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February 5, 2016 (Originally posted on Tumblr)

Pokémon Free-To-Play Game Reviews

Since there’s three major free-to-play Pokémon games out on 3DS (and one on phones) I figure I’ll just throw them all in to one review post since I don’t have a whole lot to say about each. So this covers Pokémon Shuffle, Pokémon Rumble World, and Pokémon Picross.

Pokémon Shuffle

The first of the trio to come out was Pokémon Shuffle. Long story short it’s a puzzle matching game, actually somewhat comparable to Trozei if you want to look at other Pokémon puzzle type games but in practice a lot more like Candy Crush “““Saga”””. I will be honest, I didn’t even get past the initial tutorial zone out of boredom and realization on what it all was.

The gameplay is generally having a limited number of moves to score enough points to “knock out” the opposing Pokémon, then a capture attempt where how well you did and the number of moves you had left add up somehow to make your catch chance. If for some reason you don’t catch the Pokémon, you can spend coins to get a better ball (apparently just a Great Ball but there may be more for all I know) to boost the chances. And if THAT doesn’t work or you pass up the upgrade, you have to play through the stage again to be able to try to catch it again. So, just because you pass a stage doesn’t mean you get to fully reap its rewards. So there’s one case of throwing in “replay value”.

There’s another issue, and it’s the lives system. For whatever reason, it’s the model where attempting a stage uses a life. In a lot of other free-to-play games I’ve seen with lives, you really only tend to lose lives if you lose or have to continue a stage. In this one it doesn’t matter at all and you only get 5 that regenerate on their own. Of course you can buy more.

How buying things works in this game is that you buy some kind of gem. It’s always usually gems in these things. You can buy them in packs, of course, which give you “bonuses” and such. I’ll point out something here. This is the only game of the three here that doesn’t have a hard limit on spending, however depending on region and stuff, there is a soft limit per whatever amount of time (week? day?). So this is the most diabolical of the three and therefore the one I like the least. While there are buffers to impede overspending in the framework, it can still have the potential to happen in this game. And of course there are insane difficulty spikes ahead apparently, but I can’t speak from experience there, it’s more the experience of everyone else. So this may be a bit biased but considering I couldn’t even stick to the part of the game that was easy for very long at all, it’s still not very good, and I see no reason for me to jump back in at any point.

Arbitrary score: 1/10

Pokémon Rumble World

The second game to come out of this free-to-play flood was another entry in the really weird and low-res Rumble series. I honestly consider it an exercise in having a lot on screen and saying that they’re “toys” just to excuse the really pointy graphics. Not that they aren’t cute, though. The whole “toy” angle is just really weird. My experience with this series prior is mainly a 3DS game which I later got rid of. I got tired of how repetitive it was among everything.

Unfortunately the repetitive nature still extends to this game. While a much better effort than Shuffle, it does wear thin after a while. Long story short, you have a toy, you fight others, sometimes you get to collect them, and you use that to gradually get stronger. However it can be a lot of grinding as well, and some of the best in the game may have a very small chance to be collectible.

Essentially it’s the same type of gameplay of other Rumble games, but of course Mega Evolution is in somehow, and you have to unlock that at some random point somehow. Unfortunately I didn’t get that far because one of the levels continued to crash on me, one that the random wheel of level selection kept landing on. Right, you also have to use some kind of hot air balloon on a roulette to go to a stage. And of course you have to wait for the balloon to reinflate to go try that roulette again. Or you can spend gem money. Of course. I’ll say that when the game crashes a lot and doesn’t compensate for a problem with their game, it’s pretty bad. They may have fixed this though or I just had some bad hardware issues for all I know but the game is still repetitive.

One merit I will give the game is that there is a hard cap on spending. Once you buy the maximum amount of gem things, the game kinda shifts over to a different mode where you can pretty much farm gems to spend on whatever. So they don’t remove all the waiting, but you have a way around it. There’s even a retail version in Europe that comes with the mode unlocked, but not in America, because apparently Americans like to spend too much on microtransactions, which is something this game actively stops you from doing weirdly enough. However, the game didn’t hold well with me either way unfortunately.

Arbitrary score: 7/20 or 3.5/10

Pokémon Picross

The third game to come out of the free-to-play/start/whatever thing is a version of Picross. Essentially, Picross is a puzzle where you have rows and columns with numbers which tell you how many groups of squares will be filled in those directions per row and column. It’s better to explain in action than in words. However, I’ve found I actually enjoy Picross pretty well and find it much superior to sudoku where you just throw numbers into boxes and hope they work and you don’t get a neat picture at the end.

How this game works is it has both an energy meter and a currency. You have to spend the currency to unlock new areas and you can only make a set number of moves according to the energy. However the energy meter can be upgraded, even to an infinite level, with enough currency. As well, currency is earned through playing, and more from completing missions on certain levels, but these amounts are pretty small and eventually you’ll hit the wall where you can’t really progress anywhere without paying or grinding for ages. As well, the missions tend to require things you find later on at some point and require specific criteria, and there’s always the last mission which is “do the last three at once”.

There are also major puzzles you get pieces for with certain missions, they fill in two giant murals made of smaller puzzles which are solved individually, without assistance from powers, so it can prove to be a more solid challenge, but they’re all 10x10 instead of varying in size.

Like Rumble World, though, this also has a hard cap on spending. And then you essentially get to unlock everything freely from then on. I should also note that I never spent anything on these games because it adds up to a fair bit, and I also have other games I wanted to play instead, ones more along the lines of things bought up front.

This game also poses a weird conundrum to me, essentially, I’d probably be happier with a set of puzzles paid for up front, but if this wasn’t free, I probably wouldn’t have gotten into Picross so easily. There was a cancelled game of the same name for a Game Boy, so there is a weird history to this. Whether much or any of that game’s features made it in to this one is questionable, though I would probably buy more games of this type, again, up front more likely.

I did pick up Picross DS for very cheap, and I found in the “free mode” you get an overlay option to test out layouts before you commit them without screwing up what you already have. That feature is sorely missed in Pokémon Picross. However, you do get powers which have cooldowns as well to assist you at least, even one that auto-fixes mistakes. Still, overlays would be a nice option. And there are many other sets of puzzles on the 3DS for download with an up-front cost. Looking back at those, you can actually see where some of the mechanics present in this game came from. I may end up going for those at some point, but I’m not too likely to spend on this one unfortunately. Still, it is the best one of the three by my opinion, since I do like puzzle games.

Arbitrary score: 13/20 or 6.5/10

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