Imagine a Pokémon game interpreted for a demographic of Wii owners and you get PokéPark Wii: Pikachu's Adventure. It's the family-friendly, mini-game-riddled interpretation of the Pokémon franchise: a game that takes the cuteness of Pikachu and the numbing simplicity of befriending Pokémon repeatedly over the course of hours, and then corrals the two into a park.
The game's primary feature isn't "Adventure" as it says in the title, as much as it is a parade of cuteness that envelops about 80 per cent of the screen at any given time. It's a fact you quickly become aware of when within the first four minutes of entering PokéPark you're faced with the Poke-equivalent of a bunny. The park is filled with a variety of cute, shuffling Pokémon who you befriend throughout the game, and who serve as the basis of all mini-games.
Actually, the game is based, at least in name, on an existing PokéPark. It originated as a travelling theme-park that had made its way through Japan and Taiwan around 2005 and functioned essentially as a promotional tie-in for the franchise, featuring attractions such as Dancing Pokémon Mini-tour and Pichu Bros. Rascal Railroad. And similarly PW: PA is more of a theme park than it is a game. You walk around, you stare at animals, and the mini-games generally have the strategic qualities of a Whac-A-Mole.
PokéPark is the generic, grassy village that houses all Pokémon. You're told that the park is in danger after the Sky Prism was shattered, and the only way to set things right is to complete a total of 14 mini-games while collecting prism shards when you succeed in the relevant mini-games. It's a conventionally nonsensical plotline, punctuated by your introduction to the place. You begin the game as Pikachu, who falls through a hole in the ground and into the park located directly underneath.
After falling through the world your primary task is to befriend each Pokémon throughout the zone, which involves talking to them, reading their extensive monologues, and taking part in one of their "Skill games". The game's localisation is a bit rough so most conversations read like they've been passed a few times through wheels and cogs of an online translator, each sentence weighted down with its own brand of awkward, robotic friendliness. "Have you lied lately?" says a fellow Pokémon. "I never lie! I don't want to play at all now! You still want to play hide and seek don't you? Yeah! I don't want to play hide and seek either! Actually I'm lying. Play with me another time!"
Generally speaking, you spend your time playing Skill Games; a basic cluster of mini-games that range from Chase to Hide and Seek to legitimate Battles. Considering this game is marketed largely to children they're all incredibly simplified. Chase requires Pikachu to chase his opponent, and while each Pokémon will vary in their running speed they inevitably double back as they near a wall and run head-on into you, giving you an accidental win. Hide and Seek is equally simple considering the Pokémon will give you a hint about their whereabouts and you'll be warned via in-game text if you've wandered too far off track. But even more strangely, it seems difficult to actually lose Battles, which are largely a matter of running into another Pokémon and dodging their attacks by moving slightly left and right.
So the difficulty of the game generally comes from having to find and speak to every Pokémon in the zone. Befriending Pokémon has its benefits, allowing you to choose from the Pokémon you've befriended when faced with an "Attraction", a larger-scale Skill Task between your character and a handful of others. But while meeting characters is a focal point of the game, choosing to play as certain Pokémon is limited to Attractions, which only make up a fraction of the action in-game.
Every so often you'll be faced with a slightly more complex task, where you come to the aid of a troubled Poké-guy. Bidoof will ask you to gather scraps of wood so he can build a dam. He wants to invite his aunt over, and needs to build an extra room or two. Bundles of wood surround him so finishing the task requires little more than to walk ten feet to the left and press the relevant button, then trundle ten feet back to ol' stationary Bidoof. He continues to ask you to carry piles of wood to his construction lot on the riverbed so he can invite his extended family to live with him in the Meadow zone.
Each cutesy character is matched by a plodding task. For every smiley, pug-nosed Pokémon there are five mini-games asking you to beat them in a ten-second long race. For each happy-looking berry you collect out of a crate you are told to click on and say hello to every Pokémon within the district. The mini-games are so lacking in variety that between ten different Pokémon you'll have played the same game against them four times. It's the kind of repetitive process that is the hallmark of any standard children's game, yet the bane of every other genre. Regardless of whether or not this is aimed at the under-10 market, the game still fails to be anything but a Pokémon walkabout built around menial tasks.