If you don’t know what Pokémon Go is by now then I’ll leave you to the tons of other sources available to explain in greater detail. Just Google it if you’re curious or try it for yourself because… well… it’s free. The basic idea is that it’s a mobile app that has you walking around to catch Pokémon, find items, and fight gym battles. At this point, that’s about all there is to it. I’m not here to give you a full review of the thing, but I’d like to share my thoughts on it on two main fronts.
As an App:
Pokémon Go works very well as a free app. Nearly anyone with a mobile device can download it and start finding and catching Pokémon. In order to find and track Pokémon, you have to walk around until you’re close enough to one to pop up on your screen. You can then try to catch it with your camera on to make it look like it’s in the real world with you. It’s a neat bit of immersion for sure. Mix it with some imagination and it almost feels like it’s real… if you can get over the fact that a cartoon character looks largely out of place against real scenery, that is. It’s a pretty good app. It encourages people to get outside, move around, and go explore. The stops where you can gather more items to help your adventure are generally around landmarks, churches, parks, or other points of interest, which can help you go to places you may not have bothered to check out before. And some places can gain even more interest as gyms, where you have to physically visit and try fending off the Pokémon of others in order to gain control of that spot. With everyone out and about, stopping in mutual places, and all doing the same thing, it can even spawn some human interaction as you share your experiences with others using the same app. It gives you something in common to break the ice and possibly make new friends. I dare say it even puts the efforts of the PokéWalker and the Game Link cable combined to shame. Not to mention that it finally opens up Pokémon to those who have never had a Nintendo device to properly place, which is exciting for many. So it has its merits.
As a Game:
Pokémon Go has very little in the way of gameplay. Catching Pokémon only really requires walking around and flicking your finger to throw Pokéballs. There’s also some management of your Pokémon by powering them up, evolving them, and even trading them in for bonuses. Battling is the most involved part of the gameplay, consisting of taps to attack your opponent. You can hold down your touch longer for a more powerful, alternate attack, but timing can be key. And you can swipe your screen to dodge. So there’s at least some semblance of an actual game here. However, it’s a pretty bad game. It’s so shallow and unrewarding, and currently to limited to those gym locations, that it ends up leaving a LOT to be desired. Not to mention that walking around is a tedious and gimmicky game mechanic that is only circumvented by micro transactions if you’re willing to pay money on this kind of thing. Fans of main series will find the deep, turn-based combat to be completely gone. The raising aspects are barebones. The adventure is limited to the real world and lacking imagination. It’s just not quite up to snuff with the main series games, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing if you understand that and don’t expect it. The thing is, there are a lot of people that haven’t been able to play Pokémon games before, and this is their introduction to them, even if it IS just an app. They might play it, not be into it, and avoid the series entirely because of this experience. Or, they might get totally into it, try the main series, and hate that it’s not the same as the app. It’s just a poor representation of the game series.
As a Whole:
It’s a pretty good app and a pretty bad game. It’s nice to see Pokémon back in style in the mainstream, as it hasn’t seen this kind of popularity since it first hit back when I was a kid. Honestly though, it’s a very sad thing. It’s sad because most of these people don’t even care about Pokémon. This app could’ve been anything from The Walking Dead to My Little Pony and people would’ve eaten it up just because it’s popular. Sure, Pokémaniacs will get anything with the Pokémon logo on it, but they’re really the only ones that will stay. I’m giving this a month. After that time I think the craze will die down and people will forget all about it. People will get bored of it. When someone’s friends all stop playing, so will they. And even the general Pokémon audience will only be held over until Sun and Moon release in November. After that point, the app will most likely be fairly dead. I’ve heard rumors that there are new features coming down the road. Community features. Trading. Battling with other people face to face. These things could be nice, but what we’re mostly looking at is an unfinished app that is made to bleed your money before it fades away under the shadow of the real deal. Have fun while it lasts, but just don’t go into it expecting this to be anything more than an interesting distraction. Go into it safely assuming Pokémon Go is going to go away.