Game Ramblings #4 – Thoughts on Pokemon F2P Experiments

So this is going to be a two parter covering both of the free to play Pokemon titles Nintendo has released for the 3DS, Pokemon Shuffle and Pokemon Rumble World.  Both are curious small titles, and I think they are an interesting early look into what Nintendo’s long term mobile plans could possibly look like.

Pokemon Shuffle

More Info From Nintendo


  • Genre: Puzzle RPG


  • 95 Pokemon
  • Handful of Mega Evolutions
  • Handful of daily/special events

Similar Titles

The first of the free to play titles is a pretty standard pick-3 puzzle game, with the added twist that you battle to catch Pokemon, and can gain XP to level up the Pokemon you are using in battle.

In general this was a good time waster.  I could go in, spend 15 minutes running through my available stamina, and go back to whatever else I was doing.  The core game is solid, and has enough Pokemon features to feel like it’s well integrated into the overall rule set established in the RPG titles.

What I Like

The type strength/weakness system from the main line series is represented here.  While this may seem like an obvious addition, it does have some fun ramifications in terms of how you build out the squad of Pokemon for each battle.  In addition, because there is a pre-battle party optimize feature, you can get in and out of battle with a generally good set of Pokemon without spending a ton of time in menus.

In addition, the variety of Pokemon was astounding.  The in-game Pokedex lists 233 capturable Pokemon at this time, and special events have been showing off some fun rare Pokemon from time to time.  It results in allowing you to really build out a strong squad from any number of your favorites from past games.

What I Don’t Like

The catching system feels super arbitrary.  Every Pokemon has base odds of being caught, then bonus catch odds based on how many turns remained in the battle upon victory.  The majority of Pokemon typically end up in the 70-90% catch rate range, but the stronger Pokemon are locked behind often < 5% base odds with low per-turn bonuses, making repeated battles a chore in these cases.  This is exacerbated by the fact that Great Balls are extremely expensive in terms of the in-game currency, as well as them only doubling catch chance, making the gold cost often not worth the risk.


Pokemon Rumble World

More Info From Nintendo


  • Genre: Brawler


  • 116 Captured Pokemon
  • 9 Balloons
  • Account Level 19

Similar Titles

This one is a continuation of the Pokemon Rumble series.  The basic gameplay is similar to top-down twin stick shooters, with some simplifications.  Combat can either be automatic upon contact with enemies, or triggered via A/B attacks.  Upon defeating an enemy, there is a random chance that they will drop as a capturable Pokemon that can be added to your roster.  As your account levels up, the Pokemon in all areas progressively grow stronger, giving you consistent progress and good excuses to go back to old areas to capture stronger versions of already captured Pokemon.

In general, while I did enjoy this title, it is extremely simple.  It is essentially a 5 minute play and forget title to pick up while you have a few free minutes.  The variety of Pokemon is again really strong, but the F2P mechanic blocking progress is more aggressive than in Shuffle, to some extent to the game’s detriment.


So, what does this all mean for Nintendo?  A while back they announced their entry into the mobile market going into 2016, and these feel like their first experiments in that style.  Both games have very similar monetization efforts, with progress blocked via some sort of stamina mechanic, a soft gold currency earned in game, and a hard diamond currency earned through microtransactions.

Shuffle’s stamina mechanic is more typical, with one heart per battle, and hearts earned back over time.  Rumble uses a slightly different mechanic.  Balloons can be purchased that transport you to various areas for battling/capturing.  The balloons then go on cooldown, with progressively longer cooldowns based on how expensive the balloons were to purchase.  In general, this simply forces me to replay old content more often, which doesn’t really feel that good.  However, it does push me more towards purchasing into diamonds, which is good for the typical purchasing path.

Overall both of these titles feel like they would be appropriate entries into the mobile market for Nintendo.  They’re solid quick play titles, have simple but engaging mechanics, and are already setup with the typical monetization scheme that the highest grossing titles typically use.  Looking a year from now, I wouldn’t be that shocked to see both of these as the first of the  Nintendo mobile titles being released as part of their latest market experiment.



Game Ramblings #3 – Thoughts on Etrian Mystery Dungeon

More Info From Atlas


  • Genre: Dungeon Crawler RPG
  • Platform: Nintendo 3DS


  • Roughly first 4 dungeons
  • Majority of side quests within that period

Similar Titles

Etrian Mystery Dungeon is a spin off of the often challenging Etrian Odyssey RPG series.  Rather than being a first-person turn-based dungeon crawler, it’s now a top-down action-based crawler, typical of other Mystery Dungeon titles.  End of the day this has been an entertaining title to play, and I’d easily recommend it to both fans of the Etrian series, and fans of dungeon crawlers in general.

What I Like

This may sound weird, but it’s an extreme positive to me that this still feels like an Etrian title.  The game is appropriately challenging, without feeling unfair.  There’s an abundance of player classes, each feeling unique to play, giving your team a lot of flexibility to different play styles.  Even the core gameplay loop of going back and forth between dungeon crawling and a core town experience feels very familiar to the series.  End of the day this is very distinctly still an Etrian title, rather than simply having the name slapped on.

I’m also a fan of the different penalty schemes in play here.  Dying or escaping while simply grinding out effectively carries no penalty, which is nice for when just grinding out exp or doing side quests.  However, if the party wipes while fighting a boss, you have to send in a secondary rescue party to get them out of the dungeon and back to safety.  It adds a nice inherent difficulty spike to what should be the ultimate goal of a floor of the dungeon.

What I Don’t Like

Like the Etrian mainline series, there’s a set of enemies within each dungeon section whose main purpose is to basically be an impenetrable wall of doom that you can only run away from while at appropriate level for the rest of the dungeons.  I get why they left this in per the rest of the series, but it’s always felt sort of unnecessary in the greater scheme of things.

Also, while this may be a minor nitpick, I really miss the Etrian Odyssey feature of recording the dungeon maps as you play.  While this is to some extent in place for this title, progress is wiped out after leaving a floor due to the inherent random nature of the title.   Though understandable, it’s an unfortunate lost feature.

Game Ramblings #2 – Thoughts on Box Boy!

More Information from Nintendo


  • Genre:Puzzle/Platformer
  • Platform: 3DS eShop


  • Main path and roughly half of known post-game content
  • Give or take 4-6 hours of play

Box Boy! is a fairly clever puzzle platformer.  It has relatively simple core mechanics of spawning trails of boxes, but adds a lot of world-based mechanics to add significant depth to the core gameplay loop.  I’ve seen 22 worlds of 6-8 levels, plus another couple of sets of time attack and score attack levels, so there’s a lot of content to be had.  Though there feels like a lot of fluff content early on, the game overall was easily worth playing, and for its current $5 price has a lot of value.

What I Like

The core gameplay is extremely simple.  The main character can spawn a chain of boxes, limited to a different max per-level, which can then be used to traverse puzzle sections.  However, this is expanded upon with significant in-world mechanics.  These can range from things directly related to the character, such as using box patterns to pull the character through the world, or more direct actions like gravity manipulation, portaling (including conservation of momentum like Portal itself!), some Lemmings-inspired NPC leading, and more.  Each of the first 16 worlds introduces a new core mechanic, culminating in a story-ending world and a set of post-game worlds that combine the mechanics into the tougher puzzle set of the game.

Each world also cleverly introduces the mechanics to avoid hand-holding tutorials.  The first level of each worlds is typically a very simplified level featuring only the new mechanic for the world.  Subsequent levels then ramp up the difficulty bit  by bit.  In doing so, the player naturally learns how mechanics work without having to slog through text tutorials.

What I’m Indifferent To

Each level contains a crown or set of crowns that can be collected to earn bonus currency for purchase of in-game items.  The items include outfits for the character, hint books, background music, and some extra score and time attack levels.  However, outside of the extra levels, the rest of the items feel largely unnecessary, and don’t act as a good completionist carrot.  The main benefit I’ve found to collecting the crowns at all is that they often require more advanced mechanics to collect, which helps for solving later content.

What I Don’t Like

Outside of the last world and post-game content, this game is incredibly easy.  The first 16 worlds are essentially teaching the various mechanics on their own, before being combined for the end-game.  Though this does lead to a deep knowledge of the individual mechanics, it feels unnecessarily long to get to the combined mechanic puzzles. Fewer levels in early worlds or earlier combination of mechanics would have benefited the progression curve, which in its shipped state feels very padded with fluff content.