Picross 3D Round 2 came and went quickly. It had been released in Japan for quite some time, and eager picross fans who had been anticipating a sequel (hello!) were sure it would make the trip stateside. When Nintendo announced and released it on the same day, I was elated. Having spent dozens of hours chipping away at these newly insidious puzzles, I'm thrilled at the result, but slightly disappointed that it was treated with so little fanfare. The release gave me little opportunity to advocate for it, and this gem deserves advocacy.
Nintendo systems have become intrinsically tied to picross, both as a matter of branding and a category of puzzle game. Stylus-based systems like the DS and 3DS just a natural fit for the precise puzzling of marking blocks. While two-dimensional picross will always have a special place in my heart, I always felt the 3D concept introduced by Picross 3D in 2009 had more juice than that original release squeezed out of it.
In short, picross as translated to a 3D plane is less filling in an image and more chipping away a form. It's the difference between painting and sculpture, as you use the numerical logic rules to break away all that's unnecessary, leaving the object itself. There's something uniquely satisfying about marking and breaking down blocks, flipping the object, cutting to another area, and repeating the process--over and over, bit by little bit, until the image is revealed. It captures the feeling of creation out of clay, even as represented by blocky bits.
Another entry could have easily produced more puzzles and cashed in its chips, and I would've been pretty satisfied. More puzzles is always what I wanted out of that series anyway. Picross 3D 2, however, iterates with a more complex ruleset. Instead of a binary state of blocks that either belong or don't, this splits the finished work into two kinds of blocks: blue ones that are solid cubes, and yellow that are revealed as curved or complex shapes once its row is finished.
So, rather than seeing a number and simply intuiting how many filled blocks are in a given row, you'll see a yellow number or a blue number, or both, which informs you of each type of block. Then you mix circles, which signify that the color is split into two sets, or squares, which signify three sets, and it all gets wonderfully complex. This may not be the best introductory game for someone new to 3D picross, much less picross altogether, but it's a brain-teasing treat for fans like myself. Plus, it allows the finished shapes to be much more complex and interesting to see.
Tools of the Trade
The increased complexity comes at a cost, though. You're given one hammer to break blocks, two colors of paint to mark blocks, and two "highlighter" colors to mark blocks as possibilities without committing to them. That makes for five tools, which is one more than the 3DS' d-pad (or face buttons, for lefties) can handle. It clumsily places one tool on the triggers, but the separation felt awkward. It lets you remap buttons at will, or use the circle pad with equal pie-chart slices for the different tools, but none of the solutions are perfect. I stuck with the circle pad ultimately, but I still occasionally get a strike against me for having selected the wrong tool by accident.
The difficulty curve is also modeled differently in this iteration. While Picross 3D was a fairly straightforward ramp upwards to more and more difficult puzzles, Picross 3D 2 separates its puzzles into themed "books" like athletes and colors. I actually found I prefer this renewed form of pacing, because it lets me complete a handful of puzzles with their own difficulty ramp, and then start anew with an easier one again for the next theme.
This pacing method allows for a few other specialty types as well. "Tips and Tricks" sections help illustrate how to make inferences about a puzzle with practical lessons that are much more engaging than the molasses slog of the actual tutorial. Special "No Strike" and time trials make for tougher challenges, and large-scale puzzle books have you build several pieces of a shape, only to see it come together to form a much bigger object once you've finished them all. Amiibo puzzles provide a nice bonus for those like me who have collected the baubles. The progress gating of unlocking books leaves you unable to jump as freely as you may like, but the unlocking was generous enough that I always had plenty of options.
Picross 3D 2 is what a sequel should be, especially for puzzle games. I would've been happy with more puzzles, but it went further. It iterated and engaged my brain in new and clever ways that I hadn't even considered, it revised its progression ramp in a way that I found more satisfying, and it gave and continues to give me dozens of hours of enjoyment. If you have any interest in logic puzzles and brain-teasers, this is a can't-miss.
This review is based on a download code provided by the publisher. Picross 3D Round 2 is available now on the eShop, for $29.99. The game is rated E.
Picross 3D 2
- Dual paints make brain teasers all the more challenging
- Themed "books" provide satisfying waves of difficulty
- Tons of variety and different challenge types
- Five different tools always feels awkward
Steve Watts posted a new article, Picross 3D Round 2 Review: Chip Off the Old Block