As a longtime fan of Picross, I was excited to hear Nintendo was releasing a free-to-play option for Nintendo 3DS based around Pokemon. While it starts off normal, longtime fans of Picross might soon face frustration between the tedious tutorials and being punished for not using hints. This creates a mediocre game that could have been so much better.
Picross is a puzzle game based off a number grid. Each row and column have numbers attached that tell you how many blocks to fill. If you have a ten-block high column with a number ten, all blocks will be filled. If that column only has five, then only nine blocks will be filled. It is up to you to fill in all the correct blocks, which will form an image.
Over time, you will learn strategy for completing more difficult puzzles. One you learn early on is how to fill as many blocks as you know. Let’s say we have that same ten-block column from earlier. If you know nine of those blocks will be filled, you can go ahead and fill in the middle eight, leaving the outside two. One of those two will eventually be filled, but knowing those middle eight will definitely be filled helps you to move on in the overall puzzle.
You will learn all of these simple strategies in the beginning tutorials. These are incredibly helpful for newcomers, as they walk you through the basics of Picross. Unfortunately, there is no way to skip them if you are already familiar with the game. This means you cannot jump right into Pokemon Picross without sitting through a 15-20 minutes of tutorials. I don’t dislike the tutorials at all, but it would be nice to allow skipping.
After you finally get into the game, you will realize the Pokemon tie-in is not just about the images. You have the ability to take Pokemon with you on your journey through the different worlds. Do not get sidetracked with this, however, because there is not really a story mode. The worlds are just there to add to the game’s progression. In the beginning, you can take just a couple Pokemon with you, but you can eventually buy more slots, maxing out at six. For those familiar with Picross, Pokemon will basically function as hints, and this is where another flaw comes.
If you know what you are doing, the game often punishes you. After each level, you are presented with a screen that shows your time and any challenge that you completed. Often, these challenges involve using a Pokemon’s power. For those like me who prefer not to use hints, this can be incredibly annoying. Why do I not get as many Picrites if I complete the puzzle on my own without the aid of a Pokemon? This makes no sense.
Speaking of Picrites, this is the game’s currency. In the beginning, you will get a few from Professor Tetra, your in-game teacher. After that, you gain more by completing puzzles, besting challenges, and buying them in the online shop with real money. If you want to buy some, be warned that they do get expensive. For those who want to pony-up some big cash ahead of time, you can unlock the full game. Although, if my calculations are correct, this ends up being well over $30, which is definitely more than it’s worth.
You will use Picrites to increase the amount of Pokemon you can carry, get to new worlds, and give yourself energy to play. That’s right. As you play, your energy level will go down by filling in blocks. You can either pay, as I said, to increase this, or you can wait until it naturally fills back up over time. This is another place where the game tries to get you to spend money to progress.
With all these potential negatives, you are probably wondering if there are many good aspects. Luckily, the answer is yes. The core game is the Picross many have come to know and love. The puzzles are challenging, and the tutorials help newcomers know what to expect. The images are based on the world of Pokemon, which is fun for fans of those games. Other generic Picross games are just random images.
If I could skip through the tutorials and did not have to use Pokemon as hints, I wouldn’t have a problem recommending Pokemon Picross to anyone. Instead, I’m left with an odd taste in my mouth. I really like the concept, but the execution is a bit off. If you’re looking to get into the world of Picross, I’d recommend grabbing one of the other games instead of this one. The good thing, though, is that you do not have to spend any money to try it out yourself. So, if you are still on the fence, get it and see for yourself.
Steve is the Senior Editor of NintendoFuse and co-host of the NintendoFuse Podcast. He’s been a Nintendo gamer since age 6 and has been on staff with NintendoFuse since 2008.