Review: Art Style: Pictobits (DSI)

Art Style: Pictobits
Genre: Puzzle
Developer: Skip
Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: 05/18/09


Art Style: Pictobits is the second product in the Art Style series for the DSi, and much like the prior product Art Style: Aquia, Art Style: Pictobits is also a very interesting and different puzzler experience that’s probably unlike anything you’ve seen before. Using interesting stylus controls and some classic Nintendo characters, Art Style: Pictobits should also please puzzle game fans as much as Art Style: Aquia did. While Art Style: Pictobits is a little more interesting, both artistically and mechanically, it’s a little more complex as well, which may be good or bad, depending on how you felt about Art Style: Aquia.

The name of the game says it all in this case, as it did with Art Style: Aquia. You’ll use blocks to eliminate falling block segments to fill in pictures on the top screen, with the intention being to eliminate enough blocks of each color to complete the pictures, revealing animated sprites of notable old-school Nintendo characters. You’re only offered one mode of play in Art Style: Pictobits, but you can go back to any sections you’ve completed and go through them again as often as you wish. You can also acquire “Dark” versions of those same sections, which are SUBSTANTIALLY more challenging than their Light versions. Finally, you can even go back and acquire the various songs in the game in a separate music player if you want to listen to the tunes as often as you want, which is also pretty neat.

Visually, Art Style: Pictobits is very colorful, and the various stages you’ll progress through, though basic, are bright and easy on the eyes. Each of the character sprites you assemble looks as you’d expect, and the effects used to show you eliminating blocks to reassemble the sprites are well done and interesting. Aurally, Art Style: Pictobits uses old-school Nintendo tunes as background music, and each tune fills in more and more as you complete the sprite images, which is interesting. The various sound effects have a distinct musical quality to them that makes them pleasant to listen to as you complete each stage, and they compliment the experience nicely as well.

Art Style: Pictobits is very easy to play, though the mechanics of the product might take a few minutes to really adjust to. At the beginning of each section, you’ll be given a pile of blocks at the bottom of the screen, and other blocks of various shapes and colors will fall from the top of the screen. Your objective is to tap on the blocks at the bottom to draw them in, then tap somewhere on the screen to release them where you point, with the idea being to make groups of four or more colored blocks together. The trick here is that you can ONLY eliminate falling blocks, not blocks that have already hit the ground, meaning you’ll have to move fast to line up the blocks you have with the blocks you want to get rid of. You’ll expel blocks in the reverse order of how you picked them up, which is helpfully shown on the left side of the screen, and while it’s fairly daunting at first, within a stage or two you’ll have the basics down pat, allowing you to really figure out how to line up multiple eliminations at one time. The game is nice enough to stall the blocks from falling as it processes your eliminations while still allowing you to place more blocks, meaning you can actually set up complex eliminations if your timing is solid.

There are numerous stages to go through, and your performance in each is graded at the end.. You can also earn coins for your efforts, and those coins can be used to unlock tunes in the sound test and the previously mentioned Dark stages. Puzzling your way through the Light and Dark stages will take a good amount of time, as will earning enough coins to unlock everything, as Art Style: Pictobits is quite challenging as you progress further into it. You’ll have to develop some fast reflexes to move the blocks you need into position at the right times just to get through the Light stages, and the Dark stages introduce unmovable blocks that stay in position once they land just to increase the challenge even more, which should be a nasty shock to anyone who manages to master the regular stages.

Now, once again, Art Style: Pictobits is a bit of a limited product, as was Art Style: Aquia before it, though in a different fashion. Art Style: Aquia offered different modes of play and ways to customize the challenge, but was essentially the same gameplay experience the whole way through. Art Style: Pictobits offers interesting and challenging changes to the block patterns and types as you progress in difficulty, but the gameplay itself doesn’t really change in any beyond speeding up. Art Style: Pictobits can also get quite rough, difficulty-wise, the further you progress, and while a lot of people will find that a welcome addition, those who are unskilled at maneuvering the DS touch-screen or at puzzle games in general will find this to be a good bit more taxing and tense than many other similar products, ESPECIALLY Art Style: Aquia.

Frankly, though, Art Style: Pictobits is easily worth its purchase price, much like Art Style: Aquia before it, as it’s a strong, solid puzzle experience in almost all possible respects. The presentation is a delightful cross-breed of modern and eight-bit designs that work nicely together, the mechanics of the game are simple enough to pick up quickly but complex enough to offer plenty of surprises, and there’s plenty to see and unlock to keep you occupied for a while. There’s really only one actual mode of play, which feels kind of limiting all things considered, and the game can be a bit rough in later sections, which might put off newbies or the unskilled. For five dollars, though, Art Style: Pictobits is absolutely worth checking out if you like puzzle games even a little bit, as it’s lots of fast-paced fun.

The Scores:
Game Modes: MEDIOCRE
Graphics: GREAT
Sound: GOOD
Control/Gameplay: GOOD
Replayability: GOOD
Balance: MEDIOCRE
Originality: GREAT
Addictiveness: GOOD
Appeal: GOOD
Miscellaneous: GOOD
FINAL SCORE: GOOD GAME.

Short Attention Span Summary:
Art Style: Pictobits is another strong entry in the Art Style series, much like Art Style: Aquia before it, as it’s a strong, enjoyable puzzle game at a low price that’s hard not to recommend. The presentation is strong and artistically interesting, the game mechanics are easy enough to pick up and work with, and there’s plenty to play around with and unlock to make this worth a look. There’s really only one mode of play, which might hurt your need to replay it a little, and it gets a little rough as you get further into it, but if you’re willing to adjust and keep playing until you complete, a purchase of Art Style: Pictobits would be five dollars well spent.

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