Picross 3D Review

By Bryan Stratton - Posted May 04, 2010

The sequel to 2007's DS puzzler hit, Picross 3D brings Picross into the third dimension. By following numerical clues, players chip away blocks from a rectangular stack of cubes to reveal a hidden object. And with over 365 puzzles to unlock—and more available for download -- Picross 3D delivers great value at a bargain price.

The Pros
  • Easy to learn, hard to master gameplay
  • 350+ puzzles, plus more for download
  • Single-cart game share doubles the fun
The Cons
  • Game freezes in the retail version
  • You'll either love or hate the chipper tone
  • Lack of undo feature

The sequel to 2007’s DS puzzler hit, Picross 3D brings Picross into the third dimension. By following numerical clues, players chip away blocks from a rectangular stack of cubes to reveal a hidden object. And with over 365 puzzles to unlock—and more available for download -- Picross 3D delivers great value at a bargain price.

Picross 3D

It’s Not Just For Squares Anymore


Picross has existed in pen and paper form since 1987 and first appeared in games with Mario’s Picross in 1995. Picross 3D is an organic evolution of the popular puzzler that finally achieved North American success with 2007’s Picross DS. But instead of following numerical clues to fill in squares on a grid and reveal a pixilated picture, Picross 3D players eliminate cubes from a rectangular cluster to discover a blocky 3D model.

The game loses none of its addictive simplicity in the transition to 3D. Dragging the stylus manipulates the block cluster with an extremely intuitive motion, and “painting” a cube to mark it as a keeper or smashing it is as simple as holding down a face button or D-pad direction and tapping.

An extremely comprehensive tutorial leaves no technique or strategy left unexplored. It takes an absolute beginner less than 5 minutes to grasp the basics and 30 minutes to learn everything there is to master.

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Sculpting By Numbers

The biggest idea that Picross veterans have to get used to is thinking in terms of negative space, rather than positive space. You have to chip away everything that isn’t part of the solution, like a sculptor, rather than filling in every square that is.

Numbers at the end of a row indicate the number of sequential “keeper” blocks in that row. If the number has a circle around it, the keeper blocks are divided into two separate groups. If it has a square around it, the keepers are in three or more groups. You can also use “slicers” to view a cross section of the cluster of blocks.

Completing puzzles places them into one of 72 different themed galleries. There are over 365 puzzles available to unlock, and you can download more via the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection. You can also create your own puzzles and share them with friends via Wi-Fi or single-cart DS Download Play, or upload them as submissions for a monthly puzzle challenge.  Finally, Nintendo will be supporting Picross 3D with themed puzzle packs available for download via the Wi-Fi Connection.

Picross 3D

A Chip Off the Old Blocks

Picross 3D’s best feature is that it doesn’t feel like a gimmicky cash-in sequel. Bringing the game into the third dimension creates new but familiar strategies that should appeal to Picross newcomers and grid veterans alike.

That being said, there are a few issues with Picross 3D that could dampen the fun for some gamers. The game’s overly cheerful tone will either put a smile on your face or set your molars a-grinding. There’s also no undo feature, which makes sense when you accidentally bust a block that you shouldn’t have and suffer a penalty for it, but it would come in handy when you realize that the last several blocks that you marked as keepers might not be after all.

Most annoying is the fact that the retail version occasionally freezes up immediately before or after completing a puzzle. Thanks to the game’s auto-save feature, you’ll never lose more than one puzzle’s worth of data, and it never seems to crash the same way twice, but you shouldn’t have to restart a first-party DS game as often as once an hour because of a glitch.

That big annoyance having been said, Picross DS delivers a tremendous amount of gameplay at a bargain price, and the constant addition of more puzzles means that it’s only going to become a better value over time. It might be a bit of a one trick pony, but as puzzlers go, it’s a damn fine trick.