There are plenty of people out there who will tell you that nothing is a sure thing. That there are absolutely no guarantees in life. Those people clearly haven’t heard of Picross S developers Jupiter Corporation who once more return to continue their yearly dose of grid-based puzzling with the latest addition Picross S3, arguably the best entry in the series so far.
So let’s first kick off with the big question many unfamiliar with this breed of puzzler are probably asking, what exactly is Picross?
Picross is a logic-based puzzle game that sees you figuring out which squares within a grid (these start out as small as five squares by five squares and then later building up to huge challenging 20 by 15 behemoths) need filling in with the help of numerical clues. These numbers will inform you of how many squares within its attached row or column must be occupied but not which specific ones. For example on a five by five grid any row or column with the number ‘5’ beside means every square must be filled in since there’s simply no other solution. If however, it had a ‘4’ then this offers two solutions since these squares must be grouped together (you couldn’t have a gap between the four for example).
Things only get trickier when you start to see several numbers assigned to individual rows and columns that then require multiple groups of filled-in squares. Similar to other puzzles like Sudoku, you’ll be slowly working toward a solution piece by piece with every square successfully identified then able to help you further deduce other rows and columns. Your hard work feels worth it though as you watch each completed puzzle transform into a colored pixelated image. It’s a small reward but one that kept me playing just to see what else I would end up unknowingly creating.
Much like the first two games in the ‘S’ series, you’ll find 150 standard Picross puzzles slowly growing in both size and complexity. Also making a return is Mega Picross, a much tougher variation where certain clues within a grid can now relate to two adjacent rows or columns instead of just the one. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Mega Picross feels too complicated for its own good, where even the smallest and simplest of puzzles had me making mistakes and getting confused. Since the puzzles are identical to the regular mode (albeit in a different order) I didn’t feel like I was missing out by simply skipping them.
Also making a return is Clip Picross, a mode that sees you solving a series of smaller puzzles that when combined form one giant pixelated image. The mystery of what each group of puzzles might reveal is certainly intriguing, it’s just a shame you need to unlock them through playing standard Picross and can’t simply just jump right in.
So what’s new exactly? The biggest addition this time around comes in the form of Color Picross, a batch of puzzles where you’re not only trying to figure out which squares on the grid to fill in but also their color (of which a puzzle can use up to four). While the rules remain pretty much the same as the standard monochrome version, there is one small wrinkle in that groups of different colored squares within the same row or column do not necessarily need a gap between them. It’s strange getting used to this tweak of the guidelines but one that also adds a new layer of challenge. Colour Picross is an excellent continuation of the formula – one capped off rather nicely by having your pixelated images animated when complete – but it’s also one that feels a little light in content with only 30 puzzles in all.
Jupiter has also included a few quality of life updates such as allowing you to preview puzzles from the menu before jumping in (this includes showing your progress on ones you started and left). Two player mode also makes a return – again a great inclusion and one we continue to use on long trips with two Joy-Con on their sides. Small markers have also been introduced making it much clearer this time around as to which player has highlighted or filled what squares. Shout out also must go to the game’s tutorials that not only help you understand the basics of Picross but even offer some guidance on more advanced techniques.
Yet again Jupiter refuses to add touch screen functionality, a feature many (myself included) have been hoping for with each and every release. At the end of the day, the traditional control scheme works perfectly fine however it would be nice to at least have the option in a game that feels tailor-made to be poked at on a screen.
Picross S3 is not only the biggest overall package the series has seen so far but also the most consistently enjoyable. While I don’t think I’ll ever be savvy enough to tackle the intimidating Mega Picross, the 150 new standard puzzles, the return of Clip Picross and the addition of the excellent Color Picross ensure you’ll be kept busy for months to come.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by Jupiter