more difficult than the original Picross in that some players may have a hard time wrapping their heads around the more third-dimension-centric aspects of the gameplay. The game lends a hand by providing sliders in order to cut into the objects in order to get a handle on the cubes. However, this proved to be one of the more difficult mechanics of the game to understand. By following the clues, being sure not to eliminate the wrong blocks, and completing puzzles, players are rewarded by a robot, dog, magnifying glass, and all manner of everyday objects. Speaking of puzzles, Picross 3D offers more than 300 and at $19.99 it’s easy to recommend the game as a great value that’s sure to occupy a lot of time.

The art style has taken a bizarre, pastel-focused turn that looks a bit cheap and juvenile. But, with gameplay mechanics as good as this, the game could have been in black and white and I really wouldn’t have cared. (In fact, Mario Picross came out on the Gameboy in black and white and it was just as much fun.) Customizable background images and music make the aesthetics a tad more tolerable but it’s worth mentioning Nintendo didn’t have to make the game look like a budget title.

The sliders that let you cut-into the blocks and examine the inside of the figures was a constant source of annoyance during the more difficult puzzles. Nintendo was smart enough to make players hold a button to chip away at a cube or mark it as safe. However, no such attention was paid to the sliders which often activated as I was trying to rotate the object rather than cut into it. I wish I could have held a button to activate it as I did with other elements.

I mentioned before that Picross 3D has a lengthy tutorial. It holds your hand perhaps a bit longer than it should. I appreciate the steady pace but it would have been nice to have the ability to skip ahead to more difficult levels. As it is, players have to progress through more than 100 Easy difficulty puzzles before getting a chance to take a crack at the Medium and Hard tiers.

Despite any minor problems I had with the game from an art-style or progression standpoint, these issues pale in comparison to the truly addictive nature of Picross 3D. The game is fun and has the uncanny ability to make you travel through time, unaware of how many hours are passing, as you keep tapping and saying “just one more.”

Image courtesy of Joystiq