I recently (by which I mean about two weeks ago) completed Pokémon Picross for 3DS without once buying any Picrites. My game plan started off with unlocking the five Pokémon slots, extending the P gauge once, and completing as many objectives as possible without unlocking Alt World or the Mega Pencil. After that, I extended the P gauge twice more, unlocked Alt World, and completed as many objectives as possible there without the Mega Pencil. Finally, I unlocked the Mega Pencil, did all the Mega stages and Mega-requiring objectives, and got the infinite P gauge in the process. And yes, there was a lot of Daily Challenge grinding involved. For the record, I started on December 3, 2015, and have spent a total of 114 hours on the game.
Anyway, regardless of the amount of grinding involved, Pokémon Picross is a fun game, and something that makes it unique is that each Pokémon has its own ability that can be used to make the puzzles easier. There are 12 different varieties of abilities in the game, each associated with one (or multiple) Pokémon typing(s), and the purpose of this post is to go over each of the abilities from worst to best and provide reasoning as to why the abilities deserve to be tiered as such.
By the way, I even compiled a database of all the Pokémon in the game, coupled with a statistical analysis of type frequency: https://goo.gl/Ad8qtz
Also, if you’re wondering where I got the statistics of Diamond, Square, and Cross Reveals, I actually found them using my own spreadsheets (linked below).
The statistics for Rising and Slash Reveals, on the other hand, are all calculated using a combination of mental math and a four-function calculator.
12. Diamond Reveal
Associated with Fairy-types, Diamond Reveal is the type of ability that should not be used unless either it is required by an objective or there are no other Reveal-based Pokémon to use. Seriously. It’s a good thing that the ability is the least common in the game, because, to put it bluntly, the ability is utter crap.
There are four different sizes of Diamond Reveal, each covering a diamond-shaped area. Going from least to greatest in terms of maximum tiles covered, they are: 5, 13, 25, and 41. In the diagram below, the first three are shown from left to right on top, and the fourth is shown on the bottom.
Reveal abilities can come in handy because each tile within range is filled in or marked with an X depending on the actual solution…if that makes sense; it’s difficult to explain. But really, Diamond Reveal is so lackluster. Not only are the maximum values appallingly low, but the expected values are pretty bad too, because the diamond can so easily get cut off if the target point is too close to the edge of the board (which happens very frequently with random targeting).
To put it into perspective:
- On a 10×10 board, a 13-tile Diamond Reveal has an expected value of ~11 tiles.
- On a 15×15 board, a 25-tile Diamond Reveal has an expected value of ~21 tiles.
- On a 20×15 board, a 41-tile Diamond Reveal has an expected value of ~34 tiles.
Even Xerneas (the best Fairy-type in the game, located in Area 16), which has two manual-targeting 25-tile Diamond Reveals, can only manage 50 tiles on one puzzle. This is an underwhelming value when you compare it against the values of the other Reveal abilities.
I do appreciate the concept, and I’m sure that the creators would be hard-pressed to come up with anything else original, but it’s such a rubbish ability in practice. I do like Fairy-types in the main series Pokémon games (because of their few weaknesses defensively and resistances offensively), but definitely not so much in Picross.
11. Auto Fix
Associated with Grass-types, Auto Fix is tied for the fourth-most common ability in the game. The ability automatically fixes any tiles that are filled in when they should be marked with an X. It doesn’t seem like anything worth bashing…until you realize that there’s another ability called Auto Fix X that does the exact same thing and then some. (I will get to that later.) In spite of that, Auto Fix has some perks of its own:
- Auto Fix has nearly twice as many users as Auto Fix X.
- Auto Fix has more uses than Auto Fix X.
- In terms of size 10 Pokémon, the most effective Auto Fix has 10 uses, whereas the most effective Auto Fix X has 5 uses. Talking about no-recharge Pokémon (those with 00:00 cooldown), Treecko (Area 4) has 5 uses, and Klefki (Area 3) has 3 uses.
- In terms of size 15 Pokémon, the most effective Auto Fix has 15 uses, and the most effective Auto Fix X (excluding Mega Aggron (Area 16), which has 12 uses) has 10 uses.
- In terms of size 20 Pokémon (excluding Megas and legendaries), the most effective Auto Fix has 20 uses, whereas the most effective Auto Fix X has 12 uses.
- In terms of size 20 non-legendary Megas, the most effective Auto Fix has 30 uses, whereas the most effective Auto Fix X has 15 uses.
- In terms of legendary Pokémon, the most effective Auto Fix has 40 uses, whereas the most effective Auto Fix X has 25 uses.
Simply put, Auto Fix is outclassed, although not 100% completely.
10. Square Reveal
Associated with Dragon-types and also tied for fourth-most common ability, I would consider this to be the second tier of Reveal: better than Diamond Reveal, but still underwhelming for a Reveal ability.
Square Reveal comes in five different sizes, each covering a perfectly square area. Going from least to greatest in terms of maximum tiles covered, they are: 16, 25, 36, 49, and 64.
This is another form of Reveal that is fairly prone to being cut off with random targeting, but it is at least better than Diamond Reveal; I can say that much. To put it into perspective:
- On a 10×10 board, a 25-tile Square Reveal has an expected value of ~19 tiles. (This statistic is not so relevant because the best size 10 Square Reveal user, Dratini (Area 10), has a 25-tile Square Reveal with manual targeting. Altaria (Area 22), which has two random 16-tile Square Reveals, may have a greater potential maximum value, but the expected value (which is roughly 12 per Reveal, not factoring in the potential of the two Reveals overlapping one another) is less than Dratini’s guaranteed value.)
- On a 15×15 board, a 49-tile Square Reveal has an expected value of ~38 tiles.
- On a 20×15 board, a 64-tile Square Reveal has an expected value of ~48 tiles.
Again, it is better than Diamond Reveal, but still not the cream of the crop. However, I will admit that 10% Zygarde and Perfect Zygarde (which require passwords but are unlocked as early as Area 5) are some very nice early game assets (each size 20). 10% Zygarde has three 25-tile Square Reveals with manual targeting, while Perfect Zygarde has two 49-tile Square Reveals with manual targeting, allowing them to guarantee revealing 75 and 98 tiles respectively. It’s not the best, but it’s huge for what it’s worth.
9. Rising Reveal
Associated with Normal-types, but surprisingly the fifth-least common ability in the game, Rising Reveal selects a certain number of tiles (depending on the Pokémon) and, for each tile selected, reveals the entire column corresponding to the tile.
From a statistical standpoint:
- On a 10×10 board, a Rising Reveal with a width of 2 has a maximum value of 20 tiles and an expected value of ~18 tiles.
- On a 15×15 board, a Rising Reveal with a width of 3 has a maximum value of 45 tiles and an expected value of 43 tiles.
- On a 20×15 board, a Rising Reveal with a width of 5 has a maximum value of 75 tiles and an expected value of ~71 tiles.
Size 10 Rising Reveals are actually slightly less effective than size 10 Square Reveals, but as the size increases, so too do the maximum and expected values.
I would have to say that the best Rising Reveal user is Arceus (which has two manual Rising Reveals with a width of 3), although it is sadly a mythical Pokémon located all the way in Area 30. Not only does it have a better guaranteed yield than Regigigas (a guaranteed 90 compared to a potential 75 on a board with 15 height, although Regigigas is obtained one area earlier and is not mythical), but it is used to select the second-leftmost and second-rightmost columns, any blackened tile on the third-leftmost or third-rightmost column can be a vital giveaway to the solution of the puzzle.
8. Slash Reveal
Associated with Ground- and Rock-types, although it is the third-least common ability in the game and the earliest accessible user is all the way in Area 12, Slash Reveal is slightly better than Rising Reveal in that size 20 Slash Reveal users are more effective in 20×15 boards because of the irregular dimensions (which are presumably a result of system limitations). Also, the most effective size 10 Slash Reveal user has a width of 3 instead of 2.
From a statistical standpoint:
- On a 10×10 board, a Slash Reveal with a width of 3 has a maximum value of 30 tiles and an expected value of 28 tiles.
- On a 15×15 board, a Slash Reveal with a width of 4 (based on Mega Tyranitar (Area 23)) has a maximum value of 60 tiles and an expected value of ~54 tiles.
- On a 20×15 board, a Slash Reveal with a width of 5 has a maximum value of 100 tiles and an expected value of 92 tiles.
Now isn’t that something. The expected value of a Slash Reveal with a width of 5 on a 20×15 board is very close to that of the guaranteed number of tiles revealed by Perfect Zygarde.
I would also like to note that there is essentially a Slash Reveal version of Arceus, and that is Mega Diancie. It is a mythical Mega in Area 27 and therefore painstaking to access, but it’s a guaranteed 120-tile reveal with a similar sort of property to that of Arceus except in terms of topmost and bottommost rows instead of leftmost and rightmost columns.
Even so, Slash Reveal is arguably the third best Reveal ability, and the best is yet to come.
7. Auto Fix X
Associated with Steel-types, Auto Fix X is the second-least common ability in the game. As mentioned before, in terms of effect, it is just like Auto Fix except better. Not only does it correct tiles that are filled in when they should be marked with an X, but also vice versa. Also as mentioned before, Auto Fix X may outclass Auto Fix in terms of effect, but Auto Fix X has fewer users and uses.
Auto Fix X may be a really handy tool, and I was a huge fan of it in the early stages of my playing the game (i.e., before extending the P gauge to 400). However, as convenient as it is, I have come to realize two painful truths behind the ability (which also apply to regular Auto Fix):
- If a Pokémon with Auto Fix (X) activates an ability, even if it has not corrected a single tile, that Pokémon will be subject to cooldown after the puzzle.
- As a human being, I find that I have a tendency to make mistakes. When it comes to puzzles, these are usually misplaced inputs (e.g., in button mode, I had a tendency to press a direction on the D-pad right before releasing the A or B button (to fill or mark with an X respectively)), and Auto Fix (X) corrects those, even if you already know the mistake and wish to correct it yourself.
The second point became especially pesky when I came to realize it. For that reason, I decided to become less invested in Auto Fix X and instead pack another ability that I will explain later on.
6. Slow Time
Associated with Electric-types and the fourth-least common ability, Slow Time does what it says on the tin: It slows down the puzzle timer depending on the Pokémon using it. Specifically:
- The non-recharge Pokémon with this ability, Pikachu (Area 4), makes the timer run at 90% speed.
- The most effective non-legendary and non-Mega Slow Time users make the timer run at 70% speed.
- Mega Ampharos and Mega Manectric (Areas 20 and 9 respectively), the only Megas in the game with Slow Time, each make the timer run at 60% speed.
- Legendary Slow Time users make the timer run at 50% speed.
The slowing of the timer not only makes it easier to complete objectives with a time limit, but it also prolongs the duration of the timed abilities Stop Time and non-infinite Blue Force (which will be explained later), meaning that it can not only help complete timed objectives but also be a team player for other Pokémon doing so as well.
Incidentally, the absolute slowest multiplier for the timer—which is achieved by setting Zapdos (Area 20), Raikou (Area 20), Thundurus-Therian (Area 29), one of the two Megas, and a Pokémon that makes the timer run at 70% speed—is shown in-game as 0.05. That’s right; it is possible to make the timer run at roughly 1/20 of its regular speed. (On a 20×15 board, this is only possible with the three legendaries, Mega Ampharos, and Luxray (Area 27).)
5. Scatter Reveal
Associated with Dark- and Poison-types, Scatter Reveal is also tied for the fourth-most common ability. Each use of the ability reveals a certain number of different tiles (which varies depending on the Pokémon) in completely random locations. One thing special about Scatter Reveal is that it is the only Reveal ability belonging to any of the eight Pokémon with a cooldown time of 00:00 (in this case, specifically Poochyena (Area 1)).
In terms of the number of guaranteed tiles uncovered by Scatter Reveal, note the following:
- Of all the size 10 Scatter Reveal users, Zoroark (Area 30) reveals the most tiles (25). This is less than the expected value of a Slash Reveal with a width of 3, but bear with me here.
- Of all the size 15 non-Mega Scatter Reveal users, Beedrill and Umbreon (Areas 26 and 8 respectively) are tied with 30 tiles (but note that Beedrill has a manual activation timing unlike Umbreon).
- Speaking of Megas: Mega Gyarados, Mega Houndoom, and Mega Sharpedo (Areas 27, 14, and 10 respectively) have the most effective size 15 Scatter Reveals, each having an effect size of 60. Recognize that value? Yes, that is the maximum value of a Slash Reveal with a width of 4.
- Of all the size 20 Scatter Reveal users, Hydreigon (Area 30) is the only non-legendary and reveals 80 tiles.
- As a whole, Darkrai (Area 18) is the most effective Scatter Reveal user, able to clear a guaranteed 120 tiles. (That’s enough to clear an entire 10×10 board in one fell swoop!)
I do realize that Yveltal (Area 12) could potentially clear more tiles than Darkrai (because Yveltal has two uses of Scatter Reveal, each with an effect size of 70), but calculating the expected value of that would be far more complicated than doing so with any other Reveal ability. If I were to guesstimate, however, I would say that Yveltal leans towards, but doesn’t quite reach, the caliber of Darkrai.
As a whole, Scatter Reveal can prove to be surprisingly effective in terms of working towards the solution to any given puzzle, but the use of multiple Scatter Reveal users is ill advised (unless the objective requires only Scatter Reveal users or only Dark-/Poison-types).
4. Hyper Scan
Associated with Flying-, Fighting-, and Bug-types (more types than any other ability), Hyper Scan is the second-most common ability in the game. I initially thought that this ability was completely useless because of the existence of Auto Fix X, and it wasn’t until I got started on the Megas that I learned better. Now I feel ashamed and wish to explain my newfound appreciation of this ability.
I mentioned when talking about Auto Fix X that it gets pesky when it corrects misplaced inputs that I already know are mistakes, but Hyper Scan does not have that problem. My primary motive for having such fixing abilities in the first place is this: If I lack these abilities, there are some occasions where I may end up having a row/column marked incorrectly. Unlike Conceptis puzzles, Pokémon Picross does not have an Undo or Check button…and, in spite of myself, I am not methodical enough to keep track of every move that I make from start to finish. So, if I reach a point like that and lack any corrective abilities, I generally have two options:
- Cheat by looking at a picture online (Yes, I confess that I have done this before)
- Restart the puzzle completely (which is not ideal, especially if I used a legendary for the puzzle)
With that in mind, if I pack a Hyper Scan user and run into such a situation, I can just call upon the Hyper Scan user if needed and have it get me out of that slump. The best part is, unlike with Auto Fix (X) users, if I end up not needing Hyper Scan, I can just not activate it, and the Hyper Scan user will not need to cool down.
Sorry, I got ahead of myself. I never actually explained what Hyper Scan does, did I? At any point in time during the puzzle, activating Hyper Scan will check for incorrectly labeled tiles. If there are any, a number of randomly chosen tiles equal to or less than the effect size of the Hyper Scan will be selected and corrected. Otherwise, a huge check mark will be displayed on screen. (Note that the number of uses for the Hyper Scan is always lowered for any given check, no matter the outcome thereof.)
In terms of Hyper Scan effect size, note the following:
- Pancham (Area 2), the one with the 00:00 cooldown, has 1 Hyper Scan covering 5 tiles.
- The most effective size 10 Hyper Scan user is Gyarados (Area 27), which has 1 use covering 15 tiles.
- The most effective non-Mega size 15 Hyper Scan user is Vivillon (Area 29), the effect of which is identical to that of Gyarados.
- Megas included, the greatest sum of tiles covered by any size 15 Hyper Scan user is 20. The ones with the fewest uses are Mega Pinsir and Mega Heracross (Areas 14 and 18 respectively), each having 2 uses covering 10 tiles each.
- The most effective non-legendary, non-Mega size 20 Hyper Scan user is Staraptor (Area 30), which has 3 uses covering 7 tiles each (covering a total of 21 tiles).
- In terms of Megas: the most effective non-legendary size 20 Hyper Scan user is a tie between Mega Charizard Y and Mega Pidgeot (Areas 28 and 12 respectively), each having 3 uses covering 10 tiles each (covering a total of 30 tiles).
- Including legendaries and excluding Megas, the most effective Hyper Scan user is Genesect (Area 26), which has 3 uses covering 15 tiles each (covering a total of 45 tiles, even more than a legendary Auto Fix).
- As a whole, the most effective Hyper Scan user is Mega Mewtwo X (Area 30), which has 5 uses covering 10 tiles each. This covers a total of 50 tiles, making it the most effective checking ability in the game.
Simply put, Hyper Scan is basically a non-automatic (which equates to me as not-as-pesky) Auto Fix X with more uses.
3. Freeze Time
Sorry, had to. Associated with Psychic- and Ghost-types, Freeze Time is the third-most common ability in the game. Much like Slow Time, Freeze Time does what it says on the tin: It briefly pauses the puzzle timer. This makes it slightly (or, if using a legendary, much) easier to achieve timed objectives. As mentioned before, it also works in conjunction with Slow Time, because Slow Time effectively prolongs the duration of Freeze Time as a result of slowing down the puzzle timer.
In terms of effectiveness, I would classify varieties of Freeze Time differently: partly in terms of the sum of times, and partly in terms of the longest one-time use. The reason? In terms of limited-duration abilities (namely this and Blue Force), I always prefer the ones that have fewer uses with longer durations. With that in mind, note the following:
- Munna (Area 4), the one with the 00:00 cooldown, can freeze time once for 10 seconds.
- The size 10 Freeze Time user with the longest duration of one use is Misdreavus (Area 17) with a 60-second time freeze. This is also the greatest sum of time freeze durations—albeit tied with Meowstic (Area 9), which can freeze time twice for 30 seconds each.
- In terms of non-Mega size 15 Freeze Time users:
- The one with the longest duration of one use is Espeon (Area 10) with a 40-second time freeze.
- The one with the greatest sum of time freeze durations is Alakazam (Area 12), the Freeze Time effect of which is identical to that of Meowstic.
- In terms of size 15 Freeze Time users including Megas, the point about Espeon still applies, but Mega Banette (Area 5) has the greatest sum of time freeze durations: 90, which is comprised of three 30-second time freezes.
- In terms of non-legendary, non-Mega size 20 Freeze Time users…well, there’s honestly not that much competition. Both Gengar and Chandelure (Areas 8 and 29 respectively) have a duration sum of 120 seconds; however, Gengar has one 120-second use, whereas Chandelure has two 60-second uses.
- The only non-legendary size 20 Mega with Freeze Time is Mega Gengar, which can freeze time three times for 60 seconds each, making for a sum of 180.
- In terms of non-Mega legendaries, all of them have the same sum of time freeze durations: 600. However, they can be distinguished in a number of different categories that can be counted on one hand:
- 1 use, 600 seconds: Mewtwo (Area 30), Deoxys (Area 16), Giratina (Area 14)
- 2 uses, 300 seconds each: Lugia (Area 21), Azelf (Area 24), Victini (Area 24)
- 3 uses, 200 seconds each: Cresselia (Area 30), Meloetta (Area 21), Hoopa-Unbound (Area 29)
- 5 uses, 120 seconds each: Mew (Area 4, password required), Celebi (Area 4), Uxie (Area 25), Hoopa-Confined (Area 8)
- 10 uses, 60 seconds each: Mesprit (Area 23)
- As for legendary Megas…actually, the only one is Mega Mewtwo Y, which can freeze time 3 times for 300 seconds each, making for a whopping sum of 900. That’s a lot of seconds spent halting a timer.
In conclusion, Freeze Time is somewhat trivial when used by non-legendaries, but the great many legendaries possessing the ability can use it to a great effect.
2. Cross Reveal
Associated with Fire-types, this sixth-least common ability is a combination of Rising Reveal and Slash Reveal, which is one of the reasons why I deem it to be the best Reveal ability in the game. Other reasons? Well, just look at the statistics:
- On a 10×10 board, a Cross Reveal with a width of 2 has a maximum value of 36 tiles and an expected value of ~33 tiles.
- On a 15×15 board, a Cross Reveal with a width of 3 has a maximum value of 81 tiles and an expected value of ~78 tiles.
- On a 20×20 board:
- A Cross Reveal with a width of 4 has a maximum value of 124 tiles and an expected value of ~115 tiles.
- A Cross Reveal with a width of 5 has a maximum value of 150 tiles and an expected value of ~141 tiles.
That is freaking crazy. Literally no other Reveal ability can parallel the ridiculousness of Cross Reveal. (Darkrai surpasses the expected value of a 4-width Cross Reveal, but don’t worry about that unless Ho-Oh (Area 24) is on cooldown.) Speaking of Ho-Oh…what a literal freaking legend. An expected value greater than Yveltal’s maximum value, a minimum value that’s only 2 less that Perfect Zygarde’s guaranteed value, and a maximum value that other Reveal users could only hope to reach.
I should also mention that Entei (Area 19) is the closest thing to a Cross Reveal version of Arceus. A guaranteed 96-tile reveal isn’t much, but if used on a tile just away from a corner and its edges (suggested tiles are highlighted black in the diagram below), the third tiles away from the edges covered by the blast can be vital giveaways to the solution of the puzzle.
Simply put, Cross Reveal is best Reveal, and the proof lies in the statistics.
1. Blue Force
Associated with Water- and Ice-types, this is the most common ability in the game, and I’m glad it is. Oh, what would I do without the lovely Blue Force? Mon amour…
Huh? Oh, the explanation. Blue Force does this funky little thing where it makes certain rows and columns turn blue. Why do they turn blue? Well, it’s an indicator that the rows/columns are the place to look when trying to figure out the solution to the puzzle. Even as I always do weekly puzzles on Conceptis and gain further puzzle experience through this game, it’s tough to make out which rows and columns are hiding clues and which are to be saved for later, especially in the sorts of puzzles with fewer filled-in tiles (and don’t get me started on Mega Picross). Blue Force, however, alleviates that issue in a way that I cannot take for granted. It’s like having a canteen in the middle of a desert hike, you know?
Anyway, on to the effectiveness, which is laid out in a similar fashion to Freeze Time:
- Squirtle (Area 7), the one with the 00:00 cooldown, can use Blue Force once for 120 seconds.
- The size 10 Blue Force user with the longest duration of one use is Marshtomp (Area 17) with a duration of 300. This is greater than any sum of any other size 10 Blue Force user.
- In terms of size 15 Blue Force users (none of which are Megas):
- The user with the longest duration of one use is Lapras (Area 6) with a duration of 180, although keep in mind that Lapras is directly outclassed by Feraligatr (Area 21), which has two Blue Force uses, each with a duration of 180.
- On that note, the greatest sum of durations is 360, which is not only held by Feraligatr but also shared with Blastoise and Swampert (Areas 21 and 27 respectively), both of which have three uses, each with a duration of 120.
- In terms of non-legendary, non-Mega size 20 Blue Force users, Vaporeon (Area 7) has the longest duration of one use: 300 seconds. Keep in mind, however, that it is directly outclassed by Samurott (Area 16) with 2 uses of 300, which in turn is outclassed by Ash Greninja (Area 3, password required) with 3 uses of 300. (Ash Greninja has the greatest sum of durations of any non-legendary with Blue Force.)
- With the inclusion of Megas, Mega Swampert has the most effective single-use Blue Force with a duration of 600. In terms of sums of durations, however, the point about Ash Greninja still applies.
- Now, if we were to include legendaries…remember that all legendaries with Blue Force have an infinite duration. The legendaries in question are specifically as follows: Articuno (Area 22), Suicune (Area 21), Regice (Area 22), Kyogre (Area 10), Palkia (Area 17), Manaphy (Area 2), and Keldeo (Area 11).
In essence, Blue Force is so amazingly useful in Pokémon Picross that it is the one ability that I have always kept handy whenever I could (although part of me thinks that Cross Reveal is faster for 1-Pokémon challenges).
Phew…that’s definitely it for this post. It was tiring, but I had fun with it, and I hope it can be of use and/or entertainment value somehow.
À la prochaine! (Until next time!)