Pokemon Meets Inscryption In My New Favorite Fan Game

I found a cool Pokemon fan game that I’d like to tell you about, but I feel like I have a responsibility to first address any Nintendo lawyers that may be in the audience. Can we just all agree to be cool about this one? I know there’s nothing you love more than to send cease-and-desist orders to your biggest fans, but just this once can we all just enjoy a free little game without some 19-year-old kid in Wisconsin getting sued into oblivion? That would be great, thanks.

Now that that’s settled, let’s talk about Pocket Crystal League, a new take on the Pokemon Trading Card Game that borrows liberally from another mega-hit card game, Inscryption. Pocket Crystal League is a fast-paced lane battler and progressive deck builder, and if you don’t know what any of those words mean, don’t worry. One of the best things about PCL is how easy it is to pick up.

Like most Pokemon games, you start by choosing a starter – in this case you’ll pick between a Fire, Water, or Grass-themed starter deck of Pokemon and Berries. Berries work like Energy Cards, and you’ll need to spend one (or more) before you can play a Pokemon. Battles are straightforward. At the start of each turn you have two Draw Points to spend. Pokemon cost two and Berries cost one, so you’ll only be able to draw at most two cards per turn. Each player has five slots on the board where they can play their Pokemon, and each turn you can play and attack with as many Pokemon as you like.

Each Pokemon has an attack, defense, and health value, as well as a level that can be increased to further enhance each stat. Like Inscryption, the object of the game is to attack your opponent’s board and collect points. Every time your Pokemon deal damage to an empty slot you’ll earn points equal to that Pokemon’s attack value. The amount of damage you deal also provides an equal amount of recovery to your point total, so battles have a tug-of-war feeling that makes big swing plays extra exciting.

Between battles, you can spend money you’ve earned to level up your Pokemon, Evolve Pokemon, enhance them with items, and buy new Pokemon. You’ll have a random selection of upgrade offers and trainers to face after each match, but unlike Inscryption, Pocket Crystal League isn’t a roguelike. Winning battles will reward you with more money that will help you improve your deck, but there’s no cost to losing. If you aren’t strong enough to take on the gym leader by the time you get there, you can just continue battling, earning money, and upgrading your deck until you’re ready.

Because it’s a progressive deck builder, there’s a pretty substantial grind built into Pocket Crystal League. Pokemon have type advantage, so building decks with good type coverage is essential to your success. You won’t have many different Pokemon at the start, but as you win battles and buy packs you’ll slowly collect a wide range of Pokemon types. There’s quite a few deck slots which allow you to build counter-decks as you level up. Gym Leaders specialize in dual-type decks, so it pays to construct focused decks with good counters for each type. You’ll lose a lot of battles while you work on building powerful decks, but the matches only last about two minutes, so setbacks feel manageable.

Watching your collection grow and get stronger is a joy, and Pocket Crystal League really captures the spirit of becoming a Pokemon trainer. Your low level Pidgey and Rattata will inevitably get subbed out of your deck in favor of more powerful Pokemon with better type diversity, and your most reliable Pokemon will quickly become core to your deck as your power-up and evolve them. Small details help maintain the identity of specific Pokemon, like Chasey’s large health pool and Magikarp being useless until you evolve it. As if that wasn’t enough, the classic pixel art style and low-fi sound track are pure Game Freak through and through (again, please don’t sue).

You can play Pocket Crystal League right now for free. Check out the itch.io where you can download the game and join the official Discord server. Unless you’re a fed, in which case there’s nothing to see here.

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