Friday, February 20, 2015

Pocket Review - Pokemon Shuffle

Pokemon Company International is often considered one of the most forward looking groups affiliated with Nintendo, so when Pokemon Shuffle was announced last month there was a hope that a free-to-download version of last year's Pokemon Battle Trozei would maintain the level of quality while avoiding the temptation to go full Candy Crush. You never want to go full Candy Crush, after all. Sadly, the line between fun game and pernicious money suck is thin, and Pokemon Shuffle falls squarely in the latter camp.

The core game in Pokemon Shuffle is a match three puzzle game where the game pieces are the faces of Pokemon drawn in a very cute style. The objective is to make matches to clear the board and attack a Pokemon who occasionally attack by blocking squares to prevent matches. The Pokemon elements - type matching, leveling and even Mega Evolution - are implemented well, and the tutorial does a decent job of explaining them to newcomers.

Unfortunately, the end of the tutorial is the beginning of the stereotypical free-to-download "fun". The game tracks three currencies - hearts which serve as level tolls, coins which buy items, and gems which convert to the first two and are purchased with real money. The hearts can also be earned by not playing the game for a half hour, which ruins the fun of a puzzle game by making it impossible to have a "Wait, it's 4:30am?" moment without paying out the nose for it in the first place. If you tell the player to stop playing, they're generally not going to restart. Thankfully, the Nintendo payment system being cumbersome at best makes it very hard to accidentally buy something, so points for stupidity?

Pokemon Shuffle doesn't feature all of the Pokemon - only about a quarter of the 720+ Pokemon are in it - and the special expert levels and special events such as the Mew battle seem designed as pure money sinks. If you treat it as a demo for the full Pokemon Battle Trozei game it's fair, but don't waste your time with this otherwise and use the money you might've used on a year of cross-Pokemon game cloud storage instead.

TLDR: A puzzle game where the free-to-download mechanics make it impossible to build momentum
Recommended for:People with commutes, since they won't have to buy any play time

The reviewer played this game on a New 3DSXL, using the public download from the Nintendo eShop. No real money was spent.

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