Nonogram – The Great Painter

PC, family friendly

It would be absolute madness to recommend a puzzle game because I love the music. So I’m greatly relieved to have escaped this awkwardness via The Great Painter being a really solid picross game too. And that’s an accolade rarely awarded on PC.

The greatest PC picross game of them all is Pictopix. It’s sublime, as good as I’ve ever seen a company that isn’t Jupiter deliver the format. Which is also to say the very best out there on any format are Jupiter’s Picross E and Picross S series on the 3DS and Switch. The Japanese developers been the best at it for 27 years (another highlight being 1995’s Mario Picross on the Game Boy). I have high picross/nonogram standards. I promise I’m allowing The Great Painter into the club for its puzzle delivery, and not just its tunes. But man, I love those tunes.

Picross is a very simple puzzle. A rectangular grid of tiles, and numerical guides along the rows and columns instructing how many tiles are to be shaded. The result is a picture.

Of course it gets more complicated than that. Filling in the grids requires a collection of techniques, learned as you go, until they become so ingrained in you that you don’t even notice yourself looking for them. Picross becomes a methodical puzzle, the trickiest part always being finding the row or column you’ve not noticed can be tweaked. Perhaps that “1 4 8 2” now means you know you can eliminate the first tile in the line, which in turn gives you a directing gap in the crossing “9 9” – now you can block out four of each of those 9s, which of course gives you a bunch of information on eight more rows…

But because of this nature, the very most important thing about any game trying to offer it is that it just doesn’t get in the way. And so, so many don’t understand that, and do their very best to be a constant presence in the room. Shut up, game! I’m trying to draw lines while listening to this podcast!

So it is with the highest praise that I say The Great Painter knows to keep itself to itself. The only ways in which it distinguishes itself beyond offering a great collection of puzzles to solve is with a lovely painterly approach to the design of a filled tile, and a splendid bonkers collage display of its initial 126 puzzles. These range from 5 x 5 to 30 x 30. The Greatest, as it so modestly groups them.

Along with this comes Classic, a collection of 50 much, much larger puzzles, going all the way up to 80 x 80. These are also superbly displayed, and don’t require any tiresome zooming in to be able to complete. (Although zooming is available for madfaced weirdos who want that.) Then there’s Speed, which seemingly is non-picture pattern puzzles that you can do quickly? It records you time, but disappointingly doesn’t set targets or limits to make the mode mean anything.

There’s also a selection of “Community Art”, which is to say puzzles made by players in the game’s included Editor. There are a fair few here, but nothing compared to Pictopix’s massive library of user creations.

It looks lovely, it stays out of your way as you’re playing, but sensibly highlights rows and columns as you hover over them, and thank goodness there’s an option to switch off the inflatables-in-the-gutters cheating that highlights clues that can currently be addressed. So, independently of anything else, it’s a top quality delivery of a puzzle type that seems to elude so many. (I know some will be shouting “PAINT IT BACK!” at their monitors right now, but you know what, while it’s good, I think it’s too fussy.)

But gosh, the music! It’s just so calming and lovely. Plinky plonky little tunes that aren’t ambient background, and yet don’t irritate as they loop around. My biggest complaint is that they don’t play when you task-switch out of the game. I’d love to give credit, but unfortunately the four names in the credits aren’t given roles, and heck, they might just have excellent library taste.

There’s a demo version of the game called Master’s Legacy, which gives you a few puzzles and then lets you buy the rest as DLC. But the full game is so cheap already, and in fact about 35p cheaper than buying it in bits. Buy it for the excellent collection of picross puzzles, stay for the gorgeous soundtrack.

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  1. Pepper’s Puzzles is the best PC Picross game I’ve played – I liked it solidly more than Pictopix, because I felt it had better quality of life and didn’t have the annoying level-gating that Pictopix had. It also has some pretty amusing puzzle results I enjoyed as well. (Haven’t tried Greatest Painter to compare.)

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