Pocket Kingdom (Sniper)
Genre: Strategy RPG
Developer: Sega
Publisher: Sega

Pocket Kingdom, a 100% 2d, sprite-based title, is a colorful, cute (though not obsessively so), and sharp looking game with visuals that fit the overall feel of the game, and come off as being rather impressive. There are some nice backgrounds, well drawn menus, artistically done character portraits, and dozens of well animated sprites, sprites which make up the armies you field through the game's ample combat. All in all, Pocket Kingdom has a crisp "old school" graphics style that is well executed.

The visuals give the game an "artsy" flair, and the audio attempts to do the same and, to some degree, succeeds; the songs in the game, while sounding slightly fuzzy or staticky, are well composed. They are a bit on the short side, however, and can grow tiresome. Sound effects are kept simple and feature some rather annoying sound effects, such as the ones that are used as you navigate the menus, and some that are not so annoying, such as those of wind, sword clashing, and generic "getting hit" thump noises as your characters do battle. For your ears, you could do better than play Pocket Kingdom.

In all my years of gaming, I have never played a game that's exactly like Pocket Kingdom, only games that are similar. In short, this title is an intersection of Guardian War, King's Bounty, and Biomotor Unitron; you collect items and units, all of which can be combined in certain manners to upgrade units to new and improved soldiers, harpies, sludgy blobs, and other interesting classes of characters. Combat is purely statistical- you pick strategies and passively watch the battles take place from a side-view. There are some dubious game design choices, such as the fact that units can die permanently (a taboo for an RPG), and the gameplay can get exceptionally repetetive at times. All the same, there are some very nice gameplay dynamics here for the patient.

Pocket Kingdom is not only marred by grainy and grating sound quality and some curious design choices, but the user interface is, flat out, the worst I have ever seen in a video game. You spend, literally, three quarters of your time in this game navigating menus, a fact that eats away at one's patience rather quickly. Also, while the game can be tremendously addicting, there's a persistent undercurrent that if the world was more varied, if the player was an active participant in battle, and if there was a bit more story, this game could have been a gem. One other aspect to be considered is that Pocket Kingdom can also be played on the Internet via GPRS, but this fact alone is not enough of a positive to overshadow the game's many faults.

Sniper's verdict: