Voxelgram (Switch) Review
Voxelgrams for all intents and purposes is Picross 3D on the Switch. It’s really nonograms in a 3D space, but it very much shares space with Picross 3D. Which is great if you love Picross 3D as much as you love the regular games! While the Picross 3D games were suited for the DS and 3DS, and it felt like a game that might not be able to make the leap to the Switch. Voxelgrams is taking that leap first, do they ace the landing?
Puzzles are bundled up in Dioramas, and each diorama is a room initially filled with blocks. Each block is a puzzle waiting for you to solve. Once you uncover what it is, it appears as it should as part of the diorama. It’s a neat little way of bundling similarly-themed puzzles together. The only downside I found was it meant that every new area would mean going back to the simpler puzzles. Even then it’s not an actual issue. It’s entirely up to you which order you tackle puzzles in, you can even just pick the larger ones at the end. It’s more my own OCD when it comes to completing everything in order, but it’s worth keeping in mind if you’re very particular about that too. Another minor thing that stuck out was that whenever I completed a puzzle, the selection screen would always go back out of the current selection so you can’t quickly move to the next one. It didn’t make the game unenjoyable, it was just something weird that ends up in needless button presses when you’re quickly trying to get into the next puzzle.
Despite having done these 3D puzzles hundreds of times it still took me a few puzzles to get the hang of the controls. Picross 3D wasn’t perfect, but it made it easy to navigate the block you’re given to chisel down. The real trick is getting used to where on the X and Y axis you need to have your puzzle turned to for it to recognise which axis the cursor was moving along. Once you get the hang of it then you can adjust the layer/slice you want to remove blocks from with the shoulder triggers. If you haven’t seen Picross 3D and you’re not sure how it works, imagine a cube/rectangle where each side is part of a nonogram, chiselling away the blocks that help make a sculpture. Like a 2D nonogram the interpretation can take a bit of imagination, but using the 3D space opens up so many different possibilities after years of similar-feeling Picross puzzles.
Unlike the Picross games, you’re not penalised for clearing the wrong block, and there’s no real-time limit hanging over your head. This has eased up over time in the main Picross series (and there was always free mode), but there were still indicators to whether you did well. In Voxelgram there is a more easy-going vibe, with no pressure as you take on each puzzle at your own pace. If you like to be rewarded for doing well it might annoy you, which is understandable too. Overall the error correction can give away too much, the offending row will highlight red if there’s the wrong block removed. It was nice to know where I messed up and how to fix it, although it takes some of the challenge out of working where you went wrong. It’s not a catchall either as it can just highlight that you don’t have enough blocks left, not enough, or too many gaps, not which ones they are.
Using the analogue sticks to navigate works well and all the different buttons are clearly labelled on the screen at all times, although you learn them quickly enough. There are also touch controls in handheld mode. I expected them to be bad, turns out they work as well as the button controls. Neither control scheme lives up to the standard set by Picross 3D, but given a little time, you can work on the puzzles with ease. The biggest shame is that there wasn’t a way to make a combination of the two control schemes more comfortable. A mix of using the touch screen while still being able to hold the Switch to make use of the buttons was awkward. I still recommend giving both controls a try, you don’t need to switch between settings. Use the buttons or touch the screen, it all works.
Larger puzzles can get difficult as it is hard to see the number representing the number of gaps – it is a smaller number on the cube. While the larger puzzles are workable, they can feel a bit unwieldy when you accidentally get lost on which layer you’re on. I still preferred these puzzles as some aren’t a pushover, even with the lack of consequences you can get stumped. With so many blocks it can sometimes feel a little light on clues, there were some rows when cross-checked between the two axes and it felt like guesswork.
The music is peaceful, there’s a nice piano theme that plays in the background. Whether it was the same piece on a loop or if there were several, I honestly couldn’t tell you. I found it created a relaxing atmosphere like I was busting blocks as a meditation exercise. If that doesn’t sound like your thing, it works perfectly well with your own music or a podcast on in the background. Personally I kept going back to the piano.
Voxelgrams shows that a 3D Picross game can work on the Switch. It doesn’t work as well as it did on previous handhelds, but it does the job well. If you’re willing to spend some time getting used to the controls then you’ll be navigating around the puzzles with little drama. With 176 puzzles packed in for a good price, it will help fill the void with some 3D Voxelgrams. If you’re after a relaxing game with few pressures I would also recommend kicking back, turning up the sound and taking it easy with Voxelgram.
+ More Picross 3D
+ Soothing music
+ Lots of puzzles
- Controls take getting used to
- Numbers aren’t always clear to read
- Some solutions feel like sheer luck