Whenever someone asks me what my favorite games are, I have a really hard time answering since I really do enjoy a lot. Instead, I come back with my favorite types of games to play, which include (in no particular order) fighting games, RPGs, and puzzle games. I think that last one is the most endearing of them all: puzzle games have been around for ages, but more recently they’ve been relegated to social media and/or smartphone titles that probably aren’t worth your time. But every now and then a good puzzle game is all I need to pass the time enjoyable. Take the Professor Layton or Picross franchises for example: both are epitomes of what I want in a portable puzzle game, and both are easily some of the best games I’ve ever played. So you could imagine my excitement when a Pokemon-themed Picross game came out a few weeks ago on 3DS.
On the surface Pokemon Picross seems to have everything a Picross game should: familiar puzzle gameplay, the same old strategy as before, and that sense of accomplishment when you’ve completed a tough level. But now with Pokemon to adorn every puzzle! Don’t even mind the “Free to start” mentality and the microtransactions to continue playing the game: just drop $30 at the beginning and the game is you’re, entirely unlocked without any other financial roadblocks. So what’s not to like
Well, for starters (get it?) this actually makes some big changes to the Picross formula. Usually in a Pircross puzzle there are definite ways to uncover which tiles to chip away and which to leave alone. Think of it like a jigsaw puzzle: you might have several pieces that are shaped the same, but only one piece will slot into another and make the picture look correct. In Pokemon Picross however, there are several times where you literally get to a point where you can’t logically choose the next step. You’ll just be poking around to see what might work without any definite strategy behind it.
And that’s where actual Pokemon come in! After clearing a stage and revealing the Pokemon, you catch it! From then on, you can select that Pokemon before a new puzzle to use it’s special ability to aid you in solving the next challenge. Each Pokemon type has a unique ability. These include abilities that reveal columns or rows of tiles correctly at the start of the match, highlight rows that you can use accurately figure out which tiles to eliminate, and even some abilities that automatically correct a tile if you incorrectly use it. Honestly, these changes are pretty damn awesome, and I really like using them! It feel cool having Snorlax take out some tiles in the beginning of the match, or having Oddish tell me when I’ve done something wrong. Future Picross games should try to incorporate these mechanics in some way, because they add a lot of fun to the puzzles, and give players with less skill a better chance of winning!
Despite all this the game just ins’t doing it for me like I want it too. I’ve been happily travelling through zones collecting Pokemon, but I get dragged down when there’s a puzzle, even with the special Pokemon abilities, that just can’t be beaten because you don’t have enough information available to win. It sucks! I understand the game wants me to go forward, collect bigger, more powerful allies, then come back to tackle these harder challenges, but it’s a drag! I praised this series in the past for it’s thoughtful puzzle design and how it made you feel like a genius when your brain finally figures it out! Now that’s all up in the air and determined by which friends you bring into battle with you. I wish there were a way to still use these powers but give the player a fighting chance even if you don’t have the most powerful Pokemon at your disposal.
I’ll still be playing Pokemon Picross for the time being, mainly because I don’t have anything else right now in y 3DS. Also, it still has the great pick up and play mentality of previous Picross games, which makes it super easy to play one puzzle or one hundred before getting old. I think my expectations were set high on this one, so the only thing I could do was be let down, which is exactly what happened. That being said, Pokemon Picross is still a fun game, it just isn’t as fun as the past entries I’ve played in the series.