Nearly ten years ago, a friend and I decided to play Mansion of Hidden Souls on the Sega CD. We didn’t know anything about it, and at that point neither of us had much experience with similar first-person adventure games like Myst. The plodding movement and crude 3D pre-rendered visuals did little to entice us, but we enjoyed the emphasis on puzzle solving. If anything, it was informative to play through a style of game that was no longer in vogue, and one that showcased an early example of full-motion video. We followed it up with playthroughs of a couple similar games and have dabbled with the genre since then, albeit infrequently. One game in particular has been at the top of our to-do list for years, yet we always passed over it for one reason or another. Well the stars aligned last week, and we finally played D. Continue reading D [Sega Saturn] – Review→
As was the case with History 2048, one of my main motivations for purchasing Miniature – The Story Puzzle was its appealing art style (it didn’t hurt being on sale, either). The screenshots posted on the game’s eShop page highlighted neat little dioramas, not dissimilar from History 2048. Both games were developed by purpleElephant, so the shared design aesthetic makes sense. It was a good looking game, but there just wasn’t much to it.
Each stage of Miniature told a story across five scenes, represented by changes in a diorama. For instance, one stage told the story of a deep sea dive. Early scenes had the diver getting ready aboard the boat and entering the water, while later ones highlighted the discovery of treasure and threat of a shark. I cycled through the scenes randomly, moving the diorama around, zooming in for clues, in an attempt to put them in the correct order.
There were about a dozen stages to play through, which altogether took less than a half-hour to complete. The controls were the most puzzling aspect at first, but once I figured them out, I was off to the races. Conceptually, the gameplay of Miniature was enjoyable, and the presentation was neat! But, there wasn’t much to the package. Although I don’t think the game is a particularly good deal (even on sale), it’s probably the perfect length.
Adding more puzzles could’ve improved the value proposition, but to prevent the game from getting stale, I think the developers would’ve had to increase the scenes per stage to up the difficulty, or expand the gameplay in another way. Miniature was enjoyable, but it seems better suited as a novel minigame in a larger game.
In retrospect, I read the title History 2048 both too literally and with little comprehension. When I first happened upon the game, browsing the Switch’s eShop, the name struck a chord. Paired with an appealing visual style and what seemed to be board game influenced gameplay, I was intrigued enough to make the purchase. It was on sale for only a couple of dollars, after all. Not once did I read the description on the game’s store page. If I had, or gave the game’s title a little more thought, I would’ve realized it was simply a 2048clone with an attractive veneer. Continue reading History 2048 [Switch] – Review→
Years ago, during a PlayStation Network flash sale, I picked up Kurulin Fusion for a buck. A block-matching puzzle game for the PlayStation Portable, its sole claim to fame is the fact that Nobuo Uematsu served as musical director. The legendary composer, best known for his involvement with the Final Fantasy series, didn’t actually contribute any music for this game, however. Instead he provided instruction to Kenichiro Iwasaki, who arranged techno remixes of classic Johann Sebastian Bach compositions. Regardless of Uematsu’s level of involvement, the soundtrack was a delight and full of hummable earworms. The game, on the other hand… Continue reading Kurulin Fusion [PlayStation Portable] – Review→
The demise of Club Nintendo, the decade-old loyalty program, was a sad moment for fans of the Big N. It’s made worse by the fact that the successor program, My Nintendo, offers chintzy rewards and a distinct lack of physical products. Well, save for one. As Stephen Totilo highlighted in a recent Kotaku article, My Nintendo Picross: The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, a digital 3DS game, is available to those who have accrued 1,000 Platinum Points through My Nintendo. In his story, he articulated the simple, yet tedious process, of earning these points. Seeing as I’m such a big sucker for both Nintendo and Picross, I followed his lead and got the “free” game. Continue reading My Nintendo Picross: The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess [Nintendo 3DS] – Review→
Now this is my kind of game! Available for both iOS and Android devices, Pixel Puzzle Collection merges Picrossstyle gameplay with trivia on Konami games of the past, classic and lesser-known titles alike. It’s free to boot, and even though it’s chock-a-block of ads, they’re minimally invasive.
Although Sudoku had existed in one form or another since the late 19th century, it didn’t gain in popularity in the United States until the mid 2000s, when it became a feature of practically every newspaper. I was in high school then and devoted crucial time to solving these addictive new logic puzzles instead of paying attention in class, perhaps explaining why I excel at Sudoku but couldn’t tell you much about chemistry… The Nintendo DS was beginning to catch fire around this time as well, after Nintendo realized it could capitalize on an untapped market: the non-gamer. Releases like Brain Age appealed to many demographics and showcased the platform’s unique abilities in handling games such as Sudoku. A wave of software followed and while my experience with Sudoku on the platform is limited I’m nonetheless impressed with Sudoku Gridmaster. Continue reading Sudoku Gridmaster [Nintendo DS] – Review→
I had my first hands-on experience with mahjong a few months ago with Shanghaion the Sega Master System. Having enjoyed it, I scoured my collection for another mahjong game and came across Mahjong Cub3d for the Nintendo 3DS. Developed by Sunsoft and published in the United States by Atlus on October 11, 2011, it’s a Picross 3D styled adaptation of solitaire mahjong. I enjoyed clearing 3D mahjong piles despite a perplexing lack of touch screen controls. When I wanted something more traditional I attempted to solve deviously difficult standard mahjong puzzles. Now that I’ve played this a while, I believe my hunger for mahjong has been filled. Continue reading Mahjong Cub3d [Nintendo 3DS] – Review→
A spin-off of 2013’s Super Mario 3D World, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker released the following year and expanded upon a series of one-off stages featured in that game. Designed around Captain Toad’s inability to jump and thereby defeat enemies in a traditional Mario way, each stage allowed the designers behind the Mario games to flex their creative muscles within strict gameplay confines. Impressively, they managed to do so across nearly 80 distinct stages, rarely reusing puzzle conceits. Consistently refreshing and stimulating, it was a joy to play. Continue reading Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker [Wii U] – Review→
I’m disappointed with Pokémon Picross. Or rather, I’m disappointed in my expectations for the game. When it was announced in a recent Nintendo Direct, it was fully detailed as a “free-to-start” title: a game I’d be able to download and play for free. Presumably, there’d be some reason to coerce me to input money, but I didn’t ruminate on that or the potential pitfalls associated with the game’s payment model further. My lust for a new Picross game caused blinders to go up, especially considering this was a new one thematically designed around Pokémon. A peanut butter and jelly combination if I’d ever heard one! Having spent some time with the game, I’ve come back down and am firmly grounded in reality.
Nintendo’s Picrossgames are logic-based puzzlers that task players with filling in a gridded square using numerical hints on each row and column, ultimately revealing a picture. The numbers bordering each row and column indicate how many squares are to be filled in and if they’re connected or contain an unknown space of unmarked squares between them. Using deductive reasoning, one can determine that if a row of 10 squares has a hint of 8, a certain number of squares must be filled in, regardless of where the filled in section begins and ends. Extrapolating this thinking across the entire grid and utilizing squares that have already been filled in is an addictive process with a satisfying sense of completion when complete, especially on the larger puzzles.
Pokémon Picross takes that standard concept and applies some of the mechanics from the Pokémonseries. The puzzles themselves are representative of individual Pokémon that when complete, result in catching said creature. They each have an ability that aids in the completion of puzzles by filling in squares, slowing time, etc. This mechanic ties into another new addition, rewards for completing specific objectives for each puzzle. Each puzzle has a set of unique objectives, such as set Pokémon X or use ability Y. Rewards for completing these were generally Picrites, the in-game currency.
Mega Puzzles make a return after their debut in the digital only Picross e titles, although they’re completely foreign to me. I skipped out on those digital titles not thinking they contained much content (I was wrong, rectifying that mistake… now) but they make total sense in a Pokémonthemed game, considering Mega Evolutions are the new “thing” for that series. Basically, they screw with the hints given and instead combine two rows/columns. Even after going through the tutorial a time or two, I had to wrack my brain to comprehend them. They add a nice change of pace, but are nowhere near as progressive as Picross 3D.
Progression is also portrayed differently, although is structurally similar to previous Picross games. Players navigate the game from puzzle to puzzle as if navigating the varying routes in a Pokémongame, complete with branching paths and different creatures. The difficulty pacing is all over the place, which for a veteran like me is appreciated. While it could be a hindrance for someone unfamiliar with the series (and I could see many newcomers coming for the Pokémonside of the equation), it also further replicates the progression of a standard Pokémongame, e.g. having to return to some cave with stronger Pokémon. Reaching new areas is no small feat and the barriers are twofold: energy and Picrites.
I originally wanted to start this section off discussing one of these mechanics as the lesser of two evils, but they’re both pretty mischievous, but ultimately boil down to one annoyance. Like many free-to-play games, this one utilizes an energy meter. As squares of puzzles are filled in, that meter depletes until it’s empty, halting progress until it’s refilled. The easiest way is to wait for it to refill; this can take a couple of hours and for the player in need of a fix, the quickest way is to refill it (or extend it altogether) with Picrites. As mentioned, Picrites are the in-game currency and are awarded for the completion of puzzles and the completion of objectives. They are doled out in laughable quantities in relation to the amount needed to unlock additional areas and upgrades, heck even an alternate set of puzzles are gated behind a hefty sum of Picrites. The only logical solution is to pony up real money.
This is a free-to-play game (and the core game is damn fine!) but convincing myself to plug in more than a couple of bucks is a tough sell. Admittedly, I’m still one of those luddites who prefer physical media and getting something I can hold in my hands in return. And I understand that many individuals worked on this game and there are plenty of stakeholders who deserve a cut. But, the portrayal of this game as free-to-play is somewhat devious. The amount of Picrites awarded in relation to the tally needed to unlock additional stages is prohibitively high and at some point, progression is gated behind a measly few puzzles that can be farmed each day.
Labels and payment models shouldn’t conjure this much ill will, and I’m perhaps going overboard here, but I would’ve rather seen Nintendo strip away the free-to-play elements and just market a full-price digital title. Obviously they didn’t go that route and I’m sure there’s plenty of evidence to suggest they’d reach more players, and ultimately yield more revenue by adopting the model they went with. And with that “realization” this article has devolved into a codgerly rant about the evolving sales pitch of video games. The kicker is that if you pump in about thirty bucks, all of these elements I’ve whined about go away. I don’t think I’m going to though because I’ve still got a chip on my shoulder on how they marketed this game! The more I write, the more I’m coming off as an entitled asshole, even to myself. So while I’d fit in great in an internet comments section, I’m going to wrap things up here! This is a great game, just go into it with better expectations than me.