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'Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity' opens a new world of dungeon-crawling

By Brittany Vincent

Video Game Reviews

9:30 AM EDT, September 30, 2013

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The "Mystery Dungeon" series is an intriguing companion to the flagship "Pokemon" titles, offering a different sort of challenge beyond simple catch, battle and evolve mechanics. "Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity" makes the series' very first 3DS departure, thrusting players once more into the shoes of an actual Pocket Monster. How's that for a change?

Having suddenly found yourself in the body of a creature normally carried around in a small ball, treated like a pet, and used in battle between humans is a pretty jarring experience for anyone. But you soldier on, get over it, and soon make friends with the other Pokemon around you. Your predicament isn't entirely dire: you can choose which Pokemon you'd like to embody out of Snivy, Tepig, Oshawott, Axew, or fan-favorite Pikachu, each outfitted with special attacks and various stats. Once you've become acquainted with your new body, your fellow Pokemon and the strange new world you find yourself in, it's off to save it, becoming entangled in a weird "paradise" plot along the way.

That said, these games are the Pokemon version of roguelikes, with heaps of randomized dungeons rife with danger, waiting for you to conquer them. Alongside the monster partner of your choosing, you wander around these randomized dungeons to tackle various wild Pokemon, collect items, and earn experience points -- eventually growing a small squad of monsters to aid you in your quest. AI partners are controlled via basic tactics, with no direct control for you to exert, but for the most part they can fend for themselves, acting as valuable companions when spelunking in more challenging dungeons later on in the game.

Unfortunately, while randomization and variety offer numerous options for replayability, "Gates to Infinity does tend to feel quite repetitive after a while." The whole of each dungeon floor may as well be a series of rooms connected via small hallways, forcing your Pokemon team to tag along behind you in a single-file line, which isn't exactly ideal for battle or navigation. Fiddly camera controls aren't exactly conducive or encouraging of players to explore -- the exact opposite of roguelike play, and to perform well grinding is absolutely essential, especially if you want to collect building materials, special items, or extra money for the exciting world-building features.

Still, if you're up for the challenge "Gates of Infinity" (gorgeous newly 3D-rendered Pokemon included), there's plenty to explore. The intriguing Magnagate feature provides a window to even more content via 3DS camera, unlocking brand new dungeons via circular items in your home or in the real world. You'll be hard-pressed to find the end of a bottomless supply of new areas to conquer, but you'll want to move on should the appeal of continually-spawning dungeons start to cheapen after a while. If this is your first brush with the "Mystery Dungeon" series, this is a polished enough beginning, but they're certainly not for everyone.

Score: 7

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