On the day Game Freak and The Pokemon Company announced Let’s Go Pikachu and Eevee, and their 2019 successor to Sun and Moon, a free title called Pokémon Quest was also announced and was available instantly on Switch, with iOS and Android versions coming later. So while everyone else was loading up their Pokémon Go accounts for the first time in months to complete their Kanto Pokédex’s in time for November (my workplace is already full of it again), I powered up my Switch and got ready to leap into a new adventure. Besides, my Kanto Pokédex is pretty full already…
Not going into the game expecting wonders (this is a “freemium” title after all), my first trip to Tumblecube Island was actually entertaining and lasted several hours when I presumed I’d be putting it down within fifteen minutes.
The objective of the game is to encourage as many of the original 151 Pokémon to your home, by cooking them varying pots of stew. As you do. You achieve this by acquiring ingredients for said stews from around the island, whilst having a trio of Pokémon you train up to defend you by attacking any nearby wild monsters. Your choice of three Pokémon aren’t controlled directionally, instead, their movement is automatic. Your job is to choose their attacks (traditional RPG style) by selecting icons along the bottom of the screen.
This is where my main issue with the game raises its anti-button head. Clearly designed for smart devices, attempting to use Joy-con buttons with Quest is quite awkward, and was an afterthought to the touch interface. This won’t be a problem on your iPhone or Android devices once available, but using the control stick to move a severed floating hand around like the start screen of Super Mario 64, feels clunky and not quick enough when making decisions for your now decimated Pokémon. This to me makes Pokémon Quest on Switch feel like the B-Grade version, which given that it’s for a Nintendo console is quite frustrating. Not to mention a multitude of unnecessary fingerprints now covering the screen.
However, when you immerse yourself into Quest’s gameplay there is actually quite a lot to sink your teeth into. And that’s not just the stew you make. Like in other Pokémon titles, your monsters level up and acquire moves, defences and evolve into stronger iterations. Even the ingredients you discover can help equip your Pokémon to be more resilient against certain types, moves, or improve their HP levels dramatically. And once you’re back home, the stew you make (which is boiled over a varying number of “quests” depending on what ingredients you use) will determine the types of Pokémon that venture into your garden. Think Viva Piñata, only with northern grub instead of dancing worms.
As you can imagine, putting these elements together helps create quite a strategic title despite having very little control over the Pokémon you have on your team. And before you know it you have a dozen Pokémon in your garden and have acquired several pieces of furniture for them to live around also.
On my first evening I put three hours into Quest (you have to pace your trips out for food as you only get five lives/trips initially, and then one extra every hour ala Candy Crush), when I expected to have closed it down to gather dust on my Micro SD card within fifteen minutes of playing it. Thankfully this wasn’t the case. I have also been back since my first play several times, and have unlocked half the first island. For a game that’s freemium (there is no reason to pay for anything in Pokémon Quest other than a personal impatience for lives), the effort put into this title is appreciated. Appreciated enough to tide me over until Pokémon Yellow, sorry, Let’s Go Pikachu arrives on my Switch before Christmas.
Other than a frustrating lack of consideration for the home console version’s control scheme, the gameplay is fun, rich and most importantly replayable. And for free, that’s good enough for me!