Pokémon Shuffle Mobile (Android) Review

By Rudy Lavaux 29.04.2016

Review for Pokémon Shuffle Mobile on Android

Although initially sceptical about free-to-play games and cheap mobile games in general, Nintendo has since made small steps towards embracing the format. In early 2014, it released Steel Diver Sub-Wars to test the waters, but that wasn't exactly well received or popular. Fast forward to early 2015 and along came Pokémon Shuffle, a typical Match-3 puzzler update of Denpa Men team Genius Sonority's Nintendo DS classic, Pokémon Link. The concept remained largely unchanged, yet adapted so micro-transactions may prove necessary to make progress. Proving more popular, the release cycle didn't stop there, with The Pokémon Company pushing the title out to mobile platforms in August 2015. It was, in effect, the first time a Nintendo property came out on Android and iOS, long before Miitomo. Is the addictive charm still there?

The concept is simple: each stage corresponds to one wild Pokémon. The opponent Pokémon comes with a health bar that has to be depleted to clear the stage and move on to the next one. Dealing damage is done by... matching three or more identical tiles on the grid, lining them vertically or horizontally by swapping one's place with another's, the game posing no restriction on how or where those are moved. This is the Match-3 part, with each stage being completed within a limited amount of moves. Run out, and be prepared to pay to continue or just retire.

Matched tiles disappear and fall down to pile up at the bottom of the screen while the space up top gets automatically and endlessly refilled with more randomly generated tiles among a select number of different types. As matches are made and remaining tiles fall down in place, more matches may get triggered by the resulting movement of the tiles, resulting in combo chains that reward with big score points, which is typical Match-3 business. Where the "Pokémon" part of things comes into play, however, is that the tiles that make up the grid are indeed Pokémon. More specifically, they are typically those that the player has put in their active party. Indeed, matching Pokémon tiles simulates that Pokémon attacking the wild one that the current stage is based on. Also, being Pokémon-related, the creatures' types come into play.

Those that would have dual types in the classic Pokémon titles have one of their two removed in this case. In order to achieve maximum efficiency in dealing damage to the wild Pokémon, the active party must ideally be comprised of Pocket Monsters of an effective opposing style, although there is a quick automatic selection for the most effective party, based on type and attack power. Pokémon collecting is thus, once again, very important to widen the array of possible parties. Once a Pokémon is "defeated" - "weakened" in other games - those in control have a chance to capture said Pokémon and add to the roster. A capture chance gauge is seen filling up on screen, determined by several factors: a set value for the Pokémon, the score achieved from playing that stage, and the amount of remaining moves upon clearing it. Once that gauge is filled, indicating a percentage reflecting the chance of capturing it, a Pokéball can be flicked for a chance of capturing the now former opponent...

Screenshot for Pokémon Shuffle Mobile on Android

This means that, more often than not, especially if the player didn't play well, the capture can fail, just like in regular Pokémon games. Here already, some of the free-to-play nature shows its face, since in case of a failure, the use of in-game coins is recommended (earned from natural playing and daily logging in) for the purchase of a Super Ball that will drastically improve the chances to capture it. If not enough coins have been saved, there is the chance to make the purchase using gems instead. How do you obtain gems, though? By using real money, of course! If choosing to not use a Super Ball, due to a lack of coins or inclination to purchase gems, then the wild Pokémon flees, and the stage must be cleared once more for another chance at capturing it. It's worth noting, too, that even using a Super Ball doesn't guarantee that the capture will be successful, meaning that real money could indeed go to waste on those, as well.

In addition to stages where wild Pokémon are fought, defeated and captured, every 15th stage is played against an in-game Pokémon trainer using a mega-evolved form that could be captured previously. Instead of offering a chance to capture this, defeating the trainer in those stages will award a corresponding mega-evolution stone, allowing the corresponding Pokémon in the current team to mega evolve when lined up first in the party. Repeatedly matching that type of Pocket Monster in a stage fills up a mega-evolution gauge that, when filled, triggers a mega-evolution for the rest of the stage. Once that happens, every match of that Pokémon will clear out a huge section of the grid of all of its tiles for maximum damage: entire rows, entire columns, oblique stripes, a circle shape, and so on.

As mentioned above, being free-to-play, there are, naturally, some restrictions put in place to prevent working through like any other full price affair. Each level has its set amount of moves, and in order to get more moves if stuck, a purchased gem must be spent. Then, in addition to this, playing any stage costs one heart. Whether it is cleared or not, that heart is gone as soon as the stage is initiated and, typically, there are five hearts to play with, with one regenerated every 30 minutes. Under certain circumstances, such as beating a boss stage, the game will award five free hearts.

Screenshot for Pokémon Shuffle Mobile on Android

Under yet other more rare circumstances, early on, gamers are awarded some free hearts stored in a different stash than the regular ones, allowing more to be regenerated. It won't keep adding more if already beyond a total of five, meaning that any extras awarded as bonuses after hitting the five mark leads to the heart regeneration ceasing until dropping below five once more.

There is one more way to obtain hearts, however, and that's through exchanging them for gems... yet again. The prompts to cash-in and buy gems to make things easier, or to be able to play it more, may be frequent, but not too invasive. Also, as long as the person playing knows what they are set up for, as those things are naturally expected from a free-to-play title, then Pokémon Shuffle Mobile proves to be fair enough. Five hearts periodically replenished will be enough for people to play for a couple minutes every now and then throughout the day, on a coffee break or on a short bus trip to work, school or home. The game uses a notification bar on the phone/tablet when all hearts have been replenished, which is very useful.

Although all the workings of the game may seem fastidious to learn about, the first few stages serve as a tutorial of sorts that is quickly over with. After a handful of levels, gamers are sent on their way to battle and capture Pokémon without being annoyed by constant prompts about the most obvious functions. Additionally, Pokémon level-up the more they are used, providing light increases to their attack power. The process of feeding them experience, although extremely slow, happens no matter if arena are cleared or not, which means that perseverance against a particularly tough Pokémon will result in those used becoming stronger and offering a better chance after they increase in power. Last, but certainly not least, items can be purchased before starting a stage that will provide some advantages in battle, such as delaying the opponent from changing some tiles, adding free moves, instantly mega evolving a Pokémon upon starting the stage, and more. Those also cost in-game coins.

Screenshot for Pokémon Shuffle Mobile on Android

Being on mobile devices, which typically come equipped with much higher resolution screens, everything looks much cleaner here. The little critter faces look much less pixellated than might have been expected, and no amount of crazy combos piling up ever made Cubed3's affordable test hardware struggle. It is, after all, a fairly simple title that can run on any mobile device, perhaps even including the cheap kind of tablet some may have bought their kids in case they break it.

As everyone these days has a smartphone on them constantly, this version feels more appropriate and will provide more free playtime due to notifications of hearts having been replenished. The phone rings to notify the user, and… "Oh, I have my hearts replenished, I have five minutes right now… I'm going to use them." The 3DS version doesn't really allow that to the same extent. What it did offer, however, was more expensive pricing options for gems than the phone version, which in turn offered more free gems the more money was spent. Each gem comes at a fixed price point but the more money spent on gems at once, the more free gems are offered, so people willing to invest as much money in it as possible for free gems will find that the 3DS version is more generous, so to speak... but the majority will get more opportunities to use their free hearts on the mobile version anyway.

In an update during April 2016, mission cards found in the 3DS version, offering objective-based missions that reward people with free items, hearts, and mega-evolution stones, among other things, were added, making the experience even deeper and giving more chances to regenerate hearts. Friend lists were also added as a special in-game feature, too, since unlike the 3DS version, there is no dedicated gaming friend list on phones. Through this, players can easily keep track of each others' progress and send one another a mini-heart per day to fill a gauge that once full nets an extra play heart. Facebook integration allows players to find friends who also activated the link to Facebook more easily and send them invitations. Alternatively, a Friend Code system is in place for those who don't want to link this game to their social network profile. The limit to the amount of friends that can be registered is 30, which may seem quite limited, sadly.

However, at the end of the day, Pokémon Shuffle Mobile is an obvious fit for the mobile market. Indeed, Match-3 games being in essence totally well suited to touch screen devices, as the original Nintendo DS itself proved even before mobile gaming came into full force through a rich library of quality titles to choose from. Pokémon Shuffle was already a great free-to-play offering on the Nintendo 3DS and it makes even more sense on mobile where despite things being pretty much the same in every way, it gives the sense that more play can be had without having to spend a single penny.

Screenshot for Pokémon Shuffle Mobile on Android

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

An excellent execution of the Match-3 formula to begin with back in its DS days, with the welcomed extra Pokémon flavour, Pokémon Shuffle Mobile takes the free offering format from the Nintendo 3DS eShop and evolves it into a must-play experience for mobile users. Due to the nature of the devices it runs on, this is undoubtedly the definitive version. Fans of Match-3 puzzlers, Pokémon, or even both, are in for a treat. The transactions are not exactly in-your-face all the time, even if they will indeed make things easier to bear for the more impatient folk out there. Cubed3's two-penneth: those looking for coins can always go back and farm the Meowth stage for free ones whenever they have a couple hearts replenished. Don't delay - download today.


Genius Sonority







C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   


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