2 Reviews

Super Pokémon Scramble

Import Review: Let's get ready to rumble. Again.

At a time when the value of 3DS games is under closer scrutiny than ever, releasing an ugly-looking sequel to a WiiWare non-classic - that seemed expensive even as a 1,500-point download - at full whack might not seem like the wisest of ideas.

Yet that's just what Nintendo have done with Super Pokémon Scramble. Sure, it might offer more content than the original, Pokémon Rumble, but can anyone, hand on heart, say they expected this when 3DS was announced?

With Black/White still warming store shelves, we knew a Pokémon spin-off would arrive before the first proper 3D role-players - it's just a surprise that Ambrella's game was the one that got the nod.

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Perhaps we're being a little harsh. A change of format seems to have done Scramble (née Rumble) the world of good, its stages perfectly portioned for portable play. Broken into smaller chunks the repetition of its simplistic Smash TV-esque mechanics doesn't niggle nearly so much.

Snap the lid shut and you won't necessarily be itching to lift it again within minutes, but open your 3DS to find a toy-sized 'Mon centre stage and you'll happily blast through a level or two between bus stops or during ad breaks.

MONSTER MASH
As before, you control a single clockwork Poké-toy, smashing other wind-up merchants with one or two simple moves: A and B get you from A to B. Most defeated 'Mon turn into cash but others will faint, allowing you to add them to your growing team.

Eventually you'll pick up a Pokémon with a high enough level to enter the Battle Royale - a free-for-all against the clock where beaten toys drop time bonuses rather than cash. Win and you're crowned champion, unlocking the next area where tougher monsters await.

So far so familiar, but Scramble adds a few new elements to this formula. You might think the last thing Pokémon Rumble needed was a story, but... no, actually you'd be right. Still, it's relatively unobtrusive, and perhaps by the time it reaches UK shores in December, Nintendo's ace Treehouse translators will have spun the dialogue into gold.

Elsewhere, Team Battles allow you to lob three 'Mon into the fray as they move through a series of small rooms filled with two or three evolutionary chains. You still only have control of one - meaning you'll have to revive your team-mates if they faint by standing next to them - but each defeated wave yields energy to replenish a little HP between rooms.

Charge Battles are a curious addition, playing out as extended QTEs. The idea is that your Poké-army - comprising your strongest toys - dashes along a lengthy walkway, smashing through enemy squads in their path. You do this by mashing the A button and wiggling the circle-pad. Odd.

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Thankfully, such interludes are infrequent, even if they do make decent use of 3D as the toys hurtle out of the screen. Indeed, the effect is subtly effective throughout, turning areas into miniature dioramas, with jutting trees and buildings in the foreground adding a sense of depth.

It's just a pity the environments aren't much to look at - pass through one misty cave, craggy mountain pathway or tree-lined forest clearing and you've seen them all. Most of the music is familiar, but the tunes are at least jaunty and fairly hummable.

'PASSED OUT
Otherwise this is much the same as the WiiWare original, except there's more of it. All 649 'Mon are present and correct, and there's a wider variety of moves, which are purchased from vending machines as before.

There's a co-op mode for those with import-savvy friends, while a half-hearted StreetPass feature sends a single 'Mon per encounter through the digital ether for you to battle as a boss.

With some Pokémon only available after you've finished the game, it'll take weeks, even months, to complete your collection - especially given the random nature of obtaining new monsters.

Ambrella are presumably labouring under the assumption that quantity equals value - cost per hour will be low for the dedicated, but snaffling the lot is a task that would make Sisyphus cast incredulous looks at you.

"Gotta catch 'em all" might be the Pokémon motto, but past games have never treated the 'Mon as simple collectables. Instead, each beast is given its own idiosyncrasies, with individual traits teased out through nothing more than snippets of text, simple animations and the imagination of the player.

By contrast here they're expendable - disposable bits of plastic that might as well be novelty thimbles for all the emotional attachment you form with them. Rarely have Pokémon felt quite so meaningless.

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We imagine that's not the kind of message Nintendo want to send out, but by releasing this solid but troublingly shallow smash-'em-up, they have.

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The verdict

An improvement on the WiiWare original, though it's a shame it's not more sensibly priced. Still, at least it's not another Mystery Dungeon game, eh?

  • Not pretty, but clear, crisp and sometimes cute
  • Neat 3D effect means it looks better in motion
  • Lively tunes and jingles
  • Enjoyable in short bursts
  • Crunchy effects
  • Very simple
  • New battle types add little
6.6
Format
Nintendo 3DS
Developer
Nintendo
Publisher
Nintendo
Genre
Action, Adventure

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