Rittai Picross

   07/04/2009 at 22:40       Richard Horne       12 COMMENTS. - Score 5/5

Nintendo’s Picross DS, and Mario's Picross many moons before it on the original GameBoy, have eaten up more hours of my life than I’d care to admit. Much like Tetris, Sudoku, Slitherlink and Lumines, there’s just something so intrinsic about the fundamental gameplay mechanics that mentally resonates with me and somewhere, somehow, strikes a resounding chord that lures me back to their charms time and time again.

Picross found its natural home on the DS and aside from some occasional minor technical issues, particularly when having to zoom in and out of the more difficult puzzles, was very close to perfection. But here we are, more or less a year or so later and Nintendo’s HAL Laboratory has developed the next logical evolution in the genre and delivered a game that’s equally as addictive as its predecessor and just as intuitive.

Rittai Picross, most likely to be titled Picross 3D on its eventual as yet unconfirmed PAL release, takes the Picross formula and simply adds a literal third dimension to it. And that folks is just about it. Review over. 9/10. OK, OK, OK, for those of you that have never played a Picross game before, allow me to elaborate.

Picross puzzles or ‘nonograms’ are generally played on a 2 dimensional square grid. Each row and column has a single number or set of numbers above or alongside it that indicates how many of the blocks in said row or column are used to make up the hidden image. Using logic and the process of elimination you chip away at the blocks you know are not part of the puzzle and paint over the ones that are. Eventually, when all avenues have been explored you’re left with the final image, cue singing and dancing before you move onto the next puzzle.

Rittai Picross takes those exact same fundamentals but instead of playing on a flat 2 dimensional grid, you instead chip away at a 3 dimensional square or rectangle. And instead of listing an array of numbers, for instance (2,1,1,2), Rittai simply tots these up and displays the resulting total - giving you a 6 in this example. A number without a circle indicates that the blocks are adjacent to each other, while a circled number means the blocks have at least one space breaking them up, which helps to add a further dynamic to proceedings and another layer of depth. The interior layers of each puzzle can be accessed by simply dragging an arrow on the X or Y axis left or right to hide or reveal rows and columns.

The success of a puzzle game largely hinges on its control scheme and Rittai Picross certainly delivers with the stylus instinctively used to rotate the 3d block around its axis. Using either the face buttons or the d-pad depending on whether you’re a rightie or a Southpaw, you select, by holding down the relevant button, whether you want to chip away at blocks or paint them. And while this proves to be extremely easy to get to grips with, even after hours of play time I still find myself sometimes pressing the hammer tool instead of the paint brush. Luckily, most levels present you with 5 lives, so all is not lost should you suffer the same mental deficiencies I do.

And that’s about all there is to it. Rittai Picross features hundreds of puzzles which increase in complexity as you progress, ranging from simple 5 x 5 x 2 puzzles to more complex 10 x 10 x 10 ones. The resultant images and models from each puzzle are saved in a scene or backdrop with which you can play around or manipulate later. And while these prove to be ultimately pointless, you will find yourself suffering from OCD as you try and fill each one completely.

Once the main game has been completed, Rittai Picross does add further longevity by allowing you to create and exchange your own puzzles with its surprisingly easy to use editor – though let’s face it, there’s not a lot to get wrong. But also rather brilliantly allows you to wirelessly send custom levels to friends who don’t even own the game by way of a limited demo. You can also download and store up to an additional 300 custom levels. Though doing so will no doubt require extensive Japanese reading skills or a handy menu translation.

All of which makes for a fairly straight forward review. If you’ve played a Picross game before then this is exactly how you would imagine a 3D version to play. It just works. And for that fact alone it’s worthy of a 5 out 5.

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