Picross, nonograms, hanje, griddlers, and now Pictopix. Call them what you will, these logic-based puzzles have been around since the 1980s. There was even an arcade version called Logic Pro, despite it being quite clearly one of the least arcade-y games you could think of. If you’re new to the concept, it’s a grid flanked by numbers which you use to deduce which squares should be shaded, eventually revealing a picture.
Pictopix by Tomlab Games is a rare thing – a Steam Greenlight game that’s actually good.
Sure, the graphics aren’t much to look at. But they’re clean and crisp, and they do the job. Everything is bathed in a calming pastel blue, with a retro pixel-style feel. Some of the puzzle pictures are quite adorable; others a bit baffling (valves, clamps and tetrominoes…?). Still, chances are if you’re playing picross you’re not really in it for fancy graphics.
The relaxing music is reminiscent of holidays in the sun, sitting sipping a cocktail while a beardy man plays guitar in the background. The only issue is there’s only two songs, so five cocktails in you might be tempted to start yelling at the beardy man to stop. Poor fictional beardy man.
There’s something a little Sesame Street about the ‘well done!’ sounds when you solve a puzzle, too. A bit patronizing yet somehow delightful.
The puzzles work well, with a difficulty curve that feels just right, There are a few tools that aid your puzzling experience, too – things like smart slide are incredibly helpful, allowing you to check off rows in one go without your mouse accidentally wobbling into the next line.
Those new to the genre can play through the well-crafted tutorial, which introduces you to the basics of picross-solving.
Most interesting is the level editor, though. While you can’t yet publish your own puzzles, this functionality is coming soon and this will provide significant replayability.
In conclusion, Pictopix delivers a solid and incredibly relaxing experience for all ages. With only 150 puzzles it’s a little light on content, but the developers say there’s more in the pipeline. Once players can publish their own creations, the longevity of the game will be increased massively and I think it’s something I’ll be revisiting for months to come. So put your feet up, make a cup of tea and unwind with a bit of picross.
A review code for this game was provided by the developers.