Picross DS (Nintendo DS) Review

By Phil Beveridge 07.06.2007 10

To most people, Picross just sound like any other Japanese logic game out there - after all, there are hundreds of different puzzle games out there, each trying to be popular as the reigning champion, Sudoku. But Nintendo’s puzzle choice has been Picross since the original Game Boy game in 1995. In Japan, we’ve had not only two GB incarnations, but an amazing nine Picross games for the Super Famicom through their downloadable distribution system. And now that we have the first official game for the DS released, can it exceed other versions of the game, and maybe even beat Sudoku from the top spot in the puzzle world?

The game of Picross is known by many names, and if you haven’t come across it, shares similarities with the Windows game Minesweeper in some ways. Depending on the difficulty of the puzzle you are attempting, a blank 10x10, 15x15, or greater grid is presented to you to solve. The aim is to deduce which squares hold a marked tile, and which squares cannot hold a tile. Once the whole thing is solved, a picture is formed from the squares, and the puzzle is solved (along with a nice little animation). The only clues to solve the puzzle are numbers along the rows and columns of the grid, identifying how many tiles are grouped together, with at least one square gap in-between each number. So if a puzzle is set on a 10x10 grid, and a row says ‘8-1’, then there must be eight marked tiles, followed by a gap , with another marked tile at the end (as this is the only combination that will fit). And so the game continues, until all the tiles have been found.

Sorry if I just bored you stiff, it’s a bit of a hard game to explain, and certainly more logical and thought-provoking than a game of Sudoku. It may sound complicated, but trust me, it’s not. After completing the first 15 beginner puzzles built into the game to get you started, you should be a Picross master in no time at all. And in my personal opinion, this game is better than Sudoku. With the picture and animation you get after completing a puzzle, the whole thing seems a lot more rewarding and creative than other Japanese-based number games.

Screenshot for Picross DS on Nintendo DS

While previous incarnations of the game used the basic D-pad and button combo, this version greatly benefits from the hardware available to it using a touch-screen-button hybrid. Hold a direction down on the D-Pad (or the buttons, if you’re left-handed) to either mark the square, place a cross to indicate a blank square, or simply drag the touch-screen around without pressing any buttons to move the grid itself. Meanwhile, you have a zoomed-out grid on the top screen, allowing you to see the whole image. The control system works well, and if you want something more accurate, you can always use the D-pad for selecting squares. Trust me, sometimes you’ll curse to the high heavens when your stylus slips and it puts you over the time limit…

The thing that has to be considered with all puzzle games of this nature is the length and playability of the game, as well as the various modes of play available. Take some of the standalone DS Sudoku games we’ve seen in the past few years as an example - they’ll have a hundred or so puzzles, and that’s it. No special modes, no multiplayer, and so forth. Thankfully, it’s safe to say that Picross DS does not disappoint on that front, and I am confident in saying that I will never ever get bored of this game, just because of the sheer amount of content available.

Screenshot for Picross DS on Nintendo DS

First, we have the main puzzle mode, which is expectedly separated into easy, normal and hard puzzles, then sub-divided into categories, so for example, a group of 15 puzzles might be all sea creatures, while the next 15 might be types of fruit. The main puzzles alone will last you for months if you’re casually doing a few puzzles every day, but there’s the added bonus that the more puzzles you complete, the more that are unlocked, meaning you’re never left without an uncompleted puzzle. To be successfully completed, a puzzle has to be completed within one hour, with the easy and normal puzzles having a penalty system (i.e. time added to the clock if you make a mistake). However, the hard mode has no penalties or alerts, meaning the puzzles have to be worked out by logic alone and not by guesswork.

Next, we move onto the mode creeping up into most puzzle games nowadays - a daily puzzle mode. Much like Brain Training, this mode contains five different types of quick fire puzzles, designed to help you improve your speed and accuracy over time, with all results being plotted on a graph to monitor your progress. And I have to say, after a month of playing for five minutes every day, my graph is showing an improvement! It’s not a long time to play every day, but just those five minutes can potentially make the game last forever as far as the lifespan is concerned.

But wait, there’s even more stuff in this game! A built-in puzzle editor allows the user to create puzzles, either pixel-by-pixel or by drawing on the screen and letting the game find the closest solvable match. This can then be played, or sent via local wireless to other people who own the game. To be honest, this feature is not really that good, especially when you already have hundreds of puzzles build into the game. Plus, anything you do create is usually made unrecognisable for the puzzle to be solvable. Another use of the local wireless is a head-to-head mode, pitching two players against each other to see who can solve a randomly-generated puzzle the fastest.

Screenshot for Picross DS on Nintendo DS

Now, if I said that was all the features of the game, it would be a pretty good game anyway. But somehow Nintendo managed to add even more to it, with the addition of Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection capabilities. You know the head-to-head mode on local wireless? Take that, and make it online with a random opponent, or if you choose, someone on your friends list. The game literally takes a few seconds to find another opponent to challenge, and keeps track of all your results. So simple, yet again adds ages to the lifespan of the game. And remember the puzzle creator I mentioned? Well, any puzzles that you do create can be uploaded to your own ‘puzzle area’ at Nintendo, then downloaded and shared by anyone on your friends list, which is a nice touch rather than just the local wireless. But the best thing I find about this game is something amazing - downloadable content. Yes, every single week, Nintendo of Japan have release a new downloadable pack of 10 puzzles for no cost, taken from the previous 11 Picross games on Nintendo systems, meaning an infinite number of puzzles. And now these packs are making their way over here in Europe every week... genius.

Overall, I believe that this is a good puzzle game, even beating the almighty Sudoku. It hasn’t fallen pray to the no-content problem that most puzzle games have nowadays, in fact, there may even be too much content here! I see it as one of those casual games that can be picked up at any time and played anywhere, with no chance of running out of puzzle action.

Screenshot for Picross DS on Nintendo DS

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

An extraordinary title, and one of the best puzzle games on the DS. The cartridge just oozes with content, and is great as a casual game for logical fun between playing other DS games. If you're looking for a head-scratcher, look no further.


Jupiter Corp







C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  10/10 (1 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   


What a shame it's only a single color version (do correct me if I'm wrong!)
The Simple DS series' Illust version had a set of colours, making the variety of puzzles even greater.

But good to see there's plenty of levels to be enjoyed.

Socoder.net - Where making games is fun!

NOW please! I saw Mario Picross back when I was a wee lad(7 or 8) and didn't understand what the hell was going on, but now that I get it I REALLY want it.

@Jayenkai - Single colour version? Care to expain more?

ok, single coloured.
[5][4] [][][][][] [][][][][]
Simple, it'd be the first 5, then last 4.
[red 5][blue 4] [][][][][] [][][][][]
The red 5 could be the 1->5 or 2->6, whilst the blue could be 6->9 or 7->10. Since we're working with 2 colours, it means that the 2 "bits" needn't not touch. (That's described a bit rubbish, but you should get the idea)

Every picross I've played has been single colour, except for Simple DS "Series Vol. 7 - The Illust Puzzle & Suuji Puzzle"
The "Illust" game is multi-coloured, leading to even more complex puzzles.

Socoder.net - Where making games is fun!

Phil, it definitely isn't an exaggeration (Smilie) - the game certainly has great longevity, especially with the Mario Picross et al downloads :-D

Very fair review - really hope Nintendo decides to give this a shot overseas...

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]


Its cool!

My Life & blog: Random Thoughts, Photos, stuff, videos and links

Picross online Picross

The game just seems the get better and better the more you play it...It's easily surpassed Sudoku in my eyes. Whether it topples Kakuro, though, I'm not sure :Smilie

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

The game just seems the get better and better the more you play it...It's easily surpassed Sudoku in my eyes. Whether it topples Kakuro, though, I'm not sure :Smilie

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

Picross is really a great game . I spend many hours with the my DS cause of it. But recently I've been playing Gemsweeper from Lobstersoft on my pc. Great game!

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