Pokemon Shuffle is a game that I didn’t anticipate playing…ever. I typically don’t play freemium games all that often. They are certainly interesting and I can appreciate why companies would develop these games, but they didn’t seem to be for me. I prefer physical games for my collection, but naturally something like this is digital. Well, if I can’t get the game physically, then I’m definitely fine with a digital version I suppose. There are definitely some classic titles to get electronically someday, but as long as there are dozens of physical options to choose from, I don’t see myself being tempted by them anytime soon. Pokemon Shuffle may not be the next Pac Man or Super Mario Bros, but it’s actually very fun.
For the gameplay, I assume that you are familiar with Tetris? In this game, you must match identical blocks together by dragging them across the screen to take the place of another block. You score points for matching three or more in a line, (No diagonal lines in this one) an L shape, or a cross. Each Pokemon square has a different ability so you will want to know what it is and make the most of it. The Pokemon that you fight in each level are the ones that you will be adding to your team if you beat them quickly enough to secure the capture. The more turns you have left over, the greater the chance that you will catch the Pokemon. After the tutorial, you’ll likely be all set with a few good Pokemon all set and raring to go. Each Pokemon has a level to play and there are currently 240 levels I believe, with more being added all the time. As of this writing, I’ve beaten about 60 of them. The levels get harder as you go along of course.
I haven’t had to grind yet, but that area is quickly approaching, which means that I’ll probably start slowing down in this game. I do have a lot of fun with it, but there are currently a lot of games on the backburner so when I do get a chance to play a game, it should probably be something else. Still, if you have time, you’ll definitely enjoy the gameplay. Again, it’s similar to Pac Man in the sense that you are doing something over and over again, but it still manages to be fun. Playing Pokemon Shuffle requires you to really think about what you are doing and to brace yourself. One wrong move and you may have doomed yourself.
There is certainly a cost to losing as you lose a heart every time you attempt a level. You start out with 5 hearts and once you lose them all, you have to wait 30 minutes to get another one. This is where the pay to win aspect of the game comes at you. You can buy hearts to save yourself the trouble of waiting and the money will certainly add up very quickly. In the game, you earn jewels (Which is what you’re actually buying with your real money) and then you trade them for hearts and coins. You’ll typically get a jewel every 10-15 levels so they are pretty sparse.
Naturally, I’ll never pay money for something like this. The only game where I currently buy DLC is Super Smash Bros and I don’t really see that changing anytime soon. Most DLC just isn’t worth it and I prefer to just turn off Pokemon Shuffle for a few hours before going back to it. This heart system actually encourages you to take a lot of breaks while playing, which is certainly fun.
Aside from the story missions, there are challenge ones and even some online bonuses. Each week you will get some limited stage choices like playing an extra EXP level or a coin one. They’re pretty interesting. At the moment, the online ones are definitely too tough for my team to beat, but maybe once I’m further in the game. Your Pokemon level up through the levels, which increases the damage your squares deal to the opponent when matched. So far, this really doesn’t make a difference at all, but it’ll probably be more evident later on. Right now, the only thing that really matters is ensuring that you have the type advantage. Trust me, that’ll carry you a very long way.
The graphics aren’t bad. There’s only been one real cutscene in the game so far, which would be the tutorial as a reporter helps you learn the ropes. The only dialogue since then has been a few black silhouettes for the trainers that you conquer. This is a game that would have a tough time trying to look great, but it won’t look bad either. The animations are clear and that’s really what counts. There’s not much of a soundtrack to be found here as it’s very pleasant and soft, which is likely supposed to encourage your playing through it. I would have liked some big boss themes to be honest, but I suppose that this’ll do.
There’s a lot of replay value in this game as you can replay levels to truly try to catch all of the Pokemon. That being said, the heart system does really hurt this part of the game and actually damages the title as a whole. It’s safe to say that this could have been an 8 star game, but the fact that you can only play 3-5 levels at a time before giving the game a break is definitely not cool. It stops you from replaying levels because you simply don’t want to waste the hearts and be forced to give the game another long break. That’s really the only negative in this game. The rest of Pokemon Shuffle is just a blast through and through, but this is a big downer. It’s why Freemium games typically have their limits as the pay to win system will always get you in the end.
Overall, Considering that the game is free, this is truly a steal. Pokemon Shuffle is a great way to pass some time by and you can play it for hours without getting bored, assuming that you have enough hearts for that. I will definitely encourage you not to succumb to the game and buy hearts, but to just power through it the long, but free way. I also downloaded Pokemon Rumble Blast so I’ll be giving that a whirl at some point, but I can safely say that it’ll have a tough time beating this title. Pokemon Shuffle easily exceeded my expectations before I started the game and it has set the bar very high for freemium games.