The desire for Nintendo Switch games is intense, and many people have been wanting some kind of Pokémon experience ever since it was announced the series would be appearing on the platform. While there is still some time before Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Let’s Go, Eevee! this year and the eighth generation of the game coming in 2019, Pokémon Quest has been released on Nintendo Switch games now, and mobile devices eventually, to provide a stop gap. While it is far from a traditional adventure, it combines elements of real-time strategy and idle games to offer something that can occasionally be amusing.
Pokémon Quest is set on Tumblecube Island, a place where you are engaging in expeditions to find loot and gather together Kanto Region Pokémon. This is a voxel-like region where every Pokémon is blocky are the level of control a player has is rather limited. You make various soups and stews with acquired ingredients in the hopes of luring random creatures to your site while you head out with a group of three characters to different locations as you prove powerful enough to unlock them. There is a clear sense of motivation and progression, since food cooks only while you are out on expeditions, Pokémon must be leveled up to become more powerful and evolve, stones that can improve their strength only drop occasionally and there is a need to repeatedly visit known areas in the hopes of acquiring more ingredients for meals.
The thing is, once you are in an area, allowing creatures to explore automatically can sometimes feel like the best course of action. You do not dictate the movement of Pokémon. You also may not know the range of abilities, of which they can have up to two, until they are used. Even if you do know how they should work, the arrangement of maps, movement of enemies and time it takes for a move to even trigger could keep it from being used effectively. I found what worked best for me was to only attempt a stage if I was about 100-300 points stronger than the advised power level, left it on auto-battle until the final encounter, then directly controlled the team’s special skills for that fight. If the stage was at least 500 points below the advised power level, I would go ahead and let the game play itself.
While this might make it sound like Pokémon Quest becomes a grind-fest or tedious, something which can be true if you choose to not spend any money on any of the expedition pack add-ons that offer significant boosts to productivity, there is still an element of strategy and enjoyment that can come once you approach it as though it was an idle game. It comes down to working with what the game chooses to give you after you have prepared meals. There are 18 recipes and while you have an idea of what could be attracted by them, you don’t know exactly what could arrive, which abilities they will have and at what level they may be.
Since each region of Tumblecube Island offers a bonus if a certain type of Pokémon is deployed there. For example, I am at Miasma Moor right now. If I assign my Golem to my party, I get an over 1,100 power boost to my team’s existing score and it is resistant to many of the attacks there. I spent about three days at Pincushion Plain, because I needed to take a level 20 Weedle I had attracted and leveled it up to a Beedrill in order to finally tackle the Alakazam final boss in the area. At some points, it becomes about knowing what you should have to succeed, preparing for that, having a good team in place and then enjoying the satisfaction that comes from having finally getting past a level after days dealing with a level wall.
Pokémon Quest is a game that may not be what fans of the series expect. It requires quite a bit of time invested into it, especially if you do not go with the paid expansion packs. You need to grind a lot and be okay with giving up a good degree of control. If you look it as more of a game where you prepare teams, work with what you have, then let it play itself while you do other things so you can acquire Pokémon with more potential, collect needed items or improve characters you already have, then it can be an entertaining time-sink to play for fifteen or twenty minutes each day.
Pokémon Quest is immediately available for the Nintendo Switch. The Android and Apple iOS version is expected to arrive in June 2018.