I'm an old school Pokemon player and from that point of view, Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Sky is a terrible addition to the Pokemon family. In the game, you are somehow morphed into a Pokemon. You meet up with a Pokepal and help him find a missing relic. With that done, you two decide it would be fun to team up and explore the Mystery Dungeons together. In the dungeons you find random objects and have to fight other Pokemon. This roughly follows the same format as previous Pokemon Mystery Dungeon titles.
The dungeons are randomly generated, meaning the dungeon is different each time you enter. This doesn't really matter much, the only significant change is that the rooms are laid out in a different order and the wild Pokemon appear at different locations each time. These wild Pokemon are out in the open, not hiding like in the regular game, but the fighting is still turn-based – albeit much faster.
Defeating wild Pokemon yields experience points which allow you to level up. Like other Pokemon games, leveling yields stronger attacks. You can choose from 19 different Pokemon to play, and encounter nearly 500 other Pokemon. You can trade items with friend via local wireless connection, even between different Mystery Dungeon titles.
The first problem with what we are delivered is not necessarily the above, but the graphics. DS graphics are not the best, but this seriously looks like a port of an old Gameboy Color game. Save for the Pokemon and the random items, the dungeons are a series of large, bare rooms. No landscaping, nothing pretty to look at, no secret passages to discover. Basically, nothing detailed exists. The game does not utilize the dual screen structure at all. The top screen only lists the controls, the map, the moves menus, and the options. Everything else pops up on the touch screen. Everything is geared towards using the buttons as opposed to the stylus, so I don't know why half the game play screen is obscured with a map, and the movement with the buttons is awkward. You can run in the game as you could in the traditional Pokemon, but instead of proceeding in a quick but controlled pace, you just get a lightning-fast burst of speed that doesn't stop until you hit a wall. It essentially makes the running function useless.
Gameplay is slow and dull. There is somewhere around 20 minutes of exposition before you get to play – and no way to fast forward through it. This is scrolling text mind you, not cinematics. Once you do get to gameplay, you just head to the bottom of the dungeons, fighting the occasional monster on the way, then battling the "boss," which is just a very slightly more difficult version of the monsters you've already taken out.
Don't be fooled by the Pokemon name. As one of the pricier DS games on the market, I would expect something that, frankly, lives up to that price tag (not to mention the legacy of the franchise). Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Sky feels more like a close-out bargain game that was just discovered in a dusty corner of the warehouse than a brand-new, full-fledged title.
Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Sky is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB for mild violence