Pokƒ©mon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of the Sky was my first foray into one of the spin-offs of the popular series. I haven’t played any of the proceeding games, and I was told that Explorers of the Sky is the equivalent of Pokemon Yellow from when I used to play Pokƒ©mon. After digging a bit further, I found that this game is very similar to the previous ones, just with more side adventures and different start up Pokƒ©mon.
Oct. 12, 2009
Here’s the plot: You’re human. Until you’re turned into a Pokƒ©mon. Your character is determined by a personality test which assigns you to one of several Pokƒ©mon who are members of a “Guild.”‚ Now you have to explore a bunch of dungeons, battling opponents and collecting various items in the hopes that you will revert to your human form. You’re also given a partner who helps you travel through the dungeons. Sound riveting? It would be, if the‚ execution didn’t come off so poorly.
My opinion of this game prior to playing was slightly optimistic, but I knew upon turning it on that something was off. Instead of the new sleeker graphics which come with most new DS games, I was greeted with graphics reminiscent of the Game Boy or Game Boy Advance. This wouldn’t have been a problem if I wasn’t accustomed to better graphics. Nevertheless, the “vintage” look was a minor issue compared to the‚ gameplay.
This is nothing like the Pokƒ©mon we had growing up, since the Mystery Dungeon series is a completely different type of game. The type of gameplay involved here is a basic dungeon crawler. You travel through dungeons and fight enemies, pick up items and move on to the next dungeon. You move in a basic grid system until you get to the exit leading to the next dungeon. However, these dungeons are not structured but randomly generated. After several rounds it became clear that the simple gameplay was meant to keep the player immersed in the game, but it failed at that because the dungeons are boring as hell. It’s easy to navigate the dungeons, defeat the enemies and move on. Sometimes the random dungeon generates with the exit next to your character, which forces you to look around a waste time looking around instead of simply walking out. (Fun Tip: If this happens to you, just go to the next level).
A redeeming feature of this game is the character side-stories. In the side-stories, you learn the motivations of each of the Pokƒ©mon you’re associated with and are presented with a more branched out plot than your own story. However, this isn’t much of a consolation, since you are still required to continue playing through the dungeons in order to gain access to the side stories. The repetitive soundtrack also starts to get on your nerves after a couple of dozen dungeons. Overall, this review seems overly negative, but I should point out that while I think the game is a cheap attempt at cashing in on the Pokƒ©mon brand (I’m half sure that if this was a game about creatures it would be quite‚ forgettable) it succeeds with the audience it is appealing to.
For this review, I decided to shake things up a bit. After I had played through Explorers of the Sky, I tossed it off to my younger brother and let him play it. As a 10 year old Pokƒ©mon lover, he couldn’t get enough of the game. He took everything the game threw at him and enjoyed every last minute of it. There was nothing wrong with it to him. The kid, who played REAL Pokƒ©mon games, had absolutely no problem with the game. Instead he’d get very excited when side stories arrived and loved the experience overall. I asked him if he felt there was anything wrong with the game, and he said no.
Blast Factor: Dungeon crawler fans, this is my disclaimer: This game probably isn’t for you. But I’m giving it a decent score based on intention, not execution. This game is designed for little children who have just started gaming. It requires no real effort, but it is entertaining to little children who just want to have a good time. This has a dual purpose: 1.) to try and attract new children into the Pokƒ©mon mythos through a different type of game and 2.) expand on the brand. 5 games in, the Mystery Dungeon still has alot of kinks. But we also have to acknowledge that the kids who play this game will be introduced to dungeon crawler games and hopefully be interested enough to expand into the real Pokƒ©mon games and legitimately challenging dungeon crawlers. So if you’re a bit older, I recommend looking elsewhere but if you’re looking for a gift, by all means pick this up for the kids.
Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of the Sky is available exclusively on the Nintendo DS and DSi, and retails for $34.99. A copy of this game was given to us by the publisher for review purposes.