Picross 3D

Picross 3D
Picross 3D Cover
Platforms Nintendo DS
Genre Cubical puzzle
MtAMinutes to Action 0
Keep Playing? Yes
Buy from Amazon

Picross 3D is the latest brain-teaser game for the Nintendo DS. If you're not familiar with the concept of Picross, it's a simple puzzle game: a grid of squares is presented, and numbers next to the rows or columns indicate how many squares in that column or row should be colored in. As squares are colored in, they clue the player in on what other squares should be colored in. The end result is a crude object, like a person or a clock. It's simple enough that it could be done on graph paper, but Nintendo has made millions of dollars collecting these puzzles and putting them in videogames, most recently Picross DS a few years ago.

Picross 3D takes the concept in three dimensions, giving the player a large cube or rectangular prism made up of blocks. Remove the right blocks and an object appears. The concept is almost as simple in 3D as it is on graph paper, though it would be nigh-impossible to do with physical objects. It's well-suited for videogames, however, where virtual representations can easily be created.

As someone who enjoys brain-teasers and puzzle games, I have a feeling I'll enjoy Picross 3D as long as I'm sufficiently challenged. But this is one of those new-fangled "Casual games" that seem to be popping up everywhere nowadays and trying to appeal to everybody, so it may be oversimplified or very slow to start. Let's find out.

Minute by Minute

(minutes are in bold) 

00 - Oddly enough, the game has a load screen as soon as I power it on. It only takes a second, but it's strange to see a percentage counter before even starting a portable cartridge game. I pick one of four blank profile slots and am welcomed to the game by a bizarre Cubism-style face. She(?) lets me pick a color for my profile, and I write my name with the stylus.
01 - Three menu options show up: Puzzles, Gallery, or My Picross. Let's check out Puzzles. I can try Beginner or Easy level puzzles; Normal, Hard, and "???" are locked. I pick Beginner...

Picross 3d Level 3 Puzzle02 - Beginner, apparently, is the tutorial: I'm told I'll learn how to play while solving simple puzzles. I start up the Basics lesson, where I'm told Picross 3D is a "fun, unique, and simple puzzle game where you smash the blocks to reveal the secrets!" Sounds good to me. The game is showing me a fast-motion demonstration of how it plays. A big cube made up of individual blocks is presented, and blocks are removed to reveal a figure inside.

03 - The numbers on the outside of the cube show how many blocks in that row or column are present in the final product. A "5" on the end apparently means there are five blocks in that row, column, or depth that I don't want to get rid of. I turn the block by sliding the stylus, to get a better look at it. There are numbers scattered around it, though not every block has numbers on it.

04 - This column has a "1" on top, meaning one block will be left when it's done. I don't know which one yet, so I'll look elsewhere. Ah, a "0"...that means I can get rid of that entire column, as no blocks should be remaining in it at the end. To remove, hold up on the D-Pad and tap the cube. Easy enough. The game lets me smash that column of cubes. An overwhelming feeling of power surges through my body as the blocks explode under the might of my stylus.

05 - This row has a "5" on the end...and there are only five cubes in it, meaning they're all keepers. I can mark cubes I know I shouldn't break by holding right on the D-Pad and tapping them, and the game lets me try it. This isn't nearly as satisfying as breaking them...

06 - Now I get to try a puzzle all by myself! The Cubism character clues me in, but I'm in control now! POW POW POW POW POW. Killed that whole row with one fell swoop. I'm being pointed toward a "5" on a column with only five blocks. Gotta mark 'em...I found a "4" row with only four blocks, so I'll mark those too. Cubey tells me I get to break the rest. I destroy them with the heated passion of a thousand suns.

07 - "You revealed the hidden shape! It's the letter L." How boring...it's not even really 3D, because it has no depth! I'm told that if I remove a block that's part of the final shape, I get a strike. Too many strikes and I'm out, perhaps?
Picross 3d Quaver Puzzle08 - I'm set loose on a practice puzzle. It's a 5x5x1, still not exactly 3D with just one block of depth...I find two "5" and mark the row and column they denote. All the remaining numbers are ones, so I remove them all. CLEAR! It's the letter T. It jumps into a crossword puzzle in the background...is that crossword puzzle part of the game or just for show?
09 - Practice Puzzle B is also a 5x5x1...I start by removing "0" rows and columns. Mark some 4 rows...get rid of the 1's...mark some 3's...remove the 2, and voila! I've got...stairs? These shapes are boring so far.

10 - I notice an auto-save icon flashes in the bottom corner. Neat. Practice Puzzle C is a 3x6x2, more interesting! The puzzle ends much earlier than I thought...it's an extremely blocky cell phone! It's even opening and closing and waving around. Confetti marks my victory as well.
11 - Cube-thing tells me I've learned the basics of Picross 3D. S/he is going to show me something "really cool!" Beneath "How to Play" appears "Circles." Apparently there are "circle numbers" and I'm going to learn about them. The circle denotes that not all the blocks are in line, so a column with a Circle 4 may have two blocks together, a space, and two more blocks. Or one, a space, and three. Apparently normal numbers indicate an unbroken sequence of numbers in a row or column.

12 - Let's see circle numbers in action! I fill out the full rows...a Circle 3 means the three non-consecutive marked blocks in this row will stay. Simple enough. The puzzle finishes...It's a letter H, lopsided for some reason!
13 - Now I get to try circle puzzles on my own. Example A is 5x5x1. Destroy some 0 rows, mark some 5s, and boom, it's the letter I! These puzzles are super simple so far.
14 - Example B is another 5x5x1. It takes me a bit longer, but it's another mutated letter: F! It jumps into the same crossword puzzle that the T jumped into earlier. Interesting...
15 - Example C time. It's all second-nature at this point, mark and smash...and it's a sofa! A cube sofa that doesn't look especially comfortable. It jumps into a house in the background.
16 - "Let's see how strikes and time limits work." Okay Cube dude. I hit "Rules." Five strikes and I'm out, Game Over! Each puzzle also has a time limit. This example counter is at fifteen minutes...could there really be puzzles in this game that take so long?

Picross 3d toy Monkey Puzzle17 - I'm told I'll be moving onto puzzles in Level 1. There will be time limits and strike limits. INTENSE. Let's try Level 1A. Looks like I get 30 minutes to solve this. It took me all of 13 seconds, it's an exclamation mark! Yes, like the one I just used. Let's try 1B...another 30 minute time limit, cleared in 7 seconds: it's a Plus Symbol! Look at it dance! It jumps into a background with a protractor and other math symbols. I guess the end results have themes they fit into together, like the crossword puzzle earlier. Guess I don't get to play with them.

18 - 1C takes me 32 seconds, and it's...puzzle pieces! They jump together and break apart. What a terrible result object. 18 seconds in 1D, it's a Boxer! The dog kind. And just its face. It barks and its tongue flaps out.

19 - 1E takes 16 seconds, it's a suitcase! The cube-character on the top screen seems a little flustered...am I solving these too quickly and it's disappointed that I'm not being challenged? Or is it mad that it only has one eye? Doesn't seem to be important. The suitcase jumps into the background, with airplanes and travel stuff.

20 - "Level clear!" it says. A "Collections" item appears in the menu, and lets me look at the backgrounds that the objects jumped into. I guess they'll be full of stuff by the time I'm done. "Techniques" appears under Level 1. Let's see what I learn now...

21 - I'm not really learning anything new, these are just tips to keep in mind involving circle and normal numbers. But they are handy strategies to learn if you didn't figure them out on your own just yet. Practice puzzle: I found the letter D!

22 - More tips...hmm, I hadn't thought of that. In a row of five blocks, a "4" means that the middle three MUST be marked, since the four blocks must all be consecutive and only one of the ends can be missing. You got me there, Picross 3D, I hadn't yet guessed that. I make use of this newfound knowledge in a practice puzzle: It's a P!

23 - Three more puzzles with no hand-holding. Example A is a weird-looking K! It's kicking off its leg like a soccer ball. Another letter for my crossword-puzzle background. Example B is the letter R! It's running away from itself...? It follows the K into the background.

Picross 3d Create Your own Puzzle car24 - Example C...is a rabbit head! Like every other puzzle solution, it's quite energetic and happy. I get to move onto level 2! Instead of doing that, I'll check out the main menu options.

25 - Gallery lets me check out the collections (like the crossword puzzle background I'm filling out). I check out "My Picross"...I can create my own puzzles and swap them with friends! I can also download new puzzles and enter mine in contests. Pretty cool. A number of options pop up. Let's try "Original"

26 - I can select a preset puzzle to solve or edit. Let's try solving the Skateboarder. Wow, this is a big one, looks complicated...I start by removing all the "0" rows. Uh oh, there are numbers in squares, which I haven't seen before...I'm in over my head, it seems.

27 - There are also blue and red sliders that let me look INSIDE the cube I'm chipping away at. This one definitely seems out of my league right now...

28 - I'm making progress very, very slowly...I've removed all the 0 rows now and I'm working on some larger consecutive numbers, where I know the middle blocks are required.

29 - Progress is still very slow...the time limit for this puzzle is twenty minutes. I'm already nearly at four and feel like I've got no clue where to go...

30 - I'm circling around the figure and looking inside it, and have no idea where to go next. I'm giving up. I just don't know where to go. I surrender, Skateboarder.

First Hour Summary

Minutes to Action: 0 to begin the tutorial. 5 to be set loose in the practice puzzles. Or you can skip those and start with the Easy puzzles if you're familiar with the game already.

Favorite Thing: It's got a charming, cubey style to it all. Everything is rectangular and happy and animated.

Least Favorite Thing: It starts out very easy. Can't really complain about that when you're just learning the game, though.

Design: The happy cube art style is clean and inviting, and the game eases you into how it works very generously without feeling extra slow.

Story: None, like most puzzle games.

Fun: It's enjoyable. The kind of relaxing puzzle game that's great to pick up for a few minutes on the bus or before bed. However, the tougher puzzles, like the Skateboarder, appear to take a significant amount of time and thought, so those who want to be challenged will likely be stumped and satisfied from time to time.

Keep Playing: Sure. It starts out very easy, but I got a few glimpses of how it could get tough.

Other Thoughts: Everybody likes easy-to-learn brain teasers, right? At $20, it's priced fairly. Especially considering it boasts over 365 puzzles in the cartridge with the ability to create or download more. If you've got a DS and a few minutes to burn on the subway or just want some mild mental-stimulation every now and then, Picross 3D may be up your alley. I certainly enjoyed the first half-hour of it, and I haven't even made it to the tougher puzzles yet.