Pokemon, like Mario, is one of those franchises that Nintendo certainly enjoys milking. And why not? The Pokemon brand has a legion of dedicated fans, not unlike everyone’s favourite hero plumber, and those fans are rewarded with other offshoot experiences to invest in beyond the traditional Pokemon RPGs. One of these offshoots is the Mystery Dungeon series, the latest of which is Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity, a “roguelike” dungeon crawling game that serves as a solid title for younger games and dedicated fans, while perhaps not being quite as appealing to older gamers.
There are some key differences which players should note with this game compared to the traditional games. For one, the Pokemon are the main characters. There are no way-too-young children venturing out alone into the world capturing Pokemon as part of some “coming of age” ritual. This all about the player somehow being transformed into one of five choices of regular characters that you have in the Black and White series, and joining with another Pokemon as you begin great adventures and try to build a Pokemon Paradise. This includes the Pokemon actually talking with real words, vs. just various forms of their name.
Also, it’s not a traditional RPG, though it has a lot of similar elements. There’s a “sort of” turn-based mechanic going on, in that when you are engaged with an enemy, any movement or attack then results in some sort of counter-action by those enemies. You still have four limited-use moves to choose from per character (budgeting these is good for strategic thinking), you can still use various items to help you survive or attack longer, and there are still levels and hit points, though the latter will regenerate fairly quickly as you move. In fact, a lot of traditional mechanics are still in battles, it’s just not as rigid. Regular players will become familiar fairly quickly with what’s going on. It’s a system that works quite well, even if it gets to feel like a grind at certain points. On the plus side, the mystery dungeons are randomly generated, so you shouldn’t see the same layout twice (though you’ll see a lot of the same elements repeatedly).
The story is a bit more involved in this game, and it serves to break up the dungeon adventures nicely. It’s a fairly simple tale on the surface, and it really struck me as wanting to appeal to a younger audience. In fact, with a fairly easy learning curve, helpful tutorials, adorable visuals, and repetitive gameplay, I’d almost wager it was totally designed with kids in mind. Vanquished Pokemon still faint, and the “violence” involves the various moves you’ll see the characters act out on each other. The one thing to be aware of is that you’ll need to be able to read to play this game as the story is presented with LOTS of text. Slow-scrolling, single-speed text. Almost too much. But it’ll certainly help with reading. Unfortunately it can also make the proceedings drag on a bit.
One advantage to randomly generating the dungeons is that you could theoretically create a dungeon at any time from any thing. And with the Infinigate searching feature, you can do exactly this. In a clever addition, there’s a mode where you can use the 3DS’s camera to locate any round object in the real world (for example, I used the large volume knob on my car stereo) and have a full dungeon created. It’s a neat take on augmented reality that adds a clever amount of extra replay to the title, not that it needs it, as there’s already quite a bit in here to begin with, including the rather lengthy story. Value’s probably not going to be an issue here.
The GamerPops Recommendation
Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity is a game best suited to hardcore Pokemon fans and younger gamers who might want to get their feet wet with this particular genre. Kids may appreciate the repetition, which older players may see as a bit too grindy. While it’s not quite as good as other games that feature the Pokemon universe, it’s still quality work with a cute story and oodles of charm, plus lots of gameplay, and that’s never a bad thing.
A review copy was provided to GamerPops.
If you would like to purchase this game, please use the Amazon link below and support GamerPops.
ESRB Rating Summary
Rating Category: E for Everyone
Content Descriptors: Mild Cartoon Violence
Rating Summary: This is a role-playing game in which players help Pokémon creatures save their world. From an overhead perspective, players meet various characters, traverse dungeon environments, and battle wild Pokémon in turn-based combat. During combat, players use a menu system to select various actions/attacks (e.g., chop, sting, and ember); damage is indicated by blinking effects (occasional explosions) and a loss of hit points.