It’s been many years, and many generations of Pokémon now, that I’ve said that all I want from the franchise is one Pokémon game where you can catch them all. Of course, by that, I mean where every single monster lives in that game, and you don’t have to worry about trading up from previous games or Nintendo’s event hullabaloo to get them all.
Well, I got what I wished for, though it’s not exactly the way I imagined it would be.
Pokémon Battle Trozei is a Pokémon game where you can, in fact, catch every existing species of Pokémon without having to jump through a bunch of silly hoops. But also it’s not really a Pokémon game in the traditional sense. It’s a block-matching game in the vein of Puzzle & Dragons or Puzzlecraft.
Unlike other popular mobile block-matching games, PBT is pretty simplistic. Other games have crafting and town-building and monster-fusing and all sorts of other fancy features that serve mostly to keep you addicted. PBT whittles it down to the basic puzzle game, where you drag the little Pokémon-shaped blocks around to match them up and clear them from the field. Outside of that, the only thing you’re doing is filling up your pokédex.
It’s not just a simple Bejeweled-alike though. Granted, it does seem to be when you first start playing, but gradually, more features will open up that make Pokémon Battle Trozei stand out in the sea of samey block-matchers.
Throughout the game’s many, many levels, your goal is to catch the Pokémon that inhabit each of them. Doing this is accomplished by matching blocks, which will deal damage to the target Pokémon’s HP. Combos of successive matches with add up more damage onto an attack, and when the target’s HP is depleted, they’re caught and added to your roster.
The Pokémon don’t just sit back and take it though. They will launch an attack of their own every once in a while, depleting your HP. Stronger Pokémon can even break through into your playfield, and they’ll zoom around in there, decreasing the space that you have to play in, and knocking out any blocks that they come in contact with. When you battle a strong Pokémon, or play a level that features a larg number of the creatures, things get frantic quickly and can really come down to the wire.
Being a Pokémon game, there are a few familiar gameplay features that make their way into this puzzle game. Type-matching is still a thing that happens, and you can score super-effective hits against your foes if you use the right type. If you use a type that isn’t very effective though, damage will be decreased. Once you progress a few stages into the game, it’ll let you choose a helper Pokémon from your roster of captured monsters to bring into a stage with you. Normally, the Pokémon blocks that appear in a stage are a random selection, but the ‘mon you choose as your helper is guaranteed to show up.
Some Pokémon also have a special ability that will activate when you match them, but these seem to be very few and far between so far. About a dozen stages in, I’ve only caught three: Serperior, Emboar, and Samurott; all of which have the same ability to deal more damage when your HP is low. The tutorial also shows that matching Chanseys will heal you instead of attacking, but I haven’t seen Chansey in regular play yet.
Ditto is a special block, in that it doesn’t invoke an ability, but you can use it as a wild card. It can be matched with any other block, and even multiple different blocks at once, but they only drop in under special conditions. What those conditions are, I’m not totally certain. All I can say for sure is that they seem to show up exactly when you need them.
To keep you playing even after you’ve caught every Pokémon in a stage, your performance is ranked by how many points you earn. Getting the elusive S Rank is deceptively tough, requiring some really top-notch skills to earn. To even dream of S Ranks, you’re going to have to get good at Trozei Chance, which is activated when you match 4 blocks, and then 3 other blocks right afterward. When you’re in Trozei Chance mode, the screen gets all flashy and you only need two like blocks to get a match. If you’re good, you can clear out the entire playfield, and earn big points as well as continue your combo chain.
The game world is divided into zones, with a handful of stages within each. Burning through each stage as quickly as possible isn’t the best way to proceed though, as extra stages with special Pokémon in them will open up if you complete certain requirements. So far, those requirements seem to be exclusively “catch all the Pokémon in the previous stages,” but they might grow more diverse later on.
Early on, you unlock a special zone known as the Safari Jungle. The Pokémon in these stages change daily, and they’re much longer than any of the regular stages. Simply getting to the end of these stages before the wild Pokémon deplete your HP can be a trial in itself, but it’s a quick way to fill out your Pokémon roster.
Pokémon Battle Trozei falls into the same trap that any block puzzle game does: it’s very repetitive and can get really boring if you’re just playing to get to the end. If you’re in it more to hone your skills and earn higher scores and better ranks, it can be just as addictive as any good puzzler. What’s even nicer is that it doesn’t have all the weird features of a mobile puzzle game that distract your from the core game. Also there’s no arbitrary play limit built in to soak more cash out of you. Once you pony up the $8 to download the game, Nintendo isn’t going to hit you up for a cent more.