I won’t lie. After more than forty hours with Picross: Lord of the Nazarick, I still have no idea what’s up with Overlord, the game’s underlying source material. In fairness, I’ve been slowly whittling away the more than 500 picture crossword puzzles for over a year, so of course the brief text conversations that occurred at the beginning of a particular character’s section didn’t stick with me. And hey, who cares anyway? My original intent wasn’t to familiarize myself with Overlord, it was to find a new well of Picross puzzles to solve at bedtime and on that account, it was a… well, a mundane success.
Developed by Jupiter Corporation, the Kyoto headquartered studio behind almost every one of Nintendo’s Picross games, this entry surprised me as it was self-published. Since their founding in 1992, Jupiter has had a close working relationship with Nintendo – particularly with series’ that begin with P, such as Picross and Pokémon – this I knew, but browsing their voluminous past work revealed their status as a clearly respected contract developer. Of note, I had forgotten they had developed or co-developed alongside Square Enix Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories and The World Ends with You; or for Disney, Spectrobes. Despite no shortage of outside work I assume Picross remains their bread and butter, because as it turns out, besides developing the numerous Picross e and Picross S games that release nearly yearly across the 3DS and Switch, they also published them. I could’ve sworn Nintendo did, but it looks like they merely hold the brand trademark.
As one might assume, this entry, released in July 2019, is not too different from Jupiter’s previous Picross games, albeit with an Overlord theme. Standard nonogram puzzles make up the bulk of the game, although newer gameplay modes that were introduced in its predecessors are also incorporated, namely Clip Picross from Picross S2 (August 2018) and Color Picross from Picross S3 (April 2019), but also Mega Picross, which debuted in 2013’s Picross e3. Gameplay wise there’s nothing special about Clip Picross, it’s just a large image made up of smaller puzzles, generally around forty (similar to Micross, from previous installments). Color Picross on the other hand introduced fresh wrinkles to the familiar logic used in solving puzzles.
In the traditional Picross puzzles, where a square is either filled in or it isn’t based on numerical clues, it’s understood that if there’s multiple clues for a row or column, there’s an undetermined gap in between the filled-in squares. Color Picross keeps this logic only when the same two colors are adjacent. For instance, if there’s a yellow numerical clue next to a yellow numerical clue, there has to be a gap between the filled-in squares, otherwise there’s only one block of filled-in yellow squares, right? But, if there’s a yellow clue next to a green clue, the filled-in squares can touch each other. Often, I had to slow down and think when solving these puzzles, whereas solving traditional puzzles has almost become an unconscious act. Unfortunately, of the more than five hundred puzzles included, only three dozen are of the Color Picross variety.
Conversely, the Mega Picross puzzles were way more plentiful, if only because the traditional puzzles also had a Mega variant. What sets this puzzle type apart is in the inclusion of Mega Numbers – clues which span two rows or columns. These indicate a chunk of contiguous squares that need to be filled in. Like Color Picross, solving for these required me to think differently, and honestly they were quite challenging. There weren’t many puzzles that gave me trouble, but almost all that did were of the Mega variety.
As with most Picross games, this one had loads of puzzles to solve, and it personally kept me occupied for more than forty hours. And in this case, I think that’s a good word for it: occupied. I’d guess I’ve played a couple hundred hours worth of Picross games at this point, and while still entertaining and sometimes mentally stimulating, they’re not as exciting as they once were. Mega and Color Picross puzzles helped to rejuvenate that virgin Picross feeling, but with so few of the latter (and more interesting of the two), only in a fleeting sense. Nonetheless, I still find these games to be a great way to wind down before bed, and I will no doubt re-up on another one now that I’ve wrung all there is to wring out of Picross: Lord of the Nazarick.