Since my prior experience with the Pokémon phenomenon was limited, my first impression playing this game was that Pikachu reminded me of the chipmunk that my neighbours feed during the summer; said chipmunk occasionally wanders over to my place to see if there are any snacks to be had. It has the same puffy little cheeks; the same glassy, dead-eye gaze, too.
Once I got past that, PokéPark 2: Wonders Beyond is a seemingly pleasant game that sends our hero, Pikachu, on a series of adventures with his “pals” to rescue his friends from an enchanted theme park. Oh, and to repair the very fabric of his universe which is being torn asunder by the evil being behind the kidnapping of the Pokémon. No biggie.
It starts out innocently enough – you (playing as Pikachu) and your pal Piplup are just chillin’ at Seasong Beach (catchin’ some rays), when you hear about the latest attraction: Wish Park*. You enter and find a game that all the cool Pokémon are playing; just as you’re about to eat that tasty cake you won, someone jumps out and tells you it’s a trap! The cake is a lie! You make a run for the exit, but it’s blocked! And then, in a moment worthy of any good war movie where the best friend sacrifices himself so the protagonist can escape, Piplup pushes you through the exit while he gets caught by the forces of evil.
I would probably wet myself and the surrounding area, too, if I was about to be eaten.
Pikachu eventually teams up with three other characters – Oshawott (who reminds me of this guy), Snivy and Tepig – to journey to Wish Park to liberate the trapped Pokémon, shut down the evil attractions, and make sure the black hole that opens over PokéPark doesn’t consume all and sundry. To aid you in your quest, various parts of the park are opened to you as you complete challenges, and the Pokémon who remain on the good side will become friends with you (if you first defeat them in various feats of strength or speed). Trainers for each of the four characters are made available in a sort of neutral area in order for you to boost your fighting abilities as you go. Once you have defeated the evil forces and repaired the fabric of the universe, you can still go around and make friends or complete the challenges that other Pokémon have issued to you.
My overall enjoyment of this game was limited by several factors – some of which had to do with the story line and some of which had to do with the game-play itself. The main goal of the game was to shut down Wish Park and reverse the black hole, but then there was also a tournament of champions that you commit yourself to competing in at one point…which, during the Crag area of the game, really takes away from the main goal – you’re not only trying to complete the challenges of that area, you’re also fighting with a bunch of champions who don’t seem to care about that black hole that’s getting bigger all the time. Then there’s the whole Piplup storyline – every time you encounter him again, he’s more lost to you because he’s either trying to save the Pokémon on the other side, or he’s being held hostage by the baddies. When you finally rescue him, he takes off to do his own thing. Seriously; what an ungrateful little twerp!
The least intimidating gangsta photo ever.
The biggest issue I had with Wonders Beyond was the game-play; it feels like I’m constantly being interrupted. In earlier stages of the game, you can’t go ten steps without being confronted by someone, or being sent somewhere. Try talking to a character during this time and, folks: you will get monologued at for an extended period of time (and it is frustrating, because there is no way to back up or replay what they have just said). There are a few scenes where you transition from one area to another (and it takes fifteen seconds to load), walk two steps to have an interaction between a character and the four characters you control (which takes at least sixty seconds), walk two more steps, and then have to transition to a new scene (another fifteen second load). It is tedious and really takes away from the flow of the game; it might not be so bad if the interactions took place only at the beginning or the end of the transition to an area, but it’s often in the middle of a scene that these interruptions make themselves known.
I imagine that this game will be a must for any child who’s a fan of the Pokémon phenomenon, but parents, older siblings and other relatives/family friends should be warned that this game might not be for them. Now, if you’ll excuse me, summer is coming and I need to stock up on peanuts, just in case any of those stupid chipmunks have lightning bolt tails.
* – I would like the record to show that I knew there was something sketchy about this place right away. Never trust a crocodile wearing a bandit mask.