durman667's Pokémon Rumble World (Nintendo 3DS eShop) review

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“Bedroll Umm Openwork” is an Anagram for Pokémon Rumble World

Strangely fitting, as the game itself is hardly a game at all; you'll need a bedroll to sleep on because it's boring, and the gameplay really just feels like work, and it makes one think, “umm...”

Okay, perhaps not the best analogy, but allow me to elaborate. This free-to-play 3DS title is a highly simplified beat-'em-up featuring low-polygon models of Pokémon. The basic goal of the game is to travel to different areas in order to collect Pokémon and coins. As you progress the Pokémon you encounter will be of higher levels, and daily challenge maps will become available. The coins you earn can be traded for decorative items for your Mii, who acts as your Pokémon Trainer. Another available currency are Poké Diamonds, which can be purchased from the eShop or gathered more slowly in-game. These are used to buy Hot Air Balloons which transport you to the various areas where you can catch the blocky little monsters.

Basic gameplay involves randomly selecting a map, walking through that map, and getting rid of superfluous Pokémon. No, really. That's it.

When you enter the Balloon Stop, the game's transportation hub, you have an option of which area you want to fly to by selecting the associated balloon. Selecting one will toss you into a slot-machine which semi-randomly selects an area for you to visit from the available options. After you've played the level you visit, the game starts a cooldown timer that makes you wait to use that balloon again or, if you wish, spend Diamonds to play again immediately.

This is the first problem I have with this game. Say you've been playing for some time, patiently waiting for the cooldowns to run out between playthroughs because you don't have money to spend on items, and there is still one of the four areas you could visit with one of the balloons that you've never been to. You've been the the other three five or six times a piece and collected all of the Pokémon there, but you can't visit that one place because you can't work the slot- machine the way you need to.

Well too bad.

The only way to actually CHOOSE to go to any particular area is to invite Visitors to your world using an option in the main area. Once invited you can find them in the various levels to get power-ups and talk to them in the hub. There they can offer you a trip to a specific level, which too is a seemingly random selection. If that particular area is a place you need to go, then fantastic! Hope you have Diamonds, because you have to pay to take the ride!

Not being able to select the area you want to visit is a real pain, no question about it. Once you've reached Rank 8 the cooldowns between balloon flights are half an hour long! Look, game, I just want to catch a Beedrill, okay? If not being able to go to the area you want to isn't bad enough, there's also no way to ensure that the Pokémon you're missing will actually be there when you get there. Each area has a set of monsters which CAN appear, but which ones do is also random, or perhaps tied to the “boss” Pokémon that is featured on the area's icon during the stage select phase. But wait, there's more!

On top of all of those other annoyances, even IF you get the right random stage with the right random Pokémon appearing in it, don't count on actually catching what you're hunting for. When you knock out your enemies they have a chance of becoming catchable. For bosses especially this chance seems pretty low. On the bright side you'll be flooded with the more common Pokémon and at least get a few that are pretty strong, allowing you to walk through the next level more easily.

This leads me to my next problem, and the biggest one with this game: the gameplay itself is extremely bland. You can press the A button to attack, but there's no need to, as you can simply walk at enemies to attack them instead. This means that you play most of each level with just the joystick. A few Pokémon have ranged attacks, but only a few, and these should be used with the button. Some of them even have a secondary attack which you use with the B button, but in many cases this isn't necessary. Using a Pokémon with a type advantage doesn't even matter much. Playing the game is literally walking through levels and walking out of the way of attacks. Boring gameplay is the issue, and the worst part is that I can't think of a way it could be salvaged without a major overhaul. Diablo is the game they seem to have been trying to make, but with all of the interest sucked out of it. Instead of gear, you have more Pokémon. Instead of potions, Pokémon. And coins. And the occasional Diamond. This means you can play 30 levels and, if you're VERY lucky, be able to afford a new balloon and a nurse hat for your Reggie Mii. I'd go on about the problems with the gameplay, but there isn't enough there for me to complain any more.

Finally there is the problem of the Pokémon. You collect HUNDREDS of them. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought that the goal of Pokémon games was to build a team of monsters that you like, train them up, and take on the world. Apparently this isn't the case, since in this game you collect so many of these guys that after every few levels you have to purge; releasing dozens of weak low-level monsters in favor of newer better ones. You like your Pikachu? Shut up. This Mareep is 300 levels higher than your Pikachu. That little mouse is useless to you now. Even the weakest enemy Pokémon are immune to its attacks now because you're too high of rank for weaker ones to spawn. You also only start out with 30 or so slots for Pokémon, so you'll have to be very picky if you don't feel like expanding the size of your roster with Diamonds.

I put a few hours into this game and got to Rank 12, and so far it certainly seems to me that free is the right price for this game. If the irritations and blandness aren't enough to put you off, then you may just be turned away from the disregard of the Pokémon spirit that all of the major releases adhere to. Pokémon isn't just about catching 'em all, it's about training your team, learning their advantages and weaknesses and how to react to your enemies' actions. Pokémon Rumble World is about collecting every fallen creature you find and discarding the older, less useful creatures in favor of the newer and more powerful ones you defeat while lumbering through levels without thought.

Bottom line, if you want to play a Pokémon game and don't feel like paying for one, play Pokémon Shuffle.

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