Pictooi! Gesundheit.


As per usual, let’s get right to it – should you buy this nonogram game or no? I’m leaning no, even though I wouldn’t mind playing it again. Why? It somehow has Performance Issues. But I like to start off with what games do well, so let’s get that out of the way.

"The first thing you should know is NO GUESSING is needed to solve our puzzles. There is ALWAYS A CLUE that will guide you. Developing your strategies will enable you to reach your potential!"

I hate to even have to say “All the puzzles seemed to work”, but unfortunately, that is a bar that not all games meet. The game has a setting where it won’t react to incorrect inputs, which I’ve mentioned before is a good thing for those of us that like to play Fast and Furious.

Assist mode tooltip, with a prompt to turn it off

No, I would not, good sir.

The puzzles are put into categories, such as Food, Sports, and Fantasy, and after you finish each one, there’s a little factoid or flavor text about the depicted item. Picross 3D also has this feature, and I think it really adds a lot of enjoyment personally. Lastly, the game has a Diorama Mode where each puzzle forms a scene from another Atooi-developed game, such as Mutant Mudds. This is a nice riff on modes such as Clip Picross, where you complete a bunch of smaller puzzles to form a larger picture.

A landscape scene, with everything in silhouette except a "Catbat", whose puzzle has been completed.

Said Performance Issues

The big one right off the gate is the load times. Again, if you’re reading this and thinking “What?”, I’m similarly baffled! I found posts on popular forums where people encountered the same issues I did, and one person speculated that after you finish each puzzle, the entire game is like, re-loaded from scratch. They used some more technical language than that (which convinced me that they were prolly right), but you get the idea. Another big part of why I think this is true is because early on, I tried to mash the A button after finished a puzzle, and I managed to glitch the UI in a way that was only fixed by quitting and restarting.

Glitched out UI after button mashing

This really slows the game down, and I agree with that same poster that the fact the game was ‘shipped’ with such an issue is pretty concerning. But that’s not all! I also noticed that the highlight for which column/row you have selected will lag, which can be very confusing on larger puzzles. In other words, if your cursor is towards the bottom, and you glance up at the column numbers on top, it’s possible the adjacent column will be highlighted, instead of the one you’re on.

Notice the correct row is highlighted, but the column highlight is incorrect given cursor placement

This is the sort of problem where I would propose just not having the highlight at all – a broken highlight is clearly worse. But the developers of Pictooi already seem to have adopted that strategy.

Lack of Control Features

Compared to a Jupiter-developed Picross game, there are very very few control features to be had.

Et cetera. Meanwhile, Picross has…

An example of what Puzzle Controls are currently available in a Nintendo Switch Picross title

Putting Hint Numbers on the chopping block makes sense – I’ve seen other nonogram games fumble with these before, and I really don’t need them. They are yet another example of something where, if it doesn’t work correctly, it would be worse than just not having them. It does limit the audience for your game to more experienced players, but developers choose to do that all the time. As for Dominant Marking, let me first explain what that is.

Typically, the control scheme for a nonogram game that uses a game controller will use one face button to fill in squares and another face button to mark X. Pressing the respective button again will erase whichever mark you made. Below is the current control scheme for many Picross games.

Recent Picross games often finesse the control scheme in various ways to allow for faster marking. One of these tweaks is something I saw someone call ‘dominant marking’, which I’m stealing here. Let’s say you have a line where you’ve marked several squares with an X. You realize that the remaining empty squares can all be filled in. Dominant marking means that if you hold down Ⓐ and move your cursor across the row, only the empty squares will be filled in. In other words, you cannot overwrite an X with a filled in square unless you erase the X first. (The opposite also tends to be true, but it’s less often that a player will need to fill in a bunch of X’s in a row with filled in squares.)

If you don’t play nonogram games often, it might be difficult to understand that this is very helpful – heck, even if you do, I may have not explained it very well. One of the first things I test out when I play a nonogram game is whether or not it has this. Anyways, the fact that Pictooi doesn’t isn’t that big a deal – even many Picross games don’t.

But is it really so difficult to add the ability to adjust cursor speed? Is a Count function hard to program? Edge looping? I am really struck by just how barebones the controls of many of these contemporary games are compared to their competition.

Other Nitpicks

Another thing I’ve been paying attention to is “Does the game tell you how to open the Pause menu?” The way to do this on a Nintendo Switch release is usually pressing the + button, and that holds true here. But Pictooi, like a few other nonogram games I’ve played recently, lets you find that out yourself.

Pictooi also has made the curious choice to only have square puzzles – no 20x15s here! This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but one reason why Picross games haven’t typically offered 20×20 puzzles is to maximize legibility on an ostensibly tiny and/or widescreen display.

A rare 20×20 puzzle, from Mario’s Super Picross for the Super Famicom

The last nitpick I have is actually about one of the nice features of this game. As mentioned before after each puzzle there’s a little factoid, and I’m sorry but…

I mean, is it just not on the game dev checklist? We’re not that expensive! I don’t want to pile on here, but viewers in stream chat agreed with me that it was noticeably wonky, and Editing is My Brand.

This is What You Pay an Editor For

Before I get started, note that much like the factoids in Picross 3D, these seem to be meant to be delivered in the voice of our little lightbulb friend, so sometimes the wonkiness is a lack of style consistency. In other words, the factoids switch back and forth from a more formal and encyclopedic style back to “fun fact” chat. Below is a great example of what I expect style-wise.

The first soccer balls were animal skulls or pig bladders! Isn't that interesting? Those balls have certainly evolved a lot to be what they are today. Did you know there are 32 hexagons on each ball? They represent every country in Europe!

Setting aside the whole faulty presupposition of “there’s one static number of countries in Europe”, this is in line with my expectations of a fun fact. Note the use of exclamation marks and questions to make it sound like a dialog with the player.

Onto the “Flagged for Editing”…

Do you like to take baths or showers? I think baths are more fun because you can pour bubble bath in your water and make it fun and bubbly! Who doesn't like like lying in a bathtub of bubbles? Maybe people who take showers??

Here we definitely still have a conversation…that would make me go talk to someone else. (Also, I don’t like bubble baths cuz I have skin allergies, Mr. Bulb.)

I love to wear socks in the winter! My friend, Stanley, always wears crazy socks! They make me smile. One of the biggest mysteries is where lost socks go. I like to imagine they all go on vacation and have a relaxing time.

Again, conversational! But also unhinged. If I was editing this, I would just focus on the “where do lost socks go” daydream and expand it.

Time to get formal.

The Apollo command module was 10'7" tall with a diameter of 12'10" across the base. It housed three astronauts for their return to Earth. After entering the atmosphere, parachutes are deployed at 24,000 feet for splashdown in the ocean.

This one isn’t that bad, but it’s one of the rare cases where I agree with the otherwise unhelpful advice of “Avoid the passive” – I mean, what the heck would the subject even be in that last sentence? It certainly doesn’t sound conversational.

Banners and flags are used for the purpose of identification. Observers are able to identify the status, association or religion of the bearer. Colors can often have certain meanings, such as gold for generosity and red for strength.

This one has Dictionary Definition all over it.

A knight is a person granted the honorary title of knighthood, becoming a warrior for a military outfit. In peacetime, knights would often demonstrate their skills in tournaments, such as free-for-all melee battle and jousting with wooden lances.

This is a chef’s kiss, in the sense that I would totally use it in a class I used to teach on English grammar for students planning to become English teachers. The first sentence doesn’t quite have what’s called a “dangling modifier”, but it says a lot that I had to really think about what the heck is going on with that last clause there. It’s also just generally clunky – a knight is someone who’s been knighted? You don’t say.

The second sentence also is a spectacular example of “Don’t do this”. First off, we have “tournaments” followed by “such as”, which means “melee battle” and “jousting with wooden lances” are given as types of “tournaments”. You can make an argument maybe for “free-for-all melee battle [tournament]” but “jousting with wooden lances [tournament]” is gonna be a no from me, dawg. A more basic red-penning of this sentence would simply note the parallelism error – “free-for-all melee battle” is a Noun Phrase headed by [battle], whereas “jousting with wooden lances” sure seems like a Verb Phrase!

But Kelp, my imaginary student says, jousting can be a noun too, right? One of those ‘gerund’ things? Well yes, but.

✓ I like baseball.
✓ I like professional baseball.
? I like baseball with aluminum bats.
✓ I like playing baseball with aluminum bats.

✓ I like skateboarding.
✓ I like professional skateboarding.
✓ I like skateboarding with my friends.
? I like professional skateboarding with my friends.
✓ I like skateboarding professionally with my friends.

In the in-depth explanation that no one asked for, English

But we can see here, if you have a Prepositional Phrase with a Noun Instrument (with wooden lances, with aluminum bats), or some sort of Comitative (with my friends), it’s gonna want to modify a Verb.

Did I mention editors aren’t that expensive?

Anyways, will I ever play a recommendable nonogram game that isn’t Picross? We’ll see…

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