When did Hal Laboratory, the developers of Picross 3D, get their “Archimedes in the bathtub” moment? In what moment did they realize that by tweaking the wheel, they had in fact inadvertently uncovered the mysteries of flight? Because I have to imagine that Hal Laboratory and Nintendo intended Picross’s move into 3D to be some kind of gimmick in hope of freshening up a 15-year-old formula that hasn’t changed since the days of the original Gameboy. Right? After all, translating a game with 2D mechanics into a 3D space has not been the easiest of transitions (see the Castlevania or Sonic the Hedgehog series). Yet somehow Picross 3D manages to reach a Zen-like balance between dumb video-game gimmick and evolutionary brilliance. Fortunately, it’s the evolutionary brilliance part that resonates with the player.
For those who are unfamiliar with Picross, it’s a grid-based puzzle game originating from Japan. The object of the game revolves around the player using logic and the numbers provided around the grid to decide if squares need to be “full” or “empty.” The puzzle is finally solved when the “full” squares reveal some kind of picture. Now Picross 3D follows essentially the same set of rules, with the major differences being that instead of a two-dimensional grid you are given a three-dimensional rectangle, and instead of marking squares “full” or “empty,” you’re either “painting” a cube to keep it or “chiseling” it away. On paper, the differences between the 2D version and 3D version seem slight, but if you are familiar with the past 2D Picross games, you will understand that these tweaks change the game considerably.
While in both 2D and 3D Picross you are creating something that resembles an object, the difference between the two comes in the perception of space. The best way I can think of describing the difference is that in 2D Picross you are a painter creating an image through the filling of squares, whereas in 3D Picross you are a sculptor chiseling away at tiny cubes until the remaining clusters present a 3D model. That major difference in perceiving space makes the two games feel completely different.
So while the game shares the same trappings of the usual Nintendo Picross of having an endless number of puzzles and that antiquated Nintendo charm, it also feels completely different from past versions of the game because of the new 3D perspective. This, in turn, cannot only be recommended to new comers of the series, but to longtime fans as well since it provides an all-new experience.