Mobile Gaming: The Pleasures of Picross

Recently I’ve had to travel to and from my family home a lot, this requires about a three-hour-long journey each way. Whilst once I might have found this an excellent opportunity to catch up on my 3DS games recently there have only been a couple of releases that really caught my attention and I’ve already long since completed them all. The obvious answer then is to play some mobile/tablet games but finding something to play is not as easy as you might imagine.

The first barrier is that all of my mobile staples (namely Hearthstone, Clash Royale, and the newly released Fire Emblem: Heroes) all require an online collection which is something that may prove heavy on my data usage and the chances of a constant internet connection on my travels through the Pennines is very limited anyway.

In my attempts to find games to fill the time I have played a lot of different stuff. Ignoring all the trash, infinite runners and countless clones that litter any app store there is some great stuff to be found. I very quickly exhausted the library of ‘Mobile Greats’ such as Monument Valley, Planets Vs Zombies and The Room (and it’s sequels) whilst all excellent they were relatively short experiences.

I then turned to the converted games things like the SNES release Chrono Trigger or more recent releases such as The Banner Saga, however, I found these too hefty for my tablet. They felt clunky to play most likely due to the control systems and ultimately I decided I’d much rather play them on a console or PC. So whilst they may provide an excellent and long form of entertainment for some it just didn’t work for me.

It was when I was once again preparing to cross the country and idly searching through the app store that I quite by chance remembered ‘Picross’. Picross is a form of puzzle based on a grid system whereby you are told for each row and column how many coloured in squares there are and in what groupings they are in. So in a 10×10 grid, a row may say (5,3) which means that there are 5 in a row and then 3 in a row. It’s a system that plays out very similarly to Sudoku in that you start with the easy rows or columns and then intuit where to go on from there. My first experience with picross was with a DS Download game some time back so I imagined that surely there must be some version of it on the app store. There are of course many many versions, some that charge and many with lots of microtransactions. However, I found Picross Touch that offers hundreds of levels for absolutely free, not even any adverts!

I have found a new love in Picross, it’s simplistic yet complex systems allow for a huge range of puzzles ranging from the easy to the near impossible. The tablet or Phone also works so well with the design in a way nothing else (except maybe the DS stylus) would allowing for a smooth and easy filling in of squares that is incredibly satisfying.

I often rag on the mobile platform. That there so few good games and that most of them are just inferior versions of other games and could be better by being on the PC. However, in Picross, I think I have found the perfect mobile game. You can spend as much or as little time as you like thanks to a huge number of puzzles meaning it fits in well with whatever time you have spare be it only a few minutes on the bus or several hours on the train. It is stimulating and continues to be interesting but isn’t too complex or involved allowing you to dip in and out with ease. Perhaps most importantly it just generally feels great to play. It works so well that the entire idea could have been designed for mobile. So maybe I should let up on the mobile platform, it’s all about finding what works after all.

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