I know I just blogged about my time with Picross 3D on DS, but I was curious about its follow-up on 3DS, somewhat oddly called Picross 3D Round 2, and before I knew it I was completely sucked in. Similar to how the fantastic 3DS puzzle game Pushmo had two excellent follow-ups that extended the elegant game mechanics of the first game, Crashmo and Stretchmo, Picross 3D Round 2 adds a fantastic new twist to the core Picross 3D mechanics.
The game introduces colors to puzzles, where blocks you mark as blue represent regular cubes, whereas the blocks you color orange represent shapes that are not cubical, e.g. curved or spherical. This frees the puzzles to have much more variety in their shapes, but even though you don't have any control over what shape the orange blocks take when the puzzle is complete, the real key here is that having to determine if a block should be removed, colored blue, or colored orange add a huge amount in terms of new ways you have to apply logic to solve a puzzle. Now you have to examine the labels on the rows and columns to see if they contain only orange, only blue, or both orange and blue blocks, and on top of that you have the mechanics from the previous game to contend with where if a number has a circle around it, that means that color is split into two groupings (i.e. at least one space or block of the other color in between), and if the number is in a square it means that the color is divided into three or more groups.
The game solves the issue of the previous game where you had to do every puzzle in order, and you can jump around between sets of puzzles which unlock at a regular clip based on how many puzzles you've solved and how many medals you've earned (for solving puzzles without any mistakes and within the par time). I ended up jumping into the deep end and completely skipping over the tutorials on these new mechanics and figuring out the logic that is needed on my own, which was also satisfying, but the the tutorials and the puzzles themselves give a much smoother progression in general. The game also basically triples its content because each puzzle comes in an easy, normal, and hard difficulty level. I also skipped straight to the hard difficulty, which has many rows and columns with numbers completely missing, forcing you to apply even more logic to work around the missing information. Although it took some time getting used to them, the added challenge was definitely appreciated. As with the previous game, Picross 3D Round 2 was also developed by HAL Laboratory and is stuffed with charm. The game's vibe skews older than the previous title, and it's hard for me to imagine a kid having the patience to work through these kinds of puzzles.
There are nine unlockable Amiibo puzzles that I didn't get to try out because I was playing on an original 3DS (which doesn't have an Amiibo reader built in), and as with the previous game I still find it annoying that a single accidental slip of a button or stylus can cause a mistake and cost you a medal. Replaying stages is still fun, though. Timed stages are still a pain, though, as are the puzzles where you can't make any mistakes, but it seems like you can avoid those for the most part. Also, originally I was annoyed that this was only available as a downloadable title in North America, but its addictive nature is perfect for gaming on the go and is one of the few that would be worth downloading even if a cartridge were an option.
Despite my quibbles, Picross 3D Round 2 is a superb evolution from the previous game, and its new twists on the gameplay already push it ahead. Its better progression, ability to skip puzzles, stereoscopic 3D, and multiple difficulty levels for every puzzle just add to its greatness, and even though I haven't made much of a dent in it yet, I already know it deserves a place on my list of greatest games of all time. I love a good puzzle game, and this is definitely one of the best I've played in a long while. Highly recommended.