Okay, just so we’re all clear, we have no beef with casual games. We loves us some Bejeweled, we can’t wait for Line Rider, and we’ve played the crap out of Xbox LIVE casuals like Zuma and Hexic. In fact, Tetris would probably be considered a casual game if it came out today, and if it wasn’t, its 20 knock-offs would definitely be.
That said, Pogo Island just doesn’t feel right. It gathers together five games that you can play for free on EA’s Pogo.com casual games portal, tosses in a few micro-games, and calls it a day. There’s no real plot other than the setup story: the games’ focus-tested mascots are all on a cruise together (in what appears to be a pirate ship, go figure), and the dumb parrot guiding the boat brags about how good he is at steering. Naturally, he then immediately slams the boat into an island. You then basically play a board game in which every spot you land finds you playing one of five casual games or a microgame.
The games themselves are okay, we guess. Word Whomp is basically Boggle, with you making words out of a handful of letters. Poppit! finds you popping balloons of different colors – and in true puzzle game fashion, any nearby balloons of the same color spontaneously burst into oblivion as well, sometimes earning you toys from the game’s octopus overlord. Phlinx is Bubble Bobble, plain and simple. Squelchies is AstroPop, so you’re moving colored critters into groups of three so they vanish as they descend. And Tri-Peaks Solitaire is a card game in which you lay cards out in pyramidal fashion and try to get them back into the deck in sequential order. And the microgames are things like matching shapes or hammering nails as they pop out of the deck boards.
And that’s about it. It looks okay, but not spectacular, and there’s no sign of the zillion or so other games at Pogo.com. You can earn tokens to upload to your Pogo account – apparently it gets you some sweepstakes entries. And you can play head to head Word Whomp via ad hoc. Whoo.
Don’t get us wrong: there is fun here. It’s just that there isn’t much for the amount of money you pay to get it or considering the volume of work EA had to pull from.