Thursday, June 10, 2021

Piczle Cells (NSW) Rapid Review

Do you like puzzle games? Do you own a Nintendo Switch? Do you have an interest in puzzles games on the Nintendo Switch that launch today on the eShop? Then, you may just be interested in the next game in the Piczle series published by Rainy Frog: Piczle Cells. How does this cell-based puzzler stack up? Pretty darn well, especially for its $4.99 price tag. Let's check out the game together with the SPC review.

Adequate and Affordable Cellular Service

Puzzle games are plentiful on the Nintendo Switch, and now arrives the combo of developer Score Studios and publisher Rainy Frog's latest installment in their Piczle series of puzzlers: Piczle Cells, to add to the hybrid console's library. Simple enough to learn, though possessing a somewhat sizable learning curve to become comfortable with its gameplay and main mechanic, Piczle Cells winds up being a solid puzzle game overall.

The concept of Piczle Cells revolves around the titular cells that you slide across an 8x6 board. The end goal of each level is to finish it so only one cell remains. That's of course easier said than done, as different cells are different colors, and react uniquely when pushed together. Green cells are the smallest, then there's blue, yellow, and ultimately green. When single cells of the same color are pushed together, they absorb one another, creating a mass of two cells that can no longer be slid around. It's only until a third cell of the same color gets pushed into this mass that a new cell color is formed, allowing it to be pushed around yet again. Three green cells pushed together create a blue cell, three blue cells pushed together create a yellow cell, and three yellow cells create a green cell. 

Learning the basics with the initial batch of 20 puzzles in Piczle Cells gave me more trouble than any others.

When cells of different colors slide into one another, the cell that gets slid into basically serves as a wall, stopping the slid cell from moving anymore. Otherwise, a cell will slide from one side of the board and appear on the other until it returns to the spot where it was originally slid. In other words, if you slid a cell to the right without a cell to block it from moving anymore, the slid cell would slide past the right edge of the board and reappear on the left before coming to a spot on its original position. You can probably guess that using different colored cells to stop the movement of other cells you slide is required to solve many of the puzzles in Piczle Cells. In fact, pretty much every puzzle requires this, in addition to crossing over the edge of the board to appear on the other side. 

Each batch of 20 puzzles begins with a visual tutorial of the batch's central mechanic,
whether it be walls or exploding cells.

As you can imagine, the basic building blocks of Piczle Cells are quickly iterated on, adding new mechanics and tricks to keep things interesting. The game contains 100 puzzles, and each new batch of 20--these 20 can be played in any order, and you only need to complete just over half a batch to unlock the next--introduces a new gameplay concept to make for a fly in the proverbial ointment. Once you think you've mastered the game, the developers toss in something to shake things up considerably. This can be walls that serve as obstacles to block cells from being combined easily, special cells that change places with whatever cell is slid into them, and conveyor belts that move cells along a specific path. 

Understandably, new concepts and mechanics are introduced to keep each new puzzle batch interesting.
This batch introduces these big, red cells that explode upon impact with another cell.

Funnily enough, I struggled most with getting the basics of the game down. The beginning batch of 20 puzzles was the one that I spent the most time on, as there were no real gimmicks like walls to make puzzles easier. Once I learned how cells interacted (and pausing the game shows miniature "equations" that serve as a helpful reminder until you get it down pat), I was sliding and combining cells like a pro. No doubt later puzzles eventually perplexed at times, but nothing compared to the near 20 minutes of bewilderment that early puzzles presented to me.

Piczle Cells supports both analog and touch screen controls. The latter, however, has one issue with it that I noticed appear rather often for the short time I played with touch controls. While the controls themselves read fine, with me sliding my finger to send cells flying left, right, up, or down, there would be occasions where the game would see itself combining cells out of essentially thin air after a touch input on a cell on an adjacent square from yours truly. It would make puzzles unsolvable. That said, the ability to take back as many turns as you like or simply restart a puzzle by holding down the ZL button makes for these issues to be easily digestible instead of overly frustrating. 

Still, this particular bug occurred more times than I cared to see in my brief time using touch controls, so I eventually opted for analog input instead. The button controls feel natural and nice as well. You can use the analog stick or the D-Pad of the Switch to move the cursor while the four Switch controller face buttons serve as the four directions you can slide a cell. If you are left-handed, you can alternate the D-Pad's functions for the face buttons, using the latter to move the cursor and the D-Pad/analog stick to slide cells.

If you get bored with the standard purple board and background, "orange" you glad you can change the color yourself?

Piczle Cells has a pleasant enough look to it. The cells are cute and reminded me similarly of Dr. Mario's viruses, only cuter and less angry. The game allows you to change the background and color of the board to one of six different colors, so if purple grates on you at any time, you can just swap to say, pink, black, or blue, for example. What won't grate is the chill music, offering a nice, relaxed, laidback vibe. Less impressive in a technological sense is the opening video, but even then, there was a charming feel to it regardless.

As a puzzle game, Piczle Cells will put your brain through the wringer, giving you 100 brain busters of cell sliding, combining, and solving to enjoy. The core concept and gameplay mechanic is structurally sound, but once these 100 puzzles have been completed, there's not much else to keep you returning to the game. While puzzles have multiple solutions, there's really no incentive to find new ways to solve them, unless you really, REALLY are loving the game. The appearance of that aforementioned touch screen control-related bug made that control option less than functional, so go into the game thinking you'll be using analog exclusively (unless you have more patience for bugs than I) and you'll be fine. At any rate and even with these issues, Piczle Cells is hardly a puzzle game that I would call a tough cell--er, sell! In fact, I recommend it.

[SPC Says: C+]

A code was received by SPC from the publisher for the purpose of writing this review.

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