A new, free, fan-made card game, Pocket Crystal League, melds two of our favorite things: Pokémon’s creatures and storytelling, and the deck-building game from Inscryption, Polygon’s 2021 game of the year. Specifically, the card game’s mechanics derive from the first portion of Inscryption that takes place inside Leshy’s cabin.
Pocket Crystal League creator moodytail calls the Poké-card game “pretty straightforward and easy to learn,” and notes that it is “completely different to the Official Trading Card Game.” In other words, no Pokémon TCG experience required.
It’s a nifty marriage of two concepts. Like Inscryption, Pocket Crystal League’s virtual game table has a row where cards can be placed, in order to attack enemy cards. But instead of the horror puzzle’s games stoat and wolves, these cards have gen 1 and gen 2 Pokémon on them. From the opening of Pocket Crystal League, the game prompts players to select a Grass, Fire or Water deck — and each of them have type advantages against enemy Pokémon cards.
Like Inscryption, laying down an offense card requires paying a cost. But instead of squirrels, Pocket Crystal League fittingly has players spend Oran Berries. (Other berry types unlock as the player moves along.) As the player advances, they unlock additional Pokémon, and create the optimal deck. And rather than fighting across several of Leshy’s maps, Pocket Crystal League will have players advancing in a more a Poké-inspired path:
After choosing a starter deck, your goal is to travel through Kyoumu, challenging each of the Gym Leaders from the eight major cities in the region, building up your team to reach the ultimate goal, the Crystal League. Along the way, you’ll be presented with numerous choices to expand your deck, strengthen your cards, give them unique special abilities, and battle other trainers.
The Pokémon aesthetics of the game are adorable and nostalgic — a nice nod to some classic Game Boy games — from the upbeat musical track to the pixelated visuals. Pocket Crystal League is free to download on Itch.io and is playable on Windows PC. “This project was done ultimately just for fun, and I’m not getting any kind of revenue or payment from it,” moodytail says, “please Nintendo, let it be!”
And if Pocket Crystal League inspires you to revisit Inscryption’s deck-builder gameplay, you might want to check out Kaycee’s Mod, which makes that portion of the game infinitely replayable.