I was looking for something to contrast the rather high profile game I’ve been playing (you all know the one), so decided to give Pokemon Rumble a try. It’s the latest in a long line of Pokemon spin-offs but comes with most of the key features that make the original games so addictive. With such praise however comes the cynicism that Pokemon Rumble also feels like the bare minimum of what’s needed for a new game. This does give it a comfortable familiarity but one that’s becoming a bit too familiar. Read on for the full write up.
Pokemon Rumble starts with a brief introduction of the simplistic concept – Play as a clockwork Pokemon that has to fight other clockwork Pokemon with the aim of catching as many as possible that are strong enough to fight in the Battle Royale. Easy. Fighting is real-time rather than turn-based and battles can contain any number of opponents at one time. Yet it still allows the kind of tactics that every good Poke-trainer prides themselves with; Pokemon with the ability of Fire attacks do greater damage to those based on Ice etc. I was given a wind-up Rattata with it’s basic attack to begin with and managed to get into the Battle Royale arena where my butt was severely kicked. Dropping into a kind of hub world, my Rattata was no longer able to partake in the mass carnage but I could enter one of six worlds in order to better my Rattata and ‘befriend’ more Pokemon. If I want to get back in to the Battle Royale I needed to have a level of 100 or more – something that didn’t take too long once I powered through these worlds and their end of level boss. Collecting more Pokemon involves beating them down until they’re knocked out, then walking over their confused body. Not too dissimilar to the traditional method of a Pokeball.
Each world may differ in their overall appearance but only very slightly in terms of layout. Paths are very linear but of course, acquiring Pokemon is the underlying reason for the game so as long as going from A to B contains enough of them to fight and collect, I’m not sure if the core audience would be bothered by the linearity. On the subject of appearance, Pokemon Rumble does have it’s redeeming features like the suitable cell-shaded graphics and colourful environments but really isn’t all that impressive. Yes it looks very nice and one of the better looking WiiWare titles but that’s not a difficult task and characters can look ugly due to their simplicity. It also some game-chugging frame rate issues when lots of Pokemon are on screen at once or lighting effects take place. I’m unsure as to whether it’s due to the Wii’s power or the developer’s struggle to get the game small enough to be downloadable. Either way it’s not very welcome in this era of video games. What is clever is how the Ambrella have managed to make an new Pokemon experience that can still provoke our addiction of collecting. Levels can be revisited to catch anyone that was missed during the first play and those that are caught can be upgraded with a maximum of two different attacks – something that, apart from gathering Pokemon, saves the game from becoming utterly boring. With such linear levels and repetitive combat, the fact that I had a choice of using a Pokemon with a long range, short range or even dizzying or sleep inducing attack felt like a godsend! It also makes each players experience unique and invites the favoured discussion of ‘which Pokemon is best’. Especially when playing the game with friends as both world exploration and the Battle Royale can be played either on your own or as a multiplayer.
Not having played the whole game I’m undecided as to whether Pokemon Rumble is worth the 1500 Wii Points (around £10) price tag. It does play to our desires of collecting these obscure virtual beasts but also feels like Ambrella haven’t exactly been very original with the title. Levels are very repetitive although the Battle Royale, once entered, helps relieve the boredom slightly. I’m keen to invest more time and accumulate more Pokemon but wonder how much longer my interest will last. Since the graphics and indeed franchise is more aimed at a younger market and hardcore enthusiasts, I’d imagine it’s able to tick enough boxes for those players to get their moneys worth.