Pick a Piczle of Picross
One of my favorite aspects of the Nintendo Switch is its portable mode, which lends itself for relaxing puzzle games. Piczle Colors is the latest puzzler from the creators behind Piczle Lines DX. The game is a variation of Picross, a type of brainteaser where you use numerical clues to complete a picture crossword.
Here’s my Video Review for your viewing pleasure!
The objective of each puzzle is simple: color in every square on a grid to form a pixelated picture. You do so by following corresponding clues to determine what color goes in each square. As an example, if a row in a 10×5 grid had a blue number 8, you’d know that eight out of the ten boxes in that row are blue, but you wouldn’t necessarily know which ones. You’d also have to consider what colors go in that row’s remaining two boxes. If you’re used to the original black-and-white Picross puzzles, then the addition of color enhances depth.
A couple of additional rules change up the standard formula, for better or for worse. First, as opposed to traditional Picross, each individual box must be filled in – no gaps allowed. As a plus, this leads to more colorful pictures in the end, as strange-looking they may be.
What legitimately confused me was how the game provided clues. The numbers in each row and column don’t indicate what order the colors appear. For example, let’s take a column with a white number 1 on top, a black number 4 beneath it, and a purple number 5 on the bottom. You might assume that you would paint in those colors from top to bottom in that order. However, that would be wrong, as the clues only indicate how many of each color without specifying order or placement. This system makes sense since giving away the order would make the puzzles too easy, but it’s hard as a player to translate clue to solution.
To add a layer of confusion, there’s a rule that there must be a gap in-between colors. So in my earlier example, you couldn’t have five purple blocks in a row. There needs to be at least one gap to split them… unless there is a circle surrounding the number. In this case, the inverse is true; the color blocks must touch. It’s hard to manually process this information given the clue presentation, and it only gets more convoluted as the grid sizes grow. The idea is to use process of elimination to correctly fill in the grid, but there were times when I couldn’t decipher the one correct answer from an array of seemingly plausible solutions. There is a crutch in the form of a random hint that you can activate before starting a puzzle. The game picks a spot and fills in the surrounding row and column, which helps immensely, especially for the larger grids where it can be difficult to find a starting point.
Another odd design choice is that clues disappear once you’ve filled in the necessary quota. While this helped me eliminate possibilities and keep track of which colors remained, one big drawback is that the disappearing clues don’t necessarily indicate you’re correct. A dreaded “X” will show if you’ve made a mistake. Problem was I often had no idea how to fix my errors because the clues weren’t on-screen anymore. I would have to erase colors just so the number clues would return, which disrupted my flow and progress. I would have preferred some way to keep track of my completed clues but prevent them from disappearing.
The game has a high learning curve, but once I got the hang of it, I found myself having fun. It’s not as easy to jump into as standard Picross or other similar titles, but it’s enjoyable to dive deep into each puzzle. After you complete a certain number in one set, you unlock a harder set, and so on. There are 300 puzzles – a good amount of playtime considering the more difficult ones may take at least a half hour to solve. You can suspend progress and come back to a puzzle at any time, though the menu bizarrely doesn’t show you which puzzles you’ve paused. As a side nitpick, why can’t I press the B button to back out of a menu? Depending on your progress, you can also unlock extras, with my favorite being 3D model trophies similar to Super Smash Bros., showcasing upgraded versions of the series’ cute mascots.
Control was most comfortable using the Nintendo Switch’s handheld mode and touch screen. It may be tough to accurately color the small squares without a stylus, but the game thankfully has an option to prevent you from painting over already filled-in areas. The simple interface made it easy to focus on the grid, although it was hard to distinguish colors when they were similar to each other or the background. A helpful visual aid highlights your current color and curves the grid squares, which may assist those with color blindness. The slow, jazz lounge music is a perfect fit for mellow puzzle-solving, and it rarely got old despite the limited soundtrack.
Piczle Colors helped me to see that puzzles can live or die based on how they present clues to the player. Although the clue system conveys enough information to help players eliminate incorrect answers, the presentation and odd choices (such as disappearing clues) led to more confusion than I would have liked. I still enjoyed the brainteasers, but it’s harder to jump in than other variations of Picross. Fans of cerebral logic puzzles like Sudoku may like this take on the picture crossword formula, provided they have the patience to master Piczle Colors’ unique intricacies.
Note: A review copy was used for this article.