Not much room for an introduction here, since the controversy’s already arrived in force: Pokémon Shuffle is a match-3 game for the 3DS. You can download it for free! However, it’s got microtransactions and a stamina system. Horrors! Let’s talk about it.
As mentioned, Pokémon Shuffle is a match-3 game. Each stage is a battle against a wild Pokémon or one belonging to an opposing Trainer. You select around four Pokémon of your own and work to match three or more of them to deal damage to the opponent and clear out the board. You’ve got a limited number of turns to finish off each foe, and completing a stage quickly will net you a better chance at catching the enemy Pokémon once you’re done; failing at the capture means you’ll have to complete the stage again if you want to catch ’em all.
Pokémon’s signature rock-paper-scissors elements come into play as you’re puzzling around, since you’re going to have to keep your enemy’s strengths and weaknesses in mind. Each Pokémon also has an ability that activates under different circumstances, such as giving you a damage boost on a match of four or randomly causing critical damage. Making teams with complimentary abilities and elemental types is vital for later levels.
Later on, you’ll also gain the ability to Mega Evolve certain Pokémon. This entails filling up an energy bar by making a bunch of successful matches and combos. Mega Pokémon do a great job of clearing out the board, so it’s definitely something worth aiming for.
This is basically a mobile match-3 game, so there’s a stamina system in place. You’ve got five “hearts,” each battle consumes one and they regenerate at a rate of one per half-hour. It’s possible to pay for more with Jewels, which are a microtransaction currency bought with real money. This isn’t anything out of the ordinary, but the fact that it’s Nintendo doing it has driven people a little crazy.
Frankly, though, if you know the system is going to be there it’s not that much of a disappointment; at around three hours for a full stamina bar, you’ll have plenty of hearts to use if you aren’t trying to marathon through the game. Jewels can also purchase little boost items like catch rate-improving Poke Balls and ingame buffs, but these didn’t feel particularly necessary compared to practicing and improving at the game. A little patience goes a long way with this sort of pay-to-speed-things-up title.
That’s all there is to say, really. It’s a phone game, it uses a model that’s been popular with phone games for years, and the only controversial aspect of the game is really that it’s not on a phone. If you’re willing to look past that and want a quick and enjoyable puzzler, Pokémon Shuffle is worth a try.