Pokemon Shuffle review: a waste of time - just like Candy Crush

Free-to-play; 3DS

Last week, a friend of mine told me that he thought people who played Candy Crush were just waiting for death. It’s not an uncommon sentiment, especially amongst people who expect more from games. Though it might seem snobbish, in truth, there’s an awful lot of free-to-play that is just, well, waiting for death. It doesn’t really expand us in any way, it doesn’t bring anything interesting...it just moves time on a little.

Pokémon, one of the greatest video game franchises, has delved into the murky waters of free-to-play with Pokémon Shuffle, a game that only seems nominally linked to the seminal reds, blues, golds etc. In Pokémon Shuffle you are led around a course fighting Pokémon. These ‘battles’ have you matching three or more Pokémon heads in a grid – kind of like… oh never mind – and each time you do you damage the other Pokémon slightly.

There is a sense that some work went into the game, so it didn’t quite seem like bland cash-bait. You can capture Pokémon once you’ve defeat them in ‘battle’ and then choose your team for each fight with some doing more damage than others – this is helpfully streamlined for those who want to play entirely mindlessly thanks to an ‘optimize’ button that picks the best team for you.

Each fight also takes up a heart – you knew this was coming – and you run out of hearts fairly quickly. How to get more? Either wait for them to replenish or pay money for ‘jewels’ that can be swapped for hearts or coins, used to buy battle extras. Costly addictions.

Maybe it's unfair to brand this kind of free-to-play game as mindless death-bait. There are plenty of things we do to just pass time in life – TV shows, airport fiction, eating – and they aren’t inherently evil things, there’s just much better things to do with your time.

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