With the announcement of Pokémon Let’s Go a week ago, we were also treated to the knowledge that a free Pokémon game had been released for the Switch by the name, Pokémon Quest. Excited, I downloaded it immediately, and after too many hours, I can say the game is…. fine.
This is Pokémon in a way you haven’t seen it before, with weirdly charming block characters. It is both delightful and strange to look at, and its aesthetic may put some people off so it’s worth commenting out of the gate.
They have incorporated a Minecraft style to each of the original Pokémon, which some look wonderful and creative, Grimer and Muk being especially great, but some not so much. Voltorb is one I am especially torn on thanks to the fact that he is a sphere, and in Pokémon Quest, he is a cube. I find that both terrible and hilariously charming at the same time.
After a few hours of playing Pokémon Quest I had the strange feeling overcome me that I was playing a mobile game, so I wasn’t surprised the game is coming to iOS and Android later.
“But Blair”, you say, “what about the gameplay loop?”. Well let me tell you about that.
Basically, you set a party of three Pokémon, and send them off on an expedition. They walk around an area, defeating the waves of wild Pokémon that appear, culminating in an especially strong Pokémon to beat. Your interactions are limited, as you watch it occur, and get to tap special moves when their cool down is finished and press one button to make the Pokémon disperse for a moment.
That’s the game’s biggest issue, there is minimal gameplay. In fact, most of your interactions will take place outside of these expeditions. You can set your Pokémon party, and as they level up they unlock slots that you can put stones in. These boost strength, defence, or occasionally impact the special moves.
Stones are collected by completing expeditions, as well as getting cooking ingredients, for one of the least interesting ways to catch Pokémon yet. Using these ingredients, you fill a pot, and then it tells you how many expeditions you need to complete. But after you complete these expeditions a Pokémon wanders into your camp, and you have a new Pokémon with a random level.
It’s a deflating way to catch Pokémon, though one thing I did enjoy is that every time a Pokémon enters the camp it shows it as a shadow for a while. Trying to guess that shadow before it arrived was more entertaining than I care to admit.
What gives the game the real mobile feeling is the battery. The battery fills up with time, and you can’t go on an expedition without battery charges. So, you have two options, wait for the battery to get more charges, or spend money, i.e. the most common mobile money-making loop around.
You can also spend money to get more tickets, which to be fair the game does provide as well. Every day you get 50 free tickets which you can use to speed up food making or buy bonuses. These tickets aren’t dissimilar to Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp’s implementation.
For the most part, I didn’t feel like it was an issue at the start of the game, but the expeditions quickly increase in difficulty. Because you have little to no involvement in the battles, you will need to grind a lot, and thanks to its time limitations this can become annoying quickly.
Ultimately Pokémon Quest is a fine mobile game. It feels out of place on the Switch with its mobile trappings, but it’s there if you want it. Despite critiquing it hard, I am still playing it a week later, but that is probably due more to my Pokémon fandom than anything else. But it’s free, so try it out, no loss except your time.
5/10 - It's Fine