An open plea to save the Pokémon world begins this latest Mystery Dungeon quest, once again remarkably seeing the player discover that they have been transformed into one of the globally adored creatures.
As a continual aside to the core series, Spike Chunsoft‘s Mystery Dungeon titles carve their own path, peeling back layers of Game Freak‘s creation to craft a far more simplified adventure. It’s a game undeniably aimed at the fanbase’s younger demographic, although that isn’t criticism for doing so.
Initially choosing which Pokémon to be (such choice made between Pikachu, Oshawott, Snivy, Tepig or Axew), you then decide who your travel companion will be from those that remain. What follows is a somewhat heartwarming tale that deals with the toils of friendships, trust, rejection, and similar morals, that sees you create your own Pokémon Paradise as an end reward.
However, Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity‘s problems become clear merely a few hours in. Never-ending streams of dialogue, uninspired combat, and repetition rear their ugly heads all too soon. It proves an immediate shame, seeing as there’s plenty of promise to be found elsewhere – especially once you’re finally granted a constructional overview of your own city.
It is trawling through dungeons that will occupy the majority of your time, turn-based actions seeing you awkwardly combat wild Pokémon as you seek the plunder the murky caverns of their material resources. Beyond successful navigation players can freely return to dungeons when they like, the game boasting the ability to randomly generate floor plans to ensure that no two visits are the same.
In battle, Pokémon remain to have up to four moves at their disposal, which retain powers, types and elements as most will have encountered within the main series. It’ll take a careful deduction to use moves that exploit an enemy’s weakness, whilst familiar experience-point systems allow you to not only level up your party but also individual moves through use.
You’ll regularly become afflicted with stat decreases, requiring you to hunt out a Wonder Tile within your vicinity that returns your Pokémon to their former glory. As your party expands, you will soon have access to team attacks that allow you to deal widespread damage or heal members of your team, whilst additional skills allow you to locate dungeon traps.
Dungeons themselves are largely forgettable. A random assortment of tunnels that fail to demonstrate any level of inspiration nor creativity from the developer, which is a disappointment alongside the otherwise revitalised visuals on display elsewhere.
Between your dungeon-crawling, you’ll regularly visit the nearby Post Town which acts as the game’s shopping district and provides the player with a secondary location where they can mingle with fellow adventurers.
Renowned for its great-tasting water, Pokémon are free to wash away their fatigue whilst resupplying at the stores such as Rampardo’s Box Buster, Cinccino’s Gift Shop, or Confagrigus’ Glorious Gold, each with their own different wares.
It is the Request Board at which objectivity aligns with your gleeful dungeon hunting, earning you money, materials and/or items. These can be put to use in creating your Paradise which, in itself, proves to be what’ll drive you to negotiate your way through the game’s otherwise tired structure. Sharing Animal Crossing’s customisation detail, it’ll be here where most players will be keen to invest their time.
Gameplay extension comes through local multiplayer, a unique Magnagate feature that sees players create dungeons by photographing circular objects, and a promising dish of downloadable content. Although, this isn’t enough to distract from what is otherwise a fundamentally flawed experience.
Whilst having not achieved perfection, Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity still provides much room for carefree enjoyment. Repetitive and slow-paced, yet oozing charm away from such issues, it’s enough to tide eager fans over until the arrival of Pokémon X and Y, at least.
Version Tested: Nintendo 3DS
Review copy provided by Nintendo