Platform: 3DS eShop (£2.69)
Pokemon Black & White 2 stubbornly refused to make the jump from DS to 3DS, which came as a disappointment to many of us. Even though it would have limited the size of the install base, Nintendo's year-old handheld provides a wealth of potential for the franchise to tap into; not just in terms of upgraded 3D visuals and high fidelity audio, but the promise of bringing Augmented Reality to the Pokemon experience. The idea of using the 3DS' twin cameras to conduct battles on the street, playground or workplace is thoroughly intoxicating, even for lapsed fans such as myself.
Realising this, however, Creatures Inc. and Game Freak have released a cheap and cheerful app that leverages augmented reality to allow 3DS owners to capture some rare Pokemon in the comfort of their own living room. I'm still grinding through Pokemon White to deliver our ultimate verdict (sorry, it was either that or XCOM: Enemy Unknown), but for now, here's our take on its inexpensive AR companion.
Upon booting up Dream Radar for the first time, you'll meet the eccentric Professor Burnet, who introduces the fairly simple premise. She's discovered a plane of existence between reality and dreams that contains a host of trapped Pokemon, all-pervading yet invisible to the naked eye. Your 3DS becomes a scanning tool attuned to the dreamscape, acting as a window into the new realm and boasting a capture beam that can pull these Pokemon into reality. And more importantly, into your Pokemon Black & White 2 save files.
You'll already be familiar with the gameplay concept if you've ever tried out the free Face Raiders app. The 3DS' cameras are used to relay real-time video of your immediate surroundings, with appropriately-named Dream Clouds projected onto the footage. Moving the handheld around allows you to line up clouds with your crosshair, which can be summarily smashed open with a blast from your capture beam.
The vast majority of these floating clouds release Dream Orbs, which essentially act as in-game currency. More excitingly, though, a rare few contain a Pokemon that transform into fast-moving spheres to lock onto in a fleeting capture window. If you manage to keep your beam on target before they disappear, you'll catch them and eventually transfer them over to your Pokemon Black or White 2 Game Pak via a relatively simple 2-step procedure. Should you fail, you'll often receive a useful item to soften the blow.
As mentioned, you can spend Dream Orbs on a selection of upgrades that improve the power of your capture beam, the length of the Pokemon capture window or a small menu of one-use items that make corralling tricky Pokemon slightly easier.
While slightly undernourished from a gameplay standpoint, Dream Radar is an intuitive and surprisingly immersive experience thanks to the AR functionality. Unfortunately the selection of Pokemon is somewhat uninspiring to say the least. Incredibly rare unique forms of the legendary Thunderus, Landorus and Tornadus aside, the 21-strong smorgasbord usually includes level ten versions of common Pokemon such as Riolu and Drifbloon, whose effectiveness is fairly limited despite unlocking their 'secret ability.' Some slightly more uncommon critters such as the psychic-type Munna may come in useful during the early Black & White 2 game, but otherwise, you'll likely start doubling up on useless box filler.
Diehard fans will be pleased to note that some extra legendary Pokemon are up for grabs if you happen to have a Diamond, Pearl, Platinum, HeartGold or SoulSilver Game Pak lying about (specifically, Dialga, Palkia, Giratina, Ho-Oh and Lugia). Just pop in the respective cartridge and hope for the best.
An obvious nod to freemium game structure limits Dream Radar's effectiveness in the long term, especially for extended sessions. Once you've depleted all of the Dream Clouds, you'll have to wait several minutes (if not an hour) for them to replenish. Impatient types can spend 3DS Play Coins to refill the cloud complement, which is a welcome new use for the virtual currency, but relegates Dream Radar to being an occasional diversion between Black & White 2 gameplay sessions.
I can't help but feel that Dream Radar could have offered more - both in terms of extra story development, lore and gameplay variety. Some extra meat would have helped to round out the package and made it more relevant to less avid Pokemon players. It's also a right royal tease, a fleeting glimpse into how Augmented Reality could be fully brought into the Pokemon fold in future iterations. At the end of the day, though, it's only £2.69 - and thus its mission is largely accomplished.
- Immersive, simple gameplay
- Unique legendary Pokemon forms up for grabs (from older games, too)
- Easy transfer to Pokemon Black & White 2
- Limited selection of Pokemon to capture
- Undernourished in terms of gameplay variety
- Waiting for clouds to replenish will aggravate some players
The Short Version: This inexpensive eShop download provides a worthwhile distraction for Pokemaniacs, a few extra critters and fascinating insight into how augmented reality could be integrated into the Pokemon universe. It could have offered more, but for £2.69, it does enough to warrant a recommendation if you're heavily invested in Pokemon Black & White 2.