Sometimes I have trouble functioning in space. And not “space” like deep, dark, S-P-A-C-E! But rather the confines of three dimensions. To be even more specific, I have a seeming inability to visualize things in three-dimensional space. It’s one of the reasons I never became what I thought was my first ever dream job: a fashion designer. While I never had any problems conjuring up clothing designs on paper, translating them into actual items was another thing entirely. I also have the same visual block when I’m, say, moving things around in a room. If someone tells me, “we’re going move the sofa here and the table here,” I simply can’t picture what the room will look like. Draw it out on a floor plan however, and I’m in much better shape to visualize the end results.
Would you believe that this is leading to a discussion about a video game? I promise you that it is. Because the game that’s bringing forth all these strange memories is Picross 3D.
Picross 3D (2010) was the successor to Picross DS (2007). I had never heard of either (video) game until I saw the first commercials for Picross 3D in early Spring 2010. It was one of those things that you see that looks really intriguing for a moment, but then is quickly forgotten. Except, I didn’t forget it…mostly. The game squirreled its way into my memory banks and remained there, quietly eating away at other, more useful information which I probably never would have remembered anyway. (Huh?)
Anyway, it was around Christmas time/New Year’s that I found myself at the local Gamestop looking for something new for the DS. As I stared at the shelves, that little Picross 3D nodule shot to the forefront of my brain. “BUY ME!” it silently yelled. “BUUUYYY MEEEEE!” I wavered at the thought of getting frustrated with a puzzle game that wasn’t Tetris, but I couldn’t not listen to the voices in my head. So Picross 3D and me went home together that day.
The idea behind a picross or nonogram puzzle (pictured above) is simple, though the mechanics behind them are far from it (in my non-visual mind, anyway). On a grid is laid out a series of numbers along the x-axis and y-axis telling you how many squares in a sequence are to be filled in any given row or column. Fill in the correct blocks to reveal a picture. Again, it sounds simple, but all that number counting is pretty challenging. I thought translating the game into three dimensions would be okay for a little fun…and it was…for awhile.
Each Picross 3D puzzle presented players with a rectangular grid of cubes. Some of the cubes contained numbers and others were blank. Using the numbers and one’s gaming wits, players had to tap away the extraneous cubes to reveal a secret shape. If a row or columns of cubes contained “1,” “2,” “3,” and so it, it denoted the number of blocks that had to stay. Circled numbers meant that the row/column contained groups of blocks in twos. Numbers in a square meant that the row/column contained groups of blocks in threes. If a row or column contained the number “0,” it meant that all those blocks had to go. And if a row or columns was unnumbered, it was up to the player to determine what blocks had to stay and go. As the game got more difficult, fewer numbered blocks and more empty blocks appeared. That’s when things got really tricky for me.
And here’s where we go back to that whole spatially-challenged discussion. Once I got into the more difficult puzzles, I became convinced that part of the secret to “winning” the game involved not just keeping track of the numbers and blocks but also having the ability to see the 3D shape before it was revealed. Up until the final reveal when the secret shape got its colors and details, I had no idea if it was going to be a dolphin or a propeller. Once I tapped out all the numbered blocks from a difficult puzzle, and even with a portion of the secret shape exposed, I had a really hard time deciding where to go next. Why, that series of revealed blocks could be a nose, or a ray of sunshine, or a section of a diving bell…who the hell knows?! Numbers? Hell, I’m no go that those! At one point, I actually tried to draw out one of the puzzles on a grid, er, 6 grids, one for each side. That helped at little, but it was ridiculous. And I was not going to spend the better part of my gaming drawing. Eff that and all its neighbors.
So, eh, Picross 3D. For worse (or more worse) I traded it back in for Super Scribblenauts. As far as puzzle games went for the DS, there were certainly better ones. Maybe Picross 3D would have appealed to me more if I had the right mind for it. Of source, if I had the right mind for it, I’d probably be a famous fashion designer now. Gaming would have fallen by the waist side. I’d be surrounded by money, supermodels, and paparazzi. I’d have a terrible drug habit and wouldn’t go outside for days on end. I’d be a brilliant eccentric living among my own creations, which would sometimes speak to me in pig latin as I half-dreamed my way through life.
Hmmm…I guess everything worked out for the best.