Friday, January 29, 2010

WiiWare Review -- Pokemon Rumble

Practically all of my favorite gaming moments involve others. This is shown immensely by what games I purchase. For every single player game I own I probably own at least three or four others that are either designed around multiplayer, such as fighting games, or become a lot more fun with others, such as beat-em-ups. So when I found out that Pokemon Rumble combined two of my favorite nerdy things (Pokemon and cooperative gaming), I squealed like a little fangirl and gave Nintendo my 1500 Wii Points.

The basic idea of Pokemon Rumble is that you're a Pokemon toy and you battle other Pokemon toys. Like Toy Story with Pokemon and no humans. Which would make it Toy Story-mon. You start off as a weak little Pokemon (Rattata for those that share my disease) and collect stonger Pokemon throughout different stages by defeating them. Once you collect strong enough Pokemon you can go to a giant Battle Royale, fighting dozens of Pokemon at once. Win, you go on to the next stage. Lose, you try it again. And, aside from selling the excess Pokemon or buying new moves, that's the whole game.

The gameplay is as simple as it comes. Move with the d-pad and do an attack with the 2 button or a different one with the 1 button. Very simple Gauntlet-style controls that have worked for the overhead beat-em-up genre for decades and don't disappoint here. The A button brings up your other Pokemon you can switch to and, well, that's it. You can plug in a GameCube or Classic controller if the sideways Wiimote isn't to your liking or if you have friends over and not enough Wiimotes, and between stages you can have drop-in drop-out co-op or select a different controller.

Speaking of having friends over, that's easily the best part of the game. As with most multiplayer games your mileage will vary depending on the group you have hanging around. So, willing that the friends on your couch enjoy some mindless beat-em-up fun with a healthy dose of cute, you should be in for a good time. Having the opportunity to play through nearly the entire game with others and all of it by myself I can definitely say I had a lot more fun in the company of my friends. While this was a good thing, it made playing the game solo at the later levels feel a little more like a frustrating chore than a fun experience.

The presentation of the game is well done for a WiiWare game. The Pokemon look exactly like the ones in another WiiWare title Pokemon Ranch. Very simplified and polygonal. The aerial view you have of the field makes it slightly difficult to tell what the Pokemon is. This, however, doesn't detract from the gameplay at all as you usually roll through them quickly and only care when you capture them. The sounds get repetitive but are faithful to the Pokemon series with each Pokemon letting out their appropriate fainting cry from the other games.

The game has a few glaring flaws. Some of the choices made in the name of simplicity had me scratching my head. For instance, learning moves. In each area you can only learn certain moves, probably to keep from blazing through the game faster than you should. While I agree with this, the method you learn moves (since there's no leveling of your Pokemon, only collecting new ones) is completely random. So you may spend tens of thousands of your in game currency and not learn a single viable move. Or you may spend money on one move and get lucky. I would have preferred the ability to pick my moves, even if they cost more. Also, there's literally no known way to make capturing Pokemon easier. You just defeat them and hope you get lucky. Again, simple but totally random, and some Pokemon rarely ever appear in their stages. You could grind for half an hour and never see it. It may add to the longevity of the game in your grand quest to catch 'em all but I can't help but feel it's a cheap way to do so. To add to that, and as stated before, you don't level up your Pokemon so they become obsolete faster than HD-DVD. So don't get attached. And, finally, there's absolutely no replay value other than going through with new friends or, if you just ran through, going back and catching others. That's usual fare for beat-em-ups but not quite so much for Pokemon fanatics.

In the end, if you run through the game with no other purpose than to complete it, you'll spend less than 10 hours knocking around 1st and 4th Generation Pokemon. Going back for other Pokemon with that gotta catch 'em all attitude will net you another 5-10 hours if you want, depending on luck. A pretty good value for 15 bones and an incredibly fun diversion for a couch full of Pokenerds but definitely something you'll get more enjoyment out of if you have others around. If you're planning on flying solo I strongly recommend trying the demo if it's still on WiiWare when you read this.

Pokemon Rumble is made by Nintendo and is available on the Wii Shop Channel for 1500 Points. Finished everything in single player and finished Normal and Advanced modes in multiplayer. Did not catch 'em all, but had some choice quotes.
-- (Using Rock Slide and Energy Ball) "I'm droppin' rocks on 'em...that sounds kinda dirty." "Well I'm bouncin' my balls off 'em." "Just droppin' some rocks." "Just bouncin' my balls."
-- (Getting a "Perky" Gyarados) -- "Apparently this Gyarados has a nice rack."
-- (Shortly after that, getting a normal Gyarados while using a giant hippo) -- "Her tits must be saggy." "Hey, you don't know that. Could just be a normal rack. Could even be big, just not perky. Nothing wrong with that." "Oh you know they're saggy." "You're right. Probably look like a couple of windsocks blowin' around." "...really..." "And you know Hippowdon likes his women with a perky rack. 'cause if Hippowdon is anything, it's a hippo man. And he needs a woman."
-- (Seeing Staryu fly into the air to hit things and slowly fall down.) "STARYUKEN!"
-- (When someone ran blindly into a huge horde of Pokemon yelling "Leeroy Jenkins") "GODDAMMIT LEEROY!"

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