Expect the Unexpected
As far as the title goes, Bakugan: Battle Trainer is not completely misleading, but fans of the franchise will be expecting something else. The problem is that Battle Trainer is entirely different from what we’ve come to expect from Bakugan.
Confused? Well don’t be. That’s what I’m here for. Allow me to oversimplify if you will. Battle Trainer is a no-frills, basic strategy game that does not involve cards, dice, or the throwing of Bakugan characters. This game is virtually devoid of a storyline, yet the only mode available is Story mode. No other modes are offered, not even multiplayer. It also lacks different difficulty settings, so say goodbye to any replay value. Most players will complete the entire game in an afternoon. When I say no-frills, I mean it. This is like a Cold War-era Russian bootleg. It makes Pokémon look like Diablo.
Battle Trainer is streamlined to say the least. Even though it contains Bakugan characters, it’s not a Bakugan game. At first I was suspicious of this version coming out a mere six months from the last release. But, a different developer is at the helm, and I was intrigued by the new gameplay. I applauded the developers for attempting to take the series in a different direction, but that applause soon became the sound of one hand clapping (ask your local Zen master about that one). Battle Trainer gives the appearance of having only been a few months in development. The gameplay is shallow, unoriginal, and various graphics and sound effects have been harvested from the previous version. Only a handful of characters are voiced, and they continually repeat the same lines. Truth be told, this isn’t a horrible game despite what I’ve already mentioned, but it’s not worth the full price. Rent this game or borrow it from a friend. You can have it back to them the next day.
Here’s the storyline. Remember how Dan was the god of all things Bakugan in the last game? Well, in this one he lost his memory and has to start all over. Aliens have captured most of the Bakugan, and they are being held captive on a spaceship. Your job is to take the few remaining ‘Kugans to the craft to fight for their release. Every successful battle will win you some ‘Kugans. Continue until you’ve won them all, and that’s all folks.
Elements of RPG and real-time strategy combine to give the gameplay some depth, but keep in mind this is definitely the shallow end of the pool. It does have its fun moments, and it’s even a little bit addictive. It’s relatively easy to play, and it will make most players feel confident. Much of the fun is in unlocking and using power-up abilities during battles. But, before you can send your Bakugan in to battle, you’ve got to train them. This is the most ridiculous part of the game. Training consists of performing some mindless mini-games such as blowing into the mic. I guess the developers think that never gets old. Other mini-games include taping the stylus to a beat, collecting batteries, or answering trivia questions. You don’t even have to participate in any of these silly games if you don’t want to. All you have to do is move to a specifically colored section of the training arena and you’ll increase your mental abilities automatically. Thankfully, these mini-games don’t take very long to get you up and running for your training session.
Another series of games await at the training stage, including a Bejeweled spin-off. These games are a bit more involved, and there’s a reward system for the instant gratification enthusiast in all of us. Navigate your way through a maze and dodge and block various objects on your path to accumulate points to be used to amass skills. You can use up to five skills, or abilities, during a match. These skills, or abilities, act as power-ups, similarly to what you would expect from a card-based game, although you only get to use each talent once. Some of the abilities include augmenting existing powers, stealing an enemy’s power, and blocking an enemy’s attack. To keep things interesting, some skills will react differently to different enemies. Defeating an enemy with an arrow over its head will level-up your character.
The combatant with the most points wins the battle, but the losers points are deducted from the winner’s score. So, it’s quite possible to be successful but still have a severe lack of points. You can take up to three Bakugans into battle with you. The turn-based combat allows you to choose your opponent. The A.I. will do likewise during its turn. You can see your enemy’s powers before you enter into battle.
Graphically, the game is clean, clear, and colorful. There’s not a lot going on animation-wise, but the scores, stats, and meters are arranged at the bottom of the top screen where they are out of the way of the gameplay, but convenient enough to keep track of with a glance. There are only about 30 Bakugan characters to collect. The animation and voiceovers are limited, but they do look decent. The music is forgettable, but the sound effects are convincing, if a little sparse. Most of the action will be found during the mini-games where you’ll be forced to use the stylus for most commands. It works well, obviously benefiting from having the mini-games designed around the control scheme. Let’s not forget blowing into the mic, or perhaps we shall.
It will be interesting to see where the developers take the next Bakugan game. Wherever they take it, they had better add a multiplayer component to it, even an ad-hoc system would be better than nothing. I can’t recommend this game to fans of the series, since it’s so far from the beaten path. Nor would I recommend it for newbies, since they won’t learn how to play the original game. Then again, the entire franchise may be heading in this direction, but something tells me this version is just an anomaly. It’s up to you if you want to spend your money on this gaming experiment. I would advise approaching it with caution. And by caution, I mean renting or borrowing it.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.0 Graphics
Clean and clear layout. Lazy on the animation. 4.0 Control
The stylus is put to good use. Accurate execution of commands. 1.9 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Forgettable music and sparse, repeated voiceovers. 2.2
Entertaining for a few short hours at best.
2.3 Overall Rating – Poor
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.