Off-beat puzzle games aren’t hard to find on the iPad and iPhone, but Pictorial HD earns extra points for its soothing atmosphere and presentation. Essentially a series of three-dimensional, connect-the-dots puzzles, Pictorial doesn’t task you with drawing lines between dots. Instead, it takes constellations and creates surprisingly creative 3D puzzles out of the stars.
The play screen for two-thirds of the game is a night sky with a center cluster of stars that can be rotated in all directions. The star cluster moves together, and as you turn the cluster, lines begin to form. As you might guess, the larger goal of Pictorial is to rotate the stars in such a way that the lines form a picture (a la Zen Bound 2). Your lines start out barely visible, but the closer you move the stars move towards your goal, the more prominent the lines appear. A timer ticks down from 1000, and the faster you solve the puzzle, the more points you’ll earn in the end.
There are 60 puzzles spread across three different night skies. The first 20 puzzles are set against a simple, starry night. The second set has an arctic backdrop, and the third places the puzzles on a pirate’s treasure map. No matter what the background is, the gameplay remains the same. While a few of the puzzles require some finicky finger work to get the stars in the right spot, most of the puzzles only take a couple of seconds to complete. So, while the 60 included puzzles might seem like a lot at first, Pictorial offers less than an hour of total gameplay.
On the plus side, the developer is clearly planning to release more levels, but unless you’re obsessed with beating previous times, there’s little reason to play a level again once it’s completed. The presentation is simple enough for kids to pick up, while the dreamy music that accompanies each level is both beautiful and soothing.
Pictorial HD is an intriguing concept and interesting in execution, but ultimately too simple and short to keep around once you’re done. For puzzle gamers who want a low key and creative distraction, it’s definitely worth a look — especially since it’s currently free on the iPhone. Just the same, you’ll likely end up wishing there was a lot more to do here.