Abomi Nation review for Nintendo Switch, PC, PS4, Xbox One

Platform: Nintendo Switch
Also on: PS4, PC, Xbox One
Publisher: DANGEN Entertainment
Developer: Orange Pylon Games
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No

There’s a very specific kind of person for whom Abomi Nation is a must-play game. And I’ll admit up front that I’m not that specific kind of person.

See, it’s meant for Pokémon diehards, for reasons I’ll explain in a moment. At best, I’m a casual Pokémon player, in that I’ve played several of the games for a couple of hours each, and I’m generally acquainted with how they work.

The players that Abomi Nation is geared towards, by contrast, aren’t just into the game, they long for a more difficult version of Pokémon. They’re people for whom the phrase “Nuzlocke Challenge” doesn’t just mean something, it’s also a description of how they play Game Freak’s series. It’s for the diehards – with an emphasis on “die.”

If you don’t know what the Nuzlocke Challenge is – and no judgment from me if you don’t, I didn’t know it was a thing going into Abomi Nation (I just wanted something Pokémon-y) – it’s a way of playing Pokémon that drastically ups the difficulty. As I understand it, it’s a set of self-imposed rules that can range from no reviving a Pokémon that’s fainted and no second chances for catching any Pokémon encountered, all the way up to things like no evolving, no using Poké-marts, and no using Pokémon above a certain level. To the extent playing Pokémon can be called hardcore, the Nuzlocke Challenge is pretty hardcore.

You’d think that would mean that I had an impossible time with Abomi Nation – but, surprisingly, I didn’t. Admittedly, this was because I took advantage of its very lenient rules and options to make the game a little (okay, much) more forgiving, but even so: for a game that was borne out of a very specific subset of Pokémon fandom, Abomi Nation is shockingly easy to pick up and play.

Part of this, I think, stems from its aesthetic, which finds the surprising middle ground between “adorable” and “cheap knock-off.” Abomi Nation’s world is flat-looking and lacking in detail, and the monsters – the Abomis of the title – look like you’d expect budget versions of Pokémon would look. And yet, at the same time, it’s clear that so much affection went into creating them, you can’t help but admire it. Moreover, the way the characters interact is cute, and seeing your Abomis spar with allies to get better is oddly affirming and positive.

At its core, of course, that doesn’t change the fact that Abomi Nation is a very hard game (assuming you want it to be). It’s a roguelike where, if you play it the intended way, you don’t get any second chances, and when one of your Abomis dies, that’s it for them. The good news, of course, is that you don’t need to learn many new skills, since the battles here are going to feel like second nature if you’ve ever played a single moment of Pokémon. Nonetheless, they’re much more challenging – but that’s the point.

I know that I’ve spent this entire review talking about where to situate Abomi Nation in relation to Pokémon, and normally I’d feel like that’s a little unfair to the lesser-known game. Except, in this case, I feel like comparing Abomi Nation to Pokémon is just about the highest praise I can give the game. It’s not on the same level in terms of…well, anything, really, but at the same time, it’s well-made enough that if you’re the kind of person it’s targeting, it’s absolutely essential.

DANGEN Entertainment provided us with a Abomi Nation Nintendo Switch code for review purposes.

Score: 7.5