Piczle Lines DX (Switch) review
"Plot lines while using your finger like a pencil. That's the draw in the surprisingly addictive Pixle Lines DX."
You are a little girl. Life is occasionally dull, but it's not all bad. Sometimes you get to play with an amazing invention that turns everything into pixels. You just have to make sure no one sees you doing it, and that you don't accidentally unleash a mischievous creature that--oops, you probably shouldn't have thought about doing such a thing, because now you've gone and done it!
Piczle Lines DX has that lovely "DX" in the title. Partway through playing the game for the purposes of this review, my mind wandered a winding road and stumbled into an epiphany: there must also exist a version that isn't labeled as "DX." I checked around and found out that there is indeed such a version, first released in 2011 or so for iOS. And what's more, there also is a previous "DX" version, again available for iOS. It's a free download, even, which might make you wonder why you should spend money to own the same game on the Nintendo Switch. The answer to that question is simple: content. You get tons and tons of puzzles, right up front, without having to bother with those pesky micro-transactions.
But I'm getting ahead of myself, so let's jump back in time to the moment you carelessly unleashed a magical creature on your unsuspecting neighborhood. The only thing to do from there, of course, is to wash away your guilt by solving a bunch of puzzles. Then those pixel portraits can become three-dimensional objects once again.
Admittedly, the game's story is rather contrived, but at least it has the distinction of also being quite charming. There are a few storyboard sequences, drawn like colorized manga and spaced throughout the campaign. They precede and follow lots of 20 missions, which are divided into several chapters. There's a narrative loop where some new area gets turned into pixels, and you solve 20 puzzles to restore order (I say, remembering a scene where a car careens wildly through a neighborhood and improbably sends all sorts of objects flying into the sky). Then you do it all again, but with harder puzzles.
I'll get to a more broadly useful description in a moment, but first I want to say that solving the typical Piczle Lines DX puzzle feels like working on a Sudoku frame, mixed with a little Picross 3D, combined with an adult coloring book and maybe one of those advanced dot-to-dot puzzles. If you've spent time engaged in a few of those pursuits, you have a general idea which of your brain cells might get a workout.
You start with a square canvas, which could be as small as 20x20 squares or as large as 128x128. Scattered around that grid are circular bubbles of various colors, with different numbers etched on them. You start on a bubble of your choosing, and you drag a line out from there, space-by-space, until you eat up the prescribed number of squares and connect with another bubble with the same hue and numeral. Then every space in between turns into a colored tile. Once you turn every square into a tile, the puzzle is solved and you can view your handiwork before trying another one.
At its core, Piczle Lines DX is a logic game. You typically have a lot of options as to where you might plot your line, but just because a course is possible doesn't make it right. If you draw a connecting line where it doesn't belong, you might run into trouble a few minutes down the road. Then you'll have to backtrack, which is embarrassing even if you weren't just bragging to your wife about how you have all the right moves. Luckily, there are visual clues you can follow. You'll identify them more readily as you become familiar with how things work. And once you get the hang of things, the process becomes incredibly soothing without losing its pleasingly addictive qualities. At least, it doesn't lose them for quite some time; I played around 20 hours over the span of just a few evenings before I decided it was time for a bit of a break. And there were still dozens of puzzles left at that point.
Happily, the game is quite friendly when it comes to how you play it. First of all, there are three "colour-blind" options available, which can be useful since there are puzzles where hues are similar and may otherwise be difficult to differentiate. Control schemes are also inviting. You can hold the Switch as a tablet and write on it with your finger, or use a device such as the Pro Controller to play it more conventionally. I spent most of my time using that last option, and I was able to fly around the screen like a maniac. A relaxed maniac, of course.
The biggest flaw Piczle Lines DX exhibits, arguably, is that there's simply too much of it to go around. And in the end, a lot of the experience amounts to the same thing. You essentially are presented around 240 puzzles of varying difficulty, with a few storyboard sequences along the way. There are some in-game trophies to unlock, but otherwise there are no real frills. The developers' apparent attempts to make the game truly difficult mostly just amount to much larger puzzles, which take considerably longer to solve (four or five hours in my case, for one of the largest, which could be bad if multiple people in the household want to take turns playing the same game on their own files) but don't force new strategies. Still, as flaws go, that's not a deal breaker. Just don't play too much of the game all at once so you can write an amazing review like this one. Then you'll do fine.
I don't suppose I can make Piczle Lines DX sound terribly exciting by writing about moving a line around and watching tiles appear. The truth is that the game isn't all that exciting in a conventional sense. Blasting aliens is exciting, or stomping on Koopa shells, or something along those lines. But if you just want to get away from stress once in a while, trust me when I say that Rainy Frog and Score Studios have put together something pretty special. It may not look like much, but it's well worth your attention if you're a puzzle fanatic (or even just think maybe you could become one, under the right circumstances).
Staff review by Jason Venter (August 25, 2017)
Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.
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