It seems like Pokemon has become Nintendo’s go-to frontliner for puzzle-based mobile-friendly spinoff games, and Pokemon Picross is one of their latest examples.
Publisher: The Pokemon Company
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Release: December 2, 2015
Pokemon Picross is a game that mysteriously found its way on my game bar in my 3DS like one of those cursed artifacts from the antique shop that ends up stealing your soul. In this case, it wasn’t my soul being taken (as far as I’m aware), but a whole lot of my time.
Pokemon Picross is a puzzle game that feels sort of similar to sudoku. Each puzzle has one big grid of squares – usually 10×10, but there are some harder ones – and the grids are outlined by a bunch of numbers along the top and the left side. The numbers correspond with the number of squares you need to fill in each row and column. When you finish a puzzle, the filled squares will make a pixelated picture of a pokemon.
It’s probably easiest to show you a picture:
When you finish a puzzle, you “catch” the pokemon you just drew, and you can then use that pokemon to help you finish other puzzles. Each pokemon type corresponds to a special ability. For example, electric type pokemon will slow the timer, while fire types will reveal squares in a cross-shaped pattern. Each puzzle also has additional challenges that yield rewards in the form of picrites, which is the in-game currency.
This game is extremely addicting, and I’ve found myself spending hours if not days just going from one puzzle to the next.
The graphics aren’t really anything to write home about, since just about everything is pixelated to 8-bit quality to match the square-filling puzzles. The overworld is higher quality, but still very minimalist.
The music in this game is limited to a few songs, but they are pretty good songs with catchy beats. I particularly like the mysterious-sounding music in the mural puzzles.
There are a few “freemium” elements in Pokemon Premium. First of all, you get an energy bar that slowly depletes each time you fill in a square. Like many mobile games, the energy bar will recharge over the course of real-time hours. The pokemon you use also have cooldown timers ranging from an hour to a full day. You can spend picrites to upgrade your energy bar, and after upgrading it three times, you unlock unlimited energy.
The puzzles come in zones as well, and it costs increasing amounts of picrites to unlock each new zone. After about the fifth zone or so, it becomes extremely difficult to unlock zones without buying picrites with real money.
That’s right, you can buy picrites with real money. At first, this seems nefarious, but Nintendo used this “freemium-like” model in an amazingly intelligent way. After you buy roughly $34.00 worth of picrites, they become completely free. Essentially, this means that the game costs anywhere from $0 to $34 and where you stop is pretty much up to you. I absolutely love this model, because not only does it let you choose how much you want to pay, but the way the shop is set up creates a perfect way to use the leftover money you get after buying a game on Nintendo’s e-shop.
I’m inclined to believe that Pokemon Picross is mostly an experiment performed by Nintendo to test this new monetization method. I personally love the payment method, and I want to see it being used throughout the mobile gaming market. It feels a little out of place as a 3DS title, but I think it was a result of Nintendo trying to release it on a more familiar platform.
As a game by itself, I found it to be an overall enjoyable experience.
-Good payment model
-Catchy (but limited) music
-Freemium model looks sketchy at first
Score: 3 / 5