Remember that annoying puzzle in the Goldenrod underground tunnel in Pokémon Gold, Silver, and Crystal? The one with the switches and shutter doors?

You ever think "how was I *supposed* to solve that? How does it even work?"

Most people, on their first playthrough of these games, either happen upon the solution from trial and error, or just look up the solution on the Internet or a guide book. But, is there any pattern you were supposed to notice? Strategy you were supposed to use?

Talking to the Rocket Grunts gives you the hints "change the order of switching" and "the switch on the end is the one to press first", but that's it. They seem just as confused as you are.

It feels unsatisfying to just accidentally stumble upon the solution, and equally so to just look it up. Players end up more annoyed than anything.

The guides to solve it don't explain how the puzzle works either, they only parrot the solution, and sometimes also give you the sequence to obtain the Smoke Ball item in the bottom left.

So what was the deal with this puzzle?

If your memory is hazy, or maybe you think you were just a stupid kid when you first tried this, give it a try for yourself right now before you read any more.

Remember the objective is to make a path along the blue bricks from the top to the bottom right; a secondary objective is to make a path to the bottom left to pick up an item.

Switching every switch back to `OFF`

will reset the whole puzzle.

You may stumble across the solution just by randomly flicking switches, but really do try to see if you can recognize the pattern of what each switch does before reading on to the explanation.

Okay, here's how it worked.

After changing the position of any switch:

- Take the corresponding numbers of each switch that is set to
`ON`

, and sum them together, getting a sum 0-6. For example, if switches 1 and 3 were set to`ON`

and 2 set to`OFF`

, you would add 1 + 3 to get a sum of 4. - Look up the sum in the left column of the table below.
- The cells in the same row are the changes to make to each shutter. Green cells mean to open that shutter, red cells to close it. Empty cells leave the shutter as-is.

Sum ↓ |
Shutter Number | ||||||||||
---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | |

0 | Close | Close | Close | Close | Close | Close | Close | Close | Close | Close | Close |

1 | Open | Close | Open | Close | Close | Open | Close | ||||

2 | Open | Close | Close | Open | Open | Close | Close | ||||

3 | Open | Close | Open | Close | Close | Open | Close | ||||

4 | Close | Open | Close | Open | Open | Close | Close | ||||

5 | Close | Open | Open | Close | Close | Open | Close | ||||

6 | Close | Open | Close | Open | Open | Close | Open |

Open shutter

Close shutter

So, for example, if you just changed a switch and the sum is now 2, then shutters 2, 8, and 9 will open, if they weren't already, and shutters 5, 7, 10, and 11 will close, if they weren't already.

The shutters are numbered like this:

3 | 2 | 1 | ||||||||

8 | 7 | |||||||||

4 | 5 | 6 | ||||||||

10 | 9 | 11 | ||||||||

No, this numbering doesn't really make any sense. Shutter 11 is in the corner because it's the special "exit" shutter, but that's the only one with an excuse.

Anyway, it's the empty table cells, which leave shutters as they were, that are the key to the complexity of this puzzle. Because of this, the current state of the shutters is not determined purely by the current state of the switches, but also by the previous states, as viewed through a "window" of the empty cells.

Imagine starting in the top row, sum 0, and whenever you change a switch, the new sum's row is overlayed on top, with the empty cells being transparent. Each new row you enter by flipping switches has a "transparency" of 4 cells showing through.

If the table had no empty cells, and was entirely filled in with red or green, then the puzzle would be as simple as there being 8 possible arrangements of the switches, and 7 possible arrangements of the shutters (`ON`

/`ON`

/`OFF`

and `OFF`

/`OFF`

/`ON`

would have the same shutters). The player would then try each one and see which ones open a path forward.

As it is, if the table were to be "flattened out" and all possible states of the switches and shutters mapped, there would be a total of *50* unique states the puzzle could be in.

That looks like this:

This visualization is not recommended.

Some other details of note about this sum system:

- Sum 0 has no empty cells, so turning all switches to
`OFF`

will always reset the shutters to the initial state. - You cannot just move through the sums freely. If in sum 4, for example, this must mean that switches 1 and 3 are
`ON`

and switch 2 is`OFF`

, as this is the only way to make sum 4. Therefore, the sums reachable from sum 4 include 3, 6, and 1, from toggling switches 1, 2, and 3 respectively. Jumping from sum 4 directly to, for example, sum 5 is impossible. - Sum 3 is the only value which can be reached in multiple ways: switch 1 and 2
`ON`

or only switch 3`ON`

. Sum 3 therefore technically is actually two discrete states, with one being able to then reach sums 1, 2, and 6 next, and the other able to reach sums 0, 4, and 5 next, by toggling each of the three switches. - The vertical shutters, numbered 7, 8, 9, and 10,
*are*determined completely by the current state of the switches. Only the horizontal shutters, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6, are the ones that depend upon the order of previous switches. - The shutter to the exit, shutter 11, is only opened by sum 6 and is closed by entering any other sum. Therefore, the solution requires being in sum 6, which is only reachable if all three switches are set to
`ON`

.

The `EMERGENCY`

switch, if switched `ON`

, sets the shutters into the solved state and sets switches 1, 2, and 3 all to `ON`

. If switched `OFF`

, it sets the shutters into the initial state and sets switches 1, 2, and 3 all to `OFF`

.

Did you get that?

This puzzle is impossible to figure out fully without going into the guts of the map scripts and deciphering what it's doing. Even if you fully understand the workings, it still isn't clear what the correct switch procedure is without a lot more thinking. The intended strategy to solve it is trial and error, which is just bad game design.

Scroll back up and try the puzzle again. Try flicking the switches while cross-referencing the table. Does it make it any easier to understand what it's doing? Probably not.

If you couldn't figure it out, the solution is to set all switches to `OFF`

and then turn them to `ON`

in this order: 3, 2, 1.

To get the Smoke Ball in the bottom left, set all switches to `OFF`

and then turn them to `ON`

in this order: 2, 1, 3, and then turn 2 back to `OFF`

.

Game Freak must have known this puzzle was dumb, because it was totally redesigned in the HeartGold and SoulSilver remakes:

Pressing the blue switch toggles all shutters around the cells with the blue floor tiles, and the same for the red and green switches. This version communicates to the player exactly how the puzzle functions without even using any dialog.

Is it too easy now? Maybe. The frustration the first puzzle could cause is why it's remembered so well, after all.