Confession time: I am addicted to this hard-to-find magazine called Games. You almost never ever ever see it on newsstands, and junkies like me are mostly subscribers … if you have the bug, you don’t want to be taking a chance on missing an issue. Games follows the same format each month – a couple of feature articles on gaming in general, some news bits, reviews of the latest board and video games, maybe a contest or two … and the actual meat of each edition, a hefty centre section of pencil puzzles. Crosswords, acrostics, rebuses, cryptograms, you name it. Some of these are the run-of-the-mill things that you see in the diversionary section of your daily newspaper, and some – most, actually – are interesting and engaging things that are either too obscure or too new to show up in a mainstream publication. An example that you may have heard of is “Sudoku” which first showed up in the March 2002 issue (i just happen to have it right here) as an example of what Japanese commuters were doing to amuse themselves each morning.
Odd fact: According to the introductory article in this issue, Sudoku was actually created by an American but the publishers of the magazine he worked for decided that it was too “abstract” for the average reader on this side of the pond. Who knew?
Anyway. This post is not actually about Sudoku, it is about another puzzler called (among other things) “Picross” – a sort of a logic puzzle where you fill in a blank grid according to numbered clues and end up with a picture. These little gems were also introduced to North America in Games, back in 1994 – once again as an example of what Japanese puzzlers were slaving over on the morning trains and busses. They range from simple to startlingly elaborate, and are strangely addictive and satisfying to solve. The larger and more detailed ones are also fiendishly difficult to create, since you have to have both a recognizable picture and a set of clues that can only lead to one possible solution. I absolutely love the damn things.
Which, finally, and in a seriously roundabout way, brings us to the point of this post. There have been numerous sites to offer on-line Picross puzzles, and some of them have been more than passable, but there is a new one up that has a couple of things that separate it from the crowd. One, there is a progression of tutorial puzzles in the “feature puzzles” section that will allow you to get up to speed on the things if you have never seen them before. And two, the web site is formatted for the Wii’s web browser, so you can sit on your couch and play with your Wiimote. Yes, you can also play them on your regular computer web browser – just be aware that the sizing and formatting of the display might seem a little odd. There are also tons of user-submitted puzzles (of varying quality) and a “puzzle of the day” which is usually pretty good.