French developer odenis studio will mainly be familiar to readers because of its work on the Metal Slug-esque Nintendo DS title Glory Days 2. After quite a long hiatus, the developer is back with its latest effort, Pop Island, this time on the DSi download service, DSiWare. With the DSi Shop already bustling with new indie projects, the majority being from the puzzle genre, this multiplayer 'Capture the Flag' effort could well be the breath of fresh air gamers having been waiting for.
Nowadays, the phrase 'less is more' is often banded about, usually by public relations folk who are looking for an excuse as to why the game they are promoting lacks the majority of features that players were hoping for. The coined term was actually initially used for projects that removed excess baggage and gave users a high quality, 'pure' gaming experience. Pop Island harks back to those good old days, and is one of the purest forms of fun you could possibly imagine having on your DSi system.
Rather than tying players down to a lengthy adventure, filling up space with a stretched out storyline and offering up numerous quests to undertake, odenis studio has made Pop Island all about frantic multiplayer gaming within a highly colourful, and quirky, world. It is also full to the brim with lively music, very impressive 3D locations and characters that fly around stages at break-neck speed as they attempt to capture various flags found across the level, and then return them to base before being blasted by their opponents.
Pop Island can be enjoyed perfectly well by players on their own, since you merely pick a team to join and race around with your computer-controlled team-mates, running, jumping, and skiing about the island locations, picking up special items along the way to help give even the slightest of advantage and eventually end up with more captured flags than the opposing team. However, the real fun arrives when some of your DS and DSi-owning friends join in the action via DS Download Play. You only require one person to own Pop Island on a DSi and then it can be shared with friends and family either in the form of a demo for them to try out, or for eight-player multiplayer mayhem.
Anyone that knows the overwhelming sense of elation when a they have aimed a Green Shell in Mario Kart accurately enough to take down someone in front of them will be overjoyed at the fact they can take out opponents in a similar fashion using their character's standard weapon fire. There are plenty of other items to boost your arsenal though, such as one that creates a blast radius that sends people flying far from where they were. Choosing different animal characters will also play a major part in the overall tactics, with the surfing penguin and water-skiing crocodile allowing for quick access across watery bodies, whilst the wheel-based lion will be able to zip across land far faster. Therefore, learning the layout of an area and choosing the appropriate character for that terrain is imperative to victory at times. There are numerous weird and wacky animals to unlock, as well as eight different planets to visit as you aim to build up the highest score possible. The only potential drawback is that ODenis Studio chose not to add some online multiplayer fun. This is explained by their preference that Pop Island should be played face-to-face only, but it is a shame there are not at least some worldwide leaderboards for players to show off their score totals. However, for 500 Points you really cannot complain about value for money in the highly entertaining Pop Island!
Controlling the various animal characters is as tight as you would expect from a high quality racing game, with heaps of mad-cap fun to be had throughout.
High speed action, packed to the brim with bright colours and plenty of variety, all moving around at break-neck speed.
Upbeat, enjoyable tunes that lift the spirits and complement the action.
With so many animals and planets to unlock, as well as the ability to let seven other friends join in, Pop Island is a real bargain.
odenis studio has done it again, producing a high quality product that manages to engage not only solo players, but can bring joy and happiness to another seven people at the same time - even if they merely own a standard DS system. Pop Island is rather like a multiplayer battle-only version of Mario Kart, but with crazy animal characters instead!