PictoQuest: The Cursed Grids Review – Nintendo Switch

Developed By: NanoPiko

Published By: Plug in Digital

Reviewed By: Tyler Higgs

Thank you so much to NanoPiko for providing a review code

Picross is one of my favorite games to take on the go. It’s simply one of those games that I can play for hours on end. The issue with Picross is that, for some it can come across as a bit boring. However, having something to spice up Picross, however, can be a recipe for disaster, because it’s not always easy to experiment with a tried and true formula. PictoQuest: The Cursed Grids takes the concept of Picross we know and combines it with a fantasy setting and lite-RPG mechanics. Did PictoQuest’s experimentation work out well? Let’s find out

Story

Our story begins with choosing whether we would like to play as our male protagonist Flöh, or our female protagonist Arvel. Once you’ve chosen your character the game will briefly explain the events that have transpired. In the land of Pictoria the most beautiful of paintings stand on display for visitors around the world to see. One day all of a sudden, the paintings started disappearing. Everyone knew it was the evil wizard Moonface whole stole the paintings and now it’s up to you to find the paintings and bring them back.

The story elements are quite light, but that’s fine as PictoQuest really doesn’t rely on its narrative to present its gameplay.

Gameplay

PictoQuest is simply all about the fun of the logic puzzle past time Picross. For those who are unaware, I’ll give a brief run-down on what Picross is. Picross is a game that gives you a grid of a specific and numbers along the left and top hang side of it. By following these numbers and filling in, the board accordingly you get to reveal a picture. It’s very amusing and addicting, so I encourage you to check out normal Picross and see if it’s for you.

So how does PictoQuest differ from other Picross games? Well, it all starts with how each of the game’s puzzles is laid out. Instead of a menu of Picross puzzles to choose from, you travel along a world map with, whichever of the character you chose. Along this world map will be your different Picross levels. Each one will block off another and, because of that you will have to finish them all in a specific order of increasing difficulty.

This world map that you travel, on does a great job portraying the fantasy world your in. Different parts of the map make up different areas, from swamps, to caves, to forest. There’s not much to really make the different locations feel different, but I appreciate the concept.

Soon after you enter some of the Picross puzzles, you will notice the RPG elements at play. Some levels consist of solving the Picross with a chest on the right side of the screen. These Picross puzzles act as regular puzzles, however should you make a mistake you lose gold. I’ll talk about what gold is for a little later on.

The main mechanic that PictoQuest offers is combat. Many levels will have monsters that will attack you, while you’re trying to complete the Picross. You have 3 hearts to start with and if should lose all 3 you have to restart the Picross. The monsters attack bar will charge over time and the only way to stop them from attacking you is by completing a line of the Picross grid. Successfully completing a line will lower the monster’s attack charge and get you one step closer to victory.

It all sounds pretty easy, but the RPG elements really do add another layer of strategy. Battles that have multiple enemies will require you to plan your tactics, according to their attack charge. You’ll find yourself swapping between enemies taking turns attacking them to interrupt their charge. Or maybe you’ll focus on one enemy and complete a group of lines in succession to take out one monster right away. It’s a simple concept with a nice level of strategy to it.

Besides the combat, there are also items that can be found to help you in your quest. The gold that I mentioned earlier can be used to purchase some of these helpful items from the shop. Some of the items are simple health recovery items, but you can also buy single use magic spells. You can purchase fire, ice, and lightning spells and each one has its own use.

Fire Magic: The fire magic can be used on a row of the grid to temporarily reveal which spots should be filled in.

Ice Magic: The ice magic spell can be used to freeze an enemy and stop them from attacking you.

Thunder Magic: The thunder magic spell automatically solves 9 boxes on the grid for you.

Gold can also be used to purchase a maximum health upgrade.

PictoQuest also adds a few extra levels in the form of side quest. As you travel on the world map, you’ll find characters that are off on the side of the path. These are side quests that you can complete to gain a free item. Side quest, also come with an added requirement. The side quests requirement can range from not being able to make a mistake, or having a time limit to finish in.

One of the more interesting elements of PictoQuest is that the game notifies you when you fill in a wrong space. Normally, Picross forces you to figure out what you’ve done wrong all on your own. Here, however, you’re simply punished by losing coins or being attacked, and you now have a space that you know stays unfilled. Newcomers to the Picross genre will probably like this, as it helps in the early parts of the game where the grids are only 5X5 and 10X10. The first 25% of the game will stay pretty simple and is good for those players who are just coming into the genre.

I do wish that PictoQuest could have had the chance to flesh out its RPG mechanics, just a bit more. For instance, having color schemes, abilities, or something to unlock during your playthrough would have been really fun. I found the potential of the side quest was kind of wasted, because you only receive an item for completing them. If PictoQuest gets a sequel this is something that it could easily improve upon.

Presentation

PictoQuest uses an adorable fantasy style art design that goes perfectly, with its blend of the Picross and RPG genre. Each of the puzzles are in the form medieval style items such as shields, maces, and even chickens. The puzzles are well done and everything is done in a very simple and easy to understand fashion.

Technical Issues

During my playthrough of PictoQuest I experienced no technical issues.

Summary

PictoQuest is my ideal game that with a bit more refinement and additions could be one of my favorite titles to launch on Nintendo Switch. As a Picross game the mechanics are fairly simplistic and it’s a great title for newcomers of the genre. The combat is a terrific addition and while the RPG mechanics are a bit light, it’s cool to have an arsenal of items at your side, to turn the tides on the more difficult puzzles. As I mentioned, before the side quests could have been more fleshed out and the lack of unlockables and touch screen support is a bit disappointing. Overall whether you’re a Picross fan or someone who wants to try out the genre I think PictoQuest is a solid title to pick up. Here’s to hoping NanoPiko makes a sequel to this awesome title!

8/10

Pros

  • Simplistic Gameplay With a Nice Level of Strategy That’s Enjoyable For All Players
  • Combat Mechanic is Well Implemented
  • Light RPG Mechanics Help Differentiate The Gameplay
  • Adorable Fantasy Visual Design
  • Well Designed World Map

Cons

  • No Unlockable Themes, Colors, Etc
  • No Touch Screen Support
  • Side Quests Could Have Been More Fleshed Out

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