The early Switch eShop line-up had some gems, but it arguably did little to accommodate a demographic keen on sedate gaming experiences, or indeed those with a particular love for puzzle games. The DS and 3DS, in particular, built up a broad range of titles focused around puzzles, wordplay and so on, whether with the 'Touch Generation' games or indeed smaller apps focused on formulas like Sudoku and Picross.
It's taken a few months, but the Switch is starting to step up with these sorts of games. Titles like Death Squared and Ironcast suit broad audiences in that they put the focus on brainpower and solving problems as opposed to speedy reactions; some are undoubtedly looking forward to Chess Ultra this year, too. For fans of Picross-style experiences, meanwhile, the upcoming Piczle Lines DX could fulfil another itch.
Due out on 24th August, we've been given an early chance to check this one out ahead of review time, and we went into it with the mind of looking for the sort of game that is accessible (and potentially enjoyable) to absolutely anyone. The formula sets itself up for that, as it blends Picross-style thinking and image forming with a jigsaw puzzle feel. You have to connect matching coloured squares with the correct number of spaces, and the effect becomes rather like slotting pieces together. You can connect pieces in the wrong way, for example, forcing you to go back and reshape these chains to leave others open.
Working primarily through the story mode so far there's a nice sense of progression, as it starts off easy before producing puzzles (in the nonogram style) of increasing size and complexity. In the first chapter or two (there are five chapters, the early ones with 20 puzzles each) we rarely got stuck, but needed to concentrate more on patterns, slotting lines together and often going back, removing steps and re-assessing. For this scribe it has, so far, brought back that 'one more puzzle' vibe that's typical of the Picross e series on the 3DS eShop.
Because it does that it's automatically welcome on the store, but it's a game that also shines a light on the hybrid nature of the Switch. Some major retail games are home console experiences first and foremost with the bonus of portable play, yet others on the way (like FIFA 18) will approach the hardware as a powerful portable with the bonus of TV play. Now we're seeing something similar happen with the download space on the eShop - there are games previously at home on the likes of PC and other consoles, but also titles like VOEZ that made their name on mobile. Piczle Lines DX is the all-in version of a mobile game of the same name, which earned plenty of praise in its original incarnation back in 2010 and has been pretty well received on mobile in its DX form. It was a puzzle title given familiar praise on smart devices for the qualities that helped define these devices' early steps into gaming - descriptions like 'addictive', 'hard to put down' and so on.
Its presence on the Switch - like VOEZ and some other mobile ports - reminds us of its core form, that of a tablet. That's how we've mostly played the game so far, with the system's touchscreen unsurprisingly being the most intuitive way to draw the lines. It taps into that addictive feeling of some mobile games, but offers a few hundred puzzles right off the bat without any optional packs to buy - more content will apparently arrive after launch for free, too.
The trailer, of course, pitches the flexibility of the Switch. The physical controls work just fine, though they're less immediate and pacey than simple taps and swipes; the idea being, of course, that with the desktop mode and Joy-Con (or on the TV) you can have onlookers help you out and give you pointers. We're not sure how much this'll happen in the real world, perhaps apart from parents helping their kids, but the idea is nice.
Having played it during a particularly busy week, this writer does see how games that achieved success and praise on smart devices can perhaps hit a nerve with 'DX' versions of their titles on the Switch. Some within our team talk about mostly playing their Switch as a portable, and the snappiness of the system's UI makes it great for rapid pick-up-and-play games. In offering the best of both worlds the Switch opens itself up to an extremely varied catalogue of games, and in the process a broad and happy demographic of owners.
Piczle Lines DX, amidst big retail releases and recent "gamer's games" like Sonic Mania, is a reminder of how the Switch can suit pretty much any gamer if the library offers the variety. Aside from music that we just had to turn off (which was a menu option, tellingly), we've become slightly addicted to the nonogram puzzles thrown at us in this game. Sure, we could share them with others on the TV, but most of the time we detach those Joy-Con controllers and indulge in some tablet puzzle gaming.
Once the Switch gets a usable web browser and some streaming apps to join games like these, it'll be a darn fine tablet.