Pokémon Go Review
Pokémon Go has been released for a week, and has taken the world by storm, already boasting more users than Twitter. Finally we can catch Pokémon in the real world. But is it any good?
+ It’s Pokemon IRL: The magic of your first day of catching Pokemon in the wild and seeing them bouncing around in the ‘real world’ in front of you really is a joy. Having the photo-snapshot functionality a click away is a great move by Niantic – I think I’ve taken a snap every time I’ve encountered a new Pokémon. The act of wandering around the real world looking for Pokémon to catch has been every Pokemon fan’s dream since Red and Blue, and despite the flaws outlined below, at the end of the day that’s still what this game provides.
+ Catching satisfaction: It’s really satisfying to flick a ball at a Pokémon and catch it. So simple yet so pleasing.
+ Social: Never has a game encouraged me to be so social with other players directly. It’s really enjoyable walking towards a gym or a wild creature and seeing a couple of other people on their phones doing exactly the same thing; and because the nature of the game is very non-competitive, it’s never a hostile atmosphere. Even if you don’t speak to people, just a knowing nod from another trainer or the sight of an excited group of players is enough to make you feel part of something.
+ Let’s go outside: You have to walk around – playing in a vehicle or on a bike doesn’t work, as the speed limit is around 10mph, at which point the game doesn’t give you credit for your travels. It’s a really clever caveat as it forces you to wander around your area, and each of the pokéstops (a place you visit to collect more supplies and experience) is mapped to a local landmark, so I actually found myself learning about my area as I was playing. Fantastic.
+ Eggies: One of the best features (that even works when the servers are struggling – see below) is the egg hatching. You’re given eggs along the way, each taking either 2, 5 or 10km or walking to hatch. Generally the longer an egg takes to hatch, the rarer the Pokémon inside – and knowing you’ve only got 0.2km to go before a hatch genuinely makes you take a longer route to your destination. It’s remarkably satisfying.
~ Candy/Dust: The levelling up and evolving of the Pokémon is tied to two things – candy and stardust. You get stardust by doing things like catching Pokémon, battling and evolving, and you get a specific monster’s candy by catching a Pokémon of that type, and an additional one for trading. It’s not too bad – but gets annoying when you require a rare Pokémon’s candy to evolve it – a difficult task if it’s rare.
~ Battles: The battles in the gyms aren’t terrible. But they aren’t great either. Spamming the quick attack is the best way to win – leaving the dodge and heavy attacks redundant.
~ Depth: There is plenty to do, but…it feels like there could be more. A lot more. See below.
– No trading or battling: The two key gameplay elements of Pokémon games aren’t in place – battling and trading with your friends. Trading in particular is a must-have if the game is going to have any long-term appeal.
– Glitches and servers: Due to the unprecedented popularity, the launch has been riddled with technical errors and issues. The prevalence of glitches like the 3-step glitch (the handy menu showing how close certain creatures are has been broken for a week), the pokéball glitch (my own personal least-favourite, where you catch a ‘mon and the ball just stops moving…freezing the game) and just generally not being able to log in for most of the day has culminated in a very bittersweet experience so far.
– Starter for 10?: Something that gets sadly lost in translation in Pokémon GO is the bond you feel with your little creatures that is such a key element in the original games. this problem is particularly potent with your starter ‘mon. As ever you’ll start with a Charmander, Squirtle or Bulbasaur (or Pikachu if you know the secret…) but alas these three are incredibly rare in the wild; and because the only way to level up and evolve your Pokemon is to feed them candy that you get from catching Pokémon of the same type, it means before long your starter has hardly any level compared to the Pokémon you catch later as your trainer level increases. It’s a real shame.
– Pidgey harvest: There sure are a lot of Pidgeys in the game. it’s like a bloody Hitchcock movie. The frequency of Pidgeys has caused players to realise that catching and evolving Pidgeys into Pidgeottos is actually the most efficient way of increasing your experience points and levelling up, meaning the temptation to turn into a Pidgey-mincing factory is always there.
– Rural issues: if you live in a dense urban area, you’re treated Pokémon spawning left, right and center, and there are pokéstops and gyms aplenty to keep you busy. if you live in a more rural area however, the opposite is true Pokemon hardly spawn and there aren’t many stops or gyms to keep you occupied. This is because of the way the app works – more things spawn based on local cellphone usage, so the more phones are active, the more likely things will appear. It really goes against the spirit of Pokémon as a whole – I want to be able to go off into the countryside and catch wild Pokémon, not be restricted to an urban city center. Hopefully Niantic can fix this.
Overall: Pokémon go is polarising – on the one hand it’s riddled with glitches and flaws, and could be so much better. On the other hand…I’m obsessed with it. It offers an experience unlike anything else out there. If Ninantic fix the bugs and roll out more features I know I’ll be playing for a long time.