Where To Get It: Steam
Nonagrams, or Picross, as they are often called, are a favourite puzzle type of mine. Their solve methods, the hemming and hawing about placement, the desire to not fuck up, because who knows what interesting pixellated picture might result!
So, at first, I was a little wary of PictoQuest, because it promised to be a Picross RPG, and… How? How would that work? Well, as it turns out, I still don’t really have an answer, because while PictoQuest has RPG stylings… It’s essentially Picross puzzles, most timed, with some abilities, a limited inventory system for those abilities, and a lick of paint over it. The closest it really comes is in boss battles, where the bosses have the ability to affect the board.
Now, I’m going to make it clear that this isn’t a bad thing, although the bosses affecting the board may not be to your taste. The monsters look very pretty, the chests and shop look very pretty, the world, and having fast travel between areas… That’s nice. Aesthetically, it’s clear, it’s cool, I like it, from the cutesy visuals to the enemy designs to the music. Mechanically… Well, it’s honestly hard as hell to screw up Picross, although there are some minor gripes I’ll get to. And the purchasable abilities do help when there’s a monster involved, as the ice blast essentially freezes their attack timer for a few seconds, perhaps giving you time to wallop them but good by completing a row or column, or, in the case of the fire powerup, reveal the contents of a row and a column, briefly. So they’re nice, but… Not really sure if it’s an RPG per se… Well, it does have grinding earlier levels for coin to buy abilities, so… I guess that’s somewhat RPGish…
Anyway, that aside, it looks good, it sounds good, it’s PICROSS, so what can I gripe about? Well, slightly sticky controls and an awkward means of accessing your inventory, for a start. Draw a line across a row or column, and, if you’re too quick, it might not register it all. It might not register the first tile if it’s feeling finicky, as it does sometimes, and the inventory… Well, you can only access it in battle, with I and then clicking on whatever doohickey you’re going to use, and there’s consequently no way to drop items that I’ve seen.
Finally, there’s my personal bane: Single save. As I’m writing, I’m preparing to stream this, and I’m grimacing, because there’s already spoilers, and once I’ve completed those 100 puzzles (plus some change), well… What then?
These are, overall though, not enough gripes to really not recommend it. It’s a Picross game, it’s got a good aesthetic, it does have some thought needing to be put in beyond the puzzles (attacking an enemy also knocks back their attack timer, and, y’know, bosses), and it’s fun. Good enough for me!
The Mad Welshman doesn’t have a lot to say today. He’s not feeling too well.
There is perhaps nothing more satisfying than riddling demons with holes with dual wielded SMGs. The kickback, the satisfying noise, the rapid thuds followed by the larger thud (or boom) as the monstrosity from another dimension finally keels over. In your imagination, of course, because while there’s bullet trails in Jupiter Hell (allowing you to see just how much ammo you wasted murdering them), death animations aren’t really that impressive, nor do they need to be.
Oh. Wait. There is perhaps nothing more satisfying than seeing the sizzling holes, melting a demon piece by piece, with dual wielded plasma SMGs. I stand corrected.
What I’m saying is, 0.8.8, the Dual Wield update for Jupiter Hell, has a feature that’s pretty damn satisfying, even if it has some qualifiers, like “You get this cool thing if you survive your first three level ups”, “It will still take up two weapon slots”, “Remember how you had that ammo problem? It will chew through ammo faster”, and “Only Marines and Scouts get this. Sorry Techies.”
Of course, it’s not the only change, although hacking turrets feels… A little underwhelming, as an example. Find the computer terminal on a level, spend 3 of the new combo armour replacement/hacking items, the multitool, and bam, turrets are… Deactivated, seemingly. Since I’ve never seen a turret shoot someone, and they have an ammo drop next to them, that’s basically what I assume, anyways. I mean, it makes levels slightly easier?
Anyway, yes, I forgot, all this time, to say what Jupiter Hell is, for the folks in the back. Jupiter Hell is a turn-based roguelike, heavily inspired by Doom (Its spiritual predecessor actually was Doom: The Roguelike, and it was only Bethesda’s litigiousness, in spite of Id Software being cool with it, even flattered, that it is not called DoomRL2 today.) Actions like moving, reloading, firing… All take a certain amount of time, and the enemies, similarly, work on a timer. Diagonal movement costs two squares of movement, but moving doubles your chance of evading shots, so it’s valid to, when seeing a big old bundle of enemies, to book it to a safer position. Indeed, considering enemies will now hit cover when they see you most times, and only get out if you destroy it (sometimes possible) or lure them out (a risky move in some cases, but risk management is the name of the game.)
And how does all this feel? Well, easy mode feels pretty do-able, although you definitely have hairy moments. Normal is a roguelike experience, something that takes a fair amount of tactical thought to defeat… And, of course, there’s challenge modes. I don’t recommend challenge modes for the casual player, or the higher difficulties. But it is casual playthrough accessible, with relatively minimal unlocks for getting certain achievements.
It helps that it also looks and sounds pretty good. Shots sound satisfying, the clank of one of the chonky security robots is a sound that, once you know the enemy itself, makes you break into a cold sweat and hunt cautiously for both the robot and the best cover, the maps look pretty good for being tile based, quite atmospheric, and the music… Well, as with its inspiration, it veers between heavy, driving metal, and ominous, low tunes, setting the mood for each area. Oh, and then there’s the Marine/Scout/Techie, whose angry growls evoke that 90s protag feel, but in a way that’s not, like quite a few of the 90s FPS protags, a dickwad. Just a dude very, very angry that shit’s gone to hell.
So yeah, Jupiter Hell is getting closeish to release now, the devs have been very good about trying to balance it while maintaining interesting mechanics, and, while I don’t think they’re quite there yet, it’s a pretty good roguelike to start your entrance into the genre.
The Mad Welshman has nothing against demonic denizens. He just wished they’d stop trying to kill him.
Source: Review Copy
Where To Get It: Steam
Two Picross games on my docket, and this one has one of my favourite creatures in fantasy, the humble goblin? Well, sign me u- Steampunk lick of paint you say? Jigsaws with somewhat finicky “You’ve placed this!” detection, you say? Character designs that are expressive, but not used outside the cutscenes and that expressiveness isn’t… Really used?
Eh, honestly, most of those are just gripes, to be honest. It is Picross, the puzzles remain cool, the timers for the puzzles are alright, and not exactly a worry unless you’re into challenging yourself to gold every level. Hell, it even has the nice feature of locking you into a row or column when you’re placing tiles or crosses, showing you a count of your tiles from the ones you’ve selected, and pretty easy cancellation if you’ve suddenly realised “Damn, if I let go of the left/right mouse button now, I’m going to make a fuckup.” Just click the opposite mouse button while you’re still holding, and then you can let go. Nice!
There’s also voice acting in the game, and it’s okay, although I’m sure it’ll grate to some. And then… Story. Well, it’s there, alright. A NASA ship or satellite of some description crashes onto the world, three goblins come across it, and they decide not to tell anyone they’re trying to decipher the messages and what it is. That’s your basics.
Now, since it is basically Picross, and Picross is, generally speaking, Good, any gripes? Well, yes. Whether the starting tile you want is highlighted or not is a bit of a coin toss, leading to either clicking the tile in mild annoyance, or trying again, wasting a little time either way. And I’m not really sold on the cutscene paintings. Other than that, though, the jigsaws don’t really detract from the experience, and can be skipped, so in the end, it comes up as an alright Picross game, and that’s… Alright! I do kind of wish the goblin designs were better, and they’d have a bit of screentime beyond cutscenes and the occasional voice clip congratulating you for finishing a row (yes, they autocomplete the crossed-out tiles once you’ve correctly solved, saving you a little time), but… Yeah, it’s a decent game.
The Mad Welshman didn’t screenshot the jigsaws, because… Well, most people know what a jigsaw is, and a picture wouldn’t show the common problem of finicky placement hitboxes.