Pop Island Review for Nintendo DS

Pop Island Review for Nintendo DS

Capture it on your DSi

DSiWare has proved to be a great way to put out smaller games without affecting anyone’s pockets too much. What’s more, it allows us to take those games wherever we go. Pop Island and DSiWare have turned out to be a perfect match, and I’m excited to take this game with me from now on. After all, how many handheld games do you know that can be played with up to eight players? And how many of them are actually fun and easy to play? That’s the biggest thing Pop Island has going for it.

Pop Island screenshot

Pop Island is a “capture the flag” game that stays away from the ever-so-typical warfare atmosphere and introduces a nice array of furry characters and diverse environments that’ll keep your hands glued to the DSi for a while. The best way to put it is “capture the flag on wheels.” The gameplay concept is indeed simple, but the way it’s executed makes it quite addictive.

Things start easy by offering you one play mode (Joyful), one planet (Earth), and one character (Craig the wheel-powered Lion). Then, you can pick one of four difficulty levels, each of them offering different team formations that’ll make the playfield more or less crowded. While driving around the planet, you’ll have to pick up unclaimed flags and take them to your team’s home area. This will be the biggest way to score points and also the ultimate goal. However, it’s also very important that you chase flag-carrying enemies and attack them before they drive their flag home. This frenzied battle is complete with power-ups and all. There are eight different kinds that you can snatch from the power-up stations as you drive by. Some power-ups help protect you from incoming enemies, while others are the perfect projectiles to strike that pompous adversary that’s carrying one of the flags.

A map on the lower screen shows you the layout of the stage, the power-up stations, and it also represents the other characters as red or blue dots, so you know what’s coming and going and where you’re at. In addition, it shows the standing flags and if they’re taken or still available. This makes things very easy, though you still have to pay attention to the top screen, as any distraction could result in losing your flag.

Pop Island screenshot

As you rack up the points and complete the competitions, new playable characters and planets will be unlocked. The variety of terrains and vehicles further enhances the gameplay; that’s when strategy comes into play. Saturn, for example, is a hybrid map full of water and jagged terrain, while Venus is full of bumps and obstacles that make it quite a rough ride. Depending upon the land of choice, one should try to pick the most appropriate characters, as they all have different characteristics that’ll make your journey more efficient.

One should probably pick Mika the penguin or Arne the goldfish to make their way around icy planets, as you can go straight to the water and advance at lightning speed. You can even hide underwater and surprise your opponents. On the other hand, Scott the bird seems like the perfect fit for Venus, as he sports a sweet motorcycle, ideal for rough terrains. N’Gai the eagle is also a nice choice when you prefer to take flight and avoid obstacles altogether. Of course, no one is invincible in any of the eight planets, but some will make more sense than others, so pick wisely!

Pop Island screenshot

Unfortunately, no matter which character you choose, you might get some serious hand cramps after playing Pop Island for a while. Ouch! The controls are mapped to the D-pad for movement and the buttons for jumping, throwing projectiles, using power-ups, etc. Luckily, you can also use the stylus to point your character in the desired direction and the D-pad for actions. This is slightly more comfortable than the first control style, though it all comes down to personal preference. Mario Kart already proved that racing games on the DS can take their toll after some play time, and this is a similar situation.

Pop Island has a sweet presentation, with rainbow-style menus and unique character design. All the funny, cube-shaped animals are loaded with a nice pair of…ahem… wheels, skis, etc., which turns them into some fancy vehicles. The graphics in general don’t have the “wow” factor, but they definitely have the “cool” factor, with plenty of colors, cute character designs, and diverse environments.

Pop Island screenshot

Also, the game sports some poppy, classy tunes – very suitable for the game, and some cool sound effects as well. But, visuals and sounds aside, the best part of Pop Island is its multiplayer gameplay. You can compete against not one, not two, not three, but seven other friends via local DS connection. Eight-player multiplayer is hard to come by these days, especially considering this game is not even asking the other players to own the game. The main menu lets you share the demo via DS Download Play, and anyone with a DS, DS Lite, or DSi can receive it and start playing. As long as they keep their system turned on, they’ll be able to try out the solo mode and the multiplayer.

Another unique aspect of this awesome multiplayer is that the characters and planets are all unlocked, so you can have unlimited fun with it right off the bat. You may not have a whole lot of fun when playing by yourself, but playing it with other friends is a guaranteed blast. For a lower budget game such as this, especially at the $5 price tag, you can’t really go wrong. If you have some DSi points to spare, make sure to invest them in Pop Island. Not only will you like it, but your friends will really appreciate it!

They don’t have the “wow” factor, but they do have the “cool” factor, with plenty of colors, cute character designs, and diverse environments, all running at a smooth framerate. 4.0 Control
Vehicles handle like they should in each distinct terrain. Only issue is hand-cramping after a serious play session. 3.8 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Cute audio tracks and neat sound effects. They do repeat a little, however. 4.8

Play Value
Five dollars for a game you can share and play with up to eight friends is a small price to pay, especially when it’s this fun!

4.0 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.

Game Features:

  • Colorful and fun, Pop Island is an all-action capture the flag game where you pick which team to compete on before running, jumping and spinning your way around the island in an attempt to collect the priceless flags hidden throughout it.
  • Become a surfing penguin, a flying fish, or a waterskiing crocodile as you go all out for victory-unlocking 12 more joyful animals as you rack up points across eight different planets.
  • Playing alone is plenty of fun, but the madcap action reaches a new level when your friends get involved. By sharing the demo of the game via DS Download Play, up to seven more people can join you for some head-to-head or cooperative action.

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