The Pokemon Duel’s graphics are crisp and sleek, and the figures are beautiful poses of each of the Pokemon. The moves aren’t overly animated, but the look of playing board is nice and has a great style to it.
It doesn’t have the colorful and grabbing visuals, though. The story cutscenes are a bit dull, featuring just stock images of the characters with text in front of them. The music, on the other hand, is catchy and likely to get stuck in your head long after — even if part of the reason is due to hearing it loop between battles too often.
The big downside of Pokemon Duel is its menu, which feels unresponsive, sloppy, and sometimes downright broken. It makes things like trying to get into games or even looking at your pokemon collection a frustrating ordeal.
Pokemon Duel has a terrific gameplay, where two teams of six Pokemon battle in a board game version of capture the flag. Pokemon figures have their own special moves, and there are multiple strategies and game-changing maneuvers to get to the central point in the back row of your rival’s side of the board.
Some abilities allow preventing status conditions, while others help you pass through other Pokemon. With these skills, you need to take some serious consideration before making each move. Pokemon movements function in a successive order of trumping another — the first moves have a power of determining whether it will work over the other. If the power number is higher, then the other Pokemon is defeated and knocked out.
White moves are beaten by the Purple Status moves which give special effects but don't necessarily knock out a Pokémon. Purple status moves, in its turn, can be beaten by Gold moves, which act with added priority. Blue moves are useful for blocking other moves, and Red ones always result in a miss and loss.
Enemy Pokemon try to get to your side too, and the game becomes a series of swift choices — the clock is ticking with only five minutes for each player to make a move. When figures collide on the board, each of them has dials that spin containing the attacks we have grown to know and love. Although a combat boils down to a simple comparison of numbers and colors, the different abilities incorporated into a simple framework is borderline genius.
When you open the game, you will immediately see a big Play button that will put you into League Matches with other random players online. It has special Boosters you will unlock gradually through playing online, with 10 keys needed to unlock each one. You get a key for playing a match online and two more if you win. Besides, you can unlock even more timed boosters for jewels.
The single player mode of the game has been relegated to a small corner of a tiny menu in the corner of the starting screen, so it can be easily overlooked. In this mode, you are entering the Pokemon Figure World Championships in Carmonte Island to go through the various locations, defeating all the bosses to win the Jewel Tower. Each stage has a different team, and when you beat a stage, you can complete various challenges, which give you access to new items.
There is also a mode for playing against friends called a Room Match. You get a specific room number and a password you can share with people you really want to play against. Plus, there is the Featured Match mode, which allows you to watch special matches played online by different users.
Pokemon Duel requires a constant online connection, which results in long load times even when you are performing simple actions in the menu. It often crashes and boots back to the title screen as well, which makes the whole experience feels rushed and unpleasant.
Pokemon Duel feels like a mix between smart strategic planning and a reliance on random factors, and that’s where it misses its main target. The moves are chosen by a randomly spinning roulette, which gives you no control over which move is deployed by your Pokemon. That creates a hole in your strategy as too much is left to chance. You can be very strategic in your movements and placement on the board, but it can all be wiped away by one random choice in the game. And it's quite a shame because there is a solid underlying element of strategy here which is let down.
However, there are some elements to manipulate each spin. Pokemon can be leveled up with experience gained from previous battles and fusing with other figures, which will bring you up to a maximum of Level 5. With each level, you increase the size of one of the Pokemon's moves on the roulette, which also decreases the Miss attack sections.
Fusing with other figures of the same species, you can also increase a Pokemon's Chain Level which allows you to increase the strength of a Pokemon's move. Plus, you can evolve some Pokemon figures in a battle to make them more powerful.
Replay Value 4,5/5
Pokemon Duel is essentially created for online battles, which are always fun to play with friends or random players worldwide. Two different matches will rarely be the same, bringing lots of fun rivalry and excitement.
When not actively battling, there is quite a few ways to spend your time as well. You can try yourself in the robust training missions which can help you earn some initial rewards prior to online matches or play a set of levels against AI opponent. These battles will teach you key concepts and strategies of the game and provide you with challenges that can grant currency and even new Pokemon.
On top of this, you can tackle Daily Missions that give you special bonus items like coins, or gems. Once you have completed 10 missions, you get a special roulette wheel of prizes.
Pokemon Duel has a time-based victory rewards, so you have to be really patient if you don’t want to spend any cash. The timed booster pack set itself on a 12-hour timer, which means any battles you win while it's on that countdown don't apply to the opening of your next timed booster pack.
There are gems you can purchase to unlock various booster packs that contain figures, plates, material, cubes and metals. Materials can be used to purchase individual figure, and metals and cubes to upgrades them with the Fusion feature.
The gems prices range from $0,99 for 12 gems to $79.99 for 1960 gems.
Pokemon Duel is a smart strategic game with a fun, competitive nature. However, its poor design choices, a battle system that relies too heavily on luck and a reliance on in-app purchases make it too imperfect to reach its full potential.
Unfortunately, you have to sift through a boatload of garbage every time you want to get to the fun part of the game. It's a mixed bag, and in the context of the grand nature of the Pokemon brand, that's a slight disappointment.