Fill-A-Pix: Phil’s Epic Adventure (PS4, PS Vita) Review

Lightwood Games are quickly becoming one of my favourite developers in regards to puzzle games. Not too long ago, they brought the amazing Pic-a-Pix Color to us as a cross-buy title on the PS4 and PS Vita, which offered us two platinums and over 20 hours of gameplay per platform. Fill-a-Pix: Phil’s Epic Adventure is their latest logic-based puzzle game which has also made the jump over to Sony’s consoles via cross-buy (with two platinums). However, Fill-a-Pix isn’t your standard puzzle game as it plays a little like a cross between Minesweeper and Sudoku. So, how does it work?

fill-a-pix 1

I only came around to get some tea and a cookie, and now I’m developing his pictures!

Surprisingly, Lightwood Games have created a story to go along with this puzzle game, something you wouldn’t usually see, hence the subtitle “Phil’s Epic Adventure”. One thing I would just like to say – I love that the name of the character is “Phil” and the game is “FILL”-a-Pix. I see what they did there… **Additional info! – The developer advised that Phil’s full title is a play on words. Phil’s Epic – Fill a-pix… MIND BLOWN!** Moving on, the story is simple and it’s just there to hold the game together rather than giving you a random assortment of puzzles for no reason. Phil has just returned home after travelling the world, lucky him, and he would love to show us some of his holiday snaps. Don’t worry though – there are no images of him on the beach in his bikini!

Sadly, he can’t show us his pictures as he hasn’t bothered to go and get them developed yet. I imagine he is too busy with this cup of tea and cookie which he seems really happy to have! Regardless, he has asked us if we can help him develop the photos so we can complete his scrapbook for him. He advises us that his camera is black and white and the only way to develop the film is to play the Fill-a-Pix puzzle game. Once this backstory is given, you are thrown into the tutorial and then into the main game, there is no messing around here! So, the story is short but sweet and it just gives you a charming introduction to Phil and gives Fill-a-Pix a ‘theme’ as you’ll be completing pages from various countries along with things you would find in each. It’s a novel way of setting up a puzzle game, one I really enjoy.

fill-a-pix 2

Spot the ‘first glance’ similarities? It’s very different though.

Soduko Sweeper?
Fill-a-Pix is an unusual puzzle game, one which I feel people will either love or hate. It’s not like Picross where every single person in the world loves and adores it (if you say otherwise, then it’s simply not true!), Fill-a-Pix puzzles are a lot more time consuming due to the size and complexity of them. The tutorial within the game gives you a great explanation of how to play the game but I’ve also put together a video down below of how to complete a puzzle – just in case what I’m about to write sounds all gobbledygook!

You begin with a grid, like you usually do, which is littered with ‘random’ numbers from 0 to 9 – at first glance, you would be forgiven if you thought it was Sodoku. However, the numbers simply mean that within that block of nine squares (with the number being the centre), that’s how many squares are coloured in black. So, if you have a ‘9’ then you know all nine squares are black, if you have a ‘4’ then only four of them are coloured in etc…

The strategy comes in when you have to figure out what squares within that block are actually coloured and which ones are blank. That’s where the minesweeper aspect comes in. Think of the black squares as the ‘mine-free zone’ and the blank ones as the flags you place to indicate the mines. It’s a very similar concept. There are a few tricks you can use though, we know all the ‘9’ blocks are nine black squares, so they can be done initially. Similarly, we can also mark all the ‘0’ groups with blanks as we known none of those are going to be coloured in. Other easy solutions are ‘4’ blocks in the very corners and ‘6’ blocks against the edges – as that’s the maximum number of squares in the nine-blocks that will be poking out along the edges. 

Once you have completed these initial easy solutions, it’s time to start the actual puzzle.

fill-a-pix 3

Everything just falls into place the more you progress.

Fixing a hint
Just like most logic-based puzzle games, Fill-a-Pix has a domino effect, once you have marked out the easy solutions above, you’ll begin to see ones around them that can now be solved. Just like in the image above, the ‘8’ I’m highlighting was possible due to there being a blank in the corner, thus only leaving eight squares left to be coloured in. The ‘6’ next to it can also be completed as six blacks are already filled in – just like the ‘4’ a few squares above it. It’s all about looking for that one initial clue which can spark a chain reaction of one after another of obvious solutions. 

However, not everything is clear and some of the pictures are huge. The one above isn’t even the biggest image you’ll get! As such, the developers have included a hint option which doesn’t void any trophies (well, it does void one but you only need to complete one without it in order to get it). Simply tap L1 and R1 (or L and R on the Vita) and a green square on the mini-map will indicate where there is a possible move. It doesn’t take you to the point and it doesn’t tell you exactly where it is, but it hints at where you should look next. In my opinion, this is a great way to use a hint – unlike in some games where the ‘hint’ is basically a way of obtaining the answer. 

If you’re really stuck, you can simply get the answer if you want. Well, kind of. If you’ve taken a guess and you want to see if you have got it correct or not – hit the Triangle button to ‘fix’ what you’ve done. It will tell you if it’s found any errors and offer to fix them for you. If you accept then all the wrong choices will be fixed and you will lose the chance of getting a gold border on your image – the gold border just means you did it without any ‘fixes’.

fill-a-pix 4

Some of the images get pretty advanced…

Cheating?!
There are two methods of selecting and marking off the squares as you go in Fill-a-Pix, a single marker and a multi-marker. I initially thought that the multi-marker was cheating, as it’s a 3×3 marker which auto fills in all of the squares for you, but I couldn’t be more wrong. Sure, it will auto-complete any block of nine squares for you, but only based on logic. For example, if the block of nine has a ‘4’ in the middle and there is already four squares coloured in, then it will mark the rest as blanks. It won’t tell you if it’s right or not, it will just logically fill in the remaining squares. So it’s not technically cheating, it’s just a quicker way to complete a section.

Alternatively, you can opt to use the single square method, which is as it sounds. You’ll be able to mark off each individual square one at a time. This method offers more precision and also allows you to make any guesses if you need to – not that you should if you’ve initiated a domino effect. By using a combination of these two methods you shouldn’t have any issues with completing the puzzle and uncovering the image. If you get really stuck, tap the buttons for a hint and look for that initial place-holder which you can work from. I always give the whole image a once-over with the multi-marker first as I mark off the easy ones, then go back over it and look for the adjacent easy solutions!

Trophy info
Hopefully what I’ve written makes sense to you! If not, there is the video above which is my talking you through how to complete a puzzle. I don’t complete a full one, as that would take about 20 minutes, but I give you the basic idea of how it works. As I said previously as well, the PS Vita and PS4 versions are cross-buy, so one purchase for £6.49 will bag you the ability to get two platinums. There is also a separate stack for regions so you could technically get three platinums if you also purchase the PS4 version from the other region. All of the puzzles are the same though, so no new content based on region or platform. This isn’t an issue though as Fill-a-Pix will take you 20+ hours easily if you’re playing it for fun rather than following a guide or hoping for a quick platinum. 

With regards to the trophies, they are all pretty standard, to be honest. Complete a puzzle in each region as well as all puzzles in a region, restart a puzzle after you’ve completed it, solve a puzzle with no errors, and don’t use the multi-marker (Smart Cursor). There are a few unusual trophies too, such as reading the tutorial in every language in the game and the obligatory speed-run trophy! I had a lot of issues getting the speed run one, but after finding a nice small image, I found it really easy to pull off. 

Now, I know the next part will only affect a very small minority of you, but some people did point it out in Pic-a-Pix Color – the music. Once again, we have a single song which is seamlessly repeated over and over as you play through Fill-a-Pix. Personally, I found the song relaxing and it helped me concentrate on what I was doing. You can turn it off though if you would rather play in silence, or just play your own music in the background instead. It’s all up to you. But, just like with Pic-a-Pix Colour, I really enjoyed it. 

Official Trailer (3DS, but it’s the same game):

Final Conclusion:
Fill-a-Pix: Phil’s Epic Adventure is yet another brilliant logic-based puzzle game from Lightwood Games. Whether you like it or not may be hit or miss, but if you like Minesweeper and Sudoku then I’m sure you will learn to love this game as I did. Help Phil develop his holiday snaps as you solve over 100 puzzles, some of which took over 20 minutes to complete. There is a lot of content here to keep anyone busy, plus you get both the PS Vita and PS4 versions for one low price – what’s not to like! I can’t wait to see what we get next from the developer.

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A copy of the game was kindly provided for review purposes

Fill-a-Pix: Phil's Epic Adventure

£6.49
8.5

Final Score

8.5/10

The Good:

  • Has a nice little story to deliver a reason why we are doing the puzzles
  • Over 100 puzzles which will easily take you 20+ hours
  • Cross-buy with two platinums - three if you buy another regions PS4 version
  • Really helpful tutorial which teaches you everything you need to know
  • Really addictive once you get the hang of it

The Bad:

  • Can be a bit daunting or tricky at first if you've not played Minesweeper before

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