Pokemon Shuffle is a thing. It isn’t a bad thing, in the world of exploitative, free-to-play puzzle games, but isn’t the best thing either. Rather, it’s a title that occupies a rather tenuous position. Compelling mechanics and collectible critters abound, but are caught up in framework that inhibits gameplay and capriciously doles out wins and new characters.
Such talk is rather hypocritical, I suppose. After all, at this very moment both Pokemon Shuffle and Pokemon Shuffle Mobile have occupied territory on my 3DS and iOS device. But then, perhaps it helps prove I’m qualified to help you get this sub-par monkey off of your back in favor of a superior one.
Pokemon Battle Trozei is the most accessible option. Also developed by Pokemon Shuffle‘s Genius Sonority, it’s practically the same game. The difference lies in the framework and some altered functionality. Where the freemium game most often relies on set numbers of turns, Pokemon Battle Trozei is an unofficially timed affair. Pokemon icons fill the Trozei box, and you match to defeat enemy Pokemon in the field before they whittle down your health. Success comes from quickly organizing your allies into matching groups of three or more. It’s a far more strategic affair.
Especially since each location’s battle goes through a number of critters, with performance determining if a special conditional Pokemon appears. You’re rewarded for good gameplay and combos. You can even form teams with friends, so multiple humans tackle the matching menace. It’s $7.99, but that’s a small price to pay for a puzzle game you can keep playing without worrying if you have enough “hearts” or “jewels.”
Even better is Pokemon Trozei!. This was Genius Sonority’s first jab at matching puzzle games starring the eponymous pocket monsters and easily best of the three games. Again, the gameplay is pretty much identical. Match four or more Pokemon in the Trozei box by shifting rows horizontally and vertically and you’re good, but the DS installment also offers a bevvy of gameplay modes. Adventure, Battle competitive multiplayer, Endless, Forever and Pair cooperative multiplayer all enhance the gameplay, allowing someone to become a Pokemon puzzle master. The $4.99 used price tag makes the initial installment even more attractive.
But if you want an even better game and don’t mind jumping in the wayback machine, getting out your Game Boy Color or hopping on the 3DS eShop can get you one of the absolute best puzzle games starring Pokemon. It’s Pokemon Puzzle Challenge, essentially Intelligent Systems’ Panel de Pon/Puzzle League/Tetris Attack reskinned. It’s great. Did I mention it’s great? Because it’s great.
Players are Pokemon and match colored panels by swapping positions of two of them. Do it often enough, and you’ll defeat trainers and collect other creatures as allies in the single player mode. That’s only the start. Again, there’s a multiplayer mode, but also a number of additional modes that offer supplemental challenges for people who simply want to match blocks without worrying about objectives. Challenge, Garbage, Line Clear, Marathon, Time Zone and Puzzle are all awaiting. The Game Boy Color version isn’t really easy to find, but the digital copy is $4.99 and easy to find.
Eventually, Pokemon Shuffle could end up proving to be too much for a player. That’s the way of freemium games. There’s always a wall which can only be overcome by endlessly grinding past levels for money and experience or paying real cash. When you encounter that embankment, don’t grab for your credit card. Take a moment, think about your options and consider going for a game that offers a fuller experience for a one-time investment.