In February 2012, Pokepark 2 came out in the United States, but it was hardly exciting news in the Pokemon fan community. The first game Pokepark Wii: Pikachu’s Adventure was not very popular, so the sequel didn’t look promising. However, after about 13 hours of playing, I beat the game. Although I can't say I fully enjoyed myself, at the same time, I couldn’t get myself to stop playing when I was bored. Pokepark 2 isn’t intellectually engaging or exciting, but it has a clearly outlined goal and an easy way to get there -- filled with adorable bouncing Pokemon, aesthetically pleasing graphics, and perky music that taps all the dopamine centers of the brain.
The key to enjoying Pokepark 2 is to know what you’re getting into before you start. Regardless of whether you’ve played every Pokemon game from Pokemon Red/Blue to Pokemon Black/White, or if Pokepark 2 is your first exposure, you probably won’t delight in this game for its mind-numbingly simple dialogue, less-than-inspiring storyline, or its less-than-optimal controller. In order to not get frustrated with how easy the game is, the player needs to remember at all times that this game was geared toward the younger generation that didn’t grow up with five Pokemon video game incarnations.
Pokepark 2’s storyline revolves around Pikachu and his friends, who defeat evil boss Pokemon, like Cofrarigus and Gothitelle, who want to kidnap and control all Pokemon. for a reason the villains never really outline. The heroes literally complete quests with the power of friendship -- the main way to advance in the game is to “make friends” by fulfilling a Pokemon’s wish, whether it’s to chase them around or to have a battle with them. While the quest types (Chase, Battle, etc.) repeat, with each region they change slightly to become more difficult. However, because the game is geared toward youngsters, the highest level of difficulty of the game still isn’t very challenging, which is boring after hours of gameplay.
The sequel to the first Pokepark has a few improvements, most notably in that the three starter Pokemon from the Unova region -- Oshawott, Snivy, and Tepig -- join Pikachu as the playable characters. There are four regions, three of which have one starter Pokemon that Pikachu eventually runs into. After a few shenanigans, the starter Pokemon either begrudgingly or eagerly joins the team. The player is then able to switch Pokemon depending on what needs to be done -- Oshawott can swim, Snivy can jump higher and run faster (it’s all in the aerodynamics), and Tepig can bash into things that need to be broken or moved. It’s pleasant to be able to switch between the four Pokemon. The player will never get tired of having only one Pokemon on their team --having three others to choose from is almost like having a team, which appeals to those who play Pokepark 2 out of loyalty to the Pokemon franchise.
The game also has more centralized direction, with the individual quests eventually leading up to the goal of rescuing the kidnapped Pokemon from the nefarious Wish Parks in each region. This is a pleasant change from the first Pokepark game, in which the player had to wade through a jumble of unrelated quests. While the logic behind some of the mini-games isn’t bulletproof (why would you try to make as many cakes as you can when it’s the cakes that are hypnotizing the Pokemon?!), at least Pokepark 2 has an obvious end goal.
Pokepark 2 also features battles, but not in the turn-based style like in the Gameboy games. Pokemon types still matter, which makes the game more exciting but at the same time doesn’t really matter if the player just resorts to repeatedly ramming into the opponent like I did. Fainting also doesn’t factor into gameplay because if Pikachu happens to lose all of his health against a ground-type, then you just try again until you win, with no losses. While this feature may be suitable for a younger crowd, it also risks taking away any incentive to be good at the game. With no risk, there isn’t much keeping the player from brainlessly ramming into everything to advance.
The ability to improve the playable characters’ skills is one of good aspects of Pokepark 2 because it gives the player purpose, a reason to keep agreeing to chase games that become increasingly irritating. Each game earns berries, Pokepark 2’s currency. Berries buy everything in a straightforward system that players of all ages will understand. Earning berries quickly becomes tedious, but the goal of leveling up the playable Pokemon’s abilities will keep a determined player going, amassing more berries even if they lose count of how many times they chased that cute, evasive mouse Pokemon around the beach.
The main flaw in the game was the choice of the sideways Wiimote as the main controller option. Having to use the arrows to guide the character wasn’t dexterous, and a simple switch to an analog stick would’ve gone a long way in improving gameplay. There were more than a few instances where Pikachu had to circle a Pokemon a couple times before he reached the target Pokemon’s face to start a conversation. The occasional mini-game that required the standard Wiimote (the point and click ) also was irritating because the shooting mini-games aren’t fun or interesting enough to make the switch worth it.
Pokepark 2 isn’t the best game incarnation, but at the same time, shouldn’t be written off. It’s a decent gateway game for younger gamers who don’t have nostalgia to draw them into the world of Pokemon. It may even be worth it to play just to see Pikachu do his happy dance after beating up his opponent -- er, I mean, making a friend.
For more information on Pokepark 2, go to its official website.