Rittai Picross Review

Of all the systems in my possession, I have the most bizarre relationship with my DS. The PS3 gets turned on nearly every day, even if it’s not to play games- my laptop gave up the ghost recently and this here post is brought to you by Sony’s not-quite-as-shite-as-it-was-before-but-still-pretty-unfriendly web browser. The 360 gets a lot of use. I have retro machines which get an airing every so often if I’m in a retro buying frenzy or want to write about them (eyes peeled for a fun history of the 3DO, by the way), and I have my PSP, which sits in its stupid sock gathering dust because I can’t sell it since it’s slightly broken and I can’t will myself to touch it; so it will remain in its daft sock forever (unless the PSP Rock Band turns out to be an amazing Frequency esque romp).

The DS though, is a strange beast. Mostly it just sits around blending in, not being touched for months at a time until a couple of games catch my eye and get played religiously to the detriment of personal hygiene, social interaction and everything else. There are currently two reasons why I’m writing this naked, hungry, friendless, sat on the toilet and running my equipment off a personal generator because I forgot to pay the electricity bill. One, obviously, is Grand Theft Auto Chinatown Wars, and the other is this.


2006’s Picross DS was a fantastic game that found it incredibly hard to sell itself to non believers. Most of this trouble came down to the fact that it was, well, Picross, a pen and paper puzzle adapted electronically, involving colouring squares on a numbered grid in order to make a picture. Its major failing was that, much like DS Sudoku games, you could probably get a bunch of Picross puzzles off the internet for nowt, but Picross DS still was a DS binge game for me. It was rewarding as hell to spend an hour or two making a giant Mario picture, then using the editor to draw some boobs. I’m mature like that.

Rittai Picross is best described as Picross DS– But In 3D. Hopefully it’ll do better at retail than Picross DS on account of i) it’s 3D nature makes it more of a thing that could only happen on gaming hardware rather than a piece of paper and ii) it, too has a level editor allowing you to make a pair of boobs- But In 3D.

If you’ve never done a Picross puzzle before, it basically involves a grid, the size of which relating to the complexity of the puzzle, with numbers written beside the rows and columns. You have to colour in the squares on the grid, which correspond to the numbers to construct a picture. What Rittai does is strap several grids together in order to make a crude 3D model- and herein lies the first issue with Rittai Picross. Some 2D Picross puzzles can get ludicrously complex with giant 100×100 grids. 3D problems, then, could be many times as complex, but Rittai sees itself as a nice friendly game, and typically wants you to do a puzzle in ten minutes or so while you’re on the train. What that leads to is smallish puzzles, with fairly disappointing results. Picross DS would have the occasional monster picture of a Nintendo character which felt great to finish, but Rittai typically has you making dull household items, which given the resolution dictated by the game, often looks odd. ‘Well done!’ says the game, ‘You made a frying pan!’, to which you bleat ‘huh?’. Sometimes you’re asked to construct a big object by doing a bunch of smaller puzzles and having the results glued together, but it often feels unsatisfying.

The other major issue with Rittai is its interface. As its puzzles get harder, it can become difficult to see what’s going on. You can rotate around the puzzle fairly easy, but to look in the middle, you need to use a slicing tool to get a cross section. Maybe it’s my touch screen, but it seems every time I wanted to use the slicing tool, it didn’t work and vice versa. The result was often a square inadvertantly chipped away, the loss of a perfect rating, and a frustratedly snapped stylus.

Despite this though, Rittai has kept me nice and antisocial all week; and that’s largely due to its buckets of charm. The game recognizes that it’s asking you to construct crude, blocky 3D models, and reflects that in a charming early- mid 90’s aesthetic seen in its menus, SNES style music and ‘wacky’ 3D cube mascot. Bonus levels are unlocked through flawless and efficient play, ensuring replayability, though the fact that the game has well over 300 puzzles to get through means there’s plenty to do anyway.

Rittai Picross has more than its fair share of issues- perhaps it doesn’t quite deserve to sell better than Picross DS did after all- but give it a go, and I think you may be pleasantly surprised. And potentially rather addicted.


3 Responses to “Rittai Picross Review”

  1. Thanks for the review.

    Actually I know I will be addicted to a game like this, so I’ve been holding off. I’m the guy who played through the whole Sudoku DS games (the first two from Hudson). Hundreds of hours lost, never again. Hahah. Still Rittai Picross is compelling because as you said, it’s not easily duplicated onto pen and paper. I already played the demo at a Download Station and I know I will get it eventually.

    > What that leads to is smallish puzzles, with fairly disappointing results

    Yeah, bonk me on the head with large puzzles, please. Maybe in RP2?

    > the loss of a perfext rating

    This is a funny coincidence.

    Can you recommend any other puzzle games? I tried Slitherlink but it was way too punishing if you guessed wrong.

  2. reasonjp Says:

    You may have some limited joy with Touch Panic, and Moji pittan, which is quite helpful for building Japanese vocab if your Hiragana’s up to scratch. Further back, I remember Polarium being quite fun, and it’s ancient and cheap now. I don’t play many panic puzzlers, but Meteos is pretty good.

  3. Thanks.

    Meteos: The moment I learned that scratching frantically let me progress faster, I put the game down.

    Moji pittan: Word puzzles are not my thing.

    Polarium: Whoa. I have this somewhere but play time is like 10 minutes.

    Touch Panic: I’ll give it a try.

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