Sunday, August 19, 2007
Good: Extremely addictive, variety of difficulty, online play, price
Bad: "Just one more" turns into 20 more really quick
I have a new obsession.
When Sudoku caught on here in the States, I was one of the millions that started playing it regularly. I love logic-based brain teasers, and Sudoku was right up my alley. Little did I know that there was another Japanese phenomenon out there that would hook me even more.
Nintendo tried once before to bring a Picross title to the U.S., with 1995's Mario's Picross. It never caught on, but the recent popularity of Sudoku and the functionality of the DS apparently convinced Nintendo to give it another shot. And I'm extremely glad they did.
It's hard to explain Picross to someone who has never played it, but the in-game tutorial does its job very well. I had never seen a Picross grid in my life, but I was filling them in obsessively within 5 minutes of seeing the tutorial. There are a variety of grid sizes, from 5x5 to 15x15. Next to each row or column is at least one number. If it's a 5x5 and the number next to a row says 5, that means that every square in that row needs to be filled in. If it says 3, that means only three of them do. It's up to you to look at the numbers and available spaces to deduce which to fill in. If you know a certain square can't be filled in, it's crucial to place an "x" there to narrow down the possibilities even more. When you've successfully filled in the picture, you'll see a brief animation of the object/animal/etc. you just drew.
Like I said, it's difficult to explain in print, but rest assured that it's extremely challenging, rewarding, and most importantly, fun. I would have no problem paying $19.99 for a simple collection of Picross puzzles, but this title goes above and beyond the price point. Online play is a lot of fun, but you should get used to getting your ass kicked by tons of Japanese kids if your experience is anything like mine. It presents each player with two grids, and the first to finish both wins. Make a mistake and you're paralyzed for five crucial seconds.
Like many other recent DS games, Picross DS offers a "Daily Picross" challenge. This tracks your progress through a variety of activities, such as beating five easy grids as fast as possible or finishing puzzles without using X marks.
I couldn't have been more pleasantly surprised with Picross DS. It ranks up there with the system's elite in terms of "pick up and play" gameplay. With so much content and such a great price, you'd be a fool not to add this to your DS library.
First Play: 9.0
Replay Value: 10.0