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Friday, July 15, 2011

Review: Mario’s Picross (3DS Virtual Console)

Mario’s Picross suffers from a critical failure – for a game about making pictures, the Game Boy was remarkably bad at showing off pictures. It’s still a game with compelling core gameplay but the lack of sense of reward makes this game a very uncertain purchase, especially with both 2D and 3D Picross games now available quite cheap as DS cartridges.


Possibly the most disturbing Mario ever

For anyone who hasn’t played a Picross game before (shame on you!) it’s a simple, but hugely addictive formula. There’s a grid with numbers corresponding to each row and column. Those numbers represent spaces that need to be filled in the column or row, with the catch being that there the numbers on the side are typically less than the number of squares in a grid. So, for instance, in a 10x10 grid, one row might say ‘5,’ which would mean that you need to fill in five consecutive squares across that row or 10 somewhere.

Another row might say “3,2” which means you need to fill in two sets of numbers – one with three, and another with two, on that row, with at least one square separating the two sets.




It’s up to you to use deduction to fill in the correct spaces, by cross-referencing numbers and using what you’ve already filled in to leverage the more challenging columns and rows. It’s a system that can be a little baffling on paper, but an in-game tutorial has you going in about five minutes.

Picross uses the same part of the brain that crosswords and sudoku use, and your ability to think with that part of the brain will largely determine how easy the puzzles are, but the game does a good job of providing an enjoyable challenge to just about everyone. Some of the later levels (and there and a lot of levels; it’s worth noting this is probably the largest game on the 3DS virtual console right now, eclipsing even Donkey Kong), are comprised of very large grids, and obscure number sequences. For less serious puzzle fans though, there is a hint system in place, so no one should feel like an idiot on the more challenging puzzles.

Artificially upping the challenge though, is a 30 minute time limit for puzzles. I am not a fan of this. Crosswords and sudoku are not time trials by nature. They’re designed to be engaging rather than stressful on the brain. A time limit introduces an unwelcome level of stress to the formula. Further, Picross punishes mistakes by giving time penalties. This would be fine, if there was an option to turn the timer off, but there isn’t. It’s like telling you that you can’t make changes or erase words you input into a crossword puzzle.

Working working working... for a little black and white picture


Worse, though, the sense of achievement for completing puzzles with this version of the game is slight at best now – the ravages of time have not been kind to this game. A low resolution 2D black and white image that isn’t even saved to a gallery is not a great reward for hard work – especially with the more difficult puzzles. The original cartridge version of this game was Super Game Boy enabled to allow you to play the game in bright colours on TV, which made it a more rewarding process, but even that option is not available here.

The DS Picross works fine on the 3DS, is obviously much better, and these days you should be able to find it, or its 3D successor, fairly cheaply. The Game Boy Virtual Console game is still a decent download, and there’s a lot of meat to the game, it’s just disappointing that it lacks that sense of reward, and consequently, purpose.




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Review: Mario’s Picross (3DS Virtual Console)
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