Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Picross DS review

No real structure to this review. I feel that works best for casual games and training software.

Developer: Jupiter
Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: July 30th, 2007
ESRB Rating: E for Everyone
Other Info: Rumble Pak compatible

Picross started it's videogame life back in 1995 on as Mario Picross on the Game Boy. It was a huge hit in Japan, spawning several sequels. However, it failed terribly elsewhere, and never saw a sequel. That is, not until Picross DS!

Picross DS can be compared to a picture-based crossword puzzle (Hence the name. Picture Crossword, or Picross). Based on the genre of pencil puzzles known as nonograms, each puzzle is placed on a grid of varying dimensions. Early levels are on mere 5x5 fields, while the really hard puzzles can take place on grids of up to 15x15.

An example of a 10x10 puzzle

Each line has a series of numbers next to it. The numbers indicate how many blocks must be filled in a row. For example, if there's a number five next to a row, then that means that, somewhere in that row, there will be five filled blocks in a row. Many lines have more than one number. If that's the case, each series of filled blocks must be separated from each other by at least one square. If you know that there's a block which cannot be filled no matter what, you can mark it with an X. That way you won't forget about it later on and accidentally fill it in.

Each and every block you fill serves as a clue for the next line. If you fill in a square that shouldn't be filled, you will be penalized. Every such error adds two or more minutes to your time, depending on how many errors had been made before it. If your time exceeds 60 minutes (With or without penalties), it's considered a failure. However, you can still play beyond the point of failing, but you won't receive a nifty animation in the end. And really, that's the only downside. It would be nice if there was more of a penalty for screwing up so many times.

There is also one other way to play, and that is without error notification. In "Free Mode", as it's called, filling in a wrong block will not screw up your time. In fact, there is no timer at all! It's just like playing on good ol' paper. Except prettier and with less ink-stained hands.

Picross' graphics are quite simplistic, but still pretty good looking Early on, all you'll be seeing are blue blocks and blank squares. However, in later levels, groups of puzzles will be presented in themes, such as nature, flowers, fruits and more. Each theme puts a new spin on the graphical style. In the nature variant (Pictured below), instead of filling in squares, you instead cut grass. The flower theme features bloomed roses instead of filled blocks. The fruit theme looks like a giant stack of apples, with each filled block turning into a half-apple cross section. No shortness of creativity here!

A grassy field is one of the many colour
variants available.

Each theme also has an accompanying set of sound effects. The nature one makes cutting sounds with each square filled, and the fruit theme makes a crunching sound whenever an apple-block is broken. There's also four different music settings: Jazz, Reggae, Bossa Nova and silence. No matter what song you choose, it's neither impressive or distracting. And really, that's standard when it comes to puzzle games, isn't it?

There's no need to worry about having finished all the puzzles. Just hop onto the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection and download some classic puzzles from Mario's Picross! You can also trade custom designs with your pals and challenge people to finish a puzzle before them. That Wi-Fi logo was on the box for a reason, you know!

In the end, Picross DS is an amazingly addictive little puzzle game. Sure, it won't win any awards for musical score or graphics, but the formula is solid and the game is almost unending. I'm gonna be pouring my attention into this little beauty for weeks to come! Well, at least until I get my hands on Galaxy, that is.

SCORE: 9.3/10

The Duck Has Spoken.

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