Look, let’s all just be honest with ourselves here: who wrote off Pokémon Café Mix as a gimmicky mobile game that only the youngest of humans would ever have any interest in playing? Well, shame on all of us, frankly, as this cutesy little puzzler is a perfectly pleasant way to pass the time.
It draws plenty of inspiration from Pokémon Shuffle, another mobile game by The Pokémon Company. In that game, you matched together floating Pokémon heads to get a high score and trigger power-ups, and that’s exactly what you do here as well. The primary difference in Pokémon Café Mix though, is that you can mix as many Pokémon heads together in one combo, provided you’re quick enough.
You see, the heads are just sort of sitting on top of each other in a big bowl, and you swipe them with your finger to connect them together. Given that they’re not rigidly in place, you can just force your way through them, collecting heads on the other side of the bowl from those at the beginning.
Make no mistake though: that doesn’t result in an easier game. In fact, we’ve found this to be more challenging, broadly-speaking, than Pokémon Shuffle ever was. That’s down to a greater margin for error.
In Pokémon Shuffle, if you may have had to complete an objective like breaking a wall, which consisted of simply matching the Pokémon nearest it. In Pokémon Café Mix, you have to first gather up a bunch of Pokémon, then drag them over to the item to break it. Given that there are time-constraints, and various different objectives, it can get quite tricky at times.
For example, we once thought we’d absolutely nailed a level by routinely matching Pokémon and using the subsequent power-up to crack some sugar. But the level didn’t end, and that’s because we hadn’t been paying attention to collecting tomatoes, which requires dropping them into a basket.
Not only are you constrained by time, though, you also have a limited number of moves. In each level, you’ll have a set number of turns before it’s game over, and a turn simply consists of tapping on a Pokémon head. If you tap the right one, which is quite easy if you’re playing on a small phone, you can completely waste a turn. The same goes for if you tap and release accidentally, ending your chain of Pokémon early.
You really have to pay attention in Pokémon Café Mix, is what we’re saying, and plan ahead exactly what you’re going to do and how to achieve it. If you’re really stuck, you can use power-ups (which are in very short supply) to make life easier for you though. You can get a bunch of these for free by completing challenges, but you’ll have to fork out some real money if you rely on them often. Of course, you could also check out our Pokémon Café Mix guide to get a bunch more tips.
As you progress throughout the levels, which take the form of different orders that you have to fulfill, you’ll recruit Pokémon visitors as staff. Each Pokémon has its own speciality, which provides you with bonuses if you choose that particular Pokémon to prepare the order. They also have their own special skill, which triggers as you match Pokémon heads together. These skills typically allow you to burst all nearby heads and items, usually in a set direction depending on the skill.
Really though, collecting these Pokémon is a goal in itself, as it’s really nice to see them filling up your café as they sit about drinking lattes. It’s no exaggeration to say that the presentation is absolutely top-notch here, with the hand-drawn ‘mon and café itself feeling very much alive. We’d personally love to visit Pokémon Café.
There’s very little to put you off checking it out, as well. You can comfortably complete every single level on offer without spending a penny, watching your café fill with new Pokémon and the menu grow. If you’re so inclined, you can purchase golden acorns, the sole currency on offer, which you can also earn en masse for free, with your actual cash. But there is very little reason to actually do so unless you’re really bad at playing Pokémon Café Mix.
Golden acorns allow you to purchase extra lives, which you expend whenever you fail a level, and power-ups, which can help you to not fail in the first place. You’ll get a new life every 30 minutes anyway (with a cap on five lives at any one time) and you can earn power-ups by completing challenges and receiving gifts. If you use them sparingly, and only when you need them, you’ll have more than enough.
The only other reason you may have to spend is to purchase special Pokémon packs, which offer a limited-edition version of a particular Pokémon. Right now that’s a sweets-themed Pikachu, which you can also earn by logging in a specific number of times during the launch period. If it keeps going this way, you may also be able to earn all of these special Pokémon just by playing.
So, overall, we’re big fans of Pokémon Café Mix. It’s full of charm, with gorgeous hand-painted visuals that bring your growing little café to life. The gameplay portion is challenging, without proving frustrating, and strikes the right balance between forcing you to spend and allowing you to complete levels using your skill alone. Suffice to say, if you like Pokémon and you like puzzlers, you’ll adore Pokémon Café Mix.
A charming and challenging puzzler with lovely presentation and friendly free-to-play mechanics