Title: Pokemon Picross
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Game Type: 3DS
NA Availability: Digital
EU Availability: Digital
Block Usage: 732
Free-to-Start games for the Nintendo 3DS have been something I looked into not too long ago. Honestly, at the time, I didn’t have the money to buy a bunch of new 3DS games, so I went to that venue for more games to play. Today, I’ve gone to it again, but not for the same reason. During the last Nintendo Direct, a new Free-to-Start game was announced, with a Pokemon theme to it. Being a fan of Pokemon Rumble World, I decided to check it out.
So, here is my review of Pokemon Picross!
This doesn’t have much of a story to it at all. It’s like an indie game, where the story is just there to show a scenario. You are journeying around the world in search of Pokemon while solving Picross puzzles.
Pokemon Picross is a picross puzzle game with a Pokemon twist to it. Even though the Pokemon elements are there, it’s basically just like any other grid-based picross games. The bulk of the gameplay is in the puzzle itself, as opposed to the extra elements that make the Pokemon theme fit in.
In Pokemon Picross, you are traveling around the world of Pokemon by navigating a point-to-point map of puzzles. As you travel, you have access to a few menu-type things. Other than the map, you have your Pokemon screen, where you can edit your party of Pokemon. Then, you have a host of menus below, for Daily Challenges, Map, Shop, and a few other areas.
Your main goal is to finish all of the puzzles in the area you’re in so you can unlock the next area. That requires you to solve puzzles. Each stage is a different puzzle you have to solve and when you solve it, you unlock the next until the entire area is cleared. Once you clear the stage, you can have completed objectives to get currency as well as catching new Pokemon to use in future puzzles.
Before we start talking about Pokemon, let’s talk about Picross. Picross puzzles have a grid of tiles set in rows and columns. Each row has numbers written next to them, and so do columns. These numbers represent a pattern that the tiles need to be filled in to add to the overall picture the puzzle is trying to make. If a 7-tile row has a “2 1” next to it, that means there are 3 total tiles need to be filled in, and 2 of them are together, and one is separate from the others.
This can get a little in depth. Basically, when you have multiple numbers, either side of that number of tiles must have a blank area. So, the 2 1 we spoke of above means that there have to be 2 tiles filled in and at least one blank space between them and the other tile. Add in the fact that you also have to think about what the columns that same row is connected to, and you’ve got a nice puzzle on your hands. It’s kind of like a cross-word, but harder.
Obviously, this can be very difficult to do, and that’s where Pokemon come in. Every Pokemon you can catch has a skill that can be used in battle to help you. Some skills will automatically reveal and fill in tiles and blank tiles for you, while others will give you hints in other ways, like matching up rows and columns. When the puzzles get technical, they can really help jump-start you.
Since this is a Free-to-Start game, let’s get into the inevitable ways the game is programmed to make you want to spend real money. First of all, there is an Energy Gauge that is used up a bit every time you fill in a tile. When the energy gauge reaches 0, you can no longer play the game until it recharges. This could take 30 minutes, or it could take several hours. It depends on how much you’ve upgraded the energy gauge.
This brings up the in-game currency. You get currency from completing puzzles, daily challenges, objectives in puzzles, or buying them from the eShop. These are used for several things. First and foremost, they’re used to upgrade the Energy Gauge so you can play longer without having to wait for it to recharge. It is also used to automatically fill a Pokemon’s Skill Gauge, as some Pokemon have a one-time skill that takes a good while to recharge. Another thing is to unlock extra slots in your party so you can take more Pokemon with you.
I can say that I burned almost all of the currency I got from the tutorial and the daily mission on a couple energy upgrades and a couple slots for my party. The game encourages you to buy this because the rate at which you earn it is minute. Daily Challenges will only give you around 4 of the in-game currency a day, and that’s barely enough to recharge a single Pokemon’s skill. Energy Gauge recharges and Party Slots are for 100+. While playing the game also nets you currency, the rate at which you gain it is incredibly slow, especially after the tutorial, where they give you 30 for every puzzle.
So, you basically have two options. Either you break and pay cash for currency to recharge the energy gauge and upgrade it or whatnot, or you play the game free and just wait for those recharges. This will, more than likely, turn the game into a once-a-day booting game, much like Badge Arcade is for me. While this works, the game is clearly built around encouraging you to pay, and making it hard to even play the game without paying.
The game’s difficulty is right up there, since this is a picross game. The tutorial does an excellent job of explaining how to do everything, but the puzzles start off pretty challenging. Unless you’re a picross master I could see single puzzles lasting up to an hour or more. I found some puzzles in Area 1 and 2 challenging, and there are 30 different areas across the entire game. That means that if you want to do everything, you’ll be a spending a lot of time on this game.
Controlling the game is simple enough. In puzzles, you can use button controls or touch controls. I personally prefer button controls, but the touch controls do work rather well, especially for this type of game. The Map menu, however, forces you to use the touch screen and only the touch screen. Whenever you press a button, you will see this nice “Please use a stylus” message on the bottom screen.
Button controls in puzzles are pretty much just using the D-Pad, A + B, and L + R. D-pad is used for navigating the grid and the A/B buttons are used for selecting or crossing out the tiles. The L and R buttons are used to pull up your party to use skills to help you out. You can also use Y to pull up the Energy Gauge menu, though that’s only used for paying in-game currency for resetting or upgrading the gauge.
Visually, the game looks nice. Everything looks crisp and it has a very 2D Pokemon look to it. Even the portraits and the picross pictures have the looks of the GBA era Pokemon games. It looks very crisp, colorful, and fits the theme well.
Performance is good as well. Load times are practically non-existent and there aren’t any technical issues wearing down the system’s hardware.
Pokemon Picross is just as it sounds. It’s a Pokemon-themed picross game. On the downside, the game’s micro-transaction model really puts you in a tight spot if you don’t want to pay-to-play. Still, at its core, it is a charming and challenging game that is worth 732 blocks of any picross fan’s memory card.