Picross doesn’t have to do anything flashy to be good. All nonogram games really need is to be functional and have control schemes that work with the player to be successful. This is why most of Jupiter’s Picross games are so great. They deliver plenty of puzzles in what’s almost always a user-friendly environment. But, there’s one Picross game that really stands out, and it’s an installment that never appeared outside of Japan. I’m talking, of course, about Mario’s Picross 2.
Mario’s Picross may sound familiar to you. After all, the original Game Boy game was released worldwide. The sequel, unfortunately, was not. Which is a shame, because it was twice as good as the first game. Literally. It had twice as much content to enjoy. It leaned heavily into the experience, keeping tight tabs on the theme and offering more challenging and worthwhile puzzles to enjoy. Jupiter leveraged the theme it’d created the previous game, offering something that made us feel like we were actually exploring a larger world as we played.
With the Mario’s Picross series, we basically see Mario as more of an archeologist. He’s investigating stone tablets, using the proper tools to chip into the blocks to find the secrets hidden within. Mario’s Picross did its best to keep up with that theme, giving Mario the appropriate outfit, us a chisel and hammer to fill in puzzles and backgrounds that offered images reminiscent of ancient art. Mario’s Picross 2 took things a step further. Mario actually appeared in full costume in what appeared to be workshops and museums, moving from one piece to another to complete the puzzles. When you’re moving between sets, it’s actually as though Mario is traveling across regions and countries to visit historical sites, each with their own theme. These small touches make it feel like you’re traveling through a bigger space.
Which is fitting, since Mario’s Picross 2’s puzzles are much larger. Mario’s Picross had 256 5×5, 10×10 and 15×15 puzzles, with the more difficult Star Course unlocked after Kinoko and a Time Trial that had you attempting random puzzles without any hints or notes saying if you’re making right or wrong moves. With the sequel, you’re getting 278 puzzles, which doesn’t seem like that much more until you realize they can be 8×8, 15×15, 30×30 and even final 60×60 puzzles. They’re substantially bigger. And more challenging too, since the unlockable Wario puzzles follow the previous game’s Time Trial mode rules and don’t allow you to get initial tips or inform you when you make mistakes.
Perhaps the best part are the occasional quick Picross challenges found in Mario’s Picross 2 Mario and Wario campaigns. As I mentioned earlier, each character’s modes send them to different spaces, with each one having a theme. Well, each one also has what you could essentially consider “boss” stages. After completing three areas, you’ll need to go through a quick picross puzzle where you need to complete a certain number of 8×8 puzzles to proceed. These would be kana in the original Japanese version, though the English translation patch uses Latin script characters. You have to complete a sentence in a certain amount of time to keep going, which is an incredibly clever challenge.
Mario’s Picross 2 is a Jupiter Picross game that goes above and beyond. It has style, turning Mario into an archeologist who travels around the world, visiting different places and investigating tablets from past civilizations. It gives us 8×8, 15×15, 30×30 and 60×60 puzzles to complete, all with different rules and challenges. It even includes more challenging, timed ordeals to ensure we’re capable enough to continue on our journey. Mario’s Picross 2 is a wonderful Game Boy game, one easily playable regardless of your knowledge of Japanese, and it’s a shame it was never released outside of Japan.