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Review by Casey DeFreitas

Pokemon Quest Review

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A cubetacular grind fest.

I didn’t expect much from Pokemon Quest when I first started playing it. This mobile spin-off has an adorable art style, but it seemed overwhelmingly simple on the surface. However, as I spent more time cultivating cubular Pokemon, Pokemon Quest’s infectious and astonishingly deep Pokemon customization compulsively hooked me -- but maybe not in the most fun way.

The combat in Pokemon Quest isn’t the draw of this free-to-play game, requiring little input and even offering an ‘auto’ button that effectively makes it play itself. It may not seem like it, but Pokemon Quest is closer to a puzzle game, challenging you to compose the perfect team for each expedition.

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Pokemon have a variety of features that differentiate them from each other. Each has a different pool of moves it can learn, and each individual’s moves can be arranged in myriad random ways. Every individual also has a grid of Power Charms which determines which Power Stones can be attached to it, which ultimately determines how much HP and Attack it will have. Lastly, each species of Pokemon has a pool of nine different Bingo Bonuses, which are activated as the Power Charm grid is filled.

All of these, besides the moves a Pokemon starts with, are set in stone. Picking which Pokemon to use, with which move, and which passive abilities, became addictive and fun. I really enjoyed figuring out particularly powerful configurations, and seeing my teams steamroll difficult levels gave me a sense of pride and accomplishment.

However, trying to attract the right kind of Pokemon with the right move layout, Power Charm grid, and Bingo Bonuses in order to do that wasn’t as entertaining thanks to the massive RNG involved.

Customization

You must create recipes using the ingredients earned by completing expeditions, and if you get a Pokemon of the wrong species, or the wrong Bingo Bonus, or the wrong move layout, you must go back out to adventure to re-earn those ingredients to try again. Still, finally nabbing that perfect Pokemon with tons of potential always provided a rush of excitement.

Knowing how to do this without wasting time and resources is half the battle, though, because Pokemon Quest doesn’t do much to provide you with the information needed to succeed. The core Pokemon RPGs don’t require an in-depth knowledge of the hidden mechanics to complete their campaigns, but Pokemon Quest gets difficult enough that I did need to know its inner workings if I wanted to complete it with skill, rather than grinding out an over-leveled team. To skip over the tedious trial-and-error process, I constantly had a Pokemon Quest wiki open with specific recipes and other pertinent info while playing.

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Don’t get me wrong, I loved tinkering and experimenting to come up with the perfect Pokemon team that would propel me to victory. But I didn’t like how, once I realized that a strategy would work, a mind-numbing and soul-crushing grind was required to get what I needed. I’ve literally had nightmares about how I’ve been unable to get my Shiny Alakazam to learn Psychic because the process of teaching it is so unpredictable.

Grinding 101

Basically, you can “sacrifice” up to four Pokemon to one for it to gain a chance to replace an existing move with a new one. This isn’t exact science though, as each Pokemon, depending on level, type, and species, grants only a fraction of a chance for the training to be successful. If it fails, those Pokemon are still lost. The only way to reach a 100 percent chance to teach a Pokemon a new move is to sacrifice one Pokemon of the exact species, or sacrifice four Pokemon each worth at least 25 percent each.

AlakazamMove

Assuming you already have an Alakazam, here are the steps to get it to learn Psychic “efficiently:”

  1. Collect 45 Bluk Berries, 15 Apricorns, and 15 Fossils to make Brain Food a la Cube in the Silver Pot in order to attract a mid-level Abra. It takes about one run through a level to attain 10-15 of any one ingredient, if that ingredient is the most common reward.
  2. Repeat step one at least one more time to get a second Abra. Make sure one of the Abras is at least level 33, but not more than 55, or else it’s too difficult to level up.
  3. Sacrifice one Abra to the other to level it up so it evolves into a Kadabra.
  4. Feed it another Abra, or other Pokemon, to level up Kadabra so it evolves into an Alakazam.
  5. In the Move Learning Training Tab, sacrifice the new Alakazam to your preferred Alakazam and hope it learns Psychic. It’s a 10 percent chance. Don’t think about using easier to get Pokemon as sacrifices -- you’ll have to use four at a time and still will probably end up with about a 50 percent chance of success.
  6. You could also abandon your preferred Alakazam, get a new Abra that has all the right features, evolve it to Kadabra, and prevent it from evolving to Alakazam for a higher chance of learning Psychic. No, you can’t do this with Abra, as Abra can’t learn Psychic. But you wouldn’t know this unless you looked it up online.

It’s a long road to getting a truly great Pokemon if you’re unlucky, like me. Despite the frustrations, I kept playing. The grindy gameplay loop of searching for perfection is just plain addictive, even if it’s not all that fun, and the cute Pokemon skin is icing on that masochistic cake.

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If you have the option of choosing where to play Pokemon Quest, you’re much better off on a phone. It’s just not very comfortable to hold up the Switch with one hand and tap with the other, and when it’s docked you have to use a virtual cursor to hit buttons that are too far apart to reach quickly. On top of that, I had issues getting the Switch to register when I held virtual buttons on the touch screen, but I never had this issue on mobile.

I paid $30 for the expansion pack, and that sped things up just enough to make Pokemon Quest’s grind feel tolerable. And it’s a relief that neither version lets you spend more than about $50, so Nintendo’s not fishing for big-spending whales with this game. Without it though, Pokemon and Power Stone inventory management would probably be an ordeal.

The Verdict

Pokemon Quest can be a cute little distraction when taken in bite-sized pieces, but it’s best served with a lot of patience. It’s cute, and its systems are much deeper than they seem, but trying to build my perfect team definitely drove me a little crazy.

Okay
Pokemon Quest's deep customization is addictive, but weak combat and too many random parts keep it from being good.
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Pokemon Quest