There once was a time when "match three" puzzle games were a rare commodity, but after the rip-roaring success of Bejeweled and Puzzle Quest, it feels like there's a new match title released every month. The craze kind of came to a head with Candy Crush, which is probably the most popular (and hated) of its kind on the market.
But quietly back in 2005, Pokemon Trozei made its own mark on the DS and created quite the fanbase. Now just shy of a decade later Trozei is back on the 3DS, attempting to break through this crowded space.
Pokemon Battle Trozei (3DS)
Developer: Genius Sonority
Release: March 20, 2014
Battle Trozei is literally a match-three -- you're just matching Pokemon heads instead of gems or relics. On a typical tile-based screen a number of Pokemon will be listed, which you can grab and move with your stylus at will. There are no "flip" limitations or time restrictions, you just drag and drop anywhere and you'll initiate a match. It's a refreshing change of pace that allows you to make any move you want, and wrack up the combo points with subsequent matches.
All this matching actually has a purpose though, as the game takes place in an adventure-like format tasking you to roam the land in search of new Pokemon to capture and battle. Lining up three heads will allow you to attack (and eventually bag) wild Pokemon, which can then be earned in turn for your bank. All 718 current Pokemon are featured, and any enthusiast will get the itch to catch 'em all once again.
The parallels to the proper Pokemon series don't stop there, as the first match you make is heralded as the "attacker," which uses their primary element type as their lead ability -- so for instance, Charmander would deal fire damage, and Squirtle would do water damage, which are super effective against grass and rock respectively. It's an intriguing system for sure that will test your ability to memorize every creature type, but this is about where the strategic depth ends.
In Battle Trozei, a combo has the opportunity to spring a "Trozei Chance," which is basically a fancy way of saying you can now initiate "match twos" for the length of one combo. As you can imagine this softened requirement will often clear out the entire board with some legwork, allowing you to do massive damage to an enemy, even if you aren't necessarily the right element for the job. If you can clear out the entire bottom screen in a Trozei Chance the top drops down, allowing you to continue the combo for even more hurt.
It's here that the game basically devolves into a series of Trozei Chances, and within thirty minutes, you'll master the technique. There is another slight gameplay nuance in that groups of enemies can appear, allowing you to match five or match six to do a "scattershot" attack on multiple foes, but in the end, you're still just going to want to Trozei Chance and obliterate everyone.
Enemies have the chance to periodically "attack" your box to damage your life meter, and when it depletes, the round is over. Bosses will even dig down into your bottom box and eliminate some tiles to make matter worse. But despite how hard they try, the game is still a bit too easy, and you'll find yourself going through the motions time and time again to the point of boredom.
The ability to pick a "support" Pokemon to use a special ability (for instance, matching Chansey will heal you) is a nice touch, but it doesn't add anything significant to the experience. Battle Trozei will often hint that you should bring in a certain type that's strong against the elements featured in a given level, but the fact of the matter is every fight feels relatively the same regardless of the user's actions or planning.
You really can't shake the idea of repetition as you attempt to get a Trozei Chance over and over, clear boxes, and move on to the next zone. Basically, you do that 100 times over and you're done. A shallow local-only multiplayer component doesn't help its cause, and the hunt to catch everyone is really your only goal.
Pokemon Battle Trozei is fun while it lasts, but the lack of depth will ensure that it won't last long. If you're a huge Pokemon fan you may enjoy the ability to catch all 718 on pure principle, but puzzle enthusiasts should look elsewhere for a long-term solution. It's simply not as good as its predecessor, so those who are looking at getting back into the Trozei universe should proceed with caution.