Review: Piczle Cross: Story of Seasons (Nintendo Switch)

Will nonograms ever get old?

6 mins read

It has always surprised me that there have been relatively few spinoffs from the Story of Seasons (formerly Harvest Moon) property. This is a beloved series that stretches right back to the SNES, and it has a lot going for it – charming characters, cute animals, and a wholesome joy that people of all ages can get invested into. But, with very few exceptions the IP owners have stuck with the core games. Piczle Cross: Story of Seasons is, therefore, a curiosity.

Related reading: Our review of Story of Seasons: It’s A Wonderful Life on Nintendo Switch.

Thankfully, it’s a warm game and a positive experience in its own right. It is a standard take on nonograms. Those are often known as “Picross” in the West, thanks to the popularity of that specific series (much like we say “Band-aid” or “Panadol” when we mean adhesive strip or painkiller respectively). I would imagine most people have played nonograms by now, but for those that haven’t yet had the joy: Imagine a crossword puzzle, but with numbers rather than letters. You’ll have a grid of squares in front of you, and around that grid you’ll see numbers. A 5 x 5 grid might have a “5” on the second horizontal row and a “1” on the first vertical row, for example. You need to fill in the right squares on the grid according to the numbers in each row and column.

So in this example, the second horizontal row will have five filled in blocks (so, the entire row), and the first column will have just one block filled in. But wait, you filled in a block when you coloured in the second row of five. This means that none of the other squares in that first column can be filled in.

A screenshot from Piczle Cross: Story of Seasons

By following this logic and using the numbers to slowly piece through each square that needs to be filled in, you’ll eventually fill in everything and, if you got it all right, that grid will be transformed into a picture. Naturally, given the theming of Piczle Cross, all the pictures will be based on Story of Seasons, and include characters, crops, farm tools, animals and more.

The developers do largely assume that you’re familiar with Picross, with very little by way of tutorials on onboard players. You can watch a short, 5-minute lecture that runs you through the rules, but it’s not interactive and not overly helpful in helping you to learn the game. On the plus side there are so many hints and supports available that you’ll be able to teach yourself with no problem.

Usually nonograms start out with generic shapes before getting into whatever theme, but I liked that across the hundreds of puzzles, Piczle Cross comes out with the Story of Seasons-style pictures right from the gate. As a fan of the series from way back, it’s genuinely fun creating seed backs, or portraits of my favourite characters. Puzzles start out as simple 5×5 grids, but within the first two dozen you’re starting to work on the 15 x 15s, and while the first few of those are pretty easy, there is plenty of challenge by the time you get to the back hundred or so of the approximately 300 puzzles.

A screenshot from Piczle Cross: Story of Seasons

In terms of gameplay there really isn’t much Story of Seasons in there. By solving puzzles you do unlock an “almanac,” which includes a wealth of information and art on the Story of Seasons series. And, as you solve puzzles, a non-interactive diorama in the background slowly transforms as a couple of characters labouring away on a farm and build it up. It’s a nice and in-theme way of visually representing progression, but it’s also the closest you’ll come to farming.

And that’s it, really. You can replay levels to clear them without using hints (if you used hints in the first place), and aim to improve your position on the (offline) leaderboard, but I’ve never felt the need to time attack Picross. You can argue that Piczle Cross does go for quantity rather than quality, and the design of the puzzles isn’t as tight as the Picross series proper, but that’s really splitting hairs. The real point is that there’s dozens of hours of quality nonogram puzzling with a warm and whole Story of Seasons vibe behind it.

It might not be the most ambitious spinoff that you’ll ever see, but Piczle Cross is a generous and heart-warming good time. The world needs more Story of Seasons, not less, so the existence of this game is an objective good in the world.

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Matt S. is the Editor-in-Chief and Publisher of DDNet. He's been writing about games for over 20 years, including a book, but is perhaps best-known for being the high priest of the Church of Hatsune Miku.

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