|System: DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Jupiter Multimedia||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Nintendo||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: July 30, 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-5||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Jason Nimer
Time tends to define the game systems of the past. The Atari 2600 started home gaming, the NES perfected it, and every system since is remembered in one way or another.
The SNES is remembered by some as the best system ever, the N64 was Nintendo's slide from the top of the heap, the Dreamcast was the hacker's paradise, and the PS2 was the most widely owned home gaming system ever. Nintendo's newest portable and the heir to the Game Boy throne, the DS, is doing its best to be remembered as the portable that changed the world. Maybe it will never attain that title, but the DS will certainly be remembered as a puzzle game fan's dream system.
So far in its short life span, the DS has been home to some of the best puzzle games ever created. Tetris DS brought the popular game into the world of online multiplayer, Puzzle Quest redefined the genre, and Planet Puzzle League most recently set the bar for quality that every other puzzle game from now on will need to live up to. Nintendo's latest DS effort, Picross DS, takes a simple idea, pairs it with a user friendly interface, and with seemingly no effort whatsoever, gives fans a package that has everything a great puzzle game should have - hours of fun, tons of replay, and the chance to compete with players around the world.
Before we get to Picross DS's particulars, let me say that I in no way expected to be a fan of this game. The premise is old, the gameplay sounded shallow, and, perhaps most misleading of all, the game is a budget title priced at a mere $19.99. To me, that sounded like a recipe for a game few would play and even less would remember. I'll be the first to admit I was wrong - dead wrong. I've had the game for nearly two days and I've only stopped playing to eat, go to work, and sleep, but just barely. Picross DS is the most addicting, and summarily, the most rewarding game I've played in quite some time.
If you aren't familiar with Picross and how it is played, here is the short version. It reminds me of a mix between Minesweeper and Sudoku. You are presented with a grid of empty blocks and a series of numbers across the left side and top side of the grid. The numbers are your clues to which blocks to fill in. It is mainly a logic puzzle, but speed of thought plays an important role as well. Each puzzle is timed which, at first, can seem unforgiving. After some experience with the game, you'll be tearing through previously set records with ease and compulsively trying to set new ones. Unlike Sudoku and Minesweeper (I'm no fan of either game), Picross gives you a goal to shoot for. Rather than just a completed puzzle and a feeling of accomplishment, Picross's finished puzzles are actually small pictures which can be anything you could imagine, from the letter "I" to Mega Man's helmet. The puzzles are fun, but amassing a huge collection of completed pictures is where the real draw of the game lies.
Picross DS has a lot to do aside from just solving the increasingly difficult puzzles. The WiFi component of the game allows the player to download new puzzles daily. On top of that, there are competitive modes where players can face off, a puzzle creation mode, and most interesting of all, Picross gives players the ability to upload their created puzzles and scores for anyone around the world to try. Nearly every game that hits store shelves these days claims to have huge replay value, but few games actually live up to the claim. Picross DS is one of those games. For as long as you desire to keep playing, the game will consistently provide you with new challenges and modes to complete.
This review might seem a tad short for a game with so much content. The fact of the matter is it is very difficult to review a game with nearly no graphical interface, no stirring soundtrack, and no characters to speak of. Picross DS is quite literally you, a grid, some numbers, and the seemingly endless combinations of them. If you have $20 and a DS, Picross DS should be at the top of your shopping list. Games that sell for three times Picross DS's price don't have this much entertainment in them. So the next time you fall into the "Gee, I wish I had a new game to play" funk, Picross DS will be there to brighten your spirits, especially through the tail end of this summer game drought.
CCC Freelance Writer