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The Denpa Men: They Came By Wave review

Building a tiny slave army, one McDonald's hotspot at a time

Get out of your room, go outside and get some exercise. Stop wasting your time on that bloody machine." So ring the impassioned shouts of parents, partners and housemates with unnecessarily healthy levels of Vitamin D across the world. Of course, the best games trigger a bemused reaction: if it doesn't ever feel like your time is being wasted, then a game's done its job. The Denpa Men doesn't always fulfil that function, but mainly because it has chosen to do exactly what it wants instead.

That, essentially, is to swipe a few of Nintendo's ideas, smash them together, and leave you to deal with the consequences. The basic structure is reminiscent of the 3DS's StreetPass Quest, the game that tasks you with building your own squad of friends in colourful clothes for a light-RPG adventure, but swaps forcing you to hang around fellow 3DS owners for lurking anywhere with a Wi-Fi signal.

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Every different Wi-Fi signal generates its own bespoke Denpa Men with separate stats, abilities and facial features. Capturing them is a question of aiming your 3DS' camera (don't worry, there's a Privacy Mode that inserts a digital background so it doesn't look like you're taking photos of random strangers) and pressing A to fire a net.

Once you have a squad, the bulk of the game is travelling through a series of level-specific dungeons, collecting loot and battling in turn-based, semi-random fashion (monsters spawn around you ŕ la Dragon Quest IX, so you can outrun them if needs be). Each dungeon has its own unique slant that you'll need to tackle with your squad composition, however suitably intriguing

This is easily the game's most interesting feature - every Denpa Man has a coloured suit that corresponds to a Pokemon-style element, but the nature of how you collect them means that you might have an imbalance of colours from which to choose. For instance, we breezed through a Dark-based dungeon with our white-suited Light users, but when we stumbled on Fire enemies soon after, we had no Water users to douse them and only one red-suited gentleman to soak up the damage.

Unfortunately, it's also the game's biggest flaw. Despite unlocking the ability to scan QR codes to grab new squad members in the game's main hub fairly early on, getting stuck usually means having to grind (luckily, every Denpa Man, not just your squad, sees the benefit). When the game's only true play happens in the dungeons, you'll find that it quickly gets repetitive.

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Coupled with an unforgiving approach to death - leaving a dungeon with downed men means either returning to where you first captured them or paying through the nose to have them resurrected - too much of the game seems overly familiar after a short time.

It's at these points that The Denpa Men falls down and begins to feel more like a handheld time-waster than the fully-fledged RPG it could be. Perhaps next year's sequel will finish the job. That said, for those willing to put in the work (we reckon the campaign can be done in 15 hours), this 3DS eShop game is a charming experiment that easily justifies its £7.19 price. So tell the hecklers that you will go outside and get some air after all - just don't let them know it's to catch more squadmates.


5 comments so far...
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  1. tohaker Saturday 9th Feb 2013 at 22:13

    The demo was pretty good so I agree with this review. Also, it reminds me a lot like Mystery Dungeon and can help bridge the gap between the release date and now.

  2. fisher2007 Saturday 9th Feb 2013 at 22:21

    I enjoy this game and i finish it last year. :D

  3. Greene-Stuff Monday 11th Feb 2013 at 12:53

    Have to say, I really enjoyed the demo, had a nice mixture of pokemon mystery dungeon and dragon quest gameplay :)

  4. LOZanges Monday 11th Feb 2013 at 18:19

    I love this game and I can't wait for the sequel. The mystery dungeon X dragon quest gameplay is excellent and sooooooooo addictive. I give this a 8.5/10, for it does have its problems, though they're not game breakers.

  5. bol88 Saturday 2nd Mar 2013 at 13:42

    I'm considering buying this, but I'm not a huge fan of grinding and I'm not wholly sure if I'm prepared to pay Ł7 for it. Should I buy the Denpa Men?

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