The Pokémon Company is expanding its selection of mobile games with a new title out today called Pokémon Rumble Rush. Like past Pokémon Rumble games, it’s a simplified version of even the easiest pokémon battle: you tap or hold the phone’s screen to initiate attacks in linear dungeons that typically clock in under a minute. It’s a low-stakes beat ‘em up that’s as forgettable as it is easy to play.
Rumble Rush was soft-launched on Android back in May, but this release marks its arrival on iOS. It’s a straightforward premise. You control a single pokémon as it forges ahead through a straight-shot level. Defeating waves of oncoming hostile pokémon will net you rewards like a capture or loot. With each new pokémon, you have a better chance of increasing your collection or obtaining a stronger fighter to then take into battle.
To progress through the game, you’ll need to fight Super Bosses, aka juiced-up versions of normal levels that require you to complete a task first. Sometimes that means catching specific pokémon; sometimes it means reaching a certain threshold of attack power. You’ll have to beat each boss within a time limit, but any frantic amount of tapping should get you there.
That’s true of much of Pokémon Rumble Rush, which does little to challenge players. Because the world is gated off, it’s impossible to move into reasonable challenges. The only difficulty of the game is dealing with the monotony of the whole experience. You can customize your pokémon with different items to boost things like its health or fighting power, and specific element types will do better against different foes. But there is no unity found in building a strong, beloved team or even decorating where your pokémon hang out. They wander listlessly across the screen, seemingly bored unless you give them a tap for a little heart.
Pokémon Rumble Rush hardly feels up to the caliber of some of the series’s other mobile games. Where titles like Pokémon Quest have playful awareness and an aesthetic charm, Rumble has none. Its rubbery pokémon look like discount balloons or like they’re borrowed from the Sonic 3D Blast era. Other games like Magikarp Jump offer an emotional connection to even the least beloved of creatures. Rumble Rush seems to sprinkle in the original cast of Pokémon sporadically.
For a growing series like Pokémon, which has proved that it can take small experiences and make them spectacular, Pokémon Rumble Rush is a lackluster addition. It’s a quick fix for bored fingers during a commute with little else to offer. The drama of Twitter’s daily meltdowns seems preferable.