It’s rather impressive how much mileage Nintendo and Jupiter Corporation have managed to get out of the Picross franchise. The beloved number puzzle series has been going for a couple decades now, while the core gameplay all along the way has remained almost completely stagnant. Though the ‘main’ games have been entertaining enough in their own right, the most memorable releases have always been the crossovers with popular franchises. Well known IP like Pokémon, Zelda, and *checks notes* Overlord have been represented in Picross games over the years, and now the latest in this line of spinoffs has arrived with Picross S Genesis & Master System Edition. It’s absolutely nothing new, but hey, how cool is it that Sonic can be in a puzzle?
The core gameplay is exactly the same with this entry, as you’re tasked with utilizing an intimidating series of numbers to tease out a pixel art drawing. Using the numbers along the sides of the rows and columns, you systematically move through the puzzle to find areas where you can either fill in a cell or mark it off. Often, you can’t fully complete a row or column the first time you come across it, so you repeatedly must circle back to partially filled areas as you gain more information and the picture becomes more clear. Sure, it sounds about as fun as doing math homework, but Picross manages to be both relaxing and engaging once you get the hang of it, and it can be frightening how easily it draws you in for ‘one more puzzle’ for the twelfth time.
A big part of the appeal to these puzzles is simply figuring out what picture you’ve been painstakingly etching, and Picross S Genesis & Master System Edition is especially enticing due to its usage of familiar characters and things. Now, you’re not just making random pictures of pyramids or astronauts, but more recognizable things like a Puyo jelly from Puyo Puyo or the original Amy Rose from Sonic CD. Fans of Sega will obviously get more out of this release, as there are quite a few franchises represented in this collection, but even those without much knowledge of the company’s legacy IP will likely still be entertained by the expressive spritework.
There are 480 puzzles to solve in Picross S Genesis & Master System Edition and Jupiter has found some interesting ways to keep the experience feeling fresh across the many hours it takes to clear everything. 150 of the puzzles are under the ‘base’ rules, and these are then remixed into another 150 puzzles under the ‘Mega’ rules, which have some guidance numbers that span two rows or columns. Completion of some of these puzzles will unlock pieces of gargantuan ‘Clip’ puzzles, which are comprised of 50 puzzles each. Finally, there are 30 ‘Color’ puzzles, which integrate three or four different colors to add some extra challenge.
When you’re just starting out, it can be a lot to wrap your head around, but there are plenty of tutorials and starter puzzles to help you get into the rhythm. Additionally, just about every puzzle will let you use certain ‘cheat’ options that do things like highlight areas where you can fill something in, or starting the puzzle with a random row and column already filled. Each of these options can be toggled on or off at will, which gives the whole experience a nicely fluid difficulty curve that appeals to players of any skill level.
Of course, everything we’ve written thus far about the gameplay structure is applicable to almost all of the preceding entries on Switch and that’s both a great strength and weakness of Picross S Genesis & Master System Edition. Given the pedigree of the IP being borrowed, it would’ve been nice to see Jupiter go for something a little more ambitious like the semi-RPG structure of Pokémon Picross, but alas, this is ‘just’ another new level pack for the long-running series. On the other hand, nonogram gameplay never really gets old, and it’s nice to see that the puzzles are just as addictive and fun to solve as they’ve ever been.
If you know anything about the Picross franchise, then you probably already knew what to expect with this entry before even reading this review. Picross S Genesis & Master System Edition is more Picross, just with Sega characters, and… that’s about it. It feels like a bit of a missed opportunity that Jupiter didn’t try doing a little more with the IP, but it’s also tough to say no to a new batch of a few hundred Picross puzzles themed around Sega's 8 and 16-bit libraries. We’d give this one a solid recommendation, but perhaps with the caveat that those of you who already have a few entries may want to pause before buying yet another new entry in the series. Trust us, there will be more.