Capsule Review: PictoQuest

Serviceable Picross wrapped in shallow RPG elements that add basically nothing.

A Picross game with some fantasy RPG trappings. Solve puzzle grids to defeat enemies, collect treasure, and complete quests as you save the kingdom.

The core Picross gameplay is straightforward and serviceable but has no options and no touchscreen control. Normal rules are in effect, penalizing the player for incorrect fill-ins with either an enemy attack against player health or a reduction in collected gold, depending on the type of encounter. Hint-Number Auto-Check is also active and cannot be disabled. The game starts with simple 5x5 grids and works up through 10x10, 15x15, 20x15, and finally 20x20 grids.

The story is paper-thin and the RPG conceit adds very little to the game. There’s no equipment or skill system and the only character customization is the cosmetic choice between playing as the character with short blue hair or the one with long red hair. There’s no player choice or exploration - the puzzles are presented in strict linear sequence, though a few are optional and can be skipped or returned to later. The main path puzzles are combat encounters (in which enemy attacks essentially add a time limit) or treasure chests to open (which do not have time pressure). The optional puzzles are quests or challenges which reuse earlier grids but add extra constraints like a tight time limit or requiring zero mistakes.

What the RPG trappings do add is an item system. There are health potions (that effectively buy you extra time in combat) and orbs that can temporarily freeze enemies (which also buys you extra time) or reveal parts of the grid to make it easier to solve. These items can be earned by solving puzzles or bought in shops using gold that’s earned by solving puzzles. In short - what this game being an RPG means in practice is that (A) some puzzles have a time limit and (B) you can work around the time limits. Though if the time limits are too tight for you and you have to use a lot of items, you might run out of gold and have to redo previously-solved puzzles to grind for more.

While it is hard to add mechanical depth to Picross’s deterministic puzzles and this game was never going to be Puzzle Quest, Pok√©mon Picross has already provided a stronger approach to that challenge. Without justifying the RPG framing with compelling story, characters, worldbuilding, or mechanics it just seems superfluous. As such, I’m not sure who the right audience is for this game. Its simple story and mechanics make it seem like it’s intended to introduce Picross to younger audiences who are familiar with RPGs, but Picross newbies might struggle when the grids get larger and the game makes no effort to teach any advanced techniques. These players may be reduced to grinding out gold and items to be able to handle the later levels, which I can’t imagine would be much fun. Meanwhile, as a Picross veteran the RPG mechanics basically just didn’t affect me at all - I never needed to use a single item to solve a grid in time.

I Stopped Playing When: I finished the game, but if I hadn’t been planning to review it I probably would have dropped it. I don’t really like time pressure with my Picross.

Docprof's Rating:

Two Stars: Meh. The game has some merit - it probably held my attention for at least an hour or I came back to it for more than one play session. But there wasn't enough draw for me to stick with it for the long haul.

You can get it or learn more here.