Platform: Nintendo Switch
Age Rating: PEGI 3
Release Date: 22/04/2021
A code was provided for review purposes
The Nintendo Switch is an excellent platform for puzzle games. The accessibility of a portable console works well with the short, fast-paced levels in them. Picross S6 is no exception. You progress through well over three hundred levels in this collection of puzzles.
With no story elements or a narrative focus whatsoever, Picross S6 is simply focused on gameplay and offering plenty of challenges for the player to complete. Each level is hand-crafted and while not entirely unique, reinforces mechanics that will motivate players to master the game.
The gameplay featured in Picross S6 is very easy to understand. The player is given a grid filled with blank tiles. Above each column (or to the left of each row) is a number (or set of numbers) that detail how many tiles should be filled in. The player must then use process of elimination to decide where to place tiles and where tiles cannot be placed. This is extremely intuitive with the control scheme the game offers. The player can both place tiles and mark tiles with an ‘x’, indicating that a tile should not be placed there. This control scheme makes navigating each level easy to learn. The developers provided the player with navigational tools that will lead them to victory. I greatly appreciated how easy it was to use all options available. I always understood what I needed to do and how to do it.
Another excellent feature of Picross S6 is the tutorial design. These tutorials are not particularly engaging, immersive, or fun, but they are extremely beginner-friendly. They do not just go over the mechanics of the game but also explain the logic behind why certain moves are correct to make and help build strategies for the player to master. The developers could have easily shortened the tutorial to simply detail what the objective of each puzzle was and how to mark a tile, but they did much more. They explained the significance of marking down tiles where tiles cannot be filled in, how to count out tiles to fill in, and special features associated with each game mode. I rarely play puzzle games, so I found the tutorials here extremely helpful as they gave me enough understanding to solve puzzles properly.
Picross S6 also includes toggleable options to make the levels accessible. One such feature highlights rows or columns where the player can make a move. Another auto-corrects incorrectly placed tiles. Although these features may seem like they diminish the challenge offered by the game, they expertly introduce new players to the puzzle genre. It prevents them from being overwhelmed or ostracized from the game. With such a powerful assist, it is important to continue motivating more skilful players. The developers do this by showing indications of the assists used. If players replay levels without the assists, they will be removed, showing further mastery of the game. Moreover, every fifteenth level does not allow for the use of assists. These levels require the player to understand the game systems and do not allow mistakes whatsoever. I enjoyed these levels as they represent the player’s growth throughout the game.
The developers not only encourage deeper learning but ramp up the difficulty of puzzles over time. Players may find themselves struggling with levels sooner than they initially thought but this is good, as tricky puzzles make for an engaging success story. Unfortunately, levels become repetitive quickly, because few new features are rarely added. The changes the developers did implement simply increased the size of the array of tiles, making for more challenging levels. I found myself losing interest in completing the levels because they rarely included new ideas and it was simply a repetition of the fundamental principles of Picross S6.
While levels do not change much, there are multiple game modes in Picross S6: Color Picross, Mega Picross, and Clip Picross. Each mode kept the main idea of Picross S6 while adding minor changes that force the player to interpret the levels in different ways. They changed the formula well. However, within these modes, levels are still extremely similar. Players should anticipate mastering these tile puzzles without substantial variety in the gameplay.
The level design in Picross S6 is perfect for players who love puzzle games and even includes a timer for players to compete against themselves and watch their mental growth. However, for intermediate puzzle fans or new puzzle fans, the similarities within each level may fail to captivate and motivate them to continue playing. Though the options provided in the title are enjoyable and help inexperienced puzzle fans, I would not be surprised to see players drop the game due to the repetition and tedium.
Another element of Picross S6 that adds to the staleness is the music. Initially, the music is pleasant and adds to the gameplay. However, considering the expansive number of levels, the music does not alternate enough. Different game modes have different soundtracks but within each game mode, there are many levels that not only take a decent amount of time but require the player to focus on the title intensely. In doing so, the player will be hyper-focused on the music as well and notice when the track starts over. The player can change the music track in the settings menu. However, there are only a total of six options. Spanning the massive number of levels with only six music tracks is a serious drawback. I wish there were additional tracks for the music because the lack of variety severely hinders the gameplay experience.
On the other hand, the visuals were aesthetically pleasing. After each level was completed, the tiles would transform into a coloured image that the tiles represent. It was fun just to guess what the tiles would transform into. Unfortunately, there were no themes to change the colour of the tiles which was a missed opportunity. Regardless, the visuals look nice and it was fun to watch the tiles transform into a beautiful pixel art image.
For avid puzzle fans, Picross S6 is an excellent compilation of levels. However, for players who are less dedicated or motivated, I find it will fail to capture their attention for long periods of time even though there is an excellent tutorial system and assist features. Take into consideration the availability of similar puzzle games for free on mobile devices, and the magic surrounding Picross S6 begins to falter. It is a polished and accessible experience, but it fails to stand out from the many other entries in this genre.
Rapid Reviews Rating
3 out of 5
You can purchase Picross S6 on the Nintendo eShop here.
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.