Mario's Picross
  • Genre:
    • Puzzle
  • Platform:
    • Game Boy
  • Developer:
    • Jupiter
  • Publisher:
    • Nintendo
  • Released:
    • JP 03/14/1995
    • US March 1995
    • UK 07/27/1995
Score: 70%

This review was published on 02/20/2015.

Mario's Picross is a puzzle video game developed by Jupiter and published by Nintendo for the original Game Boy. It was released in Japan on March 14, 1995, North America in March 1995, Australia on July 25, 1995, and Europe on July 27, 1995. This is the first game in the Mario's Picross series, a series of puzzle games in which Mario takes on the role of an archeologist. Plumber, doctor, archeologist; what hasn't Mario done? The Mario theme gets dropped later on in the series, though, so it's more like the Picross series by that point. Because Mario's Picross didn't do too well in the West, many of the future games didn't get released outside Japan. As for what the game actually is, it's a collection of nonogram puzzles, also known as Hanjie or Griddler puzzles. If you're the picture puzzle solving type, then you may like this game.

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In a way, this game is like Minesweeper, except you're forming a picture instead of locating mines. Every puzzle is a grid of varying sizes with numbers at the top and left side of the grid. The numbers show which boxes in the grid need to be marked and which don't, and the player must use those numbers to figure out what to mark. For example, if the grid is ten by ten, and one of the numbers at the top is a ten, then all ten boxes below that column are correct and must be marked accordingly. However, if the number is a five or so, then that means there are only five boxes that need to be marked, and the player will need to deduce the correct ones. The same idea applies to the numbers on the side, except instead of columns, the numbers on the side apply to rows. All puzzles have a time limit and mistakes will deduct from the player's remaining time, so you have to be quick, but also accurate. Successfully completing a puzzle will reveal a small picture of something or other, like objects, animals, and alphabetical letters.

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Sometimes a single column or row will have two or more numbers listed instead of one. The reason for this is that a single number signifies that there are many consecutive boxes in a row that need to be marked, but multiple numbers mean that there are gaps in between the correct boxes. For instance, say a five by five grid has a row with a one and a three listed next to it. That means there are four correct boxes to mark in that row; one of them is isolated and the other three are right next to each other. This is admittedly a confusing and unintuitive system, but it actually helps rather than hinders once you figure it out, as it's more specific than simply listing a single number. Generally speaking, the more numbers listed in a given row or column, the better it is for the player, because it's essentially giving more information about where the solutions are located. Additionally, if you can pinpoint the location of an incorrect box, you can place a special marker over it so you don't accidentally chisel it later. For the tougher puzzles, you're going to need all the tools at your disposal to decipher them.

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Some puzzles can be really tough to solve. That's where the hint system comes in. At the beginning of a puzzle, the game will ask you if you'd like a hint. If you say yes, then it will do a roulette in which it randomly picks a single column and a single row to reveal all the correct and incorrect boxes in them. The results aren't entirely random; you can try to stop the roulette on the rows and columns you want. It does require good timing, though. These hints don't help that much in the grand scheme of things, unless you're really close to figuring out a puzzle. Of course, if you were that close to solving the puzzle, chances are good that you won't need the hint. Also, because the solutions of the puzzles are the same every time you do them, simple trial and error will eventually lead you to the solution. That also means that it's extremely easy to look at an external guide to see all the solutions. Naturally, doing such a thing would spoil the fun, and a spoiled bun will make everyone run from the sun.

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There are four courses with 64 different puzzles each, which adds up to a whopping total of 256 puzzles. No new gimmicks or game mechanics are introduced; the puzzles merely get harder to crack. You'd have to have an insurmountable amount of patience to clear all of these puzzles, or an unwavering love for picross. In either case, there probably aren't too many people to fit those two descriptions. The only time things change slightly is when you unlock Time Trial mode, which is done by clearing all the puzzles in the first few courses. Ironically, Time Trial removes the time limit and gives you randomized puzzles to solve. Time Trial is actually harder despite there not being a time limit, as not only does it randomize the puzzles, but it also doesn't reveal your mistakes until you complete the puzzle. If you get a good enough time, then you'll be able to enter your initials, not unlike an arcade game. Unfortunately, unlocking Time Trial is a trial in itself, considering you'll need to complete over a hundred puzzles to do so. Even if you manage to do it, this mode doesn't add much more variety to the game.

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A picture is worth a thousand words in Mario's Picross. This game will be a delight for those that simply wish to sit down and carefully solve puzzles of the picture variety, but it's not all that and a bag of chips. Given that this game is basically the same thing all throughout, it does become extremely repetitive after a short while. There's really nothing here to keep the game interesting for the long haul, which is a shame, because the core concept is cool. The Time Trial mode that you unlock doesn't alleviate this problem, either. Unless you have an unhealthy obsession with nonograms, you should pass on Mario's Picross.

Word Count: 1,060

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