Creating games for children is tricky because it's the small things that make the biggest difference. My kids often get as much fun from unintended consequences of the main game as they do completing the campaign.
I've been reminded of this while playing Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon with them. While they've enjoyed the dungeon exploration and loot collection on offer here — not to mention getting reacquainted with all their favourite Pokémon — it has been the Pokémon personality test at the beginning of the game that has sparked most delight.
Rather than simply selecting your starting character, Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon asks a series of personal questions to determine which Pokémon you are most like. It then calculates which of the 20 Pokémon is the best match — drawing on a cast including all 18 starting Pokémon from the main series generations.
Going in, they each thought they knew which Pokémon they would get. However with the questions were each answered the tension mounted as they waited for their match. My youngest got Charmander which made him very happy, although my daughter's game matched her with Squirtle — less popular.
What I found interesting though was how compelling this simple addition was for them. Not only the novelty of answering questions to discover their match, but how seriously they took the results.
Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon is designed to let you override the Pokémon you get, assuming that players may want to control this outcome. However, although my kids were visibly unhappy with the results they chose not to intervene and change the choice.
As we've played on through the game this has meant that they have developed a new appreciation for these different characters. My son has even gone back to play Pokémon Red and Blue with his matched Charmander Pokémon — a new-found favourite.
The game itself is proving more difficult that we first expected, though, with the later dungeons resulting in multiple faints. Happily then, having a couple of copies of the game in the house we've been able to use the Rescue Missions to call on each other's Pokémon to come and revive and help each other out.
This idea of coming to each other's rescue has become another favourite part of the game too. In fact my youngest had a spate of getting his Pokémon to faint on purpose just for the thrill of the rescue. I tried convincing him that this wasn't the best way to play but apparently it was "more fun".
I'm sure there's lots more to discover in Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon, but in our family it's been these two relatively minor innovations, Rescue Missions and the Personality Test that have made the game a real hit.
I'd love to hear which inconsequential parts of your favourite games you disproportionately appreciate.