Sunday, July 31, 2016

Twilight Princess Picross (Review)

The only real worthwhile reward for your Platinum Points on My Nintendo at the moment seems to be My Nintendo Picross - The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, made by Jupiter. You can get this for 1000 Platinum Points and it's only available til October 1st.

There's still enough time to receive this reward, since you can score up to 120 Platinum Points per week (see here) even without using Miitomo. We don't know, if this game will disappear into the same limbo, where the Four Swords Anniversary Edition went, so it's best to get this in any case, before it's gone. If you're still undecided, this review might help you out, but it will also give some general impressions about what may or may not be the start of a new series.

This review was written by a Zelda fan, who has never before played Picross, and is aimed at a similar demographic.

Zelda Themed Picross

If you've never heard about Picross before, it's a puzzle game, where you fill out little pixel graphics based on numbers. These are called "nonograms" and the best way to describe it would be "Pixel Sudoku". For each column and row you get a set of numbers telling you about the adjacent squares in the specific line. "3 5" means that there are three squares next to each other, followed by another piece of five squares. It doesn't tell you about the empty spaces around the pieces and that's what you have to find out in order to complete the picture.

The nice thing about these puzzles is that you never have to guess. If you have to, you probably made a mistake somewhere. But the puzzles are all designed in a way that there are always clear assumptions to be made of what can be filled in or crossed out, even if it's just a single square. For example if you have an "8" in a line of 15 squares, you know for sure that the square in the middle is always filled. That's where you start and this way you methodically carve out the whole picture, which rewards you with a colored pixel art at the end:

What makes this game "Zelda" is the sole fact that all the art pieces and the background music are based on Twilight Princess. You get various items, characters and even places from the game as charming little pixel artworks and you get some nice remixed music pieces. Unlike Hyrule Warriors, where they also tried to incorporate Zelda gameplay elements into the Warriors formula, this stays as a pure Picross experience with a Zelda theme.

The only exception might be Midna, who's basically your guide through the game, also giving the quite lengthy tutorials in the beginning, where she explains EVERYTHING again and again, which makes you want to hate Midna, if you didn't already. This can be quite annoying, if you already understood the mechanics and just want to get started. It also has some rather questionable dialogues...

Controls and Hint Systems

You have two control schemes: one using the Stylus and one using the D-Pad and buttons. The Stylus controls are much faster and preferable, but you have to swap between the pen to fill out squares and the cross to mark empty squares using either the D-Pad or the Slide Pad. The L button probably would have been more comfortable for this, but otherwise the controls are fine.

At least the various options around the hint mechanics leave nothing to be desired and show Jupiter's experience with these type of games. You can activate an auto check for the hint numbers, where it automatically checks off any numbers that are already present in the line, so you don't have to keep track of all of it by yourself, which certainly makes playing a lot more relaxing.

In addition there's the "Navigation", which is similar, but somewhat more advanced. This can be toggled on and off at any time with the ?-symbol on your touchscreen or the shoulder buttons and it marks every line, where you can fill in or cross out something, in a blue color:

This also speeds up the gameplay quite significantly, because again you don't have to go through every line in your head individually. Instead you can focus on the lines that matter. This may make things too easy and maybe you only want to use this feature, whenever you're stuck, which is why it's very nice that it's toggleable.

The blue help lines can also be confusing at times, because it's hard to grasp at what the game really wants from you. Sometimes it's just a single cross missing somewhere and sometimes it's a lot easier to ignore certain blue lines and focus on others instead.

A more drastic hint feature is the "Answer Autocheck", where it automatically tells you whenever you fill out a square that isn't there. It replaces it with a cross and gives you a time penalty, which will mess heavily with your highscores. Without it you may get into a situation, where you've made a mistake and then have to correct wider parts of the whole picture in order to find the solution. But without it you can also just try out variations and then remove the variable parts without any penalties, which is probably why it's a good thing that you can turn this off globally.

The "Hint Roulette" can also be turned off completely or otherwise it will ask you, if you want to play the roulette in the beginning, where it solves one randomly selected row and column for you, giving you a head start, which feels a little bit like cheating...

Puzzles and Game Modes

Ignoring the tutorials, there is a total of 91 puzzles in the game spanning three different game modes and sizes. There's your standard "Picross" mode and the more complex "Mega Picross" mode with 45 puzzles each and one big "Micross" puzzle.

The Picross puzzles give you the pure experience with 45 puzzles in the following sizes:

  • 10x10 puzzles (15)
  • 15x15 puzzles (25)
  • 20x15 puzzles (05)

It's best to start here and follow the mode to the end. The 10x10 puzzles in the beginning are easy enough and can be solved pretty quickly even by inexperienced players. The 15x15 puzzles then increase the complexity and may take around 15 minutes to solve. However, after a while you learned most possible patterns and the game starts to feel more and more like a chore, instead of a puzzle. This is where things can get a little boring and stale, where you might only want to do one or two puzzles per day, which is even why this review took three months.

But this is also, where the Mega Picross mode comes in. It's essentially a "2nd Quest" for the whole game, since it features all 45 puzzles from the normal Picross mode with a twist. You now get large numbers that span two lines, where you literally have to think around the corner. There are usually only one or two of these combined lines, but they add a new dimension to the puzzles, which makes them more interesting and challenging. It even plays a remix of the eerie Twilight Palace music in the background to make it all feel more serious.

The Micross mode then gets even more epic with the Ganondorf battle theme in the background and a large 80x80 puzzle. To make this work you get a global 8x8 puzzle, which you fill out in the beginning. Then each filled square turns into an individual 10x10 puzzle. Those are all quite easy and quick to solve, especially if you're already used to the larger puzzles or even the Mega Picross mode, but it's the sheer size of the whole picture, where slowly everything is coming together, which makes this mode really fun and addicting.

Sadly, there is only one of these Micross puzzles and compared to other Picross installments the Twilight Princess outing seems to be thin in content. At least another Micross puzzle featuring Twili Midna, whose beautiful face is nowhere to be found in this game, would have been lovely. Still, it takes around 20 hours to solve all puzzles and if you really enjoy them, you can also replay them for better times.


Since this is essentially available for free and there's nothing much else available on My Nintendo, you should get this, whether you're a Zelda fan, a Picross fan or both. It's a solid puzzle game with a Zelda skin that leaves little to be desired. And right now it looks more like a smaller Picross game in a potential series, where other (3D) Zelda games will be getting their own Picross installments in the future, e.g. a My Nintendo Picross - The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword release in October, which probably would be something to look forward to, if the Twilight Princess Picross is any indication.

+ Nice puzzle gameplay with a Zelda theme
+ Charming pixel arts
+ Extensive hint options
+ Free for all
- Annoying tutorial
- Can get boring after a while
- Stylus controls could be more comfortable
- Only one Micross and no Twili Midna


Jimi M said...

How do you get enough points to buy it? The link isn't working for me and bringing me back to this blog post?

TingleFan Kooloo~lim~pah said...

Hello! I've been a fan of your website for quite some time, you write some very interesting articles. Anyways, since unlike most Zelda sites you seem to like the Tingle games, I thought I would share this-

TourianTourist said...

@Jimi M: I fixed the link, check it out.

@TingleFan Kooloo~lim~pah:
Oh, that's a nice project! I put it under the links for now and I will promote it with a blog post, as soon as I was able to look into it.

I've always wanted to play Tingle's Balloon Trip of Love, but the lack of translation was putting me off.

TingleFan Kooloo~lim~pah said...

There's some screenshots here if you'd like some visuals :)