Pogo Island Review

Those already committed to the games from Pogo.com on offer here might appreciate this portable package, though it still feels a little lean.

EA's Pogo.com has been a major player in the casual-social games scene on the PC for years, and a little slice of that success is now available on the Nintendo DS with Pogo Island. This five-game collection includes a few games that can be played for free at Pogo.com, as well as several available only to subscribers of the premium Club Pogo service. For your $29.99, you get Poppit!, Word Whomp, Phlinx, Tri-Peaks Solitaire, and Squelchies, as well as a simple story mode and some limited multiplayer abilities. It's a good cross section of the types of games offered by the Web site, and the ability to transfer tokens won in Pogo Island to a Pogo.com account will likely appeal to those already enamored with the service. Based on what you get for the price, though, the games are neither numerous enough nor consistent enough in quality.

Tri-Peaks Solitaire is one of the games previously available only to Club Pogo members.
Tri-Peaks Solitaire is one of the games previously available only to Club Pogo members.

Poppit! is as close to a marquee game as Pogo.com has, and it translates to the DS nicely. You're presented with a field of multicolored balloons, with the goal being to clear out as many as possible. You can tap the balloons with the stylus to pop them, but balloons can only be popped when they're touching at least one other balloon of the same color. As you pop balloons, the remaining balloons will rise and shift to fill in the gaps. The strategy quickly becomes not just locating clusters of balloons to pop, but also setting up additional clusters by anticipating what the field will look like after you pop some balloons. Poppit! isn't a particularly taxing puzzle game, nor is it inherently addictive. About the nicest thing you can say about it is that it's pleasant.

Word Whomp is a simple word jumble game. You're randomly given six letters and a limited amount of time to form as many three-or-more-letter words out of them as you can. Fans of board-game staples like Scrabble and Boggle will find that Word Whomp scratches much the same itch, and it's an easy game to loose track of the time with. What hurts Word Whomp is its finicky vocabulary. Since Pogo Island is rated E for Everyone, it doesn't recognize anything that's even remotely racy. There are also plenty of E-rated, Merriam-Webster Abridged words that don't register, yet the game will randomly accept abbreviations and acronyms. It's too bad that these inconsistencies have to crop up, because at its core, Word Whomp is one of Pogo Island's more appealing games.

Tri-Peaks Solitaire is essentially still just solitaire, though with a few unique twists. You're presented with a field of playing cards arranged into three pyramids, all of which are face down, except for the bottom row. You're also given one face-up card in your hand, and you can pull any of the exposed cards from the pyramids and place them in your hand, so long as the card is either one number higher or lower than the card currently in your hand. It may sound rather impenetrable, but it's actually a pretty fun and smart variation on a well-known card game, and it's easy to knock out a game in just a few minutes.

Squelchies works with the same mechanics that drove the Japan-only arcade game Money Puzzle Exchanger, as well as the mobile game Fast Food Mayhem. The upper screen is filled with columns of different-colored squelchies, and by tapping on the corresponding column on the bottom screen, you'll pull down the squelchy from the bottom of that row, along with any other like-colored squelchies it was directly adjacent to. From here, you can drag them to a different column, and by placing three or more like-colored squelchies together, they'll pop. Despite being nearly identical to other games that have been around for years, it's still a unique-enough concept among color-matching puzzle games to feel fresh. The way you have to use the stylus to move the squelchies can make it harder to keep up than it ought to be, though.

Phlinx is the least appealing game out of the bunch, due in no small part to the fact that it's a ham-fisted knockoff of the Bust-A-Move series. Unlike Bust-A-Move, Phlinx lets you move the launcher on the bottom screen to three different positions, giving you more angles of attack. You also always have a perpetual guideline that makes the game even easier. Yet, even though these changes make the game much easier than the game it's ripping off, the pacing is achingly tedious, with single games going on for much longer than they ought to.

Word Whomp would be much more appealing with a better vocabulary.
Word Whomp would be much more appealing with a better vocabulary.

You can play all of these games individually or with a group through the party mode. However, Word Whomp is the only game that offers real head-to-head competitive play, and it requires that both players have their own copy of Pogo Island. For a little context, there's the island adventure mode, where you travel around a board-game-style map, randomly playing these games, as well as a few wholly forgettable microgames that task you with sorting rusty nuts and bolts, patching up sails, and engaging in other nautically themed tasks. What will make the island adventure mode most appealing to established Pogo.com players is that it offers an easy way to earn additional tokens. These tokens, which you can earn by playing any of the games in Pogo Island, can then be transferred to your existing Pogo.com account, where they can be used to purchase raffle tickets for daily, weekly, and monthly cash prizes. The promise of winning cash money for playing games is appealing, but the odds are so long that it shouldn't be your main motivation for playing.

Considering that these games can be played for free, or for a relatively nominal fee, on the PC, Pogo Island is likely only appealing to folks obsessed with collecting those Pogo.com tokens. Tri-Peaks Solitaire and Word Whomp are both games with genuine, long-lasting appeal, but they're just not enough.

The Good

  • Games are easy to pick up
  • Lets you transfer tokens to your pogo.com account

The Bad

  • Quality of the games is inconsistent
  • Word Whomp's vocabulary is lacking
  • Not enough games for the price

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