The slew of puzzle games on the Nintendo DS is immense, with many different takes on the Sudoku theme, Kakuro, Crosswords, Brain Trainers and traditional puzzlers such as Tetris and Puzzle League all gracing the touch-screen portable. Another popular favourite is Picture Crosswords, otherwise known as 'Picross', with Nintendo releasing what is rightly deemed by many as being one of the best in its genre on the dual-screen system. Now Rising Star Games has brought French studio Little Worlds' twist on the Picross theme to Europe, in the form of Colour Cross. But can changing the formula prove to be something fresh, or will the tinkering end up being the game's downfall?
For those that have never tried Picross before, the basic idea is that you are faced with a blank grid that has various numbers running across the top and down the left-hand side. The aim is to fill the grid in the appropriate way, according to the numbers on show. An example is the best way to illustrate how it works. Imagine a 5x5 blank grid in your mind for a moment. Each of the vertical columns has '2,2' above them. This means that four spaces must be filled in the vertical columns, and considering the comma means there must be at least one space between the '2' and '2', the only option is to fill the top two blocks, leave one space, then fill in the bottom two. In this example you would do the same for each column to finish off the first part of the puzzle. Now, each of the horizontal rows, with the exception of the third one down, will just have '5' next to them. This means all five squares from left-to-right must be filled, something that has already been completed by filling the vertical columns. In standard Picross that would be the end of the puzzle. Colour Cross, however, splits each puzzle into separate layers. So, continuing with this particular example, the next step would be to tap on the right side of the touch-screen to change coloured layers. This would result in the numbers around the grid changing, this time showing '1' at the top of each column and one solitary '5' next to the third row, since that row was left blank previously.
Hopefully that gives somewhat of a clearer idea as to how puzzles are broken down throughout Colour Cross. Everything is much simpler in practice, so worry not if it still sounds perplexing - plus anyway, there is a little video tutorial included that should help. Another little aide is the ability to place 'X' marks where you definitely know a coloured mark cannot be placed (such as a horizontal row that has no number, meaning nothing can be filled in for that row at all). Should you accidentally try to colour in a square that cannot be coloured, a time penalty is enforced. Once a grid is fully completed, an image will have been produced, unbeknownst to players concentrating on the actual puzzle (although as you become more skilled, you can start to 'guess' which squares to fill by analysing the picture forming before your eyes!). This is part of the attraction for some gamers, achieving the full collection of completed pictures, whilst others will play for the thrill of finishing a grid as quickly as possible, which is why the penalty system works well, as it keeps people coming back for more after making foolish errors.
Everything is touch-screen controlled and thanks to Little Worlds including the option to zoom in close on larger puzzle grids (20x20, for example) there are not too many occasions where mistakes are made due to the stylus slipping across to the wrong square. Obviously it does happen from time-to-time and will cause terrible frustration, but thankfully those times are few and far between. There is the option to navigate around the game and scroll through the coloured layers whilst trying to solve puzzles by using the D-pad and face buttons, yet only the stylus can make marks on the actual grid. Some will find a small problem is faced when starting a new puzzle and straight away going to fill in all the X marks to make things simpler before getting cracking on the main numbered sections of the multi-coloured grid. You will start on one coloured layer and tap the 'X' box to begin blanking areas out, as normal, then when finished move on to the next coloured layer to do the same there. However, it must be remembered that when changing layers, the cursor automatically defaults back to the 'fill in numbered squares with a colour' icon, meaning ridiculous mistakes can occur if your attention wanes even momentarily. Every time you switch to a different coloured layer, you must click on the 'X' button once more! A major or minor gripe, dependent upon how specific players go about starting off new puzzle grids.
Players are treated to 150 puzzles set across ten different themes that are nearly all locked from the start ('Horror', 'Decoration' and 'Candy' being a few examples). Upon completion of each puzzle, more puzzles become released in each theme, and eventually after a set number are done and dusted, a new theme will be unlocked. Unfortunately, other than working your way through all 150 and then trying to beat previous fastest completion times, there is little else offered in Colour Cross, which ultimately leaves itself as somewhat of an inferior alternative to Nintendo's Picross DS, which offered plenty of extras, including new puzzles for download. Maybe if the team gets another shot at Colour Cross in the future it can add a player creation element where user-made puzzles can then be shared with others via Wi-Fi and head-to-head challenges can take place to add to the game's longevity. For now, however, the £19.99 price-tag is not too bad for what is on offer...
Picross on its own is delightfully tasking on the old grey matter, but splitting each puzzle into different coloured layers is a risky move…that thankfully ends up being a stroke of genius!
Pleasant and colourful throughout, maintaining clarity at the most important times, during actual puzzles. The only real drawback comes from not being able to determine what some of the completed images are!
Stylish and funky music for the menus, whilst peaceful, lilting tunes that do not distract during puzzles, plus clear sound effects to indicate when tiles have been filled in or cleared.
With 150 puzzles on offer (the majority of which become exceedingly difficulty very quickly, and are extraordinarily time consuming), there is a lot to play through. However, the lack of multiplayer and online content lets the side down slightly.
Little Worlds has taken the idea of Picross and twisted it around, throwing a whole heap of colour into proceedings with great results. Despite the lack of multi-player or Wi-Fi features, Colour Cross proves to be a solid puzzling effort for fans of the genre.
Looks pretty interesting, though I'm not a Picross fan myself, sadly. I'll pass the views on to some others though - cheers Adam!
I thought there were some hardened Picross DS followers on C3? Perhaps I was mistaken! Or maybe they're still so busy with Nintendo's effort...