In PokePark 2: Wonders Beyond, players take control of Pikachu, the adorable Pokémon mascot. Pikachu and his pals live in a near-idyllic PokePark, where they play and have fun without humans catching them and stuffing them in poké balls. Pikachu and his pals visit a special amusement park, which turns out to be a trap. Evil Pokémon are using it, along with some evil cake, to brainwash the inhabitants of PokePark. Pikachu barely escapes with some help from his new pal, Oshawott. Together, the pair must rescue their friends and stop the evil force before it ruins everything.
PokePark 2 is more of a toy than a game. It has goals, challenges and missions, but they're presented as silly and fun things to do. You can win or lose, and the game will continue. Even if you lose a battle that you must win, you're given the chance to do it again without fanfare. This may sound dull, but it makes it a fantastic game for younger kids. They can play around with the characters without the risk of frustration or anger. It may seem weird to go from a (relatively) complex RPG like Pokémon Black and White to PokePark 2, but the target audience seems to be younger kids who enjoy the characters or television show but find the RPGs to be daunting.
With that said, if there isn't a young child in your household, there isn't much for you to enjoy. The presentation is charming, the pocket monsters are adorable and cuddly, and the atmosphere is bright and chipper. However, the gameplay is incredibly simplistic. Most of your time is spent wandering around the park making friends with the 100+ Pokémon who inhabit the place. "Making Friends" is basically shorthand for performing a few different minigames to please them. Befriend enough Pokémon, and you can open up new areas and content. It is a shame that only a few Pokémon are represented — not even a quarter of the available characters — but the game barely has enough content to justify the ones it does have.
The controls are exceedingly simple. The game uses the Wii Remote in the NES controller style, limiting you primarily to the A and B buttons and the d-pad. You have a jump button and a dash button, and that is all you need to explore the world of PokePark 2. With that said, the lack of Nunchuk control is really obvious. The game controls in three dimensions but limits you to the somewhat-uncomfortable d-pad on the Wiimote. The addition of more buttons and more controls could have made the game even easier to pick up and play. Several moves rely on charging instead of a button press, and that makes them feel practically useless.
Probably the most common minigame in PokePark 2 is Chase, where the Pokémon basically play tag. Tons of the Pokepals enjoy this minigame, but the player is likely to get bored of it after the first or second try. The Pokémon begins running, and you chase after it; you ram into it with your dash move to "tag" it. If the Chase sequences had been structured as a platforming challenge or even a simple race, they could have been pretty fun. Talk to the Pokémon, ram into them a few seconds later, and you're done. You'll repeat this over and over and over, but it never gets any more fun. You would think that the addition of Pokémon that can swim or fly or burrow would add some spice, but it doesn't.
There is a combat system in PokePark 2, but it's incredibly simplistic. You can use one of four Pokémon (Oshawott, Pikachu, Snivy or Tepig) and battle other Pokémon in a basic action combat system. Two Pokémon battle in one-on-one combat, each seeking to drop the other's HP to 0. Players can either perform normal attacks with the A button, use either of the B buttons, or shake the Wiimote to use a special attack. In theory, you're supposed to follow the elemental system from Pokémon. Use fire to beat ice or electricity to beat water. In actuality, most battles are won just by running at the enemy and pounding on the A button until the enemy falls over. It's a little better with the proper element, but it's not necessary. It's rather disappointing because an action-based Pokémon combat system could be great fun. Alas, these parts, repetitive as they were, represented some of the game's highlights.
Some Pokémon want you to find and bring items to them. The desired item is located somewhere nearby. At best, you may have to take a roundabout route to get it. On the one hand, it's nice that the fetch quests are relatively straightforward. There is little room for young gamers to get lost or be unable to befriend their favorite Pokémon because they can't find the item. On the other hand, these fetch quests add to the game's general tedium. It's perfectly understandable that not every Poke-adventure can be the most exciting thing, but they certainly could have fleshed this out some more.
Finally, you'll come upon actual minigames. These are rare enough that I'd hesitate to classify PokePark 2 as a minigame collection. From time to time, you'll have to complete small challenges, such as shooting ingredients to make a cake. These challenges involve use of the Wiimote only and are pretty similar to the other minigames you've seen in Wii titles. None really stand out, and the only thing that separates them from something you'd see in, say, Carnival Games is the Pokémon. These games can be unlocked to be played on multiplayer; this is a nice touch that adds a little extra value to the game. There are so many excellent minigame collections on the Wii that the Pokémon branding does little to make this one stand out.
That same Pokémon branding is put to good use in the visuals, though. The characters are cute and brightly animated, and there are a lot of adorable little details. The environments are simple but vivid and colorful, and they're a great place for young kids to explore. It's not easy to get lost and very easy to find new things to do and places to adventure. Adults may find the world dull, but the game is clearly not meant for them. The music is surprisingly good and lends a lot of atmosphere to the colorful locales. More annoying is the use of the cartoon-style "Pokémon" talk, where each Pokémon "speaks" by repeating its name again and again. This quickly gets annoying, although younger gamers may have more tolerance. The game is dripping with cute charm, and Pokefans will find a lot of funny in-jokes and references to other Pokémon games.
There's nothing really wrong with PokePark 2: Wonders Beyond, but there isn't a lot right with it, either. It is an adorable but mediocre game. It is a very limited game designed to allow young players to play with their favorite Pokémon for a little while in a safe environment. If you have a young family member who loves Pokémon, he or she will probably love this, too. It's cute, charming, and playable. However, it's hard to argue that it is a worthwhile purchased when compared to many other similar games on the Wii. Unless there is a die-hard Pokémon fanatic in your family, you're sure to find something better and with more play value than PokePark 2.
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