Pokémon Battle Trozei is boring. It is a boring videogame. The third “match-3” style puzzle game to get the Pokémon treatment, it seems content with the bare minimum, asking you to line up three or more of the same tiny monster’s face and call it a day. It’s not an unpleasant game—it doesn’t offend or break, and the visuals are clean and bright, with every Pokémon rendered in smiling 2D sprite form. But above that smile Pikachu has black, lifeless eyes, as empty as a doll’s, and that emptiness permeates Pokémon Battle Trozei.
The basics of the game—and there’s not much that goes beyond basic—is that you approach wild Pokémon and drag icons along a grid of other Pokémon, lining them up to create a match. Make a match? Deal damage to the wild Pokémon. Deal enough damage and match-3 becomes match-2 in a frenzied “Trozei Mode.” Enough matches in here captures the wild Pokémon—the act of doing so weirdly re-branded as a “trozei.”
Pokémon Battle Trozei tries to make this interesting by incorporating the elemental types from the main Pokémon games. You know this old rock-paper-scissors system by now: Fire-type Pokémon defeat grass-type Pokémon, who defeat water-types. Water-types then defeat the fire-types and balance is brought to the Pokémon world. In Battle Trozei, that means when you’re facing off against a wild water-type you should match your grass-types and avoid matching your fire-types. In theory that brings a whole new level of depth to puzzle games, but in practice it’s impenetrable.
Over the years Pokémon has expanded its menagerie to eighteen different elemental types across 719 different Pokémon. Pokémon Battle Trozei only allows you to choose one Pokémon to bring to a fight, choosing the rest of the monsters you’ll be matching for you. So you’d better have the encyclopedic Pokémon knowledge of an 11 year-old, otherwise you’ll likely be lost when trying to get even a slight advantage out of the elemental types. (Worth noting: I’ve played about 200 hours of Pokémon X, and even I couldn’t keep track of this). Abandoning the only depth in the system means you’re just lining up the cute Japanese monster faces with no real strategy, and before long you start to feel like anime Sisyphus.
Even if you’ve got six pixel-art Poké Balls tattooed on your hip and crack the code on gaining extra damage and collect some wild Pokémon, well, that’s really all there is to do in Pokémon Battle Trozei. Over 700 critters are split across 13 different zones in the game. Seeking out a specific wild Pokémon means playing a zone over and over, hoping the one you need to complete your collection randomly pops up. That’s not great, but again it could be worse—the game doesn’t force you to scoop up every Pokémon to move on, so you’ll only get frustrated if you’re a completist. But the game gives you no real reason to go after these stray monsters, other than the satisfaction of having done it. Under the best conditions, these kinds of checklists are meant to give you an excuse to keep playing. When play is as boring as this, why check those boxes when you can simply walk away?
Pokémon Battle Trozei needs to do more than simply “not suck” to justify its existence. Instead of losing time and sleep to it like I have so many other puzzle games, the monotony of matching smiling creatures together with nothing more to consider made me acutely aware of each second that passed. With some added depth, like if Pokémon Battle Trozei brought more mechanics from the main Pokémon X series over, maybe it could have captured me forever. Instead, its boredom let me break free of it and escape into the tall grass, never to return.
Casey Malone is a comedian, game designer and amateur Pokémon trainer living in Boston, MA. He most closely resembles a Snorlax. Follow him on Twitter at @CaseyMalone.