Games for Lunch: Pok?mon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Time
Release Date: April 20, 2008
System: Nintendo DS
ESRB Rating: E
Official Web site
0:00 My only experience with the Pok?mon series has playing Pok?mon Emerald for a review many moons ago. Oh, and Pok?mon Snap. That game was great. And watching the cartoon with my sister. And seeing a lot of Pok?mon in the Super Smash Bros. games. Y'know what? I have had a surprising amount of exposure to Pok?mon!
0:01 Nintendo sent me both versions of the PMD: Explorers games. I choose Explorers of Time over Explorers of Darkness because time is objectively better than darkness. Unless you're emo.
0:02 Pikachu and some other Pok?mon walk down a tunnel. They find a big chest. "The discovery of a lifetime. The start of a new adventure. Welcome to a grand tale. A tale that spans time... and darkness. It's the dawn of epic exploration." The "epic dawn"? Really? I'm pretty sure plenty of other games beat you to it.
0:03 "Welcome! This is the portal that leads to the world inhabited only by Pok?mon." That should be easy for an eight-year-old to relate to.
0:04 The game tells me to be truthful in answering questions like: "You abruptly notice you're alone at a restaurant. What do you do?" and "You discover a secret passage in the basement. What do you do?" Do these things actually happen? Are they common? I'm like a presidential candidate: I refuse to address hypothetical questions.
0:05 I end up just picking the funniest responses to the questions, including: "I unleash my cookie fury!" "Not a problem! Chow Time!" and "Woo hoo! Water Fight!"
0:06 The game tries to analyze my aura via the touch-screen. Why doesn't Nintendo advertise this feature more?
0:08 I am "the jolly type." Makes sense, since I picked only funny answers. My vitality "raises the lowest of spirits to giddy heights." Wow! I'm touched. I also "bounce between laughter and tears so easily!" THAT'S NOT TRUE! *sob*
0:09 I am a Totodile. I have no idea what this means. I choose Pikachu as my partner because I'm at least familiar with the ever-present electric rat.
0:11 I name my Pikachu "??????????" because I am a jerk. Off to Chapter 1: "A storm at sea." Sounds of rain and thunder over a dark screen. "Whoa. Wh-wh-whoa. Are... are you OK?" says an unknown voice. "No! Don't let go! Just a little" longer!" Isn't this how "Titanic" started?
0:12 A view of the ocean. A rocky outcropping. More lightning and rain. Totodile awakes on a deserted beach. "I can't... drifting off..." Jeez... this is dark for a Pok?mon game.
0:14 Meanwhile, Pikachu paces around outside some sort of hut type thing. He can't seem to work up the courage to go in, the wimp. Even his personal treasure (a carved rock) doesn't help. Zubat and Koffing drift in and decide to go after Pikachu.
0:16 In a surprise to no one, Pikachu goes to the beach and finds Totodile-me. Apparently I think I'm a human that's been transformed into a Totdile. That might well be true, for all I know. I name myself "?!?!?!?!?!" because, as has been established, I am a jerk.
0:20 Pikachu determines I'm not a "bad" Pok?mon based on about 10 seconds of conversation. He's either very trusting or very stupid. Or both. Speaking of bad Pok?mon, Zubat and Koffing come and take Pikachu's special stone thing. Each bit of text is accompanied by a close-up of the Pok?mon's face. Coward Pikachu looks like he's going to cry.
0:23 Pikachu asks if I'll help him get the stone back. I answer "No" five times just because I like seeing his tear-soaked face in close-up. Toldja I was a jerk.
0:24 OMG GAMEPLAY! We're walking around a dungeon, heading for a stairway. On the way, we're attacked by a Shellder and Shellos. Battles are an odd mix between turn-based and real-time. I can walk around and attack from any side, but I have to wait for the counter-attack before I can hit again. Bleh.
0:27 I can only carry one item at a time? What's with the realism all of a sudden? I thought this was a Pok?mon game!
0:29 I lost Pikachu somehow. I'm serious. One minute I'm asking to switch places with him, the next he's warped off to another part of the map for some reason. Very odd.
0:30 After a few battles I level up to level 6? So I start at level 5? Doesn't that mean that level 5 is actually level 1? Am I overthinking this?
0:32 Playing around in the menu, I find I can carry on some inane chatter with my Pikachu. "We have to go on! We must never give up!" What is this, "Galaxy Quest"?
0:35 Apparently, standing still and holding A+B will regain all my health almost immediately. So much for skill. All I have to do is survive a battle and then I'm good as new. Whatever happened to careful health management?
0:36 The stairs are incredibly easy to find on each level. Like "walk a few steps" easy. I'm down to the basement before I know it.
0:37 We find Zubat and Koffing at the bottom of the dungeon, and Pikachu musters up some courage to take them on. Before I know it, we're in a battle that's not significantly harder than any of the ones in the dungeon. The "boss" fights ends after three attacks per. "Ugh... we got roughed up," says Zubat, helpfully. They give back the treasure and run off. Er, fly off.
0:38 Pikachu thanks me for my help. "I only helped because I happened to be there. It was the right thing to do." Laying it on a little thick with the reluctant hero act there.
0:39 Pikachu blathers on about his relic fragment and treasure and history and blah blah blah.
0:40 I just agreed to join an "exploration team," despite my character's explicit acknowledgment that he has no idea what that means. Wigglytuff's going to train us. There's a sentence I never thought I'd type.
0:41 "And so... ?????????? and ?!?!?!?!?! formed an exploration team. This turned out to be their very first step into many fantastic realms of adventure that awaited their arrival." All right, they're on an adventure. WE GET IT! Magic and mystery are part of their history and all that. Enough already!
0:42 "Chapter 2: The New Guild Recruits." The hut the Pikachu was scared of before is the Wigglytuff's recruitment hut, apparently. A Diglett has trouble identifying my Totodile's footprint, but someone off-screen determines that I "don't seem to be bad" based on no real information. Are all Pok?mon this blindly trusting?
0:47 The guildmaster Wigglytuff is the cutest thing ever! He asks for our team name, which I think is obvious: "??????????" "Yeah, that's a good name. It suits us," says ??????????.
0:49 With a "YOOM-TAH!" we're registered. Wigglytuff gives us an Explorer Badge and a Wonder Map and a Treasure Bag, so we can carry more than one item at a time. Huzzah! Inside the bag is a Joy Ribbon and a Violet Bow. Boy, this is an embarrassment of stuff I have no clue about. "Let's always do our best!" says Cheesy McCheeserton, also known as Pikachu, also known as ??????????.
0:51 We get a room with piles of straw on the floor for beds. This excites Pikachu to no end. He engages in some excited pillow talk about the guild membership as he drifts off to sleep, while Totodile obsesses over his missing past. I'm about to fall asleep due to lack of gameplay.
0:53 "The next morning..." we get woken up by a screaming Loudred. Pikachu's eyes turn to cute little spirals. Aww.
0:55 Guild cheer time! "ONE! DON'T SHIRK WORK! TWO! RUN AWAY AND PAY! THREE! SMILES GO FOR MILES!" My lactose intolerance is acting up from all the CHEESINESS!
0:56 I'm back in control for a grand total of literally two seconds before a Chatot takes me away and shows me the job bulletin board. Because really, why would I want to PLAY THE GAME when I could talk about obscure Pok?mon lore?
0:57 Pikachu mentions time is getting messed up in this universe. He mentions it so casually that it seems like they've all just gotten used to it. Personally, if I noticed time acting wonky, I'd be FREAKING OUT!
0:58 A Pok?mon named Spoink asks us to get his lost pearl back, so off we go to an actual dungeon. Just in time to have no more time left in the hour. It's just as well.
Would I play this game for more than an hour? No.
Why? I'm not that interested in the secret lives of Pok?mon, and based on this first hour, that seems to be about three-quarters of the game.
This column was based on a retail copy of the game provided by the publisher.
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