REVIEW: Pictobits

Every month, Club Nintendo releases a set of games that are available on the Wii Shop Channel or the 3DS e-Shop as rewards for coins. These are usually priced at 150 coins, and, like with Super Mario Kart, some of them are absolute gems. Pictobits is one of those gems.

Atmosphere (Music/Graphics):

It’s 8-bit! Who doesn’t love 8-bit? The puzzle pieces look very similar to Tetris, giving it a very nostalgic feel. The music, remixed versions of the original songs (still 8-bit!) are great! I got into it and started playing to the beat of the songs, and it was awesome to hear the originals remixed with 8-bit, keeping everything simple and themed.

I found myself replaying a few levels just because the music was that awesome!

Gameplay:

The gameplay is actually relatively simple. Colored blocks are falling from the sky, and you have three rows of various colored blocks to make a column or row of 4 or a 2×2 box minimum by manipulating them with your stylus. You can make a row stretching across the entire screen if the falling pieces present themselves that way or a 5×2 box – the combinations make up a big part of the way the game plays. If the falling pieces hit your blocks and don’t make a match, they turn into blocks themselves.

Once you make a match, time freezes, and any pieces attached the to completed piece start to fall faster after the completed piece disappears – this gives you time to set up blocks so that they fall into matches and link together. You can go up to a maximum of 9 links, and I’ll explain why in a second.

You can touch an untouched block with your stylus and have the entire block of puzzle pieces fall quickly to extend your combo if you’re quick enough, and any match you make during the time freeze will extend your combo.

So, why only a maximum of 9 before it stops counting? Because of the goal of the game. The goal of the game is to uncover the level’s hidden character(s). You do this by completing puzzle pieces. If you complete a column of 4, then 4 bits fly to the top screen and fill in 4 bits of that character. If you do a combo, you’ll get 8 bits for 2 links, 12 bits for 3 links, and so on and so forth until you can get a whopping 36 bits for link 9, and that’s only for combing with 4 bits. If you combo with larger blocks, rows, and columns you can get into the 60’s of bits!

The difficulty increases as you complete the character. In the beginning, the music is just some beats and a very small rhythm. As you complete the character, the music begins to fill itself in with the parts of the game pertaining to that character, and once you’re 3/4 of the way done, the entire song comes out and plays as you finish the character. As the music picks up, the puzzle pieces fall faster, making it harder to combo.

It’s actually pretty simple, but the game throws a few curveballs in – there are blocks that can’t be moved (marked by an ‘x’), so they must be completed to disappear. There’s also the Pow Block and coins. Completing a 2×2 or higher block gives you one coin, and any unmovable blocks give one coin when matched – but what are they for? Besides buying the Dark levels (harder versions of the original levels) and music to listen to, they’re for restoring spaces in your block holder.

At the start of any level, you can store up to 10 blocks to then put down and make matches. If, for whatever reason, you find yourself in a tight spot, you can press the Pow Block in the lower left-hand corner to erase a few lines of your stack and make the rest come crashing down to the bottom of the screen. However, it comes with a price – you lose one spot in your block holder, meaning you now can only hold 9 blocks. If you have 5 coins, however, you can buy one spot back. It’s a very balanced system, and extremely useful during the later levels when you’ll be using the Pow Block more than a few times.

There’s some replay value in Pictobits, but only in its Dark levels that need to be unlocked and in getting enough coins to unlock all the music. Or, for those who are hardcore, you can try to get the highest score, and if that’s the case the replay value is great!

And finally, the controls – in short, the stylus works wonderfully. There’s nothing more to say about it except I’m glad it used the stylus instead of the D-Pad.

Pictobits is one of those games that you pick up, beat, and then come back to when you have a few minutes to kill and want to play something you know you’ll enjoy – it’s got great music and intuitive gameplay, and it’s something I’ll be playing whenever I’m bored or want a puzzle game with fantastic music! If you’ve got 150 coins to spare on Club Nintendo or a few extra dollars, pick up Pictobits; you won’t be disappointed.

Score:

Atmosphere: 9/10

Gameplay: 9/10

Overall: 9/10

Just sayin’

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