|System: DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: HAL Laboratory||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Nintendo||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: May 3, 2010||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Steve Haske
Picross 3D has a simple conceit: take the picture-uncovering gameplay mechanic of Nintendo's classic puzzle series from pixelated objects on a 2D plane into the third dimension. It's one of those Nintendo games we often see on the DS, the kind that doesn't scream company trademarks like mascot characters or traditional generic game designs, like Brain Age or Nintendogs. And much like its would-be casual brethren, Picross 3D's appeal is in its simplicity. However, as is often the case when Nintendo tries its hand at puzzle design, this simplicity only scratches the surface of the game's deeper design.
Whereas Picross DS was released back in 2007 so that (arguably) Nintendo could capture a little market-share from the legions of Sudoku fans that were cropping up at the time, Picross 3D is more or less a whole new ball game. The similarities between the Japanese-popularized number puzzle still remain, Picross 3D is like a cross between Sudoku, Minesweeper, and chisel sculpture (sort of).
Rather than looking at a flat, two-dimensional plane, now you have a shape of some kind, be it a grid of squares, a cube, or a rectangle. As with Picross DS, you have to uncover the picture, so to speak, only this time rather than finding it as say, a pixelated relief within a larger object, you actually have to create the object itself, based on the clues given by the numbers; again, as is the case with previous iterations of the series, these numbers are all you have to go on.
Now, before I jump into the nuts and bolts of how exactly the game works, let me just pause for a minute and marvel at the design of this game. It isn't that Picross 3D is any kind of technical achievement, really, nor is it because it's so original I have to laud it for its unique approach. No, what's worthy of awe in the case of Picross 3D's design is how overwhelmingly meticulous it is. Basically, the designers have given you a great stone slab and some numeric instructions on how to bring out its best potential as object X. That may not sound that impressive on paper, but put yourself in the dev team's shoes for a moment.
Given your starting point is the proverbial slab, it seems there's theoretically only two practical ways the developers at HAL Labs could have approached the end result of each puzzle (in this case whatever shape, object, animal, or phonetic you're uncovering). Either they had to create and catalogue a list of sequential actions fluid enough to keep any given puzzle from simply following one rigid path to its solution, or they had to start at the reverse, taking the puzzle's uncovered solution, finding a challenging sequential series of actions that would fill in the blanks until the proverbial slab was created for the player. Neither of these postulated options seem easy, and logistically speaking, would probably be a nightmare to properly orchestrate. That the team made 350 of these puzzles, some of which are very difficult, is nothing if not impressive. But I digress.
Without numbers in Picross 3D's puzzles, you would be sunk. Basically, you have three different number types, and all are necessary to succeed. There's your standard numbers, which indicate that whatever labeled row or column has the indicated number of blocks that need to be saved in the applicable space (for instance, a "2" on the top of one block in a column of four would mean two of those blocks are part of the picture, while the other two are not); circled numbers indicate the same as regular, only the block pattern is split into two groups rather than a solid set of blocks (so the two blocks in a circled "2" would be separated by at least one space), and numbers in squares mean the block pattern is split into three or more groups (with the designated number making up the sum of blocks within those groups).