For eighteen years Nintendo has been home to Picross, a puzzle series that has fostered a cult following of die-hard fans.
Developed by Jupiter - a small, unassuming Kyoto studio that shares a close bond with Nintendo - the Picross games are as simplistic as they are addictive, and this week marks the UK release of the seventh entry in the series, which can be found on the 3DS eShop.
For those not familiar with Picross, try to imagine playing Sudoku but not feeling bored. Each Picross puzzle presents players with a grid, ranging from 5x5 to 15x15 in size. Along each row (and column) are numerical clues which indicate how many squares should be filled in for that row.
Using logic and process of elimination, you have to figure out which squares to fill in and which to leave untouched. Once all the squares have been filled in correctly, the resulting pattern should make a picture, or at least a piece of a bigger picture.
Picross E2 also comes complete with an excellent sixteen-page tutorial that explains the rules and some basic strategies, along with helpful illustrations.
There are a total of 150 puzzles here, which should take Picross experts - the sort who zip around the grid like they were Jedi - up to about ten hours to beat and beginners significantly longer, which for £4.49 isn't too shabby. There's also a new Micross mode, which consists of five huge 80x80 puzzles (concealing one large image), split into smaller 10x10 grids.
There's much to see and do, then, but it's still not quite the best Picross game on the 3DS eShop. The original game, Mario's Picross on the Game Boy, is available on the 3DS Virtual Console service for only £3.60 and features a total of 256 puzzles. What that game lacks in gloss (and touch-screen control), it gains in longevity.
Picross E2 also suffers from the same style problem as its predecessor, in that it doesn't quite have the same charm as Jupiter's last cartridge-based release, Picross DS. That game had a variety of skins (including a brilliant Mario skin where you knocked away 8-bit blocks) and completed puzzles featured animations, whereas everything here feels a little less amenable. Not to mention the fact that Picross DS offered a massive 330 puzzles with grids reaching up to a gargantuan 25x20 in size.
If you're not adverse to the lo-fi graphics, we'd recommend starting with the Game Boy title Mario's Picross on the 3DS Virtual Console as an introduction to Picross, since it's an inexpensive introduction to the series with a helpful tutorial.
Picross E2, then, should be treated either as expansion packs for those already won over by the delights of Picross, or entertaining starting points for those who don't want to play the old monochrome versions.
Picross e2 is another example why Picross is such an addictive series. While it's not the outstanding highlight of this 18 year-old series, it remains a brilliant budget option for those curious about its cult following.
- Excellent tutorial for beginners
- Players become hooked
- A generous collection of 150 puzzles
- Puzzles don't go larger than 15x15
- Lack of charm and personality
- No options to create or share