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.