I’ve been waiting for a particular game to make its jump to the Nintendo Switch, a game which I’ve spent hours playing on my NDS and 3DS previously – that game is none other than Picross 3D. However, despite the popularity of puzzle games on the platform, the developers of the original game (HAL Laboratory) still hasn’t created a sequel to their popular logic-based puzzle game. Thankfully, Procedural Level – a one-man developer – has brought us Voxelgram, an almost spiritual successor to Picross 3D, on Steam and the Nintendo Switch.
Combining the addictive and casual puzzles of Picross with the third dimension, Voxlegram delivers tons of puzzles for you to play through at your leisure with no time constraints or penalties for being wrong. Plus, with the addition of an official Nintendo accessory, this game is one of the best Picross-based titles I’ve played for many years, offering hours of entertainment.
So, let’s take a closer look…
What is Picross?
I imagine most, if not all of you, who are reading this know exactly what Picross is, but for those who don’t, here’s a brief breakdown…
A Picross puzzle is presented in the form of a grid, the columns and rows have numbers upon the side to let you know how many squares within the respective direction are coloured in. So, if you have a 4×4 grid and a row has a number 3 next to it, you know that three of the squares in that particular row are going to be coloured in. However, seeing as this example has rows consisting of four squares, you need to work out which three are actually coloured in through logically working out what squares are certain to be included and then cross-referencing with the columns that overlap the row you’re working on.
Some rows or columns may have multiple numbers or a smaller number which advises you how many gaps there are within the number displayed. For example, if a row had the number 3 on it with a smaller number 1, that means (in terms of Voxelgram) there is a gap within the three marked squares. So, it’ll be one square coloured in and then a gap of any size followed by the final two, or two then a gap and the final one.
The key thing here though is cross-referencing. If you’re looking at the puzzle logically and using various techniques in order to determine what goes where and removing the squares which literally can’t be used due to not meeting the criteria you’re looking for, you shouldn’t have to ‘guess’ at any placements – it should all simply take shape as you flip between the rows and columns throughout the process.
If you want to read up more on standard Picross-type puzzles, please check out my review for Pic-a-Pix Pieces and Pic-a-Pix Color on the PS4 – two games from Lightwood Games, a developer who has put out a multitude of puzzle games on both Sony and Nintendo platforms over the last few years.
What is Picross 3D/Voxelgram?
Imagine the above explanation of what a Picross puzzle is, only in the third dimension. So, instead of cross-referencing the X and Y-axis in order to both colour and remove the spaces on the grid, to get the final image, you’re cross-referencing the X, Y and Z-axis (as it’s now a three-dimensional block, not a flat graph). This extra dimension adds a new level of difficulty and fun to the puzzles as you now have to consider three values whilst dissecting the shape in order to meet the criteria given to you.
Just as we saw in the official Picross 3D games, Voxelgram allows you to spin the puzzle in a full 360 degrees and tear away the layers in order to work your way ‘through’ the shape seamlessly. However, due to the puzzle being more complex and strategic, thanks to its depth, you don’t have to worry about multiple colours within these puzzles, only what is and isn’t a piece of the final design. The whole thing almost feels like sculpting as you’re literally chiselling away at the cubes which don’t belong until you’re left with a fun 3D shape that, in this case, is being used in a bigger scene.
There are 170 puzzles within Voxelgram (and six tutorials), all of which are split into 17 groups of 10. Each ‘group’ is its own diorama with a theme and each puzzle has you create an object for the scene. So, not only do you get the satisfaction of completing the puzzle, but you also get to see a combination of all the solutions in a cute design. What I love about this is that before you’ve solved any of the puzzles, the dioramas are full of unsolved cubes and cuboids, making it look almost like everything is boxed up.
The developer has done an amazing job with Voxelgram, allowing you to choose your prefered play-style as well as alter a few crucial settings. First of all, Voxelgram supports both the Joy-Cons and the touchscreen, something which I’ve noticed a number of games don’t bother with at the moment. For the type of game this is, I’m so glad there are touchscreen controls as it makes the whole game so much easier, comfier, and more natural to play. Saying that, the Joy-Con controls work just as well (either in portable or TV mode), but I prefer touching the screen due to the game wanting to dissect the cube whenever you rotate it with the Right Thumbstick.
However, as I mentioned in the opening, there’s one accessory that is the perfect fit for this game – the official Nintendo Stylus! I received the Stylus as part of Brain Training and I’ve been trying to use it on every single game which looks like it would work well with it. I recently reviewed Bridge Constructor: Ultimate Edition and whilst the stylus worked with it, it wasn’t 1:1 accurate as the game presumed you were using your finger, so it offsets the point of impact. But, Voxelgram works like a dream with the accessory, it brought back nostalgic memories of my time with the previous Picross 3D games as they too were played with a stylus.
So, if you own Brain Training, or you’ve picked up an official stylus, this game is a perfect example of a third-party game working flawlessly with it. If I hadn’t already had the stylus, I would pick one up specifically for this – but that’s just me.
If you’ve not attempted a Picross puzzle before, or you’re not very confident in your abilities to jump into the third dimension with the puzzles, don’t worry. Once you’ve completed the six tutorials you’ll fully understand how to spot patterns, what to look out for, and which cubes you should start with. As said previously, Voxelgram doesn’t punish you for getting anything wrong or force you to hurry up.
By default the game will highlight any mistakes you make – not ‘this is wrong based on the final design’ mistakes, but mistakes where you’ve ignored the numbers and either removed or marked a piece that doesn’t fit the criteria. For example, if the row says 32 and you’ve coloured in three cubes next to each other – it’ll let you know you’re wrong. In this example, there are at least two gaps so the row is made up of three single cubes with at least one space in between each of them.
This extra level of support can be disabled if you want no help or guidance or you wish to challenge yourself – especially on the later puzzles.
Visually, I love the small dioramas you’re gradually building as they give purpose to the creations you’re working your way through. The whole game is very simplistic and easy to use, it doesn’t shove complicated menus or settings in your face, you simply pick it up, choose a puzzle and away you go – easy.
In terms of the music, the game says the soundtrack is by ‘Dream Machine’ but listening to the tracks (which are really relaxing), I can’t help but feel like I’ve heard them before. They sound similar to those I heard in Perfect Angle, but I don’t think they’re the same, they are just very similar in terms of being soft, calm, relaxing piano instrumentals. Also, there doesn’t appear to be a way to skip tracks or pick the song you want to listen too, they all just play one after another. It would have been nice if we could have picked and/or skipped.
In terms of the options, as I did briefly mention above, there are ten languages for the menu text, separate audio sliders for music and effects, an option to disable the game from telling you if you’ve done something wrong, you can adjust the sensitivity of the touchscreen and Joy-Cons independently, and you can reset all your progress and start again. It may not seem like much, but these allow you to customise your game to your own personal preferences.
Voxelgram is a brilliant 3D Picross game, exactly what the Switch has been waiting for. Whether you wish to use your Joy-Cons and play on the TV, or utilise your fingers and touch the screen, the game is very simplistic and intuitive in its design, ensuring that everyone can simply pick it up and play without any issues. My personal preference was to use the official Nintendo Stylus as it filled me with nostalgia for similar games back on the Nintendo DS and 3DS.
If you’re a fan of Picross puzzles, or simply logic-based puzzles in general, Voxelgram is a no-brainer – you should buy this game.
- - Very addictive once you get the hand of it
- - Works perfectly with the official Nintendo stylus
- - Relaxing, casual, and non-pressured gameplay
- - 170 puzzles providing hours of entertainment
- - Super cheap for the amount of content and fun provided
- - Nothing to see here...