Picture Puzzle Pixel Perfect
The Nintendo Switch’s handheld mode is one of my favorite aspects about the system, and the puzzle genre is one of the easiest to play portably. While faster match-three games like Puyo Puyo Tetris are already on the market, I also like to sit down and play slower brain teasers to stimulate my mind. Score Studios and Rainy Frog’s Piczle Lines DX scratches that cerebral itch.
Check out the Video Version for a closer look at how the puzzles play!
The premise looks deceptively simple. Numbered, colored circles are scattered on a square grid. Your goal is to draw lines between two circles matching in both number and color. For example, a black circle with the number 4 connects to another black 4, but not to a black 7 or to a grey 4. Additionally, the number signifies how many grid squares the line covers. Going back to the previous example, a black 4 can only be connected to another black 4 that is exactly four squares away. You can format lines in any horizontal or vertical orientation, as long as they follow those rules. The simplest control scheme is to draw lines using the Switch’s touch screen, but you can also use a controller; a cursor appears and can hold down a button to create connections. It’s somewhat awkward, but it worked better than I had assumed, thanks to the magnified display. However you approach it, once you match every circle to a corresponding partner, you complete the puzzle, which like in the game Picross, forms a colorful pixelated picture.
This is more than a simple game of connect-the-dots. You can only finish by fully completing the grid, so how you draw the lines matters in the long run. If you connect two circles but end up blocking another line’s path, then you must rethink your strategy. The entire game is built upon pattern recognition – finding circles that can only connect one way, such as any with the number 2 on it or those separated by a straight line, and using them as guidelines to determine viable routes. This process of elimination strategy is part of what makes mind bogglers like Sudoku and Picross addictive. And in that same vein, Piczle Lines DX is filled with enlightening revelations and a constant sense of progress as you whittle down larger puzzles.
Speaking of puzzles, the game is filled to the brink with them. Puzzle Mode includes a whopping 220, with grid sizes ranging from 16×16 to the much more difficult 64×64. The larger grids can take upwards to a half hour to solve, and you don’t even want to imagine how long the massive 128×128 size dinosaur-themed pictures would take. Seriously, it takes an ice age just to finish one of these mammoths. I would have appreciated a timer to follow my progress, but the lack of one actually works well for the game’s slower pace. Therein lies the charm: just as it can be calming to work through a crossword book or a 5,000 piece jigsaw puzzle, it’s easy to relax with a single round of Piczle Lines.
There is also a Story Mode, believe it or not, featuring 100 more brain teasers that must be played in order. The plot is pure fluff and involves a girl pixelating an old scientist’s entire house, placing you in charge to complete picture puzzles to restore his furniture to normal. Does the story matter? No, but seeing your completed pictures materialize in the house is a nice touch that motivated me to play more.
Gameplay can grow tiring after a while, though, since every challenge follows the same formula. It’s not as complex as Picross nor as fast-paced as other match-three games, and no picture is particularly memorable. Once you’ve seen one large grid, you’ve seen them all, which is why this game is best played in spurts. Promoting that pick-up-and-play mentality, the game saves your progress mid-puzzle, allowing you to exit midgame and return at any time to continue where you left off.
Still, there are so many puzzles that unless you grow addicted to the game, which I admit is possible, you likely won’t play them all. Consider then that publisher Rainy Frog has also released a free-to-play mobile version. It has a more limited number of brain teasers, but you can pick and choose which packs to purchase, if any. The final price is the same, too. If you bought every mobile pack, it would be equivalent to the $15 Switch version, but you’d miss out on the Switch’s upcoming free DLC puzzles that would cost money on iOS and Android. At the very least, the mobile version acts as a good demo.
Back to the Switch version, the presentation is simple, and everything is clearly outlined and easy to see. I appreciated how thoughtful the developers were, incorporating three different color-blind modes. The pixelated pictures are fun rewards for completing each grid, and the surrounding anime visuals are cute, simple and nonintrusive. What will grind your gears, however, is the repetitive music. The same one minute tune loops over and over, and it has already driven me crazy. There are only a couple different songs, and they’re annoying. Thank goodness you can turn the background music off.
Piczle Lines DX does a fine job filling in the void that the Switch’s lack of Picross has left. The game presents a unique challenge of spatial awareness, while using simple concepts of color and number matching to make it easily approachable for anyone. Although the game eventually loses its luster over time, its sheer amount of 300+ puzzles will appeal to anyone who enjoys Sudoku or Picross.
A review copy was provided by the publisher for this article.