Girls, puzzles, and demons, oh my!
Our faceless hero returns to the monster-infested PICture DUNgeons in Intense Co.’s sequel, Picdun 2: The Witch’s Curse. The formula here is pretty much the same as the first Picdun, as players explore dungeons while working on two goals: fill in every square of the map to reveal a picture and find the exit, and follow each floor’s unique clues to unlock a journal entry related to the witch’s curse. Both objectives are optional, though, and it is possible to finish the level once you find the exit. While Picdun 2 brings no significant changes from its predecessor, it is still a fun experience, and one that actually becomes more challenging the longer you play.
Let’s get our facts straight here: Picdun 2 is basically a puzzler disguised as a dungeon crawler. Those looking for the traditional gameplay of a dungeon crawler will be sorely disappointed, as Picdun 2 strips away all such customization and battle strategy. Enemies are plentiful, but relatively easy to beat, especially since you level up quickly. The hero, as part of the titular curse, can only equip a shield. However, three mysterious girls join you on your undefined quest, each with her own attack specialty, which the player controls. You can’t choose between them, unfortunately; they alternate between each other when you interact with special pink signs.
The controls take some getting used to. You use the A and X buttons to slash horizontally and hit multiple enemies at once, and B and Y for vertical hits. I am not sure of the logic here (it probably would have made more sense to use A and Y for horizontal attacks), but the game shows helpful reminders on the screen whenever you are in battle mode. A power gauge at the bottom builds to increase your damage, and blocking with your shield at just the right time allows you to do a combo move if you quickly hit the button prompts that pop up on screen.
Levels have their own gimmicks: false walls, disappearing floors, teleporters, slippery ice, buttons to change the layout, etc. A pedometer, hidden on each floor, shows how many spaces are left to touch on the map. It is by far the most valuable and frustrating tool: many times, I stood at the exit only to stare at the map, trying to figure out where those two last tiles were before I could allow myself to move on.
Solving the second goal, the journal entry, was actually quite difficult at times. The game doesn’t allow you to write on the map, so clues that require you to read plaques in a certain order become trial and error. The map itself only shows walls, the exit, and your starting point, so you must make a mental note, or use an actual pen and paper, to write down health areas, character interaction points, and other useful information.
The clues can also come in the form of riddles, asking you to find a hidden path between two locations, or carry an invisible object somewhere. The differences between them are quite refreshing, even if they made me want to throw my 3DS across the room in frustration sometimes.
Yes, this game gets insanely difficult on the higher levels, partly because of clever twists to the rules, but also thanks to some peculiar translations from the original Japanese. The companion girls do not help at all, and usually stick to odd requests for food or even insults (Why are they following me, again?), so you are really on your own to ponder the meaning of some of the clues. However, once you realize you’ve successfully unlocked the journal entry, I guarantee you’ll feel like a second Einstein. Sometimes, I honestly did not care what the journal had to say, as I gleefully ran through the halls, slashing at monsters and racing to the exit, confident in my mental prowess.
The amount of gameplay is great for a download game, with 60 floors in all. You can revisit floors as well, just in case you skipped something before. Elevators, available on every fifth floor, show you a helpful color-coded list so you can find unfinished levels.
After a boss level on every tenth floor, you are greeted by new décor and upbeat music. I wish there was more variety in the appearance, and it is a little puzzling how your partners’ appearances never change, but the graphics are well designed overall. The art style of the companions fits in well with the dungeons’ designs, and the cartoonish enemies are fresh and fun.
Although the game starts out slow, the reward is in making it to the higher levels. Once all the tricks and gimmicks are explained, the floors can expand and play with the format’s limitations. The pros really outweigh the cons here, and anyone looking for puzzles with a fun twist would have fun with this game.