Okay, so the internet has been going wild about Pokemon GO! since it was first revealed back in September of last year. There’s something extremely intriguing about the concept of finding tiny, cute monsters in some of your favourite cafes, bars, shopping areas, or even your own back yard that has had every Pokemon fan’s ear to the proverbial ground for even the slightest information on the game. Well, the wait is finally over, and Pokemon GO! was rolled out across Australia, New Zealand, and parts of Japan and America yesterday, and Invicta have the lowdown so that the rest of the world can get excited about what’s to come.
Pokemon GO! borrows heavily from games such as Ingress, developer Niantic‘s previous and extremely popular augmented reality release. The map of the Pokemon world is layed over a Google-maps-alike of the area you’re currently in, and tracks your location via GPRS. Around the area, you will see areas of rustling grass, and tracking these for a period of time will reward you with a small Pokemon avatar which you can click on and engage in an encounter. From here, your experience will go one of two ways. If you have the AR mode switched on, you will be able to use your smartphone camera to track the Pokemon’s location. If you don’t, then the Pokemon will be displayed on the screen in a generic grassy area, regardless of your location. To catch the critter, you can then throw Pokeballs in a admittedly quite skill intensive game similar to Paper Toss or Facebook’s highly addictive basketball game. Holding your Pokeball for a longer period of time will cause the ring around the Pokemon to get smaller, making it harder to hit your target, but making it more likely to catch the creature if it does hit. It’s a far cry from Pokemon‘s traditional battle system, but it’s extremely addictive, and at times frustrating nonetheless. Once the Pokemon has been caught, you will be rewarded with an amount of “Candy” and Stardust, used to level up and evolve the Pokemon, and of course the Pokemon itself.
Because of the way the evolution system works, catching multiples of a species is a must if you’d like to catch and evolve all of the Pokemon. Stardust and Candies can be traded in to make your team stronger, and a higher amount of candy can be used to evolve a Pokemon to it’s next form. This often makes the game a bit of a free for all, and you will find yourself roaming an area for ages just to catch multiples of a Pokemon to “farm” the species respective candies so that you can push your dudes to the next level.
Pokestops and Gyms are also a key point of the game. Pokestops are landmarks where, when approached, will net you some items, such as Pokeballs, and Eggs, which can be hatched with a certain amount of distance walked. This in itself can push you to use the app a lot more, and we at Invicta found ourselves wandering around for hours at a time to visit all the Pokestops in our area or hatch the eggs we currently possess.
But it’s not all good news, unfortunately, and as with all new online games, it isn’t without it’s problems. Being only two days into the game, it’s extremely prone to server downtime, and if this happens whilst you’re playing, you can often lose progress if the server cuts out at an inconvenient time. As well as this, we’re limited to monsters from the first generation, only 150 at present. How easy it will be to collect all of these remains to be seen, but it certainly doesn’t seem like a lot considering there are well in excess of 700 Pokemon in the mainline games. The game is also a massive battery drain, as it requires GPRS, mobile data and your phones camera to be active at the same time. In only half an hours play, we saw our batteries plummet as much as 25% during gameplay. The game also requires a lot of effort checking on Pokestops and Gyms you currently control, but this is far from a chore despite the fact that it will eat away at a lot of your time.
Overall, Pokemon GO! is an extremely addictive, refreshing gaming experience. It’s an extremely welcome change needing to go outdoors in the fresh air (oh the horror!) to get your gaming fix, and overall, the game is outstandingly good at encouraging physical activity, which is one of the things the said they’d like to achieve when the game was announced. You absolutely will find yourself walking out of your way on the way home from work or school to check on a location of interest to grab some items, catch some Pokemon, or maybe have a battle or two. But despite all this, and the flaws mentioned above, the title is extremely good, and can only go from strength to strength as the team behind it get to grips with the problems encountered so far. We at Invicta are excited to see what this title holds in the future, and will be sure to bring you the latest as we get it.