Picross 3D adds a third-dimension fun to puzzle games
- Puzzle solving mechanics are fairly intuitive, puzzles themselves are varied and fun to solve
- Presentation is a little barren, blocky nature of shapes makes it hard to discern what they are
An intuitive portable puzzle game, Picross 3D offers up a worthwhile assortment of varied and challenging head-scratchers, even if they're occasionally bogged down by the game's blocky, barren presentation.
I like puzzle games a lot, even the ones I'm not particularly great at, because they're more methodical and slow-paced than action heavy games. They require the same set of skills -- precision, reflexes, spatial and logical reasoning, etc. -- but the pace is far more manageable and it's nice to turn down the volume on the twitch muscles and rely on the old noggin once in a while. This is why I enjoyed the original Picross when it debuted on the DS a few years ago, and it's also why I enjoyed its three-dimensional sibling, Picross 3D. The emphasis on three-dimensional perspectives is far more challenging, and the format works well on Nintendo's handheld, resulting in a nice little puzzle title that perfectly complements my usual puzzle rotation of crosswords and Sudoku.
Picross puzzles consist of a grid with numbers attached to each row and column; the numbers represent how many squares need to be filled in. If a row has the numbers 1, 2, and 4 attached to it, it means you have to first fill in one square, then a set of two squares, and finally, a set of four, with blank squares inbetween. You do this for each row and column to eventually end up with an image. The challenge derives from juggling the numbers and deducing which squares must be filled in from the clues provided. Picross 3D adds a third-dimension to the mix, so rather than contend with a flat grid, you have to literally dig into the puzzle and figure out blocks that are hidden from your normal view.
Rather than just shade in squares you want to keep, you also have to chip away at extraneous blocks the way a sculptor would with a slab of marble, eventually revealing a hidden shape. You can twist and turn the puzzle around and sliders let you see inside the guts of the entire puzzle block both horizontally and vertically. You press up on the diagonal pad to activate the hammer to get rid of blocks and you press right to mark the ones you want to keep. It's fairly intuitive, and the best compliment I can pay the game is that the physical mechanics never got in the way; the only real roadblock to solving the puzzles was my own ability to wrap my head around the concept of a 3D puzzle.
There is a good variety to the shapes -- each falls into a specific collection like dogs and fruit -- but it's difficult to discern exactly what you're trying to reveal thanks to the bulky, pixelated nature of the puzzles. You could usually tell what the shape was in original Picross puzzles after you've filled in enough squares, and that aided you in your sleuthing; in Picross 3D, the shapes are a bit harder to discern, making deductions more difficult. Keeping an eye out for symmetry definitely helps -- if there's a wing-shaped formation on the right side, it's a safe bet that there's one on the left -- but often, I would solve a puzzle and be surprised by what I had revealed.
Still, there are a large number of puzzles, and even though the replay value is limited -- the puzzles will never change so once you've beaten one, the only real incentive is to go back and try to do it perfectly or to beat your original time -- I felt like there were enough that I wouldn't get bored anytime soon. There are also bonus stages that require a set number of stars before they're unlocked -- you gain three stars if you solve a puzzle without making any mistakes in the allotted time -- which is a nice incentive as well.
Picross 3D won't exactly set the world on fire with its explosive graphics or its thrilling action but it's a competent and fun puzzle game. I enjoyed twisting my brain around the puzzles and I liked that it wasn't so difficult (at least on the easier levels -- I still haven't worked my way to the expert level puzzles, but I'm looking forward to it) that I felt frustrated. It's definitely one I'll keep around for those times when I need some quiet time.
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