The Picross series has become a rather expected staple of Nintendo’s digital release schedule by now. Every few months, you can reasonably expect another mainline entry or spin-off to show up, and you more or less know exactly what that next new entry will be offering: a substantial new set of nonagram puzzles for you to solve. Now, Picross S4 has finally hit the eShop and though it doesn’t really bring anything new to the series, it nonetheless proves to be another solid entry that’s sure to offer up plenty of value.
The gameplay of a Picross game is simple, orienting around the meditative experience of solving nonogram puzzles and revealing the pixel art images they conceal. Each puzzle sees you faced with a grid that’s flanked on the top and side by a collection of numbers, and these numbers indicate exactly how many cells in that row or column must be filled in, and in what order. At a glance, it’s impossible to know the specifics of this, so the challenge comes from knowing how to cross-reference number sets and deduce where overlaps occur, while ruling out ‘empty’ cells as you go. It may sound complicated, but once you have the hang of it, it feels more or less like doing a sudoku puzzle.
Much like in the previous few entries, there’s more than just one ‘mode’ in Picross S4, and this added variety helps to keep the puzzling action from getting too stale. There are 150 standard Picross puzzles to solve, and these are then each reimagined in another 150 Mega Picross puzzles, which change up the rulesets a bit to add some extra difficulty.
Successfully completing certain milestone standard or mega puzzles then have the effect of unlocking new pieces of the Clip Picross puzzles. These act as enormous puzzles that you complete in individual segments, with each piece you complete revealing a little more of the overall image. Then, finally, there’s the Color Picross mode which changes sees you filling in cells of a puzzle with up to four different colours, requiring a different sort of thinking than the previous three modes.
It may sound like a lot to handle, but Jupiter Corporation has done an exceptional job of making the experience as approachable as possible, whether you’re a newcomer or not. Each mode has short, but effective tutorials to properly teach you the logic necessary to solving puzzles, and then there are a slew of optional assist features to help keep you on the right track once you start solving.
For example, you can choose to have one random row and column fully revealed at the start of a puzzle, giving you a good place to start from. Or, in another example, the game can instantly correct you if you mistakenly fill in a cell. Those of you that prefer the challenge can opt to turn some or all of these assist features off, meaning that Picross S4 can be exactly as difficult or easy as you want.
Picross S4 features the most puzzles out of any entry in the S sub-series yet, and though it doesn’t introduce any wholly new game modes, it does throw in a few puzzle sizes we haven’t yet seen. Every Picross S4 owner is granted access to two massive 30x30 puzzles from the off, and if you have any of the preceding three mainline releases in your library, a new 40x30 puzzle will unlock for each one.
Some may be displeased at the idea of content being locked away behind a sort of paywall, but considering the substantial amount of content already on offer, there’s really not a lot to be missed. These new, massive puzzles don’t bring any extra rules, remember, their only draw is that it takes around a half-hour to finish one of them.
As far as presentation is concerned, Picross S4 offers up that same buttery smooth and pleasant experience we’ve come to expect, no more or less. The background art features a relaxing shot of a soft sunset being viewed beyond frosted glass, and the UI design is clean, responsive, and easily read.
Matching all this is a soundtrack that’s entirely unremarkable in the best of ways, mixing in soft, synth-heavy tunes that are there to fill space, but not distract your attention from solving whatever puzzle you happen to be working on. In short, the minimalist design lacks any sort of meaningful ‘wow’ factor, but Jupiter Corporation has positively nailed an audiovisual presentation for these games that manages to satisfy without being too distracting.
Picross S4 is more of the same, yes, but that’s not exactly a bad thing given what this series is designed to offer. At its heart, this new release is little more than a content expansion, but one that offers up a strong selection of puzzles and a diverse array of modes to solve them in, all wrapped in a pleasant, friendly presentation style. Picross S4 stands as the best entry in the sub-series yet, offering up fantastic value for your dollar and acting as a great place for fans new and old to jump in. If you’ve been looking for a simple, engaging puzzle game for your Switch, you need look no further.