Nintendo gets a lot of flak for not keeping up with the times. But when it comes to the free to play market, even they’ve dipped their toes into that potentially lucrative world. Rusty’s Real Deal Baseball and Steeldiver: Sub Wars are great examples of how to do freemium right. Pokémon Shuffle on the other hand, is a perfect example of how to not go ahead and apply the freemium formula to a mega-hit game franchise.

Pokémon Shuffle is an easy enough game to play. It’s a game of match three, but with your favourite Pokémon to use. Simply put, you can drag a Pokémon icon into a position where it forms a row of three with identical other icons, and you’ll score some points. Match the Pokémon properly, and they’ll set off a chain reaction of other paired-up Pokémon and start a big combo score streak up for you.

Pokemon Shuffle (4)

And it’s a nice presentation. Clean, vibrant and kind of cutesy. The core gameplay itself is rather fast-paced, with some puzzles being solid head-scratching conundrums as you attempt to figure out how to complete a game in the required amount of moves. There are other slightly deeper aspects to the game as well, such as using a water-type Pokémon to deal extra damage to a fire-type opponent. There’s also mega-evolution, Pokémon to capture, train and special abilities to take advantage of.

Quite solid for a cutesy puzzle game then. And the then freemium side of the product hits the fan and splatters everywhere.

Pokemon Shuffle (1)

Once you’ve picked the game up and gone through the tutorials, you’re going to start hitting the paygate wall soon enough. You can only take so many turns before the game needs a half-hour recharge, and items aplenty are available for you to spend coins, hearts and jewels on. Yeah, that’s right: Pokémon Shuffle essentially has a trio of different currencies. While coins can be earned inside the game, it’s jewels that you’ll want, and they’ll run you a tab starting from $0.99 and upwards. You can of course exchange those jewels for hearts, with one jewel granting you one heart that is good for one level. And when you’re spending around a minute per level, that reliance on hearts can quickly stack up. In other words, pay up after a five minute session of gaming, or wait over two hours for your hearts to recharge.

Pokemon Shuffle (3)

But it gets even worse. Power-ups are constantly offered in the game, as you attempt to catch more powerful Pokémon who can help you pass tougher levels. To do so, you’ll need to use a pokeball, with those Pokémon having a catch rate that varies between “buggerall” and “keep dreaming”. Sure, you’ll catch Pokémon easy enough in the opening stages of Pokémon Shuffle, but before long the catch rate will plummet and the game will poke you with an elbow and offer a pokeball with a better catch rate. For a price of course.

There is nothing about this game that does not make it resemble a shady trench-coated fellow standing in a corner and whispering for you to come on over and check out his wares.

Pokemon Shuffle (1)

Sure, you can earn extra currency via StreetPass and grind for experience points, but the gains given out feel minimal at best. And that’s a shame, because Pokémon Shuffle is a pretty addictive and decent game that has been buried beneath the freemium bloat. It’s also maybe a cunning plan on the part of Nintendo, as the simple gameplay combined with recognisable Pokémon is going to earn them boatloads of cash when kids pick this game up. Well played Nintendo, well played.

But for everyone else, expect a surprisingly competent game that has been pay-walled off from greatness.


Last Updated: March 13, 2015

Pokemon Shuffle
There’s nothing wrong with freemium games when they’re done right, but what Pokémon Shuffle does is reward players with very few benefits when cash is handed over, and that’s just a damn shame.
Pokemon Shuffle was reviewed on Nintendo 3DS
56 / 100


  1. Wow that score! It’s like Umar giving a JRPG a… I don’t know… 10/10 instead of 11/10! 😉


  2. Hammersteyn

    March 13, 2015 at 14:14

    • Ranting Raptor

      March 13, 2015 at 14:18




    March 13, 2015 at 14:25

    ? PiKaChU ?


  4. Ranting Raptor

    March 13, 2015 at 14:41

    Every day I’m shuffeling……..

    *crickets chirping*


  5. Tiaan Pat

    March 13, 2015 at 14:58

  6. J_Joestar

    March 13, 2015 at 18:04

    I found the catch rates to be pretty lenient so long as you do a good job with clearing as few moves as possible.
    still haven’t felt the need to spend any cash on it.


  7. K. W.

    March 14, 2015 at 23:17

    1 jewel doesn’t give you 1 heart, it gives you 5 hearts or 3000 coins. This review sucks. You are only focusing on the pay side and not the fun gameplay of this game. I really like this game and I’m not paying anything for it. You get free jewels in the game too. I recommend you use those jewels for coins because you can just let it recharge 2 1/2 hours later and play it again for free. My score for Pokémon Shuffle is a 9.5.


  8. Sanne H.

    March 15, 2015 at 21:46

    I still need to try the game… Let’s see if I can enjoy it ^^


  9. Secundum

    March 23, 2015 at 18:16

    While I agree that the pay parts of the game do spoil it, this review is filled with inaccurate information, and it’s easy to complete the game (with all S-ranks, all mons caught) without paying a penny.


  10. Yawaru

    March 24, 2015 at 05:28

    I don’t want to say your opinion is wrong, but I think it’s misguided. Granted the exchange rate for money to jewels is poor (1 jewel being 5 hearts as K W noted), but that alone doesn’t ruin the game. My personal standard for a good free-to-play game is: can you play all the content in the game for free in a reasonable amount of time? Pokemon Shuffle hits this mark, I’ve put around 30 hours into it already, beat all the normal stages and most of expert without spending a cent on it.

    I think what people don’t like about this type of free-to-play game is the fact that it limits game time; yes you’ll run out of your normal allotment of lives in 10-20 minutes depending on what stages you play. Is this really a bad thing though? I think it fits pretty well into my normal daily activities, and I’ve gotten several others to try it as well.

    I also look at this from a game design perspective: the formula works well for what they’re doing. They release a limited amount of content with small but frequent updates and daily activities, let the players play for short bursts so they don’t get bored, and offer an optional monetization model to make money. It keeps people coming back every day instead of blowing through all the content in a few hours and forgetting about it. Add that to the fact they throw in a lot of little bonuses like extra coins for updating, hearts for street passes, and competitions, it’s a really compelling package.


  11. LordIvul

    April 5, 2015 at 20:09

    It’s disgusting how you focus on p2w aspect of the game (even when everyone has 100% of content available, all levels are for free). This game is made like that so player will stick to it for longer than just 3 to 4 days (because, if not the limits, I would get pass this game in such time). I don’t mind 5 games restriction, I would get bored with this game if I could play it without any breaks. And payment wall in this game isn’t so bad, practically everyone can finish this game, get every pokemon etc. Playing f2p doesn’t make you a lot behind in compare with those who pay.


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