What to say about Pokémon GO. Well it’s a mobile game, that’s never a good first impression for me since there are barely any mobile games I both play and enjoy, the only ones I can think of are Tiny Tower and Neko Atsume, both of which provide about as much depth as a swimming pool filled to the brim with drowned lifeguards.
Read my impressions on the mobile title after the break!
Nintendo’s previous mobile outing with this particular property, Pokemon Shuffle mobile is one of the most hideous example of a pay to win, micropayment ridden scum-fest. It grinds you down with obnoxious difficulty and incredibly expensive powerups that you can either wait four days for a mid range one using log-in bonuses, (this is of course if you’re stuck on a level and cannot progress) play the special stage that gives coins once a week, or make it very easy by paying real money to get the coins you need. Even then it’s no guarantee that you’ll win. You can still get hit with bad combo landing and loose after paying £2.99 and getting all the powerups once for a stage.
However I’m not here to shit on that paticular steaming pile. I will however say that Pokémon GO perhaps does not do enough to get away from the mentality that makes mobile gaming such an execrable boyle on the anus of gaming. The warning bells went off for me when I saw microtransactions (which I was already aware of) going from £2 – £80. This is a number that is entirely unacceptable, but of course it’ll be justified with the sentence “But if people don’t have time to get the resources then why not pay for them?”
My answer to this is twofold, firstly, it takes so long to get the resources otherwise because it was purposly designed as such by the developers to encourage micropayment purchase. Secondly, games such as this, that include GPS hunting and lots of walking around to find Pokemon and items require a lot of time to play, regardless of the amount of money you throw at it.
Niantic’s previous game Ingress is a perfect example of this as it’s built in almost the exact same way but without the pokemon spawning. Both games contain in game spots that correspond with real world landmarks you can interact with. In the case if GO the interactions with the “Poké Stops” are much more simplified, with only 2 features currently usable. The first is a way to get free items by spinning the disc on screen, having to wait 5 minutes before using the same stop again. The second is installing modules, the only type of which currently available is a lure module which attracts Pokémon to the area for a half hour. I much prefer this streamlined approach to Ingress’ rather cluttered “Portals” with awful GUI and being the sole point of the game makes said GUI rather off-putting.
I’m going to air out all my issues with this game now, because there are a few, some almost deal breaking as it stands. I will disclose at this point that, because the game is still not available in the UK officially, I am playing it through an APK. While some people seem unreasonably agreived by the idea of people doing this, I’m not cheating in any way by doing this, I gain no paticular advantage or boosts from this at all. Anyway, back to the point, the game is unbelievably buggy, with freezes while catching Pokémon all too common (presumably from momentary drops in internet connection) which result in the loss of your ball that you used being very agrovating. Freezes are also common in the overworld, wether attempting to activate an encounter, a gym or a stop. Hopefully these should be ironed out as time goes on, but it still doesn’t feel all that acceptable to encounter some of these bugs on launch. Battling is very basic and horrible to play with you just tapping the screen repeatedly in frustration and your pokemon having only 2 attacks, one of which involves tapping and holding which can get you killed before you even attack. And finally, Stardust, the currency used to power up Pokémon is inordiately hard to get hold of, without even micropayments to get it, you can only recieve it by defending gyms, once every day, and from catching Pokémon which drops nowhere near enough for my liking.
Enough of the negatives though, what’s good about the game? Well it’s Pokémon themed, and to me that’s like catnip to a hyperactive kitten. Pokémon is honnestly my favourite game franchise (not that I can’t accept its weaker games/mechanics) so the premise in itself was enough to get me excited. Secondly, the Pokéball throwing is actually skill based, you need to be able to throw your ball in the right position and with the correct amount of power to actually hit and even has a spin mechanic for extra exp. The game does also seem to be an honnest and effective method to get people outside and to excersise, which in this world of rising obesity is no bad thing at all. To be honnest, I can’t think of any more things that I actually enjoy about the game, there’s nothing more that makes me think “Oh wow” so I really need to think about if the peaks outweigh the troughs.
The big question, as with all games, is wether or not Pokémon GO is fun. The answer is hard to put concisely, but I’d say it depends on the session, sometimes you can have a blast, running into good pokemon, find loads of poke-stops and challenge a gym or two. Other times you’ll walk around for a few KM finding nothing but 4 or 5 Pidgeys that you ran out of use for days ago. Having just got back from such a session before sitting down to finish writing I feel annoyed by the game, but I then remember how much I got from my previous walk with it and can’t muster the anger to hate it yet cannot honnestly say that I love it.
However I ask myself if I would play it if it weren’t Pokémon themed and I think I wouldn’t so maybe that says more about it than anything I’ve writen. I remember going to write this and thinking it’d be a much more positive article than it turned out to be which I think is a shame, it could’ve been wonderful but instead leaves me feeling a bit cold, both litterally and figuratively.
To conclude, is it a bold step in a new direction? Yes, but maybe not the one we wanted.
A lifelong gamer, weaned onto it from a young age through the Gameboy and gradually onto other platforms. I am now a mostly PC gamer but my pet franchise remains to be (somewhat appropriately) Pokémon.