It’s hard to bring a new concept into the world of puzzle games. The fact remains is that the puzzle crowd tends to be both fearful and fickle. People inherently distrust new ideas, because they prefer to stick to things they already know, and concepts that aren’t intuitive or natural get shunned and pushed aside. Sudoku, for example, didn’t really take off in either the US or even the rest of the world until decades after it was first created. Interestingly, Sudoku, once it caught on, spread like wildfire across newspapers, puzzle books and addictive video games, becoming a huge part of the Brain Age DS series. Then, as a people, the puzzle crowd (and the causal gaming crowd) grew utterly sick of the entire thing and binned it, leaving Sudoku to quietly exist in dollar store scenarios and still get enjoyed in a smaller format by the faithful, much like crosswords and jumbles.
Piczle Lines DX, brought to us by Score Studios, brings to us a fairly unique take on a combination of picross, sudoku and connect the dots. The concept is to combine a series of colorful lines in order to make a pixel picture come to life. If you need background to understand how the puzzles came to be, there’s a story mode that describes how a funky scientist made a new machine that turns items into pixels, and his adorable sidekick that accidentally activates it over everything. The point is, you have a concept or picture that you must assemble, one line at a time, in order to fill in the missing pixels appropriately and make the image whole.
The tutorial for Piczle Lines DX is short but essential to understanding the difference in how the game’s mechanics work. Drag along the touch screen (or use the joystick and buttons) to create the line, drag backwards to undo, double tap to destroy your already created line. There’s a mixture of colors to create the lines, and it’s important to note that the color of the dots on the screen coincide with which you’ll match them with: that is, it’s impossible to connect a blue to an orange dot. And it’s not nearly as easy as getting color to color, either. The dots also have numbers, which designate how many spaces you need to occupy with your line before the connection is complete. One dots sit by themselves, they’re already finished. Two dots are always right next to each other, just connect. Threes are usually pretty simple to figure out, as only one blank spot will separate the two. Four and upwards is where it starts to get tricky, and the numbers get much higher as the puzzles get really quite complex. Mix in the color variety that keeps it from being a monochrome wash and you get a bit of thinking that can result in a lot of time invested in the puzzles.
There’s a lot of aspects to Piczle Lines DX that I enjoy. The cute design of the characters who give the background importance makes the game pleasant to look at and to interact with. The music is very repetitive, but it’s a good focus factor for people who may not have go to concentration music. Nothing too complex, usually just a bit of poppy beats repeated over and over. As for the puzzles themselves, there isn’t a timer, so this is a good, lazy Sunday type of approach to a game. It’s something that you can fully concentrate on, or you can simply play it while half-watching your favorite shows on the binging platform of your choice. The lines are rarely straightforward, so you can have a bit of fun trying to figure out the squiggles and shapes needed in order to successfully make the picture work. It’s not totally blind, as you have a theme for the puzzles you’re doing (much like with Qbics Paint) and a mini map in your top left corner will slowly show how your progress is coming along. The completed picture is usually pretty clear, and, once you get into a groove, you really feel satisfied and confident just banging out lines as fast as you can.
Additionally, there are a TON of puzzles available from the get-go. Besides a five chapter story mode (which is just a series of silly events), the puzzle mode currently has over two hundred puzzles ready to play as soon as you download the game. In total, Piczle Lines DX has three hundred and twenty maps to do, and the developer has already promised that more are coming in future free updates. It should be noted that there is a mobile version of Piczle Lines DX available that is free to play, but the only puzzles available are the first chapter of the storymode. All other puzzle bundles need to be bought separately which, surprise, equals out to the price of getting it on the Switch. Also, those free updates I just mentioned? They aren’t going to be free on your smartphone or tablet, so the better investment seems to be on the Switch.
There are a couple of caveats to the game that hamstring things just a titch. For one, I implore you to use the touchscreen. I know, I classically hate that interface, but using the buttons is super clunky and can seriously slow down your gameplay. I appreciate it being offered, so you can throw the puzzles up on the big screen, but you’ll be better served having the game on the small screen, finger to screen, so you can really see what you’re doing. Seeing, however, is another issue, as you can never zoom out enough to encapsulate the whole puzzle onto the screen. Given how big the puzzles get, this makes sense (so that you don’t have to make plays through a microscope) but it does put you at a disadvantage. Sometimes the right dot to connect to is just out of sight, and you spend minutes trying to figure out how to make an impossible play when the easily plausible move is to the left, beyond the horizon.
While both of these things are annoying, neither is enough to dissuade me from recommending Piczle Lines DX to anyone interested in a puzzle game. Its a different beast entirely from the others that I’ve played and it really does come with a massive amount of content. If Score Studios is truthful and more free updates are coming, then this could easily become a staple for the travel Switch player who wants something fun and challenging to do on long trips and in conjunction with podcasts. If you’re not sure, grab the free version online, but make the plunge on the Switch to get the most bang for your buck.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Gameplay - 0/10
Graphics - 0/10
Sound - 0/10
Replay Value - 0/10
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