You know what my favourite thing about the DS was? It was filled with quick little puzzle-type games that you could play in short bursts, or on the move when needed. It was the perfect thing for a handheld machine in my eyes. Things have moved on though and the 3DS is less filled with those types of games and more with games that take a lot longer and require more of your lack of concentration. That’s not a bad thing, but it does mean the balance can feel a bit off.
One of the games that came out of the DS era was Picross. A puzzle game that works as a cross between Sudoku and Minesweeper with the rewards of some pretty cool, albeit pointless, 8-bit images. The Picross games did so well on the DS that they have made the transition to 3DS, and presents something quite unique in terms of the games on offer. While the basic formula in Picross hasn’t changed much, there are still some additions to the games making them worthwhile.
The latest in the series is Picross e4 and it again follows the same pattern as the previous games, particularly that of Picross e3, which was also on the 3DS. It’s not the easiest game to explain with words so bear with me as I attempt it.
Picross e4 has 3 different modes. Standard Picross, Mega Picross and the new Micross. Picross follows the exact same formula as all the previous games in the series. You are given a block split into rows and columns of different sizes (5×5, 10×10, 15×15 and 20×15). The blocks start off empty. You are then given numbers on the Y and X axis, which indicate how many blocks in that particular row or column must be filled in. You then attempt to follow the pattern and by means of elimination fill in the squares that need filling in, missing those that don’t and revealing an image on the block.
At some points the numbers required in a particular row or column will need a break between them. So blocks that are together will have ‘3’ but if three squares are needed in the same row or column but not touching you will get a ‘1 1 1’. Figuring out where the squares must go is the biggest challenge but once you get the hang of it it’s pretty easy.
You do have a time limit and lose time if you place a square in the wrong block. The idea is to follow the number pattern and try make as few mistakes as possible along the way. This means two things. Firstly, you can never actually ‘lose’ at a puzzle as you can make unlimited errors and still finish the puzzle, and secondly, there is nothing stopping you from powering through the different puzzles if you lack the patience.
If you do have the patience and finish the puzzle before the watch hits 60 (not seconds, but Nintendo’s own measurement countdown tool) your reward is an 8-bit image in colour. Finish it over 60 and your image will be in black and white. The images are fun but nothing special so you are unlikely to really care if you do it in time or not, which is a pity. A greater incentive might bring out a bit more fun instead of going through the motions at times.
While Picross is pretty standard, the other modes bring a bit more dimension to the puzzles. Mega Picross returns and this is similar to Picross except that instead of a number per row and column you will get a large number that will cover two rows and columns. It does make it quite a bit more difficult to work out, but the results and tactics are really more of the same.
Micross is a new mode however, and it does change things quite a bit. It is by far the most challenging of the modes in a few ways. The idea behind Micross is that you have smaller puzzles within a large puzzle. Each of the smaller puzzles, when completed, make up a piece of the bigger picture and the end result is one large image.
The difference however comes in the way of trial and error, or rather a lack being able to use trial and error in these puzzles making it far more difficult. For the Micross puzzles you are not told if a square is in the wrong place, meaning that you have to work it out without any help at all. In the other modes you get an x when in the wrong place and a time penalty. In Micross there is none of that that means you will have to work it out from scratch and see if you can follow the numbers perfectly to get the piece of the picture right.
It’s great that it provides far more of a challenge, but the downside is when you get stuck. Because there is no assistance at all and no real guide to see what the picture might be, it means you can be stuck on a puzzle for hours and in some cases maybe not even finish it at all. Not having something telling you a place is wrong is great, but it would be nice to have the option to get some help for those really tricky puzzles.
All in all, Picross e4 is another decent addition to the series with over 150 new puzzles. It offers very little new in terms of the actual gameplay, but it does throw in some new challenges using the tried and tested gameplay. It’s also well priced for a game that can actually be played in short bursts and on-the-move, which is perfect for the handheld. So if you are looking for a challenging, Sudoku-type puzzle game with a bit of a twist, you might just want to try Picross e4.