Are you gridding me?
What do you get when Picross and an RPG fall in love? If their deep love bears fruit, a beautiful cross of grid-solving goodness enhanced by a clever combat and levelling system mixed in with a deep story of danger and heroism. Or you might get PictoQuest: The Cursed Grids.
In case you are not familiar with the phenomenon of Picross, let me explain: You solve grids of various sizes. These grids have a number of cells you need to fill in for each row and column. The amount of these is given right next to each row or column. Your task is to work out which cells need to be filled in and which not. It’s a clever logic puzzle that I immensely enjoyed on my 3DS.
Getting back to PictoQuest, you solve these grids to finish off the monsters hindering your progress, obtain loot or do sidequests. Yes, you read it correctly: everything involves solving grids.
Follow your destiny – one grid at a time
After selecting either the female character Arvel or her male counterpart Flöh, you set out a predefined course on a quest to save the world of Pictoria where an evil being called MOONFACE stole all the paintings. Only grids remained which will be reborn as beautiful pixel-art paintings once you solve them.
Doing this follows the standard Picross formula: you control the cursor via left stick or dpad and fill in cells with the press of a button. A different button will mark a cell as clear, which can help you keep track of things.
Be careful not to make mistakes, e.g. filling in a wrong cell. As you battle against monsters, your opponent will then take a swing at you and you lose half a heart. Also, don’t laze around, because the monsters will attack you when their ATK bar is full, resulting in another loss of half a heart. As you have only three hearts in the beginning, there is a constant need for action if you don’t want to fall in battle.
Luckily, there are shops throughout Pictoria where you can exchange your monies for healing potions or extra hearts.
And this is more or less everything that makes up the RPG part of PictoQuest. In fact, this comprises the whole game.
Jumping grid flash
In a game where the main objective lies in grid-solving, pixel-art is a given and PictoQuest does not disappoint. It’s cute, it’s well animated and it gets the job done. The same can be said about the background music and sound effects. They are are pleasant and don’t distract you from the puzzles.
Dreading the grids
What is distracting is the constant pressure of time, especially once the grids reach a certain size. The further you travel through Pictoria, the bigger the grids get and the stronger your opponents tend to be. Add to this that in “boss fights” the various bosses have the ability to wipe away your markers on the grid, too, so puzzling will be quite hectic.
It helps that PictoQuest runs fine both docked and handheld, but it’s unnerving that you can’t take a breather while puzzling. I admit that this might be exactly what some people are looking for, for me though it takes away all the fun.
PictoQuest tries to combine two very different genres and as a result fails at both. It’s neither a relaxed puzzle game nor a good RPG. This is sad.
- The idea itself is interesting
- Technically well done
- Constant pressure of time
- No real RPG elements apart from a shop/potions
- Relies too much on solving grids
- Starts to get boring quickly
While the idea is interesting and is technically well realised, it nevertheless shows that some genres can’t be combined successfully.