As a Picross fan, the Xbox has been disappointingly barren of them. It’s a shame, particularly as lockdown has been perfect for whiling away hours on a sedate logic problem. I’ve been picking up my Switch to play them, when I would much rather be picking up some achievements on my Xbox.
I’m pretty sure I did an audible “oooh” and rubbed my hands together, then, when Hatsune Miku Logic Paint S appeared on the Store. I’m not overly familiar with Hatsune Miku as a brand, other than knowing that she appears in a number of rhythm action games, and that – up to this point – they have been exclusively on PlayStation, Switch and PC. Digging further on the webs, it goes a bit further than that: Hatsune Miku is a virtual idol with 20,000 songs to her name, and she/they were even due to play Coachella last year.
While the mix of Hatsune Miku and Picross might sound odd at first, it makes an inordinate amount of sense. Picross puzzles, especially the larger 20 x 20 ones, can take a solid ten minutes to complete, and having a rotating mix of J-pop tracks peps things up nicely. They bring energy to a medium that can be a little static.
If you’re not familiar with a Picross puzzle, there is still a good chance that you’ve encountered one in another game, or on the back of a newspaper. You are given a square grid, anywhere from 5 squares by 5 squares, all the way up to – in this case – 20 by 20. There are number-clues around the outside of the grid, giving you an indication of how many squares you will need to paint on a given row or column. For example, when a row has a ‘5’ written on it, and there are only five squares in that row, then you will have to paint them all. But if it has a ‘2, 2’ written on it, then you will need to paint two separate blocks of two.
Hatsune Miku Logic Paint S gets the Picross fundamentals absolutely right. The controls are intuitive, and it does a good job of giving a player all the tools they need to complete a complex puzzle. The Paint and Check buttons are a given, but it offers a Mark option too – a third method of tagging a square. On the larger puzzles, when it’s harder to work out whether a square is a lock or not, it can be a godsend. The Paint, Check and Mark can also be applied in a long line by holding down their corresponding button.
We get the feeling that the handholding will be divisive. We’ve not quite made our mind up about it, as it takes a reasonably big leap beyond (or behind) other Picross games. Satisfy the criteria for a row or puzzle (putting seven blocks onto a ‘7’ column, for example) and the rest of the row will magically fill in with Checks, removing the need for you to do it yourself. In the case for the Defense, filling in these checks is hardly removing much difficulty – it’s reasonably obvious that they need to be done – but the Prosecution would argue that it removes the opportunity for a player to make a human error, and seeing the grid get automatically filled in makes Hatsune Miku Logic Paint S feel like it’s overstepping itself.
Additionally, there’s a hint system with up to three hints, and Painting an incorrect square only denied us a third of three stars at the end of the puzzle. Since these stars only unlock music and don’t really factor into achievements or any other system, it became all too easy to shrug and go ‘eh’ whenever we made a mistake. With a different approach to failure, Hatsune Miku Logic Paint S might have kept us on our toes a bit more.
But not everyone is looking for a hardcore bout of Picrossing from Hatsune Miku Logic Paint S. The help it offers makes it ideal for a new starter, or someone who just wants something more casual. It’s entirely possible that Hatsune Miku fans will turn up wondering what all this ‘logic painting’ is, so it makes a deal of sense.
Regardless of a player’s skill level, there’s oodles to do here. There are 350 puzzles, and – rather than skew towards the easy 5 x 5s – there is a massive emphasis towards the harder puzzles. There are no issues with the logic of the puzzles or the pictures they generate, either: they’re mostly accessories of the Piapro characters from Hatsune Miku, or the characters themselves. There’s also the option to play individual puzzles, or work towards a larger canvas by completing small puzzles from a bigger grid.
The Picross series on Nintendo Switch has developed to include multi-colour puzzles, cooperative puzzles and more, and Hatsune Miku Logic Paint S doesn’t try to stretch into that territory. To our tastes, we’re grateful: they tend to be fiddly, unnecessary additions to the formula, and Hatsune Miku Logic Paint S keeps it simple. Being one of the first Picross games on Xbox, the slightly more straightforward approach was exactly what we were after.
But what makes Hatsune Miku Logic Paint S stand out to us, as someone who has played far, far too many Picross games, is the music. By completing puzzles we were able to generate coins, and those coins were spent on new songs for the playlist. They’re initially impenetrable, having Japanese names and curious blank titles, but they’re 100% bangers. It’s an unlock system that motivated us, as we wanted new tunes to soundtrack the dry logic. Hatsune Miku fans will be in their element.
Hatsune Miku Logic Paint S is exactly the Picross game that Xbox needs. It’s straightforward but absolutely stacked with puzzles, and it brings the trademark jukebox of J-pop hits with it. Picross connoisseurs will balk at the amount of guidance and leniency that it offers, but anybody else will find a perfect welcome to the classic puzzle series.
You can buy Hatsune Miku Logic Paint S from the Xbox Store for Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S