Mario’s Picross

Mario’s Picross is a puzzle game for the Game Boy. It revolves around the picross form of logic puzzles, also known as nonograms. While there is a tutorial section in the game to teach you how to play, I’ll do my best to explain what these kinds of puzzles are in general which will help you for future picross games you may encounter. The puzzles are all on a grid with numbers next to the rows and columns. These numbers indicate how many consecutive squares must be filled in somewhere in the indicated row or column. So, for the sake of example, let’s imagine a 10 by 10 grid. If a row or column has the number 10 by it, you’ll have to fill in 10 consecutive squares. In this case, it’s the entire row or column. However, sometimes there are multiple numbers like, let’s saw a row or column has an 8 followed by a 1. This means that you need to have both a set of 8 consecutive squares filled in and then somewhere after that 1 square filled in. In this example grid, you would only be able to fill in the first 8 squares, leave a blank space, and then fill in the remaining square. You cannot connect the two because that would then be a line of 9 consecutive squares, thus it would not satisfy the numbers represented. Because we know nothing can be in that space, you can cross it out to give you hints on the other rows or columns.

Now, if you DID have a 9 in a row or column then you couldn’t be sure where it went. It certainly has a blank and the 9 filled squares, but it could start at either end. However, there is a trick you can use here. Start on one end and count in 9 squares and fill in the final square. Then do the same from the other end. Now connect the dots. You can do this because, while either end could be the blank, you know for sure that these spaces between must be filled either way. By doing so you can also use these certainties to determine other rows and columns. If a square from a column crosses a row that consists a three of the number 1, you may not know where they all are, but you’ll know for sure that one square that got filled in has a blank on either side because it can’t possibly be larger than a 1. Or if a square gets filled in for a row that only has a 3 in it, you may not know if it extends two to the left, two to the right, or one on either side but you DO know that it can’t possible extend past two spaces out on either side of the square so you can cross out all of these other spaces as there are no other numbers to satisfy. Also, if a row or column has a 0 in it, it means the entire row or column can be crossed out.

These are the basic methods of solving any picross puzzle. The idea is to fill in all the squares until all numbers are satisfied. It may take going back and forth between different rows, columns, and partial completion of each in parts until you finally can logically satisfy all numbers. Once done, you will generally create some kind of picture within the grid. Mario’s Picross does just in a few modes. There’s an easy mode with smaller grids, and then two other modes of larger grids gradually increasing in difficulty. However, you are only given 30 minutes to complete each puzzle. If you fail, you’ll have to restart the puzzle from the start to try again. You may select another puzzle instead if you’d like as each one in the unlocked set is available to play in any order. Also, marking a space incorrectly will automatically correct itself and penalize you by taking away some of your time. This penalty increases with each mistake until no time is left. At the start of each puzzle you have the option to use a hint to randomly reveal one row and column. Once you complete a puzzle your best time will be recorded. There’s also a time trial mode that has the same basic gameplay but does not have a time limit, penalties, or corrections for incorrect actions. Your best times are recorded in general as the timer keeps going up to keep track rather than counting down. You can choose to restart if you get stuck or want to do it faster. The time trial puzzles are a brand new set that will cycle through without duplicating but are only given to you at random rather than having a select screen. One other option you have is to change the background music or even turn it off.

This is a decent introduction to picross. It teaches you how to play, gives you easier puzzles at the start, offers hints for help, and even corrects your mistakes. Yet it also has the time trial mode and the option to decline hints for when you’re confident to play. It has a ton of puzzles in the game. Really a great use of the simplisticly addictive nature of picross to jam-pack a Game Boy cartridge. And really, a functional version of picross with lots of puzzles is all you need for a good picross game. Even if it doesn’t sound like much, it’s a very good package. Plus it has two save slots. It even has a bit of Mario flare here and there.

Though the Mario theme is pretty shallow. Mario is up in the corner the whole time and you use a gloved hand for your cursor, but beyond that and a few of the puzzle solution forming Mario characters, there’s not much Mario to be had. I really think it could’ve used a lot more renditions of Mario related sprites for the solutions to make it feel more… Mario. It feels more like a picross game with a few Mario cameos than a Mario picross game. I also find the lack of options kind of frustrating. I really would’ve preferred playing the main puzzles without a time limit and without corrections. And for time trials, I would’ve preferred the option to pick my puzzles so I could be sure I did them all. If you don’t keep track of them on a checklist or remember the first one so you’ll notice when you come back around to it, you’ll just kind of get lost in an endless loop. I wasn’t real impressed with the music either. And it seems like there’s a bit of a delay on moving sometimes. I’m not sure why, but if you get in the wrong timing of trying to move it sometimes will just refuse to move, which can cause unintended accidents costing you precious time. It’s something you can adjust to, but you shouldn’t have to. It doesn’t spice things up much, so if you get bored of the same ol’ picross stuff… you’ll just get tired of this one. It’s solid, just not innovative.

Mario’s Picross is an excellent way to see you’re into picross in general. It has a lot of content in one nice package that’s portable. It’s playable on a number of systems thanks to backwards compatibility and the virtual console as well. I don’t think it’ll cost you much money but I’d say about 10 bucks at the most is a fair price for what you’re getting. Maybe 15 if you already really like picross, but it depends. I do rather enjoy the puzzles and every now and then I like to go back and replay once I’ve forgotten the solutions enough to make it feel fresh again. Not a bad way to keep your brain active while still playing video games. It may not be real Mario, but it’s certainly a whole lot of picross.