- Developer: Niantic Inc
- Publisher: Niantic Inc
- Available On: iOS/Android
- Release Date: July 6, 2016
- Version Reviewed: iOS
Pokemon GO is a free augmented-reality (AR) mobile game that puts a brand new spin on the world of Pokemon. Trainers grab your mobile device and Pokeballs and start your quest to catch’em all!
Pokemon GO Story
Like most traditional games in the Pokemon franchise, GO starts off by introducing us to Professor Willow. Again, following tradition, Professor Willow explains that the world is inhabited by Pokemon and he needs your help to catch them so he can research them. Once you have customized and named your character, Professor Willow will give you some more information. This is where GO differs from previous Pokemon games. This time there is no Team Rocket or similar organization trying to take over the world. This time, players are just capturing Pokemon and visiting Gyms for battles. For now, that is pretty much all there is as far as the game’s story goes. This could change in the future though, as discussed during the Pokemon GO Nintendo Treehouse. During this video, it is also expressed that the game was designed to help encourage real world exploration.
I am playing on an iPhone 6S running iOS 9 and have seen it running a couple different Android devices. There does not appear to be any graphical differences between the two versions, at least not with AR turned off. When AR is turned on, there can be some slight differences but these do not directly impact your gameplay. During Pokemon encounters when AR is switched on, the app will utilize your device’s camera to show the animated Pokemon model in your real life environment. If AR is disabled, Pokemon encounters will have generic colored backgrounds. Devices with weaker cameras may show your surroundings as being blurry or distorted when running through the app. Again, this does not change the gameplay at all. When traveling through the overworld/real world, the game retains animated models for Pokemon and Trainers, as well as the world map itself. The game also has popular music tracks from the Pokemon franchise that have been remixed to keep you energized during your travels.
The traditional Pokemon games have the player following a linear path and controlling your character with a D-Pad or control stick. Pokemon GO takes a different approach. This time you yourself must travel the real world to find your favorite Pokemon, Instead of a control input to make your character go north, GO uses your device’s GPS to track your movement as you travel north. Your real world location determines what creatures you will encounter, the Gyms you can battle and what Pokestops you can visit. For example, if you want to catch a water type like Goldeen, you will have to travel to a body of water like a river or lake. Gyms and Pokestops are often found at specific landmarks ranging from historical markers to churches and parks. Pokestops are a new addition to the franchise. These locations will give players free items or a Pokemon Egg when visited.
Pokemon GO can also be played with Pokemon GO Plus. This is a Bluetooth device that pairs with your mobile device. It is supposed to light up when you encounter a Pokemon and allow you to catch it without opening your phone. I do not have this accessory yet since it is scheduled for later in July so I cannot say for sure how well this works. Capturing a Pokemon without it though is pretty simple. You do not have to battle and weaken them. All you have to do is press and hold the Pokeball and flick it towards your target.
This game is very generous with items so I do not foresee running out of Pokeballs or anything else being an issue down the line. There are three main issues that may be a bit discouraging. The first one is probably the most obvious one: battery life. Because this app uses both the GPS and camera in your device, on top of the gameplay itself, your battery is going to drain kind of fast. To work around this, you can go into the settings within the app and turn off the sounds and turn on Battery Saver. It is not a perfect solution, but it could let you get an extra hour or two of play. The second issue is Pokemon variety based on location. While I understand this is how the main Pokemon games work as well, it is a bit discouraging that I cannot capture a water/ice type like Lapras unless I visit a body of water in a cold area. Many others that I have spoken to also do not like this aspect. Finally, Pokemon GO requires a data plan if you are not connected to wi-fi. For some Trainers with data caps on their mobile plans, this can have a major impact on where they play and how long they can play. If your plan limits your data usage, here are some tips for how to conserve your data and extend your quest to become a Pokemon Master.
Pokemon GO – The Verdict
Pokemon GO is probably the closest thing we are going to get to having Pokemon in real life. While the graphics are a bit cartoonish and the gameplay is simplistic, it is still incredibly fun. There is just something about seeing a Venonat on the couch beside you that makes it hard to stop playing. The developers set out to make a game that encouraged exploration and I would say they have been successful. Players just have to see what’s around the next corner or what will pop out if they go on a roadtrip or a hike. While Pokemon GO has a few problems, it is important to keep in mind that this is a brand new approach to the Pokemon world. An issue today can be patched with an update tomorrow as the game improves over time. And when it comes to a specific Pokemon spawning in an area far away, if a Trainer wants it bad enough they will make the journey.