Capsule Review: Fill-a-Pix: Phil's Epic Adventure

A video game adaptation of a mathematical picture-drawing puzzle that plays like if Picross took a few steps toward Minesweeper.

As with Picross, you have a rectangular grid where some squares are meant to be colored in to reveal a picture. Unlike Picross, here the clues are numbers from zero to nine found in some of the squares, indicating how many of the immediately-surrounding squares (plus the clue square itself) should be filled in. A nine means to fill in the entire three-by-three section, while a zero means all of those squares are blank instead. By starting with the zeroes and nines (or sixes along the grid’s edge, or fours in its corners) and spreading to adjacent clues (a three next to a nine, for example, means the remaining six squares in the three’s area should be blank) you gradually fill in or blank out every square in the grid and reveal the image.

While this style of puzzle would benefit greatly from the stylus-and-button-based control scheme that Picross games generally use on the 3DS, this particular game has no touchscreen controls except in the Vita version. Elsewhere, you must use directional controls to scroll through grid squares with one of two different cursors. The first covers individual squares and has you hitting one button to fill in the square and another to mark it blank, which feels high-friction if you’re used to stylus control and can get quite tedious on the larger grids. The second cursor covers a three-by-three area and you can hit a button to automatically fill or blank all the squares in that area if there’s enough information to do so (for example, it’s centered on a clue square containing a five with four of the surrounding squares already blanked). This mode has perhaps not enough friction - you still must identify the part of the puzzle where you have enough information to advance (though the game also provides free hints to put you in the right region) but you don’t have to think about which individual squares need to be filled in or blanked, which makes the puzzle significantly less engaging.

The individual square cursor is too heavy and slow; the three-by-three cursor is too mindless and automatic. The puzzle concept is solid, but without the middle ground that stylus control would have provided there isn’t a way to play this game that I find appealing.

I Stopped Playing When: I finished 23 out of the game’s hundred puzzles before getting bored and putting it down.

Docprof's Rating:

Two Stars: Meh. The game has some merit - it probably held my attention for at least an hour or I came back to it for more than one play session. But there wasn't enough draw for me to stick with it for the long haul.

You can get it or learn more here.