Love/Hate: Picross DS
It may have been overshadowed by that OTHER grid-based puzzler, but we all still loves us some Picross. Sort of.
[subhead]Love: Downloadable Content[/subhead]
As the Wii fanboys bitch and moan about their console's current lack of DLC (rightfully so), the DS relishes in it. From user-created levels in Mario vs. Donkey Kong 2 to weekly puzzles in Professor Layton, the free addition of content can greatly increase a title's worth. This holds true for Picross DS, and then some. Taking your DS online will allow you to download classic puzzles or swap your own picross creations with others online. One of the greatest signs of respect a developer or publisher can show their audience is to allow them to use their game's engine and make their own creations. This builds community, something invaluable in today's tight alliance of gaming and the Internet.
Though most gaming successes come from large commercial releases, many games flourish in a strong user base: World of Warcraft, Counter-Strike, Halo, etc. Bringing this community to the DS via DLC is something every portable gamer should be excited about. This is one of the reasons many of us at Modojo are so psyched for N+. Picross DS is a strong front-runner in this movement's presence on Nintendo's dual screened darling. Also, the idea of being able to download puzzles from 1995's Mario Picross to a new iteration is obscenely awesome. Can you envision the next edition of New Super Mario Bros allowing you to download classic levels from old Mario games? We can certainly hope!
[subhead]Hate: Large Grids[/subhead]
Damnit! That's what you'll find yourself yelling when tackling grids too large for the DS's lower screen. Picross DS's puzzles come in various sizes, most of which can fit completely on the lower screen. However, if you unlock or download 25x20 puzzles, the controls suddenly become slightly clumsy. You meant to drag the screen over, but you instead accidentally filled in an incorrect block, taking points off of your score (and your pride). Thus, the damnit!
[subhead]Love: Use of the DS[/subhead]
Picross DS is one of those games that makes great use of the DS. The touch screen controls make solving puzzles infinitely better than using the directional-pad (though you can still use that if you're feeling old-school). It may seem small and certainly expected, but this simple upgrade makes the game insanely fun to play. It keeps your mind fresh. In picross and many other puzzle-solving games, progress is often made in bursts. For example, you will reach a point in a puzzle where you can't figure anything out. You stare at the screen, wondering how you ever finished grade school with your apparent lack of intelligence.
Then, suddenly, you have an epiphany! That box over there can be filled in! Of course! You check and recheck, and it works. You fill in that box, and suddenly opportunity opens all around you. Now you're clearing entire rows. In the days of the d-pad, you would need to clumsily navigate the cursor around the entire grid during this rush of progress, awkwardly disjointing your focused sprint. With the touchscreen, however, the entire process is second nature.
Argh! It's 3 AM and I need to leave for work in 5 hours, but I can't... put... DS... down...!!! This game may end up ruining your life. Parents, fear not your rebellious teen chugging cough syrup from the local pharmacy. Picross DS is the root of all their academic and social problems. Start organizing rallies against the game. Have the first lady address the tragedy of teens lost in a series of 15x15 grids. Make a horrendous animated special, where all our favorite cartoon characters team up to tell us that winners don't fill in boxes. Jack Thompson: forget beating up hookers in Grand Theft Auto, your holy war is prohibiting the existence of Picross DS. It's an epidemic!
I'm sorry, Picross DS. I didn't mean what I said about you. I need a fix. You holdin'?
[subhead]Hate: You've Likely Never Played It[/subhead]
I don't hate the non-player, I hate the lack of the game. That is, the fact that games like these aren't more popular. I don't have exact sales figures, but VGChartz.com describes the game as having sold approximately 480,000 copies worldwide. That's certainly not a failure. However, when Imagine: Babies sells over twice that, you feel a little perplexed by the state of the art. I understand that the DS's demographics are extremely diverse. However, games like Picross DS seem like they could really cater to many different audiences: young, old, male, female, casual, hardcore, etc. For this and future generations of gaming platforms, I hope that fun, addicting, and community-driven games like Picross DS are not weeded out.