Nonograms in Review – A Puzzler for people who think they don’t have time for games

Many people say they don’t have time to play games. I can understand this because we all have so much on our plates that it’s hard to justify. What if, however, there was a puzzle game that didn’t take too long, was analytically challenging (but not overly formidable), didn’t require a 17 year old’s dexterity and… gave a nice sense of accomplishment when you finished it?

It’s not my habit to write game reviews but occasionally one comes along that deserves to be noted. Nonograms for iPad and its sister Nonograms Pro for iPhone are two of those games. Challenging, engrossing, pick up & play, and really fun – ideal for busy professionals or others with hectic lives and little time.

Nonograms is a puzzle game where hidden patterns of boxes on a matrix grid are deciphered through hints and logic. Think of a minesweeper/sudoku combo – but kinder and gentler, quick and compelling. Games are played on grids of 5×5, 10×10, 15×15 cells or more. There is a timer, but it’s very low key and only used to measure how long you’ve taken to solve the puzzle. The iPhone version is similar to its big brother and includes cursor buttons to help mark the grid.

Just choose the puzzle size to correspond to the approximate time available and see how quickly you can solve it. If you make a mistake you have unlimited undos to go back, plus games can be paused or restarted again. With 12,500 puzzles, you won’t run out of them soon.

Probably the best way to describe play is with an example. Here’s a simple 5×5 grid.

Notice the rows and columns have headers marked with numbers. These numbers correspond to sets of connected boxes in that row/column which make up the hidden pattern. If there are two numbers, then one or more blank spaces must exist between the sets. We can begin at any point on the grid but let’s look at the rightmost column. It says there should be 3 connected boxes followed by one or more spaces and then a single box – but that’s 5 total, so we can just fill it in!

Row and column headers change from white to orange automatically whenever the specified pattern is achieved (but don’t be fooled, there may be several ways to meet the row or column requirement, but only one will be correct to solve the puzzle). Here, the last column’s header has been marked in orange as complete. The middle row’s header also shows it’s complete because there can only be one box in that row. Next we can fill out the top two rows and the bottom row because each defines a single set of connected boxes that must include the corresponding box in the last column.

Finally we complete the 4th row to match the unfinished columns and voila, we win!

Granted the 5×5 puzzles are fairly straightforward, but they’re good to learn the methods needed to solve more complex puzzles. To assist in your efforts, cells can be marked with an X to eliminate them from consideration which greatly helps to reduce the number of alternatives. Tips for solving Nonogram puzzles can also be found on Wikipedia.
10×10 puzzles are lots of fun and with practice can often be completed in under 5 minutes.

15×15 puzzles are my staple and usually take me about 10 to 20 minutes (or longer if I get a hard one).

For the truly hard core, try a 25×25 matrix — this one was completed in under 40 minutes!

In conclusion, Nonograms is a great game that’s easy to learn and will stretch your analytical faculties. Free Lite versions exist for both the iPad and iPhone versions that contain 300 unique puzzles. So try it out today!


App Summary
Title: Nonograms
Nonograms Pro
Developer: Hot Cocoa Games
Reviewed Ver: 1.04 (iPad)
1.1 (iPhone)
Min OS Req: 3.2
Price: Nonograms – $4.99
Nonograms Pro – $2.99
App Size: 8.4 MB
5.7 MB
  • Clean and simple user interface
  • Can choose game size based on approx time available
  • Unobtrusive timer and pause
  • Free Lite versions available
  • Games are numbered but can’t share or replay them (feature coming)


Can’t get enough of the puzzle genre? Take a peek at some of our other reviews:

Ray Gans works as a Community Manager for an open source software vendor in the SF Bay Area and loves apps, wine & cheese and boardgames. He bought his first Mac in 1984 and has been one of the Apple faithful ever since. You can catch him on the TMA forums as Aeaea.

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