mario’s picross is a somewhat rare game that i’ve been playing for a while. the game is divided into three groups of 64 puzzles (for you folks at home keeping track, that is indeed a total of 192 puzzles), and i was well on my way to finishing the first group when i lost my GBA on a flight through ohio. so if anyone out there found one a few months ago, that was MINE.
anyway, after having to track down another copy of the game, i finally finished the first group and will be taking a break from it for a while. although released in 1995, nowadays the game is most often compared to the now more famous sudoku, although unlike sudoku this game requires a smidge of math. like sudoku, once you figure out the logic behind the puzzles each new puzzle is fairly mindless to complete, but it does provide a good diversion for long plane rides. overall i’d say the game is marginally more entertaining then sudoku: there’s something uniquely fun about uncovering the picture one square at a time, which in this version of the game is nicely set up under the conceit of mario as archeologist, armed with a chisel and working away at a piece of stone.
after several iterations that were not released in the US, nintendo’s picross series has gotten a lot more attention recently with the release of picross DS which apparently includes puzzles from mario’s picross and also has the added features of downloadable content and the ability for you to create your own puzzles to exchange with others. i’m going to be working my way through this original version for a while, but no doubt i’ll wind up with my own copy of the DS version at some point. here’s the link to ign’s review of picross DS if you’re interested.
all in all a solid title and, depending on your need to be an obsessive completist, worth playing as a retro B&W game boy title, otherwise you’re definitely going to be fine skipping to the DS version. there’s a complete FAQ for mario’s picross at IGN, although you prob. won’t need it.
one of the other games i played while out of town on vacation was cooking mama. this was one of my first forays into the world of mini-games, and the experience was quite underwhelming. i’m one of those people who barely knows how to cook, so i was somewhat interested in learning more, which the game does succeed in to some extent. in terms of gameplay though, i agree with the majority of the reviews at metacritic.com, that there just isn’t nearly enough variety. chopping is always exactly the same no matter what ingredient you’re working with, as is stewing, kneading, slicing, and so on. many dishes require rice or noodles with the same process of making them, which quickly grows boring. also, the additional mode of combining dishes (e.g. udon + fried shrimp) adds absolutely nothing in terms of gameplay. and although there’s a long list of recipes, there’s not really any incentive to unlock them b/c the mini-games are all the same and the game doesn’t bother to track your progress (in terms of the percentage completed). all in all this is one game where the trailer covers the whole game. but if you’re really eager to track down all 76 recipes, this FAQ at ign.com lists them all.
despite the disappointment, this could be a decent game for kids and less demanding players. cooking mama 2 for DS and wii was announced a couple of weeks ago and has the potential to include a lot of improvements, but i wouldn’t count on it. here’s hoping.
i’ve been out of town on vacation, which has been an opportunity to set aside the gamecube game i’m currently working my way through and instead pick up some handheld games i’ve had lying around. the first one i finished was kid icarus: of myths and monsters, a game boy game from 1991. i’m def. one of those nintendo fanboys who dreams about the day we get a new kid icarus game and like them i’m completely psyched about pit’s appearance in the upcoming smash bros. so i was def. looking forward to playing through this one.
a lot of people, including myself, have great nostalgia for the original NES kid icarus. i’ve played it through somewhat recently, and the game is def. enjoyable with its colorful protagonist, setting, items, and characters, which includes the infamous eggplant wizard. as a sequel this game doesn’t add much at all, which is rather disappointing, but as a game boy conversion there’s a lot to enjoy. the game includes some notable differences from the original, in particular the ability to backtrack to any part of the level. this eliminates the need for the original game’s feather item and also makes the game much easier, as previously death by falling was by far the most prominent method of losing lives.
some may think it’s unfair to give low marks to a game because it’s a sequel that lacks originality and is easier than the original, but in the final analysis the game’s charms just didn’t keep me engaged to the end. i got bored encountering enemies that blurred together and/or didn’t even fight back, and there were too many rooms (shops, training rooms, etc.) to visit, much more than the original. the last level def. beats the original’s hands down, though, with its balloon fight-like control and its much more challenging and entertaining final boss fight.
anyway, overall this wasn’t the most ideal sequel, and i’m sure there are many others like me who are glad that this wasn’t the last word on our favorite @$$-kickin’ angel. here’s hoping that pit’s appearance in smash bros. is just the harbinger of even greater things to come.
– kid icarus shrine: a nice fansite that has some info on the game boy game, including scans of the instruction booklet and related nintendo power articles and mp3s and MIDIs
– text of the instruction book
– pretty good walkthrough at ign.com
– article at wikipedia.org