“Pokémon GO” was released July 6th, and it had a rough start. And with constant server errors among other glitches, one might ask him or herself. Was the game worth the wait and crashes? Well, for a lot of people the answer points to yes. While I may be in the group that thinks this app is fun, there are a few things I should mention as I review this Pokémon AR game.
Until Niantic releases updates for trading and battling (outside gyms) you’ll spend most of your time catching Pokémon. As the app uses GPS maps and tracking you will literally run (or walk) around different areas to search for Pokémon. When you find one to catch just flick the Poké Ball, though be careful not to overshoot or undershot the toss. The ring that shrinks and expands inside the stationary one around the Pokémon will tell you how hard the catch will be, from green (easiest) to orange/red (difficult).
Tossing the Poké Ball depending on where the inner ring is will grant you a bit more experience points for your avatar though people have different ideas on how that works. In my playthrough I think it was sort of like skee-ball rules where you have to get it in the inner ring. For more experience points you can also curve the shot by spinning the Poké Ball and tossing it using the direction of the curve, but this is a fine way to blow through your stock when starting off.
Speaking of stock you’ll need to get more Poké Balls and other items as you go. With no Poké Marts around and with the coins from microtransactions being expensive, your best bet is to visit the PokéStops often. PokéStops can be found in a number of spots in your area with unlimited uses (though they need to recharge). Just get in range, tap the point, and spin the portrait that pops up as fast as you can. This will give you some much-needed loot for free such as the aforementioned Poké Balls, Potions, Revives, and Eggs (which you can hatch with an incubator and tracked walking distance). And If you need more. Then just visit other PokéStops nearby, or wait for a few minutes for the used one to recharge.
Before you hit the Pokémon gym, there are a few things you need to do (or know because the game doesn’t tell you everything). You’ll need to increase your avatar’s level to unlock more Pokémon for you to find, as well as gain better Poké Balls and items from PokéStops. You can search for specific Pokémon in your location by hitting the radar on the bottom right corner, and selecting the one you want. And when you look in the right direction, and the radar will then start “glow”.
And that tells you to go in that direction and how far by paw prints (one for 20m, two for 30m, and three for 30m+). Catching new Pokémon for your Pokédex will give you five times the exp you would normally get and candy to evolve your Pokémon and increase its Combat Points (CP), which is the universal stat in this game (so don’t worry about EV Points). If you have duplicates, then simply transfer the recently caught one to Professor Willow. And he’ll give you candy for that specific evolution line. Just keep catching Pokémon, spin nearby PokéStops, and evolve your Pokémon to rack up the EXP.
Once you’ve gained enough experience points to hit Level 5 you can take on a gym. This is more of capture the point instead of the traditional Pokémon gym. When you start off you choose a team: Team Instinct, Team Wisdom, or Team Valor. After siding with a team you battle the gym to increase its prestige points for your team or lower it to capture the gym. At the moment, this is where you will be battling other trainer’s Pokémon that they left to defend. Battling is action-based with tapping and swiping the screen to attack and dodge respectively. When you got enough pot shots in and filled the gauge for your Pokémon’s Special Move, then just hold down on the screen and let it deal massive damage. And if you manage to find an unoccupied gym. Well, congratulations to you! Because you have just become a gym leader in your area.
The gameplay is okay in spite of the lack of features (hopefully, they’ll add more soon) and is enjoyable even for players who prefer the core games (such as myself). However, as I said before there are some things that the game barely mentioned, though that didn’t ruin the experience for other trainers and myself. What did ruin the experience were the technical difficulties. I can understand the servers going down, but then there are moments when the game froze (or stopped connecting to the servers) while in the middle of catching a Pokémon or times when the app stopped tracking your location. Let’s not forget the Pokédex issue some of us have where the digital encyclopedia won’t properly text wrap (letting all the information go down in a column) and will always fixate on your starter Pokémon even when you want to look at another entry.
And sadly there are more problems than just technical issues. A group of robbers used the app to attract players to steal their smart phones by certain PokéStops using in-game lures. While the suspects were apprehended, it does show that the app can be abused for such acts. Speaking of potential abuse, it seems like the iOS port could have been used to have full access to a person’s Google account by accepting the app permissions. However, it seems like the developer has fixed this since they were alerted to it. Then we have the story of a lady finding a dead body while hunting for Pokémon. She did call the police when she discovered it, but this is some freaky stuff that actually happened with a Pokémon game.
And there are plenty of more tales of that kind. Including but not limited to: man caught a Pidgey while his wife was in labor, the staff of the Holocaust Museum, Police Departments, and other sites asking people not to play Pokémon GO while visiting out of respect (though some of the Police Departments just laid down some ground rules), and everyone’s favorite “Don’t Pokémon GO and Drive” campaign. When the app starts the loading screen says to make sure you’re aware of your surroundings. So please put some caution in when playing Pokémon GO. As for any good that did come out of it, I’ll save for the outro.
There’s not much to say about the graphics. Starting with the characters you actually see they are designed with a light Backpacker style in mind, which is perfect with the premises of this game. Professor Willow still wears a lab coat under the straps, but it does look like he’s ready to go adventuring (Not to mention he’s a good-looking guy). The avatars have limited customization options to choose from, but their sporty outdoor clothes matches the theme. The Team Leaders are disappointing colored silhouettes with names (which can be easily forgotten since there are no faces to put them to).
The Pokémon are in their 3DS model glory. And at the moment, there are 150 of them on this game. As for points, the points are used for the gyms. And the PokéStops resemble some designs from the “Mega man Battle Network” series. However, since this is an AR game. I think this was a good direction. Part of the AR experience comes from using the camera to having a real-time background while catching and battling, but if your smart phone doesn’t agree with AR you can turn it off. However, the same can´t be said about the overworld view. As you’ll be looking at all the time, since it´s a GPS map. Even so, there is nothing special about it aside from effects such as rustling grass and lure particles.
Junichi Masuda composed the soundtrack and eventually evolve it. And it is reminiscent of its roots. However, the overworld map music kind of gives off a bit of a Final Fantasy vibe when you’re looking at it from time to time. The sound effects may not be anything special, but it’s the little things that make it feel like a Pokémon game. You still have the Pokémon cries from the core games, even the voice acting for Pikachu. All the other sounds are fitting, down to the Poké Ball’s rumbling and clicking.
And since “Pokémon GO” is a smart phone app, logically there are smart phone controls. You’ll be doing plenty of swiping, tapping, and all sort of motions to while catching and battling. You may accidentally hit a button with a small screen, but the controls are responsive as long as the game is still tracking you. Some practice would be recommended for curve throwing Poké Balls, though.
+ A simplistic Pokémon app with the challenge of having to go outside
+ “Pokémon GO” is a decent start with future implements hopefully on the way, such as local battling and trading
+ “Pokémon GO” has a sort of survivalist aspect to it
– Technical difficulties between the app and the servers.
– The app doesn’t tell you much about how to play aside from the bare basics.
– Playing the game could be dangerous if caution isn’t used.
– High-priced microtransactions.
Replay value: 3.5/5
“Pokémon GO” is a decent app for newcomers and fans alike, but it seriously needs a bit more work with the load of people playing it. What’s even worse is how and when the app was used, between a guy catching a Pidgey with his wife facing an emergency C-Section to getting mugged by people abusing it (among A LOT of stupid things). That is not to say that any good didn’t come from it. Managers had used the app to attract players to their business (I should do that on my next day off) and people just got together in general (while it’s not certain that they actually talked to each other). Further more, I found myself talking about Pokémon with my family one Sunday, even with my own mother.
Actually talking about my favorite RPG franchise with my family is a rare thing (outside of what the Mystic Pokémon of the month is). “Pokémon GO” needs more work and people need to be more cautious (and have more common sense). Nevertheless, “Pokémon GO” could bring people closer before “Pokémon Sun” and “Pokémon Moon” could tie the knot. And with that said, train on people!
Title: Pokémon GO
Developer: Niantic, Inc
Format: Android, iOS
Genre: AR Adventure
Resolution: 720 x 1280 (Moto G)
Release date: 2016-07-06
Spent time: 4+ hours
Average grade internationally: xx% Gamerankings.com
PEGI/ESRB age rating: PEGI 7+/Everyone 10+
Price: Free (microtransactions)
Robin Ek – Editor
The Gaming Ground
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