Pokemon Heart Gold and Soul Silver are remakes of the old Game Boy Colour games of roughly the same names. Telling the familiar tale of a boy or girl who sets out on a journey to become the greatest Pokemon trainer of all time, it's up to you to travel the land as you find, battle, capture and train the creatures known as Pokemon, in what's become one of the most popular series of all time.
Easy to pick up and play, the majority of the game revolves around the turn-based battles, which see your Pokemon facing off with an opponent in a well mannered dual, as you take it in turns to choose a move, use an item, or back out. While it's certainly easy to get started with, there's a lot more to Pokemon than initially meets the eye. It's a game of strategy and planning, with dozens of different moves available for your Pokemon to learn, and an elemental system that means certain types of Pokemon (and moves) have advantages against others (fire beats grass, electric beats flying, etc). Beat other Pokemon in battle, and you'll earn experience which lets your Pokemon level up, grow stronger, and sometimes evolve into a bigger, more powerful creature. Weaken a Pokemon you find in the wild, and you may be able to capture it if you chuck a Pokeball at it - and it'll be tricky to resist the urge to catch 'em all. In a new feature for this game, your Pokemon will even follow you around, letting you see how happy they are at a glance!
In terms of accessibility for children, however, the largest barrier that really exists is that of the reams and reams of text you'll have to read through in order to play the game. With nothing in the way of voice acting, and plenty of text that you can't simply skip through if you want to understand what's going on, your child will have to be a confident reader to take this one on. Sample sentences include: "If your Pokemon gets hurt, you should heal it with this machine. It's so easy to use, just check the PC on my desk!", "Mr. Pokemon goes everywhere and finds rarities. His house is past Cherrygrove City. Go North a little past Cherrygrove" and "When I was a wee lad, I was a hotshot trainer. Here's some words of advice: catch a lot of Pokemon! But you can only take six with you. If you catch more, they'll be sent to your PC." Because of its fairly simple English, and its huge appeal to children, Pokemon Heart Gold/Soul Silver are also great games for helping children grow more confident at reading once they can handle the basics, too.
While it may revolve around battling Pokemon against each other, there's really very little for parents to worry about here. With no swearing, no gore, and very little in the way of tangible violence, this is actually tamer than the TV series. The Pokemon in the game never actually hit each other, don't show signs of wounds, and simply drop off the screen when they "faint" and you defeat them in battle. If you're OK with your little Pokefan watching the TV show, there's nothing untoward here.
Format Reviewed: Nintendo DS