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Pokemon Shuffle Review March 12, 2015

Posted by Maniac in Reviews.
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Pokémon Shuffle is a free-to-play puzzle game released exclusively through the Nintendo eShop for the Nintendo 3DS and 2DS systems.  Its gameplay is very similar to that of the Pokémon Trozai games, as in both games you are presented a randomly generated puzzle board and have to match up chains of the same Pokémon to clear the puzzle and defeat the Pokémon you are attempting to capture.  However, unlike the Pokémon Trozai games which was fast paced and made players complete puzzles quickly, Pokémon Shuffle’s puzzles have to be completed in a set amount of moves, offering players the freedom to plan out every single move.  As a recent Pokémon convert, it is great to see Nintendo is branching one of their biggest franchises out into new territory for them.

The game opens with a great tutorial which clearly explains the game’s rules over the course of the game’s first fifteen levels.  Every puzzle in the game is represented by a specific Pokémon and if you’re able to complete the puzzle in the amount of moves you are given, you’ll be given the chance to capture that puzzle’s Pokémon so you can use them in later puzzles.  Each Pokémon has a different minimum percentage chance for you to capture them.  Then, the game adds a percentage multiplied by how many moves you had left when you completed the puzzle.  Your projected percentage determines your chances for catching that Pokémon.  If you’re able to capture it, you can use it in later levels.  If you miss your capture, you can play the later puzzles, but you’ll have to replay and complete the same puzzle again to get another chance of capturing that Pokémon.  If you have 2500 Coins and miss a capture, the game will offer you a second chance to capture the Pokémon again with a Great Ball at roughly double the percentage the first time you tried to capture it.

The more you use specific Pokémon in the game, the more they will level up, even if they’re used in puzzles you’re unable to complete.  Just be aware you will have to capture Pokémon evolutions separately, because no matter how much you level your captured Pokémon up, you cannot evolve them.  There is an exception for Mega Evolutions but I’ll talk about that later.

To play a level in the game, you’ll need to spend a Heart.  You start the game with a maximum of five of them, and once you use one up, a new one will return to your inventory after thirty minutes of real-time have passed.  If you run out of Hearts and don’t want to wait for them to recharge, you can buy more of them with Jewels, which you can earn completing specific puzzles for the first time or through daily check ins.  You can also buy jewels from the Nintendo eShop with real money.

After fifteen or so puzzles, the player will be given the task to defeat a more difficult puzzle against a Mega Evolved Pokémon.  These can be more difficult as Mega Evolved Pokémon can throw difficult hazards into the player’s game board, limiting their options for chains and combos.  Thankfully, once you complete a Mega Evolution puzzle, you automatically win that specific Pokémon’s Mega Stone, allowing you to use it in subsequent puzzles if you have captured the Pokémon who uses that stone.

Once you complete the game’s tutorial, the game will allow you to use the Check In feature.  I cannot stress enough to check in with this game as soon as you are able to.  Checking in will not only award you unique game items like Coins and Jewels, it will allow you access to special daily puzzles for unique Pokémon you can capture.  Check In will also automatically install minor game updates if they’re available, saving you from having to go to the Nintendo eShop every time they release a patch.  While you still have to install major updates to the game from the eShop, most of the game’s patches can be installed without having to quit the game, a major convenience for 3DS owners.  You can only Check In once every day.

The amount of content offered by this game cannot be understated.  As I write this review there are currently 150 regular puzzles offered in Pokémon Shuffle, and they can be played in the most recent version.  The game also has about twenty expert levels, which can be unlocked by gaining S-ranks in the normal puzzles.  As of today, Nintendo is also offering several special challenge puzzles right now, two of which offer the chance to capture a Mew and a Kyogre, and they area also offering a different type of special Rotom for each day of the week.  The best part is there’s nothing stopping Nintendo or the game’s developers from releasing updates for more puzzles in the near future.  Theoretically, the game can offer a level for each Pokémon, as well as one for each Mega Stone.  That adds up to over seven hundred possible puzzles.  It took me two weeks to complete all one hundred and fifty of the game’s regular puzzles, I can’t imagine how long it would take to complete six hundred more.

The game’s expert stages work a little differently than the game’s normal stages.  Once unlocked, expert stages can be completed in any order and do not have a set limit to the amount of moves you can use while completing them.  You do however have a time limit, and trust me, unless you’ve leveled up your Pokémon well, you will feel the time stress every time you try to play one of these levels, but they will give you the chance to capture several evolved and legendary Pokémon you couldn’t otherwise capture in the game’s regular puzzles.

I want to talk a little bit about the game’s artwork and audio, because I think that really sets it aside from other puzzle games.  The game’s 2D character designs mash up perfectly with the style of Pokémon: The Animated Series, so fans of the franchise will feel right at home.  This is a puzzle game, so I really can’t talk about the game’s environments, except for the fact I really like what they did with the game’s level select menus.  The game makes no use of 3D, so you won’t be able to notice a difference playing it on a 3DS or a 2DS.  I think something special needs to be said about the game’s music.  In the game’s puzzle selection menu, each set of fifteen puzzles are denoted by their own area, and not only will that area have its own background art style, it will be accompanied by its own music.   You’ll hear pan flute music in the jungle themed levels, to relaxing string music in the tropical themed levels.  The music is quite relaxing and enjoyable, and fits well with the style of each section.

I know that there are a lot of gamers out there who do not want to see Pokémon Shuffle succeed for Nintendo.  Gamers who grew up owning their games simply can’t wrap their heads around not being able to play them for extended periods of time without having to pay extra, but since the end product made for such a fun experience, you won’t find any complaints from me. I grew up playing games like Tetris and Dr. Mario and the NES and this game’s puzzles reminded me of those days.  Give it a download, you’ll find its a fun distraction during your breaks, and if you’re like me you won’t stop until you’ve completed level 150.