The ninth generation of Pokemon has been a roller coaster ride, to say the least. With the introduction of a fully open world and non-linear objectives, Pokemon Scarlet and Violet finally made the freedom of the monster-filled adventures I dreamed of as a child a playable reality. But that reality was a technical disaster, turning what should have been a standing ovation for the series into a smattering of lukewarm golf claps. Multiple post-launch updates and its first DLC did nothing to fix this, and The Teal Mask expansion specifically was all around a disappointment of its own. So here we are: The Indigo Disk. The last DLC, and presumably the final significant word (epilogue aside) on Pokemon’s ambitious and chaotic ninth generation. Is it an improvement? Yes, but not entirely. While The Indigo Disk’s new area, battles, quests, and challenges are an excellent coda to Pokemon Scarlet and Violet in almost every way, it’s all still being bogged down by the numerous problems that have become synonymous with Pokemon’s first true foray into the open world.
The Indigo Disk takes place at Blueberry Academy, a human-made island off the coast of Pokemon Black and White’s Unova region where your character becomes an exchange student. It continues the story of siblings Kieran and Carmine that started in The Teal Mask DLC earlier this year, with The Teal Mask and The Indigo Disk serving as two halves of a whole story: The Hidden Treasure of Area Zero. I won’t spoil more, but I came away with mixed feelings on The Indigo Disk’s campaign, especially in light of how excellent Scarlet and Violet’s base story was. Returning antihero Kieran’s plot especially felt awkward and contrived, and the whole story being split between the two DLC halves and two disparate locations with almost entirely separate casts of supporting characters didn’t help. It was strange too that the titular “Hidden Treasure of Area Zero” was tacked onto the end of Indigo Disk’s campaign, like someone realized last minute what the title was and scrambled to make it work.
Pokemon Indigo Disk Screenshots
But despite being wrapped in a flimsy story, The Indigo Disk is a pretty darn fun DLC. Its campaign is at its best when it once again turns you loose upon the open world, letting you defeat a series of interesting and diverse opponents in any order you please. This is the freedom that I loved in Scarlet and Violet, and which was mysteriously missing in The Teal Mask. What’s more, The Indigo Disk is challenging in a good way – most of the battles in the DLC are double battles, and your opponents’ teams are strategically composed, often packing competitive trappings like held items, complimentary movesets, and interesting Tera types. There’s even one required set of battles that forces you to train up a new team of Pokemon specifically caught in the DLC. Seasoned Pokemon players with competitive or raid-ready teams likely still won’t have a problem in The Indigo Disk, but if you’re trying to roll through with a haphazard collection of fellas that got you through the main story, you might need to rethink your plans.
Most of my time in The Indigo Disk was spent in the Terarium (yes, it’s spelled that way), a massive, self-contained Safari Zone of sorts divided into four different biomes all stuffed with new (to Scarlet and Violet) Pokemon. After being fairly lukewarm on Scarlet and Violet’s world design, I actually thought the Terarium was a marked improvement: it has more diverse landmarks condensed into a smaller space, which makes it a lot more interesting to explore. Instead of finding the same Pokemon all over each zone, many of them are localized to very specific areas: there’s one beach where Galarian Slowpoke all hang out and take naps, for instance, and a Pride Rock-themed outcropping appropriately covered in Litleo. There’s a cool underground labyrinth where Mudkips hide, and a deep cave full of lightning-charged stones and electric spiders if you dive far enough. I loved stumbling across all these little pockets of Pokemon, and I’m still finding surprising new corners of the Terarium as I work to complete my Blueberry Pokedex.
It does help to be rewarded for that exploration, and most of those rewards appear after you’ve finished The Indigo Disk’s story, via a new feature called Blueberry Quests, or BBQs. These are short, simple tasks that you can complete in the Terarium, such as “Catch a Pokemon” or “Photograph a Pokemon in the Polar Biome.” In return you’ll get Blueberry Points, or BP, which can then be spent on all kinds of prizes. Some of these are cosmetic, such as the ability to change up how your character throws a PokeBall, or to decorate a club room in Blueberry Academy. But the most interesting (and expensive) options unlock even more new Pokemon for the Terarium, or let you invite powerful trainers such as Scarlet and Violet’s Gym Leaders and Elite Four to Blueberry Academy for rematches and, delightfully, new story conversations for fan favorite characters like Rika and Larry. There are tons of interesting things to spend BP on, including a bonus final boss battle – enough to keep me busy for quite a while to come. I’ve dumped over 15 hours into this DLC already and I’m still nowhere close to running out of stuff to unlock.
Part of that is because gathering BP by yourself is pretty slow, but The Indigo Disk eases that pain by finally, finally giving a purpose to Scarlet and Violet’s co-op feature. You’ve always been able to adventure through Paldea with up to four players simultaneously, but there wasn’t really any advantage to doing this outside of cooperative sandwich making. But in the Terarium, all players can contribute to and receive BP from one another’s BBQs, and even unlock special group quests for bigger payouts. I had a great time running around the Terarium with a friend, strategizing over voice chat about how we’d divvy up some of the harder BBQs, like completing a raid or making a specific sandwich. I never thought I’d be able to heartily recommend Scarlet and Violet’s co-op after my original review, but here we are.
I loved almost everything about The Indigo Disk… as a DLC, at least. Its biggest problem stems directly from the fact that it is still an add-on for a game that was fundamentally pretty messy to begin with, and that messiness hasn’t gone away. Yup, I’m talking about technical issues. Again. In fact, how about we let a paragraph from my original review of Scarlet and Violet in November of last year sum up the experience of playing The Indigo Disk:
And if that’s not enough, here’s another still-relevant paragraph about the problems with raiding from my review of The Teal Mask DLC earlier this year:
Literally all of that is still true in The Indigo Disk, somehow. There’s a big chunk of the Savannah biome in the Terarium with mud puddles that inexplicably causes heinous stuttering whenever you get too close. Multiple times, my game froze for several whole seconds and made me think it was about to crash. Another problem lies in the newly-added ability to fly freely around anywhere you want, which does an exemplary job of showing off how haphazardly taped together everything is as entire landmarks flash wildly in and out of existence. And as before, co-op mode or online play makes everything run about 10% worse. I have tried time and time again to ignore all these issues while playing and just enjoy Pokemon. But every single time, some stupid, obvious bug yanks me out of it, like my Tinkaton completely wrecking in-battle camera angles, or the brightness randomly turning all the way up while I’m just trying to make a sandwich. It’s inexcusable.