This piece forms part of the Pokémon Retrospective Collaboration hosted by NekoJonez. Want to continue your Pokémon journey? Well, take a look at the hub article where lots of my fellow content creators made even more retrospective content about the Pokémon franchise.
Before we set out, I need to clarify what a “Picross” is. A “picross” is another name for a nonogram, a type of logic puzzle in which you fill in squares according to the numbers on the side of the puzzle, ultimately creating a picture. Wikipedia has a comprehensive page on Nonograms, which can be found here. I’m going to assume you have at least some familiarity with these puzzles going forward, or at least now know what one is.
Pokémon Picross was released in December 2015 in Europe on the Nintendo 3DS, although being late to the 3DS party I didn’t play it until much later. The game asks you to help Professor Tetra to solve Nonogram puzzles to catch Pokémon and solve future puzzles using caught Pokémon powers. These powers allows for areas of the puzzle to be auto solved, saving your brain power and also saving your in game “energy”, thus allowing you to play for longer. Because, yes, Pokémon Picross is a freemium game. Using two forms of currency, Pokémon Picross quickly becomes a tedious, virtually unplayable timesink instead of the charming little pixellated puzzle game it sets out to be. Without real world purchases, you get nowhere near the 300+ Pokémon it claims you can catch, and becomes yet another waste of time phone game.
Since I enjoy Nonograms, I enjoyed Picross to begin with. I was experienced enough with the puzzles to speed through the first few levels, going back to complete the challenges, earning Picrites (the game’s other currency) and access to “Mural Puzzles”, small puzzles that together made a larger picture but consume no energy and can be reset upon completion. Energy gets used at a rate of 1 energy for every 1 square you fill in in a puzzle, so being able to play without energy use was useful for these murals. Completing regular Pokémon puzzles and gaining Picrites allows you access to further areas that repeat the cycle.
This is all well and good for a while, even with a recharge timer for energy, but there quickly came a point where there was simply no way of getting Picrites in the numbers needed to progress to new areas of the game. Just like every freemium game, you can grind for very small numbers by doing the “Daily Training” puzzles, but this is limited and if your DS is off for a long time like mine and the time/date are wrong, it locks you out for 24 hours. Of course, you can fork out real world money for Picrites, and unless you buy more than 5000, still run out. If you do decide that you want to buy this many so that you don’t run out, you’re looking at around £25. Depending on your perspective (and I’m a bit of a pessimist), this is most of the cost of a regular mainline game. If the game had been £25 and not had the freemium nonsense, I’d probably have bought it outright. Instead it sits unplayed on my 3DS, stuck needing Picrites to progress, but unable to gain more. And Picrites aren’t just used for opening up levels, they are used for almost everything. Want to restock on energy to complete a puzzle? Picrites please. Want to try to catch a Mega Pokémon? You’ll need to buy a Mega Pencil for that, which you need to buy with Picrites. Access to the Alt-World? More Picrites please. And so on it goes. That £25 looks cheap fairly quickly. It all adds up to a game that feels like Nintendo don’t actually want you to play. You end up playing a level, getting stuck and eventually, with a lot of work, get to play the next only to be faced with the same roadblock, just with a a higher price tag.
It’s a shame ultimately, because I enjoyed solving the puzzles and catching the pixellated Pokémon. But had I known just how quickly the game pushes you to buy its freemium currency, I would never have downloaded it. All Nintendo needed to do was make it a £25 upfront game like Pokémon Link or a mainline game and I would happily have purchased it. I wholeheartedly ask you not to play this, or if you do, at least to not encourage Nintendo’s freemium business and avoid buying Picrites with real world money.