Handheld Time-Wasters Don't Come Any Smarter
Although they haven't been around as long, or received as much press and attention, as Su Doku puzzles, nonograms are still nothing new, and not without a following. The original Picross (short for Picture Crosswords) games were produced by Nintendo for the Game Boy and Super Famicom in the mid-90s, only one of which was released in the United States. However, the puzzles are not unknown to Americans, as they have been published in many puzzle collections, such as Conceptis Tech's website as Fill-A-Pix, and in GAMES Magazine as Paint By Numbers.
The puzzle involves filling certain squares in a blank grid to form a picture - you are to deduce which squares to fill using the series of numbers above and to the left of the grid. Although there are multi-color (harder) puzzles available on the market, this game concerns itself only with single-color puzzles. The grid range in size from the ridiculously easy 5x5 grids to the 25x20 grids which pose a considerable challenge, especially with the limited viewing space of the DS.
The interface is mostly graceful, and for smaller puzzles (5x5 and 10x10) the intended input method - the stylus - is adequate and intuitive. However, when the puzzle requires zooming in to solve, although creative accommodations were made for stylus-users, I found the D-pad and buttons to be the preferred solving method. Also, while the creators could have stuck with black squares in a black-and-white grid, they decided to add some character - one level is themed with fruit and vegetable pictures, they are solved on a grid colored like an apple skin, and selected squares are 'peeled', complete with visual and sound effect. In the same manner, animal-themed puzzles have grids made out of a field of grass. This extra bit of charm is entirely effective, though it can be turned off. The potential for content for this game is vast, and some of it is already realized on the cartridge itself - there are enough puzzles here to keep you satisfied for days. Should you ever run dry, however, you can receive puzzles created by a friend over a wireless link (as well as create your own and send them in the same manner, of course) or download new puzzles over Nintendo Wi-Fi.
Nonograms are a puzzle type that I have always greatly enjoyed, and I was eager to see if this game would be a proper method of experiencing their challenge. I can already see that many a plane ride and waiting room visit will be made considerably more tolerable, thanks to those tiny little squares and numbers.