"Picross" may not be as well-known as Nintendo's other puzzle franchises, like "Dr. Mario" and "Puzzle League" but it's still one of their longest standing franchises that goes as far back as the original Game Boy. For 15 years the block-breaking mix of sodoku and crosswords has remained wholly unchanged, until its latest release on the DS, "Picross 3D," which adds an additional dimension to the gameplay.
"Picross 3D" is the three dimensional interpretation of nonogram logic puzzles that challenges the player to reveal hidden images by removing blocks from a square. The player knows which blocks to chisel off by the digits that are placed at the ends of the rows which indicate the number of blocks that should remain when the image is fully revealed. The 2D versions of the game are referred to as "paint by numbers" puzzles, but "Picross 3D" is more like sculpt by numbers.
The overall "Picross" concept has always been an accessible one, since, much like sodoku, the games are based on logic, and not on something that can be taught, like vocabulary. When you're playing "Picross 3D" you're never without a move, you may just have to look harder to find where the next one is.
So Many Puzzles
There are over 350 puzzles that are packed into this game, and it's going to take a normal human being a long time to go through them all. Each puzzle can span anywhere from one to two minutes at the beginner level, to upwards of an hour for the more challenging ones. The gameplay is fun, simple, and very addictive, so much so that you're likely to not even notice that you've poured hours upon hours into chiseling little blocks on your DS.
If you do somehow run out of the puzzles included on the cartridge, there's always more to be downloaded. Nintendo has promised somewhere in the range of of an additional 200 puzzles that will be available via puzzle packs for users with a Wi-Fi connection to download, virtually doubling the number of stages included when you buy the game.
Sharing Is Caring
Should you want to let your inner sculptor out, "Picross 3D" offers you the tools to create your own puzzles, package them up, and send them off to your friends. Additionally, Nintendo will be posting various themed contests for users to create and submit their own puzzles via the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection, which can also be download in addition to the puzzle packs. And finally, a feature that should be included in all DS games, you can share a trial version of the game with another DS, so your friends can try out the game and decide whether or not they're willing to test their logic with the full game.
One of the biggest problems that "Picross 3D" suffers from is the possibility of breaking a block unintentionally, which could cause you to be penalized. While most of the time the mistake can be chalked up to human error, the DS's small touch screen makes targeting specific blocks difficult, especially later in the game when puzzle grids grow larger and larger. This game is the poster child for why people need to pick up the DSi XL.
Even though "Picross 3D" is marketed as a Touch Generations title, it's far from pick up and play. The development team at HAL Laboratory recognized that, and included an extremely comprehensive tutorial. It's so comprehensive that it's going to take anyone that plays the game at least an hour to get through. And that's great for anyone that hasn't played a picross game before. However, as abstract of a concept that 3D picross might be, once long time fans get the basic ins-and-outs of the game the remaining time spent learning about every single in-and-out of the game is just tedious.
Can't Challenge YourselfThe Verdict
"Picross 3D" manages to offer new challenges for fans and newcomers alike while remaining true to the fundamentals that have made the game so addictive for all these years. Additionally, the combination of the low $19.99 price, and the promise of an extensive library of free downloadable content makes "Picross 3D" one of the best bargains of the year as well.