In today’s video game landscape it can be difficult for a smaller publisher’s game to stand out from the rest. Sure, there’s Twitter and Facebook and YouTube, but with literally thousands of other games vying for attention it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle. To be completely honest, it’s nearly impossible for many media outlets to cover every single review code submitted to them, and here at Nintendo Times we often have to pick and choose which games we’re going to have enough time for to write up a review. In some cases, like Depixtion, we may have never even heard of the game before. Luckily I’m always up for more Picross style puzzle games and this one looked intriguing so I figured why not give it a chance? I was more than pleasantly surprised with the end result!
I’ve played almost all of the mainline Picross games that Jupiter has released over the decades. With the more recent titles, like Picross S3, the developers have begun including color puzzles, which are more appealing and sometimes more challenging. Depixtion takes this concept and really takes it a step further to create some truly fascinating gameplay mechanics that elevate the entire genre to a new level.
When I was a kid I had a game called 3D Tic Tac Toe on my Commodore 64. It took the simple idea of the original game, but expanded upon it by using multiple layers of boards, which made the game both more strategic and exciting. The developers of Depixtion have taken this same concept and applied it to Picross. To solve each puzzle you have to complete three separate Picross puzzles, each layered on top of the other. There’s a red, yellow, and blue layer – each with light and dark variations of the color (i.e. dark red and light red) and when you complete all three the color picture is finalized. You can freely swap between the layers anytime you like and this 3D concept works exceptionally well here.
If you’re not familiar with the Picross concept, the rules are fairly simple. You begin with a grid of blank squares. Numbers along the rows and columns dictate how many of the squares need to be filled in. Some rows and columns feature multiple numbers, so for example you might have a row with 10 blank squares and there’s a number 5 and a number 2. That means 7 of the 10 have to be filled in, but which ones? Well, if they’re the same color you have to have a space between the filled in squares. If the two numbers are different, then they can butt up against each other. It’s somewhat difficult to explain in words, as this is very much a visual exercise, but the point is that as you begin to fill in squares in the various columns and rows you’ll begin to cross reference the numbers and figure out which squares positively have to be filled in and which ones must be left blank.
On the upper left hand section of the screen you’ll see a zoomed out view of the picture you’re working on. As you fill in the squares you’ll see the image take shape. What’s really cool is that as you change layers and begin adding different colors the image will really begin to come alive. Along the right of the screen you’ll see all three layers at all times so you can see how they all fit together. I was a bit worried the first few seconds of playing the game that it might be too difficult or cumbersome to keep track of everything, but the entire game is easy to pick up and play so don’t get too hung up on the different layers.
If you’re a veteran Picross player there are a few oddities here. First up, although you can change the controls, I wasn’t able to make the “B” button throw down an X to keep the space blank. The other games use this button for this function, so it took a little getting used to not using it for that purpose. Instead you’ll be using that button for one of the colors you can use. The other minor quibble that threw me off for at first is that the grids are 4×4 instead of the usual 5×5. As someone who has become accustomed to easily scanning across the playfield and counting quickly, this small change kept screwing up my placements for a good half hour of play. I eventually became accustomed to the change, but it’s an odd design choice.
The presentation throughout is quite refreshing. Over the years I’ve found that the normal Picross games often don’t have the best pixelated objects. In other words, I often solve a puzzle and have to wait for the game to tell me exactly what it is I just created. With Depixtion I usually knew what the picture was going to end up being long before finishing. This is helpful with some more difficult puzzles because you can kind of guess where a square needs to be filled in just from the picture that’s developing. The added colors really bring the game to life and I love the small animation when you solve the puzzle and the clever phrases that appear underneath.
Finishing off the experience is a great soundtrack. With some of the past Picross games I would shut off the music because it became so annoying, but here the music is chill and I’d even say addicting. It’s got a nice beat to it and doesn’t ever sound overbearing or out of place. Several people have come through the room as I’ve been playing and commented that the music is very good, so props to the composer!
I’m always a sucker for a good Picross game, but most of the unofficial ones come up short. This is a rare example of a smaller developer outperforming the big dogs. As much as I do enjoy the mainline series from Jupiter (and will no doubt continue to do so), I really fell I love with Depixtion. By having to solve three separate puzzles to complete a single picture there’s more of a feeling of accomplishment and it’s just plain fun to see it all come together. You’ll have 96 images to solve via 288 Picross puzzles so you should stay busy for a while. Plus, the Switch is such a great system for this type of game as you can easily pick up and play a few rounds between meetings and whatnot. Whether you’re completely new to this type of puzzler or a veteran Picross player, there’s hours of fun to be had here!
- Graphics - 8.5/108.5/10
- Sound - 9/109/10
- Gameplay - 9/109/10
- Lasting Appeal - 8.5/108.5/10
Final Thoughts: EXCELLENT
I never expected a developer I had never heard of (DevHour Games) to outdo Jupiter (the developers of the original Picross), but Depixtion does just that. Each image features three layers (each a different primary color) of Picross puzzles to solve, making the final picture even more satisfying upon completion. Add in a superb soundtrack and you have yourself a winner. Puzzle fans should eat this one up.