PokéPark Wii: Pikachu's Adventure for the Nintendo Wii is a spin-off title that features over 190 different Pokémon types for you to — you guessed it — catch 'em all. The basics of the game play out like a My First Pokémon adventure, with some light role-playing game elements that will be familiar to fans of the core franchise games, like Pokémon Diamond, HeartGold or SoulSilver. For the older gamer crowd, there's little here to hold your attention. The game is incredibly easy, but I'm sure there's going to be a lot to love for kids who are only getting their first taste of the Pokémon universe. Despite the lack of difficulty, there's a certain charm to this title, and I think it's worth checking out if you've ever considered yourself a Pokémon fan.
The story begins with the legendary Mew informing Pikachu that he needs help gathering Sky Prism pieces that have been scattered around the PokéPark grounds. If the 14 pieces aren't gathered, Mew's home will come crashing down on the PokéPark, crushing everyone within. Obviously you can't let that happen, so you take control of Pikachu in a third-person adventure, gathering up new friends around the park and engaging in minigame events to collect all of the missing pieces. There's a fair number of minigames in the title, and they're featured as attractions in the park. You visit small areas where you'll be given a single task, such as winning a race, climbing up an obstacle, or swinging on vines for a pseudo long-jump event. As you progress to different areas of the park, more attractions open up, so there's always something new to do.
However, PokéPark Wii isn't without a whole lot of repetition. One of the key goals is to make new friends with the Pokémon you encounter, and this is usually done by finding a new species, walking up to it to talk, and then performing whatever task it wants in order to become its friend. The problem is that these tasks are pretty limited and are usually regulated to battle, chase, or hide and seek events.
Battle is more familiar to longtime Pokémon fans, and while it doesn't have the level of strategy of the handheld game series, some elements do carry over. For instance, although you only battle with Pikachu as your character, you have three different attacks at your disposal. One is the lightning bolt, which can be upgraded over time, along with the iron tail attack. The last attack is a simple charge, but depending on your environment, you can shorten battles by knocking opposing Pokémon into water, lava or other liquid obstacle nearby. The game even takes into account elemental properties, so Pikachu's lightning attack will be weaker or stronger against certain Pokémon types.
Chase is pretty self-explanatory. The Pokémon you're trying to befriend will run off, and you'll run after them, effectively tagging them by ramming into them when you're close enough. Pikachu has a boost ability that lets him run faster, and most of the chase events are a cinch. Hide and seek is exactly what it sounds like, but the area in which the Pokémon will hide is pretty small, and while you are on a time limit to find them, it doesn't take a lot of effort to figure out where they've gone because they typically give you a hint.
Stretching these few events over the course of 190-plus Pokémon encounters really does wear thin. I was pretty tired of the events by the time I reached the second section of the PokéPark (the beach area), and as I continued to do them, I found myself less enthralled with collecting new Pokémon. If you're more of a die-hard fan of collecting Pokémon, then maybe you'll be able to gloss over the repetitive nature of these events, but I would much rather advance the story and collect key Pokémon than do the same things over and over again just to fill out my roster. There is one benefit to collecting a lot of Pokémon: You can use anyone from your friends list in the attraction events. Certain Pokémon are better skilled for different attractions, so having a large variety to choose from is more likely to garner you some success. The attractions aren't particularly difficult, though, so you don't need to collect everything in order to do well.
Another downside to PokéPark Wii is that the game is really pretty ugly for the hardware. I realize the game has been out in Japan for nearly a year, and that this release is nearly identical, but it's a serious step back when compared to some of the Wii titles we've seen this year. The character models lack much in the way of textures, as do the environments, with some blocky features that seem a little too last-gen. The PokéPark areas are also pretty large, but there's little going on for you to see. The best-looking area is easily the beach-themed section, mostly due to the water effects, but everything else was pretty bland. The dialogue is also very simple, and while it is kid-friendly, there's little reason to play it if you're looking for an interesting story.
There is a lot of content, though, and I'm sure it'll keep the younger fan base entertained for hours. If you're looking to collect everything and max out your friendships with all Pokémon, you'll play this game for quite a while. I'd rather have a more traditional Pokémon RPG over PokéPark Wii, but the game has a certain charm. I've been a little out of the loop on Pokémon for a while, and I've got to say that the developers and creators have become pretty inventive with their designs. Also present are a lot of classic Pokémon types that I'm more familiar with — Bulbasaur, Charmander, Psyduck, Turtwig, etc. — so as someone who started playing Pokémon with the classic Red and Blue versions, I wasn't completely in the dark.
The controls are very user-friendly, especially for those who don't play a lot of video games. This is another Wii title where you use the Wii Remote and turn it sideways, much like a classic NES pad in the same vein as New Super Mario Bros. or Donkey Kong Country Returns. Some of the attractions require you to use the controller's motion abilities, like shaking the controller to run faster in the racing event, but there's very little emphasis on motion controls overall. The camera can get a little of place when you're running around as Pikachu, and although this isn't much of an issue when you're exploring, it can be unwieldy and tough to control during battle and chase events. Just having d-pad controls doesn't give you much ability to fine-tune the camera, so I think including an option for the Nunchuk could have been a good idea.
PokéPark Wii: Pikachu's Adventure certainly isn't a perfect title on the Wii, but I think it's worth checking out for younger Pokémon fans. There's not a lot to hold the attention of the 20-plus crowd, but kids who are just getting introduced to the world and characters will probably have a fair amount of fun with this one. Non-gaming parents can also sit down and enjoy this title with their kids without feeling too lost about how the game controls or works. PokéPark Wii is definitely not for everyone, but it's certainly worth a shot.
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