Pokémon Ranger isn't as deep and involving as the main Pokémon adventures.

User Rating: 8 | Pokemon Ranger DS
Pokémon games - proper Pokémon games - are all about battling and collecting as many Pokémon as you can. They're role-playing collect 'em ups, basically, and when Pokémon games don't stick rigidly to that formula there's a worry that they won't be as good as the 'real' outings. Last year's Pokémon Mystery Dungeon was disappointing, but Pokémon Ranger is here to restore our faith in Pokémon spin-offs.

Pokémon Ranger is similar to Pokémon Mystery Dungeon in that your aim is not to collect Pokémon but to help the people and creatures you meet. You're a Ranger and you wander around meeting characters who give you missions - anything from escorting a VIP from one town to another to delivering an item or rescuing a lost Pokémon. Whatever the job, it always involves battling Pokémon, and that's where Ranger is different.

Instead of using Poké Balls you catch Pokémon using a Capture Styler and a Capture Disc (basically, you draw circles around the Pokémon on the touch screen). If the Pokémon touches or attacks the lines you draw, the circles disappear and you lose health, so the stronger the Pokémon the more circles you have to draw.

Later, when you meet tougher Pokémon, you have to enlist the help of monsters you've already captured to trap the Pokémon you're battling. (Once you catch a Pokémon it follows you but only until you either use its unique ability to catch another Pokémon or overcome an obstacle, or you set it free.) These Pokémon have assist moves - one might let you blow bubbles with which to trap Pokémon, or another might stun your target.

Poké Puzzle
Pokémon Ranger exploits the unique abilities of the Pokémon in some simple but cool puzzles. If there's a log in your path, snag a Fire type Pokémon and burn it away; if a villager says some trees have caught fire, you'll need a Water Pokémon to help. It's up to you to figure out which Pokémon you need, although that's never too tough and the required monster is always nearby.

This does mean Pokémon Ranger is rather easy and seasoned fans will breeze through without a problem. Also annoying are the lengthy, text-driven cut scenes that have you reading for minutes at a time. This will test your patience, particularly in the early tutorial stages when characters babble on for ages.

But that doesn't stop this being an enjoyable game. It retains the look and feel of the main Pokémon series, and feels like a proper Pokémon game. Its alternative take on catching Pokémon works well and the mission-led gameplay makes for a fun quest.