Publisher: The Pokemon Company
Platform: iOS, Android
Genre: Augmented Reality
OFLC Rating: PG
I don’t really play a lot of “Mobile” games outside, but this one has my attention. This is Pokemon Go (not to be confused with the mainstream experience on Gameboy, GBA, DS and presently 3DS) an augmented reality spin-off title for iOS and Android platforms. The game is essentially two parts treasure hunt, one part king of the hill. Pokemon Go is powered by Google Maps. Like the core games, you venture out, track down and catch wild Pokemon. Similar to the core games you can develop them – but in the case of Pokemon Go, don’t expect this to be as good or better than core titles available on Nintendo’s platforms. Pokemon Go is essentially a licensed gimmick to promote fitness, exploration, social interaction and ultimately generate brand awareness for the Pokemon franchise – If you want more from Pokemon Go, take the hint and buy a 3DS if you haven’t already.
If you own a Nintendo handheld and a library of the core Pokemon games, this game will be a very casual experience playing second fiddle (at best). Along with scattering procedurally generated (based on the given local environment – eg Woodland, Tropical, Desert, Tundra, etc.) assortments of Pokemon, you have designated landmarks marked by Pokestops and Gyms. Pokestops are essentially fixed “Loot Drops” where you can pick up Pokeballs (used to catch Pokemon) and other provisions for the care and development of your Pokemon. Gyms (as any enthusiast will more or less tell you) is where the main “Pokemon on Pokemon” action goes down. Pokestop and Gym designations can range from anything from nature reserves, community centres, shopping malls, cafes and dining establishments to historical sites even public service buildings (eg Police Stations, etc.). Given the assortment of designated lankmark locations, this has prompted concern from both residents of private properties and authorities alike. Naturally you’re going to have (the less savvy) players wander in where they shouldn’t and because of that, I can appreciate the concerns. The other concerns regard obvious common sense – playing while crossing the street and operating a vehicle (eg automobile, bicycle, etc.), both being pure idiotic mistakes that even a moron with half a clue should know not to make – Period!
Concerns aside, the “King of the Hill” aspect of the game comes down to gym battles. The first Gym Battle you will be offered an invitation to join one of three teams, each with a slightly different and basic ethos relative to Pokemon trainers – They are Instinct (Yellow), Mystic (Blue) and Valour (Red). Gym battles are more or less real time fights that are fought by tapping to attack and swiping to evade. Every gym battle one will place your winning Pokemon as gym “guardian” and claim the location for the given team you represent. Claiming a gym comes down to challenging (by tapping the landmark when in the vicinity of) beating Pokemon belonging to the trainer current holding the point.
Here are two concerns that will effect players – Firstly this game will kill you device’s battery, due the fact relies heavily on GPS tracking. Finally (and this one is more of concern to parents and guardians), players can use in-game currency to purchase items and provisions. Whilst players can earn these from winning gym battles, they also have the option to spend in-app purchases to acquire them with real money (via attached credit/debit card for iTunes or Google Play respectively).
Ultimately – While Pokemon Go is free to download, this game will cost you one way or another.
Look, I’ve had fun collecting Pokemon whilst out at the shops and stuff. But, is Pokemon Go a satisfying experience as what the games are on my 3DS? No.
For me this game is very much a sidelined experience and is something I will be participating with on a very casual basis, as I will likely do my serious play sessions with the upcoming Pokemon Sun / Moon. However, I can see this being as much of marketing tool for businesses as much as it is for Nintendo and I have heard of local establishments getting in on that in some way.
So… Is Pokemon Go worth it?
If you consider yourself a “Die Hard” Pokemon fan… You’re going to jump in on the action no matter what.
If you like AR games… This one’s going to keep you busy.
If you’re looking for a traditional Pokemon experience… Don’t be expecting much more than cheap mobile-centric action from this game.