DS Review

Picross 3D

Block Buster

Picross 3D isn't as important as eating, talking to your friends or going to work. It just feels like it is when you're playing it.

It's a semi-sequel of sorts to 2007's Picross DS, a hefty collection of nonogram logic puzzles which required usage of your grey matter to follow a trail of clues and shade out the unnecessary cells in a grid to reveal a rudimentary pixel image. It was very addictive.

The idea for this new-spangled 3D version is that there's a now an equally rudimentary three-dimensional object hidden within a larger cuboid in each of the game's 350-odd levels. It works like this: most rows and columns will have a number written across them, which will indicate the amount of cubes in that line which will still be present in the finished piece. By chipping away at the unneeded cubes you will eventually reveal the object underneath, kind of like sculpting by way of Sudoku. It is still very addictive.

If a 3 is emblazoned across a line of 5, for instance, then it means a solid strip of 3 blocks will be waiting to be unearthed. There are also some more devious contiguous strings to consider, however: numbers with a circle around them mean there are two clumps of blocks (with at gap of at least one block) making up the given number, and a square marking means you're dealing with three or more sections.

It's similar in spirit, then, but the few changes to Picross 3D will be enough to ensure the piqued interests of those who've squeezed Picross DS dry. It's also a much harder game from the offset as dealing with the 3D space requires a far greater degree of spatial awareness, not to mention that you'll often find yourself having to solve multiple puzzles in your head at once.

There's a helpful (and extensive) tutorial available, which takes about an hour of your time but gives you just the right amount of information, hand-holding and opportunity to practice what you've been taught. When you graduate from this stage it feels like you've got all the knowledge of the game you'll ever need, but it only takes about fifteen minutes of the beginner levels to realise this is not a game that goes easy on you. It's not long before stages are taking upwards of thirty minutes to solve, though thankfully the game offers a quicksave feature.

The first steps, regardless of level, are always to find either the 0 rows, which means you can chip away all the blocks, or the rows with a number that adds up to the entire length, which means you can shade in the entire row. Usually this will criss-cross with another row and subsequently allow you to break/shade in a few more blocks. And so on and so on, with you eventually having to work out contradictions and guaranteed tiles; if a row of 5 blocks is labelled with a 3, for instance, that means every viable solution will require the block in the middle.

Its aesthetic fits comfortably under the banner of the Touch! Generations label, including a weird block sidekick thing that sits in the top screen and completely loses it when you're approaching the time limit. He's probably just upset that you're about to miss out on your maximum score: the ranking system dishes out three stars for a puzzle completed with no 'misses' (you trying to remove the wrong block) and within a time limit, and collecting loads of stars unlocks bonus puzzles.

Notch up five misses and you'll fail the stage, though, which is very humiliating and usually results in an immediate restart followed by enraged chewing of the stylus. There are also no-miss stages, which end if you muck up even once, and time challenges which require you solve puzzles with greater time restrictions.

The objects you reveal - a puppy, a fire axe, a mobile phone etc. - are hinted at by the background, and upon completion they're kept within an assortment of collections that can be viewed from the main menu. There's a tangible satisfaction, like putting that last piece into a puzzle, obtained from finishing off a set, and it's a sly way of denoting and charting your progress across the seemingly never-ending stages.

Frustration goes hand-in-hand with later stages, although this is thankfully down to complete bafflement rather than a shoddy interface. A couple of 'slicers' help you peer into the middle of the denser puzzles and the camera is clever enough to never make its block too small to hit with the stylus. Like with Picross DS, the only way to accidentally hit the wrong block is to rush ahead of yourself chasing high scores. Slow and steady wins the race.

The only potential upset for those fond of Picross DS is that there are no nods to other Nintendo properties, so that means no more Mario-themed objects to be carefully unearthed. That's the smallest of minor quibbles, though, and it's silly to be anything other than delighted by the sheer glut of perplexing content available here. Picross 3D, by being just different enough in its execution, quite neatly opts to co-exist with its predecessor instead of trying to replace it.