maanantai 4. maaliskuuta 2013

REVIEW - Mario's Picross | GB | 1995

GENRE(S): Puzzle
RELEASED: March 13, 1995
AVAILABLE ON: GB, 3DS Virtual Console
PUBLISHER(S): Nintendo

On to drag some more serious waters... Mario's Picross is one of Mario's less known puzzle games in Western territories, whereas in Japan it was really popular and even spawned a couple of sequels which never made it this far - Picross 2 for the Game Boy, and Mario's Super Picross for the Super Famicom. It's a collection of nonogram picture puzzles, which were kind of the hottest thing in Japan before the invention of sudoku puzzles, and a precursor of sorts. What sounds like my kind of a puzzle game is exactly that, but unfortunately Mario's Picross has the downside of falling into the puzzle game subcategory of once beaten, forever - or at least a long time - done.

Work that chisel

Oops, perhaps I bit off more
than I could chew.
If you're familiar with nonogram puzzles, or at least one of the dozens of different names/variants they're known by, you are able to dodge my surely crappy explanation of how they work. You have a grid - the size varies depending on the difficulty level - and you must paint (in this case, chisel) up cells which you believe to be parts of the grid-wide picture you're attempting to uncover. There are numbers on both the horizontal and vertical sides, indicating how many cells within that respective column must be chiseled in succession to clear the column and make it one step closer to the completion of the puzzle. You can use checkmarks to cross out the cells you don't believe to be parts of the picture. I believe those screenshots are worth a lot more than my verbal complication of the simplest things...

Yeah. Let's just draw some
lines first.
Mario's Picross is a very simple game to get an initial hang of, but it can get really, really difficult. Regardless of the difficulty level, you have 30 minutes per puzzle. If you cannot solve the puzzle within that time frame, it's game over. I know what you're thinking - 30 minutes is a long time for a small, handheld puzzle with such a simple idea - but the more of the tiniest mistakes you make, the more severe time penalties you get. It starts with two minutes, and climbs up to eight minutes at a time really fast, if you're pushing your luck with the chisel a little too much. This is a fine solution to adapt the challenge of real nonograms, which are really hard to fix if you make just one mistake, just like sudokus are. There's a hint system you can opt not to use, but there's no real punishment if you do (just an "H" ticked next to the puzzle in your completion chart - how insulting), and I really recommend it for the higher difficulty levels. The hint reveals two whole columns, one horizontal and one vertical, at the start of each puzzle, making it a bit easier to get started, but not guaranteeing victory, especially when it comes to the more challenging puzzles.

It's-a-me! Or Dr. Phil in a
baseball cap. Good thing
this isn't Anticipation.
The only thing guaranteeing victory is beating the whole game once. There are a lot of puzzles in this game - four "courses" with 64 puzzles each, which makes up for a total of 256 - but since the game lacks a random generator (or alternatively, a level editor), they're exactly the same each time you play, and some courses even hang on to kind of loose themes which are easy to figure out after just a couple of puzzles. Letters, card faces, common symbols, and such. Half a course offers up a challenge, but once you've figured out the theme, the challenge pretty much lies in how a certain solution you already know is achieved with the numbers you're given. Since the puzzles are always the same, conquering Mario's Picross is a one-time deal. It seems there's some sort of a time trial tied to each puzzle, but do one puzzle enough times... I guess there's no need to explain. Still, I think that one time is a time to cherish. Mario's Picross is most of all a different puzzle game, and an entertaining one as long as it lasts. Couldn't imagine having too fun with a version exclusive to the big screen, though - this is one game that we Westerners were glad to know just as a handheld. That being said, this is the Super Game Boy version, as you probably figured out from the screenshots.

Mario's Picross has some minor flaws in addition to its one-off nature, detailed below, but all in all, it's a comfy, addictive puzzle game that will most definitely work as a good, interesting alternative if you're into sudokus. A late Game Boy treat, you could call it.

+ Unique, addictive gameplay
+ The challenge and appeal of real nonogram puzzles is well and innovatively adapted

- Horrible, repetitive music, as in most genre games
- No lasting value, which on the other hand is moderately unusual for the genre
- The small screen of the Game Boy results in some very strange views on certain objects

< 8.2 >

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