It would be very easy to dismiss Learn With Pokémon Typing Adventure as ‘just another Pokémon spin-off’, or even worse, an ‘edutainment game’. Yet in fact, the title conceals a rather addictive addition to the Pokémon franchise, bundled with a nifty Bluetooth keyboard and stand.
As with most Pokémon spin-offs, the story itself is rather dubious. In Pokémon Typing you take on the role of a typist who is invited to join the Elite Typists’ Club (even though you, yourself have no prior knowledge of typing). You must research all 403 in-game Pokémon for Professor Quentin Werty (really) and his assistant Paige Down (really, really) by typing the names of the Pokémon you encounter as quickly and accurately as possible and thus capturing them in one of your Typing Balls.
While the game is primarily marketed towards a younger audience of Pokémaniacs, it can at times be quite challenging, as some of the Gold medal challenges can cause even the most dexterous of typists to flail like a Magikarp. The first levels consist of simply typing the first letter of a Pokémon’s name in order to catch them. As you move through the 60 courses you will need to type gradually more letters, until you progress to speedily spelling the whole name.
The Pokémon make things difficult by sneakily hiding in the shadows or behind trees before announcing themselves with their shrill cries, which is fine if you happen to remember every single Pokémon sound in the Pokédex, but not so easy for those uncommon with the series. Some Pokémon even have time limits, which can be a real pain when typing out the ten-letter-long ‘Feraligatr’ or ‘Whimsicott’.
In the latter stages of the game you will also be expected to type random letters that appear on screen, as well as grabbing items to reach the end of certain courses - such as the key to Gengar’s room in the G Mansion. This may lead you to a boss battle, which requires you to type certain keys in quick succession while luring the rare Pokémon in to ensnare within your Typing Ball. You can catch boss Pokémon 3 times each, once at Level 50, again at 70 and lastly at Level 100 – which is no easy task.
There are a certain number of Pokémon to capture in each zone, some of which are rare and might need replaying several times before you encounter them. Points are awarded on the accuracy and speed of your typing, with bonuses gained with every chain of perfect typing combos. Once you have cleared a stage you can repeat the level in order to meet different targets, such as researching 15 different Pokémon or gaining over 3,000 points. Completing all these challenges on each level and finding every Pokémon on the stage earns you a Gold Medal for all your hard work.
However, the question still remains – does Pokémon Typing actually teach you how to type? The answer is no, not really. While many stages of the game focus on enhancing the speed and accuracy of the player’s typing skills, there is in fact no guidance on how to type. The only stage that really focuses on technique is the Backslash Basics section, which is unlocked early on. This level includes 7 challenges which require you to type using all of your fingers - even your pinkies! Yet there is no way of the game really knowing if you type using the correct fingers.
There is also a Shift stage which asks players to type out chains of words rather than Pokémon names, which would be one of the most useful elements of the game for real rookie typists, had it not thrown in random ‘GWAHAHA’s and ‘LALALA’s.
Even if you are no Pokéfan, it is worth spending the £40 for Bluetooth keyboard and DS stand alone. The keyboard is the perfect slim size, without squishing the keys too close together to be functional, with a minimal set-up time and looks great in ‘ice white’. The keyboard also connects with any other Bluetooth device you might own, such as Android phones and tablets – very handy indeed. To round it all off, the complete lack of Nintendo DS branding on the keyboard suggests to us that this could well be an accessory which functions with the Wii U - although we obviously can't test this yet, as we don't have one. If you happen to throw your keyboard out of a 10-storey building, you’ll be happy to know that the game is still playable using the lower screen visual representation of the keyboard, albeit much trickier. The DS stand also veils a rather convenient Game Card holder too, so if you are playing Pokémon Typing on the go, you can stash your game card away safely.
Sadly, the presentation of Pokémon Typing lets the whole game down, as each course appears dull and empty, the Pokémon themselves are barely animated beyond a slight prance and the backing tracks are mediocre compared to the series’ usual bouncy score. However, the entertaining gameplay and strangely addictive quality of the title compensate somewhat for this oversight.
This is an unexpectedly entertaining entry to the long list of Pokémon spin-offs. While it may not teach you how to type, you will learn how to quickly spell MIENSHAO or how to tell apart a Marill from an Azurill from a distance - utterly essential life skills, if you ask us. Pokémon Typing is fun and challenging for both Typing Rookies and Master Typists alike, but shouldn't be considered an must-buy, even for hardcore fans of the series.