As its title suggests, Picross e4 is not Jupiter’s first trip to the intellectual rodeo. The developer has been releasing collections of the classic puzzle at a steady pace, adding small tweaks to an already reliable formula. This latest instalment identifies itself with sunny hues, and fans of the series may likely warm up to it in no time.
First, a crash course for the rusty or uninitiated. The goal of standard Picross is to create an image by filling in the correct squares on a grid. Numbers along the sides of the grid offer clues toward how many squares in each row and column should be shaded. Using logic skills (and perhaps a bit of futzing around), a picture will emerge from a fully completed puzzle.
Picross e4 offers two sets of general rules for play. Normal rules provide 60 minutes to complete a puzzle, at least if you want to see the end result in colour. Shading an incorrect square adds time to the upward counting clock as a penalty. Free rules, on the other hand, hand out no penalties but also give no indication when a mistake has been made, creating the potential for a puzzling mess if one isn't careful. Most puzzles allow switching between the rules in the Settings if you prefer a particular style.
In addition to more than 100 standard Picross grids, ranging in size from 5x5 to a newly hefty 20x15, two other modes from past games make a comeback. Micross, which appeared in Picross e2, is quite an endeavour. It starts by completing one standard puzzle, but this only sets the framework for the overall piece. Each square of that puzzle then becomes its own 10x10 puzzle, and completing these chisels out the overall work of art you are being asked to render in pixelated form. There are no time limits in Micross, which is a blessing as some of the individual puzzles can seem vague and are a challenge to figure out, but the time spent in completing the entire image can feel quite rewarding.
Mega Picross, which first appeared in Picross e3, provides a simple but effective twist in the logic process by throwing in number clues that span two lines. Puzzle solvers must now find ways to accommodate the resulting chunks of squares while keeping the normal-sized clues happy.
A tutorial walks new players through all three types of puzzles. They do a good job, although the explanations can feel almost intimidatingly wordy at times and interactive examples would have been welcome. Players can also benefit from a “navigation” option that highlights particular lines in blue as suggested points of interest, or can begin a puzzle with a random line already solved. Both are good options for novices and can be turned off when not wanted.
Touch and button controls are provided for your grid-filling pleasure. While both are simple to use, the touch controls do provide more speed and versatility. The interface is overall minimalist and pleasant, with nice touches like individual numbers fading out when their requirements have been filled on the grid. There is not a lot of variety to the music but it is light and unobtrusive, which is well appreciated while concentrating.
A little more than 150 puzzles are open to everyone in this iteration, including 45 Mega Picross puzzles and two Micross behemoths. Additionally, those who have save data from the previous titles can unlock an additional five bonus puzzles per past game.
Picross e4 offers very little new from its predecessors. This may come as a disappointment to some, but is not necessarily a bad thing for the grid-minded who have yet to have their fill. Familiarity can breed contempt, but in the cases of crosswords and other classic setups, it can also breed quite a following. Since it contains both the Micross and Mega Picross modes introduced in prior titles, e4 is arguably the best jumping in point for interested newcomers as well.