Nintendo tried bringing Picross outside of Japan in 1995 when they released Mario’s Picross for the Game Boy. Picross is sort of like a cross between minesweeper and paint by number. You’re given clues to how many squares you need to hit by the numbers on the left and top of the screen. The challenge of the game is to figure out which squares you need to hit. It’s easy when there is a blank row, but you’ve got to do some thinking to avoid time penalties. The series never caught on the USA, but Nintendo continued to release Picross games in Japan. Picross DS isn’t much different from Mario’s Picross, except that it drops the whole Mario theme. Instead you uncover generic pictures of animals and fruit. Maybe the puzzles aren’t as “exciting”, but the control is much, much better with the stylus.
Using the stylus is the perfect way to play Picross you can draw a bunch of squares really quickly and smoothly compared to using the D-pad. The stylus also makes editing puzzles even easier. In edit mode you can draw a picture and the game translates it to a Picross grid. The translations aren’t perfect if you’re trying to make something detailed, but if you want to make simple objects like a coin or a Wii remote it can handle placing them on a grid with no problems. The edit mode is one of the more important features since you can breeze through the Picross puzzles fast. One of the general problems with Picross is that the puzzles don’t have any replay value. Each one only has one solution and while there are 300 puzzles in three difficulty levels, the edit feature means you can play Picross DS a lot longer than Mario’s Picross. Speaking of Mario’s Picross through Wi Fi you can download a puzzle pack with some of the classic puzzles. It looks like Nintendo might be releasing more Picross packs in the future, although none have been announced.
In Picross DS there is a daily Picross mode where it tracks your time solving five quick puzzles. The quick puzzles don’t make objects like the other Picross puzzles, instead they are set up to see how fast you can figure out where the hidden squares are. You’re given a time at the end of the five puzzles and Picross DS tracks your progress on a simple graph that shows your scores each day. Playing the daily tests is the best way to practice for the awesome online mode. Through Nintendo Wi Fi you can connect and play picross with players anywhere around the world. Play is the same except two people fight to solve the same picross puzzle. If you hit a blank spot, you’re name on the top screen shakes and you have a five second penalty. While you’re patiently waiting to play your opponent gets to play and all you can do is watch their progress bar slowly increase. The best part about the online multiplayer is there is absolutely no lag, even when you’re playing with gamers in Japan.
If you’re into puzzle games or a minesweeper addict give Picross DS a try. Picross DS isn’t a text heavy game and once you spend ten minutes to figure out menus you’ll have no problem enjoying Picross DS.