Novel and fun, but not a great deal to it
Written by The BluesI have enjoyed Pokemon Go on my iPhone over the last week. However, it feels like the buzz about the game and the social experience of talking about it in school and so on makes it more enjoyable than it otherwise would be.
For a start, there's not really much to it in terms of gameplay. It comes down to walking in real life towards a marker on the map as it tracks you with GPS, and then, if it's a Pokemon, capturing it by flicking a ball, or, if a marker called a 'Pokestop', basically just tapping / spinning so it will dispense goodies (usually Pokeballs, occasionally eggs, and I'm yet to get anything else).
The map itself seems pretty good and detailed. I'm not sure how it works, but I am surrounded by many Pokestops, which are invariably located at already notable locations, e.g. a statue, monument, plaque, etc. I'm not sure how it's getting the information and the accompanying pictures it uses for these Pokestops -- possibly Google Maps with Picassa? But it's very nicely done. Prominent locations are usually 'Gyms', which I'll go into later. As most of the game is really down to you walking around in the real world, it's good that is well done. Also a nice touch, is that in a grassy park, you're more likely to come across grass Pokemon, around water, water ones, and so on.
The process of capturing your first Pokemon will definitely induce a smile or two. The Augmented Reality aspect means you see the Pokemon you're targeting in the real world through your camera, as if it's really in front of you. Sometimes you will fail to capture a Pokemon if they're too high level for you or the ball. It's also surprisingly difficult to get the ball on target, as the camera tends to shake a little, and the Pokemon's position on screen correspondingly shakes with a delay, meaning your aim can be all over the place, much like trying to read something while on a bumpy car ride. If this annoys you too much, you can also switch the Augmented Reality mode off, and it takes you to an animated grassy clearance in which you can capture your Pokemon. Also, it's harder than it initially needs to be because the guide neglects to tell you that holding the Pokeball before you launch helps power, and the colour of the circle around the Pokemon indicates how likely it will be successful.
You also have 'Gyms'. On your first gym visit, accessible once you're level 5, you have to declare your allegiance. Either to Yellow: Team Instinct, Blue: Team Mystic, or Red: Team Valor. This is supposed to indicate the type of trainer that you are as far as I can tell, where Team Instinct relies on their Pokemons' natural qualities, Mystic uses their wisdom and thinking to become the very best, and Valor is all about fighting with heart and bravery. As far as I can tell, this doesn't really have any depth or importance to the game beyond the name and colour. I picked Team Valor because I like red more than yellow or blue.
You can leave your Pokemon at Gyms of the same colour to defend them, for which they will get experience and other benefits in return. To take over, you need to have powered up your Pokemon and be ready to defeat the defenders there as your try to reduce their prestige to zero for your team.
The actual combat I found a little disappointing. It comes down to tapping the enemy Pokemon until it faints. A blue bar fills as you attack, and your special attack becomes available upon completion. You can swipe left and right to dodge incoming attacks against you. I would have appreciated more depth to the combat, perhaps some strategy beyond types of Pokemon, but there you go.
Graphically, the game isn't fantastic, but it doesn't really matter. The graphical content like images, and the AR means it still gets passing marks. In regard to the sound, I like the retro music, and it reminds me of the original games on the Gameboy.
Overall, the game's best aspect is the social involvement. I've met people while playing and that's just a great experience. It's accessible to everyone with an iPhone (or Android), and free, so it feels like everyone's playing it, making it easy to talk about, and share tips. The collecting aspect is addictive (presumably some sort of defect in the human psyche), and this can fill that need. Comparing your lineup of Pokemon to your friends gets competitive and fun, especially when they're on a different team. I have high hopes that this is going to be continually maintained (as I'm sure they'll make lots of money through the microtransactions) and expand in features. I'd like to trade my duplicate Pokemon with my friends, for example, which I can't at the moment. I rate it 75% at the moment.