Mobile Game Review: Pokémon Go
Do you wanna be the very best like no one ever was? Great, then you might as well go and get yourself a brand new pair of walking (or running) shoes and take to the streets, as Niantic Labs has finally released Pokémon Go here in the UK. After the slight delay of releasing it here in the UK, Brits have gone mad for Pokémon once again. However, is the game simply hype, or is it actually a great game with some ingenious marketing thrown in? Join Timlah as we take to the streets to play Pokémon Go.
For those of you who know me well, I used to enjoy going to the gym to work out. I’ve not been for a while, though I intend to soon. Since the release of Pokémon Go however, I’ve wanted to get moving once more. After all, I and only I can be called the very best – But that’s not strictly true now is it? Now, not only do the traditional Pokémon fans want to play this phenomenal title, but just about everyone is getting in on the craze. No longer is Pokémon viewed as just a kids thing, but instead it’s viewed as a great game and in some cases a great tool. No doubt that by now you’ve at least heard of Pokémon Go, so let’s check out what this latest downloadable title is all about.
|Developer||Niantic Labs & The Pokémon Company|
|Platforms||Android & iOS|
|Price on Android/iOS||Free!|
Let’s begin by making something perfectly clear here: This is a Pokémon game. It’s been developed by Niantic with the input of the Pokémon Company. Now that you know about this, the story of the game is a simple, typical Pokémon title. A professor (who cannot recognise you or your gender and asks you to confirm it to him) sends you on an epic adventure, across the land, searching far and wide to find each Pokémon, to understand the power– Sorry. It’s your job as the aide(?) of the Professor to go and collect data on all of the Pokémon you can, by capturing them, raising them lovingly(..?) and generally just being the best you can be.
Whilst Pokémon is a very typical, normal story to us now, there’s a slight diversion in Pokémon Go. Much like in Niantic Labs other mega title, Ingress, Go features areas that you need to fight in and capture. You are fighting for one of three teams: Team Valor (Red), Team Mystic (Blue), and Team Instinct (Yellow). For the truly observant amongst you, yes, these three colours represented Generation 1, or the Kanto region of the Pokémon manga, series and video games. As such, it should be of little to no surprise to you then that there are actually 151 Pokémon in Pokémon Go so far.
The Gameplay is very simple: You walk around and there’s a map that Niantic Labs have developed. By finding points of interest, they’ve created PokéStops. As well as being a point of interest in the real world, they’ve included in-game information about some of them. Most churches are PokéStops, along with things such as Post Offices and of course, landmarks such as statues and street art. So long as it has a specific reason for being there, you can bet that it’ll be a PokéStop. You go around and find these PokéStops so you can not only see things in the real world, but collect items in games; items such as Pokés Balls, Eggs, Revives, Potions and more. This makes you want to explore, to not only find the Pokémon as you go out on your journeys, but to find the stops so you can replenish the items in game. Meanwhile, for those who really don’t want to move, don’t worry, you can buy Poké Balls with real money – But honestly, there are often so many PokéStops, you sort of fall over them: Especially in a busy city like Bristol.
As is the norm in a Pokémon title, you have to go and “catch ’em all”. To so so, you simply walk around and occasionally a random Pokémon will appear on your phone. Sorry world, Augmented Reality hasn’t become so good that it’s actually in the world yet. Niantic, get developing that please? But in seriousness, your phone will vibrate to let you know a Pokémon is nearby and you look on your screen and lo and behold it’s a Rattata! Again. I’ve caught so many of those. And Drowsee’s. Huh… But this is a good thing! Catching more of these means you can trade in ones you don’t want, (generally these are ones with lower CP (Combat Points)), then use the candy you get from trading them in to the Professor to power up the CP of a Pokémon (Along with Stardust, (more on that in a moment)), or to evolve the Pokémon.
Whenever you capture a Pokémon by throwing Poké Balls at it until it says “Gotcha!” your Pokédex will update to show you have a new Pokémon. If you already caught one of it before, it just goes to your Pokémon party (You can have 250 of them to begin with). Once you’ve caught one though, you will be rewarded with a specific amount of Stardust and Candy relating to the Pokémon you just caught. For example: If you catch a Rattata, you typically will get between 1-3 Rattata Candy and 100 Stardust. You use a specific amount of Stardust (The lowest amount appears to be 200, where the maximum I’ve seen is 1,000) and 1 Candy to power up a Pokémon. This raises their CP and thus makes them stronger in a Pokémon battle. Much like in the video game franchise, if you evolve a Pokémon, you will get a stronger Pokémon in its place, which sometimes can even double the CP of a Pokémon.
Now this is a lot of talking about power and teams, so why on Earth have I gone into so much detail about this? That’s because the real game begins with those teams I mentioned at the beginning of this section. You fight for your team and you have to defeat enemy teams Pokémon Gyms. Gyms are usually large icons on the world map, with a Pokémon casually hanging about on top of it. From level 5, you get to pick your team and you can fight in these gyms to earn them for your team and thus earn yourself some rewards. In doing so, you eventually become a gym “leader” of sorts and when you’re eventually defeated, your Pokémon comes back to you. Yes, you leave your Pokémon in the gyms to fight for themselves. They will only return when they have been defeated. The higher the CP, the harder it’ll be for your opponents to defeat you.
One final point, there are also eggs in the game. Eggs are hatched by walking around in the real world, but you do need to keep the app open whilst you’re walking around. I’ve found it quite amusing getting big distances covered by being on a bus, however the goal is to get you out and about. Treat it as a challenge, as there appear to be 3 tiers of Pokémon eggs that you can get: 2km, 5km and 10km. You can hold up to 9 eggs at the beginning and they only begin to hatch when you put them in an incubator along with your physically moving about. Once you’ve satisfied this, the game will start to figure out how far you’ve travelled and it’ll hatch it when you pass the threshold. Once it hatches, you will get a random Pokémon that’s in that tier set. For instance in the 2km set, you can get a Charmander, a Bulbasaur and a Squirtle. Meanwhile in the 10km set, you can get a Lapras, an Aerodactyl or even a Snorlax.
As a quick aside, let’s quickly talk about the financial model for this game. Yes, it’s a Freemium game, I.E you can play entirely for free, or you can pay a little bit of real money in game to speed things up a little. From what I’ve seen, you don’t really speed things up all that much. If you’re like me, travelling between a big city and out to a more residential area, then you’re going to get quite the range of Pokémon. The times you spend in a busy city, you’ll get plenty of PokéStops to deal with, so you’ll get plenty of Poké Balls and Eggs, as well as plenty of random Pokémon. Then, when you’re out in the residential area you live in, you’ll generally get Rattata, Pidgey and so on and so forth. Oddly, I occasionally find Paras around where I live too.
I am very pleased with how this game looks; it’s clear to me that Niantic Labs are not only people who develop quality maps for games like this, but they actually care about the Pokémon that they put into the game. All of the models look beautiful on my phone, which is a surprise, as the app is barely over 100mb in size. Do be warned though, that some of the locations are a little bit distorted due to being stretched, but this doesn’t really get shown up much. Often the images of locations are of high quality. The Professor looks great as do the character models that you can make up, but there’s not much customisation of your characters (not like that’s a huge issue)! Check out my gallery below:
The music in the game is incredibly minimal, although I’ve always been a fan of keeping it simple with audio. It’s rare that a huge orchestral soundtrack is fitting, so in this case, I’m more trying to judge the music on how faithful to normal Pokémon games is it and is it actually any good. The basic soundtrack when you’re in game is a very typical Pokémon music score, but that shouldn’t be a surprise as Junichi Masuda wrote the music for the game. For those of you who don’t know, Junichi Masuda is the man who wrote the music for most of the Pokémon games, even as far back as Pokémon Red/Blue. Another nice touch is the remastered sounds of the original Pokémon sounds.
Let me start by saying that there’s been a lot of horror stories about this game already, although I feel most of this is unjustified. You see, for every 1 incident of someone being attacked or running into the middle of a road to catch a Pokémon, there’s millions upon millions of other players who aren’t getting in trouble. The issue with media, even with GeekOut, is that the people behind the media has a reason to write their articles. In my case, I’m writing this section to let you know that yes, people have gotten in problems with Pokémon Go – From people who are walking into Holocaust Museums, to people who are stumbling upon dead bodies, this is happening. The thing that people who aren’t playing don’t seem ready for, is the fact that gaming has become so mainstream, something that people considered nerdy for years – And it’s out there. Everyone, even your parents and grandparents are able to play Pokémon Go. There’s a reason it’s the most downloaded mobile game ever already.
Now don’t take my word for this – But this is a great fun game. As far as it being a game, it’s actually quite plain and if you’ve already played Ingress, you’ll know exactly what to expect. However, don’t take this as a minor: It’s great. Yes it’s plain, but if there were more things included, then it might make the game a bit clustered. With the fact that Niantic Labs have worked so hard to make the servers work as well as they have been, for a game as big as it is, rest assured: I’ve got plenty of faith in Niantic to develop this game further. Now, when can we get to the Johto regions Pokémon? Now it’s over to you: Have you been enjoying Pokémon Go yet? What do you think about seeing people out and about on their phones to capture Pokémon in the “real world”? As always, leave a comment below, or over on Facebook, Twitter or Reddit.