Playing picross is simple, in theory. You are given a grid with numbers along the outside which indicate how many squares in the grid are filled in. For instance, if you see the series 3, 5, 2 you know that within that line there is a block of 3 squares, a block of 5 squares, and a block of 2 squares filled in with at least one space in-between. Pretty simple if you are working in a 15 x 15 grid, not so simple if you are working in a larger grid. Still, picking up the basic strategy is easy for those who have never played the game. But be warned, you might end up swelling the ranks of those of us who jones for more.
Picma has gone the extra mile and included multi-color puzzles along with regular single color picross. These are much trickier, as there is not always space between the color blocks, so regular picross solving strategies must be modified to solve these little beauties. For those who have mastered picross, this is a fun new challenge, requiring even more mental gymnastics.
Even better, Picma features a "create your own" puzzle section, where you can create anything from simple 5 x 5 puzzles up to monster 50 x 50 brain teasers, either single color or multiple. The site does have registration, but you can play the five levels and 120 puzzles without even bothering, if you don't want to. Creating puzzles allows you to access even more puzzles, if registration is your thing.
Analysis: Great pains have been made to make Picma a joy to look at as well as a joy to play. The interface is top-notch, with the ability to use the on-screen icon controls or hot keys. The look of the game is stunning; grids appear on yellowed paper, sitting on a wooden table top, appearing to be a page of a book or magazine. For those of us from the age of dinosaurs, this is a thrilling call-back to the days before computer picross, when all you had was a pencil, a magazine, and your wits.
As far as challenge and number of puzzles are concerned, Picma's got you covered, even if you're a picross expert. There are five levels, from Apprentice (easy grids, mostly 5 x 5) to Grand Master (from 25 x 25 grids to 50 x 50 grids), each with 24 puzzles. A timer lets you know how fast you've managed to solve each grid, and selection of a puzzle lets you know the average time players have taken to complete it. Not that picross needs to be timed to be enjoyed.
The backgrounds, the music, the controls, all add up to an amazing, gorgeous picross experience, one of the best to be had whether online or downloaded. Picma lends itself well to the casual gameplay experience, being something you can do on a coffee break or when you have a few free minutes to solve a puzzle or two. Head to the site and solve one or two puzzles, or settle in for a marathon and solve until your eyes bleed, it is up to you. But definitely play Picma and enjoy the experience!