Title: Pokemon Shuffle
Developers: Genius Sonority, Game Freak
Release Date: February 18, 2015
The freemium market has been around on Facebook and mobile platforms for years. The concept is easy: developers/publishers advertise a free to play game, and draw you in with the game-play (or in some cases, cute graphics/adult graphics, like Game of War does in its commercials). You start to play, and it seems easy at first..but you are soon walled with timers, lack of points, etc., and are forced to either wait a mass amount of time before being able to properly play again, or pay to void the timers/walls.
Pokemon Shuffle does an excellent job of living up to the name of freemium gaming. In the first few levels, you are introduced to the mechanics of the game by Amelia, the tutorial lady. She helps you through the first 10 or so levels by giving you free items, such as +5 moves and a great ball to catch an Eevee. These levels go by very quickly, mainly because you have someone helping you and giving you a hand, but don’t expect the entire game to be a walk in the park.
In fact, the game takes a wrong turn very quickly. When you first start, Amelia gives you a free heart or two, and a free gem to go along with it. After that, though, you start using up one of your 5 given hearts per level, and before you know it, BAM! You’re out of hearts. On instinct, or at least it was for me, I used the free gem Amelia gave me to purchase 5 more hearts so that I could continue playing. Little did I know that was a huge mistake.
In the first 30 or so levels, you are given a free gem about every 10 levels. If you save up for 3 gems, you can buy 18 hearts for a longer play session (however, hearts won’t recharge until you’re under 5, so make sure you’re ready to sit down and play before purchasing). In the later levels, though, gems appear less and less often, making it increasingly difficult for you to play in long periods of time. But have no fear, because there’s a solution!
I didn’t say it was a free solution though. Yep, you heard me correctly: you can pay to keep playing! The pricing models are as follows:
1 Gem – $0.99
6 Gems – $4.99
12 Gems – $8.99
35 Gems – $24.99
75 Gems – $47.99
With gems, you can buy hearts (or coins to spend on items) to continue your playthroughs and make them even longer. 5 hearts for 1 gem, 18 for 3 gems, 38 for 6 gems, and 80 for 12. Sound a bit pricey to you? Don’t worry, me too. But never fear, because it’s completely possible to get through this game without spending a penny. I almost let the micro-transactions stop me from even downloading the game, but it is a pretty fun game, once you figure out what little strategy is involved. But I’ve spent too much time on the micro-transactions, so it’s time to jump into the game-play.
Anyone familiar with the mechanics of Pokemon Trozei (or other match-3 games like Candy Crush Saga) should feel right at home with the mechanics of Shuffle. Pokemon Shuffle features simple match-3 game play while also keeping the type advantages and dis-advantages for certain Pokemon. For example, if you’re playing against an Espurr, it would be best to use Bug/Ghost/Dark type Pokemon. Matching 3 or more of the Pokemon that counter the Pokemon you’re up against will do double damage, and will increase your likeliness to beat it quickly and catch it.
How quickly you defeat a Pokemon in battle determines the likelihood of you catching one. For example, if you are given 15 moves to defeat a Mawile, and you defeat it with 10 moves remaining, then the catch rate will go up for that Pokemon. Base catch rates depend on the Pokemon you are fighting. It could start at 5%, or it could start at 70%, depending on the rarity and strength of the Pokemon you are fighting (and to me it also seems to depend on how much you will need it in a later stage).
Though the base game-play of Pokemon Shuffle remains the same throughout all 160 levels, there are a couple of ‘different game modes’ to give you an even greater challenge. These are known as ‘Expert’ levels, and ‘Special’ levels. Expert levels carry legendary/very strong Pokemon that you must defeat under a certain time limit to catch, unlike the main levels where you have a certain amount of moves. When you make a match in an Expert level, you are free to continue making them instead of waiting for the current match to fall. This can come in handy when fighting extremely strong legendaries, such as Lucario.
The special game mode is the same as the main game mode, just with Pokemon that will only be available for a limited time. In the beginning, only Mew was available in this category as a welcome present of sorts, but they have since updated the game to include a ‘Daily Pokemon’ system, where you will find a brand new Pokemon to catch every day (but so far since the writing of this review, the Daily Pokemon has only been a different form of Rotom).
Now, I’ve already gone over the gems system, but there is another currency that is free to earn, and they are known as coins. You can use coins to purchase one-time-use items to help you in difficult levels that have you stuck, or you can use them to purchase a Great Ball after your regular Pokeball fails. The Great Ball gives you an extra 10% or more catchability rate, so that you’ll have a greater chance to catch a Pokemon that you’ll really need for a later stage. You receive 100 coins for every win, plus an additional 500-1000 every day that you ‘Check In’ while connected to Wi-fi.
I tried really hard to like the music in Pokemon Shuffle, but a lot of it is either really repetitive, or a poor rendition on an already existing Pokemon track. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t bad music so to speak, it just gets really annoying to hear the same few songs on every level. Not that I would count on a game having a different song for all 160 levels, but eventually it DOES get repetitive (at least it has more music than Candy Crush Saga).
Overall, Pokemon Shuffle is a very enjoyable game. If you can get past the micro-transactions, you’re a fan of match-3 games, or you’re just a fan of Pokemon in general, then I strongly recommend this game. It’s free, and it isn’t required to pay in order to get through the game at all (you’ll just be waiting awhile). Remember, don’t waste your gems on 5 hearts per gem. Save 3 up and go for the 18 hearts. It’ll pay off, I promise.
Overall Rating: 7/10