The Pokémon Ranger franchise has been running for a few years now, offering players an alternate way to interact with their favorite pocket-monsters. The spin-off generally puts players in the hands of a Ranger, who much like a real life ranger is responsible for the safety of the animals of the Pokémon world. Making friends with wild Pokémon, calling upon their skills for temporary aid, and (most importantly) thwarting poachers or any other evildoers is all in a day's work for a Pokémon Ranger. So how does this latest extension of the franchise do? That all depends on how old you are, and how good your attention span is.
Pokémon Ranger: Guardian Signs is a game that can wear down even the most dedicated of Pokémon fans, bordering between tedious and entertaining. Players start off in the very typical franchise fashion, selecting a name and gender, and are quickly thrust into the storyline and some pretty amusing battle antics.
Pokémon Pinchers have taken it upon themselves to steal the local wildlife for some nefarious purpose, and it's up to the rangers to lend a hand. After being blasted out of the sky attempting to save a fellow ranger, players wash up on the island of Oblivia where they meet the locals and slowly try to piece together what the Pinchers are up to. Along the way they can help villagers in need using the help of the local Pokémon and a little puzzle solving, unravelling the plot while at the same time doing good in the community.
The problem with the game kicks in around here, though any avid gamer should be able to spot the issue extremely early on. Guardian Signs is a game completely based around the story, with optional side quests taking up a large portion of the time as well. Sadly, the writing is absolutely dreadful, which makes it extremely hard to want to follow what's going on. Perhaps it's a title crafted exclusively for Pokémon enthusiasts of the utmost dedication, but even that would be a stretch of the imagination.
Gameplay wise things haven't changed much, and it's the only saving grace of Guardian Signs, at least for a short while. When players encounter a wild Pokémon they enter the battle screen, which consists of the creature running around the touch screen occasionally using attacks. Players must then use the stylus to draw a circle around the Pokémon, avoiding its attacks while at the same time completing the circle as fast as they can. It's fun the first few times around, and when the Pokémon is finally defeated they join the players side for use in puzzles or quest completion. However the mechanic itself is extremely repetitive, and very rarely do things ever change.
Occasionally players can call in the help of the Pokémon on their team to throw down attacks in battle, but this is very rarely needed as anyone who is quick with the stylus should be able to overcome almost any battle. On the same page, the Pokémon assists may help any younger player who is having difficulty drawing the circles correctly. It's difficult to say really, as many of the Pokémon battles are just a series of pretty repetitive boss tactics. It would be just as fair to suggest that anyone who has trouble understanding the overall strategy to beat the legendary Pokémon will enjoy the help, while everyone else will find the assists absolutely useless.
Graphically the game is unremarkable, apart from the Pokémon themselves, which are actually pretty cute to look at. None of the special attacks, sprites, or cut-scenes really stand out to make the game a visual treat, however on the same page it does keep true to the franchise with that same iconic style. Likewise the in-game music won't be winning any awards anytime soon, but it does manage to play on in the background without becoming too repetitive.
It's difficult to determine which age group Pokémon Ranger Guardian Signs is aimed at because its challenge revolves around how good you are at touch screen games. Anyone (regardless of age) who doesn't feel challenged at the prospect of drawing circles on the screen over and over again may not find enough to hold their attention here. Likewise, if they were looking to instead draw something from the plot, it's hard to say they would be satisfied as well. Guardian Signs is a game that doesn't exactly fall short of expectations, however it does fail to really progress beyond the other titles in the series. Any non-obsessive fan of the Pokémon franchise can pass this one up and really not miss a thing.