Pop to the island for a couple hours of fun
POGO Island was created by EA to “celebrate” the success of the top five most popular games they have to offer at the online game community POGO.com. Now they get to put their games into the handheld so they can hopefully draw some more people into the website and at the same time make some extra money with the sales of the game; that’s what I call “killing two birds with one stone.”
Is POGO Island a game everybody will enjoy? Well, that depends on how much you like puzzle games, and how addicted you usually get when you play them. POGO Island contains five popular games: Word Whomp, Poppit!, Phlinx, Tri-Peaks Solitaire, and Squelchies.
In Word Whomp, you’ll have to think of three, four, five, and six letter words that can be formed with the six given letters within a short period of time. You’ll have the option to mix them up on the screen to help you come up with words, and you can also use hints, which discounts seconds off the timer. This game is really a classic; I’m sure you’ve all played this kind of game at some point. If you liked it before, you’ll like it on POGO Island too.
Poppit! fills your screen with differently colored balloons that you need to pop in matching groups of two or more. When you pop a balloon, the ones below will be raised. Treasures are trapped inside the balloons and, in order to release them, you’ll have to clear some balloons above them and below. Two special items will give you an advantage: the pin lets you pop any balloon you choose, and the anvil will lower down the balloons in the column of your choice; these are only available when you release them from the balloons where they were trapped.
Phlinx is probably my least favorite; it’s basically a version of Puzzle Bubble or Bust-a-move. However, I don’t think it plays quite right with the stylus, and the gameplay is a bit slow, unless you opt to use the shoulder buttons to shoot the bubbles once you’ve directed the ball with the stylus. For those who don’t know what game I’m talking about, there are colored bubbles on top and you’ll shoot new balls from a cannon situated at the bottom of the screen. You’ll have to try and put together three or more of the same color so they’ll disappear. Anything below the bubbles you popped will fall as well, giving you extra points.
Tri-Peaks Solitaire is an interesting version of Solitaire with three groups of cards at the top and a card pile at the bottom. When you pick a card from the deck, you’ll have to try and pair it with a card from the top section, as long as it’s one number above or below. When you do this, both cards will disappear, liberating the card or cards on the top section that were trapped underneath. It’s a pretty fun solitaire game but equally frustrating when you get to the “no more moves” part.
Last but not least, I should mention Squelchies, a game I had never played before and that I thought was entertaining and addictive: there are six columns filled up (not all the way) with colored Squelchies (cute characters that look like Pac-Man’s ghosts). You can pick the one at the bottom of each column with the stylus and drag it to the column of your choice, trying to form groups of four or more of the same color. They don’t need to be in the same column, but they need to be touching in order to be considered a group. When you create a group, they’ll disappear, while the columns continue to be filled up with more Squelchies that fall from above. The more combos you do, the more points you’ll get. You should never let your Squelchies touch the bottom or the game is over.
The way the adventure mode (main mode) works resembles a board game and the Mario Party franchise: there will be a board and your character moves from tile to tile. In some of them you’ll be forced to play a specific game (of the five available) and then in some you’ll be able to choose what you want to play. You’ll achieve points little by little and the main objective is to rescue all of your friends and fix the boat that broke and got you into trouble in the first place. In order to fix the boat you’ll play very simple minigames where you launch characters and objects into the boat with a slingshot or hammer down the nails that pop out. Those minigames are as simplistic as they sound and the fun factor is not really there.
The points you achieve give you tokens that you can transfer to your POGO.com account via Nintendo Wifi connection. It’s pretty neat and useful for those already hooked to the POGO.com games. You can then use those tokens on the website to play more games. It works like a casino but with these kinds of games instead of all card and roulette games.
Party play and multi-card mode allow you to play against your friends, but only against the ones close by you with another DS. It would have been nice to be linked against other people online, but the developers didn’t get there. They probably figured people can play the games online by going to POGO.com and then play on-the-go with the Nintendo DS. You can also let your friends download a demo of Poppit! onto their DS so they can give it a try and get hooked.
The graphics are simple and could very well be on the GameBoy Advance. They’re not much better than that, but they do their job. They’re colorful and detailed, but simplistic and cartoony. The whole game happens on an island so you’ll see lots of elements following that theme, including a parrot that looks like it just came from the Pirates of the Caribbean and other characters like the cactus from the balloon game, the mole from the word game, the explorer, and the Squelchies I already mentioned. They’re cute, but the game is just not that great.
The soundtrack is not bad; it has some catchy tunes that keep you relaxed while playing the game. Some of them are borrowed from other EA games, like the Sims soundtrack, which I instantly recognized. The sound effects are appropriate, if nothing out of the ordinary. You’ll hear coins when you cash in your new tokens, balloons popping, and cards being drawn. It’s all fine, nothing too repetitive or strident.
Here is where you come into place. Have you ever played the POGO.com games? Do you usually enjoy online games like that or the popular Hexic, Bejeweled, Zuma, etc.? Then this may work out for you. In all the other cases, it probably won’t. If it had been priced as a budget title ($20) they’d probably have more chances to sell the game, but we’ll see what happens!