Stop-gap solutions are a necessary evil. Sometimes people or companies have to offer a temporary remedy to address a need without fully satisfying it. That's exactly what Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Blue Rescue Team is. This tourniquet of a title is meant to keep Pokemon fans occupied while they wait for the new Pokemon role-playing games - you know, the ones that have been dazzling gamers for the last decade. Until then, they'll have to make do with this game, which has some good qualities that are ultimately wasted by poor pacing and a lack of depth.
Pokemon Mystery Dungeon lets you play the part of a human character that suddenly wakes up as a Pokemon. A brief series of questions determines what kind of Pokemon you'll be and who you get to choose as your primary partner. After sorting all that out, you get to go on an adventure as part of a "rescue team" that helps Pokemon in need. But your desire to journey with said team depends on how hard you sweat over your new Poke-products. That said, the wandering gameplay and level design are quite boring, and the story isn't enough of a payoff.
You and your companions walk through numerous, multi-level dungeons, fight things, pick up items and save a Pokemon. The turn-based combat utilizes the same rock-paper-scissors like combat that made the RPGs so deep, but it's not used effectively enough. Leveling up your Pokemon takes way too long in this game. You won't gain any cool powers until well after the main narrative is over.
Nintendo's marketing is making a big hubbub about you getting to be a Pokemon. After playing this game for a few hours, most people will think, "So the hell what?!?" One of the qualities that made the RPGs so addictive is the attachment the player develops with his Pokemon. Gaining wicked attacks and watching Pokemon evolve gave players an almost parental feeling. Catching rare Pokemon also added a sense of accomplishment. These aspects are totally lacking from this game because evolution doesn't happen fast enough and acquiring new Pokemon takes too much time and money.
The lack of depth is also apparent in the game's difficulty - at least in the initial run. The combat is so easy that battles are often reduced mashing buttons so you can end this pathetic skirmish and go back to finding the exit to the next level of the dungeon. The only thing that adds difficulty is the inept companion AI. Your friends will put themselves in precarious positions or wander off or not heal themselves fast enough or do any number of things that will piss you off. You have a limited amount of control over their attacks and behavior, but you need to keep a watchful eye on them because they will do something stupid. There are eight-year olds that have mastered Pokemon, but apparently the creatures are too moronic to figure anything out themselves.
There is a certain segment of the gamer population that will enjoy Pokemon Mystery Dungeon. If you like mindless level grinds and you love everything about Pokemon then you're likely to dig this game. After you complete the initial story, you have the freedom to explore the world, catch all the Pokemon in the game and get them some great abilities. If you can stomach grinding through hundreds of dungeons, then there's dozens and dozens of hours for you to enjoy. If you're waiting for the next great Pokemon adventure, however, keep waiting. This isn't it.