Well, I have now played Pokemon Ranger and from first impressions it seems to be an object lesson in how not to take a franchise to the DS.

They’ve taken Pokemon and changed it so instead of turn-based battles you now have to use the stylus to draw circles round Pokemon. (The number of circles depends on the strength of the Pokemon.) If the Pokemon touches or attacks the circles you’re drawing or if you lift the stylus from the screen before you’ve drawn enough of them, then the circles dissapear and you have to start over.

It doesn’t sound too bad on the face of it, but as soon as I first tried to draw two complete circles round a Pokemon that was zig-zagging round the screen, I knew something was wrong. But what? You have to draw with inhuman speed around a target whose movements can’t be predicted, which is difficult. Difficult’s not always bad, though, that’s not the real problem. No, the main problem is that drawing circles really, really quickly is just no fun.

Somebody should really have noticed that during development, I feel.

You can try it, too, without a DS, to get an idea. Get a pen and a piece of paper. Start drawing circles really, really fast. Then get a parent or guardian to slap your hand away from the paper at random intervals. Then stop and get a friend to witter on about Snorlax and Pikachu at great length. Then go back to drawing circles. Repeat until your soul dries out and crumbles into dust.

Anyone who loves Pokemon may be able to get through the battles to experience the world and story, but the gameplay is fundamentally broken and without the Pokemon nobody would think of giving this a second glance.

Pokemon Mystery Dungeon was a slight disappointment, due to its simplicity and slow start, but Ranger is just plain awful. Replacing button presses with stylus actions isn’t a good idea unless it improves the fun factor of a game. I thought we’d got past the stylus-for-the-sake-of-it part of the DS’s lifespan. It seems not.