It’s been exactly 1 year since the release of the addictive Pokemon puzzle game, Pokemon Battle Trozei. Battle Trozei is available on the 3DS eShop for $7.99, but you can download an all-new “freemium” game that is essentially the same called Pokemon Shuffle for free. Seems like a pretty good deal right? Well as it turns out, not so much.
Pokemon Shuffle is very similar to other popular puzzle games like Candy Crush Saga and Bejewelled Blitz, but with a bit of a twist. Instead of being limited to swapping adjacent Pokemon to make a match of 3 or more, you can drag them freely to make the matches you need. You may think this makes things easier, but it actually adds a bit of difficulty to chaining combos. Each stage you progress to is a different pokemon. Before starting the stage you will bring up to 4 of your own pokemon with you. These pokemon you choose will appear as the pokemon you have to swap around and match up to deal damage to your enemy. You must drain the opposing pokemon’s life bar to zero in a set number of moves or time limit to have a chance at catching it. After the stage is complete there is a “Catchability” gauge that is filled to a certain percentage, depending on how many moves you left and how many combos you were able to pull off. The more rare the pokemon, the harder they are to catch, and may require several attempts to succeed.
Luckily there are plenty of ways to make catching pokemon a little easier. Like all traditional Pokemon games, the strengths and weaknesses apply. By having pokemon in your party that are the opposite type as the one your catching, you will do extra damage with each match you make. As you progress through the stages the pokemon you use in your party gain experience like a traditional pokemon battle, and will eventually evolve. There are also bonuses you can purchase with the coins you collect that will give you boosts such as extra turns, experience multipliers, and even a great ball that will give you an extra chance to catch a pokemon after a failed first attempt.
The major drawback with Pokemon Shuffle is it requires microtransactions to get any sort of enjoyment out of it. To attempt a stage you need hearts, which regenerate every 30 minutes. The maximum amount of hearts you can stock by regeneration is 5. A stage can last anywhere from 10 seconds to 2 minutes, which means you can only enjoy the game for about 5 minutes at a time. Trying to progress forward and catch pokemon is extremely frustrating given the lack of hearts you can stock. There isn’t even a guarantee you’ll catch a pokemon in a turn, so chances are you’ll be wasting hearts on the same stage.
As mentioned before, there is a way you can help push the game along, and that is microtransactions. Through the eShop you can purchase jewels, which can be traded for hearts or coins. The cost of a jewel is roughly $1.00 each, with discounts for buying in bulk. To put this whole ridiculous situation in perspective, let’s say you for some reason buy 6 jewels for the price of $5.49. You then trade those 6 jewels for 38 hearts. Given the average play time of a stage you maybe get about 30 minutes of gameplay out of your $5.49, and probably a handful of pokemon. For a few dollars more you can just download Battle Trozei and never have to worry about microtransactions spoiling your gaming experience.
With that being said, Pokemon Shuffle is far from a bad game. It’s an addictive little puzzle game that is good for killing 5 or 10 minutes of your time a day, but it’s not worth racking up your credit card bill just to get a few stages ahead. Give Pokemon Shuffle a try, and if you find yourself enjoying it and wanting more, save yourself some cash and head over to the eShop to pick up Pokemon Battle Trozei instead.