When Pokémon Shuffle was announced I was interested because I love matching games like Bejeweled, but I had reserved expectations because it was a freemium game. Freemium games were introduced on mobile platforms, where the game is released for free, but there are restrictions to game play that can be bypassed in two ways:
- Waiting through a “cooldown” period between actions, or
- Purchasing “boosts” that exchange real-world currency for additional play time. (Boosts can also make the game easier, by giving you upgraded stats for short period of time.)
In Shuffle, the trick is you get five hearts to play five stages every two and a half hours. You can also trade in jewels (which are awards after certain key battles, every 100 Streetpasses of other Shuffle players, or purchased through the e-shop) to get more hearts. Additionally, the jewels have the option of becoming coins for power-ups before stages begin, or exchanged for five more moves at the end of a round.
The problem with this type of game is that there is a significant amount of frustration from artificial difficulty. The game is developed to push you into making purchases to facilitate additional play, so you’ll often find yourself in a position where there are no skill-based moves to advance, and you’re doomed to hope for the best.
Case in point, the Mega-Glalie battle:
Here, the enemy boss uses two different disruptions — attacks that hinder your Pokémon from being used effectively — to utterly stifle gameplay. It’s a prime example of what drives me crazy about this game.
Very infrequently, you’ll get a nice level where there are consistent patterns to help you out. On Flareon’s fight, you’re able to do two moves to clear all of the disruptions from the stage and open up normal play:
I wish there was more of this “learn and clear” mechanic in the game.
Doing a level ten to fifteen times to defeat and capture a Pokémon isn’t terrible, because I’m used to the grind of seeking a specific Pokémon in the regular games. I enjoy that aspect, and wouldn’t change it.
I’m just getting frustrated by the stages without patterns, the obstructive disruptions, and blatantly poor suggested moves (that you cannot turn off), which are implemented to hold you back and coerce you into paying.
I understand game developers are trying to find a way to further monetize their games, like getting you to double-dip on each title, a la DLC, but freemium is a broken paradigm. There’s just enough of an illusion of success that convinces you that patience is a viable strategy. You think that you can play the game just as well as the people spending money, but being stubborn and thinking you’ll outwit the developers pigeonholes your experience. If I wasn’t in a lull between major releases that I’m looking forward to, I’d be very done with this game.
I guess I’m part of the problem, because I’ll just keep playing ten minutes every few hours until something better comes along. To be fair, I’ll probably wind up with about twenty hours of gameplay in this free game. I expect about an hour per dollar I spend on a title, so this is more than I could have hoped for.
PS: I just wanted to point out a rant I published over on Medium two years ago. It’s my complaints about Transformers Legends, a game I was playing on my phone at the time. The issues line up so well with those I have with Pokémon Shuffle.