If loving a childish game is wrong, I don't want to be right.
I had absolutely no idea what PokePark Wii was supposed to be, but found myself falling in love with the game anyway. Now, before we continue, you should know two things. First, this game's target audience is clearly the younger set. Basic reading skills are required, but even illiteracy won't prevent you from enjoying the core gameplay as long as somebody explains what you're supposed to be doing. The second thing is that if you don't absolutely love Pokemon, you probably won't get a lot out of this game. The entire game amounts to interacting with different Pokemon, playing little games with them, and in doing so, getting more Pokemon to appear. However, if you do love Pokemon and don't mind kiddie games, PokePark Wii is pretty awesome.
The game starts with a silly conceit: Mew appears to Pikachu and his friends, asking them to go to the PokePark (an island paradise) and find pieces of the Sky Prism that will repair... something. It's not important. Pikachu is separated from his friends initially, but comes to find plenty more during his time in the PokePark. It would seem that the leaders of PokePark have gone their separate ways and shut down all the attractions in the park. It's up to Pikachu and his ever-growing roster of friends to save the day! You primarily do two things in this game: very short mini-games with individual Pokemon, and slightly longer mini-games to earn Sky Prism pieces. In between, you control Pikachu as you run around a surprisingly large, colorful, lush world doing miscellaneous things, like collecting berries, finding lumber to build bridges and collecting trash for the recycling bin. No, seriously.
When Pikachu comes across a Pokemon, you can talk to it to get information about the PokePark and play a game with it. These games are simplistic, including Chase, Battle, Hide & Seek, and Quiz. In the first game, you merely chase the Pokemon and run into it with Dash to knock it down. In Battle, you use Dash and Thunderbolt to beat your opponent. Hide & Seek is self-explanatory, and in Quiz, you answer three questions about Pokemon and the island. None of these games last more than a minute. Winning gets you more berries (currency) and a new friend. Friendly Pokemon can compete in place of Pikachu in Attraction minigames, which is helpful, as some Pokemon are better at certain Attractions than others. Some friendships depend on completing short quests, like gathering things, talking to other Pokemon, or even completing Attractions. It's all very simple and honestly repetitive, but somehow charming.
Attractions are more complicated, but also end quickly. They generally depend on motion controls such as swinging the Wii Remote in time to swing on a vine and then tap B to go flying, or using the Wii Remote as a steering wheel to fly through rings. Some Attractions work better than others, but none of them are bad, and none of them take a lot of time.
The control scheme is a little awkward. You hold the Wii Remote on its side and use the D-pad to move around, similar to Metroid: Other M and Kirby's Epic Yarn. You press 1 to Dash and 2 to jump. The camera is centered on Pikachu with B and Thunderbolt is used with A. Those last two actions are honestly pretty awkward, especially during battles. I honestly don't understand Nintendo's reluctance to use the Nunchuk. 3D movement just isn't the same with a very small D-pad, and I can't help but wonder if some of the minigames would be more manageable with an analog stick. The game employs another aspect from Other M, if you point towards the screen with the Wii Remote and press B, you'll get into first-person view. From here, you can take photographs and store them on your SD card. Not a lot to it, but I thought it was a strange callback.
The game looks pretty amazing - the Pokemon are colorful and accurately rendered. I was impressed by the fact that everyone has specific animations. When you knock Ambipom over, he covers himself with his tails, for example. Torterra just winces when you smack into him, but poor Totodile goes flying! Similarly, all of the Pokemon who battle you use unique attacks that you have to be aware of. The environments are large, colorful, and impressively modeled. I wouldn't call the music catchy, but it's enjoyable and unobtrusive. As always, Pikachu has the most personality and range of vocals, but the other pocket monsters aren't slouches, either. As each zone of the PokePark begins filling up with beasties, I found myself entertained just watching all of the Pokemon interact with each other and their surroundings.
So despite its (extremely) simplistic design, PokePark Wii is technically proficient and amazingly fun for a Pokemaniac like myself. Yes, I said, "All right!" out loud when I found out that I was going to be freeing Mamoswine from his frozen tomb. Half the fun of this game is seeing your favorite Pokemon in more or less their natural habitats in glorious, eye-popping 3D. I heartily recommend it for everyone who loves Pocket Monsters.