5 Picross Games That Inspired Pikupals


Picross! Also known as nonograms and griddlers*, these puzzles have been some of my favorites for a long time, and one of the things I'm proudest of with Pikupals is introducing many people to them. I've seen a few comments from people saying they're now addicted to picross, and so I figured I'd take the opportunity to talk about my favorite picross games, all of which inspired Pikupals in some way or another.

Murder by Numbers for PC and Nintendo Switch
Set in Los Angeles in the nineties, Murder by Numbers is a Phoenix Wright-style story-driven detective game with a twist: every clue you find is a picross puzzle. Every fan of either genre owes it to themselves to check this one out! The character designs are colorful, the writing is sharp and the music is catchy, actually composed by Masakazu Sugimori of Ace Attorney fame.

If I have one small gripe with it, it's that it can be jarring to be interrupted by long picross puzzles when you want to read a story, and to have to read through story segments when you just want to play picross. Still, it's a stellar example of what can be done by combining the two genres.

Fantasy Picross for PC
A small, free game available here on itch, Fantasy Picross combines picross with RPG mechanics, each puzzle representing a monster, a character class or a piece of equipment. This game is actually one of the main inspirations for Pikupals' three-character party mechanic.

The project is still in development, and may or may not have been abandoned, but I'm still keeping an eye open for more, because I think it's really on to something.

Mario's Picross for Game Boy
This is it, THE game that got me into picross to begin with! I didn't actually play it on Game Boy myself, only the 3DS virtual console rerelease, but it was a blast start to finish. As you can guess, this one was a big inspiration for Pikupals in several ways.

The Mario elements are fairly minimal (some early puzzles are stars and fire flowers, for instance) but the experience is about the most polished picross experience you could expect on the Game Boy. The experience is basic, and the Game Boy's small viewport makes it impossible to have grids larger than 15x15, but it may be worth tracking down if you want to do nothing but solve puzzles while listening to a catchy little tune. There are also a couple sequels, though those never left Japan (in an official capacity, at least).

Pokémon Picross for Nintendo 3DS
That's right, they DID already combine pokémon and picross! I'm a total fraud! In this game, solving a puzzle means catching a pokémon, and each type of pokémon has a different ability that can help you solve a puzzle. The game features some original and intriguing content, like mega evolutions and giant-sized mega-puzzles you uncover one portion at a time.

Ultimately, however, this game broke my heart, being free-to-play and gating a lot of its content behind premium currency, to the point where it becomes impossible to progress past a certain point without opening your wallet. It's actually possible to get an infinite amount of that currency, effectively "unlocking" the entire game, by buying enough, but the price ultimately is slightly higher than simply buying a full game. This may or may not be worth it to you.

Pixel Puzzle Collection for mobile

Made by Konami, this free-to-play game is basically an advert for their various other mobile games, showing banner adds and a small, surprisingly unintrusive pop-up after each puzzle. I was pleasantly surprised by how, beyond this, the game is charmingly non-predatory, making all of its content accessible for free, and limiting its in-app purchases to hints you will likely not even need.

The game's gimmick is that each puzzle is based on a character or item from a classic franchise created or owned by Konami, such as Castlevania, Bomberman and Goemon. Several of them are extremely obscure, especially to Western players who may scratch their heads after unveiling a character from Door Door or Tokimeki Memorial, but sometimes that leads to pleasant surprises. I mean, I clapped when I saw Cormano from Sunset Riders, of all people. Otherwise, the game is as no-frills as it possibly gets, but it's a solid implementation and sometimes that's all you can ask for.

And that's it for now! Thank you for enjoying picross and Pikupals!

* According to Wikipedia at least-- I don't know what sort of monster would actually use the term "griddler" in a non-breakfast context.

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I had no idea they made a Pokemon Picross!! 

And I cannot recommend Pixel Puzzle Collection enough- it's really surprising how much they offer you for free, and it's tailored to "touch".

Yep! Though with the caveats I said. I would've been thrilled by a full-priced release with the same content, but the way they hid it behind F2P paywalls felt really gross.

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Pokémon games can vary so much in quality- extremely disappointing to world building masterpieces (including games like Pokémon Pinball or TCG for Game Boy).