Review: Art Style PiCOPiCT (DSiWare)
| Art Style: PiCOPiCT

How many combinations of block dropping games can there be? The game designers' handbook appears to say that like the gameplay itself, it is an endless mode.

The twist with PiCOPiCT, the third game in Nintendo's DSiWare Art Style retro series, is that the falling block action is combined with a match four mechanic.

The basic idea is that as the large, irregularly shaped Mega-Pictos fall down the screen, you must pick up the single Pictos blocks, placing them anywhere with your stylus in such a way that as they fall, the Mega-Pictos will create either 2 x 2 or 1 x 4 (or better) blocks of single colour.

As per usual, once these are created, they will disappear and the remaining parts of the Mega-Pictos will split into individual blocks and fall to the bottom of the screen.

This provides you with the opportunity to set up quite complex combos: indeed when you remove an entire falling Mega-Picto, you'll be rewarded with golden coins. Useful in terms of buying the remixed Dark versions of each stage as well as the 8-bit-inspired musical tracks that provide the soundtrack, they are also fundamental to the game.

This happens because whenever a Mega-Picto stops falling - either when a match four is made or when the Mega-Picto hits a randomly placed Picto - it will remain there, blocking the space for other blocks. This is important because just like as in Tetris, if incoming blocks touch the top of the screen, it's game over

The way to get around this problem is the column on the left handside of the bottom screen. It has a button labelled POW. Tap this, and all the blocks on the screen will fall to the bottom, clearing the playing area.

This isn't an unlimited resource however. Every time you tap POW, you will lose one of your slots for carrying Pictos. The column above the POW button displays eight slots for picking up Pictos i.e. you can carry a maximum of eight at a time. Every time you hit the POW button, you'll lose one slot. Obviously the fewer Pictos you can carry, the more difficult it is to clear the Mega-Pictos.

The coins provide a mechanic for overcoming this as every five coins you collect can be used to repurchase one of your slots. You do this by tapping the '5 Coins' button at the top of the column.

A further complication to your freedom are the Blocker Pictos. These are coloured blocks containing an 'X'. You can't pick these up with your stylus so can only clear them by combining them within your match four Picto placement.

The final thing to explain about Art Style PiCOPiCT is that as you clear coloured blocks from the screen, these are fired up to the top screen of the DS to recreate a blocky character from NES games such as Super Mario Bros, Excitebike or The Legend of Zelda. The rub is that to finish each stage, you have to collect enough blocks of each colour to fully recreate the character; although as you don't have any choice about the falling blocks, all you really have to do it keep matching as many blocks as possible.

Explained in this way, PiCOPiCT sounds pretty complex. Reading the instructions before you've played the game certainly makes it seem so. However, the relatively shallow learning curve means you'll quickly get to grips with what's going on.

There's also a decent variation in stage types (each comes in Normal and Remix versions) and the length of time it takes to finish them. This ranks from two up to around 10 minutes, but when you get into the swing of things, you'll want to replay the levels to improve your Best Time and Hi Score.

There's plenty of variation in how you set up you combos too. Strategically placing a single Picto is often enough to get a match, but as you become more experienced, you can build up elaborate combinations to clear entire Mega-Pictos.

Yet, for all this, the muted colour scheme and the old school 8-bit inspiration and plonky music means Art Style PiCOPiCT isn't the most welcoming or spectacular game in the DSi Shop. Still for the cost of 500 Nintendo points (£4.50, $4 or €4), it's well worth the price.

Review: Art Style PiCOPiCT (DSiWare)

A twisted mix of Tetris and colour matching, Art Style PiCOPiCT provides a complex but intelligent slice of bite-sized DSiWare gaming
Jon Jordan
Jon Jordan
A Pocket Gamer co-founder, Jon can turn his hand to anything except hand turning. He is editor-at-large at which means he can arrive anywhere in the world, acting like a slightly confused uncle looking for the way out. He likes letters, cameras, imaginary numbers and legumes.