If you didn’t hear about this one directly, I wouldn’t be surprised if it reached your radar because of the excellent insight by the zeitgeist that Detective Pikachu should have been voiced by Danny Devito. Disappointing as the lack of Frank Reynolds flavor is, the voice still works, and I’m generally impressed by everything I saw:
It should go without saying because it’s Pokemon, but I’ll put it down for the record because of the Danny Devito joke above:
This is a game for kids.
The Frank Reynolds-mon joke above kind of carries the implication that this game should be aimed at adults, and based on what I’m seeing in the trailer, it’s not at all the case. First off the game is rated “E” for Everyone, and the snippets of the puzzles we see aren’t exactly Mensa grade.
That is totally fine! Pokemon is a fantastical world with colorful creatures and the kind of “safe danger” that makes for a perfect adventure for children. These games should always be made with kids in mind first, and then worry about whether they appeal more broadly.
Given some of the other game play we see in the trailer, like the Quicktime command challenge to press A to jump off the moving…hoverboard? Whatever it is, it’s not exactly rigorous, and the focus of the game is clearly to be on the aforementioned puzzles, and cracking the case.
The trailer gives us a few examples of the kinds of cases our heroes will be trying to get to the bottom of, primarily the search for young Tim’s father (who we find out is also a detective who seems to have disappeared while on a case).
We’re treated to the genre required voiceover telling us that, followed by an ominous voice warning us that humans are not to be trusted. The fact that the next line is Detective Pikachu calling that person tedious: it’s adorable and it’s the kind of game that looks like it’ll tell a compelling and adorable story.
There’s a challenge of any video game narrative, especially in this era where games have gotten so big and so wide open: creating a deep and complex playspace for your user, while maintaining pace and tone, as well as focus towards an end goal.
Detective Pikachu seems to be on the right track with the former: the game consists of interviews, interrogations and puzzles that are both the gameplay and the very core of the narrative momentum in the investigation.
The big question is: will it all tie together? It’s a much less interesting/compelling story if it’s just a series of “Monster of the Week” Scooby Doo style mysteries. If you’re going to spend 10+ hours with any game, there’s a much greater sense of satisfaction and relief if your journey over those ten hours is a continuous and contiguous build towards a cumulative narrative end goal.
The trailer makes the right promise: we’re told off the bat that Tim’s mission is to find his missing father, but as other cases are previewed throughout the trailer, we’re told through the snippets of dialogue that they are all connected and building to a larger mystery afoot that Tim’s dad was on the trail of.
I talked about Safe Danger above, and the trailer definitely has some wonderful shots of both the adorable side of Pokemon:
As well as promising the more thrilling side of it that kids can enjoy and have a fun adventure with:
All in all, this looks like it’s shaping up to be a great adventure. It may not be “for me” but I’ll have a great time playing it with my nine-year-old nephew when it comes out on March 23rd.
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