Having just reviewed the most recent iteration of Pokémon Ranger, I must say that I wasn’t too thrilled about yet another Pokémon spin-off. As I’ve admitted before, I’m quite the Pokémon traditionalist and though I’ve found some small enjoyment in the various spinoffs released over the years (Pokémon Snap, Pokémon Stadium, Pokémon Puzzle League, Pokémon Pinball), spin-offs typically aren’t my favorite cup of tea when it comes to the Pokémon series selection (and especially console iterations).
Poképark Wii: Pikachu’s Adventure kind of came out of the blue for me as I hadn’t really paid much attention to the timeline of spinoff releases. I didn’t really know what to expect but I hoped for a console experience both unique and appealing to a broad spectrum of gamers, something that each of the previously mentioned games had. However, from the instant I put in the game, I feared that the it might be targeted to a small audience of children, merely from the moment I clicked on the channel at the Wii menu (and was greeted by about 10 Pokémon simultaneously shouting their names at me in an embarrassingly cute manner that even I could hardly stomach).
Overly Simplistic Gameplay
Pikachu’s Adventure begins by allowing you to pick from eight different Pikachu expressions for your avatar. From here, players are introduced to the trivial storyline in which Pikachu and friends are playing around when Pikachu falls through a hole and his pals, Charmander, Piplup, and Chikorita all follow after him. From here, Mew speaks to you and lets you know of his predicament where the great sky pavilion that hovers over the Poképark has lost its sky prism that protects the park. Shattering into 14 pieces, your ultimate goal throughout the adventure is to collect all of the pieces and prevent a disaster. After the rundown, the game awakens through Pikachu’s eyes and you’re on your way on an adventure.
From the beginning, Poképark Wii is a very simplistic experience from holding the Wii Remote sideways to the fact that its gameplay is extremely easy to pick up and doesn’t really evolve much along the way. The basic controls are as follows: 1 dashes, 2 jumps, the D-Pad is for movement, A uses your attack (either thunderbolt or steel tail) and B changes the camera angle. As soon as I began playing, however, I noticed that the D-Pad controls were not suitable for a 3D game. Sure, D-Pads have been used successfully in 3D games before (Mario 64 DS utilized it just fine) but here it never felt comfortable as running forward has a momentum curve that takes about 5 seconds to get to full speed (unless you press the dash button) and turning happens in more of a circle than an instant motion (with a rather large radius of turning might I add). The reason why this is such an issue for me is that there are multiple ways to control Wii games with lots of different peripherals and though I know the game is targeted towards kids, an option of controllers would still be a nice addition (so that we could use the typical Wii Remote + Nunchuk combination or even just the classic controller as both have joysticks for better 3D motion).
Throughout the game, you’ll quickly learn that there are only a few different changes in gameplay along the way. As Pikachu, you’ll be traversing multiple landscapes, running into suitable Pokémon for the areas along the way. The major goals of the game are to befriend the Pokémon you meet via “skill games” and also perform in “event games” as well. Skill games take the majority of the gameplay and they come in only a few different forms including tag, hide-and-seek, battle, and some sort of fetch quest (finding berries, bottles, sticks, etc.). Once you finish a skill game, the Pokémon will be listed in Pikachu’s Poképark pad and if you are a perfectionist, you could try to befriend all 193 Pokémon in the game (though it may become a little monotonous as there is little variation in the process).
The second type of mini-game within the game is the aforementioned event game. There are less of these overall (typically 4 or 5 in each environment) and though they aren’t much more involved than the skill games, they are played differently. These games feel like those from the numerous amounts of mini-game compilations we’ve seen in the past on the Wii (such as Raving Rabbids) where gamers must perform a motion with the Wii Remote. These mini-games are never challenging though they do get a little more involved as you play through the game. The one element of strategy involves the Pokémon that you’ve befriended along the way (so it gives you an incentive to find and befriend some of the rarer Pokémon along the way: as you befriend Pokémon, you’ll be able to choose them to participate in the event games and depending upon their expertise, they’ll both perform differently and provide different bonus amounts. Thus, if you have trouble with an event, you can choose a Pokémon that might excel in the activity (like a water Pokémon for a water race) but the more disadvantaged the Pokémon, the higher the bonus points you receive.
Berries are the main form of currency in the game and they can be obtained in a number of ways. From winning event games to finding them throughout the environment to being rewarded for befriending Pokémon, berries are important to accumulate as they are used in progressing through the story (you’ll be forced to pay berries as a toll at some points in the game) as well as for other uses (such as upgrading your attacks, purchasing film for a camera, or using paying the Drifblim to carry you to one of many different locations).
There is a camera that you receive early in the game that allows you to take a screenshot of anything in the game. This function reminded me more of the camera function from Super Smash Bros. games than from Pokémon Snap, however as the pictures are merely used for showing off rather than actually being graded for your shots. And, since there isn’t any online capabilities, you won’t be able to show them off with any community directly (though you can save any screenshots directly to the SD card, allowing you to have a roundabout way of uploading them to the internet).
Finally, the game does have a fairly lengthy adventure for what it’s worth at just under 10 hours of gameplay. However, the omission of multiplayer is a strange thing to me (especially considering the fact that Pikachu begins with 3 other friends) and it hurts the overall depth of the game. Sure, I can’t think of a great way to add cooperative multiplayer into the mix but for the target audience, being able to run around the park with your friend seems to be something that would be appealing. Also, facing off at the mini-games in a Mario Party-esque style of gameplay also seems like something that should be included in the game.
Poképark Wii: Pikachu’s Adventure is yet another one of the hit-or-miss Pokémon spin-off titles (but the game is more of a miss in my opinion). Clearly targeted to a young and narrow audience of gamers, this game lacks the overall broad appeal that many of the Pokémon games garner. And, if this isn’t enough, the gameplay itself is fairly shallow, the difficulty is too easy (and static), and the lack of multiplayer tends to an experience that can’t be shared with parents/friends of the tykes that will most certainly be playing the game. If you have a young kid who loves Pokémon and isn’t old enough to be bored by repetitive gameplay, this game will fit the bill. However, for everyone else, there are many more enthralling Pokémon experiences out there that you could be spending your money on.