Pokémon spinoffs come in varying levels of success. Some, like Pokémon Quest, or Magikarp Jump, are cute adventures that feel lovingly crafted. Others, like Pokémon Pinball, Pokémon Snap, or Pokémon Stadium, offer goofy, fun avenues to explore within a beloved franchise. And then there’s Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX, a game best considered a very expensive, pokémon-themed fidget spinner.
Rescue Team DX is a remake of Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Blue Rescue Team and Red Rescue Team, a complementary pair of games released in 2005 for Nintendo DS and Game Boy Advance. As in the original, the player assumes the role of a pokémon who forms a rescue team. Missions typically involve plunging into randomly generated dungeons to find items and save lost pokémon. It’s a simple conceit that makes Rescue Team DX a perfect game for a short commute or while binging a show, as long as you’re not expecting anything of substance.
There’s a quirky nature to Rescue Team DX, which starts off with you, apparently a human, discovering you’ve been transformed into a pokémon. Who you’ll be is decided via a short question and answer personality test, though you’re given the chance to override your results and choose freely from the game’s small selection of characters. From there, you choose a partner from the remaining pokémon who will fight alongside you, (Despite restarting the quiz several times, both the demo and the full game repeatedly declared I’m a Charmander. I finally accepted my fate and picked Bulbasaur as my partner, obviously.)
I like Charmander’s little bandana
Rescue Team DX’s world is small. Each in-game day, you’ll spend some time bouncing around a tiny village to pick up new missions, train in a dojo, grab or store items, and otherwise prepare to dungeon crawl. Missions will take you into multi-level dungeons where you beat up hostile pokémon and grab items. Battles are turn-based affairs in which you fire off moves with a button tap. Occasionally, a pokémon you’ve just kicked the crap out of will decide it wants to join you, for some reason.
There’s some light care you’ll need to provide for your pokémon while they explore. Spend too much time wandering or fighting, and they’ll pass out. Alongside a basic health system, you also need to keep their bellies full by feeding them. This feature seems mostly there to keep your wandering in check; neither floors nor dungeons tend to be too big, but you could feasibly pack a bunch of missions into a single trip to make the whole experience quicker. With proper care, you can still choose to tackle several missions at once, or leave dungeons early — but it’s a familiar routine that takes no time at all to get a grasp on.
That goes for just about everything in Rescue Team DX, which does little to breathe new life into games more than a decade old. Like most Pokémon games, there’s a collection element to play with; to add new fighters to your lineup, you need them to both want to join you and a camp to house them. Once in, you can rotate them in and out per mission to change up a three-pokémon lineup. Rescue Team DX has added Mega Evolved pokémon into the mix, but it’s fundamentally the same game, and you’re still going to spend a lot of time aimlessly button-mashing your way through your adventure.
Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX is a perfectly serviceable remake that does just enough to advocate for its existence. As a Switch game, it is undeniably cute; the new, soft art style suits it well. I like Charmander’s little bandana. But there’s little else to praise in an otherwise tepid experience. It’s kind of like eating food you forgot to season. Sure, it’s bland, but it serves its basic purpose.
Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX is available on Nintendo Switch.