Game Description: Picross 3D is the single player sequel to the popular Picross DS puzzle game. The original game was a number-based grid puzzle that challenged players to reveal a hidden picture. Picross 3D ratchets up the challenge, moving the action into three dimensions. Blending the logical challenge of a sudoku puzzle with the excitement of discovering hidden images, Picross 3D is a must-have for any puzzle fan on the DS. Additional features include multiple categories of puzzle challenges and wireless functionality that allows puzzles to be shared both via the Internet and over a local Nintendo Wi-Fi connection.
HIGH A fantastic sequel to a great puzzle game.
LOW The step-by-step progression to reach harder puzzles.
WTF That's supposed to be a horse!? Really!?
It seems that everyone is jumping on the 3D bandwagon. Movies brought glasses wearing fun back to the mainstream, television soon jumped on board, and video games are planning their own foray into this exciting new 1950s obsession. Until the release of the Nintendo 3DS some time next year, we gamers will have to settle for boring old two-dimensional games. But wait, there's a game to save us from this monotony of flat screen gaming: Picross 3D!*
Picross is a puzzle series from Nintendo that actually hasn't been milked dry ever since its inception 15 years ago for the original Game Boy—probably because Picross isn't a real system seller. However, Nintendo took a chance and released an updated version for the DS a few years back. Picross DS didn't exactly shatter any records either, but Nintendo felt confident enough to release the sequel, and puzzle fans should be thankful.
The basic Picross concept is back: rows of squares with number clues are given for the player to decipher. This time around, gamers have another dimension to deal with and must now contend with cubes. This move to an extra axis could have been accomplished a millions ways of wrong, but HAL Laboratories pulls it out with stunning grace. The addition of new clues help you figure out which blocks need to be removed, but at the same time rack your brain with confusion at all the possibilities of spaces and cubes that need to be left in the puzzle. Picross 3D has a simple concept, but the game is far from easy. And that's where the game really shines.
It's rare to find something so simple, yet so engrossing. Picross 3D takes this simplicity, runs with it, and never looks back. Puzzle after puzzle is cranked out, and slowly but surely, the puzzles get more and more difficult. Row after row of cubes are added with larger and larger numbers to contend with. All the while, the concept never changes. It's still the same basic formula, but it grabs a hold of you instead of boring you.
My only complaint about Picross 3D would be the new use of the control pad (or A, B, X, and Y buttons for you southpaws). The original Picross DS was a wholly touch-screen experience. Many might complain about a game that relies solely on the stylus for control, but a game like Picross is one that benefits from this type of control. In Picross 3D you now need to use the control pad to help instruct the game whether or not to knock out or paint different cubes. Often times I find myself trying to move fast, only to be pressing the wrong direction. This knocks out a box I do not want removed and then I must suffer the in-game penalty. I feel like the option could have been included to have this game be all touch-screen, especially since the icons for the control pad are already on screen.
It's great to see Nintendo take a chance on Picross 3D. It may not be one of their more famous IPs, but is definitely one of their best and most consistent. Gamers looking for a challenging, yet simple puzzle game should look no further than Picross 3D. Just don't be disappointed 3D glasses are not included.
*Yes, I realize Picross 3D is still on a boring old flat screen.
— Brian Theisen
Disclosures: This game was obtained via retail and reviewed on the Nintendo DS. About 4 hours of play have been devoted to the single player mode, with more sure to follow. There is a create-and-share puzzle option that has not been tried, but has mondo potential.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game contains: comic mischief. Parents have little to worry about beyond younger gamers possibly becoming frustrated.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing: The majority of time spent on this game was without the volume on. There are no audio clues to help solve puzzles, and all can be solved solely with visual clues.
HIGH You gotta love the "click" that happens when dozens of minutes of frustration give way to a natural, logical conclusion.
LOW Please play me a different song on this next puzzle!
WTF My insurance provider doesn't see Picross-related carpal tunnel syndrome as a viable reason for treatment.
Nintendo of America hates you. Well, they hate me at least. Someone somewhere knew that I would stalk my local games shop weeks before the official release of Picross 3D to get my mitts on a copy as soon as it hit shelves. They knew I'd pour hours and hours and hours into this tiny cartridge—slumping over my DS like it's about to fuse with my frontal lobe. They knew my OCD tendencies would ignore the muscle pains and blurry eyes of extended play just to crack through one more puzzle…. Ack.
Never mind their intentions, they've made Picross 3D the most addictive game I've played in many years.
Brian's review was right-on in how wonderfully the developer, HAL Laboratories, has implemented the transition from flat grid-like puzzles of the previous incarnations (including 2007's Picross DS) to easily-manipulated sets of 3D cubes. The few Picross fans out there will be quite happy with how smoothly the new system works. Puzzle fans new to the series who like number-based games like Sudoku will be quickly taken in by the simplicity of the concept and satisfied by its logical progression in difficulty. With a few basic rules to master, the game ever so slowly ramps up to get bigger, badder, and more confounding, but more deliciously satisfying than even Sudoku. See, unlike Sudoku, Picross 3D's puzzle structure is so elegant that all guesswork and "trying out" is absent in favor of straight-up logic.
Presentation, too, has come a long way since the very basic look of Picross DS. With more colors, more options, and charming animations for each puzzle, this new iteration is much easier to love, and will hopefully reach out a little better to Joe Gamer. It's worth noting, too, that there are more than just one music track to listen to, unlike in Picross DS. Honestly, though, the music here could use a little more shuffling. When playing ten puzzles of the same rank in a row, players are likely to hear the same song loop a hundred times…
That said, my only other complaint was similar to Brian's. The game does in fact lock out all difficulties except Easy from the beginning, not allowing players who spent weeks with Picross DS instant access to the more challenging fare. In retrospect, however, I relished every Easy and Medium-level puzzle as I played them, all the while anticipating the harder selections to come. I also believe that this decision serves to really ingrain certain techniques that serve one well once the Hard puzzles are accessed.
Finally, Picross 3D is not without intense levels of frustration. Incredibly, however, each extended period of brow-furrowing during my playthrough gave way to an "A-ha!" moment completely rooted in logic and reason—every time. That these moments kept coming again and again when I had completely given up on anything but guessing my next “move” is a testament to the inherent simplicity and excellence of this game.
Nintendo has also at this time released over 200 additional downloadable puzzles for those who have burned through the 300+ puzzles included—some even player-created. That already makes the game a great value, especially at $20. Puzzle fans: buy this game!
Bravo! My thanks go out to NoA for continuing to take risks on this franchise. More please!
Disclosures: This game was obtained via retail and reviewed on the Nintendo DS. Approximately 70 hours of play were devoted to the game.