Monday, August 20, 2007

Picross DS

A review of Nintendo's PicrossDS

Picross DS Wikipedia article
Nonogram - Wikipedia article about nonograms (what Picross is)

About Picross
Picross is a puzzle game that is often described (and not just by me) as a cross between sudoku and minesweeper. Basically you have a grid in which you need to fill in squares in order to make a pixel picture. Easy mode grids are 5x5 and Normal mode grids (so far) are 15x15 and apparently they can go up to 20x25. The grids start out blank (unless you choose to start with a hint). From there you must figure out which squares to fill in by looking at numbers along the top and left sides of the grid. The numbers tell you how many squares are filled in that row and in what groups.

For instance, a row may have the numbers 5 3 3 next to it. That means that there is a group of 5, a group of 3, and another group of three squares colored in - each with at least one blank space in between them (groups cannot be touching, obviously). So you compare the info of the rows with the info of the collumns and based on how much room you have, where those squares should go.

Some of them are easy. In a 15x15 grid, if you have a row that's "5 4 4" then you add those up in your head (13) plus one blank at least between each number for a total of 15. That means that the 5 and the second 4 MUST be touching opposite sides of the grid. Nice.

If you're patient, you can use lots of logic to fill everything in without time penalties (if you guess wrong then you get penalized minutes to your time score). I'm not very patient so I choose to have a hint at the start.

Picross DS fun stuff
Each level is themed so you can kind of guess some of the things you're trying to 'draw'. Like, one level was all African animals, another was fruit, another was sea animals, etc. Being able to guess pixel pictures is handy for when you get stuck and have to guess at a square placement.

Each puzzle starts out as a complete mystery so you have NO idea what you are drawing. Once you've completed a puzzle, though, it gets a little icon in the menu so you know what it is. It also records your best time for each puzzle so you can try to beat your best times on each puzzle.

Each level has its own theme for the squares, which is fun. Easy mode levels were 'apple' themed, so each square was like a red (square) apple and when you clicked on it you whittled it to a core. The African animal level's squares were grass patches so when you filled them in, it mowed away the grass. Apparently there is a bubble-wrap level - I can't wait for that one. Should you dislike a level's theme you can revert to the generic blue-square theme.

There's also a head-to-head time-challenge mode, a daily-picross mode, and you can download puzzles via Wi-Fi. Also, in normal mode, once you've completed a row of puzzles, you unlock the ability to do a quick special level, of which there seem to be two kinds. The first kind involves giant flying pixels that you must tap quickly to 'tag' - needing to tag a certain number of them before time runs out. The second kind involves drawing the shown image (in a grid, of course) before time runs out.

There seem to be 135 single-player puzzles from what I read online (not counting what you can download.

You can turn off the music but keep the sound FX.

You can save your progress on one game at a time - when you turn on your DS it will ask if you want to restore your game so you don't have to go through the menus to go back to it.

Not good stuff
Each cartridge only holds scores and stuff for one person, unlike games like "Brain Age" that have multiple slots for multiple players.

By default, on larger puzzles you have to zoom in (it shows you the larger puzzle in the top screen) so as you fill in squares, the screen floats around to keep you centered. If you aren't careful, this can cause you to tap the wrong square and incurr a penalty. However, I discovered that by using the D-pad you can turn this off. Nice.

If you like games like Sudoku and minesweeper and you like stylus-based games (you can use the D-pad for this game, too) then Picross is a fun game. I find it addictive - and it's $20, so it's one of the lower-priced games (new). Reccomended.

No comments: