Pokemon Rumble World has arrived for the 3DS, making it the second Poke’-themed free-to-play title to launch on Nintendo’s handheld platform in recent months. For those of you interested in playing an extremely light beat-em-up without ever feeling pressured to spend actual money, it might actually be worth a look.
One of the best complements I can give Pokemon Rumble World is that, as a free-to-play game, it’s pretty inoffensive. Sure, gameplay is set on a timer that can be bypassed by spending actual cash on Poke’ Diamonds, but this isn’t the type of game that really needs to be played for more than 10 minutes at a time. You can also get some helpful items by throwing those Diamonds around but, again, spending money on said Diamonds never feels mandatory. That, coupled with the fact that you can get a decent collection of Diamonds from simply playing the game, means that Nintendo once again offers a free-to-play title that does the model proud.
Unfortunately, just because you can play the game free of charge doesn’t mean that it’s going to be all that much fun. More than anything, Rumble World will scratch an itch for players who love to grind and collect things. For those looking for a deeper romp, however, you can probably save your memory card space this time around. Pokemon Shuffle gets a more confident “might as well try it” from me because it’s very difficult to mess up a match-three style game. Rumble World, though, offers very little outside of running through nearly featureless maps, mashing on a couple of buttons while enemies fall before you. It’s not bad, but it’s not all that entertaining, either.
When you first boot up the game, you’ll be introduced to the king of an odd alternate dimension within the Pokemon universe where all of the pocket monsters are wind-up toys. The king wants you to begin your adventure by collecting a set number of unique Pokemon in order to outclass a smarmy magician. Once you do that, the king will keep dishing out requests, all boiling down to that repetitive gameplay loop I referenced earlier.
To actually play the game, you’ll need to use balloons to reach specific maps. Each balloon is themed after an element type or a certain generation of the Pokemon series, giving you an idea of what types of critters you’ll be battling and, just as important, what types of ‘Mon you should be using to fight them. Once you buy a balloon (with Diamonds), it’s a part of your collection forever. Traveling to each balloon’s worlds, though, is time based. Simply wait a little while and you can go adventuring in the same areas again. The more balloons you have, the longer you can play the game in marathon sessions.
Each world boasts a plain map populated by enemy Pokemon and the occasional barrel. With attacks set to auto, you can simply run into your enemies and dish out some damage. I highly recommend you ignore that ability, as it takes away what little gameplay Rumble World has to offer. Some of your defeated enemies (as well as the barrels you break) will drop coins and some will turn into toys you can capture and add to your collection. A boss fight waits at the end of the world, providing the only real challenge I’ve discovered in the game so far. Bosses are big and have a life bar to match. They also have minions scurrying about, meaning you’ll have to constantly stay on the move and time your attacks wisely to earn a win.
If you take too much damage, you can swap out your current Pokemon with another from your collection, but doing so takes a couple of seconds while the new toy is wound up and dropped onto the field. That’s actually a nice touch, as it means you have to be careful about when you choose to make a swap, as your current fighter will be left wide open.
You’ll occasionally find people you StreetPassed peppered throughout the maps and, if you save them, they’ll follow you around and occasionally throw out stat boosts. Keeping them alive to the end of the level also earns you a coin bonus, so you’ll want to keep an eye on their life bar, too.
After you beat a map, you’ll get a quick look at the Pokemon you’ve collected before being dropped back into the tiny hub world. It’s important to actually pay attention to those critters you’ve collected, as they’ll frequently have different stats and abilities. It’s usually best to hang on to the one you like best and simply jettison those that aren’t up to snuff. Your toy army is limited, after all.
That limit can of course be raised by; you guessed it, spending more Diamonds. Other game augmentations are up for grabs, too, including the ability to teach Pokemon new moves or grow trees to permanently boost your various stats. There are also outfits for purchase for those of you who like to customize, as well as the ability to equip Pokemon that your Mii will carry into other peoples’ games. Speaking of those Miis, visiting avatars will take on the role of various characters in the game (a nice little touch) and frequently offer an alternative to spending your rare Diamonds. For instance, one of your friends’ Miis might offer you a return trip to a certain map for 500 in-game gold, rather than a Diamond.
Again, Pokemon Rumble World never pressures you to spend real world money, but it’s available as an option for folks who want to speed up their progress through the game. I’m not sure who falls into that category, as the minimal amount of fun on offer here seems like it would be completely lost if you’re not playing the game in 10-minute bursts, making a little bit of progress at a time.
As far as free-to-play games go, Pokemon Rumble World is a middling adventure. The gameplay isn’t all that engrossing, but there’s enough to unlock and goof around with to keep you busy for a couple weeks’ worth of light play, especially since the asking price is zero dollars. For folks who get a lot out of these types of games (especially those who also love collecting Pokemon), it’s basically a no-brainer to give Pokemon Rumble World a try.
Platforms: Nintendo 3DS
Publisher: The Pokemon Company