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Mario’s Picross

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Released: 1995

Genre: Puzzle

Format reviewed: Game Boy

Publisher: Nintendo

Developer: Jupiter/Nintendo

Puzzle games are rarely as intense as the likes of Tempest 2000, but they’re often pretty stressful in their own right. There’s every chance you won’t believe me, of course – you’re doubtless thinking of those lovely opening moments of Columns with the soothing music and slow game speed. Don’t think of that. Think about staring down an impenetrable wall of blocks in Kurushi, or watching helplessly as your Lemmings wander into a flamethrower. See? They lull you into a false sense of security and then deliver constant panic.

That’s why I like Mario’s Picross so much – it’s one of the few puzzle games that is as relaxing as advertised. Instead of having to deal with additional elements and moving parts, you’re given a static game board and all of the hints you need at the beginning of each puzzle. The only form of pressure applied is a generous 30 minute time limit that is reduced with each mistake you make. However, if you take the time to think through each move correctly it’s unlikely that you’ll make any mistakes at all. There’s also a real sense of satisfaction to be derived from turning raw numerical information into a little picture of some kind (and yes, this /is/ the nerdiest thing I’ve ever said).

So if I’m given a relaxing Sunday morning with nothing else to do, there’s a good chance you’ll find me in bed clutching a Game Boy and playing Mario’s Picross. Tetris is just too much hassle, man.