Review by Rob Roberts

Game Review: Pokemon Shuffle

Game Review: Pokemon Shuffle

It's fairly well known in the industry that Nintendo is under a lot of pressure to roll out their incredibly strong characters and game experiences to a mobile platform. While Nintendo has famously resisted these calls for the most part, we are starting to see more of Nintendo testing the waters of the typical "free to play" mobile experience on the 3DS. Pokemon Shuffle is the latest free to play offering from Nintendo on the 3DS, and in some ways the title I'd most expect to have actually seen on a mobile device.


In Pokemon Shuffle, you progress thru various stages featuring a single wild Pokemon. In a game of Match 3 (or 4 or 5 if you can do it), you damage the wild Pokemon in an attempt to damage it enough to capture it. Why are you capturing all the Pokemon? Well, the story is never really explained but... it's not like Pokemon is a totally unfamiliar concept. You gotta catch em all! Because you can! Unlike a title like Bejeweled, you are free to swap any two pieces on the board in an attempt to make your matches. The catch? In normal play, the number of moves you have to make is restricted. Damage the Pokemon enough with many moves remaining, and your odds of capturing it will be higher. Barely miss the opportunity to catch the Pokemon by a sliver of health? Well you can always buy five more moves for just one jewel...


Jewels are the pay currency of Pokemon Shuffle available via the Nintendo Network. One Jewel sells for 99 cents, with some various bulk offers available. One Jewel can buy you five hearts, or some coins. Coins will allow you to purchase one-time powerups for use in battle, but they can also be used to upgrade a Pokeball to a great ball, to make the chances of capturing a Pokemon greater. Hearts, well, they are the more classic energy currency that you've likely seen on a Facebook or mobile game before. You start with five. Each time you take on a battle, you spend one. Run out of hearts? Wait 30 minutes for one to recharge. Or... pay for a jewel if you happen to be connected to wi-fi, unless you bought some jewels in advance.

These jewels will undoubtedly be the thing that turns a lot of Nintendo fans off to the game. Nintendo typically produces console experiences rich with secrets and unlocks. Pokemon Shuffle instead is a game of collecting by extreme chance, with real money available to spend to increase those chances. Jewels are handed out by the game on a rare occasion, such as beating a particular stage number in the main sequence of stages. An alternate "EX" path of stages is available as well, where you can make an unlimited number of moves, but are instead limited by time. It brings a little bit of variety to the puzzler, even if the chances of collecting these rarer Pokemon in the EX path such as Lucario is extremely low if you can even beat the stage before running out of hearts.


Occasionally you can connect Pokemon Shuffle to the internet thru the "Check In" feature. Checking in will net you coins and the occasional "thanks for playing" or "sorry the server was down" jewel (In my play, I was rewarded a jewel for the servers having been down on Feb 19th. I never noticed they were down). Limited time campaigns also will download thru the Check In feature. Some early campaigns I experienced were one where you could play a stage with the small possibility of capturing Mew, and a stage that was playable only once featuring Meowth which would net you coins based on how many coins in the puzzle you matched on a playthru. Seeing that Nintendo is updating this game on a regular basis with these online components is a plus, and a motivation to actually use the check in feature.

One area Pokemon Shuffle could really learn from a Facebook or a mobile game is the social interactions. This is surprising considering the check in feature that already exists. If you build up a great collection, then what? While street pass functionality is built into the game, it exists only to trade cards with other nearby players and see a very broad overview of their collection. As in, how many Pokemon they've caught. Streetpassing plenty of players will throw you the occasional jewel or heart, but that's it. There is no multiplayer battle to be had in the game, not even a leaderboard that's updated as you "check in". No way to borrow a friends Pokemon... not that you can customize the Pokemon you win with names or movesets as you can in the long-standing Pokemon adventure titles.

So then, what's the point? Sure, you gotta catch them all, but in the main Pokemon series, you can trade them with friends. On a Facebook game, you can see how your progress is shaping up with friends and help each other out. More importantly, you aren't spending real money to increase your chances of possibly catching these Pokemon to add to your number count on your street pass card.

For the short fifteen minutes you can play Pokemon Shuffle without spending jewels or waiting two hours for recharges, it's a fun and fast match puzzler. If playing in these short bursts, you'll probably find enough to like about Pokemon Shuffle to keep you interested. If you're looking for something deeper than that though, it really isn't too long after the first time you consider spending money for more moves that you realize a more meaningful experience just isn't in this game. I don't have a problem kicking some money at a free to play title that I enjoy, but unfortunately for Pokemon Shuffle, I failed to that real compelling reason to do so.


Our Grade:
C-
The Good:
  • It is free, even if paywalls will prevent you from binge sessions without money.
  • For the times you are able to play free, it's a competent puzzler and a fun distraction similar to a short Streetpass game experience.
  • "Checking In" for online benefits feels like a nice present, and Nintendo does appear to be rolling out regular special stages.
The Bad:
  • The weights of the pay currency is just off which is damning for a game that begs you to buy it.
  • Virtually no social interactions outside of very stripped down streetpass. No multiplayer, no real way to show off a collection outside of number.
  • The further you progress, the level design really begs the use of pay currency (i.e. Level 40 allows 3 moves with all but one line blocked initially).

Rob Roberts, AKA Skie, is one of the co-hosts of Orange Lounge Radio here on the VOG Network. You can follow him on Twitter at @skie

Review by - 2/23/2015 8:07 AM313 views

Your Responses

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CONCURRING OPINION

Grade: C
The game isn't bad, at all. It's fun even for your run of the mill mobile/Facebook puzzler but the game doesn't offer you more than that which becomes the problem with it. Granted, this game is obviously meant to play alone but considering Nintendo's attempts for creating a social network with their games, especially Pokémon, this one fails at it. I don't even mind the buying jewels thing since it's (sadly) expected in this kind of game but StreetPass shoiuld've at least been better.

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