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Pokemon Link: Battle! review

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £7
inc VAT

Fun in short bursts, but this simple puzzler doesn't have enough ideas to sustain itself over longer sittings

What is it about matching objects in groups of three? You only need to look at the success of mobile games like Candy Crush to know that it’s one of the most compelling and addictive gameplay mechanics ever invented. It doesn’t really matter what those objects are; they could be sweets, fish or coins and we’d probably still spend countless hours trying to best our high score. Couple it with gaming’s other main obsession, catching endless numbers of Pokemon, and you’ve got a recipe to make any Nintendo fan sit up and take notice.

Pokemon Link Battle

The download-only successor to Pokemon Link, one the better Pokemon spin-offs for the Nintendo DS, Pokemon Link: Battle! updates the game for the 3DS handheld. Link three or more of the same Pokemon by dragging and dropping them round with your stylus and they’ll attack the main ‘mon on the top screen. Once its health is reduced to zero, you’ll automatically catch that Pokemon and it will be added to your Pokedex.

It sounds simple enough, but a single link won’t get you very far. The equivalent of a small Tackle attack in terms of power, single links also don’t score many points. Instead, the fastest and best way of taking down each monster is to build up power by linking several sets of Pokemon at once. You’ll need to be quick with your stylus as you move each Pokemon round the Link Box, but the time limit is relatively generous. Link enough sets in a row and you’ll enter “Link Chance” mode, which lets you link just two Pokemon together until you either run out of Pokemon to link or you take too long to land the next combo.

Link Chance mode lets you really rack up the high scores, as this gives you the opportunity to completely clear your Link Box. Do this and another packed Link Box appears, giving you the chance to build up almost infinite levels of attack power as long as you can keep the combo chain going.

Pokemon Link Battle

Where Link:Battle! comes undone, though, is its sheer lack of variety. Most of the time, you only need to put in a small amount of effort to defeat each Pokemon. A combo of roughly ten links is usually enough to take out most Pokemon in a single hit, especially if you start the chain with an advantageous elemental type, and even end of stage boss Pokemon rarely require more than a single Link Box clearing in order to capture. This gave us less incentive to aim for the top points as anything more felt like overkill.

Stages do get harder as the game goes on, but the difference is so incremental that Link: Battle! quickly ends up feeling a bit one-note after a couple of stages. Things get a little more interesting when larger legendary Pokemon break through your Link Box and disrupt your play area, making it harder to link Pokemon horizontally, but this happens so rarely that it barely makes an impact.

Part of this monotonous feeling comes from how easy it is to create a link. In the original Pokemon Link, you had to shift entire rows and columns in order to do this, and any Pokemon that went off-screen quickly dropped down from the top again if you shunted the row downwards, or appeared on the opposite side of the screen if you moved it across. This made it much more difficult to find the right patterns of Pokemon on the touchscreen, and you had to think hard and fast to keep your combo score rolling.

Pokemon Link Battle

Dragging and dropping, on the other hand, removes this challenge completely, as the entire Link Box is yours to manipulate as you wish. The only minor obstacle that might hold you back is the accuracy of the stylus controls. This could be a reflection of our own sloppiness, but there were numerous occasions when we could have sworn to have dropped a Pokemon into one square, only for it to appear next door or in a different square completely when we were trying to link at speed.

Completionists will no doubt relish the task of finding all the hidden Pokemon that are only revealed by fulfilling certain conditions (not that you’re told what they are), but we suspect most players will tire of Pokemon Link: Battle! relatively quickly. It’s something to dip into when you’ve got some time to kill, but those after a true Pokemon fix are better off sticking with the main X and Y games.



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