The game plays similarly to any Picross game. A player is sent to a gridded puzzles that have numbers on the top an to the left. Using these numbers, the player will be able to determine which blocks they should fill in. Penalties will be given if the player presses the wrong box. After every box that should be filled in has, an image will be revealed. A Character Mode is present in this game that lets you create famous Nintendo characters. Each version of the game contains different characters.
On the title screen, a tutorial on how to play Picross will play immediately if the player doesn't press any buttons for a short while. After the video of how to play the game is completed, it will be revealed that what they created was actually the face of Nintendo's mascot Mario. This tutorial is the same in all eight versions of Picross NP.
The characters present in this version's Character Mode are all from Donkey Kong Country. There are twelve in all (they are labeled A-L). They are: