Pokemon Rumble U Review
It’s not often that being disappointed by a game comes as this much of a relief. Allow us to explain.
Had Nintendo absolutely smashed it and perfected the Skylanders formula with 650 toys to collect, it’d have bankrupted us overnight. Luckily, though, Rumble U is just an extremely limited and mechanically basic pretender to the original NFC money factory – Activision can sleep easy for the time being, and we’re in no greater danger than usual of gaming-induced financial ruin.
Rumble’s gimmick has always been its simplicity and somehow, Nintendo has managed to find a way to make it even more brainless. The sprawling levels and action-RPG stylings of earlier games have been stripped away, leaving just arena battle after arena battle. These were always the worst parts of the other Rumble games, although a few new mechanics help lift these ones up a little. Just a little, mind. There’s only so much a couple of new power-ups and stage gimmicks can really add to a game, after all.
The real problem isn’t even the simple structure – it’s the Pokémon themselves. With all 649 to round up, Nintendo as cranked up the generosity and you get loads of new ones for each level you play. Which sounds awesome, but isn’t.
One level you can nail all of the challenges and grab yourself the best monsters on offer but the elation doesn’t last too long when the Magikarp you score in the very next level makes your older legendary Pokémon look like trash. You just end up cycling through monsters at an alarming rate, meaning you never get attached to any of them.
Worse yet, only Pokémon acquired through scanning real toys using the limited NFC capabilities of the Wii U Gamepad can be upgraded or manipulated in any way.
The rest you’ll use because you got lucky with a random drop and managed to hit both high power and decent moves, but NFC characters can actually be levelled up and taught new moves. You know, like you used to be able to do with all of your Pokémon. It’s just a cynical ploy to get you to buy the toys in order to beat the tougher post-game challenges – the game itself can be blasted through without them in just a couple of hours – but the issues with that are threefold.
First, there are only a handful of toys available and the selection is odd, to say the least. Second, they’re exclusive to Game. And third (and most crucially), they look rubbish. We’ve been amassing Skylanders for a while now and just started work on our collection of awesome Disney Infinity toys, but these look like ass.
With proper awesome figures based on actual Pokémon designs rather than these weird blocky things, we could have been persuaded to get more involved with even this weak a game. But as it is, not a chance. Especially not when these polygonal nightmares are four quid a pop for a blind bag.
Simplified to the point of being utterly unsatisfying and reliant on awful, expensive toys, Pokémon Rumble U serves only one purpose – a target for the scorn usually aimed at Skylanders by people that don’t realise that they’re actually pretty good games. Save your cash and put it towards a copy of X or Y in a few weeks’ time.
Version Tested: Wii U