Pokemon Picross

Pokemon Picross Review

Picture puzzles with Pikachu

A.J. Maciejewski

Reviewed by playing a 3DS on

ESRB Everyone rating

It's always an interesting experiment whenever game franchises unite. This new 3DS free-to-play puzzler combines the classic Nonogram gameplay of Picross with the charm of Pokemon. When you're ready, unsheathe your stylus and let's start tapping.

Pokemon Picross screenshot 1
Consider this puzzle solved!

There have been loads of Pokemon spin-offs over the years. Heck, Pikachu himself has starred in quite a few already established series including Puzzle League and Mystery Dungeon. Now it's his turn to take on Picross like Mario did so many years ago. In this delightful crossover, you solve Picross puzzles in order to unlock various Pokemon that have abilities to help you as you play. In other words, this isn't just Picross with a Pokemon theme since its gameplay is affected by recruiting new pocket monsters. Even if this dynamic didn't exist, simply solving these puzzles in such a colourful universe adds so much enjoyment to the equation. It makes me look forward to the possibilities of future Picross games. Will we see one starring Link or Kirby? I have no idea, but I'm definitely excited to see what unfolds.

As a long-time Picross fan, it's great to play it with the added twist of Pokemon helpers. Although I generally don't need any help, seeing the little critters reveal tiles, give hints, slow down time, and automatically fix errors is pretty cool. These abilities will definitely help with the large amount of challenges to take on. As you play each puzzle, there are a few missions to keep in mind that reward you with Picrites (the game's currency) and mural tiles. These missions usually consist of finishing within a certain time, equipping and using specific Pokemon, and accomplishing everything in one go. Mural tiles are used within two enormous eight-by-eight boards with each tile being its own ten-by-ten Picross puzzle. You use Picrites for almost everything such as refilling and extending your energy meter (that decreases for every tile you fill in), unlocking new areas, and buying slots to equip additional Pokemon. You can also gather Picrites by taking the daily challenge, earning medals, and of course using actual money. No matter what you decide to do next, each challenge is rewarding and full of surprises. In fact, I even had a rare Pokemon pop up that required me to solve a massive twenty-by-fifteen puzzle!

Pokemon Picross screenshot 2
Oh boy, Oshawott's my favourite

The most disappointing aspect of Pokemon Picross is that its micro-transactions are deceptively manipulative. When you first start, you're regularly rewarded with healthy amounts of Picrites which leads you to believe that this is the way it'll be throughout the whole game. Therefore, you'll probably blow most of it on upgrading your energy meter and purchasing more Pokemon slots. Even though the energy meter fills given some time, it's still tempting to extend it so you don't have to wait around. Anyway, upon reaching the third or fourth area, you're more than likely to get stuck without enough Picrites to advance. If you've already completed all of the missions and got as many medals as you can then your only other option is the daily challenge. This means that you might end up in a situation where you have to take the daily challenge every day for a week or so just to advance. The recently released free-to-play games Gems of War and Spelunker World have ideal models where you can pay if you want. Considering I've spent hours upon hours playing both of those games without spending a penny, it really annoys me that Pokemon Picross basically forces you to pay if you want to keep playing.

Another area where Pokemon Picross drops the ball is its content. The Picross e series (also available for 3DS) has some incredibly inexpensive installments that are full of hundreds of puzzles and tons of interesting modes. I would much rather pay for those games and get more content and variety than sink money into this deceptive game. Don't get me wrong, Pokemon Picross is a lot of fun but that fun is wrapped in a deceitful package. On top of that, the Picross e games implement full 3D support while Pokemon Picross does not. I really don't understand why they made this decision. After all, it is a 3DS game... right?

Pokemon Picross screenshot 3
Filling in these murals one tile at a time is hard work but they'll be beautiful once I'm done

Pokemon Picross is a worthwhile puzzler for any fan of either of the two series. However, be prepared to either shell out some change or give up on your quest prematurely once you inevitably hit the wall.

  • + Classic Picross gameplay set in the wonderful Pokemon universe
  • + Pokemon powers are fun to play with
  • + Plenty of satisfying challenges
  • - Not as much variety or content as the inexpensive Picross e games
  • - Manipulative freemium model
  • - No 3D support at all
6.5 out of 10
Official trailer for Pokemon Picross 2:22

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