Capsule Review: Picross 3D Round 2

A game featuring a modified three-dimensional variant of Picross. Instead of a grid made of squares to selectively fill in to reveal an image, the player is presented with a rectangular prism made of cubes to selectively chip away to reveal an object. The clues work differently as well - not every row or column has clues, and each clue is a single number indicating how many cubes should be left in that row or column. The number is presented alone if the cubes are contiguous, circled if they are in exactly two contiguous groups, or in a square if they are in three or more contiguous groups.

Several tweaks have been made to the formula, resulting in a clear step up from the original Picross 3D. The increased resolution of the 3DS screen over the DS screen means it’s much harder to accidentally tap the wrong cube. There’s an optional ‘bomb’ feature that can be used at the start of puzzles to clear away all rows marked as containing zero cubes, which skips a lot of tedium for larger puzzles. There’s also a hint system that can be freely used at any time and points you to a row where you can take action - effectively an equivalent to ? Navigation. There are also multiple difficulty levels that seem to affect the number of clues present and provide score multipliers - I’d encourage Picross veterans (and even novices once they are used to the game) to play on Hard to maximize what you get out of each puzzle.

Rows can now have up to two clues, as cubes can be either blue (indicating the entire cube is part of the pattern) or orange (indicating it’s only a portion of the cube, such as a sloped corner piece), making the game technically a Color Picross variant. The increased complexity of the puzzles is welcome, but unfortunately it also means the controls are more complex. There are now five things you can do to an individual cube - remove it, paint it blue, paint it orange, flag it as possibly blue, or flag it as possibly orange. These actions do not map cleanly to the four cardinal directions and neither of the selectable control schemes is intuitive. The clue modifiers aren’t particularly intuitive either (how does a circle mean two groups and a square mean three or more) and the vast majority of mistakes I made in the game were due not to flawed reasoning but to accidentally triggering the wrong action or misinterpreting a clue.

Thankfully, the suffocating punishment of the first game is almost completely removed. While it’s still the case that you’re locked to Normal rules and receive strikes for incorrect painting or removal of cubes, strikes no longer cause you to fail levels (outside of a handful of challenge ones) and instead just reduce your score. There’s also no longer a time limit (again, outside of a handful of challenge levels) and taking a long time similarly reduces your score, but scores are balanced such that strikes are far more important than time, encouraging careful and thoughtful play. This still seems a little self-defeating since you can easily replay levels and abuse the hint system to quickly get maximum scores, but it doesn’t destroy the charm of the game the way Picross 3D did.

I still find the gameplay less compelling overall than 2D Picross, but this may be due to my particularly poor spatial reasoning. On larger puzzles, I spend a lot of time meticulously slicing through each plane to check every row and column to find the next change I can make, which gets tedious - but someone who can better hold the entire puzzle in their head at once may not need to do so much of this.

I Stopped Playing When: I’ve gradually slowed down as the novelty has worn off, but not abandoned the game entirely. As of this review, I’ve completed 298 of the game’s 373 puzzles. I expect to eventually finish the remainder (except for one of the handful of Amiibo-unlocked puzzles as I do not have a Meta Knight).

Docprof's Rating:

Three Stars: Good. I liked the game enough to finish it (or just play it a bunch, for games that don't end). I recommend it to most genre fans.

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