Originally published in The Daily Toreador.
As finals approach, a common tip for doing well on tests is to relax. Take a break from studying and do something else for a while, especially something that still involves cognitive function. A favorite distraction for many, including myself, is Sudoku.
The problem, though, is that The Daily Toreador doesn’t publish throughout finals, so if our humble newspaper is your main source of puzzle-y goodness, you might be out of luck. I’m here to suggest “Picross 3D” as an alternative.
I can’t blame you if you’re not familiar with Picross &- also called Nanograms or Griddlers. Although many versions of the game can be found online, on the iPhone or on the Nintendo DS, it’s not exactly big in newspapers or books, at least in the United States.
It’s quite a bit like Sudoku, though, in that you’re using logic and numbers to solve a puzzle. The difference is that rather than filling in numbers one through nine, you’re filling (or deliberately not filling) boxes on a grid in order to make a picture.
If you’ve never played Picross before but you like games like Sudoku, I highly suggest checking out some puzzles online and getting yourself acquainted with how they work. Once you’re comfortable with and addicted to 2-D Picross, I want you to throw a lot of that experience out the window for “Picross 3D.”
With “Picross 3D” for the Nintendo DS, Nintendo &- a supporter of Picross since the early days &- takes the popular logic formula and adds a dimension to it, which changes the experience pretty drastically.
Using the DS’s stylus, you can rotate the puzzle grid every which way to try to find possible blocks to eliminate or keep. Most of the time, you’re given a rather large cube with numbers plastered all over it. Your job, then, is to chip away at the blocks in order to reveal a 3-D model.
In a way, this makes you feel almost like a sculptor, if it were possible to “chisel-by-numbers.” Say, for instance, the final result for a puzzle is the shape of a flower. By using logic to deduce which blocks belong and which don’t, you will effectively get rid of everything that’s not a flower.
In a standard, 2-D Picross puzzle, there would be numbers alongside each column and row of whatever side grid you’re working on, telling you where to fill in squares. For example, for a six-by-six grid, you might see “2 &- 3” beside a row of squares. This would tell you to fill in two blocks, followed by an unfilled block, then three filled blocks.
It might sound confusing, but Sudoku probably did at first too, right? It’s not so bad once you pick it up.
“Picross 3D” doesn’t give you information in the same way. For example, on one side of a block, you might see the number five with a circle around it. This would tell you that a total of five blocks are filled in on that row, but they’re in two distinct groups. It might be a group of two and a group of three, a group of one and four &- any combination that would equal five.
Again, it might sound extremely confusing. But the game is actually very good at easing you into the experience, first with good tutorials, then with pretty easy puzzles.
The game comes packaged with over 350 puzzles. If you’re like me, you’ll be staying up late night after night trying to solve them. When you’re finished, though, you can download new puzzles on a weekly basis through the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection or even create your own puzzles to share with friends.
If you’re a perfectionist, each puzzle has a total of three stars that can be earned through stellar performance &- namely, completing a puzzle with no mistakes and under a specific time limit. As the puzzles get tougher, these goals become a lot harder to obtain.
If you’re a fan of logic puzzles, you absolutely need to check out “Picross 3D.” It’s a steal at the $20 asking price, and because of its 3-D nature, it’s not an experience you could have on paper. It’s a great DS game and one you might find yourself easily addicted to.