Gaming: Pokemon Black and White 2

SINCE Pokémon indelibly etched itself into the consciousness of anyone who has ever liked a “Child of the Nineties” page on Facebook, over 50 video games have been produced under the title of perhaps one of the most awe-inspiring marketing machines ever made. Now the process and principles of encapsulating droves of Pokémon, which as always are divided into equal parts cute, creepy and kickass, returns in the first numbered sequels in the series, which can only be estimated to be the current “cutting-edge” in monster hoarding.

If you are a fan of the series, it’s likely that you already own a copy of either Black 2 or White 2, and are busy furiously staving off the encroaching obsessive-compulsive tendencies that the series tries so hard to cultivate, but I’ll cover the basics if not. The game opens with startling abruptness, barely pausing to bog you down in the details of the character you are to play or the world you are about to explore. It’s initially strange but you quickly appreciate this lack of exposition, as it affords you more time to get down to the business of exploring and exploiting the various denizens and destinations of Unova. Sadly, this freedom is short-lived, as you’ll be repeatedly exposed to aggressive tutorials that leave you in no doubt that this is a game that children play.

The real fun doesn’t start until you escape the trappings of the first act and get out into the world proper. Here the characters start to come to life, with tragic motivations and cunning plots unfolding just about everywhere. It’s ham-fisted good fun which manages to avoid being preachy whilst still delivering a thoughtful tale that children and adults alike should appreciate. You’ll also get access to increasingly outrageous Pokémon from across the 15 years the series spans, allowing you to create your ideal A-Team, as well as a rich maze of towns and dungeons to run around in. The world is well painted, though graphically lacklustre, and filled with nice touches that will always keep you wanting to see what is around the next corner. It’s also surprisingly well scored, with a funky and upbeat soundtrack that compliments the aesthetics of the gameplay perfectly.

The Pokémon formula is well-ridden, and it’s true that there’s nothing new here, nor do Black and White 2 live up to their direct predecessors in terms of script or atmosphere, but Pokémon’s enduring success affords it some introspection. The franchise has always taken it upon itself to criticise the culture that spawned it, and I’d heartily recommend the games for those oddly post-modern moments alone, but it also remains true that this is a compelling, if simplistic, handheld adventure that should entertain old, very old or new players alike.