Near the end of the Nintendo DS’s run, I got a game that ended up becoming a severe addiction. I’d always liked Nonograms – those odd, blocky logic puzzles that involved colouring in blocks to reveal a picture – but Picross 3D was a revelation. Instead of revealing a flat picture, the game had you chipping away at a block to reveal a 3D object. For a long time, Picross 3D was probably my favourite puzzle game. That’s changed. It’s been usurped by its successor, which is about as perfect a sequel as fans could hope to get.
There’s a very probably misattributed quote, often linked to renaissance artist Michelangelo, but probably uttered in jest hundreds of years after his death. When asked about the difficulties encountered in sculpting his famous David, Michelangelo is said to have replied with:
It is easy. You just chip away the stone that doesn’t look like David.
And that’s really what Picross 3D Round 2 is about. You’re presented with a grey block made up of smaller cubes, and using the numeric clues presented, you have to chip away the blocks that don’t look like the object you’re trying to reveal – and because you don’t really know what you’re supposed to be revealing until you’re done, you can’t just break blocks, mad with delirious hope.
In the first game, you had just one type of block to emaciate, but in this sequel there’s an added layer of complexity. There are now two types of blocks – blue ones, which end up being cubic, and orange ones which can be pointy, rounded or anything else that isn’t the 3D version of a square. So now, instead of seeing a number on a bock and using the game’s rules of logic to see how many working blocks are in a row, you’ll now see an orange or a blue one or both – informing you how many of each are in each row. There’s even more complexity; numbers on their own signify that the blocks are all in a row, circled numbers signify that the colour is split in to two different sets, and numbers in squares let you know that the blocks are split into three or more sets.
The increased complexity does mean, however, that the controls are little more fiddly and cumbersome than they were in the past. You’re given one hammer to break blocks that you’re sure don’t make up the shape. Then you have two colours to paint the blocks that you’re sure do, and another two highlighter colours to let you mark blocks that maybe blue or orange, but without having to actually commit. As you may have noticed, that means you have five tools at your disposal, which is one more than you have directions on the D pad – which means that one of your actions has to be mapped to a shoulder button, or accessed via the circle pad, which I found a little awkward and inaccurate. As the scale of the blocky sculptures increase, you’ll have to start slicing them up to make the whole thing more manageable.
Getting something wrong nets you a strike, which brings shame upon your entire family. The goal within each puzzle is to finish it in record time with 0 strikes, so you’ll likely play through each puzzle until you get it just right. Finishing puzzles earns you gems, which unlocks…even more puzzles. Unlike the first game, which just gave you a list of puzzle of increasing difficulty, this one has them all locked away in themed books. Each book seems to have its own difficulty curve, so you’re starting out with easy puzzles, with each one, before moving on to the more serious head-scratchers. It was odd at first, but I came to appreciate the regular change in pace, difficulty and frustration. Thing is, it’s exactly the sort of frustration I love; Zen-like and calming, until things start going wrong and you just have to do it again. It’s immensely rewarding when you do get it right without any mistakes.
Picross 3D Round 2 also features some of the best Amiibo integration in a game yet. Scan in any of 10 compatible Amiibo, and you unlock them as puzzles. Remember, you’ll need a New 3DS or the Amiibo scanner for them to work. For interest’s sake, the 10 supported ones are: Kirby, Link, Mario, Luigi, Yoshi, Bowser, King Dedede, Meta Knight, and Peach or Toad (who unlock the same puzzle).
A screen full of numbers can be intimidating for many people, especially those who’ve built up mental walls against math, but the only mathematical proficiency needed here is the ability to count. Don’t be frightened off, because you could be missing one of the best puzzle games ever made.