Nintendo has been somewhat shy in the home console scene when it comes to games from the Pocket Monsters series, especially on Wii this generation. Whilst at least there were some RPG dealings with Pokémon XD: Gale of Darkness on GameCube, there has been nothing similar on Wii at all, with fans merely having to make do with the likes of Pokémon Battle Revolution at the system’s launch, and the extremely light WiiWare effort, Pokémon Rumble. Then along came PokéPark: Pikachu’s Big Adventure, and although hopes were high, they were quickly dashed. Now it is time to see if the sequel, PokéPark 2: Wonders Beyond, can right the wrongs of the first outing.
There are children’s games that are done well, and those with good intentions, yet are poorly executed in the end. PokéPark 2: Wonders Beyond falls from one category to another, sadly. On the positive side, the presentation is bright and breezy, with plenty of familiar Pocket Monster noises to keep children happy, uplifting music that keeps spirits high when pouring through your speakers, and a fun, engaging tale to maintain interest levels for the most part. Sadly, the truly awkward control system makes progress extremely frustrating in places. Rather than allowing for smooth analogue movement using the Wii Nunchuk or Classic Controller, the general Wii Remote must be held on its side and the D-pad used, making for some really annoying moments when Pikachu (or one of the other three characters to choose from -- Oshawott, Snivy, and Tepig, each with unique abilities) runs past items because a diagonal direction cannot be achieved, instead having to position the little yellow critter in the correct place further away and then move him forwards. Picking up items can be painful enough because of this, but when battling other Pokémon it can be highly troublesome. The characters are also either too slow or too fast, with no happy medium. What Creatures, Inc was thinking about on this front is anyone’s guess.
The basic overarching objective is to save missing Pokémon whilst traversing PokéPark, discovering a mysterious new land along the way and trying to unlock its secrets. Piplup and his newfound friend, Pikachu, head off to a land beyond the beach at PokéPark, a place called Wish Park, where they find wonders in the form of structures made completely out of sweets and cakes. There are also various attractions that have been used to lure Pokémon through the special portal and entice them to remain there forever. Can Pikachu enlist the help of enough fellow creatures to overthrow the dastardly Master, Cofagrigus, in the dreamy world of Wish Park and rescue those captivated by its wiles?
Once players have grown accustomed to the controls, holding down the '1' button to charge an attack, tapping it to dash, using the '2' button to jump, and the 'B' trigger to re-centre the camera (a constant necessity, unfortunately), PokéPark 2: Wonders Beyond starts to show itself as a far more attractive prospect than its predecessor, and a game that will have instant appeal thanks to its inclusion of characters from the world of Pokémon Black and Pokémon White, especially since the four main characters have to be used independently to unlock specific areas of the adventure (Pikachu cannot cross bodies of water, for instance, whilst Oshawott can, and battling uses the same mainline Pokémon strengths/weaknesses technique of fire beats grass, and so on). As for the whole process of befriending other Pokémon in general, it normally involves simple tasks such as chasing them around, squaring off in basically real-time battles where charging/firing an attack and dodging theirs is the emphasis, or merely finding items they need; the challenge hardly builds up throughout, which will undoubtedly suit the younger audience this is clearly aimed at, but will prove disappointing for older Pokémon followers.
New friends can sometimes help during the simplistic battles, but there is no actual Pokémon swapping from the portable RPGs; the monster under your control at the time is the main one used when facing others. Thankfully the main characters can at least receive statistical upgrades from their trainers (evolved versions of themselves -- Pikachu has Raichu as a trainer, for example) in return for berries collected during the journey, which gives a slight impression of the normal RPG system employed in main entries. Whilst PokéPark: Pikachu’s Big Adventure relied more on mini-games, PokéPark 2: Wonders Beyond focuses more on the search and rescue of missing Pokémon, the befriending of monsters to bulk up before the final battle, and encouraging the levelling-up of the main four Pocket Monsters. Therefore, as a result, there are only four ‘Attractions’ to tinker with -- race amongst the stars, make cakes by shooting ingredients, and dance, for instance -- all of which can be played with up to four people. In short, PokéPark 2: Wonders Beyond manages to streamline the experience of the first outing, yet still struggles to reach the level that fans of the series have been long hoping for on a home console.
The focus has been placed more on the adventure and rescue side for this sequel, which is of benefit to the overall experience, yet the clunky controls of the original frustratingly remain, and tasks are skewed towards a very young age.
Solid 3D renderings of the various Pocket Monsters from the world of Pokémon, including the most recent Pokémon Black and Pokémon White, as well as fantastic colourful locations.
Delightful music throughout, complete with ever-familiar Pokémon mumblings and cute sound effects.
Being aimed at a younger crowd means a lower than normal difficulty level, which will be a disappointment for older fans. Objectives during the game are also not overly taxing, to say the least.
Despite its shortcomings in terms of the control system and extremely low difficulty setting, PokéPark 2: Wonders Beyond proves to be a far more substantial and engaging outing than its predecessor, yet unfortunately will only really appeal to younger fans of the Pokémon series.