Nonogram puzzles, with their grid-based picture building by numbers formula, have been a staple on Nintendo consoles since the days of Game Boy. In fact, Switch has barely been out a year and it already has two such titles to its name - Picross S and Piczle Lines DX - and now it has a third in the form of Pic-A-Pix Deluxe. Question is, does this thrice slice of pictorial puzzling justify its existence?
Ironically, for a game that’s slapped the word ‘deluxe’ in its name, Pic-A-Pix doesn’t look, play or feel particularly luxurious. It is, in no uncertain terms, a by-the-numbers ‘picross’ game - a fact that plays both to its benefit and its detriment. With 150 standard puzzles to choose from, there’s certainly a lot of content if you’re a) a fan of nonograms or b) looking for something to tickle your grey matter for five minutes or five hours at a time. It’s just a shame the game doesn’t attempt to crack its own mold, never mind break it.
If you’ve never played a puzzler like this before, the concept straddles that line between achingly simple and blood-boilingly difficult. It’s all about building pixelated pictures by following the numbered clues on either side of a grid. With multiple colours to choose from and numbers to help you work out how big or small each shape should be, this incarnation offers a satisfying and impressively vast vault of brain teasers for the uninitiated, but if you’ve played anything in a similar vein before Pic-A-Pix Deluxe will neither surprise nor shock you.
Being able to access any of its puzzles - ranging from simple 5x5 pixel creations to monster 35x25 illustrations - gives more experienced players the chance to jump into the more challenging conundrums right from the off, so if you’re a picross pro you’ll find a neat open setup that won’t force you through waves of simple pictures. Unfortunately, regardless of whether you take on its toughest grids or its most accessible, that basic aesthetic only serves to hold the overall package back.
While its simple menus and presentation place it in line with Nintendo’s own Picross S, this particular nonogram package lacks the personality of similar titles on Switch, including the Sudoku-esque mashup of Score Studios’ Piczel Lines DX. However, what Pic-A-Pix Deluxe lacks in unique charm, it does try to address with Switch-specific features. The handheld’s capacitive touchscreen supports on-screen controls, and while they’re serviceable, they can make the minute pixel control in the more complicated puzzles difficult to navigate.
On the other hand, the ability to play in co-op with up to three other players is a great addition and embraces Switch’s local multiplayer ethos perfectly. Sure, it’s not the sexiest of games to play with friends but considering how well Lightwood Games has retained the classic picross formula, you’ll be surprised just how addictive it can be when played in company. There’s also an 150 extra puzzles hidden away in the game’s Extra section, which embrace the nonogram's black and white origins to add a little retro chic to the picross party. Further packs can be purchased for a few pounds/dollars, making Pic-A-Pix Deluxe a relatively cost effective way to scratch that puzzle itch on the go or at home.
There’s also plenty of replay value in trying to rack up the best score on each puzzle. Since each one has a timer that tracks your performance and the ability to check your current progress for errors (with a simple press of ‘Y’) there’s a real benefit to using logic to solve each conundrum as you go. Alternatively, if you’re new to this numerical brain teasers, the power to check your work for erroneous pixels will help educate you on your mistakes.
Basic in both presentation and premise, Pic-A-Pix Deluxe serves up a dish of picross puzzling that will test your brain capacity but does little to innovate on a well-worn conundrum recipe. Still, with some Switch-specific features - including four-player multiplayer support - and plenty of nonograms to its name, Lightwood Games’ pixel puzzler is right at home on Nintendo’s new handheld home.