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Mario's Picross

Stats:
System: Game Boy
Release Year: 1995
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Nintendo
Players: 1
ESRB: K-A

Plot

Picross (pie-kros): a puzzle game popular in Japan, in which one must color in tiles on a large square surface to reveal a picture, based on numbers running along the top and left side. The numbers reveal how many tiles in a row to color in, but not which ones. It is up to the player to determine that, based on the numbers in each row. For instance, if the number 15 is to the left of a certain row, then 15 tiles in a row are colored in. But if there are more than 15 tiles, you have to figure out which ones to color in based on the numbers along the top. So if the field were 16 x 15, for instance, and the number 15 were above a row of tiles, then you'd know to color in all the tiles in that row vertically, but you would only know that one of the tiles in the horizontal rows is colored in, and you'd have to figure out the rest based on the other vertical rows. Confused yet?

This was the first in a series of Mario-themed picross games, but the only one to be released outside of Japan. The object is to reveal simple pictures using the Picross formula. Though the game has very little to do with Mario, there are a few Mario-themed puzzles. Mario himself appears in the upper-left corner of the screen during gameplay, wearing an archaeologists' outfit. There are literally hundreds of puzzles in this game, so if you're looking for something to do on a long road trip, you might consider this game. However, the puzzles are also time-consuming. Some have a time limit of 30 minutes, and there may be longer ones. And if you miss too many times, you have to start all over again.

Overview

Graphically, this game is very, very simple. Since the whole idea is to color in little squares, the resulting pictures are very bulky with numerous corners and no round edges. It looks like most of the pictures could be real Game Boy sprites, blown out of proportion. However, the rest of the game doesn't share this feature. Mario's face during gameplay is very well done, and looks like a real cartoon character. The only other graphic feature that stands out in this game are the menus, some of which have very detailed backgrounds.
The music in Mario's Picross is a mixed bag. The title music is rather loud, but during gameplay it is soft so as not to serve as a distraction. However, some of the music can get irritating. The sound affects are minimal, limited to beeps of different pitch and a few other noises.
Picross is not for the casual gamer. Some of the puzzles are downright frustrating, and after a while the game becomes very tedious. Those who want a long game, or enjoy unique puzzlers, will get the most out of it. The main obstacle is getting the hang of playing picross puzzles. Someone who has no experience with the game can't just pick it up and play. It takes time to get the hang of it. And, once they do, some puzzles may still leave a gamer totally stumped.
Basically, you either like Picross or you don't. If you're a big puzzle fan, or a Mario collector, this is a game for you, as it's a hard find. However, because of it's semi-rarity, it often runs at a high price. Don't pay too much for this game unless you've played it before and know you love it.