If you told me yesterday afternoon that I wouldn’t get any sleep because I spent the night playing a Pokémon game on my Nintendo Switch, I would have never believed you. Yet here I am, physically exhausted from a long night with Pokémon Quest.
On the off chance that you’ve been in a nuclear bomb shelter without WiFi the last twenty-four hours, let’s go over the news. Late last night The Pokémon Company announced the existence of several new Pokémon games. The most fleshed out among these titles are the upcoming pair Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee! In essence, these are spin-off games that allow players to freely move their Pokémon Go creatures from their mobile device to their Nintendo Switch in a remake of the original Red/Blue titles. Additionally, The Pokémon Company also confirmed the development of the next core Pokémon title and announced it will release in late 2019.
None of these announcements exactly came as a surprise. Rampant speculation across the internet had been hinting at the existence of Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee! Additionally, The Pokémon Company announced the existence of a core Pokémon title for Switch at last year’s E3.
However, what did come as a surprise was the existence of Pokémon Quest, a quirky, free-to-play adventure game for the Switch. Perhaps even more quirky than the game was the announcement that the game would be available immediately. These kinds of announcements (and my admittedly poor sleeping habits) go together like Magnemites becoming a Magneton. I quickly picked up my Nintendo Switch and started downloading the game.
Upon sitting down with Pokémon Quest the first thing you’re probably going to notice is the game’s cube-centric art style. Well actually, you’re probably going to notice that one of the first things you see is a PokéBall shaped drone named MoBee. I’m not sure what kind of implications this has for the Kanto region at large, but after careful consideration, I’ve concluded that I’m cool with this.
Pokémon Quest’s cubic art style immediately feels so remarkably refreshing for the series considering the handful of ways we’ve seen Pokémon portrayed over the last two decades. Despite the diversity of mediums where Pokémon is depicted (video games, television programs, film, comic books, cards, etc.), developers seldom take artistic liberty with their character models. Pokémon Quest utilizes it’s own off-beat, whimsical art style to subvert these expectations and make it clear that the player is in for an unusual kind of Pokémon adventure.
This game contextualizes the art direction through its setting of Tumblecube Island where, you guessed it, everything is shaped like a cube.
At this point, Pokémon Quest introduces you to its core gameplay loop. You begin out by picking a starting Pokémon from a small number of familiar faces and embark on what the game refers to as an expedition– a level where you face off against waves of Pokémon enemies. The waves typically start out weak and become tougher as the journey progresses, culminating in a final confrontation against a more powerful Pokémon.
The game automatically moves your character and will attack another Pokémon if they are within proximity. Additionally, Pokémon Quest offers players the option to use traditional Pokémon attacks when necessary. These attacks all have their respective cooldown times, so you must be careful when deciding which Pokémon should attack or which attack they should utilize.
Completing these expeditions will give you Power Stones (attachable upgrades that boost your health or attack) and cooking ingredients. At your base camp, away from the overworld, you can use these ingredients to cook different meals which, in turn, attract different types of Pokémon to your campsite. Each meal will only draw a Pokémon after a set number of expeditions, meaning, once you start cooking a meal you have to wait until you have completed several expeditions to attract a Pokémon. Thankfully, unlike The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, the game comes with a cookbook where you can keep track of any previously learned recipes.
This is the majority of the gameplay loop that Pokémon Quest offers. Run through expeditions, level up your Pokémon, receive ingredients and Power Stones, return to base camp, start cooking a meal, apply your new Power Stones to make your Pokémon stronger, rinse, repeat. This loop is monitored by the presence of a “battery” that depletes upon the completion of an expedition and slowly recharges over time. You can use PM Tickets (in-game currency) to recharge this battery without waiting, and if you don’t have any PM Tickets, you can wait until the game gives you some every twenty-four hours. Or, you know, you can pay real money for PM Tickets.
Pokémon Quest has the kind of microtransactions that initially made me afraid to enjoy it. After every moment of genuine joy I experienced during my short time with this game, there was a more extended period of trepidatious feelings. At first, not a moment went by where I didn’t dread the inevitable moment when I would (politely) be asked to insert my credit card number somewhere so I could continue courting Pokémon, cooking meals, and clearing levels. I feared the moment the battery would run out or an impulsive moment where I would whip out my credit card to buy some decorations for my base camp.
However, I realized that this is not the mindset to enter the game with. After a little bit of time with Pokémon Quest, it became apparent that the game is not meant to be played in big chunks, entirely seriously, or on a forty-two-inch television. Pokémon Quest is a mobile experience at heart — players will enjoy the game for a few minutes in-between matches of Rocket League, before bed, or while you’re on Amazon pre-ordering Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee!.
Simply put, Pokémon Quest is fun for what it is. While the game seems like it’s better suited on iOS and Android devices (where it will be next month), it proves itself to be an unorthodox, fun take on the franchise that comes at no cost.
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