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In Memory
Sean Pettibone

Neopets: Petpet Adventures (PSP)


By Michael Palisano

Based on the popular toys and cartoons, NeoPets: Petpet Adventures: The Wand of Wishing is an action/RPG hybrid for the PSP. The game is set in a mystical kingdom where players must rescue the magical wand from evil spirits and save their home from an evil curse. Most of the action is straightforward, with players collecting objects, spells, magic and more while battling foes. The twist comes in the Battledome competitions, where players can battle it out with other creatures. While Petpet Adventure is aimed at younger players, this is still a decent game that should appeal to that demographic.

Expectations for a game like NeoPets: Petpet Adventures are probably going to be low going in, but the game delivers a surprisingly competent role-playing experience. Coming from Sony's San Diego studios, the game brings these creatures to life with an engaging storyline, interesting characters, and some unique multiplayer aspects that make it surprisingly engaging. An extended cinematic introduction shows how the world of Petaria has been taken over by evil forces, who have spread darkness throughout the land, with these forces searching for the fabled wand of wishing. After the princess is kidnapped, it's up to you to recover the Wand of Wishing and restore the Petaria to its former glory. This sets up an interesting game with some cool character designs that should appeal to younger gamers. You begin the game by selecting which one of three wacky Neopets you'll want to use in your adventure. Each of these characters brings a unique style of play to the game, so you need to select carefully. Then, it's time to start your mission with a few simple quests and challenges that act as an extended tutorial that introduces you to the basic gameplay mechanics. Players move around the screen in mostly town-down angled perspective, which is broken by cinematics. These sequences generally occur when you interact with another character. The gameplay is straightforward and progresses at a good clip, thanks to the real time battles, which move quite a bit faster than traditional turn-based RPGs. Enemies attack in real time, with means you'll need reflexes. During the battles, you can use a variety of weapons, which can be purchased in the shops between missions. In addition to the usual sticks and swords, players can use magic and cast spells to defeat opponents. There are a large number of spells and scrolls in the game, but these can be used and managed effectively using the inventory screen.

Petpet Adventures features a rather large world to explore, which is populated with numerous NPC's, who you can talk to by pressing the square button. Some of these characters reveal information that can be useful on your quest. Others offer to buy or sell items at their shops and can also be paid to train your Petpet for battles. Going even further, the Petpets themselves have even smaller creatures called Petpetpets that they can take care of in mini-games, which is a cute touch that adds another meta-layer onto the title. In certain areas of the game, you can compete in the Battledomes, which are one-on-one battles putting your neopet against another pet. You can use these battles to train your Petpet, increasing their attributes while earning coins to use in the remainder of your quest. You need to win a certain number of coins to unlock the Battledomes, but they become increasingly more difficult to beat as time goes along. While the game allows you to fight with AI opponents, these battles can also take place against a human opponent using the PSP's wi-fi feature, which adds some unpredictability to the battles. Taken with the soldly entertaining solo game, these battles give Petpet players an intense, more action packed break from the main quest

The game's implementation is decent and better than expected, with most actions able to be performed at the press of a button. An intuitive interface allows you to view your character's attributes, manage items, look at spells, buy, and sell objects with a minimum of confusing menus. The character's life bar is easily viewable at the top-left of the screen, making it easy to check your health at a glance. Below this, you'll find the magic bar, which shows you how much energy you have to cast spells, with a radar to the right of the screen. The gameplay itself is fairly simple, and the level of difficulty is low enough that most players should be able to make significant progress with little effort. Petpet's advesaries attack in generally predictable manners, making them easy to defeat with simple shots. Most of the game involves exploring the various areas such as villages and small towns, talking to other characters while building up your own attributes by defeating foes and collecting items. As you defeat foes, you'll also find a large number of objects, such as health, weapons and coins, which you can use to purchase additional items at stores and shops. Petpets' structure is simple, yet effective from a gaming standpoint, with frequent save points allowing you to play for relatively short bursts without having to deal with excessive backtracking. Likewise, the quest is linear, with little in the way of branching, which helps to eliminate a lot of fruitless exploration. This approach makes the game simpler and more accessible, though its' simplicity will probably undermine Petpets' appeal to older players.

From an aesthetic standpoint, Petpet Adventures does a decent job of presenting the action. While the top-down perspective is somewhat predictable for the genre, Petpets' environments show a great level of detail with an impressive level of detail. Trees move in the wind, water flows and the villages are alive with small detail. The character designs are somewhat interesting, though maybe a tad too cute for many tastes. The music and sound effects are decent, with above-average production value. Most of the characters don't actually speak, but instead mumble their lines with subtitles, which is actually one of the game's more charming aspects. Looking at the action from a top-down perspective becomes a little numbing after awhile, but it does allow you to change perspective much easier, with the shift buttons used to spin the camera around to different viewpoints seamlessly. The game engine looks decent and creates its world effectively. Even though it doesn't reinvent the genre, Petpet Adventures is a good choice for younger players, especially ones who are into the franchise already. This is definitely a simpler RPG model than most players are probably used to seeing, but SCEA deserves credit for at least attempting something more robust than the usual generic platformer seen with most licensed games. However, given its young audience, this streamlined approach is an astute design choice that feels appropriate for these characters. While it won't win any awards for innovation, Neopets: Petpet Adventures is a decent RPG that does an appreciable job in bringing these characters life in an engaging fashion.

Grade: C+

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