Pokémon Shuffle is a free download from the 3DS eShop and its gameplay is derived from the popular Puzzle & Dragons formula. The goal is to match at least three Pokèmon tiles of the same kind horizontally or verticallyon a 6x6 grid in order to issue an attack from the corresponding Pokémon in your party. There is only a limited amount of turns in each stage, but you can carefully plan your moves because there is no time limit. Unlike in P&D where the tile you drag over the touchscreen changes the position of all tiles on the path to your goal, Pokémon Shuffle is limited to a simple swap of two tiles. Preferably both of the tiles you swap lead to a match and if you are lucky, the new tiles that drop into the field of play to fill the void create additional combos. Enemies have a countdown next to them, so every few turns they will act and mess up your grid to make things a little bit more difficult. Once the health of the enemy Pokémon is depleted, you get a chance to catch it and make it available to your party. The more turns you had left, the higher your chances for a successful catch.
So much for the basics. Since this game is free and gets continually updated with new stages and more Pokémon to catch (there are 180 stages at the time of writing), it's designed to encourage microtransactions, because money has to be made some way. The most obvious limitation for players is the amount of lives. Each time you start a stage, your life count gets immediately reduced by one. You get a life for every 30 minutes that have passed in real time, but that holds only true if you have four or less lives. Essentially, you can play for about 15 minutes, then you have to wait for about 2.5 hours to play for another 15 minutes. If you don't like waiting, you can trade gems in the in-game shop for lives (or the in-game currency which allows you to buy items before battles). These gems are obviously rare rewards for certain battles, so players are poised to hit a wall quickly. At that point you either put up with waiting or you buy gems from the eShop with real money. A single gem is worth five lives and costs 99 cent. You get a discount if you buy a higher volume, I think the highest option is 80 gems for 48 Euro. Likewise, if you trade in 12 gems at once, you get 80 lives. There are benefits to buying more at once, so that people are encouraged to spend higher amounts of real money.
Final Opinion: Disgusting.
Pokémon Shuffle is an addictive concept, but it doesn't take long until it becomes clear that there is a lot of suffering involved. The player gets constantly bullied by the limited stock of lives and there's no option to pay a one-time fee to lift the restrictions of microtransactions and be in full control of the game. I don't give this game a score because it's free, but free doesn't mean good. In this case it really means the opposite. Thankfully, the upcoming Puzzle & Dragons Z is supposed to be devoid of microtransactions and after the experience I had with Pokémon Shuffle over the last few days, I have to say that that alone is already worth paying for.