‘Picross’ games have been around for a while now, and the original Nonograms or Griddlers have existed for decades. In the last couple of years, though, the Picross craze really swept across the mobile platforms, and I have to admit that I’ve been thoroughly hooked on Picross mobile games a couple of times. For those that don’t know, Picross games are like a mashup between ‘painting by numbers’ and times tables. You have a central grid that you need to fill in using the rows and columns as guides. Numbers on the outer rows and columns indicate how many squares in that line need to be filled and how many are left blank. Once you finish a puzzle, what you’ve filled in will be a pretty – albeit, pixelized – picture.
Piczle Colors starts with a short prologue explaining that your character has accidentally removed all the color in the world and it’s up to you to fix the colorless mess you created. It’s not the strongest story, but this game is clearly aimed at bringing a new type of puzzle to a younger generation, so it serves that purpose well enough.
Piczle Colors is a colorful, somewhat childish take on the ‘Picross’ format. Many of the games are monochrome, so I welcome the addition of colors, but the game is a little frustrating to play as an adult. Everything has these long elaborate animations that are eye-catching but make everything that tiny bit slower at the same time. Great for kids but not so great if you just want to get on with it and solve some brainteasers.
Progression is a little odd in Piczle Colors, too. You start off with the red ‘world’ and 50 available levels, but you only need to complete 25 to unlock the orange ‘world’. The next set of 50 levels after that, yellow, only requires 25 levels from orange, so I had no incentive to finish the 25 incomplete ones from red. I know people will likely finish everything over a long period of time, but it’s odd that the red levels didn’t count as progression towards unlocking the yellow set of levels.
There is a handy hint system that can be enabled to help less experienced puzzlers, as well as an option that prevents you from painting over a square you’ve already marked with a different color. I personally hated this option, but it’s personal preference. Completing a level without using any hints gives you a coin, and when you’ve unlocked certain quantities of coins, you’ll unlock some funky extras! The reason, then, to go back and finish extra levels, is to collect these coins, if that’s your thing.
Each of the 6 worlds has 50 levels, totaling 300, which provides quite a nice degree of longevity. The levels get progressively harder as you advance through the worlds, either by giving you larger grids or just by making the solutions trickier. This gives a nice feeling of accomplishment as you get further and further as your skills grow.
The sound effects were pleasant enough in Piczle Colors – you get a paint “splosh” sound for every tile you fill in, a little jingle when you complete a level, and so on. The music, however, got annoying very quickly. The vast majority of levels have this irritating jazzy guitar theme on loop that just gets under your skin. There does seem to be at least one other track that I found was easier to listen to, but the main theme made me decide to play on mute after an hour or so. This is the perfect sort of replacement for a word search or Sudoku on crowded public transport, so playing on mute isn’t a massive detriment to the offering, fortunately.
Visuals & Performance
The visuals are bright and appealing, with high saturation and a clear expression of what’s going on. As I mentioned before, though, the lengthy, elaborate animations extend the time between picking and playing puzzle significantly. This wasn’t worth the trade-off to gameplay, for me. It’s sure to attract the attention of a younger audience, but it’s grating if you just want to solve a couple of puzzles in your break.
On the performance side of things, Piczle Colors supports touchscreen controls – which was my preferred mode of play – or you can use the Joy-Cons to move a cursor around. The game ran very smoothly in handheld and docked modes, but this is probably one you’ll want to play on the go, with the touchscreen.
Piczle Colors costs $12.00 USD or £10.00 GBP in the UK. If you convert this using the 300 levels, you’re paying about 3p or 4¢ per puzzle, which is pretty good value for money, at first glance. If you compare it to a similar game on the Switch, however, Picross S2, you’ll notice the value isn’t quite as inviting. That game has over 300 puzzles, multiple modes, and costs 20% less. Still, there are hours of content here to play, and the beauty of puzzle video games is that multiple players from any generation can complete the puzzles, extending the value. You don’t get that with a crossword book or a newspaper, now, do you?
Colorful, attractive take on the Picross format
Great for kids who like puzzles
Animations take too long