Sketchcross Review – Work in Progress (Vita)
Owners of Nintendo handhelds have enjoyed nonogram puzzles since the Game Boy. Popularized by Jupiter’s Picross series of games, these block based puzzles combine logic and art to create adorable pixel art. Now several years after the launch of the PlayStation Vita, Sony’s handheld has finally received a proper nonogram title in Spiky Fish Games’ Sketchcross. Does this new entry to the puzzle genre expand upon previous nonogram titles or is this a sketch of a complete game?
Nonograms of Fun
If you’re unfamiliar with nonogram puzzles, then don’t worry as the game offers up a great tutorial to open up the game. While, it can’t be skipped, it isn’t annoying for advanced players due to its brevity. Each puzzle features a grid (starting as small as 5×5) that has numbers surrounding it. These numbers tell you how many groups of blocks are in each row or column. Using this information, the player must then fill in the grid appropriately. When done correctly, players will have drawn some nice pixel-art that acts as a reward for completing the puzzle.
The bulk of Sketchcross‘ content is found within its default gameplay mode. It features 50 different puzzles across 10 different chapters of difficulty. The nonograms start off with simple 5x 5 grids that can be completed within a minute. It’s a great way to ease in new players, but the game quickly ramps up the difficulty as by the third chapter the game has already moved into 10×10 grids.
Sketchcross definitely expects players to grasp the core concepts quickly, as the difficulty continually climbs up until players are solving massive 30×30 puzzles. These puzzles are larger than what most nonogram games feature and should provide a staunch challenge for even the most experienced of players. Since only 50 puzzles are available, it makes sense that Sketchcross focuses on more difficult ones. Even if it may come at the expense of easing new players into the game.
Depending on a player’s skill level, Sketchcross also features three separate difficulty levels that will affect how the game plays. Each difficulty changes how many puzzles must be completed in a chapter to move on, if you can use the built-in hint system that tells you if lines are correct, and it determines how much time you have per puzzle.
Once you have completed the game’s 50 included nonograms, you’ll probably be wondering what else there is to play. Thankfully, Spiky Fish Games have included a unique mode that adds a lot of replayability to the finished product. This frantic mode is appropriately called Frenzy Mode and tasks the player with rapidly solving randomly generated puzzles. All of these nonograms are displayed on five by five grids and must be completed within thirty seconds. Frenzy mode is great in short bursts and will definitely challenge players to think quickly.
Rounding out Sketchcross is a nice variety of features that help make the package feel polished and well thought out. Online leaderboards are available on each puzzle, so players can compare their best times with their friends and the world. Beating your friends high scores can be fun, but essentially you’re solving the same puzzles over and over again.
Players can control Sketchcross by both touch control and with the PlayStation Vita’s buttons. Touch control is initially great during the smaller grids, but eventually players will want to move to using the buttons. The touch controls do highlight one of the few flaws of Sketchcross, which is that navigating the game can sometimes be more of a hassle than it should be. The clunky navigation of the puzzles and menus is compounded in the game’s larger puzzles since players will have to constantly be zooming in and out. This isn’t a huge issue, but it makes puzzles last a little longer than they probably should.
While, Sketchcross may falter in some aspects of navigation, it excels in presentation. It features a gorgeous art style that simulates scribbles to create a drawing. It is a good look and one that fits in with the game’s concept. The music on the other hand is forgettable and repetitive.
Almost a Masterpiece
Ultimately, the biggest knock against the game is the lack of puzzles. Frenzy mode is great, but you don’t get the same satisfaction of creating art like you do in the pre-made puzzles. 50 puzzles just isn’t a ton of content, especially when you consider the first few chapters are very simple. Throw in that the difficulty of some later puzzles may be off-putting to some and the game is lacking in puzzles that are of an intermediate difficulty.
While there isn’t a ton of content in the game yet, more content will be distributed in the upcoming months via downloadable content. In June, Sketchcross will receive 20 free puzzles and Spiky Fish Games has said that more free packs will be on the way. This should help solve the issue, but one can’t help but wonder if the game should have been pushed back so it could include all the content from the get-go.
Sketchcross is a solid game that fans of puzzle games should definitely find enjoyment in. Sadly, its interface is not super intuitive and there isn’t a tremendous amount of puzzles. Throw in the difficulty curve and this might not be the best game for players who never experienced nonograms before. Much like its name indicates, Sketchcross feels like a sketch that will eventually lead to a great drawing. It provides a fantastic start, but one that could use some touch-ups.
Review code for Sketchcross provided by publisher. Reviewed on PlayStation Vita. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy here