The Pokémon Company continues to milk their cash cow and churning out new Pokemon spin-offs. The latest Pokemon puzzle game is Pokémon Café Mix, released this past June and available on smartphone and Switch (in touchscreen/handheld mode only). I have to say I wasn't looking forward to yet another mobile game to have to log in to daily, but this game has actually kept my attention pretty well. Unlike most other puzzle games that involve connecting adjacent pieces of the same type such as this game's predecessor Pokémon Shuffle, which was a pretty average match 3 type of game, Pokémon Café Mix uses physics mechanics and you can drag pieces around like jellybeans in a jar in a fairly realistic way. I was worried that these mechanics would be too non-deterministic to be enjoyable, but they actually provide a good change of pace compared to most other puzzle games.

The art style is cutesy but inviting, and you can recruit cute versions of Pokemon, each with their own special abilities (although most of them are pretty similar). Each stage has you solving a puzzle in order to make a cute Pokemon-inspired dish, and gimmicks in terms of stage hazards pop up at a regular pace (e.g. honey blocks which spawn an additional honey block every turn that they're not cleared and sugar blocks that require several elements to be cleared next to them before they disappear), and although I haven't spent any money on the game I've made continuous progress. The times I've gotten stuck I've been able to use items that I've saved up, and the game has added a few new, worthwhile features since it debuted. One is a way that you can play extra levels beyond the regular progression in order to earn stars to increase your friendship with Pokemon a little more easily. Another is the limited-time appearance of new Pokemon to recruit. A couple of months ago they also added a team mode where the stars you earn contribute to a team goal of earning items and recruiting a limited-time Pokemon. Overall I've been pleasantly surprised at how this game has turned out, and I've been fine with getting roped into playing it in order to get the limited-time Pokemon. I'm not sure that I'll ever need to spend any money on it, but five months in it's been an enjoyable experience so far.

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