Things initially weren’t looking good for Piczle Colors, to be quite frank. It joins Paper Mario: Color Splash atop the podium for “games that made my spell-checker have a fit by not putting a “u” in “color” for the English-language release,” which is a personal bugbear of mine anyway. It then doubles down on making me look a complete cretin by coming up with a better pun than I could in a million years (“Piczle” sounding like “pixel” but also combining the words picture and puzzle, with surmises the game perfectly) – and I wasted all my colour puns when I reviewed De Blob 2 anyway. Finally, it has a character in it called “Score-chan.” I think that speaks for itself. But once I muddled past those issues – which is only fair, since most of them were caused by personal incompetence – Piczle Colors turned out to be a pretty decent little puzzler.
I’m a strong believer in giving credit where credit is due, and developers Score Studios definitely deserve some for managing to get a plot into a game about colouring in tiles. As it goes, the ragtag bunch of misfits – I guess you could call them a “colourful cast” – are all knocking about doing very little in Professor Pixel’s lab. The professor (totally missed opportunity to call him a cyantist by the way) then announces he’s invented “Paint-b-gone,” which can remove the colour from any object – though “invented” is a strong word, since they’ve clearly been using it on every modern First-Person-Shooter for the last 12 or so years. Score-Chan (ugh) immediately runs off with this and applies it to literally everything, and so the premise is complete. It’s not much, but it is enough to give the game a bit of identity and separate it from Picross’ soulless, clinical presentation. Flair is always a good thing.
Speaking of, this seems like a good time to address the pixelated elephant in the room: this game is Picross. Technically Nintendo didn’t invent this format of puzzle; that honour belongs to a Mr. Non Ishida and they’re named Nonograms after him – and certainly, Piczle Colors is Picross with extra steps, but it’s Picross. That isn’t a bad thing at all: I like Picross, and more Picross is always an appealing prospect. But it means Piczle Colours is inherently competing with a Nintendo product, with all the Nintendo polish that comes with that – which is a much less appealing prospect.
If you haven’t encountered a Nonogram (or played a Picross game) before, they’re a smart, tightly designed puzzle format similar to sudoku, in that a series of logical statements and contradictions will always lead you to a correct solution. Which written out like that sounds really boring, but I assure you it isn’t. Each row and column in the grid has a corresponding number or series of numbers with it, which combined with other lines tells you which tiles can be filled in, which can’t, and which maybe can, wherein lies the challenge. Piczle Colors builds on this formula by adding colour (hence the title); each number has an associated colour with it, which adds more certainties and uncertainties to which tiles can be filled in. It also tells you if all the tiles of one colour are connected or not, which is a nice streamlining choice compared to most Nonograms that prevents the addition of colour making the interface far too complicated.
Not Easy Being Green:
I go back and forth on how I feel about Piczle’s presentation. On the one hand, Picross has stayed almost exactly the same as when it was first released on the Game Boy back in 1995, so taking that formula and giving it some extra layers makes it feel much less stale. The addition of colour does make the puzzling, on the whole, a fair bit easier, which for a Picross fiend like myself is something of a negative, but I’m sure some people look at Picross the way an eight-year-old looks at complex differential equations, so that’s not inherently a bad thing. That said, colour also exacerbates the problem Picross rarely has of just being able to guess what the tiles are making a picture of, instead of actually playing the puzzle. Picross also adds in colour after the puzzle is done, using a lot more shades to give the image depth and definition; Piczle Colours by design can’t do this, so the finished pieces look like an asset bank from a cancelled Atari 2600 game. The gameplay overall is solid, definitely enjoyable for fans of the genre and probably MORE enjoyable for a casual audience (and to note, the game has full touchscreen compatibility and a pretty good colourblind option, so it’s very accessible), but the difficulty curve is shallow and it lacks the sharpness of its competitor.
In the end, I think it’s the little things Piczle Colours does that really endeared me to it. Things like the “trophies” all being the kinds of tat you buy when you’re on holiday – and that pressing the secret button in the model viewer actually does something. There’s a level of care and consideration put in by the design team that turns “ a pretty good Picross clone” into something with it’s own personality, and that effort goes a long way.