Let’s get one thing out of the way upfront: Picross S6 is just more Picross. No unique bells or whistles, no interesting gameplay hooks or gimmicks to make this sequel ‘different’, no bold new direction for the franchise. It is simply a new collection of almost 500(!) puzzles for you to solve, all of which are completed in exactly the same manner as the last couple thousand from the previous releases. In most game franchises, such a lack of distinguishing identity would be outright damning for a series on its sixth iteration (not counting spin-offs), and yet Picross shows yet again that it is the exception to this rule.
Picross S6 is nothing outstanding, but neither is it disappointing. If you’re not yet familiar with the franchise — come on, where have you been? — Picross is a relaxing and zen-like puzzle experience wherein you’re tasked with drawing up cute little pixel art drawings cell by cell using numbers along the sides of the frame as a reference. The rules aren't hard to grasp, but each puzzle requires a certain degree of mental focus as you canvas each row and column in search for numbers that stick out. With each pass, you find cells that you can either fill or cross off, and this methodical process eventually teases out a (dubiously) recognizable image. It could be a cat. It could be a mountain. It could be a train. It could be a hot dog. It’s that ever-enduring question of “What is it?” that proves to be a strong lure, constantly taunting you to try one more puzzle to uncover what’s being obscured.
Considering there’s twenty-something entries in the whole franchise, Jupiter Corporation has gotten it’s tutorializing down to a science, so newcomers don’t face a steep learning curve to get into the groove of things. Not only do these tutorials do a great job of teaching you the underlying concepts, but there are various ‘training wheel’ kinds of mechanics to ease you in. For example, you can opt to have a roulette reveal one full row and column at the start of each puzzle, giving you a solid head start. Or you can have the hint numbers on rows or columns light up blue to show you that there’s something you can note in that region — all of which veterans can disable or bypass.
There are 485 puzzles in total to solve this time, spread across a diverse array of ‘modes’ to keep things interesting. Aside from the standard mode, Mega Picross changes things up by giving you some hint numbers which cover two rows or columns rather than one, which ups the difficulty a bit and gives the standard puzzles a little more replayability. Color Picross gives you the ability to fill in more than just one color for a cell, which adds a cool extra layer of complexity without changing up the ruleset that much. Finally, there’s Clip Picross, which has you doing a series of smaller puzzles which all link up later to form a huge picture. Obviously, if you aren’t swayed by the central idea of this puzzler, these extra modes won’t change your mind, but those of you who have fallen for its wiles will be pleased at how well-rounded the package feels.
Believe it or not, there has been a slight change made with this latest iteration, although it’s so small that it could be easily missed. The gargantuan 30x30 and 40x30 puzzles now have two colors for the underlying grid structure, which alternate to make it easier to count out larger numbers. Nothing world-changing, of course, but at least it shows that Jupiter is committed to improving the Picross experience right down to the smallest details.
Much like its predecessors, Picross S6 is little more than a glorified level pack. But, that’s okay. The addictive nature of its core gameplay is as strong as ever, and those who are hooked will be pleased to know that there’s another ten to twenty hours of new content to chew through. If you’ve still got a few of the past entries in your backlog, we’d recommend you hold off until you’re sure you want even more puzzles to solve; there’s nothing new or exciting here that you’re missing. If you’re a newcomer, however, this is as good a place as any to jump in.