Back in 1999, there was a word from Japan of a Game Boy Color title called Pokémon Picross, but soon after that, it was never heard from again. Until now.
Pokémon Picross is, as it sounds, a Pokémon take on the classic Picross style puzzles. If you’re not aware these puzzles provide you with a grid where groups of numbers are given for each row and column. These indicate how many blocks are meant to be filled in each respective row or column, and the grouping of their placement. Using the numbers, you solve the puzzle by breaking the blocks and essentially creating a picture. In Pokémon Picross, that means creating the image of a Pokémon that you can then capture! This is either be done by using the touchscreen, or by moving an on-screen cursor with the Circle Pad – the player able to freely switch between the two.
The difference between this Picross title and others you may be familiar with is the use of Pokémon. Like the other Pokémon games, you can put a team of Pokémon together and call on their abilities in order to help you solve the puzzle. Some abilities alter the timer by slowing it down, while others reveal whether a square is a piece of the puzzle or not. However, once used the Pokémon will need to wait for between 1 – 30 hours in order to rest before being used again. This adds a new layer of strategy to the puzzles and even helps with special missions for each stage.
There are over 300 Pokémon to capture within the game that each has their own Picross puzzle, and they can all be used to help you clear other puzzles. There’s also the Mega Picross mode which changes things up by grouping numbers together across multiple rows or columns for added difficulty. There’s 300 of these and they unlock as you progress through the game.
The obvious Donphan in the room with this game is the free-to-start mechanics, which shows both the best and the worst of this payment model. Like Pokémon Shuffle and Pokémon Rumble World, as well as countless mobile titles, the game has stamina. For every move you make in the game, you lose one energy point that will gradually regenerate over time. This means that if you mess up, it will cost you in that you will then have to wait. If you don’t have enough energy to complete a stage you will be informed ahead of time, whereas if you run out you will exit the level. But, there are ways around it.
You will gradually collect currency known as Picrites. These are used in order to access a variety of features including the increase of the Energy gauge. If you get it to the highest level – which costs around 700 Picrites – you will then have infinite stamina. Picrites are also used to speed up a resting Pokémon, discover new areas, unlock new modes such as the Mega Pencil, an item used for Mega Evolution, and access to the Alt World for the Mega Picross puzzles. Picrites are earned by completing the missions in the game, as well as a special Daily Training mode. However, there is an upper limit so you can never buy more than 5000 Picrites – earning free Picrites beyond this meaning that you needn’t worry about feeling that you have to spend more money. If you don’t want to pay, you will undoubtedly hit a wall as you progress through the game which can sour the experience.
The puzzles themselves are solid. If you have previously played Picross, you know exactly what to expect. There are a few issues, however. Due to the size of standard Nintendo 3DS screens, you’ll undoubtedly end up hitting the wrong box on more than one occasion on the larger puzzles – but this is far less likely on a 3DS XL. If this is an issue for you, then button input may be better although it feels more cumbersome compared to the ease of the touchscreen.
The graphics are passable as you can’t expect much being a Picross game. The pictures you’re drawing are cute Pokémon sprites but obviously look like massively upscaled pixel-art due to matching the puzzle shape and size. Many of the Pokémon in the 15×15 and 20×15 puzzles look really nice, it’s just the ones from the 10×10 puzzles that often look somewhat iffy. However the user interface is solid and the backgrounds, albeit blurry to not take your focus, are very serene.
The music that accompanies your puzzle solving is similarly ok. There’s nothing special here, but the music is definitely catchy and the sound effects are simple chisels away at the boards. There are no unique Pokémon sounds here, so it’s little barebones but it fits the package.
Pokémon Picross is a solid take on Jupiter’s puzzle series if you can look past the free-to-start aspects. Those that like both Picross and Pokémon can definitely get a lot of enjoyment from the 600 puzzles that populate the game. Those that choose to pay will likely have more fun chiselling through due to the free-to-start mechanics essentially being removed, but those that don’t are in for a grind which isn’t what most will want in a game. Despite that, it’s still solid Picross, and while it’s worse value for money than the Picross e games, you’re bound to find enjoyment here.