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Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Don't Judge a Game by Its Art: Pokémon Quest Is Even WORSE Than It Looks

By LUDWIG VON KOOPA - Let's finish talking about this crap game really quick.

The very first, and only, words I've written about Pokémon Quest is that it looks hideous and looks blocky, and that its art style sucks. All of that was a visceral reaction to its art style. But people, including myself, make a point about how — as Nintendo fans, we do not, or should not — judge games just by their graphics.

Point taken. So I downloaded Pokémon Quest on my Nintendo Switch and played the game. It's even worse than it looks. It turns out that it's really stretching the definition of an interactive experience.

Pokémon Quest boop swears cursing censorship robot cuss
Censored cursing is pretty much my reaction to the game.

Any comparison between Pokémon Rumble and Pokémon Quest needs to take a very important difference into account. Yes, both games involve sub-standard graphical styles. Both involve Pokémon going through maps with enemy waves and two moves. Both de-emphasise hanging onto individual Pokémon and getting rid of weak ones to acquire resources.

But only Pokémon Quest has automatic gameplay. Everything in Pokémon Rumble is controlled by you. ...Pokémon Quest is not.

There are two ways to play Pokémon Quest: Nearly automatic, and completely automatic. It depends if you press on the Auto button or not.

Pokémon Quest Auto button automatic plays itself AI
The Auto button on the left side. Note the cursor over it.

< In nearly automatic, your move control is a cursor on the screen that poorly simulates moving a finger around for a touch screen. You don't actually tap on anything besides the buttons on the bottom row. Tapping a Pokémon or the environment doesn't move anyone or target anything. Your only ways of interaction are those buttons, which do a Pokémon attack. Otherwise, the game is on rails, and your main Pokémon and its two friends do their own thing. They'll do attacks without you asking them. The moves at the bottom are just additional actions — so Rattata will do a generic attack, and you can press Focus Energy to have its attacks do more damage for a long time.

In completely automatic, the AI will do the Focus Energy for you. In that case, you literally do nothing. This is actually optimal, because the AI plays the game with better timing than you can. You can sit and do something else, like read KoopaTV articles. You cannot, unfortunately, play another Nintendo Switch game that is actually worthwhile, unless you have two Nintendo Switch consoles for yourself or you download Pokémon Quest on your handheld smart device when it releases on those devices later this month. (I highly recommend against both those options.) 

There is more to the game than what happens on the battlefield, in terms of team management. You can increase the strength of your Pokémon with the Power Stones you collect from beating bosses, by putting them in this completely un-Pokémon-like power grid. This management is the crux of the interactivity of the game, and it doesn't feel like it was designed as a Pokémon spin-off.

To put it another way, you are micro-managing your team in-between expeditions, and then during expeditions, you just watch them and have little way of affecting the outcome. But unlike a strategy game, you aren't actually given enough information about a new expedition to plan for it in advance. There isn't strategy in the micro-managing; just get the most powerful Pokémon with the strongest stones.

Pokémon Quest Vulpix roar Exeggutor boss
...VULPIX USED ROAR! It hurts your ears!

This is unlike Pokémon Rumble, where you can have a rotating cast of strong Pokémon and you know what kind of Pokémon you'll encounter in each area. You can plan for it because you are in full control of what is going on, and you can have fun using different kinds of moves, and there are other things at play such as movement speed and strafing and range to play with. There isn't fun trying new things in Pokémon Quest because you aren't even in full control... or even a plurality of control.

Task automation was invented to make people's lives easier, so they won't have to do tedious activity. This can be dangerous when implemented in a game. Other games have a trade-off when using task automation — you may get less experience, or something undesirable may happen that you would've done differently, or in the case of GAME FREAK's previous project, Pocket Card Jockey, the autodraw skill is a speed-running tactic that is a trade-off because it prevents you from having another skill that may be more beneficial depending on the circumstance. 

Having your entire game be able to be automated is a tacit omission that your game sucks and is just a tedious affair. There is no trade-off, because the AI plays just as well or better than you, and you are not rewarded any less because you are letting the game play itself. 

The only trade-off is that, if you have the sound on and you're letting the computer auto-play a Pokémon with Roar, like the Vulpix in the above screenshot, you're going to hear this 8-bit crap over and over again, except lower-quality and even screechier: 

If you are going to still play Pokémon Quest, don't play it with headphones on. Any game that I have to give that warning for is not a game worth your time.

I didn't even mention the micro-transactions or free-to-play mechanics in this game. To summarise it, you will have to do a lot of grinding to get strong enough Power Stones and Pokémon to keep advancing, and paying money speeds up that process. Since it's not even fun to begin with, and the gameplay doesn't get any more interesting the longer the game plays itself, you obviously shouldn't pay money in micro-transactions for it.

Ludwig is expecting Pokémon Quest to show up at E3 2018, and it's a dreadful expectation. Do you have a wildly different opinion on Pokémon Quest than Ludwig does? Sound off in the comments section! ...Really, sound off. Ludwig can't hear you anyway because the roaring Vulpix broke his hearing. The worst part is that Roar as a move is counterproductive in Pokémon Quest because you can't circle around an enemy and aim where you want them to be pushed back to!


  1. As for free-to-play games go, this one has definitely got to be one of the worst. There is nothing satisfying watching your Pokémon do all of the battles for you. I was not a huge fan of Rumble, but at least it gave the player control. I have not even mentioned how atrocious it looks. It's as if Minecraft meets Pokémon meets a shovelware game on the app store. Pokémon: Retreat would be a much more fitting title because you should stay as far away from this garbage as possible.

    1. I didn't mention that Quest has a Retreat button that makes your group run backwards and then immediately return back. Not sure how it's helpful. Last-ditch time stalling for your cooldowns?

      You should give non-F2P Rumble a better chance.

  2. I only played the first Rumble game but the first Rumble game also had another point in having another Pokemon gen that was not gen 1 even if it was only the addition of gen 4 but I would say it was mostly due to the lack of space for a WiiWare title. Quest is only gen 1 love.

    1. Right, the WiiWare Rumble was a proper spin-off, promoting the latest generation at the time (Gen 4). Meanwhile, it's like Quest doesn't care about promoting Gen 7, even if adding Gen 7 Pokémon is a lot smaller of a task than adding Gen 4 Pokémon.


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