PokÃ©mon Channel is the latest entry in Nintendo's long-running series of games based on the popular anime franchise that has been going strong since the first game hit the original Game Boy in the late '90s. Since then, the series has seen a variety of entries on the Game Boy Platform, along with appearances on Nintendo's home consoles. Whereas the handheld titles have proved to be addictive and inventive games in their own rights, the home console titles have usually fallen short of the high standards set by the Game Boy games. This, unfortunately, holds true for PokÃ©mon Channel, a loosely defined game that has you hanging out with PokÃ©mon poster boy Pikachu. While there are some interesting elements to the game, it's ultimately undone by poor execution that ends up bringing down the whole experience. So, if you ever thought it would be cool to hang out with Pikachu, think again.
PokÃ©mon Channel lets you play as a couch potato while actually being a couch potato!
The game's premise is simple. You serve as a virtual Nielsen family to help Professor Oak focus-test the PokÃ©mon Channel, a new network that airs programs aimed at PokÃ©mon. Your main task is to watch the various television programs on the network and report back with your findings. Oak becomes especially interested in your feedback when, shortly after a pack of Magnemites deliver your television, a wild Pikachu shows up at the door to your pad. Quicker than you can say "home invasion," Pikachu makes himself at home and becomes fascinated with your television, at which point the little guy becomes a permanent fixture in your pad. Since you're now sharing space with one of Oak's intended audience, the canny professor urges you to watch television with your new friend so you can provide feedback.
The gossamer-thin premise suits the equally lean gameplay quite well. The core of your experience in the game revolves around watching television with Pikachu. You'll initially find a small number of channels selectable when you first start the game, with the centerpiece being the anime channel that features the first part of an episode of Pichu Bros. As you progress through the game, you'll open up the other parts, and you'll eventually be able to watch the whole thing through. The other channels feature themed shows that are hosted by familiar faces in the PokÃ©mon universe. Squirtle is host of the shopping channel, Psyduck anchors the local news (which features on-the-scene interviews by Meowth), Smoochum leads you through exercises on the fitness channel, Wobuffet is the host of the quiz channel show, Smeargle waxes poetic on the arts in his show, and Slowbro keeps you up-to-date on weather, to name just a few.
The game uses the GameCube's internal clock to track when you play. There are three basic times of day in the game--morning, afternoon, and night--which affect when you can access programs. You access new shows by watching all the channels you have available to you at a given time, and you interact with them if possible. Following this, you submit a detailed account to Professor Oak on the report channel.
You have limited interaction with some of the shows, most notably Quiz Wobuffet, which quizzes you on PokÃ©mon trivia, and Shop Squirtle, where you can buy items by touching the television screen to input answers or shopping orders. Both shows are tied to each other in that you earn cash (called PokÃ©) on the quiz show that you can use to buy stuff on the shopping channel. Shopping is another large part of the game experience, as is collecting items. You're able to buy a number of different items, including new TVs, posters, dolls, and PokÃ©mon Mini games. In fact, you find one of the handheld units in your room with Snorlax's Lunch Time, and you're able to get several more. You're also able to collect "Nice" cards, which are virtual trading cards that you collect in your binder as you go through the game. They come in normal, motion, and platinum varieties. Normal cards have a PokÃ©mon's picture on them, motion cards are virtual lenticular cards that simulate motion when tilted, and platinum cards are upgraded motion cards that also offer up a sound sample of the featured PokÃ©mon's signature cry. Finally, you're able to collect special items, such as a pass that lets you ride the local bus to visit new locales.
Sitting around and watching TV with Pikachu turns out to be about as much fun as it sounds.
You're also able to interact with the programs in another way, via a paint program triggered by a Smeargle doll you receive early on in the game. If you click on the doll while watching any parts of the Pichu Bros. cartoon, the program captures a still image in black and white, which you can color. Once you're satisfied with your creation, you can name it and display it in your room. While you can only display one work of art, you can have the others auctioned off to earn PokÃ©. In a nice bit of synergy, you'll see your artwork critiqued by Smeargle, on his television show, as you progress through the game. The paint program also features e-Reader support, which allows you to upload more images into the game for you to paint. The game comes with three e-Cards that you can use to get your budding art career started.