July 5, 2022

Fill-a-Pix: Phil’s Epic Adventure – Nintendo Switch Review

Fill-a-Pix: Phil's Epic Adventure

Phil is a quiet guy. A regular guy. Likes to travel. Bit of a luddite. Friendly, will talk to anyone. Probably likes a nice cup of tea. Was once voted, “neighbour most likely to be referred to as ‘a quiet, normal chap’ when the police are interviewing witnesses after an horrendous bloodbath.” Probably.

Seriously, Phil, just cool it. We just want to colour in, you know?

Fill-a-Pix: Phil’s Epic Adventure is a quiet puzzler brought to Nintendo Switch by Lightwood games, purveyors of the blindingly excellent picross game, Pic-a-Pix Deluxe. Like picross, Fill-a-Pix is a logic-based puzzler which sees you interpreting number clues to uncover a hidden picture. In this case, the pictures are Phil’s holiday snaps which somehow came out of his camera all weird and numbery. Phil really needs a better camera.

Fill-a-Pix: Phil's Epic Adventure

While Pic-a-Pix saw you solving large, colour puzzles, Fill-a-Pix necessarily eschews colour for black and white, but ups the puzzle size considerably. The aim is simple – look at a block of nine squares and decide, based on the number at the centre, which of the squares should be filled in, and which should be empty. In practice, Fill-a-Pix plays out a little like minesweeper; use the number at the centre of a block of nine to decide which of the nine squares should be filled in. A nine or a zero are easy – nine indicating all the squares should be filled, while zero dictates the opposite.

As you move around the puzzle, you’ll play hundreds of mini-minesweeper games, gradually building up the picture. Some of the puzzles are huge, meaning you’ll be scrolling back and forth to complete them. The handy preview shows the full puzzle and indicates the area you’re working on.

Fill-a-Pix: Phil's Epic Adventure

Cleverly, Fill-a-Pix offers you two options when filling in squares. The first is a simple cursor that lets you select individual squares and mark them as filled or blank. The ‘smart cursor’ looks at a block of nine and solves it if you have enough information to do so. It’s not a cheat button, but does speed up the process considerably. On the down side, when you’re stuck you end up just randomly stabbing at blocks of nine in the hope you’ve missed an obvious block that will help you progress. Although the smart cursor won’t help you solve it, it does sometimes feel like a short cut, which removes some of the joy of the puzzle.

As with Pic-a-Pix, Fill-a-Pix offers a hint system to help you find out where you’re going wrong. Using it will help you out of a jam, but you won’t get a trophy for completing the puzzle.

Presentationally, Fill-a-Pix is clear and uncluttered. There’s little to get in the way of the puzzling. Except Phil who, if we’re honest, creeps us out just a little bit. His tutorial is necessary and helpful, but we can’t help feel that the whole time he’s staring at our left ear and thinking about making a necklace out of our teeth. We’re sure Phil would be getting the help he needed if only the government wasn’t trying to grind the NHS down into a privatisation-ready paste.

Fill-a-Pix: Phil's Epic Adventure

Ultimately, Fill-a-Pix is a diverting distraction, but falls a little short of Pic-a-Pix; it’s just not quite as satisfying to play, and doesn’t test the old grey matter as much as Lightwood Games’ other block-filling offerings. If you’re looking for something gentle and intrusive that’s fronted by a potential spree killer, by all means. But if you’re looking something with a bit more puzzle to it, Pic-a-Pix is the safer bet.

Fill-a-Pix: Phil’s Epic Adventure is available from the eShop for £6.99 / $7.99 USD / €7.99.

Release Date: 12 July 2018 (Nintendo Switch) and 24 July (PS4). The game enjoyed a 3DS release late in 2017.

 


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Gentle puzzling with Phil.
  • 7/10
    Overall - 7/10
7/10

Summary

There’s a lot to like about Fill-a-Pix: Phil’s Epic Adventure. It works brilliantly on the Switch, and the UI is clear enough so that even my old eyes don’t have to squint – a problem I have with a lot of games in handheld mode. Yes, I am going to SpecSavers. This Wednesday.

The puzzling is gentle enough and it’s easy to pick up and put down. And can we just say something about Lightwood Games? No-one else is making these kinds of puzzle games for Switch, and they’ve carved out a blocky niche for themselves that they richly deserve. And who else includes wedding photos in their press pack?

Just having a company like Lightwood Games in the eShop, with their games nestling shoulder to shoulder with some of the biggest titles around, says a lot about the transformation of console gaming over the last few years.

Bravo.

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