PictoQuest: The Cursed Grids Review – Two Worlds Collide
PictoQuest: The Cursed Grids
Reviewed by Neil & Jack
Neil: In PictoQuest: The Cursed Grids you must put a stop to Moonface, who is stealing all the paintings from Pictoria.
Help one of the two protagonists, Floh or Arvel, by solving Picross puzzles across a sprawling map.
Jack: While the story isn’t epic like a Dragon Quest game or Final Fantasy, the story is cute and doesn’t need to be amazing, as it is a puzzle game.
Neil: French developer NanoPiko have done a superb job of merging two completely different game genres together. PictoQuest: The Cursed Grids is a balanced mash-up of classic Picross with RPG.
Picross is a grid-based puzzle game. Looking a little like Minesweeper, you have to use the number based clues along the top and left side to solve it.
These clues will let you know how many squares to fill in a given row or column and in what order. This, however, is where the similarities end.
As mentioned earlier, PictoQuest: The Cursed Grids adds some light RPG elements into the mix.
Starting off with solving puzzles to open chests, you’ll soon be battling enemies and even bosses!
Jack: Picross is much like Sudoku in the way that you’ll be figuring out where and where not your squares will go- but not numbers this time. It’s squares for pictures! Picross has been a popular game since the DS days, and has stayed strong on the 3DS and now Switch. There have been plenty of “clones” that do an excellent job of their understanding of Picross, but PictoQuest takes it further. Not only do they understand the puzzle formula, NanoPiko shakes it up and still retains the core ideas.
Neil: That’s right, you must vanquish foes along your journey to thwart Moonface. This is handled with a simple ATB system (Active Time Battle).
Essentially what this means is, as well as each row or column you solve dealing damage to your enemy, if their bar fills up then they get to attack you.
It’s fair to say that this system does keep you an your toes. With that said, you do have some tools at your disposal. Such as fire and ice spells. These reveal certain parts of the puzzle briefly and temporarily freeze the enemy respectively.
However, once you run out of hearts that’s it, game over. You’ll have to restart the puzzle again. Unless, that is, you’re carrying some health elixirs! Hit X and you can open your backpack to use them.
Jack: I loved the additions of the power-up. In the Picross formula, skill and your own challenges are all that’s needed. But in PictoQuest, skill, speed, and carefulness is key! With monsters attacking you while you are trying to finish a puzzle, power-ups are necessary, and I think add a whole lot to the game.
Neil: If the hybrid nature of the game isn’t enough for you, then it’s worth mentioning that NanoPiko have gone the extra mile.
Not satisfied with the inclusion of RPG elements they’ve also added NPC’s (Non-Playable Character) along the route.
Aside from the gentle Picross difficulty curve of starting with 5×5 grids, working up to 10×10, 15×15 and so forth, you have extra challenges given to you by the many wacky characters.
Some will require you to simply finish a puzzle within a certain time limit. Whilst others will need to be finished without any mistakes or must have the difficulty raised.
Though it isn’t essential to complete every challenge, they certainly make it worth your while. They can give you anything from extra gold, which is the games only currency, or they’ll leave you a free gift at the shop.
Jack: While I don’t normally appreciate extra challenges in games, I liked PictoQuest’s. The inclusion of NPC’s for challenges was cute, and fleshed out the game more to me. Also having to go back to the shop for NPC challenge items may seem tedious, but it prevents your inventory from maxing out with items you might not want.
Neil: I was very impressed with the aesthetic of the game. The developers chose not to go with an overly simplistic pixel art style. Which, given the nature of the game was a smart move.
Everything looks charming and colourful and runs smoothly, which is always a bonus. The sprites themselves actually look pretty detailed. Almost as if they were pulled from their own RPG adventure.
The map itself and the environments were done in a more painterly style. Whereas the enemies and bosses were bold and colourful, like cartoon characters.
Jack: Aurelien Regard designed the characters (Think AWAY: Journey to the Unexpected) and man does he have his style and talent! Colorful characters, pretty graphics, and that anime ooze of charm throughout. Plus one to the art direction!
Neil: Not only have the developers done a fantastic job of encapsulating the look of adventure games from yesteryear, but even the soundtrack is surprisingly authentic.
As you read through the opening story the orchestral score is equally epic and grandiose. Even just moving around the map, the music evokes memories of many Zelda or Dragon Quest games.
Yet whilst the RPG elements carry through in the audio department, while you’re solving puzzles, the music is more relaxing and definitely fits the game style.
Jack: The music is very relaxing. It is lot like Dragon Quest, but combined with Zelda: Breath of the Wild. I thought it was nice to listen to while battling monsters and solving puzzles.
Neil: I was very impressed with PictoQuest: The Cursed Grids and I enjoyed every minute of it. I had a lot of fun playing through, however I’m a huge fan of puzzle games in general.
With that said, it’s fair to say, if you don’t like puzzle games, or more accurately Picross, then you probably won’t like this one.
Though with the slick visuals and authentic audio design, I feel the developers might just have done enough to entice new and experienced puzzle fans.
I look forward to seeing what else NanoPiko produce. I love the idea of combining two different genres and so far, no one has done it this good.
Jack: I loved PictoQuest. I’d love to see more from the developers, but their policy is not showing their game until it is released and finished! But I can rest assured that NanoPiko deliver something fresh, new, and exciting. Their idea of a classic RPG and a Picross game may sound implausible, yet it worked! Very well, in fact.
Consensus: Highly Recommended
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Reviewed on the Nintendo Switch by Neil and Jack Bankhead. Game provided by NanoPiko.