Pokemon Picross is a plastic cake. From far away, it looks delicious and I can see the combination of my favorite things coming together in a pretty presentation. However, when I try to take a bite I’m left with broken teeth and a mouth full of plastic.

There is no chocolate.

When this title was first teased during the Nintendo Direct in November, it gave me something to look forward to despite hearing Bill Trinen slip in the phrase: “free to start.” At first glance, it looked like a combination of Picross’ addictive puzzle game with a Pokemon twist that would add in some an extra layer of challenge with Pokemon types.

Now that it’s out, I’ve had a chance to play through for a little while and I don’t like what I’ve played. If it were accurate to my anticipations, it could have been great. However, Pokemon Picross not only takes advantage of the free-to-play style of game but it takes those tricks to the core of the game’s development.

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Picross shows you a grid that has numbers along the left and top. Each number represents the number of squares in that row that are colored in and if there are more than one number listed then there must be at least one space between sections that are filled in.

Traditionally, the excitement of the game comes from completing a puzzle and seeing the simple image that you’ve created. Now, you can get the thrill of collecting Pokemon.

I immediately felt a tinge of aggravation when I started the game and the menu forced the use of the stylus. The game itself allows either button or stylus use to play through the puzzles, but it felt like wearing oven mitts every time I had to use the stylus to navigate the seemingly endless tutorials.

Once in the game and past the tutorial section, I had a few “Wait, what?” kind of moments. The game encourages the use of Pokemon to solve the puzzle which goes against my Picross ways. The challenge of Picross is knowing how to advance through the puzzle and using the board to guide you. Here, you are rewarded for using an ability with the game’s currency called “Picrites.” You need picrites to unlock new areas and to find new puzzles.

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The tutorial would make it seem like picrites are a natural resource in the game, as completing a section shells out between 30 and 50. However, once in the game you find that completing a puzzle only gives you 2 or 3. Those 2 or 3 are dependent upon how many challenges you completed for that puzzle. Some challenges are obvious and natural, like completing the puzzle in X minutes. Others, force you to only bring a certain Pokemon type and use the special move equipped to that Pokemon.

To someone who isn’t necessarily a purist, but someone who enjoys Picross quite a bit, this feels a little like cheating. I don’t like using the hints or auto-fills because it takes away from the challenge. Being forced to do so in order to advance just tastes bad. I unlocked as many areas as I could before running out of energy, which I had also upgraded using picrites and I only made it to the third area. I’ve got to go back (once my energy replenishes) and replay puzzles I’ve already completed in order to unlock new ones.

For the first time, I don’t really care to finish a Picross game. I hope that we get Picross 3D 2 in North America soon because this just isn’t cutting it.

Posted by Joe Dix

Joe is the creator of The Free Cheese. He eats a lot of pizza and takes thousands of pictures of his pugs Oswald and Earl every day. He has a disorder that causes him to believe that he is Batman and his favorite video game is Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.

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