Pokémon Trozei Review
Note that whenever I mention that "you" will find this or that or whatever, it is of course simply based on my experience with the game. I don't pretend to have any superior beforehand knowledge of what you personally will think.
Pokémon Trozei (also known as Pokémon Link in Britain for whatever reason) is a Pokémon puzzle game for the Nintendo DS. In it you take on the role of Lucy Fleetfoot, SOL agent (Secret Operations League - I really wonder what the heck the "secret operations" they normally do are, though). She is instructed by Professor P to go on a mission to rescue Pokémon kidnapped in their Pokéballs by the Phobos Battalion.
Two things are already noteworthy about Pokémon Trozei. Firstly, this is the first Pokémon game where you are in fact forced to play as a female character - in all the previous games you have either been a boy or merely had a choice. Secondly, it's the Phobos Battalion, not Team Phobos. The originality is already astonishing.
So anyway, the rescue operation is to be done using a device called a Trozei Beamer, because it is a little difficult for one girl in a stealth suit to manually carry hundreds of Pokéballs. (Professor P doesn't help, since he's an old man with a walking stick - admittedly, it is a mystery why he has a walking stick to begin with, since during the entire game you never see him do anything with it but point it forward while standing on both of his legs.) The way the Trozei Beamer works is that first you use it to identify which Pokémon are in the Pokéballs you point it at (and are shown a neat rounded little image of the Pokémon's head), and then you need to line up four Pokéballs containing the same Pokémon so that their combined signal is strong enough for the Trozei Beamer to transfer the Pokéballs (via the SOL Satellite) back to the SOL base. (Don't ask me what they do with the poor Pokémon in the SOL base - it doesn't mention anything about returning them to their rightful owners or releasing them to the wild as far as I remember.)
The plot is actually... surprisingly sensible for a puzzle game. I mean, nobody even attempts to give you an explanation of why the heck you're rotating those Tetris blocks. It would have been so easy for them to just go, "Uhh... this is like... an alternate universe where you catch Pokémon by lining up four of their heads in a row," but they didn't. You've got to give them some credit for that, even though it doesn't exactly twist much and they don't appear to feel like giving you any explanation of exactly what the Phobos Battalion was planning to do with their Phobosphere satellite (the energy for which was the reason they were stealing all those Pokémon).
The graphics of Pokémon Trozei are done in a kind of simplistic, cartoonish style with prominent, black outlines, simple shading and slightly cutified shapes. One interesting aspect of this style will immediately catch your eye: neither Lucy Fleetfoot nor Professor P have pupils in their eyes. There is just a huge colored iris but no pupil. This also applies to all the other human characters, except that in the bad guys the irises tend to be smaller and colored in darker colors so you don't notice it as much - ironic, since it makes the protagonists look distinctly creepier than the antagonists. The style is a little weird, but not precisely bad. The Pokémon heads often don't quite seem to look like themselves, but they don't precisely look bad either. The cutscenes in the game are actually pretty well done in my opinion - sure, they're short and simplistic and there isn't a lot of them, but the way they're animated is a great deal better than for example the "cutscene" in the middle of Pokémon Emerald with Groudon and Kyogre and Rayquaza descending from the sky to calm them. The Emerald cutscene makes it pretty evident that they're only using a couple of still images and looping animations and then moving the sprites fakely around on the screen, while the Trozei cutscenes show Lucy swimming or flying towards the Phobos Mobiles, jumping sneakily down from the roof, looking around with those creepy eyes of hers and then turning on the Trozei Beamer in front of the Pokéballs. It's a lot more animated, if you know what I mean. Sure, the Phobos Generals don't move at all while they're talking, but exactly because of this simplistic style, you can forgive them that. (Meanwhile, in for example Colosseum the lack of lip movements will just bug you.)
Speaking of Colosseum, you can recognize Genius Sonority's handiwork in Pokémon Trozei, even despite its many differences from Colosseum and XD (as far as I know, Genius Sonority's only previous games). Sure, the graphic style is completely different as well as the genre, but the creativity and uniqueness of the character designs as well as the "evil organization is abusing Pokémon and you have to save them by capturing them from them" plot gives it away. And I'm not complaining; I love Genius Sonority's work, as I detailed in my Colosseum review.
But hey, it's a puzzle game. With puzzle games, you don't care about the plot or the graphics or the character designs. You care about the gameplay, right?
The actual gameplay is a classic puzzle game that is simple, logical and very easy to get hang of. Once you've entered a Secret Storage/Huge Storage/Phobos Mobile, you are given a playing field consisting of a 5x5 grid of Pokémon heads on the bottom screen, an identical grid on the top screen, and some numbers and such which you won't have to worry about much. Then you can start playing the game - just slide the Pokémon on the bottom screen around using the stylus in order to line up four of the same Pokémon (or, alternatively, a Ditto can be used as a wildcard to take the place of any Pokémon).
It may remind you distantly of a crazy mix between Bejeweled and Tetris, but if you're thinking too Bejeweled, you're screwed. The main difference, aside from needing to line up four Pokémon rather than three, is that you slide the entire row or column and not just the one you're trying to move. This is just about guaranteed to cause a lot of redundant hand movements - it will be stuck in your head, sensibly, that to move this particular Pokémon head you need to bring the stylus down on that particular one and not on some other head in the same row. The other main differences that can not be explained by pointing at the Tetris-like qualities are that sliding a Pokémon out of the screen will cause it to reappear on the other side (when sliding down, it will appear at the top of the top screen and fall down from there) and that every move does not have to form a Trozei of four or more Pokémon. Like in Bejeweled, gravity does pull the Pokémon downwards and attempts to slide a column upwards will result in it being nudged one tile up and then falling down again - unless, of course, nudging it upwards forms a Trozei, in which case it will stick around for the second before the Trozei disappears. After you Trozei, the field will turn green for a few seconds, indicating a Trozei Chance, during which you can make a Trozei with only three Pokémon - and if you manage to do that during the Trozei Chance, you will get an extreme Trozei Chance, so to speak, where you can Trozei with only two Pokémon.
The controls in the game are well done and let you appreciate the distinction of the Nintendo DS as a gaming system. Sliding the Pokémon around with the stylus feels completely natural; in general everything is so straightforward and obvious that you really won't need to learn how to play at all - you need to notice the things I mentioned in the above paragraph, yes, but you won't have to consult the instruction booklet to find out how to do this or that. You just take out the stylus, poke the buttons you want to select and places you want to go to, and then just push the rows and columns around - it's all the first thing you think of doing and completely self-explanatory. No more figuring out which button does what, which is a blessing since the Nintendo DS adds a couple of buttons that were not there on the Game Boy Advance.
In every level, there are three rare Pokémon to be caught. They are listed at the beginning of the level with a silhouette of their head as used in the game followed by their name, in ascending order by rarity. They will appear rarely (duh) throughout the level, but in addition to being rarer than other Pokémon, they are also vastly more annoying. You see, after a set amount of time on the bottom screen, the rare Pokémon just start to flicker and then disappear. This means that they are nearly impossible to Trozei without the aid of Ditto - in fact, generally you'll Trozei rare Pokémon by accident, when they happen to have a Ditto next to them as you enter the extreme Trozei Chance and become able to Trozei with only two Pokémon. The amount of time they stick around varies between levels, as well as the actual rarity of the rare Pokémon - in one location you'll be playing and playing without seeing as much as a hair of the rare Pokémon, and in the next the rare Pokémon will be showering down but disappearing almost as soon as they are there. (This, in fact, is even more frustrating than the former case, because they'll be gone before you'll manage to slide them together to form a Trozei, and additionally their disappearance will cause all the Pokémon above them to fall downwards and mess up your mental image of exactly what you've got on the screen, tricking you out of one precious second during which you need to try to regain your directions, and after this second is over some more raries will have appeared, disappeared and messed everything up again.)
The game also has multiplayer modes, which I haven't had the opportunity to try yet, and the Endless mode, in which you can play for just about forever, catching more Pokémon and competing against your own high score. After beating Adventure mode, you will be taken to a slightly more difficult version of the same Adventure mode, and after you beat that you will unlock Forever mode. (Don't ask me why the heck they have two different modes called "Endless mode" and "Forever mode".) Forever mode is basically where the entire screen becomes a playing field, giving you a whopping seven Pokémon in each row (although there are still only five in each vertical column). Soon after starting to play, you will notice that your Pokémon aren't Trozeiing, the reason for that being that in Forever mode, you need five Pokémon instead of four to Trozei. When you do get a Trozei of five, you will have an extremely short Trozei Chance, and in these milliseconds the game expects you to be able to gather four identical Pokémon into a line in order to get to the next stage of Trozei Chance, which is the ordinary three-Pokémon-Trozei one and then finally the two-Pokémon-Trozei Chance. You will soon learn that this is impossible to do consciously and not worth trying; you'll get maybe one two-Pokémon-Trozei Chance per level and that's it.
The good part about Forever mode is that some rare Pokémon will appear on lower levels there than in Endless mode. Yay.
The music score of the game was overall a bit of a disappointment; after all, this is Genius Sonority, and after my infamous worshipping of the music in Colosseum and XD, I was sort of expecting something of the same caliber from Trozei, but for the most part the Trozei music consists of repeated five-second themes that easily get boring. Interestingly, the best music in the game as far as I can tell is found in just a few obscure levels of Forever Mode. Heaven knows why they dug it in there - maybe as a treat for those who bother to play that annoying thing - but I do like that one, even though I don't hear it often enough to know what it sounds like off the top of my head.
So in conclusion after this bizarrely long review: while Pokémon Trozei is frustrating like you couldn't imagine, it is also quite addicting and will keep you occupied on long car rides/plane journeys/school breaks. Not much for people who want something more than a simple puzzle game, of course, but that's a given.
Page last modified March 15 2009 at 23:38 GMT