I’ve spent the rest of this weekend admiring Nintendo’s marketing strategy. More than a year ago, 3DS gamers were given a free Pokémon Picross poisoned with microtransactions. Playing it was always a matter of hitting an artificial wall requiring a little bit of money to continue. Even if freemium is the worst thing gaming has witnessed, and even if I refuse to support it with a single penny, the game still managed to teach me the basics of picross. A bit later, 3DS also got a traditional, good to honest retail game, Picross 3D: Round 2. In the end, not only did I buy that one, I also grabbed its predecessor, the 2010 Nintendo DS release, Picross 3D. That’s the one that has been keeping me busy this weekend, and even if my hip is still busted, at least my brain gets a proper workout.
Picross 3D little cares about storytelling. After creating a profile, a peculiar yellow bird (…which I suppose it is) swiftly introduces you the basics. You’re challenged by a 3D lump consisting of cubes. Many of their faces have numbers that indicate how many consecutive cubes belong to that axis. Based on this information, you have to chisel out a thing or a form that will then perform a little congratulatory animation before you move to the next puzzle. The source material can be freely rotated with the stylus, and holding down a d-pad button enables you to either chisel away a single cube or mark it as part of the final product. Just going around the edges is good enough for a moment but as the challenges get more devious, you have to utilize scalpels. They allow you to dissect the lump to get a better understanding of its nature, and it’s more or less the only way to solve items that have hollow interiors.
Even ordinary, two-dimensional picross might look utterly incomprehensible, and it sure is hard to even describe the way it works in 3D. Still, you can be sure to learn the gist of it surprisingly fast. What you can’t be sure, though, is quickly turning that learning into comprehension. After 14 hours, I’m still not even one fourth through the game’s massive 350+ puzzle collection. My brains are already screaming mercy, and I’m still stuck with challenge sets labeled easy. Every so often, you get an irresistible urge simply to guess, but it’s always a bad idea. Even if you were right, you probably just managed to screw up your own logical path a bit further down the road. If you were wrong, you are usually given five mistakes until a game over, but even one mistake is enough for a tiny personal death. Should that happen, at least we perfectionists just give up and start the puzzle from its very beginning. The worst feature in the game is definitely it’s time limit. It’s always extremely gracious, but still something that annoyingly ticks away in the background. Good performances tend to be given a 5-15 minute limit, passable ones even more than half an hour. Still, even if that sounds like a lot, time sure does fly while thinking.
Even at this point, I think it’s already safe to say I’ll never be able to complete this game but what the heck, let’s see where my brain takes me. At least it should be a neat support game for whatever main project I might choose next.