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Indie Game Spotlight: NoNoSparks Genesis

By / Posted on 27 April 2012

NoNoSparks GenesisNonograms are a niche form of logic puzzle that, remarkably, still haven’t found the sort of widespread mainstream embrace that sudoku and kenken puzzles have. We say “remarkably” because, as those who’ve been exposed to nonograms are well aware, nonograms are awesome. The majority of gamers who’ve grown smitten with these graphic-logic puzzles know them but slightly more informal name: Picross — combining the concepts of “pictures” with “crossword” puzzles and the name of Nintendo’s series of Nonogram puzzle games. Nintendo “popularized” the nonogram formula with Mario’s Picross on the original Game Boy in 1995 and — outside of a couple of minor updates for the Super Nintendo and DS — nonograms have nearly exclusively been seen in independently-produced web browser and mobile phone games.

Oh hey, look, you’re in a web browser right now, and indie developers sure are expressive these days. I wonder if anyone’s done anything fresh and new with nonograms lately…

Looking… looking…

Hey! Check this out! An indie browser game where the player, as an omnipotent deity, creates the Earth through a combination of cartoon magic and nonograms! That sounds almost exactly like the sort of thing we were looking for!

NoNoSparks GenesisPuzzle games have long been the one genre of videogames that have always lacked story and plot but never felt particularly wanting for it (barring beautiful exceptions like Professor Layton and Puzzle Agent). Perhaps that’s why the presentation of NoNoSparks Genesis is so charming. The game takes the trappings of the story of creationism and allows the player to fill in the blanks with puzzles. Solve the puzzle that makes a drawing of water in order to create water. Solve a puzzle that makes a drawing of the forbidden fruit in order to create the forbidden fruit.

There’s really not much more to be said. The art style is curiously engaging, and the puzzles are solidly designed. The game is not long or especially hard — an experienced nonogram puzzler will breeze through the game’s 24 puzzles in a single sitting — but sometimes simply getting it that much right is more than enough. We’ve played our fair share of poorly-designed nonograms over the years, and the ones displayed here were all completely reasonable. The star of the show is the presentation, as players get to watch their world grow and flourish as they play, especially amusing where certain creative license is taken (play for yourself, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by a couple of the things religious education classes seem to have left out of this story).

NoNoSparks GenesisWe’re hoping that the “Genesis” in the title is a suffix strictly applying to the subject matter displayed in this game (coupled with the concept of this being the start of a new wave of nonograms) and that we see more NoNoSparks-branded puzzles soon, because this is a welcome expansion on one of our all-time favorite game designs. NoNoSparks Genesis is free-to-play here, can be installed as an app in the Google Chrome browser (really it just directs you to the same website, but it’s a nice touch), and there’s an iOS app on the way.

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Derrick Sanskrit has produced critically-acclaimed work as an artist and writer for Nerve, Babble, Pitchfork, The Onion and the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art, among others. He founded The Pop Aesthetic during the coldest months of his life in 2010.