Saturday, June 02, 2007

Picross (DS)

I'm a bit of a Picross fan (it turns out that I'm easily addicted to any puzzles based on grids and numbers), so I snapped this up.

Initially I thought it was rubbish, but I've gradually come around to it- I'm starting to think that it does what it sets out to do pretty well, and it's just that I don't really agree with that initial goal.

This is a Picross game for people who have never played Picross before. The puzzles never get any larger than a 25 by 20 grid, and are rarely challenging (I couldn't imagine why you'd release a puzzle game that has no real 'hard' mode for people who are already good at it, but it's part of the Touch Generations lineup, so maybe it's been decided that they should all be a bit easy).

It fills up a lot of space with utterly pointless challenge modes (based around the raw mechanics of the puzzle, instead of being about trying to uncover a picture - you know, the 'Pic' bit of the name) and even worse timed reaction mini-games that have nothing to do with the puzzles except that they're based on a grid and coloured squares (they're kind of like finding a shoot 'em up featuring the numbers one to nine in a Sudoku game).

The stylus controls are surprisingly uncomfortable since you really need to keep a thumb on the direction pad to avoid having to keep clicking on the edge of the screen. It would be nice to be able to tap on a square to be able to cycle through its states, but because of the "help" mode (that you can't turn off at the default difficulty level) this wouldn't be possible. You also have to access a different mode to mark down 'possible' options. Again, because of not being able to cycle a space's state.

The stylus control system also insists on making you zoom in. A key feature of Picross is being able to see a lot of the board and the numbers clearly, and the zoomed mode just confuses things. I could see it as a necessary evil if the grids were too large for a single screen, but they aren't - and tellingly the d-pad control scheme leaves you zoomed out the whole time.

Presentation-wise it's quite nice, though. As you complete each puzzle you get a nice fully coloured and animated version, and the menus are clear and easy to navigate. It does have an annoying pop up that seems to happen before every grid asking if you want to cheat (yeah, thanks game), and there's no option to turn this off. Also the themed grid colours are awful and distracting, but thankfully you can set it to always use a plain colouring. It would be nice if the menus automatically started the highlight on the last unsolved grid too - I should just be able to turn it on, keep pressing 'A', and start playing the next puzzle, instead I have to scroll past all of the levels I've completed.

But like I said, I've grown to like it. The short simple puzzles fill the time between waking up and having to get out of bed much better than the 45 minute Slitherlinks I'm battling these days. If you're new to Picross you'll probably like it too.


JC Barnett said...

Hash. It's a lot better than you give it credit for, though I agree with some of the interface niggles.
I found the thumb-on-D-pad control became very intuitive after a short while, and the zooming didn't bother me at all.
I wouldn't say it's too easy though. The free puzzles get pretty hard, although, I have to admit, not until level 6 or 7 orso.
The minigames are indeed a waste of time but luckily you can ignore those. I do like the daily quick puzzles though.
Nice features you didn't cover are the downloadable packs, which include old Mario's Picross puzzles, and the DIY puzzles.

All in all I think it's the BEST Picross game available right now. The way it greys out completed hints is something I will demand from any future incarnation.

Still have a few levels to finish but I tore myself away from it before the stack of unplayed new titles on my desk started rotting.

Anonymous said...

I'm on normal mode, level ten, and I still haven't figured out how to unlock the mini games, or how to get to them if they are unlocked. Having never done any picross prior to receiving this game for Christmas, I feel like I'm missing something. I have done a few puzzles that were over the hour limit, but it doesn't say that affects the mini games being unlocked in the booklet. Any clue what I'm doing wrong? thanks.