Picross is one of those great little games that takes you a couple of minutes to understand how to play, and then you find yourself over the next couple of weeks completely unable to pull yourself away from. It’s the latest puzzler from Nintendo to hit our shores, and I’m guessing it’ll be a quiet little kicker for fans of logic games.
The premise is pretty straightforward: you’re presented with a grid of varying size (initially you’re looking at a 10x10 grid in the tutorial), which you have to fill in or leave empty, based on clues given to you around the edge of the grid. The clues are a string of numbers next to each column or row, which indicate how many cells in a row you fill in. For example, on a 10x10 grid, the number 10 next to the first row would indicate that you need to fill in all ten squares. If you had, on the other hand, ‘1,2,3’, you would need to block out along that row once cell, then two cells and then three cells, all in that row, in that order, and separated by at least one unshaded cell.
These of course also have to correspond to the clues running vertically for each row. By comparing the clues between the horizontal and vertical rows, you’re able to determine which cells should be shaded, and which left unshaded. If you get the puzzle right, you’ll find you’ve also drawn in a pixellated picture, like a pineapple, or an elephant.
At first the puzzles are pretty straightforward, and you’ll find you zoom through them pretty quickly. Once you move to larger grids however, things really start to get tricky. The grids get so large that you have to zoom in and out to mark cells, while you can keep an eye on the whole picture on the top DS screen.
In addition to “normal mode”, where you’re told if you made a mistake, you can try your hand at the even trickier “free mode”, which doesn’t tell you when you mark a cell incorrectly. If you’ve ever got a word wrong in a crossword, you’ll know how it can all suddenly spiral out of control. There are also “Daily Picross” unlockable challenges, where you try to beat your own best scores at short smaller games. All up, there are about 300 different puzzles, of varying difficulty, to beat. Once you’ve completed those (and perhaps gone back to try and beat your time), you can also create puzzles of your own, which you can share with friends via wifi.
To be blunt about it, the game’s damn addictive – opening up my DS to check something found me still playing half an hour later. The music can be a bit repetitive, and haunt you when you’re trying to get to sleep, and I found the zoom controls to be a bit unwieldy with the larger grids, but the game is so simple, and yet so tricky, that it keeps you coming back for more, again and again.