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Pokémon Rumble Blast (3DS) artwork

Pokémon Rumble Blast (3DS) review

"And so, the game keeps going. You work your way through a corridor-shaped level, such as a lake shore or a forest (the various settings differ only cosmetically and by the types of Pokémon you encounter), fighting mobs of Pokémon that go down in one hit. At the end of the level, you fight a boss. Bosses are just larger versions of regular Pokémon with more health."

Make no mistake: I am a Pokémon fan. I’ve been a fan since I collected all 151 Pokémon (yes, including Mew) in Pokémon Red in 1998. My Pokémon Black Pokédex is fully completed. I’ve snapped a picture of every Pokémon in Pokémon Snap and unlocked a Surfing Pikachu in Pokémon Stadium. My love for Pokémon should not be called into question.

I don’t think I’ve ever played a more tedious video game than Pokémon Rumble Blast.

The game opens with you in control of a toy Pikachu. This is the only moment in the entire game in which you will control this Pikachu. You will likely keep it forever, but you will never use it again. You will immediately start battling and acquiring stronger Pokémon toys with higher levels and stronger moves. At the end of the first stage, you’ll have to fight a boss: a giant Zekrom. That battle is quickly interrupted by a collapsing arena, after which point you’ll black out and wake up in Toy Town.

And that’s pretty much all there is to it.

Sure, there are more levels with more bosses and a few more towns, but they don’t differ much. Any existing Pokémon can be recruited barring the three Black and White event-exclusive legendaries, but they all work pretty much the same way. Each Pokémon has a level of strength and one or two moves. The moves are all taken from the main line Pokémon games; Tackle, Razor Leaf, Hyper Beam and so forth are all there. Moves basically differ in their power and, to a lesser extent, in their area of effect. There are only a few possible areas of effect. Some moves are beams that fire out a short distance in front of your Pokémon, some send your Pokémon flying forward, some create a short wave in all directions, some fan out ahead of your Pokémon, and some fire a projectile that explodes and causes splash damage. That’s about as much as they differ. Some moves have secondary effects, like a chance to cause your foe to flinch or to become poisoned after contact. You’d never know it without reading the move descriptions, though. Most of the generic mobs of Pokémon you encounter go down in one or two hits. There’s no time for secondary effects.

Pokémon are recruited at random. Usually a defeated Pokémon will explode and leave behind some cash, but sometimes they’ll just fall over. Those Pokémon can be collected and added to your team.

Pokémon can only be developed one way: by teaching them new moves. That’s it. Pokémon in Pokémon Rumble Blast never level up or evolve (which is why your poor starter Pikachu is useless after a minute or so). The only way to get stronger and be able to take on stronger opponents is by recruiting stronger Pokémon, which happens just about every time you enter a level. Why, then, would you waste money and resources teaching your Pokémon moves, if the Pokémon themselves are just going to become obsolete in a matter of minutes?

And so, the game keeps going. You work your way through a corridor-shaped level, such as a lake shore or a forest (the various settings differ only cosmetically and by the types of Pokémon you encounter), fighting mobs of Pokémon that go down in one hit. At the end of the level, you fight a boss. Bosses are just larger versions of regular Pokémon with more health. Bosses can be recruited, too, but since there’s only one of them per level, and because there’s no way to guarantee if it will be destroyed or simply knocked over when defeated (plus it will only be useful for a level or two anyway), there’s not much incentive to try. After the boss is vanquished, the level is over. You can return to town and heal your Pokémon or move directly on to the next level and just keep repeating the process forever.

Once or twice per world map, you are forced to enter a special contest. The most common type of contest is the Battle Royale, a free-for-all melee with a few dozen Pokémon where the last one standing will be named the winner. These contests are cleared in the same manner as encounters with regular mobs, except you can only use three Pokémon and you can only switch Pokémon when your current one is knocked out. There are also Team Battles, which are pretty similar to Battles Royale except that all three of your Pokémon are active at once. Finally, there are Charge Battles, which take a bunch of your strongest Pokémon and have them charge against a group of enemies. These would be a welcome change of pace, actually being different from the regular battles you fight in every level, except they don’t differ at all from each other. Control is limited to rotating the circle pad and mashing buttons to increase the power of your charge. Essentially, you win if the combined levels of your Pokémon are higher than the combined levels of your opponent’s Pokémon. Your input is mostly irrelevant.

Perhaps the only thing that doesn’t disappoint almost immediately is the variety of Pokémon types that you’ll meet as you play. I will admit that even though I knew any Pokémon I recruited would become obsolete a few minutes later, there were times I replayed a level to try to recruit the boss just because it was a type of Pokémon I was fond of. The gang’s all here, and if you don’t mind the tedium, there are definitely enough Pokémon around to keep you occupied.

On the technical side of things, Pokémon Rumble Blast is a polished enough game. Some of the music is pretty catchy and the graphics are bright and colourful. All of the Pokémon in the game are toys, with cute minimalist designs and sleek, shiny textures. Backgrounds and set pieces are a bit more realistic with lots of detail, though there’s really nothing to make one forest area stand out from another.

There are a few extra features worth mentioning. The game makes good use of the Miis stored on your system. Your own Mii runs a toy shop, and other Miis can visit from time to time and spend money that can be used to buy moves in the main game. They visit at a rate of one per day, but you can spend Play Coins to call in more customers without waiting. The game supports StreetPass, allowing your store to be visited by people you pass on the street. You can also battle their teams of Pokémon and borrow them if you win. These features are a nice bonus, but they won’t keep you coming back after you’ve lost interest in the regular game.

There is a story, but you won’t pay attention to it. It’s about as interesting and eventful as a child’s bedtime story. This game was definitely designed for children without much thought for anyone older. It’s a shame. Regular Pokémon games can be enjoyed by anyone, young or old. Pokémon Rumble Blast could only be appreciated by a small child for its simplicity and cuteness. Keeping in mind the intended audience, it’s difficult to outright hate Pokémon Rumble Blast rather than just being disappointed by it. It has its charms, even if there’s very little substance there. There’s likely an audience of 4-year-olds who might absolutely adore Pokémon Rumble Blast. Anyone else should probably just avoid it.

Roto13's avatar
Staff review by Rhody Tobin (November 28, 2011)

Rhody likes to press the keys on his keyboard. Sometimes the resulting letters form strings of words that kind of make sense when you think about them for a moment. Most times they're just random gibberish that should be ignored. Ball-peen wobble glurk.

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