Before we start I want to thank Nintendo UK for sending us this game to review.
Anyone who has been following my reviews this year will notice that I have been quite happy with HAL Laboratory’s performance recently. Kirby Planet Robobot and BOXBOXBOY! were both fantastic games for the Nintendo 3DS. They’re both real sequels that take what their predecessor did and build on it in every single way to make a much better game. Picross 3D Round 2 could potentially fall into this category as well. Picross 3D Round 2 is the sequel to HAL’s 2009/10 Nintendo DS title: Picross 3D. So, does Picross 3D Round 2 give HAL a holy trifecta of successful sequels or is this their one blip of 2016?
Let’s find out.
As Picross 3D Round 2 is 100% a puzzle game it does not have any story so we are going to start straight away at Gameplay. So Picross 3D Round 2 is, at its core, Picross in… 3D. Rather than a flat plane where you mark boxes you now have a Cube or a Rectangular Prism to work with.
The puzzles still involve marking out the numbered squares that make up the object while making sure to remove unneeded squares. However, Picross 3D Round 2 adds some new features for players to be aware of. Rather than just removing the squares you don’t need you are also required to color the squares in. You have two colors to work with, orange and blue, which fit different requirements. The blue cubes are for spaces that will stay as cubes whereas orange indicates spaces that will change into another shape. Keeping in mind what cubes need to be which color is fundamental to this game and allows for HAL to make different and much more challenging puzzles and layouts.
Speaking of difficulty this game comes with three difficulties available once the tutorial has been completed. This is a great feature because, unlike most puzzle games, the difficulty doesn’t change the puzzle in question. Rather than all the puzzles being split off into easy, medium and hard puzzles, they are all the same and what changes is the hints and numbers given to the player. The motivation for tackling the harder difficulty is not just to make the game more challenging but you also get more points and a higher rank for clearing the puzzles. The more points you have, the more puzzles you can unlock. This all allows the players to progress at their own pace. They can play through on easy and return later on to tackle these puzzles on hard mode or Picross masters can start at the hardest point straight away. It is all the players choice which is fantastic.
The puzzles cover plenty of bases from animals to flowers to vehicles. There are also amiibo puzzles which are based around Nintendo’s NFC figurines. Not every amiibo is useable in this game – it is your standard affair of Mario and Kirby – but even a few more puzzles are better than none and it gives those lovely pieces of plastic some use.
Sometimes you will come across puzzles in Picross 3D Round 2 that have a special feature tacked on. Whether this is a time trial or making multiple sculptures in order to make one massive one, it all adds more variety to the game which is appreciated as outside the puzzles there is little else. This is to be expected from a puzzle game of course but it still needs mentioning. What Picross 3D Round 2 does for Picross games is great. Everything you’d expect from this game is here and done in a way that works and allows for more variety from puzzles. But in the end, it is all Picross, so if you were not a fan of those types of Puzzles in the first place I don’t think the change in perspective will change your opinion.
Picross 3D Round 2 makes leaps and bounds in its presentation over its predecessor. This is to be expected from a game on a new system but the lengths HAL went to make Picross 3D Round 2 feel different and better is nothing to be scoffed out. Anyone who has played an Art Academy or Professor Layton game will understand the feeling that this game gives off in its menu. It is almost like you are at an art school in a sculpting class. The calm music, the work table, and the pleasing backgrounds are great for any puzzle fan who just wants to sit down and solve some puzzles.
Well, at least in the menus. When you actually start a puzzle the music picks up and becomes something far more epic than it really should be. There are also a variety of different tracks used so the songs never get stale. But they certainly feel odd juxtaposed against the rest of this game’s aesthetics and music. This isn’t a negative point either as the songs are quite catchy and work in a bizarre way.
The game’s aesthetics try their best to match the Art Academy-esque music. I already mentioned the backgrounds while making a puzzle, but the actual menu designs are cute. Each picross theme is separated into numbers which are set up almost like jigsaw puzzle boxes. A nice drawing on a shelf that you open up and access the puzzles inside. It helps to give the game more character than the more digital style of the first game.
Finally, the game allows you to go back and look at any of the objects you have previously made. If I have any objections with this game it is in this section. The whole thing feels like an afterthought and it could be made so much better. For starters, you can only access the objects of that area of the game and cannot easily jump into the next area. As each section contains anywhere from 4-9 puzzles, some areas feel empty and it’s too much hassle just to see the object. The second problem is with the object descriptions. This was HAL’s opportunity to make them stand-out and be funny or cute, like a Pokedex entry or like the trophy sections from Smash or Kirby. But they don’t. The descriptions are honestly kind of dull. I don’t know if it is a translation problem or not but I would have liked to see more time put into that part of the presentation.
Overall though the presentation of Picross 3D Round 2 is solid. It decides to make itself something memorable, as well as different, from the original DS title.
In my mind, HAL Laboratory had a lot to live up to for this title. Not only has their software output this year been fantastic but I am a big fan of picross, both 2D and 3D, so I was eager to see what this title had in store for me. I am happy to say that it did not disappoint me. In my eyes HAL has managed to claim a holy trifecta of 3DS software this single year by producing three sequels that do everything right.
Picross 3D Round 2 looks, sounds and feels better than its original. The game is more streamlined for casual players while also taking veteran Picross fans into account with its approach to difficulty. The puzzles are numerous, varied and fun with the new color mechanic adding a unique twist to the game that I have not seen in any previous picross title. While it could’ve used some polish in certain areas it still gets its main mechanic spot-on and so I recommend this game to anyone who likes puzzle games, picross or not. Even more so if you have amiibo as this game makes good use of the main figurines. I loved this game and I can’t wait for the hopefully inevitable round three on the Nintendo Switch in about six years (hopefully sooner).