I have always thought of Picross as Tetris’ less famous brother – the Liam Hemsworth to Tetris’ Chris if you will. Despite being around since Mario’s Picross on the original Game Boy way back in 1995, the Jupiter developed series has never caught on in quite the same way as the ever-popular Tetris despite a multitude of releases across most Nintendo formats.
It’s not for a lack of quality mind – since that first game, the Picross series, thanks largely to the strength of that core concept, has been a bastion of consistent quality. The issue is that, above all else, Picross isn’t as easily digestible or visually recognisable as something like Tetris and its aesthetically hypnotic falling blocks. Picross, well, it’s more like Sudoku but with hidden pictures – at a glance, it all looks rather boring, it’s not totally clear what you’re supposed to be doing (initially at least), oh, and the music isn’t as good either. Everything falls into place rather quickly once you start actually playing it, but again, it doesn’t have that immediate visual quality or aesthetic identifier that makes it stand out from the crowd.
The good news is that, once you actually do start playing Picross, none of that really matters. Sure, it’s a little bland to look at, and yes, the music can’t compete with the addictive tones of Tetris or Columns (I know, it’s a bit of a deep cut, but man, I really do love the music in Columns), but once you get into the rhythm of the game and begin to clear larger and larger blocks, revealing increasingly complex pictures, Picross really has that ability to get a hold of you. Obviously it’s a slower pace than many modern puzzle games, but that doesn’t make it any less addictive.
Starting with small grids of 5×5, things quickly escalate towards the larger and infinitely more complex 20×15 variants. Each of these are completed by filling in the correct boxes and putting an ‘X’ on the others to mark them as blank. You can also fill boxes with a diamond if you’re not sure with the ultimate aim of completing the picture hidden within the larger grid. Yeah, I know – it doesn’t sound super exciting does it. Well, it doesn’t look all that exciting either (one of the more obvious reasons it hasn’t received the kind of mainstream success that it arguably deserves), but when you’re playing it, when you’re caught in the moment, Picross is nothing if not utterly compelling.
While the fundamentals of Picross are relatively straightforward, when starting up, it can actually be rather tricky to get your head around the best way to progress – especially when the grids start to get bigger. Luckily, Picross S2 is not only home to an array of very useful tutorials, but also a number of assist options that can help ease you through the game or make progression past an especially tricky puzzle a lot less frustrating. Either way, each assist is uniquely useful allowing you to manually set your own difficulty and to take off the proverbial training wheels one step at a time as you become more accustomed to the requirements of each puzzle.
Like Tetris, Picross’ biggest issue is the fact that Nintendo and Jupiter essentially nailed the fundamentals at the first time of asking – it truly is a victim of its own success. The issue, like Tetris and its ilk is that you really can’t change the basic gameplay so the only way to progress is by adding more and more content. Of course, if you’re a fan, that’s great news as Picross S2 is home to 300 puzzles split between 150 standard picross puzzles and 150 Mega Picross puzzles. That’s hours upon hours of content of course, but if you have already purchased Picross S, you’re getting a lot of duplicated content and an experience that is alarmingly similar. That won’t be an issue for newcomers of course, but if you’ve already picked up its predecessor, be warned that this really is more of the same – exactly the same in many respects.
The only major changes come in the form of an enjoyable local co-op mode and the return of the popular Clip Picross mode. This mode, while invariably similar to the core Picross mode, imbues the game with a greater sense of progression by tasking you with completing pictured grids housed within a larger overall grid. Yes, it’s more of the same, but the change of approach and sense of progression gained by completing smaller puzzles to reveal a larger overall picture does make for a surprisingly welcome change of pace.
It might be a tad too similar to its predecessor and it’s certainly not the most aesthetically exciting puzzle game you’re likely to come across, but as always, Picross proves a hugely addictive experience for those willing to commit to its initially obtuse design. Stick with it and things soon fall into place as you reveal picture after picture on increasingly complex grids. Picross S2 might not offer anything particularly new, but the return of Clip Picross, the inclusion of over 300 puzzles and the addition of local co-op does make this arguably the definitive version of Nintendo and Jupiter’s long-standing puzzle series.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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PICROSS S2 Review
Gameplay - 7/10
Graphics - 7/10
Sound - 7/10
Replay Value - 7/10
User Review( votes)
Picross S2 might not offer anything particularly new, but the return of Clip Picross, the inclusion of over 300 puzzles and the addition of local co-op does make this arguably the definitive version of Nintendo and Jupiter’s long-standing puzzle series.