Gates to Infinity is the latest entry in Nintendo's roguelike-like dungeon crawler franchise, Pokémon Mystery Dungeon. It seems it's... a bit of a mixed bag, honestly.
There are quite a few points reviewers are disagreeing on. Some say Gates of Infinity, compared to prior games, has been dumbed down, while others think it merely has been opened up towards a wider audience. Some find the story dull and tedious, some say it's weird and unpredictable. Below is but a sampling of what critics have said.
Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity starts with a solid enough premise: In a land where only Pokémon dwell, the adorable creatures get together, form communities, and go on adventures. These take place in Mystery Dungeons, caverns with randomly generated layouts. Your team will have to delve into these ever-changing spaces to complete quests and earn money, which is spent to expand your Pokémon Paradise, the community you’re setting up with your companion. Simple enough, right? The problem is that the game works well when you’re not in a dungeon, because expanding your Paradise is a lot of fun. Once you go spelunking, however, it all falls apart.
Everything from the cramped new zoomed-in view to the thoughtless and boring tunnel-heavy random dungeon layouts make Gates a joyless chore to play — something I find personally vexing, since I really enjoy both of the parent series a great deal. The mechanics have been greatly simplified; combined with the walls of text as characters babble endlessly about the most mundane nonsense, the whole thing becomes a grind in every area and quickly wears out its welcome.
You’ll meet other Pokémon and become embroiled in the fate of the world, but the story doesn’t get much deeper than its initial conceit. That’s not entirely a bad thing, though. The narrative clearly skews toward a younger audience, with its themes of friendship and working together to overcome hardships, but it is still charming in its own way, forming the major driving force behind the adventure. The presentation is also quite nice, with colourful 3D visuals and a catchy soundtrack framing your journey through the Pokémon world.
The idea behind randomly generated dungeons is an admirable one, but it is one that can be problematic, and Gates to Infinity shows off how. Instead of creating a sense of discovery every time you enter a dungeon, you are met with a disappointing sense of déjà vu that permeates every level. Without a calculated and deliberate design, they all end up feeling the same, even when the environmental palettes are swapped.
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One of the few enjoyments on your dungeon exploits is the lively tunes that accompany you through the dank passages. Most of the jingles are quite perky, and though short, they’ll have you humming or whistling along as you dispatch the wild Pokémon in your way. Back in town the music is even livelier, and paired with the beautiful scenery, it’s always a warm welcome after trudging through the caverns.
It's always tough to judge whether or not a game should be commended or punished for streamlining a series that previously catered to a niche audience. In this case, it simplifies the experience a bit too much, but given that this is the most accessible game yet, it could lead to more potential fans, which is always a good thing. Although it may not be the best game in the franchise, Gates to Infinity is still an enjoyable dungeon crawl, and a beautiful-looking game to boot. So long as you can deal with an easier adventure, this is another mystery worth solving.
Top picture: Gergő Vas