• Brian Rooney

Review: PictoQuest

PictoQuest is a game that sets you on an adventure by completing nonograms. If you don’t know what a nonogram is, I got you covered here in this review. PictoQuest is available on Steam, Nintendo Switch, and iOS for $7.99.


Developed by NanoPiko Games

What is a nonogram?


Nonograms are often referred to as picross; it’s a grid based logic puzzle. Each grid has a hidden picture for you to discover. The way you discover the picture is by coloring in certain cells in the grid and leaving others blank. Every row and column has one or more numbers associated with it. If there are multiple numbers in a row or column, they have to be separated by a blank cell. For example, if the grid is a 5X5 grid, and one row has a number 5 next to it, you know all 5 cells in that row need to be filled in. If the number is 2, then only two will be filled in and the rest will remain blank; you need to figure out which ones are left blank by seeing what you do know about the grid.


It sounds confusing or complicated. but it’s easy to get the basics just by playing, and PictoQuest starts out with puzzles that are very easy, so if you’re unfamiliar you will be able to learn before the challenge really begins.



Story


Games like this usually do not have a story, just puzzles. PictoQuest puts light story mechanics into this to help drive you to the end. You are a resident of Pictoria, and all of the legendary paintings have been taken. Traverse across the map — taking down monsters — to restore all the legendary paintings of Pictoria. You do not get too much context throughout the game but I didn’t find myself really looking for it. 


I was there for the puzzles.



Shop

After every few puzzles, there is a shop you can visit. In the shop, you can upgrade your health bar, and buy special moves to help during your puzzles. 


The health upgrade is a must as you get deeper into the game. 


The other items can be earned while you play the game, so I highly recommended not wasting your money on it, just save up for the health upgrade. After each puzzle, you earn some coins to put to use in the shop; it’s a slow build up, but levels can be replayed to earn some extra coin



Puzzles


As mentioned earlier, the game starts out very easy, which is great for newcomers. The difficulty slowly ramps up and eventually becomes some of the hardest nonograms I have ever done — some by design and some by some gameplay flaws. The game starts with 5x5 grids and goes up to 20x20 by the time you reach the conclusion.



As you go through it, the majority of the puzzles are either a battle or a chest puzzle. The battles have an enemy on the side of your screen. As you work your way through the puzzle, there is an attack bar for the enemy, and when the bar fills they will attack. You have a fixed amount of health, which as mentioned earlier can be upgraded from the shop. Complete the puzzle before the enemy takes you out. Chest puzzles have no fail state, but making mistakes will cost you some coins. There is no time limit, but every mistake you make subtracts from your bank of coins, and it adds up quickly.


On the map, you will see some NPCs on a purple circle; talking to them will trigger a puzzle with a certain win state. 


This is where I had some problems. 



Some of them are time based but others you can not make one mistake. Playing this on the Nintendo Switch was less of a problem than playing on my phone. On my phone, I would run into fat finger problems, and make a mistake that would cause me to have to start over. There is nothing more frustrating than trying to hit a certain square but accidentally hitting the wrong spot causing you to lose.


Replayability


Once you go through the rather short campaign—of around 100 puzzles—there is nothing left to do but replay them. If you’re experienced in nonograms then the game won’t take you too long to run through. The puzzles are fun to replay, but you have to navigate through the map to get to the puzzles you want to replay. It adds a tedious step to the game and made me put it down shortly after I rolled the credits.




Verdict

With a lack of an easy way to replay the puzzles, my time was limited with PictoQuest, but the time I had was still enjoyable. The puzzles are well designed and the enemy system was something unique for the genre. Even though there are not an overwhelming amount of puzzles, the price of the game makes this an easy one to recommend, especially if you are a newcomer to nonograms. I’m going to keep an eye on updates for this one and hope more puzzles get added — or just an easy way to replay the puzzles — but for now, my time is done.

Final Score: — 6/10 —



For more reviews, be sure to check out my thoughts on Food Pals, The Last of Us Part II (spoiler free and with full spoilers), and Mosaic, and my new podcast: Game Bites, the latest entry in The Spinchoon Podcast Network (check out Flix & a Six here). As always, check us out on Twitter @TheSpinchoonand I’m @Big_Broons.


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