- Developer: Rude Ghost Games
- Publisher: Skymap Games
- Release date: 30/10/2020
- Price: £11.99 / $14.99
- Game purchased by reviewer
Introducing: Pixel Puzzle Makeout League Switch Review
Not that long ago, I wrote up a piece about a particular genre of game that had been the one to carry me through 2020. Picross games. One of the problems that I have found with Picross titles that, depending on where you’re from, these tend to have a lot of different names. So, when I was compiling my list of what I had played, I actually started trying different names that I had found for these puzzles in the eshop. Searching “pixel puzzle” for the first time brought me to something that I had never seen before, Pixel Puzzle Makeout League.
I lost it laughing on the couch at the sight of the title alone, struck by the sheer absurdity of it all. Then I read the description, in which one of the features was “D A T E A G I A N T P U Z Z L E P I E C E”. I’m a sucker for joke features thrown into things like this so I knew that this game and I were meant to be.
The Puzzle of Love
If you thought that the title of the game was absurd, then you are not ready for what the game itself has in store for you. I don’t expect deep stories from puzzle games normally, since the focus is on the puzzles, but this is also a dating sim, so I do expect a little more. Pixel Puzzle Makeout League delivers it in droves. The plot itself is pretty simple. The Puzzle League is a group of superheroes who use their skills with different kinds of puzzles in order to save people! You play as the newest member, Pixel Girl, whose power is the power of picross puzzle solving!
What it really comes down to is they’re a bunch of bumbling young adults who patrol around and take mundane things extremely seriously. Then, a giant tower manifests in the middle of the city and a giant pencil falls from the sky, so some stakes have been raised. Now it’s a rush to figure out what’s going on and save the city with the power of puzzles! But, you know, you could go on cute little adventures and dates with someone else in the group if you find the time. I’m sure you can tell from the description that this is a game that’s very tongue-in-cheek and goofy. It’s not taking itself completely seriously, until it does. There’s actually a few spots where things get pretty dire, the former goofiness making that feel all the more jarring and bleak by comparison, though I understand that might take some people out of it, that wasn’t the case for me.
When you are playing, there are four different other heroes that you can choose to spend extra time with. This is represented by the path on the screen branching. You only need to follow one route in order to progress, but you also have the option to go back when you have finished one to do the other three, completing all of them before you progress. I really appreciated this since it didn’t mean that I was locking myself out of certain puzzles or that I would have to replay the entire thing multiple times, though there is a surprise for completing all the routes, which was really perfect.
The characters themselves were all lovable for their own reasons. You have Sudoku (female), Chess (male), Crossword (male), and Piecea (female-presenting, alien). They’ve all got their own quirks and storylines about different subjects. I think that everyone will have a favorite if they’re able to get into the mindset that the game would like you in. Piecea was obviously the one I was going for first because the game did tell me that I could date a giant puzzle piece, but I found myself really coming to love Sudoku the most out of all of them. It helped a lot that Sudoku’s route had a great throwback to online games that I played as a child, complete with simple 3D graphics and everything! It’s just really charming and I didn’t expect to love it as much as I did. I was just here for the puzzles!
Date a Giant Puzzle Piece
The gameplay is your typical picross puzzles. There’s going to be a series of numbers at the end of a row and top of a column. Those numbers indicate the groups of blocks that are touching each other in the row to form the blacked out portions of the grid. For example, “1 4 7” would mean that there were blocks of 1, 4, and 7, but the puzzle is figuring out how much space need to be between them in order to make it work with all the other lines and columns. The whole point is that it eventually makes a picture. You might not see it right away, but it will be there. I was actually happy to see that there were a few joke puzzles that were thrown in. My favorite being the one where it asked for every square to be filled in in order to solve the puzzle of complete darkness. It’s a fairly simple type of puzzle, but if you end up liking them, they can be supremely addictive to try and solve correctly. I found that the way the difficulty curve works here is pretty smooth, but as someone who has played A LOT of picross, I might not see the spikes that a newer player might bump into as clearly.
Pixel Puzzle Makeout League is unlike a lot of other games in that in a lot of cases, the puzzles are something to be solved during the dialog segments. Even in another narrative puzzler like Murder By Numbers, this wasn’t the case. At first I found it refreshing, but as the dialog sections got longer, I started to realize the problem with it. If, for some reason, you have to entirely close the game before you finish out a narrative segment, that means that you will have to start it all the way over again from the beginning. If this was just dialog, that wouldn’t be a problem because there is a button to fast forward dialog, but it doesn’t fast forward the puzzles that you solved last time. In most cases there are multiple puzzles in each dialog segment too, so you could have to stop, only to have to come back and solve five puzzles that you already solved before due to your progress being reset. It’s definitely something to keep in mind if you are someone who is sharing your switch with someone else. I think the problems that I have with this could have been mitigated by the game warning me how may puzzles would be in that segment so I could know if I had the time to commit to it, or even if these segments were just broken apart with a puzzle selection like some other areas of the game.
Figure it Out
I have to say that one of my favorite parts of this aside from the puzzles themselves is the character design. This is an important factor for a dating sim and I think that Pixel Puzzle Makeout League pretty much nailed it. Each of them is really visually distinct and there is a ton of personality in the designs that really shines through in the different facial expressions as well. They’re just goofy enough to be fun, but not too goofy that you can’t take them seriously when the time calls for it.
Aside from that, I was quite fond of the way that there could sometimes be visual shakeups in order to keep things fresh instead of staring at anime style images or pixel grids all the time. In a game that has fairly static presentation, getting that change from the norm was really something that had me sitting up and paying a little more attention. Though, that’s not to say that the presentation normally is unappealing. The map is done with really cute pixel art and the layouts in dialog and puzzle segments work wonderfully. The only thing I was a little disappointed with was the themes that can be unlocked. Mostly these just change the coloring on a few assets and that’s all. Unless you go for something drastically different from the default, you might not even notice it all that much. I wish there had been just a bit more to these so it was more exciting to unlock them, even just a different boarder shape for the dialog box would have made all the difference, especially for the themes that were modelled after the members of the league.
I never had any sorts of problems while I was playing, but this is a game that I would strongly recommend to be played in handheld. When you have the grid all the way across the room from you on the TV, you might find it a little hard to read the numbers on the sides of the grid. Knowing what the numbers are is imperative for solving puzzles, after all, so their legibility is going to be something to keep in mind while you are playing.
Overall, I’m really glad that I managed to find Pixel Puzzle Makeout League in order to finish out my year with a new picross game. It’s not perfect, but it’s still a lot of fun. For those who match the humor of the game, it’s going to be one that you really fall in love with. For those who don’t mesh with that humor as well, you can always just skip the dialog and enjoy the puzzles!
- Excellent puzzles
- Lovable characters
- Great and varied visuals
- Puzzle progress can be lost
- Themes don’t feel super rewarding