There are a lot of matching puzzle games filling up the mobile market and, according to Facebook requests I never read, they typically involve candy, soda, jewels, or bubbles. After being tortured by Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine as a kid, but finding momentary pleasure in Tetris, Columns and Yoshi’s Cookie, puzzle games aren’t typically on my radar. All that said, I recently dipped my toes into this genre again with the 3DS digital-only Pokémon Battle Trozei. What’s better than trying to match up a veritable rainbow of confection? Why, it’s matching up Pikachu, Jigglypuff, and Cubone faces, of course!
As shallow as grafting a Pokémon theme onto a match-the-picture puzzle game may sound, there is more to be had with Trozei, which was my first surprise. Each round, players are assaulted by a bevy of Pokémon faces on the bottom screen. Matching three or more of the same Pokémon visage will clear that row of Pokémon from the player’s grid. Each face is completely moveable from one tile to the others, making the creation of matches simple. What goes on with the top screen while players frantically match pokèfaces (not the actual term) on the bottom screen is where the game stands apart.
Wild Pokémon who wish to battle the player show up on the top screen in succession during each level. In order to battle each series of Pokémon, players must use type advantages to overcome each enemy monster. The first matching set of Pokémon sets the type; for example, matching three Pikachu faces would make that combo an electric type attack. Following that first match up, players must frantically make more matches, which rapidly power up that initial type’s attack once the combo ends. When players run out of match ups or are too slow, the attack is unleashed on the enemy Pokémon and the damage is super-effective, normal, or not very effective depending on the matchup. With higher match numbers in the combo, the player’s attacking Pokémon will even be able to lash out at several Pokémon at once.
Getting matches of four and five along with the basic three will eventually cause a Trozei Chance wherein new Pokémon drop into the grid constantly. During a Trozei Chance, matches of two will clear for a temporary period. As matches are made and combos built up, the enemy Pokémon will unleash attacks. This drains the health bar of the player. “Boss Pokémon” which typically occur at the end of each level will cause different field effects, even by dropping in and taking up a valuable area of the bottom grid. With Trozei Chances speeding up the gameplay, type advantages coming into play, and health bars being drained by an onslaught of pokèfoes (you can just put it in front of anything and it works), Pokémon Battle Trozei is frantic, satisfying, but sometimes frustrating. Players can take a caught Pokémon and bring them into battle, essentially taking up spots on the bottom grid, which is an advantage when fighting certain Pokémon types.
The game’s animations take each Pokémon and make them a bit cuter which works best for the less complicated monster designs. What confuses me about this game is how unwelcoming it must be for players new to, unfamiliar with or, in my case, lacking in an encyclopedic knowledge of Pokémon types. Since the game creators squeezed 718 Pokémon into this game, remembering each and every Pokemon’s type (and you will be using a multitude of different Pokémon each level) is unfathomable. I can’t tell you the number of times I used a monster to start a combo only realizing too late and with a health bar too low that my type advantage was really a disadvantage. The sad thing is, I have played every single main series Pokémon game and was still having issues.
Pokemon Battle Trozei offers little more than the main puzzle experience, and I found that collecting certain Pokémon to be somewhat random. I would often play a level several times, never seeing a promised Pokémon and playing the same level repeatedly has little appeal. Though at first glance, Pokemon Battle Trozei looks like another game that belongs on a cell phone, the challenging play really surprised me. Unfortunately the barrier of having previous Pokémon knowledge will keep most at arm’s length. I recommend the game to players who meet in the middle of the Pokémon fan and puzzle game lover Venn diagram.
Vinny Orsillo | @VinnyOhGames