Ash, Misty, and Brock together

Master

You need to play the most underrated Pokémon spinoff on Nintendo Switch ASAP

I want to be the very best.

Ever heard of Pokémon Puzzle League? When Nintendo finally gave Pokémon Snap the sequel it deserved, I didn’t think it would follow up with another Nintendo 64 Pokémon classic. I was wrong. On July 7, Nintendo announced that Pokémon Puzzle League would soon be available for Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack subscribers. If you have the sub, you should try it. Here’s why.

Pokémon Puzzle League first came out in the early 2000s, when Nintendo was still experimenting with Pokémon spinoffs like Hey You, Pikachu! and Pokémon Snap. However, unlike the others, it tied in with the anime using its same settings and voice actors. It was like entering a bizarro world where players pit blocks against each other instead of Pokémon.

Ash, Misty, and Brock receive a call from Professor Oak, who suggests that they participate in the “Pokémon Puzzle League.” They travel to Pokémon Puzzle League Village, where they engage in block-swapping battles with a variety of opponents from gym leaders to Team Rocket. You have to defeat all these puzzle masters and win the title of “Pokémon Puzzle League Champion” to clear the full challenge. It also has a multiplayer mode that lets you challenge friends if you don’t feel like playing the CPU.

Pokémon Puzzle League is like a hybrid between Tetris 99 and Bejeweled. Like Bejeweled, the goal is to align tiles with at least three others of the same kind to make them disappear. However, you should try to chain together as many blocks as possible to maximize points. Swap with any of the adjacent blocks nearby or move them from one side to the other to make your matches. You also earn bonuses if you eliminate enough tiles in a short amount of time.

Like in Tetris 99, matching multiple tiles at once can trigger a power-up that drops a giant block on top of your opponent’s pile. It’s dangerous for your opponent because there’s a limit to how many tiles can fit on a page, and now your giant block is taking up a quarter of it. If the pile gets too big, the tiles will start to compress before they completely give out. Naturally, that means you have to weigh your opponent down with these combo blocks before they can do it to you.

Pokémon Puzzle League isn’t something you play just because you’re a hardcore fan. There’s something weirdly satisfying about the gameplay. It offers more of a chance to redeem yourself than Tetris, where misplacing a block can doom an entire game. It’s also inherently more competitive than Bejeweled, which doesn’t even have a time limit. Pokémon Puzzle League is inherently designed to pit you against another person (or AI). In short, it takes the best from Tetris and Bejeweled and clothes it in a Pokémon-themed skin.

Also, the music rocks. Songs range from series OST to the instrumental versions of pop songs included in the movie soundtrack. “Catch Me If You Can” especially stood out to me in the trailer.

Pokemon Puzzle League will be available starting July 15, 2022 for Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack members.

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