Physical Contact: Picture Place is the third entry in a series of games from publisher, Collavier Corporation. It is also a completely unnecessarily long and misleading name for a game that is effectively just a collection of Sudoku puzzles. We haven’t been having much joy with the first two games in the series so far (Physical Contact: 2048 and Physical Contact: SPEED) but, being the optimistic bunch that we are, we were hoping that Picture Place might be the one to turn everything around. Unfortunately, this is not the case.
As we touched upon above, Physical Contact: Picture Place has 100 Sudoku levels for you to clear. For those not in the know, Sudoku is a puzzle game where you aim to completely fill a 9x9 grid with the numbers 1 to 9 (although this game replaces the numbers with different coloured gems by default). Each horizontal and vertical line, as well as each individual 3x3 block within the main board, must contain only one of each number (or gem). In the game’s earlier levels you’ll find that the boards on offer only have a small amount of gaps for you to fill; over time, though, the amount of gaps will start to increase, adding to the complexity of the puzzles.
There are a couple of other things that you can do too: the first of which is a multiplayer mode. This is a competitive game where both players are playing on the same board, trying to fill in the blank squares before the other. You score points for each gap that you manage to fill and get bonus points for securing a complete line or 3x3 block. As well as this, there is a shop where you spend your in-game earnings on new avatars and background images to customise your experience. The background images make sense as the personalisation is nice but the avatars feel rather pointless – you hardly even notice them as you play and they don’t add anything to the game.
This brings us on to our next point, though – there are so many strange or even downright ridiculous decisions in the game’s design that you have to wonder why they were ever made in the first place. Firstly, despite this being a simple, happy-looking puzzle game, the avatars are all pixelated images of demons, vampire bats, and insects that look like they have just crawled out of Hell. As well as this, the solo player mode has a ranking system where you receive rewards depending on how well you did in each level. For a bronze award you must simply clear the level, for silver you must clear it under 3 minutes, and for gold you must clear it in under 5 minutes. Just take a second to read that sentence one more time, though – the gold achievement is easier to complete than the silver and it is actually impossible to complete the silver challenge without also completing the gold!
It doesn’t stop here, either; the controls are a bit of a shambles too. Menus can only be navigated by using the D-Pad or touchscreen, but the gameplay itself shifts over to the control stick meaning that you have to constantly shift back and forth between different control schemes. Also, when playing in multiplayer mode, the layout of the controls completely changes with new buttons being assigned to the various actions - this was hard enough to figure out the first time around as neither mode ever shows you what the controls actually are. To make this worse, the multiplayer mode has actually been designed in such a way that both Joy-Cons act as ‘Player 1’ with the assumption that you will hand one to a friend. This means that if you try to play multiplayer with a Pro Controller, the game expects you to pass half of the Pro Controller to a friend with one person using each stick – there is no option to use a full controller each. Madness.
The whole thing is an exhaustively infuriating experience, in part because it could have been a fine game without all of the silliness. The Sudoku puzzles themselves are fine (albeit a little easy for people who know how to play) and we could see ourselves playing through a few levels every now and then when we had some spare time. The soundtrack is also rather surprisingly wonderful at times; some pieces of music featured in the background are beautiful and we’d often find ourselves humming along after a short while with the game. If the presentation wasn’t so poor (and wasn't clearly lifted straight from the first two games in the series) then this game would have been rather enjoyable; as it is, though, it just isn’t worth the kafuffle.
Unfortunately, the third entry in the Physical Contact series looks like it should probably be the third one that you consider avoiding. The Sudoku puzzles themselves are fine, and you could definitely pass the time by going through them, but why bother; the game has too many faults to make it a definitive Sudoku experience and you could just as easily play the game in real, non-infuriating puzzle books. If you are a Sudoku fiend, excited by the idea of having puzzles on your Switch despite our warnings, then go ahead; everyone else, though – stay away!