First potion’s free. You gotta pay for the rest.
I enjoy a nice puzzle game every once in a while, and Sudoku is one of those classics I enjoy as I’m relaxing with a small time waster. Picross has been in the Nintendo branch for a while and now they’re adding Pokémon to the mix while wrapping it up in their new form of game they are calling “free to start.” It works, and after some investigating, I can see how this new form of distribution is actually not that bad.
Pokémon Picross is just like I said, a Sudoku puzzle game featuring pictures of Pokémon. For those not in the know on Sudoku, the game takes place on a grid. There are numbers on each column and row that correspond to how many squares in a given row or column must be filled in. The result will fill in a picture of a Pokémon, and the puzzle will be complete. It sounds simple enough, and it is, but when getting into the larger puzzles, it can become quite challenging.
MSRP: Free up to $30
Price I’d pay: Whatever you’d like
The spin here is that since players are filling in puzzles of Pokémon, they actually capture that Pocket Monster for their collection. They can then add them to their roster of six they can take into the next puzzle. Each Pokémon offer a special “hint” or ability that can reveal tiles on the board, freeze time, and automatically fix mistakes made. After using a certain Pokémon’s skill, they must wait for a cool down before using it again. This can last up to several minutes. (20 or 30)
On top of moving from section to section, there are also some timed special Pokémon that can be captured that offer up a larger challenge. These can be some rare Pokémon, so going out of the way to try to complete their puzzles are well worth it. There is also a special mural puzzle that can be found and added to, that creates an even bigger picture. This is something to that is done throughout the play of the game.
Players will also earn a special currency called Picrites after completing certain objectives in a given puzzle. These may be to use a certain type of Pokémon power or complete the puzzle in a certain amount of time. Players can also earn Picrites by completing the daily puzzles that are offered. After a while, though players will start to notice that the Picrites they’re earning are not enough to progress.
This is where the “free to start” idea comes in. Moving to the next section of puzzles, refilling energy used to fill in squares, and basically progressing the game requires Picrites. Once I was deeper into the game, I realized it was going to take me a long time to get these. So, Nintendo has offered microtransactions for this. Players can purchase Picrites through the e-Shop to continue their progress. I know this sounds like a bad free to play game, but there’s a catch – there is a threshold for when the game becomes “yours.”
After spending the equivalent of $30 on the game, energy and Picrites become unlimited. Meaning, basically you have bought the game and now own it. No more waiting except for the Pokémon skills to recharge, but capturing more and switching them out is easy to do. This is an interesting idea for a free to play game, one that seems to give the players options. If they really enjoy the game, they can spend money on it until they feel like they have played enough, but after a certain amount, they own the game. So, it’s basically trying out a demo for free, and if they would like to play the full game, just purchase it.
Pokémon Picross is still a very competent Sudoku game and the added layer of “catching ‘em all” is fun and offers a bit more to the core experience. The “free to start” angle is an interesting one and one that I really don’t mind. It’s all up to the player if they want to play more, and I enjoyed what I did play. It’s free to try and if you enjoy what you play, there’s a ton of content to be had and puzzles to be solved. You have nothing to lose to begin with and if you end up enjoying the game, I say drop the cash down on it. Just remember, you have to hit the money threshold to fully get it.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.