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Game Review

If you're a diehard Pokémon fan, perhaps you've daydreamed about other kinds of Poké entertainment iterations. I mean, wouldn't a classic romance novel filled with your favorite critters be cool? Pride and Pokémon has an interesting ring to it, right? Or what about a sci-fi TV excursion like, say, Doctor Woobat?

Well, believe it or not, it just so happens that the gamemakers at Nintendo have been thinking along that same creative wavelength. They've come up with a new 3DS title that has something of a noir detective slant, paired with a gumshoe hero who's unlike any pocket monster you've ever seen before.

Detective Pikachu takes that famous, lightning-tailed Pokémon and transforms him into a narrow-eyed, deep voiced investigator with a penchant for a strong coffee and a love for searching out clues. Now, that may sound a bit odd and perhaps a tad campy. And it is. But it also makes this new game very involving and personality driven.

Oh, and fun, too.

The Trouble With Harry

You play as a kid named Tim Goodman who's shown up in the New York-like Ryme City looking for information about his missing dad, Harry. Tim knows there was some kind of "accident" a while back that led to his dad's disappearance. But other than that, he's in the dark. So he's decided to take matters into his own hands.

Fortunately for Tim, he meets up with a certain Pikachu in a tiny detective cap, a Pokémon who's equally determined to find Harry. Why, you ask? Well, this little guy used to be Harry's Pokémon partner. They were both at the scene of the accident, but Pikachu mysteriously has no memory of the event. Even stranger, however, is the fact that while the rest of the world can only hear Pikachu's normal pika-pika squeaks, Tim can understand every gruff and streetwise quip this little detecting guy has to share.

So just like that, a new mystery-solving team is formed, with Tim and Pikachu venturing out to piece together what's been going on in Ryme City. For one thing, there have been some peculiar incidents where normally docile Pokémon have suddenly gone a bit crazy, causing havoc in the city streets. Is it possible that this strange behavior is linked to Harry's disappearance? Is there a trail to follow? A plot afoot? Might Tim's dad still be out there?

Where Were You on the Night of the Mewtwo?

Gameplay wise, your task is to investigate several seemingly unrelated cases that Tim and Pikachu soon stumble into, from untangling simple Pokémon mischief to solving petty human crimes to piecing together reasons for various mysterious happenings. But always, your bigger focus is looking for clues that might lead you along your pulpy investigative trail toward finding Harry.

You'll face move-a-block-here-and-push-that-button-over-there environmental mini puzzles. But for the most part, your assignment really comes down to examining crime scenes, sniffing out clues and interrogating witnesses of every stripe. You deal with the humans, and Pikachu translates the Pokémon witnesses you encounter.

Then, as each case begins to wrap up, Pikachu takes center stage and helps you identify the right clues, fitting them together with the right witness statements. With enough clues, you'll eventually be able to deduce what has transpired. It's a fun process that's made all the more compelling by the fact that Pikachu is so ready to wisecrack about the surrounding people and situations, as well as offering up sassy snark that only you can hear.

Gamers do run into some duplicitous individuals playing out dastardly conspiracies, of course, but there's nothing offensive or nasty in the game to worry over. And this 3DS title is crafted in such a way that it's nearly impossible for even the youngest of gamers to fail at their heroic, save-the-day tasks.

Ultimately, then, Detective Pikachu is more of a fun story adventure—filled with silly characters and charm—than it is a taxing game full of truly tough mysteries worthy of a Columbo. But that's OK. Because this is a game for diehard fans, both young and old. And it's for those daydreamers, the ones who now can't wait to see what Doctor Woobat might have tucked away in his phone booth.

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March 23, 2018

On Video

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Bob Hoose