This week saw the latest release in the Pokémon Rumble series. This installment has players once again taking control of little toy Pokémon as they make their way through the gigantic world around them. The game begins with an accident that sends several toys floating downstream. Along the way back, players will have to use new power-ups and befriend hundreds of Pokémon while battling various bosses. With simple gameplay and an all-around adorable cast of characters, is Pokémon Rumble U worth the $18 admission fee?
There's no denying that the Pokémon universe is positively adorable, and this game is no exception. There is a notable graphical improvement over the previous installments in the series, with the HD visuals offering a level of vibrance and polish that had been missing before. The graphics certainly achieve the level of cuteness the series has become known for and kids will love seeing their little toys battle it out on the gamepad.
The gameplay, as with the previous entries in the Rumble series, is some of the most simplistic we've seen. Players move their toy Pokémon with the control stick and attack with 'A' and 'B'. Some Pokémon only have one attack and each creature is a little bit different. There are other tactics that appear throughout the game, such as the ability to tap on the gamepad's touchscreen to defeat many enemies at once, or the toy wind-ups that let the player's Pokémon grow in size. While these features help break up the monotony, there simply isn't enough of them to keep the gameplay feeling fresh and exciting. Missing from the original game is the sense of exploration. Rumble U's battles exist within fenced in arenas. This had many of the levels that didn't feature special power-ups or gimmicks feeling like ones that had just been played, only with a different set of enemies.
One of the game's main drawing points is the fact that all 649 of the currently released Pokémon make an appearance. Every stage features several toy capsules for the player to collect, each with a creature inside. While players may want to continue to use their favorite character, the important thing to note is the Pokémon's “power level”. Each befriended pocket monster has a number associated with it, revealing how useful it will be in battle. The amount of different creatures that appear in this title is awesome, but there's little to do with most of them as they simply won't be powerful enough to bother with.
One of the side features is the NFC support, allowing players to buy Pokémon figures to use within the game. These special characters can level up and learn different abilities. Although this makes for an interesting feature, it is entirely optional. This is probably for the best, as many players or parents may not want to spend additional money collecting each of these toys, and we weren't able to snag any of these for this review.
To say Pokémon Rumble U is a bad game would be a little too harsh. There are definitely things to enjoy about this silly romp through toy arenas, but there isn't enough to justify the $18 price tag. Add in the fact that much of this game's appeal seems to be centered around the novelty of NFC toys (sold separately, of course), and it's easy to see that this game should have been $10 at best. Young children will most likely enjoy this game as they wait for Pokémon X and Y to launch next month, but parents may be better off just buying them some cheap Pokémon plushies and telling them to use their imagination. Pokémon Rumble U is now available to download from the Wii U eShop.
This review was written based on a promotional copy of 'Pokémon Rumble U', received by Nintendo.