Review: Picross 3D Round 2 (3DS eShop)

Pleasantly puzzling

A wise gentleman once said that every puzzle has a solution. In Picross 3D Round 2, finding those answers may have players tearing out their hair while simultaneously cracking a smile.

Picross 3D Round 2 is a game that is as addictive as they come. Like its predecessor puzzles are in 3D (as the name so helpfully points out) and not the two dimensional offerings typically associated with these games. In this latest entry to the series puzzles are split into sections as 'books', with each containing a number of levels that match a designated theme. For instance, there's a food-related theme that aptly comes with food item puzzles. Pretty straight-forward, right?

Players use the stylus to chisel away at blocks, muse over number combinations, and paint blocks to reveal masterful 3D creations. The paint, hammer and outlining tools can be mapped to the direction pad, the ABXY buttons or the Circle Pad, which are used by selecting and holding these down while tapping along with the stylus.

The game begins with a step-by-step tutorial detailing the finer points of gameplay. Players are handed a square or rectangular block that has blue and/or orange numbers scattered in rows and columns. It seems daunting, and it can be, as specific rules apply to each of the numbers that appear on any given board.

Each number represents how many of that particular coloured block will show up in the row or column. There are different rules on how numbers can and cannot be placed, with certain symbols designating required conditions. For instance, solid numbers mean painted blocks appear consecutively in the row or column. Numbers with circles or squares around them means they are separated into groups. Then there are blocks with dual numbers on them, meaning that particular column or row will contain blocks that have both, with their specific rules applied. Between these rules and figuring out which blocks to hammer away, Picross 3D Round 2 delivers a complex, brain teasing game. It's a simple concept that manages to be intriguing, and it's when presenting players with a large puzzle block that it can prompt both fascination and a slight fear of the challenge.

While there is the aforementioned tutorial at the start of the game, even that can feel a little confusing; it's always best to learn from first-hand experience. While the tutorial does let players do hands-on training, it may take a few puzzles to really understand the fundamentals of the rules. Thankfully there are a multitude of puzzles to play to become familiar with particular patterns and exercise the mind.

It's easy to make mistakes in this game, and players will probably make quite a few of those if rushing through, or become set back by carelessness in selecting the wrong tool. It can be a little intimidating and frustrating, sometimes. As all the rules are logic-based, however, the game is not unfair. It may be trickier to manoeuvre through larger puzzles if players aren't cautious. Solutions, however, are always there. They may be hidden in between blocks, and the game gives the ability to peel away layers to work sections at a time, if necessary. Some solutions are easy to spot, and some will require rotating the view of the puzzle via the touch screen. Ultimately, approaching puzzles in this game requires a combination of patience, thought, and the process of elimination.

All puzzle stages have a timer and a mistake counter. The better players do, and depending on the difficulty level which accounts for a score multiplier, players are awarded an overall total of points and gems which are used to unlock more puzzles. There are different modes, each bringing satisfying levels of challenge for players. The three basics are "easy", "medium", and "hard" which are tailored for players' comfort. Not only do these modes present different ways to look at a puzzle, but easier levels are also good for finishing puzzles in a timely manner and with fewer mistakes. Accomplishing this can net higher quality gems and additional points; all puzzles can be replayed, at any difficulty. Best of all, this means unlocking all the puzzles won't be very hard.

There are a couple of other modes in Picross 3D that are conditions of specific puzzle book challenges. These include a time trial mode, and one in which a single mistake means a game over screen. While the one error mode can be a bit tricky, the time trial mode is not very taxing. A three minute timer is given for each puzzle but completing various parts will add a generous minute to the timer. Picross 3D Round 2 is the type of game that - in general - is incredibly relaxing, even when it can sometimes take players' brains to task.

A part of what makes it so relaxing is its presentation. It exudes charm and is downright adorable; many of the puzzles reveal themselves to be quaint 3D wooden toys, for example. How did a block get created into a cucumber? Or how did a block hide an octopus? Or a serving of takoyaki? These are the joys to finishing puzzles in Picross 3D Round 2. As players chip away at puzzles, the parts transform into rounded shapes where applicable. You may not know what treasures are hiding within, and even when nearing the completion of a puzzle the game might still have you guessing.

When they are revealed, the results are delightful as they are neat, curious surprises. Every puzzle also comes with a sweet little write up about the object. They're simple, fun, often educational, sometimes containing snippets of cultural knowledge; they add to the wonderful overall impact of the game. Also of note is some amiibo support, where you can unlock puzzles by scanning compatible figures.

Picross 3D Round 2 doesn't stop there. The board backgrounds are a collection of sketches, or colourful designs. They don't distract in any way but just add to the overall feel-good presentation. The soundtrack aids in this as well, with tracks that vary from vibrant to chill, from the triumphant sounds of a marching band to the lull of waves gently crashing on a shore. The option to choose particular music tracks or settings is there, or players can select the random feature to leave it all to chance. Certain tracks may become a tad annoying if stuck on a puzzle for too long but these are minor things. Everything about this game is made to give a feeling of concentration and motivation, while being overwhelmingly pleasant at the same time.


Picross 3D Round 2 is a gem of a game that's chock full of charm in its presentation. From its music to the reveals in puzzle solutions, the game is an audio and visual delight. As a puzzle game, it's wonderfully challenging with options to tone down the difficulty and tailor the experience. There may still be moments of frustration for some in the larger puzzles, but that's primarily the nature of the game and its requirement of patience. Overall, it's a beautifully crafted and pleasant experience - whether that involves solving plenty of puzzles over a long play period, or shorter sessions for enticing brain exercises.