27 August 2010

Review: Picross 3D

I really enjoyed playing the 2D version of this when it came out. I picked it up as a bargain knowing little about it and didn't play it for a while then got really hooked. Not only that but I also got my wife hooked on it. So when the news of a version in 3D filtered out, being that I work in 3D as well, I was very pleased.

I bought this new version as soon as it was available in France. I was pleased to see the four slots for players but the stylus-only navigation was a bit slow. Playing the games themselves was fine - you have to chip away at a large block gradually revealing the shape concealed within using logic and deduction. Since you only have five chances, you cannot simply guess at whether a block can be destroyed or not.

Rather than the patterning given in the 2D version, where a column would be headed by a sequence of numbers (3, 2, 5, 5) and you would have to determine where the spaces lay, with Picross 3D you are only given one digit on a side of a block and that digit carries through the row, column or side. There are two exceptions. Numbers in circles represent not a solid block of the number shown but split into two not necessarily equal halves. Numbers in squares mean that the group is split into at least three sections. Now for a 2 in a circle or a 3 in a square this is simple enough - you know that the blocks on either side of a block you have selected cannot be used, so they can be destroyed. It gets more complicated when you have larger numbers in circles or squares and usually you find them by process of elimination - once you have cleared the single section blocks they become more obvious.

Sometimes you can recognise the object you are slowly revealing and you can chip away knowing that the object is symmetrical, but in the later levels the objects cannot be counted on for their symmetry. Often times in later levels you have no inkling of what you are trying to uncover so only brute force can reveal it. Obviously, in later levels where the puzzles can consist of as many as 1,000 blocks you are going to need to be able to navigate in rows and columns in the interior of the block to uncover your object and a red and blue slider will help you narrow down the sides, but there is no third slider to go from top to bottom.

The game is very addictive, like its predecessor, but it feels like more of a grind - you spend ages robotically using the sliders to go through the block picking off individual blocks or marking them up and sometimes it just feels like a slog - it doesn't stop you from playing hence the addictive bit, but the other downfall is that the progression is very stepped - the order hasn't been arranged carefully enough to give you a real sense of achievement, some of the puzzles on the very last level feel easier than ones two levels down. Of course, it may just be that by the end you are such a Picross expert that the levels just "feel" easier, but that still shouldn't be the case. Also, I had completed two levels of the tutorial right at the start of the game and it said "congrats, the easy puzzles are now open", so I went and did those, then the Normal ones and then the hard and yet although I had competed the game, there were some puzzle collections that were incomplete and I was at 344 puzzles when the box said "over 350 puzzles" and I wasn't sure why. Upon revisiting the Tutorial section after attempting to tease out the remaining puzzles from the game's Random Puzzle function, I found that there are in fact additional levels to the Tutorial section and a total of 369 puzzles to play.

If you have finished the game, it's still not over since you can build your own puzzles with the included editor or go for some downloadable content in the form of additional puzzles from Nintendo or other players and challenges online (I haven't tried those although I have reduced my router to having no security for WiFi for the time it takes to download a new batch of puzzles before putting the WPA2 PSK-TKIP walls back up).

I've written a lot of words for a game that left me less satisfied than the 2D original. It's still a very addictive game but I guess I wanted more from it - not more puzzles, but more challenge. 3/5

PS. There is a website where you can try bits and bobs and see a trailer for the game

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