Slowly and surely the Switch eShop is building a library befitting its hybrid nature. In addition to games typically at home on PC and home consoles we're seeing more titles normally associated with portable and smart device play. Piczle Lines DX is certainly the latter, though it goes out of its way to allow players to enjoy its blend of Picross and Sudoku in whatever way they please.
Unsurprisingly this is a title that has also made its mark on smart devices, but it's also the sort of game that has become relatively common on the 3DS eShop. Piczle Lines DX produces its own approach to puzzling - take Picross and Sudoku, put them in a blender and then add the thought process behind completing a jigsaw puzzle. The end goal is to produce a picture, and to do that you draw a whole lot of lines while putting your grey matter to work.
The puzzles begin as a plain canvas with coloured dots spread throughout, each with a number. You draw lines between matching points, ensuring that you fill enough grid spaces to match the numbers. It's simple in theory, especially once you do a few easy puzzles to warm up, but the challenge does escalate; grid sizes increase significantly, and most tellingly there's often more than one way to link cells together. You can merrily link lines up and feel you're on the right track, but the tougher puzzles do a clever job of egging you on, before you realise the picture can't be cleared and some backtracking is required.
Though the end pictures are relatively simplistic (as they often were in the Picross e games, for example), constructing them is quite an engaging process. As the images get bigger and more varied, the complexity raises some interesting challenges. Even if the core image is basic, the puzzle designers have done an excellent job in making players focus and work logically in order to make progress.
Pleasingly there's a lot of content to work through. The main attraction is the Story Mode; the tale told is easily ignored, but at its core it serves up about 100 puzzles across five chapters, and they also steadily increase in size and difficulty; they get pretty darn difficult. Puzzle Mode, meanwhile, offers up another 220 puzzles across 11 categories such as 'Musical Instruments, 'Colossal Structures' and more. Unlike in the Story Mode where you have to clear each puzzle to unlock the next, you can tackle Puzzle Mode stages in any order you like, including a few massive 128x128 grids.
That's plenty of puzzles for your money, and there are multiple ways to tackle them - in handheld mode you can treat the Switch like a tablet and touch and drag on the system's screen; this has been our preferred way to play. As an alternative for this console iteration you can use physical controls, a mix of the stick for movement and holding ZL / ZR to draw lines. It's perfectly functional and methodical to use these inputs, and also allows you to play on the TV if you wish.
There are plenty of positives, then, with this Switch version offering a lot of content at one flat price (on mobile it's free-to-download with optional purchases). That smart device legacy is also a bit of a shortcoming, though; presentation is clean and pleasing enough, but it's still lacking flair. On top of that the music is a low point, and it's telling that the menu has an option to just turn it off completely; the loop drove this writer crazy after about 20-30 minutes. Turning it off is the way to go, then, but along with some longer-than-expected load times it's one of the few weak points here.
Piczle Lines DX is relatively pricey (at launch) for a download puzzle game, but it offers 300+ sizeable and quality picture conundrums to solve; it'll take most players a long time to solve every image. It's a fun mechanic that feels like a clever combination of other puzzle styles, and the option to detach the Joy-Con and use the touchscreen alone also makes it an appealing game for a bit of quiet downtime slouched in a comfortable chair. Its smartphone legacy lets it down a little in presentation, and beyond solving lots of puzzles it's lacking any smart variations in modes or even multiplayer. Nevertheless, in terms of serving up plenty of challenging content it does the job rather well.