by MARTY DEMAREST & r & & r & Pok & eacute;mon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Time/Darkness & r & Rated Everyone; Nintendo DS & r & 2 Stars & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & T & lt;/span & he biggest challenge the Pok & eacute;mon games face is the perception of them as a children's fad situated somewhere between Power Rangers and Harry Potter. Whenever I recommend the series' superb role-playing games to anyone older than 12, I can see them picturing the discount cartoons, boxes of foil-wrapped trading cards and stuffed Pikachus staring helplessly from arcade claw-games. And unfortunately the Pok & eacute;mon Mystery Dungeon games live up to that reputation.
With colors brighter and details more cartoonish than any Pok & eacute;mon product outside of the cartoons themselves, the Mystery Dungeon series presents a lighthearted take on the Pok & eacute;verse. The games cast each player as a single Pok & eacute;mon, thrusting them into the Pok & eacute;mon world. These Pok & eacute;mon go shopping, play games together and form "explorers guilds." Instead of delving deeper into the mindsets of the Pok & eacute;mon, however, this characterization comes across as an attempt to reverse engineer a sophisticated role-playing game for a crowd weaned on the spin-off cartoons.
The matched pair of Darkness and Time have the same story. (Question: How did I become a Pok & eacute;mon? Answer: By playing this game.) But the games' only real drama comes from exploring dungeons. These dungeon crawls are primarily races to the end. No matter how many dungeon floors I explored thoroughly, the only "mystery" I discovered was the word on the game's box. In each dungeon, I just needed to find the stairs leading to either the next level or the ultimate battle.
The adaptation of the Pok & eacute;mon rules also has some flaws. Some of these will annoy connoisseurs. (Why does every Shellos in Darkness/Time have only the "Storm Drain" ability? In the other games they can also have "Sticky Hold.") Others are glaring errors. Several times a creature that was obviously a Psyduck was called another name. But the enchantment really fades the longer players are confined to living the life of a single Pok & eacute;mon. The role-playing games allowed players to form their own teams of critters, delving into each of their evolutions. With only one Pok & eacute;mon to identify with, I started to feel stale and limited, like a spun-out franchise.
THE GOOD: The Mystery Dungeon series preserves the core Pok & eacute;mon battle mechanics, which at this point are a wickedly intricate rock-paper-scissors system of strengths and weaknesses. But the Dungeon games use an overhead perspective, with battles taking place in a chessboard-like grid of space. This has brought some new strategy to the system, with several of the familiar old Pok & eacute;-moves being given extended ranges (for attacking foes at a distance), and multiple Pok & eacute;mon ganging up into cluster brawls that dwarf the role-playing games' skirmishes.
THE BAD: The grid-based combat also introduces a host of problems. Most long-range attack moves can also be used close up, making them overwhelmingly useful catch-all maneuvers, leaving the subtle, standard Pok & eacute;mon tactics to languish. And the companion creatures that accompany players' Pok & eacute;mon are almost impossible to control during battle, often standing aside uselessly when their assistance is needed, or getting caught up in dumb-idea duels when other Pok & eacute;mon are trying to escape.
THE BOTTOM LINE: In trying to refresh a videogame franchise that's already perfect, the Pok & eacute;mon Mystery Dungeon series ends up more cloying than clever.
The new one is smart and funny and action-packed, and it’s bigger and better and sleeker. And Downey does it again, this time ramping up Stark’s arrogant wisecracking, telling anyone who’ll listen (mostly women) that, via the creation of his powerful Iron Man suit, he’s brought years of uninterrupted peace to the world.