There's always a sense of worry every time a Pokémon spin-off is released, especially one that promises to take the series in a new direction. This is the case with Pokémon Rumble for WiiWare, which takes everyone's favourite cuddly critters and sticks hundreds of them into a big arena to have a ruthless fight to the death. It's not quite the turn-based gameplay that Pokémon gamers will be used to, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.
Starting with a lowly Rattata, you quickly find yourself thrust into a huge battle royale with loads of larger Pokémon and you'll be given a sound kicking. You then have to travel the land, finding more Pokémon to recruit in your army so eventually you can live your Rattata's dream of winning one of the battles with bigger and stronger Pokémon.
You recruit Pokémon by defeating them in battle but don't expect methodical, chess-like turn-based battles. Instead the action's all in real-time, and you have to get stuck in with proper attacks. If you defeat a Pokémon there's a chance it'll join your team, at which point it'll become playable. The idea is to keep defeating Pokémon that are slightly more powerful than you, building your army up until you can defeat Legendary Pokémon.
Your Pokémon starts with one lowly standard attack, but as you collect coins in battles you can buy new ones. However, each of your Pokémon only has a maximum of two moves, so if you buy a third you need to replace one of the existing ones. This makes it important to manage your army, so that certain Pokémon excel in certain types of combat. For example, you might want to let your Machop get stuck into close battles, while giving your Pikachu long-range lightning attacks.
Pokémon Rumble is a fun fighting game but it's not without its flaws. There are only six main levels in the game, so in order to build your army there's a lot of repetitive ploughing through the same areas over and over. While there are plenty of Pokémon to collect, you won't find the complete Pokédex here. Instead, only every 'mon from the first and fourth generations can be found so you've got 257 to play with rather than the full 493. You like Mudkips? Tough, they're not in it.
For 1500 Points, Pokémon Rumble is fairly steep. If you're a Pokémon fan who wants to try something different though, it's well worth a look because the action is fun and catching 'em all (even if you can't catch all 493) is as compelling as it ever was.