Nonograms are an eclectic sort of puzzle. Mostly being a spin on sudoku with a hint of crosswords, the objective is to essentially create pixel art of animals, people, shapes, or anything that you can think of by filling in specific squares of a grid. You accomplish this by logically analysing numbers that correspond with rows and columns, which subtly tell you how to slowly mark off the right and wrong squares until an image starts to form. But does this Japanese puzzle game make a perfect transition to the PlayStation Vita in Sketchcross – or is it a mediocre piece of work that should be rumpled up and tossed in the trash bin?
We've already described the premise of what nonograms are, and truly, that's the gist of the core gameplay, which is similar to Picross. In other words, you're trying to give shape to puzzles named after objects, using both your perception of what it may look like and pure logic with the numbers next to the rows and columns. Depending on what puzzle you have and how big the grid is, these brain exercises range from being pretty easy to incredibly challenging.
In a 5 x 5 or 10 x 10 grid, finding the solution is usually not difficult since it's natural to visualise some shapes without needing the numbers to help you. However, anything larger can become insane, requiring big chunks of time to slowly figure out, sometimes with annoying trial-and-error if you want to play without hints that inform if you're on the right track. For use, nonograms are not something that you pick up on after several days of practicing them. Getting to the serious stuff is a mental labour of love that can be rewarding, so deciding whether or not you have the patience to be quickly assailed by tough puzzles less than halfway through the game's main content is up to you. They are certainly good, but feel designed for players who already know how to do them. The tutorial is most appreciated, but newcomers might want to be wary of the challenges of these nonograms.
To liven up the puzzles, Spiky Fish Games has laid out basic controls where you can use the touchscreen or d-pad and X button to mark a square on a grid. Being able to move around and zoom in and out of the grid are nice touches, too, and there's even a timer to watch for so you can beat best times, which will allow you to progress even further if you conquer a certain amount. Unfortunately, due to the nature of the puzzles, they're a breeze to do over so you can beat the best times; only the first go around is your chance to "fairly" earn them, and with 50 puzzles to do, they'll still last you several hours since there's much thinking to be done along the way. Thankfully, the low replay value will be stretched by future DLC for those craving for more.
Frenzy mode is a neat little mode as well. With only 30 seconds on the clock, you must solve a randomly generated 5 x 5 grid and repeat the process until you're stumped. Perhaps it may be our fault for not being accustomed to traditional puzzles, but getting in the groove of solving the grids this fast is a tad frustrating since we could usually only get to the 3rd puzzle. However, experts may get a kick out of this mode, while others may find it only a temporary distraction.
Considering the name, you'd be one smart cookie if you guessed that a sketchbook style is the central visual motif. It's a bold, sharp look that's distinguished by crumbled paper backgrounds, thick, black pencil lines, and simple colours that make the menu options and level selection screen look pleasant. And while the upbeat, digital music somewhat matches this style, we only heard about three tracks that we found too short, since we caught the main menu theme playing just minutes after entering a puzzle. We eventually muted it to listen to our own music library.
Sketchcross has got the preliminary sketches for what could've been a work of art for all, especially with its confident art style. The puzzles and Frenzy mode are definitely solid for logic masters as well, but will likely burn out beginners halfway through, and the music doesn't do much to keep things interesting. If you're looking for a fresh way to solve nonograms, this game's worth a gander, but others may not want to put on the specific brand of thinking cap required here for long.