Review: Picbox

Posted by on July 20th, 2013 | 6 Comments | Tags:

Whether your calling it Nonogram, Griddlers, Picross or in this case Picbox the game is always the same. You are presented with a grid (in Picbox it’s 5×5, 10×10 and 15×15) and you must fill in certain cells in the grid to create a picture. You do this by using numbers at the top and left sides of the grid as directions. For instance if you have a row of 5 cells with a 5 on the left side of the grid then you know that all of those squares should be filled in. Things get more complicated as you’ll have to factor in multiple numbers as well as deciding how many squares should be left blank. If you listen to the podcast you’ll know that I consider these types of logic puzzles to be the greatest ever made. So how does Picbox hold up?

For the most part Picbox is a fine version of these logic puzzles. The game comes with over 80 puzzles to solve and even includes 14 awards that you’ll unlock as you solve puzzles and remove blocks. (Not to mention it comes with quite a few free puzzles to try out before buying.) Now I’ve played a LOT of picross style games. There are endless amounts of versions available on the web, there’s a handful of games available on the 3DS eShop and of course there’s now Picbox on PSM. This is a type of game that I usually will obsess over for a month or so and then I’ll take a break. These are incredibly addicting puzzle games that can really challenge the way that you logistically solve puzzles. Which means it’s also incredibly rewarding when you finally figure out an extra difficult puzzle. This is unfortunately one of my issues with Picbox. This could be that I’ve literally just come off playing some 30+ hours of Picross on the 3DS but I found Picbox to be pretty easy. The game’s stats show me as playing around three hours which isn’t a lot all things considered. Even some of the more difficulty 15×15 puzzles I found myself not really having to stop and think about things very often. Don’t get me wrong I still absolutely love playing this game but I didn’t quite get the normal amount of enjoyment that I might usually find.

Difficulty isn’t really the issue though. The thing that keeps Picbox from being as good as it should be is in its controls. The game allows you to swap on the fly between touch and button controls. Each are fine ways to play but I mostly stuck with buttons purely because I didn’t have the precision needed for the larger puzzles using my fingers. In the game you can count out cells by holding the Triangle button, fill in cells with the Square button or remove them with the Cross button. In Picbox you often work through a process of elimination. If you know for a fact that a specific cell won’t be filled in you can remove it. The thing that annoyed me in Picbox was that the game requires that you remove ALL incorrect cells in order to finish a puzzle. For example even if I have solved the puzzle completely I won’t be able to move on until I’ve removed all the remaining cells. This is even weirder because if I remove all the incorrect cells before solving the puzzle Picbox will automatically fill in the remaining picture for me. So why can’t it do the same for the opposite condition? It also annoyed me that the game uses the Cross button, something normally used to confirm actions, as a way to remove cells. This led to me making numerous unintended mistakes and taking a penalty.

I know it sounds like I’m harping on Picbox but please don’t get me wrong. These are the best logic puzzles around and my love for them is right up there with that crazy penguin obsession I have. Picbox is completely fine and still lots of fun. It’s also incredibly inexpensive and worth every penny. The problems I have with the game are extremely minor in the scope of things and won’t take away from your enjoyment. While I do wish there were more difficult puzzles I think it’d be great if Picbox introduced more people to my all time favorite logic puzzle game. Let me put it this way. Ever since I discovered these logic puzzles a few years ago I’ve probably spent close to 100 hours with them. I’ve played through numerous versions and Picbox is just as great. This should be a no brainer.

A copy of this game was purchased for review purposes. For more info on our review policy click here. This review is for the PlayStation Vita version of the game.

General Info

  • Players:
  • Overall a little too easy.
  • Some control annoyances

  • Liam Duffy

    Hey, from one penguin lover to another, thanks for the kind review!
    I just thought I’d drop by and provide an insight into some of the design decisions taken when making Picbox.

    I wanted Picbox to feel like you are chipping away at a block to create the final image (it initially had a working title of Pixel Sculptor, but that felt like a few to many syllables). As such you mark the blocks you wish to keep, and then chip away the rest. The user receives a penalty if they try to remove the wrong block, therefore if the puzzle just auto completed when they highlighted all the correct blocks, where’s the risk? They could just keep highlighting random blocks until the puzzle completed.

    I guess I could add a ‘Remove all remaining blocks’ button that you hit when you think you’ve highlighted the full image, but this could confuse a new player. Maybe I could add an option to toggle it on/off…

    When it initially launched on XBLIG a few people complained that it was like ‘Picross in reverse’, but I just see it as a different interpretation of a nonogram puzzle. People who have never played Picross have never mentioned it.
    I agree that the game is a little on the easy side for a seasoned nonogram player. However I went on the assumption that many PlayStation gamers will have not ever played this type of game before (and judging by a number of messages I’ve received I was right). Even PSN Stores Staff member ‘Eric G’ said that he couldn’t get his head around the concept after watching the video and having it explained to him.

    This was one of the main reasons I wanted to include a cross section of all the puzzles for free, so that users can try it out before they commit to a purchase.

    The XBLIG version had 20×20 puzzles too, but on the Vita screen these proved to be too small. I could have added zooming and panning, but these would have added many additional complexities, so in the end I decided to remove them all together.
    As for 3 hours played, I intend to add additional puzzles via updates (I’ve just finished designing the first Puzzle Pack, another batch of 15×15 puzzles. This will be free, and out within a month or so). Also the ‘time played’ stat only takes into account time spent playing a puzzle, so no menu time, results screens etc etc.
    With regards to the controls, Picbox is a port of an XBLIG, so the original control scheme is the physical setup (and my personal favourite
    controls). However PlayStation Mobile is not limited to the PlayStation Vita. It would be crazy to expect users to use an onscreen controller when playing on a 10” tablet… Touch controls are much more intuitive. The PSM SDK doesn’t give us devs any way to detect what system the game is running on, so both control schemes have to be present in all versions of the game.

    As for the button config, this was the setup that felt right to me, but you’re not the first person to say they got the buttons mixed up, so I’ll have a look into adding an option the swap the highlight/remove buttons around. =)
    Wow, I seem to have prattled on a bit, apologies. Once again thanks for the great review, and I hope this wall of text offers you an insight into a few of the design decisions taken.
    Many thanks,


    • Hey Liam, just wanted to let you know that your game was my first experience with this kind of logic puzzle, and I’m really satisfied. No, no, addicted is the correct term. Thanks for turning me onto this, it’s really a great game. Awesome job, Liam.

    • Liam Duffy

      Ha, cheers Noah, that’s great to hear! =)

    • CookieBaBa

      Question about the future of Picbox: Are you going to add more levels? If yes, when? I’m working on 100-percenting the game, but I won’t have anything to do after that. The puzzle pack has a 1 on it, implying there will be more.

    • Liam Duffy

      Hi Cookie, thanks for checking out my game! When I launched Picbox it was my intention to add additional puzzle packs.

      However due to each pack taking a massive time investment to implement (I have to design, implement and test each puzzle on my own), going full time at work (I’m a postman in rl, programming is just a hobby), and the sorry state of PS Mobile, I just never got around to it.

      I’m not sure if you’ve seen the news the last few days, but PlayStation Mobile is being killed off by Sony, so that’s almost certainly killed off any chance of new puzzles.

      Thanks again for playing, it blows my mind that people worldwide are enjoying a game I knocked up in my bedroom

    • CookieBaBa

      is there any chance you will make it a full game to be put on the store? Maybe as an app or a mini?