One of my favorite puzzle game series of all time is Picross. I fell in love with the first game on the original Game Boy and have purchased every single iteration released in the U.S. since. I haven’t dabbled in many of the copycats, of which there are quite a few – especially on smart phones and the like. However, when Pic-a-Pix Deluxe was announced for the Switch I figured I had to give it a try since it added in a new twist: colored blocks. What I found is that the same addicting gameplay is here, but it’s not quite as refined as the series it’s trying to ape.
Just like Picross, Pic-a-Pix Deluxe presents the player with an empty grid that must be filled in with colored squares (pixels if you will) to form a larger picture. The way the puzzle is solved is by looking at the numbers adorning the top and side of the puzzle grid. These numbers dictate how many squares must be filled in for that column or row. By cross referencing the rows and columns, you will eventually be able to decipher some of the blocks that must be filled in, and likewise, some that must be left blank. When there are multiple numbers on a single row or column, they signify that there are multiple groups of squares that must be colored in. For example, if you have a row that is five blocks across and there is a number 2 and another number 2 on that row that means that four out of the five squares must be filled in.
Now, here’s where things get a little tricky, especially for the Picross vets out there. You see, in normal Picross if you have a 2 and a 2 in a five across row, it means that the two sets of double blocks can’t touch. In other words, that row is a cinch to solve because you must fill in the first two squares, put a space, and then fill in the last two squares. There’s no other way to solve that row. Simple! However, in this game there are different colored squares, and these have different rules. If, let’s say the two numbers (2 and 2 like before) are the same exact color (let’s say red), then the same rules apply as in Picross – a space must be between them. In other words you’d solve the row exactly as in Picross. If, however, the two numbers are different colors, then that rule is thrown out the window – the two colors can touch! So now the row isn’t automatically solved. You can speculate a few of the blocks and figure out some of the row, but knowing for certain which to fill in will mean you need to look at the crossing columns to try and solve the puzzle.
The addition of different colors throws a whole new wrinkle into the puzzle solving. This came as quite a surprise to me, a veteran of the Picross games. Some of my old tricks didn’t work here, and I found myself stumped quicker than I expected. Of course, the more I played the more I found new skills to use. For example, sometimes it’s impossible to know if a spot should be filled in, but by looking at the colors required it can sometimes become obvious. For example, let’s say there’s a row containing a group of 5 red boxes. If you look at the columns that intersect that row – some of them most likely won’t have any red in them at all. That means you can go to that row and X out those squares because there can’t be a red square in a column that doesn’t have any red at all. This all sounds more confusing in words than in practice, but trust me, this all begins to make sense after a few rounds of play.
I appreciate the extra layer of strategy offered up by Pic-a-Pix Deluxe with the different colors. It freshens up the game a bit, and I really do enjoy the end results with the picture being in color. Really my only criticism is the UI and the colored numbers around the grid. It can be a little confusing at first, because if the number is white and surrounded by a color that means you have yet to solve that set. When you do solve it, the colored square goes away and the number becomes the color that you just solved for. Confusing? Yes, it is and sometimes I found myself thinking I didn’t solve it when I had. I think it would have been better to gray out the solved numbers or make them slightly transparent so they didn’t seem like they could possibly still be in play. It might be a minor quibble for some, but this never went away for me even after hours of playing, which caused me to second guess myself several times per puzzle.
There are other perks to this game as well. It features 300 exclusive new puzzles – not rehashed ones from prior games in the series. It also has a multiplayer mode where up to four players can solve the puzzles together. This would be total insanity and I’m not sure how it would all play out with everyone filling in squares at once. Just the two player mode on Picross S for Switch sent my mind reeling, so I’ll be eager to try this out just to see how fast things deteriorate – just need to get three more people over to witness the madness. Some might be happy to hear that there are optional touchscreen controls while playing in handheld mode. I prefer using the buttons, but options are nice! I should also mention that there are 150 color puzzles and 150 black and white ones, so there’s something for everyone here. Plus they do vary in size from the really easy and beginner level 5×5 grids to huge 35×25 monoliths that could take quite some time to master.
Other than the aforementioned UI issue, Pic-a-Pic Deluxe is a rather competent and entertaining puzzle game. It’s only $7.99 on the eShop and it’s sure to offer up hours and hours of entertainment. I still prefer Jupiter’s handling of the Picross series – it just seems a bit more slick and professional, but this one is surprisingly well done. If you’re unsure of whether this one’s for you or not, there is a free demo on the eShop so give it a go! You might be hooked as hopelessly as the rest of us.
Pic-a-Pix Deluxe was reviewed using a final retail Nintendo Switch download code provided by the publisher.