When I was playing through the Super Mario Land and the Wario platformer-titles, I got in the mood for even more Game Boy goodness and began to jump from one game to another. That is, until I rediscovered Mario’s Picross and was unable to stop playing it. I wanted make a review of it and the other games in the series, but since they do not change much in structure or concept, I decided to make one article about all three entries. Let’s face it: I hardly believe you want three similar reviews with minor differences explaining how this trilogy evolved.
The first entry in this series was released in 1995 for the Game Boy to quite the mixed reception. It was definitely not a traditional Mario game, but who actually expected that from its title alone? Mario’s Picross is simply a picross game with elements of Nintendo being sprinkled all over it. The concept of picross is very simple: you will be presented with a grid of squares that ranges in height and width, and each line both vertically and horizontally shows how many squares must be shaded in. If there is only one number shown, you will have to fill in a single row of these with no spaces in between, and when more numbers are presented, there needs to be at least one square separating them. You can also mark the parts you cannot paint over with an X if needed. When everything is filled in correctly, you will have created an image through your blocks.
The Game Boy was no stranger to puzzle games, and with how simple and quick a round can take in Mario’s Picross, it is perfect for on the go gaming. The game’s setup also compliments the visual limitations of the hardware, by how the pictures comes forth by squares being filled in, fitting the 8-bit capabilities of the Game Boy. Further on, it is charming to have Mario as an archaeologist to make this feel more involving, similar to Dr. Mario for example. At this point, Mario has had plenty of jobs, so why not this as well? The game itself is pretty straightforward, with bigger pictures and more difficulty patterns being presented as the game goes on. The only true negative here, is that it can be hard to see on a smaller screen, so getting it on the 3DS is recommended. With over 200 puzzles and a good variety of tunes to choose from, Mario’s Picross is a great start for things to come.
Mario’s Super Picross
The sequel for the Super Famicom, Mario’s Super Picross, did not get released outside of Japan until it came to the Wii’s Virtual Console. It thankfully got released again for the Wii U and the 3DS, so hopes are high for the Switch to get it as well. The entire game is in Japanese, but you do not need to know the language or have google translation on standby, since the concept is pretty self explanatory and even comes with a visual tutorial like the last game did. New in this instalment, are the two different campaigns to tackle. One has stages by Mario, where each puzzle comes with a limited amount of time. Each time you make a mistake, you lose more minutes, similar to the first entry.
The other campaign features Wario, so a contrast is already expected. Here, you will have an unlimited amount of time, but will not be corrected on your mistakes, making it a tougher challenge. This instalment also includes the option to mark the numbers you have shaded in, but that is the only improvement from the last entry. It is pretty much the same game as its predecessor, just with colours and minor tweaks added inn to make it a bigger experience. However, there is little charm to the stale backgrounds and there is not much added inn to make this entry visually pleasing. Mario is not even an archaeologist here. Still, while there is not much more to this one than the improved gameplay, Super Mario Picross is still a good alternative for gaming in short bursts.
Mario’s Picross 2
Mario’s Picross 2 is the only game in the series that has not gotten a release outside of Japan, which is a terrible shame. To jump the gun here, this is probably the best one of the entire trilogy, since it takes the improvements from the last game and adds more to the experience yet again. We have both a Mario and a Wario campaign returning, as well as the ability to mark numbers, but also a much more creative presentation that makes this even more charming than the first entry. Puzzle games about pictures should be visually intriguing, and Mario’s Picross 2 understands this!
We are presented with a world map to venture through, where your character walks to each billboard (or other units) and hammers in the pictures. Some picross puzzles are also pieces of a bigger picture, which is a smart move for both making puzzles more exciting and for making it it easier to see on the small screen. This brilliant move is also great for adding more challenging and longer puzzles, without making them unfair or overbearing. Again however, this entry is not that much different from the previous titles, but if you are nostalgic for the Game Boy, it is a region free system and eBay is convenient for international purchases.
With a little more personality given to this genre, the simple concept gets to shine even further thanks to lovely presentation that Nintendo can bring. Each instalment has surely more to them compared to their predecessors, but any of them will provide a great amount of brainteasers. Should you need something more interesting, you have the Picross 3D-titles that are just as excellent. Not to mention, there are several other picross games on handhelds if the Mario Picross-trilogy is not enough. However, it is hard to not say the visuals help, when the whole concept of this genre is to make pictures. Which is why I love this trilogy: for their challenging puzzles and charm.