Fill-a-Pix: Phil’s Epic Adventure (Switch eShop)- Review

Thanks to Lightwood Games for the review code

Title: Fill-a-Pix: Phil’s Epic Adventure
System: Nintendo Switch (eShop)
Price: $7.99
Release Date: 07/12/2018


Story

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.

Presentation

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.

Gameplay

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Conclusion

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.

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3 comments

  1. Hi Connor

    Sorry to hear you didn’t like the game. I just want to clear up a couple of inaccuracies though.

    Fill-a-Pix is a mix between Picross and Minesweeper (which is how we describe it on the product pages) – its logic is very unlike Sudoku!

    The medal on a puzzle is for completing it without using Fix (the X button). The Hint feature (L+R) shows the rough location of the nearest next move and this does not carry a penalty. In fact, you are expected to use Hint a lot, because of the size of the puzzles! There is actually a trophy on the PlayStation version for using Hint 1000 times.

    Believe it or not, there no ramp in difficulty for the puzzle logic. There is just a variety of sizes. Every puzzle can be solved using the Smart Cursor, as there is always be at least one clue which has complete information surrounding it. In fact, if you only use Smart Cursor, it is impossible to make an error that would need to be corrected by Fix!

    However, as searching for the next move in large puzzles can be overwhelming, we included a Hint feature so you can spend more time filling squares and less time hunting for clues. I don’t know of any other Fill-a-Pix game that has this feature! 🙂

    Your feedback is helpful, and I appreciate it. Our aim was to make Fill-a-Pix a more casual puzzle than in previous implementations, and it appears there is still more we can do in that regard.

    Like

    • Hey, no problem! Developers coming to comment is a thing I enjoy since the point of my reviews is to give feedback.

      And yeah, I did also notice that similarities to Minesweeper were mentioned, but hearing some others, both reporters covering the game’s announcement and players who bought it and shared impressions on forums I visit mentioned that it felt a lot like Sudoku, and I pretty much felt the same when I played it shortly after launch. I am also aware of the Smart Cursor, although I actually will admit I tried to beat the puzzles without using it, since I know that PAP prefers that you just use X and fills to clear a map to get the medal, instead of the roulette or fill feature.

      Thus I assumed something similar like this was in place and I found filling out the puzzles by using the Fill feature made them a bit too easy since you could in theory, fill the puzzle by scribbling fill-ins all over the place and have the game fix the errors for you. Course, you could do that in Pic-A-Pix so I didn’t make note of that since that’s not how to play the game. I do think my point on smaller puzzles being placed before bigger ones still stands though, since in most picture puzzle games I always enjoy the smaller ones being placed before big ones, unless it’s something like a special mode akin to Clip Picross, Micross, etc in Picross titles. I still got some puzzles finished in this game at least, but I didn’t find them as fun as they could have been. I do like that you aimed to make it more forgiving, but maybe in a sequel it could be even moreso.

      Like

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