Sure, it’ll make you want to scream “Candy Crush,” but Nintendo’s new puzzler has its own identity, even if the experience eventually falls flat.
Regardless of how you feel about micro transactions, “Pokemon Shuffle” is a fun puzzle game on the 3DS that caters to both a social media game audience and 3DS owners looking for a title that can kill a few minutes at a time.
For both of these very different audiences, it’s a hit- even if it isn’t nearly as successful as it could have been.
Creating a game like this just makes too much sense for Nintendo. You knew after the success of games the likes of “Bubble Witch Saga” and “Candy Crush Saga” that Nintendo and every other AAA developer was going to get in the freemium gaming, micro-transaction business.
Make no mistake, “Pokemon Shuffle” is exactly what it claims to be, a good puzzle game, that is especially solid in short bursts, even if you’ll eventually get frustrated enough with it that you’ll leave it for a game that you don’t have to pay in order to advance.
But lets be fair. Without any micro-transactions, “Pokemon Shuffle” can be fun. It’s great on the go and the game’s engine is a twist on several popular puzzle games you’ve played on your phone and on Facebook. Simply put, it’s extremely comparable to games such as “Candy Crush” or even SNES classic, “Tetris Attack.” All you have to do match, three, four or even five characters vertically or horizontally and they’ll disappear from the board and damage your opponent. You’ll deal even more damage if you have Pokemon in your party that have an advantage over the one you’re facing as well. Deal enough damage and you’ll defeat your opponent and move on to the next level.
However,there’s even more beef to the puzzle experience. Unlike the aforementioned games, you can move pieces from anywhere on the board to make your matches. This small, yet innovative gameplay function makes for a very different experience and one that every puzzle fan will enjoy.
Add in the Pokemon-theme and the ability to catch the Pokemon you beat at the end as well as mega evolutions and the leveling up of your caught Pokemon and there’s plenty of versatility to the gameplay experience. As a result, at times, “Pokemon Shuffle” feels like a perfect combination of “Candy Crush” and “Puzzle Quest.”
The only problem is, to really enjoy the game and to advance quicker, or catch better Pokemon, you’re going to have to pay for it.
As you progress in the game, Pokemon will become more difficult to catch. At times, it’s almost impossible to catch them without spending money or tirelessly grinding for hours for enough in-game currency to buy items to boost your chances. This will immediately throw up red flags for anyone who doesn’t want to spend cash on the game. For them, they’ll just cut their losses and move on. But for anyone who doesn’t mind dropping a few bucks to advance, or has spent tens of dollars on items in games the likes of “Candy Crush” or the countless other Facebook or iPhone or Android games.
The biggest problem however with this notion is that those people don’t own a 3DS and never will. What “Pokemon Shuffle” tries to do is bring that experience to a handheld and while it’s fun at times, it’s not what 3DS want or need. In the end, “Pokemon Shuffle” is a tease. A fun little puzzle game that only lets you play it until it gets fun. After that, it’s replaying levels over and over, just for the chance to progress. Offering no real incentive for progression other than adding Pokemon to your roster and it’s an experience many will give up on.
That, in itself, hurts the game’s luster and makes it somewhat of a disappointment. However, the fact that it’s free does give it instant appeal as well. Regardless, “Pokemon Shuffle” is a title that belongs on your 3DS, just because, why not?
But the same can be said for why you should continue to play after the game’s original shine fades away and you’re in “Crap, I’m stuck” Land. Had Nintendo given this game more ways for casual and even dedicated fans to play without paying, from speeding up the refill hearts option or offering more coins for each level, “Pokemon Shuffle” would be far more accessible.
For some, downloading DLC is understandable and even paying for points to improve a created-character in a game is somewhat stomach-able, replaying levels over and over because you refuse to pay for the needed coins to buy objects needed to advance isn’t exactly fun. While you can still get hours of gameplay out of “Pokemon Shuffle” and not pay any cash, that notion becomes increasingly more difficult the longer you play.
Great On the Go: Whether you’re on a bus or a train, waiting at a doctor’s office or even at a friend’s house, “Pokemon Shuffle” is great in short bursts. If you’re looking for a distraction for a few minutes, this is essentially where “Pokemon Shuffle” shines the brightest. It’s also the best way to play the game without having to pay for any extra items.
Free: Yes, it’s free. That’s the reason why you should play it at first, but underneath the cute exterior is a nifty gameplay system that makes it different from the plethora of similar puzzles games out there on the iOS and Facebook.
Features All of Your Favorite Pokemon: If you eat and breathe the Pokemon series, this is a game that could get you in trouble. It’s cute, addictive and follows the same strength and weakness structure as the main game, meaning if you’re good at “Pokemon X & Y” or “Omega & Ruby,” you’ll quickly fall in love with this one.
Borrows From Other Great Puzzle Games: The attacking system will remind many of “Tetris Attack” and “Puzzle Quest,” while the level system is very similar to “Candy Crush Saga.” As a result, even if you’re not a Pokemon fan, you’ll find something to dig here.
Easy to Jump Into: The concept is simple enough for anyone to get into. With all the cute Pokemon in the game as well, “Pokemon Shuffle” can and will serve as a gateway drug to the other games of the series.
Almost Forces You to Pay to Continue: Some Pokemon are essentially impossible to catch without paying or grinding on old levels for hours. That’s just not fun.
With so many great elements, “Pokemon Shuffle” could have been a blast, but the one egg on the face, it essentially ruins the experience. It’s understandable that Nintendo has created a game designed to draw the gamer in and have them spend money, but those gamers, for the most part, don’t play games on the 3DS, making this experience feel entirely foreign at times to anyone who never expected to see the micro transaction virus hit their handheld.