Don’t Forget the 3DS: Picdun 2 – Witch’s Curse

Don't forget the DS header

One of my favourite things about the 3DS is the wealth of unusual, interesting and genuinely unique titles it plays host to on its digital download platform, the eShop. Picdun 2: Witch’s Curse definitely falls into this category, so I thought it worth talking about a bit today — particularly as the clock is now ticking for the ability to access the 3DS eShop.

Picdun 2 (as we shall refer to it hereafter) is, as the name suggests, the sequel to Picdun. This was a game released via the DSiWare service, though sadly despite still being listed on Nintendo’s website at the time of writing, it does not appear to be available for sale either via the Web or the European eShop.

The original Picdun was released as part of an initiative Nintendo ran back in 2011 called the GO Series. This was a programme intended to bring together a variety of Japanese developers to release small-scale, low-cost games that made use of original concepts and covered a variety of different genres. Besides Picdun, which provided an interesting twist on the “gridder” dungeon crawler format, the GO Series also played host to Yuji Naka’s Ivy the Kiwi?, explosive puzzler Earth Saver, several entries in the room escape series Escape Trick and plenty more besides.

Picdun 2

Picdun apparently did well enough to justify developer Intense producing a sequel — and there’s no need to worry, because despite having a concept in common, there are no direct connections between the original Picdun and Picdun 2. It’s just a shame there doesn’t appear to be any way to officially enjoy the original Picdun any more. But I digress.

In Picdun 2, you play the part of a down-on-his-luck young man who has perpetually had no luck with the opposite sex. While wallowing in his own depression, he finds himself spirited away to a mysterious dungeon and comes into contact with three beautiful but nameless young women who appear to be searching for something — and who agree to help him find a way out.

Unfortunately, our hero quickly finds himself cursed when he picks up a shield in the dungeon with which to protect himself; it seems a witch has placed a curse on said shield which means as soon as anyone picks it up, they will no longer be able to wield a weapon. And thus, our hero forms a team of necessity and convenience with the three ladies: he will protect them with his shield, while they will take care of attacking.

Picdun 2

After the initial setup, Picdun 2 is extremely light on story; this is very much a mechanics-centric game, though the three companion characters do each have their own pleasingly distinct personality about them despite not actually having names. Instead, there are two main things that the game focuses on: exploring each dungeon level to uncover all its tiles and reveal a hidden pixel picture, and, optionally, unravelling some cryptic clues in order to discover a hidden curse or item on each floor.

The exploration angle in Picdun 2 is simple, but will be immediately familiar to anyone who has ever played a gridder before. You move by step and turn by 90 degrees at a time, and you’ll encounter various gimmicks around the place that affect the way you move. Ice, for example, causes you to keep moving in the same direction until you either hit a wall or end up on a non-icy patch of floor, while floor tiles marked with arrows will send you in the direction they indicate. You’ll also sometimes encounter the bane of dungeon crawlers the world over: illusionary walls that you can walk through.

As you explore in Picdun 2, your automap populates on the bottom screen of the 3DS, while the top screen depicts the view through your eyes. The game makes excellent use of the 3DS’ glasses-free 3D, with the visuals having a very realistic and atmospheric sense of depth to them — though of course, there’s no obligation to make use of the 3D facility if you don’t want to, or if you have a 2DS.

Picdun 2

Picdun 2’s automap is uncovered based on the tiles you’ve stepped on rather than your field of vision, so in order to completely clear each level and uncover the hidden picture, you need to actually step on every single tile. In order to help you accomplish this, each level features a hidden “Pedometer” item, which, once located, shows you how many tiles you have left to uncover before the level is complete.

You’re actually free to proceed to the next floor before uncovering the picture in its entirety if you see fit, but since the main point of Picdun 2 is solving the puzzles that allow you to reach every part of the floor, you’re sort of missing the point if you do.

Thankfully, it’s a simple matter to return to previous floors if you want or need to; every few floors, you’ll encounter an elevator which allows you to go back to any floor you’ve previously visited — though once you’ve returned to that floor, you’ll need to work your way back to your previous location. This is why the path to the exit on each floor of Picdun 2 is fairly straightforward; if you know you’ve already solved the puzzle, you can simply make a bee-line for the exit and relatively quickly return to where you were — or at least, the next elevator, which will allow you to jump to another floor.

Picdun 2

The “curse” angle ties in with the three companion characters in Picdun 2, only one of whom can accompany you at once. Each floor has hidden signs with clues on them that only appear when you have a specific character accompanying you — thankfully, each floor also has a special “Friendship Rendezvous Point” where the correct character from the floor will conveniently show up and offer to join you if they’re not already by your side.

The clues are usually cryptic in nature, and require you to accomplish all manner of different things. Sometimes they will require you to start from a particular point on a level and move in a specific way to reach another point; at other times, you’ll have to move between signs with letters on them to spell out a word; at others still, you might have to find a specific object and interact with it in a particular way in order to trigger an event. Succeeding in unravelling Picdun 2’s riddles reveals a lithograph you can read near the entrance of a floor.

You’ll often need to think about things in a rather different way to conventional dungeon crawlers if you’re attempting to solve Picdun 2’s curse riddles, since they often involve doing unnatural things like walking backwards into teleporters, deliberately sliding sideways to catch a glimpse of something on your way past or bumping into things you’d normally avoid. They’re always satisfying to solve, however — and succeeding brings a hint of a narrative to the game, as it’s revealed that the dungeon you’re in has seemingly claimed the lives of many other lonely young men prior to your visit.

Picdun 2

On some floors, there are also additional riddles that allow you to acquire new equipment for you and your companions. These generally don’t mind which character you have with you — though since each companion has her own unique equipment, the reward will usually only be relevant to one of them. These unfold in a similar fashion to the curse riddles; the main difference is that your reward is an actual item rather than a cryptic and depressing lithograph.

The equipment is used in Picdun 2’s combat system, which eschews the mechanical complexity of most dungeon crawlers in favour of a reaction and timing-based system. A power meter builds up in the corner of the bottom screen, which determines the strength of your companion’s attack. You can request that they attack either vertically or horizontally, with the former attacking a single enemy while the latter hits all enemies. You can also bring up your shield to protect against incoming damage; timing this perfectly allows your companion to unleash a power attack which generally devastates anything it hits.

The three companion characters in Picdun 2 each have their own specialisms in combat. The archer is best at hitting single enemies with her vertical attack, the whipper is best at hitting multiple enemies with her horizontal attack, and the spellcaster has the strongest power attack. In practice, there’s not actually a huge mechanical difference between the three of them, so unless you need someone specific around to solve curse riddles, you can generally pick your favourite of the three girls.

Picdun 2

And they’re certainly three very distinctive characters. The archer is an overly theatrical young woman who thinks everything is “fabulous” and calls you “darling” and “sweetie” all the time; the whipper is a huge-breasted sadist with a taste for eggs; and the spellcaster has distinct tsundere tendencies as well as a strong willingness to point out when you’re being a bit of an idiot.

The characters will make specific comments and drop hints on the curse puzzles when you encounter them, but they’ll also make little comments now and then on the bottom screen while you’re exploring. This adds considerably to their charm; the whipper is keen to give you a good slapping just in case you actually like it, for example, while the archer regularly proves herself to be a bit of a prankster by pretending to hear or see scary things just around the corner.

All in all, Picdun 2: Witch’s Curse is an utterly delightful game. While its relative lack of narrative may deter some people from engaging with it in the long term, its challenging puzzles, excellent presentation, likeable characters and interesting, unusual mechanics will certainly keep you occupied for quite some time. And with 60 floors to explore, each with their own riddles to solve, Picdun 2 could potentially last you quite a while.

Picdun 2

It’s perhaps not a game you’d take on as your “main gaming project” at any given time, but that’s why it’s a cheap, downloadable title for a handheld system. It’s wonderful gaming comfort food, great for playing on the toilet or in bed, and if it sounds like something which appeals you should make a point of checking it out sooner rather than later — because remember, after March 27, 2023, there will be no means of acquiring this game officially any more, and since it’s a game specifically designed for the 3DS, I suspect we won’t see any kind of port, reissue or physical preservation of this game. Once it’s gone it’s gone, as the saying goes.

Picdun 2: Witch’s Curse is available for Nintendo 3DS — but only until March 27, 2023. You can buy it either via the Nintendo website or on your 3DS, though the latter option now requires you to add credit to your Nintendo account either via a Nintendo Switch or the Nintendo website; payments are no longer accepted on the 3DS itself.

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Pete Davison
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