Have you ever wanted to blindly cross traffic on a major highway? Have you ever wanted to walk off a cliff? Have you ever wanted to cause a major pile up by slamming your brakes in the middle of an interstate? If you answered “YES!” to any of these questions, then I have great news (unrelated to car insurance savings). Pokemon Go is the game for you! Get your backpacks ready folks, but not as a preparation for a Pokewalk. The zombie apocalypse has arrived in the form of a new hit mobile game. Let’s see what the fuss is all about…
Blue Ball Score: 15.5 out of 25 balls
Now that you’ve chosen your starter, it’s time for America’s favorite pastime – exercise! Considering that the title of this game has the word “Go”, it should come as no surprise that you will need to exit the comforts of your gaming dungeon and go outside! You are the controller, and your character won’t move until you move. Yes, I know the sunlight burns since it has not graced your pale skin for days, but you want to be the very best, right?? Like no one ever was?? You will quickly notice that the game uses GPS and your real-time location to show your actual position on the map. Along the way, you are sure to find gyms and pokestops at real-world locations, which I’ll explain in more detail below, as well as the all-important pokemon! Keep your balls on stand-by, you’re going to need them.
The GPS is a little shaky at times, and the servers suffer periodically due to the demand from an exponentially increasing amount of users. Otherwise, the gameplay is exactly what you would expect from a Pokemon game. Explore, catch, train, battle… The main issue I have with the game is that it does a horrible job of explaining (or in most cases NOT explaining) important gameplay elements. You’ll find yourself scratching your head on what this means or how to do this/that, until you just try it and see what happens. With some improvements and new features on the way, gameplay gets a 3.5/5 balls.
While exploring the real-world, you will see a pulse radiate from your trainer. A pokemon will only show up for battle if it is encountered within the pulse. Click on any pokemon that pops up on your map to initiate an encounter and try to catch the virtual creature. An encounter uses your camera to create an augmented reality experience. Pan your camera around to find the pokemon and do what every trainer does best… flick your balls! You can simply flick the balls at the pokemon at random, or try a “skill throw” by holding down the ball. You will see a colored circle begin to shrink. Your goal is to throw your pokeball inside this small circle to increase your catch chance. This is a risk/reward system. The smaller the circle, the higher the increase, but it is also harder to hit the smaller circles. The pokemon will randomly jump and dodge your attempts, and will eventually run away if you do not catch them in time.
If you don’t like the augmented reality, you can turn the feature off for a generic view. I personally find the generic view much easier to catch pokemon, but you lose the realism effect of the camera. It can often be difficult to get a sense of how far away the pokemon is sitting, and thus can be frustrating when hurling your pokeballs with no sense of how much power is needed. Overall, catching pokemon in the “real world” is what you would expect, I give it a 4/5 balls.
For the pokemon that you DO want, you can utilize the same Transfer method to farm XP and candy with duplicates. However, I would highly recommend that you don’t use the “Power Up” option for a while. Instead, save your stardust and candy. Remember earlier when I said you would begin to see stronger pokemon as your trainer levels up? Imagine investing all of your hard earned stardust and candy into a pokemon to raise its CP, only to find an even higher CP in the WILD! Take a tip from someone who learned the hard way… Be patient and wait it out. It shouldn’t take long for you to find a higher CP.
I would have preferred the traditional battle/XP system to level up pokemon. The new candy and stardust system just feels weird. Maybe I’m just old school, but it doesn’t feel like the Pokemon way. It’s not exciting enough and I don’t get a sense of accomplishment from it, leaving these pokeballs unfulfilled. 3/5 balls.
At some point in your journey, you will need to join a team. There are three teams: Valor (red), Mystic (blue), and Instinct (yellow). Choose whichever team suits your fancy, and get ready for the non-stop battle over gyms. Gyms are controlled by teams, and they are identified on the map by color. Unless you live in a town with a single-digit population, you won’t find a gym that isn’t already controlled by a team. To take control of a gym, a rival team must defeat the gym to lower the prestige to zero. The higher the prestige level, the more attacks it will take to bring it to zero. Your team can take control after bringing the prestige level down to zero, and your team can begin to deposit pokemon to defend your new tower of power. Deposited pokemon can level up and if you manage to keep a gym under your control for long enough, you can also receive daily rewards. Now reap the benefits of your hard work.
Non-stop bloodbath for gym control? Check. Divided community to create chaos through competition? Check. Legislation to marry our virtual pokemon that we love and adore? Not yet. While the gym experience seems a bit much, an abundance of pokestops and gyms for easy accessibility earns this section 4/5 balls.
I’m begging all Pokemon Go players. Be careful, be safe. Look up, look around. Your smart device will let you know when you encounter a pokemon. You don’t need to stare at your phone. And if you do need to look down, then for the love of Zeus stop walking. Don’t walk into traffic or off a cliff. Don’t be a news headline, or worse. Above all, DO NOT play while driving. This puts yourself and others in extreme danger. My recommendation to Niantic: place a speed limit on the game so that it does not function at all if moving above normal walking speeds.
I know that the safety issues are not completely the developer’s fault. However, I do believe they must have seen this coming to a certain degree. Better safeguards could have been put in place and I would like to see quicker reaction time to fix glaring safety concerns. 1/5 balls.
In conclusion, this game has proved to be highly addictive for the masses. Please just be smart and play safe. The idea behind Pokemon Go is a great concept encouraging walking and exercising, but the safety concerns turns Pokemon Go into Pokemon NO for this gamer. Hopefully the game will see a few much needed tweaks and updates to sway my opinion back in its favor… for all of our sakes. Final score: 15.5 balls.