It’s good that we have this little bit of space to discuss Colour Cross, the Rising Star puzzle game for the Nintendo DS. It’s all too easy for budget releases like this to fall through the net and not receive any decent coverage. Most budgets really deserve this, but Colour Cross does not. Also, it’s far too easy to label Colour Cross as a simple rip-off of Nintendo’s Picross DS. And, yes, while they are both based on the same core game system, CC develops and adds enough to the original idea to make it more than stand out.
For those unfamiliar with the rules of Picross, it’s a deceptively simple-looking puzzler that combines the logic required for a game of Sudoku with the style of a Paint By Numbers picture. Each puzzle presents the player with an empty grid of squares, with corresponding number clues on each horizontal and vertical line. Say, for example, the top horizontal line is marked with ‘5, 2’. This means that in that line there will be a block of five shaded squares, then a gap of one or more squares, and finally a block of two shaded squares. If it simply states ‘7’, then there’s a string of seven uninterrupted blocks on that line somewhere. Using your knowledge of the layout of the rest of the grid, you will place the shading in the right places until you reveal the secret picture. Step out of line and shade in the wrong bit, and you’ll be hit square in the head with a Time Penalty, which tries its very best to ruin your fastest speed chase.
Colour Cross amplifies the difficulty by making the picture full colour, leaving you to deal with the complicated task of painting it with the right hues. Each colour will have its own set of number references which can be swapped between by tapping on the relevant splodge of paint on the right of the touchscreen. So, not only do all the number clues need to tie in with each other, now so do all the colours. Prepare yourself for a few head-scratching moments.
Hypnotised by the funky, chilled background music, I was instantly charmed by Colour Cross’ presentation. Four save slots allowed my whole family to get involved and create their own profiles. There is a distinct lack of modes on offer. Aside from a straightforward and digestable Tutorial, there is simply a set of 150 puzzles, split up into 10 categories (Candy, Magic, Baby, Medieval, Decoration, Horror, Fashion, Science Fiction, Love and Pirate). That’s it. None of the time trials or gimmicky alternative modes that were presented by rival Picross DS. Just straight up no-thrills puzzlement. Success with a puzzle will unlock part of a larger picture, which will be fully visible upon completion of the entire category as a reward. Think the Bonus Catchphrase bit on Catchphrase and you’ll understand.
The difficulty curve is so steep that you’ll need a grappling hook to get over it. After the first puzzle of each section comes a series of relentless, brain-busting grids, designed to challenge you at every step of the way. Some of the puzzle designs are a little too large to comfortably fit onto the touchscreen, and although there is the option to zoom in and scroll around, this makes it a lot easier to get disorientated and mixed up. The puzzle size also makes some of the numbers on the sides difficult to read. The touchscreen is mostly accurate, but concentration and strict accuracy is necessary as it is very easy to slip up and wind up damaging your time. Here’s a hint – use the ‘X’ option to eliminate any squares that you know will not be used, cutting your risk liability and making the future of the puzzle a lot cleared to you.
The inevitable question we must address is ‘How do this compare to Picross DS?’. More to the point, I’m sure the one thing that Picross lovers want to learn from this Colour Cross review is whether it is worth buying. The short answer is – A little too complicated. Personally, I grew very fond of Colour Cross, despite its lack of depth. The gameplay, despite its derivative nature, is unique enough to be worthwhile – having the colours involved really does make this a taxing rival to the original game. In fact, it makes Picross DS look like child’s play. The only thing it does lack is the range of options. It fails to deliver the downloadable content and multiplayer goodies of Picross DS, meaning that as an all-round package it is not quite good enough. But, as a graduation from Picross, or as a sweet, no-nonsense puzzle game that is guaranteed to entertain and stump you in equal measures, there are few that are better.
Colour Cross deserves the right to have its own existence, without being tossed to the side as a simple clone. It improves on the original, tightens it up and changes the game (literally). Newcomers to the Sudoku-esque puzzler world, fans of the original game and simply those looking for a mountain to climb will love picking this up. Colour Cross earns itself a very solid 8 out of 10.