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Pokémon Channel Package Art
 GENRE
  Virtual Pet
 DEVELOPER
  The Pokémon Company
 PUBLISHER
  Nintendo
 NUMBER OF PLAYERS
  1
 CONNECTIVITY
  yes
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Pokémon Channel

While gamers everywhere wait ever so patiently for Pokémon Colloseum, Nintendo has quietly been tinkering around with a peculiar little virtual pet game to keep the fans happy and sated over the holiday season. Following the tradition of odd Pokémon tie-in games, Pokémon Channel puts you in the role of a test audience for a new Pokémon-themed television channel. Unfortunately, even if an idea is fresh and original, there's no guarantee that it's going to be any fun.

visuals

The objects and backgrounds in the game are simple, but functional. The Pokémon themselves are modeled much more smoothly than they were in Pokémon Stadium games, but for the most part, they're still rendered very simply; most of them are flat-colored and have the exact same animations that they had back on the N64. The game has a simple and cartoony look overall.

audio

Most of the music in the game is breezy and peaceful, slipping naturally into the background. Beyond that, every Pokémon is fully-voiced; if you never get sick of hearing that cute little "Pika! Pika!" you'll be in heaven.

gameplay

Pokémon Channel plays like a virtual pet that focuses on watching television. It's just as exciting as it sounds. The game uses the GameCube's internal clock to mark the passage of time. On the first day, you're given a handful of Pokémon-themed television shows to watch. If you watch them all, you're rewarded with new shows the next day. The quality of the programs is about what you'd expect from a video game; about three minutes of generic action takes place on the screen as text floats by. Several of the shows have some sort of interactive element; quiz shows will give you a chance to win in-game cash by answering questions correctly, and an art appreciation show will critique the pictures you draw. A few of the shows are cute enough the first time you see them, but repetition -- in the form of incessant Poké-talk as well as recycled on-screen text -- makes the experience a bit annoying after a while. About the best feature is a fully-animated Pichu Bros. cartoon made especially for the game. The animation and storyline are rather typical of the Pokémon cartoon, but it's kind of fun to tune in every day for a week to see what'll happen next.

Fortunately, there's more to do than sit in front of the tube all day. A wild Pikachu invites himself into your home early on in the first day, and you get to keep him as a pet for the rest of the game. When you're away from the TV, you get a first-person point-and-click interface to explore the world around you. If left to his own devices, Pikachu will merrily run around your room in circles, poking his little nose into all of your stuff and seeing what kind of mischief he can get into. If you need to focus his attention on something, like another Pokémon in the area, just click on it, and he may or may not react. There are a handful of different areas to visit, each about twice the size of the screen, filled with things for Pikachu to pick up, search, or otherwise interact with. This sort of exploration seems to be the entire point of the game, as Pikachu doesn't need any real care. Surprisingly, your curiosity is very seldom rewarded. The vast majority of the objects in the game seem to serve no point at all. Even when you do come across something interesting -- a ball to play catch with or a fishing spot -- you'll find that what you can do with Pikachu isn't all that interesting.

The game does boast a few extras. With the money you earn from quiz shows, you can tune in to the home shopping channel and purchase a wide selection of merchandise to customize or decorate your room. There are over a hundred "Nice Cards" that you can obtain, each featuring one of Pikachu's highly collectible buddies. A simple paint program allows you to take images from one of the shows -- or scanned in from an e-Reader card, which is also supported -- and color it in using a very simple paint program. You can even find a Pokémon Mini, which is based on a peculiar little portable game system that received a cult following among Pokémon fans. The games for the system are actually more like microgames, challenging you to complete simple tests of skill and timing with only one or two buttons. It's rather telling that Nintendo didn't even bother to include the full version of any of the six games that you can collect (apart from one game made specially for Channel).

multiplayer

N/A

overall

You can't deny the novelty of Nintendo's newest offering, and the lack of depth can almost be excused by its discounted price point. Still, there's only so long you can stand to watch Pikachu frolicking aimlessly on an empty beach. This may be a good game for very young children who are still interested in Pokémon, but God bless the parent who has the patience to play through it with them. Most gamers would do well to listen to their hearts and get that Family Guy DVD collection instead; now that's a quality television experience.

final score 3.0/10





WRITER INFORMATION
Staff Avatar Ed Griffiths
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"Nothing can kill the Grimace!"


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