Success’s Pic Pic is the most fun I’ve had with a puzzle game in a long, long time. All puzzlers I’ve played in recent memory have had their gimmicks or missions to inject fun into puzzle-solving. Professor Layton wraps mystery stories around riddles. Brain Age’s Dr. Kawashima taunts your aging brain at every failure. Classics like Columns, Tetris, PuyoPuyo all focus on battling spatial limitations, time or another player. And this is exactly why Pic Pic took me aback at first. There’s no story, no versus mode, no outside elements to inject more “fun” into the gameplay; just paint-by-the-numbers puzzles that form pixilated pictures on completion and an inconspicuous clock that times your progress. While PicPic doesn’t pack the sassy punch or dramatic overtones of many recent games, it still provides a challenging, fun, if not relaxing experience.
Pic Pic has three modes of play, which end with the puzzle forming a pixelized picture. Players input their answers on the touch screen, and can watch this picture form on the top-screen, which contains a scaled-down version of the whole puzzle. Maze Paint mode presents players with a maze and, in traditional maze-solving style, has the player trace a line on the touch screen from the entrance to the exit, filling in the lines to a picture.
Drawing and Magipic modes, however, present more interesting challenges that have a much steeper learning curve. Drawing mode lays out pairs of matching numbers ranging from 1-20 on a grid. The player must connect matching numbers (i.e., a four to another four, and a five to another five), but the length a player can extend the connecting line from the number is determined by the number itself (i.e., if you have a four, you can only connect to other fours that are four spaces away). These connecting lines are drawn horizontally and vertically, and can do a lot of zigzagging once the player reaches the higher-number puzzles.
MagiPic mode easily has the highest learning curve and is the most frustrating. In an odd sudoku/Picross/paint-by-numbers mix, MagiPic challenges players to fill in the correct amount and placement of pixels in a 3×3, nine-block square to form a black-and-white picture. The number in the center of this square, which ranges from 0-9, represents the number of pixels that will be filled in this square. Having a square with 0 or 9 is easy enough to fill in, but when the nine-block squares begin to over-lap, the puzzle easily becomes chaotic. A wrong guess can throw the whole puzzle off and be very difficult to solve. The monochromatic picture is also more difficult to guess than the one’s in Maze Paint and Drawing, where the player can make an educated guess on where to go next if they’re stuck on a half-formed picture.
The sheer number of puzzles (1,200, total) in Pic Pic is astounding, as is the amount of digital screen space the most difficult puzzles span. I spent an hour or so solving Drawing puzzle #395, which is several screens wide and tall on the most zoomed out view, and had only completed 75% of it. PicPic provides seemingly endless hours of puzzles, and, surprisingly, the concept never gets old. Once I actually got the hang of completing the puzzles, the game was very easy to pick up, and play for about 15 minutes on a regular basis. While Pic Pic allows the player to save and solve one puzzle at a time and each mode, I wish each mode could’ve had a couple of save files because I would get tired of working on the same puzzle for a while.
The design and controls of the game are flawless, and incredibly easy to understand. Everything is controlled by a simple click or press on the touch screen with the stylus, and the D-pad can be used to glide over the puzzle and fill in the easy-to-solve spots in Drawing and MagiPic, and also allow you to keep your stylus free as you navigate which passageway to take next in Maze Paint. The sounds and music are all repetitive and simple, but blend well with the game and are easy on the ears (except for the jarring buzzing sound from when you hit the border of a puzzle). Prepare to switch on some different background music while solving puzzles, because the one track of music the game provides gets boring after while.
The final pictures are strangely rewarding, and a nice complement to the “oh-thank-god-I-finally-finished it” feeling that comes with filling in the last pixel. I ended up drawing a ninja, a horse, a man and a woman at a festival, a frog, elephants swimming through the water, and many other things more simple and complicated. While the no-frills fun of Pic Pic has seen releases in Japan, Europe and Australia, it has yet to hit North American shelves, which is unfortunate because it definitely has potential as a portable puzzler. Until then, I’ll be one of the lone (or at least very, very few) gamers in the States who will be hording away hundreds upon hundreds of hours of picture-coloring puzzle fun.