I wouldn’t blame you if you took one look at PokéPark Wii and turned your nose up at it. In the face of many, many, unimpressive games by developers on the Wii, it’s hard to pick the good ones out from the bad, and the slightest sign of anything looking like a collection of minigames (even from Nintendo) draws groans from people tired of the trend.
Luckily, PokéPark Wii isn’t a minigame collection and it’s a pretty enjoyable game!
Think of PokéPark Wii as a very, very “lite” version of Monster Hunter. You won’t find any of the depth or the skill customization and whatnot, but you are thrown into a fairly large park where you’ll find a ton of different Pokémon wandering around and interacting with each other.
You can walk around the park and challenge different Pokémon to battles, chases, games of hide-and-seek, and given the number of the little critters walking about in the game, that’s a lot of different takes on each challenge, since Pokémon come in all sizes and types.
How does it play?
When you take control of the Pikachu, he’s right outside the main entrance to the park. This is where you’ll learn how to control him. Holding the Wii remote sideways, the d-pad moves, 2 button jumps and the 1 button causes Pikachu to dash.
The dash is one of the most useful moves in the game, as it can be used to break open crates, tackle other Pokémon, headbutt trees to check for berries and more.
While making your way into the park, you’ll come across your first obstacle. A sleeping Snorlax, blocking your path. The bugger refuses to get up, too, no matter how much you “Pika-pika!” at him. You can try headbutting him, too — which I did most gleefully, several times, to no avail — but he won’t budge. At this point, a Buneary tells you that you can press the A button to use a Thundershock attack.
Once you’ve zapped Snorlax awake, he’ll grunt, scratch himself, walk a few steps and fall right back asleep again. Well, that did wonders for Pikachu’s pride. But hey, he’s out of the way now!
Okay, we’re in the park! Now what…?
The first area in the park is the Meadow Area, which is grass-themed, and run by a rather communist Venusaur. Your first impression of the area is probably going to be, “Wow. It’s big.”
Soon, you come across a Bulbasaur. The Bulbasaur lets you and Chikorita participate in a race, even though big-boss Venusaur has forbidden outsider Pokémon from entering events. Pikachu wins, and the pissed-off Venusaur sends his henchmen — a Treecko and Croagunk — to kidnap your Chikorita friend as a punishment.
Now, you have to set about rescuing your buddy. The Meadow Area is large and is built so you can go almost anywhere that you can see. As you run about, you’ll come across different Pokémon, just walking around and interacting with each other. Every one of these can be challenged to a battle (in realtime, not turn-based), a chase, or a game of hide-and-seek.
You’ll use moves like your dash, sidesteps, jumps and Thundershock attack to win battles. Watching your opponent’s attack pattern is an important part of winning.
If you defeat a Pokémon, it becomes your friend, which allows you to use it in the game’s "event" challenges, which are necessary to progress. Different Pokémon are good at different events, so having more friends meets higher chances of having a suitable Pokémon in your party to compete.
As you meet and befriend more Pokémon, others start to enter the park or come out of hiding, too. My first few battles were with smaller monsters and were relatively simple, but at one point, a Scyther entered the park, and boy, was that battle to remember after I found and challenged him.
Similarly, the chases get progressively harder and harder, too. Chases are what they sound like. The running Pokémon gets a short lead and you have to chase after it around the park until you can catch up and knock it out with a dash-headbutt. Ultimately, you’re going to come across some really fast sprinters and you’ll have to think on your feet and learn to cut them off if you want any hope of winning before your time runs out.
The fastest runner in the Meadow Area is a haughty Leafeon and she gave me a run for my money. And this was just the Meadow Area. They get even faster later on, and the flying types can take to the air. The same goes for the hide-and-seek games, where smarter Pokémon learn to camouflage themselves well, and make the search for them harder.
This is the best part of the game. The park feels like an actual, alive playground. There’s no loading screens or anything involved in this regard. If you see a Pokémon, you can walk up and talk to it, or issue a challenge. Or you can dash into it at full speed and knock it high into the air. If you do it too often, it’ll even get pissed off and come after you.
To rescue Chikorita, you’ll ultimately take on an official challenge from the big-boss Venusaur himself, after which he’ll open up the gates to the next area. Now, you can either choose to hang around the meadow or move on. If you do the latter, you can come back to the meadow any time to meet more Pokémon and take on more challenges.
Other Pokémon can even give you quests to do for them, which add some variety to the mix. For instance, one might want a berry inside a crate and you’ll have to smash the crate open for them. It sounds simple, but every little detail adds up to making the park feel alive.
PokéPark also has stats. You can improve different stats to grow your Pikachu and he’ll even learn a new move or two (I noticed Iron Tail in the moves menu) through the course of the game.
Sure, it’s not as detailed as Monster Hunter’s pseudo-ecosystem, but PokéPark’s world is still pretty fascinating. I had a solid fun time while playing it.
Food for thought:
1. I really like how the different areas are designed. There’s a lot of fun meta-games you can create for yourself and Pikachu controls like smooth butter.
2. Likewise, watching the different monsters come and go and interact with each other is interesting, too.
3. PokéPark has a lot of personality, conveyed through the dialogue. Little jokes and puns scattered throughout keep the Pokémon from being boring and give each one a distinct personality — even if you come across two of the same type, which was kind of neat.