At a recent visit to Snakes and Lattes, my wife and I discovered the Pokemon Master Trainer Game from Milton Bradley. Apparently, this is the third edition of the game, the first of which came out in 1999. 2-4 players will go on a journey to prove that they’re the very best, like no one ever was.
The general framework for the game is loosely based on The Game of Life. Players will spin a spinner with numbers from 1-10 to determine how many spaces they’ll move forward. By the end of the game, the player with the most Pokemon Chips wins. These chips are meant to represent how good of a trainer you are, but really it’s just the game’s currency.
Along the way, you’ll have the opportunity to catch hundreds of different Pokemon of different rarity tiers, earn Pokemon Chips, and of course, battle. In this game, you can battle other Pokemon in the wild, Gym Leaders, as well as other players.
When in battle, the two sides put up a Pokemon for use in the battle, which has a combat value associated with it. The weakest Pokemon have a value of 4, all the way up to the legendary Celebi, whose combat value is 12. Competing players will then use the spinner to add to that value, with the highest total winning. That said, rolling a 10 will grant that player an automatic win, while a 0 will grant that player an automatic loss.
Battling is the best part of the game. Not only does it make sense within the world of Pokemon, but it is the one aspect of the game that has some semblance of player agency. During this process, you have some control of the outcome, as you can use any combination of Pokemon and an item to determine your starting combat value.
The rest of the game is kind of a mess. While I like how it uses the Pokemon franchise in ways that make sense, the core of the game is determined almost entirely by chance. In the games my wife and I played, they were all blowouts. Pretty much whoever had the hot hand with the spinner won.
Pokemon Master Trainer Game suffers from fundamental game design flaws that have hampered mainstream works for decades, but its not completely devoid of fun. There’s some enjoyment to be had with the combat and the ability to interact with hundreds of different Pokemon is a nice touch that is true to the franchise. However, the reality of its chance-driven gameplay will wear you down.