The Agent Reviews A (Mobile) Game: Pokémon Duel

Nintendo’s still grabbing for a slice of the mobile pie.
Source: PokéCommunity Daily

So, last week’s gaming discussion was some dark and heavy stuff.  POPULAR dark and heavy stuff if the site statistics are to be believed (thank you all), but dark and heavy none-the-less. So let’s do something I haven’t done in some time – give a proper review of a game. Only this time, there’s a twist.

If I’m being completely honest with myself, I’ve never really taken mobile gaming all that seriously. I just never felt that my smartphone had the means to match my PC or consoles in the level of complex gameplay that I tend to demand. But, I heard some buzz surrounding Pokémon‘s newest foray into mobile gaming – most jeering from some especially negative people about how Nintendo was trying to recover after Pokémon Go failed (which it OBVIOUSLY DIDN’T). So, I decided to download my copy of Pokémon Duel so see what all the fuss was about.

I figured out pretty quick that this game was, in essence, a jambalaya of old ideas mixed with some spice to freshen it up a bit. It involves collecting  Pokémon figures to build your team (similar to Pokémon Rumble), collecting cards to power them up during matches (taken from the Pokémon Trading Card Game), and battle involves spinning a disk to randomly select the actions of your Pokémon (ala the justly forgotten and much-maligned Pokémon Battling Coin Game).

But repurposing and reworking the old has always been Nintendo’s bread and butter. Hell, it’s part of their business philosophy that’s kept them going for so long. So, how do they make it work? By turning Pokémon from a tactical turn-based RPG to a strategic battlefield control simulation with RPG elements.

Every match has you square off against an opponent with a set of Pokémon figures and Plates (the aforementioned cards) with the goal of getting one of your figures into their goal point. This makes the game more focused on proper figure selection and placement rather than just smashing them together until one falls down. In fact, if you’re especially skilled, you can win a match without even getting into a battle once. And if your opponent can easily overpower in one-on-one battle, you can always surround an enemy figure with yours and force them off the field.

As for the RPG elements, victories will net you in-game cash, new figures/plates, and experience boosts to use on your Pokémon. Every time one levels up, you can extend a section of their battle disk increasing the chance of landing on attacks you want and reducing the likelihood of a miss. This level up mechanic, while functional, seems a bit too simple. That said, it’s absolutely necessary to reduce the likelihood that two players with the same Pokémon figure will play the exact same and create an asymmetrically balanced game.

If I have any major complaints, it’s that the lack of variety in maps was annoying. I would have liked to see boards with different branching paths and shapes that force the players to rethink on the fly with every random match. But no; we just get the same square layout with different colored floors.

Overall, I can see why those turned off by Pokémon Go might be drawn to Pokémon Duel. It addresses a lot of the complaints people had such as the inability to play with friends (which was the whole point of the original games) and the lack of focus on combat. While I’m still not sold on mobile games over my PC and consoles, this is one I’m going to keep handy to keep my mind sharp and help me unwind after a long night at work.

 

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Post-Holiday Gaming Spree (or “What’s The Agent Playing Now?”)

It’s not often that I get to talk about games here at The Archive anymore and that’s a shame seeing as how they were my first passion. Unfortunately, finances prevent me from splurging on digital entertainment.

The good news is that the influx of cash gifts over Christmas combined with Steam’s penchant for RIDICULOUSLY generous discounts over the holidays means that I get to talk about the ones that I’m really enjoying now. To that end, please enjoy these three recommendations for your gaming pleasure.

Chroma Squad

This was the odd duck gift that I got from a friend with a long history of loving the Real-Time Strategy and Tactical RPG genres. I never considered myself a fan of them since I’ve always preferred faster paced, action-oriented games that made me feel like I was directly in the action rather than an invisible hand directing events. That said, if any game has a chance of changing that opinion, It would be Chroma Squad.

Centering around a group of actors on a Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers parody who get fed up with their d-bag director and start their own indie studio, you play the role of their new director and are charged with casting actors, making props, and building your set (all of which effect in-game stats) as you attempt to play to the audience to build a fanbase (which, in turn, provides you with a bigger budget for better gear) and build the best tokusatsu show ever.

Basically, it’s Fire Emblem by way of a business management simulator; an odd combination that strangely works. The fact that I was managing a show not only made me think harder about my choices but also helped to immerse me in the story since I wasn’t just some never-spoken-of pseudo-god playing with the lives of the cast. You can even customize the team name, uniforms, and catchphrases to create the show you wished you could make while watching stuff like Kamen Rider.

Bear Simulator

Okay, I know the ‘simulator’ genre is a total joke. Like, LITERALLY a joke; they’re made to be played for a few hours, be laughed at like a bad movie night, and swiftly forgotten. But Bear Simulator just feels like something more.

Like most games of its ilk (Goat Simulator comes to mind almost instantly), Bear Simulator revolves around you taking control of a normal creature in less than normal situations. But unlike its goat-based predecessor which largely required you to make your own fun from it, there is an over-arching mystery to be solved in Bear Simulator that helps to keep you engrossed in the action and encourages you to re-explore your world when you’ve polished your ursine skills.

Also, combining the Canada Hat in the above trailer with the fake mustache you find later totally makes you look like a gentlemanly tundra explorer.

Neurovoider

At this point, if you’ve been following me for a while, you should know that I love The Binding of Isaac and other procedurally generated dungeon crawlers. But if any game is going to knock Isaac off its lofty throne, it’s Neurovoider.

A sci-fi-based twin-stick shooter where you essentially play as a brain in a jar, Neurovoider is far more cerebral (no pun intended) than Isaac by the virtue of its item management system. Where you could basically pick up nearly any item in Isaac with little or no consequences, Neurovoider forces you to choose what to keep, scrap, and upgrade forcing you to make tactical decisions based on your style of gameplay.

It also addresses one of the biggest issues I have with Isaac – its lack of enjoyable and unintrusive multiplayer – by including a four-player co-op mode. Combine that with Dan Terminus’ intense Dark Synth soundtrack and you have what’s possibly one of my favorite games of the last five years.