A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this game features plenty of combat by pitting the Pokemon on the player's team against various renegade Pokemon. Conflict isn't graphic, and the Pokemon retain well-known special moves from other Pokemon games, like Bulbasaur's Leech Seed move – so, a prior knowledge of the Pokemon universe is an asset. Through Wi-Fi, you can "rescue" fallen friends and exchange items and Pokemon teams with another player. You can choose to connect with either friends that you've exchanged friend codes with, or "anyone." You can write personalized messages to friends, but can only send pre-written stock messages to recipients marked "anyone." A second version of the game, subtitled EXPLORERS OF TIME, is virtually the same experience with a handful of different Pokemon and items.
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What's it about?
After the rather shaky Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Red Rescue Team, the follow-up POKEMON MYSTERY DUNGEON: EXPLORERS OF DARKNESS boasts more depth. The game is another attempt to graft a Pokemon theme onto the format of the long-running Mystery Dungeon series, unique for its randomly-generated dungeons (maze-type environments) and harsh penalties for defeat. A second version of the game, subtitled EXPLORERS OF TIME, is virtually the same experience with a handful of different Pokemon and items.
In a twist, you're actually a human who wakes up transformed into a Pokemon and with amnesia. You then select a companion from another set of Pokemon, who will trail behind you and attack automatically. You join an adventurer's guild, earning fame and fortune exploring mystery dungeons while also investigating the mystery of the human's identity and the reason for strange rifts in time that are occurring.
Is it any good?
Explorers of Darkness is heavier on role-play than simply random exploration. Basic gameplay consists of taking on quests at the guild, such as exploring dungeons to hunt down outlaw Pokemon or find missing Pokemon or items. There are also scripted events that occur regularly as your party advances in guild rank. Also, you don't necessarily have to make it to the end of a dungeon to win but can warp back to the guild after completing a mission. Through Wi-Fi you can "rescue" fallen friends and exchange items and Pokemon teams with another player.
Still, the game is still super-frustrating if your party gets defeated – and it will happen a lot. Not only will you lose all gold and some of your items, but any quest you had completed (without warping back immediately) will be reset for you to do all over again. It's this harshness that takes some of the fun out of Explorers of Darkness. Also, you'll have to endure the same unskippable eating and sleeping cutscenes each day, and production values still more closely resemble a Game Boy Advance game than a Nintendo DS title.
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