Picross comes to the Nintendo Switch, but can it ever be as good as it is on 3DS?
Sometimes you don’t appreciate what you have until it’s gone. This is particularly true in the world of video games, where the thrill of the new is always tempting and last year’s hotness is swiftly replaced by this year’s must have.
Once the Nintendo Switch was deemed a hit, the general consensus was that the 3DS could basically get out of town. However, knowing that success for the Switch wasn’t assured, Nintendo hedged their bets. The twilight years of the 3DS – and 2DS – have been well planned, with Nintendo preparing a steady stream of B-tier titles to sit alongside the tent pole releases of Pokemon UltraSun and UltraMoon, and Metroid Samus Returns.
Both are titles games that many players would rather were on the Switch, but, as Picross S proves, we should be careful what we wish for. Just as Metroid Samus Returns makes a belated case for the value of stereoscopic 3D, Picross S makes the similar point from the other direction. It’s a reminder of what we’re losing when 3DS shuffles off this mortal coil.
And what we are losing is control. The Switch has a wealth of control options, but none offer the precise fidelity provided by the humble stylus and 3DS’s obsolete resistive touch screen. In fact, Jupiter have made the decision to eschew touch controls entirely with Picross S, returning to the controller-only configuration that served the series well for many years. It works perfectly fine, but having played though Picross E 1 thru 6 on 3DS, it feels like strange step backwards.
My first thought was that the Switch touch screen should have been used – in handheld mode – but as the puzzles of Picross S increase in size and complexity it’s obvious why Jupiter decided not to do so. A finger or thumb doesn’t provide the accuracy required, or, just as importantly, the speed. Whereas I could quickly mark-up a puzzle with a 3DS stylus, the return of traditional inputs slows down the pace of the game considerably.
The change feels particularly unfortunate because Picross S is obviously at its best played as a handheld game, rather than on a 40” HD screen in docked mode.
Also lost is the ability to see your progress on the top screen, as the Switch only has a single display.
Neither of these changes are ruinous, admittedly, but it’s a reminder of how the features of the DS and 3DS have become taken for granted, and how they will be missed.
However, at its heart, Picross is Picross is Picross, and that counts for a lot. Picross S features another 300 adventures of pictorial deduction that range from the simple to the devious. As with the studio’s previous releases they are split into various flavours. S includes 150 standard Picross puzzles, plus another 150 Mega Picross puzzle to provide a more challenging experience for more advanced players.
Tutorials are also much improved, and the assist option returns to the series to give newcomers a helping hand.
One area in which the move to Switch does benefit the game is in its visuals. Picross games have always been clean and simple, but the extra resolution of the Switch has afforded Jupiter a little more space to play with, giving the studio the opportunity to refine the overall layout and improve the clarity of typography. The result is a more pleasing aesthetic that lets the puzzles shine.
The game also deserves plaudits for its music. It’s completely nondescript and forgettable, and therefore perfect. Most importantly, it manages to avoid becoming an irritation despite its repetition, swerving the problem that plagued Puyo Puyo Tetris, where the overbearing music actually worked against the gameplay.
So in short, it’s more Picross. There’s every reason to believe that Jupiter will continue to iterate their first Switch release and produce further titles. I hope they do, and I also hope that they have confidence to continue refining the experience, not least in how it’s controlled.