This is How to Play Picross

Picross consists of a grid of small square pictures, each one of which has a letter somewhere in it. In Picross, you must find the letters in all the pictures.

It is relatively easy to play independently if you have some patience, and it can be fun. But at its heart, it is a puzzle about working out what the picture means when you don’t see it. And that can be practiced for hours and hours, getting nowhere.

If you love puzzles and want to play a puzzle game that doesn’t take itself too seriously, Picross is an excellent place to start. 

What Exactly Does Picross Puzzle Involve?

Picross is essentially a logic puzzle- an object has two or more attributes, and you have to decide which attribute(s) are relevant for the purpose of the game. The puzzle starts with a grid of dots and asks you to fill it in so that there are as many dots as possible on each row and column. The grid is not just any old grid: it has been turned into a picture by removing squares from it with holes in them. Only squares without holes are allowed on the board; that’s the only way you can get rid of all the spaces.

The game is based on the notion that what matters in solving this puzzle is not what things look like but rather what they do. In classic picross logic, one square looks like another if there are things inside both that act.

Here’s why you should play Picross

It’s Interesting

Picross is a delightful puzzle that doesn’t require any skill or intelligence to solve. It’s just a collection of geometric shapes that you draw on a grid and get filled in one by one. The trick is looking for all the shapes that will fit together when you’ve filled in all you’ve got to fill in.

It’s Unique 

Picross is more than a puzzle. It’s a theory of programming. The idea is that it takes thousands of lines of code to write an animation and millions to write a game. But the basic elements are simple: here’s what you need to draw on the grid, here’s how those elements are connected, here’s where you have to put your cursor, and so on.

The programmer who likes picross puzzles will like programming puzzles more generally: logic puzzles with only three rules, data puzzles with only two variables, and combinatorial puzzles with only two components to be put together.

It’s satisfying to solve such a puzzle because one can see how it is done, and if you keep at it, you will eventually be able to do it in your head. 

That’s what makes picross such an attractive stress reliever. For many people, remembering how to play picross is like having an easy way of remembering how to play chess. Whatever else picross does, it teaches you a way of thinking that transcends what you are actually trying to do.

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