Picross is one of those venerable Nintendo franchises, though in its early days it didn't quite catch on worldwide like it did in Japan, where nonogram puzzles had already been popular for a number of years prior to the release of Mario's Picross for Game Boy—the only Picross title that made it out of Japan. Picross DS was the next time we saw Nintendo publish this game outside its home turf, and it's also the first time I got into it as well, finding myself rather addicted to its brand of pure logic for quite some time.

Today, Nintendo is mixing up the tried-and-true formula by putting it into the third dimension. Picross 3D takes the basic concept of Picross, marking the ends of rows with the number of blocks that are part of the picture formed when the puzzle is solved, and adapts it to the third dimension. They sent me a copy of 3D for review last week, and found that while the idea is still largely the same, the feel is (necessarily) a little different.

Traditional Picross puzzles are perfectly clear in their definition; while you're not told which boxes on the grid must be marked, for every row and column you do know exactly how many marks to make. This is not the case with Picross 3D; any of the rows of blocks for any of the three axes in the puzzle may be marked with a single number, but not all will be. There's also a less information to go on in more complex rows; in the traditional game, you were told "3 2" if a row had a group of three marks and a separate group of two; here you'll get a circled 5 indicating there are five blocks in total in two groups, but the groups themselves can be of any number that adds up in the end. There's even less information to go on if there happens to be three or more groups of blocks; a number in a square is used for these, indicating only the total and that there's at least—maybe more—three groups in the row. (Yes, this fact has tripped me up.)

It's still all cold logic in the end. Even when it seems there's no possible way the puzzle has given you enough information to find your way forward, careful re-examination of all the information at hand will turn up one more deduction that can, in turn, cascade to many more. Though my Picross DS days were several years in the past and my recollections perhaps a bit clouded as a result, I think it's pretty safe to say that the added third dimension and the reduction in information led me to this sequence of events more than once.

The added pressure of the par times, tickling my perfectionist urges by awarding stars—currency for unlocking bonus puzzles—for solving a puzzle in a certain number of minutes without making mistakes, led me to frustration and mistake-making more than a few times, particularly as some puzzles seemed to have out-of-whack par times, giving too much or too little time to work my way through all their clues. The more I did, though, the better I got, piling on my own mental rules for extracting as much definitive information as possible from the clues I had. I felt like, even though it was harder, that I was getting the skills to clear the way for even more complex puzzles.

There are quite a few of these in 3D; the box claims there's over 365, so if you were inclined to limit yourself to only one a day (who does this?) it'd take you a year to get through them all. (Even at the rate I was working at them, I didn't get through them all, it must be said—not even close—but I've been through quite a few.) There are also free downloadable additional puzzles to be had, some available right now, and if Nintendo's prior effort with Picross DS is any indication, there'll be plenty more before 3D is done and dusted. If you're inclined to make your own puzzles, there's a pretty good puzzle editor included (you only need to construct the shape; the game will put down the clues on its own.) You can share these with friends online and locally, and Nintendo is even running theme contests for user-submitted puzzles.

Picross 3D is definitely a more complex version of the original, asking more of your brain while still preserving the rule of logic. You may find 3D too much of a stretch with its reduced information and more-stressful par times if DS already annihilated your noggin—but then again, if you can keep a cool enough head, you might not, picking up the necessary skills as you go. One thing is absolutely for certain: there's plenty to do in this $20 package, and it's likely to continue to provide you value for awhile to come should you decide to pick it up.