Pokémon Picross is a free to play picross spin off of the Pokémon franchise. The basic concept of picross puzzles, also known as nonograms, is to use the hint numbers in the columns and rows in order to figure out which squares on the grid can or cannot be filled. Each number in a row or column must be satisfied in order with the other numbers in the row or column and separated by at least one space between each set of corresponding contiguous filled in squares. You can also place X’s to denote spaces that cannot be filled in. Once all of the appropriate squares are filled in, the completed puzzle will become colorized and show a pixelated representation of a Pokémon.
Completing the puzzle also means you capture that Pokémon and can bring it with you to try and complete more puzzles. Each one has a skill associated with its type. Reveal skills uncover filled-in squares and X’s within their range. Auto fix skills correct mistaken markings when made. Hyper scan checks for errors in the already completed squares. Blue force highlights hint numbers that can currently be worked on logically given the current puzzle conditions. Freeze time stops time and slow time slows down time. You can eventually bring up to five Pokémon with you into a puzzle. Most of the skills have a cooldown after use which can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 30 hours. There are also different levels of these skills typically depending on the difficulty of getting said Pokémon in the first place. Some skills are also restricted by puzzle size. The sizes for puzzles are 10×10, 15×15, or 15×20. Completing a puzzle also unlocks the next successive ones connected to it. Completing the last puzzle in an area will give you the opportunity to unlock the next area. You’ll also need enough picrites to do so once the option is available.
Picrites are the in-game currency used for a number of other things as well. You need them to unlock more slots for putting Pokémon in your party. They can be used to expand or refill your energy gauge, which depletes one point for every square filled but regenerated over time. They can be used to purchase the mega pencil for unlocking mega evolutions. They’re also needed for unlocking the Alt World which we’ll get to in a bit. Picrites can be earned a few different ways. You get some by doing the daily training course each day. This course is a rapid fire set of 7×7 puzzles that don’t form pictures but are merely used for training purposes. Beating the target time will net you a few extra picrites and advance your training level until you hit the level cap. At that point you’ll still get a few extra picrites for clearing it in the target time, but the overall amount obtained each time only goes up slightly after unlocking benchmark numbers of areas. You can also simply buy the picrites with real money via the shop menu. The other way of earning them is through missions.
Each puzzle has three or four missions to complete on top of simply solving it. Generally these missions include setting certain types of Pokémon, using specific skills on the puzzle, solving the puzzle within a time limit, and also a mission to complete all other missions at the same time. When you complete a mission for the first time you’ll either be awarded some picrites or with a mural tile. The mural tiles turn into squares on the two large murals in the appropriate section of the main menu. These murals consist of a grid of tiles and each tile is its own 10×10 puzzle to complete, ultimately coming together to create one massive image when fully completed.
There are also missions in Alt World, but these missions tend to have stricter time limits, restrict certain skills or Pokémon types, yet still generally have a missions for completing all missions at the same time. The Alt World puzzles contain the same Pokémon as found in the already unlocked standard puzzles but in a different order. The main difference is that Alt World puzzles use mega picross, which mixes in mega hint numbers. Mega hint numbers take up two rows or columns and must be connected between both yet still in sequence with the positions of the normal hint numbers in the same rows or columns. This is not to be confused with using the mega pencil to mega evolve Pokémon. The mega pencil is bought with picrites and once obtained can be used to attempt the puzzles of Pokémon that can mega evolve. After completing the puzzle you can use the mega evolved form of that Pokémon which will have skills based on its type and puzzle size as well. Just keep in mind that you can only use one mega evolved Pokémon in your party at a time and you cannot bring both a mega evolved Pokémon and its base form at the same time.
The game also has achievements. Each achievement will net you a few picrites as well. Some of these are from standard progression. Some require many uses of certain skills. Others are from unlocking areas and upgrades. There are a number that require specific teams and conditions to achieve. And the final ones are for completing most things up until full completion of every other achievement. Once you beat all 30 areas in both standard and Alt World and complete all of these achievements you’ll have completed the entire game.
Picross puzzles resulting in pictures of Pokémon that are commonly pixelated in sprite form anyway sounds like a great idea. It’s fun to do the whole picross thing in general. It’s even neat that that’s how you capture the Pokémon too. There’s a good number of puzzles to play and the daily challenges make you think quickly and logically rather than using the context of a possible picture to help you when you’re stumped. I also enjoyed the inclusion of mega picross puzzles and the mural puzzles to spice things up a tiny bit, even if they are largely the same in many respects. Plus, it’s even free to play!
The thing is… a lot of the elements that try to make the game unique and profitable end up clashing with the enjoyment of it. Forcing you to use the skills that essentially just gameify the hint system make you unable to do puzzles based on your own skill alone. You COULD play the puzzle once without any skills and then again with them to complete the missions, but then you’re just going through the motions of filling in a puzzle you know the solution to while pissing away twice the energy that you’ll have to wait to recharge. Besides, you want those picrites to keep advancing to new content, which is often blocked off for one to two weeks until you get enough picrites to unlock the next area and play for a few days again. In the meantime you just grind away the daily training once a day to get a few more picrites and then shut the thing off again. Even once you get infinite energy you’re still stuck waiting for new stages to play. Once you unlock the Alt World you’ll get a bunch more stages to do depending on how far you are in the standard mode but even then you’ll end up waiting on skill cooldowns if you try to do too many in a row so there’s just absolutely no way to escape the routine of waiting and barely playing for weeks on end. The fact that you have the option to pay in order to wait less does not make up for a tedious time without paying as that is also an option, and likely to be a popular one. And if you want the help of hints anyway, then the Alt World restrictions on them will be what pisses you off. So either you’re going to have your hand held against your will, your balls twisted to your dismay, and either way you’ll have to learn the meaning of the word patience.
Overall, Pokémon Picross isn’t worth the money to make it enjoyable and isn’t worth the time to make it through the game. It took me a year to get through it without paying any money, and I played just about every single day. At the end I even crammed to get everything done finally once I had infinite energy. Ultimately this game should’ve been reworked to actually be a free game rather than a free to play game, or it should’ve just had a pricetag and removed the freemium bullshit. As it stands, the only reason to play it is out of curiosity. It’s free to play, after all. Just know you’re setting yourself up for annoyance and frustration. There’s no reason this needs microtransactions outside of the fact that the game needed a way to make money and apparently they didn’t think it was worth straight-up paying for it. The saddest part is that now I have every puzzle unlocked so I can go back and just play it for the puzzles at my own pace whenever I want, but I’m so burnt out and sick of it that I don’t ever want to touch this game again. I know I rag on Pokémon Go a lot for not being a very good game… and Pokémon Picross is still a better GAME… but at least Pokémon Go was an interesting expereince, which is more than I can say for anything past a few weeks of Pokémon Picross. Get the Zelda Picross on 3DS via My Nintendo instead and be glad you did. Good riddance to this rubbish!