December Update: Pokemon Picross and Nintendo Badge Arcade
Honestly, I’m a fiend for Picross. Picross DS was a major time suck in my life many years ago. I’ve actually considered a lot whether that game was an unhealthy obsession. I would turn on the game expecting to kill maybe ~10-15 minutes solving one or two puzzles, but I would get caught in a loop where after beating a puzzle, I would think to myself “just one more!” Suddenly, entire hours of my afternoon would disappear, and I would wonder how I let the time go. The term “addictive” gameplay is often considered a positive remark toward a game, but sometimes I’m not so sure it should be. After Picross DS, I tried to attack the sequels with a little more moderation. Picross 3D came out when I was busy writing my dissertation, and I went “Nope! Not touching that!” out of fear that it would be too much of a distraction. I have played the first Picross e game released on 3DS, however.
For those unfamiliar with the Picross series, the games are collections of a type of logic puzzle called nonograms. Nonograms are kind of like crosswords or sudoku in that they were originally printed puzzles found in things like newspapers and booklets. The game is played on a square grid where the numbers attached to each column and row are used to deduce which squares of the grid should be filled in by the player. The idea is that, when all the correct square spaces are filled in, they should form a crude picture. There’s something about nonogram puzzles that make them more suited for video game form than its counterparts like sudoku, and that’s something Nintendo realized a long time ago as the Picross series started on Game Boy in 1995.
Pokemon Picross introduces its own wrinkle into the series. The puzzles form pictures of pokemon monster and upon completion that pokemon becomes a part of the player’s collection. Collected pokemon can then be added to the player’s “party” and can be used to help solve other puzzles with their hint abilities. These abilities include , for instance, revealing the correct squares for a given column or auto correcting a mistake made by the player. As far as I can tell, use of the abilities is entirely optional. Hardcore players who want to tackle the game with pure logic need not use their pokemon. The monsters are differentiated by which ability they can use as well as the number of times the ability can be used during a given puzzle and the length of the subsequent cooldown timer.
This game is advertised by Nintendo as “free to start,” and features an in-game currency called picrites and an energy meter which depletes as squares are filled in so that each time the player fills in a square (correctly or incorrectly) the meter goes down by 1. The meter will slowly recharge over a period of a few hours, meaning that if you run out of energy in the middle of a puzzle, you’re going to have to give up on it. Mercifully, each puzzle says upfront the minimum amount of energy required to reach the solution assuming the player makes no mistakes. Picrites can be spent to refill the meter with no wait or upgrade its length.
Picrites are really how Nintendo intends to make money off the game. The puzzles are divided into stages called “areas,” and after beating the puzzles in a given area, the player must spend a fairly hefty amount of picrites to unlock the next one. The player will receive a few hundred picrites for completing the tutorials, but afterwards earning picrites in-game slows to a trickle. A small amount of picrites can be earned once each puzzle by completing certain special objectives such as solving it within a certain time limit. There’s also a daily challenge that can be completed once per day for a small amount of picrites.
Unfortunately, I think most players will hit a wall at around area 5 where they will need to buy picrites to progress, because the trickle they’ll receive from the normal levels and daily challenges just aren’t enough. Mercifully though, there’s a spending limit on how many picrites you can buy which is about $30. After you spend that amount, it is my understanding you’ll be able to withdraw unlimited picrites for free from the shop.
For as much of a fiend as I am for Picross, I don’t think I’m going to go much farther with Pokemon Picross. I don’t really know if the Pokemon hook really creates a meaningful enhancement to the game, and there are several Picross e games available on the eshop for much less than $30. And like I said, in the past I’ve had a bit of an unhealthy fixation with Picross, and I find it somewhat of a mercy that Nintendo created such a convoluted paywall as it deters my temptation. Nonetheless, if you like Pokemon and are curious about Picross, I would at least give the game a shot as it’s free-to-start. I will also say that there does appear to be a ton of content here as there are a total of 31 areas that have about 5-10 puzzles each plus various types of special puzzles, so I certainly don’t begrudge anyone who ends up spending money on the game.
In contrast to Pokemon Picross, Nintendo Badge Arcade is a game I feel like one can enjoy pretty easily if they choose not to spend any money or perhaps only a few dollars. Badge Arcade allows 3DS owners to win virtual “badges” for their systems, which are icons of various Nintendo properties that can be used to decorate the 3DS home screen. These badges are won via 2D crane games (sort of like UFO Catchers) where the goal is to get the badges to fall into pits at the bottom of the screen. The player scrolls a pincer across the top of the screen that is used to grab onto badges, but it’s not necessary to actually grab anything with them pincer, you just merely need to get the badges to fall into the bottom of the screen. So, for instance, if the badges are stacked on a slope, grabbing one of the badges at the base of the slope can cause a chain reaction that lets the others slide off.
The game is free-to-play with it costing $1 for the player to get five tries. However, each day you get five free tries on the “practice” catcher. You don’t get to keep the badges you win during practice, but if you do well enough you can win free plays on the real catchers. I can pretty reliably get at least one free play a day, often two or three.
The badges that are available to win are changed out every few days and are often sprites or artwork from popular games like Mario Maker, Mario Kart, Kirby, Zelda, Animal Crossing, etc. I appreciate that they also have had badges from lesser known Nintendo series like Pushmo and Box Boy. My favorite badges have so far been the 8-bit sprites from various NES games that they put up to promote NES Remix. The weirdest badges I’ve seen were a set of pixelated tropical birds that, as far as I could tell, had nothing to do with any Nintendo franchise.
Weird as it is, I really enjoy this game. It’s something I usually spend a few minutes playing each day (really as much as I can do with the free plays). I’ve only actually bothered to spend a few bucks on it to get all of the Super Mario Bros. 2 badges that were a part of the aforementioned NES Remix promotion. Otherwise, I just try to get as many badges as I can with the free plays. There’s very little pressure to spend any money.