Puzzle fans may be familiar with Picross, a type of brainteaser in which you use numerical clues to complete a picture crossword. These paint by numbers puzzles have been adapted to video game format and popularized thanks to Nintendo’s long-running Picross series. Lightwood Games’ Pic-a-Pix Deluxe takes the formula and implements one big element: color. This single change adds another dimension to each picture crossword.
Here’s my Video Review for your viewing pleasure!
The game takes some time to learn, but an included tutorial briefly explains the concept. Basically, each puzzle is a square or rectangular grid, and each row and column has corresponding numbers and colors. These act as clues to help you paint in the correct grid squares and eventually uncover a pixel picture. As an example, if on a 5×5 grid (as seen below), one row had a green number 3, you’d have to fill in three out of the row’s five squares with the color green. Likewise, if a column had a green number 2 above a red number 3, you’d know to color in two green squares followed by three red squares going down. In this case, the five squares would complete the column. Color aside, the base gameplay is identical to Picross.
The color provides more than a cosmetic palette, though; it adds a whole layer of logic and effectively changes your approach to the standard black-and-white Picross. You not only have to think about how many squares are filled in; you also have to keep track of the placements and amounts of multiple colors. While this may sound overwhelming, the colors actually assisted my logic. Returning to my previous example where I had to fill in three green squares in a row, I could tell which squares to fill in based on which columns had corresponding green clues. From there, I could continue coloring in the puzzle based on process of elimination
And therein lies the appeal. Similarly to Sudoku or actual crossword puzzles, this is a game in which you can always narrow down how to complete it without having to rely on guesswork. It’s gratifying to reach the end and discover the picture you’ve created. That said, not every completed picture looks great. There were many instances where I looked at the final product and couldn’t quite tell what it was, even with the title right under it. It’s a small gripe that cheapens the experience.
Completing the smaller 5×5 grids is a simple process. And up to a certain size, like 20×20, the game is both challenging and entertaining. Pic-a-Pix Deluxe includes grid sizes up to 35×25, but I didn’t find them as enjoyable for a number of reasons. First, since there is no way to zoom in on a puzzle, the text ends up incredibly tiny and hard-to-read. Compounding on that, it’s exponentially tougher to keep track of and accurately fill in entire rows and columns. At least clues automatically whiten when you make logical plays, but large grids are still daunting. Hardcore puzzle aficionados may appreciate the trial, but such a size presents an exhausting ordeal. Luckily, you can save your progress mid-puzzle and pick it back up later. Additionally, a robust hint system not only tells you how many errors you have made, but will also fix them for you if you wish.
Living up to the deluxe moniker, there are 150 color puzzles of varying grid sizes, which is twice as many as the previous game, Pic-a-Pix Color. And as a bonus, the package includes 150 black-and-white puzzles, which may interest fans of standard Picross. Additionally, you can purchase DLC puzzles from the eShop, although I found the included set to be more than enough content, considering I was usually drained after completing just one large puzzle. And it’s not only because I grew tired of the game’s single repetitive song, which can thankfully be turned off. The game functions better as a fun timewaster during short breaks as opposed to an addictive puzzle marathon. The Nintendo Switch’s handheld mode complements Pic-a-Pix Deluxe well, both because of its pickup-and-play portability and the touch screen support. That said, it wasn’t convenient maneuvering my finger around the tiny squares on the larger puzzles.
Surprisingly, you can play this game with up to four players locally. However, it gets more hectic with multiple players working on the same puzzle. I also felt more detached when I didn’t know what other people were filling in. The multiplayer could potentially lead to interesting speed runs, though, and is a nice extra overall.
Pic-a-Pix Deluxe doesn’t have the best presentation or design choices, particularly for the larger puzzles, but the color adds quite a bit to the gameplay and logic progression. Puzzle enthusiasts may find it worthwhile to try out the game’s demo. While the Switch’s eShop is slowly becoming saturated with great puzzle offerings, including Jupiter’s Picross series, Pic-a-Pix Deluxe’s splash of color may just be the slight tint that longtime picture crossword fans can appreciate.
Note: A review copy was provided for this article.
What are your thoughts on Pic-a-Pix Deluxe? Have you played Picross or Pic-a-Pix before? What’s your favorite Picross or Picross-like game? What are your favorite puzzle games in general? Please share any thoughts you have in the comments section below! Thank you so much for watching and reading!