Title: Pokemon Picross
System: 3DS (eShop)
Price: Free to Start
Release date: 12/03/2015
The main game/story
There’s not much in terms of story here. You are simply a trainer going out to catch Pokemon in a vast world, just in the form of solving Picross puzzles. How do you catch Pokemon by solving a number puzzle? The world will never know… Running off of the Picross e engine, one that has been used in six games prior to this one, does Pokemon Picross hold up as both a good puzzle game, and a good free to play Pokemon spinoff? Let’s find out.
Unlike the typical Picross e game, where you simply select a random unsolved level and jump right into it, Pokemon Picross focuses a bit more on the visuals in this regard. There’s now a map screen with alternate paths, some of which lead to different areas entirely. The Pokemon look great when completed, and the area icons look awfully similar to the GBA era of Pokemon games, recreating that feel faithfully even if it’s easy to miss. The menus during the game are clean and much better to look at compared to the bland, repeated colors and menus from the Picross e series, which makes Pokemon Picross look much better on the eyes by comparison.
Music and Sound:
Jupiter’s previous Picross titles weren’t so great in the sound department, and unfortunately Pokemon Picross suffers joins the Picross e series in that regard. While the overall themes in the game do change up a bit compared to the bland, generic tracks from the six Picross e games, they still don’t manage to be memorable in any possible way, which will no doubt prompt you to mute the sound after spending a few minutes on the same puzzle and listening to the music track loop over and over again.
If you’ve ever played Picross before, then the core gameplay is the same as its always been. You have a 10×10 grid with numbers on the sides of the grid. Those numbers represent the amount of spaces you are able to fill out in that row or column, which in turn will eventually connect the squares in such a way that you’ll eventually make a picture out of it. A simple sounding concept with a lot of potential for some tricky yet addicting puzzles, that’s pretty much the general idea of Picross.
That being said, it wouldn’t be a Pokemon title if there wasn’t some sort of gimmick that involved changing things up a bit, and Pokemon Picross does just that thanks to the different skills each Pokemon has to offer, all based on the typing of the Pokemon. Some types like Normal, Fairy, Dark, Fire, and Dragon reveal correct and incorrect squares on the board to give you a head start, while other types like Flying and Fighting may allow you to check the board to make sure that you didn’t make any mistakes. These skills are quite helpful, while also keeping the challenge intact, since you only have a limited amount of space in your party, along with the fact that Pokemon take time to recover upon using their skills.
Of course, you can help fix those two issues thanks to the main attraction in this game; Picrites. They are a form of currency that you can use to fill up your energy gauge, add extra party slots, recharge your Pokemon’s abilities, and unlock new areas. This is where the free-to-start aspect rears its ugly head, and unfortunately it tends to push it in your face quite often. Unlike Pokemon Shuffle or Pokemon Rumble World where you can easily do well in the entire game without spending a dime, Pokemon Picross really wants you to buy Picrites to advance. Sooner or later, you’ll reach a point where you won’t be able to get picrites in-game without waiting for the Daily Training stages, and later areas will require a lot of Picrites. The amount that the training stages give you is barely enough to count for anything in regard to the amounts needed to unlock certain features of the game, which can range in cost from 100 to 500 Picrites.
Sure, it’s technically possible to beat every single stage and unlock everything without spending a dime, but it would take an eternity of non-stop daily plays, which means that you’ll inevitably have to give in and purchase some sooner or later. The good news is that if you spend about $30 on 5000 Picrites, you’ll essentially get access to infinite batches of 1,000 Picrites, which pretty much gives you plenty of picrites to the point that you won’t ever need to worry about hitting a paywall or running out of energy. (In fact, one of the things you can unlock with picrites is an unlimited energy meter. Yes, even without spending any money if you know what you’re doing!) That’s also the Picrite purchase cap, so just like in Pokemon Rumble World, there’s no need to worry about overspending.
In conclusion, Pokemon Picross is your typical Picross game with a little bit of Pokemon charm. While a vast improvement over the Picross e series in terms of the art style and menus, it suffers from the unfortunate issue of its free-to-start status. While Pokemon Rumble World and even Pokemon Shuffle offered plenty of hours of content for the patient player, Pokemon Picross desperately wants your cash before you make any major progress, especially if you want to unlock the Mega Evolution or Alt World stages. Surprisingly, I didn’t have much of an issue with this, as what little of the game you do manage to enjoy without spending money is a lot of fun, and with a lot of stages to complete and achievements to collect, Pokemon Picross is honestly well worth the $30 price point to get the complete experience.
Still, if you were hoping for something that wasn’t so demanding of your wallet, or if you don’t care much for Picross to begin with, then Pokemon Picross is unlikely to change your mind. Yes, it’s nothing like the game we were promised back in 1999, but it’s still an addictive Picross title nonetheless. Hopefully this game will get a physical release like Pokemon Rumble World did in Japan, so that way more folks can enjoy the title without worrying about the free to play shenanigans.
I give Pokemon Picross a 7 out of 10, and I recommend it to all fans of Picross games, if you can handle the high total price point of $30 or the free-to-start aspect of it. For everyone else, give this game a try and see if the first few worlds hook you in on Picross. If not, then skipping this is probably your best option. If you are on the fence, not wanting to spend much money but loving the gameplay regardless, then I recommend picking up Mario’s Picross from the 3DS Virtual Console for a full Picross experience for cheap.