You’re never going to set your DS down again.
When Picross DS launched in July 2007, puzzle fans everywhere found an addictive quality in its grid-based puzzles. Now, in 2010, Nintendo has taken the formula to the next logical level: the third dimension. Picross 3D includes over 300 original puzzles, as well as the ability to download more after you’re finished. Spanning three difficulty levels, solving all of the puzzles included on this DS card will take you many hours. Considering how addictive Picross 3D is, players across the world had better get settled in. This might take awhile.
For those familiar with Picross DS (or its lesser known predecessor, Mario’s Picross), these new 3D puzzles will feel immediately familiar. Although the clues are changed slightly in the new game, the logic needed to solve them is the same. Along with width, height, and depth, each row of blocks has a number on the outside signifying how many blocks must remain. A circle around the number indicates that the blocks must be split into two separate, but not necessarily equal, blocks. A square around the number indicates that the blocks must be split into three or more groups. As you begin to chip away blocks that cannot logically remain in the puzzle, the clues from other rows begin to take shape. Before long, you’ve taken a solid 10x8x8 block and chipped it away into the shape of a race car, puppy, or household appliance.
Each time you solve a puzzle you are awarded one, two, or three stars, depending on your performance. Each puzzle has a target time, and if you solve the puzzles within that target time (usually within 5 minutes for easy puzzles, sometimes as high as 20-25 minutes for more difficult puzzles) you are awarded a star. Another star is awarded for completing the puzzle without making any mistakes. The third star is awarded for simply completing the puzzle.
As you move through each stage, collecting stars allows you to unlock bonus puzzles. Most stages have a Silver bonus puzzle and a Gold bonus puzzle, and each difficulty level has 10 stages. While none of the puzzles are so hard that you won’t solve them, getting all three stars on some of them gets very difficult as you ascend through the upper end of Medium difficulty and into Hard. This is a game that does a great job of catering to all skill levels, allowing you to enjoy the game at your own pace, and not rushing you too quickly into overwhelmingly difficult gameplay.
Picross 3D comes with an optional tutorial mode, referred to as “Beginner” difficulty, which has about 25 puzzles/screens to help you learn the logic necessary to play the game. Playing through the entire tutorial will take you around an hour or so, but for beginners it’s definitely recommended.
One problem with the gameplay progression is that you are not allowed to jump ahead to a harder difficulty if you are finding the game to be too easy. In order to play any of the puzzles in the Medium difficulty tier, you must first solve every one of the Easy puzzles - a feat which can take several hours.
The control interface is solid, but not without flaws. Spinning the puzzle around with the stylus works very well, but as the very first thing you do in each puzzle is knock out any “0” rows, the option to lock the puzzle onto an axis would have been much appreciated. The game lets you merely hold down the stylus to knock out every block in a given row, but that trick only works if the puzzle is lined up directly in front of you at no angle. The ability to zoom in and out would have been really nice as well, as the blocks are small enough that occasionally it’s easy to chip away the wrong block, costing you one star in the process. Overall, the game is better suited to a touch screen interface than Picross DS, but a little more polish would have been nice.
A Create-A-Puzzle mode is provided for those who wish to try their hand at designing a 3D puzzle. The interface is a little clunky but certainly workable, using the same control scheme as the regular game with the addition of a “place a block” control. After you’ve created a puzzle, the game will generate clues for you and assign a time-limit to the puzzle you’ve created. Created puzzles can be sent to a friend via DS wireless mode.
The game supports the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection, but not for online multiplayer (which was available in Picross DS). There are Picross Challenges, which allow you to submit your own created puzzles to Nintendo, and eventually download puzzles submitted by users (at the time of this review no user-created puzzles were available).
However, there were three downloadable Puzzle Packs from Nintendo, containing 5 puzzles each at no additional cost. The downloads were very quick, and the puzzles within were of wildly varying difficulty; the first was very easy, while the fifth was quite difficult. The downloadable puzzles take up available slots in your “Create-A-Puzzle” library (which has a limit of 240), so if you plan on creating a lot of puzzles of your own you might want to shy away from downloading many of the provided Packs.
Although it may lack a few of the frills of its predecessor, Picross 3D feels like the more polished game. The animations that play after solving a puzzle are fun, the amount of puzzles is staggering, and the process of solving the puzzles is a blast. Taking Picross into the third dimension ended up being a fantastic idea, and the execution shines.