Pokemon Go is an augmented reality game based on the hugely popular Pokemon franchise. You have to catch and train your Pokemon while battling gyms in a globe-spanning adventure of your own creation, just like in the classic games.
Developer: Niantic/Pokemon Company
Cost: Free (with microtransactions)
The hype surrounding Pokemon Go has been massive ever since it was announced a few years ago. An AR game where you catch Pokemon in real-world locations, and can battle and evolve them just like in the classic games for Nintendo systems? Fans of the franchise the world over were salivating at the chance to catch em all. The game itself lives up to a lot of the hype, offering players accurate location maps littered with Pokemon for you to capture and collect, varying from the common Pidgey to more rare ones like the classic starter Pokemon Bulbasaur, Squirtle, and Charmander among others.
The game was not developed directly by Nintendo and the Pokemon Company, instead handing it off to the developer of AR mobile game Ingress, Niantic.
The basic concept of the game is to move around from place to place, searching for Pokemon and items to collect and gyms to battle. You catch Pokemon by tapping them, which brings you into a minigame-style battle screen where you have to accurately hit the ‘Mon with a pokeball in order to capture it. The aiming and firing mechanic can be frustrating at times, with some balls flopping uselessly in front of you or going wide left or right of the target. Getting the aim and power of the flick correctly takes some practice, but once you get it down you will be fine.
Training the Pokemon you catch and evolving them into more powerful forms takes a fair bit of grinding. You have to collect “Candies” associated with each Pokemon and stardust, which helps raise the CP, or Combat Points, of your Pokemon. That stat directly influences their battle performance. What type of Pokemon that appear in your area is directly influenced by your player level, the higher it is the rarer the pokemon available. Candies are collected by catching multiples of the same pokemon, and transferring them to the Professor. Higher level evolutions can take a while to get done, but it can all thankfully be done for free.
To help keep your eyes off your phone while walking, and save your battery, Niantic has developed a bluetooth dongle, the $34.99 Pokemon Go Plus, as a companion to Pokemon Go. It is simple device that lights up and vibrates when near a pokemon, and you push the button to catch it. For a one-note dongle it’s a bit too pricey for most people, but it does make the game less involved for those who may be too busy to be glued to their phones all day.
Like in the original games, you have a limited number of pokeballs and items, and that’s where the microtransaction system comes in. You can buy coins to purchase in-game items like Pokeballs, Lucky Eggs for XP increase and Incense, for luring Pokemon to your location. The pricing is a bit off for Pokeballs, in my opinion, when $.99 gives you 20 pokeballs, but every level up grants you 15 for free. Other items have a more understandable price point, and all items can be found for free in games at item stops littered all over the map.
Visually Pokemon Go looks great, with fantastic fully animated models of all the Pokemon, and game-accurate sounds and music as well. You couldn’t ask for anything more from a Pokemon mobile game in terms of graphics and sound at all. You even have a small amount of character creation for your avatar, but sadly not as much as I’d like compared to what other games have done.
Overall, what Pokemon Go brings exactly what was expected of it to players. It is the most popular and talked about app on any platform right now, and has been a massive success for Nintendo and Niantic. However, there are some odd omissions like the lack of player to player battles or trading, as well as a lack of newer generation Pokemon along with the classic 151. Legendaries are also missing from the game, as far as everyone playing can tell, but those may be reserved for special in-game events if the ad campaign for the game is to be believed. Also, the game has experienced performance issues due to the massive popularity of the game, causing server problems and severe battery drain on some devices. Thankfully I didn’t experience any abnormal battery drain, but it is a game that uses the GPS and camera on your phone, so it is expected to consume more than the average app. Also, game launches have been delayed in some countries until the developers iron out the issues and are confident it will work.
Pokemon Go has addicting gameplay, and unexpected benefits for health and social interactions from all the walking you’ll do and people you’ll bump into. it’s not uncommon to see groups of people walking in formation on the hunt for rare and elusive Pokemon. The game has garnered mass appeal among gamers and casual players, and even bumped up Nintendo’s stock price due to it’s popularity.
I’d say Pokemon Go is definitely worth checking out, especially if you are a Pokemon fan or are looking for a game to get you up and moving. It offers a lot of content, unobtrusive microtransactions, simple gameplay and a lot of nostalgia for classic Pokemon fans. A home run for Nintendo for sure, and definitely a must-play.