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Time Sinks – Picross

When we started discussing a day-long feature for all of us to talk about games that chip away at our free time, I excitedly signed up for Picross. The Picross DS titles and the recently released Picross e on the 3DS eShop have all been the perfect examples of games that I will play “just one more” of until I have grown a beard and forgotten to eat for two days. All of that being said, however, I have no idea how to explain why these games are so fun and so difficult to put down.

If you haven’t played Picross, it’s a series of small logic puzzles that exercise the same brain muscles as a game like Sudoku, but with a much better payoff. It’s a logic game that uses numbers, but you won’t be using much math outside of counting blocks. You start with a grid of blocks with numbers appearing on the side of each row and column. If you see a single 1 by a row, that means there is a single solitary block somewhere on that row. If you see multilple numbers, like a 3, a 2, and 5, then you know there will be a group of 3 blocks, a group of 2 blocks, and group of 5 blocks on that row in that order. Solving the puzzle involves highlighting the areas where you know blocks will intersect, and crossing out the areas where you know they won’t. Reading back the last few sentences, I realize that description makes the game sound like no fun at all. It’s the sort of thing you just have to tool around with yourself to truly grasp and appreciate.

When you mark every block correctly, you are rewarded with a pixelated image of just about anything. I created a picture of a blender once. Seeing these images come together as by-products of your logic work, is what makes the game so hard to put down. It’s fast, simple, and you get something in reward for all your hard puzzling work. Most comparable games can only offer a high-score as a reward, but here you get a picture.

The crazy thing about Picross, and especially with the new Picross e which I have already sunk more than 13 hours of playtime into, is that the images you unlock are totally forgettable. I could be playing the same exact puzzles as the original Picross that released in 2007, and I wouldn’t even know, and furthermore, I wouldn’t care. The game is such simple fun, that I wouldn’t mind being tricked into playing through the same puzzles again.

In 2010, Nintendo released Picross 3D, which – as the title implies – added a whole new dimension to the puzzle solving. I am confident in saying that the game is one of the best puzzle games of all time. Be warned, though – once you start, you might have trouble stopping.

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