The concept is simple: you’re given a row of cubes that seemingly form a simple shape. But etch away specific cubes and you start to reveal a hidden picture. That’s it. That’s the entire setup for Picross 3D, a puzzle game for the Nintendo DS released in 2010. With the perfect blend of easy and difficult, fun and challenging, and simply addictive nature, Picross 3D is one of the best puzzle games on the DS, and one of the best puzzle games to come out this side of Tetris.
By being both approachable and challenging, Picross 3D has the early makings of being one of the best puzzle games ever. The concept behind the game is simple: You are given a block of gray cubes that you must chisel away in a specific manner in order to reveal a hidden image within the cubes. You’re given clues to guide you to the proper solution in the form of numbers on the tops, bottoms, or sides of certain cubes. These numbers reveal to you how many cubes in the column or rows are in the final product. Using the numbers and a good amount of brainpower will reveal to you the hidden image! Simple, right?
The complication of the puzzles rises gradually but noticeably. While you start off making objects in 2×5 grids and other simple blocks, eventually you start to work on puzzles that have 10 rows and 15 columns, and instead of there being say five blocks in a row that are in the puzzle, there are now five blocks in non-sequential order in a row, making each puzzle that much more complicated. The way your strategy has to change in order to solve the latter puzzles is a fantastic example of scaling: Picross 3D teaches you how to play the game, then gradually throws harder and more complicated puzzles and elements at you until you realize much later that you’re solving much more difficult puzzles than you thought possible. It’s fantastic!
Picross 3D melds together the simple and the challenging to make an all around great package that puzzle fans will eat up. The addictive nature of the game along with the relatively short puzzle length (usually under 10 minutes) means this is the perfect game to play on the go in short spurts or for longer marathons while relaxing at home or before bed. There’s really nothing else like it out there. The Picross puzzle also goes by a few different names, including nonograms or paint-by-numbers, but I will always know them as Picross puzzles. And I’ll be happy with that recognition. Interestingly, the now-discontinued video game magazine Tips ‘n’ Tricks used to include a video game themed paint-by-number puzzle in their monthly magazine called “Pencil Puzzles” that would eventually reveal a video game character or object. Anyway, non sequitur over!
Your reward for successful completion of each puzzle is the object, animal, or item you just revealed moving in 3D space. It’s cute seeing a cube ship, for example, chug along on the waterfront. In terms of a satisfying conclusion for your efforts, seeing a pixilated object is hardly the reward you’ll enjoy most, as that trophy is reserved for your emotional joy from simply solving the puzzle. But the game does an interesting ploy with these seemingly unnecessary awards: each puzzle solution is grouped into a category with other similarly themed objects. So for example, you might reveal a strawberry in one puzzle, and witness the completed puzzle fall into a background image, only to have a pineapple show up as one of the harder puzzle solutions later in the game. These “Collections” are expansive and range from the aforementioned fruit to sports related objects to traditional Japanese images like gates and flowers. If the game wasn’t addictive enough, I actually found myself wanting to play one more puzzle just to try and uncover the next piece of the office supply collection. With hundreds of puzzles, it’ll take you a long time to complete each collection. So enjoy!
What Makes Picross 3D a Modern Classic
On the surface it seems simple to see what makes the game a modern classic: solid gameplay, addictive nature, and the perfect amount of bite-sized and larger doses of play time. But it’s actually more than that which makes the game so great. It goes without saying that the game will make you think, but the euphoric feeling one gets when solving a particularly challenging puzzle is like none other. And deservedly so. Picross 3D is a hard game that requires thought in order to achieve success.
You might be thinking, “Hold on, hold on. What’s so hard about chipping away blocks? Couldn’t I just guess and eventually find the answer?” While you might get lucky every now and then and guess correctly and solve a puzzle, picking the wrong cube to demolish gives you a Miss. Five Misses and you’re done. Again, the easier puzzles will be push overs and you’ll likely not gather any Misses, but try the Hard puzzles… you’ll be begging for more forgiveness. On top of this, the game has a reward system that grants you one, two, or three stars depending on how many Misses you’ve accumulated. If that’s not enough, there’s a time limit you have to solve each puzzle in in order to achieve the best score. So not only do you need to solve the puzzle, but you need to do so without making any mistakes and under a set amount of time. DAMN!
Picross 3D has over 350 puzzles on the cartridge right from the beginning, with you unlocking the harder puzzles as you complete the easier ones. If that’s not enough to keep you entertained for a long time (and I mean a long time… you’ll be playing through those puzzles for many hours), there’s a create-a-puzzle mode to challenge you even more by making your own Picross puzzles. And better yet, there’s a download option where you can download puzzle via the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection and get even more puzzle solving goodness! What’s not to like? Although note that you need to use a DS system and not a 3DS system in order to download these puzzles. I had issues with my 3DS connecting to the Wi-Fi network, but presumably these issues are not present with a standard (DS, DSi, DSiXL) handheld.
The Modern Classics Library is not just limited to console games, and I’m happy that Picross 3D is the inaugural handheld game into the coveted collection of games. Not all games considered Modern Classics are phenomenally great games, but Picross 3D actually transcends the standard and is truly a fantastic title that I would wholeheartedly recommend to anyone looking for a puzzle game to keep them happy for any occasions. And Picross 3D deserves the praise: it’s a game built on solid fundamentals and a simple-yet-fun formula. Two final tidbits of information to leave you with: The official Nintendo website for the game actually has a demo you can play through your computer, as well as helpful tips for beginners and those looking to further understand how to play the game. The last great thing is that the game is relatively still easy to find, with an abundant amount available online, a new copies can be found used at places like GameStop, and the game is under $10! Again, if there’s a game you’ve been craving that you can take on the go, is a worthwhile investment, and will last longer than a weekend, Picross 3D is your game. Happy puzzle solving!