I Have A Picross Problem

by Kyle Hilliard on Mar 22, 2015 at 02:19 PM

Picross is a simple little puzzle game from Nintendo that isn’t particularly well-known. It’s not affiliated with a mascot – or at least it hasn’t been since Mario Picross released on Game Boy in 1995 – and it’s not all that much different from Sudoku. It involves numbers, but only uses basic arithmetic and little bit of logic. There’s a little reward for completing each puzzle in the form of a pixelated picture, but it’s not the main incentive for playing. I honestly can’t tell you exactly what the main incentive for playing is, but I can tell you that even though I can’t quite put my finger on it, it is there and I have afforded far too much time to each iteration.

In Picross, you are looking at a grid with a series of numbers along the top and left rows. Puzzles range from 5x5 grids up to 20x20 in the later levels. The numbers indicate how many blocks are on each row. If a row has the numbers 3 and 1 to the left of it, then you know that row will contain three consecutive blocks followed by a single block in that order. Using logic and filling in the assorted blocks you are certain are filled in, you will eventually craft a full picture. It’s usually something simple like an animal or an inanimate object.

So far on 3DS, there have been five different Picross games cleverly titled Picross e, Picross e2, Picross e3 and so on. I have played them all, feverishly inhaling each puzzle often ignoring the resulting unlockable image in the interest of getting to the next puzzle as quickly as possible. I have fully completed four of the games (I am still working my way through Picross e4 after skipping it initially in favor of e5) and have logged an average of 22 hours on each game. Altogether, including the five hours I have logged in Picross e4, I have played Picross on 3DS for just under 94 hours. And that’s ignoring the Picross and Picross 3D games that released on DS – two games I played a lot, but don’t have the benefit of the 3DS’ Activity Log to see exactly how much I’ve played.

It has gotten to the point where on the earlier puzzles I will opt to play without the helpful hints just because the animation to showcase the hints is an extra few seconds I have to wait until I can start tapping away at the puzzle. It really has become a problem.

I recently gave up on Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate after playing for about nine hours, and though the main reason I stopped playing was because the game simply didn’t click with me, it would be disingenuous to say Picross isn’t also to blame. Every time I would get even slightly frustrated with Monster Hunter, I would switch over to Picross. The rhythm of puzzle solving has become so familiar and comfortable at this point, that to dive into something even slightly confusing or dense would make me long for the comfortable puzzle solving of Picross. Often I would be counting out the rows on the grid without even realizing I had shut down Monster Hunter. It was like my hands and 3DS had minds of their own.

I finally hit a point recently in Picross e4, after finishing up both e3 and e5 back to back, that it’s time for a rest. I’ve moved onto something else for the moment, but I know that itch will return any day now. A little medallion appears on each batch of puzzles you complete, and I simply can’t ignore the fact that I don’t have all of them in Picross e4 for too long.

The ultimate point of all of this is not to discourage you from playing Picross. It’s certainly possible you will become like me, ignoring the biggest and best new releases in favor of playing a game that ostensibly looks like a Excel worksheet. I just want to make sure you know what you’re getting into. It’s a great little puzzle game that may be difficult to grasp initially, but once you are able to close your fist around the gameplay, it’s likely you will have trouble letting go, like me.

Believe it or not, this is not the first time I've written about my Picross problem.