Picross 3D is here to save the day again.
In my eyes, Picross 3D is one of the best DS games ever made. I’ve played (and replayed) the 2010 puzzle game a ton, so when word of a 3DS sequel circulated, expectations soared sky-high. About a year after the Japanese release, Picross 3D: Round 2 is now out in North America. Fortunately, even with a year of build-up, Picross 3D: Round 2 did not disappoint. This is a beefy, deep puzzle game filled with challenge, charm, and a surprising amount of added complexity.
The big new tweak in Round 2 is the addition of multiple colors. While puzzling, you now have to mark out blue and orange blocks instead of just one type. It’s a huge change that shuffles around strategy and makes even simple puzzles feel fresh. The two colors also serve a presentation purpose: blue blocks still represent cubes in the final product, while orange blocks represent curves, spheres, and other non-cube shapes. The controls become a little unwieldy with the new mechanic, though. In addition to using the stylus, five other buttons are used to mark, select, and destroy blocks. In time, the confusion wanes, but it’s a lot to take in at first and, in my experience, led to a lot of frustrating mistakes.
The presentation is much improved, as opposed to rote lists of puzzles, you go between “books” filled with about five to 10 puzzles each. More books unlock as you complete puzzles, and they all different themes. Some even change up the rules or structure a bit, whether it’s a set that requires you not make a mistake or stay within a certain time. This setup makes progression feel more palatable, even if sometimes the difficulty curve seems to be reset in each book.
Amiibo support adds more puzzles as well. If you have any of the 10 Amiibo that work with Picross 3D, you can work on character-specific puzzles. Of course it’d be cooler if more Amiibo were supported, but it’s one of the better and unique read-only uses of Amiibo I’ve seen to date.
The bells and whistles add to Picross 3D: Round 2 are mostly fantastic, making the game much stronger and longer lasting than the original. The true magic sauce of Picross 3D is nestled deep within the essence of the moment-to-moment gameplay. There is something inherently compelling and brilliant about destroying blocks to chisel out a shape while wrinkling your brain to work out a logic-based spatial reasoning puzzle. Each completed puzzle just paves the way for another one so you can attain the high of seeing whatever shape you create become whole and colored. My affection for Picross 3D is weird to explain especially if you haven’t played it before, but this is a masterclass puzzle game, pure and simple.
Much like its predecessor, Picross 3D: Round 2 comes late in the system’s life to provide dozens upon dozens of hours of glorious puzzle goodness. It’s a charming experience from the moment you first crack a block, and the additions and changes in Round 2 make this even better than what came before.