Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Pokémon Trozei review

Writing about this recently made me want to play it again. And so, a review is born.

Developer: Genius Sonority
Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: March 2006
ESRB Rating: E for Everyone

When Pokémon Diamond and Pearl were announced in 2004, I doubt anyone expected they'd be waiting over two years to play it. In order to whet the Poké-appetites of the gamers, several other Pokémon games were released in the meantime: Ranger, Mystery Dungeon, Dash and Trozei. I have had a chance to play all but Ranger, and generally, I've had fun. Was Trozei one of the games that caught my attention, or was it the runt of the litter?

Unlike many puzzle games, Pokémon Trozei actually has a plot. The story follows SOL (Secret Operation League) agent Lucy Fleetfoot as she fights to retrieve countless Pokémon stolen by the Phobos Battalion. Why they have stolen all these Pokémon is unknown at first, but you can bet it's for an evil plan of some sort. It's always an evil plan.

Using the Trozei Beamer, Lucy can get a look at what Pokémon are inside the Pokéballs stockpiled in Phobos Battalion warehouses. Each ball emits a signal unique to the type of Pokémon within, giving us a graphical representation of what Pokémon we're dealing with. In order for the Beamer to work properly and send the captured Pokémon to safety, the signal must be intensified. To do this, players need to line up four or more of the same Pokémon. With the signal adequately strengthened, the Pokémon are teleported to SOL headquarters and returned to their rightful owners.

As you can probably assume, this is where the puzzle part comes into play. In order to line up Pokémon, players use the stylus to drag the lines left & right, and up & down. After the first line is finished (Called a "Trozei", of course), players receive a Trozei Chance. The next set can be completed with only three Pokémon, and the next with only two. Move quick enough, and it's entirely possible to clear an entire screen with one Trozei Chance. To help things along, making a Trozei using more Pokémon than necessary will earn a Ditto which acts as, you guessed it, a wild card. It'll go with any Pokémon out of the 386 in the game.

All 386 of these Pokémon are very distinct in their representation. Each Pokémon is easily identified, from Abra to Zubat. It's all so very colourful and happy, just like a Pokémon game should be (Well, mostly, anyways.). The game also sports some animated cinematics, although they're not exactly stunning. Mostly sliding pictures and backgrounds, but there is a cool animation of a silhouetted Lucy jumping and landing. Nothing particularly spectacular in the graphics department, but hey, it's a puzzle game. Since when have they been much more than simple sprites and minor effects?

No trouble identifying any of the Pokémon in
this screenshot. And so colourful, too.

The music in Trozei is pretty catchy at times, sometimes even sticking with me as I go about my daily routine (Ha, that's a laugh. Me with a routine). The sound effects, however, are pretty basic. Aside from a few chimes, it's really nothing special. But, as is the case with graphics, puzzle games are usually pretty basic when it comes to the sound effects. At least we got some nice tunes.

As is expected of a puzzle game, Pokémon Trozei features multiplayer. The player-to-player interaction is comparable to that of Tetris or Dr. Mario. Each significant Trozei is like an attack, tossing immovable rocks onto the opponents screen. This goes back and forth until one player runs out of space on the screens, declaring the other player the winner. Also, Trozei supports Single-Card Download Play, so you only need one copy to play with your pal. Yeah, I said pal. Sadly, Trozei is only a 1-2 player game no matter how you look at it. Four player would have been great. All hectic, all the time.

Trozei also includes one of Nintendo's early attempts at passive multiplayer. Similar to Bark Mode in Nintendogs, Trozei's Espionage encourages the player to close the DS and stick in in their pocket. While the DS sits there in Sleep Mode, it sees out other players using Espionage. The two games exchange "Agent Cards", which include both the player's name and the key to unlocking more Pokémon. I always thought passive multiplayer to be an interesting idea, but really, I never found anyone this way unless it was deliberately set up. Back when I first got Nintendogs, I left my DS in Bark Mode for about thirty minutes, walked all around a local park, and got nothing. Did the same thing in different places several times, and nothing. It was a novel idea, but it didn't really work all that well. Can't blame a company for trying something new, though.

Pokémon Trozei can last a long time if you really get hooked on it. I remember playing it constantly for about two months back when I first got it, and I do believe the same shall happen again now that I've rediscovered it. Puzzle games are great for that kind of thing. If the gameplay formula is good, the game will last you ages. Just look at Tetris and its billion rereleases.


Storyline: 8.0/10
I like that Genius Sonority decided to get away from the traditional Pokémon story here. Aside from the Pokémon themselves, there's not a single character in this game that has appeared in any other title ever released. Yeah, it's cheesy, but darn it, I like cheesy.

Gameplay: 9.0/10
Genius Sonority struck gold with this gameplay design. Trozei is really addictive, and lining up a big combo is just so darned fulfilling. Definitely a puzzle game in need of a sequel, if just to fill out a little shallowness here and there.

Graphics: 8.3/10
Every one of the 386 Pokémon present are clearly identifiable, each of them just as colourful as the last. Get a good four or five different types on screen, and you almost don't want to advance, lest destroying the beauty. The cinematics drag this category down a bit, though. Sliding backgrounds don't quite cut it anymore.

Audio: 7.5/10
You know, I find it hard to rate the audio on most games unless it's mind-blowing or terrible. Anywhere in between, I'm stumped. I suppose 7.5 best fits Trozei because of the catchy tunes mixed with somewhat underwhelming sound effects.

Multiplayer: 8.3/10
Any puzzle game is great with pals, and Single-Card Download Play just makes it even easier to have fun. I really would have liked some sort of 4+ player mode, though, in addition to the existing 1-on-1.

Longevity: 9.0/10
It's a puzzle game. Seriously, what more needs to be said? As long as a puzzle game is fun, it's pretty much guaranteed to be addictive. I almost wish I hadn't rediscovered Trozei, as now my next few weeks are sure to be little else but sliding Pokémon back and forth. Not quite worth a 10, though. Just doesn't cause the same level of addiction as some of the greats like Tetris and Dr. Mario.

OVERALL: 8.9/10
Pokémon Trozei is a great puzzle game no matter how you look at it. A simple formula is always the best way to go about making an amazing puzzler, and Trozei truly achieved greatness through simplicity. And now, I want a sequel. 493 Pokémon, four-player multiplayer and online mode are just begging to meet with Genius Sonority's DS brainchild.

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