If you've been keeping up with the releases on the DSiWare store, you'd know that there isn't really a lot of great content out right now. However, the Art Style series has been a shining beacon in the murkiness, and it would be fair to say that there hasn't been a bad game yet, a trend continued with the third entry, Art Style: PiCOPiCT. We'll get this out of the way right now. It's completely awesome. Now, let's get into why this is so.
At first glance PiCOPiCT looks like, for all intents and purposes, a falling-block puzzle game that's similar to Tetris. However, you'll soon find that it works very differently indeed. Not only do blocks fall in different shapes, but also in different colours. The only way to clear them is to make (at least) 4x4 blocks or 4x1 lines. How do you do this? This is where it gets cool. You start with about a third of the screen already full of coloured blocks. You can add these blocks to your 'palette' on the left-hand side of the screen by sliding your stylus over them. Then, by touching an empty space on the screen, you can paint in the colours you have stored on your palette. It's a really unique mechanic that works well given the other central conceit of the game - the Nintendo-themed levels.
You see, for every block you clear, you'll add its component pixels to the top screen, where they're used to automatically build a famous 8-bit character from Nintendo's history. Quickly chaining together cleared blocks multiplies the number of pixels added to the character, which means that the more you can chain at one time, the faster the character is completed. Once it is, the level's finished. Each level also has remixed music of the game in question, so if you're playing the Super Mario Bros. level, the music will start being quite odd and abstract. However, as you start reconstructing Mario's 8-bit visage, the familiar strains of World 1-1 will come flowing through.
Every block you clear also earns you coins, which can be used in a variety of ways. During the harder levels, if the screen starts to get cluttered up with all of the blocks, you can use the 'POW' button to clear a few rows at the bottom of the screen. However, doing so will sacrifice one space in your palette. If you want to regain that space, you'll have to pay up with five coins. Outside the levels, they can be used to purchase music from the game to listen to at your leisure. But their most important use is in buying the 'remixed' levels. Every one of the game's fifteen levels comes with its own extra-hard 'remixed' version. These versions come with new 8-bit sprites, and are pretty much entirely new levels, effectively doubling the game's lifespan.
We only encountered a couple of problems with the game. Neither are huge complaints, but worth noting. The first is something that's a little hard to pin down. Essentially, since you're picking up and painting pixels, great precision is required which means that it's important for the game to be very sensitive to your every touch. However, in the harder remixed levels we'd often find while we'd touched one block, the game would pick the one next to it, leading to some frustrating losses. Maybe it's the angle we hold our stylus at, maybe we're just not hardcore enough or maybe the game isn't quite as sensitive as it needs to be, but it's worth mentioning. The other problem is that since the colours of falling blocks are based on the respective sprites of levels, sometimes they can be very similar shades. Again, this is something which makes the game harder rather than breaking it, but when you've lost a level because you picked up a shade of light-brown rather than lighter-brown, you'll find it difficult not to launch the handheld across the room.
These minor problems aside, Art Style: PiCOPiCT offers a fantastic downloadable package for the DSi. If you're a Nintendo fan, there's a bunch of nostalgia to be had with the catchy tunes and 8-bit graphics recycled from classic Nintendo games. Puzzle fans will also be pleased with the addictive and unique gameplay the title offers, and when we say addictive we mean it. Frustrated though you might get, you will find it impossible to put the game down. So far, it's the crowning gem of the DSiWare store, so if you're still holding onto those 1000 points punters got free with their purchase of a DSi, then now's the time to spend it. PiCOPiCT is totally awesome.