Game Review

PictureBook Games: Pop-Up Pursuit Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Philip J Reed

Feeling board? You will be!

If there's one thing WiiWare spotlights so well, it's the beauty of simplicity. Many of its best releases (World of Goo, Toki Tori, Art Style: Orbient) are deceptively deep showcases for simple - yet addictive - concepts. PictureBook Games: Pop-Up Pursuit, however, reminds us all that simplicity without a strong central concept is just downright limiting.

Pop-Up Pursuit is structured like a board game, and that's not a bad thing; there are several very good board-game-like releases on the Wii already. There's a good deal of life in the genre, and infinite possibilities for where to take it. When it comes to Pop-Up Pursuit, our complaint isn't that the Wii doesn't need another board game... it's that the Wii doesn't need another really, really, really bad board game.

Each game is played with four players: if you don't have enough friends who are into self-punishment enough to play it with you (and this is quite likely) the CPU will take over the empty slots. Every turn begins with the choice between collecting a card or taking a coin; cards are used for moving and interfering with the progress of your opponents. Coins are used mainly to purchase cards on certain spaces, or to be cashed in at the end of the game for bonus points.

Okay, so far so good, right? What's next?

Well...nothing. Nothing is next. That's the game. That's the entire game. Collect a card or a coin, play a card, move ahead. And then wait until it's time to do it over again. The game plays something like Candy Land, in the way that you start in one place and your only goal is to make it to another place, doing absolutely nothing else along the way. Candy Land is a popular game for children because it combines many things that kids enjoy: quirky characters, colorful designs, and candy. Pop-Up Pursuit, in strong contrast, combines some other things children are familiar with: boredom, sitting still, and wishing they were doing something fun.

There's no real strategy involved, as each space on the game board remains "covered" until somebody crosses it and reveals its function. This means that you can't plan ahead whether to move three spaces or five; you won't know what any space does until you land on it, and you're always at the mercy of randomization.

In fact, randomization dictates the entire game. The game spaces, the cards, and the special events - well, special event - everything is randomized. Normally, randomization is an excellent way of keeping games fresh, and it gives the underdog a fighting chance at catching up, but in Pop-Up Pursuit, so much is randomized that it doesn't even feel like you're playing it, and eventually you'll start to feel like the game would be much happier playing without you. (And, by all means, feel free to let it.)

There are not many options available to configure the game into something more playable. There are only two game boards (Pop-Up Pursuit will tell you there are six, but that is not true...there are two, with three difficulty settings each) and you can select your character from a small assortment of types, such as a ninja, a pirate, and a debutante, which sounds like it would make a better "...walk into a bar" joke than it did a video game.

The difficulty settings are worthless, as they don't alter the gameplay at all; you're just more likely to land on "negative" spaces on the higher difficulty levels. This doesn't actually make it any more difficult, however, because everybody is more likely to land on negative spaces, which levels the playing field, and leaves you just as likely to win or lose as you ever were.

Also, randomization means that the CPU players aren't necessarily more likely to win on higher difficulty settings. The first time through, we played on the easiest setting and the CPU kicked the tar out of us. He just happened to get better cards and landed on spaces that allowed him to take another turn. Later on we played on the hardest difficulty setting, and the CPU only made it several spaces from the starting point before he ran out of movement cards and spent the entire rest of the game standing still while we proceeded without him. Hooray.

This might sound like nitpicking, but in practice, it reveals a serious flaw. Because you use cards to move (rather than dice or a spinner), you rely on the cards that you hold: if you have no movement cards, you can't go anywhere. Each turn you only get one card (at random) so it can take a very long time to get another movement card. This does not lead to exciting gameplay, and there really should be something for players to do other than twiddle their thumbs until their turn comes around again. And again. (And again...)

Also, you can only hold up to five cards in your hand, so if you end up with five cards and none of them allow movement (a pretty common occurrence), you'll need to use some of your cards to free up space. The trouble with this is that the game rewards "virtue" and punishes "mischief," which should have been a great game mechanic, except that you don't actually get to choose between the two behaviors. The game defines "virtue" as "not doing anything other than moving forward," I guess, and mischief as "interfering with the progress of others." But being as nearly all non-movement cards interfere with the progress of others, and you are forced to play them in order to free up space in your hand, you end up getting punished for decisions you didn't want to make.

The virtue/mischief aspect is enormously flawed, but it's still probably the best thing about the game. If somebody lands on the Book of Magick, some excellent music swells, a brilliant animation begins, and a gigantic book in the sky flips through pop-up pages of various god-like figures. Some gods are angry, some are benevolent, and most of them dish out their effects based on how virtuously each player behaved during the game. This sequence is actually kind of thrilling, despite the fact that the effects are limited to giving/taking coins or cards, and nothing more game-shaking.

But, as mentioned above, you have so little control over your level of virtue or mischief that this, too, might as well be random. This is a game designed, I guess, for people who want to participate in a game without actually having to play it, and that's an audience we have serious trouble even imagining exists.

A further problem is that the CPU takes an extremely long time to think about its moves. And, honestly, come on now... this isn't Risk. Heck, this isn't even checkers. No human players should have to stretch out and take naps while they wait for a CPU ninja to decide whether it wants a card or a coin.

On top of that, the game bombards players with far too many confirmation windows. You not only have to tell the game what you want to do, but you need to then confirm your choice. Then you have to read the game's confirmation of your confirmation. Then you watch your choice take effect. Then a window pops up telling you that the choice has taken effect. That's an awful lot of button pressing to accomplish literally nothing.

Really, it's difficult to say what happened here. Nintendo could have published far better games than this, and certain aspects - such as the very nice art scheme and the Book of Magick sequence - prove that somewhere, at the core of this project, someone was trying to take the game seriously. But in the end, we are left with a release so simplified that you're unable to do anything with it, and so randomized that it doesn't need you to begin with.

(Press A to continue reading this review.)
(Are you sure you would like to continue reading this review? A - YES, B - NO)
(You have selected to continue reading this review. Press A to continue.)
(You have pressed A. Did you mean to press B? A - MEANT TO PRESS B, B - MEANT TO PRESS A)
(You have unplugged the console. Good night.)


It's difficult to find many good things to say about this game. The pop-up style visuals are decent, but repetitive, the Book of Magick is one gigantic missed opportunity, and the lack of mini-games and small number of boards means there's literally nothing to come back to later on. Children won't have the patience for this, and there are much better things to spend 800 points on. In summary, PictureBook Games: Pop-Up Pursuit is the perfect reason to discontinue family game night.

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User Comments (54)



Tails said:

i could tell just from the game name that i wouldn't ever buy this... sorry Nintendo no $8 for you on this i'll pay that though for Cave Story



Corbs said:

Wow unexpected given how many good points I've read about the game from those who've played it. Well that's a bummer. Well this review just saved me 800 points.



Gizmo said:

@ "A strong argument against Nintendo developing more IPs." & "Nintendo is a far better developer than this"

Em, Nintendo didn't develop this game.

Anyway, IGN gave it a 6.1, so I think it really depends on the personal taste.

@ Corbie: Although you read many good points from those who played it, you don't buy this game only because of this review? Why?



Corbs said:

I might pick it up down the line if the other reviews are okay. The only other review I've seen so far is IGN's and it wasn't exactly glowing.



Sean_Aaron said:

The virtual board game concept can be decent (Let's Zenryoku Hitchhike!!!!!!!!! -- apparently coming to a Wii Shop near you!), but this looks like it focused too much on the special effects and not enough on the gameplay.



Kirk said:

See this kind of thing is exactly the problem with modern day Nintendo imo...

The company simply has too many IPs right now and is spread too thin and the result is that almost none of the current games from Nintendo come anywhere near the level of polish and quality that they did back in say the SNES era.

It's a sad day when we don't get a new Star Fox or F-Zero or Earthbound and instead have to settle for crap like this over and over, with a decent well established franchise/character game thrown in every now and then (and notice how I said decent instead of brilliant because not many Nintendo games are actually brilliant anymore imo).

I think Nintendo needs to stop making all these crappy casual focused new IPs and focus on the many good IPs and strong franchises/characters they have and just go back to making a well defined set of solid well polished magical games again.

I know that's not going to happen now that Nintendo has expanded into this whole blue ocean casual market and whatever else but it's what I wish for.



KDR_11k said:

Anyway, IGN gave it a 6.1, so I think it really depends on the personal taste.

6.1 means bad by IGN standards.



Wiiloveit said:

Good on you, Brutus, for managing to review the game with "the thumb". As for the game, can't say I was particularly looking forwards to it, but it's still a shame that it didn't turn out so great.



Chunky_Droid said:

"if you don't have enough friends who are into self-punishment enough to play it with you"

Classic, Brutus

EDIT: It sounds like there are some out there that like this game, though I think any board game that doesn't allow planning ahead (and totally relies on randomisation) isn't exactly a well-planned game at all, so I'm siding with Brutus on this one



gusso said:

The CPU doesn't take a long time to think, you just need to go pressing A after every decision it has to make, and it advances.

I kinda liked this game. Very very wierd, but was entertaining.



blackknight77 said:

That part about the confirmation screens was hilarious, but so true with many game nowadays. Overall after reading this review I think this game is not for me. I'll stick with my Mario Party 4 for GCN



Sushie said:

I'd rather just buy a physical board game and play that in the living room. Thanks for the review/warning!



JohnshiBRPG said:

Somehow despite the game being basic and lots of randomization taking over the game, it's still quite a good family video board game.



Terra said:

Certainly wasn't expecting a score like that from a Nintendo published game. Guess they can't all be winners. Shame, as I liked the look of this game

When will they just give us Mario Party 9?



warioswoods said:

The excessive-confirmation-dialogs-problem seems to plague all board-game inspired video games; as much as I actually enjoy the Mario Party series in the right setting (ie. the right participants), they've still yet to figure out how annoying that is, after 9* releases

*- Yes, I'm including the DS game; no, I'm not including the GBA game, because it isn't a multiplayer board experience, nor the e-Reader card game, because, while I own it for collector's purposes and have actually played through it with others a couple times, confirmation screens obviously don't apply. Yes, I know too much about the series.



Sean_Aaron said:

The Hitchhiking game is good because it's not like a proper board game outside of drawing cards that do different things to your movement around the board.

Of course all of these games miss the point of boardgames which is interaction with other people, which is undermined by everyone facing a tv screen!



Knux said:

Awesome review, Chicken Brutus! Is it just me, or are you assinged some of the worst WiiWare games for your reviews?



Corbs said:

He's new, what do you expect. Hell I've been around for going on two years and I still get the clock and calculator apps.



accc said:

Ouch, brutal review! Sounds like a giant missed opportunity, you would think this would at least appeal to kids but with some of those flaws even little kids would have a hard time enjoying it!



rjejr said:

I was ready to get this to play with my 2 kids - which makes 3 of us - but I'm not going to if you can't change the number of players. Seriously, is it really that difficult to let somebody choose the number of players in a video game? Back to Dokapon Kingdom for us.



Philip_J_Reed said:

"Back to Dokapon Kingdom for us."

Good choice. That was one of the titles I had in mind as an example of how fun console-based board games can be.

And yes, that's correct, the CPU will always take over empty slots in Pop-Up Pursuit, so you will never have fewer than four players. Also, if anyone--including the CPU--reaches the final square, the game ends. So if the CPU wins, you don't get to keep playing to see who would win out of the human players. The game just...ends.

Congratulations to the CPU...I guess.



WolfRamHeart said:

Great review Chicken Brutus!
The video of this game on the Nintendo Channel actually made it look kind of good but I guess looks can be deceiving. Too bad that it just turned out to be another shovelware game after all.



Stuffgamer1 said:

Yeah, this sounds bad, all right. So...if Nintendo wasn't the developer, but only the publisher, then who DID develop it, anyway?

Also, I'd like to throw my vote out for "Board Game: Top Shop" on PS1. Dumb title, but a great game! It could theoretically hit PS1 Classics eventually (from the same people who brought you "Bowling"), for those of you who have PS3's or PSP's. It's doubtlessly small enough that they COULD port it to WiiWare, but it's highly unlikely they ever will, much as I'd like to see it happen. It does have a good bit of random to it, but there's strategy as well; a fun mix, imo.



James said:

Thanks to those who've pointed out that Nintendo didn't develop this game - we've duly edited the review to reflect this.



Stuffgamer1 said:

Okay, that's good, but...who DID develop it? And why on Earth did Nintendo agree to publish this garbage?



thebigM said:

So I guess the best thing about this game was the review
At least it made Chicken Brutus write a top-notch review with many parts to smile about

Thanks for taking the bullet for us.



longtimegamer said:

I would more than 2 boards. a story would have been nice and more unlockables other than the one other board.
This is not necessarly a bad game if you just look at it as a board game. Something to take out once in a while. I don't like how sometimes i don't do anything bad and I don't get anything extra for it but someone else will.
I think 2 might be a bit low even without the mini games. Maybe a 4 (using the rating policy here.) (also I think you have some control in what happens to you on this game.In my opinion You're NOT completly at the mercy of the game. Sorry to disagree with you Chicken Brutus. I thought I should just mention what I thought so there'd be more than one side to this (We first put this up so my fiance could write her opinion). I was a bit disappointed at first (especially about the amount of boards) It would have been nice to have a mario party type wiiware game, but I got over it and we'll get some fun out of it for what it is (basically an animated boardgame.)
Here's my fiance with her opinion of the game.---->i like it because i can have a choice of which board i can have and if i want it to pick the board randomly i can do that too.I like to find out if i get hurt or if it helps me when someone lands on the magic book space.



Stuffgamer1 said:

@longtimegamer: Sounds to me like she fits into the category described in this passage from the review:
"This is a game designed, I guess, for people who want to participate in a game without actually having to play it, and that's an audience we have serious trouble even imagining exists."
When I read that part of the review, I couldn't help but laugh. I know for certain that there IS such an audience, ridiculous as it may seem to Chicken Brutus or any other number of people on this site. Nintendo wants to capture that weird little niche market along with everybody else, and I guess that's what this game is for.



longtimegamer said:

@Stuffgamer- No that isn't her. I hope you're not trying to insult her. Have YOU played it? It doesn't just play by itself. Look at My part above her. It isn't the perfect game, but I don't think it's as bad as he makes it out to be (Sorry CB). You do have some control on the outcome. She and I were able to work together to win this game(also in single player). It's real easy to just make fun of something (ie-the game), but i think that part is a bit misleading. I don't believe he should have handled it that way. I don't think it was fair to the people who made this game.



Stuffgamer1 said:

@longtimegamer: No, I was NOT trying to insult her! What do you take me for? To me, that would be like insulting a gamer for always playing on the easiest difficulty setting on every game (which I tend to do if unlocks and Achievements/Trophies aren't factors). Just not cool. Anyway, I guess I just misunderstood the intent of her statement or something. Shrug

I'm pretty sure that whole chunk above her input wasn't there when I commented...was it? It sure didn't look familiar reading through it just now...anyway, if you say it should maybe be a 4, that's still WAY too low for me to be interested, and you still make the game sound entirely wrong for me. I have a MUCH smaller income than you I'm sure, and I can't really afford to go wasting over an hour's pay on a whim to try this game out. I still stand by my recommendation of Top Shop, by the way. If you can try it, do so! I think you might like it.



Philip_J_Reed said:

"Sorry to disagree with you Chicken Brutus. I thought I should just mention what I thought so there'd be more than one side to this"

By all means! No need to apologize; I love reading others' opinions, especially if they conflict with my own. I also like that so many people here can disagree without being abrasive or confrontational, and I'm including you in that, of course. One of the great things about this site.



longtimegamer said:

@Stuffgamer1- Well I'm glad you weren't. To me it seemed insulting. Thanks. I'm glad you cleared that up:) No hard feelings.
I don't mind if a person doesn't get this game if they're well informed about it. Like it's been said before, it good to get more than one opinion. I definatly wasn't trying to make it sound better than it was. Just trying to give another side. Personally, I,d love a mario type boardgame on wiiware. By the way...have you ever played that sonic boardgame for Dreamcast , Sonic Shuffle? It had a card mechanic instead of dice too, but it was more like a mario party game. I liked it. It was a bit more satisfying than Pop up Pursuit too.

*Edit- Your eyes weren't decieving you either. I tried to put it in right after I put hers in.I reloaded and thought I lost what I wrote, but when I click on the writing box (Which I was pretty sure didn't have my part on it) my part appear. Wierd, huh? So I put it in.
@Chicken Brutus- Thanks. I'm glad you didn't take the last part of what I said badly. By the way....when did you get locking (power) privilages? Saw you locked something a couple days ago, I think. Good luck on that book too.



Philip_J_Reed said:

Thanks LTG. Feedback from my army of proofreaders is very positive, and that's been giving me a good deal of confidence in the manuscript. Hopefully I'll be able to report to you guys that I've found an agent, or a publisher, and that I'll be banning anyone who doesn't buy a copy.

Fingers crossed!



Metang said:

Great review Philip! I LOL'd at this part:

"(Press A to continue reading this review.)
(Are you sure you would like to continue reading this review? A - YES, B - NO)
(You have selected to continue reading this review. Press A to continue.)
(You have pressed A. Did you mean to press B? A - MEANT TO PRESS B, B - MEANT TO PRESS A)
(You have unplugged the console. Good night.)"

This game is absolute garbage. It doesn't even appear to have a target audience! It reeks of half-@$$ed, and is dictated by randomization. WiiWare keeps getting overrun with MOAR and MOAR shovelware all the time, far outweighing the good games. All Nintendo cares about is the fact that they have third-party support, and as long as they make a good profit off of the game, that's all that matters to them. No one should ever, EVER buy this stupid piece of garbage.



Stuffgamer1 said:

@longtimegamer: Excepting it was re-made for Gamecube, there is no Dreamcast game I have ever played. I think I saw that one on the shelf at a local gamer's game store recently, but I looked no closer than the glance because I don't have a Dreamcast anyway.



Metang said:

@longtimegamer: Yes, I have played this piece of trash before. It was at my cousin's house. His friend gifted him the game (I feel so sorry for him... ), and I picked up the Wii remote and started playing the game. I stopped playing after five minutes. And OK, this game isn't bad enough to have no target audience, but it's hard for me to imagine what that target audience is.



bub710 said:

Bad review...Liked but not loved it. here's the problem. other than for nostalgia of classic board games. i believe most "board game people" are not video game people. i tend to hate new board games because i hate learning new rules and cards and coins and all that crap. this game is simple and enjoyable and i suspect this reviewer took all of 10 mins to play and review it. no one likes to lose at board games and this game you will lose sometimes. the 800 points is cheap enough if you play it more than once. there is plenty of strategy involved if you bother to play the game through a few times. especially in the team cooperative mode where you need to get you and a team mate to finish. you can use space counting very effectively so long as you are not in the lead which adds further strategy as being in the lead is not the best place to be when the magic book opens. but again you would have to give it an honest try to learn this. the only drawbacks in this game for us is the lack of mii support or more characters, and that there are only 2 boards to choose from. so it is good enough to want more. this game will suffer from reviewers who are deadline crushed and must make a quick decision on this game before giving it a proper try. who ever played a board game for $8 that they loved after 10 mins without winning. where's a question, why do people agree with reviews that have never played the game. not helpful...



imapterodactyl said:

This review is ridiculous; by far the worst I've ever read on this site. As a board game, intended to be played by more than one person, it absolutely shines. I mostly agree with Nintendolife reviews, but this one's completely off the mark. Everyone I've played this game with (and that's 8 so far) has had an absolute blast. Sure, the single player mode grows old quickly, but that's clearly not the focus of the game anyway. If you like board games at all, then this one is just great, with plenty of strategy and style.

Bub710's comment above is dead-on.

Also, one example where the review is flat-out wrong: the amount of time it takes computer players to take their turn. You can press A at any time to skip the wait. There are plenty of other examples of misinformation as well, but it's not even worth taking the time to go through the review to point them all out. I'm not even remotely convinced that the reviewer played the game for more than 10 minutes.



KnucklesSonic8 said:

Now that I have the game, I've noticed the misrepresented information as well and overall, when I first read the review I wasn't too impressed with the writing. Plus, some of the so-called "complaints" are silly. I'm with imapterodactyl on this one.



longtimegamer said:

KnucklesSonic- So what'd you think? I think it's been growing on me. I play this with my fiance and by myself. I keep coming back to it. So I guess she and I did alright in buying this. Got our moneys worth.

You never know what's going to happen. Sometime's it suprises you. Like I recently got the angel and instead of giving everyone a few coins, I got 10. Another time when my girl and I were playing and someone got those 2 bulls and 2 of us went waay farther back than normal and the others in back came up(Can't remember exactly. I'm thinking well over 10 spaces(Maybe around 15?). I think there were 2 magic books right next to each other once too (I think.)



JohnshiBRPG said:

That's harsh for a review, but thankfully, a writer of IGN made a better statement about the game.



rjejr said:

This review for this game was so bad (well the game was bad, the review itself was good) that 3 years later when I saw it on the CN page I remembered how bad it was and knew I woudln't be DLing it at any price.
Wow, over 3 years alter and I'm still writing insane comments on the same review, it's like I'm trapped in that Looper movie, only there's only 1 of me.

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