Pocket Rumble Review
The Spirit Of The Neo Geo Lives On

Featured Nintendo Reviews

Pocket Rumble is a fighting game from developer Cardboard Robot Games and published by Chucklefish. A unique fighting game with a focus on pulling off combos with only two buttons, Pocket Rumble looks to stand out in a heavily represented genre. Originally supposed to launch last year, it has finally released but should you buy it? Let’s find out in this Pocket Rumble Review if it’s worth your time or if you should give it a pass.

Release Date: July 5th, 2018
Price: $ 9.99
Approximate Size: 309 MB
Genre: Fighting Game
Developed By: Cardboard Robot Games, LLC
Published By: Chucklefish LTD

Reviewed On Nintendo Switch; Also Available On PC.


GAMEPLAY

SINGLE PLAYER

At this point, what fighting game or series haven’t I played? From simplistic fighters that are more played for social experiences, like Super Smash Bros Brawl, and the more complex ones that the EVO competitors are constantly training for, like Fighting EX Layer. God has been gracious enough to allow me to play many games, many great fighting games but the uniqueness of Pocket Rumble makes it stand out among this precious genre. Upon hearing that it would only require two buttons to play, I couldn’t help but question how exactly that would work. There are fears that fighting games could be too complex to learn but this was the first time I feared it would be too simplistic.

Interestingly enough, the two button system actually works pretty decently. Punches and kicks are tied to two buttons, depending on the play style of the character selected, and altering the left stick changes the type of attack. Quarter circle forward, quarter circle backward, down forward, back forward, and jumping all provide a different form of attack depending on which of the two buttons are pressed. It really is open and inviting for new players and experimentation is encouraged. On the surface, the game is acceptable with easy to accomplish combos. For those looking for a deeper, more complex experience will also have a lot to get out of this game. The developers did a good job to get a lot out of two buttons and each character looks and plays vastly different from one another. I found even more interesting that the game also has a meter system, like normal fighting games, but instead of having EX moves or more powerful attack options, you are given a power up or ability that can drastically change a fight. Tenchi shoots a massive energy attack that is very similar to Ryu’s Hadoken but then you have characters like Quinn who actually turns into a werewolf. This offers more opportunities for experimentation and creation of strategies for new players of the genre while also providing veterans interesting setup options.

All in all, Cardboard Robot Games pulled off making a fun fighter with only two buttons to work with. Yes, there are times where more buttons would have been preferred for more combo opportunities or an EX system of sorts available but what is there is implemented well. I liked how varied and unique each character plays and the mechanics associated with them offers individual strategy and uniqueness that I adored. You have characters like Parker who can leave green orbs on the screen and then link them together with electricity, so you have to keep an eye on the orb placement and, yet, you still have to get close enough to block his close proximity attacks to attack him. You also have fighters like Keiko who alone is an issue but she has a cat, with its own life bar, that attacks as well. Being in the middle of the two as the attack concurrently is dangerously difficult. However, there is always a way to escape.

Arcade Mode

The Arcade Mode in this game is an interesting take on a classic, defining mode. I do not like it. I’m glad there is some form of Arcade Mode present as it’s a beloved mode that seems to not get the respect it once did before online became so prevalent in gaming. A normal interpretation of this mode follows a character and their journey, giving them a story, with a nice ending that ties it all together. Some even have certain conditions that have to be met that will cause hidden encounters to take place. Pocket Rumble doesn’t have anything like this. In reality, it’s less an Arcade Mode and more of a light interpretation of Survival Mode found in other games. You’ll fight enemies until you defeat the required amount, or until you’re defeated, and you’ll be greeted with a ‘Thanks for playing” screen. There is no payoff, no feeling of accomplishment, but instead a real sense of having time wasted. It’s also counter-intuitive that they would focus so much on making the game so accessible with simplified controls but then make the A.I. so incredibly difficult. It’ll be difficult for new players to feel at home when they jump into this mode because it’ll turn them off in the difficulty.

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Vs. CPU

It’s surprising that some fighting games have launched without a simple mode to fight against the PC but, well, even one in 2018 has launched. Thankfully, Pocket Rumble has the mode available and it works exactly how it’s supposed to. For me, this mode is great to jump in for a quick round or to fight against a character I have difficulty overcoming in other modes. A fun, traditional, mode that is always a welcomed addition to any fighting game.

Training Mode

This is where you’ll spend some time and train with a character, to become better equipped with them. The mode functions well and really helped me to get into the mindset that I only have two attack buttons to work with. It’s odd and complete against what I’ve been accustomed to for years, especially on a fight stick, but I was able to get the hang of it and learn the mechanics. Knowing I was limited to two buttons, I spend a lot of time here testing out how much I could get out of them. Everyone, both newcomers to fighting games and veterans, should take a few moments in training to see how things play out in this game as opposed to other fighting games.

The game also has Lessons Mode, similar to trials in Street Fighter V , where you’ll be tasked to do certain moves with a character. This really opens up what you can and can’t do with a character and it shows you all the special moves and combos they have. You apply what you’ve learned in training to the knowledge you get in Lesson Mode, or vice versa, to take your skill to a whole other level.


MULTIPLAYER

Versus

This is where you can fight against real world people locally. One on one combat in its purest form. Believe it or not but playing fighting games, locally, is still tremendous fun. There is just something so unique and thrilling to see the reactions as they happen depending on whatever the outcome is, to hear the trash talk become fervent as you’re both down to a sliver of health. Online fighting and gaming, in general, can’t replicate this and the memories created are precious. Fortunately, everything runs smooth and there are no issues. The friends and family that helped me test out this mode also seemed to better grasp the two button system faster than I initially did. My friends who don’t normally play fighting games, because they are apparently too complicated, agreed to give this one a shot because of its simpler approach. They had a blast.

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Online

Matches are surprisingly fast to get into. This was the first thing I noticed, from selecting a character to getting into a match takes less time than I thought it would. When it comes to the connection, stable and fluid are the best two words to describe it. There was no connection issues of any kind, no lag or loss of connection. I jumped into the pre-release pool and we were all of the similar skill, all trying to learn these characters. Over time, since the game’s release, the connections have still held and the game is just as fun. You can invite your friends for a fight or you can jump into Ranked Match. There are no casual modes of any kind but, in Ranked, the game does well to match you up against players of similar skill. All my losses were because of my own mistakes or because, simply, my opponent was the better player. Those looking to venture into the online world will have plenty of people to face off against with stable connections. Perhaps we can get some more modes in the future, like the absent casual mode or something similar to Tekken 7’s Tournament Mode.

Pocket Rumble’s online infrastructure was crafted with a priority in mind. Online games, it seems, are pretty hit or miss when it comes to their online components. Some launch with some less than stellar ones, like Dragon Ball FighterZ, and some launch with wonderful fluidity, like Marvel Vs Capcom Infinite. It’s nice to know that the smallest fighting game released this year offers a better connection than some of the Triple A releases.


GRAPHICS

Working with the limitations that the underrated Neo Geo Pocket Color had, characters have little in terms of color, with only some slight color variants available, but this is made up for in design. Character designs are all different and unique from one another, their personalities evident based on their looks and actions. Tenchi is very reminiscent of Sakura from the iconic Street Fighter series with his school uniform and his gloves but his personality and attack style reminds also of Ryu. Quinn, a shirtless buff fighter with giant headphones, accurately reflects who he is in design and actions. He isn’t shirtless because of vanity but because he transforms into a werewolf, visually hinted at in the combat with his lunging claw like attacks. Understanding they would be at a disadvantage within the realms of color options, the team found more creative ways to showcase these characters and their traits. It’s an extremely difficult feat that they accomplished without issue. The attacks themselves also have their own visual flairs that will captivate the player and provide the necessary showcase of intended impact. It’s never distracting or too flashy, it fits well within the realm of the self-imposed limitations.

The true visual highlight and most of the praises will fall upon the game’s backgrounds where your fighting will take place. Some are subdued and come across as a scene from an anime, such as the classroom stage where it’s dark with an orange glow coming through the windows representing the lowering of the sun and the impending arrival of night. Other stages are more vibrant and filled with bright lights and colors, such as the stage that takes place on the streets with the beautifully displayed cherry blossom tree that almost steals your attention. Locales are varied and diverse and each one is a visual pleasure to fight upon with its wonderful use of color. With the subdued character colors and the energetic backgrounds, it all complements one another perfectly. Overall, visually, Pocket Rumble accomplishes what it set out too and at the same time, it carves its own path among the many indie games released every year. Also, I mentioned how some characters, visually, remind me of others from other fighting games but make no mistake, they all feel distinctive and original.

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SOUND

The musical choices selected for Pocket Rumble are absolutely spectacular. Stage themes accurately represent the fighting arena and the ones that pertain to characters are also crafted nicely. These 8 to 16-bit tones and beats instantly transported me back to when I used to heavily play Pokémon on the Gameboy back in my youth and the nostalgia that flooded me enhanced the originality in them because these are more dynamic in range than those on Nintendo’s retro handheld. Music can be overpowering at times when you’re in combat but it only overtakes standard attacks, the beginning of combo chains. More prominent attacks, more powerful moves, give that satisfying sounding impact as it cuts through the music audio to demand the player’s attention. You’ll find techno beats that seemed to have been crafted with the team constantly hooked on four full on Red Bulls. Then you encounter some without the intensity and with more beats similar to what RPGs would use in their overworld maps. There is a nice range across the spectrum and it’s evident a lot of time and effort was put into the game’s sound.

I love the design and choices that were made to craft these retro-inspired beats and notes. For the most part. All the attacks sound the same and I would have liked to have heard some variety in them. That’s my only real complaint about the sound department and I enjoyed everything else. Their goal throughout the entire development of this game was to nail the look and feel of what was available and possible on the Neo Geo Pocket Color. In that regard, they accomplished what they set out to.


VERDICT

Pocket Rumble is a wonderful little game with a unique gameplay decision and fluid online. The graphics have a nice clash between colorful backgrounds and monochrome character models. The sound direction compliments the game well. The lack of any form of story mode is slightly upsetting, especially when this game has such a weak variant of Arcade Mode, a title the mode shouldn’t even hold. The game could use some more modes and I hope we can see that later down the road. The characters themselves are all unique from both a visual design and a gameplay perspective.

The problem I feel Pocket Rumble will face is that it should have launched on Switch before the console became a fighting game machine. Releasing now, Pocket Rumble has been thrust into an overflowing sea of competition. If it doesn’t get overshadowed by its competitors, it may not be taken seriously due to its simple design and simple control scheme being advertised. I think that would be a missed opportunity for those who love fighting games. Pocket Rumble is a lot of fun and does a lot with its two buttons. It isn’t perfect and there are some omissions here that are prominent features in other fighting games but what it does have, it does well. I would definitely recommend you pick this game up if you love fighting games and want something different.

Pocket Rumble

$9.99
8.1

Gameplay

8.0/10

Single Player

7.0/10

Graphics

8.5/10

Sound

8.5/10

Multiplayer

8.5/10

Cool

  • The Fighters Are Unique
  • Online Runs Great
  • Nice Visuals & Design
  • Great Musical Selection & Design

Not Cool

  • No Story Mode
  • Not A Real Arcade Mode
  • A.I. Difficulty May Turn New Players Off
  • No Collectibles Or Unlocks