There’s a question you must ask yourself before proceeding: do you want to play Picross? There’s been ample time to give the pastime a try, what with all the previous games put out by Jupiter, and the next step in this journey is remarkably similar to the last one. Picross e3 is a finely crafted puzzle game worth sinking time into, but it becomes harder to recommend if you’ve already seen this song and dance one too many times. And if you’re yet to discover whether Picross is right for you? Maybe it’s time to find out.
A grid stares back at you though the bottom screen of your 3DS, lined with numbers on its top and left sides. It’s kind of like a spreadsheet, actually, but don’t run away just yet; unlike filing taxes, this activity is known to reduce stress. There’s a picture hiding in each of these grids, and the numbers are your clues to discovering which squares ought to be filled in and which must be left quietly alone. Balancing the digits until the pixelated visage of, for example, a rice cooker appears is just as satisfying as ever; in fact, taking a look at the main menu might cause you to wonder if you've booted up your copy of Picross e2 by mistake.
A tutorial is waiting and ready to welcome beginners with open arms, and despite some overly confusing charts and rules, this goes a long way to keeping players up to date on Picross etiquette. Easy and Normal modes offer feedback when you fill in a space, either affirming your intuition with an approving silence or docking your timer when a mistake is made. Free and Extra modes, on the other hand, leave you alone to wander through a puzzle until every row and column is satisfied; it’s a more thoughtful way to play, but seriously open-ended. Replacing the extensive Micross mode from the previous game, meanwhile, Mega Picross is the only newcomer — but it’s a heavy-hitter.
No longer content with the narrow and linear puzzle-solving of yesteryear, Mega Picross introduces digits that span two entire rows/columns, requiring a totally different part of the brain to fully comprehend. By forcing you to cram a whole bunch of squares into a compact space without stepping on anyone else’s toes, Mega Picross presents a right-angled game of Twister that expert players will no doubt relish.
Regardless of skill level, mastering the time limit on each and every puzzle will take half an age; there are almost one hundred of them all told, and they range from easy to the opposite of easy. As your brain begins its slow voyage to victory, your senses will have a nice time of it as well, thanks to a calming presence that hovers around like a sunny day. Mild-mannered music coalesces with soft, gradient colours to cause immediate chilling out, and the 3D effects are most welcome. Chipping away at a puzzle bit by bit, perhaps with coffee in hand on an eventless morning, can be pleasantly compelling and compellingly pleasant.
The question still remains: do you want to play Picross? You won’t find a lot here to incite a new, fiery passion for lining up squares, that’s for sure. However, if a batch of fresh puzzles and a challenging new mode are reason enough to pull you in one more time (or if you’d like to find out what this seemingly incomprehensible kerfuffle is all about in the first place), Picross e3 is just the ticket. It’s familiar, relaxing, and weirdly gripping. Put simply, it’s Picross — and that’s tough to complain about.