Puzzle games always work best on handheld platforms. And although the Neogeo Pocket was designed more for arcade style fare, that doesn't mean that great puzzle games like Puzzle Bobble and Delta Warp can not be produced for the console. While not exactly starved of these titles, SNK's machine should welcome Picture Puzzle as an excellent addition to the catalogue.
This game shares more in common with newspaper crosswords than Tetris or Puzzle Bobble. The lack of any time limit or anything else that provides a sense of urgency means you can kick back, relax and flex those brain cells. And they will get some good exercise, believe me. The basic game laid out on a blank grid, and it is your job to find out where and what the picture is beneath. You achieve this by knocking out squares in a similar fashion to Minesweeper, you guess calculated by the clues given alongside the playing area. For example, a clue of 141 would mean that particular row or column contains 1 piece of the puzzle, followed by a gap, then four pieces, another gap and finally another piece. Using these clues both horizontally and vertically it is possible to uncover the outline of the picture. By now I've probably completely confused everybody who's never played a similar game, but don't worry, just take my word for it that once you have become accustomed to the games workings you really can have a lot of fun with this title.
As the game progresses the grids get larger and the clues less obvious. Most of the earlier puzzles have clues that act as a starting point, something with which to base the rest of your guesses on. Later levels, however, have no such luxury as you are forced to map out large proportions of the final picture in your brain before you even make your first move. Despite being frustratingly hard when Picture Puzzle reaches this level of difficulty, that is counter-balanced by and amazing sense of achievement when you finally solve the damned thing! It's like you've finally done something worthwhile with your life.
Early on in the game the grid is only 10 by 10 squares, which makes it difficult for the developers to draw many recognisable pictures for the player to uncover. You often find yourself struggling with an image that looks nothing like the intended object, which doesn't help when the clues are so difficult to decipher. Thankfully this becomes obsolete when the grids increase in size, as more complex images like houses and apples can be squeezed into the frame. Another gripe with Picture Puzzle is the lack of any kind of licence. The presentation is minimal at best, and a familiar face like Athena Asamiya (Neoprint's host) or even an original creation presenting the game would have given it that little bit of class it really needed.
I'll just say this for the record: Picture Puzzle has no two player option. This is really is a mute point, as this kind of slow-paced game has no need for two player action. If you need a multi-player fix, go elsewhere. As it stands, Picture Puzzle is a fun game that loses points by not realizing its full potential. Still, well worth purchasing if you want another puzzle game in your collection. You know you do.