Society has changed. How people are spending their walks to work, lunch breaks and free time. I am of course speaking about the phenomenon that is Pokémon Go, that has now made it’s way to UK shores creating huge waves across the country. Sure Pokémon has always been popular whether it’s the Game Boy game, trading cards or anime, although nobody expected the pandemonium surrounding it. Already the most popular mobile game of all time, Pokémon Go may have already captured our hearts but has it got enough lure to keep us all hooked?
With insane statistics being published every hour from Pokémon Go making over £18 million dollars in it’s first week in the US to being more popular than pornography, it’s absolutely astonishing what Niantic Labs have done. Using a similar formula that was used for their previous project Ingress; Pokémon Go uses AR (Augmented Reality) placing Pokémon in the real world where you can view them through your mobile device. Using GPS you are then tasked with walking to different locations where Pokémon will spawn giving you a chance to catch them. The more places you visit and the more Pokémon you catch give you experience points allowing you to level up, thus raising the likelihood of seeing rarer Pokémon. It’s an intelligent system making many fans (including mine) dream come true of actually going on a real life Pokémon adventure.
Capturing said creatures is much different to the handheld version. With no health meter or Pokémon battles used, there is actual way of weakening. Much scaled back you instead flick Poke Ball’s in the general direction of the Pokémon hoping that it will be caught. For the greatest chance of capture you combined you’re aiming with timing of the circle icons making sure they overlay with one another. Getting “Nice”, “Good” or even “Excellent” comments pop up oddly doesn’t contribute to anything but your experience level making the whole ordeal quite unpredictable. I ended up just using Razz Berries to calm the Pokémon before pelting Poke Ball’s until one proved fruitful. With simplistic controls and the well-known catch phrase of “Gotta catch ’em all” it’s super easy to get started and for that matter addicted. Before you know it your outside your house at 3am looking for a Growlithe.
Cleary aimed at the 18-25 year old market using the original 151, Nostalgia is the biggest attraction that has helped it slide into the mainstream audience. It’s been superb seeing communities come together to interact over this beloved series.
Hitting the level five mark permits you to take on Pokémon Gym’s, again the dynamic is very different from the core games. Initially being asked what team you would like to join, either Team Valor, Mystic or Instinct essentially red, blue or yellow. When chosen you can try to take over a gym by defeating another team’s Pokémon. When defeated you can then leave one of your Pokémon to guard from apposing colors and so forth. Changing what we know of turn based battles, instead is a much more tap-tap approach used to deal out attacks. Charging your meter lets you unleash your special attack by holding down on the screen. Out of all the concepts used in Pokémon Go this by far feels the most fitting with the mobile trend and sadly doesn’t take full advantage of it’s full potential. Despite that there is a cool feeling owning a Gym for all to see, substantially if it’s in a prime location.
One thing that does crossover are items. Obtaining them through Poke Stops placed all over your location you can acquire Poke Balls, potions and revives. Then there are rarer items like incense and lures which help attract Pokémon to your location. All can be beneficial depending where you spend your time, yet with only room for 350 items unless you upgrade, I end up throwing many potions away. Thankfully the Poke Stops are everywhere if you live near a city centre so you can effortlessly go through the experience without ever needing to spend.
Speaking of purchasing like most free to play games there is a monetised option in place allowing you to buy more items with real money. Not as intrusive as some waving perks in front of your face every five seconds, the shop (which really should be renamed Poke Mart) offers upgrades to the amount of Pokémon and items you can carry along with the expected Poke Balls, lures etc. As previously stated being in a major city centre it’s unlikely you’ll ever need to make a purchase, however living on the outskirts or in the country is a different story. I’ve ended up buying extensions to my bags, and the occasional 100 Poke Ball’s due to the fact I drive most places. I don’t regret any of my purchases mainly due to never feeling pressured.
Along with encountering in the wild you also have eggs which allow you to hatch more Pokémon. Walking again is the main tool used here, yet the distance is what matters. Walking either 2, 5 or 10Km with your egg (making sure it’s safely in an incubator) will allow the Pokémon to hatch. This is rewarding as if you live in rural areas where wild Pokémon are rare it’s nice to know you’re at least gaining progress another way. The annoying and unreliable feature of the egg hatching is currently with the amount of bugs (No not Caterpie or Weedles) apparent, I’ve had 3 cases of my egg timer being reset to 0 meaning all that walking was for nothing.
The biggest downfall with Pokémon Go is clearly the amount of server issues and glitches that befuddle it’s mechanics. Spending more than 10 minutes in the app, there’s a strong chance you will have encountered numerous freezes. It becomes beyond frustrating when you’re in the middle of capturing as a result possibly missing out. I’ll get you someday Weepinbell! Now it’s understandable there would be issues with the sheer amount of users, nonetheless surely there was a little inkling to be better prepared; It is Pokémon after all. GPS can also be added to the list of gripes as tracking of Pokémon is made redundant at this point. At present it’s impossible to predict where the Pokémon are going to spawn with footsteps used for deciphering their location not increasing or decreasing at any time. Based off this walking in all four directions and hoping for a “Poke Pal” to turn up is the only option.
Eventually released in all territories with Japan being the last stop, Server issues are still constant, meaning the app can become completely inaccessible; sometime’s for hours. What’s more annoying is if you have used items like an incense or lure in this time it could be carelessly wasted. Are Niantic going to repay that money which you are going to see no benefit? Doubt it.
After years of waiting, curiously pondering what Pokémon would be like when it hit mobile, we have the answer; Titanic. Using intelligent AR, straightforward controls and that uncontrollable itch to “Catch ’em all”, Niantic have got the building blocks to something really special. To keep this momentum going fresh updates and major improvements to servers are crucial. Meanwhile, with constant freeze’s making you think Articuno is locked in your phone, many are still prevented from playing smoothly which in the long run may prove costly. Though the facts are Pokémon Go is an undeniable success, unseen on this global scale and unlikely to be seen ever again.
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