A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Pokémon Shuffle is a downloadable match-3 puzzle game starring Nintendo's iconic Pokémon characters. There's no real combat, but smiling Pokémon faces on the top screen are repeatedly struck by elemental attacks as the player solves puzzles. Parents should note that although this game is free to download and play, it encourages players to spend real money on items in the game shop, including crystals and coins. If players use all their hearts (one is required to initiate a new puzzle), they won't be able to play again until either a half-hour timer counts down to zero or they use a crystal to purchase five more hearts.
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What's it about?
As with most Pokémon games, the free-to-play POKÉMON SHUFFLE puts kids in the shoes of an aspiring Pokémon trainer out to collect as many of Nintendo's cute little pocket monsters as possible in mild fantasy combat. Unlike other Pokémon games, the battles here take the form of matching puzzles filled with Pokémon faces. Players drag and drop individual Pokémon to match three or more horizontally or vertically to cause damage to rival Pokémon. Most puzzles allow players only a specific number of moves, but special battles occasionally pose different restrictions, such as a time limit. If the player defeats an adversary, she then can use a Poke Ball potentially to capture and add the defeated Pokémon to her collection. Progress is dependent on the number of hearts players have at their disposal. Each new battle costs one heart, and if you run out of hearts, you'll either have to wait for a half-hour timer to count down to earn another, spend a crystal earned while playing to get more hearts, or head to the in-game store to spend real money on crystals and coins.
Is it any good?
Pokémon Shuffle is a thoroughly average match-3 game with a bit of a sour flavor, thanks to the way it hounds players to spend money to keep progressing. To be fair, some strategy is involved. Players need to pay close attention to the type and level of the Pokémon they send into new battles and figure out which Mega Evolution species' powers will be most useful, especially in more challenging fights. Plus, effective use of special single-use items (such as one that removes a single type of Pokémon from the gameboard, making it easier to make chains that do more damage) can mean the difference between victory and defeat.
However, as the game progresses and puzzles/battles become harder, players may find these items necessary to win. You can purchase them with coins earned in the game, but it takes a lot of playing to earn enough to buy the most useful items. This pushes players toward the game store, where they can spend real money for more game coins. Just as frustrating is the need to use hearts to start a new game. If you run out, you either need to wait a while for a new one to appear or head to the store to buy a crystal with real money, which you then can spend on more hearts in the game. The puzzle action isn't terrible, and Pokémon fans will eat up the authentic atmosphere, but it's a shame Nintendo doesn't offer a paid version of the game that removes the need for in-app purchases.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about in-app purchases. It's tempting to buy things in games to enhance your experience or keep playing, but is it worth it? How does your family decide how much to spend on games with limitless in-app purchases?
Talk about screen time. How long are you allowed to play games each day? Why do you think it's important to set limits on the amount of time you spend playing each day?
- Platforms: Nintendo 3DS
- Pricing structure: Free (This game is free to try, but pushes in-game purchases in the form of crystals and coins.)
- Available online? Available online
- Developer: Nintendo
- Release date: February 18, 2015
- Genre: Puzzle
- ESRB rating: E for Mild Fantasy Violence, Comic Mischief
- Last updated: February 22, 2020
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.