Kemono Friends Picross

Another day, another budget digital-only Switch game.  Today’s topic is “Kemono Friends Picross”, yours for a reasonable $9.99 from the Nintendo eShop.

I’m not really sure why Kemono Friends became as popular of a show as it did.  It’s low-budget edutainment, and it’s really kind of depressing.  If you’re unfamiliar with the program, it follows a girl who wakes up in an abandoned (possibly post-apocalyptic) wildlife preserve with no memory of who she is or even what she is.  She meets an anthropomorphized Serval cat, and the two set off to find the mythical “library” where all of her questions can get answered, meeting lots of other similarly-anthropomorphized animals (“Friends”) along the way. Every episode opens with a bippy, upbeat song and closes with music playing over scenes of a rotting amusement park.  There are also frequent reminders that the survival of all of the characters is completely artificial and based on the park’s automated systems still being in mostly-working order.

Every episode manages to pack in at least a few moral lessons and safety tips – it’s actually a little bit preachy, if you look at it with a cynical eye – but there’s a sort of earnestness to it that helps you not take the sanctimonious bits too personally.

The last time I was in Japan, you could scarcely throw a rock without hitting SOMETHING with Serval-chan printed on it – the characters are infinitely marketable – and so it’s no surprise that they wound up being used for a licensed Picross game.

The Picross games, based on a newspaper daily logic puzzle, are a series of puzzle games that I’ve never played too much of.  My wife was a fan during the DS days, so I knew the gist of how they worked, but I probably wouldn’t have picked one up if it hadn’t had license appeal.

If you’re new to it, they’re puzzles where you have a grid of boxes with numbers along the side telling you how many boxes in each line need to be filled in, and in which patterns, and you need to figure out the one legal way to fill in the boxes.

They look like this:

The second one there is a 15×15 grid that took me nearly 15 minutes to complete, and the most complex puzzles go up to 20×15.  Fortunately, the game includes a “navigation mode” that turns the numbers on certain lines blue to point out that you have enough information to make more selections on those lines, and there is an excellent tutorial that teaches you how to play.  You’re also not harshly-penalized for mistakes and the game will simply point out to you when you’ve marked a square in error.  I haven’t tried to make a ton of mistakes on any given puzzle, so I’m not sure if it ever gets less friendly.

There are 150 regular Picross puzzles, and another 150 “Mega” Picross puzzles, which make things more complicated by making you solve pixel patterns that spam adjacent lines, rather than focusing on a single line at a time.

My progress so far is pretty minimal.  I’m at 40/150 Picross and 1/150 Mega Picross.

Solving one of these puzzles gives you a cute picture of the Friend that the pixel art is supposed to represent, such as everyone’s favorite songstress:

As you solve Picross and Mega Picross puzzles, you also get pieces for the “Clip Picross” mode, which are larger pixel art canvases made up of a bunch of individual puzzles.

This is the main Clip Picross screen.  I’ve completed one of them and am working on a second.

And this is a better view of an in-progress Clip Picross.  I have collected 8 of the puzzles for this Clip Picross and completed two of them.  I have another 12 puzzles to collect and solve before I’ll be able to complete the entire thing.

In other words, this is a game with a ton of content for your ten bucks (I’m guessing 50 hours, and I suspect that might be on the low side), and it makes you feel smarter while you’re playing it.  If I had any long plane flights ahead, or had a daily commute on public transit, it would be a godsend, but even without that excuse I’m finding it hard not to look at every spare ten minute block of time as an opportunity to knock out another puzzle.


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