Trial and Error: Touring the Island Challenge

By Level 51. Released: 2019/08/10.
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Art by Kaiju Bunny

Art by Kaiju Bunny.


It's been almost one and a half years since Ultra Sun and Moon hit stores all over the world, and you know what that means: it's prime time for another tour through Alola so we can revisit our memories and ask ourselves where the time has gone! Alola's defining feature is, of course, not its remarkably diverse and variegated ecology—every Pokémon region inexplicably has that, anyway—but its Island Challenge! In case you somehow haven't played the games, in which case the rest of the article probably won't make much sense anyway, they're Alola's take on Gyms, meant to put a unique spin on gameplay, so what better way to review them than by directly comparing them to the Gyms they're supposed to be nothing like?

Trial #1: Normalium Z, Verdant Cavern

Verdant Cavern trial

Our first trial takes place in the picturesque Verdant Cavern, with its thriving and intricate ecosystem and beautiful rays of light filtering in from above! In fact, it's such a nice place that it'd probably be a major tourist attraction, except for the fact that it's infested with aggressive foot-long rodents, so unfortunately all we can do with it is let 11-year-olds run riot through it and hope they don't fall off the extremely narrow bridges with no handrails.

Captain: Ilima

I tried to like Ilima, I really did. He has a decent sweater vest and a nice pair of capris, but that's about as far as the positives go. I'm no relationship guru, but I think facilitating the endangerment of 11-year-old children is a red flag—I'd expect him to have to face a Grand (jury) Trial of his own soon enough. There's a certain standoffish quality to him, too, living in his mansion away from the hoi polloi of Hau'oli City, deigning not to go into the peasants' Verdant Cavern while you complete your trial. He's the kind of guy who carries around a Kånken backpack, speaks with an exaggerated French or British accent, hand-grinds his own Apricorn butter with an oak press, and doesn't donate to charity.

Verdict: 1/10, at least he's color coordinated.

Trial Design

Speaking of the cave's wasted potential for generating tourism revenue, it's not unlikely that this "trial" might be a thinly veiled attempt at free pest control. It all makes sense now: Ilima's wealthy family acquired rights to the cave but couldn't continue development on the site due to the Yungoos and Rattata infestation. Then Ilima realizes he can take advantage of his position as Trial Captain to clear out the nests for his own gain... and so the trial's structure was born.

What other explanation could reasonably justify this abomination of a trial? In their very first introduction to Alola's flagship Island Challenge, young hopefuls get to play pest exterminator in a game that eventually turns into real-life Whack-a-Mole, only it's impossible to connect on the last hit until Team Skull interferes with their awful dance moves. They even disappear and come back if you reset the trial, demonstrating that Ilima had to collaborate with a gang of criminals in order to make anything out of this trial. So drab and bog standard was the trial design that they couldn't even muster up anything better for USUM apart from changing some moves on the Totem Pokémon—speaking of which, actually, seeing a 230-pound rodent do a 2-and-a-half somersault and land impeccably was pretty impressive, so the trial gets some points for that.

Verdict: 2/10, child labor isn't cool.


As if defeating a series of first-route rodents wasn't easy enough already, someone's planted a copy of TM31 Brick Break in the trial site itself, just so you have absolutely zero chance of not seeing it, and has introduced a colony of Makuhita just up the Route so there's no excuse for not having the type matchup too. Is it any wonder the Totem prefers to hide in its den at the back? The unstoppable ebb of modernization has rendered its once-revered powers inferior to that of a miniature sumo and a brown disc.

Verdict: 1/10, super effective hits >>> +1 Def boost.

Trial #2: Waterium Z, Brooklet Hill

Brooklet Hill trial

Alright, so Ilima's trial was a little on the easy side thanks to having a Makuhita spawning ground nearby and leaving a powerful super effective TM within the trial grounds themselves. But that's not going to happen again, right? Oh, on an unrelated note, check out this Pikachu I just picked up from Pikachu Valley! I'll just leave it in the box because I never use event Pokémon anyway, and it's not like it's going to come in useful any time soon, right? (On another unrelated note, I just found TM57 Charge Beam...)

Captain: Lana

Lana, in SM, presents the most jarring contrast between character model and character dialogue. This somewhat sleepy-looking Trial Captain, despite literally being surrounded by water all the time, still somehow manages to be incredibly thirsty, hoping out loud to find some strapping young swimmers in the waters of Brooklet Hill even as she guides you through the trial. It appears Game Freak got some amount of feedback about this, and in USUM, even as they buffed Totem encounters and other trainers, nerfed her dialogue down to less than 80% of its original length (and 0% of its original swimmers).

Verdict: 3/10, there's so many things to nerf in Pokémon and Game Freak chose this because it was so severe.

Trial Design

You know how some restaurants offer these fancy things called "deconstructed foods" where they serve you all the ingredients of the dish uncombined? This trial is like a "deconstructed Gym," and it's not even fancy. I seriously thought Ilima's trial was bland and flat in terms of design, but Lana's trial is possibly even blander than her character is. The movement, which comprised solely of hopping on and off of a Lapras and surfing across ponds while investigating ripples in ponds that were definitely not due to drowning swimmers, eventually blurred into a vaguely blue miasma of bad experiences. I've just realized there's no one giving me Fresh Water at the start of these trials, too, and the water in Brooklet Hill isn't exactly fit for consumption. You're going to get a very negative Yelp review from me.

Verdict: one star/10


Picture this: you're going up to this Totem Pokémon in USUM and you're leading with your trusty Magnemite in preparation for the Totem Wishiwashi. Totem Araquanid shows up. You gulp audibly as its Speed is boosted. It begins to rain. It outspeeds you and brings Magnemite down to red HP with its Bubble while you zap into its Wacan Berry for about 30% damage. It summons a Dewpider alongside it as you struggle to remember whether you saved before the battle. You're outsped again, and KOed. Your Noibat gets an Air Cutter off but is OHKOed by Aurora Beam. Zorua is outsped, OHKOed, and Araquanid heals itself back up to almost full HP by drinking its life force. Araquanid is feasting on the remains of your team. Your defeat is inexplicable and drawn out but it is assured. There is no beating Araquanid. Your journey has ended here. (The next battle, you remember that Z-Moves exist.)

Verdict: 7.8/10 too much water

Trial #3: Firium Z, Wela Volcano Park

Wela Volcano Park trial

The next place we're headed on our Island Challenge is an active volcano! Wow, really puts Verdant Cavern's danger levels into perspective, huh? Anyway, I'm sure this is gonna be a super hot challenge with an extremely heated battle against the Totem Pokémon, presumably after we throw a sacrificial Pokémon into the core of the volcano in an ancient Alolan ritual to appease the Totem Pokémon and awaken its fighting instincts with the taste of molten meat and the smell of fresh blood.

...wait, what do you mean we're playing Spot the Difference?

Captain: Kiawe

Kiawe is by far the most relatable Trial Captain. I never thought I'd say that about a fire dancer who is never seen wearing a shirt, but here we are. He's the epitome of the millennial lifestyle: he has to hold down a job on the side, as a cashier in a megamart, to earn enough money to be able to afford to chase his passion for Fortnite dances by studying overseas. In USUM we learn that he's considering appointing a successor for the Trial Captain role, presumably because he needs the time to earn money elsewhere. He never wears a shirt, probably to save on laundry, and perhaps as a direct result of this is later fired from what little employment he had as the megamart manager lays him off (post-storyline). To top everything off, he still lives with his family in a house in Paniola Town because he can't afford to move out and pay his own rent. It's great to see Game Freak putting such realistic and relatable characters into a game like this! (...perhaps a too relatable.)

Verdict: Gen Y/10

Trial Design

Sure, this trial might LOOK like a mere child's game of Spot the Difference, but I've seen at least one Let's Player fail one of the questions. If the galactic-scale infallible intelligence of a YouTuber could fall prey to this seemingly innocent game, then perhaps Kiawe's insistence that it's a demanding trial of observation wasn't mere method-acting after all. Still, though, the trial has a lot of charm, and having just come off the back of a walking tour of Verdant Cavern and a surfing tour of Brooklet Hill, it's not hard to shine by comparison. Plus, every time I watch a Let's Player go through a game I'm lowkey rooting against them, so that was a fun moment.

Verdict: 6/10, when I was your age we had real puzzles.


By now, we begin to recognize a trend among the Totem Pokémon battles: no matter how appropriately their stats have been boosted or how fine-tuned their allies' movesets are, it's quite difficult for 1 Totem Pokémon to actually beat a team of 6 Pokémon, most of which are probably overleveled because someone made the Exp. Share a little too good, and which of course have just the right Z-Move for the occasion. On paper, Salazzle and Salandit seem like a tough pair to take down, threatening a potent Toxic + Venoshock combination to take down even Brionne, the Water-type most trainers are likely to have... in reality, you could fish up a Wishiwashi, get it to level 20, and then click Hydro Vortex to win. In USUM, Totem Marowak has Detect to at least guarantee its ally Salazzle shows up, but it just delays the inevitable. We're trapped in an endless cycle of hype and disappointment which repeats every Totem battle. This isn't bad game design; this is art. It's Game Freak's commentary on life, a microcosm of the daily loop of anticipation and disillusionment. Bet you were looking forward to USUM's release, huh? Well there you go, another step in the cycle.

Verdict: Pokémon battle challenge 3/10, philosophical challenge 9/10.

Trial #4: Grassium Z, Lush Jungle

Lush Jungle trial

I stroll into the flourishing greenery all ready for my next Island Trial. Surely we're doing some eco-friendly conservation, right? Or maybe hiking along a nature trail? No, we're cooking a stew out of natural ingredients to attract the Totem Pokémon! I don't know about you, but nine times out of ten when someone in a secluded area mixes together "natural" ingredients, including a "Big Root," in the hopes that the fumes produced by the mixture produce a positive effect, it's something that shouldn't be in a kids' game. But maybe it's just me! Maybe all the thinly veiled innuendos about pounding and grinding were also my imagination! I need a psychiatrist.

Captain: Mallow

Mallow is meant to be the Moon / Ultra Moon counterpart to Kiawe, which is a little odd because in contrast with Kiawe's millennial avocado toast-fueled funks, Mallow is strangely happy all the time. During Mina's trial, we spot Mallow and Lana enjoying a spot of Aromatherapy from the Pokémon of Lush Jungle. No big deal, right? Apparently it is a big deal, because Mallow tries to keep us quiet by challenging us to a battle, which in the Pokémon world is roughly the equivalent of attempting to murder an unfortunate witness. It all makes sense now: why doesn't anyone like eating Mallow's cooking? Her palate (and nervous system), hardened by years of consuming "Revival Herbs" and partaking in "Aromatherapy" sessions, can no longer sense the extreme quantities of "Miracle Seed" she is cooking for her friends.

Verdict: 4.20/10

Trial Design

Welcome back to another episode of MasterChef Alola! In this episode, the home cooks will have to cook a "Mallow Special," which is a stew comprised of a random selection of plant parts. But wait—dramatic camera angle and musical crescendo—there's a twist: the cooks must scrounge up the ingredients from the floor of Lush Jungle before they can cook them! The aspiring MasterChef rushes off to pick up random plant parts from out of tree hollows and under rocks. The Island Challenge really needs better health and safety regulations. Plus, since the protagonist has no way to know which ingredients are the correct ones to pick, they just take the first piece of plant life lying around. "Oh no," says the narrator (me), as the protagonist begins to be pursued by sentient bugs and a sentient 4-foot-tall tree made entirely of rock, "that might be bad."

Despite the interruptions to fend off bloodthirsty/honeythirsty bugs, one brief cooking montage later the dish is done. It's a Mago du miel pureé a la casque, which is a fancy way I just came up with to say that we bunged a Mago Berry into someone's sweaty Rocky Helmet, smashed it up with a priceless archaeological artifact, and tried to mask the taste with Honey. Kiawe's not impressed; he's no Joe Bastianich, despite the similarly fiery disposition, but if the Fire-type Trial Captain says the food is too spicy it's probably going in the bin regardless. Luckily for us, the guest judge is here, and they seem to like the food! Unluckily for us, the guest judge is a praying mantis wearing striped pants and has lunged at us with murderous intent. I think we know which home cook's getting sent home today.

Verdict: idiot sandwich/10


Totem Lurantis brings with it the rare but delectable treat of getting to watch Let's Players struggle. None of them, it seems, thought to make the clearly superior choice of Litten as their starter, and they all get punished for it here. What I saw in their eyes when Lurantis used Synthesis was sheer terror, and I was loving every moment of it. For too long they've been too smug, sniffing at everything the game tries to throw at them. Now they're down Brooklet Hill without a paddle, and they're about to be consumed by the Totem Araquanid of Totems. That's not a very good analogy, since Lurantis and Araquanid are both Totems, but you get the idea. Oh, and now Castform's out and has used Sunny Day. My schadenfreude levels have peaked; I'm lost in a haze of euphoria. Excuse me while I pass out before continuing with this article.

Verdict: 8/10, even the comments section hates it.

Trial #5: Electrium Z, Hokulani Observatory

Hokulani Observatory trial

Our fifth trial takes place atop the wonderfully scenic Mount Hokulani, as long as the vistas you're interested in are comprised solely of dead grass and blank cliff faces. The view is so mind-numbingly boring, apparently, that the game designers themselves thought that it would be appropriate to install an otherwise completely redundant bus service to skip the entire trek up. It doesn't get any better once you get to the top, either, as you get to appreciate the existential absurdity of Hokulani Observatory: an entire observatory without a single usable telescope, staffed by degree-wielding astrophysicists but run by a pouty 12-year old and his cousin. In that sense, perhaps we all should have seen the profound inanity of the trial itself coming from miles away, before we even got onto the cursed seats of the Exeggutor Express.

Captain: Sophocles

If I saw someone who looked like Sophocles in an observatory, I'd expect them to be tugging at their mother's skirt in the gift shop, not running the place. Sophocles looks like a 6th grader who beats up 1st graders in the hallways to scrounge up spare cash so that he can order McDonald's when his parents leave the house, and I'm not sure he's qualified at all to be in charge of anything more than a roadside lemonade stand. I can imagine the observatory's finance department, their heads in their hands, shaking in terror of the upcoming audit and somehow having to justify why they built all their important instruments to look like knock-off Happy Meal toys. Sophocles makes a good case for changing the phrase "like a kid in a candy shop" to "like a kid given government funding."

Verdict: 4'11"/10

Trial Design

Somehow, Sophocles' foibles have transferred themselves over to his trial, too, featuring a sound-based security system that makes no sense in an actual emergency. It would seem that it's one of Game Freak's odd fixations to have these really jarring quiz segments in the storyline where they'd really be better off without them: Blaine's Gym quiz in Gen I, where answering wrong had no consequences; Fantina's rotten math Gym puzzle in Gen IV; Clemont's abomination of a quiz show in his Gym in Gen VI; and just when we thought we were safe, they decide to drop this absolute stinker of a sounds quiz on us. Bonus points for Sophocles predictably being unable to operate his own observatory's security system.

This was one of the trials that changed a lot from SM to USUM, with Sophocles replacing his bewildering security system with an equally bewildering new contraption. In the context of the in-game universe, the Roller is the epitome of mind-blowing redundancy, featuring an astonishing one (1) potential use—moving Charjabug around in an excruciatingly inefficient manner—which is functionally identical to picking up Charjabug and setting them down in an appropriate position. But hey! This is a good puzzle. Unlike some of the previous "explorative" trials, there's no faffing about running down the halls of the observatory while chasing or being chased by wild Pokémon; it's a good old-fashioned puzzle, and for a while I got to put down my framed picture of Mossdeep City Gym that I was sniveling over and actually click some buttons. Having more puzzles available after completing the trial was also a nice touch that I wish had applied to some of the Gym puzzles back in previous generations.

Verdict: [correct sound effect]/10


After the really out-of-the-way, convoluted path we took up here, I was kind of expecting the trial's puzzles to involve similar mental acrobatics, but they're actually fairly trivial, and in SM the Totem Pokémon—a physical Vikavolt, for some reason—isn't much more difficult. In USUM, however, the trial becomes a whole different beast: it's a lot like high school, because unless you spend your time spreading dirt or spitting fire, you're not going to have a great time. Prepare to get beaten up by the twin bullies that are Zing Zap and Iron Head, backed up by the mean cheerleaders Tailwind, Torment, Super Fang, and Charm, who giggle as you flinch repeatedly and help split up your lunch money as you lie on the ground whiting out. I suppose since Alola doesn't appear to have schools of any kind, Sophocles figured he'd do his part to help Alolan youth appreciate the exhilarating experience of getting clobbered in a high school corridor. At any rate, it was great fun to see Game Freak really ramp up the challenge on trials with this and the previous one. (Though perhaps it would have been less great fun if I hadn't had an Incineroar on my team.)

Verdict: [wrong sound effect]/10

Trial #6: Ghostium Z, Abandoned Site

Thrifty Megamart trial

I bet the hypothetical council that approves these trials was pretty happy about this one. After having had to just sign away major natural heritage sites like Wela Volcano and Lush Jungle to trials, the council sees a Ghost-type trial proposal and prepares to call up an entire township to inform them that their dearly departed have to be exhumed so kids can stomp on their resting grounds—but all they have to do is give up an abandoned supermarket? I can't imagine Thrifty Megamart being too happy with the negative associations, but it's quite hard to press charges against someone who holds sway over the spirits of the dead. Gives a whole new meaning to the term "soulless marketing executives," huh?

Captain: Acerola

Ah, how the mighty have fallen. Acerola, descended from royalty—or so she claims, in a potentially interesting revelation that's never developed upon—now leads a decidedly modest life. She literally lives with a monkey in the Aether House and spends all her free time sitting in Malie Library and hanging around an abandoned supermarket talking with ghosts. Hollywood, if you're reading this, that's a grade-A plot setup for you. It can be some kind of horror-romcom! I'd watch it. Does she overcome adversity in the end and return to her former regal position? Maybe she revolutionizes the world with her abilities? No, actually, she just teaches kids how to do weird dances and gives them purple crystals. Very Hollywood.

Verdict: 4/10, 7/10 if Hollywood decides to cast Emma Watson.

Trial Design

This trial features all the real-life stresses of supermarket shopping in a hyper-realistic scenario: frustrating checkout counters with malfunctioning belts, awkwardly positioned shopping carts, a malevolent ghost luring you into its back-room hideout so it can consume your mortal soul, and worst of all, expired coupons! (Just kidding. That one would be far too scary.) Game Freak did a good job here with choosing this setting—it's really fitting, since the deathly dread I feel during supermarket runs far surpasses any horror a graveyard or cemetery could offer. Taking pictures is fun, and probably a nice touch in theory, but the photos follow the golden rule of all pictorial evidence of supernatural occurrences: they're improperly framed, are probably blurry, and mysteriously disappear shortly after the event. William Mumler would be disappointed.

Verdict: 5/10, I actually got jumpscared by Mimikyu the first time I played the game.


Finally, a trial where you can't simply OHKO the Totem Pokémon with a super effective Z-Move, purely due to the existence of Disguise. However, Disguise unfortunately isn't quite sufficient enough to turn Mimikyu into a threat under any reasonable metric. Its stats are just so low that the combined power of a boost to all its stats, a guaranteed attack, and a guaranteed turn to call an ally can't save it from mediocrity. It's not like its allies are much help, either; the Jellicent it can call apparently has Snore as one of its moveslots, evidently meant to take advantage of the extremely common in-game strategy of using sleep moves that I'm sure every one of us uses.

Verdict: 4/10, laughed and misclicked when Jellicent used Snore.

Trial #7: Dragonium Z, Vast Poni Canyon

Vast Poni Canyon trial

Oh boy, it looks like we're almost out of Vast Poni Canyon. This is a really good thing because the phrase "Vast Poni Canyon" has been floating around my head for the past hour and it's really starting to sound like a large horse. Lillie is also being even more dramatic than usual. She just crossed a bridge and said that she completed a trial, so I'm not really sure she understands the concept of trials. Trials can't be that easy! What kind of trial has no Trial Captain and just has you walk in a straight line until you reach the Totem Pokémon?

Captain: ???

It finally happened. Game Freak ran out of cute girls to use as Trial Captains. The cute girl artists (artists who draw cute girls, not artists who are cute girls) had to draw character sheets for Moon and Lillie and Lana and Mallow and Acerola and they finally decided to go on strike. Naturally, it wouldn't be right to have a Trial Captain who wasn't a cute girl, since we're all about subverting expectations here and having a strong, handsome man in charge of the Dragon-type trial would fit too well. But how about not having a Trial Captain at all? Who could possibly expect a trial that has no Trial Captain and just has you walk in a straight line until you reach the Totem Pokémon? It wasn't all bad, though. The peace and quiet of a trial without an over-enthusiastic caricature of a personality was quite pleasant indeed (especially after having to deal with Lillie's coming-of-age antics).

Verdict: 4/10, I couldn't come up with any witty comments sorry.

Trial Design

Speaking of peace and quiet, it was probably kind of ironic that the entire Trial revolving around the sound-themed Totem Kommo-o was held in an absolutely silent cave. It's not a design flaw, of course, but a feature—a bold head-first dive into thematic dissonance that Game Freak pulls off with great éclat. This is a daring exploration into the themes of sound and silence, the juxtaposition of vibrance and tranquility, in a dizzying waltz of contrast as the gameplay nimbly flits across the thin veil of a border between sense and oblivion. Who am I kidding? They probably just ran out of ideas.

Verdict: 1/10, "that's not how minimalism works".


Unlike some previous Totems, Kommo-o's decent natural stats mean that it actually has a good foundation for its boosts to work on, and they make its quadruple weakness way less exploitable; you can't simply slap Dazzling Gleam on some random Pokémon and win instantly, and even if you have a Fairy-type sitting around Kommo-o is equipped with Flash Cannon or Poison Jab to take it on, making this one of the more difficult Totem battles in the game. Let's Players, ever my guinea pig for Totem difficulty, have proven this hypothesis correct: while researching for this feature I saw one take it down by poison-stalling it, one by spamming Roto Boosts and X Items, and in an especially entertaining segment, one just clicked Guillotine until it hit. It is but the sad reality of life that even the most naturally powerful beasts stand no chance against technology, though, and "throw Revives and Potions at the battle until you win" is, as always, a viable strategy.

Verdict: 8/10, I wish Let's Players didn't have Potions.

Trial #8: Fairium Z, Seafolk Village

Seafolk Village trial

So far we've had trials atop a live volcano, deep in a jungle, and within the echoing halls of Vast Poni Canyon. What sort of place could possibly befit the ultimacy of our final trial? Perhaps we will summon the Totem Pokémon from within the grand recesses of the—oh, Mina's house? Well, that's just great. Didn't Cheren from Unova specifically say not to start fights in houses? What if I trip over an easel? I don't think my insurance covers that. Oh, wait, most of the trial isn't in the house? What did you mean by "most of"—

Captain: Mina

Mina strikes me as the kind of person who would write "free spirit" on their Tinder profile, or whatever the Pokémon universe equivalent is. She's perpetually ditzy, perhaps as a result of paint fumes cutting off the oxygen supply to her brain, so much so that she literally has to have the other Trial Captains run her Trial for her in order to have it resemble a Trial in any shape or form. She's even worse in SM, literally giving out the Fairium Z for free after a chance encounter with the player. Is she being paid to be a Trial Captain? Doesn't it say somewhere in the job requirement that the Trial Captain actually has to have some sort of Trial to carry out? The Alolan League should really install regulatory committees if it wants to be taken seriously.

Verdict: sparkle emoji/10

Trial Design

Talking to Mina's father reveals that Mina's trial was originally to have trainers "draw a sketch of Ribombee." It's unclear whether this would have been an improvement over the form the trial eventually ended up taking in USUM, because at least the Trainer would do something in that original trial. This trial confirms our creeping suspicion, borne all the way from Vast Poni Canyon, that Game Freak has indeed run out of ideas—this is their take on the RPG trope of the "long quest where you talk to everyone and travel the entire map to complete a simple task," only worse because it successfully short-circuits itself by instantly teleporting the player from place to place. I can picture the meeting they must have had in the office:

"These trials are kind of easy, how can we make them harder?"

"How about making players go through a series of battles before they fight the final boss?"

"You mean like a Gym?"

"N-no, it's completely different, I promise."

The trial becomes one long cutscene, interspersed only by battles, outside of which it demands no player input or decision of any kind. All the sheer tedium and ennui you've ever felt while drudging through bits of this game have coalesced into an incredibly dense black hole of pointlessness, and they stand before you as this trial. If you made it through, congratulations; you're not just ready to face the Totem, you're ready to face adulthood.

Verdict: 4/10 because at least it involved more actual Pokémon than the rest of the trials.


On the scale of "things easier done than said," this Totem Pokémon definitely ranks all the way on the upper end, somewhere between "selling seashells by the seashore" and "walking anywhere outside of QWOP." You can feel the palpable energy Game Freak has channeled into making this a nigh-impossible battle: a Pokémon with +2 boosts to all its stats and one of the best boosting moves in the game, combined with solid STAB moves and a partner that covers its main offensive blind spot, in a 2-versus-1 situation, should be almost impossible to beat. But there's no Gym Leader to hit it with a Full Restore, and Ribombee doesn't quite know when to stop using Quiver Dance and start attacking. Being a bee itself, Ribombee is a fitting representation of the Island Challenge: it generates a lot of buzz, and it can sting you once, but it dies pretty soon afterwards. (Also, apple cider vinegar may help reduce the pain.)

Verdict: 5/10. According to all known laws of game design there is no way this should be an easy Totem. Its boosts are too huge to get its fat little HP bar down so fast. The Ribombee, of course, dies anyways. Because Ribombee don't care what humans think is impossible.


At the end of the day, we have to accept that trials aren't the Gyms we've come to know and love, nor should they have to be. Gyms are meant to prepare one for the Gym Leader waiting at the end of them, while trials are meant to prepare an Alolan youth for life: the trial of college debt, the trial of rent, the trial of balancing the checkbook, and the Grand Trial of mortgages. The trials have taught us well to deal with disappointment and emptiness, a powerful skill as we wait for the next main series games to finally show up.

HTML by Ryota Mitarai.
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