Thanks to Lightwood Games for the review code
Title: Fill-a-Pix: Phil’s Epic Adventure
System: Nintendo Switch (eShop)
Release Date: 07/12/2018
In this picture puzzle game, you take control of someone trying to help an explorer named Fill by cleaning his photographs from his trip around the world. The fact this even has a story is pretty surprising, but it’s a neat touch nonetheless.
Using a bit of a different menu from Pic-a-Pix, Fill-A-Pix goes for a pretty disjoined level select screen. Now the levels aren’t organized by picture size, but rather by the region from which Phil travelled. Like a Clip Picross page from S2, it’s pretty tough to figure out which order you should do the levels in to make things easier, since this game is very complicated to the point you’ll need that tutorial. Besides that, there’s little to note, since the music is a generic medley and the sound bug from Pic-a-Pix was fixed here as well.
Fill-a-Pix advertises itself as a cross between Picross and Sudoku, and this is only partially accurate. The main part of the game is to choose a puzzle from Phil’s photographs, each representing a location he visited, and fill it out by using a square to mark areas around a number (So if it says nine, then you mark everything around it, but if it’s zero, you mark nothing.) Like in Picross, you can mark both correct and incorrect tiles, but besides that the game’s more or less a hardcore sudoku, since it still focuses on filling in squares surrounding a number, and using those squares in correlation with another number to map out more as you go.
The game does offer a handy tutorial on a reasonably sized map, which introduces the gameplay, but I quickly ran into several roadblocks that made this game incredibly unenjoyable compared to Pic-a-Pix or any other logic puzzle game. Typically, the levels scale in difficulty, from easy to hard so that players who are inexperienced can get the hang of things before working their way up to the harder puzzles.
Fill-a-Pix on the other hand, does not even try to organize the puzzles by difficulty, jumping all the different regions by having puzzles of varying sizes, with the smaller ones not really being as small as the tutorial puzzle, and the bigger ones being huge. Thus, despite knowing the basics of the game, these puzzles can be really difficult to figure out, and not in a fun way. You do have a few hints at your disposal, including an option that will fix any mistakes you make, but like with Pic-a-Pix you get a medal for clearing a stage without using a single hint, so the game at least rewards you for trying things raw.
Alas, the game just wasn’t fun, and despite a half hour of decent progress on one of the easiest puzzles I could find, I couldn’t beat it without the hints, which just seems baffling to the point that I re-did the tutorial to make sure it wasn’t the game’s mechanics that were stumping me. Sure enough, that tutorial was still simple, yet the actual puzzles were a massive spike in difficult. While I did see some appeal from this game, the difficulty spike is just not that fun to deal with, and I wish the puzzles were organized in a simpler chronological order.
In conclusion, Fill-a-Pix just didn’t cut it for me. While it’s nice to have a different change of pace from Lightwood after a lot of Word Search and Picross games in recent years, Fill-a-Pix reminds me a bit of the dreaded Nikoli puzzle game Slitherlink, in that it’s so damn complicated even with all the tutorials and such that it’s a bore to actually solve. Considering that you can fill the entire page with squares and have the auto-corrector solve the puzzle for you, (despite the obvious penalty you do get from it, not being able to get a gold medal this way) along with the odd nature of the stage select, I don’t feel that this manages to be as accessible as Sudoku or Picross, which is odd when this is considered a mashup of both. This is definitely the Switch picture puzzle game to skip, unless you think Picross is too easy and want something truly difficult. It ain’t a poorly made game, but it’s one that will take a lot of trial and error to figure out.
I give Fill-a-Pix: Phil’s Epic Adventure a 4 out of 10.