Whether you realize it or not, Pokemon Shuffle is a seismic shift for Nintendo. This is a company who takes pride in not only charging top dollar for their games but also in the knowledge that unlike most other games, theirs take a very, very long time to devalue. Heck, they STILL charge you $5 dollars for Super Mario Bros, and that game is approaching its 3rd decade! So you can understand my surprise to see Nintendo releasing Pokemon Shuffle for FREE! So what’s the catch? It’s pretty simple, this is Nintendo trying its best to raid Candy Crush’s cookie jar. Here’s what you need to know:
Each stage in Pokemon Shuffle features you trying to capture a different pokémon by matching 3 or more of the same kind of pokémon (3 charmanders, 3 squirtles, etc) which generates an attack against the pokémon you’re trying to capture. Each stage only has a limited amount of possible moves and the faster you beat the stage, the higher the likelihood of capturing the pokémon. Once you capture a pokémon, you can use it in future stages, and of course, types play a factor. Hence capturing and then matching charmanders will deal more damage against a bulbasaur than using a squirtle.
The game is beyond simple in concept. You’ve seen this game many times before under different names like Bejeweled or Candy Crush etc. Having said that, the art style is very cute, you get a small sense of accomplishment from setting up combos, and it’s all about capturing pokémon which has been scientifically proven to be addictive.
Nintendo isn’t stupid though. They still very much want your money and the way they get it is by limiting your playing potential. By default, each stage takes 1 heart to play. The default number of hearts is 5 and it takes 30 minutes for one to replenish. The levels on the other hand only take 3-4 minutes to finish, often times faster than that. Oh, you want to play the game for longer than 15-20 minutes? Well then, break out your wallet! You’ll have to buy “gems” which cost roughly $1 per gem. Each gem restores 5 hearts although you can utilize several at once for more. So for example, 3 gems nets you 18 hearts, etc.
In addition to hearts, there are coins. You earn 100 coins per level, and they can be used to purchase items in order to make levels easier. For example you can spend 800 coins to buy yourself an extra 5 turns or 1500 to purchase a great ball which makes it easier to capture a pokémon and so forth. Just like hearts, coins can be purchased with gems. 1 gem will net you 3000 coins but spending more at once will increase the gain, 3 gems gives you 10000 coins for example.
To sucker you in, the first 10 or so levels are essentially given to you on the house, and I have to admit, they were fun. However, what you need to ask yourself before you download this game is: Am I a patient person? At 160 total stages, assuming you beat every stage on first try (you won’t, trust me) you can expect to wait a total of 80 hours for your hearts to replenish. There is some slightly good news though. You can have hearts replenished through street passes. Additionally, you can “check in” once a day with the game if you have an internet connection which will occasionally confer free items like gems and coins.
While I applaud Nintendo for expanding their horizons. I personally don’t feel like this the kind of model that should be rewarded. At the end of the day, this game is nothing new or special. While it can be fun, there’s plenty of other match 3 games out on the market (I humbly suggest Puzzle Quest). Just make sure you’re going to be okay with the waiting before pulling the trigger on this one!