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DS  header logo

Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Blue Rescue Team

For: DS

Save yourself from these endless dungeons

Product: Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Blue Rescue Team | Developer: Chunsoft Co., Ltd | Publisher: Nintendo | Format: DS | Genre: RPG | Players: 1 | Networking: wireless (adhoc) | Version: Europe
Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Blue Rescue Team DS, thumbnail 1
Alongside major Pokémon releases – the Golds, Sapphires and Diamonds of this world – there have always been the cheeky spin-offs designed to ensnare obsessives waiting patiently for the next official generation.

Mystery Dungeon is one-such dalliance, a curious addition to the series that does away with trainers, trading and challenges and instead travels back in game design history.

Back... Back... Back to the dawn of the role playing...

In Mystery Dungeon's Kafka-esque opener, you're an unnamed human waking one morning to find you have been transformed into a pokémon (a sort of weird fantasy creature prone to fighting, for any long stay astronauts returning to Earth who're reading this). With no memory of your previous identity you hook up with a poké-sidekick and form a rescue team to help other pokémon in distress.

And there's a lot of distress. Massive earthquakes are ripping the land apart, while previously benign creatures are turning against each other, with foaming-mouthed Pikachu wandering the streets kidnapping baby Digletts, and so on.

What follows is an old-school turn-based RPG, based around random dungeon battles. Your team picks up a mission, heads off to the relevant dungeon, fights enemies, finds the requested item or pokémon, then buggers off home to claim the reward – usually a useful item or a wedge of cash that can be used to buy new items in the game's Pokémon Square shopping centre.

Each successful encounter provides experience points. The more you get, the stronger your character becomes, opening up new special moves en route. And as you progress you meet new friends who can be encouraged to join your battle party.

Meanwhile, the plot arc slowly completes itself through mystical dream sequences and cut-scenes so cute they're a palpable danger to diabetics.

It all sounds like a fun and diverting sojourn into classic role playing, and at first it is. The saccharine story sweeps you along, while recruiting new team members and developing dungeon-busting strategies is weirdly engrossing. Although there are a number of pokémon friends to discover, you can only take up to three on each dungeon mission so you must weigh up their individual strengths, working out how different types compliment each other.

There are extra layers of tactical depth, too: you can, for example, tweak your team by assigning different tasks to individual members. It's even possible to link your character's signature moves, hitting monsters with devastating custom combos. This grab bag of combat concepts provides an intuitive turn-based battle system, perfect for easing newcomers into the genre.

But what eventually irks is the sheer lack of variety on offer. Each of the dungeons is sparsely drawn and repetitive, the tiny sprites navigating crudely around corridor after corridor of dull identical tiles. A few scenic flourishes would have helped matters no end. Plus, the enemies are usually incredibly stupid, so you're rarely challenged enough to extend your repertoire beyond a handful of favoured special moves.

It's like being trapped in an only moderately scary re-occuring nightmare that will eventually bore, rather than terrify you, to death.

Mystery Dungeon does offer a couple of interesting connectivity options. Rescue calls, for example, enable a pal to bail you out when you've just been slaughtered in a dungeon battle. If they own a DS and another copy of Blue Team, you can hook up via Wi-Fi. Alternatively if your mate owns the GBA sister title Mystery Dungeon Red Team, you can grab their game cart and pop it in your dualslot.

In both options, the connection results in your team being revived – your rescuer can even send over one of their characters to fight with you. It's a clever way of building social interaction around the game.

There's also a Mystery Dungeon mode that works like the Nintendogs barking option; close your DS with the game still running and if you pass another Blue team member your pokémon will leg it over, sniff around their save game and pilfer items.

These quirky sharing escapades are not enough to free this title from its retro bonds, however. Mystery Dungeon belongs in another era, alongside early Final Fantasy titles. Its barren, random landscapes are of little interest to us modern players. There are some nice features, lots of pokémon (over 350 in fact), and a hint of the engaging kleptomania that marks out the main titles. But even the most resolute adventurers will tire of it far before the mystery is solved.
Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Blue Rescue Team
Reviewer photo
Keith Stuart | 20 October 2006
Compelling for a while, eventually Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Blue Rescue Team casts a powerful sleep spell over the toughest of pokéfans
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