Colouring in. That’s what I’m reduced to in my waning years, it seems. Okay, that’s a bit dramatic. Pic-a-Pix Deluxe is a whole lot more than colouring in, and I’m not on my deathbed just yet.
If you’re not familiar with nonograms, sometimes called picross or griddlers, and you’re a puzzle fan, then are you in for a treat. Pic-a-Pix Deluxe is the first nonogram game for the Switch, but Nintendo has a long history of supporting this very specific puzzle sub-genre, going back to 1995’s Mario’s Picross on the Gameboy. It’s also the first Switch game from Lightwood Games, who developed Pic-a-Pix Colour for the 3DS and the Wii U.
Picross video games and Lightwood Games both have form, then. But does that make Pic-a-Pix Deluxe any good? Before we can answer that, let’s delve into nonograms just in case you’re not familiar. Nonograms are picture logic puzzles, the solving of which requires squares in a grid to be coloured in based on a series of numbers for each row and column. The numbers tell you how many unbroken lines of coloured-in cells there are in each row or column. So, the numbers 3, 6 and 2 against a row indicate there are three separate blocks to be coloured in; the first 3 squares long, the second six, and the third two squares long.
Traditional nonograms are black-and-white; Pic-a-Pix Deluxe offers these and colour puzzles, too; when solving colour puzzles, the numbers are coloured to indicate the colours you should use.
Well, you’d think so. Like any puzzle, nonograms have their own logic and internal consistency. Initially, the challenge is simply getting your head ’round what is being asked. Quickly, though, the challenge – and delight – will be developing and deploying the right strategies to identify which squares should be coloured-in (and which colour) and which should be left blank.
So, how does all this complexity-from-simple-rules puzzling translate to the Switch?
Lightwood Games has delivered the perfect Picross client. Presentation is deliberately simple and unfussy with a definite 8-bit vibe, leaving you free to concentrate on the solution. Sonically, the retro visuals are accompanied by suitably bouncy, squelchy chiptunes. And if this isn’t exactly your musical bag, well, that’s what the volume button is for.
Controls are simple, too. Flick through your available colour palette with a press of the triggers or shoulder buttons, and press A to paint a square in the currently-selected colour. Press B to mark an empty square with an X (helpful for distinguishing squares you know to be empty, from those you’re not sure about yet.)
Finally, hit Y if you’re struggling – the game will tell you if you are correct so far, or if you have errors. Be careful though, you’ll only earn a medal on completion of a level if you don’t use this feature.
Pic-a-Pix ships with three hundred levels (150 colour and 150 black and white) which range in size from a paltry 5×5 grid to a massive 35×25, each resolving into 8-bit artwork. The initial levels are simple, and the game also includes a short introduction to solving nonograms. Presented over ten slides rather than an interactive tutorial, there’s something refreshingly retro in this. We can imagine it printed within a fold-out cassette inlay. Oh dear – I really am dating myself here, huh?
Solving all three puzzles is no mean feat – some of the more complex ones took us an hour or more to solve – but if you manage that then a simple trip to the store will allow you to download hundreds more. There’s an entertaining, and occasionally argument-starting, co-op mode too (just detach a Joy-Con to access).
Pic-a-Pix Deluxe is incredibly satisfying. If you like logic-based puzzle games, nonograms will definitely grab you. And Pic-a-Pix Deluxe is the perfect way to enjoy them.
Pic-a-Pix Deluxe is available from the eShop for £6.99 / $7.99 USD / €7.99.
Release Date: 4 January 2018 on Nintendo Switch
Logic-based puzzling at its very best
- Overall - 9.0/109/10
While not without its flaws – chiptunes aren’t for everyone and the largest puzzles mean squinting at the screen a little – Pic-a-Pix Deluxe is in a class of its own. Very few paper-based puzzles make such a smooth transition to video game form.
If you like logic-based puzzling, Pic-a-Pix Deluxe is a must buy. If you’re already a fan of picross, we’d guess it’s already in your library.