I Wish Picross S Utilized the Switch's Touch Screen

Gone is the stylus-driven beauty of Picross.

Opinion by Caty McCarthy, .

Picross S brings everyone's low-key favorite puzzle series to everyone's major-key favorite console: the Nintendo Switch. I'm sure I'm not alone in being wholly surprised by the announcement, and its relative quickness in releasing after its reveal. Last Thursday on September 28th, alongside 18(!) other Switch titles (including the adorable sports-RPG Golf Story), Picross S arrived on the console for a measly $7.99.

There's not many ways to spice up the Picross formula. No matter what, players will have a decent sized grid, some numbers, and will do magic in their heads to figure out which squares need to be filled according to said numbers. (Describing this game, itself a shorthand for "Picture Crossword," I've now learned seems impossible.) The first Nintendo Switch version doesn't do much to mix things up, aside from implementing a co-op mode that has also made its way to past entries. And while the latest entry is just as mind-numbingly addictive as its predecessors, it's missing something integral that the 3DS and DS always offered. A touch screen.

The Switch, of course, technically is outfitted with a touch-compatible screen. One game in particular, Voez, is the rare title for the console that only uses the touch screen to tap along to its pop rhythms. Controlling the game with the touch screen is its one and only control option. Whenever I load up Voez, given that it's really the only decent rhythm game on the platform currently, I forget for a mild second that using buttons or even pressing the plus sign to kick things off does nothing. I must tap my way through it, and tap alone.

When I downloaded Picross S on the Switch the night before I flew across the state of California and back, I wondered if it would have touch capabilities. After all, this game was announced and released in under a week; I knew nothing about it, beyond its promise of co-op. For the many 3DS and DS iterations of the bite-sized puzzler, using the dual-screen touch pad with a stylus was part of what made it work so well. It felt meditative, in an odd way, quietly poking at squares to fill them up and craft impractical 8-bit-esque images. There was something soothing about the experience, kind of like Brain Age's singular appeal.

Picross S, while a solid Picross entry with superb puzzles of its own, has none of that directly tangible appeal. Instead, the game is relegated to the directional pad and proper face buttons, like its early virtual days on Nintendo's Game Boy. Picross S still works well as a solid puzzle game, cramming 300 puzzles into the less-than-$8 entry. And yet, I found myself missing poking at a screen with a stylus.

Look upon my works, ye mighty, and despair.

I thought of two possible ways touch screen compatibility would work. In my first scenario, the device could be flipped to be vertical, giving the player dual screens in a similar way that the mobile port of the 3DS game Layton's Mystery Journey functions with technically-two screens. Alternatively, let's call this scenario two, the game can offer touch controls with its usual horizontal viewpoint, making it a toggleable option so that players who prefer the button controls have that option too. (Like in other Picross games.)

Touch controls, at least in my experiences with games, mostly feel gimmicky. In some cases, like with many inventive DS games, rhythm games, and the Etrian Odyssey series (with its map-making feature), using a stylus to control the experience defines how we think about the game. Picross wouldn't have taken off as a niche puzzle series that everyone whispered about loving if it wasn't so easy to just pick up and poke away at. That can be credited to its inherent portability, sure, but it can also count utilizing the stylus in a tantalizing way as helping its almost-cult status too.

In the end, Picross S on the Switch is a nice entry for the beloved series. But without touch controls, I almost feel like I'm not intellectually engaging with the game as much as I have in the past. Maybe it's a silly nitpick, but for me, I miss pecking at the screen and building mathematical images of 8-bit mustaches. I can only hope Picross S-2 brings my favorite poking and prodding back one day.

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Comments 15

  • Avatar for SargeSmash #1 SargeSmash 6 months ago
    Perhaps not a popular opinion, but I prefer the d-pad controls. I've used it from the beginning, and I'm faster that way. Or at least a little more precise.

    I do wish the Mega Picross puzzles weren't the same images as the regular ones, though.
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  • Avatar for kazriko #2 kazriko 6 months ago
    I'm also in the "d-pad" preferred camp. That's all I ever used on the DS picross games.

    I play picross on other systems as well. I use a mouse to play Descartes Enigma (another nonogram game) from Kaser Software, but I always find myself wishing I could just use the keyboard with that.

    I kind of wish Sketchcross for the Vita wasn't such a disaster. The Vita's only competent puzzle game (of the pencil puzzle sort) was Slitherlink, and that's my least favorite in the genre.
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  • Avatar for swamped #3 swamped 6 months ago
    Picross was one of my first video games ever so I tend to go back to the d-pad controls as I find them more precise. I found it to be a little too easy to "misclick" using stylus controls, although they may have fixed that in later iterations. That said, I did go back and forth between them and I'm sad to see the touch controls go. There was something a little more satisfying about using them to mark out a huge row, when it all worked as intended.
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  • Avatar for riderkicker #4 riderkicker 6 months ago
    I play Picross with buttons, always have always will, but I agree, needed the touchscreen controls. When it's 3D, that function is needed.
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  • Avatar for Godots17thCup #5 Godots17thCup 6 months ago
    Picross was always a game I used a stylus for, but after feeling like Pokemon Picross' larger puzzles were nearly unplayable with the touch controls (I don't think you can zoom in on any of them, which turns 15x15 and 20x15 puzzles into a fumbling mess if you try to use a stylus), I guess I've just gotten used to the D-pad controls.

    It is disappointing that Picross S didn't bring back touch controls though; there's definitely something about physically marking those squares that makes the whole experience a little more satisfying.
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  • Avatar for link6616 #6 link6616 6 months ago
    I used to be all about the stylus, but I quickly found the buttons a better way to go like a few commenters here.
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  • Avatar for BulkSlash #7 BulkSlash 6 months ago
    I generally always use the buttons and I think I would use them on the Switch too as my big fingers are nowhere near as precise as a stylus. I'd probably end up failing the picross due to too many errors if I were trying to do it by touch. Plus using the buttons avoids too many fingerprints on the screen! ;)
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  • Avatar for LunarFlame17 #8 LunarFlame17 6 months ago
    It never even occurred to me to use the touch screen on Picross S. Admittedly, I haven’t played much Picross before this one, but when I have I’ve always used the touch screen. The touch screen on the Switch just feels much less essential than on the DS or 3DS. Probably just because you can’t use the touch screen when it’s docked.
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  • Avatar for orient #9 orient 6 months ago
    The touch controls on DS were imprecise to begin with - imagine trying to do it with a fat finger instead of a stylus - it'd be unplayable.
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  • Avatar for Talraen #10 Talraen 6 months ago
    While I wouldn't be bothered by a touch screen option, Picross's grid-based nature makes it a natural fit for a D-pad, in my view. Heck, I commented to a friend recently that it's the first time having the Switch's Joycon "D-pad" be a series of separate buttons actually works well with a game!
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  • Avatar for garion333 #11 garion333 6 months ago
    I didn't realize anyone preferred touch controls. Who knew?!?
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  • Avatar for Roto13 #12 Roto13 6 months ago
    I made way more mistakes by accident using the touch screen in Picross games than I do using the buttons. The lack of touch controls for this was surprising, but I don't miss them at all.
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  • Avatar for rye0077r #13 rye0077r 6 months ago
    Apparently I'm the only one here who agrees with Caty; I played Pokemon and Zelda Picrosses exclusively with the stylus. However, surely Nintendo has the metrics to show that more people use button controls, so perhaps they just went with the seemingly-obvious input control scheme.

    Still, not even having the option on a touch-screen device does seem a bit of an oversight.
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  • Avatar for daveyc02909 #14 daveyc02909 6 months ago
    @rye0077r I'm with you and Caty as the point that I'm probably not going to buy this game now due to the omission of touch controls
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  • Avatar for MetManMas #15 MetManMas 6 months ago
    I prefer stylus controls for Picross, but I can tolerate using a D-pad for it. Technology's come a far way from Mario's Picross and its awkward input lag.
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